Article: 178428 of talk.bizarre
From: (Ed Gaillard)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: Changeling
Date: 1 Dec 1994 02:05:43 -0500
Organization: Putting the Ding in the _Ding an sich_
Lines: 193
Message-ID: <3bjsk7$>
Summary: completely generic tale of alienation and angst
Keywords: crosstalk
Status: O

I still write.  I have kept at least this one human habit.  It
occupies my mind as I wait.  My people have no need of writing; I know
this, even though I have never met one of my own kind.  I know this
because I can feel their minds pressing lightly on mine: their voices
in my head, just out of the range of my understanding.  They will be
here soon, I can feel them coming, they have not abandoned me, soon I
will be home.

Even when I was a child, I stood aside from you; I did not like your
games, your jokes.  I was considered a studious child; perhaps I was,
but the one thing I most studied, I never understood.

I never understood people.  As I grew towards adulthood, I began to
think that I never would.  Hate, fear, envy, greed, lust -- your
motivations were not mine; your drives were as foreign to me as a
tambourine to a tadpole.

I always wondered how god left those parts out of me, the parts that
other people used to decide things.

Even then I could feel the touch of other minds, hear their murmuring
voices in me.  A human killer would claim that the voices told him to
commit his crimes.  I will not say that.  Their voices told me
nothing.  Their voices were too distant.  They were not talking to me;
they were not yet looking for me.

For a while, in college, I felt almost at home.  I hung out in coffee
shops and bars with other alienated, black-clad students, reading
Nietzsche and Sartre.  I seemed so much like them; it took a while for
me to realize that this was only superficial.  They read philosophy to
look cool, or for their grades; I was reading it for clues about
people.  They were talking existentialism and politics in the smoky
cafes to get laid; that was not my motivation -- I was trying to
understand them.

Mass-murderers in fiction stereotypically have sexual problems.  I did
not, not that anyone else knew.  My lovers thought I was a little
remote, but did not find anything anything extraordinary about that.
Internally, I was more than remote; I was completely indifferent.  I
remember that that was what convinced me that I was not human: my
indifference to what everyone else seemed to think the most important
thing in the world.

I knew I was not one of you, but I did not know what I was.  Nor did I
know how to find out.  I had an idea, though, that it would be best if
I removed myself for the company of humans.

After college, I worked for the Forestry Service as a fire lookout.  I
liked the work.  I was alone, alone with the forest.  It would be a
cliche to say that I understood the forest's creatures better than my
fellow humans.  I won't bore you; I won't bore myself.  The animals'
behavior was as strange to me as yours, and as alien.  But their
strangeness was less threatening; I was not expected to understand
their motives. They were only animals.

The Forestry Service eventually replaced fire watchers with automated
systems.  It probably saved them a lot of money.  I would have become
a lighthouse-keeper, but there are none of them anymore, either.

Still, I came away with one thing: this cabin I built, on a remote and
heavily wooded hill, in a tangle of brush.  There are no trails near
it; when I visit, I have to cut my way through the brush with an axe.
The cabin is so hidden that it is almost impossible to find, except
perhaps by accident.

When I returned to human society, it was comforting to have this place
to retreat to.  I kept it stocked so I could stay there for an
extended time -- weeks if necessary.  However, I never stayed that
long.  A few days, a week at most -- whenever your strangeness
overwhelmed me, I came here to cool off.

The voices were always stronger here.  It is as if my people were
homing in on me here;  that is why I am certain they will find me.

So I returned to the city.  I took a series of menial jobs that
allowed me to observe people, without requiring me to interact with
them on anything but the shallowest level:  security guard,
telemarketer, taxi driver.  At night, I would sit at the end of a bar,
and watch people.  I would drink and drink, but I never got drunk.  I
kept observing you, hoping that I would see something I had missed
before, something that would tie me to you.  I never did.

At home, alone, I would concentrate on the voices, trying to hear them
more clearly.  I slept less and less as the years went on;  perhaps an
hour or two a night.  And I did hear the voices getting stronger,
especially on my retreats into the forest.

A few nights ago, I was ready to make such a retreat.  I parked the
cab I was driving at the fleet's lot, and took two bags of canned
goods I was taking with me from the trunk.  As I was bringing them
over to my car, parked in a dark part of the lot, the graveyard-shift
driver of the cab came over and started yelling at me.

