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ElectroCute 1: A Short Tail

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A Whateley Universe story

ElectroCute 1: A Short Tail

by

Amethyst

 

Churchill Manitoba
Friday, February 16, 2007 – 3:07 pm

“You’re dead meat, you little shit!” Jeremy Daniels shouted as he grabbed me from behind and threw me against the lockers while I was walking down the hallway.

Aww damn. Jeremy, or Jerry as he preferred to be called, was one of the biggest guys at school and kind of your typical school bully, and I had been hoping to be well on my way home by the time he got out of detention. That probably would have worked if he had bothered going there instead of hunting me down like a polar bear would a nice juicy seal. He looked super pissed too.

I didn’t need to ask him what he was angry about, it was the book report. Our Social Studies teacher Mrs. Kingston had returned them today and asked Jerry to stay after class. Apparently, I had aced mine while he flunked, who could have possibly predicted this outcome? Oh, wait, that would be everybody.

Okay, so this may have been my own fault to some small degree, but he shouldn’t have threatened to beat me up if I didn’t do his book report for him. I was busy enough with my own, after all. I was still nice enough to do his for him though, just as he asked, that should count for something right?

I wondered which part Mrs. Kingston didn’t like. Was it all of the spelling and grammar mistakes? I had worked hard to include all of those, and let me tell you it went against my geek nature. Was it the helpful crayon-drawn diagrams? Or was it the fact that I spelled his name ‘Jermy Daniels’ instead of the proper spelling?

Whatever the problem was, Mrs. Kingston hadn’t been happy so Jerry wasn’t happy, and that meant that I was about to join the whole circle of unhappiness. It’s like the circle of life, but probably with more wedgies and swirlies for yours truly. Why did I poke the bear like that? It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Okay, time to assess the situation and figure out how to get myself out of this mess. There was a crowd gathering, not that that helped much, and even if every student at school showed up the crowd probably wouldn’t get big enough to get lost in. This wasn’t some big city, it was Churchill Manitoba, and unless you counted all of the tourists coming every year to see the polar bears the population was just under five hundred people.

There were so few kids in town that our elementary and high schools were combined. Jerry and I were two of four people in our grade, the other two being Sarah Mathews and Jerry’s younger brother Rick. Jerry should have been in grade eleven but he had been held back, twice.

Jerry was the biggest guy in school, with the worst temper, so I likely wasn’t going to get a lot of help from those kids in the crowd. It looked like Jerry had help though because Rick was standing right behind him. Come on! Two big guys against a shrimp like me who had seemed to miss puberty so far? Not that I was complaining… about the puberty thing, not the two big guys ready to pound on me.

To top it off, they were trying to look all ‘Canadian gangsta’ with their hockey jerseys, flannel jackets, toques, and jeans that were like four sizes too big. I would just die if I got beaten to death by those two posers. I mean really, a Montreal Canadians jersey with blue, yellow, and green plaid over top? My poor eyes. I gave my best innocent smile and said sweetly, “Oh, hey Jerry. Funny we should meet here, in the school hallway of all places. You seem upset, what’s wrong?”

“I got an F because of you, you little shit! Now Mrs. Kingston is making me write another report and I’ve only got a week to do it!”

“Wow, that really sucks. Maybe you should have written it yourself the first time, or at least checked the work before turning it in,” I suggested, trying to keep my cool. Not that I had given him the time to check the work beforehand, I had given him his ‘report’ just before class had started on the day it was due.

He must have recalled that little fact as well because that was when his fist flew toward my face, everything seemed to go into slow motion, and my life flashed before my eyes. I’d say a good ninety percent of it was spent alone in my room reading manga or watching anime. Good times. The only really notable thing was when my dad made me watch as he torched my secret stash of panties and all of my manga a couple of years ago. Damn, that was kind of depressing, I really thought there would be more but I was only fifteen.

Stash of panties? Okay, yeah maybe that requires a little bit of explanation, I can’t just drop a bomb like that and expect nobody to comment on the explosion, right? You see, I always knew that I was different from the other boys in town. While they would roam the streets of Churchill, throw rocks at the polar bears, play hockey, write their names in the snow, or whatever it was that boys did with their time, I preferred to be by myself, imagining things, since the girls wouldn’t accept me and I obviously wasn’t one of the guys.

I would sit in my room and make up stories of magic, gender swaps, and magical girls doing heroic things, like the anime and manga that I was so fond of. Dad was annoyed that I wasn't like the other boys. He would swear and glare at me, and when he thought I couldn't hear, he would wish that I wasn't there and he started spending even less time at home than before. I ignored it, but the day came when he found my secret stash of panties, and he laid into me. Why did I have them? They comforted me and made me feel a little more like myself. You see, I had a secret, I didn't think of myself as a boy. I was a girl; my body just hadn’t gotten the memo.

And we now return you to the beating of a poor defenseless girl, already in progress. That fist had gotten pretty close and it was only my knees going weak on me that saved me from the blow. As I fell to the ground, Jerry’s fist sailed right over my head and into the locker, causing him to scream in pain. I, on the other hand, was eye-level with his crotch and that was when I was struck with a brilliant plan.

While he was still screaming in pain, I put every ounce of strength into a punch to his balls. Yeah, I know that’s not something a guy should do but I’ve already established that I’m a girl and this was self-preservation, so that makes it okay, right? Jerry folded over with a gasping wheeze of pain and Rick came at me yelling obscenities so I yanked down his overly large pants, jumped to my feet to pull his toque down over his eyes, and ran for my life before they could collect themselves.

I needed somewhere to hide, somewhere that no boy would ever think of, and then I saw it. The sign was illuminated with golden light, and choirs of angels sang… Okay, not really, but it was a safe haven, one that Jerry and Rick would never think to look for me in. I mean, what boy in their right mind would hide in the girls’ washroom? One who is really a girl, that’s what kind. It was perfect, it was brilliant… it was occupied.

Wendy Gibson and Karen Price were inside and standing in front of the mirror as they chatted and touched up their makeup. They were a pair of Barbie wannabes dressed in slutty mostly pink clothes and I was pretty sure that I was the only natural blonde of the three of us. They were also BFFs, both were a grade above me, and Karen was Jerry’s girlfriend. “Seriously? My luck cannot be that bad,” I mentally grumbled. “Maybe if I just make my way casually to the stalls they won’t notice me, then I can hide there until this blows over. Yup, don’t mind me, I’m just one of the girls, here to do my business and then powder my nose, hopefully once you’re both long gone.”

I managed to make it to the closest stall and had my hand on the door when their chatter stopped and Karen shrieked, “What are you doing in here, Nathan?! Get the fuck out, you little dweeb!”

Damn. Well, I had already committed myself and I didn’t think they’d seen my face yet. They were probably just guessing because I was like the only one in town with longish blonde hair who had a penchant for wearing dark green hoodies. I tried to soften my voice as I asked, “Nathan? Oh, my cousin? Yeah, I’m his cousin… Natalie? Yeah, I came to come pick up my cousin after school, but I needed to use the facilities. I should really hurry, my… uhhh… cousin is waiting and all.”

“Bullshit! You’re wearing Nathan’s clothes!” Karen snapped.

I tried not to let my wince show and I certainly didn’t turn to face them, if they saw my face the jig would be up. This was not going at all to plan, and it had seemed like such a good idea at the time. “Oh! Well, I… uhh… had to borrow some of his stuff because I… ummm... my suitcase went missing on my flight from Vancouver and I didn’t have time to get it back before catching the plane here? Yeah, that’s totally it! You know, stupid airlines are always losing luggage,” I nervously rambled.

For one brief moment, I thought that I might be in the clear as the pair of girls headed for the door. Until Karen opened it and shrieked as loud as she could, “Eeek! Nathan’s in the girl’s bathroom pretending to be a girl!”

Time for plan B. As soon as I could come up with a plan B. I tore back out of the girls’ bathroom and squeezed past the two girls, intent on making my way for the school exit because this was no time to worry about my backpack, jacket, or homework. It was February so it was damn cold outside, but I’d give better odds at surviving that than the beating I was sure to get if I stuck around.

I skidded past the girls on my way out only to slide headlong into Rick, bouncing off him and falling onto my butt. Standing behind Rick was Jerry, and he looked pissed. His right hand was already badly swollen and his face was a very unflattering shade of red that did not go with his outfit at all. He saw me right away and roared, “Your ass is mine now, you little faggot!”

“Umm… hey, Jerry. I’m just throwing this out there, ‘butt’ you may want to rephrase that. It makes it sound more like you’re gay than I am. I’m not by the way, and even if I were, you wouldn’t be my type. Besides, think about the psychological effect that would have on poor Karen, you leaving her for me when I’m not even interested.” I just needed to keep him distracted until I could get to my feet and run for my life.

I wasn’t even lying since I had no idea what my sexual preference was. I thought that I might be bisexual but Neanderthals did nothing for me and I didn’t even want to think about sexual attraction while my body insisted on betraying me by being male since it just brought my attention to that horrible thing between my legs. Still, it would seem that I should have said something else because that just got him angrier. That vein in his forehead pulsed and his face went from red to purple as he took a swing at me with his good hand.

It was as I braced for the pain to come and considered that I should really get a handle on that brain to mouth thing that I heard Principal Taggart’s voice yell, “Daniels! Hanson! Get your asses to my office! Now!”

Principal Taggart was a big burly man who doubled as our P.E. teacher, and he was holding on to Jerry’s arm, preventing the annihilation of my face. “Oh thank God. I’m alive!” I cackled in relief before I realized that ‘Hanson’ meant me and that Mr. Taggart had a no mercy policy. “I am so dead.”

=^..^=

Principal Taggart brought down the hammer. To him there were no bullies and bullied, only kids fighting in his school, so my arguments fell upon deaf ears. The upshot was that Jerry was expelled since he’d already had his last ‘warning’ and I was suspended for two weeks. How was this a punishment? My worst enemy banished from school for good, I got two weeks off, and I wasn’t even dead. Not yet anyway, since I had no idea how my dad was going to react.

Phone calls were made and while Jerry’s mother was coming to pick him and Rick up, my dad was working and told the principal to just send me home so he could ‘deal with me later’. No, that didn’t sound ominous at all. I needed to come up with a plan. So that’s what I attempted to do as I walked home to the apartment building, looking over my shoulder the entire way. Jerry may be kicked out of school, but I wasn’t dumb enough to think we’d never cross paths again in a town as small as Churchill.

As I walked, I wondered what I would do for my two weeks off. Who was I kidding? I’d probably be staying in my room most of the time watching anime and reading manga on my computer since I’d probably be grounded the whole time anyway. It was too cold to be outside much anyway and it wasn’t like there was anything to do in town for those of us who actually lived in Churchill.

I’d already been to all of the local tourist spots too many times to count. Prince of Wales Fort, the cannon battery at Merry Point, the Miss Piggy plane wreck, and the Eskimo Museum. They really needed to change the name of that last one. Eskimo is actually a racial slur, it means raw meat eater or something, it’s essentially calling them uncivilized savages. I did a paper on them for school once and the correct term for their people is Inuit, and an individual is called an Inuk.

Anyway, other than the tourist spots, the only thing to do was go on an expedition with one of the touring companies to see beluga whales, polar bears and the northern lights. Been there, done that, thanks. Plenty of times and I never needed to shell out money for a tour. “Oooh! A polar bear! I’ve never seen one of those before.” Sure, if you’re a tourist it’s probably cool but I guarantee if it’s a local saying that, then there’s a lot less excitement and a lot more sarcasm.

Home, sweet home. Well, not really, since my dad lived there too. Not even my bedroom was really a safe alone space since Dad had no concept of privacy and was constantly inspecting my room since he had torched my prize possessions. The apartment was a small two-bedroom place but we probably could have afforded a house on what Dad made from the oil company, if he didn’t drink most of that money away.

I thought again about asking my mother if I could go to live with her, but honestly, I just didn’t know her very well. I could be going from bad to worse. She and my dad got divorced when I was two and I hadn’t seen her face to face since then, I could barely remember what she looked like.

Mom and Dad split due to ‘philosophical differences’, which is lawyer talk for ‘they hated each other’s guts’. From what little I had been able to get out of my dad’s rants it was because he was a bigoted misogynistic asshole and he discovered that when she wanted to go back to work, she wasn’t talking about selling Avon or some shit. Dad got pissed that Mom was returning to her duties in the navy, and that what she did for them was classified. I always thought that there was more to it than that though since my father called her an unfit mother and made sure to get sole custody of me.

It couldn’t have been just the navy thing, Dad had known that she was in the navy when they met, hell I was born at the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt on Vancouver Island. Well, that’s what my birth certificate said anyway. Mom once told me that I was actually born two months premature on the HMCS Vancouver, while she was still working on light duty. I figured that he was just pissed about her returning to active duty in the navy because he felt that, as a woman, she should be at home raising the children while he worked.

He probably didn’t like the secrets either. Dad hated secrets when he wasn’t in on them. In the end though the whys weren’t important since I didn’t have much choice in the matter. So I ended up with my dad in Churchill of all places.

I did have some contact with my mom. She called on my birthdays and Christmas to talk to me and sent me gifts or money occasionally. I had a feeling that she might take me in if I asked her. She seemed concerned about my safety and often asked if everything was okay with me living with Dad.

When I was thirteen, she had even given me a secure number to call her at if I ever needed her for anything. Though there were like three layers of confirmation phrases, code phrases, and stuff that she made me memorize so she could be sure it was me; the story of my birth being one of them. It was kind of cool, it made me feel like a spy or something. Every time that she called, she would give me new phrases to memorize to replace the old ones.

I hadn’t brought up my gender issues with Mom yet though, which was part of the reason that I was reluctant to ask if I could go live with her. What if she reacted as badly as Dad had when he found my panties and I had tried to explain? If I ever managed to somehow forget just how badly that had gone, there were always the scars to remind me.

He had taken his belt and given me so many lashes across the back and my butt that I had lost count in the haze of agony that had followed. Any time since that he had caught me doing anything even remotely feminine, he repeated the lesson. Since I was a naturally feminine girl, that was often, and it took months before I ‘learned’ and could sit in a chair properly again. I still received ‘lessons’ from time to time, because this is me we’re talking about.

The mere thought had me wincing and glancing nervously toward the door. After a few calming breaths I tried to put those dark thoughts out of my mind as I tidied up the apartment, did the dishes, and started a load of laundry. Housework was my responsibility, to earn my keep. My dad was such a hypocrite. He was always after me to man-up and stop acting like a ‘little faggot’ but he had me doing all the housework, something that he always complained was a woman’s work.

The only good thing about me doing the household chores was that Dad wouldn’t see my panties because I was the one doing the laundry. I had learned some things since the burning two years earlier. I only read manga or watched anime on my computer and I kept my panties hidden in a much more secure location. I didn’t buy the panties myself either, I couldn’t because my Dad always made sure that he was with me whenever I went clothes shopping. No, the panties had come as a part of a care package from my friend Rika in Japan. At least I thought she was from Japan, since she told me to call her Rika and the package had come from Tokyo.

