I have never been social. I keep to myself. I have no friends and seldom go out except to purchase the few necessities that are vital to keeping myself alive. I distain the small city where I live but I will not move; any other place of residence would be similarly off-putting. I live within that strange border that exists within small cities: liminal blocks where infrastructure ends and countryside encroaches. My street is paved but unnamed.
I often feel as though I am not myself, or as if I contain someone else in addition to myself. I have known since my childhood that I was marked: when I was born, I emerged from my mother’s body with rectangular pupils. My mother abandoned me because I was marked. She orphaned me, barely an adolescent, on the longest day of the year. The solstice still frightens me. Every year, I remain indoors while darkness gathers outside; I look into the mirror and inspect my body while my pupils do not dilate. My marking roils beneath my skin; it pocks my eyelids and disturbs my dreams.
I felt a fiery tingling beneath my cheeks and forehead before my body began to transform… felt a tingling at the nape of my neck, pressure gradually building up behind my eyes, and the feeling of atrophy in my fingers as they collapsed and turned into delicate black hooves. My skin itched as short, wiry hairs began to prick through and lay over me as a coarse coat. I was not frightened. I was not scared or uncomfortable. It was as though some long-awaited change—something I knew that I had been marked for from my childhood—had finally, after moving through thick rivers of time, begun to overtake me. I hid behind the dark walls of my apartment as my body was reshaped. And the transformation was complete: no vestige of my human body remained.
That night I began to graze. It seemed perfectly natural; the most natural thing I could have done. Eating with my hands, using the long, fleshy appendages that had once grown from the edges of my soft palms, seemed unnecessary. Teeth are adequate, and in their blunt precision lies a comfort I had never before experienced.
I had chosen to eat the withered grass that grew in clumps in a vacant lot, sheltered on three sides by the windowless walls of long-dormant factories; their presence was not oppressive but brought a sense of calm. The green patches of manicured grass on the grounds of my apartment complex looked appetizing but were lit by lampposts that dotted the grounds. I had always felt reclusive but now, after my transformation, I was overpowered by an irresistible urge to keep to the shadows, avoid light whenever possible, and to never let my neighbors see me. Their vertically drawn-out bodies and hairless torsos had once filled me with carnal thoughts. Now, they repulsed and terrified me.
Actions that once shamed me are now sources of indifference or pride. I openly defecate and urinate. My anus functions and I give it no second thought. My urethra snakes through me and emerges at the tip of my hair-covered penis. It glistens with a single unfallen drop of urine. These functions are as natural as any other. I feel no taboos and have no inhibitions about my body, my lengthened snout, stout legs, and my needlessly demonized cloven hooves and horns. My skin is exposed, save for the wiry pelt that covers my back, face, and legs, but which fades to shorter, softer hairs that delicately line my belly and groin. The tattered remnants of clothes I once wore have fallen from my limbs. I have no use for the second skin they once offered. Without their coarse artificial weight, I can move freely and feel the morning air against my skin.
I feel no shame about my lust for goats and other members of my family: Bovidae, including sheep and domestic cattle. Procreative needs and acts have become secondary behaviors to me. They require little meditation on my part; mating is instinctual and mechanical in a way that frees me from awareness of my own body or irrelevant thoughts about the bodily pleasure of the females with whom I copulate.
When I am struck by an urge, often in the earliest of morning hours when the silent calm of the world allows my internal lust to resound, I walk to a nearby farm where a huddle of Boer goats are kept in a large pen. I leap the fence. I find an amenable female and sniff for her acid-sweet urine; its droplets will have soaked into the loam or straw. If a female is urinating as I approach, I luxuriate in allowing her stream to splash directly over my dipped nose. I extend my neck in a mating ritual that once seemed arbitrary but now feels instinctively logical and, indeed, makes more rational sense than any of my former feeble attempts at seducing or wooing human sexual partners. My lips curl back with pleasure as her steaming urine evaporates from my muzzle. A doe in heat, a docile doe, will stand firm as I rub against her.
I work myself into intense arousal and urinate; the hot liquid splashes across my beard, my chest, my legs and groin. I run yellow. The female turns her benign eyes to look back at me and I slip within her narrow haunches, front hooves planted squarely on either side of her ribs. In a moment the scene is over. The doe rests, and I return to my home.
I no longer live in an apartment. As my body changed and the last vestiges of my human appearance faded into animality, I felt unsafe within the small flat where I lived. The oppressive walls and artificial light frightened me; I struggled to climb the stairs to my floor. Doorknobs were impossible. A group of teens, drunk on liquor stolen from an absent parent’s unlocked cabinet, overturned a metal dumpster in a tucked-away parking lot a few blocks away, just at the point where the urban center of my small city gives way to the expansive rural countryside. The dumpster is now my home. I have carried in mouthfuls of pine needles—the long, straw-like fibers come off the trees easily enough—and made of them a carpet to cover over the cold metal floor.
I will weather the coming winter in this makeshift den. I will keep watch over the females nearby; my visits to their pen have become more frequent as the weather turns cold. Mating is now a part of my daily life. I keep myself warm by rutting the willing bodies of every female goat. I am exhausting myself, wearing down my body for this overpowering need. I will father children. Twenty, thirty … I will continue to impregnate their mothers until they have borne me dozens. My tribe will thrive under my vigilant eye. I will watch as my children are born, helpless, in the mud and the straw, suckling the udders of mothers who will soon begin to swell again with another child. Soon the female’s udders will bloat, fattening with milk for my next child.
Perhaps one will venture out at night through a gap in the fence, braving the dark woods and decaying suburban structures—vacant malls left to the elements, pawnbrokers with their flickering lights, occasional abandoned properties and gutted houses—and find its way to the dumpster that I have been dwelling in for the past 6 months. I will not turn a female away. I have sprayed urine across every porous surface; she will take in my scent from a quarter mile away. If she approaches, if she is fecund and willing, I will mount her and mate. I will breed indiscriminately with any approaching female. Given my proximity to the small herd I have repeatedly bred, I may eventually mate with one of my own daughters. Before my appearance changed, I would have been horrified by this prospect. Now, this moralizing has no purpose. The womb of a daughter is as ripe, as fertile as the womb of a female I have no relation to. If our offspring bore a defect or a mind incapable of thought, the creature would die. Others of my children would live.
I will watch my children grow. They will look like the rest of the flock: snubbed muzzles, velvet ears; short, erect tails; bellies swinging low beneath … but I will know that they are carrying a part of me in their minds, an emergent awareness that grows, unstoppable as a weed. They may remain as goats, not considering the possible evolutions of form that their genes hold. Others, like me, may discover mutations in their minds. They may abruptly change, transforming as the front legs shrink back into their bodies, buttocks develop and pull the spine erect, wiry hairs draw back into the smooth skin. The change will roll over my evolving children as a wave passes through the sea.
Should they approach, should they walk up to me as bipeds, smooth-skinned and clothed, I will not turn away. I will nuzzle their outstretched hand, softly pressing the appendages with the perfect approximation of a kiss.
Connor Fisher is the author of The Isotope of I (Schism Press, 2021) and three poetry and hybrid chapbooks including Speculative Geography (Greying Ghost Press, 2022). He has an MFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and English from the University of Georgia. His writing has appeared in journals including Denver Quarterly, Random Sample Review, Tammy, Tiger Moth Review, and Clade Song. He currently lives and teaches in northern Mississippi.