Why can't he see that I love him? It's his own fault I tied him up, if only he would stop fighting. - William Beckett/Ryan Ross
ob·ses·sion: [uhb-sesh-uhn] noun the domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.
I remember my childhood clearly: a lot more clearly than I remember any other time of my life. I remember my 7th birthday when I first changed. I remember waking up and heading to the bathroom to get ready for school. I remember the water in the shower being almost too hot for me at first, so I sat on the cold floor tiles and waited for it to cool. I remember how, half way through that shower, the water turned freezing and I almost screamed out loud. I remember a lot of that morning before I first caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.
Usually in that mirror stood a small boy with gangly limbs, hands and feet too big for his body, his brown hair scruffy and the fringe stuck up like some kind of bad hairdressing job. Sometimes I’d wrap a towel around my waist and run around the white room, beating my chest and hollering. The shower became a lake where the animals gathered. I could walk up to them and address Mr. Giraffe with a gruff voice, ask him if he’s seen Mrs. Polar Bear recently, or tell Mr. Hippo that I saw his daughter on the swings yesterday – we had so much fun together, can she come out and play more often? The toilet became the only way for me to reach my tree house in the sink and the white walls became lush and green from being covered in the moss that would be growing up the trees. I’d fight tigers and lions with my toothpaste covered sword, do coconut milk shots with mouthwash and then I’d catch sight of my magical jungle in the mirror. The shiny tiles would fade back into view and the creatures would disappear, leaving a small boy standing on the toilet seat, brandishing a red toothbrush.
On that special morning, though, I stepped out of the shower as I finished my badly sung rendition of Happy Birthday To Me, shaking my bum a little and dancing to myself in excitement. I remember thinking, ‘today will be good. I can feel it,’ and turning to face my reflection. That’s when I screamed.
“William?!” My mother was immediately on the other side of the bathroom door, rattling on the handle. “Are you okay? What’s happened?!” I didn’t let her in, I just stared at the person in the mirror and willed myself to wake up. It was all a dream, you see. A nasty dream. You can’t just change like that, can you? You can’t change your eye colour in your sleep, or your hair colour. You can’t make your mouth wider and your nose smaller whilst you lay in your bed.
I pinched myself. I hurt.
I decided I needed my Mommy.
“Mommy?” I whimpered, pressing my face against the door.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart? Let me in, please.”
I made no effort to move as tears started to pour down my face. “Would you love me even if I looked different? If I looked funny?” She paused for a moment, clearly trying to get the thought through her head. She was trying to understand what I meant.
“Of course I would. Please unlock the door.” I reached forward, pulled the rusty lock aside and let her in. I hid myself but I felt her warm hands prise my own away from my face, studying me intently. “What do you mean? Honey, you don’t look funny at all. You look gorgeous. My beautiful little birthday boy.” She wrapped her arms around me and picked me up. “Lets get you ready for school.”
I caught a glance of myself in the mirror. A brown fringe was sticking up scruffy above my own face. I was me again.
I changed a few more times before I realised I wasn’t imagining it. It took me a few more years to learn how to control it and by the time I was 16 I had mastered it. I transformed myself to look older and hit the party scene as often as I could, entering the clubs with tanned skin, lighter coloured hair, a winning smile and the name Gabe Saporta.
Gabe Saporta became the lead singer for a band, gained a respectable job at the local newspaper and started making money, granting me my own place and a new life. It made everything easier to be someone else, so much that I almost forgot myself. When I reached 19, I decided I had had enough and Gabe Saporta disappeared for good, leaving a long haired William Beckett in his place.
That's where I am now, sat in my top floor flat with my 6 year old tabby cat, Gabe.
I pet him softly, running my hand in long strokes along his fur and hearing him purr contentedly as he stretches beneath my touch. He jumps onto my lap, his claws latching onto my jeans and catching the skin beneath. “Fuck! Gabe!” I yell, looping my hands beneath his belly and trying to lift him. He just holds on, the denim pulling up where he has a hold of me. He purrs harder and looks up at me as if to say ‘I’m not letting go’, so I sigh, dropping him back onto me and cringing as his claws pierce the skin again. A few moments pass before he settles and lays down, rubbing his head against my stomach in an attempt to get me to stroke him more.
