The first order of business was cleaning up the pig shit. It was everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Mom got out the hose and washed out the whole downstairs, while Jack opened all the windows and doors, scouring the second floor with the shop-vac.
Dad sat on the front steps, staring off into space. He wouldn’t talk at all. I sat by him and asked him nonsense things about the weather and baseball, but he didn’t so much as glance my way. I felt wild and antsy and alien, like my skin was too tight, so I got up and took off for the woods.
I had no one to call or text. My phone was busted; I’d put a trotter right through it during the first few minutes. I only know that because I still had enough of my own wits about me to be horrified before the pig took over and… I shoved that thought down through my belly, past my legs and feet and into the ground. No use in it.
The woods were cool and damp from last night’s rain, and I caught myself sniffing the air for… what? I couldn’t remember. Something important.
Crane was there already, and he looked just as calm and smug as ever, just like nothing had happened. He was even dressed in the same ratty green skirt and pink tank top as two days ago. I hopped up next to him on the log by the crick, and exhaled, letting the stress crawling all over me be whisked away downstream.
Then he had to open his mouth.
“Oink,” he said.
“You!” I punched him in the arm. He fell off the log, laughing as I went after him, kicking and swatting.
When I was done I let him back up.
“You kick hard for a girl,” he complained laconically. “I mean, a sow.”
“You’re a pig every day of the week!” I informed him, hiding my grin behind righteous indignation. “I bet yesterday you didn’t change at all.”
“Nah,” he said, stretching out along the log, his skinny frame perfectly balanced. “I changed.”
It hung there between us. I looked away.
“I don’t remember much of it,” I lied.
“I remember it all,” Crane said. “Wonder why you don’t? I spent the time looking all around the back yard for a way out so I could get something to eat. I think I remember it when the Scarlets went by, they were so bright.”
“I guess so,” I sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t like them.”
“You’d still be a swine without them,” he teased.
“They’re annoying,” I grunted. “They just have magic ribbons, they’re not special or anything.” They were also tall and perfect-looking, each with an arrogant smile, gorgeous hair, narrow waist, ruby red lips, deep expressive eyes… whatever.
“I like ‘em,” Crane said.
“Yeah. Well, you would.” My cheeks burned.
“You’re blushing,” he observed.
He did. We sat there for a while, listening to the babble of the crick, the hum of insects, and the songs of birds.
“My dad won’t say anything,” I remarked offhandedly, trying to stay cool. “He’s freaked out.”
“My sister’s the same; shut herself in her room,” Crane said. “My little brother won’t stop going around on all fours oinking, though, it’s pissing my mom off. He had a great time.”
I smirked. “Figures.”
“So what do you remember? Really?”
I gritted my teeth. All the feelings came flooding back. “I… I don’t know. It was… weird. Like being a person but more and less at the same time.”
“Yeah,” Crane nodded soberly. “I think I kind of get animals a little better now.”
“Fuck that warlock,” I muttered. “Fuck the Scarlets.” I glanced off to the south, where I could just see the gleaming bone summit of Skull Top Mountain through the summer haze.
He broke a branch off the log and flicked it at the crick. It hit the water with a tiny sploosh. “I was a girl pig,” he said.
I gave him a look. “I am in no way surprised.”
“Yeah. And it felt… good. Right.” Crane tapped his fingers against the log. “Think I might like to try that. Think it might be something I’d like to do as a human.”
“You think?” I snapped one of the straps of Crane’s tank top.
“Ow!” Crane grinned. “Two days ago I couldn’t even think it. But now? After all that? I don’t care anymore. I was something I wasn’t, and now I want to be me.”
“Good,” I said, shifting uneasily, like something was itching.
Her eyes were so bright. My cheeks burned, and I could see Crane’s future stretching ahead of her. She would be tall and lithe and beautiful, and she would be incandescent.
The crawling stress got so bad that I couldn’t sit still anymore.
“I gotta go,” I said suddenly.
“What?” Crane looked crushed. “Did you—?”
“It sucked for me,” I shouted. “I felt disgusting and awful after, my brain was all messed up, and it just—ugh! But it’s all profound for you, you finally figure yourself out, great! You were a pig and now you’re a girl, and you’re so fucking happy. I get nothing. Nothing! I’m still me. I can’t be anything else. I’m still—this!”
Crane’s mouth fell open. I couldn’t watch her cry so I turned and sprinted towards the distant, storm-crowned peak of Skull Top Mountain.
“Hey!” I cried at the sky. Somewhere along the way I’d started running on all fours. “Hey! Change me back! Change me back! Change me back!”