They told me it was the best thing I could possibly do for myself, and yet it took literally years before I could find the motivation to make the Big Step. For twenty years I had subscribed to the myth of immortality in which youth are immersed; I felt no need to begin to disbelieve, no need to leave the altar, toss that faith in the dumpster, and begin again in uncertainty, learning a new catechism. I was slim and magical, containing in my form all the lithe beauty of my race, the thick flowing hair and infinite depth in my eyes. I could run as fast as a rabbit, leap into the air like a colt, dance all night and greet the dawn with laughter. People looked at me and gasped to see my grace if I let them catch a glimpse of me. My skin shone like the sun on the waters of the Great Ocean, and I was happy that way.
My feet didn't hurt.
One day I heard an Elder cough upon rising, and heard the sound I made when I climbed from my nightly bed. It was the End. Full of sorrow, I followed the advice I had been given.
Aside from the hollowness that seemed to make my belly feel like the inside of a moldy barrel, a thick lining of anger and abraded emotion obscured my thoughts; logic and compassion disappeared from my world. A kaleidoscope of stupidity and irritation formed my vision. I was moving into another world.
The new world was one of digestive upsets. No food that I had supped before had the same savor; no drink satisfied. Would I become a horse? A donkey? Certainly a change was upon me. In a matter of days, my feet lacked the sparkle of magic when I trod the earth. This is the better way, they told me. You must do this.
I grazed on the same holy grasses and spicy leaves as before, but something had changed. The grasses sat like lead in my belly, and the spicy leaves gave me heartburn, a condition I had thought was only in the minds of its sufferers. In the next six months, I gained a full thirty percent of my previous body weight, and no longer had the energy to leap or to run.
When Autumn crisped the air and pushed the colored leaves to the ground, I began to sneeze. My head was sickened, and it was only the Wise One's antibiotics that kept my head from rotting off. The Wise One had to administer the tonic again in the Spring, as well as an admonition to lose some weight.
My feet began to hurt, as did my knees. Exercise became an excruciating experience. Any outdoor activity became an occasion for illness, as pollen and atmospheric toxins could set off a months' long series of illnesses, from sinus infections to pneumonia.
Yet my Elders told me that I was lucky to have made this big step. A lot of people simply can't, and thus they are doomed. I'm not doomed, not any more. I can't run, I can't fit into the hide that I used to, I'm ashamed to be seen, even in the briefest of glimpses, but I'm not doomed. They say I took the Big Step soon enough.
I keep telling myself that I'm glad.
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