Shift by Pili Yarusi – Chapter 15 – I See Myself

Chapter 15 – I See Myself

Falling. I go towards the colors. I put my arms up again to pull myself back into the night sky. I can’t. I feel the metal tear at my flesh right before I hear my body smack and flutter against the cold glass. I see myself for instant in the glass … but it isn’t possible.

I look into the frantic stare of a very large bird.

Someone should let that poor hawk out of that glass cage, I think as I fall onto the ragged cold steel below. The air seems to glow around me. The colors daze me, confuse me. All around me are the blank stares of frozen caricatures of animals. A tiger stares down at me. There is blood splattered against its goofy cartoon smile. At the top of the giraffes long neck sits its oversized head, its eyes, unblinking, drip with the same red goo. There is a large swan in the distance, its graceful lines sealed into place. Red smeared against the white of its feathers. All the garish animals stare at me.

I have to get out of this maze. Everything hurts. I claw out of the colorful maze of frozen cartoon animals. The physical pain of it makes me scream. I concentrate on putting one hand in front of the other, dragging my body against the freezing metal. I see the whiteness before me. That must be heaven, I think. My body drops into the cold fluffiness. A pure blanket of white surrounds me. No more pain, please. I could give in. I keep inching my body towards oblivion. I turn my attention back to my arms: my wrists are bleeding, my nails torn and bloody from my relentless clawing. I could not stop. I was dying. I didn’t have to look back at the streak of blood I had left behind in my effort.

I don’t know how far I had gone but at some point I had stopped moving. I was in a fetal position in the middle of a field of white. I knew then that I wasn’t in Heaven. This was my personal hell and it was cold.

***

My eyes can’t adjust to the darkness surrounding me. I feel so tired. I’m cold, unbearably so. I feel the icy burn all around me. I try to sit up. I can’t move. Everything hurts. Blood is in my mouth. I have to move out of the cold. I need to get someplace warm and fast. I am going to freeze … wherever here was. I looked up into a faint light.

A scream freezes in my chest. A bears beady eyes stare down at me. Sniffing me. I put my arms up to protect myself and hit … something hollow. I looked again. I looked around me. Animals staring at me. A wolf’s paw just feet from my face. Tigers in the distance. All animals and they were all suspended in the air. A carnival ride. A merry-go-round… I’m in Chelsea. Hudson River Park, near the water. I’m almost home.

So cold… I can’t keep my eyes open. I am engulfed by darkness once more.

***

Someone is in pain. Someone is screaming.

Help me.

Me. I need help.

There is a faint scraping. I could hear a low rumble in the distance. I want it to go away. I can’t move. The pain and the cold were too much for my fragile body to bear. I am going to die.

The scraping gets louder. I want to scream, to sob for help. Nothing will cooperate. I can feel the pain starting to slip away. The numbing cold must be shutting down my body. The thunderous rumbling stops. I hear footsteps running towards me. The low growl of a language I couldn’t quite process. Then incredible warmth spread throughout my body. I couldn’t feel the concrete below my body anymore. It was as if someone had wrapped a warm coat of sunshine around me. This must be it, I thought, It wasn’t too hard. Dying was much more comfortable then I thought. I look up but my vision is still clouded. I shut my eyes.

After an eternity I open my eyes again. The pain is intense but I feel warm, comforted. I looked up into two grey eyes. They are very familiar. They were large and kind. I reached for my savior and my hands met … fur?

I scream. I was looking into the gray eyes of a very large wolf.

As I fight for another breath to continue my mindless screams. I looked into its, no, his eyes. The Wolf nudges my arm. I scream again and I don’t stop. I look away and see that the warmth I am wrapped in is a Bear. The scream catches in my throat. I turn back to the Wolf. If I wasn’t in so much pain I could have sworn that the Wolf had backed up as if it were apologizing. My body falls back onto the icy ground as the big bear thing raises its head abruptly to sniff the air. I finally find some strength and I manage to back away. Then both Animals move so fast and before I can take another breath the Bear brings up one of its huge paws and sweeps my body back towards it, off the ice, and into death.

I hear the hissing of a snake. I am going to die now.

