Chapter One: Change
I remember the day everything changed with perfect clarity. When I woke up at nine to go to work, I felt even moodier than I had lately, but I blamed it on teenage hormones, or maybe early PMS. It hadn't helped that the first thing that greeted me as I descended down the stairs was my mother and younger sister screaming at each other.
"Why can't I go to the party tonight? Everybody's going to be there!" Maddy shouted.
"I don't care if everybody's going to be there. You aren't going." Mom responded, trying to keep her cool.
"Why are you so irresponsible, Maddy? You know there's going to be alcohol there, and probably worse substances too." I joined in on the argument. She had just turned sixteen, way too young to go to one of the biggest keggers of the summer in our hometown of Fortuna, California.
"God, you're such a prude, Emma," she said malevolently, "I can't believe I'm related to you!" With that, she ran up to her room, giving her blonde hair a swish as she rounded the corner, and slammed the door. I felt rage start to bubble up inside of me and I had to fight hard to keep myself from shaking from the anger I felt, but my clenched fists were still trembling.
"When is she going to grow up?" I growled out of clenched teeth.
"I hope its soon." My mother said with sad eyes and I calmed down enough to observe how tired she looked. Her blonde hair that she usually styled was thrown up in a pony tail and her hazel eyes didn't have as much spark as they used to have. Besides her bedraggled look, she still looked beautiful. I couldn't help but notice how I didn't fit in with my family. My mother and my sister both had blonde hair and a light complexion. My half-sister, I corrected myself. Maddy had also inherited her father's, and my step-father's blue eyes. Scott was the only father I'd ever known.
I had obviously inherited a lot from my biological father, even though I knew virtually nothing about him. Unlike my family, I had wavy black hair, brown eyes, tan skin, and high cheekbones that indicated my native american descent. I was often told by people that I looked like a darker version of my mother.
After that fiasco, work went by dully. When I finally got out at six, mom and I went out to see the newest romantic comedy in the theater and it lived up to my expectations (which weren't very high to begin with). However, my mother enjoyed it and it was great to see her laughing.
When we got home though, she was definitely not laughing. Maddy was no where in sight, and it was pretty obvious where she was. It was only a little after ten; she couldn't have gotten into too much trouble, right? The party probably only started about an hour ago. When I glanced over at Mom, she looked at me with pleading eyes and I immediately understood what she wanted me to do. I vaguely wondered if she would wake up Scott or not. He wouldn't be pleased to hear about more of her fiascos, especially after working all day. Mostly, I just felt anger starting to consume me again at how irresponsible she was. I had to work to keep calm as I reassured my mom that I would go and get her and bring her home safely.
The party wasn't hard to find since it was at Matt Hanscom's house every year. His parents were loaded and always conveniently out of town for this particular weekend every year. I had went last year and stayed for approximately twenty minutes before leaving. Binge drinking, smoking weed, and hooking up with guys that smelled like sweat and puke wasn't really my thing. However, every year when school starts, that stupid party is the only thing that the local high schoolers talked about. The conversations usually were along the lines of:
"OMG, did you hear who, Courtney hooked up with at Matt's party?" Girl number one would squeal.
"Yeah, but did you hear that she puked all over him? While they were making out! It was soooo gross," Girl number two would pretend to gag, "And he was so stoned he didn't even care!"
And on and on it would go.
Finally, I pulled up to the street and I had to park a quarter mile down the road. When I got to the house, I walked in there, ready to to drage her out kicking and screaming if it came to it. However, before I could get far, I was knocked on my ass when someone walked into me.
"Wow, you're really hot. I-I mean like you're burning up. Not th-that you're not hot, too. I just mean-" A freshman boy stuttered until I cut him off.
"Geesh, watch where you're going, idiot." I said maliciously and I felt myself start to shake. Why couldn't that stupid kid watch where he was going?
"S-sorry." He practically ran out of the room and I was shocked that I could be so mean. Shame washed over me and I could feel my cheeks and my ear tips heating up.
I was distracted when I saw my sister sucking face with a senior who was notorious for getting into the pants of younger girls. I sucked in a calming breath and marched over to her, pulling her out of the room before even greeting her. I was afraid if I spoke I would say something I would regret. I felt like I was going to explode and I was practically vibrating.
"Ow, you're hurting me!" She protested.
"Sorry," I growled before letting go of her and opening up the car door for her, "Get in the car."
She huffed before finally realizing that resistance was futile. When she was in, I sped off, driving just a little too fast. I had to reign in my anger before I could speak to her. When we were almost home, she spoke first. "You don't understand, Emma. I'm in love with him!"
I scoffed, pulling into the driveway and getting out of the car. "Love? You don't even know what that is! All that guy loves about you is what's between your legs." My fists were trembling again and I squeezed my eyes shut.
"Oh, and you know what love is? What gives you the right to lecture me? You're not even my real sister!"
