User:Feathertail/Blind As A ...

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Legal Info: This story is copyrighted by Jared Spurbeck, aka Tachyon Feathertail, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license. You may write your own stories based on it or post it on your own website, so long as you credit me as the orignal author (preferably with a link to my LiveJournal) and license your own story under the same license. Have you hugged a penguin today?

Blind As A...

Author: Jared Spurbeck

'

Adele sat upright in bed, going into a sneezing fit. She'd dreamed that something had been tickling her nose, and now she felt like something was stuck in it. She knew it was still nighttime because it was cold, and the freezing air made her sneeze all the more.

Finally she finished, sniffled, sneezed again and rubbed her nose on the shoulder of her nightdress, when all of a sudden she stopped.

Something was wrong with her nose.

Adele brought both hands to her nose, sniffling again, and felt the tip of it. What she felt was protruded and leathery, like the nose of one of her father's hounds. Her mouth, too, jutted out just beneath it. She felt at her face for some time, unafraid but unsure of what this meant.

She patted the bed beside herself until she found her plush rabbit, and held it close. "What do you think, Mr. Thomas?" she asked. "Is this just part of growing up? I don't recall mum's face feeling like this ... "

Adele thought for a moment. "I sound like I have a cold," she said.

She attempted to purse her lips, then tried out a few faces, just to see how they felt. The activity made her sneeze again, and she sniffled.

The cold air was getting to her. She shivered and held her bare arms for a second, trying to warm up. Then she threw off the covers and swung her feet onto the cold floorboards, before feeling her way to the door. "Come on," she told Mr. Thomas, holding him in one arm. "Let's see if mum's still awake."

The hallway outside Adele's room was just as cold. She walked slowly, keeping one hand on the wall until she reached the stairwell. Then she held tight to the railing as she descended the staircase. The steps were huge to her tiny feet, and she did not want to fall down.

She heard the wind whistling outside the front door when she reached the landing. But she also heard the fire going in the sitting room, and hurried to the door.

Adele put her hands on the freezing brass doorknob and turned it, then pushed the door open and stepped inside. The warmth of the fire tickled her nose, and she bit her lip to keep from sneezing. It tasted strange. "Mum?" she asked.

No one replied, so she tried again, before she heard the crinkling of paper from a magazine. "Adele?" came her mother's voice. "What are you doing still up? Didn't Miss Winslow put you to bed already?"

"Mum, I'm sorry, it's-"

"You'll have to speak up, dear. I can barely hear you."

Adele tried to speak up. "Mum, I need you to look at something for me!"

"Well, alright, then. Bring it over here." Porcelain scraped against porcelain, from behind the back of her mother's favorite chair, as Adele hurried around to the other side of it. "Whatever's the matter with your voice? You aren't coming down with something, I-"

She screamed. And Adele screamed too, as the cup that her mother had been holding shattered onto the floor and splashed her feet with hot tea. She jumped, and backed away from the shards.

"Mum! What's wrong?" Adele asked.

Her mother only kept screaming.

Now Adele was starting to cry. "Mum, please tell me what's wrong!"

A door opened, out in the hallway. Adele ran, leaping over the spill and bumping into the wall along the way, then wrenched the door open and collided with her nurse, Miss Winslow, out in the hall. Adele buried her face in her nurse's nightgown, sobbing in terror.

The nurse guided her back towards the doorway. "What's wrong with ye, child? Have ye broke somethin' of yer mum's?"

"Her face!" Adele's mother cried. "Look at her face!"

Miss Winslow tried to tilt Adele's head up towards her, and Adele obligingly looked upward, tears still streaming from her eyes. As soon as she did so the nurse stepped away and uttered an oath, leaving Adele clutching the folds of her dress.

Adele let go, overcome with despair. "Please, tell me what's wrong!" she cried. "I don't know what I did wrong! I ... "

She started sneezing again. And she kept sneezing as Miss Winslow hurried her up to her bedroom, shoved her inside, and then shut and locked the door. She could still hear her mother sobbing downstairs.

