Something like a dream passed through my mind that night, something which would begin to feel like reality as the days passed.
I'm...floating. The first sensation that becomes apparent to me is water pressing on my skin as I begin to regain consciousness. The feeling is odd, unfamiliar, and I merely wonder vaguely as to my whereabouts as my eyes slowly open.
Wherever I am, its pitch black-or I'm suddenly blind. It makes no difference whether my eyes are open or not, and an icy chill runs over me when I realise that I am completely submerged in the aforementioned liquid, with some sort of mouthpiece attached to keep me breathing. Where am I? A cave? What has that creep done to me? I begin to panic, wriggling and writhing, my arms flailing madly in the water, but to no avail-it's like moving through treacle, any movement I make slow and dream-like. I begin to hyperventilate, lungs pumping the stale air from the mouthpiece through my body, and I am about to pull the damned thing out of my mouth and scream for help when...
Pain. Pain like a fire licks up my skin, and I scream silently into rubber as I convulse, legs drawing up against my chest and muscles twitching uncontrollably as the cool pressure of the water turns into scalding heat, like hot needles pricking my skin and my eyes. My voice grew more and more hoarse as I screeched, nails tearing into my clenched fists and teeth clenched tight on my air supply, which was currently the only thing keeping me from biting my tongue off in agony.
Through the fire, I am barely aware of a sudden blaze of light above me, but suddenly, the heat begins to fade, and I am drawn up...up...up...
My eyes opened, and I suddenly jolted awake, hands clutching the sheets as I sat bolt upright in bed.
Shit. Did that really happen? I shook my head to clear it and flicked my ears irritably as I leant back down again into the warm, cosy duvet, eyes still blurry with sleep. The capture, the pain...was it really all just a dream? I yawn, deciding to close my eyes again, and burrow into the thick winter blanket. I was still tired, and the dreams still eerily realistic. But I was home and in my bed. Surely everything would be clearer in the morning-?
I flicked my ears?
Wait, what? I tensed in my bed. Since when could I do that? Since when could I do it irritably? As my mind suddenly sharpened into focus, I sat up again, and, with my heart in my mouth, felt cautiously with my left hand through the thick mane of my hair, and round to the sides of my head.
Holy shit. The thick, furry disc of flesh, as real and alive as the rest of my body, poked out from the chestnut strands, warm and flexible. Gasping in horror, I shot back up, scrambling out of the bed that was suddenly clearly not mine, onto a floor that was wood, not carpet, and found an unfamiliar mirror, staring into it desperately.
A monster stared back.
It looked almost like me-but it couldn't be me. Those amber eyes, with a colour more like a cat than a human, with red rims that stared with an animalistic fear at me couldn't be mine, nor could be the thin, sleek-furred tail that whipped the air, tipped with a familiar yellow star that my mind couldn't focus on long enough to process. The right arm was like something out of a horror movie, grotesquely mismatched with the human left arm, with a feline paw and unsheathed claws longer than a little finger, covered in black fur and strange yellow-and-blue stripes. It was wearing loose-fitting blue pyjamas- there were rips in the fabric where claws had scored it. The whole body was far taller than mine as well –about six foot, long and wiry. The hair was the right colour, but even mine was never that thick and wild, almost spiky in its texture. I tried not to remember touching those elliptical ears with my own hands as I saw them sticking from the monster's head, with yellow centres and blue rims, garish colour making bile rise to my throat.
I opened my mouth to retch, and it opened its mouth, revealing sharp canines that looked out of place in the otherwise normal mouth.
That monster couldn't be me, but I was struggling to find something that would prove me right. As I toppled backwards, I didn't have the strength to put my hands out, and braced myself for a knock to the head-until a pair of strong arms caught me a few feet off the ground and lowered me back onto the bed.
I didn't have time to see my rescuer's face, and the shadows claimed me briefly for a second time as I passed out.
The second time I came to, I knew exactly where I was. My earlier panic coming back to me in a rush, I rose up quicker than I thought possible, mouth forming silent words of panic. I had to escape the monster, even if the monster was me. But the same cool grasp was on my shoulders, and a calm male voice spoke forcefully to me.
'Calm down, okay? You're here now, and there's no getting out, so let me explain.'
'Explain? How the hell can you explain? Did you do this? Who did this?' I rambled in my fear as I continued to resist him, deformed hand reaching up to score his fingers. I needed to get out, to get as far away from the unfamiliar bed as possible.
'Hey, don't use those, they're sharp.' he murmured, catching my hand (paw? I didn't know what to think), and placing it on my lap. 'No, I didn't do this to you, but it was done to me. So listen.'
At his words, I finally came to my senses a little, no longer struggling as my bleary eyes focused on the guy.
At first, he looked almost like a normal person. His hands and arms were both normal and human, and so was his hair, very dark brown and sleek, like the pelt of an animal, seemingly gelled into spikes. His eyes, however, were a dark crimson-red, and from the sides of his head rose two small ears, triangular and perfectly formed, with a black-blue coating of fur that reflected the light glossily.
I didn't have enough time to examine him further, because a door on the other side of the room burst open and a man strode in, running his hands over his short black hair and exclaiming, 'You're awake!' He must have been about thirty, and he was as tall as my new body, with brown eyes that stared straight into my own and a clean-shaven face. He was dressed in a blue shirt and dark trousers, and as he saw me properly, he stopped dead, and with a blissful grin breaking out over his face, he murmured, 'I can't believe it...you're perfect.' He jogged quickly over, and began looking me over, feeling my forehead to take my temperature as he asked the other guy, 'Is she okay? Was there anything I should be worried about?'
'She was confused and panicked when she came round, but she seems stable now.' He replied, shifting over to give the other guy some space on the bed.
'Wonderful.' He said, before addressing his next words directly to me. 'It's good to meet you-you wouldn't have remembered me from earlier. I'm Sean Clay, and I'm here to check if you're okay.' His eyes shone. 'Welcome to your new life.'