I ran through the jungle, sniffing the air for the scent of my prey. I came upon a water hole, well within my territory. Luck is with me, a small rodent is drinking from the cool water. I creep, ever so cautiously, toward the vermin. It hears me, but it’s too late. I pounce, teeth bared, claws extended. I hit my target, hard killing it instantly.
I woke, panting, and in a cold sweat. I was having another dream. I never told anyone about the incessant nightmares. They were too real, and too frightening to explain.
Saturday. Saturdays are good, especially this Saturday. The big game was today, Homecoming. Although huge amounts of pressure were laid upon me every game day, as soon as I got out on the field, no of it mattered. I was the youngest person, 13 years old, ever to be on the Varsity football team, especially after the change. Being the youngest freshman was bad enough, skipping middle school totally, but when everyone else on your team are mostly done with their Change, it makes it ten times harder.
Pushing those thoughts aside, I lean over to check my clock, 4:00 a.m.
My third strait night without sleep, this would seriously affect my game play. I wasn’t going back to sleep anytime soon, so I made my way downstairs for a snack. My mother was nocturnal, so I didn’t have to worry about disturbing her. Rummaging through the frigde, I found some fried chicken to subdue my gnawing hunger. Following it with a glass of milk, I made my way back up the stairs to my room. Turning on some of Pearl Jams more mellow tunes, I settled back into bed and waited to be claimed by sleep.
I woke to the sight of the bandicoot-morph, that would be my mother. “Time to wake up Jake.” Her heavy Australian accent rocked me further into a daze. “Yeah, I’m getting up.” We had moved to America long before the change, but my mother’s accent was still quite heavy. “If you don’t hurry, your going to be late for your game.” I gave her a puzzled look, it couldn’t be that late. I turned to look at my clock, 12:43 p.m.
The game was at 1!!! I ran out of bed, grabbed my readily made bag, and stormed out the door. I made it to the end of the driveway before I realized I was still in my boxers. I dropped my bag, ran inside and met my mother, my clothes in hand. I gave her a quick peck on the cheek and was out the door, jumping into my clothes as I went. Luckily we lived only a few blocks from the school, I could make it there in five minutes if I sprinted all the way.
I burst into the door as Coach Strider began his pregame speech. His saber tooth tiger eyes penetrated me as he said, “Nice of you to join us, Mr. Anthony.” I gave a cautious half smile, and sat down at my locker.
I finished putting on my pads and jersey as the announcer called out “Your Fighting Tiger’s starting quarterback, number 11, Jack Anthony!” I sprinted onto the field, and the crowd gave a huge cheer. I loved home games, and this was the best one. It seemed like everyone loved me, well the loved my record better, but it didn’t matter. If I won this game, I would finish the season without defeat. If I had another season like this one next year, I would have the Heisman Trophy for sure. The band played the national anthem, and the game began.
I passed for 140 yards total, made 6 touch down passes, and ran one in myself. Although my game high was shattered by a Clydesdale-morph that broke through the line, and gave me a mild concussion. Being a human wasn’t all it was cracked up to be on a football field, remembering the dislocated shoulder that had put me out earlier in the season. I went in and finished the game, but I became a little more cautious about my stand point against the bigger morphs. I wasn’t a small human, 6’ 3”, 215 pounds, but I was still only human. The game ended 52-10, I wasn’t in charge of the defense, so I didn’t spend much time dwelling on the possible shut out.
I was walked home by several teammates, all jumping and shouting in victory. I would have joined them, if I wasn’t still distracted by my lack of sleep. At my door they invited me to come celebrate with them, but I turned them down with the excuse that I was still a bit shakey from the hit I received in the game. They accepted my lame excuse, and went on partying down the street. My mother didn’t come to the game, she never really liked the “American version of football” anyway. My Dad did, but that was before...
I made my way up the stairs. I immediately went into the shower, not to disturb my surely sleeping mother. Next, to my room, were I plugged in my guitar, popped in the harshest tunes I had (Metallica), and played away. I was relatively new to the area, which was nothing new to me. My mom and I moved around a lot, mainly because of her job, Healing, but partly because of the fate that befell my father. He died during the fires in New York, NY during the initial change. I had made a few friends in the weeks I had been here, but nothing substantial. Most the football players were upperclassmen, and would rather die than be seen hanging out with a freshman, even if he was the star quarterback.
I was reluctant at the thought of school. I would receive nothing but complements, and nothing but A’s for a week. Not that I have a problem with either, I just want to earn them. I got A’s anyway, but I have received a by or two in my life. They just made me feel empty inside, so I strongly suggested against it. My pleas fell on deaf ears, like most of them do. But that’s what you get for being a jock, I suppose.
