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written by Colin Phillips

Throughout my entire life, I’ve always felt like I didn’t truly belong to any particular category. I
made numerous attempts to create to various personas, yet none of them, I felt, ever
seemed to resonate in any environment.
However, my real troubles began one strange night in the fall of 2022 when I laid my head
to rest in a Taco Bell and Pabst Blue Ribbon induced coma for the evening. In my dreams–
in a fantastical convergence of bewitching magic, my entire being became a canvas for a
transformation. Starting at my head, the human features that once defined me dissolved,
giving way to the extraordinary sight of a lion’s majestic countenance. From my neck
upward, golden fur erupted like a radiant halo, bathed in a warm, resplendent glow. A
magnificent, regal mane cascaded down, flowing with untamed grace, resembling a vibrant
waterfall frozen in time. The transmutation continued towards my feet, which underwent a
whimsical alteration, morphing into webbed wonders. Soft feathers sprouted in a delightful
array of colors from my legs. The bizarre transformation reached out to claim my hands as
well, as they evolved into formidable crab claws. A hardening shell replaced once tender
skin, which offered a resilient shield and imposing appearance— and probably taste
fantastic when cracked open and dipped in melted butter.
I stood as a marvel of nature’s whimsy, a testament to the boundless wonders that exist in
realms of my wildest Crunchwrap-Supreme-dreams. And yet, I awoke the next morning,
and looked at myself in a mirror for the first time in a year to see this dream became a
Kafkaesque reality.
I saw that I had the head of a lion, the feet of a duck, and the claws of a crab. I was
overwhelmed with shock and horror. I clamped down on my phone, roared to Siri to call my
General Practitioner, and waddled my way to the car as fast as I could.
It was as the frigid stethoscope was placed on my bare chest, and the scent of the sterile air
wafted into my nose that the doctor in a dissonantly gleeful tone told me “Ah, yes, you have
UMBS. Ugly Mythical Beast Syndrome. It’s stage 1B, so at this juncture you have a 20%
shot at reversing this, statistically.”
“What do I have to do, Doc?“ I nervously asked.
He warmly chirped, “You will just need to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Everyone is
different, but I would suggest eating more salads, exercising more, and taking this
expensive medication that I’m in no way being paid to tell you to take. De-chimera-fication is
a slow process, but slow and steady wins the race, as they say”, and he turns to his
assistant to murmur, “Put down Ugly Monster Counseling on the billing for an extra $35.
Motivated by his advice, I devoted myself to reversing my peculiar mythical and medical
condition. Although I possessed neither tortoise nor hare body parts, the doctor’s warning of
a methodical pace proved true. Eventually, I recognized I still had the bandwidth to resume
my acting career and decided I did not want to let this delay my life.
I booked 3 auditions for musicals at some local professional theatres. At the first audition, I
scuttled my way into the room. The producer behind the table beamed at me.
”I see those webbed feet of yours,” he cawed. “I bet you have the funniest quack!”
I took a deep breath, and I opened my mouth– a loud, primal roar echoed through the
room, and it shook the chairs.
The producer smiled, but with a hint of disappointment on his face. “That’s a very pretty roar.
A real leading man’s roar. But we can’t have somebody with webbed feet roaring like that in
this role. That’s not how they cast this musical on The Broadway in 1978 and doing it
differently would require us to have imagination. Sorry, bud.”
Though my first attempt proved fruitless, my second audition went well enough for a
callback. I read sides with a scene partner. The director in that room stared at me, mouth
”Those claws,” she cooed. “We will need a chemistry read between the two of you.“
The director turned to my scene partner and huffed, “Will you kiss those big beautiful claws
of his? Nothing too crazy. Just a little peck.”
As each second passed in that room, a clammy unease gripped tighter around my being,
and an urge to flee surged within me, growing with an exponential intensity. At the sight of
my scene partner’s hesitant advance, I swiftly skittered away.
The final audition felt like a home run. My read was the single greatest performance of my
life, and it was for a character that was described as a fantasy creature. As soon as I
finished, the casting director cheerfully remarked, “Y’know who you remind me of? That
other chimera-like actor. What’s his name? Jack Blackbear? Yeah, the panda guy!” He
turned to the production assistant, “Gary, call Jack Blackbear’s agent!”
With a nod and a flaccid thanks, I walked away having struck out.
Though at times it’s a rough road, I know ultimately that all of these experiences are
symptoms of an issue which predates all of us. I’ve felt every emotion available about who I
am, what others have told me I am, and what I want to be someday. I don’t worry, though,
because I know that, in some form or fashion, I have always been a beast!
O, let the world stand in awe, for I am the embodiment of fantastical splendor, an ethereal
being whose very essence defies reality’s constraints. I stand tall, unyielding, as a testament
to the boundless potential of dreams and indomitable strength of all like me. For I am a
living testament to the realms beyond, an enigmatic force that elicits fear, wisdom, laughter,
and adoration. In the realm of reverie and folklore, I reign supreme, beckoning all to witness
the extraordinary that lies within their own hearts. And I am all of this and more if you deem
me worthy of the love and compassion you give to anyone else.
I am grateful for every chance I have to scuttle and roar onstage. Just don’t ask me to quack
—unless, that is, you’re asking me to BE a quack