Emily woke with a start. She threw the covers off of the bed she was in and ran to the toilet, feeling like she was about to throw up. She paused over the toilet and vomited loudly into it. She groaned; feeling awful. She reached out with her hand to flush the chain. And stopped. Stopped dead.
A horrified gasp escaped from her throat. She walked over to the basin above the sink slowly, staggering like an old woman, her balance had gone haywire. It was easier to walk with four legs. Emily leaned heavily on the sink and stared into the mirror. It felt abnormal to see such a different face. Yet, nostalgic in a way. Strangely, it was far more of a shock for Wolf-Emily to find that she was human than it was for Human-Emily to find that she was a wolf. Being a wolf felt more natural, flowing. Her face was still made up of the same pale skin, with the light scattering of freckles over her nose. Her hair still fell a bright red over her shoulders, not dead straight, but not really wavy. Nothing had changed really, but somehow, everything had changed. Her sense of smell was stronger and she could hear everything, but obviously, you couldn't see that from the outside. She had changed superficially too. When she parted her lips and bared her teeth, they were curved and much sharper than they had been before, and when she raised her hand to touch her ears, they were longer. And pointed, like an elf.
Emily sighed. Back to being human. Her strange wolf holiday was over, already fading like a dream. Emily wondered; had she wanted to wake up? It was then that she realised that she wasn't wearing any clothes. Obviously she must have shrugged out of her school uniform when she first shifted into a wolf. Dammit. She walked back into the other room and sat on the bed, still feeling awful. There was a window far up high in the corner of the room; it was about double the size of a letter box. She couldn't see much through it, only the dark blue of a night sky and a part of a full moon, glowing mournfully. Emily started at that sliver of moon like it could whisk her back to her pack... where were they? Where they human also? What about the other pack? What were Felix and Degue doing now?
She paced the room a few times, looking around without seeing anything. She walked over to the door. There was no handle on her side of the door. She shook her head. She was so tired, it was no good thinking about this now, it was too late. Emily lay back down on the bed. It was lumpy and the sheets were rough, but this meant little, she ached all over. But, she thought laughinhly, this was understandable, her bones had twisted and changed and grown back into the bones of a human. She closed her eyes, and was gone in seconds.
It was morning when Emily woke again. She sat up and looked around the room she was in properly. Its walls were a soft beige with polished floorboards, the only furniture was a small table and a wardrobe in the corner. It was reasonably nice, if sparsely decorated. She stood up quickly, and immediately fell back down again. Emily frowned, she still felt very weak and nauseous... Or was that just what it was like to be human? She couldn't remember. It was strange to be human, she felt out of balance and lumpy, it felt so smooth and fluid to be a wolf. Emily tried to stand up again, slowly. She staggered forwards and caught herself on the edge of the table, she looked at its dull wooden surface, someone had left her some clothes. She snorted, how considerate of them.
She reached out to the mound of clothes with a pale hand, then stopped, thinking. She turned to the bathroom and turned the shower on, resting on the sink, waiting for the water to run hot. She picked up a towel, dropping it nearby and hummed absently, trying not to think of anything... but her thoughts always snuck back in. What now? So she was a wolf, but now she was a human again. Would she have to go back to school again? But, how could she? Half of the school had seen her change; no-one would ever talk to her. Emily felt loneliness rise up inside her like a bitter tide. She could never talk to any of her old school friends again. A single tear rolled down her cheek, leaving a gleaming silver track.
Emily shook her head madly, what was she crying about? That was no loss at all! Hadn't she spent most of her life wishing she never had to go back to school? She had never fit in; she'd never had any true friends... Amy had been the closest thing to a best friend, and she had just... Emily stopped that thought abruptly, that was no good! She resisted the un-cried tears that budded in her eyes, blinking furiously. For her, this was no longer a world that would accept weakness. Not as a wolf, not as a human.
Emily turned around to look in the mirror, but it had fogged over completely. She jerked; the shower had been running for ages! The room was filled with steam, hiding most things from view, she was finding it difficult to breathe in the thick, damp air, it dragged at her throat. Emily staggered towards the shower, sliding the curtain across. She stepped in and with an immense explosion of steam, the water hit her like a brick wall. It must have been boiling hot, but it felt like someone was pouring ice through her veins. She gasped raggedly, trying to drag oxygen into her starved lungs. Her vision flickered black at the edges and she fell to the floor of the shower, smacking her head against the wall. Bright lights popped in her eyes. She turned her head up to the torrent of merciless water, groping blindly up the wall, trying to find the switch to turn the shower off. She felt the round button with her finger; she could only just reach it. Her last dregs of strength went into pressing turning it.
