The Trouble With Phasing
“What happened to your shoulder?”
Goddess be damned. We hadn’t gone five minutes in silence since we left the den. I looked out of the corner of my eye to see him studying the upward pointing arrowhead branded on my right shoulder. Fur never grew back over the scar, so my puckered skin stood out against my silver white pelt.
“It’s just a scar.” It wasn’t a lie. But I also wasn’t going to give this little mongrel stranger the full details on my life.
“But what happened?” He enunciated every word dramatically, obviously not getting the hint to drop it.
“Why don’t you focus on keeping up?” His short legs were moving double time trying to keep pace with me, but I wasn’t planning on slowing down any time soon. The sooner I could drop little Larken off with his precious parents, the sooner I can get on with my life.
He growled and grumbled to himself, but Larken managed to keep relatively close by as we trekked through the woods. His little paws hadn’t learned the art of travelling with stealth, so I was sure that every creature in a three-mile radius could hear us loud and clear.
“So, what’s your name?” Larken asked, slightly huffing from the exertion of the hike.
I paused for a slight moment. I guess there was no harm in telling the brat my name. It wasn’t like he would know it or find it in any records.
“A-senn-a.” He sounded it out, weighing the syllables in his mind. “That’s a weird name.”
My fur bristled a bit. “Not as weird as Larken.” Real mature Asenna.
When we got the to outskirts of the little town Larken and his parents had come through, I looked around for a place that would have enough coverage for me to shift. Unfortunately, a couple of wolves moseying through down was sure to raise a few alarms and frankly, I didn’t feel like getting shot at. I spotted a few bushes that would do just the trick. As I made my way over, I noticed Larken was still following me.
“Hold up there, brat.” I said. “I’m not phasing in front of you.”
“Why not?” His question was innocent enough.
In packs, it was normal to shift in front of each other. And with the shifting came the inevitable nudity. Yep, that’s right. When we go from wolf to human, all that pretty fur goes away and leaves us in our birthday suits. But for a loner like myself, public nudity wasn’t on the list of enjoyable pass times.
“Because I said so!” Perfect logic there. “Just wait over there and I’ll be right back.”
Larken huffed but took a seat by a tree and started scratching his shoulder on the trunk. I ducked behind the bushes and set my rucksack down on the ground. My teeth clenched in preparation for the phasing. It had been months since I went through this process and my bones and muscles weren’t used to the strain. My muscles constricted and my bones started to morph and break. I could hear the snapping, crunching and grinding. The pain filled my body, but I clenched my teeth even as they were changing. My fangs receded, my molars shifted and shrunk. I hated this, but it was part of the gig.
As the pain started to ease, I opened my eyes and looked down at my now bare skin. I had forgotten just how pale I was. I studied my rough, dirty hands now deprived of their powerful claws. I let out a breath I didn’t even know I was holding and reached for my rucksack. I du through the supplies and clothes until I found a comfy pair of jeans, an old 80′s band t-shirt and my sneakers. They were all threadbare and riddled with tears and holes, but hey, what can you do?
I threw on the clothes, feeling constricted and confined in my human form. It was uncomfortable and felt unnatural to me. Pushing aside my discomfort, I stepped out from behind the bushes and saw little Larken standing by the tree in full nudity waiting for me.
“Dude, what the hell?” I asked as I averted my eyes.
“What? You phased, so why can’t I?” What a typical kid.
I rolled my eyes and, realizing he didn’t have any clothes with him, rummaged through my bag again and tossed him a set of clothes and my old converse. The t-shirt swallowed him, the shorts had to be tied tightly around his little waist, and the shoes flopped helplessly around his feet. But, hey, it was his own fault he ran off into the wilderness, am I right?
“These clothes smell weird.” The brat griped.
“Yeah, well that’s all we got right now.” I told him. “Now come on, let’s go get your parents.”