It is currently Tue May 22, 2018 1:05 am

All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 7 posts ] 

Change shape?
Poll ended at Sun Jan 15, 2017 11:16 pm
Yea 75%  75%  [ 3 ]
Nay 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Not-As-Is 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Abstain 25%  25%  [ 1 ]
Total votes : 4
Total voters : 4
Author Message
PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 11:16 pm 
Offline
Member
User avatar

Joined: Nov 04, 2013
Posts: 5025
Everything and Nothing at Once :diamond:
by OrcishLibrarian

Even though he looked exactly like a member of their pack, the other wolves kept their distance from Subject 23, casting wary looks in his direction. His attempts to creep closer to them had been met with low snarls, so now he stayed well away, lurking amongst the underbrush and just watching the wolves as they milled around, waiting for their alpha to return.

Subject 23 decided that he didn’t want to be around when the alpha did come back. So he started to slink away through the bushes.

Animals were always harder to fool than people. It was the smell. He could look exactly like them, could try to copy their mannerisms, but he couldn’t smell like they did. Animals – the wolves, especially – were sensory beings, and no matter how good his shape-shifting was, he could never really pass for one of them. They could always sniff him out.

Humans, by contrast, were visual creatures – it was much easier to pass for human. He had once lived a whole year in a small village in Gavony, passing himself off as a deaf mute to try to avoid the language complication. The local priest had taken him in, given him food and clothing, and put him to work sweeping up the floors. He had talked to him about angels, tried to give him religion.

That had been okay, but the priest didn’t actually seem to care very much about him, just this thing which he called a soul, which Subject 23 didn’t know anything about when it came right down to it.

So, after a while, he had left, shed his human form, and slipped back into the woods.

What was a soul? Subject 23 wasn’t sure. But he suspected it was something you didn’t have if your first memory of life was of your eyes shooting open as lightning scorched through your every nerve, if you opened your mouth to scream only to choke on the vile fluid filling your giant glass vat.

He still remembered the taste of that fluid.

Most of his other memories of the laboratory were small, blurry scraps, pasted together into a collage of pain and confusion. He remembered the electricity; the probes; the leering, observing, calculating face, made bug-eyed by the refraction of the glass vat.

He remembered the terror of escape, of breaking free, of stumbling out into the night with no other thought or plan than to run until he couldn’t run any more.

He remembered the little slate next to his vat, with “Subject 23” chalked on it, the chalk and eraser sitting on a lab bench nearby.

Sometimes he wondered about what had happened to Subjects 1 through 22. Maybe some of them had escaped, too. Maybe he wasn’t totally alone in the world.

But he doubted it.

Once free, he had discovered that, with patience and great effort, he could will his body to assume the form of any other creature he encountered. So he started to try on other skins, looking for one that would fit, one that he would belong in. But he hadn’t found it yet, and he was starting to worry that it didn’t exist.

He could be anything and nothing at once, and it made him ache inside, even if he wasn’t quite sure why.

Now, as he crept along the forest floor in wolf form, he was distracted by a whimpering from off in the distance. He followed after the sound and found himself beneath a great oak tree, where he saw the wolfpack alpha, whimpering and howling. The alpha was bleeding from one leg, which was caught in the steel jaws of a trap, cleverly disguised below a layer of leaves.

Then, just as he was about to approach the wounded alpha, Subject 23 heard footsteps in the trees behind him, and a human voice called out: “Got two of them.”

He turned to see a man, fur-hatted and axe-wielding, coming towards them. There was a cruel look on the man’s face as he raised the axe up over his head. It was a look Subject 23 recognized.

But the look on the man’s face changed as Subject 23 shifted into the form of a massive silver bear. Cruelty was replaced by fear, and the trapper stumbled back, swinging the axe wildly as he did. Subject 23 didn’t have time to dodge, didn’t try to: the axe bit into his shoulder with a flash of pain as he leapt at the man, catching him full across the face with one swipe of a massive paw.

