It was a myth, of course. But still. When the end came he imagined going out like an elephant, lumbering off into the wild, away from others. Away from family and friends (well-meaning as they were). Dying should be a solitary thing.
Be careful what you wish for, someone pointed out. He might have listened, but he was young.
The change began slow enough, initially. By the time he realized, it was too late. He cursed about the unfairness of it. He drank too much, and smoked excessively. Eventually, he saw that struggle was futile, and he accepted the inevitability.
After that, his spine stiffened and lost flexibility. His neck took on girth. Was his head bigger? It was harder to move it. Even nodding felt awkward and uncomfortable. Surely, his ears had grown — his hearing was so much more acute. It was spring, and a million birds were whistling . . . warbling . . . chirping. Each call clear and distinct from the other. He could hear the hum of bees that swarmed around the lilacs in his neighbor’s yard.
The noise of it made his head hurt.
His skin became grayer and felt thicker. He noticed that he was more sensitive to sunlight. He wanted nothing so much as to wallow in a pool, but there had been no rain for weeks. The sky remained cloudless, the sun unrelenting in its persistence. So, he rolled up his pant legs (this movement, like so many other things, was becoming increasingly difficult to perform). He took his time at the task. Then he dragged a hose into his back yard and filled his unplanted garden with water. He let the cold water from the hose wash over his head and his back while the mud from his garden rose up his ankles. It was a moment sweet with joy.
Take it where it comes, he thought. He knew, above all, that much was true.
When the transformation was nearly complete, he found that his clothes didn’t fit him anymore. His arms and legs were ponderous, hulking appendages that he could no longer articulate without effort. It might have been more bearable if his mind had also been altered, but that was not the case. His was a young man’s brain in a body that didn’t fit.
All he lacked was a trunk.
There was nothing to do but wait for the last, most useful part of his new self. The thing that would make all the other parts work the way they should. At last, his patience was rewarded. He had it all. He raised his trunk and let forth a mighty trumpet blast. As he stood at the precipice of waiting, he saw the place where he would go: A fern-floored forest where sunlight split the top of the trees and shone rose-colored on one massive tree. His tabernacle.
His solitary thing.
n.b. I was intrigued by this week’s DP challenge on Metamorphosis, the purpose of which was to write about a transformation of human to animal form. It made me remember a conversation I had many years ago with someone I loved. It had to do with elephants.