I feel a warmth spread through my body as the world shifts and blurs and I fall into darkness.

***

“That should keep her sedated for at least an hour.”

“She almost tore my head off.”

“Yeah, well you would have deserved it.”

“Laurie, are you sure your venom won’t kill her?”

“Yesss.”

“Absolutely?”

“Well … no. I had no choice, Alison. She was about to kill Caleb and Rich.”

“No choice? Shit, Laurie! I had it handled.”

“Yeah, well, it didn’t look that way to me. She almost killed you!”

“Rich… you know you deserved it. And you… Laurie, I swear that if this hurts her…”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure you won’t be the only one.”

“Did the others find Nic?”

“I don’t think so…”

“Good. That gives us a little more time with our little birdie…”

“Laurie…”

“Did you check out her wrists? I TOLD you those things were keeping her from Changing.”

“God.. she must have clawed them off herself!”

“I can’t wait to see what she can do…”

“Laurie…”

The darkness retreats, a little, at the sound of that horrific name. I try to move my head.  Nothing. I try to open my eyes. I couldn’t. I couldn’t feel my body. I was paralyzed. My mind screams.

“Oh god. Please someone make her shut up.”

“She hasn’t said a word, stupid.”

“It’s not her mouth I was talking about … it’s her mind. She’s waking up and she is screaming.”

Oh god… Cami was here. What was she doing here? Where was here? I try to scream again. Nothing. Just the voices. I concentrate on that.

“She can hear us?”

“Yes.” She stifled a little laugh. “She doesn’t like me very much.” Cami’s voice was smug.

“I don’t like you very much either.” Jennifer’s voice spat out at Cami.

“Screw you princess. And shut up I’m trying to work…” Cami snorts, “Jeezus, someone put those silver bracelets on her tight. No wonder I couldnʻt feel anything from her. All this time I thought she was a dud. Her mind is crazy powerful. Shit, if I’d known that, maybe I wouldn’t have been such a bitch to her.”

Doubt it, I think though my haze.

Cami laughs.

“All of you, shut it! Julia?” Alison? “Can you hear me?”

“Nope … she’s fading back.” Cami giggles, “Laurie? How much did you give her.”

“Trust me … enough to keep us safe and her from Changing again…”

“She’s almost out.”

“Sssleep tight little birdie.”

***

I open my eyes into light. One very bright light to be exact. It’s blinding

I shut my eyes. The fiery image of the light is imprinted on the back of my lids. The light itself threatens to punch through the frail skin there. I squeeze them tighter.

I feel like I should be frightened. Strangely, I’m not. In the back of my mind I calmly wonder how I had gotten to this place. Where was this place? Who had brought me here and for what purpose. The last thing I can remember was the cold black street in front of my building. Or… A dream about plastic animals staring at me. A merry-go round? Was I dreaming now? My mind reaches out to the fragments of another dream of voices. It flies out of my reach. Had I stood outside long enough to freeze? Why did I stand out there for so long?

There was a searing and painful glimmer of thought.

Better not to go there. Whatever, wherever it was, there was a reason I was not remembering it. Better to just lie down and fall asleep again.

I let my mind drift. It was hard though. This light is seriously bothering me. It is a reddish glow from under my closed eyes. I lift my arm to block my face from the glare.

I can’t. I try moving my other arm. No luck. But damn, my wrist stung.

Legs? Nope.

Hmm. Decisions to be made now. I could … One… Scream. That would probably attract the people who brought me here. Two… Open my eyes and try to figure out where I was. That would again attract anyone who might be watching and it may also negate my last option which was … Three… I could come to the realization that this was all a dream. I could just lay back and feel my soft pillow wrap around the base of my head. My arms were not held down. I was just so relaxed that I couldn’t move. Not even my legs would move. This was quite comfortable, this dream I was having.

Hmm. There is a pain that had begun in my middle back around my ribcage. I’d noticed it a moment ago as I tried to move my arms. It didn’t hurt so much as annoy. Sort of like an old wound. The same feeling was beginning to blossom in my head. A shadow of a headache, as if I had fallen somewhere and hit my head.