Subject 23 heard bones snap, and the dead trapper crumpled to the ground in a heap.

The pain in Subject 23’s shoulder was intense. He hurt too much to keep his focus, to hold on to the form of the bear, and so he shifted back into his natural form – or, at least, the form which took the least effort to maintain, whether natural or not: a kind of ashen-skinned, sunken-eyed, humanish form, with long, stringy limbs and indistinct features, like a pencil sketch that hadn’t been fully colored-in.

Trying to block out the pain, he crawled over to where the alpha still struggled against the jaws of the trap. The wolf fell still at his approach, and watched him with wide black-blue eyes as Subject 23 got his hands around the steel jaws and, with the last bit of energy he had, pried them apart.

Then the shape-shifter collapsed on the ground next to the wolf, both of them tired, hurt, and bleeding.

The last thing Subject 23 remembered before passing out was seeing the wolf crawl over to where he lay, feeling its moist breath as it licked the wound on his shoulder clean, feeling its fur as the wolf sat down next to him and he slipped off into a dream.

For the first time in a long time, it was a good dream.

_________________
"And remember, I'm pullin' for ya, 'cause we're all in this together." - Red Green


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 1:39 am 
Offline
Member
User avatar

Joined: Jun 21, 2014
Posts: 8224
Location: Singapore
Identity: Male
This is wonderful. Subject 23's perspective could have been alien and incomprehensible, but somehow or other, you've made it into a painfully human and relatable protagonist. There are some exquisite lines as well, like the one in which it wonders about a soul, or the one about trying on different shapes. Good stuff.

_________________
Image
The format of YMtC and the Expanded Multiverse.
YMtC: My Deck of Many Things | NGA Masters | 2 | 3 | Roses of Paliano | Duel Decks: War of the Wheel | Jakkard: Wild Cards | From Maral's Vault | Taramir: The Dark Tide
Solphos: Solphos | Fool's Gold | Planeswalker's Guide | The Guiding Light | The Weight of a Soul
Game design: Pokémon Tales | Fleets of Ossia: War Machines | Hunter Killer | Red Jackie's Run


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 2:26 pm 
Offline
Member
User avatar

Joined: Nov 04, 2013
Posts: 5025
This is wonderful. Subject 23's perspective could have been alien and incomprehensible, but somehow or other, you've made it into a painfully human and relatable protagonist. There are some exquisite lines as well, like the one in which it wonders about a soul, or the one about trying on different shapes. Good stuff.

Thanks so much for reading, CKY, and for the very kind words!

I wrote this one ages ago for one of Raven's story-of-the-week prompts back in AF&S, and, revisiting it last week, I was reminded that I really do like it. Honestly don't know why I never tried to bring it over to the M:EM -- maybe I just get nervous about canon planes, sometimes.

Anyway, it's a short little glimpse of a story, but I feel like it works, and I'm glad you felt the same. There's something deeply melancholy to me about the idea of being able to pass as almost anything you wanted to, but never really being able to feel like you belonged. I think we've all had real-world experiences which evoke that feeling, but, obviously, Subject 23 experiences it at a level that I couldn't ever begin to understand.

But it turns out than an act of kindness is something of a universal language. And that gives me hope, I think.

_________________
"And remember, I'm pullin' for ya, 'cause we're all in this together." - Red Green


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 5:52 pm 
Offline
Member
User avatar

Joined: Oct 19, 2015
Posts: 856
Location: Homestuck rehab center
Identity: Inertially male
Preferred Pronoun Set: he/him
I'm gonna think on this for a while.

On one hand, it has the classic OL quality, and the kind, sad warmth I remember in the first Aloise/Beryl stories. So, before I say anything else, I'd like to put on the table the fact that I enjoyed this piece. On the other hand, the selling point of the character is... not that special. Maybe I only feel like this because Pendulum has recently been in my mind lately, but I can't shake the feeling Subject 23 is the unlucky "child" of Pendulum and "I". Again, I voted for Tevish's Confrontation and they are more or less on the same level, but... I dunno. I'd feel better approving this story if I knew there's gonna be more, so I can look forward to a deeper characterization.

