The fact that the old woman is not dead yet is a testament to the vigor she once had, and the sprit she still does. But enough is enough, sometimes, and of late the poor old wretch has been praying to her god to let her die, to extinguish the flame, to grant her just that one small favor as recompense for her interminable life of pain. Cast out from the pack because of her feebleness and age, abandoned to die alone and unwanted in the jungle, she prayed nightly for this deadly dispensation, this one and final time.
But her god has not heard her plaintive wail; or has heard it, but is preoccupied with other woeful mourns and not yet had a chance to attend to hers; or her god has heard the sorrowful woman’s plea and simply chooses to ignore it. Whatever the unfathomable reason, the haggardly woman’s appeal for merciful death has gone unheeded, and life stubbornly clings to her anguished, sinewy bones.
The elders of her church often said that to pray for death is a sin; that regardless of how much sorrow, misery, and lament life heaps upon one’s frail shoulders, that it is their duty to cheerfully bear the burden; and if not cheerfully, then stoically at least, and preferably in silence, too. Apparently nothing grates on the nerves of their god as much as a bunch of whiners.
Each of us have a role to play in the grand symphony of life, the elders of her church would say, and it is not for her to dispute the inerrant orchestration of that plan. She must accept god’s munificence and will, irrespective of the affliction and misfortune it might bring, while meekly enduring the bountiful ills. Hers was not to question and wonder why, but rather merely to be, and die.
The wizened old woman knew this, she believed this completely, yet she yearned for gentle death’s release all the same. Perhaps that is why her god ignored her plaint, because the only thing worse than wailing whiners is the peevish supplication and pitiful praying of those wanting the rules of the game to be changed.
The withered wretch reaches out a bent gnarled finger to protect the moth from the flame, and when she does, when she touches the moth, she ignites the flash of a kinetic spark, and the luminous green of the moth fades back to grey and black, while the sallow withered skin of the superannuated hag is transformed to a vibrant, robust pink. The flesh of her hands and arms and body swell. Her joints loosen and retighten with renewed vigor and strength. The matted hoary mane grows full, becomes lustrous and inky black. Her back straightens, her teeth return, and her eyes now blaze like sparkling green emeralds in brilliant bright light.
When the metamorphosis is complete, Sofia’s life-force usurps the body of the ancient woman, transmuting it to when she was 50 years younger. Fleeting memories of the woman’s venerated past remain, but Sofia’s life-force is dominant now, holding preeminent rule and domain.
Sofia jerks into consciousness, and finds herself sitting cross-legged on the sodden banana-leaf carpet in the dismal little shack.
(I did it. I’m here. I’m on the Blue Planet.
But what the hell is this?
Someone actually lives here… in this dirty little hovel… on purpose?)
Sofia glances down at the body she now wears. She studies her new hands in the dim candlelight, finding them not so unlike her own. (Good, I still have five fingers, that’s nice. But they’re kind of stubby, compared to mine—and what’s with those hideous nails?)
Instead of slender gracile talons, her fingernails are now blunt and thick. Her new arms and legs are similar to her own as well, she observes, though sturdier and stronger; and her skin feels smooth and glabrous, without a trace of her feathery down. (All my feathers are gone. How bizarre. This is my body now!)
She curiously, tentatively, anxiously lifts the tattered hem of the dress to examine her groin. (Oh, thank god! I’m a female!) She pats her chest and feels breasts. (Good… two of those, too. Whew! I can certainly do without having a flat hairy chest and a dick poking out. This is change enough already.)
Under different, more relaxed circumstances, Sofia would have enjoyed experiencing what it was like to have a male body—she’d always been curious—but, given everything else she had to contend with on this foreign world, she was thankful to have the more familiar female form.
She glances around the shack, but sees nothing she can use for a mirror, so she strokes her new face curiously with both hands, noting the boxy, slightly-elongated jaw and moist canine nose, erect pointy ears and long mane of ebony hair flowing over her head, down past her shoulders to the middle of her back. (How weird. This is me now. At least they’re descended from dogs—imagine if it were lizards or snakes? Yuk!)
It is not surprising that the basic physiology of the canine life-forms on the Blue Planet is similar to the avian ones from Sofia’s world. Although life’s varieties are infinite, the fact is, when it comes to advanced, intelligent class-1 life, at least, the fundamental archetype is fairly consistent across the cosmos, because it is derived from a similar evolutionary process.
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