Well, I mentioned in my last post under this category, Mutterings, that I often use writing prompt books such as 300 Writing Prompts by Piccadilly. Today is no different. Today, I was flipping through my writing prompt book and found a topic that interested me. It hit home as it said I was a children’s book writer and wanted me to write the first few lines of my new book. While I’m not a children’s book writer, I am a young adult fiction writer and am in fact working on another novel. So, I thought, why not? I’m going to share some of it with you today.
by C.K. Austin
He shot me. The bastard actually shot me, my mind screamed as I fell to the ground. Blood poured out of the hole in my shoulder as I tried to pull myself up against the tree blocking me from Eli’s view. I couldn’t stay here. He would eventually come out here to finish what he had started. If I were to survive this night, then I needed to move. I poked my head around the tree just enough to catch a glimpse of Eli, his blond hair highlighting his silhouette in the moonlight. He was standing about thirty yards away, perfectly positioned between where I was hiding and my house. There was no way I was going to be able to sneak past him to escape to the security of its shelter. I also didn’t want to draw him back towards there and my mom that slept safely within.
Eli crouched and gently touched a leaf. His fingers came away bloody. That was my blood. My eyes scoured the ground between him and me. There was more blood scattered in puddles on top of the dirt, only slightly darker than the surrounding soil, barely visible as they shined reflectively in the light of the full moon. Eli stood up. His head swiveled towards my direction. I ducked back behind the shelter of the tree.
“I know you’re still out here,” Eli’s voice echoed in the night. “I will have your hide as a trophy, Sky!”
I couldn’t stop the whimper that escaped my muzzle. Eli had desired my fox pelt since the first time he saw me behind the Science Hall at school. The memory of him looking in on me while I cowered in the back seat of Susan’s truck flashed through my mind. He had reached for the handle while gloating about how I would look stuffed on his wall, only to be interrupted. I had been rescued from my impending evisceration by my mate, Tristan, and a friend of ours, Martha. Though she wasn’t a friend of mine at that time, nor was he my mate then, but both have come to mean so much to me in such a short amount of time.
I’m a shape-shifter, an Arctic Fox shapeshifter to be precise. I can shift into almost any animal I choose, but ever since my sixteenth birthday when I first transformed, the fox has always been the most comfortable for me, and the last thing I wanted was for Eli to get his greedy hands on my pelt. Being injured as severely as I was limited my abilities to shift into a smaller or faster animal to escape. I couldn’t afford to lose too much more blood. I would have to remain a fox for the time being until I could get somewhere safe.
I shifted my weight against the tree, trying to find a more comfortable position which was next to impossible with the bullet hole in my shoulder. I cringed as pain shot through my front leg when my shoulder brushed up against the rough bark. My fur snagged in a small crevice where once a branch had extended from the trunk. I whimpered as a clump of blood-soaked fur pulled out away from my shoulder, widening the bullet hole and allowing more blood to pour freely from my wound.
“Now, I’ve got you,” I heard Eli gloat as he started to walk towards where I hid. I cursed myself. I cursed at my inability to stifle my involuntary whimper. I scoured the area around me looking for a place to hide. My fur coat usually blended well with the snow. But the vibrant red blood staining my shoulder, spreading further out across my coat, and pooling on the ground around where I sat would cause me to stand out the second I moved from the shelter of the tree. There was nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide. I could hear Eli’s footsteps getting closer to where I sat. I wouldn’t stand a chance if I ran. I was too easy a target with him this close.
I shut my eyes and tried to slow my breathing. As Eli neared, my heart started to race. My breathing sounded like a tornado in my mind. My head began to get dizzy from the amount of blood I’d lost. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could hold onto my gradually slipping consciousness. I knew I couldn’t go home. My mom was asleep, and we had no way to protect ourselves – there had never been a need to do so on our private island. I’m sure my mom never expected anyone to cross Sitka Sound to hunt one of us down. Then again she didn’t know that I spent a lot of my time as an animal. She was hardly home. She was always working at her office or elsewhere and too busy to care about what I was doing or where I was.
Every shuddering breath was a challenge as I was sure the next one would be my last.
“There you are,” Eli said from right above where I lay. I didn’t have the energy to peer up at him and continued to lay still in hopes that he might think I had died and not torture me further. I managed to crack my eyes enough to sneak a look up at him through my eyelashes. Eli was peering down at my inert form. He raised a foot and nudged my shoulder. I had to lock my jaw to keep from crying out from the pain. It took every last remnant of my willpower to lay still. It was a struggle not to succumb to the void that wanted to envelop me. The void that wanted carry me away to a pain-free and peaceful end.
When I didn’t react to his touch, Eli propped his rifle against the very tree against which I laid. He reached for a knife at his waist and crouched down. The prick of the cold steel at my throat shocked me. It didn’t hurt. Nothing hurt anymore. Nothing could hurt me beyond what I was already feeling.
It was almost peaceful to lay there and let fate intervene in my life. To no longer hide or conceal who I was. No longer would I have to worry about causing Tristan harm.
Tristan! I couldn’t just lay here and die. I had to fight. I had to survive for Tristan! Fire poured through my being. My desire to live and protect my mate gave me the energy I needed to surge to my feet. I lunged at Eli’s hand that held the knife. My head swam when I moved. I grasped what little consciousness I had remaining and managed to latch on to the soft meaty part of Eli’s hand. His blood coursed down my throat. He tried with a vengeance to shake me loose, but there was no way I was letting go. The knife dropped from his grasp as I sank my teeth in deeper. The coppery taste of Eli’s blood coated my tongue and hit my stomach making me want to retch.