Emily sat at the bottom of the shower, spasms shaking her body, water dripping from her hair down her grey face. What was that? Had the people keeping her here put something awful into the water? But why would they? They wanted them all alive, didn't they? So why would they try to kill her? It must have been something else. But, what else could have caused it? She felt so cold. She reached out with a shuddering arm to the towel she had left on the floor and wrapped it around herself, rocking. Was it something in the water? Or was it just the water? Water... fire? It didn't matter anyway... just don't go back into the water. Never the water. Emily buried her face in the towel, her body shaking as she sobbed into it.
She must have stayed there for at least half an hour, but eventually she pulled herself up weakly. She dried her hair roughly with the towel, then threw it into a basket in the corner of the room that still swirled with pearly steam. It had been stupid to shower, it seemed obvious now. She shrugged on the red t-shirt and jeans, slipping on the pair of trainers that so mysteriously fitted her. She wandered back into the bathroom and stared into the mirror again. She looked a mess. Her hair was tangled and frizzy and she had shadows under her eyes. Too bad they hadn't thought of leaving her a hairbrush, or even a toothbrush. She dragged her shaking fingers through her damp locks, trying to tease out some of the knots, then stopped, and laughed at herself. Who could see her anyway?
Most of that day, Emily sat on the edge of her bed, pushing away her thoughts and bitterness, trying to just stare at the blank wall in front of her. 'What now?' was her biggest assaulter. She shoved it away violently whenever it came, but it always returned. She didn't know what now. There was nothing ahead. Everything she had ever dreaded would happen if they were caught, now would happen. What of her pack? What of her? What could she do, how could she live? Everything had seemed to much more straightforward when she was a wolf, and she caught herself longing after that freedom often. After all, she could never be a wolf again; the brief, shining soap bubble had burst. How could she live happily, now that she had experienced something so much fuller? Not that it mattered. She would probably never leave this building. She was something huge scientifically, and they wouldn't want her wandering around in public. She supposed that it might be for the public's safety.
And then she wondered. She didn't look entirely human, with her pointed ears and teeth. What if she could still summon fire, water still affected her, didn't it? She remembered being effected by water as a wolf, she had always felt nauseous when it rained, which was often. Could she summon fire? And how? Obviously she couldn't howl anymore, the idea was laughable. She didn't think that she'd make herself popular by setting light to the small amount furniture.
Acting purely on instinct, she cupped her hands together and blew into them. A small flame ignited, only a little bigger than the light on a candle, but it was still fire! Emily was cheered immensely, watching the flame dancing merrily on her palm. She extended a finger and ran in through the little light, smiling. It didn't burn, but felt warm, warmer than she had felt all day. The warmth chased away the numbness that had covered her like a heavy, clammy coat. With the return of feeling, came another, more unwelcome sensation. She was starving. She hadn't eaten for two weeks, which was about how long she'd been a wolf. How was she even alive? She supposed that they had probably fed her intravenously while she had been out; she had been on a drip, hadn't she?
Still, Emily hadn't had an actual meal for so long. Her insides felt like a huge cave, empty and hollow. She'd probably start gnawing the bed or table soon. Well, there was no point just sitting there waiting, she decided to go back to sleep, she'd wake up when (she refused to think if) they brought food. She hadn't woken when they'd put the clothes in though... oh well, there was nothing else to do. She extinguished the flame with another blow and a wave of sadness and curled up on the bedcovers, fully clothed and felt herself slipping away...
She was woken by a sharp rapping sound. She looked up suddenly, and fell back onto the bed feeling dizzy. She was so hungry. It was wrong to be this hungry. Her stomach had been carved away and she felt as if all of her ribs must have been sticking out.
The knocking interrupted her self-absorption. She looked up again, more slowly and managed to stay up, looking around the room. The sound wasn't coming from the door, but seemed to be coming from the walls. She stood up shakily, and strode over to where that sound was coming from, kneeling down on the floor and laying her ear against the wall. She knocked on the wall gently and waited for a few seconds before knocking again, more insistently. She nearly fell over as knocking erupted from the other room; someone was knocking on the wall back at her! But why? Who would knock back? Or knock in the first place? If there was a human next door, she doubted that they'd be trying to communicate with her. She hardly dared believe it, but it must have been. One of the pack. Her pack. And wolves couldn't knock on walls, so they must have been human too. She suddenly felt so much less alone, and warmth blossomed in her chest.
She called softly; "Hello?" Her voice cracked, she hadn't used it for so long.
A voice called back, muffled by the wall; "Hey... who's there?"
"... Umm... Emily?"
"Really? Wow, it's so strange to hear your voice. So you're human too?"
"Yeah... but who is this?"
"Oh yeah, sorry, it's Gwen."
Typical. Her favourite pack member. But still, Emily's heart glowed at the sound of her voice.
"Woah. It's weird to hear you too." Emily had never wondered what the others looked like as humans before, but now she desperately wanted to know.
"So, how's life as a human showing up with you" said the wall, after an awkward pause.
"Pretty crap actually, I feel terrible, really sick, and dizzy."
