Pearl stood in the middle of the stale, barren bedroom. She scanned it for a moment before setting her stuff on the bed. The décor, or lack thereof, dashed any hope she had for this home being different than the last. A random assortment of mismatch, hand-me-down furniture complete with peeling paint, broken drawers and stained fabric, all demonstrating the lack of care that had been put into this room and, most likely, its previous occupants. Just another foster home to serve as a glorified boarding house until they either get sick of her or she turns eighteen, which was fast approaching.
She had grown use to neglect from her care givers over the years. The older you get, the bigger the hassle, and the less they want you. She didn’t mind the independence it allotted her. She could come and go as she pleased just so long as she picked up after herself and stayed out of the way.
She considered putting her belongings away but decided against it. What would be the point? Another two months and she would be eighteen. No point in getting comfy when she would just be sent off to fend for herself.
The sound of a door closing drew her out of her thoughts. She peaked out of the room to see if her foster mother had retreated into her room for the night and found all to be calm and quiet beyond. Perhaps a walk was in order. She grabbed her hoodie before stepping out into the hall. She used the light on her phone to keep the darkness that surrounded her at bay as she moved down the stairs and out into the night.
It was a mild autumn night with a crisp breeze. The moon shone bright overhead lighting the way as she walked down the sidewalk. She was unfamiliar with this town but that didn’t deter her from roaming. She had a good sense of direction and was confident in her ability to find her way back.
This was what she needed! A nice long walk in the moon light to clear her head. She pulled her hoodie tight as a gust of wind ripped through the air.
She loved the night, even as a kid. While other children begged for the lights to be left on at bedtimes, she would complain about it. When the older kids tried to scare her with stories of bogey men under the bed, she grabbed a baseball bat and climbed under determined to drive them out of hiding. There was a serene energy that revitalized her senses and made her restless. So, she wandered on into the night.
Up ahead she spotted a tree line and stopped to scope out her location. She remembers the social worker driving past this area earlier today. These must be the woods on the edge of town. She spotted a gap in the trees, indicating a path leading into the dark abyss. She glanced around to make sure no one was looking before she entered.
Once past the initial line of trees and brambles, the landscape thinned out and became much more passable. She followed the path for a few minutes before veering off course. She removed her hoodie and tied it around her as she went deeper into the woods.
Pearl’s whole life had been a mystery. She was found on the side of the road when she young with no clues as to her name, who her parents were, or even her age. Doctors had estimated that she was about one year old, but she had no medical or physical indicators as to her identity. Missing ads had been placed in the newspaper and she even made the evening news, but no one ever claimed her or came forward with information of who she was. After 6 months of no activity, she was named Pearl River by her social worker and began her days of being shuffled between foster homes.
She stumbled on to an embankment of a creek after about a mile. She laid down in a patch of grass and relaxed while listening to the babbling of the water next to her. She watched the clouds drift across the sky, covering the stars and the moon. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, allowing the autumn air to full her lungs before expelling it again.
Pearl spends so much of her life filled with a rage smoldering like embers, ready to ignite at a moment’s notice. She supposes that might be why she grow up watching the other children around her being adopted into their forever families while she was shuffled around from home to home. She was never an easy child, fighting all the boys and always speaking her mind regardless of those around her. However, the night air always calmed that rage inside her.
After a few minutes, the cloud obscuring the moon opened briefly allowing a beam of light to be cast across Pearl’s face. Her eyes shot open as she felt an urge deep inside her. It had been awhile since she had indulged her more primal side. She figured now was as good a time as any.
Brushing herself off, she crossed to a fallen tree and began to undress. With one last look of the area, she removed her bra and panties. She folded her clothes carefully and placed them on the tree out of the reach of the dirt on the ground. Pearl turned to watch as the cloud blocking the moon moved, bathing her in its light as she breathed deep. She focused on the natural energies surrounding her and allowed them to envelop her, mind, body, and spirit.
The change always starts slow. First, hair begins to spread across her body, causing a full body itch that could never be scratched. Then, muscles start twitching and swell to heinous proportions. At the same time, her bones would elongate and bend to accommodate her ever changing physique. Last, but not least, her nails would grow and thicken to form razor sharp claws. Once the change is done, the thing that stood in her place was far from what a normal person would call human.
She walked to the water’s edge and watched her reflection for a moment. The fur that covered her now was dark along her back, but a lighter cream color on her front with a bit of a strawberry hue in some spots. She stood up on her hind legs and looked up to stare at the moon before entering the woods again.
Pearl River was a werewolf.
She ran at full speed for a while, darting this way and that way, jumping over logs, and ducking low hanging branches. It always felt so good to let off steam in this form. Her heighten senses made her see the world in a whole new light and it made her want to explore every nook and cranny. She made sure to stay away from the homes that were scattered around the countryside. Who knows how people would react if they spotted her in this form? She was in south Mississippi and people around here love their guns. Last thing she needed was a scared homeowner or avid hunter unloading into her.
The nature of her condition is another mystery of her life. She had seen werewolves in movies and tv shows growing up so her concern and confusion about her situation is understandable. The main character would get bitten by a werewolf and as a result would turn into one. She, however, had never been bitten by any animal, except for a small dog when she was five. Were-chihuahua she was not though, so what caused this?
