“I don’t cause commotions; I am one.” – Elphaba Thropp, Wicked
Like shapeshifters? Confidentially, we in the deviantArt TF sphere refer to them as “WALKING TRAINWRECK CHARACTERS!” And, as you know, they’re 8 dA points* [Equivalent of $0.10] a dozen! BUT, WE THINK THAT YOU MIGHT FIND OUR SHAPESHIFTER JUST A BIT… DIFFERENT!
Our story begins in a train station, Grand Central Station to be precise, in late October 2016. There’s elegance to the train that the airways will NEVER truly capture or ever hope to top. Among the indifferent horde of people over 35 and those ‘not worth the time’ is a blue-haired woman with big dreams of stardom and praise. “Finally, I made it to MY stage!” She struck a pose in front of the obligatory ‘Welcome to New York City’ sign and took a picture to share with all of her followers. Her little high ended when someone had the NERVE to hit her leg with their tacky rolling luggage. “Great job reinforcin’ why everyone thinks New Yawk sucks! Even a khed has more manners than ya fuckin’ Yankees fan.” First impressions are always important.
“Oh great, Boston’s finally sendin’ their shit here. Sorry for rustlin’ your jimmies by not havin’ a red carpet ready.” He looked over the girl to see if she was really a threat. Nope, she was more of a ‘front’ than EA Star Wars Battlefront. “You’re some REAL big shot coming here on the $49 weekday promo ticket. I don’t got time for this wannabe.” He walked away in a huff.
“Amelia Reeds!” The girl screams. “YOU WILL KNOW MY NAME! I’m going to set Broadway ablaze! YOU’LL SEE!” A few passersby, obviously from out of town, looked on in confusion. Real New Yorkers never acknowledge the crazy. “YOU’LL ALL SEE!” Talk about a thirstbucket.
Amelia’s less than stellar debut didn’t deter her, though; for she had an appointment with destiny at Gershwin Theater! She hadn’t packed much beyond the clothes on her back, certain that the production staff would be so impressed that they would give her a major signing bonus. She reserved an AirB&B for the night operating on the minimal chance that the tryout didn’t work out.
One overpriced Uber ride later
“What do you MEAN I need prior experience and recommendations? I WAS BORN to be Elphaba! My whole life has been leading up to this!” Amelia screamed at a production assistant who had the misfortune of wearing one of the production’s shirts in public. The boss had warned the staffer that the ‘hipster Disney girls’ would hound for ANY role. However, most of the desperate fangirls usually weren’t this brazen. The assistant sighed once Amelia tried to appeal to pathos via explaining the stories behind her tattoos. “I got THIS one to symbolize my struggle to exist among my so-called peers for so many years!”
The tattoo in question was a rather amateur depiction of an octopus on her right arm; it featured manga-style eyes DESPITE looking the creature like a trace from a biology book. “You might have a case for that tattoo IF this was a production of Little Mermaid and we needed a ‘stunt’ Ursula.” She sipped from her certified fair trade $15 coffee. “Let me guess, you were a supporting character in the school’s play and you think you’re awesome.” She took another sip. ”I don’t know what your parents or middle school told you, but you aren’t special enough to magically land a role.”
“I’m 21. I can drink and do EVERYTHING else a White adult can!” She batted the coffee out of the assistant’s hand. “How can you make a play about a witch and NOT expect a bitch to apply for the role?”
A bearded tech stepped out from the theater for his smoke break. Amelia opted to take this chance to run into the building. She tripped over a loose 2x4 on the floor less than a yard past the door. Well, she HAD managed to enter the theater, right? The assistant and tech took pity on her and didn’t press charges; instead opting to have her dropped off at the location corresponding to her AirB&B reservation. Guessing her password was almost accidental: it was Wicked.
Amelia woke up in an apartment hallway across from a door that had a rather obscene ‘do not disturb’ sign up along with a sign of a fish monster with a huge line across it. Thankfully, her reservation was on the side of the hallway she had been propped against. “No wonder this place was so cheap.” She stood up, shook off the setback and motioned to open the door. Before she could reach the knob, she caught a glimpse of a green haired person out of the corner of her eye. Totally tripping, the perceived concussion made Amelia assume she was more disoriented than she actually was. She could swear that the person was calling out for her. “What do you want? A tip or something?”
The excitable green-haired person ran up to Amelia enthusiastically. “I finally found you, Emily! Your sister has told me so much about you.” Their gender appeared ambiguous and the voice didn’t make it any clearer. Amelia didn’t want to seem like a bigot, so she stayed silent. “Oh! Alice-senpai told me that you can be quite paranoid, but I am not one to judge.” They moved their fingers to their lips. “I keep secrets for Alice-senpai ALL the time.”
