I was just standing there, feeling sick… I don’t even know how to describe it, it felt like, something was very wrong with my body but I didn’t know what. I looked down at it, all of that flesh, limbs… It felt like it all didn’t belong to me, but I still recognized it somehow. I was standing naked in the dark... Well not really the dark, I could see myself clearly, but around me everything was pitch black. There was nothing there, I couldn’t even hear a sound apart from the blood pumping through my heart.
I felt something sticky and cold against my leg, I looked down. My genitals looked deformed, like an old salad leaf, yellowed and shriveled. It was melting, a kind of translucent pus sliding down my legs. I started crying and howling, I felt helpless. It didn’t hurt, but I started feeling parts coming of, hearing them splash on the ground and on my feet. It felt cold as ice on my skin, like it’d never been part of a living organism. Just dead flesh.
“Not mine,” I thought.
My genitals were gone now, the rest of my organs slowly following. I took a few steps back, leaving a trail of intestines, blood and flesh. I could see my kidneys, my lungs... My heart.
It was all silent now, there wasn’t any blood pumping through my veins anymore, everything was there in front of me, on the ground. A putrid heap of cold meat.
It smelled like death, I gagged, but there was nothing. I was an empty shell.
Everything in front of me, it felt so strange, like it had never been a part of me. Like I was finally freed from everything I had been cursed to bear but had never really been mine.
I looked down at my body again, my skin was white and slightly translucent. I didn’t feel cold, I didn’t feel much. I took one more step back, no trail. Everything was out, I was free.
My mind was blank, I turned and walked away, not looking at what I had left behind.
“And then ?”
“Then I woke up. I felt disoriented for a second, as if I’d forgotten who and where I was. I slowly came to my senses again, and knew I was home in my bed. But I still had a deep feeling of discomfort. Ever since then, I cant get the images of the dream out of my head. The feelings...”
“Even though the body you had in the dream differed so much from your actual form?”
“Yes. I keep having these dreams where I am this person, where I have this body of flesh and blood. Always this same woman, like these aren’t my dreams at all. I didn’t even dream much before, but now it’s almost every night. It’s not even only her, but people she knows, people I know in the dreams. All like her, flesh and blood.”
“Like the Old Society?”
“I guess... You know this thing we do at school when we are little, hearing the beating heart of an animal, to learn about other lifeforms. I always loved doing that, and I still sometimes do with my pets, hold them close to hear and feel their beating hearts. But hearing my own heart, that was extremely disturbing...”
There was a silence in the room. The woman sitting on the couch was staring in the air, looking perplexed.
“When did you opt for the form you have now?” The voice was coming out of a big wooden box, beautifully decorated, sitting in the middle of the room on a thick carpet.
“I always wanted it that way. Since I was little I was always fascinated by the Old Society, so when I was old enough to choose, I went for this one. It’s been about twenty-five years now. It’s a very good one, I almost never have problems with it. I upgraded my sensors a few times but that’s it.”
“And when did the dreams start?”
“I guess, a little bit after I started working my new job...”
“Which would be?”
“I am sorry, I really can’t talk about it. I know you give privacy and professional secrecy a lot of importance but I’d have to ask my employer if I can mention my work here.”
“Well, if you think your dreams are connected to it, it might be necessary. I am afraid I can’t really help you otherwise.”
The woman stood up from the sofa. She was slender, had dark brown skin and green curly hair. She was wearing a yellow dress with red flower patterns and yellow heels. She wasn’t particularly remarkable in the big city where you could see everything, from those like her who had chosen a more traditional form to those like the therapist that abandoned bodies altogether and just transferred themselves to different receptacles in function of their needs.
As she got up she tidied up her dress a little and looked at the wooden box in the middle of the room.
“I’ll contact you again to make the next appointment, after I’ve talked with my employer.”
“Very well, I’ll send you the bill as well as a few documents and a questionnaire I’d like you to fill. If you don’t think you’ll come back, feel free to ignore them... I’ll remind you when we make the next appointment anyways.”
“Perfect, I’ll be on my way then. Thank you for everything... I hope to come again soon.”
“Don’t forget your coat,” there was a clicking sound and a door opened in the wall, revealing a small closet. She reached for a dark purple coat, and put it on over her dress. The door closed, “I wish you all the best, miss Moreau.”
“To you too doc,” she walked out the room into the corridor. The whole house had wooden panes on the walls and a beautiful dark wood floor covered with thick carpets. The therapist had good taste for an incorp she though. Well, he was probably receiving quite a lot of visitors, so it made sense to have a nice house. As she went down the stairs, the staircase creaked softly. She hadn’t noticed it as she went up, as she’d been deeply in thoughts. She stopped and went up a few stairs then down again, she really liked the sound they made. There weren’t many wooden staircases these days, although wooden furniture had been a big trend in the last years. She looked around her one last time before going out. The walls were covered with old paintings, the cupboards and shelves with all sorts of bizarre decorative objects, even quite a few books. Quite unusual indeed.
“Do you like the house?”
She turned with a start, the voice had come out of an other wooden box, smaller than the one in the office, sitting on a low table beside the door.
“Very much, I’m sorry I trailed a little. I haven’t seen anything like your house in a long while. I didn’t think there were incorps with such a sense of decoration...”
“It’s a common misconception, I actually really enjoy objects of all sorts... Especially wooden ones as you might have noticed. I actually made my receptacles myself, well the wooden shells to be precise. The one in my office is my best work to day.”
