The moon shone down above the meadow where Dad and I stood. Tiny silver filaments of light filtered through the canopy of trees overhead and gave the night a surreal feeling. Fitting, if you considered what we were out there to do.
Mom had taken the older girls deeper into the woods to complete their shift and left me with Dad to go through mine. The first one for me and, as Dad had warned, probably the most painful one I'll ever have to endure.
"Come on, son. You can do it."
I grunted, scenting the air - searching for something, anything to delay the inevitable. The wind carried the scents of spring - rotted vegetation, rain and something else. Something acrid. The smell of fear.
"Brody, get on with it," Dad urged. "Waiting around and psyching yourself out isn't going to make it any easier. If you don't shift voluntarily, the moon will force it on you in a couple of days and then it will be even worse. Now, come on."
"I know," I muttered and kicked at a dead leaf. "I'm scared, Dad."
He sighed and I looked up. I knew that sound. It was his 'I'm trying to be patient but it's getting old' sigh. I gave him my own frustrated exhalation and shrugged out of the thick woolen sweater mom had insisted I wear.
"That's my boy," Dad encouraged.
I gave him my best twelve year old glare and kicked off my runners as I stepped onto the blanket he'd provided. There really was no avoiding it. Dad was right. If I didn't shift now, the change would happen by force. I'd seen it happen to another kid a few months before and there was no way I was going through that kind of pain. Not if I could avoid it.
A lone howl rose in the late night air as I dropped my t-shirt at my feet and stepped out of my jeans. Mom, signaling her change as complete. My sisters wouldn't be far behind.
Hurrying to finish taking my boxers and socks off, I knelt on the blanket and dropped to hands and knees as dad had instructed before we left the house. I recalled his instructions and slowed my breathing to calm my heart rate.
With my eyes closed, I turned my focus inward, searching for the dormant wolf energy that would bring on the change. Dad had said I'd know when I found the right thing. It would feel like a long lost part of myself had finally come home.
I don't know how long it took but when I found the wolf, the elation I felt was quickly overshadowed by the most incredible pain I'd ever experienced. The wolf's energy exploded through me, shattering and reforming bones, rearranging my body to fit the form it wanted me to take. My human mouth screamed, cried and begged for the pain to stop until it couldn't anymore. Whimpers and howls, animal sounds foreign to my vocal chords, replaced my pleas for mercy. I knew there wouldn't be any relief until I was fully shifted, but it didn't stop me from asking for it.
Fire raced down my spine, arching my back until my muzzle pointed skyward. I howled, long and mournfully, as my skin rippled and fur flowed from the tip of my nose to the end of my tail.
I didn't know it then but dad would tell me later it had looked like a storm cloud broke over my skin as my fur grew in. I'd have to take his word for it.
Finally, just when I didn't think I could take any more pain, it stopped and I was left to collapse on the blanket in an exhausted heap. The wolf, I could tell, was pleased with himself but I couldn't care less. I wanted a nap like I'd never wanted anything else in my life.
Something nudged my right hand, correction - paw, and I cracked open an eyelid to glare at who or whatever was interrupting my attempt at sleep. A pair of golden eyes framed by light gray fur stared back. Dad, great. He nudged me again and, with a frustrated chuff, I gave him what he wanted. I stood... And promptly crashed right back down to the blanket.
Dad yipped, his wolfy version of an order to 'haul ass solider and get back up'. I barked at him but did as instructed. Unsteadily, I got up on all four of my new legs and waited for the next nose dive. When it looked like I might remain upright I tried a few tentative steps, relying on the wolf to show me the way. Walking on all fours was foreign to me but the animal part of my psyche knew what it was doing and I let it take over.
The wolf shouldered me aside just as my older sisters, Moira and Maeve, bounded into the clearing and bowled me over with their exuberance. We rolled into a bush together, yipping and snarling as they tried to pin me down. My wolf was having none of that.
We were destined to be the pack alpha one day. We would bow to no one.
Copyright 2011 Danielle Gavan