“Emily? I think you’re mistaken, whoever you are.”
“Nonsense! I’ve never met you before, but I KNOW for sure that you’re Ms. Emily Rees. I’m Hoffi!” Hoffi wildly shook Amelia’s hand. “Alice-senpai told me that you have a fondness for blue, an octopus, wear glasses and include a REALLY annoying voice. You fit all criteria! Initiate ‘Happy Dance.exe’.” Hoffi danced in an obscene manner that would most likely have offended whatever culture it belonged, but guessing their exact race proved impossible. Maybe it WAS a legitimate part of their tradition.
“I’m Amelia Reeds; NOT Emily Rees!” She huffed, recollecting herself to ask a more pressing question that needed answering. “What are your pronouns, Hoffi?”
“It, That, Those! Also, that’s a REALLY silly attempt at a fake name, Emily. This little ‘not talking with anyone period’ has left everyone worried. However, it was I who solved the mystery! We need to go see the rest of the group right away!”
“Hold on, what do you mean by group?” Amelia searched for ‘Emily Rees’ on her phone while Hoffi did its best to explain the dynamic. She zoned out around the time Hoffi started to discuss the differences between octopus and dragon physiology. The plethora of conspiracies and accusations surrounding a woman named ‘Emily Rees’ proved far more intriguing than Hoffi’s exposition dump. “Come to think of it, that name DOES ring a bell. I did take quite a hit in my last battle against…” She scrambled to find a list of Emily’s alleged enemies. “Elsa, PS3 games and Son…i…chu. I may need a refresher about my role… I mean, what I do.”
“PS3 games must have beat you up pretty badly for you to forget that you’re a shapeshifter. I think this might be one of those ‘bad ends’ Alice-senpai warns me about. Not to worry, since I get into them all the time! I’ll give you a little jolt and that will reset you to your, presumably, adorable form.” Hoffi’s right index finger transformed into a syringe containing a pulsing pink fluid and primed for injection directly into Amelia’s chest. “This won’t hurt a transformation veteran like you.”
Amelia’s layers of <100 thread count garments were no match for the cold reinforced plastic needle. The fluid felt like the pure lava coursing through her veins without even the slightest hesitation. She tossed her beanie aside hoping in vain that would help cool her down. No luck. She felt like she was on fire. Hoffi ran down the hall once Amelia started to smoke [the bad kind that isn’t retro-vaping]. Quick use of a chemical fire extinguisher contained the fire at the cost of scorching Amelia’s outfit. “Uggh, this had better be worth the effort. I’ve been to deliberate fires less chaotic than this.”
“Terribly sorry!” Hoffi opened the door to allow Amelia some privacy. Amelia slammed it shut. “I’ll go get you a new outfit right now, ok? There’s a thrift store right down the street and I have some gift cards to use up. Familiarize yourself with yourself while I’m out.” Hoffi’s ‘full force running’ sounded disturbingly like skipping.
“Uggh, can this day get ANY worse?” Amelia groaned in an unfamiliar tone. Did the eccentric albino give her an incurable disease? “What happened to my voice…” What she mistook for onset brain damage was that her Boston accent had mutated into something faux-English with an annoying hint of New Yorker to it. “I’ll ring its little neck when I…” Her voice changed again back to its original accent. A much more startling shocker came once Amelia caught a glimpse of her face reflected in the novelty skateboard mirror near the front door. This wasn’t HER face at all. She watched elements of her face melt in and out from this new appearance. “I JUST WANTED TO BE AN ACTRESS!”
Amelia’s rage brought a sudden clarity. She supposedly had shapeshifting powers now. Why not use them? She started out easy enough: turning back into herself as she truly imagined herself. Amazingly, these new powers allowed her to improve upon perfection, but why stop there? She shifted her features slightly and made her skin a natural green to have the ideal body for the show. There’s no way that the production staff could turn her away now. Unfortunately, keeping up the charade proved to be too taxing because sections of Emily began to mix in after only a few seconds. Amelia would need to try something far less difficult to see the limits of her new abilities.
“I did always consider the indie movie scene to be a viable alternative.” Amelia didn’t like the ‘starving artist’ direction her whims were reflecting. “I never said I wouldn’t sell out if it meant immortality in the eyes of the larger public and money.” Multiple influences fought for control until Amelia’s form settled on Tina Fey as she looked in 2007. “I could get used to this. Still, I could use a bit more power, dontcha know?” Amelia gasped as her illusion distorted into a level of immersion all other actors must envy. “I take it back! I take it back! I don’t want to be Sarah Palin!” She closed her eyes hoping to revert faster.