Rika and I had met online playing an MMORGP called Ergan’s Tears and had become good friends. She played a sexy winged demon warrior and I was a support class from the Nikandri race. Nikandri were a gender-locked race of catgirls. As soon as I saw them in the game preview, I just knew that I had to play one. Why? Because catgirls are undeniably awesome, who wouldn’t want to play one? Well, Rika didn’t, but we were good friends anyway.

We talked and gamed together every day and were both considering trying that really popular game that everyone was talking about lately, GEO. She was a lot like me I guess, a bit of a loner with no real friends so she threw herself into gaming. We had met during a raid and from some of the things she had said, I thought she might be lonely. If anyone could get how that felt, it was me. As we got to know one another she became sort of like a big sister to me, more than friends but not really interested in each other as anything else. She even gave me her phone number and told me to call her if I ever needed anything.

Rika was the only one who knew about my gender issues and the problems at home because, even though she played a somewhat demonic character and had a bit of a perverse sense of humor, I trusted her. She had even helped me come up with a girl’s name, something that I could call myself and feel that it was me. It was with her help that Felicia was born, and I could feel like I had someone who I could truly be myself with. Someone who I didn’t have to pretend to be Nathan for.

She was worried about me living with my dad still though and was trying to convince me to talk to my mom about living with her, or finding some other place to stay that was safe. She even offered to help if I ever needed to leave in a hurry, or help take care of things if Dad became too much, though I wasn’t sure how she could do that from Tokyo. I was too scared to take her up on it anyway, what if my dad found me? Besides, as I said, I didn’t really know my mom very well.

Anyway, for Christmas Rika had sent me a care package with a bunch of different snacks from Japan and a USB drive with a whole bunch of manga scans. She knew me so well; most of them had catgirl characters. That would have been cool enough but she had also included three pairs of Shimapan that she had bought for me after getting my measurements. I fell in love with Pocky and rice crackers that day that I opened the package, but I treasured the striped panties far more and kept them well hidden.

Usually I only wore them on days when I was sure that my Dad wouldn’t be home until long after I was asleep, and then I’d change out of them before bed. Fridays were usually a good day for that but I was worried about Dad coming home straight after work to ‘deal with me’ before going out for his usual Friday night activities so I didn’t want to risk it. Somehow, I didn’t think he’d accept, “But the stripes are blue, that’s a boy’s color,” as a legitimate excuse.

Not wearing them was a good move on my part since not long after I had finished the dishes and started the load of laundry, the front door flew open and my father yelled, “Nathan! You better be home, boy!”

My heart raced and I nearly hit my head on a shelf in the fridge as I jumped at the sound of his voice. He sounded mad, not that that was unusual. I pulled my head out of the fridge where I had been searching for something to make for dinner, took a deep breath, and swallowed the lump of terror lodged in my throat. “Yeah, I’m in the kitchen, Dad.” With trembling hands, I closed the fridge and made myself walk toward the front door to face the music.

Dad looked me over appraisingly for a moment before asking, “What’s this about you getting suspended, boy? I was told you were in a fight but I don’t see a mark on you, and no way a fucking pansy like you was gonna win, unless you were fighting a girl. Even then…”

Somehow, I managed to keep my voice somewhat steady as I replied, “It was Jerry, Dad. It… uhh… wasn’t much of a fight though. Two hits, I hit him and he hit the floor. The principal stopped us before it could get very far.” That was kinda true, he never hit me just the locker, and he folded right over and fell to the ground when I punched him in the jewels.

He snorted derisively as he sneered at me. “Don’t lie to me, boy. No way a shrimp like you took down Eddie Daniels’s kid. You probably took a cheap shot. Still, a win’s a win. Sometimes you gotta fight dirty. What got into you, boy?”

“Umm… adrenaline?” I suggested uncertainly as I frantically tried to come up with something that wouldn’t earn me another beating. “Maybe puberty is finally hitting me? Rrrrr! Testosterone! Rawr!” Meanwhile, I silently prayed that wasn’t the case.

“About fucking time, boy, maybe we’ll make a man outta you yet,” Dad said, and I had to suppress a shudder at that thought. “I’d ground you, but then you’d just end up doing God-knows-what in your bedroom. No, I got something better in mind. Something to make a man outta you. We’re going camping for the weekend, so be up by six and ready to go.”

“But Daaaaad,” I began to complain.

He turned to me, his hand raised to strike, and my wince at the movement cut off my protests before I could voice them. “No buts, boy! I’ve already decided, this’ll be good for you. It’ll get those queer little thoughts outta your head and I can teach you to be a real man.”

"But it’s February and we’re in Northern Canada. Why not just strip me naked and set me adrift on an ice floe? It'd get rid of me much faster!" I argued. Once again, my brain registered too late, what my mouth had said.

"Don't give me ideas, you mouthy little shit! I said no buts and I fucking mean it!” he snarled, his hand whipping out and making good on the intended blow this time. I was knocked to the floor and I could almost feel the bruise forming from the heat on my cheek as my head spun. Tears came to my eyes and I tried to hold them back this time, I really did, but it didn’t matter since he’d already turned his back to me to head toward the door. “You’ll be up and ready by six or I’ll tan your hide to within an inch of your life. I’m going to my meeting.”

Then he was out the door again. Dad’s meetings were nothing more than a bunch of guys hanging out at the local pub and drinking until closing. There were six of them usually; my Dad, some of the guys he worked with at the oil company, and the only MCO agent stationed in Churchill. I don’t know what he did to get stationed in the ass-end of the north, we hadn’t had a mutant show up in Churchill since I’d been living there, but something told me that he wasn’t one of those MCO agents willing to give mutants a fair shake.

Considering that my Dad and his other friends all had ties to Humanity First and Great White North, it wasn’t hard to figure out what they probably talked about in those meetings. H1! in Manitoba took about as militant a stance against mutants as you could get. GWN was sort of like Canada’s version of the KKK. If you weren’t white, male, and praising almighty God then you needed to be shown your place. I knew just enough about them to know that I didn’t want any part of those meetings.

They’d be bitching about immigrants, ‘Eskimos’, ‘uppity bitches’ who didn’t know their places, and mutants. They could only really do anything about mutants though since going after anyone else would be a hate crime and GWN sects had been successfully prosecuted before for that. Not many provinces had passed legislation protecting mutants yet, though those working for the RCMP or armed forces were given some protection by law.

I tried to put it all out of my mind as I made myself a quick meal of fish and chips and then settled in for a nice bubble bath before gaming and chatting with Rika for a couple of hours. Rika was glad that I wasn’t seriously hurt, but once again she seemed worried about my safety when I mentioned that he’d hit me again. A worry that she had no qualms about voicing in our chat window.

Fallen~1: -You really should talk to your mom, Felicia.-

Kutiekitty: -What if she freaks out though?- I countered, already feeling the butterflies dancing in my tummy at the mere thought.

Fallen~1: -Then at least you’ll know, and we can start making other plans. You’re not safe with that asshole you call your father, and if she says no then I can start looking into somewhere safer where you can start your transition. I can help you; I can get you out of there if you’ll let me. I think that you need to give your mom a chance first though.-

Kutiekitty: -I’ll try to call her this week, after we’re back from this stupid camping trip. I should be able to do it while Dad is at work with my suspension. Then I won’t risk him coming in or overhearing.- I felt ready to vomit as I made that promise. Why was it that I could jump headlong into doing stupid and sometimes dangerous things without a second thought, but the thought of telling my mom that I was a girl inside terrified me? Who was I kidding? I was scared that she’d reject me, just like Dad.

Fallen~1: -Good, I’ve been worried about you. I’ll start looking into safe places that I can take you, just in case.- Rika had seemed to take my promise at face value and we hurried on to finish our dungeon run, but all the while I could feel the knots in my stomach becoming ever tighter. I didn’t even stop to think how a teenage girl on the other side of the world could possibly help me. After another hour, I begged off playing anymore for the night to watch a few episodes of Magical Meow Meow Taruto to take my mind off things before curling up in bed.

=^..^=

I wish that I could say that camping with my dad would end up being the worst experience of my life, but sadly, I had a lot to choose from just living with him on a daily basis. The experience was likely to be pretty high up there though. I woke up at five a.m. and Dad already had things mostly ready to go. I wondered if he had even slept after getting home from drinking; he smelled like a brewery and didn’t look in any condition to be driving us anywhere, let alone somewhere with plenty of trees to crash into.

Sleeping bags and other camping gear had been removed from the storage closet and placed in the front hall and he was filling a cooler with various things from the fridge and cupboards since it wasn’t hunting season and we couldn’t hunt for our food. He was vocally bitching about the latter and promised/threatened another such trip in the future to teach me to kill poor defenseless animals. He was still bringing a rifle along though, for protection.

Personally, I was glad to be able to avoid murdering cute forest denizens for sport. Just the mere thought of killing adorable little bunnies or squirrels made me sick to my stomach. Cute things should be protected by law or something.

Dad didn’t even let me get a shower in before he had me carrying everything down to his 4x4, I barely even had time for a quick bowl of cereal while Dad downed like three cups of coffee. I might have had some myself if I didn’t hate the taste of coffee. It was too bitter for me; though I was sorely tempted to try to choke some down to wake myself up at that ridiculous hour. It wasn’t even close to light outside yet.

I managed to sleep a little more in the truck on the way to the middle of nowhere that Dad seemed to be intent on taking us to. If he killed us both while driving into a tree or something, I didn’t want to be awake for it. My face was already tender and achy from the bruise and split lip that Dad had left when he had hit me the previous night. Before I had conked out, I had been able to determine that we were heading south and toward the tree line. I was still shaking the sleep off and debating whether I was happy to still be alive or not when Dad put me to work setting up camp.

The bastard just sat in a lawn chair in the bed of the truck and watched while he made me do all the work for getting camp ready; building a snow cave for us to sleep in that night, gathering and chopping firewood, and every other little thing that he could think of. Okay, maybe he wasn’t just sitting there, he was also shouting out instructions and verbally abusing me whenever I wasn’t doing something to his personal satisfaction.

Case in point, it was nearing noon and I was sweating like Niagara Falls under all my layers. I was chopping firewood, already exhausted from all the other physical labor that he’d had me doing, when he shouted out, “You chop wood like a girl, you little fucking sissy! Put your fucking weight into it! Use your goddamn shoulders!”

“Of course I do, I am a girl,” I grumbled to myself.

“What was that, boy?”

“I… uhh… said, ‘I’ll give it a whirl?’ Right… weight… shoulders, I got it, Dad,” I sputtered out quickly to avoid being hit again and to cover up yet another mouth/brain miscommunication.

After a quick lunch, as we were tromping through the trees I came to the conclusion that this trip was for the sole purpose of making me miserable. I was exhausted, sick of the verbal abuse, and freezing despite wearing several layers beneath my outer clothes, including a polar fleece sweater. It was as I was complaining, this time remembering to use my inside voice so Dad couldn’t hear me, that something moving in the trees caught my attention.

I stopped, scanning the area where I had seen the motion, and my eyes locked onto some sort of cat. It was quite a bit larger than a house cat but smaller than I had imagined cougars or other hunting cats to be. The snow was making it hard to make out details other than the reddish fur and those yellow-green eyes that were currently locked onto my own.

For a long moment, our eyes remained locked as we stared at one another. It was almost as if we had some sort of spiritual connection. The sound of a gunshot ringing out ended our stare-down as the large feline turned and disappeared amongst the trees and I was left there with my heart beating wildly in my chest as I tried to figure out what just happened.

“Bobcat,” I heard my dad mutter beside me. “Never heard of one this far north before. Let’s get back to camp, boy, it’s getting hard to see with all this snow.”

Dinner that night consisted of hot dogs cooked over a roaring fire and a bag of barbecue-flavored potato chips. I wasn’t all that surprised when Dad took a six-pack of beer out of the cooler, but I was when he opened two of them and handed one to me. What the hell? The legal drinking age in Manitoba is eighteen and I was a good three years shy of that.

“We might make a man out of you yet, Nathan,” my father said grudgingly as he pressed the can into my hands. “Drink up; it’ll put hair on your chest. You’re only getting one though, so enjoy it.”

‘Enjoy’ wasn’t quite the verb that I would use to adequately describe my first experience drinking beer. Seriously, it tasted like rancid urine. Okay, maybe I don’t have an actual basis for that comparison, but I’m pretty sure that it would be accurate. I slowly choked it down though because who knew how Dad would react if I couldn’t drink it ‘like a real man’, especially once he had downed a few of his own.

I was of mixed feelings by the time Dad announced that it was time for us to climb into the snow cave for some sleep. On one hand, I was almost warm sitting by the fire and I had nearly forgotten what that felt like. But on the other hand, I just wanted to sleep so that this whole testosterone-laden father/’son’ torture would be over that much sooner. Surprisingly, I slept well, though I did dream of my earlier encounter with the bobcat.

Dad woke me early the next morning, hoping that we could have some time to teach me to shoot a gun before we had to make the return trip home since he had work the next day. Fortunately, the weather killed that idea. It was snowing heavily again and it didn’t look like it would be stopping any time soon so Dad reluctantly decided to pack up and head home early. Personally, I was deeply grateful for the weather once we had packed everything back in the truck and Dad was slowly driving us back to what passed for civilization this far north. For my part, I enjoyed a nice long nap so I didn’t have to talk to my father or listen to his cursing.

Soon we were home, and I was awoken by my father slamming the truck door closed. For some reason, my back was super itchy, though it seemed to go away as Dad and I hurried to get everything inside and put away. The damp sleeping bags I put in the dryer on low-heat so they didn’t end up all musty smelling.

I wasn’t sure why Dad was in a hurry to get out of the apartment, but he left most of it for me to finish while he went who knows where to do who knows what. Probably something with his bigot friends and I was probably better off not knowing. I was in a rush to get everything put away though because I was absolutely starving. I’d been really hungry before we left camp and we hadn’t eaten breakfast so now I was ridiculously hungry since I’d woken from my nap.

I had to make two ham and cheese omelets to fill the void before I decided to shower off my outdoors experience. I wanted to feel clean and then maybe just relax in my room and watch anime or play Ergan’s Tears for the rest of the day. First, though, I wanted to brush my teeth to get the taste of stale beer and lingering morning breath out of my mouth.

I grabbed my toothbrush and was reaching for the toothpaste when something unusual caught my attention and I turned my gaze toward the mirror. Normally, I tried to avoid looking at my reflection if at all possible, it just wasn’t me and I hated seeing that boy reflected back at me, but something seemed off and it nagged at me until I paused my brushing and turned to face the mirror head-on. My toothbrush fell from my dropped jaw and all I could do for a moment was stare.

My eyes had changed. My normally dull grey irises were now a bright seafoam green, a color that didn’t belong on a human any more than the slit pupils housed within them. The large bruise on my cheek and split lip that Dad had left me with the night before last were gone too. There was no trace of them.

For a moment, I just stood there staring at my reflection and blinking in stunned shock. There was something else weird about my eyes too but I couldn’t place what it was until another set of eyelids blinked horizontally. I damn near screamed, but that was aborted as my breath caught in my throat and my heart clenched in fear. It took me several minutes before I was able to gasp out, “What the heck was in that beer?”

