As a human, I have/am a ‘body’. This post has no point beyond playing with ways of describing this body that might create a sense of refreshing unfamiliarity.
Consider entities like puddles, raindrops, ponds, glasses-of, clouds. These are all ‘fluid masses’, objects composed of a liquid or gas. I might also be seen as a fluid mass, in particular a mass of water-based protein solution. Several things distinguish the sort of fluid mass that I am from one like a puddle or a cloud, of course – but most of these also distinguish me from most animals.
Firstly, like all organisms, I am a mass of fluid contained in a complicated collection of membranes. Don’t picture a baloon full of water, picture a sponge full of water – it carries that water around but without an impermeable boundary between water inside and water outside.
Of course, I do have that sort of boundary – that’s the second distinctive thing. By and large, there’s no diffusion or flow between my fluid and the air or water or whatever that I might come into contact with, except across very specialised surfaces. For most of the history of life (as I understand it) this has not been the case – I would have lived in the sea, surrounded by water, with constant interchange of fluids between me and my surroundings. This insulation is a special awesomeness that basically two groups have perfected: reptiles and arthropods (for present purposes, I am a reptile). It allows me to live on land.
The third distinctive thing is that this fluid vibrates and moves, and is kept in a special, regulated motion by a special, regulating organ called my heart. This is also special and awesome (most animals don’t need that) because it allows me to become vast – and don’t forget, I am incredibly big, easily in the top 1% of 1% of animals in terms of size. That’s also an important goal for the final distinctive thing about me as a fluid mass – some parts of me are actually solid. These solid parts, slotted in amongst the membranes and the fluids they contained, allow me to be both vast and fast.
Also, I am a doughtnut. That is, my body is basically structured around a hole, in a torus-shape. I need things to go in one side of the hole, and come out the other. Some animals are more like a cup – things go into a hole, and then come out again by the same orifice. I do this only occasionally, and usually when a lot of ethanol has diffused into me. Others go the other way – they push things out of the hole, hang onto them, and then pull them back it with stuff attached to them. I cannot do this at all.
One of the most notable things about me is that parts of me go all stiff when electrocuted in the right place. Because this makes them shorter, and they’re attached to other parts, this changes my shape.
This might not sound like much, but it is, if you’re clever about it. What you can do is try to get a bit of you pressing on some outside object, then suddenly change shape, and the inertia of the outside object (especially if it’s attached to something very big and heavy, up to and including the earth) makes you move as a whole. Do this repeatedly, and you’ve moved to a whole new place.
I also got a special upgrade to help with this. Between a third and a half of me is made of 4 protrusions, each with some solid bits in it and lots of these things that change shape when electrocuted. They’re long and thin so I can connect them with things that are far away. They turned out to be useful for loads of other things too! I definitely don’t regret that investment. Look at this schmuck – they decided to be cheap and try to make do with just having little fibres to do this job. Which of us is now vast and fast, huh?
Now, you might think I’ve left out a particularly important part of me – the bit where most of the electricity comes from that makes me change shape and thereby move. That bit…well, we have a slightly complex relationship. Sometimes it doesn’t think that the rest of me is part of it – or should I say, sometimes I think I’m just that bit, and these other fluids are connected to it like a special hat. Ha, and sometimes it thinks it’s not the same thing as it – sometimes it thinks it’s not even made of fluid and membranes! Smart organ, definitely, but weird, very weird.