That morning, when I woke up and found myself lying on a bed inside a hut that's floating on the middle of a Southeast Asian lake I never been to, I prayed to God.
That I wasn't drunk again, that I didn't inadvertently end up in some stranger's house again. But when I walked out of the straw hut (how does one make a straw hut and make it float in the middle of a lake anyway?) and looked out at the emerald waters that surrounded me, I realized things were far, far worse.
The sheer fabric (a sarong-like ethnic costume, I believe) wrapping my trembling body was foreign, nothing I had seen or touched until then. I felt sure it was a dream, but I remembered that one don't question if she's in a dream when she's caught up in one. Then I followed the most natural train of thought: that I must have gotten drunk again, and followed a man to his room - only his room happened to be a hut in the middle of the sea. Which didn't make sense at all. Maybe he was a mega-rich man who with his helicopter took me to one of those exotic islands he owned to...sleep with me? If I was really drunk, so drunk I was completely unconscious, then why would any man in his right mind do that? He could have just slept/semi-raped me like all those men I had slept with... Oh, no. This was bad. I wasn't drunk last night. In fact, I was having coffee with a girl friend at the cafe near my place, and we left each other at a little before ten. And then I watched TV over chips and soda, and dozed off in the middle of it...
What in the name of God is happening here? I screamed in my head - I was too freaked out to utter a thing. I spun around abruptly - almost like I was bracing myself against some creep - to ascertain that I was alone. And yes, of course I was. The hut wasn't big enough to hide someone else without my missing him.
It was only then that I noticed, in horror, how my skin color had changed. Overnight. From pale, whitish skin filled with awful freckles, my thigh was now a dark, brown color. I lifted my sarong all the way up, as though I was showing off my underwear to a man, and found the entire length of my legs tanned. Brown. I bared my chest and found, not just a pair of brown breasts, but that they have shrunk a cup, no, two cup sizes. What they said about having a chill down your spine didn't happen, but I did feel a wave of cold propagate up my body, causing an eerie sense of chill, if that made sense to you.
I looked frantically for a mirror, but there was none. Then I ran around to find a cabinet where a hand mirror might be kept, but there wasn't one - the only thing that might be considered a furniture was a low table on which there was a pot and a few tea cups. Then something seized my mind, and I ran and knelt down before the waters, searching for my reflection. No. No, there wasn't a reflection. Perhaps because the water bore such a deep emerald color, I could hardly discern myself in it, only a murky outline of myself...fuck. Fuck. My hair. My hair. My hair! With trembling hands, I reached up to my hair and held them in my fists. Black. My hair was jet black, like that of Asians. Whatever happened to my blonde, cream hair? What the fuck is happening to me?
I started feeling around my face, and I had to cry - tears gushed down my brown, thin fingers as they found a significantly flatter nose than I had known all my life.
I was a different person.
Maybe my mind was the same, but everything else, my arms, my legs, my breasts, my face, my whole fucking body was changed into that of an Asian woman. Tinier, slimmer, yes, but also - my hair! I cried hard as I sat on the floor, too weak to stand and too scared to think. Yet an endless chant invaded my head, looping over and over: what's going on? It was as though my whole mind was trans -
I spotted a wooden boat. Or ship. Or something that's in between. And it's approaching, from the middle of the lake that knew no bounds, towards me. I knew the boat was for me, because there really was nothing else but this hut amidst the green. And then he started yelling, this man who was manning the boat. He waved and he yelled in an excited manner, like he knew me. Like I was his wife. Like I was his fucking wife and he was coming back from a fishing trip to his wife. To me. He was huge - no, maybe not. He was Asian, tanned and with short legs and really ripped. Even at a distance of maybe fifteen minutes away, I could see his disproportionately sculpted outline. I suddenly felt nauseous - I was never one for muscular guys, and the fear that anchored me to the floor coupled with flashbacks of this ripped, perspiring, panting stranger making love to me forced me to throw up.
I was coughing, trembling, and emptied in the stomach, but I had to get up. He was coming closer, and I couldn't imagine myself facing him. I've had my fair share of waking up to a stranger, but I couldn't handle this. I half-crawled my way around the hut - planks were carefully laid around the perimeter of the hut so that if one got claustrophobic, she could sit on them and look out at the sea. But there was no escape route, absolutely nothing. The hut and its circular corridor was, by some magic, set in the middle of the sea and only accessible by boat, or some form of sea transport. But without which, it - I - was completely isolated.
He was coming close, very close, and I could hear him calling out to me. Ned? Or was it Nat? Either way, it wasn't even close to my own name. Or at least, to the name I believed was mine. Now, though, I could no longer be sure. Maybe I was Ned after all. Maybe, through some strange magical occurrence, I forgot I was Ned and was implanted with the wrong memories of being someone else.
Fuck. This was not the time for that - the man was perhaps five minutes away from me. I panicked, and started to run round and back into the hut, where I desperately looked for somewhere to hide. Fuck! There was no bloody place for me to hide in this miserable hut, was there? What was I thinking? I dashed out again, looking back while I was fleeing, and caught the eyes of the man - inside of which was a look of confusion, like he couldn't understand my behavior. Neither could I. Neither could I understand this, this bizarre, painful situation, no, nightmare. I braked at the edge of the plank furthest away from the man, who had just parked his boat (I could hear the boat bumping against the planks). Fuck. What was I suppose to do? How was I suppose to react? Where could I run? Fuck! God, save me!
This time, there was agony and yearning in his voice, and I heard it loud and clear. His voice echoed in my ears, bringing out a string of flashbacks in which I heard him call me, umpteen times. The final image, in which he rammed into me like a bull, impacted me so much that I was visibly, physically jolted backwards - and into the water. In the millisecond when I was falling into the water, I became convinced that I was Nateb Warawyo, lawful wife of Kanash Warawyo, rather than the random woman I believed I was. But it was too late.
Bubbles animation by Ben Hodgson