There was an edge in the morning air that Patrick could not really discern as either a warning or a blessing on this chilly day. As he walked to the edge of the patio with his morning coffee, something was just a little off. Was it the way the breeze picked up the petals of the flower bed, or were the colors just a little too bright for this early. He didn't know if there was even a way to describe what was different today from any other day of his life, but something was a little nagging. He sat in the chair looking down the valley from the top of this butte that his family had been living on for longer than anyone could remember. The interlocking pattern of the flagstone patio drew his eyes as it always did. Their family had laid it by hand before there was even a way to measure its size by anything other than paces. At 120 paces by 80 paces it was almost larger than the main house yet still seemed to be dwarfed by the surroundings. In today's modern way of looking at it, to sell this property and house, major changes to this patio would have to be done. The lack or rather the absence of a railing at the three sides that were on the edge of the butte, with its sheer drop of over 500 feet left some of the guests at the frequent parties held here a little apprehensive and yet were a comfort to the family. The open feeling of it, the way it just ended at the edge were something the family's generations had lived with, and some had died for. Over the years many balls, Frisbees, bullets, and yes even a few bodies, had disappeared over the edges with a seeming excitement by all observing the events.
The Main house as well as the other houses and buildings were actually rumored to have been built after the patio was laid. And there were a few pictures scattered about with a small house that could have been where the main house was located now, at least from the other landmarks in the pictures. Others showed an Indian teepee on the edge of the patio. In all his years though, whenever they were asked, family and relative swore up and down they were not related to the Indians that lived in the surrounding area on their little reservations that the government had kindly bestowed on them. Even though the darkness of their coloring made it appear as if they were somehow related to one of tribes surrounding them.
This house, this patio, this land had never come into question in any land use action. Or, for that matter, did not seem to show up on any records at the seat of the local government. Almost as if it did not really exist, the paved roads of the county just ended short of the edge of the property. There were no signs, or fences, just a lonely mailbox off the edge of the paved road that showed someone lived out here on the edge of nowhere. The road to the house had evolved over the years from a meandering path to wagon wheel ruts to a slightly rutted road with gravel patches here and there to make the jarring trip up more of a nuisance than an ordeal.
Many of the guests to the house rarely ever drove up the road to the house. More often than not, they left their cars down at the end of the road. There always seemed to be a horse drawn wagon waiting for them when they came. No one questioned the fact, or the reason that for some odd reason when they arrived some of the modern conveniences they always had on them, from cell phones (argued away by the lack of cell towers in the area) to the digital watches some guests wore, ever seemed to work. Some even told stories the area did not show up on any maps or satellite photos.
No matter, the family was self sufficient on this land. Even to the electricity that came from the family owned generating plant in the hills below the house. The artesian well that gave them their water also gave them an opportunity to use its other exit as a hydro-electric dam to generate the small amount of electricity they used here. That with the livestock and the crops in the various fields gave them almost everything they could use to keep up the appearance of a modern working farm, in a community of farms. The truth was a little different. As it always seems to be, something along the lines of what appearances are and the truth tend to blur out here.
Visitors to the house were one of two types, either visiting relatives from some far-off city or country, to the occasional curiosity seekers who saw the house or the power plant and came to see what was going on out here in the middle of nowhere. The relatives came like clockwork, every 3-4 months they would show up either trickling in one by one or in large groups that took the wagoneers many trips to get them all up to the house. Patrick had asked about the visits once or twice over the years and always got the same answer. The land called them all back, which to most would seem like a silly almost irrational statement. However, to Patrick and the others it made sense. One summer when he had graduated from the local high school Patrick and some of the relatives went to a nearby city to celebrate his graduation. Almost from the second he had left the land his nerves were screaming something was wrong. He was told by one of his so-called cousins that the feeling would never go away, which was why they all came to the land so often. More than anything to calm their nerves and relax for a few days or weeks depending on who it was. It was one thing to go to the High school which was only a few dozen miles away, to the city which was over 100 miles away from the land. The farther they moved from the land the more the screaming in his nerves grew. That was why they all came back. That was why so many stayed in the nearby regions. He always wondered after that how some could actually cross continents and somewhat remain sane.
This morning was the same as most, he came out here to drink his coffee and lose himself in the view. Tonight would be a different story though. With the family here, altogether over 100 of them, they would welcome him into adulthood. When the time was right the steps into the patio would open and the journey down into the labyrinth below would begin. He would join his family finally, he would shed his temporary skin for the reptilian skin of their birth, the feast of blood would get rid of the last few months of pesky intruders and once again the family would show its true form and then return to the illusion of their daily lives. Patrick could then leave the land like the others before him and go out into the world seeking his own unlucky souls to feast upon. As his forefathers before had done since the beginning of their time here on this earth. Thousands of years and still no word from their planet of a rescue attempt. Not even a reply from the transmitters below the patio in their ship. They were alone here in this world.
The only thing that made this morning even more different than any other was the constant itch that had started earlier the night before. His father had told him it would be coming, and had simply said that it would be some discomfort. He was forcing himself to enjoy the view and act like nothing was wrong. He really just wanted to scream at the top of his lungs, rip his clothes off and run a disc sander over every inch of his body. Even though he knew what was coming, this new sensation made it seem more real then he could ever have thought. It felt like a million little ants crawling unseen beneath his skin. He kept telling himself it was only his skin shell loosening up in preparation for shedding. But having never been through it before, reality was worse than the knowledge and preparations of the last few weeks. His mother had spiked his coffee with a little brandy to help take the edge off, and the realization hit him like a brick. This was why the adults had always managed to consume so much alcohol over the course of a party. It wasn't the need to get drunk but to dull the feelings in their bodies.
The thought of this evenings activities left him feeling somewhat thrilled to be able to finally see what he would become and what the other grown-ups actually looked like. While he had of course grown-up in this family, the distinction between adults and their young ones were far more than any normal family could imagine. After centuries of manipulation in their genes the children looked and acted, and even test results would show them to be entirely normal. However, when they reached around 22 or 23 the changes would start and their metabolism would start the shift. The last few generations had been progressively been forced further into the 20's simply to add the convenience of higher education for the younger generations. Puberty and hormones were easy; their changing could possibly cause the slaughter of thousands. Imagine dropping a school of piranha into the middle of a trout farm. In a day or two you would have a lot of fat piranha and no trout.
The stories that we have grown up hearing, seen in movies, read in books, you know, things that go bump in the night, werewolves, vampires, demons, witches. Scholars have said that myths and legends have some basis in fact. And it is all true. They were true changelings, becoming whatever suited their whims, whether it was for ease of feeding, or to scare people away from their residences, or in some cases, just for fun. Some of his relatives love telling the stories of Sasquatch's and Yeti's, and how they would change into the creatures just long enough to get spotted, then changing into an eagle or some such large bird. There would be tracks for someone to follow for a little way and then they would be gone. Then they would regale us with how they joined in the search parties. Of course, this was followed by the old joke, "we were just trying to find ourselves."
Over the centuries the stories and rumors grew, and with them so did his people. It was to that effect that the gene manipulation began to take place. For some reason it was always the younger ones that were the cause for all the stories. It was hard to keep an impulsive youth from, shall we say, spreading their wings. For a while the dragons of the middle ages were hard to quash but they had managed to, it is still a lesson they were taught while still young. One of their own had to step up and take down a few who had let the power get too much for them to handle, i.e. the legend of Saint George was founded.