You are fourteen and you are just beginning to feel okay with yourself again. The transformation is easier when you accept it. It's a part of you, like your dream self and your narcolepsy, and Dave's joke about Ginger Snaps was just a joke. He didn't know.
You don't have to howl as the transformation takes you. But it feels good, just like it feels good as your tail grows. You relish the feeling of fabric brushing your now-furry ears as you pull off your shirt and sports bra. You drop onto your hands — paws now — and shake out your brilliant white fur. You catch a glimpse in the mirror. Sight isn't your primary sense right now, but you still like the way you look: fierce and wild.
You wonder, not for the first time, if it would be safe to get another dog. While you were growing up, Bec was the best friend a girl could hope for. You wish you could remember where he came from (or, better still, where he went) but wolf memories were not meant to stick in a human mind. There was an actinic smell in the air and very different noises from your island home, but that's never been enough to let you track down where in the world Bec came from.
You put the clothes in the spot that smells the most like you, paw at the doorlatch to open it, and pad downstairs. Normally you'd be a bit careful about going outside the house, but not tonight. Tonight, the most dangerous creature on the island is you.
You run through the underbrush, savoring the jungle smells. Here is the swimming hole, with tiny freshwater fish that swim around your muzzle as you playfully snap your jaws. Over there is a tree that marks the heart of your territory. (You're a bit bashful about that when you're human, but it's part of the way things are for you.) And there, there in the bay, oh boy there is a new smell there and it's something you've never smelled before.
It took a lot of effort and not a little help from your friends, but when you were thirteen, you tracked down a bootleg of the unaired final episode of The Wild World of Animals with Hass Harley. Grandpa is just as spry as you remember him, mugging for the camera and bragging about his production team. "It was a near thing, by Jiminey, but young Sanderson got the torch lit and scared them into the live trap. And here we have them, the first werewolf pups ever seen by civilized eyes!"
There you are, in the background. You're four years old and you've been around dangerous creatures all your life. You've played with pythons and tangled with tigers (those episodes got excellent ratings), and all you see is a bunch of fluffy young puppies. You've climbed into the cage before anyone notices. The pups nuzzle you and you lick them right back, and laugh. The fur is scratchy on your tongue.
Then someone notices you. "Oh shit!" says Intern Tommy, and he lunges for the cage to hoist you out. His foot trips over a cable and he crashes to the floor and into the front of the cage. The puppies yip in fright and one of them nips your arm. It's a small bite, but it's enough to draw blood and make you cry. You are only four, after all.
"Cut!" yells the producer, and that's the end of the footage. Also the end of The Wild World of Animals with Hass Harley. The reruns stayed on air for a few years, which provided some nice income, but eventually people forgot about the silver-haired Hass and his cute granddaughter. And that was that.
You swim out to the temple and haul yourself onto the stone stairs. You shake yourself off, groom your fur back into a presentable state, and sniff your way up into the temple. There is something in the air, something both new and familiar. You have to find out what it is.
You follow the scent round corners and down passageways. Around and around you go. It seems to be coming from everywhere at once. So frustrating! You decide reason is getting you nowhere here, so you let the wolf take over completely.
You cover your nose with your paws, close your eyes, and remember the first transformation. You remember how the smells around you filled your nose, how the nice old man gave you rabbits to eat, how everywhere was fresh and new and ready to be yours! And then you get up on all four paws and follow the smell. Sight doesn't matter, nor does hearing, as silent as everything is.
You follow the smell into the corner and sniff again. It's coming from between where the walls meet in the corners, from a place that is not a place, and if you can just squeeze through... Yes! Your eyes say you're still in the temple, but your nose says you're somewhere else, and you know to trust your nose.
The way back outside is more difficult now. You have to go down and then up and sometimes you almost lose the scent trail, but you make it. It's dim out, and there are moons on the horizon, so you howl again. Your nose tells you about sand, not like on the beach at home but stretching out for miles, and about things that walk it, neither alive nor dead. You go out to find the source of the smell.
Before long you find it! There's a huge bug in the air, flying around. It smells like a bug but it also smells like the Bec wolf. That's it! That's the smell! You follow it and it leads you to a valley in the sand where a tall girl is fighting one of those not-things you smelled earlier. She smells nice. The things do not! They smell like rotted leaves and dried up poison oak and a lot of awful smells.
You jump at them and knock them away from the nice girl. They flail and some of their skin breaks and a cloud comes out. The cloud makes you sneeze but the nice girl has a loud machine and it makes the not-things fall apart even faster. Before long they are all in pieces on the ground and you kick sand over them to bury their nasty smell.
The girl crouches down and looks at you. You sniff her hand. She still smells nice, so you let her scritch you behind the ears. She gets up and goes back to a place that smells a little like your house, except it doesn't smell at all like you. You follow her anyway and she lets you inside. You really feel like curling up on your bed, but it isn't here. There's a pile of blankets, so you curl up in that instead and fall asleep.
When you wake up, you're human again and the girl from earlier is sitting at a lunchtop computer much like your own. You stand up and stretch, which is apparently enough for her to notice you. "Uryyb, zlfgrevbhf crefba. Jub ner lbh naq jul jrer lbh n onexornfg rneyvre?" she says. You take a closer look at her; she has grey skin, pointy fangs, and orange horns. That probably explains why she's talking in gibberish.
You shake your head. "I can't understand you at all," you reply. You go to the window and look out. Miles of sand surround the house in every direction. Overhead, two moons shine. The pink one is full, while the green one is several nights into waning, if Earth's moon is any guide. Either way, you're human right now and the moon is full. You guess werewolf rules don't work the same way on this planet, whatever it is. You have no idea how you're going to find your way home now.
The girl seems to understand your dejected expression. She comes over and stands by the window with you. She takes your hand and holds your wrist up to her mouth. "Vs V ovgr lbh, V guvax jr pna pbzzhavpngr." You still have no idea what she's saying, but if her fangs are any guide, she wants to bite you. Maybe the shock will let you transform again, who knows? So you nod. She still waits, so you push your wrist closer to her fangs, and she gets the message.
It's a painless bite compared to the others you've experienced over the years. You feel light-headed for a moment, but the feeling passes. As the girl lets go of your wrist and dabs at her mouth with a handkerchief, she speaks again and this time the words make sense in your head. "Can you understand me now?" she asks.
"Hi!" you reply. "Are you a vampire or something? Are you using mind powers to talk to me now that you drank my blood? I'm Jade, by the way."
She blushes. "I'm glad the literature was correct. I'm Kanaya." She binds the handkerchief around your wrist to stop the bleeding. "I don't think I have any mind powers and I'm not one of your human vampires. I just drank your language from your blood."
"Really?" This is so cool. "How does that even work? Can you teach languages that way or just learn them? And why does your house look just like mine? Are you an alien?"
Kanaya smiles wanly. You wonder if that expression means the same thing for her species as it does for you. "I think, Jade, you are the alien. You're certainly not a troll and I don't know of any psychic powers that can turn people into barkbeast lusi. Welcome to Alternia."
There's a lot you have to learn about this world and you have to figure out if you can even get home. But right now you're happy to have made a friend. You're going to have so much fun, you just know it!