You’ll never know everything about a person.
This was her best friend of almost fifteen years, but she had never seen this side of her.
Never in her life would Marissa think that Sehjada was capable of wielding a gun. But there she was, tucking and rolling, dodging and shooting at a wild beast.
And her outfit…She’d seen every inch of Jada’s closet and had never seen it before. She practically looked like Sonya blade from Mortal combat. If that’s who she was trying to imitate she did a great job with her fitted dark green combat outfit and black combat boots.
And while she should be grateful for her friend’s help, all her assistance did was anger her.
This was her fight. It had nothing to do with Jada. Her situation might have looked compromising but she had everything under control.
“Run Marissa!” She yelled out, her voice piercing with concern. And how dare she. She was the normal one there. She was the only one in danger.
That tight, skin pulling feeling from before returned as she watched on in rage.
“What are you waiting for—” Distracted, Sehjada tripped over her own feet and The lioness seized that opportunity to close the distance between them.
Marissa was already speeding towards them before they hit the ground. She rammed into the lioness’s side, then turned to Jada.
MY fight. Not yours!
She growled at her friend who only stared on as though watching a ghost. Marissa dismissed her confusion, focusing her attention on the problematic feline who was also just staring at her. It’s bright eyes glowing in the dark.
It seemed to give her a smile–if that were possible–before turning and running off into the thickness of the trees.
Coward. Marissa thought, disgusted with the turn of events. She huffed while staring in the direction it ran off in, slightly hoping it would return.
She gave a slight glance at Jada before looking away again.
“We need to leave before the rest of the team shows up.”
That caught her attention.
Jada was just staring at her again. “Marissa, do me a favor, look down.”
Marissa tilted her head then looked down…Paws….Claws…When did…
“You would change and not even notice.” She laughed.
Marissa didn’t understand what was so funny. Now that she was fully focused, she noticed the difference in her field of vision and the clarity of her sight.
“This is why we have to leave now. If they find you, they’re going to kill you.” The humor left Jada’s voice and she made a “Come here” gesture before running off.
She followed behind at a pace that was irritatingly slow. She wanted to lead, but she had no idea where they were going.
Upon exiting the forest they came face to face with an expensive black vehicle that Marissa couldn’t name. She wasn’t good with cars.
“I’m just borrowing it. It’s not mines.”
She wasn’t sure if that were true or not, regardless, she was able to put it aside as she stared at herself in the reflection of the shiny onyx paint. She was unable to pry her eyes away from the vision of her soaked spotted fur and remarkably slender frame.
Sehjada opened the back door and hurried Marissa inside before anyone could see her. When she got into the drivers the seat she explained to her that she needed to stay low and not draw attention to herself.
“So I suppose I owe you an explanation?”
Marissa growled in response.
“Okay. I work with your brother, he’s my supervisor. I should have told you, but your brother said not to and it was better to keep it a secret. To sum it up simply, our job is to exterminate your kind and…LAY DOWN! do you want people to see you?” She barked, seeing Marissa’s rising form from the mirror.
“My job was to kill you or any other felines I saw on sight.”
That uncomfortable feeling grew stronger the more Jada spoke. Did she just hop in a vehicle with someone whose primary goal was to get rid of her?
Her eyes locked on the door.
Could she open them with her paws? How hard would she have to throw herself to break the window? Oh dear god she might kill herself that way. She had to change back and get the hell out of dodge. Damn her inability to figure this shit out.
“But I can’t do that. You may not be like I am, but you’re still my best friend. So, I’m taking you to Mr. McCormick and he’ll know what to do with you.”
Had she not just ran away from there? Just how much does this girl know?
The remainder of the drive was spent in an uncomfortable silence. If this were any other day, they would have been chatting away about everything, but now, an unusual barrier was between them.
When they finally stopped moving, Marisssa noticed that they were not at the mansion. In fact, she didn’t recognize where they were at all.
The rain had let up, but never stopped falling. Mr. McCormick was on the opposite end of the wide open field where they were parked.
Jada left the vehicle first as he approached then released Marissa.
The greetings were terse and void of any familiarity. It struck Marissa as odd and signaled that there was something she was missing as the two were not strangers to each other.
“Well?” Mr. McCormic began.
“She’s all yours now,” Jada spoke then knelt down beside her friend and ruffled her fur. “Be a good girl now. They’re going to help you through this. Try not to be a bitch.”
