The knife pierced my skin and plunged deep into my left shoulder. A white, hot, searing pain engulfed my whole body and mind. My vision turned to slow motion and for a split-second, I felt I might collapse. My adrenaline however, made me do the opposite. In one fluid motion, my hands reached for his chest and grabbed fistfuls of clothing. I yanked my hands back and struck his nose with my forehead, sending another, milder, signal of pain to my brain. He reeled back, hands flying as he stumbled, leaving the knife in my shoulder.
Tripping over his own feet, he landed on back, and let out a gasp of pain. I let out a sigh, pushed myself off the wall, and took a step forward. Tightly gripping the bloody handle that stuck out of my body, I grit my teeth as I pulled the knife out in one single motion. Blood flew through the air, as well as gushed from the wound, as I dropped my hand back to my side. The bloody knife slipped from my hand and clattered onto the ground.
Fear radiated from his body as I stepped toward him; he shuffled backward, his limbs shivering and his face full of fright. Coldness flushed over my body with anger and adrenaline. A tingling sensation danced on the top of my head and along my tailbone. Pain pricked my eyes as they changed, and my field of vision grew by a few feet. Sounds became sharper, tickling my ears, and different smells filled my nose.
Silently, I stepped toward him. He whined in fear as he backed into the far wall. His body vibrated as if he were cold. He looked side to side violently, trying to find a way out, as I crept closer. At the last second, he tried to duck to the side to run away, but I was already on him. Kicking the wall just inches in front of his face, he gasped and froze, and fell back against the wall. He whimpered and shook his head as I crouched down to his eye level.
“P-please! Please don’t kill me!” He cried, his voice straining through his fear.
His begging didn’t deter my approach. I leaned closer, putting all of my weight on my left knee as I straddled his leg. He continued to whimper as I inched closer to his face; I stopped my nose just centimeters from his.
“P-please…” He begged again, tears rolled down his face.
A moment of silenced passed before I answered in a low voice, “No.”
His eyes widened in terror at my answer. My nails tingled as they grew, and a moment later, my hand plunged into his chest. Breaking through both bone and muscle, my hand surrounded his heart. His heartbeat raced in my hand and his breath was choppy as it blew on my face. Holding tightly, I ripped my hand back out of his chest and raised it to eye level.
The color drained from his face in seconds as I held his warm and slick heart in my hand. His eyes rolled into the back of his head as his body went limp. I stood up and took a step back as his body slumped to the ground. His heart, still warm, was heavy in my hand; absentmindedly I raised his heart to my lips, but paused. I looked at the heart and smelled it, but then I caught a glimpse of myself in the dark window above the body.
My eyes glowed red, and were like cats eyes. Large, black, satellite-dish-like ears sprouted from the top of my head, and a long black tail curled against my back. My nails were one-inch-long claws. Even though I stood partially in the moonlight, I was shrouded in darkness— in shadows.
Realizing what I was about to do, I became disgusted and lowered my hand. Crushing the heart in my hand, it oozed through my fingers and made a disgusting squelching noise. I dropped the mass of goo onto the ground, turned around, and disappeared into the shadows.
~ ~ ~
I woke up gasping for breath in a puddle of sweat. My arms struggled and strained as I tried to push myself up. My head swam, and the room tilted and swirled, as I sat up. Minutes passed like hours as I waited for the spell to pass. Everything settled, but my mind was still fuzzy when I pushed myself up from the mattress to stand. The numbers of my alarm clock glowed in the dark room; it was six o’clock in the morning.
I slowly staggered across the room and into the bathroom. Bracing myself against the small rusty sink, I took a deep breath to try to clear the rest of the fog in my head. Splashing some ice-cold water on my face, the fogginess cleared. An acute pain struck my left shoulder as I pushed myself off the sink, but I didn’t pay any mind to it. Wandering back into the other room, and moving right, to the kitchen bar, I dug through my duffle bag and pulled out my hair brush and a few hair-ties.
Separating my hair into two sections, I let one section rest over my left shoulder as I brushed through the right section. My long black hair—reaching past my tailbone when flat against my back—is soft to the touch. Many of the elders in the neighborhood have complimented on how “silky and shiny” my hair is.
The bristles of the brush scratched my scalp as I ran the brush through my hair. The bristles caught on the knots in my hair, taking a few runs through to get rid of them. A minute later, the brush smoothly slid through my hair. Carefully, I pulled and brushed all of my hair up into a ponytail.
Putting the brush back into the duffle bag, I wandered to the center of the room to stretch my muscles. A few minutes later, I stood up smoothly and crossed the room to the front door. Pulling on my worn-out running shoes, I unstuck the swollen door and stepped outside.
The concrete porch shows signs of deterioration along one side. A large brick-and-mortar wall surrounds the house and concrete “yard.” Piles of old tires, rotting cardboard boxes, and other junk filled each corner. Adjacent to the front door, a seven-foot gate fit snuggly between the two walls, and is chained shut. Stretching my legs across the distance between the gate and porch, I quickly closed the distance. Slipping under the chain, through the gate, I started on my run. Jogging slowly at first, making my way down the alley to the mouth, I picked up speed as I turned the corner.
An hour of running passed within minutes, slipping through the gate and trudging across the yard and up the porch steps I returned to the dilapidated house I was living in. Sweat poured down my temples as I tried to open the stuck door; slamming my body against the door forced it to swing open. Shutting the door behind me and tugging my shoes off as I entered the house, I crossed to the center of the room to stretch my muscles. Completely done with stretching, I crossed the room to the bathroom while I stripped off my wet clothes.
Crossing the bathroom to the claw-foot tub in the back corner, I turned on the water, the faucet squeaking and rattling as it pulled the water up. The water was ice when I stepped into the shower, my body and chest immediately stalled. Taking a calming breath, I allowed my true form to show; pain pricked my eyes as they changed to cat eyes, a tingling sensation danced on the top of my head and along my tailbone as cat ears and a tail sprouted from my body. Careful not to get water in my ears, I washed my whole body— tail and all.
Turning the water off at the end of my shower, I carefully stepped out of the tub. Dripping echoed in my ears as I walked across the bathroom. A towel hung on a hook mounted next to the doorway; using the towel to dry my body and hair, I tiptoed to the kitchen bar counter to pull my school uniform out of the duffle bag. After drying my body and hair, I got dressed. Taking another calming breath, I hid my true form to look fully human.
After hanging the towel back on the hook in the bathroom, I went back to the counter for my school bag. Checking to make sure everything I needed was in my bag, I pulled it off the counter and headed to the door. Slipping my school shoes on, I tugged open the door and shut it tightly behind me. Slipping through the chained gate, I walked down to the mouth of the alley, turned right, and headed to school.
Fifteen minutes later, I was approaching the diner I eat breakfast at every morning. A crowd has gathered at the mouth of the alleyway behind the diner, and police cars parked at the curb— their lights flashing. Curiosity got the best of me and I inched closer to see what was going on. A space cleared in the crowd, giving me a straight shot to see what was going on.
A man, covered in blood and dirt, lay slumped on the ground. A pile of red mush sat just a few feet from the body. Police gingerly walked around the scene. A light flickered in the corner as sunlight reflected off the knife that lay on the other side of the alley.
A pit opened in my stomach and a coldness engulfed my body upon seeing the crime scene. The sounds around me died out as my sense of hearing stopped. Flashes from my dream filled my vision and a sudden realization overcame me. Closing my eyes to calm down, I walked away from the crowd and walked around the building toward the front of the diner.
It wasn’t a dream, I thought decidedly.