The mud was thick, making it hard to walk. Talon pushed through anyway, yanking his foot out of the sunken ground with every step. The forest was dark, making it ten times harder for Talon to find what he was looking for. He shoved the branches away from his face, growing more and more impatient and, not to mention, hungry.
He made a growling noise, stopping in his place. Giving up, and then trusting his voice more than his eyes. “Beema!” he yelled out into the woods, emptying his call to the open air.
But it turned out not to be so empty.
Before Talon could prepare himself, a figure swung down from the tree above him. “BOO!”
“Jesus!” Talon screamed on instinct.
Beema laughed obnoxiously, uncurling his tail and dropping down from the tree branch. “You should’ve seen your face!”
“What are you doing playing around? Get back to our quarters.”
“It’s sundown Talon, meaning we can be out if we want to!” Beema hollered the last part, Talon then slapping his shoulder and shushing him.
“Not in your real form dumbass, and that only applies for the scavengers. Do you look like a scavenger?” Talon didn’t give Beema a chance to answer before saying, “Thought so.” He playfully rubbed the mess of golden hair atop Beema’s head and Beema jerked away with an unwelcome growl. “Now let’s go.”
As Talon started to head back the way they came, his dear friend followed, although annoyed. “Tú asesino de diversión.” You fun-killer. Beema insulted, pulling on Talon’s lengthy tail.
“Hey! Te voy a despellejar vivo!” I’ll skin you alive! Talon shouted in a playfully insulting manner, jabbing him in the stomach.
Beema chuckled, and eventually that led to Talon laughing as well. On the way back to their quarters, Beema’s stomach growled. “Agh, I’m hungry,” he whined.
“Then we better hurry back.”
“But I’m hungry now.”
“Great, you’ve been promoted from a baby to a toddler. Congrats.” Talon stopped, smelling a very familiar scent. Stopping Beema and coaxing him into silence, he knew Beema was about to say something.
“Do you smell that?” Talon asked. Beema sniffed, stimulating his eyes into widening as he recognized the scent. “Food,” he whispered. Instantly, Beema rushed up the nearest tree. Talon, secretly intrigued, followed him.
They scrambled up the tree’s trunk. Beema climbed around the tree as if it were a spiral staircase, swinging on branches with his hands and his tail. Talon, on the other hand, used his nails and dug them into the tree’s bark. “You climb like a lizard-monkey,” Talon criticized.
Beema paused and looked down at him. “And you climb like a spider-squirrel,” Beema responded, already at the top of the tree.
Once Talon reached the top, Beema, already up there, started speaking. “Plus, a lizard-monkey as you call is how our kind is taught to climb.”
Talon scoffed. “So then what are these for?” Holding up his fingers, the elongated claws were pushed out of the small openings in his skin.
Beema, his mood altering, muttered a response. “Bạn biết tốt và họ không cho leo cây…” You know good and well they aren’t for climbing trees…
The two friends balanced themselves on a large branch, staring out and gazing softly at the summer night as it was meant to be gazed. The birds were chirping noisily even though the sun had already died. Talon figured that they found comfort knowing it would rise again.
The stars made everything perfect. The feeling of the gentle wind on his skin, on his real skin, was blissful. How he wished his skin could feel the sun too.
“Ich liebe den Mond mehr als ich die Sonne zu tun, aber ich denke, von der Sonne mehr, als ich den Mond tun,” I love the moon more than I do the sun, but I think of the sun more than I do the moon, said Beema.
“I love the moon more than I do the sun,” Talon repeated back. “But I think of the sun more than I do the moon.”
Beema turned to him. “I thought you sucked at German?”
Talon turned to him with a cocky-filled smile. “Maybe I just got tired of not understanding you.”
Beema rolled his eyes and then let them drift, catching a movement before them on the forest floor. He instantly became aware, looking through the darkness until it moved again. “Talon! Look!” He hit Talon on the shoulder, grabbing his attention and directing it to the figure. Talon squinted. He, being an older version of their kind, didn’t have the greatest vision, but eventually he saw it and a gap escaped his mouth.
It was a little human girl, prancing around in the flowers and trying to catch up to a firefly. Her short, curly brown hair dangled in her eyes, causing her to trip on a tree root and fall down. The two lads chuckled as she did.
She didn’t stay long on the ground, as a middle-aged human man swooped down and raised her high above his head, scolding her for her actions…all while they watched.
Beema and Talon loved to people-watch.
“Talon, look! She has a father,” Beema spoke joyfully, being as he rarely saw them without a mother.
Waiting for the humans to leave, Beema and Talon climbed back down the tree and headed back to their quarters. The neighborhood was nice despite living so close to a graveyard, although it made it easier for the scavengers to, well, scavenge.
Talon smiled as their house came into view.
