The Shapeshifter

One day, a huntress entered an unfamiliar stretch of grassland that rolled in blue and golden waves as far as the eye could see until they dissolved into black mountains of impossibility. Clothed in a striped poncho and dark hat, her rifle always ready, with great caution she walked the unknown. In the twilight, as moon and stars began to rise and the afterglow of the sun still burned its propane flames to her right above the distant highlands, she came to a land of scattered silver ponds, where she encountered the voice of the animal. Who are you? the deep voice demanded. I am a huntress, the young woman replied, her finger caressing the trigger. I know you are, but what am I? She stepped forward, for the animal seemed to have taken on the features of a cougar. You are a cougar! she said. The animal replied, I know you are, but what am I? I am not a cougar, the huntress laughed, but in that instant, she felt that she was no longer walking upright or carrying her gun. Instead, she had limbs of tawny fur, and she cast the reflection of a prowling cougar in the ponds she passed as she tried to follow the creature that had dissolved into darkness. It appeared once again, further south, as a sheep. Who am I? You are a sheep! she bleated out, and immediately noticed that her hooves were stuck in the mud by a pond. The voice withdrew, calling out, I know you are, but what am I? She hobbled foreward, unbearably warm in her thick coat of wool. A strong wind blasted by, bending down all of the blades of grass. You are the wind! she shrieked, suddenly flying high above the plains, rushing through a darkness of swirling stars, remotely glinting ponds, and the bared teeth of the snowy cordillera. She could no longer see the creature anywhere. And the voice thundered throughout the mountains, throughout the grasslands, throughout the abyss within her skull. Who am I? You are nothing, she howled, her heart sinking, her last thought lingering midair for a few more seconds: I should have remained as the wind.