The Creature in the Mirror

Niki "NeeP" Paradis

    "Aren't you coming with us, Dad?" asked Jamie Kido as he picked up his book bag from the table near the door.
    "Sorry, Jamie.  Not this time."
    "Why are you staying, Joe?" asked Tadpole.
    "There's just something that I have to do, guys," replied Joe Kido.  "You can go without me."
    The young boy and his gomamon partner exited the house solemnly.
    "Are you certain about this Joe?" asked Goma as he followed Jamie and Tadpole out the front door.
    "Yeah, I'll be fine.  You guys have a good time.  Stay out of trouble."
    "I'll watch them, Joe."
    "I was talking about you."
    "Thanks..."
    It was obvious that the small Digimon wasn't convinced about how everything was okay with his partner, but he realized that there was no point in arguing or even bringing the subject up.  It was the one subject that everyone was avoiding.  He sighed and exited the house.
    Joe watched as his family went on their way to the library, leaving him alone in the house.  He would normally join them on their bi-weekly trip, but he felt he had to face something that he had been avoiding for a long time.  He locked the front door and went into the bedroom.  He glanced at the unmade basket-bed that belonged to his partner, and shrugged as he had more pressing things on his mind besides cleaning house.  As it was, he was in a distracted state of mind as he unbuttoned the collar of his cloak and threw casually behind him.
    He walked into the bathroom.  He took a casual glance into the mirror and flinched.  He spun around immediately to face the opposite wall.
    This was the moment of truth.  This is when he would finally have to accept what has happened to him.  He knew that he couldnít ignore things anymore...  He took a deep breath.
    "Here goes nothing..." he muttered as he spun back to look at the mirror again at his reflection.  The most curious looking creature stared back at him.
    "That can't be me," he mumbled.  "That can't possibly be me..."  But the reflection mouthed the words along with him, and copied every movement he made.
    Joe had been avoiding mirrors for the last four months like it was part of some new quasi-religion.  But the truth was that he just didn't want to acknowledge the changes in his body.  The way he figured it was that if he didn't see the changes, they couldn't be happening.  Yeah, you probably could call it denial.  But just the day before, he had been forced to look in a full-length mirror by his friends.  They made him acknowledge the changes that had happened to him.  He just didnít know what to think.

    But you have to understand...  Until six months ago, Joe Kido was a slightly overweight 43-year-old divorcee with an 11-year-old son, two Digimon and a medical practice in two worlds.  That wasn't the case anymore --wait, that's not true.  All of the above applied, except for the overweight part.  --And the fact that Joe was no longer human.