“It’s quite impressive, I was never very creative myself... Although I did design this body,” she gestured up and down towards herself. “For the most part at least, of course I left the details to the pros, but almost all of the features are custom.”
“Interesting, I must admit I actually wondered about it. The session is finished but maybe you can tell me more about it next time. And if you want I could even give you a tour of the house.”
She smiled, revealing gleaming and perfectly aligned teeth, “I’d love that.”
“Alright, see you then.”
The front door opened and she went out. The house even had a little garden and plants growing over the front wall. She wondered who took care of it as she walked out to the street.
Pamela Moreau was about forty-five years old, which made her a youngster. She had finished her studies at thirty, which was about average for those of her social class. All of her three caretakers had studied into their forties, and had been academics for a few decades before deciding to form a family. Two of them actually met while teaching at the university, the third was more of an eccentric who had decided to explore the world after she’d gotten tired of the academia. Aili came from the northern part of East-Eurasia, and had seen half of the world before she landed in London. At the time, the other two, Frannie and Claude, were already living together. Frannie was born and raised in the megacity of London, which covered most of the southern part of the British Island. Claude was born in the twin megacity of Paris, which covered most of the northern part of the region of France. Both megacities were connected by a myriad of bridges and trains as well as air traffic. Even though they had slightly different cultures, Pamela considered that Frannie and Claude basically came from the same place.
Aili on the other end, had been raised in a very different place and even taking this in consideration she was a very peculiar woman. She’d met the two others at an art exhibition where some of her works were on display. Frannie and Claude decided to buy one for their new apartment and ended up having dinner with Aili, more than once. They became excellent friends until the three of them decided to move in all together and start a family.
It was Aili that was the most excited about children, and also her who took care of all the procedures to have one. Moreau was her family name and it was agreed that it was the one Pamela would take until she was old enough to chose the one she preferred, which was very common.
Aili was an artist but she’d had an academic formation and had actually done a lot of research on the architecture style of the Old Society, which showed in her artistic work. The house in which Pamela had grown up was a mix of all sorts of weird shapes and materials, and this weird wonderland had been her playground all of her childhood. She took a lot after Aili, fascinated with the Old Society and it’s history and artifacts. Like her, she decided to get a body resembling the ones of the humans of Old, and like her, she designed it herself.
As Pam entered her apartment, in which she was living alone, she felt a presence and a sudden sense of fear. Some images from her nightmares appeared in her mind and she turned on the light with what felt like a trembling hand. As she looked around she was startled by a pair of gleaming eyes staring right at the and a huge form moving fast in her direction. She felt the shock of the impact run deep through her body and she wondered if she would die, just like in these weird dreams. She was lying on the floor with a huge weight on her, and she felt something wet on her face.
She opened her eyes slowly, she could feel the beast on her chest panting. Right in front of her face was a huge gaping mouth full of sharp teeth, and gleaming green eyes looking right into hers.
Then a deep roaring laugh and a known voice, “Hey Pam, what’s up, I’ve been waiting for you forever here!”
The huge black panther moved to sit on the floor in front of Pamela, while she tried to get up.
“Aili! You game me a horrible fright!” She went on hands and knees to scratch the head of the huge animal. “When did you come back? I didn’t expect you so soon,” she got up. “And even better question, how did you get into my apartment? I moved here while you were away!”
“I went to Fran and Clo first, they gave me your spare key. They would have liked to come too but they had some plans for tonight, told me we should get dinner all together at their place tomorrow though, did you get their message?”
“Not yet, I was away all day. I didn’t know you could open doors with your... paws.”
“Haha, well I didn’t want to at first but I ended up getting myself a little drone to do this kind of stuff for me, extremely practical.” The panther turned her head towards the desk, where a little drone sat still on the surface. “I like your new place, it’s really cozy! This carpet is perfect!” She rolled around on the carpet showing her belly and purring with satisfaction.
“So, how was your trip?”
“Great, going there as a panther was very different than going as an humanoid, after a while the animals really trusted me, and I also got a very different perspective into their lives... But We’ll have all the time in the world for me to tell you about my adventures, how’s my favorite green haired nerd doing?”
“Okay I guess... I started my job at New Earth about two month ago, and it’s going great but... Well, I’ve been having nightmares, weird right?”
“I don’t know, I’ve had a few myself, especially at the beginning in this body, I was pretty disoriented...”
“Well, the weird part is that they don’t seem to be mine.”
“Okay, now you’re talking, tell me everything.”
“Not now... I’ve just been to see a therapist, Doc. Martins? Clo told me you’ve seen him a few times.”
“The incorp with the sculpted wooden containers? Yeah he’s really good... I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having trouble, but with him you’re in good hands. Well...” she looked at her paws with a puzzled look in her eyes, and had an other feat of roaring laughter, Pam couldn’t help but laugh along.
“I’m not quite adapted for human society yet, it feels like I’ve been a panther for an eternity... It’ll probably take a while until I’m fully back to my normal self. I think I’ll have to go back to the old carcass as well. Being a panther is great but here in the city, it’s not very practical... Even with the drone.”
“What will you do with this?” Pam sat on the carpet beside the big animal, she could feel the warmth of her body without touching her.
“I don’t quite know yet. Maybe I’ll ask them to put a drone AI in it and keep it as a pet. I’ve grown very attached to this form...” She closed her big green eyes for a second, then sat facing Pam.
“What about we get something to eat?”