=^..^=

The reflection in the mirror hadn’t changed, despite my staring and trying to will it so. I was reasonably certain that hangovers didn’t cause a person’s eyes to suddenly change or grow a new set of eyelids. I was pretty sure I would have noticed that with my Dad getting wasted two or three nights a week for as far back as I could remember. So, unless the beer was radioactive, I didn’t think it would have caused something like this.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “Okay, let’s think positive, Felicia. Maybe you’re having a bad reaction to the alcohol or it was spiked and this is just a really bad acid trip or something. Or wait… you were just seeing things. That’s right, you were just seeing things because there’s no way that could have happened. You’re going to open your eyes and everything will be… shit.” Nope, I still had weird bright green eyes and extra horizontal eyelids. My tooth brushing and potential shower were both quickly forgotten as I raced to my room, turned on my computer, and started an internet search.

What I found didn’t calm me down any. The only thing I could find on suddenly changing eye color was the one thing that I had been fearing the most, the early signs of a mutant manifesting. Nononono! I couldn’t be a mutant; my father would kill me. No figuratively or hyperbole about it, if Dad and his friends found out about this they would actually kill me. I’d be tied to a big wooden H outside and set on fire. That was if they were feeling generous or couldn’t find nails big enough. I’d heard how my dad talked about mutants, he and his friends wanted to kill all of them… and now them included me.

The website that I was looking at mentioned that people who think they might be mutants should look for any other obvious physical changes or anything unusual happening to or around them. Well, there was the bruise that had healed, and…Wait, my back had been super itchy when I woke up earlier, what if I was growing weird extra appendages or something? I quickly made my way to the bathroom and removed my shirt, using the bathroom mirror and a small hand mirror to look at my back.

It wasn’t perfect but I was able to see back there, and what I saw made me nearly drop the mirror. The scars on my back were gone, either that or so faint that I couldn’t see them anymore. To my new eyes, the skin was smooth, soft-looking, and covered with faint spots of discoloration. In a panic, I began to search for any other obvious changes.

After a long look at my face, I thought that I could see subtle changes. Not only had my eyes changed to their strange new color and appearance but they looked slightly larger and the lashes were a bit thicker. There were other changes in my face too, very subtle ones that made me look more feminine as if I was inching out of preteen boy territory and toward the girl zone. I only really noticed because I was looking, but overall, the change was extremely subtle. Was I somehow turning into a girl? Because that would be awesome, at least until my dad murdered me.

I didn’t find anything else obvious, but I had a sinking suspicion that this was only the beginning. I couldn’t be sure, but it looked like my hair might be changing color at the roots too. Other than that, I couldn’t find anything else obvious, yet. What the hell was I going to do?

“Oh no!” I thought, gasping as I felt myself start to panic. My hands were shaking, I suddenly couldn’t breathe, and my heart was racing so fast that I feared it might explode. “What if Dad saw my eyes?! What if he noticed the bruise was gone?! What if he’s going to talk to his H1! friends and they’re coming back here right now?!”

I scrambled to think back, going over everything that had happened since I woke up that morning in my mind. I had slept the entire way home in the truck so my eyes had been closed and Dad had probably had to keep both eyes on the road anyway with all that snow coming down. I had been wearing a parka and scarf so my face was obscured too.

We had barely exchanged words when packing and unpacking the truck and when I did talk to my dad, I usually kept my eyes downcast. He liked that, it made him feel in control and it made it easier for me to avoid giving things away with my facial expressions. He had also left practically as soon as we had everything from the truck brought inside. I was still dressed for outside so maybe he just didn’t notice.

“No, I’m pretty sure that he didn’t see anything, if he had I would probably be black and blue, and well on my way to a bonfire in my honor by now,” I told myself as I attempted to calm down and think things through. “It isn’t that unusual for Dad to go out and do things with his buddies on Sunday either. I think this was actually the most time we’ve ever spent together on a weekend.”

Maybe I should have called my mom like I had promised Rika, or even talked to Rika to ask for advice, but being a mutant changed everything. I had been worried enough about the possibility of my mom rejecting me when I just had to tell her that she had a daughter instead of a son, but now I was positively petrified at the thought. The possibility of her rejecting me had just increased exponentially.

Could I even trust Rika? Sure, she had taken the whole transgender thing pretty well; in fact, she had guessed it before I could even tell her. She was like a big sister to me, but how would she take me being a mutant? As much as I trusted and cared for her, I just wasn’t sure who I could trust, especially while people knew exactly where to find me. I promised myself that I would call her and my mom once I was out of Churchill and on the move. It would be safer for me and I could try to gauge their reactions. If all went well, maybe one of them would help me.

That being said, I needed to come up with a plan to get the hell out of Churchill and keep people from suspecting anything until then. The next train out of town would be on Wednesday evening, so I would have to make sure nobody noticed anything until then. I could probably play at having a cold from that stupid camping trip until then and stay in my room for the most part. If I had to go outside for any reason, I could cover up with a toque and parka and wear sunglasses. It was freaking freezing out there anyway and it wasn’t too uncommon to wear sunglasses outside during the winter months to protect from snow blindness so I wouldn’t get a second glance, at least during daylight hours.

Then on Wednesday, I would just have to catch the train. Okay yeah, so I knew about the slight flaw in that plan. I was a minor and there was no way I would be able to convince my dad to buy me a train ticket so I could run away. Well, I wasn’t planning on getting on at the station, I mean, how hard could it be to catch a moving train? I was a mutant now, so I had to have cool powers, right? I had three days to find out what they were. By Friday night, I would be in Winnipeg and deciding whether to go east or west. I could do this, what could possibly go wrong?

=^..^=

Churchill Manitoba
Wednesday, February 21, 2007 – 1:13 pm

It was Wednesday afternoon and things had started out so well; Sunday evening I had managed to convince my dad through the closed bedroom door that I had a cold. It wasn’t really even all that hard. I mean, what kid in their right mind would claim to be sick when they were already suspended from school for the next two weeks? Especially when they weren’t grounded for receiving said suspension. So, I had managed to keep Dad off my back for the past few days, and while he was at work I tried to get an inventory of any other changes or cool powers that I might have.

The powers were the hard part. I seemed to be able to see perfectly in the dark, even if everything was in shades of gray. I wasn’t sure if I could call that a power though, just something from having these weird eyes? Don’t get me wrong, night vision is cool but it made it hard to get to sleep those first couple of nights.

The only other thing that I had noticed that could be a power was the way that I was changing while I was asleep. It only seemed to be while I was asleep too, I had been checking the mirror every hour or so while awake to try to monitor any changes but there was nothing. Then, bam! I go to sleep and wake up looking subtly more different in the morning and possessing an enormous appetite.

By this morning, I had grown three centimeters in height and my hair had grown a similar amount in length. The latter was definitely changing color by the way. It seemed like I was going from being a blonde to a ginger, even my eyebrows were starting to show it. The scars on my back were now completely gone, replaced by smooth and unblemished skin and my facial features had continued to change subtly as well. I wasn’t looking full-on girl yet but I was definitely into the territory of a gender-neutral young teen.

The real problem was the hair, and not the stuff rapidly growing from the top of my head. I had just finished shaving that completely so not even stubble showed. As much as it had pained me to do it, with three centimeters of ginger showing it was that or dye it. Since it was growing so fast, I thought that the latter made more sense. I had plucked the ginger hairs from my still dominantly blonde eyebrows too and fastidiously gathered up all of my shorn locks and the razor that I had used in a plastic bag to toss in a dumpster later. I didn’t want to leave any evidence and if I ran into anyone I knew, or my dad managed to see me before I left town, I wanted them searching for a blond male runaway, not a redheaded girl.

It was the body hair that was the issue. I had these fine little hairs sprouting all over my body and I was kinda freaking out about them. I had this horrible fear clutching at my heart that maybe I was starting to go through male puberty. That I would end up having this big hairy male body with a pretty girl’s face on it. Okay, sure, they were hardly noticeable and it wasn’t like they were dark or anything, but that didn’t help prevent me from freaking out about them.

I had no time to wax or shave it all off the normal way so I fished my dad’s electric razor out of the medicine cabinet and attempted to shave off the annoying little hairs. Attempted, is the operative word there. As soon as it touched my arm, the damn thing died in a flash of sparks and a puff of smoke. Damn cheap razor.

I decided that I would have to deal with my body hair problem later. I had my bolt bag ready to go by my window but the only food that I had to throw in there was a couple of energy drinks and a half dozen granola bars. I had been eating us out of groceries since Sunday and with the appetite that I was waking up with every morning, what little I had in the bag wasn’t going to last for a two-day train ride with no access to the dining car. I still had a couple of hours before Dad would be getting home so I figured that I could go toss the hair, pick up some stuff from the grocery store and then be on my way.

If I had been thinking clearly, instead of about my potential future career in the circus as ‘the ape-man with a girl’s face’ I would have just taken the bolt bag with me and headed to the train tracks after. I’ve always been easily distracted though and, in my current state, grabbing it slipped my mind as I bundled up against the cold and then hurried out of the apartment. I should have remembered the damn bag because I would never see it again.

It started to snow as I made a quick detour to toss the bag of hair into the bottom of a mostly empty dumpster near the river. We had a lot of tourists in town at the moment with the Churchill River frozen over. It was a good time of the year for polar bear viewing and walks on the river were a big part of the tour experience when they weren’t out on the bay looking for belugas. That dumpster would fill up quickly over the next day or two.

With that task complete, I managed to put the hair worries out of my mind and that was when I realized that I had forgotten my duffel bag. I promised myself that I would go to get it before Dad got home, but just in case, I stopped at one of the souvenir places since I was near the river anyway. The duffel was nearly full of clothes and stuff so I figured that I’d need something more to carry the food in and bought a large backpack that came with a thermos in a side pouch for hot drinks.

It was the kind of thing aimed at the tourists going out on hiking tours along the frozen river. I was sorely tempted to get one in pink, but I didn’t want to tempt fate in case someone that I knew recognized me so I went with a nice plum-colored one instead. It wasn’t overtly girly and I liked the color.

As covered as I was against the weather, and wearing my sunglasses, Mr. Jameson didn’t even recognize me. He probably thought that I was just another tourist since a lot of them were dressed in a similar manner. So, as I paid he just said, “Thank you, Miss, have fun on your tour.” Okay, maybe I helped things along by trying out my girl voice with him, but damn did I feel the warm fuzzies when he called me that.

Once I had left the store, I took the tags off the backpack, put it on, and then made my way to the grocery store. I didn’t dare repeat the girl thing there. I had only ever really seen Mr. Jameson in passing, we didn’t know one another, but since I did the grocery shopping most of the cashiers knew me. They also had a policy about no face coverings in the store except for glasses. Lucky for me sunglasses counted, as long as they could see my face beneath them, and it was hardly the first time I’d gone into the store and forgotten to take off my shades.

I loaded up on soft drinks, hot cocoa mix, energy bars, beef jerky, trail mix, instant oatmeal, cheese, crackers, and two one-liter bottles of water. I wanted things that would keep for a while and be easy to transport but still fill my stomach. The cashier didn’t say a word as she took my payment and stuffed my purchases into plastic bags. I was used to it, to people being distant and unfriendly.

I wasn’t sure if it was because my dad was an asshole and everyone expected the same from me, or if maybe I was just relegated to the local gossip mill. You know, the poor kid that everyone knew was being abused but was too scared to try to help even, if it was in there in the back of their minds. “Yup, a real travesty. Oh well, time to move on with my day now.” I don’t think I’ll ever understand people.

Once I was outside, I adjusted my scarf, put my gloves back on, and somehow managed to stuff everything that I had bought into the backpack. It wasn’t until I had the backpack on and was across the parking lot and heading back to the apartment building through the falling snow that my bad day really began. Jerry was across the street and we both noticed one another in the same instant.

Even with his face partially covered, I recognized Jerry from his bomber jacket and that ridiculous-looking toque that he always wore; I think his colorblind grandmother made it for him. I think he figured out who I was under all of the layers because of my small size and the fact that I wasn’t in school, or maybe because he had some sort of supernatural bully-sense. Yeah, I’m going to have to go with the bully-sense, because the moment that our eyes met he started coming at me with murderous intent while yelling, “I’m gonna cream you, you little faggot!”

I bolted down the sidewalk like a frightened rabbit with Jerry hot on my heels. I needed to lose him, fast. The problem with towns as small as Churchill though, is that there just aren’t that many side streets, back alleys, or busy shopping areas to get lost in. Or rather, to lose someone in.

A quick look behind me showed that Jerry was starting to lag behind while I was hardly even getting winded yet, I must be in better shape than I thought. Even if I could keep this up though, there weren’t many places to hide that weren’t obvious. That’s when I saw the large crowd by the river and the idea hit me. I didn’t need a hiding place, I needed camouflage. Oh, yes! That was perfect! I could lose him in one of the tour groups.

I injected myself into the crowd and then looked for a suitable ‘buddy’. There! A girl in a bright pink parka and a backpack that matched my own. She was taller than me by a large margin, but then most kids my age were. She looked to be Native, or possibly Metis, with cinnamon skin, cocoa eyes, and long black hair peeking out from her hood and toque. At least she looked around my age, and since I didn’t know her from school it meant that she wouldn’t know me either.

I tried to channel Karen and Wendy from school as I approached and put a big smile on my face. “Hi! It is, like, so awesome to see someone who’s not old here.”

The other girl turned to look at me and her face lit up. “Hi! I’m Danielle, but most people call me Dani. Are you going on the tour too? It’s nice to see another girl close to my age. I’m fourteen. You’re what, twelve? Thirteen?”

I could have taken that time to clarify that I was fifteen and just arriving fashionably late to the puberty party, but I figured that it was best to lay low and let people think what they would. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to use my real name either. “Uhhh… yeah, I’m thirteen, my name’s… uhh… Sarah! Most people just call me… Sarah. Yup, totally going on the tour.” I managed to not physically face-palm from my awkwardness, but I was thinking it.

Hey, don’t judge me! I ramble when I get nervous, and so far the only face-to-face social interaction that I’ve had in my life with kids my own age has been limited to people who pointedly ignore me or beat the crap out of me on a near-daily basis. Socializing is hard.

Luckily for me, that was when Larry the guide, another person who I had only ever seen in passing, decided to get the frozen river expedition on the way. Between listening to Larry, polar bear spotting, and Dani having enough to say for both of us, I was able to just nod and smile, for the most part, no actual socialization necessary. It was much better when I kept my big mouth shut anyway. I mean, I had three hotels to choose from when she asked where I was staying and I said the Tundra Inn, which just happened to be where she was staying.

Apparently, Dani’s Mom had come to Churchill from Calgary for business and had brought her along to get the northern experience. Who the hell comes to Churchill of all places to make business deals? Anyway, they had arrived on that morning’s train and while her mom was busy with work and going to check out the museum, Dani had decided to take the tour so she wouldn’t be completely bored. It sounded like she was going to be alone most of the evening too since her mother would likely be working late on her property acquisition.

I found myself liking Dani. She treated me as a girl from the start, she held up both our ends of the conversation, and she seemed totally okay with me being awkward and shy. I wasn’t sure about this girls’ night though, as much as I wanted the experience, I had to leave town when we got back from the tour and there was too much chance of her discovering what I really was.

