The Change (Part 2)
I was shaking again, worse, this time. Every muscle and bone inside me felt like it was stretching and contracting. I fell to my hands and knees, the gravel from the path digging into my palms. I barely registered it, as my mind was consumed with the pain twisting through me. The scar on my hand glowed fiery white in the moonlight. I threw back my head and screamed for help, confused and terrified. Only the full moon heard me as I curled into a ball, squeezing my eyes tight shut. I had broken my ankle once, and that had bloody hurt. This felt like every bone in my body was breaking all at once.
I suppose I must have blacked out for a moment. Suddenly, the pain was gone. I was still too scared to try to move. This had happened earlier, and then it had come back with a vengeance. I lay on the path, hoping against hope that the police would come through the park and take responsibility for me, even if that meant arresting me. But I heard no footfalls, no sounds of vehicles. In the distance, the town hall clock chimed midnight. I could hear a million rustles in the grass and the trees. I could hear small pops and fizzles from the lake – insects? Birds? How strange. And what was that smell? It was like the vet’s on a bad day – animal fear, fur standing on end, pads sweating…wait a minute. How could I smell that? What was I even thinking about? I opened my eyes.
Oh hell. My vision was weird. The colours were all odd. Something was definitely wrong. I still wasn’t sore anymore. Maybe I should get up and get home as fast as possible, while the going was good. Phone NHS 24. Or 999. Or my mum. I struggled to all fours, my claws scrabbling on the tarmac, and…
My second scream of the night cut through the air. Except it wasn’t a scream. It was a howl.
The human part of my brain screamed inside my head, saying it wasn’t possible, you’re dreaming, wake up, wake up! A tiny rational part of me said: this is how the people in the stories must feel. The animal on the outside howled and howled. Gradually the two parts of me started communicating. I forced myself to stop howling and look down. At my paws. My paws. I took a few tentative steps. Four legs. I was walking on four legs. And it felt right. That’s because you’re now in a shape that walks on four legs, my annoying rational voice said. I wondered if it would be easier just to go mad.
I staggered towards the edge of the water. Why did I need to see it to believe it? My reflection gazed back at me. A large dog. Kind of like a German Shepherd, with bits of large Husky. You’re a wolf. A wolf. A WOLF!
Well, this explains a lot, the human part of me said. No wonder you were feeling so bloody awful, if this was what your body was working up to.
The animal part of me said: I’m hungry.
I smelled prey. I sensed prey. I knew what all those rustles and squeaks and smells were. They were food. I wanted them. I wanted to hunt them.
It’s a good job you’re not vegetarian, piped up rational brain. Maybe I had actually gone mad, without noticing. Surely it wasn’t normal to be thinking sarcastic thoughts at a time like this?
You’re a human mind in an animal’s body, my internal voice lectured. You can think logically. You have the senses of the animal. That’s why you can hear and smell so well, but your vision’s gone a bit funny. Think. Think! You know what you are. You love all those stories. You just never thought they might be true.
I sat down at the lake’s edge. Then, tentatively, I leaned down and lapped some water. Brr, it was cold! But good. Fascinated, I tried to watch myself lapping, but my animal self didn’t seem to like that. I stopped drinking, thirst satisfied. But another need was asserting itself.
Oh God. There was no denying my hunger. Then a horrible thought struck me. If I didn’t eat – something – in the park, some animal or other, what would I eat? I couldn’t go back to the house like this, but even if I did – what if I hurt my friends?
Hurt? You mean eat them! My human voice screamed. My wolf voice howled. And howled. And howled.
When would I change back? Would I change back? I howled at the full moon. Oh God.
I knew the name in the stories for what I had become, but I couldn’t bring myself to even think it.
What would happen to me? What was I going to do?
What was I?