I’m so happy to have Karen Soutar here. She’s an amazing writer, I love her werewolf and witch pieces on her blog. When I decided to dedicate this month to Werewolves, I knew Karen had to be a part of it.
The Change (Part 1)
I dropped to my knees, panting. What the hell was wrong with me? A walk in the park to get rid of my headache and bad temper clearly wasn’t going to work.
My bones ached. My skin was too tight, like I had sunburn. I wanted to cry and scream and hit someone. This was more than just PMT. I had run from the house irritable and angry; now I felt ill. Maybe I should go back. What if it was something serious? I hunted in my pockets for my mobile phone. Damn, I had left it behind. That showed what a state I was in – I was surgically attached to that phone.
Okay, calm down, I admonished myself. I spotted a bench and staggered towards it. God, if anyone saw me they’d believe I was drunk – or high. That would be a reasonable assumption for the presence of a dishevelled young woman in the town park at night. The gates were locked, but I’d always known how to sneak in. Trouble was, so did the underage drinkers and the substance abusers. The police came through and rounded them up every so often. It was a Tuesday night, though, so I was probably safe – from the lawbreakers and the authorities.
I fell over onto the bench and tried to collect my scattered thoughts. Maybe I was coming down with a particularly virulent form of flu? It was December, perfect time of year for it. At least I’d had the sense to grab a coat before marching out of the house. No gloves, though. I rubbed my hands together, realising how cold it was. I was feeling a little better now that I’d sat down. What time was it? I pushed my sleeve back, wincing a little as my nails caught the scar on my hand. My watch read quarter to midnight. I looked around for signs of anyone else, but the park was deserted. I tucked my hands into my sleeves. The night air was crisp, just the odd breath of wind causing clouds to scud across the stars. Looking up made my neck ache, so I stared at the sky’s reflection in the boating lake instead.
‘You’re such an idiot, Lucy,’ I muttered to myself. I definitely felt better, though. I was also peckish. Unless I was on a night out, I was usually having a hot chocolate and a bedtime snack round about now.
I wasn’t looking forward to apologising to my housemates. Okay, there were always going to be arguments with three girls sharing, but I’d completely flown off the handle. Maybe I could make up a fight with my boyfriend to explain my mood away? The girls knew I had a temper, but it usually took more than a disagreement over our cleaning rota to make me lose it. Even with the fact that I’d had a sore hand for the last couple of weeks.
I rubbed the scar on the back of my hand – god, it was itchy. Mind you, that meant that it was healing, didn’t it? Trust me to get bitten on the run up to Christmas, just when I wanted to be wearing sparkly nail polish and bright rings. Instead, I had an ugly red line from the base of my index finger to my wrist. At least the stitches were out.
I was still sorry for the dog. It had been brought into the vet terrified and injured after being hit by a car. It was in such a state the only thing to do had been to put it to sleep. The bite had been unexpected. Like many animals, it had seemed to sense that we were trying to help. I had been stroking it while the vet prepared the injection, then – wham! The dog’s head whipped up and its teeth closed on my hand. Then, it had laid its head back on the table as the lethal dose entered its bloodstream. Its emerald eyes had been fixed on mine as the light went out of them. I could have sworn it was trying to tell me something, but I must have just been doolally from the pain. The vet rushed me off to hospital, where I was cleaned and stitched. Due to working as an animal nurse, all my vaccinations were up to date, so there were no worries about tetanus or rabies. I took a few days off work, and busied myself trying to find the dog’s owner. There had been no microchip. Someone must be missing such a beautiful animal? It had been a gorgeous dog: something like a German Shepherd/Husky cross. But no-one had come forward.
I ran my fingers over the scar again, trying not to scratch. It looked different tonight, almost as if it were turning white, instead of red. That shouldn’t happen yet, should it? Maybe it was due to the cold, like how my mum’s finger ends went white. I pulled my sleeves over my hands again and tried to take stock of how I was, now that I’d sat down for a while. I was less achy and shaky. Sitting still was allowing the chill to creep in, though. I tentatively stood up, and walked back the way I had come, round the lake, towards the gap in the fence.
Ah, that was better. Whether just from moving around or because whatever had hit me was receding, I felt much more human. I picked up my pace. I passed the jetty where the boats were moored in high season – all locked up in the shed now, of course. I had been coming to the park for as long as I remembered. As a child, in the school holidays, to play on the swings and eat ice cream. With my friends, as I got older, to stalk boys we fancied – and yes, we still played on the swings. And on my own, when I was sad or annoyed, to get some time and space to myself. Although I’d never been as out of sorts as I was tonight.
The noticeboard, which in the summer was plastered with posters for fairs, fetes and other days out, stood sadly naked. There was one sign pinned to it. A missing girl – well, young woman, to be more exact. She hadn’t come home from a night out, a couple of weeks ago. The police were appealing for any information, however insignificant it might seem. The posters were all around town. I stopped and stared at the sign, racking my brains for the umpteenth time, but I didn’t know her or anything of use. I was suddenly sad. She had been pretty – a mass of light hair framing a pointed face and huge green eyes.
‘So what happened to you?’ I wondered aloud. ‘Did you just run away? With some guy you knew no-one would approve of?’ I tended to go for those guys, so that was something I understood.
‘Or are you…’ I couldn’t say it, even to myself. I suddenly realised that by wandering the park at this hour, I was inviting the very thing that had likely happened to her. Mentally kicking myself, I set off again.
The wind picked up as I followed the path beside the water. The clouds covering the moon were blown away, leaving a dazzling path of moonlight on the black surface of the lake. I stopped as though I had slammed into an invisible wall. Try as I might, I couldn’t move, forward or back.
I didn’t have time to panic before the pain hit me.