And with that, I exploded. "Not even your real sister? How can you even say that?! You're so selfish!" My whole body was trembling now. Maddy stared at me from the porch, hatred in her eyes.
"You just don't want me to be happy with someone else because you're afraid you'll be alone forever. You don't even belong in this family! You-" She cut of in the middle of her next hurtful words when she saw me, vibrating so hard I was sure I was having a seizure or something. Fire shivered down my spine threatening to consume me. How dare she? I seethed. How dare- And then I literally exploded. The heat flooded me and spasms spread throughout my entire body. I let out a scream as an intense feeling of stretching, growing bigger, in the space of a second, consumed me and it turned into a howl. It was excruciating, like I was being ripped apart. It was even accentuated by the tearing of my clothes, but I hardly noticed that. However, I did notice I could hear the cars on the interstate from miles away. That I could see all of the feathers on the wings of a bird from across the street. I felt powerful and fast, like I could literally just run for hours. But then reality set in and I realized something horrific, important, and life-changing had happened to me.
I was now on all fours with paws, a snout, and fur covering all of my body. I realized with horror that I was some kind of gigantic dog. At the same time I realized this, I also realized that I was not alone in my thoughts.
Hey, a newbie! Voice number one said.
Can it, Collin, An authoritative voice cut in, and then he spoke directly to me, What side of the res do you live on, kid?
I-I don't live on, um, the res. I live in Fortuna. What's happening to me? Why am I hearing voices? What's-
Wait, what? You don't live on the reservation? Where's Fortuna? He cut me off.
Um, it's in Northern California.
Great, He groaned and I could see him starting to run south. It was like I had access to his brain or something.
But, wait. Why am I a giant dog?
Wolf, actually, Collin piped in, correcting me, Hey, wait a second. You- don't take this offensively- you kind of sound like a girl.
Because I am a girl, doofus! Will someone please explain to me what's going on? Am I going crazy? I whined, pawing at the ground.
Damn. This is more complicated than I thought it would be. The older guy said. Look, kid. You're going to need to phase back before the neighbors notice. Normally, I'd have you hide in the woods, but this isn't really a normal situation. I'm Sam, what's your name?
Emma, I need you to think about being human. You have to will it in your mind. Think about something that calms you down. Once you're human, you need go inside, explain to your parents vaguely what happened, and hope they don't send you off to a mental hospital before I get there. I'll explain everything soon.
Okay, I whispered in my mind. Be human. It can't be that hard, right?
After several minutes of trying to calm my breathing and thinking very hard about standing on two legs in human form, I finally shifted back and I was alone again. I wasn't sure if I had gone crazy or if what just happened was real or not. I felt like I'd been ripped in half and then run a marathon. Every part of me hurt. However, I did notice that all of my senses were enhanced and although I was sitting outside naked, I didn't feel cold at all. I quickly jogged over to my car and grabbed a blanket before wrapping it around myself and going inside. Immediately, all of the yelling stopped.
"Oh, Emma, thank God!" Mom said before throwing her arms around me. "Maddy was telling us this crazy story about wolves! Can you believe it?"
"M-mom, I have to tell you something. This crazy thing just happened to me." I said in a croaky voice. And then I started crying and sat down on the couch.
After several moments of coaxing from her, I told her vaguely what had happened. She just stared at me in shock before exclaiming, "But you're a g-girl! This can't happen to you! He assured me that it wouldn't..." She trailed off.
"I-I just want to go to sleep, Mom. Um, a man is going to be here in a few hours to explain everything, I guess." I said lamely. I just wanted this nightmare to be over. Still wrapped up in the blanket, I fell asleep on the couch.
When I woke, I awoke to Scott, Maddy, my mother, and a man I assumed to be Sam staring at me. "Why are you all staring at me? I'm not a lab rat!" I exclaimed, feeling that terrible heat shiver down my spine that could change me into that monster if I let it. I closed my eyes and fought hard to control my shaking body until it was just a dull tremble in my fists.
"Honey, we talked with Sam and he told everything. Y-you have to go with him to Washington for a little while, Sweetie." She said, trying not to cry.
"W-what do you mean? Go to-" I cut myself off when I noticed a look from Sam. I caught his hidden message telling me to suck it up and just do what he says and make it easier on my mom for the time being. I let out a sigh, resigned. "Okay."
"I packed a few bags for you, Honey. Y-you're going to be there for a while. We'll try to come up when we can, but I don't know how soon it'll be. We'll have to try to find jobs up there and-"
"Mom, shh, it's okay. We'll figure all that out later." I said.
"We really should be going now." Sam said eyeing me wearily, speaking for the first time, although I recognized his voice from his thoughts.
I was going to give all of my family a hug for the last time when I realized I only had the blanket covering me and I blushed scarlet before running up stairs and putting on clothes very quickly.
After we said goodbyes, I hopped into my car, letting Sam drive, and said, "Tell me everything."