There was a night when the lights went out – it was only for a second, but when they came back up everything had changed. I was dripping wet from the bath, rain was coming down in buckets outside and thunder rumbled, now from near, now from far, and occasionally with a crash that sounded just overhead.
I wasn’t worried about bathing during a lightening storm. I’ve always done pretty much what I wanted to do. Not to bait or tempt fate but neither afraid of small probabilities.
I was rising from my bath when the lights flickered and, suddenly dizzy, I reached for the wall to steady myself. I felt a small, rapid stabbing in the palm of my hand and felt a flash of light – that is the only way I can describe it – fill my body. I looked down to see steam floating on the surface of the water and in the steam small sparkling lights the size of summer gnats. They moved this way and that in small circles and spirals and winked out as I watched.
But I had no time for the lights, no matter how pretty or fascinating, for it was my feet and legs which drew my attention and drained human feeling from my heart. One moment I am lean and tanned, the next I am furred like a dog, with a wiry coat like an airedale, but the color of a gray wolf down to the twisted yellow nails of my misshapen but still human feet.
I jumped from the water – rather I bounded from the water and twisted in mid-air, crashing down on the baby’s bath toys cluttering the bathroom floor and catching sight of myself in the mirror as I spun. The fur ran from my feet and legs to the middle of my chest, sprouting there even as I watched, new fine threads undulating softly then quickly thickening to the gray coarseness of the coat covering my legs and chest and throat. In the blink of an eye the fur covered the backs of my hands, my cheeks, jowls, brow and the bridge of my nose.
I sat down on the edge of the tub. A dream, a vision, a waking nightmare like ones I had experienced as a teen but which had not troubled me since. What else could it be? I spend half my life in my imagination. Something had rattled loose with the noise and thunder…I opened my eyes. My legs, the backs of my hands, my face in the mirror – the transformation was complete.
If I wasn’t dreaming, or ill, what could this be? But maybe I was ill, or sick or hurt! Maybe I had been struck by lightening. Maybe I couldn’t see it but I was actually lying on the floor, dying, and life was preparing me for the transition. Well, if that was the case then I wasn’t ready. Kids too young, still loved my wife, too much unfinished business. I closed my eyes and imagined bending down over my unconscious body, whispering into my ear like a lifeguard might, “Come back, you are not ready, this is not your time. There is too much left to do. Come back, we need you, come back.”
There was a sound at my back, from the bathroom door. The vision of myself beside my body vanished and I rose from my seat on the edge of the tub.
It was my daughter, just a little over one year old and now walking. She pushed the door open and her rapt expression turned joyous.
“Doggie!” she cried, the only word beside mama and uh-oh! that she knew. She toddled over, and threw her arms around my furry legs. I looked up to see my wife and son regarding me from the doorway. My wife was slowly shaking her head back and forth, her lips pursed, mirth barely contained. My son was staring in happy amazement.
“Cool!” he said, “I’ll go get some doggie treats from the neighbors.” He ran from the room.
“See if you can borrow a leash!” she called after him. Then she looked back at me.
“I like it,” she said. “It’s you.”