Shape Shifters on the Bus

This short short story features in ‘Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand’, published by Canterbury University Press with the support of Creative New Zealand.

Fiction, Flash Fiction, Adults, Young Adults, Quick Read
Nod Ghosh | The commuting Book
Nod Ghosh

Aug 01   ●  3 min read

When Ronald McGourvey and his family of shape shifters caught the 47 to Scarborough, nobody noticed.

Timothy McGourvey had perfected becoming nitrogen-fixing bacteria, so he went as a rhizobium. He’d had trouble with symbiosis, but discovered he could run solo for short periods.

The bacterium was proving to be one of Timothy’s favourites.

Timothy’s sister Rebecca wanted to try something new. She’d been practising Muscovy duck for weeks, summoning forty pairs of chromosomes and an opposite spiralling cloaca. Aspergillus was a word Rebecca liked to roll in her mouth like a chip coated in sherbet, so she went as an Aspergillan fungal spore. Rebecca and her brother floated above an Asian schoolgirl’s ponytail.

Vivienne McGourvey had lately found reverting back from inorganic forms problematic, so she floated onto the 47 behind her children as a curl of cellophane. She needed the experience. Vivienne sailed in eddy currents behind a lady wheeling a tartan shopping trolley bag.

Ronald watched his wife with cautious devotion. He was thinly disguised as dog dirt around a wheel of the tartan trolley.

The bus rolled on.

The bus stopped.

Passengers alighted at Scarborough, and Ronald found himself stranded. The tartan bag, with accompanying lady, stayed put. Ronald transformed into a gas and slipped through the opening doors, turning adiabatic somersaults.

Vivienne remained attached by static cling to the nylon coat of a rugby enthusiast. She flexed her transitioning apparatus, but nothing happened. Vivienne watched her children waddle and roll down the metal steps of the number 47, accompanied by delighted squeals from the Asian schoolgirl.

Timothy had transformed into a French fingerling, one of sixteen varieties of potato he’d learnt to emulate. Rebecca followed, her penguin flippers slapping her sides like wet cloths.

The Asian schoolgirl laughed.

Nobody else noticed.


From Bonsai. Best Small Stories from Aotearoa New Zealand.
This work was previously published in Flash Frontier (August 2016)