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Therianthropy: After Burdened

By Aly Cantrell All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Action

Blurb

We all have secrets that we try to bury, keep trying to move on with our life and forget they happened. Then they come back, and we have to deal with them anew. Animals are no different, no matter the human skin they put on.

The Day It All Ended: Al


Her high pitched giggling blended well with our surroundings. The sun shone down on her dark hair, tangled behind her as she ran, feet kicking up little wood chips that her brand new sneakers scattered around, chasing the other kids about ducking in and around the warm metal of the various play bars. Other parents were smiling indulgently on at their charge as well, and more were arriving. It was a beautiful day outside, who could blame them.

When another car door slammed behind us, I took no more notice of it than the others. Maybe if I had, my daughter wouldn’t have died that day.

“Everybody, get down on the ground,” a voice snapped. A dozen or so soldiers with a yellow H emblazoned on their front were edging towards us, their sights scanning and landing right on my wife. Instantly, parents either followed their commands, or scuttled onto the children’s area to nab up their kids.

I did the opposite. My wife began whimpering in my ear how sorry she was, but I’d known this moment was coming. After her incident last week, this was inevitable, I was just lucky of the timing. Now the only thing on my mind in that moment was giving these Hunters a target, so that my girls could get away.

“Daddy?” I turned to call for my daughter, taking a defensive pose in front of my wife, but as my eyes flickered in the direction of my only child I saw she was already making her way towards us.

She clearly didn’t understand what was going on, but like any child her automatic instinct was to run to her parents with the flurry of activity around. Glancing over at my wife’s eyes, mirror imaged into her face, I could see confusion and just a bit of apprehension like she thought she had done something wrong for this to be happening. That was the last thing she ever saw, when the crack of a gun went off, and I was left looking at what remained of her body.

Someone screamed, maybe my wife, maybe a random bystander, but the noise was drowned out of my mind as I changed forms and charged forward. Before all four feet had landed on the ground, someone beat me to it.

It was a testament to the situation that I hadn’t sensed him around, but he must have sensed us. A Bear came charging into the scene, bellowing with rage, and I only got a flash of his dark black fur and white face as he took out three of the Hunters with one massive swipe of his paws. I lunged into the fray, my own jaws snapping at any exposed flesh.

They were prepared for a fight though, and having foreknowledge of the animal my wife could take, they were geared up for at least her. Their padding was thick enough that my teeth only just grazed the skin beneath, the only hope I had was to tackle them on their back, and keep them there long enough I could get the bulletproof helmets off, and then crack their skull.

A challenge that might have been made easier if my wife wasn’t cradled over our child, sobbing brokenly. As it was, the Bear was my biggest ally, since the Hunters hadn’t been any more prepared for him then we had.

Once the group of approximately seven, a few limbs had been scattered around making the number a bit off, we came to the silent conclusion to make a run for it before reinforcements could arrive.

By this time, the park had cleared out, so there were no children left as I padded over to my distraught wife. She was as covered in blood as I was, though for a completely different reason. It should have disturbed me more how empty I felt inside as I looked down at our only child’s remains, but even with the fresh revenge still dripping from my maw, there was a coldness growing inside of me. I clung to it now, knowing if I didn’t I wouldn’t maintain this form much longer.

I nudged her once, the blood from the fur on my face smearing onto her shirt not exactly sticking out. She took no notice, so I did it again, harder, and still she refused to react. She would hate me for it later, would probably hate me for my actions today, but right now my main concern was getting her out of here, keeping my one love left alive.

To my surprise, what I now recognized as a Spectacled Bear hadn’t left, but the man yet again saved our sorry tails that day.

Lumbering behind her, he bent down and used his own teeth, still riddled with a bit of human flesh, and latched gently onto my wife’s shirt and lifted her up and away.

She let out a guttural noise, halfway between a sob and a scream as she continued clutching the remains to her, but when I came forward and placed my paw on the empty chest, the carcass fell limp from her suddenly lifeless arms. She locked eyes with me only for a moment, but it was enough. They used to remind me of sapphires, I’d never once seen them before without that gleam seeming to blacklight them. Now they were unrecognizable, the color of a storm brewing, but if it got her through this day...

Whether it was the slowly dripping blood from her arm where the scent of silver was coming from, or her own grief, it took her several attempts to assume form. I wasn’t clear on exactly how much of the metal it took to stop us transforming, but it was clear something was giving her issues.

He dragged her a few more feet away, just to be safe I guess, but then she got to her own two shaking feet, just to collapse on all fours a second later. The three of us matched strides for a time, though his form was much larger than ours we could have outran him, instead he took the lead as we left town.

We kept running, long into the night until she collapsed. Not from exhaustion, we had been able to run up to thirty miles before, and I knew we hadn’t been able to get that far, so this wasn’t much to us. No, I knew exactly what had her silvery fur retracting, her paws extending, and before the two of us had gone another dozen feet, she lost control of the acceptance that had allowed this form for so long. The emotions took hold of her once more, and her Wolf could no longer contain the range of human emotions.

Her short white blonde hair did nothing to hide her naked body as she lay beneath the sun, gasping and clutching at the ground. I stumbled, pivoting on the spot, and I finally let the emotions wash into me as well. I was running on two feet again by the time I had gone back to her, then I collapsed on the ground next to her, took her into my arms, and we took whatever small comfort we could in each other’s presence.

I lost track of our new companion, for hours it seemed, because the next time I sensed another Shifter nearby, it was him approaching to the shadows of night; this time in his own human form though I could still sense the very same animal that had saved us within him.

He was about my age, with black ruffled hair and gentle blue eyes, and carrying two backpacks in his hands. Eyes averted, he only walked forward enough that it was clear we knew he was there, and then placed the items on the ground in front of him, then he turned to walk away again. Maybe to give us our privacy in our grievances, maybe for good that time. I wasn’t going to find out. “Wait-” then my voice cracked off, my own choking sobs having more of an effect than I thought.

His form did pause though, the shadows brightening around him. I glanced up for a moment, taking note of the rising moon in the distance, we had been still far too long. We needed to keep moving, but first I had to pay my dues.

“Thank you,” I began again, in much clearer tones, “for helping us. I’d like to somehow, to repay you sir.”

Still with his back to me, for our decency I knew and not an actual sign of rudeness, he spoke, “It’s Ben, and no thanks needed. I only did what anyone in my place would have. I’d offer you home as well, but we both know you can’t go back there.”

He hesitated then, for so long that I feared new bad news was to come. Then he finished, and I realized he was just dreading what he had to tell us. Still bad news, but not new. “I don’t know what you guys know about these things, but you should know the Hunter’s took her, ah body. There’s nothing left for you two back there, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how foolish it would be to go back home, so I’d keep moving while you still can.”

I swallowed hard, before repeating, “Thank you.” Gently disentangling myself from my wife, I got to my own feet again, surprised at how stiff I was, and even more surprised that the coldness was returning. I took that as a blessing for what it was, I was going to need that distance from my human emotions soon. For now, I picked up one backpack, and ignoring the fact they were slightly too small for me I put on a set of clothes I found in there. I’d go through the rest of it later.

Once I was decent again, I finished my approach to our savior, and looked him straight in the face as I offered him my hand and said, “Thank you, Ben. I wish there was more I could say than that.”

“Your names would be nice,” he said grinning slightly at a joke I only got at the end, “I’d rather not find out on the news later.”

“Al,” I responded at once, only hesitating for a moment before continuing, “and that’s my wife Shara.”

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