I slowly come to the realization that I hurt all over. There really wasn’t an inch of my body that wasn’t in some sort of annoying pain. It is becoming increasingly annoying. I thought dreams were supposed to be a bit more comfortable.

Maybe this was a nightmare. If I thought about what I knew of my surroundings I could certainly come to the conclusion that this scenario was scary enough to be one of my many nightmares. I can’t move my body. I am in pain. There is a bright light shining in my eyes rendering me blind. Yep, this is a nightmare. This could be the climax in the old black and white Alfred Hitchcock films my grandmother loved.

I wait for the ax murderer or psycho to jump out so that I can wake up. No such luck.

Not a nightmare, then.

My option three, my dream or nightmare scenario is quickly fading. My heart begins to beat faster in my chest. My breath comes out in spurts. Here are the facts. I do not know where I am. I do not know how I got here. I am tied to an uncomfortable metal table. I cannot see. This is not a figment of my overactive imagination. This is not a dream.

Terrified, I opened my eyes into the bright light. I try to look around it but there is nothing to be seen. The light is just too bright. I close my eyes again.

I listen. Nothing. The room has to be sound proof. There is absolute silence.

I calm my lungs which were quickly on its way to becoming a hyperventilating mess soon if I didn’t figure this out. I take an unsteady but deep breath in. Breathe out. Breathe in. I can almost recognize the smell. There was a musty smell of metal and sweat. There was a whiff of cheap cologne and sticky sweet perfume.

No.

I know now where I am. The general area at least. The knowledge doesn’t make me feel any better. Although the last month had been better, this place was nothing but trouble for me since I had arrived.

I was at school.

In my head, I form the images of the only students I knew that would have bought me here. I could almost hear her hissing laughter echo through my psyche. I could feel her black nails digging into my skin again. Laurie was here, somewhere, watching me. I should have smelled her heady scent. I tried to locate her scent. Nothing. No matter, I know she brought me here. Although that thought should be sending me into fear overdrive, I was pleased to have figured something out about the mess I was in. I would have patted myself on the back if I could have and if it wasn’t so absurd.

My mind was eerily calm. Unfortunately my body did not want to process the terror in a collected manner. The tears begin flowing and I was having difficulty taking in a solid breath. I couldn’t let my sense of smell fail me now. It was the only thing I had working. I begin to struggle against my binds. It was useless. I am strapped down tight.

“Hello?” My voice is shaky and labored. Whoever brought me here, and I am almost certain it was Laurie, was not going to make the first move. A fresh wave of tears flows down my face and cascades into my hair. I try again.

“Please, can anyone hear me? Hello?” I choke a little on the last word. My esophagus has become constricted. I can’t speak. I let the fear finally course through my body. I sob loudly, eyes closed against the blinding nothingness.

I hear a door open and shut to the back and left of me. Breathe in. Hold. I would wait.

I heard the lamp switch off before I saw it. The light had been on my face for so long that the glow still stained my vision with a yellow-blue and red fuzz. I open my eyes into the blessed darkness. My eyes take a moment to adjust. There must be a light source coming from another part of the room because even though it was dark, I could see perfectly. I could make out the bare padded walls several yards in front of me. I notice the weak light coming from above from what looked like a viewing room.

“Hello? Is someone there?” That was a stupid question. Of course I know someone is there. The question is who. “Laurie?”

The silence that answers confirms my suspicion.

“Laurie, I know we haven’t gotten off to the right start but if this is about Nic…” I stop. What was it about Nic that I could not remember? I hold my breath hoping for my brain to answer me.

“Laurie’s not here.”

I take a quick intake of breath. That isn’t Laurie’s voice. It’s Alison’s.

Alison steps in front of me. I see something glint in her hand. A knife.

“Alison? What are…”

“Shh!”

I shut up. Alison steps closer with the knife and I forget to shut up.

“What happened?!?” Alison had four long angry red scratches that starts at her right ear and travels across her white cheek and disappears down her neck. Her black T-shirt is ripped at the collar.

She looks at me, momentarily stunned by my question. Her face changes into a look of pity and acceptance. “You don’t remember. Do you?”

