You’ll never save them, a voice sneers in my head. They’ll die, and it’ll be your fault Sashyndral.
The classroom behind the door is falling under the water, and there is a giant crack in the roof. All the students in the room are running around and screaming. Only one boy is calm, watching me with troubled, black eyes. I shiver as he turns his pale face from me to look at the teacher.
“Children, children please,” the schoolteacher barks, hands in the air. His normally neat and tidy comb over is mussed, and his glasses are askew on his face. “Let’s not get carried away here, it’s just water!” He’s trying to calm them all down.
The ‘just water’ is filling up the classroom quickly. Soon all thirty teenagers in there plus the teacher will drown. All of them will die if nothing is done.
I hate being a Form-Shifter, I silently snarl, and grab the metal doorknob. My scaly hand is like armour, but even with skin like this I can feel the scorching heat radiating from the door. I wince as my claws dig into the handle of the door, and I pull. The door handle groans and finally gives way. I fall back, the doorknob coming free from the door, and crash into the wall behind me. I quickly recover and shake my draconic head. I stand up straight and run at the door, my shoulder braced for the impact …
I sit up in bed, breathing hard. My head is throbbing and my muscles ache. My right shoulder hurts like hell, too. It’s always like this when I have dreams. I hate it.
I lie back down and pull the blankets over my head. I lie there for a while, wondering what the time is. Eventually, I roll out from under the covers and land on my hands and knees on the cold, metal floor. I crawl to the door and sit there, shivering in the pre-dawn cold. I let my eyes close, and my mind wander. For some people, they’d think I’m scared, sitting here, shivering. Others may think I’m escaping my bed because there is something there.
Well, all those assumptions are wrong. What I’m really doing is waiting for the door to unlock.
See, it’s very simple. The mechanism is activated by heat. At exactly seven o’clock, the sun hits the door and gives off enough heat to unlock it. While I wait, I could turn on a light, because there are no windows in my room what so ever, but I’d prefer to wait in the darkness. Like always. There is a faint tapping sound, and the air vents turn on. The low droning is enough to make me want to go to sleep again, but I resist the urge, and press harder against the freezing door.
Finally, I hear the click of the lock turning, and I get up. I grab the door handle and stop. There are claw marks on it, and it is nearly wrenched out of the door. I sigh and shake my head, pulling it down and pulling open the door with enough power to send me staggering from my feet.
At least the door works, I mentally note dryly. But I will need to replace the handle … again.
The sunlight filters through the thick vines hanging in front of the cave mouth, lighting up my room. I turn around to assess the damage, but to my surprise, there is only a massive dent in the back wall where I, no doubt, would have hit the wall. I sigh and walk over to the pile of clothes on the floor. I pick them up and put them in the large, leather bag hanging on a hook outside my room. I close the door and walk out from under the cave, and into the morning light. I take a deep breath, filling my lungs with icy air, and start coughing.
I hate winter more than any other season of the year! At least in summer I can be up earlier, and in spring there are more animals. But in winter it’s freezing, I have nightmares, and the air is icy. Which means my bath will be agony …
Once I’ve washed all my clothes and hung them to dry on some branches right in the sun, I take off my clothes and slip into the icy creek. The water bights into my skin, and I resist the urge to run out. I grab the sand on the ground and start scrubbing at my skin. When my skin is raw and tingly, I unbraid my hair and start washing it with the sand. This process would normally take about ten minutes, but in this freezing weather it takes half n hour because my fingers are nearly frozen from cold.
Now, all that being said, I’m sure you’re wondering why that is. Why I live out here, in the wilderness of this forest, away from the smelly, noisy, daily life of other humans. That’s because my mother sent me to live with my father, who owned a block near here. But a few years ago, when I was ten, he died from some sort of disease. So now I live in the old bomb shelter he’d made when he was younger, and spend most of my time out here alone. I say most of my time alone because I visit my two aunties every now and then, and I go to school every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I have to go to school at least three times a week other wise my aunties will take me in and look after me, making me go to school for the full five days.
And that’s pretty much my life, except for the fact that during winter, or when it’s cold, I have these weird nightmares where I change my form, and do all kinds of things, like saving people, killing people, run away from people … usually to do with people. And in all my nightmares, I’m around the age of fifteen. I know they’re just dreams, but I can’t help but feel scared because in about two months, I will be fifteen.
