The warehouse floor creaked as a man walked into it, his feet stirring up dust. Quietly, he began to set up a device, occasionally casting a glance at the ball in the corner; it rolled lightly across the dusty ground when he took a step towards it, bouncing to a halt against the far wall, and didn't move again; the man didn't move towards it, but turned back to his device, a mass of red and green wires coming to a small box in the center. "Balls aren't that fun anyways," he muttered out loud.
The ball made no noises in response; it was a ball. It whispered that to herself in its endless sleep, and kept its eyes tightly closed; it was a ball. It would bounce. It would roll. If they rolled it she would move; but it would never move itself; if it moved, they'd expect it to move again. And if it refused, they'd hurt it; even if it sobbed, they'd ignore it. Nothing it did mattered except to bring it pain.
So it was a ball; who dreamed that it had once been a princess. Of having been alive, to have spoken and been spoken to as a human being, rather than having commands barked at it like an annoying pet; impossible. Right? A dream. It had to be.
It was just a ball; made of rubber, not flesh. Bouncy to the touch, and so fun to toss about; because that was what a ball was; something to play with. That's all it had ever been; even in its dreams of being a princess something for someone to play with. Something to be captured and rescued, and traded off; a commodity, perhaps, if it was lucky. A possession may have been a more accurate term. But that was fine; for a ball.
If it wasn't a ball, if it was ever not a ball, it promised it would be more than that; but even the dreams of being a princess had faded generations ago, as it was passed from one hand to the next, forgotten and abandoned, left in an attic to deflate yet it never did.
In front of it, the man worked with his wires, and his tools, and he whispered under his breath. "Gonna show them. Gonna show the world. Blow it all up. Kill it all. Gotta kill it all in one shot; bloody cancerous. Gotta destroy it all. Gotta ruin it all. Gotta get rid of it. Nothing there but pain."
If it wasn't a ball, it might comfort him; if it was a prince, it would bend down and whisper that things might be okay. But it wasn't a princess; it was a ball. Both were useless anyhow. So it watched.
The man pressed a button; the wires crackled; and the ball watched. The box exploded, the wires flung, the man screamed as something smacked into him, and his body went rigid; and the man died. And the ball watched.
The fire grew, the heat touching the balls skin; and the ball melted, but it still watched; because it was just a ball, after all. Because it could be nothing more than ball; do nothing more than slip away as it melted, and slide across the ground.
Did it matter if it had once been a princess? A girl? A human being? Alive?
Did it matter, if it had once had thoughts, and dreams, even dreams and thoughts that no one would listen to?
Did it matter, if it had had plans; if it had a favorite food, a favorite dress, a favorite color? Things that it wanted to accomplish, a person it wanted to marry, a child she'd hoped to one day see born? Did it matter if she'd imagined the family that she one day might have had, imagined it again and again, imagined holding that child while all her friends crowded near?
No; of course not. Because it was just a ball; a being of rubber, not flesh, to be melted down and left upon the floor in a bubbling mess; to be cut apart and recycled, to be used as anyone saw fit. It was just a ball, and nothing more; but then rubber met flesh.
The shock of the skin, still warm, ran through the balls entire skin. It felt itself pooling about the being with a sense of shock, a piece of wonder, because she could feel the arm she touched; without thought, her rubber climbed up its form, stretched across his body, and wrapped beneath it; the heart had stopped beating, but some spark of life remained.
Slowly, unable to believe what she was doing, she enveloped his flesh in her own. His arms, his legs; she squirmed over his groin, binding it tightly to his flesh to prevent it from damaging her own; her chest felt odd inflated without full support of his form but she forced herself into it, putting an active will into the motion.
Tightening and loosening her rubber, she pulled him into motion, took a shaky step away from the fire and its heat. A crackle of electricity ran through her, but was unable to hurt the rubber; she took another step, and felt something begin to change; her body was beginning to harden about him; and he was beginning to soften inside of her. Slowly, she felt him contort himself to her shorter but softer form, filling in her bottom and breasts; his waist gave way to him; his height collapsed. Slowly, she took another step, finding it natural; she could feel the earth beneath her, with the sensitivity of skin; she could feel the spark of life in him blossoming out filling her; With a ripping sound, she watched her dress tear itself from her skin; it fluttered about her, green with yellow stars, occasional bits of pink shining through where the paint had flaked on. Touching her face, she knew the pattern covered her entire body. She didn't want it to anymore. She had to wash; she had to bathe.
But what would she do after that?
The question caused her to falter, but not to stop; she took another step, and another. She knew already what the princess would have done; found someone to rescue her. She knew what the ball would have done found someone to play with her, and hope it didn't hurt too bad; but she was neither.
She would simply have to find something new.
Smiling for the first time in years, twisting facial muscles she'd thought lost, she wondered how much the world had changed; the air tasted acidic. The ground where she walked was a bitter dirt floor, so that she barely knew when she'd left the warehouse; the sky was darkened with clouds, and in the distance she could see the building that had no doubt caused it. It was not a castle, but a mansion; but the walls were dark, and the courtyards filled with flame; and the walls were crumbling.
Evil had a tendency to destroy itself; heroes had a habit of running themselves ragged. And princesses had a habit of being captured, despite their desires at least on her world; but the world about her didn't need a princess. It didn't need her; and perhaps she didn't need it, but it was hers.
So she took a deep breath of the acidic air, and didn't wonder what to do; there was no time for that, in a world that seemed ready to crumble apart.
If she wanted to find something to do with herself, she'd merely have to get started.