The music flowed around him and through him, like a muse who whispered to him the most wonderful harmonies and melodies one could ever hope to hear. His fingers flew over the piano, swiftly touching each note, each dream. He was lost in song, swept along by beauty and embraced by love. He barely paid attention to the movement of his hands as they moved along the range of the keys, the strings inside the instrument humming magically.
The dream stopped with the off-kilter note, and the Grundo found himself sitting on a bench, his mind numb and his muse gone.
A soft, cool breeze blew past him, gently brushing his smooth skin and sending a chill throughout his body, causing him to shiver for a moment before settling down again. he was alone. Not a single being was in the room with him, not even Key, his petpet. Usually the Juma was perched right on top of the piano, sleeping as he composed, and purring whenever she particularly enjoyed a piece. The lack of company rather disturbed him, and the Grundo took down a few pieces of paper that were filled with nothing but musical staffs from a nearby shelf. He didn’t like feeling this way, and usually putting his thoughts to music helped him break out of this mold. It helped him express his creativity in a way that his sister did with poetry and his brother did with sports.
The feelings that were rushing through him reminded him too much of his younger days, when he was different, and lost.
He had been created, he’d figured out, to be zapped by the lab ray into some awesome color. At that time his owner had wanted a Xweetok, and it had been when she didn’t want anything colored flashy or brilliant. As a result he’d been born a Xweetok, and he had a soft, muted blue color that came to encompass his personality in more ways than one. Because he had been zapped at the beginning of his life, he’d started out off balance, and even now frequently felt that way, as if he were expecting another change at any moment.
The funniest part of his experience, however, that made him smile when he looked back on it, was when he had first changed color. His owner had smiled at the irony when he’d stepped down, and he turned around to catch a glimpse of his tail.
He was yellow, the very color his owner had been hoping to avoid.
He’d finished being zapped for the first time when he became spotted, and thankfully he was the same species that he had started out being. However, that day of jubilation had come with a sad price. When they had brought his beloved petpet to its own lab ray, it had disappeared in a quick, small puff of smoke.
He’d been given another petpet the very same day, a paper Ditsy, but it took him a lot longer to become as close to it as his previous one.
That was when he first went around, trying to discover who he should be. At first he’d tried writing, but he kept on messing things up, and frequently got in the way of his owner, who had become particularly unhappy when she found that he’d accidentally dropped a bottle of ink on her stack of papers of completed stories, unfortunately on more than one occasion.
After a while, and after his other sister became finished with her own adventure in the lab ray, he grew tired of his look, and so did his owner, and it was back to the ray for him. He was rather uncomfortable with it, because of his constant fear of changing genders, and the possibility that he might turn into something that he really didn’t want to be turned into. As a result he became even more introverted than he had been before his return.
His greatest surprise, however, came when he was zapped one afternoon, on a warm, however cloudy day.
“Go on, Qintari, you can do it!” shouted the young girl standing at the edge of the room, far away from the target. The young spotted Xweetok quivered nervously, looking warily up at the huge, scary thing protruding from the ceiling. The crazy looking Scorchio was frantically messing with his controls, pressing odd buttons and pulling knobs in such a way that made him think that maybe the doctor really wasn’t being methodical with his experimenting at all. Maybe he’d taken the random approach? He’d found out that it worked really well several different times.
A shadow Gelert stood at her side, and the Xweetok looked at her wishfully, hoping that she would give him a supportive look, or better yet, take his place instead. She’d gone through a couple of species changes, and a gender switch on more than one occasion. She could probably handle this.
“Ah, ha!” shouted the Scorchio, and before Qin could do a thing about it, he pulled on a big lever.
Instantly he felt a humming in his bones, and at that same moment he knew that something was different about this zap. Was he changing color again? Was he becoming a mutant, or Darigan? What if he became something else entirely, like a JubJub? He didn’t know if he could handle the prospect of not having arms, legs, or a neck, even if he still had feet.
To his horror, he felt his nose disappear, and his ears travelled up the side of his head, where he could feel them twist into a cylindrical shape. His front legs moved to his side, and he could feel his paws there change and shift, and much to his delight he could feel the wonderful gift of opposable thumbs. His legs changed as well, and though they didn’t disappear, he could feel them becoming less bendable, and more straight. His hind feet also flattened to the point where he felt he’d have to stand on the parts of his leg that he wasn’t used to standing on, rather than on his pads. He felt horror, however, when his tail disappeared. He nearly lost his balance right then, even as he was changing.
His owner grimaced when he stepped away from the target, and a quiet voice said, “...and he changes into a red Grundo!”
“Well, we’ll be coming back tomorrow,” said the girl, putting her hand on his shoulders, and leading him out of there.
He was extremely miserable on the way home. Without his coat of fur, he was frozen as the ocean wind blew past him, even after he’d been given a sweater to wear. His owner ended up giving him something warm to eat when they came inside.
“How does it feel?” asked Shei, the Gelert, when he put his plate in the sink.
“Strange,” he answered honestly, a bit freaked out by his new voice. “I can actually reach up and grab things now, and I have to fight not to go back and walk on all fours.”
“You know, it was the same for me when I turned into a Grarrl,” Shei said as they walked into the living room. “Only I didn’t have proportionate arms. Well, I suppose I did, for that species, but you know what I mean.”
He nodded, smiling softly.
The newly dubbed Grundo sat in one of the chairs, and he was about to say something to his sister back when he noticed that she wasn’t paying attention to him. Her gaze was drawn to something else, and it took a moment for him to realize exactly what it was that she was looking at. In the corner of the room sat a huge, black instrument, and as he peered at it, he wondered why they labeled it that in the first place. Wasn’t an instrument something like a clarinet, or a drum, something that they actually played in band?
“I wonder why she has that?” asked Shei, curious. “Nobody ever plays that.”
“I have no idea,” said Qin, rubbing his head. “She barely even plinks at it herself.”
Suddenly her ears perked up, and he instantly became wary. Her ear-perking ideas weren’t always in the best interest of anybody else, even if she didn’t deem them dangerous herself.
“Hey, you have fingers now,” she said conspiratorially. She walked over to him and tugged him off of the couch, letting him stumble and right himself. The Gelert harshly dragged him over to the piano, and shoved him on the bench. “Come on, play! I want to see if you can do it all wonderfully like those people on Neovision!”
“Shei, I heard it takes practice to get good!” he said, but cowered when he felt her intense gaze on his back. He groaned, but hesitated before reaching out his hand to press down on one of the white keys.
It hummed and reverberated at him, one of the most curious and beautiful sounds that he had ever heard. He put another finger down on the piano, almost forgetting that he had an audience, and gasped as he heard another glorious sound escape. Another finger moved down, and then he placed his other hand on the wonderful thing that produced such lovely things. Not too long later a long stream erupted from where he sat, and his sister, as well as his owner who had come to stand in the doorway, listening in awe as he lost himself in a strange, but wonderful new world.
Qin finished writing down the last note on his new piece, and looked at it appreciatively. It had just the right amount of anger, loneliness, and happiness that would make it his own special master piece. He wanted to share it with his family, wanted to hear what they would say to this wonderful thing. It didn’t matter if they didn’t like it, but he did, he loved it.
He had finally found his song.