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The Change

Dameon's picture

I've always wanted to turn this into a longer story. Maybe I will someday.

***

Marthen ran through the darkness of the nighttime forest, the wind cold on his naked skin, the earth soft beneath his feet. A tree branch occasionally slapped his face stingingly, although he hardly noticed it. His bare feet hurt from stepping on sharp sticks and tripping over roots, and he felt a sharp, burning pain as he stepped on a large piece of broken glass. From somewhere above, a full moon lit his way, filtered through many branches.

In the distance, Marthen could hear his pursuers calling to one another, coming behind him like a giant net. They weren't moving very fast, at a brisk walk maybe, but they didn't need to. Already, he was tired to his bones, soon he would collapse and be unable to run any further, and they would find him unconcious and helpless. He had no choice, he had to suffer the Change, or he would be lost. He stopped and leaned against a gnarled, leafless tree, panting heavily.

Slowly, he closed his eyes and lost himself in the darkness within, floating in a void where his pursuers did not exist, the world did not exist, nor did even he exist. He was the void, the void was him, and all that existed was an inky black darkness. But out of the darkness, something was emerging. The eyes were all that was there, at first. Yellow cat's eyes, staring unblinkingly into nothing. Then, slowly, the rest of the body came into existence. A large body, sleek with black fur that could hardly be distinguished from the darkness surrounding it. A tail that twitched back and forth slowly and hypnotically. A panther took shape from the void, far away at first, but slowly advancing until it was eye to eye with a body that suddenly contained Marthen. The panther stared into his eyes for a few seconds, its own eyes seeming to peer into his soul and weigh his sins mercilessly. Then, it leaped at him, colliding with his body. It melted into his body, and became a part of it, and the Change began.

Marthen woke screaming into the cold night that suddenly surrounded him, pain wracking his body as he writhed back and forth. His pursuers, some small part of him knew, would hear him and come, but he could not hold it back. Pain was all he knew, as his body's flesh remolded itself and his bone structure changed. Fur sprouted all over his body, black fur, blacker than the night surrounding him. Then his fingers curled, shortened, and became paws, claws sprouting from his knuckles. His screams sounded more and more like the screams of a cat in horrible pain. He felt his head changing, elongating itself, the ears separating from the skull and becoming thinner. His feet, his spine, his legs and arms, the rest of his body followed, until a panther lay where a man had begun.

Gradually, as the pain left his body, he regained his senses, although they were not the same senses as before. He could hear better, the movement of smaller animals through the nearby underbrush was as loud now as the shouting of his pursuers had been earlier. The scents of the forest were sharp in his nostrils, as well, and he had no problem smelling the earth beneath his paws or the plants around him. His sight was much clearer in the darkness than it had been, although the scenery was mostly drained of color. For a minute, perhaps two, he lay on the ground, adjusting to his new senses and the feel of this body, then finally he rose unsteadily until he was standing on all four paws. He stretched his front paws, pushing them forward into the earth, and then his back paws, extending the claws on each paw.

Then, suddenly, a crashing through the underbrush behind him startled him out of this study of himself. Whirling around, he found himself facing a man that held a flashlight in one hand and a pickaxe in the other. The man hesitated a moment, then came rushing forward, bringing the pickaxe down as he ran. Unfortunately for the man, the panther was quicker. As the man came rushing forward, the panther slid out of the way and moved behind him as his momentum carried him forward. Almost effortlessly, the panther raked the man's back with both his front claws. The man let loose a bloodcurdling scream, and then fell forward, onto his face. Turning himself over quickly, he had just time to scream one more time as the panther grabbed the man's throat between his jaws and tore it open. The scream became a gurgle as the man died, and then it was silent once again.

Quickly, licking the salty taste of blood from his jaws, the panther slunk into the shadows of the forest, his leisurely walk becoming bounds as he ran from the warm corpse of his enemy.

kelson.philo's picture

I'm sure you could very well

I'm sure you could very well make this into a longer piece. It's an interesting take on the werewolf, switching it up with the panther. Perhaps we can get more into the Big Cat mindset as a counterpoint to the Big Dog?

After that you'll want to get into all the troubles your main character is going to be running into, not the least of which because he's, well, different. Does he have cat-like traits as a human? How much of his humanity is lost when he changes? Is this going the mystic route or some sort of super science? Lots of questions to unearth and answer should you be interested.

My one other suggestion would be to work with your active voice. You tend to lean on adverbs muchly, and it wouldn't take a whole lot of effort to get this piece action-oriented. For instance, "Almost effortlessly, the panther raked the man's back with both his front claws." could be reworked as "With no effort the panther tore through the man's back with his front claws." It's a little stronger that way, perhaps? You'd be making a definitive, arguable statement that engages the reader. That's your call, of course.

Thanks for submitting this piece! I look forward to more.

cwithey's picture

Critique

Intriguing. Bestiary of the supernatural sort has always fascinated me, encompassing natural creatures with almost human intelligence to 'furs' or anthromorphs, the focus of my episodic series Savage here on Oort-Cloud. The imagery is spot on, with my mind's eye never faltering.

This is assuming a few things, though. It is an excellent scene, individual and stark, but the 'why's' are far from revealed. Answering them would create your backstory. It would be up to you to manufactor the rest, the events after this scene, whether he stays in the form permanently or not and what he does with it. Also, if there's more like himself. Are they persecuted by man, like the hunter come to claim him? Enslaved?

You have a fascinating doorway opened before you. Will you enter?

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I am the Dreamer of the Nexus.