Adele crumpled to the cold, hard floor, crying and sneezing and shivering, holding her stuffed rabbit tight. Finally, when there were no more tears left to shed, she climbed up into her bed, then crawled under the sheets and lay still until she fell asleep.

* * *

The next morning Adele lay in bed for a few minutes, examining her nose again. She wasn't sure, but she thought it felt a bit different from last night. And when she held her arms, she thought that the hairs on them seemed fuzzier somehow.

Miss Winslow came by to take Adele out and help her attend to her toilet, then locked her back in her room afterwards. A few minutes later she came back and set a dish with her breakfast on it on the table in the corner. Adele checked it, and found toast with jam and egg, and a basket of fruit. She quietly ate her breakfast, then sat in the chair underneath the window, leaning against the windowsill.

After awhile, she heard the sounds of a motorcar pulling up into the driveway. Adele pressed her face up against the cold window, trying to hear what was going on outside. She heard someone climb out of it, and exchange words with her mother, but he did not sound like her dad.

Afterwards the front door opened, and they stepped into the sitting room. Adele got up from her chair, and quietly went over to her bedroom door. The door to the sitting room was closed, so she could only hear the tone of their conversation, and not any actual words. But her mother sounded distressed. The man she could barely hear, but she thought he was trying to reassure her.

Finally the door opened. She heard them bid each other goodbye; then the front door opened, and the man left. She heard her mother shut and lock the front door, then start to pace up the stairs.

Adele ran back up to her window seat, hands in front of her face. When they touched the chair she pulled herself up to it, and sat down and clasped her hands in her lap as her mother unlocked and opened the door.

Adele waited for her mother to say something, but she did not. A shiver ran down Adele's spine.

"Mother?" she asked, polite but scared.

"Yes, child?"

"W-what's wrong with me?"

A sigh. "You've come down with a serious disease, Adele."

"Is it serious like the mumps?"

"More serious."

Adele squirmed. "I don't feel sick ... "

"You'll have to take cod liver oil again." Her mother's voice was shaky. "And Doctor Swan has written you out a prescription, which you will have to take as well."

"Is it my face, mother?" Adele felt at her face again. "Is that what the illness is doing?"

For a moment there was no sound. Then Adele heard her mother choke back a sob, and it froze her heart inside of her. "Mum, don't cry!" she pleaded. But then the door was shut and locked, and Adele broke down into tears again as her mother's footsteps went down the stairs.

She heard Miss Winslow say something to her mother, and strained to hear what it was. But all she could hear was her mother yelling: "First blindness, and now this!"

Miss Winslow said something more quietly.

"Calm down?" her mother exclaimed. "How can you say such a thing? She could die from this, and there's nothing that we can do!"

They said some more things after that, but Adele could not hear them. She felt like her whole body had frozen, and the only things that could move were her beating heart and the tears that were left on her cheeks. Everything else in her room was still and quiet, and the shouting she heard coming from downstairs no longer made sense anymore.

The rest of that day was a blur.

* * *

After that, the days started to blend into each other. Adele stayed locked in her room the whole day, except for trips to the bathroom, and no one ever came up to her room except to serve her meals or make her take medicine.

The medicine was sharp and foul-tasting, and Adele hated it. It left her whole mouth and her throat burning. She thought it might be because of the medicine that her food was starting to taste bland ... the corned beef tasted like mud, and the toast tasted like shingles. But the fruit that they left her was sweeter than ever, and she found herself devouring it.

The dogs were her only entertainment. No one let them into her room, but she sat by the window whenever they were let out and listened to them play in the yard. She thought she could hear where each one was, and she remembered their warm noses and happy, affectionate natures. Adele wished they would let her play outside again, but knew it would do her no good to ask. So she just imagined herself running barefoot on the wet grass, holding onto a dog's collar, then being nuzzled from behind and falling over and laughing before getting her face licked.

Every morning Adele checked herself all over to see what had changed. Her nose and mouth weren't doing anything anymore, but her ears had started to move, and they felt more floppy and rounder. Her whole body was furry, and her feet and lower legs felt sort of like a dog's back legs, but with fingers on the ends. Adele could feel them, and could just barely manage to do things like take hold of the sheet covers with them.

