We were making progress towards the other side of the lake. It had become so warm I removed my jacket and used it to sop up beads of sweat from my forehead. The smell of fresh-grown grass mixed for a medley of floral scents dazzled my senses. Even though I adore the winter, I welcomed the warm damp air. It had a homely feel about it. The weather reminded me of a spring day in the northeast, which I then remembered was where I grew up…
“Are you sure we made the right choice?” Mark asks as he lifts his oar out of the water, rotates it forward, and submerges it again.
I sneer at Mark. After what we’ve been through, he would dare ask me this question. With a fierce snarl I continue, “I don’t know, Mark, you tell me. What do you think? You’re the one talking about regrets and shit.”
“I’m not sure. I feel like we, well you are beautiful now. But is being beautiful everything? I mean, is that what this was all about? How do you feel?”
“Mark, I feel like me for the first time. More so than I have my entire life. It’s a shame you can’t feel this way. I know you would be complete and happy! After a few years of hormones and all those lonely nights crying- to arrive here… in this place and receive such a wonderful blessing. I guess the long journey is over.” I sense writhing pain coursing through his veins.
“That doesn’t sound correct. I remember none of that. Are you sure you remember it like that because I feel like that’s stretching the truth a little? It seems like I’m you one hundred pounds ago before all of this started, still unsure of what I will do or what I could do. I look at you and can’t believe I’ll look like this one day. What if there isn’t a magic potion for me? What if I don’t even want a potion? It seems to come easy for you,” he replies and stops rowing.
I follow my companion and lift my oar into the boat welcoming time away from rowing. Our momentum continues to drift us towards the other side of the lake. I stare at ripples on the surface of the water as they slide away from the boat until it’s calm again. I take a deep breath and continue the conversation. “We were always beautiful, and you have always felt this way. I know it in my heart. I’m finally complete. We had to believe it. You need to believe it.”
“I don’t feel that way. I feel like a fat slob without a purpose. And because of our choices we have no family or friends. Left all alone to deal with the horrible fallout.”
“I’m not so sure that’s true, Mark. There must be someone special in our lives. I’m sure. Someone worth going back for, someone amazing. A person who cares deeply for us. I-I can’t remember.”
As I delve into the deep recesses of memories, I find nothing which supports my claims. Yet, my soul hungers for a love I can’t explain. Beyond the dark skies and deepest pits there’s a beacon of light which shines for me.
“No. I remember most of everything and there’s no one. We’re nothing, we have nothing. It’s a lost cause. Look at me!” He groans.
“You are beautiful, Mark,” I reassure. “We are not nothing. We’re unique and amazing.”
“It’s easy for you to say, Raquel… I mean look at you!” He barks.
“Would you have drank that liquid if you had the chance?” I ask.
Mark lifts his chin towards the sky. “I don’t know now. All I wanted was acceptance and understanding, and that’s never happened. We lost our family over this.”
“No! They lost us over this. They were the ones who didn’t care about what we wanted.”
“You think you have all the answers, girl. You’re so convinced this is our life. What if it’s just a bad decision? What if life could be much simpler?”
“Decision? Are you out of your mind? I didn’t choose this? Do you think you have?”
Mark shakes his head, “I’m just saying. I know you think we’ve always felt this way. I guess I’m asking would you rather not be trans?”
“Yes, if I was born a cis-woman, then I’d be all set.”
“So, you’re saying you wish it was like Oprah?”
“What?” I chuckle.
“You get a vagina, you get a vagina, everybody gets a VAGINA!”
We explode into laughter. Echoes of our boisterous hilarity seem to stretch out for miles. I pick up my oar ready to continue. I push it into the water and row just a little faster. Mark does the same. It’s amazing what a little laughter can do.
After the laughter and the giggling dies down fear and worry bubble back to the surface. This version of me never existed. To doubt myself in such a troubling way. It’s obvious Mark has lost his way, and I blame myself. I better not flaunt my newfound beauty in front of him. There’s no need to make him feel any worse than he already does. I’ll help him find his way back on the path. He deserves happiness. Everyone deserves happiness.
Piercing noises erupt from the approaching shore. A deep and defined threatening growl cautioning us not to get too close. I throw my eyes towards the bank of the lake but see nothing but tall grass.
“What now?” Mark asks.
“What the hell is that?”
“I don’t know but I’m not stopping. Whatever it is, will have to deal with us!”
Mark’s crazy talk makes me nervous. I reply sharply, “um, I’m not much of a fighter. Especially not if it’s a bear or something. I mean the best thing for us to do is stay in the boat.”
“Then we can run around it. We can’t stay here, Raquel. We have to find that damn witch. I bet you she is behind the growling. We’re probably getting closer and she’s trying to scare us,” Mark commands. The ruckus combines with hisses and screeching yelps as if a pack of dogs cry out in agony.
“You mean whatever THEY are will have to deal with us,” I say, being a complete smartass, and confirming he heard the same thing.
“You noticed that too, huh?” Mark’s voice breaks.
“Um-yeah.” With the shore yards away I take another gander, but still nothing. The area is hilly, if that’s a word. Beautiful hills laced with violet, yellow, magenta, and orange flowers. The hypnotizing shades seem so familiar as if I’ve been here before. It’s so nice to see vibrant colors. I had just about enough of the color white to last me a lifetime. It’s as if we’ve landed on a different planet.
Pitch black circular objects emerge from the other side of the hills. Once the circles reach the summit and stop. From this distance, it’s difficult to see exactly what we’re dealing with. As we draw closer, I can see the spots have long skinny legs, like ostriches. Their eyes pop open, one creature at a time followed by a symphony of growls.
More creatures move from the behind the hills as they seem to call to each other. Within moments, these black animals cover the hilltops. Their shadows devour the pretty flowers until there is nothing but a sea of multiplying blackness.
We jerk forward as the little wooden row boat crashes into the shore. The creatures glare at us both and advance at ludicrous speeds. I turn to Mark hoping to see an ounce of confidence on his face, no such luck.
The ground shakes as the herd descends from above. “We’re screwed,” he warns.
“I’m not getting out of this boat, under any circumstances. It may as well be rhinos or horses, I think they’d make less of a commotion,” I say with conviction.
The creatures pound into one another as they continue their onslaught. Claws and vicious scratching breaks out into skirmishes within the fold. I pray for a second that maybe they’ll kill each other instead of us. That was until a few of them pull their legs into their bodies and drift airborne off the hill.
I backhand Mark across the chest and declare, “these bastards have wings too? Not fair.”