Why did I have to be a slug? Why not a bird, or at least a puppy.
I didn’t think I’d always been a slug. I wasn’t sure, though. It was hard to think about it. It was as much as my slug brain could do, to keep my belly rolling so that I could slide over the ground, to make sense of the vague light and shadow that shifted around me as my eyes waved in the air. But I knew what a slug was, and I knew that I was one, and that made me suspicious that maybe I hadn’t always been this way.
Something pinched me at my middle, and my belly lost contact with the ground. In horror, I curled up tight and pulled in my eyes.
Slowly, like a mist clearing, I became able to see again. I was staring into the freckled face of a young girl with black hair and pale green eyes like a cat’s. She stared back with a look of smug triumph.
“You will be my familiar,” she said to me. “Now, go and show my grandmother.” She waved one hand at me. The other was holding a small, pale, slimy thing. A slug. Me. But not me right now. Now I was air, and the wave of her hand had made me shimmer, then start to move. I sailed through the trees. That was the woods, where I’d met the girl only a few minutes ago. She’d smiled at me, I’d told her to go away. I was busy fishing. There was my pole, still by the stream. She’d scowled and asked my name, and I’d told it to her.
Next thing I knew, I’d been a slug.
I rose higher, so that the tree tops were under me now. My village passed under me in a flash. I waved my arms. I had arms again! But I couldn’t slow myself down, nor go any faster either. A wind carried me along, a wind I couldn’t fight.
I should have known that girl was a witch. I should never have talked to her.
The scene around me moved faster and faster until it blurred together, and at last I found myself drifting about an inch off the floor of a very shabby, dirty, cluttered old hut. A strange-smelling fire smoked at the middle of the room, and a bent old woman sat in a rocking chair, idly dropping a handful of tiny bones on a table next to her. She would grunt, then scoop the bones up and drop them again.
At last she looked up and saw me.
“What’s this?” she grinned. “Misha chose a familiar, did she now? Well, well, you’re a pretty little boy, aren’t you? What’s your name?”
I opened my mouth to answer, but then I stopped. I didn’t have to tell her too.
Who knows what she was going to do to me next.
The old witch’s expression soured. She gave me a look, like we were now sworn enemies, and she would do everything in her power to make me miserable as possible. She waved her hand, and I was again sailing through the air.
“What did she think?” the little witch gave me an impish smile.
Once again I didn’t say anything.
“You’ll soon learn to behave,” she told me, and I was a slug again.
I hated being pinched. It hurt, I wanted the ground. Instead, I got set down upside-down, enfolded by cloth. My slug brain could barely comprehend I was inside an apron pocket.
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