When I awoke, it was dark.
I hadn’t anticipated sleeping that long. It had been nearly nine hours. I didn’t even think it was possible for me to sleep that long. With that, I shook myself awake, my eyes widening to the blue darkness of my room. The trees blew around in the cold night. I could hear creatures scurrying about, smell the wet scent of the earth. I was terribly disoriented. Sweat covered me.
I felt a flash of heat that was all too familiar.
Instantly, I got up out of bed. I found myself out in the hallway, every nerve ending in my body raised to attention. I felt light headed from getting up too fast. But I walked with one purpose in mind.
I knew that it would come on fast.
Every joint in my body began to ache. It was slow. Painful. As I made my careful way down the hall, no yellow light greeted me at the end. No Adonis. No Hunter. Just as it had been the last Phase. Instantly, I began to quake. Something overtook me as I stumbled about, gripping onto reality and refusing to let it go as the swelter began to consume me, my eyes turning bleary and my vision hazy as I pushed open the back door of the safe house.
I was ready. I knew that for certain.
The outside air was cool. But it did nothing to quell the heat. I nearly cried out as the heat came hard and fast, racing through every fiber of my being, tearing every molecule apart and putting it back together again in its new form. I felt the coolness of the outside against the swelter, the painful, agonizing heat that had begun to tear through my body with the swiftness of wildfire. I needed Sam.
I sunk to the earth, my hands in the dirt as I clenched my teeth together, fighting the haze as my body tore itself apart. I found myself curled up on my side in something of a fetal position, as though I were trying to hold myself together. I screamed, loud and long, the sound hardly human as I felt a cracking within my spine. I gasped. There were no words. I felt myself moving involuntarily, my body with a mind of its own. The pain was an inexplicable fire as my body became new. Tearing itself apart to become whole again. Faces flashed about in my head. Adonis’ golden eyes. Rick’s smile. Sam’s look of longing. I even glimpsed Adam, a figure so distant to me. I saw my mother’s eyes, my father’s stoic expression. I glimpsed my brother, someone who had escaped Aurora long ago. The terrorizing heat ravaged me, the flames eating away at my skin. “Sam!” I cried out into the night, my voice raw and half-human as though he could possibly hear me. My fingers clutched at the earth, clawing inches deep into the dirt as though this would revive me.
I let out another ear-splitting cry as I felt bones cracking, the heat snaking up my spine. It was agony. My scream echoed into the night. I heard the rustling of the trees, aware of my form being shed like a snake’s skin and with it born another. My body folded in on itself. There was nothing but agony. I felt the burn of a thousand suns as I split apart with one final crack. I knew that this was it. I was becoming a Changed One. I would join Sam and the others.
Then, there was only blackness.