So I was out running this morning. It was on my usual route but today I’d decided to take it in reverse, and I was listening to a Schubert string quartet and admiring how lush the hills of Los Angeles were with trees and bright flowers, up and around through a wealthy part of town that backs right up against Griffith Park. The houses here are looming and gorgeous (mostly) and the streets are fairly quiet and, in the gloomier light of this particular day, there was a comfortable shroud lightly resting on each surface and thought like the dimmer glow of a living room at nap time.
It was the first time I had listened to the Schubert piece and I was drifting in and out.
Generally this is how I consume long and complicated pieces of music, tuning in as a surprise nudges or shoves my focus, or curiosity ambles its way back to my ears. The piece, at the beginning, was nice. Present, or I guess I mean assertive, with deep colors that felt familiar but not in a boring way and as I ran, a pleasant feeling filed in to accompany the gentle grim of the morning.
I definitely wasn’t going fast but I was chugging along, past the homes now, around
the greasy burger stand serving the golfers and into a shallow canyon that curved up into the hills. Flat for a while, the path then swung straight up, not treacherously steep, but steep enough, up an endless looking hill. That's what must have triggered the transformation.
It was slow at first but as the churning of my legs pushed, in pure domino, the pumping of my lungs and the beating of my heart, so did my skin begin to slough away, not even as a carcass discarded but rather an evaporation, disappearing immediately and revealing tough and weighty scales underneath. Too quickly for horror to grasp me I looked down instead with wonder, as the churning legs from before began a dizzying flop, fusing together and becoming one kicking piece. It didn’t stop there, and the momentum I had built through the streets and hills continued to carry me upwards as the change gripped my body fully. My lungs, blooming and collapsing like flowers in a time lapse remained, but as for my mouth and throat I'm not sure. There may have been gills, and the thin lips of that gasping fish that first dragged itself from the oceans in terrified triumph or cruel accident, pioneering the life of all creatures who make their home on the land. Now here was I, inhabiting the body of this forgotten, infinity Great-GrandThing, lolling up a hill in Los Angeles.
The Schubert was still playing, and I guess my transformation hadn’t been so severe as to rob my head(?) of holes to hear through. The music was a comfort to me
in its civility buts its long looping cycles had grown hypnotic, like waves crashing on a shore with increasing force, and I could hear each voice, cello, violin, viola, like individual sinews of a muscle pushing my mind deeper and deeper into its feeling core. Maybe it was this that bought me back. Like an eyelid dazed out of a dream I felt myself flicker and, looking down at what had just been that seething tail and ill-formed limbs came my own two hairy legs, pale and thin pumping soothing beat to bring me back down the hill. My eyes, which had remained familiar throughout the ordeal regarded again my fleshy arms and abdomen with suspicious relief.
My lungs haven’t yet forgotten how they strained, like frantic bellows, to fuel that strange form.