I think I may be sick.
This is the first conscious thought that flits through my mind as I wake up.
I can see light filtering through the curtains in my room, indicating that it is morning. Yet my limbs feel heavy and I can feel a pressure on my head as if I have a bad cold.
I try moving my body and head so that I can see the time on the alarm clock next to my bed, but every movement hurts and evokes the sensation as if my limbs and neck are about to break apart. On the alarm clock – shaped like the head of a cartoon cat – I can tell that it is already well past 7 in the morning. Downstairs I can hear sounds that indicate that my parents are at the breakfast table.
Groaning, I try to move my limbs again. It figures that this would happen to me today, just as I was looking forward to hanging out with my best friends today after school. Michael said he had just received that new video game that we had been talking about for months. Now I may have to miss out on all that fun.
With small, painful movements I manage to remove part of the blanket off my upper body with arms that feel like numb wooden sticks, revealing my body inside my pyjamas. To my horror their skin has taken on a dull, lifeless grey. Testing the motion in my elbows and wrists, I can now see that my skin has become a thick, hard layer that makes it impossible for me to move my limbs more than a small amount.
With a distinct feeling of being in a nightmare, I try opening my mouth to call for my parents. Yet after an initial resistance-free motion, I can feel a similar stiffness as what I felt in my limbs affecting my face. With me being able to open my lips just this little, I can let out little more than a whimper.
Feeling desperate, I force my mouth to open wider. Even as I do so, I can feel something on either side of my face snap, as pain courses through my head. Now screaming, I can feel more pain surging from the back of my neck.
Through a haze of pain I’m barely aware of my parents entering my room, both of them sounding distraught. My screaming turns into sobbing as my mother sits down on my bed and lifts my body up into a comforting embrace.
“Hush, baby. We are here now.” She says, stroking my head.
“Here, drink this.” My father says, as he pushes a glass with something that smells faintly sweet and somewhat bitter under my nose, “It should help ease the pain of the shedding.”
“Sh… shedding?” I manage to croak out, between sips from the glass of the liquid inside. The liquid pretty much tastes the way it smelled.
“The metamorphosis.” My mother explains, “The moment when you begin to start shedding your skin as you grow into an adult. We had no idea that it would begin so early for you. I’m so sorry.”
As the medication’s effects begin to take hold, I can feel the sensations of pain and pressure lessen. Despite feeling warm and comfortable now, I can’t help but ponder this news. Of course I have heard of this metamorphosis, of this transition into adulthood, but hadn’t really paid much attention to it.
“At least I’m not sick, then.” I say, quietly, as I smile at my parents.
My mother just hugs me tighter.
“You can probably feel some pains as the old skin begins to crack.” My father says, in a calm tone that helps to put me further at ease.
“Yes, I could feel the pain at either side of my face and at the back of my neck before.” I respond.
With gentle fingers, my mother touches these areas and confirms that she can feel that the old skin has begun to crack and started shedding.
“Could you get the lotion?” She asks my father, who nods in response and leaves the room, to return with a bottle which I have seen before.
Dispensing some of it onto her hands, my mother begins to massage it onto my face, my neck and upper torso. Taking off my pyjamas together with my father, she continues to spread the lotion across every part of my old skin.
“This should help make the shedding go a lot faster and easier.” She explains, “Can you try moving your mouth and limbs again for me?”
When I do as asked, I notice that the old skin that’s covering my body does no longer feel tough and constricting, but supple and ready to tear apart. Looking at my right arm as I bend it at the elbow, I see a split forming along the side of my arm, to uncover pink, soft looking skin.
Encouraged, I proceed to further free my body of the old skin, helped by my parents. By the time I’m done, my bed is covered in old skin fragments, much of it still recognizable from the shape. Lying on my back, I feel exhausted, but happily keep my arm lifted up above me, rotating it to admire the new skin.
“It wasn’t so bad after all, I think.” I say to my parents, who are busying themselves with the clean-up.
Looking up at me with a smile on her face, my mom strokes my hair as she says: “The first time is the scariest. I’m so proud of you.”
“Thank you, mom. And thank you dad. I promise I won’t make such a scene next time.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s a normal part of growing up, after all.” My father says at this, before he begins to grin. “Why, the first time I started shedding I made such a fuss, I even had the neighbours coming over to check up on what was going on. It sure hurts a lot, doesn’t it?”
I grin back at my father as I picture him causing such a ruckus.
“I don’t think that the books we have at school cover that part very well. I’ll make sure to let the teacher know.”
“You do that.” My father says, proudly.
“So who’s up for breakfast? I think your father and I were still in the midst of ours.” My mom says, while helping me get dressed.
Even though I still feel tired, I can feel some energy returning already, along with the gradual changing of my new skin’s colour from a fresh pink into a deeper shade. I can also feel my stomach growling.
“That’s a yes, I think.” My father says, before the three of us burst out laughing.
I’m looking forward to telling Michael all about this while we’re checking out this new game at his place later today.