Beema and Talon lived in their house alone, with the exception of their animal friend; Bone. Being a pug, he didn’t take up much space, and when the actual humans saw him, the boys displayed the animals as just another house pet. Although the majority of the neighborhood was their kind masqueraded as humans, they could never be too careful.
The truth was, when Talon walked the streets during the day, he would have trouble telling who was what species. That is, if it weren’t for the undeniable scent they emanated.
The house he lived in, he worked to get. They all did. Although the little house was little, they treasured it. There were flowers lining the front—beautiful daisies and sunflowers, roses and tulips, and Beema’s favorite; the lilies. The short path leading from the driveway to the front door had cracks with green moss growing inside, which Beema believed complemented the household.
The home was long, consisting of only one story, but they wouldn’t have swapped it for a larger house, even if they could.
Once the two got to the front door, a feeling of comfort hit them. It was the first stability they had in a long time.
Talon scowled at Beema as he rang the doorbell. “You know he hates it when you do that. He can’t actually open the door, why tease him?” While Talon was lecturing him, Beema took out his keys and unlocked the door. “Because it’s fun, Tal, because it’s fun.” Beema said, walking inside. “Plus, he keeps licking my face even though I tell him not to. This is the only way I know how to get him back.”
Talon rolled his eyes as he shut the door behind him. “Dude, he’s a dog. Don’t judge so much.” Talon called out. “Bone! Are you home?”
“Probablemente está masticando mis plumas,” He’s probably chewing my pens, Beema muttered, taking a seat on the floor.
“Well if you don’t leave your pens lying around, then he won’t chew them,” Talon countered, taking off his jacket and hanging it on the coat rack.
Beema’s eyes rolled as he took off his Peg to throw in the washing machine. Now he was fully naked. Talon went to his room first before taking off his Peg and, unlike Beema, just tossed it on the floor.
Neither of the two had the energy to do much else but fall asleep.
The next morning, Beema woke up startled. At first it seemed like the barking was just in his dreams, but he soon realized it wasn’t when the saliva made contact with his face. Seeing Bone panting next to his ear, Beema hissed at the animal and he scrambled away.
Beema mustered the strength to rise from his bed, secretly grateful that Bone had woken him up before they were late to school.
Beema went to the bathroom in a groggy daze, hating the repetitive act of ducking just to get through the door. The builder had looked at Beema as if he was crazy when he asked for a larger door frame. He looked in the mirror and saw bloodshot eyes, probably from fatigue. Beema sighed and grabbed his toothbrush, scrubbing his unusually sharp teeth.
Talon swung his head around the corner to look at Beema in the bathroom. “Hey dude, can I borrow a Peg?”
“Why?” Beema muttered, toothpaste still in the mouth.
“All of mine are in the wash.”
“…Fine.” Beema spat in the sink and went to his room, into the drawer, and tossed a Peg at Talon. “I don’t think it’ll fit you though,” Beema commented.
Just as Beema closed the drawer, Talon said, “Could I borrow another one?”
With a rolling o the eyes and a quick flick of the wrist, another Peg landed in Talon’s hand. “Why?” Beema asked.
“I have a track meet after school.” Beema returned to the sink. “I’m taking a shower!” he yelled over his shoulder.
Talon muttered, “Go right ahead, I took one earlier,” and went back to his room. The Peg their kind wore was to add comfort without adding layers—or in other words, it was underwear. For the females, it covered the breasts and genitals. For the males, it only covered the genitals. The whole Peg was elastic. The shorts were just large enough to get around the hip and butt, and the band sown to it lined Talon’s back like stretchy measuring tape. On the other end of the band was a strap to go around the chest horizontally, one that would stay in place. He pulled the stretchy shorts up his bare legs and over his genitals. He grabbed the stretchy band attached to the shorts and stretched it up. He, then, pulled the strap attached to the band up over his head, causing the band to stretch as well and give him a minor wedgie. Pulling it down around him, it made a snapping sound as the band tightened around his chest.
It felt snug. The book bag was attached to the band on his back. He was a flexible person, making it easy for him to reach around and/or detach it as needed.
As Beema showered, his eyes closed naturally, loving the feel of the hot water against his bare skin. The best part was, he didn’t have to worry about the water being too hot. Nearly nothing was too hot for his kind.
But while basking in the steam, a scent other than lavender soap came to his attention. He breathed it in, eyes still closed.
Beema got out of the shower and dried off; rushing to his room, he was eager for the meat. He phone was snatched off of the bed and he opened up the photo gallery. He stared long and hard at the image, walking over to his mirror as he did. He pictured himself as the photo, as a canvas ready to be painted. He glanced up at the mirror, then back down again. “Got it,” he assured himself. Throwing the phone down onto the bed.
As he refocused on the mirror, his bones started breaking and readjusting. His scaly green skin started to peel and Beema actively rubbed off the green hue as it revealed a nice, tan color. His original golden hair started to lose its brightness. Beema yanked at it, and his hair came out in clumps. Dark brown, short hair quickly grew in its place. His fingers became shorter and his nails stubbed themselves.