“No,” I whisper, “the last thing I remember is standing outside my house.” The image of moving plastic animals comes to me… my dream.

I could see some silent internal struggle flare through Alison’s stormy grey eyes. She steps even closer.

“Sometimes that happens at the first Change. Amnesia… especially with the accident and fall you took… There is much to be explained but you have to promise me that you will stay calm.”

Change? Amnesia? Accident and fall? What was she talking about? But all I say is, “Of course.” I don’t know why she’d think I would lose my temper. I’d never done that with her.

Alison brings the knife up.

“What, Alison, are you doing?” It’s Laurie.

My heart froze. Alison brings the knife down.

“STOP!” I can feel the heat emanate out of Laurie’s demand. The knife stops an inch away from the cording, and Laurie’s long red tipped fingers clench around Alison’s hand. There is a small struggle and the knife falls.

“What are you thinking?”

“She doesn’t deserve to be tied up like this. She doesn’t remember what happened. You know that happens sometimes.”

Laurie smirks, “That doesn’t mean she won’t remember later. That doesn’t mean she’s safe.”

What are they talking about? I was sure that Alison had just been about to explain and I was afraid to say anything with Laurie inches away from my bound body.

They stare at each other. A battle of wills.

Alison looks away first, exhausted. “You’re right. How thoughtless of me.” Alison wipes the fresh tears off my face. “Julia, please stop crying. We have you here for your own good. Once everyone is back and you are secured, I’ll explain. I promise.”

“No.” Alison met Laurie’s smug black stare. “That is not entirely true. We will wait for the others but you will not explain. She already knows. Nic already told her. Nic may have already showed her. That idiot Nic may have sped up her Change.”

I couldn’t process what she was saying, it made no sense. I did focus on one thing though, every time she said his name it felt as if a stake was driving itself deeper and deeper into my heart.

I sob.

“You heartless…” a string of profanities escaped Alison’s small mouth. “You tried to get her to change that night in the Gym. So don’t act like you’re the saint here.” She wipes my face again. “And, you don’t need bring up Nic. He has nothing to do with this.”

“Well, this little birdie will just have to get over it. And Nicky has everything to do with this.”

“Shut up, Laurie!”

“No, Alison.” Laurie face is suddenly over mine. “Get over Nic, little birdie. You. Can’t Be. With. Him.” She doesn’t say it maliciously. Just in a matter of fact sort of way. “You’re messed up enough as it is.”

I can’t be with Nicky. I know this… Why?

“Stop it!” Alison pushes Laurie away.

“You’re the one who wanted to give her all our secrets before we were all here. You would have exposed us all to this freak.”

“Shut up!”

I smell him before I he came into my eye line. Rich’s feral stench has taken over the room. It was stronger than anytime I’ve ever smelled it on him. It was as if he’d been running for days.

Rich stammers, out of breath, “Cami and Jen’s located him about an hour ago. I just got the message from Caleb. Caleb ran back to help. They should be here in a bit. He was in his,” Rich stammers. There was something there that he couldn’t say in front of me, “…um… other coat. If you know what I mean.”

“Yesss Rich. We know what you mean. Did anyone see him?”

They were talking about Nic.

“I don’t think so. He was covered in about a foot of snow.”

“WHAT?!?” I thrash against my binds. I finally find my voice. It was cracked but loud enough to startle everyone. Alison holds onto my shoulders.

“He’s okay. Honey… he’s okay.” Alison grabs my face as gently as she could. “Look at me. Julia, he’s okay.”

“I…I…I don’t understand what’s happening. Please let me go.”

“Just a little while longer.”

“Is she better?” Rich asks.

Better? “I feel just dandy, Thanks for asking, asshole.” I crowed. “It’s all of you who have something seriously wrong with your heads.” I strain against the bonds that held me. Too tight. I almost laughed. Instead I calm my body back into submission. I close my eyes.

“They’re back. They’ve got him.” Rich said.

Alison wipes at my face again, “I’ll be right back. I need to speak to Nic before we let him in.”

I nod. Whatever they had to say was coming soon. I didn’t know if I was ready to hear it.

There was silence, then a sickly sweet slithering voice.