It was as we returned to town that I realized that going on the tour to avoid Jerry hadn’t been the brilliant idea that I had first thought. This was supported by the sound of the train whistle in the distance. Shit! I was going to have to hurry if I was going to get to the tracks soon enough to catch it. I had to try though, or I’d have to somehow keep my changes hidden until the next outgoing train on Saturday.

I quickly told Dani that I would see her at the hotel and that I had forgotten something that I needed to do before the stores closed for the day. Then I took off for the railroad tracks as fast as my legs could carry me. I kinda felt bad about lying to her and abandoning her like that since she seemed nice, but I had to catch that train and I couldn’t risk anyone figuring out that I was a mutant until I was far away from Churchill and relatively safe.

Had I not been in such a rush, I likely would have had the presence of mind to avoid the pub, where my Dad and his pals would be getting a post-work drink or three before heading home for the night. Had I been watching where I was going when I rounded that corner at full speed, I wouldn’t have run right into them. Does bad luck count as a superpower? If so, I was pretty sure that I’d found mine.

“Nathan? I thought you were sick, boy,” Dad said, glaring at me as I tried to get up from where I’d fallen on my ass and was trying not to show my fear.

“I’m… umm… feeling much better today. Like a new… man. I thought I’d go for a run since it’s… uhh… such a nice day out.” Stupid! Snow was coming down so heavily that I could barely see three meters in front of me, and the wind was howling like a banshee. Why can’t I keep my big mouth shut?

“Don’t fucking sass me, you little shit!” Dad backhanded me, sending me back onto my ass and breaking the pair of cheap sunglasses that I was wearing. It was as I was trying to get up to run like hell that my father and his drinking buddies saw my eyes. “Fucking mutie freak! Just like your lying bitch of a mother!”

I was stunned by the revelation that my mom was a mutant too, but not stunned enough to stop me from running for my life, or trying to. I was backing away from my father and his four work buddies when I was grabbed roughly from behind. “Going somewhere, freak?” Aww shit, it was Dad’s buddy, Agent Vern Anderson of the MCO. Nobody in town was sure what he had done to get posted out here in the middle of nowhere as the MCO’s lone agent in Churchill, but given the way that I had heard him and my dad talk about mutants, I was pretty sure that it was bad.

“Oh, you know. I have a hot date; she’s probably getting worried though. I should get going. It was great seeing you all again, we should all do lunch…” I babbled. I really need to learn to shut up. That was when I felt something hard poking me in the back, good ole Vern shoved me through the door of the pub, and my dad and their other pals followed us inside. “I didn’t mean now. I really shouldn’t be in here; I’m not of legal drinking age.”

I looked around for possible help and the man behind the bar looked like he was about to speak up about my ‘minor’ problem when good ole Vern decided to help things along, for him. He flashed his badge and called out, “MCO business, Steve. I need to interview this freak. You and the other staff go wait in the back until we’re done, for your own safety.”

Steve didn’t look happy, but he complied and led the waitresses and kitchen staff into the back, assuring their safety. Who was going to assure mine? I was betting that it wouldn’t be Vern or my dad. Probably not their four buddies either, not that I knew any of them that well. I didn’t even remember their names, it was almost like they were some sort of passing background characters in the story of my life that the author didn't care enough about to flesh out, so I’ll just call them Grouchy, Dopey, Boozy, and Ugly.

Rather than offering me a seat like a well-mannered interviewer, he had Grouchy and Ugly each grab one of my arms and tossed my new backpack to the floor while he kept his gun trained on me. I let out a nervous laugh and did what I always do when I’m nervous, I babbled my ass off. “Heh heh, soooo interview, huh? Interviews always make me nervous, how about you guys? Well, since nobody is asking me anything yet, I’ll get us started. My favorite color is wine, no not burgundy but that’s a common mistake. My favorite movie is…”

My babbling was cut off by a solid punch to the gut from dear ole Dad as he growled, “Shut the fuck up.”

“Does this mean I didn’t get the job?” I wheezed.

Vern gave me a disgusted look and spat, “No mutie sympathizers around this time to keep me from doing what needs to be done. Here’s how this is going to play out, freak; you’re resisting arrest and you’re going to get shot and killed trying to escape. Any last words?”

I was really going to need a plan if I was going to get out of this alive. Nothing was coming to me though and the only last words I came up with were, “Fuck you,” muttered under my breath.

It seemed that Vern didn’t hear me though and came closer, waving his gun at me. “What was that, freak?” Wait, he was coming closer and hadn’t shot me yet? I couldn’t possibly be this lucky, right? I swung my left leg upward in a kick as hard, high, and fast as I could.

I didn’t know that I could kick so high, or hard. A horrible crunching sound came from the vicinity of Vern’s hand as it flew upward and he screamed, the gun went off and sent a bullet into the ceiling, and then the weapon flew from his hand and across the room toward the booths in one of the corners. Then I brought my heel back down hard on Grouchy’s foot, causing another crunch and scream of pain. Now he had something to be grouchy about.

Grouchy loosened his grip, but my dad was trying to hit me before I could worm myself free. I fell backward in a panic, trying to avoid the blow and not only did I succeed, but I ended up pulling Ugly down with me, right in time to take the punch meant for me. I extracted myself from his grip and dove over a table to put some distance between my attackers and me. Then I started throwing everything that I could get my hands on at them as I tried to put some distance between us; napkin dispensers, ketchup bottles, salt and pepper shakers, mugs, menus, and even chairs.

I was actually surprised by the amount of damage that I was doing, I managed to stun Boozy with a pepper shaker, and a chair to Vern’s already injured arm caused him to keep a little more distance. He wasn’t keeping quiet though, as he was yelling at his pals, “Get that freak!”

Dopey lunged over the table separating us and I ducked underneath, giving it a push from below and sending both Dopey and the table several feet away to crash into my dad. I probably should have thought that out better though because now there was nothing between the others and me. And even worse, they were still between me and the exit.

Ugly and Boozy came after me and I dodged through the tables, tossing chairs and tables in their way as I looked for someplace to escape. I ran for the first door I saw but stopped short when I saw the little man on the door. “NOPE!” I was not going into the men’s room; I didn’t care how desperate I was. I took off toward the ladies’ room instead and only just moved out of the way in time to avoid a tackle from Ugly. Instead of bringing me down, he crashed face-first into the men’s room door. I guess that he was going to be uglier now.

I ducked into the ladies’ room but that just left me more trapped. I had been hoping to escape from a window but there were none in there. “Let’s see, what do we have available?” I wondered for those brief seconds before Boozy came crashing through the door behind me. I didn’t see much besides the usual ladies’ room accouterments, so as Boozy came barreling toward me I hopped up onto the sink counter to avoid his charge, grabbed a can of air freshener, and let him have it full in the face when he whirled back around at me.

Boozy screamed in pain and I hopped back down onto the floor, delivering a solid kick to the seat of his pants that had him grunting in pain and stumble-falling toward the door. At about the same time, Grouchy came limping through the door, only for Boozy to crash into him and knock both of them to the floor. I jumped over the pair and out the jammed-open door, intent on trying to get to the pub’s exit and freedom.

Ugly was still on the floor and I thought that he might have been sleeping off his meeting with the men’s room door. That was good, it meant that there were only three people and a room that looked like it belonged in a disaster movie between me and sweet freedom. A quick glance showed Vern in the corner, probably searching for his gun, while my dad was guarding the door. Nobody was guarding that big window though.

I briefly wondered where Dopey was, but I could taste freedom and I was going to get it even if I was going to be picking glass out of my clothes for the next month. I was about halfway across the room, dodging and jumping over obstacles when Dopey stepped out from behind a pillar. I barely had time to see the baseball bat on a collision course with the side of my head out of the corner of my eye. Perhaps Dopey had been misnamed.

Damn that hurt. The blow sent me staggering, my head spinning as pain erupted from the blow. Another blow from the bat sent me to the floor and after that everything sort of got lost in a haze of agony as blows from the bat and several pairs of steel-toed boots rained down on me. They went for anywhere they could reach; my ribs, back, arms, and face. I tried to move my arms to cover my face but that was around the time I heard Vern’s fuzzy voice say, “Payback, Freak.”

He stomped hard on my left hand leaving it a mass of agony as I could feel bones breaking. Then someone started kicking my face. I lost track of things again then, and I think that I might have briefly passed out from the pain. I was brought back from unconsciousness by a painful popping in my jaw that caused me to groan and I heard my dad say, “Fuck, it’s still alive after all that?”

“Not for long,” Vern replied sounding far too happy to be able to correct the situation.

I don’t know where I found the strength to move. I hurt all over, but I got shakily to my feet using my right arm since my left was pretty much useless. The fog of agony that had seemed to become my entire existence briefly parted to allow one beam of light through, a determination to get the fuck out of there and survive. As soon as I was on my feet, I bolted.

Vern was pointing his gun at me but his aim was shaky and he was using the wrong hand from how I had seen him holding it before. I bulldozed my way through him and my dad, knocking them both aside and wincing from the pain that the collision caused me. Stumbling past them, I snatched my backpack with my good hand and ran for the window, jumping through the glass and out into the near-blizzard conditions outside.

I didn’t care about the cold or the glass, I was still wearing my parka and at the moment any small discomfort that either might have caused me was nothing compared to the pain that I was already in. I was vaguely aware of the sound of gunshots over the howling of the wind and my left arm screamed in agony that was no longer just coming from my busted hand. I might have screamed, or whatever sound that my throbbing jaw might have been able to make at the time, but I kept running.

I’m not sure how long I fled the scene of my intended murder through howling winds and blinding snow. I alternated between running and stumble-staggering when I needed to catch my breath. Deep breaths only seemed to further my discomfort during those times that I slowed and I was only dimly aware of leaving town and starting across the ice-covered river.

Somehow, I managed to keep conscious and moving until I had reached the sparse beginnings of the forest on the other side of the river, finally collapsing under the cover of a thick pine tree. I wasn’t sure how I had managed it, but my backpack was still clutched tightly in my right hand. I was spent, and all thoughts of safety and what I had left behind faded as darkness finally claimed me.

=^..^=

I awoke once, not really aware of anything other than the need to eat something and being unable to stop shivering from the cold. Only later would I vaguely recall opening my backpack and tearing into a block of cheese, a package of hot dogs, and a box of crackers. Then I huddled into a ball against the freezing cold before falling back to sleep.

When I finally came fully awake, I was practically warm. The heavy snow had made a sort of snow shelter from the lowermost branches of the tree that I was leaning against, and it was keeping the cold outside and making for an almost comfortable sleeping arrangement. As reluctant as I was to move, I was hungry again and slowly scratching my way toward alertness this time.

My eyes snapped open and I sat bolt upright as what had happened at the pub slammed into my stirring consciousness. In a panic, I thrust my head out from the low snow-covered boughs of the pine tree that I had collapsed beneath and into the bitter cold beyond, my eyes darting around to ensure that nobody had followed me before huddling back under the low branches. It had let in the cold outside, but I now knew that it was safe to continue freaking out, and I had plenty to freak out about.

“Oh shit! Shit! Omigod, they tried to kill me! What am I gonna do?! I can’t go back there! If they see me, I’m dead! I can’t stay here either though! What if they have people searching for me?! And I don’t know how to survive out here, there are bears and it’s cold and scary! Wait! I know, I need to call Mom or Rika! Dad said that Mom is a mutant so maybe she can help me; I just need to…” After a while of those thoughts and others like them spinning in my brain, I managed to take a deep breath to calm myself and reached into the pocket of my parka to pull out my phone, or rather, what was left of it.

The stupid, cheap little flip phone was in pieces, but that wasn’t too surprising with a bunch of guys with steel-toed boots laying the beat down on me as they had been. I was surprised that I was still alive after the beating they had given me. That was about when I realized that I was tightly gripping the remnants of my phone in my left hand.

That hand had been broken, or at least very badly damaged in the fight, I was sure of it. I was sure that I’d been shot in that same arm too but it felt fine, and so did my ribs and my face. Reaching up to put my gloved hands to my face, it didn’t feel like anything was broken, but it didn’t feel normal either.

My jaw felt like it extended a bit more than it should, and my nose felt weird but it was hard to be sure with my gloves on and the scarf half covering my face. I was half-ready to take the scarf off though since it had blood all over it and the coppery smell was really strong. Even my tongue felt strange as I rolled it in my mouth. My teeth were all there too when I was certain that a few had been knocked out by my dad and his pals. Quite a few of them felt longer and sharper than they should be though. What the hell was I turning into? And how long had I been unconscious anyway?

I was hungrier than I had ever been in my life, but since that had been going on since I started changing, that wasn’t exactly an accurate way to measure time. Another peek outside of my shelter under the tree showed that the sun was close to setting so I was left wondering if I had been unconscious for almost an entire day, or even longer. “Okay, just calm down and think, Felicia. This is weird, but I’m still alive. No phone, I can’t go back there, and I’m out in the woods in the arctic in winter. I just need to come up with a plan. Right, because planning worked so well when I was trying to get out of town.”

My stomach growled suddenly in protest. Not that it disagreed that my plan had sucked, but because it was very empty. Good point, stomach, I couldn’t think properly when I was that hungry. I knew that I should have been rationing my food, but at the moment I was starving and I knew that if I was going to make any distance on foot through all of that snow, then I would need to have energy.

I decided as I ate that I needed to move westward. My goal was to make my way to Vancouver to find my mom somehow. It wasn’t much of a plan but it was all that I had at the moment. Maybe if I could get to a highway, I could hitch a ride, or hide in the back of a truck or something. If I ran across a town or some other sign of civilization then maybe I could find a phone to call her or Rika.

=^..^=

For the next three days, I trudged westward through the snow, keeping moving as much as possible to keep warm in the sub-arctic conditions. It didn’t seem to help. I was constantly freezing, my teeth chattering and my body shaking. Even the snow shelters that I made at night weren’t helping, probably because they were poorly made due to my shaking hands.

I’d run out of food except for the instant oatmeal and hot chocolate mix. Both of those sounded so damn good as I made my snow shelter for the night, they would have warmed me right up. I had no way to make a fire and boil water though; I had planned to catch a train, not wander through the woods slowly freezing to death. I had to drink the last of my water too, so now I would have to eat snow if I wanted to stay hydrated.

At least today, I wasn’t quite as cold as I had been. My latest change seemed to help with that a lot. Those fine hairs that I had noticed on my body had developed into a thick fur coat that seemed to cover me from head to toe and fingertips. I had fallen asleep last night shaking so badly that I thought I was going to die of hypothermia but I was almost warm when I woke up this morning. I discovered my furry state after relieving myself. Usually, I hated handling that thing between my legs in any way, but I had discovered that it was far better than squatting in the freezing cold.

While the near-warmth was welcome, the constant static that the fur seemed to produce was not and it seemed to continue to build up all day. I also feared what I had to look like now, but it wasn’t like there were any reflective surfaces nearby to face that fear. Besides, I had more important matters to think about right now. I was starving and I had a way to solve that problem, at least for the moment. If I could just manage to start a fire, I would be completely warm for the first time in days too.

