By Dalyn Baxter
I woke up as a chicken.
Now, I know most people don’t have the weird disease known to me as the I-don’t-know-what-or-who-I-am-going-to-wake-up-as-because-my-body-can’t-make-up-its-mind-and-stay-human virus, but I’m a peculiar kid.
The label is genius though, right?
If you haven’t figured it out by that description, I change my form all the time. It’s not like I want to, but I can’t help it. I go to sleep as a normal, everyday cellphone, and wake up a chicken.
Hmm, being a cellphone was fun. All the gossip I heard…
Next thing I know, I’ll be waking up as a timpani with someone hitting away on me. Wait. I think I already did that.
Anyway, I can’t say life as a chicken is bad. So far, I have just run around and clucked at other chicken-kind, but around noon, the other chicken started to talk.
“I’m hungry.” a particularly annoying one said.
Well, no one ever said chickens were particularly bright.
For some reason, they all decided to go to Mc Donald’s. Why they would want to go to a place that serves chicken as food is beyond me.
The smell of grease became stronger as we arrived at the nearest Mickey D’s, but it was nothing compared to when we actually walked in. It was overpowering, and I wanted to gag, but found I couldn’t. We flapped up to the counter, but the employee freaked out when he saw us.
“The chickens have escaped!” he shouted. At that point, several business men in crisp black suits walked in and started attacking us. Our feathers fluttered as we scrambled for safety, but there was nowhere that we could really run.
We all finally cowered behind a woman who seemed ready to murder anyone who got near us. Well, at least from behind. I never saw her face.
“Ma’am, those birds you are protecting are our food. You need to turn them over and let us cook and eat them,” a man with cruel, hawk-like eyes said. He wore a nametag that read Mr. Ward.
“Over my dead body. You are not killing innocent children.” The woman shot back at the man. I wondered why she called us children. Being a child implied that we were human, and we very obviously were not anything remotely related to humans. And also, I was 17 years old.
“Ma’am, these birds are bred for food. Their life will be horrible if you keep them alive because they will be confused and unresponsive. If you want a pet, go get a dog.”
“I already have a dog,” She replied snidely. Her shoulders tensed up, and I could imagine her chin jutting out defiantly, and her eyes narrowed indomitably. “You are not taking these birds to the slaughter house.”
The man looked pained at her response, but sympathetic. I could tell that the sympathy was not real though, because the emotion in his eyes was forced. I clucked in confusion. “Please reconsider.” he said a minute later, before walking out with the rest of the other men.
I looked to the woman to cluck out a thanks, but she was gone from her spot, instead standing by a man, who I assumed was her husband, due to the rings on their fingers. They looked familiar, but I couldn’t place why. She was sobbing onto his shoulder, her protective air gone, and he tried to console her, but he silently cried as well.
I fell asleep before I could find out why.
Now, I don’t normally eat a lot of ice cream and sweets. Then again, most times I don’t even have a mouth. So naturally, it came as a surprise to me that I was a cow, and that I was gorging myself on ice cream. It seemed a little cannibalistic as well, but the chickens from yesterday were definitely more so.
The ice cream itself wasn’t the weirdest thing. Nor the fact that I was a cow. The weird thing was that I was a purple and blue polka-dotted cow who was eating ice cream from a bathtub sized waffle cone.
I continued eating for ten minutes, still bewildered as to why I was doing so but unable to stop, before an entire herd of cows like me (as in purple and blue and polka-ed, if that’s even a word) joined me in stuffing our faces.
All at once, we felt sick. I watched in slow motion as they all thundered over to a trash can that had mysteriously appeared.
I tried to run over as well, but I couldn’t move. As the other cows got near the trashcan, they disappeared, as if running through a smoke wall. With them left the sick feeling, leaving me feeling very blissful.
I fell asleep punctually, confused but content.
I opened my eyes and couldn’t see anything.
Then suddenly I could, as light flared up in front of me, showing animation. I realized I was in a movie theater, and saw the color from the projector lighting up dust motes in the translucent air. I turned my head back to the screen and watch as advertisements rolled by. It wasn’t long before some kids walked in, but then I realized they weren’t kids. They were young donkey’s intent on speaking the entire time the ads played, and I hoped they wouldn’t chat during the movie as well.