“Rich, be a dear and get me a bottle of water. Now.”

I felt a single nail scratch up against my binds, up my neck and across my cheek to my ear. I shudder. That’s where Alison had been scratched. Had Laurie done that?

“Are you sure you don’t remember anything?” Laurie’s black eyes pierce mine. She seems a little stunned at what she saw there. “Hmm … interesting. Did you know that your eyes are black right now. It looks good on you.” She lets a laugh snake out of her lips.

“Now that I have your undivided attention for the moment … let me get one thing clear with you. While, I am not a big fan of Alison’s or her clan of goodie goodies, if you ever hurt her or any one of my family again, next time I won’t just put you down… I will kill you.”

I hurt Alison?

A flash of memory, of rage that did not belong to me, flies into my head. It was cold there was someone trying to move me. I lashed out. My eyes widened at the memory that wasn’t my own.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” I stammer, but Laurie had already caught my remembrance, however fleeting it was. I had hurt Alison?

“Oh? Memory just came back, did it? I think you do remember. I think you’re lying.”

I didn’t have the time to process that information.

I see shadows moving around in the viewing room upstairs. More people? A door opens.  Feet creep in. My eyes sweep the room. I can’t see much else. My body batters against the straps that hold me down. I could feel the rope burn into my wrists and ankles.

I can’t move.

“Laurie, please,” I beg, “tell me what’s going on.” Tears were beginning to stream down my face.

She snorts. “Oh quit whining. Are you comfortable?” She gave the straps a strong tug. I whimpered as they tighten abruptly.

“Don’t do that!” Alison grabs Laurie’s arm.

She shrugs it off. Laurie let out a throaty giggle, “Alison here believes that you don’t know why you’re here.”

“I don’t remember!” My voice broke.

“Yes you do!” Laurie screams. “I saw you with Nicolas! He showed you! He told you! He broke all the rules!” I could see the power building behind her eyes.

“Did I, you dumb hypocrite?”

I stop breathing. He always brought the fresh smell of the forest when he walked into a room and I did not want to breathe him in. I would not let him remind me. The pain rips through me anyway. I felt it start in the tattered rag that was my heart. The searing pain burns through my body. If I wasn’t strapped to this table I would have folded in pain. As I was, I could do nothing but let the pain take me. His calm voice had come from behind my metal prison. Against my better judgment, I try fruitlessly to look in his direction. I can’t see him. It’s better this way, I thought, I didn’t want to see his face. It would only hurt more.

Laurie whips her head up, surprised. She recovers quickly. “So the bleeding lover returns,” she hisses. “Yes, you did. You showed her what we are. You told HER.” She points an accusatory red nail in my face.

“What, did I say?” His face was stone.

“You told her, you told her…” Laurie stutters. She was breaking under his gaze. I almost felt sorry for her. Almost. “YOU told her about us.” She repeated, “You showed her. You broke the rules.”

I didn’t hear Nicolas move but he was suddenly in my sight. I did not want to see him but I could not close my eyes. His perfect features were marred by a grimace as he surveyed my body locked onto the metal table. His jaw tightens as he looks at my face, avoiding my eyes. I finally close my eyes. He is revolted by my very presence. I try to remember to breathe but my lungs would not cooperate.

“Laurie, Laurie, Laurie…” he chuckles softly. “So what if I did? You really shouldn’t spy on other people’s conversations,” He growls, “it’s rude.”

“Then you admit it.” It wasn’t a question.

“To an extent. Unlike what you tried to do in the gym, I made a mistake. I lost control.” Nicolas pauses. “Tell me something, Laurie, did you really hear everything that I told her?” When she didn’t answer, I heard him exhale deeply, “I was trying to let her off easy … she had seen me shift and I was trying to make her believe she’d made it up in her head. I had convinced her. I want her to live her stupid normal life. She didn’t need to know what we are.”

