We woke up exactly simultaneously. That may have been a coincidence or a potential side effect of the transformation. If it is a side effect, I wonder how long it will last or if it will impact her waking up every night on the hour to defecate. Perhaps that would be my personality trait now? Now, I am the defecater who will awaken her? I wasn't quite sure how the transference worked.
The room was small, clean, and simple. The curtains were a mute green. The bed was twin sized and very highly elevated from the ground. Lots of machines and IVs and wires encircled the bed. I sat on a table across from it, near a television and a plant. No one paid any attention to me.
She woke up and sat up in bed with speed and vigor that body was unused to. She looked around abruptly. She looked down at her hands and arms and shrieked to herself. Running her fingers over her legs with awe, she rocked back and forth in the hospital bed, gasping as she struggled to understand what respiration is. She had it down when she was sleeping because of muscle memory, but now the shock undermined that.
"Sally," said one of the doctors. "Do you know where you are?"
She looked up quickly at the four adults standing at her bedside in dark blue scrubs and white lab coats. Two of them held clip boards. All of them wore expressions of concern and sympathy. She recoiled, pulling the bed sheet up around her. Her wide eyes stared unblinkingly and her mouth gaped open, glubbing soundlessly.
"You tried to kill yourself last night," said one of the doctors.
"God, Steve, don't be so blunt," said another. These were young doctors. The older one, the head doctor was silent.
"Well, it's true. It's a drastic horrible problem and it's not going to go away by pretending it's not there."
"But it's sensitive; we can't just spring it on her."
"We have to address the seriousness of the issue. This girl tried to end her life."
No she did not! I wanted to scream. I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. Or at least no sound that they could hear. The pressure beat down on me and I felt claustrophobic. I was trapped in this tiny prison. I swam furiously around the bowl in frustration. This was ridiculous. I crossed my fins in an exasperated huff.
The older doctors sat at the foot of her bed. "Can you tell us what you were thinking... last night... when you...?"
First of all, it was me, obviously, that tried, I thought. I looked at the doctor and swam up and down emphatically. He didn't notice me, or he pretended not to, in a mistaken attempt to appear empathetic to the one in pain. The doctor's eyes were trained on the girl, watching her with gentle, worried love. Second of all, I wanted this stupid weird prank to stop.
The girl looked up at him with big, darting eyes. Her lips trembled. She knotted her fingers into the sheet and intertwined the fabric with that of her hospital gown. She let out a high pitched, squeaky stammer and then brought her hands to her larynx in surprise. She groped at the thyroid and her swollen neck with curiosity. Silently, she explored the body with wonder. I rolled my eyes.
"We tried calling your parents," said the doctor. "They seem to be unable to answer. Do you have someone else we can call?"
She said nothing and chewed on her hair, sucking hard at the ends. I wish I could say that was a habit she brought to the body and not one that the body is very used to.
Trying a new approach the doctor sighed and said, "Is this your pet goldfish?" He walked across the room, picked up my small glass bowl, and set it nearer to her bedside. She looked at me for the first time, which was pretty self centered considering that I had noticed her right away. She jumped out of the bed and pointed at me and she started screaming. The doctors tried to restrain her but she bounced up and down, pointing at me with a vehemently shaking outstretched arm.
Yeah, I know, I thought. I'm not too happy about it either, obviously.
I wasn't sure why the paramedics had brought me. I thought back to the previous night. I had been safe in my own body. I had never thought of myself as "safe" in that body before, until now. It had been a cage. I used to hate being in my skin. I used to wake up in the night with scratch marks over my arms and stomach where I had tried to claw my way out of myself in my sleep. I hated existing, hated the hard reality of my flesh. Now that I'm in this scaly, gill-breathing body, I actually miss the flabby human shell I used to abode.
Inside my old body, my real body, I had been lying in the bathtub. The fish was in the bowl in the bathroom, watching me. I wonder what she was thinking. I kept my eyes trained on the fish, staring hard, not looking at myself, as I let the knife slide into my inner forearm. I glared deeply into the fish's eyes as my fingers strove for escape, for freedom.
There hadn't been a flash of light or a musical number, just as simply as if it was always, I was in the fish's body and she was in mine. The fish looked down at her/my arm and began screaming. That had awakened the neighbors who had called 911. I think that actually, she was the one who tried to grab my bowl and insisted it come with her into the ambulance. It's hard to remember. My memory was fading already.
My body rocked back and forth with a fish inside of it.
The doctors were whispering something, while she shuddered. They called a psychiatric consult, who came down and sat on the bed to talk to the girl. He seemed kind, but hard to read.
Are you a scientist? I thought as hard as I could. Can you switch us back please? I won't do it again. I just want to be me. I won't try again. I promise I will follow the rules. I want to be in my body. Swap us back!
But it seemed unlikely that that would happen. Maybe if I got fish-Sally to try it, the same thing would happen. I began to feel slightly dizzy, so I slowed down my swimming, and began to float. I just needed a little rest. Of course I was tired out. Everything has been so stressful lately. I just need to relax. Fish-Sally's eyes flew to me. I remembered that the last time I had fed the fish was yesterday, before I tried. Fish need to be fed an annoyingly frequent amount of times. That was pretty selfish of me not to even think to arrange for someone to feed the fish if I had succeeded in my attempt. Fatigue and sickness overcame my body. The color drained from my gills. Fish-Sally frowned and scratched her head. She watched me intently with my old eyeballs.
It's okay. I thought to her. We're going to be okay. I'm going to be me again and you're going to be you and it will all be fine and normal again.
Slowly I rotated in the water and I was swimming upside down, a backstroke, with my stomach towards the surface. And slowly star coated darkness encircled reality, gradually closing in and narrowing my vision. I welcomed the relief of sleep.