It was late in the evening and I had just stumbled across a small single-room hunting cabin of some sort that didn’t look like it had been used in years from all of the dust inside. The two window frames had been boarded up, probably to keep out the snow and cold. Fortunately, the roof was still intact and there was some dry wood by the fireplace. A search had yielded little else except for some blackened and battered camping pots and two sets of plastic plates and cutlery in a cupboard, a few candlesticks, and a nearly empty package of matches.

After filling the pots with the cleanest-looking snow that I could find to melt for water, I piled some dry bark from the firewood in the fireplace and placed some of the wood over top. “Stupid matches,” I cursed as yet another one died out before I could put its small flame to the bark. There was only one match left and I crouched half inside the fireplace as I struck it and slowly moved it toward the bark, only for it to extinguish in a puff of smoke just as it reached the bark.

“Come on!” I snapped angrily. I just wanted a stupid fire. Was that so much to ask? People had been making fire since we lived in caves. Anger turned to shock as electricity arced from my now furry fingertips, setting the bone-dry bark aflame and causing me to jump back in surprise. “What the…”

I just sat there for a moment feeling very confused. Had I just discovered my power? I decided to worry about it later, I wanted to get warm and fill my belly. Before long, the snow melted to water and then boiled. The small cabin was starting to warm up too. Soon, it was warm enough that I could remove my outerwear for the first time in days.

My parka was stained with blood and had a bullet hole going through the back and front of the left sleeve. My scarf was caked with long dried blood as well; no wonder I had smelled it so strongly. At least my gloves and toque still seemed to be in decent shape, for the moment. The rest would keep me warmer than I would be without, at least until I could find civilization.

Being down to only a grey polar fleece sweater and thermal pants, I took a good look at my fuzzy red hands and sighed. The fur was predominantly reddish-gold but there were some black spots coming in at the back of my hands and wrists as well. At least it was helping to keep me warm. I tried to put my changes out of my mind and by the time I had filled up on oatmeal and hot cocoa, I felt better than I had since manifesting, even if I was a little bit afraid of what I might be turning into. When I was finished eating, my long day caught up with me and I curled up in front of the fire to sleep.

=^..^=

Hunger woke me. It was cold and my shelter was darkened into shades of grey. The wind howled outside, making me shiver. I carefully slipped outside to breathe in deeply and scent the air around me. The wind teased me with a delicious smell. Eagerly, I stalked slowly toward it. I kept myself low to the ground as I made my way through the deep snow.

A flash of movement caught my eye. It was barely noticeable against the white of the snow. Then I spotted my prey. The white hare stopped and looked around. I kept perfectly still, not wanting to give my presence away. Once it began to move again I made my move. I quickly closed the distance between us and pounced, snapping my prey up with my jaws.

My reward was the coppery taste of my prey’s blood spraying in my mouth. The hare struggled, clinging to life. I clamped my jaws more tightly and gave it a good shake to snap its neck. Satisfied with my catch, I looked around nervously and sniffed the air. Predators could come soon, wanting my food. Or wanting me for food. Cautiously, I headed back to my shelter.

=^..^=

I awoke hungry, as usual. The cabin was cold; the fire in the fireplace long since reduced to ashes and the morning light was peeking in through the open door. Wait. I was sure that the door had been closed when I went to sleep the night before. My stomach growled, reminding me of my hunger. I smelled something delicious, but my eyes darted around the cabin to make sure that I was alone.

It was only as I breathed a sigh of relief that no wild animals had wandered into the open door that I noticed the bloody corpse on the floor beside me. The sigh quickly reversed into a gasp as I fully awoke and hazy memories began to surface, memories of hunting, killing, and then eating said corpse raw. There was little left of it now but bloodied white fur and its head, its expression preserved in a look of fear and horror.

I wanted to throw up. I could still taste the slightly coppery remnants of its blood on my lips. “No. Nonononono! What have I done? How could I… eat something… so… cute?” The words started to come out in gasping sobs as I hugged my knees and rocked back and forth, trying very hard to not look at the remains of the arctic hare and its accusing eyes.

It was at that moment that I decided that I would never eat anything small and cute again. Bunnies are friends, not food. Still, I knew that I would need to hunt as long as I was traveling the wilderness, especially with how hungry I seemed to be all of the time. But I vowed not to eat anything cute again, I would try to hunt caribou or moose, they weren’t cute at all and would probably provide a better meal.

Still, I wasn’t eager to go out and start killing anything, even if it was for survival. I would think about it later. For now, I had oatmeal to fill my belly. Not that it would last long. I had used up half of the instant oatmeal packets I had last night before my stomach stopped protesting its emptiness and I was pretty sure that I was hungry enough to finish off the rest of them now.

I melted more pots of snow, and the smallest of the pots finished melting and boiling first. I used the iron fire poker that I found by the fireplace to remove it from the heat and used it to make the last of the oatmeal for my breakfast. While that was cooling, the middle one finished boiling and I made some hot chocolate. Once it cooled enough that I could handle it with my winter gloves without damaging them I filled the thermos that had come with my backpack and drank the rest to wash down my breakfast.

Drinking was weird though since I was pretty sure that my mouth and nose had turned into some form of muzzle. At least with water bottles, I could just tilt back my head and pour the liquid into my mouth, but drinking from the pot had been awkward and I had a feeling that drinking from the thermos or a cup would be just as weird. This was going to take some getting used to, and I was afraid that having a muzzle was just the beginning.

I seemed to be changing more every time that I fell asleep, this morning I had claws where my fingernails had once been. I was starting to notice a pattern of sorts too. I had healed from my beating very fast. I wasn’t sure how long I had slept after it, but by the time I had woken up, I had been completely healed. And where I had healed, that was where the changes had first appeared. I wasn’t sure if near-hypothermia counted as an injury or not, but the fur had grown out around that time too. Was I adapting to my environment somehow?

I remained lost in thought until the largest pot had cooled and then I used that to fill the two one-liter water bottles. I needed to keep moving west and look for somewhere I could contact my mom or Rika. That and I couldn’t bear to stay in this one-room cabin with the bunny corpse. I didn’t want to touch it to move it either though. That would mean it was real, and so was what had happened last night.

I tried not to think about it as I packed the camping pots, plates, cutlery, and candlesticks in my backpack. I probably wouldn’t need the latter since I could see in the dark but I figured that it was better to have them in case I needed them for some reason. I also brought along the fire poker for the same reason; it could serve as a weapon if I really needed one. Then I got dressed back in my outer layers, took one last solemn look at the small cabin and the dead bunny on the floor, and stepped back out into the cold.

=^..^=

I was sooo hungry. I had been walking through the deep snow along the timberline all day and had already finished my thermos of hot chocolate. The forest was sporadic and patchy here, often giving way to hilly tundra, but it seemed the easiest path for now and I was hoping to see something that I could eat. So far I hadn’t seen anything but arctic hares and ermines, and they were too cute. I couldn’t make myself hunt them, no matter how hungry I was.

It seemed that my nose was very good now; I could smell all kinds of things around me even when I didn’t have the open tundra to see anything from a distance. Occasionally, I would lower my scarf for a few minutes to try to get used to the scents around me. All that I could smell with the scarf on was blood and it was making breathing a bit difficult as well. It seemed to be much easier to smell things around me if I took a deep breath in for some reason.

It was near sunset by the time the wind that was blowing in my face brought an unfamiliar scent my way as I passed through another sparse patch of forest. I crept forward and peered from between a pair of pine trees opening up to another large and barren field of snow to reveal a caribou not even twenty feet away. It had huge antlers and was facing toward the setting sun and away from me as it dug at the snow with its forehooves, probably digging for vegetation to eat.

I couldn’t believe my luck. That would make for several meals if I could manage to take it down. As cold as it was, it would probably keep pretty well for a while too. It also wasn’t cute and wasn’t even facing me so I needed to take this chance.

Taking a deep and slow breath to calm myself, the bitter air feeling like it was trying to freeze my lungs. The snow wasn’t too deep here, maybe three or four inches, so I thought that I could close the distance quickly. I was also downwind so the biggest risk would be it hearing me before I got close. I crouched for a moment to place my backpack gingerly by the trunk of one of the pine trees and then I took off running toward the large animal.

By the time its ears perked up at my approach, I was already three-quarters of the way there and I leaped to close the rest of that distance, managing to land on the caribou’s back. Immediately it tried bucking me off and, when I dug in my claws to hold on tighter, it took off running. I might have panicked and screamed a little when I saw that its path was taking us directly to a steep drop.

Electricity arced along my body and between my hands, and the smell of burnt ozone and flesh hit me before my ride stopped, quite literally dead, to slide to a stop short of the embankment. I wasn’t quite as lucky. The momentum threw me forward and over both its head and the ledge. *Phoomp* *Phoomp* *Phoomp* My fall was thankfully brief before I hit the snow on the slope just beneath the embankment, bounced three times, and then rolled down the hill, gathering snow as I went to become one giant snowball.

My downward momentum was halted as I slammed into a tree. Okay, that hurt a little. I was sore and covered in snow but, miraculously, nothing seemed to be broken. I shook myself free of the snowball detritus. “I’m okay!” *PLOP* And that was when the snow fell from the upper branches of the tree to cover me again.

With a groan, I clambered back out of the pile of snow and made my way back up the slope. At least the furrow of snow made by my descent, and the three Felicia-shaped snow angels, made it easy to find my way back up to my starting point and the small cliff that I had been hurled from. Okay, maybe I was exaggerating, the drop was like ten feet and the snow had padded my landing, several times.

Still, it was a lot harder getting up the embankment than it had been getting down. I had to climb and stuff. Being outdoors in the winter sucks. Still, I managed to make it up. Score one for me; I was a lot stronger and more agile than I thought.

When I reached the caribou’s corpse, I just stared at it for a moment, not certain what I should do. I felt bad for killing it, but I needed to eat and there was a distinct lack of grocery stores or fast food joints out here. Somebody should really get to work on that. I had no idea how to butcher and skin an animal either, even if I did have proper knives or other tools. Surprisingly, that wasn’t covered in any of my high school classes. I had no wood to make a fire either.

Let it never be said that television taught me nothing. Now, sure, I bet those reality TV survival shows would be awesome for this kind of thing, but I preferred to watch anime so I was working off half-forgotten episodes of Wild Kingdom. So, I made myself a nice seam in the carcass with my claws and then dug in lion-style.

If I hadn’t been so hungry I probably couldn’t have done it. I would have wussed out at the thought of eating it raw or at the smell. The corpse was still warm, but the smell and taste didn’t bother me near as much as I would have feared, in fact, it was much tastier than I had expected. What drove me though, other than hunger, was that I needed to survive. I needed to survive and find a way to contact my mom.

=^..^=

I was hungry and uncomfortable. It seemed like I was always hungry though. That caribou had only lasted me two days before there was nothing left worth eating and since it hadn’t exactly been something I could eat on the go, while my hunger had been sated, my travel progress wasn’t much to write home about. Not that I would have written home, my father was an asshole and the only thing that I missed about that place was my anime and internet access.

I finished the last of the caribou this morning for breakfast before setting out and now it was late in the afternoon. I was still intent on moving west but had taken a bit of a southward turn for today if the path of the sun in the sky was telling me the truth. I hoped that I would have better luck keeping myself fed in the thicker forest and off the tundra. I had been lucky with the caribou, but there was too much open space out on the tundra and most animals could see or smell me coming from a good distance away.

So far, my luck hadn’t been any better in the forest, such as it was. Calling it a forest was probably being overly generous though. This far north with the tundra so close, it was more of a loose collection of trees that were hanging out near each other because they feared being alone but didn’t really like one another.

It was kinda like why I went to school. I hated the place and the people there as much as they hated me but at least I wasn’t alone. Well, I was alone back then, but at least I was alone in a crowd. Out here in the middle of snow-where, my only potential socialization would be with the trees or the animals. It had only been a few days though and I wasn’t that far gone yet. Besides, I was sure I would find people and a way to contact my mom any day now.

I was so lost in that spiral of depressing thoughts, and the task of trying to stay positive as I slogged through what passed for a forest, that I almost missed the sound of running water. It sounded so nice, and I was so thirsty since I had drunk the last of the water in my bottles hours ago. I would need to try to find a place where I could build a fire tonight so I could melt some snow for water unless I was lucky enough to find a river or… stream?

I stopped to stare, wide-eyed. Not thirty feet away, a stream wound its way through the snow-covered forest. Well, either a very large stream or a small river, and the shores were partially covered in ice, but it was water. Moreover, if Wild Kingdom was at all accurate, where there was water you could usually find animals just as thirsty as I was. I didn’t see or smell any animals yet, but it was only a matter of time.

I quickly made my way toward the bank, extracted my camping pots, and started filling them with water that I could boil. As thirsty as I was, I heard that it was a bad idea to drink water in the wild without boiling it first. It was as I filled my pots that I noticed that the current wasn’t that fast and there were fish, even some fairly close to the frozen shoreline!

Mmmm… fishies sounded so good. Well, anything sounded good since I was absolutely starving. I just needed to figure out how to catch one. Maybe, if I was quick enough, I could just snatch one out of the water. It couldn’t be that hard, right? This was a great idea. Nothing could possibly go wrong. It would be easy pickings, but I would need a fire to cook them and boil the water. With that in mind, I decided to wait and see if I could find a place to make camp for the night first and get a fire going.

It was while I was looking for firewood, planning on setting up a snow shelter near the water, that I found a much better option. There was a small cave not very far upstream. It wasn’t very deep, little more than a large hole in the side of a rocky hill, but it was large enough to fit two people and a campfire comfortably. I hurried to move my pots of water, backpack, and as much firewood as I could manage into the unoccupied cave.

It didn’t take me long to get a fire going. Those sparks that seemed to come from my new permanent fur coat, seemed to build up whenever I was active, and I was able to direct some at some small branches to start a flame. I had to do some careful blowing and adding of other small branches to make sure it didn’t die before getting big enough to not die out too quickly though. Once the fire was going well, I added some wood to keep it going for a while and warm the cave a bit while I went to go get dinner.

I was almost happy as I went back to the sluggishly flowing water and waited for a good candidate for my supper. It looked like my luck might be changing for the better and I was looking at an easy meal. That thought was floating happily in my mind as I took off my gloves and watched the shadows in the water. I needed to be quick since it looked like the sun would be starting to set soon.

I caught sight of a large shadow and my hands darted out to make a grab for it. Damn that water was cold. I managed to snatch the fish but it slipped from my grip, so I had to grab for it again. It slipped through my numbing fingers three more times before I managed to get a strong enough grip on it and lift it out of the water toward me.

It was a northern pike, at least four feet long. Oh yeah, that was going to make an awesome dinner. I was drooling just thinking about it as I attempted to wrangle the fish out of the water and was promptly fish-slapped. *Thwap* *thwap* *thwap* I yelped and dropped it back in the water and, realizing my mistake; I made another grab for it. *Chomp!*

The damn thing bit my hand. “Owww! You little bastard! I’m gonna eat you for that!” Well, I was going to eat it anyway, but now it would taste like vengeance. I pulled my hand away and then made a lunge for it, slipping on the ice and falling face-first in the freezing water. I opened my eyes and saw the pike, who I’m going to call Peter, looking right at me past the bubbles escaping my mouth. It looked so smug. Okay, now it was personal.

