The Woes and Wonders of the Lab Ray (Firsthand)
The first thing I noticed was the awful burning smell. It was unbearable. Something sizzled. I could hear crackling like lightning. My face was pressed against a cold, tiled floor.
“…And she changes colour to Woodland!!!”
My skin tensed up. It turned hard. The tension radiated from my chest out to my fingers and toes, as my skin seized up in wavy patterns like tree rings. I remember my tail used to softly flicker and blow in the breeze, but on that day at the Lab Ray, it solidified and began to sprout. My chest felt hollow. This is not how a normal Kacheek should feel, I thought.
I don’t know why my owner Katie takes me to the Lab Ray. Usually I feel stronger or weaker afterwards, but occasionally my appearance changes altogether. Since my birth almost eight years ago as a Blue Xweetok, I’ve been: a Blue Kau, Ghost Kougra, Cloud Eyrie, Faerie Eyrie, Checkered Eyrie, Pastel Zafara, Island Zafara, Sketch Zafara, Biscuit Zafara, Red Shoyru, Red Kacheek, Snow Kacheek and on that fateful day, Woodland Kacheek.
Every experience of my short life has been strange. Being a Ghost? I’ve never felt more invisible. Pets on the Neoboards either refused to believe I was there or they screamed and ran when they saw my misty teal skin. And let me tell you, those red eyes aren’t contacts. It hurts and stings to have such blood-shot eyes all the time. My fur tingled and seemed to moan when I tried to walk on solid ground. I could hear weird thoughts and whispers in my head, but I couldn’t talk to anyone that wasn’t a Ghost like me. Those were sad times.
As an Eyrie, it was my first time with wings. Can you imagine? My Xweetok-at-heart couldn’t! I dug my clawed paws into the ground and kicked off to soar above Faerieland. I could see the fountain from up above, where lucky Neopets become their dream colour. I was always jealous that their new ‘do would be purposeful, important. My changes were random and uncontrolled. More than anything, I just wanted to feel like myself and be one thing. Anything.
With my eagle-like wings, I’d fly over Mystery Island and see pets training up in the academy. They played Tombola to win colored sand. And they danced on the beaches to happy guitar music. That’s why I was so thrilled to be zapped Island. Finally I could join their luaus on the gorgeous sandy beaches of Mystery Island. I found my community, enjoying freshly speared fish and learning about the importance of our ancestors. Our leader bestowed upon me a bone necklace, which remains one of my most treasured possessions. Fellow Island pets, Flotsams and Myncis, painted white swirls on my hind legs as we chopped fruit for supper.
Yet Katie kept zapping me, much to my dismay. I turned Sketch — another weird sensation that left me in constant fear of erasers. Would I disappear forever? It was always on my mind. Then I turned Biscuit. Let me tell you, it’s hard not to take a little bite out of your ear when you’re hungry. I once tried a crumb that fell off while I was jogging. I tasted like cinnamon and sugar cookie butter, and I have to admit it was delicious. My crumbly fur was irresistible, but please be courteous to Biscuit pets. My brief experience taught me that they do not appreciate being licked or bitten. Keep your paws to yourself.
Not long after, I turned into a Kacheek. The process of changing species is rather painful, and it always tickles. Once you’re hit with the bold from the Lab Ray, your lungs change first. I can feel them shrink or grow, forcing the other organs to move and change. Your chest changes in size to accommodate the organs. And then your limbs snap into a new shape right away. My head changes next, from the neck up. I can feel my skin crawl upwards as it transforms into smooth Shoyru skin or fluffy Kacheek fur. When I became a Kacheek, the hairs began popping up out of my skin all at once. I felt like a flower garden that suddenly sprouted little seeds. I was itchy all over — and very hot. I felt compelled to luck my fur to get it all into place before Katie saw my new cutesy look.
In between all of this chaos is the changing of gender. I started as a female, but I’ve experienced both genders offered by the Lab Ray. I don’t feel very different when I change genders, because it’s just a matter of how I self-identify. When I identify as male, I do notice a lower voice, but I still like the same things. I love travelling. I love flying and I miss it every time I don’t have wings. I love spooky foods and fairytale stories. And no matter my gender, I remain clairvoyant, like my name, Klarevoyant. It means I can see the future, or predict what will happen next. My gift has meant that I have very good guesses about what the Lab Ray will mold me into next. I’m not always perfect, but often, a few seconds before I get zapped, I have a hunch about what I will become. It comes to me in a vision, like Déjà vu; except I know it hasn’t happened yet, so that must mean it’s coming. I don’t need a crystal ball or any of those trinkets to utilize my gift. It happens out of nowhere.
Oh, you want me to make a prediction, you say? Well I’ll share one I had recently: I could see myself as a Koi next. I woke up terrified, on the cold hard floor of the Laboratory. I was gasping and flailing, because I couldn’t breathe. My gills opened and closed, desperate for oxygen and water. It was just searing pain, as most of my Lab experiences are. My scales felt slippery on the floor, but they glistened beautifully. Katie came in and scooped me up and plopped me into a glass bowl of water. I breathed a sigh of relief and began flouncing around in my new home. It was a new experience for me — I haven’t been a water creature before. I swam in circles to get a look at my shimmery yellow tail. I felt myself smile. It was happiness to feel fishy for a moment.
That’s when my premonition ended. I’m kind of hoping that comes true, so I can experience the water world. All of my adventures in the Lab Ray have indeed been difficult to grapple with as I change who I am, but it’s also opened my eyes to how other pets live their lives. I’ve gained so much empathy for my fellow Neopians. We all struggle with some part of our appearance, whether it’s our strength, our size, our gender expression or wanting to fit in with others. It’s a very strange feeling to morph into another shape. I always tell myself that I’m an Xweetok going through these changes, but it’s been so long, I don’t remember how it feels to be an Xweetok. Instead, I’m left remembering my embodiment of each of these different pets and colours. I don’t know what I’m truly meant to look like, but I do know who I am inside, thanks to the Lab Ray. I’m someone who cares about others and knows what they’re going through. I’ve been there, literally. So I say, bring it on, Lab Ray.