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My breath caught in my throat and the sweet smell of pine wafted into my nose. The grass tickled my feet. The shadows blotted the path in total darkness. Everything was quiet, even though the summer air was heavy and hot, so the crickets should have been singing. But everything was quiet, not even the wind blew, whispering its secrets into the forest trees and only the animals could understand. Yet, sometimes, I felt like I could understand the wind and tree’s language.
I had gotten lost from my hiking group after splashing our feet in the creek off of the path. Somehow I had wandered off, bare feet, into the trees. Not that I cared, I was an orphan, so if no one wanted me in the first place why bother anyway. I started walking slowly forward, I was glad to be out of the pine needles because my feet had begun to swell painfully.
As I was picking my way along a thin dirt path when there was a rustle in the bushes. I froze, listening for any more sounds coming from the path ahead of me. Just when I thought I was just hearing things there came another rustle.
I stopped and yelled, “Who is there!” The rustle came again and out stepped a beautiful wolf. Its gray pelt shone with health. It looked like a normal but abnormally healthy wolf. But when I looked again its eyes seemed almost human, dark brown. It looked like it recognized me. But that was impossible, for I had never even seen a wolf in my life.
I sucked in air sharply as the wolf stood slowly, as if not wanting to scare me. And surprisingly, I didn’t feel scared at all. The wolf bowed its head and took a step forward. Then an amazing thing happened, as the wolf stepped forward the moment its foot hit the ground it began to change. Its fur shortened and slid into its skin and it shape began to change. It became smaller and fur began to sprout back into place. Black rings encircled a tail and once the shift was complete I recognized a raccoon immediately. The change had occurred in only a few seconds.
Suddenly a pain like no other enveloped me. It felt like extreme growing pains as my bones lengthened and shortened, breaking and being put back into place. Then the cramps started and an itchy wave across my skin, on my arms and through my legs.
As this, whatever it is, was occurring to me the animal was walking closer. Every step it was forming into a new animal, a squirrel, rabbit, finch, and at one point it was a cougar. All the while I was slowing getting smaller and my whole structure felt different.
Soon, the pain stopped and I was laying in a pile of clothes, my clothes. I struggled to get free. Soon I had fought my way to the surface and was greeted by an abnormally strong smell of pine. When I looked at my hands I couldn’t believe my eyes. Long claws sheathed and unsheathed from delicate, white paws. I looked in a puddle at the foot of my, umm, paws. A small kitten with pointed ears stared back at me. Her eyes were filled with lonliness.
“Don’t worry the shift will get easier, and soon you will be able to shift into any animal you want with no pain at all,” a woman’s voice said. It seemed like it came frome inside my head. My face shot up and I was looking eye to eye with a cat that seemed exactly like myself. She was slender with a tail neatly tucked over white paws.
“That must be the wolf that was here any minute ago,” I thought to myself.
“Yes, I am,” said that voice again.
“You can hear my thoughts?” I thought back.
“Of course,” there was a laugh, “and you brought here by instinct. This is no dream. I am your mother.”