He walks closer to me. I finally open my eyes again. He doesn’t look directly at me, like I was too gross to comprehend, but I could see that his eyes were enraged, “Now this!?! Laurie?” He spit out this words. “Are you stupid?” He looks at the others in the room, “Have you all gone crazy? Why would you do this to some insignificant little human?” No one paid attention as I let out a small whimper behind my gag. Insignificant. His words were more painful than the straps that cut my skin. I hadn’t noticed until that moment but my tears had stopped. I felt all dried up inside. He didn’t care about me. I was insignificant.

I look at the others. Cami was trying to get her fire engine red hair to lie flat. Her gaze was smug, as if there was some joke that she wasn’t sharing with Nic. Rich looks supremely uncomfortable. Jennifer was ready to pounce at any moment. Her curly blond hair was in tatters. Caleb, looking weather worn, just stared at me and then Nic with absolute indifference. Alison had backs off a little to stand at Caleb’s side, looking from Laurie then at Nic, her teeth slightly bared. None of this gave me any information or hope.

His icy gaze, blank and cold, focuses on me, “Even if she knows,” He continues in his low bitingly sarcastic growl, “Let me rephrase that, now that you have so carelessly reminded her of our little situation, what can we do with her? Hmm? What did you plan on doing after you had scared her? Kill her!?!”

I flinch. Death would be welcome. I closed my eyes again. I could feel my heart drumming against my chest.

“Laurie, no one will believe her. What is she going to say? ‘Hello, Mr. Police Officer, sir, I think my classmates can turn into Animals.’” I hear his hand fall lightly on the side of my face. My eyes strained open again. He still didn’t touch me. His entire body was blocking my own. Anyone else would have thought he was protecting me, but I knew it couldn’t possibly be. I force my eyes closed again. His laugh sounds more like a snarl. “So, Laurie, why do we just let our little captive go. I’m sure she’ll keep her pretty little mouth shut.” I turn my head to the side. I wish he wouldn’t stand so close to me. I would make myself forget him. I would not remember our night in the park. Even as I thought it, even as I try to wrap myself into nothingness, the memory of our last encounter flashes in my mind. The last time we had been this close we had almost… NO, I wouldn’t go there. I could feel something in my head cracking. Confusing images jam into my mind.

“What have you done to her? Why are her wrists bleeding? Did you rip those bracelets off?” Nic breathes.

“Ah … I’d back away from her if I were you Nicky-boy.” Cami warns.

He touches my mangled wrists and my eyes flash into his.

He seems caught off guard but can’t break my gaze.

My mind flies back to the cold street in front of my house. Breath in. I had been hunting something. Breathe out. Something golden. Breathe in. Something that smelled like lavender and pine. I was hunting the golden man in front of me.

I hunted Nic. I hated Nic.

The entire night came flooding back. The torrent of it took me. The car flying off the GW bridge. Instead of falling to my death my body had Changed. I Changed. The hate flows through me. I see his eyes shatter. This was not Nicky, my best friend. The memories of his lovable, easy laughter flew through my mind. His small face as I coaxed him off the top of the jungle gym. The bouncing blundering teenager that had been so excited to go to Europe. The image fades and becomes the beautiful, cold man before me. This was Nicolas. I was so blind. He didn’t care. That echoes in my mind. He didn’t care. I was insignificant. He would leave me here confused and hurt like he’d left me on the street. I feel the anger build. Everything turns red and blurs. I welcome the Blur. I feel my body begin to Change again. My hands turn to claws. Nic is still leaning over me. I caw. My left hand brakes through its binds and I lashed out. It feels good to rip my talons through his shirt.

As soon as I had touched him, my anger, leaves as fast as it consumed me. I bring my claws up to my face. They were bloody. I watch as my claws slowly Change back to hands. I fall back exhausted. More images flood my head. Images of a younger me holding my claws up to my face. My hand drops to my side as Jennifer or maybe it was Caleb holds me down. I can’t move anyway. Everything hurts. It wasn’t just the physical pain but the stabbing nails that riddled my heart. One nail for every hurtful comment, every biting look.

Nicolas staggered back into the shadows. I can’t see him. I don’t want to see him. I turn my head away with what little strength I could muster. Laurie’s face was a mixture of amazement and disgust but mostly she looked smug as she saunters back towards the metal bench that held me. All I could do now was lie there. My eyes, as if on their own accord, tries to focus on Nicolas’ retreating figure. He falls into a metal chair in the corner. His breath comes out as a low shallow wheeze.

