Here is my final short fiction for the year. It turned out completely different than what I originally intended... but oh well. It has been a great class and a wonderful opportunity to exercise my writing muscles. Thanks for reading!
My dad has never been around, but my dad has always been around. He died when I was 9. When I say he’s been around, I don’t mean his memory. I don’t mean he’s alive in my heart. I mean that up until last year, I saw him. He died in a plane crash when I was just 9 years old; he was a very successful businessman but his wings couldn’t hold him up. I mourned him in a normal way, all seven stages. I had a normal tenth birthday, minus my father and plus my manically depressed mother, and I was starting to move on. He came back when I was 11. I saw him for ten years and he constantly reminded me that I would never live up to his legacy. He constantly reminded me that I would never fufill the goals he had set for me. My manically depressed mother didn’t understand what I meant by we speak regularly. Later, it was explained, that this was the first symptom of my own psychosis, but at the time, it was merely a petulant irritation.
Therianthropy (from n. therianthrope and adj. therianthropic):
Part man and part beast, from the Greek theríon, meaning "wild animal" and anthrōpos, meaning "human being.” It refers to the metamorphosis of humans into other animals. Therianthropes have long existed in mythology, appearing in ancient cave drawings.
That is when I started watching them. I could sit on the back porch, the whiteness of real sunlight drowning out my father’s nagging voice and just watch them. The gentle thrum was the first indication of their arrival. Turning away from the sun, the glimmering bottle of sugar-water hanging from the porch roof would catch my eye. Slowly but surely, the thrum of their wings would come, and one at a time they would drink the homemade nectar. The male, smaller, brighter, the patch of red on his neck as sweet as my morning grapefruit, would drink, leaning back into his meal like the fattest of satisfied connoisseurs. The female, larger, the white tips of her tail waving constant surrender against her darker feathers, would with far more purpose than the extravagant male. In their rituals, I found my senses entranced, my father quieted, and myself at home.
Soon my agoraphobic mother insisted I stay inside while repeating her mantra, it isn’t safe out there. So I moved the feeder in front of the blue-trimmed kitchen window; if I watched the blur of their wings I could be hypnotized away from everything that held me down in my life. I absorbed every tidbit of information I could about them: the Ruby-throated hummingbird, Archilochos colubri. I memorized their migration patterns (a harrowing journey across the open water of the Gulf of Mexico) and, in every spare second, I recited their anatomical nature (lift is created through the up and down motions of the wings, but forward motion, only through the down beat).
Diagnostic criteria by which Lycanthropy can be recognized:
1.) A patient reports in a moment of lucidity or looking back he sometimes feels as an animal or has felt like one.
2.) A patient behaves in a manner that resembles animal behavior, for example crying, grumbling, or creeping.
3.) A patient holds a belief in current or past transformation.
I remember how it began that first time. It started with intolerance to protein, so I stopped eating protein. I then gave up carbs, milk, and anything solid in favor of sweet fruit juices, which I craved constantly. My paranoid schizophrenic mother tried everything to make me eat. Nothing worked; anything more than juice, and my body would expel it violently hours later. My father yelled at me, stop being an idiot, but I ignored him. I got lighter; the pounds just fell off. But the lightening was more than weight. I was diaphanous; I was emptying out, bones and all. And my spirit was buoyant, that was the most noticeable part. Physically, I felt increasingly trapped, caged, but my spirits soared.
I sat every hour in the kitchen, watching out of the blue-trimmed window, my unprotected bones grinding against the wood of dining-room chair. I closed my eyes and turned my face into the patchy morning sun gushing through the windowpanes. Through the squint, my eyelashes reflected brightly coloured circles, the most lavish of blossoms. Everything was attainable and I could feel my true-self arriving.
Definition of Clinical Lycanthropy:
Lycanthropy, the belief that one has been transformed into an animal (or behaviour suggestive of such a belief), has been described by physicians and clerics since antiquity, but has received scant attention in the modern literature. Some have even thought the syndrome extinct. However, in a review of patients admitted to our centre since 1974, we identified twelve cases of lycanthropy, ranging in duration from one day to 13 years. The syndrome was generally associated with severe psychosis, but not with any specific psychiatric diagnosis or neurological findings, or with any particular outcome. As a rare but colourful presentation of psychosis, lycanthropy appears to have survived into modern times.
-From Keck’s Lycanthropy: alive and well in the twentieth century.
I waited for an opportunity, and I knew when it was time to take flight. My heart began to pick up, sending blood in a tumultuous flood to my veins. The beats were incredibly fast and surprisingly earsplitting. And before I knew it, I was out the window and flying with my own kind.