The closest thing I could describe it as was being burned. You know, when you put your hand on a hot surface but don't realise quickly enough to take it away? It was like that, but worse, as though somebody was ripping off my skin and setting fire to what was underneath. But I didn't scream. I wouldn't let myself scream.
After it stopped, it took a while for me to pluck up the courage to open my eyes, because I had this mad idea that being able to see myself would make it more painful, so it was only when Mathew dabbed at my forehead with a damp cloth that I looked at him. He exhaled noisily, staring at me as if he hadn't a clue what to do about this ... almost as though he was just as out of his depth as I was.
"Well. I have to say - I wan't expecting that."
"What? What's happened? What am I?" But he didn't answer, so I looked down at my hands and saw the last thing I'd been expecting. Human hands. They weren't mine, not in the way that I'd known them all my life - too long and slender, too graceful and elegant - but they were definitely human. "But I'm human," I whispered. "Aren't I?" Standing up, I discovered that I was taller than I'd expected, and thinner too. Far too thin to be healthy.
When I looked in the mirror I had a shock, because the face I saw was, well, there was only one word for it: beautiful. Thin, of course, in need of a good meal, but I had never seen such lovely eyes. My hair was black, my ears slightly pointed as they poked out from underneath, and I looked clever. I felt clever. I felt amazing.
Mathew sucked in his breath. "Well, that's not what I thought would happen, but I suppose it's all okay..." He didn't sound at all sure.
"What am I?" I asked him again, staring into the mirror as though it might be able to help. Fat chance of that one.
"I'm not entirely sure," said Mathew. "I've never seen somebody like you before. You're ... different. More real - yet at the same time, less. I can't tell." It didn't seem right for him to be puzzled; I felt insecure. "If it weren't for the ears and those eyes, I'd say that you were human. But there's definitely something of the fey in you, though I couldn't say what it was."
"DNA test?" I suggested. "Might king of the fairies? Warlock, centaur, witch..."
"Shut up, I'm trying to think."
I lapsed into silence, twisting my fingers in and out of each other, willing somebody to come in and explain what on earth was happening here. "You're sure this is really me?" I asked at last. Maybe it was just another illusion?
"El, you felt that, didn't you? It hurt. You can't go deeper than that." Suddenly his face changed and I knew he'd had an idea. "But we might have gone too deep..."
"I don't understand. How can you go further than my skin?" And I liked this body. I wanted it for myself; I couldn't settle for ordinary after this. I was beautiful and shining and everything I'd wanted to be - I could have stopped traffic if I'd walked out into the street.
"Wait here. I have to check something." Mathew vanished, before reappearing to poke his head around the door. "By the way, don't let anyone in, no matter how much they knock, all right?"