Every night, as I lie there, in my bed in the dark, I tell myself it will be ok. I tell myself that none of those dreams will come true. And I go to sleep with that reassurance … until, of course, I dream.
I finish my bath and climb out of the water and wrap myself in a large, coarse blanket. I sit down on a rock, in the sun, and close my eyes. I doze off for a while, and then realize what the day is.
“Shit!” I breathe. “Shit, shit, shit, shit!”
I jump up and grab my uniform and put it on, a little damp, and run back to my room. I grab my pack, shove in my books and pencil case, and put on my work boots. Well, technically they’re not work boots, but they’re boots all the same that nearly reach my knees. I run out of the room, slam the door shut behind me, and run through the forest until I reach a long, straight, gravel road. I stand there, staring up and down the road, catching my breath back.
“I think I’ve missed my bus,” I say to myself. “Can this day get any better?”
Then again, it is Monday … what a way to start to the day, huh? That’s why I hate winter. That’s why I hate my aunties right now, and that’s why I hate school. Because … no, there is no reason, I just hate it all! I wish my father never died, or my mother never gave me up and sent me away … but then again, she did have to, because her job was hunting creatures like me.
Oh, right … in my dream, I Form-Shift into a strange, draconic creature. That’s what I do. Form-Shift. And my mother hunts my kind, because they are dangerous and don’t know how to control their powers and therefore end up getting mad and kill people.
But Mum taught me how to control my Shifting … when I am conscious. You can’t control you’re Shifting if you’re unconscious, and I think that’s where most of my problems begins. Most.
I hear a faint rumbling sound and stare up the road to stop a large, orange and white bus making it’s way down the road toward me. I jump up and down happily on the spot, crying out in triumph. Looks like I haven’t missed my bus, and I won’t be late for the first day of school for term four!
“Remind me again why I hate school?”
I tap my pencil on my notebook, thinking.
“Right, because I don’t fit in, what I learn is nonsense, and no one here knows what the hell they’re doing!”
The teacher slams her book down on my desk. I look up at her, my eyes boring into hers. I don’t even flinch, or shrink down in fright, as most other people would have done. This, of course, makes her angrier.
“What was that, Miss Bellitrè?” She snaps.
“I didn’t say that,” I say before the last word leaves her mouth.
“It was your voice I heard,” she growls, frustrated.
Behind me, everyone giggles and laughs. They all know perfectly well that I said that, but they also know that I’m the only student in this class capable of getting away with it, because the teacher, Mrs Robbe, thinks me too stupid to think up reasonable excuses as to why I’d call out that in class.
“Maybe you thought you heard me, but it wasn’t me, Ma’am. I wouldn’t say that anyway. I like science,” I drawl.
This makes everyone laugh some more, because it is a well-known fact that I hate science, and maths, and anything to do with science and numbers and what not.
“I’m sure I heard you –”
“Maybe it was someone from the other class? These walls are awfully thin, aren’t they, Ma’am?” I cut in.
Mrs Robbe narrows her eyes at me, and then turns back to her black board. I smile with satisfaction as she continues her long speech on how Isaac Newton discovered energy. I yawn widely to emphasise my boredom, and get a glare from Mrs Robbe, but she ignores me. Suddenly the small clock on Mrs Robbe’s desk starts chiming, and Mrs Robbe turns to the class.
“Alright class, pack everything away. We will continue with this tomorrow,” she says, and then watches us all leave.
I shove my science book into my bag and jump out of my seat. I stroll across to the door and make my way out of the room, down the corridor, and to the front door that leads to outside. With a large group of other teenagers, I walk across a large, grassy area to where the change rooms are. Today I have sport, and luckily I have my sport shirt – clean too – so I won’t get in trouble.
I push open the door and walk down to the end of the change rooms and put my bag in the corner. I quickly change into my sport shirt and get out of the change rooms before the other girls get here.
“Always the first one out, aren’t you Bellitrè?” The sport teacher comments.
I smile. “Of course. Couldn’t do to be late,” I look around as though I could be over heard. “Better to be five minutes early than late, right?”
She smiles. “Yes, yes Bellitrè, of course.”
“I mean, it’s better to get out of that room before all those other girls get in. I hate them, and they treat me like crap,” I add with a smile.
The sport teacher gives me a strained look and just shakes her head.