Bitch? Her? Never. And here she thought she was being pretty damn civil with all of this.
“You’re up to something.” He said and Jada merely laughed at his suspicion.
She gave Marissa a nudge in his direction before hopping into the car and peeling out of the driveway.
The two stood there, watching each other, but not speaking.
Not that it mattered because he couldn’t understand growls anyways.
“Actually. Humans don’t understand. I can hear you very clearly.”
Oh. Yeah. That’s how Tiger Kaleb spoke to her and obviously how she understood psycho kitty.
She felt like she should know who the feline was, but she couldn’t put a face to the voice.
“Let’s get you back home. I’m sure we have much to address.”
After an entirely too long drive they were back at the mansion.
Marissa hesitated to enter. She could easily run the other way. He’d never catch her. She wondered what kind animal he was. Were they all cats? She wouldn’t be surprised if he was a panda. He could definitely be a panda.
His expression hardened too quickly for her taste. He came over, grabbed her by the fur on her neck and dragged her inside, kicking the door closed behind him.
BEAR, DEFINITELY A BEAR!
“I am not a bear,” He said while pulling her struggling form along.
He let her go when she finally stopped resisting and proceeded quietly at his side. The residents were creeping about, finding any excuse to catch a glimpse of her.
You’d think they never saw a cheetah before.
“It’s not that. King cheetah’s are rare in the wild, and even rarer in our kind.”
Well, whoopty-flipping-doo for me. So she was a mutant in the feline world. How fitting.
When they got into his office, a few faces were hovering around the door. Privacy levels were just rapidly decreasing. She wouldn’t be surprised if they stalked her to the bathroom.
He closed and locked the door, sending them a subtle “Get Lost.”
Marissa hopped onto the long couch, and stretched out her limbs. She felt oddly comfortable in this form and wasn’t sure if she should be fine with that or concerned.
“Adjusting well for someone who jumped out a window…”
She didn’t entertain that statement. So she was a little freaked out before, who wouldn’t be? But she was beginning to understand that her life was a mess and she might as well go with the flow. She couldn’t run away from this like she had with everything else.
“I supposed I should begin,” said Mr. McCormick as he seated himself in his armchair.
Marissa adjusted herself and waited for him to proceed.
“For starters, we aren’t “Werecats” which sounds utterly ridiculous and technically incorrect. We prefer the term Ailuranthrope, shapeshifters even or, to make things simple and highly uncreative, Felids.”
If she wasn’t mistaken, Felidae was the biological family of cats so, she guessed that made sense. So, Felid it is. Still kind of silly sounding, go figure the dogs get the cool names. You can’t go wrong being called a “Lycan.” Wait, do they exist too?
“We don’t live in packs. We live in Clans and are led by a Royal family. The Queens are decided by birth, and Kings are decided by Skill.”
Wait…so if the king has a son and a daughter, the daughter is automatically head bitch in charge and the son has to work for it?
So what you’re saying now is that it’s possible for a brother and a sister to be both King and Queen?
“That’s not really…”
Gross, isn’t that incest?
“That’s true, but…”
Then again Incest doesn’t really exist in the ani—
“WILL YOU STOP?” He barked at her.
Marissa halted her rambling immediately.
He rubbed his head as though soothing a headache. “It is impossible for sons of the royal couple to become king of their parent’s clan. When they reach puberty they are sent off on their own where they either join or create a clan of their own.”
So what if they have two or more daughters?
“The eldest becomes queen. The younger one is free to do as she wishes. She only becomes queen if the other is unable to do so.”
So if there are like five sisters…nevermind.
She decided not to push it with the hypothetical stuff. He looked like she was getting annoyed.
“Anyways, queens succeed the throne on their 21st birthday, and the week after, the Trois Essais is held. And before you ask, it’s a competition that decides the king. It’s 3 parts, a test of strength, speed, and wisdom.”
What if the queen doesn’t have a daughter?
The glare he sent her made her blood freeze. “She remains queen until they give birth to a one.”
She didn’t interrupt him again but she wondered what would happen if a queen died before she had a daughter, or were they immortal because that would be so cool.
“There are 3 founding clans which are the largest and many smaller ones. The family names of the founding clans never change. The Dubois, The Serieuxs, The Pruietts. They were the firsts, the originals. All decisions must pass through them. Their word is law and final. ”
So if you decide you want to turn someone into a Felid you have to ask permission?
He paused then and gave her a once over before he continued. “We aren’t Created.”
