"This is a war now. It's them or us, the animal-natured against the real humans. This is what all the conflict has come down to." The English spokesman on the TV says this with the stoniest expression I have ever seen. I sit rigid in my seat as each of my family members nods their head in silent mutual agreement, their faces all wearing that same stony expression. The expression I don't even try to keep on my on face. My dad is muttering under his breath, I can hear him.
"That's right, damn animal brains can go back to hell where they belong." He mutters darkly, "Put them down like the rabid animals they are." I glance at my mum, my gentle, pacifistic mother, and am shocked to see the same dark fury in her wide grey eyes. My little sister, even she holds that hatred in her cherubic little face. Her blonde hair is in little plaits, but that innocent look only adds to the scary effect.
"While it is usually considered unethical to declare war on civilians, the Therianthropes are classed as both dangerous and as a unit. They organise themselves into 'packs', which are classed as a whole, small gangs. Therians can now be tracked down and identified by our latest advances in this ongoing conflict. We now go live to the Prime Minister, who is meeting with the head of the Anti-Therian project. They will be discussing the new identification process, which-"
The screen goes dead. My family turns to look at me, bewildered. The remote drops from my numb fingers to the ground.
"Lana, what's the matter with you?" Mum asks. "You're white as a sheet." The look of concern on her face, so different to the hatred she'd shown when Therians were mentioned, only scares me more. Without a word to anyone, I turn and run upstairs to my room, suppressing the urge to scream. I slam my door and drag the bookcase in the way so nobody can open it.
"Lana!" Dad says, I hear his every footstep as he approaches my door. "What's got into you, love?" I don't answer, only grab my backpack and turn it upside down, scattering my school books all over the floor. The door rattles as he tries to open it, I flinch at his loud exclamation of surprise when he realises I've barricaded myself inside. As I grab various objects and stuff them into my backpack, he tries again. "Lana! Open this damn door!" I ignore him, stuffing water and emergency food into my pack. Lucy had told me to have it ready; it's a good thing I listened. I add pencils and a knife to my bag and zip it up, tying the zips together to secure it. "LANA MAY BAKERS! OPEN THIS DOOR! NOW!" Dad roars. "SO HELP ME I WILL BREAK IT DOWN!" I ignore him; grab my phone and text four of my contacts one word. RUN. Then I hurl it at the wall so it smashes, pick up the SIM card just to be sure, and open the window.
The bookcase crashes to the ground and my dad bursts into the room just as I turn and leap out of the window.
Lucy's phone buzzes in her pocket and she only has to glance once at the message to know exactly what is going on. She grins, picking up her already packed backpack from under the bed. Tying her long brown hair up, she casually opens the back of her phone and pulls out the SIM card. She'd known something was coming, packed and repacked her bag four times already so she could be sure. Her dark eyes sweep the room one more time, making sure nothing has been missed. She snaps the card and settles her bag on her shoulders before casually walking down the stairs, mobile phone in hand. She ignores the curious glances received from her older brothers, lounging in the living room, the concern on her father's face, the photograph of her mother on the mantlepiece, carefully preserved. She walks into the kitchen and drops her phone into the blender, and in front her bewildered family, turns it on and destroys it.
"What the hell, Luce?" her oldest brother, Jack says. She doesn't answer, simply shakes her head and takes off, shoving past her stunned family members, throwing open the front door and sprinting off into the night, trying not to focus on the shock and loss on her father's face.
Charlie and Theo exchange shocked and fearful glances as they look up from their phones. Identical masks of horror on identical faces, they look again and Theo turns on the radio.
"Any and all Therians must be reported to the authorities. All suspected Therians will be expected to surrender immediately. Those do not will be terminated on site. Suspected Therians will be taken for assessment, humans will be spared. Therians will be terminated once assessed." Charlie smashed his fist down on the switch to shut the radio up, not wanting to hear another word of it. They both know that this is now being broadcasted globally, and they also know what will happen to them if they stay any longer. Charlie runs to get the backpacks as Theo gathers some last-second supplies. The twins walk off into the night, SIM cards in hand, their mobile phones left short-circuiting in a large glass of Coca-Cola.
Sue's phone buzzes on her bedside cabinet, left untouched. Her usually immaculate room is in a state, her black backpack torn open, its contents littering the carpet. Crushed packets of food, bottles of water, clothes, matches, everything she'd packed so meticulously now thrown carelessly around her room. Her desk is on its side, paper, pencils and artwork joining the chaos on the floor. A carefully drawn hawk lay crumpled on the scattered mess, its wings spread, talons extended, facing the front of the page as though it is heading for the viewer.
The window is wide open, but there are spatters of blood on the pane. Sue is lying near her cabinet, a crumpled heap of a girl, her hunting knife buried deep in her right shoulder, all the way up to the hilt. Her vibrant red hair is matted with blood, her pale eyes wide. Though she is wearing plain black clothing, it is soaked with fresh blood and that much is obvious. Surprisingly, her chest still rises and falls weakly, her mouth wide open and gasping for air. She knows she is dying.
The phone buzzes on the cabinet again, demanding attention. She can just see the screen if she lifts her head, just make out the word RUN through red-misted eyes. She tried running. The moment she heard the angry men at the door growl 'Therian' to her mother, she had sprinted up to her room, grabbed her pack and tried escaping through the window. They'd caught her and dragged her back inside; she'd struggled so hard her bag had torn. They punched her face and threw her into the desk and found her knife on the floor. Stabbed with her own knife, she'd staggered backwards, screeching. She then tripped, fell and got stuck in the spot she now lies in. Her screaming mother had been removed from the premises, bombarded with assurances that her daughter was not human, that they were saving her from the animal-minded girl before it was too late.
Buzz buzz. The phone again. Destroy it. Destroy it before the men come back. To protect her pack. The pack. Her thoughts are becoming fuzzy, her shocked and dying body relinquishing control to the M-Shift that pulls Sue's mind around, tugging her to her true self. Sue loses her human name along with most of her human thoughts, becoming Swift, the hawk. The only thing that remains is the aim to destroy the buzzing phone. Weak arms are forced to move, to reach. The phone falls to the ground and numb fingers that feel more wrong than usual crack the back off and yank the battery out. Quickly, hearing the approaching men, she swallows the SIM card and uses the last of her strength and human consciousness to smash the phone on the corner of the desk until it is shattered, unusable.
Swift feels the wrongness of her body fade, her head lolling back against the cabinet. Her eyes fix on the drawing of the hawk. She can taste blood. Her blue eyes glaze over, turn glassy, still fixed on the drawing. Swift leaves her human body behind, finally free to fly.
The panting members of my pack meet me in the woods. Lucy, Charlie, Theo and myself... but Sue is nowhere to be seen.
"Where's Swift?" I ask.
"I don't know, Timber. We didn't see her on the way here." Theo says quietly. Charlie nods silently beside him. It always strikes me just how alike the brothers are, it's to be expected really, they are twins. The only differences are that Charlie is slightly shorter than Theo, and their theriotypes are slightly different. Theo, keeping his human name, is a red fox, whereas Charlie is a black fox and goes by Dusk. Lucy's a cheetah, she goes by Sahara. I'm a timber wolf, so I call myself Timber. Wolves are the most common therians, but no theriotype is better than another. I'm the alpha of my pack, but only because I'm the one who formed it. It could easily have been anyone else.
Confident that Swift is nearby, I throw back my head and howl, then wait for a response. The only response I receive is from the trees and the wind. I howl again, and that's when the sirens start, the lights flash, and we spot the cars racing towards us on the empty midnight roads.
Escape is not going to be easy.