I hear the drum, just a hint of it. More of an accidental tap of the player’s hands. Still, I shudder inside. The agony of knowing what’s coming next makes my stomach churn.
There are those who wonder what they are and there are those who know, beyond the shadow of a doubt. And would give all the world to change it.
Backstage I wonder. Do they think of me as a person with laundry and bills? Do they know who I am when I’m not out there? When there are no lights. No music. When no one’s looking. I begin to pace back and forth. Anxious. Nervous. Awaiting the inevitable. “This is it. This is it,” I say to myself.
I check my reflection in the full length mirror. And all I see is a normal woman staring back at me. A confident body. Complementing colors. Proper costuming. Makeup. The eyes. There’s something uneasy about the eyes that makes me stop. Dark and sunken. Unrested.
“No. I look fine. I look fine,” I tell myself. I know it’s not my eyes they come to see. “Breathe. Just let it happen and breathe.”
I don’t want to go out there again.
I press my head against the mirror and hold my tears back, but they insist on gushing forth. Ruining my makeup. I don’t care.
I don’t want to change again.
No more. This is me. This is my skin. I know it well. I live in it when I’m not out there.
I dread what’s coming next.
The truth is, I don’t even feel it when it happens. Only the moment before. That first breath. The moment the music starts is all I feel. And then it happens. I don’t really know how. Or why. But I am not myself. The thing out there. It’s me and yet it’s not. I have no memory of anything that happens beyond that breath. I have no command of my body. Of movement. Or, dare I say, speech. Thought and reason release me. Like I am nothing to them.
I am another thing entirely.
And the creature, the thing that I become, I don’t remember what it does or who it hurts or where it even goes. I don’t even know what it looks like. Just that it’s there, using my body. Pulsating underneath my skin. I shudder to think of what becomes of me when my senses leave. In a world where right and wrong don’t matter. Where nothing I did yesterday ever really existed. And there is no tomorrow.
I wish I could remember more of it. I wish I could say it loves or hates. Or feels pain of any sort. That it’s human, but I know it’s not. I know this by the lack of feeling. By the void that feeds it. By its hunger that is never satiated. By the dark and lonely places only it could ever touch. Nothing human could survive that darkness for very long. When it comes through me, I swear…I swear it comes up for air. Like it might suffocate in the abyss without me. But it can’t. It won’t. It’ll never die.
And when the music ends, it’s over. The creature leaves me. But only for a little while. It’s immortal. And I am bound to it as so many others are. We take turns giving it life. Letting it live in our world. We provide it a way out of its dark and lonely void. As surely as the moon sits in the night sky, I am what I am. A catalyst. A vessel. This hybrid thing. This human with holes enough to summon a creature out from the depth of darkness. And release it into an unsuspecting world.
When I die, there will be another to take my place. As long as there are humans, the creature will find a way back. How do so many accept a fate I loathe? How do they look upon it as their duty? I do not know.
All I know is this is what I was born to do. Anticipation and fear wither in the presence of destiny.
The rhythm starts. And so does the flute. I step out onto my stage, awaiting my new breath of life.