Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams




The House of Linear Change

In this house, it is very easy to change.

Yesterday, the cat was a cat, but today it is a dark shadow under the kitchen sink. Yesterday, my father was alive, but today he’s on the floor, eyes open but unseeing, laying in a small pool of his own blood.

In my hand, there is a bloodstained knife. Yesterday, it was a wand. Today, it has forgotten the name of all spells, except one.


It is very easy for a thing to change. I know this because I am a thing, too.

I drop the knife. Before it reaches the floor, it turns into a mouse and scampers away—directly into the darkness under the kitchen sink. For a brief moment, the darkness becomes a cat again—a big gray tomcat—and swallows the mouse whole.

In this house, it is almost too easy to fade away, to become part of the ever shifting furniture, to become yet another memory floating in the air.

I step over my father’s body. Already, he is becoming something else—a new stool, a new wand, a person with the ability to love. In this house, things do not return to what they were before.

Change is continuous.


Well defined.

Do not think about the cat. It does not belong here. These rules do not apply to it.

I am standing in the doorway, looking out. It is time to leave. Who is left to stop me? The memories of those who have lived here before me, whispering in the air? The half-transformed body of my father—my jailer—on the floor?

Yet I do not go out. I can hear my mother’s voice in my head.

The world has always been unkind to those like us, Ada.

You were born here.

You grew up here.

You shall die here.

I silence her with an effort of will. Ghosts hold no power over me. Unlike my parents and their parents and their parents before them, I will leave this place.

The outside world beckons. Melodious birdsong drifts through the doorway. As far as my eyes can see, the world is sky blue, the trees green and beautiful. I want to jump down and walk through the forest and whisper to the animals. I want to find a cool stream and dive into its cool depths. I want so many things, and they are all out there, waiting for me, all calling to me.

I just have to take a single step forward and I’ll be free.

But I can’t move.

The cat bumps against my leg. It hisses at me and leaps outside.

The cat is not one of us. It can leave anytime it wants. It is not bound by our rules.

My father’s body has finished its transformation. I turn to look at what he has become. It is almost invisible, glittering in the air like faerie dust. I move closer and gasp.

A pair of wings.

I close my eyes but the tears fall anyway. Wings. My wings had fallen while I slept, snipped away by a pair of scissors that used to be a wand. The same pair of scissors that changed into a knife. The same knife I had picked up in anger and buried in my father’s heart.

I touch the wings on the floor. They thrum with gentle energy. I whisper a song without lyrics, a musical weaving spell.

My father took my wings so I wouldn’t be tempted to fly away. But now . . . now, this house that has stolen so much from me—years, joy, family—has given me one last transformation.

The wings lift off the floor and fit into my back. The process is painful, but I embrace the pain. With the pain comes the awakening of a part of me I thought I had lost forever.

I step to the doorway and look outside. The world calls me still.

This time, I take the step.

This time, I answer.

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Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe

Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe. A young Black man with short hair, dressed in a black and white stripped shirt with a silver necklace around his neck and seated in from of a bookcase.

Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe is writer of the dark and fantastical, a poet, and a reluctant mathematician. He has poetry and fiction published or forthcoming from Podcastle, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Baffling Magazine, Lightspeed, and elsewhere. When he’s not writing about malfunctioning robots or crazed gods, he can be found doing whatever people do on Twitter at @OluwaSigma. He writes from a room with broken windowpanes in Lagos, Nigeria.