No one can tell anything is amiss. I make sure of that.

I sit in class. I raise my hand. I participate in group discussions.

I go to work. I chat with coworkers. I type away at a computer.

I take a walk. I nod at passersby. I pet a dog.

Most days, I remember no faces, recall no words. It’s better this way.

Each of these experiences is as real/unreal as the last.

Today, I am both marionette and puppeteer. I tilt and twist and guide my body along. I delicately, masterfully pull the strings so I may make my painted and wooden body dance and sing. I am as real as any of you, I promise, I dance, I sing.

I meet an old friend for coffee.

“How are you?” they ask.

“Just fine.” I laugh, I smile, I throw my voice so they may hear what they wish. The jokes and compliments and soothing of their worries. I bring my drink to my painted lips and taste nothing, but that doesn’t matter. It’s all part of the show.

With the gentlest tug of a string, I have my audience enraptured.

I observe my performance with them. I critique. I applaud.

At home, I leave my limbs and threads in a tangle on the carpet. I replay today’s show again and again. Though people are always too polite to point when I drop a string, too considerate when the words land awkwardly, I’m certain they catch the moments I fumble. I make note of each mistake. What better way is there to learn?

I examine my face. I can see the paint chipping at the corner of my eyes, at the edges of my mouth. I will need to freshen that up before my next showing. I know my friends will appreciate it. The less they will have to ignore, the easier it will be to get on with the show.

I will dance, I will sing.

Today, I am formless, weightless. I pour myself into the shape of a person.

During a meeting a bit of the mist seeps through a crack. I rein it in before it can cloud over the gazes of my peers. These days are challenging. The world is indistinct and gray, and I marvel at the ability of others. Their mist never seems to escape.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who must contain their amorphous form, if others don’t concern themselves with filling out their person shapes to the tips of their noses to the ends of their fingers to the balls of their feet. I can’t always reach all those corners. I will often forget my chest or my legs. My heartbeats will stutter, and I will be unable to carry myself forward, but only for a minute or two. I’ll be right as rain in just a moment, don’t you worry, and we can get on with our meeting, our work, our lives.

Now, I float, adrift, across my bedroom ceiling, eyeing the rubble on my floor. Unwashed clothes, discarded dishes, receipts and scribbled notes. Evidence of a life lived outside these walls that stuck to my shoes and got dragged in. Pinned down to my bedroom floor by gravity, a phenomenon of which I am free.

Free to float and drift and be nothing at all.

Today, I am a werewolf.

No one comments on my sharp, clean fangs, my tangle-free fur. I wish they would. I spend so long making myself presentable, palatable. I wish someone would notice. I have caged my great, powerful body in these clothes, forced my fearsome howls to escape my throat as polite, dull conversation. For them, for them, for them, always for them and I receive nothing at all.

And when my true nature overpowers such restraints, when my voice cracks with snarls and my terrible claws encircle their wrists, do they scream? Cower and flee? Of course not. They may as well pretend like I’m not even here, though I must be difficult to ignore. I am stronger than them all by far, and yet here I am prowling between the cubicles and devouring the leftovers in the fridge without so much as a second glance. 

Days go missing and I know I’ve hurt people. There is dirt on my bedroom floor, encrusted beneath my nails. Still, still, still never do they address my wounds.

Alone in the night, I fall asleep.

I dance. I sing. I untangle my strings.

I lay against my ceiling. I let the tendrils of my mist free. I count the tiles on my bathroom floor.

I tear through a moonlit night. I release a mighty howl. I drag my feet back home.

Each of these bodies is as real/unreal as the last.

Each of these days is as real/unreal as the last. These unending gray days.

To some, dreams are utterly intangible, utterly separate to waking life. I make no such distinction. I know that I stand right on the shoreline of the sea of my imagination and the beach of my reality. I wait for the waves to crash over me, to sweep me out to the darkest depths and drop me back on the sand again and again and again.

There is no true beginning or end, no line to be drawn on this everchanging beach. The sand and the sea give and take and set no boundaries. They are as real/unreal as the other.

My dreams are my reality, and my reality is made up of dreams. I am a wooden doll, a misty spectre, a powerful beast. I know this, I know, I know.

Today, I am adrift at sea.

Today, someone comes in to clear away my dishes. I watch from beneath the covers as they move through the dirt as if it didn’t exist at all, though I can see it stick to their socks. They never once trip over my strings or are forgotten by gravity.

They leave with an armful of soggy bowls and countless spoons and gently call my name. A moment later I am rolling out of bed, my solid feet meeting the solid floor. I look at my hands and don’t see mist or wood or claws. There is only flesh and blood, bone and clean fingernails.

To aid their hunt for water-logged glasses, this someone had drawn the curtains. The morning light lands on my solid body, warming the places it lingers.

She calls for me again. I respond not with a thrown syllable or a whisper or a howl. Instead, I return with a simple good morning and be out in a moment, though this voice is scratchy from disuse.

Today, I find her sitting at the kitchen table finishing a bowl of cereal, a second one at the empty seat beside her. I sit and distantly recall that these are our usual spots for meals. The cereal is still crunchy and the milk is sweet.

She tells me her plans for the day. My voice still trips with mumbles and stutters, so I leave her to talk. I like her voice. It’s familiar and warm.

As she speaks, she slips a hand in mine, and for one chilling moment I worry she will pass through mist. But not today. Not with her. Together, we are firm and solid and flesh. I know that on other days she never cringes at my paw, never once has she gotten a splinter.

Today, my feet are firm against the floor.

There is no dirt under my nails.

I know there will be other days where I will be strung up, untethered, or wild. But today is different.

Today, I am on solid ground. 

October 11, 2022 20:21

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00:24 Oct 20, 2022

Very well done! The voice feels disembodied but not lost. I sense contentment and acceptance not desperation or despair--at least from the narrator's perspective--which makes me want to know more.


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Seán McNicholl
07:59 Oct 19, 2022

Really great story here, loved the narrators voice! Almost feels like a free-form poem of inner thought, of the struggle to “fit in”. Some lovely lines in here too, beautifully written! Well done!


C. J. Peters
18:46 Oct 19, 2022

Thank you!


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Michał Przywara
03:04 Oct 17, 2022

An interesting narrator! Considering they speak of being mist, of only approximating a person, of faking things with other people, I'm picturing someone who feels disconnected. Perhaps someone who struggles to fit in, to grasp the purpose of most social exchanges. Someone who acts "normal" maybe as a means of protecting themselves. Someone who may be prone to violent or angry thoughts (as a werewolf). I think the disconnected feeling is underscored by the woman at the end, with whom the narrator *does* feel connected. With her, they have a...


C. J. Peters
12:08 Oct 17, 2022

Thank you so much!!


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Milena SK
18:32 Mar 16, 2024

I really like it


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Danika J
02:14 Oct 19, 2022

Wow, this was an excellent take on the prompt! Really well done! I loved the MC Fooling Them:MC Fooling Himself aspect. Beautiful


C. J. Peters
18:47 Oct 19, 2022

Thank you!!


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