It could have started with many things. It may have been the fortune cookie she received that year stating ‘Even small lies are still lies’. It also could have been the movie she watched where the main character only told the truth and never lied. But Alyssa thought her condition was not caused by either one of these. The most reasonable explanation was that it was going to happen no matter what movie she watched or cookie she ate the year she turned twenty four.
It began with the smallest toe on her left foot. She saw discoloration, so she explored different websites for diagnoses and home remedies. She tried everything she could. She bought special socks; she soaked her feet; she changed her shoes. And yet her toe remained numb and gray.
She went to the doctor who said that their best guess was that she had poor circulation or that there was a deformity in the bones causing it to callus this way. They suggested all sorts of tests to look at the inside of her foot. Where Alyssa was, at this point in time, medical tests and visits were expensive and only available to those who could pay for them. Since it was only a little toe, she decided not to seek more treatment.
As the year went on, it completely transformed until it was made of stone. She scoured the internet for anyone with similar symptoms and found nothing. For several years, the problem persisted. It moved to three more toes on the same foot, and crept up the foot itself. When it was only in her toes, Alyssa did not notice it as it happened. As the stoning started to move up her foot, though, she could sometimes feel when it occurred. Worried about the expenses medical tests would incur, she continued to avoid them.
She thought it could be an allergic reaction. So, she began keeping a ledger of everything she did to try to find the culprit. She changed the food she ate; her exercising habits, her hygiene products and the types of clothes she wore.
She did notice that when she had vacations and was by herself, the stone did not spread. The process up until this point had taken the better part of three years. That was when her first breakthrough occurred.
For reasons that are unnecessary to state, Alyssa and her sister did not get along. So when her sister invited her to her wedding, Alyssa had no plans to go. She got the invitation and thought about all the drama that would happen if she marked ‘No’ now. So, instead, she marked ‘Yes’.
A week later, her sister called her as she opened the RSVP and Alyssa felt more of her foot solidify. She realized that this could be a psychological reaction. Then began what she always considered the second phase of her research, which was to track her mental health. She paid attention to her stress levels, her menstrual cycles and mood swings. She tried meditation and other mood-leveling activities.
She thought she saw some correlations, but nothing was clear. Her second breakthrough also involved her sister’s wedding. One day, while driving home from work, her sister called her to discuss the wedding. Alyssa said she was looking forward to it and she would just have to make sure to get the days off of work. When her sister outright asked her if she was sure she’d be able to get the days off, Alyssa said yes. Immediately there was a familiar sensation at her ankle. When she hung up, she pulled over in the nearest parking lot and removed her shoe. Her heel and ankle were almost completely firm.
Alyssa had been able to cope easily enough up until then. She had not been wearing sandals for years now, and all of her shoes covered her feet. On the occasions when she was invited to swim, she either did not swim or would bring shoes meant to wear in the water. It brought teasing, but she brushed it off and made up a reason for wearing the water shoes. These types of events seemed to worsen her condition, so she generally tried to skip them.
She found that her new parts were stable and not fragile. Once, she carved her initial into the top of her foot, and it stayed for a while, fading and then eventually disappearing altogether.
Looking at her feet in the car, she realized soon, socks wouldn’t hide her deformity. She thought about the conversation with her sister and decided it must be something about the people she talked to. She began to track her conversations and what effect they had on her. This was what she considered to be the third stage of her research: interactions.
She did this for a couple of years and proved what was causing the solidification of her body. It was lies.
When she confirmed this truth, she was almost thirty years old and her left leg below the knee was completely transformed. She wore pants all the time and said no to social functions most of the time. Unfortunately, her situation was self-worsening. What this meant was that in order to hide it she would have to lie and that would cause it to grow. This brought her to the final stage of research: how to cope.
The first change Alyssa made was to stop answering small, petty inquiries with small, petty lies. She could not afford to give a fake reason for taking days off or missing a party. She found, curiously, that her word choice mattered. If she didn’t want to go to an event after work, instead of saying “I’m sorry I have to meet a friend,” (which was a lie), she would have to say, “Sorry, I’m cooking dinner tonight,” or “Sorry, my drive home is twenty five minutes and I’ll be trying to go to the gym.” Whatever she could say that was true she would say. It helped to use phrases like ‘try to’ or ‘meaning to’, whether she was answering an email or talking face to face. When she couldn’t, simply not answering was the best option.
This was difficult, as people would ask her why she wore pants or if she didn’t like to swim. She had go-to answers for these types of questions. Honesty was the best policy and brevity was certainly her friend.
“I’m not comfortable with my legs,” she would say. Of course, this did not placate people, who would tell her not to be self conscious and other such cliches. She would smile and nod and say thank you, choosing her words carefully.
Or, when asked if she didn’t like to swim, she couldn’t even say, “I don’t like to wear bathing suits,” because that was a lie. She enjoyed bathing suits and swimming. So she’d say, “I am more comfortable wearing pants.”
She started to see herself as a lawyer, trying to play people with her technically true words.