“Sorry buddy, I’ve got work to do.” I mumble, twisting my upper half to face the laptop by my side. Since Gabe Saporta “left” the job, I had managed to secure the same position in the paper. I type in the heading to today’s article and start glancing over my notes from earlier. “Twin sisters, Megan and Hannah Lucas, 24, died in a tragic fire that destroyed most of the University’s Chemistry block last night.” I had arrived on campus early this morning to get details and comments from students to add to the notes I made last night. The buildings that were damaged covered a half mile radius and people were being ushered away from the area long before I got there, meaning I only got quotes from two girls. It would make the article harder to write than I had originally hoped, especially as the police and fire fighters were keeping a tight lip on the events.
Half an hour later, my back is aching from where I had strained round and I only have a couple of paragraphs written. Gabe is still on my lap, pinning me to the seat. At one point he had stood up, filling me with hope but he only turned himself round and settled down at a different angle. I lay back in my seat, closing my eyes for a moment and thinking. I still had an hour until I was heading out and I couldn’t bring myself to keep writing.
I can’t wait until I get out again. To let myself sink into my child body and go to the park. It seems so strange and so silly, but after working through the week, everybody wants to relax. For me it involves going back to the area where I grew up and being a child again. To be so free and careless makes me feel happy and calm. Occasionally, a concerned parent will come and ask me where my mother is and I’ll tell them that she’s gone to get ice-cream for us or that I only live across the street and most of the time they believe me.
The only time I ever encountered a problem was when I started playing with a kid called Chris; his Mom came up and asked where my own parents were and I told her the ice-cream lie. After that, she insisted she stayed with me until my parents got back which meant I sat next to her on a bench, swinging my legs and trying to think of a way out of it. I eventually forced myself to burst into tears and drop my head into my hands.
Within moments she had her arms around me, cooing into my ear and asking what was wrong. “She’s not coming.” I whimpered, pressing my face into her shoulder. “She’ll be at home, drinking that smelly stuff like always. Daddy doesn’t like it because she starts acting silly and they argue.” I tore myself away from her, running off down the street towards my apartment block and almost threw myself through my front door. My heart was racing with panic. What if she had tried to bring me home or had even taken me back to her own house with Chris? Before I knew what I was doing, I had transformed myself back into the older me and the clothes ripped around my body.
I didn’t return for a few weeks after that, letting everything be forgotten and pushed to the back of all our minds. I never really saw her after that, but when I did I would hide in the bushes and change again into a lighter haired, blue eyed child.
A loud knock startles both me and Gabe and I jumped, knocking him off my lap. I took a moment to compose myself, before another knock sounded throughout the room. “I’m coming, give me a minute!” I shouted out, running as quietly as I could and peering through the keyhole. Vicky, my work partner, stood on the other side, looking irritated.
I watch her as she tucks a piece of her dark hair behind her ear, teetering on her overly high heels and I chuckle lightly to myself as she puts her weight against the wall in an attempt to steady herself, knocking again.
I fling the door open, beaming at her and opening my mouth to speak, but she just pushes past me and drops her onto the seat near the counter. “Boss wants the article by the end of today instead of tomorrow.” She groans, putting a hand to her head as though in pain.
“You could have just called me.” I shrug, opening the fridge and throwing her a bottle of water.
“I did. It went straight to voicemail.” My hand leaps to my pocket, pulling out my phone and I realise it’s out of battery. I smile sheepishly at her, but she just rolls her eyes. “I know you head out soon so I didn’t think you’d get it done. I thought I’d come do it for you whilst you’re gone. The photos are all here, ready to go. I’ll just connect them to your computer and sort through them.”
She’s going to stay here? That means I can’t get ready. I force a grin. “I knew there was a reason I loved you. I just… I need to get ready.”
“So go into a different room, I’m not going to watch if that’s what you’re worried about.” She shrugs and takes a drink. “You look fine though. Can’t you just go wherever like that?”
I just sigh. “Vick, please. Go grab a coffee or something, I’ll leave the door open for you.” She hesitates, narrowing her eyes and scrutinising me before nodding and standing up.
“Fine, just hurry up and don’t take too long.”
After she’s left, I rush to the bedroom, grabbing a small rucksack and filling it with a change of clothes. I search my drawers for a clean t-shirt but find nothing but shorts and child’s underwear. I pick up a pair of camouflage design pants and rush to the bathroom as I shrink into a 7 year old William Beckett, grabbing a toothbrush to brush my teeth with and noticing a pile of clothes on the floor by the shower. I find my superman t-shirt, pulling it over my head and shimmying into my shorts. I’m out of the apartment in minutes, racing down the steps and running all the way to the park.