It woke in a field. Empty. Alone. It looked up at the sky and caught the sun in its eyes, blinking painfully and averting its gaze. It sat next to a clear pond, in which it took its first look at itself.
It was a small, translucent blob, gray and featureless, save tall, black eyes which seemed to absorb all light. With a dejected sigh, it turned and began to crawl away through the field. It halted, however, when it saw a butterfly alight on a nearby daffodil. Curious in spite of itself, it drew nearer to watch the new arrival. The butterfly slowly brought her wings together and drank from its perch. Suddenly, she seemed to become aware of her observer for the first time. The butterfly turned and regarded it curiously.
“Hello there,” the butterfly said cheerily. “Who are you?”
It tilted itself curiously to the side, not fully understanding.
“Hm, don’t have a name, do you? Well that won’t do,” she considered for a moment. “How about I call you Gael? That’s a nice name, you look like a Gael to me.”
Gael shifted from side to side, feeling what it thought might have been happiness.
“Well, I’ll be, you’ve turned color like this flower here! Guess you liked that, huh? I’ve gotta get going, but it was nice meeting you, Gael!” The butterfly took flight again and fluttered away, leaving Gael to itself.
Returning to the pond, Gael found that what the butterfly had said was true: its body had shifted from gray to a bright, happy yellow. What’s more, its eyes began to shine as well, even if only faintly. It wondered how much control it had over these changes and decided to experiment. Inspired by its butterfly friend, it quickly discovered that it could not shape its body to have working wings. It could, however, give itself antennae, which didn’t serve much purpose, but were nice to look at and reminded it of its friend.
“Woo boy!” a voice startled it from its experimentation. “You’re a slick little thing, aintcha?” Gael connected the voice with a rather loud badger, who was approaching from the flowers with a sprig of grass dangling from one side of its mouth. “Do it again!”
It flushed and gave the badger a look of confusion.
“Dontcha know what I’m talkin’ about? The shiftin’ thing you were doing! Do it again!” the badger pressed, a wide grin on his face.
Gael took a look at the interloper, then focused on his ears. Concentrating, it shaped itself a pair, drooping lightly over its face. The badger guffawed, clapping its paws together and rocking back and forth.
“Alright, alright, now do a nose!” He said through fading chuckles.
Once again, Gael focused and formed a nose at the end of a pointed snout. It was starting to get tired, and it couldn’t exactly create more of itself at will, but it didn’t want to be selfish.
“Oh man. Boys!” The badger called out, and several more badgers emerged from the field shortly. “Look at this little thing! Like a livin’ ball of clay, it is! Watch, watch!” He leaned closer to address Gael, who recoiled at his breath. “Alright, do a tail,” he whispered.
Gael complied, giving itself a short, poofy tail in image of the badger’s own. Before long, it was surrounded by a cackling ring of badgers making requests, sometimes drawing shapes in the dirt to demonstrate. Time and time again did Gael change its shape and color at their behest, each new form inciting raucous laughter. It was only after they started poking and prodding at it to do more that it finally had enough. Gael turned obsidian and curled into a ball, squinting and surrounding itself with hard, angry spikes. When at last it couldn’t keep them up, it let go, opened its eyes, and flopped on the dirt, satisfied in an exhausted way that the badgers had all fled. It slowly dragged itself to the pond to look at itself.
Gael was stretched and worn thin, now a pale, nearly transparent gray. Its eyes had grown dull again, dark voids in its weary face. It tried weakly to give itself antennae again, but only succeeded in making tiny nubs above its eyes.
“Are you alright?” came a voice from behind it. It warily glanced over, its body shifting to match the color of the dirt beneath it. “Hey, hey, don’t worry. I don’t want you to transform for me.” The voice came from a small gecko looking sympathetically at it. “Look,” its body changed from orange to green and back again. “You should’ve seen how those morons responded when they found out I could do that. I can’t imagine how they must have treated a slime like yourself.”
Gael’s expression drooped further.
“Do you have a name?” The lizard asked, flicking his tongue. “Mine is Koop.”
With effort, it formed a small mouth and spoke its first word. “Gael.”
“Well, Gael, let me ask you something. What do you want to be?”
The question caught it by surprise. It hadn’t thought of what it wanted before, or even of itself, at any length. Gael thought for a moment, then tried something she hadn’t considered. She gathered herself and began to change. She recovered her antennae, now whimsically curled outward, and grew herself a pair of wide, purple wings, lifting off the ground without difficulty. She smiled widely at Koop and fluttered back down.
“Looks like you’ve decided,” he laughed, returning her smile.
Gael nodded and laughed, merrily shifting colors until she found a set she liked. She thanked Koop for his question and soared up and away, off to see a world she knew so little about.