The Transmuted: Day 6’s Writing
This new information only made the experience Enrico had just gone through harder to comprehend. He sat down on the floor in the middle of the central corridor of the stable and put his head in his hands. Richard sat right next to him, watching to see whether the other man would welcome an arm placed around his shoulders.
Enrico wanted to cry, but realized that this was now impossible, which only upset him more. Sitting down with his legs straight out in front of him, he took stock of what he had just become.
He had seen the transmuted many times before. They were a fairly common sight around $Kingdom. Many people from many different lands chose to come and live there, but some of them chose to do so in secret, avoiding the test of character and loyalty that had been in place there since the days of the current king’s grandfather. As for those who were caught doing so, as Enrico had been, this was what happened to them.
What made this transformed state a punishment was the fact that those who were in it were, in many ways, less than human. Their forms were similar to those they had in their natural human state- they still had two legs, two arms, a trunk, and a head- but their transmuted forms were more regular and measured than their natural forms. Their limbs were flat, sturdy brass bars, the trunk was a hollow rectangular box, and the head was perfectly spherical. All their joints were exposed and visible- ball-and-socket joints at the hips and shoulders, hinge joints at the knees, and an intricate sort of hybrid joint at the elbows, so that the mechanics of moving about were not very different from what they had been before the transmutation.
The hollow trunk had doors in the front and back sides, and the lower halves of their legs had spoked iron wheels and support struts built into them. The transmuted could kneel down, connect the support struts to the sides of the trunk, and travel on wheels instead of walking, carrying goods, and sometimes letters, within their hollow bodies. They often worked in teams to carry goods in large quantities. Since they were a little under four feet tall when standing, they always had to look up at the people they served, and this was even more true when they were on wheels.
Enrico lost himself in a dark cloud of horror, pondering all this. He didn’t know how long he sat there before he remembered that Richard was there, too.
“Richard,” he thought.
“Yes,” Richard replied. “I’m here.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Anything. How I can be alive and yet not alive. How you can be here with me. How we are to live in these forms.”
“I don’t understand it, either. It is most strange. Such is magic, though.”
“Haven’t you ever met anyone who was punished with transmutation and then returned to normal?”
“I have. Those of us who have been through this don’t like to talk about it very much, though. We’re ashamed of it.”
“Oh. But after one completes this sentence, one’s life goes back to normal, does it not?”
“Well… mostly. We do go back to our families and our normal lives, but we bear the shame of having been caught and punished. You’re not quite the same person after being worked like a horse for a year, either. It’s hard to recover your confidence, your dignity. Some people never do.”
“Did you know that would happen to you when you agreed to take the punishment with me, Richard?”
“No. I didn’t. I was only thinking of you. A year is a long time.”
“It is. I can’t understand that, either. I only have to be like this for six months, because you took on half my punishment for me. Such a thing has never been heard of before. What makes me any better or more deserving than anyone else of my people?”
“I can’t compare you to all the rest of your people. I hadn’t really gotten to know any of them very well, before you.”
“Most of your people don’t get to know any of my people very well, not even when they are landlord and tenant.”
“Most of them either act as if their tenants aren’t there, or expect them to work as house servants as payment for their room and board.”
“Yes, I know.”
“You were different, though. Why?”
“I understood that you were working in the fields to earn both your own keep and freedom for your family. I respected that, and understood that it would just be too much for you to do my work in addition to your own, so I never expected you to.”
“But you didn’t pretend that I wasn’t there, either. You wanted to know about where I was from, and how I was getting on. You treated me like a person.”
“You are a person, Enrico, and so are every one of your people. Don’t ever forget that. Especially not now.”
Enrico started, suddenly remembering where they were and what had just happened to them.
“What are we doing, talking about all this?” he exclaimed. “You seem so calm! Don’t you realize that you’re a magical automaton? Aren’t you afraid?”
“I am,” answered Richard. “I’m choosing to think about you and how you feel, to keep my mind off how I feel.”
“But if you’re afraid, then we feel the same way!”
“True. At least we can be afraid together.”
“I don’t want to go up to my room yet.”
“Neither do I.”
“This strange thought-speech might work through walls, though.”
“Do you want to find out?”
Richard and Enrico climbed the stairs to the third level. Enrico went into room 88, and Richard went into room 89.
“Can you still hear me in your mind, Richard?” Enrico thought.
“I can,” Richard thought back. “I imagine you can hear me, too.”
“Yes. It’s not the same as being next to you, though.”
“No. Let’s go back out onto the walkway.”
The two transmuted men came out of the room and sat next to each other on the walkway. Richard decided to let his legs dangle over the edge. After seeing that Richard could do it without losing his balance and falling off the walkway, Enrico followed suit. He found that sitting this way was much more comfortable than sitting on the floor, as he had been previously. Transmuted knees were designed to only bend one way, just like natural human knees, so when Enrico had been sitting on the floor with his legs out in front of him, the wheels built into his lower legs had forced his knees to lock into place and his legs to rise up from the floor at an angle, rather than lying flat against it. His new mechanical hips could accommodate this, but it had nonetheless felt very unnatural. This felt much better.
Enrico held his left hand out, palm up. His forearms were made of two separate flat iron bars attached to different parts of the hybrid elbow joint, making this still possible for him. Richard put his right hand in Enrico’s left.
“How strange!” thought Enrico. “I can feel the weight of your hand, but not the sensation of our hands touching.”
“I feel no such sensation, either,” thought Richard. “Let us trade positions, so I may find out whether I feel the same thing.”
They did. “Indeed,” Richard thought, “it is the same with me. I feel the weight, but not the sensation.”
Enrico was dismayed to find that even the touch of another was denied to the transmuted, but he did not share this thought with Richard. He simply kept his hand where it was and took what comfort he could in the presence of another alongside him. They sat there, not sharing any thoughts with each other, for a long while.
A new, rough-sounding voice was shouting from the entrance to the stable. Enrico looked down from the third-level walkway and saw a burly man standing in the doorway.
“Is that you two up there?” The man was now looking right at Enrico and Richard. “I was told there were new occupants of rooms 88 and 89. What are you doing? Get down here this instant!”
“We were just trying to get used to all this!” Enrico thought desperately, before remembering that natural humans couldn’t hear the thoughts of the transmuted.
Entry filed under: The Transmuted.