And for the next hour, all I have to do is run around the oval while everyone else has to play stupid baseball. I don’t really like playing team sports because that means I have to talk to other people. And running laps around the oval is good enough for me, because I can keep up my fitness anyway.
“Hey!” Someone calls out behind me.
I throw a look over my shoulder to spot a boy running to catch me up. I look forward, hoping he’ll keep going, but he doesn’t. He jogs alongside me and smiles.
“Hey,” he says.
I nod in response.
“I’m Aaron,” he tries to start a conversation.
I just nod.
“What year are you in?” He tries again.
I look at him and narrow my eyes. “Why are you talking to me?” I ask simply.
He baulks. “I thought this was a free country?” He says.
I scoff. “Don’t believe all the crap you hear on TV. Not everyone is right.”
Aaron opens his mouth to say something, but I pick up my pace and run off. After a few strides, he catches up again and smiles, nearly out of breath.
“I don’t. I was just saying. But you didn’t answer my question,” he puffs.
I growl and run faster. Once again, Aaron tries to catch up with me, but I keep going faster. Next thing I know, I’m sprinting laps around the oval, just to get away from this kid. I hear a whistle blow, and skid to a stop. The sport teacher runs over to me, and I double over, panting.
“You may go and get changed now, Bellitrè,” she says.
I nod and hold my thumb up in the air. She smiles and pats my back. I walk back with her, and allow her to talk to me. I throw a glance over my shoulder, but don’t see Aaron.
“You should think about doing cross-country,” the teacher is saying.
I look back at her. “No thanks. Sorry, but I’d rather not,” I say.
“What about any sport at all? Is there anything you want to do?” She asks, half-heartedly.
I think about it. I have everything I could possibly ask for, maybe even more. “No, not really,” I admit after a while.
We reach the change rooms and I walk in, saying a terse good bye to the teacher. I walk into the change rooms and over to my small corner, get changed, and walk back out. No one talks to me as I walk by. I go past the library, which is closed at lunch 1, and keep going, past all the other classrooms, and the little alleyway that leads to the oval. After a few more strides I make it to a small space between two buildings. I sit down and realize I have no food to eat.
I’m about to curse in a very colourful language when someone sits down beside me. I glance up to see Aaron riffling through his school bag, a wide smile on his face.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I bark incredulously.
“You never answered my question, and I thought, you know, since you’re all alone here, I’d hang out with you,” he says, getting an apple from his bag.
I stare at him blankly. “You do know I’m a loner by choice, right?” I venture.
Aaron shrugs. “Never could hurt to have a friend,” he retorts.
I’m not going to be able to get rid of this kid easily, so I might as well just put up with him. And besides, maybe he isn’t all that bad. Though he is extremely annoying, I like his persistence.
“What was the question again?” I ask.
Aaron smiles widely and leans against the wall of the room behind us, and rests his legs on his bag. “What year are you in?”
“Nine,” I say absentmindedly, staring at the sky.
“How old are you?” Aaron then asks.
I glare at him. “What’s with all the personal questions?” I retort.
He baulks. “I’m just asking! And besides, you look like you’re nineteen,” he says.
“Well I’m not,” I snap. “I’m fourteen.” I lean back against the wall and stare up at the sky again.
“When did you turn fourteen?” Aaron asks. In other words he’s asking when my birthday is. Cheeky.
“Last year, in November,” I say quietly.
“So you’ll be fifteen in two months?” Aaron looks at me in astonishment.
“I was held down a year, ok?” I growl. “But yes, I’ll be fifteen in two months,” I hold my finger in the air above my nose and twirl it around. “Hip hooray.”
“Love the sarcasm,” Aaron says. I glance at him, an eyebrow raised. Well, I try to raise an eyebrow, but it doesn’t really work. Instead, both rise, with one higher than the other.
“Didn’t think you had a sense of humour,” I quip.
“Didn’t know yours is so blunt,” Aaron laughs.
I roll my eyes. “Have you ever been punched in the face for being annoying?” I ask casually.
Aaron laughs. “No … you don’t plan on hitting me … do you?” He asks worriedly.
“Only unless you want me to,” I say with a lopsided smile.
Aaron studies me for a while, a slight grin on his face. He has short, wavy brown hair with blonde streaks, lots of freckles on his face, and proud, sharp features. I suppose you could say he’s handsome, but in a way only mythical beings are.
“What are you?” I ask.
Aaron’s smile changes. “A human. What are you?”