His whole body was morphing in a way that would’ve made any human’s body wracked with pain. Not Beema. He and his kind, living amongst the humans, had to do a lot of things along those lines to fit in.
Once he was done, he looked into the mirror at his new shape and form. He picked his phone back up and did a side by side comparison of the man in the photo and himself.
“Oh!” Beema barked, noticing one mistake. His nose shifted upward and then jutted out in a series of cracks.
“Mm…good enough.” He locked his phone and went to the closet, searching for human clothes.
Talon was already in the kitchen, his ‘human onesie’ was already on, and he looked like a middle-aged woman. He had his new hair up in a high ponytail and wore a business suit. Talon whistled as he cooked the bacon and flipped the omelet simultaneously.
Beema came into the main room and peered into the kitchen. Much unlike Talon, Beema was all ‘dressed-up’ as a middle-aged man—with a comb-over—wearing casual clothing.
“Smells good, babe,” Beema said in his alternative voice, playing the role of ‘husband’. Talon looked at him entering the room, and rolled his eyes when he winked his way.
Talon, unsurprised, kept cooking. “Breakfast is almost ready. Get Bone.” His voice was a much higher pitch.
Beema whistled. “Oy! Bone!” With only a few seconds to spare before the food was done, Bone made a barking entrance.
The small, cookie dough colored Pug ran over to the table and jumped onto his seat.
As Talon set the table, Beema sniffed his own squishy skin and made a face. “Ugh, why do humans smell so bad?” he asked.
Talon sighed. “I don’t know, Beema, why don’t you ask them?” The two sat down at the table and Bone was already digging in.
“I mean, we have the ability to disguise ourselves as humans,” Beema said. “And I’m not complaining but their bodies are just so awkward.”
Talon laughed, cutting his bread in half. Things for the two of them were fine; they felt as if they were human.
“Mmm,” Beema moaned. “This is amazing Tal. I mean, I’ve never seen human meat used for bacon before.”
Talon took pride in the statement and sat up a bit straighter. His eyes drifted to the window to see what the neighbors were up to in the morning. He saw the house right across the street, watching one of them water their flowers. Talon could somehow just see in the awkward stature that it wasn’t a real human. Talon’s head then looked out to the street and he saw someone walking down it as if they had just come back from a long day at work.
Talon stopped chewing and frowned, his hands staying perfectly still as he tensed up. Beema noticed and looked up at him, pausing as well. “What? What’s wrong?”
Talon didn’t answer, processing still. He knew that she was one of their own, but how he knew that was the problem.
She was in her raw form…out in the open.
“Beema, come on.” Talon said, jerking up and storming out of the front door. Half of the residences had come out of their house to gaze upon the monstrous-looking female walking down the street, blood staining her hands and lips. She wore a Pox—a female version of a Peg—showing mostly bare skin. The other of their kind murmured on the street, wondering what she had done and wishing they could fix it.
Talon walked up to her, thinking the worst. The two of them had been friends for a long time, so he knew very well that she didn’t have much self-control.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, her eyes brimmed with tears. “He was just there, I didn’t want to…” She looked terrified, making Talon weary as she made eye contact with him. “I just…wanted a snack…”
“Konra,” Talon said to her, nervous beyond belief. “Who?”
“Excuse me!” Talon and Konra turned to see a woman staring at them in horror. “Is your friend…okay?” she asked, a few other neighbors stood behind her, trying to call the police in secret.
Oh right, there are humans here, Talon thought, a factoid he very much liked to forget.
Konra looked down, trying to avoid conversation. “I-I forgot about the humans,” she muttered, her eyes closing. “Please Talon, you have to help me!”
“KONRA.” Talon flinched once when Beema called her name from a distant, and then again when Konra screamed in response.
Talon turned, trying to stop him, but Beema’s human form easily overpowered Talon’s. “It was an accident!” she yelled. Beema ignored the pleading and grabbed her, throwing her down.
“You ruined everything!” he yelled, kicking her in the head and then in the gut.
Talon was horrified, yet he understood Beema’s anger. She had ruined everything by killing.
“It’s okay! I’m calling the police!” one of the teenage boys said, believing he was doing a civic duty.
He was not.
Talon sighed and grabbed the boy, snapping his neck.
His mother screamed and someone grabbed her as well. Beema had already stopped the abuse to Konra and stood next to Talon, both of them molded back into their raw form, a pile of dead cells now at their feet.
It turned out that there were more humans living amongst them than they realized. Their own grabbed the humans and snapped their necks in hoards, making it quick and painless.
Beema sighed, leaning on Talon who stood there, thinking nervously. “Guess we’re moving,” he half-joked.
Talon rubbed his forehead. “I’m just afraid of what all these deaths will bring for our kind.”
Turns out, it brought a lot.