“Felids are not created. You cannot turn a human into one of us. It isn’t possible. We are born; which brings me to why your father wants you dead.”
She was created then. A freak; and to hide his creation her father wanted to end her life before anyone else could realize the abomination he allowed to roam free.
“You weren’t created, however, you still shouldn’t be here.”
She wondered if he knew that he basically said she should be dead or nonexistent. Judging from the serious expression on his face, he must have. Regardless, his statement struck her hard. She already felt like she didn’t belong. But rather than feeling hurt, she just felt…angry.
And what the hell does that mean? She growled.
“Felids are usually born through a male and female felid. You on the other hand, are neither fully human, nor one of us. Your mother is a Felid, but your father is human; a coupling that is highly frowned upon. We don’t mix species. Our blood is not meant to be tainted with that of others.”
Marissa was speechless. So, her dad was really her dad, but her mother wasn’t? And just who was her mother? Wait a minute.
How are you so sure that my dad wasn’t a felid and my mother was human?
He exhaled slowly, and then rose from his seat and walked over to the window. His hands held onto the windowsill, gripping it tightly.
“Because I knew her.”
Before she could question him further, there was an abrupt banging on the door. Whoever was on the other side tried turning the knob but realizing that it was locked, they pounded on it with even more force.
“SIR WE HAVE A PROBLEM!!”
She was on her feet in an instant wondering what the commotion could have been about.
What’s going on?
Mr. McCormic didn’t answer. He spaced out for a moment, then, before she could utter a word, He dashed to the door, threw it open and was gone.
Marissa sprang off the bed and left the room to search for her boss. For an old man though, the guy was pretty speedy. Or was she the one slowing down? Thinking about it, she did feel awfully tired.
The lobby was crowded with bodies that wore concerned expressions. Their murmurs, soft, and careful, were still loud enough for her sensitive ears to hear.
Mr. McCormick easily cleared a path for himself, though he really didn’t have to. They all seemed to ease aside for him to get through. Marissa, on the other hand, had to push her way through and wasn’t blind to how they were purposely making it difficult for her to do so.
“This is unnecessary.” An all too familiar voice spoke as she got near.
“You’ve already destroyed my restaurant, and now you trespass on my grounds?”
“All I want is the girl.”
She finally broke free and tumbled into the small opening.
“Ah! Sister, come now. It’s time to leave.”
She looked up to where Dominic stood. He was wearing one of his favorite suits, which was matted with blood. Yet, there was no sign of injury on his part. She didn’t want to think about who he murdered on his way here.
“You leave without her.” Mr. McCormick stood in front of her, temporarily blocking her view of Dominic. Someone pulled her back, and then she noticed that she was gradually fading into the crowd again.
“I’m not stupid enough to get engaged with your kind when I am clearly outnumbered. I wanted to try talking peace,” The smile he gave said otherwise and Mr. McCormic doubted he was there alone. “I’m hoping you’ll be much more civil than the two young men I had to deal with on my way here.”
The murmuring began again and it was then that she noticed Kaleb was nowhere to be found. While they were busy talking with her brother, she slipped away. They were trying to keep her out of her brother’s sight anyways, might as well make the best of it.
Marissa scoured the home for an open window, as it dawned on her that she had no idea how to word doorknobs with her paws. You would think that a house filled with animals, they would invest in flat ones as opposed to those circular craps.
Finally finding one, although only barely opened, Marissa squeezed herself through it, and thanked god that it was on the bottom floor after she unceremoniously toppled onto the ground.
Peering out into the darkness, she found herself amazed with her vision. She hadn’t taken it into consideration before, but now she was fully aware of it. Everything was sharp and incredibly detailed. Her world was suddenly in High Definition. And the smells! The fresh scent of rainfall, which has finally ceased, had her in a trance. But, it was short lived as she remembered why she was outside.
She wished she remembered what Kaleb smelled like. Honestly, she was starting to feel stupid with her head low, creeping around the yard like a bloodhound. She caught several scents but none were…This is it!
Marissa didn’t know how, but she just knew it was him. There was no point in questioning it. She followed the scent, hoping it was really him. She hoped to the heavens that he wasn’t one of the two men Dominic spoke of.
Her gait slowed. Why did she care? She had wanted nothing more to do with him.She cursed herself, hating her indecisive personality. Why was it so hard to make up her mind?
This wasn’t the time; find him first, berate herself later.