She wondered if she was becoming a dog, and if that was what had everyone worried. The thought struck her as strange, but she didn't see why everyone had to be so upset about it. There were plenty of other dogs in the house, and it wasn't as though she had stopped being herself. Adele knew that she looked different on the outside, but she still felt the same on the inside. Just worried and bored and frustrated.

Maybe they were afraid that they'd catch it from her, she thought. Adele wasn't sure why they'd be so upset about that, either. She imagined her mother taking Doctor Swan's medicine, and giggled. Didn't the whole house come down with the flu earlier? What was so diferent about this? Adele remembered her mother saying that she was afraid that Adele would die from this, but by now it didn't seem real to her.

Then, one day, the pain started.

It started one night when she was tossing and turning in bed, trying to get to sleep and realizing she couldn't because her back was sore. Adele turned over and lay on her side and forgot about it, but the next morning she tried to stand up and her back was so stiff that she fell over. She spent that whole day leaning forward in her stiff wooden chair, wanting to get up and move around but still too sore to do so.

That night wasn't any better. And the next morning when she tried to feel around to see what had changed, she cried out in pain when she prodded her back.

It brought both of her parents up to her room. Her dad had long since come back, and she stood at attention as he took charge of the situation. "Show me where it hurts," he told her.

"M-my back," Adele said.

The ears on top of her head perked, and swiveled to face him as he walked around her. Then she heard him stop, and the breath caught in his throat. "Clarissa," he said, "do you see this? What's happened to her?"

Now she heard her mother walk around and kneel down in behind her. She unbuttoned the back of Adele's nightdress and put a hand on her back, and Adele could feel her mother's cold hand, and her back bulging and swollen behind her.

"What do you suppose this is?" she heard her father say, as he leaned in a bit closer. "Is this where ... " Then he poked at her back, and the pain shot all the way through her. She cried out, and collapsed.

* * *

When Adele woke up, she was laying flat on her stomach on top of her bed. Her mouth was dry and tasted like cotton, and her arms and legs were splayed out to either side.

Indistinct voices sounded around her. Her head was still ringing, and it hurt when she tried to move it. As soon as she did so she heard footsteps coming towards her, and her mother's voice saying something. But she couldn't tell what it was.

She heard Doctor Swan's voice, and it was clear and distinct because it was so unexpected. "We need to lance it to let them out."

Adele heard her mother sound taken aback, and call her father's name as though she were asking him to agree with her. But she did not hear her father's voice.

Then she felt something on the bed next to her. A second later there was a cold hand on her back, and she realized that it was still bare.

Then there was a sharp pain, firey and jarring and making her wake up partway. Adele was still just barely conscious, and she gritted her teeth and clenched her hands as the pain traced its way down her back, unable to do anything else.

Then her back exploded, a horrible pain that lasted a split-second and was followed by blessed relief. She heard her mother's oath, and she felt something warm and sticky around her, especially on her back. But what she mostly felt was the things that had been inside her back, that felt like two tiny, warm, sticky arms. Adele could feel them attached to her, and she stretched them out luxuriantly, not caring what had just happened and just glad that the pain was over.

She heard her parents and Doctor Swan talking, and felt warm, damp rags washing her back and running over the bed. Parts of her back still felt sore and raw, and she winced when they were touched. She also winced as the rags went over her new "arms," because whoever was doing it didn't seem to know how to handle them, and kept squishing and twisting them in ways they did not want to go.

Adele tried to pull her "arms" back, but the hands holding the rags were insistent, and she heard her mother's voice chiding her. Her mother took her time cleaning her off, and Adele muttered something to her. Then finally, everyone left, and Adele let her wings settle next to her as she blissfully fell back asleep.

* * *

When Adele woke up, it was nighttime.

She knew it was nighttime because it was cold. The cold had woken her up. She was still laying on her stomach without her nightdress, and her fur was thick but not thick enough. She shivered, and rolled onto her side.

