Who am I?
My name is Fareed. That is my Vacore name: the name of my body. My body, my form, my shape, are all malleable, yet I still have a name for my physical form that remains static and inherently mine. Strange, I know.
If it was not already obvious from the title, I am a Shafien. The race of shapeshifters.
With a mere thought I can slide into the form of anything. Anyone. My body takes the shape of another and it is effortless. Unlike the rest of the universe who has to use technology to commit such feats, we Shafien are blessed to be born with them.
Blessed. I do not like that word. Whenever someone exclaims how lucky I am to be a Shafien, how ‘cool’ it must be to be able to imitate any race and no one be able to sense a difference, I just wonder if they realize what it really means to be a Shafien. Yes, we can imitate others perfectly. That is kind of our ‘thing.’ Yes, we make excellent spies and prostitutes. Maybe the best of each. Actually, no, I think Mechanicha make the best prostitutes, but that is just my opinion.
Back to being a Shafien. What people tend to overlook with us is that stripped of our guise and reduced to our bare forms we are all identical. All Shafien are the same. Like the Sacon, but we did not choose to be clones of each other. We all look exactly the same. For a race based on aesthetics our true form is mundane and unimaginative. We are like giant blobs—what am I saying, you should know what I look like. Who does not know what all the races of this glorious Empire look like? Whatever.
We are like living clay. Our only point is to be transformed into something else. Every race of this Empire has its ‘special’ ability. Sacon have telekinesis and telepathy, Paeyk are useless, and so on. Ours, the great Shafien, is that we get to look like anyone or anything.
Wonderful. So exciting. I am so blessed.
Do you know how wrenching it is to shift into a Sacon and try to be able to perform one of their feats and know it will not work? That your ability is a surface level trick, with no substance?
It is a terrible, terrible feeling. I feel hollow. Like my purpose is defined by the existence of others, where in this universe people are supposed to define themselves and seize whatever they desire. How can I do the latter when for the former I find that my definition is fluid?
I used to think I could. Like everyone else.
Following the trend of the rest of my kin, I started off my limitless life training to be a spy.
We were taught all the important things. Infiltration. Deception. Secrecy. Not only changing your form to another’s, but changing your personality into another’s. Acting without a script. This was all easy for me. Some others had more trouble letting go of themselves in the effort to be another. It was effortless for me. Top-of-my-class excellent at it.
By the grace of the universe and fate, I was given an opportunity to use these skills for more than just amusement. The Caraseis War happened and I felt the call to serve my glorious Empire.
My most notable contribution to the effort of the winning side was when I took out an officer, a Hallihanet, and took over his identity. I killed him by shifting into a Dracite and crushing him. I had been pretending to be one of his subordinates, whom I had slain earlier by way of a laser-rifle in combat. The look on the officer’s face when my form rippled and grew into Dracite was without compare. That shock was what allowed me to defeat him. He cursed out at my duplicity. Completely taken off-guard that I was Shafien.
Really? I wondered. You know we exist, should you not, you know, be prepared for us? This is war. War being what it is, I killed him and became him. My thoughts aligned with his. I learned what he did: I did what he did. I reported to the high command of our side, feeding information to them. Slowly ripping apart his side from the inside. When the time came I revealed myself and dealt quite a blow to them. Was commended afterwards for my work, like the thousands of others who did the same. One of many ‘heroes.’
But all wars end. The Caraseis War did. Not by anything any of us did. Caraseis killed himself by invading Eisatanlon. Cyclone, or whatever that lunatic is calling himself, chopping off his head with a scythe was just proxy. An end, to be sure, for the side of Caraseis. At least it was over.
I could return to doing whatever I wanted and I desired to do something. That something being to have a job. Unlike a significant portion of the universe, I saw work as a way to define and make myself. Unlike the rest of the universe, I have these problems. Maybe these two things are related.
I did not think like this back then. I only wanted to get on with the next stage of my life.
Be me by not being me.
I took up the other famed profession of the Shafien: prostitution. Looking back, I wonder why I stopped. Now I know why I would, but not why that other ‘I’ would.
