By Anastasia Joyce
I first noticed when I went to open a door. My hand flickered, and passed through the handle. Swimming uselessly through the solid metal. One of the others came up behind me and helped me to open the ‘heavy door’ and I said nothing. I tucked my hand into my sleeve, put my head down and kept walking. When I got home that night I peeled off my clothes. Layer by layer unfurling my carefully cocooned body. A body that glimmered strangely in the light, shy and unused to being seen so pale and free. But that was the only strangeness. My hands were solid, my thighs, my stomach, my face. I breathed. A breath I’d held in since the morning, but still, I knew.
The next day when I saw a glass slip through ‘clumsy’ fingers, I knew that, despite what their manager screamed at them, it had nothing to do with how careful they were being.
Things happened quickly after that. My body would fade in and out of being, nerves flickering on and off, voice fading in and out; sometimes, my heart would stop beating. But I didn’t die. It happened to all of us, us, not them. Medical tests, experiments, treatments. The World went into a frenzy trying to stop it. But we didn’t seem to mind. We knew they couldn’t bring us back and we don’t want to go back.
It took time for us to realise that, that we didn’t want them, but our bodies had already decided for us. The heavy clothes that clung to our skin, got tired of trying to confine our fickle bodies, and they released us. So did our jobs, our homes, our lovers. We took to the streets.
Naked and almost invisible. We weren’t afraid. We could not be grabbed, caught, held – touched. We could not feel the cold or the rain on our bodies and we were naked, but not seen. We developed a frequency to communicate. A humming mass of thought and energy. We were excited. They were scared. There were curfews. Patrols.
We moved into the forests, learnt how to enter the skin of the animals and move their limbs. Found new bodies to hold us that hung just as heavily as our old clothes. Pushed them until they were drained, and then abandoned the corpses. We were looking for something.
We loved the freedom. We loved that we were one. We loved that we didn’t need anything. But in the dark we hummed quietly, softly, we hummed that we missed being touched. The hum grew until the bark cracked off the trees and bird’s feathers were peeled from their bodies. We hummed until the Earth shook and we knew they would hear our calling.
Naked beasts crept out of the houses and moved towards us. The humming growing like a hunger. They walked into us, through us, and as they pulled their bodies forward, we wrapped around them, the skin pulled away from the sinews of their bodies, leaving them red and shivering and bare. We wrapped tighter and tighter, longing for touch, to feel human. Their screams. Our screams. Merging into one. Loss or longing. Tortured.