“All this time Nicolas, I thought you knew.” Laurie hisses, each s-sound was more pronounced then the rest. She has produced another rope and was securing my arm to the rest of my throbbing body. “Surprised you, didn’t she?” Her laugher bubbles up from her slithering voice.

“You evil poisonous…” I heard Nic’s voice growl from the shadow in the corner, “What did you do to her?”

“Me? No.” She denies. “What did you do?”

“Stop talking in riddles, you snake!” His growl was more pronounced. Then, either my vision blurred or maybe they did, but in that next second five Animals surrounded me. Two Wolves were snarling in opposite directions. One at the Black Cobra that was slithering around my body, its poisonous fangs just inches from my face. A Golden Eagle caws at the snake from the top of my bench. The other Wolf is snapping it dangerous canine jowls at a giant golden cat. Rich looks on in fright while Cami picked at something in her teeth. Despite the danger something in my head flashes on. I recognize that cat. It is the Lion that haunts my dreams. It is the gigantic animal I had seen in the park in my flying dream and other Animals had surrounded him. This Lion is the one that he said … that Nicolas said didn’t exist.

Nicolas is the lion.

Laurie is the snake.

Jennifer is an eagle.

Caleb and Alison… they are wolves.

I am losing my mind.

The Laurie-snake was gazing at the huge Nicolas-cat. The Laurie-snake was goading the Nicolas-cat into coming closer. I knew if it did, the snakes’ poisonous kiss would not take very long to stop my heart. I almost yearn for it. Anything was better than this pain.

The Nicolas-cat roars.

Then everything got bright. The snake stops hissing and the two wolves looked up. The cat was still looking at the snake whose grip was starting to crush my ribs.

“Now, children,” I vaguely recognize the voice that comes out of the intercom, “there will be no need for all of you to fight. Miss Amin?” The detached male voice uttered, “Please let go of Miss Lyons. She is tied up and cannot protect herself properly. That is not fair and particularly cowardly of you.” I feel her ebony arm slither out from under my shaking body, an arm that used to be a snake, an arm that belongs to Laurie Amin. The crazy person in my head begins to giggle uncontrollably. “Mr. Hong and Miss Hong, please escort Mr. Hart up into the viewing room.”

Nicolas growls. I shift my gaze away from Caleb and Alison, who used to be wolves, to Nicolas who was also back in his human form but he was still crouching, ready to pounce if anyone provoked him. Even in my delirious state I knew Caleb and Alison wouldn’t dare to touch Nicolas. He’d somehow shifts himself between me and the other three. As if he cares what happened to me.

“Mr. Hart,” The intercom voice warned, “you will come up to the viewing room.” There were no threats made but I could hear the unspoken authority in the voice. He looked, no, he searches my eyes. I look away. I would not let him pretend to care. I would not fall into his trap again. It was more unbearable than the craziness that surrounds me.

He growls and is gone.

Good, I thought, but even as his absence settles in my mind, tears begin to well up in my eyes again. He left me … again. He doesn’t care. I felt the despair take me.

“Oh stop. I told you to get over him already. No one likes a girl who cries all the time.” They had left me in the room with Laurie. With all the lights on she doesn’t look nearly as menacing, at least if I didn’t think about her sharp fangs biting into my skin. I feel the rope around my middle loosen. Laurie was undoing all my binds.

As she works I take stock of the scene around me. The lights were on. The table was in the middle a large circular room. About two stories up the walls were surrounded by glass. I could see Nicolas pacing at one of the window panes. I look away from him. The man standing next to him with a lab coat is turned from the glass. On the other side a man in a grey suit and slacks is staring down at the scene below like a judge. He looks familiar but his face is partly obscured by shadow. Caleb and Alison are both behind him. It only takes a few more seconds to untie my legs. As soon as the last rope is loose I jump off the table. I almost lose my balance but somehow scramble to the door. I knew it would be locked before I tried it. It wouldn’t budge. Not thinking I began to pound on the metal door. I scream at them to let me out.