"What the hell do ya think you're doin'?  You're late!  I need to get
on the road, dammit."

"Sorry, Tony." I mumbled, and opened the trunk of my car.  I put the
bags goods next to my camping equipment.

"Sorry nothing, asshole!  You always fuck me up like this, I oughta
pound you."  He grabbed me by the shoulder and turned me around.
"Lookit me when I'm talkin' to ya."

I don't like being touched.  I pushed him away, and he stepped up and
punched me in the face.  I felt something tear.  He stopped and stared
at me.

I reached up.  The skin had torn away from my skull on one side.
There was remarkably little blood.

"Wha -- what the fuck?"  he said, voice going from a shout to a
whisper.  He kept staring, as if he couldn't move.  I reached in to
the trunk and pulled out my axe.  He still didn't move.

I swung the axe.  Now there was a lot of blood.  His body hit the
ground, his head barely attached to it.

At least it was dark.  That gave me a little time.  I drove away.

Only a little time -- they'd be expecting Tony to hit the road soon,
and it would only be a few minutes before someone came out to check on
him.  I had to get another car and get the hell out of the city.  The
voices sang in my head, but as always they had nothing to say.

I headed toward the highway, thinking vaguely that maybe I could jump
somebody at a rest stop.  The flapping of my skin annoyed me, and I
absently pushed my face back on.  It seemed to stay in place all

There was a car on the shoulder just before the on-ramp.  It was very
dark there, and the driver was alone; maybe I was in luck.  I pulled
over, checked my face in the mirror -- it would do -- and leaned out
the window.  "Hey buddy, what's the problem?"

"Flat.  You got a jack?"  "Sure."  I grabbed a sweater from the back
seat, draped it over my shirt to hide the blood, and went to the trunk
for the jack.  And for the axe, which I hid under the sweater.

"Thanks, fella.  Lemme -- hey.  You don't look so good.  You OK?"

"Just fine", I said, and pulled out the axe.  More blood.  Luckily
nobody came along while I was changing the tire.  I took his keys and
ID and drove away, *very* carefully.

At daybreak, I abandoned the car a few miles from my cabin. Once in
the woods, I felt calmer, stronger.  My heart slowed.  Part of my face
peeled away again, but it didn't bother me.  The voices sang softly as
I hacked my way through the brush.  And then I stopped.  A few feet
away from me were two hikers, a boy and a girl, maybe 20 years old.
What in hell were they doing here?

They saw me, and stared.

I knew I would have to kill them.  I felt no hate, no rage, no pity.
A real human would have; would have felt at least one.

They were frozen with horror.  I must have looked like something out
of their worst nightmares, out of the movies, out of their preacher's
sermons of Hell.  I swung the axe; once, twice, three times, four; it
was done.  I scuttled uphill.

I am waiting here, in my old cabin.  There are no mirrors.  I do not
know what I look like; I cannot see my face.  I can feel the bone --
if that's what it is -- where my skin has sloughed off my skull.
Below the neck, I still have human skin: dry, mottled grey,
dead-looking.  I cannot see my face, but that is no matter.  I know my
human face is gone, and my true face looks out at the world.  Soon, my
people will come to retrieve me, and I will know what I look like.  I
will recognize my people at once.  I am sure of it.  I will know that
I belong with them, when they come, when they come to get me.

I wait for my people, for the ones who left me here among you.  They
wanted to know what you are like.  When they arrive, I will tell them:
you cannot know, we can never know, they are not like us, they are
alien.  We will leave, then.  We will leave you alone.  You will never
know we have gone, as you never knew I was with you. Unless you read
this, and accept it as the truth.  Then you will know; but knowing
will not help you: we will be gone.  Besides, why would you believe
this wild story?  No-one could write such things seriously.  You would
be mad to believe.

I am patient.  Their minds touch me even now, lightly but
unmistakably, like the rumble of a huge but distant choir.  They are
louder than the helicopters flying over these woods.  They are louder
than the distant cries of men and dogs.

They will be here soon, I can feel them coming, they have not
abandoned me, soon I will be home.

-ed g.
i set my hand to writing you / it drifted off the page