    The creature in his reflection was the same height as Joe, and humanoid.  Heck, it was pretty much human except for certain details.  It even resembled him to some degree.
    Joe shook his head, silently scolding himself.
    Face it Joe, that's you.  Stop referring to your reflection like it wasn't a part of you.
    He faced his reflection again.
    Brilliant violet eyes with long lashes peered through a pair of glasses.  Delicate blue markings were underneath each eye on his cheeks.  Slightly pointed ears poked up through blue-black hair that was starting to grow out again.  And he just had it cut last week!
    Joe sighed.  His face was thinner than it used to be, but that would be due to the weight loss that he experienced.  So now his chin was almost pointed again --like it was when he was thirteen.  All of the laugh-lines and the worry-lines around his eyes and mouth that he had earned over the years have completely disappeared.  And he hadn't needed to shave in the last four months --which was the reason why he hadn't bothered to look at his reflection in the mirror.
    Due to a changed metabolism and increased exercise, he had lost about six pants sizes, going from a size 44 to a size 38.  But he wasn't all skin and bone; he was in better shape too.  The exercise and weight training that Koujou prescribed helped a whole lot.  He wasn't bulky, but there was obviously muscle where there wasn't any before.
    He slipped out of his tank top, allowing it to hang around his waist, and looked in the mirror again.  He was surprised to discover that he had developed a bit of a six-pack.
    Physically, he looked rather good, he admitted to himself.  All in all, he looked like a young man of about twenty years old!
    But the piece de resistance was the set of large purple and white butterfly-like wings that grew from his back.  That was what designated Joe as something other than human.
    Carefully, he stretched them out as far as they could go --which wasn't very far, since the bathroom was not a very large room.  The wings were both magnificent, and surreal.  The upper pair of wings were broader and longer than the lower pair.  The deepest purple was where his wings met flesh, then faded to violet, then a pale lavender then white towards the wingtips with purple spots in the whitest patches.  He reached behind himself and tentatively touched an upper wing.  It felt soft, like velvet and suede combined.  He still had trouble believing that the wings were his.
    Joe sighed.  Pretty much everything else that happened to him had to do with those wings.  And there were a lot of changes.
    For example:
    A human's skeletal structure is too dense to be supported in the air.  So Joe's bone structure changed from solid, like a mammal's to hollow, like a bird's.  That was about a third of his original weight gone.
    His metabolism changed too.  He also had to eat more often and plenty more than the average human.  Apparently flying required a lot of energy.  To provide the necessary energy, he had to eat much more than he was accustomed to.  At least he could afford the food.
    New wing muscles have developed as well.  They were attached from his wings to various places on his back, on his sides and chest.  They weren't obvious to the casual observer, but they were just barely noticeable to a guy who spent most of his life studying anatomy.
    Joe was encouraged to build up his upper chest muscles and increase his endurance so that he could handle the effort it would take to fly.  As an added bonus was that he managed to get into shape while he was at it.  The funny thing was it didn't even occur to him that he was getting into shape while he was weight lifting --and he's a doctor!  But in hindsight, that might be due to his promise to the Digital Guardian and Koujou that he would be worthy of the wings that he was given.
    But despite his muscle gain and his larger appetite, Joe still had lost a lot of weight.  Practically half of it!  He went from 86kg (190lbs) down to 44kg (97lbs).  That was due mostly to the restructuring of his skeletal mass, and the change in his metabolism and the exercise, which burned away all of the extra fat that he was carrying.
    He was still strong despite his mass.  He was no pushover.  And he was stronger than he looked.  Sorta like an ant that can carry twice its bodyweight.  He could pick up things that were way more than twice his mass.  It was kinda creepy.
The most uncomfortable thing about the changes that have happened was the fact that he didn't know what he was anymore.  But his human patients, neighbours and friends all had an idea.  Joe just didn't like it.
    Fairy.
    He didn't agree.  Fairies were delicate little graceful beings.  Joe was taller than most people with all of the inherent grace of an ox with wings.  The term, 'fairy' could not possibly be applied to him.
Joe sighed again as he pulled his backless tank-top back on.  The purpose of his tank top was to preserve his modesty.  He slipped his arms back into the sleeves of the skimpy black top and left the washroom, looking around for his short cloak.  He found it on his bed in his room where he left it.  He threw it over his shoulders and fastened it around his neck.  He straightened it out by tugging at the hem.  The cloak was made to protect him from the elements, like a shirt or sweater --at least until someone could come up with a fitted shirt that would not pinch his wings.  The hem of the garment barely reached his navel allowing Joe full arm movement, and the cream fabric helped him look a little more professional under Joe's unique circumstances, especially since he could no longer wear the white coat that was the traditional dress uniform for doctors, nor the sweaters that he preferred.
    He popped back into the washroom and took another glance at the mirror, checking to see if he looked respectable enough.
    The young looking being in the mirror looked presentable, if a bit exotic looking.  It would have to do, he thought.  It was just that his ability to blend into the crowd was forever gone --unless the rest of the humans of Japan grew wings as well.  He didn't think it was too likely.
    The wings were actually a gift from the Digital Guardian, Marlise.  She didn't give him a chance to refuse her gift though.  She said that it was her way of thanking him for looking out for Joey, the Digital Child.  But Joe would have helped Joey anyway.  He knew it must be hard for the boy to figure out his place within two worlds.  Joe figured that Marlise knew that too.  But when he realized what was happening to him, he begged the Guardian to remove the wings, but Marlise refused, saying that she needed him to have them.  Joe was frustrated.  He still didn't know why he needed to have the wings for...
    And Koujou was no help!  Kenobi Koujou was an assistant to Izzy Izumi.  He was the one who had experience in making movie monsters and he had an education as a veterinarian.  Joe often went to him when trying to figure out how a particular Digimon was 'put together', so that he could treat his digital patients better.  Koujou refused to just let Joe ignore the new appendages that were growing in.  He pretty much told Joe that not only was he going to be wearing wings for the rest of his life, he was going to wear them well.  So, he designed an exercise regiment to prepare the doctor for his fate.
    Well, Joe saw what the results of that exercise program produced...  Not to mention all of the mothers of his human patients got to see as well.
    Another sigh.  Joe looked around his room and noticed the calendar.  He went towards it to study the notes written on it.
      According the information scribbled on it, the coming Sunday was the Digi-Destined semi-annual get-together.  It was when the original and the second group of world savers got together, with their kids, for food, fun and friendship --and gossip.
    And, as he was told, it will be the weekend when he will be expected to learn to fly.  'Spread his wings and soar', as Tai put it --with a grin, no less!
    Joe thought about it.  Flying.  The thought scared him.  And it was exciting at the same time.  No one else but the birds and some Digimon could fly.
    Once he did learn, though, he will never be able to go back to being ordinary.  That was another thing that spooked him.  Joe did and did not want to be recognised.  On one hand, he always wanted to be noticed --to have people to remember him as something other than ordinary plain Joe Kido, but not in this way.  Not as a freak, even if a nice looking one.
    He shrugged to himself.  Better to think of more mundane things.  Sora and Matt were coming over to take him clothes shopping in the morning.  Apparently, Sora did not trust Joe to choose his own clothes (she had a point), and as a designer, she felt that she had a good idea of what would suit him.  For one thing, he definitely needed pants that fit.  All of the pants that he did have were too large for him.  And he needed something to learn how to fly in, like jeans.  Work clothes were probably not the best things to fall to the ground in, and Joe had a feeling that he would be doing that a lot.
    Another sigh.  He felt apprehensive about the whole shopping experience.  What does a person dress a winged doctor in?  Most of his life, he had someone to pick his clothes for him.  First, it was his mother, then his ex-wife, Yukiko.  They always chose serious looking clothes in shades of brown and beige that were most suitable for a physician.  He knew that Sora will not limit herself to dressing him in such sombre outfits.
    Clothes make the man, he supposed, or whatever he was.  He stood out enough as it is --And who knows what Sora was going to dress him in.

    But shopping was for tomorrow.  Today was the day to deal with reconciling himself to his reflection, and to figure out how his new body was going to fit in with his lifestyle.  The biggest challenge for him would be to find his new place in society.
    Wings wouldn't affect his job.  He needed his hands and his skills, and those didn't change.  His young human patients will be more curious than afraid about his being different, and his Digimon patients wouldn't care --changes are natural in the Digi-World, after all.
    He then decided that he will learn how to fly.  Why not?  If he was given the ability to do something that other people couldn't, it would be a shame to waste it.  And it was the practical thing to do.  Wings should not be ornamental, no matter how pretty they may be...  His friends all supported him and want to see him in the air.  Who knows?  It might even be fun.
    Joe smiled.  The best thing that he could do right now is to take everything one day at a time.  And who knows, maybe everything will turn out all right for the curious winged creature that he saw in the bathroom mirror.


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