She caught a scent on the air. An animal was lurking in the area and it smelled divine. She followed her nose through the trees in search of the animal. After a few minutes, she found the creature licking an old salt lick that was hanging from a tree. The deer stood there for a time unaware of Pearl as she crept closer. Suddenly a branch snapped somewhere in the woods, putting the deer on alert. It stared into the direction of the sounds for a moment before darting in the opposite direction. Pearl gave chased after the deer with no intention to harm for animal, she just wanted the challenge of the hunt.
She followed the deer through the woods, getting with in feet of it before she would let it slip away and start the dance over again. After a time, she decided she had toyed with it long enough and she followed it from a distance, just observing it in secret. Once it had calmed down, it made its way to a small pond in a clearing and began drinking. The scene before her was too tranquil for Pearl to just walk away. The still waters of the pond were just barely disturbed by the deer. The moon reflected brilliantly in the surface surrounded by the stars bright enough to penetrate the light pollution of the nearby civilization. A halo of light over the trees told her which way was town.
The wind pierced through the canopy from behind Pearl, making her shiver. The wind carried with it a surprise and a warning. A smell that seemed so familiar, but she couldn’t place it. It was definitely an animal but what kind was a mystery. Her mind drifted back to her initial meeting with the deer. She hadn’t checked to see what had made the snaping sound that scared the deer and now, whatever it was, it may be sneaking up on her.
She went on alert and scanned the trees in search of the mystery stalker. Whatever it was, the shroud of the forest protected it from detection. She slowly moved into the darkness in hopes of getting a better view or, at the very least, obscuring her predator’s view. After her eyes adjusted to the shadows, she spotted it about thirty feet away from her. Its eyes pierced right through her soul and a low growl emitted from its direction, making her hackles rises. She couldn’t make out what it was but could tell two things. It was big and it meant her harm!
Fight or flight was kicking in for her and it was clear the latter was going to win out. With eyes still locked on the figure, Pearl begin backing away from the beast in the direction of the creek she had left her clothing beside. It made no attempt to give chase at first, but it began following her after she moved a few feet. It still stuck to the shadows but the sporadic rays of moon light breaking though the canopy illuminated the creature enough to give her an idea of her danger. It looked like it could be a wolf but if it were on steroids. Forgetting herself, Pearl turned away from the animal and spirted way in the direction of her belongings. There was a chance that she may be able to take the creature if it attacked but the last thing, she needed was to have to explain mysterious wounds so soon.
The sounds of Pearl’s pursuer running came from behind her, ushering her to move at her full speed in hopes of out running them. The pair crashed through the forest so fast she barely had time to steer around the trees in her path. She could feel herself slowing as her legs screamed for the rest they wouldn’t get, at least not right now. The creature gained on her, but it never overtook her. It would get right behind her and snap at her heels before falling behind her a few feet. Or maybe she was speeding up instead, her mind was too clouded with adrenaline to process which at the moment. All her focus was on navigating the obstacles that lay in her path.
Just as she felt her legs were about the give way, the sound of running water ahead gave her the encouragement she needed to continue. A second wind rose in her as she plowed through the last few hundred yards to the clearing that she hoped would be a sanctuary. The tree line gave away to the embankment and the fallen tree was in sight about fifty feet away. She began to shift as she ran to the tree, stumbling as she returned to her human form.
Pearl tried to catch her breath as she through on her jeans and hoodie. She surveyed the woods she just emerged from in search of the prowler as she slipped into her shoes and crammed the rest of her clothes into her pockets. She spotted the eyes that were quickly becoming embedded into her mind. The beast was maybe twenty feet away, but it stayed in the trees, ever watching her. However, it seemed the creature’s intentions have changed. The menacing aura around it had been replaced with one of something else. Maybe confusion or curiosity?
Against her better judgement, she tore her eyes away from her mystery observer to search the tree line for the spot she had originally entered the clearing early in the night. When she spotted it, her gaze snapped back the eyes in the woods and found them in the same spot. The idea of entering the woods again with that creature was the least appealing thing she could think of but she knew she couldn’t stay there all night and she didn’t feel like it was going to leave her alone anytime soon. Eyes still locked on the animal’s, she moved towards her route home, willing for it to at least keep its distances.
Praying her adrenaline didn’t fail her, she entered the woods and rushed to the trail that would lead her back to town. Peering over her shoulder, she saw the animal following at a trot, but it stayed a hundred feet or so behind her. She pushed on not allowing herself to fall into a false sense of security. As she reached the path she broke into a sprint as she made her way to the clearing ahead. She stopped at the mouth of the path before turning to look behind her. She spotted the animal a way down the path making no attempt to follow her. She stuck her hands in her pockets and hurried back in the direction of her foster home.
It was twenty minutes before she was back in the safety of the barren room. She was so exhausted she didn’t even bother to try and get into pjs. She just climbed into the bed and tried to relax her weary muscles. They tingled and twitched from the workout they had received, and Pearl just knew that she would be sore the next day.
As her brain began to calm as the adrenaline faded away, she tried processing what had just happened. What was that thing? Sure, is looked similar to a wolf but it was probably three times the size of any wolf she had ever seen. She would almost be tempted to think it was another werewolf, but it ran on all fours and she ran on her hind legs. While she can move on all four while she was in her other form, but it was awkward to do so and she definitely wouldn’t be able to run.
She glanced at the clock on the nightstand and groaned at the time. She had to be up early tomorrow for the social worker to bring her to her first day at her new school. She rubbed her eyes before rolling over and looking out the window. As her mind gave into sleep, the last thing she saw before drifting off was a familiar set of eyes looking at her from a tall brush in the backyard.