The wind whistled through the unsealed windows, often spraying fine droplets of water onto the nearby floor. As the water gathered on the inside of the window, it started to steadily drip. A steady rhythm was produced and the hidden girl was forced to dab up the fallen water. After the drip was silenced, the girl stood and walked through the chilling darkness to where she could see the waning moon faintly through the clouds.
The moonlight shone on the hidden young woman’s face. She closed her eyes and soaked in the moonlight as many would soak in sunlight. She dropped her robe to reveal her feathered wings and dainty bird’s feet. Her feathers ruffled and the girl stared into the moon, into its craters, into its center.
Sam could almost feel the moon rotating around the earth, feel it watching her each night.
But tonight was different. She could feel more than ever before. She could feel the pull of the moon toward the earth. She could feel the sadness that it must have felt so often. But most of all, Sam could feel the dark joy the moon felt when it covered the sun, when it came first.
Sam stepped out into the chilly spring air. She spread her wings, something she hadn’t done until recently. She took flight slowly, her red curls moving like fast waves in the wind, churning each time Sam pushed her wings down.
Sam heard a wolf howl and small animals scuttle beneath her. Sam’s shadow covered trees and shrubs and cowering creatures, mistaking her for some nocturnal hunter. Her shadow momentarily shielded the moon from a small pond.
The young woman landed close to a stream, which was rushing away from the pond, as its twin rushed into it. Sam’s image was skewed as the water became uneven over small rocks. She flew to the still water of the pond, seeing her image more clearly.
Tears flowed down Sam’s cheek like a small, silent waterfall. She beheld her small unnatural body, a mix of bird and woman. She had a chest of a woman and arms that branched into wings. Her legs were that of a bird, with three toes and thick skin. Her head seemed like that of a human’s. She had a feather lodged in her hair. Sam’s hair was slightly lighter than red, and was littered with curls. Her feathers were red and had intermixed green tints. Her soft under-feathers were a cream. Her legs were an orange and her claws were chocolate brown.
A tear splashed into the pond, causing a small, circular ripple. Sam closed her eyes and flew back to her secluded cabin. Dawn was soon to come.
When Sam’s alarm rang and flashed 7:30, she hit the snooze button with her now human arm. No wings or feathers remained on her body. She struggled to get out of bed. As she set her human feet on the ground, she released a heavy sigh. Sam took the feather she always wore off of her dresser and slipped it into her hair. She snatched her cotton robe and inserted her arms then tightened the strap. She dragged her feet into the cabins second room, the kitchen and dining area.
The front door remained latched, as she had left it. The only difference was the feather on the ground. She picked it up and slipped it in beside the one she was wearing. Sam fried an egg, which almost made her shiver – almost. She tossed a few onions into her omelets and put some Tabasco sauce on top. She put strawberries and a handful of grapes onto her plate. She finished her breakfast in minutes then headed to a small oak desk and pulled out four textbooks.
She opened a different drawer and pulled out her schedule. Checkmarks marked where she had left off. She quickly finished three days of math then put the textbook back into the drawer she had taken it from. After about five hours, she had completely finished a day of work for her mathematics, language arts, social studies and history, and two days of work for her science and chemistry.
Sam decided to head to the store to pick up groceries. She was just about out of everything. She shoved her cell phone into one of her pockets and grabbed a rain jacket. Dark clouds hung in the air. She walked by the key rack and unhooked her car keys as she walked by.
Sam stepped into her Mazda hatchback and started the ignition. The soft purr of the engine made her smile. It made her feel more human. She accelerated down her driveway then slowed to a stop at the road. She took it about 15 mph above the speed limit. At any sign of another car Sam would let up on the gas pedal and reduce her speed 10 mph. Sam got to the small store in less than thirty minutes.
Sam stepped out of her car and jogged into the store. Rain drop started to pelt the outside with sudden force. Sam removed a cart from the rack and started to push it down the aisles. She grabbed many things, most things that would keep for a long time.
She strolled casually up to the small checkout counter, manned by an elderly woman. Sam hesitated before unloading her items from her cart and placing them on the moving belt. She looked over her shoulder then, seeing no one behind her, relaxed and began to transfer the merchandise. Sam constantly envisioned a stranger, or even a friend, realizing what she was and accusing her dramatically. She had nightmares about what might happen if her secret was revealed. Would she be tested? Would she be forced to point out others of her kind, her family? Each time one of these excruciating thoughts wondered into her brain, a shutter passed down her spine, threatening to drive her mad with each fraction of a second.
The unconventional Harpy, according to fairy tales, had only been “magical” for under a year. She had started to age more slowly, unconsciously clinging to her youth as if it was her last breath. Sam appeared to be around fifteen when, in truth, she was a senior in high school. Sam had the uncanny ability to sense someone’s spiritual cleanliness. Sam gained these gifts much earlier than her nocturnal flight.
Sam dropped a can of soup. She leaned over to pick it up when her feather drifted to the floor. Red highlights glinted within the feather.
