"This might hurt a little." Not the most encouraging thing to hear when some weirdo is standing over you with his sleeves rolled back, looking for all the world like someone out of a film, but hey ho. After all, this wasn't exactly normal life, was it? It wasn't like I was expecting people to be nice to me ... that was absurd.
"A little?" I tried not to sound scared. It wasn't working. "How much is 'a little'?"
"Imagine someone ripping off your skin and muscle and leaving only bones..." admitted Mathew, looking a little shamefaced. "All right. A lot. But you've agreed to it now; you can't back off." I knew it! He'd tricked me - making me agree before I knew what was really going to happen. But I was interested now. I wanted to know what I looked like. "I'll try not to hurt you, but I can't promise anything."
"You'll try not to hurt me..." My voice was dead. I closed my eyes, lifting my face to the ceiling. I wasn't going to scream, I promised myself that. I wouldn't let him know how much it hurt if it was the last thing I did. "Okay, just get this over with. The worst part is waiting, isn't it?"
I could imagine Mathew smiling slightly. "No. The worst part is the pain."
"Right. Sorry; forgot about that." He placed his hands on my shoulders and muttered something. I'd once learned Welsh and it reminded me a little of the gutteral, ancient sounds of that language, but changed slightly. Maybe it was Irish? Or perhaps Scottish ... or even Anglo Saxon, which was probably likely. He was no doubt old enough.
I felt a slightly tingling feeling, and then a strange lightness, as though something had been torn away. But it didn't hurt at all. "Was that it?" I asked him, opening my eyes. Things were different colours, at least very slightly, but there was nothing major. Then I looked down at my body.
My skin was green. Man, but that was weird. It wasn't like having spray paint, when you forget and are surprised when you look in the mirror. It was darn freaky, and I thought I'd never get over the shock of that first look. But my hands were worse, for I had six fingers, each with four joints. And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse - just when I thought I'd had enough shocks and excitement for one day - just when I thought it was over, I realised that I had wings.
I had wings.
Okay, so this really wasn't working out how I'd intended. I was a freak, a fairy, a kid from the Otherworld. I wasn't what I'd thought I was.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" I said to Mathew, because he was staring at me. Even my voice sounded different, though you could probably tell it was mine if you knew me well. "Yeah, I'm green. Big deal."
"It didn't hurt you?" he asked me, eyes wide in amazement. Well, no, or I'd have been screaming. I had a very low pain threshold. Didn't he know that? "It wasn't awful - like being torn apart?" The way he spoke, you'd think he wanted it to.
"No, it didn't. Why, is that a problem?"
"Think of the glamours as layers," he said, sitting down and staring at me. "Each layer is like a skin. When you rip off the bottom layer, the last glamour, it hurts, because it's like ripping off all of your skin at once. But little glamours, like changing your clothes or your hair colour, they don't hurt at all. Just tingle slightly. Which means..."
I caught his drift at once. "Which means this isn't my last layer. This isn't what I look like. There's another glamour underneath this one..."