When she did so, she felt her folded wings like a blanket behind her, and felt one of them press into the bed. It was uncomfortable, so she sat up. One hand pressed onto a dry, crusty spot on the bed beside her, and Adele realized what had happened. It was still strange to her, but she did not question it. She didn't have any reason to do so.

Outside her window she heard an owl's hoot, and her ears perked towards it. Then she heard the chittering of bats, and something about them sounded familiar ... like a voice that she'd heard but forgotten.

Adele grabbed her stuffed rabbit and ran over to the window seat, hands in front of her, before leaping on top and perching on it, hands and foot-fingers splayed out. She pressed her nose up to the cold glass and listened. The bats' chirping sounded melodious; more musical than anything she'd ever heard.

She tried to mimic them, just like she'd playfully barked at the dogs before her mother had told her to stop. And the same song came out of her throat ...

... and bounced back into her face.

The bats outside seemed to pause for a moment, and so did Adele, blinking in confusion. She'd felt the song on the tiny furs on her face and neck, and inside her large, rounded ears. And it'd felt like there was something in front of her. She wasn't sure what that meant.

Adele tried it again. And this time she felt a picture in her mind, the same way that she had imagined the feelings and sounds of the stories her mother had read to her, before she had become ill. It was like feeling without touching; knowing that there was a flat pane in front of her just by singing at it.

The window.

She turned around and sang a short, clicking song at her bed. Now she could feel all of its lumpy textures, and even the backboard and the wall in behind it, and the nightstand which had things set up on it still. She knew how far away it was, and could even tell that she'd left the covers a mess.

Adele had to catch her breath when she realized that. A grin slowly spread over her face, and deep in her throat her voice box started vibrating, a happy song that was even higher-pitched. As she did that she found that she could feel everything in front of her, everywhere that she looked, and could even turn her head and feel what was in front of it.

She jumped down from her chair and did that for as long as she could, marveling at the sensation, amazed that she could now walk without having to hold out her arms in front of her. Was this what it was like to see? Adele got dizzy just from turning around every which way, feeling the whole inside of her room including the ceiling. Then she took a deep breath, and the feeling stopped until she started her song again.

Adele jumped up and down, clapping her hands and flapping her wings happily. The air currents swept her off her feet, and a second later she found herself on the floor across the room, rubbing her sore elbows. "What was that, Mr. Thomas?" she asked, and turned her head to face the chair where her stuffed rabbit was. "Did I ... "

Her hands reached out and felt the leathery wings on her back, as she realized what they were. And as she heard the chirping of other bats outside, she knew what she had become, as well.

"So that was why mother was so afraid," she said, elbows and knees still smarting. Every time she'd heard bats described, she'd been told they were ugly creatures that got caught in people's hair. And when she'd first recognized the chirping outside, and been told that it was because of bats, she'd always imagined them being like wasps or mosquitoes.

"But that doesn't make any sense," Adele protested, and screwed up her face in dismay as she stood up and tried to reason things through. "Mosquitoes aren't furry," she said, and walked over to Mr. Thomas and picked him up. "And they don't have faces like dogs. I feel more like a dog than a mosquito, so I can't be as ugly as one of them, can I?"

She held her stuffed rabbit so that he could see outside, and pressed her face to the glass. All of a sudden she wished that she were on the other side of it, or at least that she knew what it felt like. She wanted to be let out of her room, to play outside again, to have fun wrestling with the dogs and to actually be able to run ...

To run. Without holding her arms out in front of her, running smack into trees and tripping on roots.

To fly.

Adele grinned again. "If this is because of my illness, I do hope that I never get better." One hand went to her mouth. "But what if I am better now, and this is what I'll be like from now on?"

She turned her head to "look" down at her stuffed rabbit. It said nothing. Then Adele looked back out into the room, and recognized something she hadn't before: The door had been left open.

She walked through it confidently, feeling excited and happy and extremely hungry. On the landing she could hear the fire going in the sitting room downstairs, and she did not even have to hold on to the handrails. "Come on, Mr. Thomas," she whispered. "Let's go ask mum and dad if it's okay to go outside again."