Someone would ask if she liked their haircut, and if she didn’t like it, she would have to respond with, “Oh, yeah, it’s shorter. Where did you get it done? I love getting my hair cut.” and try to leave as soon as possible before they asked her again if she liked it.
She became the queen of generic answers.
“Do you like my outfit?”
“Girl, you rock what you got.”
“Did you finish those reports?”
“I looked at them and plan to message you my thoughts later.”
These and other such conversations were a staple for her.
Yet still, it took considerable energy to always pay attention to what she said, and over the next decade, though she put in substantial effort, her leg was totally taken over. It was a challenge for Alyssa. She could not have relationships. What would she say? She had a fear of going to doctor’s offices, because doctors were the most intrusive of anyone, assuming they had a right to see her body.
Her knee still bent, though she had almost no flexibility and walked with a limp by the time she got to her late thirties. This, too was a major pain point, though it caused no physical pain. People were very nosey. Alyssa realized she could not work in a normal environment or live a normal life.
It was as she reached forty that she also focused on the psychological effects her dilemma was causing. She tried to maintain positivity and to not give in to her desire to avoid all people. Instead, she accepted the truths that not everyone will like her and that she still had a life to live and needed to be social. Unfortunately, although this helped to remember, even her closest friends were never as intimate as they could have been, because she was a purposefully private person.
In a moment of genius, Alyssa realized that she could lie to animals without consequence. So she began her search for the perfect dog. Before long, she had a new companion and this helped tremendously with her levels of loneliness and despair. She could say whatever she wanted to the dog, talking freely and appreciating its company without worry or effort.
She switched jobs quite often in her forties, because her direct honesty and detachment caused her to come off as standoffish and somewhat rude. She thought of the possibilities. She ultimately wanted to find an employer who would allow her to work from home. Meanwhile, she tried to find companies that didn’t focus on team building or cooperation. She got jobs that allowed her to sit at a desk on her own and not talk to anyone all day.
As she was figuring out her work and entered her fifties, her metamorphosis continued. It had already completed its way past her leg up her pelvis and was snaking up the side of her abdomen.
It was thankfully moving more slowly now, as she had finished what she figured was half of her life and had learned how to handle her condition.
It was at this point that Alyssa went through the stress of buying a house, pondering for hours over which one was right and impatiently waiting to see if her offer would be accepted. She wound up buying a small, cabin-inspired property that sat in a rural area, surrounded by forest and with a creek within walking distance. Alyssa was able to swim in this creek undisturbed, and loved how the water looked against her stone skin, as if she belonged there.
She eventually had multiple dogs, as she believed more energy was needed in the house. She would walk them and try to keep her leg as mobile as possible, as her mutation moved up and over her torso and down her right thigh.
Alyssa examined herself frequently. After some investigation, she decided that she looked to be a mix of slate and quartzite. Although it caused her grief, she was fascinated and in awe of what she was becoming.
Her shin, her upper thighs, her pelvis and the area around her bellybutton were smooth like slate, while her toes, joints and the backs of her calf and thighs were all less smooth like quartzite.
She was relieved to find that her rocky sections were not eroding, at least not fast enough for her to notice a difference.
Though she could not see it, she knew that her insides were hardening as well. She often worried about her respiratory and digestive systems. Oddly enough, they did not stop functioning. The details are not important, but as her abdomen changed in her fifties, she found her solution in adult diapers. Worth noting was that she still, unfortunately, went through the symptoms of menopause.
Her peculiar body was a major part of Alyssa’s reality, though it would not be fair to neglect that she had a life like any other person. She had drama at work, she had dogs get sick. She dealt with loneliness and the loss of loved ones. She stressed about her income and saving enough for retirement. She ate many exquisite meals and cleaned many dirty dishes. She had fun memories with friends and others simply with nature. She took photos, edited them, hung them in her house and shared them on the internet. Eventually, she began selling them online for a little extra income.
She turned sixty years old with slate covering her sternum and quartzite creeping down to her right shin. She also turned sixty with plenty of life lived and memories made.
Alyssa was not only turning to stone, but she was aging. Her eyesight was getting worse, and after games of fetch, at least one arm would be sore.
She was finally able to stop working and use her savings and money from selling photography to pay her bills.
Alyssa’s solitude in her old age coupled with her retirement had lessened her solidification to a crawl. She would interact with people at the store, or through the comments of her images online. It was easy to keep these conversations honest.
Her sixties and seventies passed peacefully. She outlived each of her beloved pets, and by then she was content to only take care of herself.
Alyssa was mostly made of rock at the end of her seventies. She still maintained her all-too-human arms and hands, and her collarbones and up were still covered in fragile skin. Her whole chest and her underarms were now hardened.
She thought her body beautiful. More and more beautiful the older she had gotten. She had never broken a bone because most were no longer bone, and although she was slow, she was strong. When she placed her scarred, arthritic hand on her thigh she marveled at the difference between the paper-thin skin and the thick, unyielding stone. She wouldn’t have likened herself to the roman statues made of marble, but she still thought the dark grey parts of her were gorgeous.