“Why are your eyes closed, Emily?” Hoffi’s commentary broke the seriousness of Amelia’s horrifying experience. “Oh, where are my manners! You’re probably in ‘Shifter Shock’ after your long hiatus.” Hoffi hugged the fake Emily. “Who’s a scary transforming octopus?”
“I am?” Amelia slowly opened her eyes again.
“Now you’ve conquered your fear, of course!” Hoffi handed three large grocery bags to Amelia. “Now put on your outfit. I tried my best based on Alice-senpai’s input.”
The first bag contained a pair of hosiery with three shades of blue in a striped pattern. It looked ‘close enough’ to Ravenclaw colors for Amelia’s tastes. Hoffi had picked out tank tops to give Amelia slight choice for the initial outfit. Sure, the grey one had a cute owl on it and an inspirational saying, but the black one complimented her tattoo more. Next in the bag was a vintage red fanny pack to serve as a personal inventory and functional belt. Amelia put on the core of the outfit with minimal struggle. “Maybe I am perfect for this role,” she thought to herself. “I didn’t even need to give my measurements, yet Hoffi knew my dimensions already.” She had completely neglected that Hoffi had likely set the ‘base’ parameters during the transformation.
Accessories were the focus of the second bag starting with an odd set of floating lenses. Amelia looked over towards Hoffi in confusion. “What do I do with these?”
Hoffi removed Amelia’s glasses to demonstrate how to equip the eyewear accessory. “You were in no condition to get new lenses, SO I opted for this handy adapter! Simply slide them on the bridge of your current frames and flick down the secondary lenses to confuse cameras, ‘the man’ and something called ‘haters’.” Hoffi returned the glasses to her. “That’s what the shopkeeper told me.”
“Oh, thanks…” Amelia sounded half-interested because the focus of her attention was putting the brown beanie on in the right way. Showing the fringe of her hair without revealing too much was KEY to rocking the look. She would DEFINITELY need some pins to personalize the ‘beanie canvas’ later. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the green army jacket already had some ‘character’ to it that Amelia had to incorporate. The right sleeve was cut clean off from the shoulder, allowing for her tattoos to always show, and a mishmash of BeDazzler studs featured prominently on the back in the shape of a ‘U’ with a squiggle through it. At the bottom of the bag was a pink wool scarf that should more than adequately reflect the pink hair look without the commitment. “How much did all of this cost, Hoffi?”
“Not much.” Hoffi handed over the red UGG boots from the last bag. “I simply claimed that I was helping a fashion Vlogger put together an outfit. I don’t know why that landed me so much free stuff, but it did.” Hoffi allowed Amelia a few moments to complete the look. “Wow! You look fantastic, Emily!”
“Do you really think so?” Amelia scowled. “How accurate is this look to my usual outfit?”
“I don’t know! This look is fine on you, though.” Hoffi lacked a reliable frame of reference beyond Alice’s approximate description. “Is there anything you want to do to help remember who you are?”
“I want revenge!” Amelia gloated briefly. “I’ll get those…” Her stomach let out a major growl. “On second thought, I think I need to eat something. It feels as though I haven’t eaten in days.”
“Don’t tell me that you’ve forgotten just how many calories transforming burns up. Organics like you need to eat or else you’ll drain yourself into little more than a wrinkly husk.” Hoffi took Amelia by the hand. “I saw a food place nearby that you might like. TO THE HOFFI-MOBILE!”
Amelia’s weakened state left her unable to avoid listening to Hoffi’s rambling about the ‘rules of shapeshifting’. Apparently, the nature of her ‘rekindled’ ability was intentionally inefficient to force the body to heal quicker. As a result, she would need to ingest a lot more calories than her usual diet to keep the fire fed. It’s hard to argue with a condition that requires you to eat crap to remain at base weight, no? Another downside to the chemically-induced trigger is the inherent instability and risk of ‘stutters’/partial transformations. She nodded off prior to arriving at the vehicle.
One Vespa ride to the Trailer Park Lounge later…
“Emily! Wake up!” Hoffi shoved a deep-fried twinkie into Amelia’s mouth. “We’re out for your favorite type of restaurant! Phillies, with CHEESE and steaks!” Lost in translation doesn’t even begin to describe this error. “I wanted to take you to a ‘pony show’, but none of the election events had cheese and steaks.” Hoffi moved Amelia’s jaw to chew the dessert cake. “Two out of three is acceptable, right? Please don’t be mad.”
Amelia rolled her eyes. At least she was getting a free dinner out of this. She could make her debut the following evening once everything about her new body settled. For the time being, she had found her niche in an unexpected act. She had become the Irreplaceable Emily Rees.