“Samantha, dear, that’s a nice feather you’ve got there.” The elderly woman continued to scan items then pile them into plastic bags. “Almost looks like a sparrow’s feather only,” The woman paused for a moment. “bigger.” She finished.
“I found it by the creek. Not sure where it came from.” Sam lied. “It is pretty though.” Sam sought unknown praise.
“Fairly, yes.” Sam’s pride fell. Only fairly? Sam had hoped for something a little more flattering.
Mrs. Camry finished bagging Sam’s items and motioned for Sam to pay. Sam unzipped her tan purse and remover a small coin purse. The total price was $63.90. Sam unfolded three $20 dollar bills and one $5 dollar bill. Sam accepted the change and dropped it into the coin purse. Sam hung five plastic bags onto her arms – two on one arm and three on the other. She pulled a key from her pocket and pushed a button on the accessory. The trunk clicked and Sam lifted it open. She set the bags in her car. Sam pulled her jacket over her head as she fiddled with the key to unlock her door. She shuffled around inside the vehicle then turned the key in the ignition. The car sputtered but caught quickly. Sam drove home, clinging to a normal feeling, knowing it had to go…
The hum of Sam’s Mazda died and Sam popped the trunk. She hung the grocery bags over her arms then pulled the hatchback shut. Sam half waddled to the door.
With it being fall, the days were getting shorter. With shorter days, came longer nights. Sam became more bird than woman.
Sam closed the door as soon as she could. Her coat dripped onto the cabin’s wooden floor, the drops falling too far apart to puddle. She hung her coat on a small coat rack once she had set the grocery bags near her refrigerator.
As soon as Sam had finished putting the items she had bought away, Sam heard footsteps on her deck. She froze and went to the door. Three knocks came from the other side of the door. Sam hesitated before opening the door slightly.
“Hello?” Her voice shook slightly, unnoticeable unless you were looking for fear.
“Sam, let me in. I need to tell you something.” A calm male voice said.
“Who are you?” Sam began to worry. Don’t panic, Sam thought.
“Come on, you don’t remember me? It’s Tanner, your cous’. Let me in! I’m getting soaked.” Tanner pushed the door open, not waiting for Sam’s approval. He took his coat off quickly, hung it on the coat rack then took his shirt off, ringing it out in the sink. He slipped it on again and shook his golden brown hair with his fingers, making tiny water droplets fling everywhere.
Sam stared blankly at her relative, racking her brain for some sort of memory. Then it hit her. Tanner was not her cousin but a half brother from an aunt. What was he doing here? She rushed into her room without thinking and grabbed a pair of her father’s pants. They should fit, she thought.
“So, Dad gave this place to you.” stated Tanner, trying to spark a conversation. “You go to the public school?” He asked, suspecting the answer.
“No,” Sam pulled one of the calculus books from a desk drawer, as if to emphasize what she said. “Home school. The nearest public school is like 20 miles away and the bus stop would be like 3. It’s not like I’m going to walk 3 miles in this weather.” The rain was very common where Sam’s cabin was.
“No, I guess you wouldn’t. So, have you heard about Dad?” Tanner took the pants from Sam, guessing what they were for. He slipped into the bathroom, small as it was, and cracked the door so the conversation would not stall.
“Um, unless you are talking about his third divorce, nothing new.” Sam’s voice was thick with sarcasm. “You want somethin’ to eat?” Sam walked a little too quickly to the fridge and pulled a jar of pickles out.
Tanner looked at the Jar then shook his head. “No thanks, unlike all of the other high school freaks, I have to keep my bones light.” Tanner winked at Sam. Sam shook her head then she got what he was saying. Really?
“Oh no…” The Sun was starting to set. The sunset made the raindrops look like fire falling to the ground, red and orange droplets. Sam hadn’t realized how long she had been at the store. Sam began to panic. “You have to go. Now.” Sam began pushing Tanner toward the door.
“Hey! Hold your horses! I Know!” Sam stopped pushing. “Let me stay here for another hour and you’ll see. Ok?”
Sam shook her head slowly. “Fine but I have to go to my room. Knock once the sun is fully down.” Sam stumbled a bit but made it to her bedroom door and closed it softly. Sam stood on her bed, her whole body beginning to tingle. Soon Sam was covered in red and green tinted feathers. Her curls flowed freely down her neck.
There was a soft rap on her door. It opened ever so slightly. “May I come in?” Tanner’s voice bounced around the room.
“Whatever.” Sam had rapped a blanket around her before the transformation. It still hugged her.
Tanner stepped in the small room. He had eagle-like wings on his back but that was as far as his transformation went. Tanner sighed and sat on the bed next to Sam. “That’s my little sis.”
“You…” Sam looked puzzlingly at Tanner.
“I just have the wings. We,” He motioned his hand over his body. “are most confused with demons or fallen angels. Ladies are the leaders of our kind. Men are the workers. We can blend in a little more easily.” Tanner chuckled softly and closed his eyes.