Before long I gave up my guitar for my homework. Geometry, Chemistry, English, Spanish...
I sat at my desk and did each and every assignment, no matter how much I groaned. Homework done, I fell on my bed, blasted my radio, and opened a book. My mother didn’t believe in TV’s either, which I protested strongly, but with no avail. My mom was a certified Healer, and was sticking around this small town mostly for my part. She knew moving around a lot was a real strain on me. Mom was only here on a fluke, fixing some kid’s leg, but she liked it so much she stuck around, canceling the rest of her tour across the west coast, and taking a job at the local hospital. This was my second football team this year, which was a better record than last, which was 7.
I dosed of in the middle of a chapter...
I prowled around my favorite hunting grounds, not particularly hunger, just killing time before daylight. I suddenly sniffed a foreign scent. It wasn’t prey, it wasn’t a mate, it was another male!! I felt rage surge up in my body as I followed the scent to it’s source. An adolescent, stalking a gazelle, in my hunting grounds. My muscles tensed, and I charged at the young tiger, hitting him hard. I fought with kiddy gloves, but I still fought. I left him with only a few bruises, I wasn’t about to kill one of my own, but I still had to teach him a lesson. He ran, tail between his legs. Hungry from the fight, I turned my attention towards tracking the gazelle.
I woke again, panting, and in a cold sweat. I wiped the sweat from my brow, with the back of my hand. That’s when I relized something was wrong. Did I feel fur brush against my forehead? I fumbled around for my bedside lamp. Panicked, I knocked it over. “Smooth butterfingers.” I got up and ran to the bathroom. Sure enough, white fur, broken by black sequence stripes had sprouted up to my elbow. My hands had ballooned, and fingers shortened. My mother ran upstairs to see what had happened. She was immediately thrown backwards by the sight of my hands. She said “I’ll call Harry.” and ran downstairs. I heard her talking on the phone with the Change Doctor, she casually called Harry. I looked over my new paws, in utter awe. My palm became a mix of white fur, and black pads. Then it hit me, how would this effect my game. I wouldn’t have the grip on the ball I once had with human hands. I was suddenly mortified by the proposition that I may have to give football, or at least my QB position. Mom made her way upstairs and gave the news that I had an appointment first thing in the morning with the Change Doctor.
I stayed up the rest of the night, and by dawn my mother and I were on the rode. We got there just as the Doctor did, a black crow morph. He smiled and we made our way into the building.
“Well, I guess it’s not too hard to determine your becoming a white tiger morph.” Dr. Chin joked, “But I’m worried about the intensity and time of the Change. Have you experienced any other signs?”
“Well, sorta. I’ve been having some weird dreams lately, where I’m a tiger. They were strangely real.”
“I see. Racial memory, it’s a common event in predators. But that explains the intensity of the Surge. Now the age thing is rather odd though. You are by far the youngest I’ve ever treated.”
My mother stayed out of Dr. Chin’s way. She hated it when people who didn’t specialize in a field tried to act smarter than they were, and this was not one of hers.
“Will that be a problem, Doc?”
“It shouldn’t be, but we’ll take some extra precautions just in case.”
He continued his tests, poked, prodded, scanned, and what not. We finally reached the Powers tests, which was my only reason why I didn’t protest this visit outright.
“All right, Helen if you would exit.” That was directed towards my Mom, which she complied with, immediately. “Ok, Jake, the first test is the norm-shift. Please remove your clothes, no reason for them to be ripped.” I did as he told me, and I was naked, and sitting on the exam table. “Now most people vision a wall, or a door that they go through to norm-shift.” I nodded. I had heard the stories. I closed my eyes and envisioned a large brick wall, with a door right in front of me. I walked right through the door, without hesitation. I opened my eyes, expecting to be a white tiger. But, I was sadly mistaken. My eyes met with Dr. Chin’s, he was staring intently. “Well?” He asked.
“Did you go through the wall?”
“Nothing happened. Don’t worry, it may be unusually not to have a norm-shift, but it happens.”
“Well, that’s it. Now don’t try to norm-shift on your own, you might just be a late bloomer.”
I put my clothes on, my mom paid, and we left, although dissapointed. “Don’t worry, love. I didn’t find my healing power until a full year after the Change.”
The rest of the ride home was silent. When we got home I went up to my room, where I laid on my bed, blasted music and contemplated my loss. I guess it wasn’t as bad as some. That kid my mom helped could lose himself in his form. I’ve read of worse things. It’s better than that kid whose gender changed, I guess. I laughed a little at the idea, rolled over, and fell asleep.
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