A bloodcurdling scream rouses me from my slumber. With each blink, the image of the guy I hooked up with the night before takes shape. He flings himself backward off the bed, and I get a glimpse of the sheer terror on his face a split second before he scrambles out of the room. He slams the door behind him and barricades it. What’s his problem?
I push myself up in the bed, the sheets sliding off my shoulders and down my torso. I survey the room groggily, gaze sliding past the mirror to catch a glimpse of brown and black spotted fur. I do a double-take. “Oh, shit!” I try to say, but it comes out as a guttural giggle. My red eyes stare at my fully shifted form, taking up three-fourths of the bed. Where I’m petite and relatively unimposing in my human form, I make up for it in sheer bone mass and musculature in my hyena form. Dammit! Not again!
The bed creaks, box springs groaning under my weight as I slide off of the mattress. My paws hit the ground noiselessly despite my size. I have to shimmy my way out between the bed and dresser, my broad shoulders filling the space.
“911! I need Animal Control here right away! There’s a—a wild animal in my bedroom!” I can hear the guy shout into the phone in the other room.
Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me, I groan. I take in a deep breath, my large chest expanding as I try to focus on shifting back. I pray that I’m not stuck in this form, the mere thought alone sends a shred of panic coiling through me. I can still remember the day I first lost control of my hyena. The memory is so vivid, as if it was only yesterday…
“They were protecting me from YOU!!” My guttural scream sounds far off as a roaring noise fills my ears. I feel as if I’m being torn apart as my beast comes clawing out more violently than ever before. It shreds my muscles, breaks my bones, and eviscerates my skin. A rage consumes every fiber of my being as my hyena rockets out of my human suit. All I see is red. All I want is blood, their blood.
Teeth bared in a menacing snarl, my beast launches itself at Lark beyond our better judgment. I feel as though I’ve tapped into something truly feral, something that I may never be able to put back in the box, and I can tell by the wide-eyed look in Lark’s eyes that she knows it too.
“Marrow, NO!” I hear my mother’s shout, but it does nothing to deter the beast’s bloodlust. I can hear the thump of Lark’s pulse just underneath her skin, and I want nothing more than to tear the bitch’s throat clean out. I want to bathe in her blood and the blood of all those who’ve hurt my family.
I close the distance between us in a few bounds, and I’m practically on top of her when a large weight hits me, knocking me off balance. I stumble to the side, but I quickly regain my footing before spinning around on my haunches. I can see the shock on my mother’s face as my claws rake open a large gash across her muzzle. I let out a feral growl, saliva dripping from my jowls. For every step I take forward, she takes one back. Her red eyes dart over to the rest of the Clan, silently pleading them for help. She’s scared of me, scared of what I’ve become, and a part of me relishes it. I’m no longer the little cub you can push around. I lunge forward, jaws snapping at her, but only get a mouthful of fur as she darts away.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see the other hyenas abandoning my brother and father’s bloodied forms in the wake of my complete loss of sanity. My hackles raise, and I spin every which way, growling as they circle me. Yet they don’t attack me. Instead, they seem to keep me preoccupied until a were approaches holding a gun I recognize instantly. I let out a roar, launching myself at the wall of hyenas, but I don’t get far before I feel the sharp pinch of the tranquilizer dart piercing through my thick hide.
When I wake up, I find myself locked in a cell. I raise my bulky head and shakily rise to my paws. I blink away the grogginess from the powerful sedative, taking in the bars made of metal strong enough to contain the most powerful of weres. Looking past them, I stare out into the darkness. An empty room is all that greets me, not a person in sight. I whimper, the fight draining from me as I pace the cell. Hours, days, maybe even weeks go by, and I get no visitors other than the occasional person to bring me food. More often than not, my despair is all there is to keep me company.
Memories of my brother and father being beaten half to death haunt me day and night. The only silver lining is that I may have bought them enough time to escape. It’s that hope that keeps me alive, that keeps me from giving up and giving in to the bittersweet call of death.
I bite the inside of my cheek hard with a carnassial tooth. The pain grounds me against the onslaught of triggering memories. The last thing I need right now is to have another episode.
Breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, I feel my body shift, shrinking in size and fur giving way to tan skin. I breathe a sigh of relief once back in my human form again, but I quickly remind myself that I’m not out of the woods just yet. I run to the door my hookup disappeared through, sliding the lock into place. I then spin around, looking for my discarded clothes. Spotting them, I dash over and scoop them up, hurriedly pulling them on. My gaze searches the room for a good escape route, landing on the window leading out to a fire escape. Perfect!
I hurry over, pulling up on the window, and—Shit! It’s stuck! I pull on it harder, but even with my enhanced strength, it’s not budging. I take a step back, brows furrowed in confusion before it suddenly dawns on me that it’s just ornamental and not operational. Talk about a safety hazard. Ugh, fuck it. I grab the lamp off of the side table and smash the glass wide enough for me to climb through. My feet hit the metal, and I take the stairs two at a time down to street level.
Before I know it, I’m sprinting down the backstreets, snickering to myself as cop cars blaze by. Sucker.