Chapter 1: Snow
There are a group of individuals who aren’t treated like people. They are considered to be nothing more than tools to humans. They are called “Shifters”. Those who look human, but can change into an object. Swords, knives, axes, hammers, mallets, bows, guns. Each shifter is able to change their physical form into one other. They could easily walk in a crowd of normal humans and not be noticed if it weren’t for their eyes. Shifters are known to have unnaturally coloured eyes, and for some reason, coloured contacts simply dissolve if worn.
A young girl of nineteen sat on a swing in a park. The cold winter had brought snow and ensured that no one else was there. The girl found the quiet solitude relaxing. With a sketchbook in hand, she looked at the large tree across from where she was seated. Its leaves were still green, but had a fresh layer of pristine white snow. The tree was the object of her current drawing.
A man in his early twenties shivered as an icy wind blew through the area. He huddled behind the tree and tried to pull his tattered jacket closer to himself. He closed his bright red eyes with a sigh. As a Shifter, he would receive no sympathy or help from any humans. He had grown accustomed to it, but that didn’t stop the cold or the constant gnaw of hunger he felt.
A soft snow began to fall, melting as it touched the girl’s clothing. She decided she would need to hurry with her art or else the pages would get wet. There was a crunching sound of heavy footsteps on snow from behind her. The girl paid it no heed, too focused on her drawing to spare it any attention. She briefly wondered who else would come to a park on such a frigid day. Someone pushed the swing she sat on. She gave a surprised squeak, dropping her sketchpad to grab onto the chains holding the seat up. As she neared the ground, she was pushed again by large, rough hands. The girl forced herself to look behind her and saw an all too familiar face. A boy she had known for the past year or so, his sneer constantly haunting her dreams. Next to him stood two other burly men, each sporting hideous smiles of their own.
The girl had been the subject of bullying for many years from a variety of sources. Most richer families – like hers – owned a Shifter. They were hired as maids, gardeners, and the like. The girl’s parents weren’t around much due to work, so their domestic worker; a Shifter; acted as a nanny. The girl just saw her as another person. For that, she was strange. Unnatural.
“Oi, Shifter lover, wanna go higher?”
“Please let me off.” She pleaded softly.
“Eh, what was that?” The man asked, cupping his hand to his ear dramatically.
“I think she said she wants to go higher.” One of the others said with a laugh. Tears began to form in the girl’s eyes. They knew she was afraid of heights and wouldn’t jump off.
The Shifter looked up at the snow that began to fall. With it came more winter winds, freezing the man to the bone.
"Better find some shelter soon." He muttered to himself. He would try retrace his steps to the dumpster he had found the day before. If he was lucky, someone may have thrown out some food that wasn't rotten. He stuck his hands deep into the pockets of his jacket as he stood to leave. He stopped when he heard voices. Turning to the sound, he saw a girl being pushed on a swing. The man shook his head and began to walk away. Humans were a strange lot.
The girl's hands were becoming numb from the cold. She felt her grip on the chains weakening. Once the swing reached maximum height, she lost her hold and fell off as the swing began to move backwards. She landed on the ground with a "thump", the thin layer of snow doing little to soften the fall. Her first thoughts were not of running away or checking herself for injuries, but to collect her fallen sketchpad. Spotting it, she scurried along the ground to pick it up. Quickly brushing the snow off the pages, she looked at the unfinished drawing. The sun was blocked out as the three men towered over her. One kicked her side with a steel-toed boot, eliciting a yelp of pain. Clutching her book to her chest, the girl saw the leader of the men kneel next to her, a pocket knife in hand.
"You look sad, Shifter lover. How about I help you fix that and give you a nice smile?" He said in a sickeningly sweet voice. The girl's eyes widened as she realized exactly what he was implying. She shook her head and tried to back away, only to ram into one of the other men's legs.
"No. Please no." She looked around frantically for any possible way to escape, but the men blocked her vision. As the blade was brought closer to her face, the girl's fear intensified.
"No! Stop it! Let me go!" She shrieked and began flailing, trying to get away.
The Shifter paused mid-stride when he heard screaming. His eyes widened as he saw the girl surrounded by men, one of whom held a knife worryingly close to the girl. The Shifter clenched his teeth at the sight. Bloody humans and their sick ways. He couldn't stand idly by while some humans attacked a defenseless Shifter. He gathered some snow, packed it as tightly as he could, then lobbed it at the girl's attacker.
"Hey! Leave her alone!" He yelled, getting another snowball ready to throw. The attacker with the knife slowly turned to the newcomer. Noticing the bright red eyes glaring at him, the attacker smirked.
"You really are a Shifter lover, eh? Even have one to come save your sorry ass. Tch." He spat at the newcomer. "Let's go boys. This 'aint worth our time." The men all glared at the Shifter as they left the park.
The girl peered at the stranger who held a wad of snow in his hand. She looked him in the eye. 'What a pretty colour' she thought. She attempted to stand, but her legs refused to cooperate.
The Shifter had been spat on before as humans passed him in the street. It wasn't a pleasant experience, but not one of the worst. He dropped the snowball and used his free hand to wipe away the spit. He brought his hands to his mouth, breathing on them to warm up. He looked at the girl who still sat on the floor. Her eyes were green with little golden flecks. A normal human colour. Not a Shifter. The man paused before turning and beginning to walk away.
"Your'e lucky someone was here." He said as he went to go find some shelter.
"P-please wait!" The girl called after him. She forced her legs to stand her up. She rummaged through her pockets and brought out a pair of gloves she had gotten as hand-me-downs from her father.
"I don't have anything to repay you properly, I'm sorry. Please take these. They're warm." She held out the item to the man, hoping her gratitude showed. She truly was thankful and only wished she could do more. However, just talking to the stranger was using up all her courage.
The Shifter stopped when the girl called to him. He turned to see her offering a pair of gloves. He hadn't been able to find any gloves in the streets, and if he did, they were pretty useless. He watched her for a moment longer. Sighing internally, he walked up to her and took the item and stuffed them in his pocked. "Sure." Was all he said before turning again and leaving. He felt the gloves in his pocket. They were barely worn and weren't torn at all. At least his hands would stay warm.
A smile graced the girl's features as she watched the man's retreating form. Her gratitude had been accepted. She hugged her sketchbook close to her. "Thank you." She whispered before leaving in the opposite direction.
Once she had reached her home, she wasted no time in closing herself in her room and beginning to draw. She didn't want to forget the face of the man who had been kind enough to save her. It would be one of her few pictures with colour.