It was fun work. No wonder so many of us turn to it. People had told me how enthralling it could be, but I was skeptical. This doubt would lead to me being tentative about my first time.
The circumstances really did not help.
My first client was a Spikarian. A rather large and spiny one. Though, what Spikarian are not large and spiny? I do not recall ever seeing one that was not. This one certainly was the epitome of the Spikarian. His jagged edges were the ones I had learned to imitate in his race. The cliche aspects of the Spikarian form.
That trope of form had just walked into my room and took me off guard. Should have expected him coming in. Should have done many things before our meeting. It was right at the moment when he greeted me did I realize that maybe if I was going to be fornicating with every race of the Empire I should figure out how each race does it. Just because I can turn into every race does not mean I know anything about anything.
Laugh at me. Please. I was laughing at myself.
Self-deprecating myself internally right until that Spikarian finished the pleasantries and started to roll every shard of his shard-like being and performed some gestures that I really am not able to articulate.
He did not even specify a race for me to assume. Not one word on race. He just went directly to whatever he was doing. So I just guessed and turned into a Spikarian to the best of my ability while not copying his form outright. It was hard; I had to get creative. Changing into those non-organic golems is really tricky. They have so many different edges and surfaces. I succeeded, of course.
At my success he starts playing this gods-forsaken melody. Like he was paying attention to what I was doing. Felt like flattery, but I did not have time to bask in it. The Spikarian started dancing with the melody. I tried to dance with him and it.
My body was a Spikarian in everything but truth and yet it was following to the discordant harmony originating from the Spikarian’s tech. He slid over to me and somehow our shards begin to mingle and for some time we become like one entity, humming to the same frequency. The beats of the music become the beat of our being and gods this is why the Spikarian listen to this music. I let go of what I was and just flowed with the sounds. Did not think a thought on if I was doing it right or what he thought or how I should act or look like because I was so enveloped with it. I think for the first time in my life I felt so…whole. Because of that Spikarian and that Spikarian song.
Spikarian are themselves like a song. They are bounded together by a frequency, right? So why not call their race like some big musical show? I do not know.
But I do know that what happened in that room was like some melodious, insane perfection. Before I knew it the song was over and he thanked me. Or I thanked him. No: we thanked each other. We exchanged names and mutually decided to talk later as friends.
I still talk to him: he is a good friend. A really good one. I have not told him any of this, or how special that time was for me. I probably should, should I not? We of this Empire have all this time to use and we are dedicated to wasting as much of it as we can. I think I am going to message him later. After I am done with this, of course.
One confession leads right into another, does it not? A chain reaction. Gods. I am doing this, are I not? Better go all the way.
Maybe I wish him and I were mates. Maybe we already are and I have not realized it yet. Maybe we are each other’s love.
Does that mean I am ready to make his name one of my names, the name of my heart?
Absolutely not. No. I barely have a grasp on my Vacore, my body. How can I name something more important? As of now I have not even discovered my soul’s name! I have only one of my five names figured out: Fareed. One.
One name for something that is not static but is elastic.
After having written all that out, I do not wonder why I quit being a courtesan. I think I know now.
The clients I had ranged from humorous to warming. Some were fascinating and fast friends. Others I could not care less about, but that was the challenge. Pretending to want, pretending to care. Pretending to pretend. It accumulates after time. For me, at least. Sure, I can shift from form to form without ‘carrying over’ physical aspects, but that is what I do. What I am. The psychological is more sticky.
I recall days where I was blended with different identities. Multiple personalities and gimmicks flushed into one being, competing to shine through and be the face I would wear. The day after pretending to be a stuck-up Sacon the residuals of elitism would cling to me. I would snap at people. Acted like a know-it-all. Acted like I was actually a Sacon.
Forgot that I was not one. That I was just a Shafien.
Somewhere in my messy subconscious I must have realized that I was forgetting all those details. Like what my race was. You know. The important things. And subconsciously I revolted and decided to stop doing it.
Then what did I do, you ask? What did the lost and confused Fareed do with his existence?
You are reading the result of it. In a way.