I pulled my head back above the surface, shivering as I spat out a stream of water. The next several minutes consisted largely of me trying to catch the slimy little shit, while Peter Pike taunted me like a cartoon rabbit. He would slip through my fingers, slap me across the face when I did catch him, and even bit me on the butt. Finally, I jumped him, got a good grip, and wrestled him in the water near the shore. That was when my fur decided to discharge a good jolt of electricity.

Peter Pike spasmed and went still in my arms and every fish nearby floated to the surface in the wake of my unwitting attack. Okay, so maybe I hadn’t meant to do that, but I still gloated over the corpse of my nemesis. “Ha! It’s super-effective! What a shocking defeat! Didn’t expect that, did you?!” Well, of course, he hadn’t. I hadn’t even expected it. “Not so tough now are you, Pete?! I got you, and your little friends too!”

As satisfying as the thrill of victory was, my clothes were soaked and I was freezing. As quickly as I could, I put Peter and the other shocked fishies on the ice and then made several trips carrying them back to the cave. There were almost a dozen fish of various sizes and species, and I planned to cook them all, but I would be eating Peter first.

First, I needed to get out of my soaked clothing though. Once I had done that and placed it all near the fire to dry, I sat by the fire myself to warm up and cook my dinner. Cooking the fish was not as easy as I had thought it would be, especially Pete. I had no pan, and no way to sharpen sticks to impale them on. In the end, I put the others outside in the snow to keep them fresh and ate Pete raw. It was viscerally satisfying after all the trouble that he had given me.

I was able to boil some water though, enough to fill my water bottles and have some to drink with my meal. Once I was finished eating, I let out a satisfied belch as I looked at Peter’s remains. “Not so smug now, are you?” He had nothing to say on the matter.

Checking my clothes and finding them still wet, I let out a sigh and sat back next to the fire to keep warm. Since I was butt naked and had nothing else to do, I also figured that this was probably a good time to get as good a look at myself as I could. I wanted to try to figure out where my mutation might be taking me.

I couldn’t actually see my face since I had nothing reflective at the moment, and for the rest, I needed to go by what glances I could get and my sense of touch. The most obvious thing was, of course, the full-body fur coat. It seemed to be red-gold in color with black rosettes along my outer arms and legs. It was hard to tell for sure, but I thought that I was starting to grow breasts under the fur. I thought that the hateful thing between my legs might have been shrinking too, and not just from the cold. It could have been just my imagination, but the thought that whatever I was turning into might at least be female was a comforting one.

I fell asleep waiting for my clothes to dry and had hazy memories of feeling cold when I finally awoke the next morning to finish eating Peter and start the day. The fire was long dead but the cold didn’t seem to bother me as much as the night before. In fact, my fur seemed to be longer and thicker than when I had looked myself over the night before. I was starting to get used to things changing overnight though, so I gave it no mind as I got dressed to gather my things and start traveling again.

=^..^=

Near the Saskatchewan/Alberta border
Late Spring, 2007

I lost track of the days somewhere after the first two weeks, but I was guessing that a few months had passed, and I continued to change each night as I slept. For one thing, I had started shedding what I assumed was a winter coat by the time the snow melted, and my fur seemed less thick and sleeker now that it was Spring. The electricity that I was generating seemed to be ever-present now as well, at least while I was awake and even the slightest bit active.

It could have been the fur, but my limbs all looked a little thicker than they used to be as well, even my finger and toes, both of which were tipped with nasty claws. Those had made my gloves a shredded mess and my boots difficult to wear. My boots were all that I had left to wear though, except for scraps of my old clothes that I had turned into a makeshift bra and loincloth.

There was some discomfort at the base of my spine as well, which was turning into a noticeable lump at my tailbone. Maybe I was turning into a catgirl of some sort because that would be awesome. Sure, I could do without the full-body fur coat, but being a catgirl would be like a dream come true. I was sure about the girl thing at least, especially since my voice had become lighter, more feminine, and airy, and I was definitely getting a more feminine body shape under the fur as well.

I had been gaining a lot of weight, so much that none of my clothes fit properly anymore. Most of it had gone to my chest, butt, thighs, and hips, and I was thinking that if I was able to find clothes that fit they would likely be in the plus sizes, especially in my chest. I was very happy with that development though, and with the continued shrinking of what used to be my manhood. The latter was happening slower than I liked though. Well, things did seem to change faster to whatever I was turning into when I was healing from an injury in that location, so maybe if I cut it…

That thought was interrupted as I first encountered a sign of humans. Unfortunately for me, that sign was the business end of a bullet. There I was, just walking along and minding my own business when I heard the sound of a shot being fired, and then *BAM* my right shoulder was in agony.

I reacted instinctively. Hissing in pain, I clutched my shoulder with my left hand and kept low to the ground as I made my way into the thicker brush, ducking and weaving to keep from being an easy target for a second shot. As I feared, a second shot did come, the bullet burying itself in the tree that I had just swerved away from.

Well, at least I knew what direction they were shooting from now. I had noticed that my ears were changing and slowly migrating up my head and it was doing weird things to my hearing. That wasn’t my biggest problem at the moment though because I was being shot at, and damn did my shoulder hurt. Why couldn’t I heal fast when I was awake? Because that would have been super useful at the moment.

I dashed through the brush as quickly as I could but didn’t get far when I was forced to stop as I reached a cliff. Sixty feet below me, a river ran through the ravine in a torrent of whitewater. Indecisive, I stood there frozen until I heard voices. “…don’t know what it was, but I’m sure I hit it. It can’t have gone far.”

“Wait, what’s a backpack doing here? You don’t think that was a person do you?” As I heard that, I looked down at my right hand, hanging useless and empty. I had been carrying my backpack in it since the straps had broken about a week ago. “It’s not hunting season, if someone finds out we’re doing this we could be arrested. Fuck! If you shot someone, we could be charged with murder too!”

“Not if they don’t find the body,” the first voice said grimly, sending a chill down my spine. That was when they stepped through the brush and we locked eyes. They were dressed in hunting clothes and each held a rifle as they gaped at me. “Some sort of mutie?” the nervous one asked, almost hiding behind his friend.

“Probably. Which means it won’t be missed. Hell, I know some people who might reward us for killing it,” he said as he raised his rifle. There was a look in his eyes that I didn’t like at all, one that I had seen in my father’s eyes when he and his friends had tried to kill me. He was going to pull the trigger, and he felt perfectly justified in doing it.

I didn’t give him the chance. I turned and dove into the water below before he could finish aiming. All too soon, I hit the water, sending searing pain through my already injured shoulder as I was swept up in the freezing water’s current and carried away from my attackers. Pain that eclipsed even that in my shoulder had me screaming as I slammed hip-first into a large rock, then careened off to crash into a log.

I managed to grab hold of the log and clutched it tightly, shaking from the cold and pain. I’m not sure how long I desperately clung to that log in pain and sputtering for air, or how far downriver I traveled, but the log eventually got caught on some rocks near the shore. Everything was numb from the cold water by that point, and I barely managed to crawl onto the shore before collapsing and passing out.

I was dimly aware of waking up healed and hungry, but I was so emotionally tired from my ordeal that instinct seemed to take over. When I awoke the next morning, it was in a field near the river, beside the partially eaten corpse of a moose. At least it wasn’t something cute. I still had nightmares about the bunny.

I was still trying to shake off sleep when I smelled something unfamiliar. My hearing was still wacky, so I couldn’t be certain, but it sounded like something was approaching too since I could hear movement and breathing that wasn’t my own. I tried to look toward where I thought the sounds and the scent were coming from and I saw it. It had an almost bear-like appearance and was about the size of a medium-sized dog.

Okay, I was now fully awake. It was a wolverine, probably trying to scavenge my kill. I didn’t know much about them except that they get nasty if something gets between them and their intended meal and they seem to have no problems throwing down against larger animals My fur stood on end and instinct seemed to kick in as I rose to my hands and knees to hiss a warning.

That wasn’t a good idea apparently, because the damn thing growled in reply and came at me. I barely dove to the side fast enough to avoid an attempt to tear out my throat. It was quick, but so was I. Putting some space between us, I watched it carefully and we circled each other, each looking for an opening. A hiss of pain escaped me as I moved too slowly, it managed to rake its claws across my thigh, and its lunge knocked me over as I tried to scramble away.

Its claws caught me again on the side as I quickly rolled away. Those claws really hurt, and it had cut pretty deep too. I didn’t have time to worry about the blood that I was getting all over the place and matting my fur though since my opponent lunged again with its teeth bared. I jumped, and I think I surprised both of us with how much air I got as I leaped over it and tried to pivot on my foot to turn and jump on its back.

I succeeded in the movement, but screamed out as a sickening sound between a pop and a crack came from my left ankle as I turned, followed by the red haze of agony as I clung to the wolverine’s back and dug in with my claws to hold on tight. If I let go now, it was going to kill me and I preferred the thought of it being dead instead. I tied to shock it but I had only just woken up when this whole this started and hadn’t really built up enough electricity yet to do more than piss it off. So, I pulled one out of its book and went for the throat.

Having a jaw and mouth configuration more similar to a cat than a human, not to mention some very sharp teeth, helped me to clamp down. The metallic tang of hot blood spurted into my mouth as I hung on for dear life with both teeth and claws. Once its struggles began to weaken, I freed up a hand and dragged my claws deeply across the front of its throat to finish the job. I only let go completely once I was certain that it had stopped breathing.

I rolled off my opponent, spitting out blood and fur. “Phttpht! How do you like that? Now I’m the best there is at what I do.” Gloating aside, I was in rough shape. Those claws had gone deep and I had to tear strips off what little remained of my improvised loincloth to roughly bandage them. With that done, I tried to pull off my left boot and examine my ankle.

Just taking the boot off was torture, and I was nearly blinded with pain when I finally removed it and my sock. It was already purple and extremely swollen, and there was no way that I would be moving on that anytime soon. I was also starving since I hadn’t had breakfast yet.

The moose corpse was a good twenty feet away and I was too tired and sore from the fight to bother going even that far, even if my ankle wasn’t hurt. I had something else to eat much closer though. Trying to move my leg as little as possible, I opened up the wolverine with my claws, ate my fill, and then promptly passed out.

When I next awoke, I was hungry again but at least I wasn’t in pain anymore. The cuts from the wolverine’s claws seemed to have healed up completely and so had my foot, sort of. “Well, that’s going to be a problem,” I muttered as I stared at it. My left foot was now digitigrade like a cat’s, the problem was that my right foot wasn’t, and that would make walking really awkward.

I knew what I had to do, but it still took me most of the morning, and a full stomach, to pysch myself up to do it as I hobbled along, awkwardly dragging what was left of the moose corpse. Finally, I found what I was looking for. It looked like a gopher hole, and once I dropped the moose within reach I sat down to pull off the boot and sock that remained on my right foot.

“Okay, Felicia, you can do this. Just do it quick, and it’ll be over before you know it. Then you can take a little catnap and heal up,” I told myself as I nervously sat there trembling and looking at the hole. Still, it took several minutes before I was able to stand up and tentatively place my right foot in the small hole. “No, this is stupid, there has to be a better way, right? I mean, even I think this is a bad idea.”

I knew that there wasn’t though and that the longer I waited the more chance there was that something else bad could happen. This was going to hurt, and this time I wouldn’t have any handy adrenaline running through me to dull the pain. Trembling and taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and gave my foot a sharp twist. I barely heard the break as searing pain tore through my right foot, a scream clawed its way out of my throat, and I fainted.

=^..^=

Somewhere in northern Alberta
Mid to late Summer, 2007
Early evening

I had the bunny in sight and was careful to ground and bleed off any electricity that I managed to build up as I gave chase. It took a lot of concentration, meaning that I wasn’t paying enough attention to my surroundings as I probably should have been, but it would be worth it. With a flying leap, I caught the grey-furred cutie in my hands.

I had to be careful to keep bleeding off the electricity, and not to accidentally scratch her with my claws. As I got into a sitting position, I smiled at her and offered, “Good morning, Hana. How are you this morning? A little cold?” She was shaking in my hands and looking at me wide-eyed, but I didn’t blame her since Natsumi, Yume, and Ayame, had all reacted similarly when we first met, and we had become great friends. Mio, an adorable squirrel, had peed in my hands when we met though, which I thought was kinda rude. I blame my powers; heck, I was kinda scared of all of that electricity too sometimes.

Which was why I was being very careful not to move too quickly and to ground any electricity that I did generate. I wouldn’t want to shock my new friend, she could get hurt. My electric powers seemed to become harder to control and more powerful, the more that I changed and it came with both positives and negatives. For the positive, I could use my powers to take down my prey from ten feet away by shooting electricity at them, which made hunting even easier. On the downside, it made making new friends, like Hana, very difficult.

I had changed a lot since manifesting and I was pretty sure now that I was right about the whole catgirl thing. It was awesome; I even had a tail or at least the start of one. It was only about three or four inches long so far, but it was a start. Pads had grown on my fingertips, palms, toes, and the balls of my feet, and I thought that my ears had nearly finished their northern migration as well since they were near the top of my head now and felt a lot bigger and more cat-like. Sure, I had more fur and a few more pounds than I would have liked, but I could live with that.

Living alone was, surprisingly, more of an issue. I had seen a few towns from a distance during my travels, but my last encounters with people hadn’t exactly made me willing to trust anybody yet, except maybe my mom and Rika, and certainly not groups of people. If I had found a lone cabin or something, I might have approached, but I was wary about getting too close to people until I was sure it would be safe.

An awkward silence seemed to hang over us as Hana trembled and we just stared at one another for several minutes. “Sorry, Hana, I’m not very good at this whole socializing thing yet. I don’t really have much experience with it, y’know? Most of the people I interacted with either ignored me completely or tried to beat me up… or kill me.”

Hana’s ears twitched sagely and I nodded as I gave her another weak smile, careful not to show too much of my teeth. “That’s right; you and the others are a big help, so thanks for that. I’m kinda worried that Mom won’t like me, and that I won’t fit in well when I find her and start my new life. You’re all I have, well, that and what I’ve seen in anime. So, that’s why I’m making friends with all of you, so I can practice until I find her. If I’m nice enough, and a good enough friend, nobody will mind the fur and electricity, right?”

My bunny pal’s nose wrinkled in a way that I just knew meant, “You’ve got this, Felicia.”

I sighed, but after a moment I nodded in agreement. “Thanks, Hana, you’re right. I can totally do this. Thanks so much for the talk and your support, you’re a good friend. I should go and hunt some dinner though, so I’ll see you later.” I placed her gently back on the ground and she quickly hopped away to do whatever stuff bunnies do in the woods. She could really move.

Realistically, I knew that she couldn’t talk back to me and was probably just scared of me, but I needed someone to ease the loneliness. I didn’t have a volleyball around, but the forests were just full of cute critters to talk to. If they started actually talking back, then I’d have a problem… maybe. Could be a mutant thing too, so the odds were probably fifty-fifty, leaning toward it being me mentally unraveling. I’d take those odds. For now, it eased the loneliness and helped me to practice talking to people.