To approach this from another angle: I just (re?)read "Gruff", and I'm engaged with both characters in approximately the same way. The fact that this piece as a lot more words makes me thing there should be something more to it.

(a very nitpicky detail: I have the impression a "massive bear" would shrug off a wild, panic-driven slash pretty easily)

Thank you for sharing!

_________________
Johann the Bard (The Adventure Zone) wrote:

To anybody reading this, including my future selves: have a good life!

My M:EM creative archive


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 1:46 pm 
Offline
Member
User avatar

Joined: Sep 22, 2013
Posts: 9652
On the other hand, I find this story fine as it is -- I feel like it's not super germane to the M:EM without being part of a larger context (The Innistrad setting isn't really necessary or explored. This is a struggle I've been having with some of my offerings -- trying to keep them in the "Magic: the Gathering" spectrum rather than generic fantasy) but that as a happy-sad vignette involving magic and powers, pain and comfort? It works totally on its own. I feel this. Yea.

_________________
"Enjoy your screams, Sarpadia - they will soon be muffled beneath snow and ice."

The Coalition/Phyrexian War Game Rises Again


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:43 pm 
Offline
Member
User avatar

Joined: Nov 04, 2013
Posts: 5025
Many thanks for reading, Huey and Tevish, and for the thoughtful comments!


On one hand, it has the classic OL quality, and the kind, sad warmth I remember in the first Aloise/Beryl stories. So, before I say anything else, I'd like to put on the table the fact that I enjoyed this piece.

I'm very glad that you enjoyed it!


On the other hand, the selling point of the character is... not that special. Maybe I only feel like this because Pendulum has recently been in my mind lately, but I can't shake the feeling Subject 23 is the unlucky "child" of Pendulum and "I". Again, I voted for Tevish's Confrontation and they are more or less on the same level, but... I dunno.

I'm sorry that the character isn't really working for you -- thanks for the feedback!

I'll agree that Subject 23 isn't exactly breaking new ground. The thing which sort of resonates for me about him is this notion of the effort that it takes him to try to maintain these different shapes. It's not something that comes easily or naturally to him -- he really has to sort of will himself to do it. But what interests me is that he does it anyway, instead of just slipping into the forest and disappearing, which would be much simpler. There's something about that desire for belonging, no matter what the cost, that tugs at me.

But, yeah, he's a shapeshifter, and it's not like we don't have shapeshifters.


I'd feel better approving this story if I knew there's gonna be more, so I can look forward to a deeper characterization.

Well, for whatever it's worth, in my head canon, Subject 23 is dead at the end of this piece. So I don't have any plans to go back to him again.

Figure I'll be upfront about that, since it seems relevant to your consideration.


Thank you for sharing!

Thank you for reading!


I feel like it's not super germane to the M:EM without being part of a larger context (The Innistrad setting isn't really necessary or explored.)

I think that "not super germane to the M:EM" could probably go on my tombstone. :) As Lunchlady Doris might say, there's very little Magic in my Magic stories.


as a happy-sad vignette involving magic and powers, pain and comfort? It works totally on its own. I feel this.

Well, I'm glad that it felt like it worked in that way. Thanks so much for reading, Tevish!

_________________
"And remember, I'm pullin' for ya, 'cause we're all in this together." - Red Green


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:01 am 
Offline
Member
User avatar

Joined: Oct 19, 2015
Posts: 856
Location: Homestuck rehab center
Identity: Inertially male
Preferred Pronoun Set: he/him
Might abstain on this then. I mean, I feel no strong motivation to include this work in the Archives, but I can think of no good reason to oppose it either. The piece is already on the way to its approval, so it's not like my vote is gonna be relevant.

_________________
Johann the Bard (The Adventure Zone) wrote:

To anybody reading this, including my future selves: have a good life!

My M:EM creative archive


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 7 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group