It was him. I knew that it was. But then again, it wasn’t him. And I wasn’t me.
Startled from sleep, I gasped awake. I could feel hands on me. I could also feel a breeze. I was… naked?
A dim room surrounded me, and with it seven figures, all shrouded in the dimness. But I knew who they were.
The first face that I saw was Sam’s. Somehow, in my state of haziness, I expected to see the wolf version of him, the one that had stalked my visions and apparitions of him since I had met him. But there he was, in the flesh. His human flesh. And I was too…without any clothes on.
I was wrapped up in some kind of blanket, but I could still feel my naked self beneath the cloth. My cheeks flushed, I looked on as they all stared at me intently. “Where are we?” I asked, my voice hoarse and unlike my own.
“We’re at the safe house.” Sam said, and I felt his hand along the curve of my forehead, feeling for warmth I supposed. He looked at Adonis, who was near him, his golden eyes as startling as ever. “Safe house?” I asked, trying to get my bearings in all of the confusion. I remembered the heat. The swelter. Oh, it had been so painful. I remembered being alone. That feeling of panic before I had faded away into the Change. I knew that I had Shifted. So why wasn’t I one of them? And why weren’t they Changed?
Sam spoke calmly, his voice a rock among the roaring tide of haze. “The safe house is where we will be staying from now on. As we all complete the Change. By day, we will remain here throughout the cold months.” I latched onto his words, trying to find comfort, normalcy. Feeling them around me, their strength, their bond, it was healing. I could feel myself coming up out of my deep sleep, surging with reality.
I blinked up at Sam, looking around at all of them. “I felt it….last night.” I braced myself at the memory, closing my eyes and swallowing thickly with the bitter memory. “I know, Jane.” Adonis said, his voice deep like a lull. Looking up at Sam, something connected us through his shrouded gaze. There was something so…untouchable about him. I wanted to know him.
“Here, drink.” Hunter said to me, coming up out of the dimness to hand me the glass of water. I was in a bed. I could see that. They were all crowded around the bed, peering at me like I was some kind of dangerous specimen that was about to sprout wings and terrorize all of them. It was actually kind of comical.
“Is Halona here?” I asked, sipping from my water as Sam helped me to sit up. I was still blatantly aware of my own nakedness, and I felt the flush of heat as he neared me. Adonis looked at Sam momentarily, before shaking his head. “No one can be here but us.” Rick said with his gentle assurance.
Shocked, I looked around at all of them. They all looked at me with a quiet sense of carefulness. “Oh.” I said, my voice a shade of my own. I felt the blood surging new through my veins. That was when I noticed the sharpness. The crispness of the air, the hum of the birds in the trees outside. I could smell the rich scent of the earth, feel the movements of nature in the air around me. And that was through walls.
“Woah.” I muttered. I could see with astounding clarity. The expressions that danced on all of their faces. I looked down at my own hand, and I was shocked to see each and every crease, the microscopic swirls in my fingertips that lay deep along the skin.
“Different, huh?” Les said, his face kind. I nodded my head. Looking at Sam, I imagined the new life that lay before me. The different kind of existence that I was on the verge of experiencing.
I felt a new courage surge through me, and I knew that I was finally completely and totally ready. I was going to become a Changed One.
“You went through the first Phase last night.” Adonis said, and I nodded, everything clicking together. I had become the Changed One for a split second. That was the splitting of the atoms that I had felt before. That explained why I was naked.
“We had a feeling that you would Change last night. And we were correct.” Adonis said. “I carried you back here once we found you.”
I took it all in. Everything was coming hard and fast. Yet, it all felt so…right.
“I’m feeling much better.” I said, getting up out of bed slowly, with about five different sets of hands moving to help me. I clutched the blanket tight around myself, although I had a feeling that these guys were much more mature about being naked than most high school boys were.
Remembering Adonis’ nakedness that moonlit night, the revelation that I had experienced, that he had shown to me, I couldn’t help but catch his eye. There was something knowing about him. Like he had already foreseen what was to come.
“Is there a…shower?” I asked, somewhat embarrassed. Les showed me to the shower, the small crowd that they had formed dissipating as we navigated through the dimmed hallways of the safe house. It was similar to Halona’s home, but slightly more rugged. As we walked through the hall toward the small bathroom, I could tell that it hadn’t been lived in for quite some time. Dust covered the bathroom counters, an old towel smelling of mildew. I didn’t mind, and I turned on the water, which creaked before rust-colored liquid spurted out of the faucet.
“Ah!” I exclaimed, and Sam peered in through the open doorway. I still clutched my blanket to my body haphazardly, and I tightened it around me as my cheeks burned with color. “Sorry, scared me is all.” I said meekly, and he entered the room, giving the showerhead a firm jostle before the orange-red liquid turned clear.
“There. All better.” He said, his eyes flickering with a slight amusement. It was strange seeing him like that. So…not Sam.
“Thanks.” I said, and he nodded respectfully, leaving the room wordlessly and closing the door behind him. I couldn’t help but feel slightly jarred by all of the events of the past day. I figured that it was mid-day sometime. I felt so incredibly grimy. It felt amazing to step into the hot water and let it run down my skin, all of the craziness subsiding into calm as I felt the same assuredness that I had felt in that bedroom.
I was meant to be there. There was nothing surer in my mind.