“Oh shut up, will you?” Laurie’s nails tap impatiently against the metal bed. I turn around, my back against the door and my hand still twisting the knob. She smirks, “To think, I actually thought you were going to be strong.” She hisses out a giggle. “Let me paint a picture of the Julia Lyon I heard about. She had gotten the highest aptitude test scores of any Animal at Stellar. She would have amazing powers when she Changed. She would be a leader in the school, she was beautiful – all the boys would want her and all the girls would want to be her. Hell,” she exclaims scornfully, “I wanted to be you.” She slithers over to me. “Then you come to my school and you were nothing. You are nothing. To top it all off,” her voice turned into a poisonous hiss, “your best friend … your Nicky, couldn’t stand to be near you any more.” She was staring directly into my eyes, her hands wrapped around my face as if to really see the world shatter in my eyes. “So what if I used a little bit of my power to take Nicky away from you. It didn’t take very much. He wanted me. Not some little bird.”

I hear someone bang against the glass upstairs. It stops. She is still staring into me. I couldn’t tell her that she was too late, that she wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. I knew I was nothing. My world had already shattered. She let go of my face and I crumpled to the ground. I was just so tired. I stared into nothingness. I could have been staring like that for a second or it could have been an hour. I wasn’t sure.

“God, you’re SO PATHETIC!” She picks me up and holds me there until she was sure I would stand on my own. “You’re a mess and you’re going to make this way too easy for me. You will fight.” She slaps me. I fall back down to the floor. “Fight back!” She screams.

I couldn’t hear her. I had closed myself off. I can feel her heave my limp body up into a standing position again. I hold on to the doorknob again to keep standing. I stare down at my hands. I could barely hear the string of obscenities she hisses at me. I am tired. The tears are still running down my cheeks, but I didn’t know where or for who they were falling for. My heart had disappeared. It is no longer a tattered mess. It just didn’t exist. I feel someone slap me again. I didn’t fall this time, I barely felt the sting. I just stand in the nothingness. It’s good not to feel. It’s good not to remember where I was. Who was I? I can’t remember. I hear pounding above me. That was getting a bit annoying. I wish that they would stop that pounding. Someone was also slapping me. Why was she doing that? Didn’t she know that that as rude? Slap. Pound. Pound. Slap. Pound Pound.

I had to stop this.

As the irritating red tipped hand lashed out to slap me again I grab it. I hear a scream and a crack. Then the person with the red tipped hand Blurs and disappears. I notice that the pounding had stopped too. For a moment. Then it begins again. I look up. There was a golden boy thrashing against the glass. Why was he doing that, I wondered?

Then it hit. I feel two teeth sink into my leg. I scream and the air around me shimmers. Suddenly I feel lighter. My leg stings but I didn’t need my legs, not yet at least. The air lifts me up to the ledge above. Pound. Pound. I would deal with that noise later. The thing that bit me was more important. I was looking for a snake. My sharp eyes scanned the floor below. I hear the reptiles’ scales slide against the cold stone tile before I saw it and dived. I close my sharp talons around its face and body. I squeeze. I would take this reptile back to … my nest. That sounds right. Now I just needed to figure out how to get out of this brightly lit cage.

I try to … soar? Yes … that was it. I try to soar back into the sky with my catch but the pain in my leg has spread. I blink my eyes. The room is beginning to spin. That’s funny because now I wasn’t flying … my legs are on the ground. The snake twitches in my grasp. Then the snake didn’t smell snake-like anymore. It smells human. Well then, I though, that was stupid of me. Of course I can’t fly a human to my nest. I screech a small laugh. My talons still held onto the humans face and neck. I shake my head to clear my thoughts. Why does my claw look like a hand? The air shimmers.

I can’t feel my leg anymore but the pain flowing through my veins is excruciating. I lift myself to look at the bloody mess below me. It looks like something had torn at this poor girls neck. She was unconscious. That is probably a good thing. There was a lot of blood on her face and body.

A nap sounds really good right now. I really couldn’t feel my body anyway. I am so exhausted. I close my eyes. The pounding above stops.

I hope that golden boy isn’t hurt too. I fly into oblivion.