Friday Fiction: Changeling, Part 2

Continued from here

It became easier once I became an adult. I didn’t have so much growth and change to simulate. I could take a photograph and sequester myself for a week. It didn’t matter who, but I always picked someone that I imagined qualified as handsome in a way that was subtle. I would post the photo near a mirror and study it. I would imagine how people would react to this man and how he would respond. I would map crow’s feet and furrowed brow lines. Then I would turn to the mirror and it would be time to sculpt. It’s not a process I’ve discovered a way to make more efficient.

Aging is still troublesome, but it’s simpler to achieve for an adult. A trip to the supermarket and a bit of hair dye and suddenly you’re graying at the temples and you’ve picked up a few years in age with minimal effort. Growing old, however, is quite different from aging. It’s a bridge I’ll have to cross when I reach it. I’m not entirely positive how long I’m expected to live. That should make for a surprise.

I suspect that my later years will be remarkably similar to my early years. I’ll have less of a sense of myself as others perceive me. My world will draw in upon itself and my appearance will be more a factor of my moods and situation than of surroundings and outside influences. Finding someone to help care for me once I’m unable to do so for myself is a concern I find myself continually trying to ignore. When I was infant, I was largely happy: a textbook perfect child. My appearance was uniform, barring small changes chalked up to the capriciousness of development. As a toddler, though, I was a terror, and my body reflected this. Features would arch, my hair darkened. I became an expression of frustration and will. That middling age is marked by extremes and during happy times it was as if I was a different child, physically and emotionally. My parents told me the first time I came out to see them, happy with a toy I had found shortly after a particularly brutal tantrum, that they had assumed that once again they had been robbed of their child and presented with an imposter. I pray that those golden years I spend waiting out whatever hereafter awaits me are not ones marked by similar moodswings. I know that I would be terrified of an old man that quite literally darkens with rage when he doesn’t get the second helping of pudding he wants.

As a child, the changes were a matter of mood and pure instinct. Reflex and nothing more. When I was in grade school, I thought it was a game and didn’t really believe my parents that not everyone could do what I could do. It only took one terrified classmate and a very long meeting with a school principal to relegate me to homeschooling. I tried to fight the decision once I reached the age for high school, but it was a losing battle from the start. I clearly have a similar life progression to a regular human. I was not immune to the horrors of teenage life and hormones wreaked havoc for me. No longer was changing reflexive or recreational, it became involuntary, like a tic.

These unwelcome spurts of change only served to deepen my resentment. I lived in a world that was by contrast almost entirely static. My parents normal in every way, my home as standard as any other. I rarely went outside, first as a mandate and later out of a sense that I didn’t need anything other than myself. It was exactly the wrong time to be brought to the realization that my parents had never really gotten to the point of understanding me, not in the way that I had expected that they should.

How could they? I didn’t understand myself, and judging others on their ability to do the same was stupid. But at the time it didn’t matter in the slightest that they were doing the best they could. It’s taken a few years of what may not quite qualify as hard living, but certainly lonely living, for me to realize that they probably did understand a part of me very well, as well as any parent understands a child. But I changed.

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