Humans were very oblivious to the world around them.
No one noticed her as she stealthily covered the streets. They carried on about their lives, blissfully unaware of the dangers nearby. She could easily snatch one of them away and tear their throat out if she wanted to. But they had no idea. Is this how she had been living before? The thought of this temporarily shook her. There were things out there capable of killing them living right under their noses. They were labeled myths and tucked away, being nothing more than stories to both intrigue and terrify children; if they only knew. This was no way to live…but perhaps it was for the best.
His scent grew the more she trailed it, but as it did, another did as well. It was thick and musty, almost coppery even. She felt as though she could taste it as she breathed it in. It was so familiar, yet unfamiliar at the same time. It was a perplexing smell; one that left her stomach knotting in discomfort.
The fur on her neck stood on end as another scent made its appearance. Abruptly, she stopped, immediately having second thoughts. Kale was a big boy. He could handle himself. Yet, she didn’t turn around. If she were in his place, he would have continued looking for her. So, she did.
The trail brought her to a broken bench which left much to be questioned. What did this have to do with him? Why would he break a bench to begin with? The other scent was all over here as well. Had he gotten into a fight? Whatever happened, her brother’s scent was also all over the place.
A drop rain hit her head, and she looked up to the sky. Within seconds, that single drop turned into several, then a shower of raindrops came crashing down.
Just like that, the trail was gone. She couldn’t pick up on a thing.
To be sure, she tried for a few moments longer, before taking off to find shelter from the rain.
Kaleb, where are you?
Her head almost did a 360 as she looked around for the voice she could have sworn she heard. There was no one around though so…
She may be a lot of things, but she wasn’t crazy. Someone was talking to her.
Kaleb? What bridge??
She waited, hoping they would respond but no more words were said. Marissa was almost certain that was Kaleb’s voice. It was distorted, and dripping with pain, but something told her it was him. Was he nearby? She wasn’t sure how this link worked. The only instances she used it involved being directly next to the person. Could it work over a distance?
The only clue she had to work with was “bridge.” As far as she knew, there weren’t any bridges in Auburn Valley…unless he meant…
The wind slapped her face as she sped towards the only bridge in the valley and her sight was skewed thanks to the heavy rain.
She skidded to a stop as she came to entrance of Hilton Park. There was nary a body in sight, which was expected. It was both late and the weather didn’t allow for visitors. In light rain you may have found a random couple making out, but not in a shower, but on an average day, it was crawling with people regardless of the time.
Further inside was what she hoped was the bridge he spoke of. The brick mass hovered over the rushing waters of the river below. It was slowly falling apart. As such, caution tapes and warning signs were placed all around, though there was always a case of some curious person falling into the river because they didn’t heed the warnings.
Marissa crept onto it, carefully watching each step. The sound of crumbling beneath her paws made her swallow hard.
Kaleb? You there?
Still no response.
She jumped back as a few of the blocks under her caved in. Why the hell had they not taken this thing down? Why was she even on it if she wasn’t sure if he was there?
Slowly, she backed up until she was off the thing.
Definitely Kaleb. Very few people called her Kat.
Where are you? I’m at the bridge.
Back to silence. What was wrong with him? Seeing that she couldn’t count on him for a response she investigated the area. He couldn’t have crossed it. Marissa was much lighter than he was and it was ready to fall apart when she walked on it, and he definitely wasn’t under it. He had to be somewhere nearby. But where?
She was soaked and frustrated and would kill for a soft bed to lie in and pass out for a few weeks.
If she were him, where would she be? Not out here of course.
Shelter! Anyone with sense would be trying to stay out of the rain.
I see you. Don’t move. He bit out, and she positive that he was injured from the sound of his voice.
I’ll come to you.
No. Stay put.
She was confused and wanted to protest but did as she was told. She dropped onto her haunches and waited patiently for his arrival. Her eyes roamed about, not wanting to be caught by surprise. She trusted Kaleb, but who knew who else was out there.
A small chuckle came forth as she realized what she had thought. Did she really trust Kaleb? She’d used him to get over Jamoy, and shunned him twice when he tried to help her. She was terrible to him. Then again, he had fallen off the earth and ignored her without giving her a reason. She shook her head. Why did she always try to rationalize her bad behavior?
A loud groan behind her, pulled her from her thoughts. She was on her feet, but put up her guard, and hissed lowly at the coming creature.
It’s just me. He managed to say.
And then, without warning, he collapsed.