“You’re not …” I pause and study his face. “I’m as human as I can get.”
Aaron’s smile changes again, looking more human and innocent, and he starts eating his apple. The shift of his face scares me a little, and that’s not an easy thing. But there a two possible explanations for the face shift if he isn’t really a human.
The first possible explanation is that he’s a demon, and he’s in hiding or whatever, and he’s just showing me he’s not human, or … he’s just a demon.
The second is that he’s a Shape-Shifter. Technically, he’s the same as me, only he doesn’t change his form, just his shape. Like an illusionist, but a little different. His shape can physically change, but he’s still, logically speaking, human. I’m a Form-Shifter, which means I can change my whole biological scale and everything, and become the creature I have Shifted into.
Shape-Shifters and Form-Shifters don’t get along either, and Shape-Shifters hunt my kind. That’s why I’m scared. My mother taught me enough about Shape-Shifters to know I should fear them. But I don’t as much as I should because my mother … is a Shape-Shifter. And that’s why she had to send me away to live with my Dad, because otherwise she would have had to have killed me, or hand me over to a secret organisation that would have conducted experiments on my body to figure out ways to destroy my kind, and allow Shape-Shifters to breed with humans without producing Form-Shifters most of the time.
“Hey, what’s your name? You know, your real name. Bellitrè isn’t really your name, is it?” Aaron looks at me expectantly.
“Bellitrè is my name. My last name,” I say flatly. “My mother’s maiden name.”
“Oh like … wait, is your Mum Huntress Bellitrè of the Wolf Clan?” Aaron asks, his face changing again. His eyes become black with red stripes swirling around, and I can see the demon in him clearly. I almost sigh with relief.
“Yep, that’s my Mum!” I say loudly.
Aaron looks at me as though I’ve just grown another head. Though assuming he’s a demon, he’s probably seen that happen before.
“If that’s your Mum … shouldn’t you be dead or something?”
“No!” I growl. “My Mum gave me away to my father ages ago … um, when I was five. I’ve been living with him since,” I tell him.
“Didn’t your father die, though? Like five years ago?” Aaron raises an eyebrow, and pulls it off better than I do.
I narrow my eyes. “How do you know about that?” I ask suspiciously.
“I’m with the Blood Clan. I’m supposed to investigate the sudden deaths of humans in this area. They made me go to school so I don’t seem suspicious. I started on the last day of term … 3, is it?” Aaron looks at me and I nod. “So it’s technically my second day here.”
“Explains a lot, like why I haven’t seen you around before, and how you know about my father,” I look away briefly. “But his death wasn’t sudden. It was a disease.”
“No,” Aaron says quickly. “He was killed. Murdered. The disease was just a diversion. It wasn’t a human that killed him though, which is why the Blood Clan was called in. We deal with human deaths by non-humans. I think they were …” Aaron trails off.
“What do you mean?” I snap, jumping to my feet. “That my father was murdered? And you know who did it?”
Aaron stands up and grabs my arms. “No, that’s not what I’m saying,” he says, trying to calm me down. “Well, it is, but I don’t know who killed him. Or why. But we know he wasn’t the target, and there was a massive struggle before he was killed.” Aaron smiles sympathetically.
My eyes well up with tears. “He must have been protecting me,” I murmur.
“Most likely. That’s what we assume he was doing anyway,” Aaron nods.
I lean against the wall, my breath coming out in small gasps. “Who … who could have killed him?” I ask.
Aaron frowns. “I don’t know,” I notice how he says ‘I’ instead of ‘we’ this time. “It could have been anyone.”
I look at the sky just as call goes up. People start rushing to their next class, so I grab my bag and sling the strap over my head. The bag rests in the groove of my back, where it is most comfortable for me.
“It’s time for class now,” I say, wiping my eyes.
“Ok. What class do you have now?” Aaron asks.
“Drama. My teacher is weird … but I love her. She looks after me, and lets me mess around with her makeup,” I say with a wide smile.
Aaron blinks at me. “You? Capable of love?”
“She’s my aunty,” I snap, and throw a finger in his face. “And Form-Shifters are capable of love, thank you very much!”
I spin around without saying good bye and walk to my next class. I really do like drama, and not just because my teacher is one of my aunties. There are few students in the class, and all fifteen of them actually don’t annoy me. It’s the one time I can be myself, and no one will say anything. As we all established on the very first day, what happens in the drama room stays in the drama room.