Monologue: The Monster at Night

Dear God, that was the worst I've ever seen. I thought he might weep, when I first saw him. Expected it. Asked him four times before I shot, or was it three? And he still nodded.

I've seen those before—exiled from their old life, trying to hold it together, or not, then the change, and they just lose it and lay there sobbing. Terrible start for the ones around them, too. But this was worse.

There are the freak-outs, the screamers who can't understand what their new body is saying. And they can even be ones who were looking forward to it. But it's just too intense, too strange. But this was worse: grief plus fright plus revulsion. Horror.

He was horrified. The way he kept babbling "monster" and trying to crawl on his elbows to get away from his own horse body while his back half thrashed and bucked... The way he buried his face in the grass and—I think—simply tried to die. Damn Receptance.

Monster monster monster monster...

If I had a proper military mind, I'd just say, "Right. Blackholt, Sanders, get him out of here and tell me when he calms down."

That's what we did, really. I just wasn't able to be callous. Blackholt was good and quick with that tranc shot. But they take time to work. Especially when you are now the size of a horse.

Monster monster monster monster monster...

How on earth did he get shoved in here? Well, I can guess. He was still raving in the infirmary when the families left. And no family for him, of course. No, and never to be any. I think he was told to enlist or something worse than just exile would happen to "her," whoever "she" is—mistress? bastard daughter? beloved old governess or favorite aunt for all I know. Wouldn't help to know. Probably something sexual. This sort of thing is always about heirs.

I expected him to weep. I asked, "Ready?" and "Sure, now?" and so on, and he nodded, but he'd started weeping before I shot him, stiff and still, trying to hold it together from basement-level self-respect I suppose. Never going to see "her" again. Certainly never going to see friends or family again. No friends, no family, no "her." Already horrified—now I recall how he flinched from me, from Sanders, before the shot. Hard to remember we're big and scary, monsters.

Monster monster monster monster...

I'd better go relieve Sanders soon. Must watch him. Can't have a suicide. I suppose. No! Jesus Mary Joseph, no! Dear God! St. Martin, do I have a cloak to share with him? "Welcome to monsterhood. You'll like it. Honest! Some of us monsters—most of us—are happy this way. You're celibate or next thing to it, and you have to eat a mother-load of roughage every day, and we work you like a donkey of course, out in a Twilight Zone full of other kinds of monsters, and half the kingdom and all the rest of the world regards you as a freak, a perversion, a walking bestiality joke. But it'll be fun! Really! Believe me!"

"Just put all that behind you. ALL of it. It's like reincarnation without the forgetting part, just the bad karma."

St. Martin, my half a cloak is pretty raveled tonight. Not fit to give a beggar.

What do I really say to him when he comes around? I need half a cloak, Martin. I bet he'll ask if he's still human, still a man. Still himself. Should I tell him "No, you're someone new, something new. Time to start over"? Can't, not when I tell all the other pips, "You're yourself. Now you're a man and a horse both at once! A stallion! A war horse plus warrior! A charger plus knight! Hold your head and tail high! Prance proudly!" Try selling that line to him.

What is it Alain tells them? "Congratulations, now you've grown your horsehood." Like a really odd growth spurt. I don't like them thinking of their equine body as that separate. I know he walks it back from there, but... But would that be the way to help this wretch? "You've grown a horse, a fine horse, and here's how to take care of it." Could backfire. Suicidally. I really believe he might try to saw himself in half. What do you call that noise where they scream and moan both at once? Don't let him near power tools...

Chaplain. Could Father Rob help? Isn't that what he's for? But what if he brings up his soul? Dear Martin! "Is my soul damaged? Tainted? Do I even have the same soul?" What'll Rob say? He'll say the nice things, of course. "You're you. No taint. It's a shock, it took you badly, but you'll get over it." Would we be likely to get a chaplain who said anything else? Should we have a second, one who's been changed? "Meet the new curate."

(What. If. He's. Right? Am I the same person I was before? How could you ever tell? Is any man my age the same person he was at twenty? Am I a man of my age? Oh, don't you start, or you'll be no use at all!)

I don't have answers for the arguments they make against the transformation. Well, I do, but none a raving man will stop to listen to.

Why think you've erased your imago dei? Why think it's a sin at all?

Because now you're a monster.

No, Rob'll earn his keep getting the fellow to forgive the ones who pushed him into monstrosity. Maybe. Someday. Damn-all chance of getting any repentance out of them. "The best revenge is living well." Maybe try that on him. But not for some time yet.

Time. I have a year or more with him. A year.

What do I tell him in a few hours? Look forward. "Yes, there's the monstrous shape, but we're handsome monsters, really. We're big and awkward, but not outdoors or in places built for us. Other than that, it's all gain. You're strong and fast and tough. Mentally, it's even better! More drive! Better memory!"

It can be better. Don't let the energy turn to rage or fear. Keep your lust to yourself. But that's too subtle for right now. Can I make him believe he's a bit of a superhero? Don't mention better memory. It's for things from now forward, anyway. Dear God, don't let his lust get tangled up with his loathing. Nasty, nasty. Monstrous.

If I'm callous, he could despair. If I sympathize, he'll wallow. And I'd be lying, both ways. I do feel sorry for him, but I'm proud of this shape. Brisk and nursey is the tack, I guess. "Let's get you all better, then." Ignore how he got here. Pretend I've seen this before, which I almost have. Pretend it's not so bad. Useful lies.

Pretend you know what you're doing. It's worked so far.

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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2017