A swift punch upside my head had me seeing stars as my bite slipped. An image of Tristan flashed through my mind, and I redoubled my grip. Eli’s cry pierced my ears. The ringing in my ears was almost overwhelming. Still, I held on. I couldn’t let loose. I couldn’t slip. I couldn’t afford to. If I did, I would end up stuffed in his room or mounted on his wall like a wild animal. The bastard knew I was human! Still, he had hunted me! I couldn’t let him get away with this. And if I gave in now, I would die, and there would be no one to stand up to him. No one to protect my friends. I could hope that he would stop at me, but even though my friends couldn’t change into animals at will as I could, they were still my friends, and they would come looking for me. I was certain that Tristan wouldn’t survive either.
Tristan was my mate. A true mate. He could sense me. He felt my pain as if it were his own. I could feel him cry out through our bond as I struggled against Eli. If I died, most likely so would he and there was no way I was going to let that happen.
Eli’s fist banged into my wounded shoulder. I cried out as I fell to the ground. I heard an echoing cry deep in the recesses of my mind that caused me to stumble as I felt my pain echoed back at me from Tristan. I barely managed to dodge Eli’s attempt to grab for me and slipped between his spread legs. Eli lost his balance and stumbled a few steps giving me just enough time to spin around and jump on his back. I sank my teeth into his shoulder at the point where it met his neck. Eli’s cry echoed in my ears as he stumbled to the ground. I refused to relinquish my hold no matter how many times he attempted to roll over and swat me off. I was not going to die here at the hands of a teenage punk destined to be a serial killer. I was not going to die and possibly cause the same for my mate.
After what seemed like forever but was probably more like five minutes Eli collapsed. I staggered off of him. I couldn’t go home. Not covered in blood and with a gunshot wound in my shoulder. I wasn’t even sure if I could revert to my human form. My mom didn’t know about my ability to shapeshift, and I didn’t think that me, staggering onto the deck, bloody and furry, would be a good way for her to find out. I couldn’t go to Tristan’s house either. His family didn’t know about me and our connection. I also didn’t think he would be able to care for my wound when doing so would cause him the same pain. I wasn’t even certain if he was conscious at this point – he had been silent after his last outcry through our link. The thought that Tristan might not have been strong enough and Eli killed my mate through me was almost more than I could bare. But I didn’t have the luxury of dwelling on the pain or the what ifs. If Tristan and I were to survive, I had to get help. I could only think of one place I could go. One of only three people that knew who I was. The only one who fully knew what I was capable of. Martha.
I had met Martha shortly after becoming a shapeshifter. It had been a very confusing time for me. She had helped me to understand what was happening to me when I couldn’t understand it myself. She had also been able to help me change from my fox form to human at a time when I was certain I would forever remain a cute, but furry, four-legged canine. I’d only been out to her house a handful of times since then, and most of those times I had been driven there by Tristan, but I was hopeful that I would be able to find it this time by myself. If I could keep from passing out from blood loss, I was confident I could make it there or at least I hoped. I staggered to the coastal point of our island, closest to Sitka. I wasn’t able to boat across as a fox as I lacked the proper appendages to operate or steer, but I had been practicing swimming in this form. Now I hoped it would serve me well as I took a deep breath and plunged into the frigid waters.
I screamed out as the salt water burned the open wound of my shoulder. The icy water felt like a million knives digging at every inch of my skin as I paddled as fast as my shoulder and blood loss would allow. My only goal was that I would make it across Sitka Sound before I collapsed from fatigue and fainted or hypothermia set in. While it wasn’t very likely with my thick fur coat, I wasn’t certain how my shoulder injury would affect my ability to maintain my body heat.
Though the numbing bliss the water had to offer if I gave up and floated away into oblivion was appealing, the thought of never seeing Tristan again urged me on, giving me the strength to slosh forward. Once I neared the shore, I strayed slightly off to the side in the direction of the woods next to the marina. I allowed myself a few precious seconds to catch my breath before striking out again in the direction of Martha’s house. I couldn’t afford to stay still for too long as I could find myself simply giving in to the cold, fatigue, and darkness creeping in on my vision. The journey was taking longer than I expected as I was forced to stick to the shadows, skirting around most of Sitka.
Since I wasn’t certain which direction I was headed, I veered off in the direction I believed Martha’s house to be once I left town. My breathing became more labored as the frigid air froze my fur in clumps and made trudging through the woods more and more difficult. My muscles started to freeze up. My shoulder throbbed and burned as I pushed on forcing my legs to continue to carry me forward. My head was dizzy with the effort. The night seemed to close in on me as my vision blurred. My head throbbed as I ran. The impact of my paws on the hard icy ground jarred my worn and ragged frame. My vision blinked in and out of focus as I staggered. I nearly fell and caught myself by leaning up against a tree before moving on.
My shoulder, which had started to become numb due to the cold suddenly felt as if it was on fire as my blood began to leak out again when I pulled away from the tree. My vision swam as I forced myself to stagger on. My head felt heavy as I stumbled into a clearing. A house came into view. A wave of depression overwhelmed me as I looked upon it. It wasn’t Martha’s, but I couldn’t keep going like I was. I had no choice but to pull myself up as much as possible and stagger to the house. The house looked vacant as I crawled up the porch; blood trailed behind me in the snow. I had to get out of the cold; I was going to have to deal with any shelter at this point. I felt certain it wouldn’t matter much longer anyway.
With what I was certain was to be my last breath I propelled myself onto the porch where I collapsed. My vision slowly faded to black as I reached out one final time to Tristan.