=^..^=

Somewhere in Northwestern Alberta
September 2007

I yawned and stretched as I woke up from a relaxing nap. The sun had made a nice warm spot where it peeked through the thinning foliage of the trees, but it had moved on since I started my afternoon nap, full from the last remnants of a deer I had caught a few days ago and some sparse nuts and berries that I had managed to gather. The days were beginning to get colder again, evidenced by my winter coat starting to grow in again, but it had been a nice afternoon to relax and take a break from travel.

Each day brought me closer to mountains that I could only assume were the Rockies. They had started off as just bumps in the horizon, but now they loomed close enough that I wasn’t sure whether the colder days were from the mountain range or the time of year. Those mountains were impressive though, and a notable milestone in my journey to Vancouver to find my mother.

Since I was planning on moving on and making some distance toward those mountains now that I was rested, I decided to look for Shizuku to say goodbye. She was my bunny friend in the area and she actually let me talk instead of just chittering away like some squirrels and chipmunks who I won’t mention. Sure, I liked it sometimes when someone held up both sides of the conversation, but geeze, even I’d like to get in a word or two once in a while. How was I supposed to socialize if they never shut up?

And don’t get me started on raccoons. Not only are they a bunch of neat freaks, but they can’t be trusted. It’s the masks, they think they can get away with anything. They lie, they steal, and they’re a bunch of dirty shameless gossips. You tell them one thing in strict confidence and before you know it, the whole forest knows.

I found Shizuku’s scent and followed it cautiously. I was closing in on her when another scent in the same area hit me like a slap in the face. My heartbeat sped up instantly, a whirlwind of anxiety welled up in my chest, and I started to run forward. “Shizuku!”

I wasn’t in time. Or rather, I was just in time to see the cougar pounce and pin the cute little brown bunny with its forepaws. “NO! Bad kitty! You let Shizuku go, this instant!” The cougar didn’t listen, instead, it snatched her up in its jaws as she struggled, and with a sickening crunch that I could hear from twenty feet away, Shizuku went limp in its mouth.

I didn’t stop running as the cougar turned and made off with my friend. I sped up, and as soon as I was close enough, I threw a bolt of electricity at the predator. Then, while it was stunned, I threw myself on top of it and started tearing into it with tooth and claw. I didn’t even give it a chance to fight back, I just tore into it wildly until it had stopped breathing.

I knew what I would find when I pried Shizuku from the cougar’s maw, but I still had to try. She was bloody and deathly still though, not breathing or reacting to my touch. Even now, her body was starting to go cold and I collapsed to the ground, cradling her in my arms. For a time, the only sound was that of my sniffling sobs as my heart and chest burned with loss.

=^..^=

It had taken most of the evening and it was dark now, but the preparations were complete. I had taken Shizuku’s body to a nearby lake where I had been coming to drink water and carefully cleaned the dried blood from her fur. The hardest part had been finding branches the right size and weaving grass together to make a rough little raft big enough to carry her body. It was complete now though and loaded with a rough nest of dry kindling and grasses that I thought should catch a flame fairly easily.

With her vessel complete, I placed Shizuku’s body atop the pyre and pushed it out into the lake with shaking hands and a heavy heart. It took me several tries to speak. I didn’t really know what to say and the words seemed to lodge themselves in the painful tightness in my chest. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I had trouble keeping my voice steady when I could finally make the words come.

“I… I didn’t know you for long, but you… were a noble bunny and a good… friend. Let nobody say… that a bunny cannot be a warrior. You had a warrior’s heart and fought even as your life… was viciously torn away. You earned your rest. Sleep well… in the halls of… Valhalla.” I sniffled out the last and had to run an arm across my eyes, wetting my fur with tears.

The pyre was far enough away from the shore now so I sent a bolt of electricity crackling toward it. My breath caught in my too-tight throat as I watched with teary eyes and waited for the pyre to catch. I hoped it would, Shizuku deserved a proper send-off. After a moment, the flame caught and I released the breath that I had been holding with a shudder as I fell to my knees. Then I sat there in the darkness, watched the pyre burn until it finally went out, and then cried myself to sleep.

=^..^=

Somewhere in Western Alberta
The morning of October 4th, 2007

Something smelled out of place in this vast mountainous wilderness and I was on my way to find the source of these strange and unfamiliar scents that the wind offered me. I strode majestically through the trees toward it, careful to keep my crown and cape in place and a firm grip on my scepter. I needed to keep up appearances for my subjects after all.

I peeked out from behind a large spruce at the tree line into the small valley below. My eyes caught the sight of sparse trees, a small lake, and a simple cabin alongside some sort of large structure made mostly from corrugated metal with antennas, a satellite dish, and stuff. There was movement down there too, probably the source of the unfamiliar animal scents on the wind. I didn’t smell any humans yet, but with the harsh chemical smells that were being carried to me along with the strange animal scents, I was pretty sure that there was at least one person in the cabin or the larger structure.

Was this an invasion? I needed to go down there and find out what they were doing in my domain. Besides, with all those antennas and stuff, maybe they had a phone that I could use. Now, what approach to use? Should I sneak in and try to get a look around?

I considered the problem for what must have been a whole minute or two before deciding to wing it. I do my best work that way. Plans are for suckers, and people who aren’t wildly impulsive and easily distracted. I was neither of those. A sucker, or such a person, it’s all part of my charm. So I made my way down the slope and walked toward the cabin with my head held high as I took in my surroundings.

The setting would have been idyllic if it weren’t for that eyesore of a building. There were some impressive oak and birch trees in patches around the valley and a blue-green mountain lake. It wasn’t a big lake and my sharp eyes could spot ominous bubbles coming from a shadowy spot near the center. It gave the place a certain je ne sais quoi. Something about those bubbles… Ooh look, there was a sign! It was roughly made of wood and had the word ‘Kevin’ etched into it.

“Kevin is an odd name for a lake,” I thought to myself. Ah well, the naming conventions of whoever lived here weren’t my concern. I didn’t plan on going swimming anyway, it was too cold. I know I have fur, but it takes forever to dry and all that wetness doesn’t help with warmth in a cool climate like this. I shrugged it off and walked away from Lake Kevin and toward the cabin.

That was when I got a good whiff of something that smelled almost like coyotes, and maybe a wolf, coming from nearby. I heard the pack approaching me before I saw them, a godawful high-pitched yipping that was like nails on a chalkboard, and had my ears folding back as I winced. All too soon, I met the owners of those onerous voices. They had almost human torsos, arms, and hands under the fur and stood upright, almost like a dog version of me. They were like some weird fusion of man and coyote and they approached, sniffing me carefully.

“I am Felicia, Queen of the Woodlands! Bow before your Queen!” I exclaimed, trying to look majestic as I adjusted my royal cape and crown with the hand not holding my scepter, and prepared to throw some electricity just in case.

=^..^=

The woman at the computer watched the monitor in confused fascination. “What manner of creature is that?” The creature appeared to be female and humanoid with distinctive feline features, from what she could see of it from beneath the mangled cougar skin that it wore over its shoulders and the entangled deer antlers atop its head. It clutched a gnarled stick in one hand and didn’t look afraid as her adlets approached it. Then it spoke.

Too bad the creature was nuts, it would make a fine specimen and had a strangeness that she could appreciate. She already had her adlets and three other varieties of cryptids created. She just needed to mass-produce them and soon her plans would come to fruition. There was still one thing that she needed though, and that creature just might be able to provide it. Her cryptids could follow orders, but thinking creatively was thus far beyond them.

Perhaps she could get some samples from the creature and create a more mentally stable version. Her army of cryptids would need commanders after all, and the creature did seem intelligent despite its madness. Yes, soon her army would be complete and this creature would help with that whether it wanted to or not. And then she, Captain Cryptid, would rule the entirety of Jasper National Park!

She activated the adlets’ neural transceivers and thought, “Kill it, but leave the body intact. I want to study it and collect samples.” Then she smiled at the thought as she leaned back in her chair and watched the monitor as her prize creations followed her command. “Hmmm, it looks tough. Maybe I should send in Fenris as well, just in case,” she murmured as she reached for a bowl of popcorn. She had been about to stream something but maybe this would be entertaining.

=^..^=

“Eep!” I squeaked out in a very un-catgirl way as the dogmen jumped me. How dare they attack their magnanimous feline ruler?! Crap, I totally should have said that, it would have sounded a lot better than ‘eep’ but I was kinda taken by surprise. They were fast, almost as fast as me, and I had really been hoping that they would see reason and listen to their Queen. So I wasn’t really ready when the whole pack jumped me, tearing at me with tooth and claw.

I fought back in kind, hissing and snarling as I made my way out of the dogpile (dogman pile?), giving little shocks as needed to convince them to back off. I came out mostly unscathed, just a few cuts and bites here and there and they weren’t all that deep. My scepter and royal vestments weren’t quite so lucky. “Hmmph. Well, I didn't wanna be Queen anyway, it's way too much work. Besides, it was all Tomoko's idea. I don't know why I listened to her, everyone knows that squirrels are nuts," I grumbled as I rolled my eyes and took off running. Poor sweet Tomoko, she had issues.

“Grrrr… yip yip yip!” Damn, those dogmen were determined. They were right on my tail, and given how short it still was, that was an uncomfortable thought.

“Dogsdogsdogsdogsdogs! Oooh tree!” As soon as I saw the large oak by the shores of the majestic Lake Kevin, I made a beeline for it and jumped a good eight feet into the air to grab onto a branch and flip myself onto it. I should play in the NBA… if I could play sports, like, at all. Still, I was pretty agile for an extra-thicc catgirl.

I could have just climbed up the trunk, but that would have been boring and I had a plan. Okay, not so much a plan as an impulsive burst of inspiration, but we’ve already established that that’s kinda my thing. Anyway, as I was flipping myself onto that branch and out of their reach, they didn’t slow down quite fast enough to avoid splashing into Lake Kevin. The water wasn’t very deep, but they were wet and it was time to deliver the coup de grâce.

I was grinning madly as I jumped from the tree and hurled every bit of electricity that I had at them as I yelled, “Pika!” A moment later, the smell of badly scorched flesh and dog hair had me wrinkling my nose. I was pretty pleased with myself as I turned around and back toward the cabin. “Heh, dogs are so stupi…”

That was when I walked into a very fluffy wall. I extracted my face from the wall of grey fluff that was moving back and forth, feeling around it and then upward. I reached nearly as high as I could when I reached an outcropping, with some very large teeth, that was dripping warm and sticky drool. “Grrrr.” The growl made the massive fuzzy chest in front of me vibrate.

“Oh noes. This isn’t good, not good at all.” I tilted my head back, craning my neck to get a look at the gigantic wolf, and gave a shaky smile. “I’ll… uh… be going now.” Then I took off running as fast as I could for the dubious safety of the cabin and the larger structure alongside it.

What was that thing eating? It was fast and strong too, as I discovered when it cut me off and swatted me with a massive paw, sending me flying. No fair! Wolves aren’t supposed to grow that big! Or that strong. I was going to feel that in the morning. Oh wait, I’d probably be healed by then, or dead, but you know what I mean.

I ragdolled a good twenty-five feet through the air and was about to slam into the corrugated steel of the larger of the two buildings when I felt something strange. It was like I could feel the metal coming at me, or vice versa, and I instinctively reached out for it. I didn’t slam into the wall quite as hard as I thought I would have, and I was sort of stuck to it as I slowly slid upside down toward the ground several feet below.

Whatever was keeping me stuck to the wall slowed my descent and it was only a few feet anyway before my head touched the ground. I was stuck like that for a moment, my back stuck to the wall, my head on the ground, my arms splayed out, and my legs over me so that my toes touched the ground as well. Between my upside down and splayed limbs, I locked eyes with the giant wolf and muttered, “Of course you realize, this means war.”

It growled and put some distance between us and then seemed to decide to charge at me with a full head of steam. Shouldn’t it have just eaten me? This didn’t seem like typical giant wolf behavior to me. Wait, can giant wolves have typical behavior since they’re inherently atypical? It was something to ponder, later. I had more important things to worry about at the moment, like, was someone giving that wolf orders or something?

I wasn’t going to complain since its' backing up before charging had given me time to figure out why I was stuck the way I was. “Cool, electromagnetism.” That didn’t tell me how to get myself free though. That colossal predator charging at me at full speed and looking to crush me against the metal wall gave me plenty of incentive though.

Instinct saved me again. Thank you, instincts, I owe you one. Probably more than one, but who’s counting? I felt myself detach from the wall in my panic and quickly rolled to the side, just before the wolf slammed head-first into the wall where I had been a moment before. The structure was sturdy and although the wolf’s head put a massive dent in the wall, it didn’t seem to do much more damage than that. The wolf was out cold though, and probably dreaming of ripping me limb from limb.

Since I couldn't have it coming after me later, I finished it off before moving on. It wasn’t easy slitting that huge thing’s throat but when I put enough effort into it my claws were up to the task. I’d have to come back and see if I could salvage the fur later. I could get a new cape out of it, hell, I could get a whole outfit.

I decided to go into the larger structure first. Firstly, I was right outside, and secondly, it was the building with the satellite dish and antennas. I went to the large barn-like doors and pulled one open with the screech of metal on metal. I had barely gotten the door open when something furry, strong, and the size of a small car slammed into me with an ear-piercing shriek.

By the time I managed to get air back into my lungs, whatever had hit me managed to push me all the way back to Lake Kevin, shrieking the whole time. Okay, this was getting annoying. I wasn’t sure if it was trying to smother or drown me, but suddenly we were both in the water and it got enough of a shock from the electricity that I was generating to back off and give me some breathing room. Speaking of breathing, I needed air.

Just as I was thinking that and clawing my way back onto the shore, something slapped me in the butt hard enough to make me wheeze as I tried to get some air in my lungs. That hurt like hell, it felt like the worst spanking I’d ever had. And when you keep in mind what kind of guy my dad is, that’s saying something. I rolled and lashed out with every bit of electricity I had, but it wasn’t enough to kill the thing.

It let out a pained squeal and backed away though, so maybe I could win this. I owed whatever it was for my sore butt. As I was about to jump it to try to turn the fight in my favor, a woman’s voice yelled, “Keep your hands off my beaver!”

“That thing is a beaver?!” I had to be dealing with some kind of bio-devisor or mad scientist here. Probably a supervillain if she could create such a blood-thirsty, and spanky, behemoth, not to mention that wolf and the dogmen. It was the beaver that made my anger swell though. How could she make a mockery of Canada's majestic and noble national animal like that?

My momentary shock, indignation, and confusion were enough to turn the tide, in the beaver’s favor. That wet and hairy thing damn near engulfed me with a tackle and once again I was fighting for air. I shocked, bit, kicked, and clawed and I was probably blue in the face under all of my fur when I finally managed to work myself free. It didn’t give me time to recover, coming at me again and digging its large teeth deep into my shoulder.

