“The geese love her, that girl.” Tei, Sarrah’s most recent patient, paused the video projected on the opposite wall.
In his hospital patient whites, he seemed childlike and earnest, despite the gray hair curled over his ears.
“Ah, yes. I suppose you could say they do.” Sarrah closed the door firmly behind her. “That’s one of the earliest recorded sightings, over twenty-five years after the original colonists first settled on Cobalt. Before that, humans weren’t even aware that something like the Doan existed.”
She stood there, watching the filmed drama unfold.
A young woman with skin as dark as the richest earth stood amidst a flock of black-necked geese. She wore an overcoat of ivory. Her scarf was blue, her countenance sad. In on one hand, she carried a blushing, berry-laden branch.
Tei pressed “Play” to continue.
Sarrah had already watched the recording countless times and knew what would happen next.
The girl’s lovely scarf was stolen by a gust of wind. She cried out. The startled geese took flight en masse. The wistful one whirled. Her body began to lengthen and twist, her limbs becoming wings. Together, the avians departed, the new anatidae’s berry branch and blue scarf forgotten among the rushes.
“It always happens quickly,” Sarrah explained. “You’d only notice if you were watching closely.
Tei said nothing.
“I wonder if it hurt, transforming like that.” Sarrah ventured again. “It must hurt, don’t you think? I wonder if the Doan feel pain.”
“I’m sure it did.” Tei declared.
Sarrah’s interest was piqued. She tried not to let it show. “How do you know?”
“Well look,” Tei backtracked then zoomed in on the image at moment before the flock had taken flight and vanished. “She’s crying. See?”
Sarrah nodded wordlessly. An odd lump swelled up in her throat. She’d watched this sequence so many times and had never noticed such a thing. “I wonder what makes them change, Tei. What kind of sorrow made her no longer wish to be human?”
“The records say that Doan who transform into people don’t remember being anything but human. Either you or I, or both of us could be Doan. We’d never know it.” Tei said. “Isn’t that a frightening thought?”
Sarrah laughed lightly, despite the sharp pang in her chest. “Maybe one day I’ll become entranced by something beautiful or become so saddened that I’ll no longer wish to be human. I’ll shed my skin and fly away.”
“No, Sarrah” Tei caught her fingers tightly in his own. “I wouldn’t want that!” He whispered harshly. “I wouldn’t want you to fly away and leave me behind.”
Sarrah’s heart ached. Why had this one become Tei? There were so many more questions, so many questions that she wanted to ask, but it was no use.
He couldn’t remember being anything but human.