I became introspective and decided to ‘find myself.’ Question everything! Answer nothing! That was my life for some few hundred years. Why was my own being so illusive and everyone else’s so easy? I did not know. I still do not.
You know what I know? As much as I feel guilty for slipping into the life and mind of another, I love it. I like it. Imitation is an art, and I was born an artist.
Fly down to a random section of a planet. Cross a street and pass by another being. You see them as what they appear to be. Your senses do not contradict this. Yet the possibility remains: they could be a Shafien. Lurking beneath the surface image is the potential that there is nothing else there of that image. But you keep going and accept. Accept that the person you will talk to later is who they say they are and not me or another Shafien cruelly or jokingly manipulating your senses. All the while I am accepting that I am hollow.
It all originates from my spy training. Not exactly, but in essence. If I were to guess on how I became like this, if I was not destined to be this way, I would guess that it would have to do with what we learned and what I became so good at it.
You know, not having an actual identity and instead just camouflaging through all of life. Acting, Pretending. Sliding through it without any independent agency. The fun things that have occupied over ninety percent of my time being alive. Actions that I guiltily treasure. My talents.
In higher-level imitation training we do meditation. Entering into an emptiness. Floating into it. Disconnecting with the tangible. So we can become it. We as an independent entity are intangible. We are the essence that things flow through.
We become empty.
We had to let go of ourselves to be perfect at being everyone else.
I let go.
Bye, Fareed, I said, and welcome to whoever else.
I said farewell, a farewell without implying that we would meet again. Is that weird? I left myself somewhere in a void of my own making. A vacuum that gets filled with whatever and whoever. Yesterday it was a god. The day before a queen. Today I am trying really, really hard to not have it filled. Waiting out in the hopes that maybe I will return. I do not think I ever fully reclaimed myself in my trips to someone else’s mind.
Now I wonder, now I question, is there anything to reclaim?
I feel alone in this. Other Shafien do not have this issue. They have themselves distinguished fine and well. Whatever ‘I’ that I am feels like I am not even anything. Somedays I want to rip a world apart and scream out into the open air as a monstrous being. Other days I want to puddle into the ground and hide from anyone as something tiny.
Today I am trying to see if there is anything real in me. Is the bitterness I feel real? Or is it an illusion? Is there an unspoken question of whether I should be bitter and would it fit this facade better or not? Is the guilt I feel a ploy?
Not the guilt for playing someone else. That guilt is just…nothing.
I am talking about the wrenching, toxic guilt and shame I have for wondering if the feelings I have are real. Such as: is the care and, I will dare to say it, love for my Spikarian friend, real or just…an act?
I want to say it is real. It has to be or else then I will have nothing. A more profound nothingness than I already am.
Yes. I am overthinking all of this. Analyzing it until it is all numbers and equations. Which are just expressions of creation, yes, yes, yes. Faith, you might say! Faith! Faith in that this is real. Belief is succumbing to the flow.
I get that. I understood when I was dancing that one time. Resonating with purity and all that. I was just being. I know it is real because of that. That moment I felt more together than at any other point in my existence.
Was it because I was with him or because I was not thinking of being anything and just being? I do not know. Does it matter? Does it?
Gods know I do not.
You know, I was skeptical of doing this. Writing this ‘confession’ to help myself…discover myself. But it is actually working. Having it all put plainly without the nonsense. I think I am getting somewhere.
I need to just be. Not try to be. So what if I am a Shafien and can be everything and anything except myself? So what?
Who says what I have to be? Who says that me has to be defined by me or by someone else? I can just be me. It sounds weird when written, but I assure you I am having a profound realization.
I can be Fareed while also pretending to be whatever I want without losing what makes me me, right? Right. I can get more names for myself and define myself even when it feels like I am slipping away because what else is going to keep me stable and together?
I have a resolution: formally get my heart’s name. Then I will not have just one part but two and two is certainly more fortuitous than one. Certainly more stable. Certainly.
That is what this was for, right? To force me to concluding and resolving to do something? Well it is now and that is what it is going to be. Why?
Because I can do whatever I want.
Final confession before I call this done:
If I could be any race I would be Shafien.
I would not have it any other way.