By Barbara Holm
Alex rolled over beneath puddles of starch sheets and put her head under the pillow. The blankets were scratchy against her skin like a crumpled up boring love letter. The room was dark but her sharp eyes could make out outlines and shadows creeping beneath the closet door. Her heart beat accelerated it’s rhythm. The throbbing rumbled deep inside of her like underneath piles of her flesh someone from the blue man group was play drums. She anxiously itched at her skin.
“You okay, baby?” yelped the sleeping smelly heap of human being lifeform next to her. Jeremy’s eyes were closed and drool oozed onto the pillow. Droplets of hot moisture absorbed into the cotton. Tired growling snoring blustered in his nostrils like a foghorn on a ghost ship of dreams.
Without saying anything Alex crept out from the bed, careful not to disturb Jeremy. She slipped out of bed and padded barefoot downstairs. In the cool kitchen, she breathed slowly, grasping a chair for balance. She filled a glass with tap water and drank it in one gulp.
Alex caught her reflection watching her from the dark window, a picturesque blend of the trees and darkness outside blended with the reflection of the dull suburban kitchen in a blender of loneliness and disconnection.
“It’s getting harder to hide myself from him,” she whispered to her reflection.
Her reflection remained silent, duh, watching from eyes slightly ajar behind the clumpy mass of face. She knew she didn’t belong here, with him, with anyone, anywhere.
Itching to get out of the confining skin, she reached behind her ponytail, deep into her thick hair and fingered the tiny silver zipper with her first finger and thumb. Delicately, pulling through tangles of hair, she tugged the zipper down her skull, sliding the tiny mechanism down her neck. A draft of fresh air kissed her real head as she swept her hair to the side and the human skin unzipped and peeled away. Pulling away the human skin suit, Alex released herself into the kitchen, feeling like a smelly mermaid reaching for the surface and erupting into the sunlight and then remembering mermaids can’t breathe oxygen anyway because they have gills. Then the mermaid would suffocate and die above the water and Alex would laugh at it because mermaids are silly skanks.
Alex stepped out of the crumpled pile of human flesh, hair, and pajamas, nudging the prison of conformity with her scaly clawed toe. Naked and free, she itched her puke green lizard body with one of her long six fingered paws. Her tail scraped the floor while she yanked at undesirable tufts of fur poking out of the hard shelled alligator skin.
Looking back at her reflection, Alex saw what she really was and smiled. Her giant glaring green nostrils flared with joy and desire. An evil glint glowed in her stony eyes and her fish like lips curled, revealing long sharp white teeth in a hungry grin. No one could ever know what she was, but safe beneath blankets of never-gonna-be-the-prom-queen-anywhere, her true form was kinda pretty.
She had been dating Jeremy for a few weeks and she was getting ready to run again. He was getting to close to discovering who she really was. When they were humping he almost felt her tail bulge under the skin suit, but he kept on going, like a human man does, you know, the grown up adult sexual intercourse way… like with the candles and the Barry White. Like fornication. Right? Yes? Soon he would know she was a freak and he would leave her, or he would turn her in to the FBI or he would have a nervous breakdown and kill himself. All of those things had happened before, but she hoped it was the latter so she could at least get dinner out of it.
Alex picked up her limp human skin suit and swung it around her neck like a pretentious hipster scarf. Hobbling in the darkness, she walked out of Jeremy’s house and into the night. Past streetlights and garbage cans, she paced the dirty sidewalk in her natural form. She knew if someone saw her, even one of her loved ones, they would scream or shoot her, but she actually felt more safe without the suit. Dogs barked at her as she slinked through the night. It was times like this she almost thought about going back up to the mountains, finding a nice cave and holing herself up away from people, away from everyone, away from lines at the cafeteria, away from strangers touching her accidentally on the bus, away from coworkers talking, away from feelings.
The escape wasn’t enough, though. Alex knew seclusion would never be enough. The skin suit dangled from her shoulders in a wave like a cape for the most pointless depressing super hero ever. She pressed it to her lips and anxiously gnawed on it as she walked home: soaking in the taste of Jeremy’s sweat and semen and her own strange sweet scent. Rain drizzled on her lizard head as she sang an old folk song to herself in the night.