I hissed in pain and raked the claws of my other hand viciously across its eyes. It shrieked in response, rearing back and releasing its grip on my shoulder. Owie, that hurt. While it was thrashing in agony and splashed in the water, I let loose with what little electricity I had at hand. It wasn’t dead, but it was spasming. “Wynonna!” the voice shouted again as a woman ran up to put herself between me and my opponent.

The woman was swarthy with dark hair and eyes and dressed casually in jeans and a flannel shirt and she knelt down to gently stroke her… umm… pet while whispering softly for a moment. She turned her gaze to me as she pleaded, “You’ve killed my adlets and Fenris, don’t take Wynonna from me too.” Something was wrong here, she didn’t smell right for someone who was supposedly upset and defeated and her eyes kept glancing at the lake behind me. "Please, I have nothing left but her and… Kevin!” She shouted the last and let out a shrill whistle as I tried to place the name, it was so familiar.

Then I remembered and turned to look at the lake and the humongous squid-like creature that was surfacing near the shore. “Huh, I thought Kevin was the name of the lake, that makes a lot more sense. Kevin is a stupid name for a lake any...”

“No, Kevin is my Kraken, and your doom!” the woman interrupted, dropping the concerned act and laughing maniacally as a thirty-foot tentacle shot out to wrap itself around me. One of my arms was pinned to my side and it was attempting to crush the air out of my lungs as it held me in front of her like some sort of prize.

Seriously? Why did everyone I meet want to kill me? Anger bubbled inside me and my free fist lashed out to punch the woman in the face. A crack and a spurt of blood marked her nose breaking and she fell to the ground in an unconscious heap. Perhaps that was a mistake because the moment that her lights were out, Kevin the Kraken went crazy.

I may have let out a girly squeal of fear as I was yanked away and got a decent look at the monster that had me in its grip. It was dark blue and grey and kind of looked like a giant squid, with a dozen massive tentacles like the one that was crushing the air out of me. It also had huge bulbous red eyes and something that I thought was a goatee at first, just to make it look more evil, but it turned out to be a crapload of smaller and thinner tentacles around its toothsome maw.

I would have screamed if I could have gotten air in my lungs. Cute catgirl protagonist (even if I wasn’t fully female downstairs quite yet) and a massive tentacle monster. Those were dots that I did not want to connect. “No! I don’t like hentai!” I thought frantically as I squeezed my thighs tightly together and got a mouth full of tentacle. No, not those ones, the one that was holding me. I bit into that sucker with every bit of ferocity that I could summon, and started clawing at it with my free hand as well.

I wasn’t doing much more than pissing the Kraken off that way, but I managed to build up enough of a charge to deliver a severe enough shock to make it let go of me. It dropped me in the water and another shock, as I treaded water and tried to catch my breath, got it to back off enough for me to swim to shore. As soon as I was on dry land again, I grabbed my broken scepter and impaled the beaver to finish it off, grabbed the woman by the hair, and dragged her back to the metal structure where I closed the door firmly behind us.

After taking a good look around the building to make sure that my captive didn’t have anything else lying in wait to kill me, I found some restraints that were probably meant for those dogmen and strapped her down on an examination table. Once I was sure that she wasn’t going anywhere and it was relatively safe for now, I started looking around Captain Cryptid’s Criminal Compound. I wasn’t guessing at the name, there was an actual big neon sign in what I assumed to be her lab.

Looking through her lab, I found a really nice computer setup, her manifesto, and a really fancy-looking cellphone, along with a bunch of notes on animal physiology that I couldn’t make heads or tails of. Not because I wasn’t smart enough, but because her penmanship was atrocious. She should have been arrested for that alone.

I couldn’t stop the tears when I found the phone. This was it, I could finally contact my mom and Rika. I’d know whether one of them would help me or if they hated me now as much as every other person seemed to. If they didn’t want me what would I do? Would I spend the rest of my life out here talking to the animals?

My hands were trembling as I dialed the number for Mom’s secure phone. I had to leave the phone on the desk and pulled my hand away after dialing the number, putting it on speaker since I didn’t want to accidentally fry my only means of communication at the moment. It was hard to keep focused enough to constantly disperse the increasing electricity at the moment too.

I was actually surprised that I remembered the number, and Rika’s too. Going by the date on the phone, I’d been traveling through the middle of nowhere for over seven months. I had decided that I wanted to try Mom first since Dad had let slip that she was a mutant too. There was a moment, and several rings, before my mother’s familiar voice answered, “Yes? Hello?”

My voice seemed to catch in my throat, stuck in the whirlwind of anxiety that had suddenly taken up residence there. When I did manage to speak, my voice was trembling as much as the rest of me. “L-liver, s-sauerkraut, and p-pistachio ice cream,” I stammered, hoping that I was remembering the right code phrase.

There was a gasp on the other end and then, in a voice that suddenly sounded as nervous as mine did, she asked, “Who would eat such a thing?”

“A… a v-vanilla gorilla from Manila,” I replied tentatively as tears wetted the fur on my cheeks and I tried to swallow the lump in my throat that wouldn’t seem to go away.

A sharp inhale followed by, “Na… Felicia, is that you? When and where were you born?”

For a moment, I was too shocked by her calling me by my name, my real name, to answer. Rika was the only one who knew that name, had she somehow contacted her? My heart was beating so rapidly that I feared it might explode by the time I was able to tell her, “October 13th, 1991. My birth certificate says that I was born at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt on Vancouver Island, but I was actually born two months premature on the HMCS Vancouver, while you were still working on light duty.”

It sounded like she was sniffling as badly as I was on her end but she managed to compose herself. “Where are you?”

“I d-dunno. I’m at the hideout of someone who calls herself Captain Cryptid. She’s t-tied up at the moment and I’m using her cell phone. I’ve been trying to get to you for so long. D-dad and his friends tried to kill me and I… I’m a mutant. I don’t look the same anymore… I don’t think I look human,” I hesitantly babbled to get the rejection over with. It would be like ripping a band-aid off.

“It doesn’t matter what you look like Felicia, you’re my baby, and I’m coming for you. Stay on the line and I’ll get someone to try and trace the location on that phone. We’ll be there as soon as we can. Are you in any danger? Are you hurt?”

“I’ve been better,” I admitted with a mix of a laugh and a teary sniffle. “I got chased by some dogmen, smacked around by a giant wolf, and mauled a bit by a giant beaver, but I’ll be okay if I can get some sleep, I seem to heal while I’m sleeping. I think Kevin might want a piece of me if I go back outside though.”

“Who is Kevin?” she asked with a hard edge to her voice.

“Captain Cuckoo called Kevin a Kraken. It’s some big squid monster in the lake. Almost had me.” I shuddered at the thought of Kevin and all of those tentacles.

“Okay, we’ve got a location. We’ll be there as soon as we can. I’ll have Dropzone portal us to CFB Edmonton and we can take an MSA transport from there. It’ll still probably take a few hours though. Just stay safe and we’ll be there soon. Love you, Felicia.”

“L-love you too, Mom.” The moment that the call was disconnected, my legs gave out, I fell to the floor, and broke down into a sobbing mess. The last seven months and change all seemed to catch up with me all at once now that the end seemed to be in sight.

=^..^=

Captain Cryptid’s Criminal Compound
October 4th, 2007 - 2:15 p.m.

After I had finally stopped crying, I fell asleep for about two hours going by the time on the phone. Physically, I felt a lot better when I woke up, so I tried to pull myself together mentally as well and get organized. I didn’t want my mom to see me for the first time in over a dozen years bedraggled and practically naked except for my fur. I had found the bathroom earlier when trying to make sure that this place was safe and as I used the facilities for the first time in over seven months it felt strange and luxurious. Even things like toilet paper were something that I used to take for granted.

It took a while to clean up and make myself presentable, but a good portion of that time was spent staring at the girl in the mirror for the first time. I had the general body shape of a teenage girl, if a well-endowed one. Looking at my body, I wasn’t fat per se, everything seemed to be curvy and in proportion, only those proportions were large, making me extra thicc. I didn’t want to hazard a guess at what my bra size was going to be though.

My whole body and face were covered with reddish-gold fur with small black rosettes along my sides, legs, and arms, and looking over my shoulder into the mirror showed them on my back as well. I knew from earlier explorations that the rosettes and patterns in my fur were also present on the skin beneath it. The fur color faded from ginger to cream in circles around my eyes and five wavy streaks that went up my forehead toward my hairline.

Ginger ringlets of hair with dark crimson and tawny highlights framed my face and fell to around my waist. Under the fur, my face was heart-shaped with a slightly pronounced muzzle, a pink kitty nose, whiskers, and pronounced canines. The eyes were the most striking though, still seafoam green cat eyes, but larger. Between those big eyes, the cute little nose, and the comically large cat ears with black tufts at the ends atop my head, I looked adorable, like a kitten. I wished that my tail would finish growing, but at least there seemed to be nothing left of that thing that used to reside between my legs.

I finally managed to tear myself away from the mirror and tried to look for something that I could wear. Captain Cuckoo seemed taller than me, and much skinnier so I doubted that her closet would be any help, even if I could find it. I was guessing that it was in the cabin, not that it mattered. I had to settle for making a makeshift dress out of a sheet I found by cutting a hole in it with a claw and then securing it with a belt made from a strip torn off of the end.

It wasn’t long after I finished that task that I heard what sounded like a helicopter. I ran as fast as I could to the doors, ignoring Captain Cuckoo’s muffled shouting. She had woken up about an hour ago and hadn’t had anything nice to say so I had gagged her and ignored her since. What I thought was a helicopter turned out to be a VTOL and it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, I couldn’t wait to ride in it and I was shaking with a mix of nerves and excitement as it descended.

Kevin was near the shore again and was reaching upward with tentacles to try to grab the transport as it moved toward the building that I was peeking out from to land. It was still over the water though and I was half shocked and half terrified when some crazy person jumped out of the VTOL and right into the drink with the Kraken. With my heart racing, I ran toward the water without thinking, only wanting to help in case Kevin got to them before they could get safely to shore.

Kevin did go after the person in the water, but I had barely reached the shore when whoever it was, zoomed under the water toward the Kraken and then through it in an explosion of blood and gore that mushroomed outward, leaving the water red and cloudy. Kevin was still going through his death throes when I spotted the person swimming to shore just beneath the surface. Only, it wasn’t a person like I was expecting.

It was only my sharp vision that allowed me to catch sight of her as she emerged from the cloud of red in the water, and she caught me watching her and hesitated to approach any closer. It was some sort of mermaid, but like, terrifying and wearing a bikini top and a waist wrap of some sort. Pale chalk-like skin gave way to a tail with blood-red scales and jagged black fins at the tips and along the sides, with some sort of spines that looked razor sharp. A similarly black dorsal sail jutted out from her spine and along the back of her tail, though it was more a collection of bone spikes with black webbing connecting them.

Similar bone spikes jutted out from her shoulders and elbows and, from the shoulders down her arms and hands were covered in the same blood-red scales as her tail, while her hands were long with webbed fingers that ended in black claws that put mine to shame. She looked at me uncertainly for a moment before grinning at me beneath the water, showing a mouth full of shark teeth. Between that, the glowing red eyes with slit pupils, and mere slits for nostrils instead of a nose, it was enough to make me shiver in fear, especially after what she’d done to Kevin.

She rose to the surface, and I was in the midst of a tentative step backward when the moment her head cleared the surface her features began to shift. Short black hair lengthened to shoulder length and turned strawberry blonde, glowing red eyes turned green, bone spikes and fins retracted, and the scales and pale skin gave way to a much healthier-looking skin tone as she got a little bit bigger. The biggest shock was the face that formed from that terrifying visage though, a little older, but a face that I barely remembered from when I was little.

“M-mom?”

Her answer was to wrap me up tightly in her arms. I was half afraid that I was going to accidentally electrocute her as she did that and smiled at me with a far more comforting face. “Energizer, huh? Don’t worry, you can’t hurt me while I have my PK shell on. I’m here now and I’m not going to lose you again.” I don’t know how long she held me, letting me cry it all out for the second time that day while in her arms, but everything else faded away.

Finally, a man approached and I jumped at his voice, retreating deeper into my mother’s embrace as he said, “We finished our search, Captain. Cryptid is nuts and we found evidence linking her to several robberies down in Calgary to fund her experiments. We’ll take her to the MSA office in Edmonton and let them deal with her, while you take your daughter back to base.”

“Good work, Bulwark. I’ll leave it in your hands,” Mom said, holding me tighter as if to reassure me. Only once his footsteps had faded into the distance did she tilt my chin up to get a good look at me. “You’re safe now, Felicia, I promise. I guess I should explain some things. I’m Barracuda, the leader of T.R.U North’s western branch. This is my team, and they won’t let anything bad happen to you. We won’t be going home with them though, we’ve got a faster ride. Usually, I’d get Dropzone to take us, but I think you’ll be more comfortable having our team’s new magical consultant take us. Felicia, I’d like you to meet Danarika, though she goes by Fallen when on duty.”

I looked at my mother uncertainly. I had had social anxiety long before people had tried to kill me and while I trusted my mom, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to extend that trust to or interact with other people yet. And then the name hit me. The same name that Rika used for her character in Ergan’s Tears. Fallen1 was her IM handle too. Mom gently turned my face so that I could see the young woman patiently waiting for us.

She had a very pretty face with lavender skin and long near-white blonde hair. Her eyes were strange, bright orange irises with slit pupils that were housed in pitch black sclera. Winding ram-like black horns emerged from her temples, curling back and sideways like a crown atop her head, making her pointed ears seem to stand out. She also had bat-like wings and a spaded tail that matched her skin tone.

“Rika?” I asked as my jaw dropped and my eyes went wide. I tried to shake it off. What she looked like didn't matter, and I should know that better than anyone. She was like a big sister to me and, no matter what she looked like, she was probably the only person that I could trust besides my mother. The only other person that I had wanted to find. Okay, so my Mom is a superhero and my big sis looks like a demon. It wasn’t all that big a deal after what I’d gone through, even just today. In fact, it was kinda awesome. “I… guess that I’m not the only one with a long story to tell, huh, big sis?”

I had to stop myself from staring as she laughed nervously, giving me a glimpse of fangs and a forked tongue. “Hehe… yeah. You’re looking good, Felicia, so I guess I don’t need to help you cover your transition after all. You know, I meant it when I told you I would do that, and help get you somewhere safe. You scared the hell out of me when you disappeared like that, but I knew that you’d survive and find one of us. Now I can finally carry through on that promise. Let’s go home.”

 

The End
Read 1201 times Last modified on Tuesday, 03 January 2023 01:01

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Darkmuse
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Darkmuse
1 month ago
I liked it
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Amethyst
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Amethyst
3 weeks ago
Thanks, Darkmuse. I'm glad that you enjoyed it :3

*big hugs*

Amethyst
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Kerafym
4 weeks ago
Awesome followup!
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Amethyst
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Amethyst
3 weeks ago
I'm glad that people have been enjoying it, Kerafym. This was actually the first Whateley story that I started on, but I had trouble getting it to feel just right and then had Maiden Starlight, Short Tales, and Weed all come fairly quickly while I kept tinkering with this one.

*big hugs*

Amethyst
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