“But Grandma said…” Sam blinked several times.
“She said the females were unique to the world.” Tanner smiled. Then, changing the subject, he motioned toward the door. “Would you like to take flight with me?”
Sam hopped to the door, standing about three quarters of her usual height. Tanner held the doors open and Sam took flight before him. He soon caught up, his wingspan three times hers.
“So how long have you…” Sam flicked her head at his wings.
“’Bout a month or two.” Tanner’s shirt flapped as the wind rushed past.
Sam sighed. “Me too. Follow me.” Sam dove straight down. She pulled her front up, leveling herself. She landed in her favorite spot. She looked at her reflection in the pond. Her hair wrapped around her face, several strands dipping into the water. Sam pulled her head up and looked at her brother.
“I came here when dad first bought this place.” Tanner was looking at his sister, obvious affection swirling in his eyes.
A wolf howled and Tanner’s head snapped up, whipping in every direction. “Is that normal?” He asked, alarm barely hidden in his voice.
“Yeah, happens every night.” Sam tried to smile. “What wrong?”
“We need to get back to the house. Now.” Tanner took flight and was soon followed by his sister.
“Tell me what is wrong!” Sam was getting irritated. “It’s just a wolf, they’re everywhere out here.”
“Sam, I came here for a reason. I’m being followed. It’s one of the Hombre lobo.” Tanner flashed a look at Sam that reminded her of a time Grandma had told Sam a story. Hombre lobo. The name was familiar.
“It’s a werewolf, Sam.” Tanner’s voice quivered.
Sam landed at her door, rushed in, and packed a sack with some food and a change of clothes. She looked around her cabin. So many things she would have to leave behind. She wouldn’t be able to come back for a very, very long time.
Tanner packed a bag of his own with his shirt and a few non-perishables. He managed to slip Sam’s photo of their grandmother into his pack.
“We have to go.” Tanner motioned for her to hurry to the door.
Sam laughed as she pulled a book off her bookcase. The shelf collapsed. The two siblings left the cottage. Sam looked over at her brother and smiled. She chuckled. “I’ve got to get that shelf fixed.” Tanner motioned at the door, his face scrunched violently with worry. Sam shoved the book in her bag. “If and when I come back.” She added and hopped out the door.
Tanner took the two bags, hanging them diagonally on each shoulder. He looked like a heavenly messenger, eagle-like wings flapping powerfully for takeoff.
Sam and her half brother flew quickly. They thought they heard the call of the werewolf soften and then he fiercely yelped, as if in defeat. The wolf- man had lost them again. Sam pushed the thoughts of what could have happened to her and her brother if they had not escaped, if they had become trapped by the howling creature Tanner was so eager, so desperate, to flee from.
Sam focused on her older brother’s jeans as they barely flapped in the rushing wind. Tanner’s hair was another story. Tanner’s golden curls flapped violently, whipping his face. He had to brush his hair back constantly, each time in vain. With each down thrust of his wings, Tanner’s curls would slip out of the nooks where they should have been held.
“Tanner, why are we running from this wolf? It’s not that I don’t trust you but, really? Werewolves don’t exist.” Sam looked at the falling moon and the approaching dawn. “We don’t have much time.” She whispered. Sam instinctively started to lower altitude, eyeing a nearby motel. Tanner followed, thinking the same thing.
“Werewolves don’t exist like Harpies don’t exist. Legends get it all wrong. Werewolves don’t come out during the full moon. They’re shape shifters, really. They can,” Tanner swooped behind the motel, out of sight. He handed Sam her bag and took his shirt. He rounded a corner as the sun shown over the horizon, blinding him for a moment.
In the next few moments Sam rounded the corner, now with a feather in her hair and normal appendages. She had a green t-shirt on with standard dark jeans. Slip-ons covered her feet. Sam was finishing pulling her t-shirt on when Tanner saw her.
“They can what?” Sam asked.
“They used to be able to shift into other things but they favored the wolf form and it just,” He paused to take Sam’s bag back. “stuck.” He finished.
Sam pulled her wallet from the sack. Then she realized they had flown; they had no car. She clenched her fists. “Why hadn’t I thought of that before!” She muttered. She walked up to Tanner and grabbed his hand like a five year-old.
“We don’t have a car. How are we supposed to get around during the day?” Sam asked her brother, obviously becoming frustrated.
“Well, I’ve been jogging. Can you, um, well, are you, um,” Tanner sputtered, trying to think of how to not offend his sister.
“Yes, I am fit enough to run.” She rolled her eyes. “As long as we take breaks at towns.” Sam walked past Tanner but stopped and turned, blushing. “You should probably lead.”
Tanner walked in front of her sister. They each took their sacks and hung them on their shoulders. About halfway to the next town of the highway, when the siblings had slowed, Sam pulled an energy bar from her sack and peeled back the wrapper. Tanner looked at her and chuckled. Sam punched him in the side and they continued on.