"Yeah, same here, when I first got up I threw up really badly. I got such a shock when I looked in the mirror!"
"Hmm... do you look a bit strange? I mean, when I looked in the mirror, my ears were all pointy and so were my teeth."
"Yep, that was what happened to me too. I look wolfier than I did before, but I feel all wrong. Kind of, lumpy, you know? We were all so graceful as wolves."
Emily thought about that. She'd noticed the same thing as she was moving about, but had put it down to tiredness, could it have been humanness? But, more importantly than that, Emily needed to ask about the water.
"Hey, Gwen, have you had a shower?"
"Why, can you smell me from across the wall?"
"No, no. But if you haven't, don't. I think that there's something wrong with the water. It nearly killed me, nearly knocked me out. I felt really weak and sick." It was difficult to explain how horrible it had been to the wall.
"Really? I've had one. A shower, I mean. I feel fine. The shower felt wonderful, I haven't been properly clean since I became a wolf."
"Oh." Emily was a little disturbed by that, and her stomach echoed her thoughts, rumbling anxiously. "Gwen, talking of that, I'm starving, I haven't eaten since I first became a wolf."
"Woah! Why not, the rest of us have!"
"Oh." That was unfair; it was only she who was starving.
"I suppose that you weren't there when we were given food in the other room. It's amazing that you're still strong enough to move about! Oh yeah, you had just not hunted when I first saw you."
There was an awkward, if slightly embarrassed pause. Emily tried to gloss it over.
"Well, wolves can survive for over two weeks without food, and I was on a drip before, so they might have been feeding me through that?"
Emily never found out what else Gwen was going to say. There was a sound of footsteps on the other side of the wall, and some muffled sounds that could have been speaking. Emily was frozen with concern, she didn't particularly like Gwen, and talking was a little uncomfortable between them, but she was part of the pack and was kind of like family now. The sound of footsteps had moved out into the corridor outside Emily's room now, and got louder, then faded as it moved further away.
She stood up, stretching her legs from the cramp that had started to settle in them and started to pace the room, not that there was much space to pace. Where were they taking Gwen? Were they going to come for her too? She listened intently, if she concentrated, she could hear footsteps, but they were far off, coming closer. They had to be coming for her. She went to the far corner of the room, as if to hide their, but then realised that that was ridiculous, she could face whoever they sent for her. She could hear the footsteps louder now, and it took all of her courage not to bolt under the bed, hiding like a small child. Could she even fit under the bed? She was breathing rapidly, but shallowly. She didn't understand the sudden irrational panic that was erupting in her chest; her heart was beating like a rabbit's.
The footsteps came to a crescendo and stopped outside her door. And the door swung open to let in a huge figure. Were all of the people who worked for this stupid company massive? And did they always wear black? She looked at the man's face, and her heart sunk down to her stomach, it was the snarling man. She was suddenly furious.
"You!" she snarled.
The man looked shocked. "Do you know-" he said before quickly shutting himself up. He clearly wasn't supposed to be speaking to her. Emily realised that she was human, and wouldn't look anything like what she had as a wolf. But she was too angry to be thinking straight.
"What do you want with me now, huh? You going to inject me with something else? Knock me out? Turn me back into a wolf, just because you can? Shove me in another tiny cage?"
She paused, her heart thudding in her ears, glowering at the man who had been struck dumb. Her head slowly started to clear. This man probably didn't know that she could turn into a wolf. He probably didn't know anything about this.
"Ahhh..." she trailed awkwardly, shrinking.
"Do I know you from somewhere?" the man was still frozen in the doorway, looking completely surprised. Emily realised that none of the others had probably been stupid enough to shout at him about being a wolf.
"Do I?" he pressed. It was too late for her to take back her words.
"You were carrying me in a carry crate a few days ago."
The man paused and processed her words. Emily could almost hear the cogs whirring in his brain.
"A red wolf," she prompted him, but wasn't sure why, he'd probably hurt her, she had burnt him after all.
The man's eyes widened hugely, until she could see all of the whites around them.
Another man appeared at the door. Surprise, surprise, he was just as huge as the snarling man. He paused to take in the scene before him. Emily thought that it must have looked pretty strange. A mountainous man frozen in shock before a small, rather skinny teenage girl.
"We going to take any longer? We were thinking of getting this done sometime today!" growled the new man, "she's only a little girl!"
He marched other to Emily, grabbing her shoulder and pushing her out of the room. She stumbled down the corridor, through a maze of corridors; she could hear the snarling man walking behind them, his footsteps unsteady. They turning so many times, she felt that would have been hopelessly lost if she'd had to go back. She felt her feet beginning to drag, her hunger was starting to affect her, she felt weak and shaky.
They finally reached their destination. The man opened the door in front of them and Emily realised that she had last come through this door on all fours. It was Ricki's room, and other than him, there were four teenagers sitting in there. For the first time, Emily saw her friend's human faces.