Alyssa stopped wearing clothes at home, both out of convenience and vanity. She loved walking into the forest; naked, free, content. Of course she would swim in the creek this way, too. If it was cold, she would only need to cover her remaining human sections- the rest of her was unaffected.
Finally, she reached her eightieth birthday. It was a warm day, with only scattered, puffy clouds in the sky. The sun was so bright, and the entire world looked so clear, it was as if all other days were blurry. Alyssa bought a chocolate cake and ate it in the sunshine, placing it right on her legs. After it was gone, she proceeded to labor over to the creek to wash off the leftover icing. She had been pensive all day, attributing it to the milestone she was passing. Sitting in the water, her face relaxed and serenity spread through her.
She decided from then on, she wasn’t going to worry. If she wanted to have a good conversation, she would. She figured she had made it. She lived through eight decades even with her particular biological difficulties.
At this point, she was at the end of her life, so what was there to fear? Plus, she may just find that her body carried on in stone. Alyssa both feared and hoped for immortality. She loved living, but she knew immortality may bring its own obstacles. That evening, she let herself imagine existing forever in the forest among the plants and animals. As the sun set on the eightieth anniversary of her birth, she pulled out a notebook and started to write a plan.
One day the following week, Alyssa put on her clothes, covering all of her but her face. She went to the store and bought her favorite, non-perishable foods. Placing her bounty on the table, she consulted her notebook, which was now full of lists.
Alyssa began spending her days on the internet. She arduously entered her address as she bought items from online stores. All the while, she referenced her notes.
After weeks of this, she began to write letters. She addressed them, put stamps on them and set them to the side. Next, she wrote emails, though she did not send them at this time. She also pulled some paperwork out of her files and set it on the counter.
What she had ordered arrived throughout the subsequent months. Over half was food. She ate like she was hungry, savoring the tastes in her mouth and the smells in her nose. Additionally, she had all sorts of flowers delivered and basked in the scent of them. She had herbs and spices and all of the available items that she enjoyed tasting and smelling brought to her. She made a number of outings to stores to get anything not easily shipped, such as sushi.
For the next few months she continued to eat and smell all she could. As she did, she crossed out lines on the lists she had written. One day, as she wiped her mouth clean, she decided to move on to her other senses.
Alyssa then spent months continuing to eat while she looked at her favorite photos, watched her favorite movies, listened to her favorite music, rubbed her skin with her favorite fabrics, and felt the sun, wind and rain on her face.
She lived this way for years until, one day, there was nothing left in her notebook that could realistically be done.
That day, she got on the phone and called her local post office. She stopped her mail for a month starting in two days, stating that she would be traveling. As she said this, she could feel her chin and then her lower mouth harden. She could barely say goodbye as she hung up.
She cleaned the kitchen, throwing away the remaining food in the fridge as well as any dirty dishes. She went through her house and tidied up as best she could.
She sat down at her computer, opened her unsent emails and set them up to be sent in two days time. It was after this that she threw her now-tattered notebook in the garbage can.
As she finished up, it was night (for she moved very slowly) and Alyssa made three trips to the edge of her driveway to leave the trash for pickup.
She spent the rest of the night in front her full length mirror, investigating her stunning reflection. Her chin was no longer wrinkled and old. It was new and exquisite.
As dawn broke, Alyssa went to the mailbox with all of the letters she had written and put the flag up for them to be collected.
She calmly and quietly stared back at the house that had provided her comfort and shelter all these years.
She looked on thoughtfully as the sun rose, and then walked inside. She meandered through the clean (albeit dusty) house and revelled in the memories it carried.
Before exiting, she stopped by the kitchen table and straightened the paperwork she had set there. On top, she had placed a large, smooth rock from the creek as a paperweight. Underneath it was her last will and testament, leaving any remaining assets to the humane society where she had adopted her dogs.
She left through the back door with one last glance inside. She stopped by the spot where she had buried all of her pets, brushing leaves away from the four separate graves.
She then went to the creek and laid down, her body blending into its floor of stones. The water flowed around her, accepting her.
Alyssa never left the creek. That day, her letters went out. One by one, they were opened and the lies inside were read. The next day the same happened with her emails. Alyssa was content in her creek, not sure if her face was solidifying or if she was simply losing her life. She breathed less and less, or maybe her breathing synced with the movement of the stream. It was day, it was night. It was sunny, it was raining. It was cloudy, it was dusk. And Alyssa and the creek remained. She did not feel like she was dying, yet rather that she was finally where she belonged.
It was eventually discovered that the house was empty and Alyssa was gone. Of course, there was an obligatory search of the forest behind her house for the elder woman, but by this time, so many lies had been received by email and hand-written letters that none of her body was visible to the men and women looking for her. If they noticed that the rocks at the river bank looked like the shape of a head, no one said it out loud.
But she was there.
She was there, in the creek with the water rushing over her. Beautiful and permanent, she was being smoothed by the current and where the current missed her she was clothed in green moss.
As the years passed, she remained. Through the snow and the heat, she stayed as part of the landscape. How long it took for her brain to finally rest is difficult to say. What is for certain is that her story is still there, intact among the stones.