They, however, didn’t stop when the movie started, instead conversing even louder to be heard over the film. I couldn’t fathom what could be so important as to not give the movie theater the placidity it deserved.
I ended up not even knowing the plot because their commentary on someone named Oneira thoroughly distracted me.
Though the name did sound very familiar.
The next day I was the world- like the whole world. It was a tranquil experience, floating in space, even though it was dark and cold. The silence might have seemed deafening to some, but to a girl like me, whose normal day was full of adventure, rush, and noise, I was finally able to just exist. I wished I could stay in that form forever.
When I woke up again, I was a cell phone’s answering machine. I heard a girl’s voice coming through the speakers.
“I miss you. You don’t know hard it is for everyone right now. With Mr. Canton pressuring your parents, and your sister entering first grade last week, and here I am, starting my senior year in a couple days without my best friend by my side. I-” Her breath shuddered, revealing her silent tears. I want to help her, but what can a common answering machine do?
“Please, just get better soon. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” The line died.
I’m asleep again.
I’m a bank when I wake up this time. It’s a little harsh on me, because I feel the emotions of everyone there. Greed, desperation, and joy are just a few.
I watched a discussion in a private room through the video camera. A woman sat on the edge of a chair. Her hands are wrapped on the arm rests tightly enough to turn them white. She doesn’t have enough funds for something. She looks familiar, but her back is to the camera, so I don’t know why.
“You don’t understand!” she shouts at the agent helping her. Her arms waved emphatically, blood rushing back into them slowly. The fear in her voice affected me. “I need this loan or they’ll kill her!”
“I’m sorry ma’am, but you’ve already taken out several loans with us, and we can’t offer you another one until they’ve been paid back.” Money is such a trifle thing, in my opinion, especially when it comes to saving a life.
“But my baby! They’ll kill her! Please, help me somehow!” Her voice dropped to barely a whisper as she realized that she may not be leaving the office having successfully completed her goal. I could imagine that her eyes watered with the thought of losing her child.
The agent called security, who escorted the woman out, still pleading for the man to reconsider and help her.
I hoped that I would never be a bank again.
Today I woke up in a hospital. It was strange- I noticed the ceiling, then a man and a woman that I recognized.
“Mom? Dad?” I asked. “I haven’t seen you for a long time. The last time I was human, actually.”
Their heads shot up, and their eyes filled with tears as they rushed over to me. They hugged me, and it became hard to breathe. I couldn’t understand why they acted so strange, but I let them hug me, luxuriating in the feeling of my family.
“Jenny! Lindsey!” My dad shouted with a smile on his face. “Come quick, she’s awake!” I heard several sets of foot prints stampeding toward me, and then people rushed in, nurses, a business man with a hawk-like face, and then my best friend and a small child. My mom turned around to see who had run in, and I recognized her from behind as the woman from the bank and the Mc Donald’s. I didn’t know why I couldn’t recognize her before.
“Oneira!” my friend shouted. Was that my name?
“Hi Lindsey. How are you?” I asked. At least I remembered her name.
“How am I? You’re awake, and you ask me how I’m doing?” She seemed out of breath, joyful, and panicked.
“What’s that mean?” I asked confused. “Why does everyone keep saying that? I wake up every day. I know I may not stay awake for very long, but I always wake up. I’ll be falling asleep soon enough again, but it was nice seeing you. I hope I wake up human again soon.”
They frowned slightly in confusion, their eyes still holding an overjoyed sparkle in them. It humored me, but I quickly got over it when the little girl jumped in my arms. I recognized her as my sister. She was heavy, which came as a surprise to me, because ever since I first became something other than human, weight hasn’t existed. As in I could lift an elephant as an ant and not feel any different than normal.
“What do you mean by wake up every day?” my father asked, drawing his eyebrows together into a set of wrinkles.
“Well, a couple of days ago I woke up as a chicken, and a cow, and the earth, and before that was a cell phone, a timpani, a clothes hanger, a mountain, and a woodpecker. That’s just a fraction of the past couple months.” I explained slowly, hoping they would stop questioning what my life had been like recently.
My parents glanced at each other, unspoken conversation traveling between them, before they gazed back at me.
“Sweetie,” my mother started. “You’ve been in a coma for a year.”