Practice Doesn't Make Perfect: Chase
“-back home you said we could-”
“-maybe next time you’ll-”
“-look, I’m sorry, let me pay you double to-”
Sometimes listening in on other people’s conversations could be fun, but mostly it was just odd. Resisting the urge to stuff my fingers in my ears as I walked past all the others, I knocked lightly on their door, calling, “hey you decent?”
“No, come in,” she called back.
I paused to consider that one, but in the end decided she wouldn’t have invited me in otherwise while saying, “what exactly did you hear me say?”
“I have no idea,” Shara shrugged as she pulled on a jacket, smoothed down her pixie hair though it hadn’t been ruffled, then switched off the TV. “Just heard your voice. Why, what’d you say?”
“Never mind,” I chuckled. “I’m taking Evan out into the woods for some phasing practice, have no clue when we’ll be back.”
“Alright, thanks for letting me know. Ben’s got us out on a wild goose chase, literally, so no clue when we’ll be back either.”
“Have fun,” I waved a goodbye.
Hopping from town to town usually meant we only got a quick look at our surroundings as we pulled in, so I blamed that on the reason Evan showed up to our meeting a few minutes late. He’d probably gotten turned around, though it wasn’t exactly a big city. Either that or he was still pissed that I hadn’t wanted him to go out on his own, but he’d done it anyways and was putting off coming to meet me. I wasn’t going to say anything to him about that though, I’d been surprised he’d listened to me the first time and stayed behind, I hadn’t expected him to do it twice.
When he did arrive he didn’t seem likely to say anything about it either, clearly stalling, he asked “So is it true when you do this long enough, you gain their senses and stuff? Like if you turned into a dog, you could smell ten times better while you were still a person?”
“Um, kind of,” I shrugged. “It’s kind of like bad reception, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The more lax you are, the more it spreads and works like that, but then you run the risk of concentrating on that kind of stuff and you start sprouting fur. It’s a really obnoxious, complicated balance.”
“You are just so endearing me to try this,” he grumbled.
“Alright Ev, now relax.” I ignored him, clapping my hands together and giving him a winning smile.
He closed his eyes obediently, but his every stance remained the opposite of relaxed. “Come on squirt,” I wheedled in as soothing a voice as I could, “I know, and you know it’s going to hurt. That’s why we’re practicing, the more you do it, the less it hurts.”
“How about I just never do it again,” he huffed, opening his eyes again to halfheartedly glare at me.
“You know why that won’t work,” I rolled my eyes right back, “your emotions will go haywire one day, and then your body will force you to transform, and then you’ll get stuck in your half stage. Trust me buddy, you do not want that to happen,” I finished with an ugly shiver.
I could see the question in him, but thankfully he didn’t ask for details as I went back on track, “now relax. Go to whatever your happy place is, lying around reading a book, or whatever.”
He gave me doubtful eyes before closing them again, and after a few more moments, finally started letting his shoulders ease. “Good,” I promised, “now concentrate-”
“How do I concentrate and relax all at the same time,” he snarked, “I feel like that’s an oxymoron.”
“That’s the point,” I reminded, trying to keep the sarcasm out of my own voice. “It’s all a balancing act, you need to learn to keep your animal at peace with your human, and that starts with the body. Once you’re properly relaxed, let your mind start to feel the sensations you had while you were in your other shape. Once you start to feel the tugging begin, concentrate on that, but don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to feel it, otherwise you’ll snap right back to normal skin.”
“That makes absolutely no sense,” Evan muttered with pure mutiny.
I sighed, casting my mind back to what had helped me the most in the beginning, and offered, “okay, try to think on one singular thing. Let your body go lax while you concentrate on a motion, like water running over your skin, or petting your cat. It doesn’t matter, just something that’s really familiar and repetitive to you. That way your body should be going lax, but your mind is finding something loose to think about while you switch.”
Still looking dubious at best, he closed his eyes again, but then to my pride his skin began to start twitching. It was always a slow process in the beginning as his smooth brown skin began taking on a gray hint, bones slowly began snapping and expanding, his heavy face doubling in size as his jaws took in the more powerful set.
It stopped as suddenly as it started, he let out a wild gasp as his knees buckled while he collapsed onto his back as I hustled over, making sure he was whole and no bodypart got stuck. Thankfully all limbs seemed at their normal size as I knelt over him, watching his eyes try to squint past the sun as he sat up.
“What happened squirt?” I groaned as I offered him a hand up, “you were doing so well.”
“Sorry,” he muttered, taking the offering and hauling himself back up. “Had a ah, flashback.”
I was dying to ask, he was way too closed off about anything before we’d found him, but he still hadn’t stopped shaking his head to get his bearings back, and it would feel like hitting on a drunk girl if I pressed him now. Instead I offered, while slipping off my bag and pulling out, “here, you should eat something before we try again.”
I offered him the burger, which he took with such surprise I had to remind myself he wouldn’t yet be able to smell something that would have been obvious to me.
“Thought I wasn’t supposed to eat this anymore?” He asked while he flipped the wrapping around uneasily in his hands, the look of longing not being hidden very well.
“It could hurt your digestion, in large quantities,” I corrected, “but even then, I don’t see you taking your full transformation again anytime soon, so you should be safe.”
He grumbled inarticulately for a moment as he happily took a bite, chewed, and swallowed before responding, “gee, thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” I threw up my hands at once. “You are doing good, totally normal for your age.”
“How long did it take you to get away with it flawlessly?” He demanded while making a face, and opening the bun to pick out the rest of a tomato.
“I’m naturally gifted,” I corrected saintly. “You shouldn’t try to hold yourself to my standard, you’ll just hurt yourself.”
He snorted slightly but denied answering that as he crammed the majority of the rest of his lunch into his mouth.
I waited patiently until he’d stopped chewing to ask, “ready for next time?”