The Shifters

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic


I wrote this as an entry to a short story writing contest. Genres and themes were assigned in groups and we had to write accordingly. This was what I came up with. (It didn't win but I still like
it!)

Submitted: September 10, 2018

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Submitted: September 10, 2018

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“I know you’re here Abby, and darling, you’re mine.”

The look on his face was terrifying. Primal. Tears started brimming just behind my eyes as terror began to take over. I was being hunted. I’d learned years ago that the hunted have two options: kill or be killed. I grabbed an arrow from the quiver on my back and looked at it, and back to Jonah, who was stalking the big tree I was hiding in. He’d figured it out and it was now or never.

I heard a sloshing sound coming from behind me, and I whipped my head around to see a very large black bear staring at me intently, mouth open in a growl. The eyes had an alarmingly familiar expression to them, but I didn’t have time to worry about that now. Jonah was approaching quickly. The people in the City of Velka had always commanded respect from animals, and the animals knew it. I wasn’t worried about this bear.

Hands shaking slightly, I began to rise slowly as he approached until I was standing as much as the tree hollow would allow. He knew I was here, so I only had one chance to save my own life. The look on his face told me I had an advantage. His expression was smug and confident, he assumed I was simply cowering. My breath caught in my throat and my stomach lurched as he swung his head around the tree, arrow in hand. We made eye contact for half a second as I rammed my arrow into his neck with a scream. I watched as his eyes went from an arrogant smirk to pain-stricken and terrified. Blood started seeping from the wound as he staggered backward. Hands still unsteady, I sunk another arrow into his chest just to be safe.  

Tears were spilling from my eyes now, as I felt a rush of relief and a new kind of fear come over me all at the same time. Relief because I was alive and Jonah was dead. Fear because Jonah was dead. I’d killed someone, what happens now?

My thoughts were interrupted by movement in front of me. I looked up to see the big black bear from earlier taking off into the woods. The bear leaving reminded me that I was completely alone out here. No one knows what happened, no one saw. I quickly pulled the two blood-soaked arrows from Jonah’s body and started running again, as far away from this scene as possible.

Days later, I was still unbelievably shaken from the incident with Jonah, so it’s no surprise that I was unable to kill a deer or anything else worthy of being a Shift Partner as my already poor aim became weaker with hands that constantly shook and thoughts that were never far away from that day.

The last day of winter arrived and it was with a heavy heart that I returned to Velka without a kill. I’d had some time to come to terms with the fact that I would have to leave my home. I’d known since the run-in with Jonah that I wouldn’t have the right mindset to kill something when my skills were already hardly there. This didn’t make going home for the last time any easier. It was physically painful to think about where I would live and how I would survive. It was a tradition in the City of Velka to give cast out members some money when they left. This knowledge didn’t make it any easier though, especially as I also had to accept that I was born into this city by accident; as proven by my inability to claim a Shift Partner.

The expressions I was being greeted with as I entered the city were strange. Everyone was glaring, mothers pulling their children behind them. I opened my mouth to ask what was going on but before I could speak, I felt myself being grabbed from behind, both arms secured by strong hands. I looked up to see the grim face of Elder Murphey, Jonah’s Father. The gut-wrenching fear that had become all too familiar returned, and I looked around frantically for my mother, but to no avail.


“Abby Rowyn, you are no longer welcome here” was all he said.  

I knew I was going to be cast out for not claiming a Shift Partner, but as far as I knew, cast outs were allowed a final night with their families!

“Y-yeah, no, I know I didn’t claim a Partner but, I get one m-“

“No.” He growled, gruffly turning me to face the growing crowd. He raised his voice and spoke, “Not only has Abby Rowyn failed to claim a Shift Partner during her year 18 winter hunting season but Elder Maisley, while on patrol in the form of his Partner, witnessed her murder my eldest son Jonah in cold blood.”

The crowd gasped and murmurs started to emerge. A trickle of relief managed to start flowing as I realized what was going on. I knew I should have recognized that black bear, Elder Maisley was the only one to ever claim such a large bear.

I let out a sigh of relief as I began to explain “No, see you don’t understand. Jonah hadn’t claimed a Partner yet either so he thought by killing me he could-“

“How dare you?!” Elder Murphey boomed, tightening his grip on my arm. “Accuse my son of attempted murder? He was one of the noblest members of this community, and the next in line to lead us. You will leave this place immediately, and I NEVER want to see your face within these gates again!”

 I was then taken by two other guards and dragged to the gate, where a large black van was waiting. I begged and pleaded for them to listen to my story but it was no use. Before I knew it, I felt a prick in the side of my arm and was out almost immediately. The last thing I remember was the van starting up as the door was slammed shut in my face.

Next thing I knew, I was waking up in the dark, with no idea how much time had passed or where I was. I felt very slow and lethargic but wasn’t in much pain. I appeared to be in a small room. I stood up slowly and located a light switch. I was glad when a dull, muted light actually filled the room. There was nothing in here but a chair, a table, and a door.

I walked outside and found myself in the middle of a city. No one noticed me as I walked out of the random little room. I imagine this is where they drop off all the cast outs.

All I could think about now was how angry I was. How I wasn’t even given a chance. I knew I was going to be kicked out anyway, but I didn’t even get to do it with dignity, I didn’t get to say goodbye to my family. The more I wandered the angrier I got. I was fuming so hard I couldn’t even stand still. So, I walked and walked all night long, glaring at anyone who dared to make eye contact with me. By the time my feet were too tired to do any more walking, there was only one thing consuming my thoughts. There was only one thing I wanted: revenge. I wasn’t sure how, but I was going to get revenge.

I’d managed to figure out that I was in the city of Walkerton, which wasn’t very far from my home. Velka was technically part of Walkerton but had somehow managed to get itself exempt from the city’s governing. What I need to do is tell the Mayor what Velka is doing. I realize now that none of this is right. I agree that Velka needs to live separately due to the power everyone there possesses, but they shouldn’t be allowed to do this to people. Everyone deserves a fair trial.

I’d been hanging out on a street bench for a while, contemplating what to do when it started to rain quite heavily. I threw the hood of my sweater up over my head and began trotting up the street until I came across a little pizza shop with a public bathroom. I slipped in and attempted to dry off. I looked in the mirror and couldn’t help but notice how much of a mess I looked. My mind wandered to Jonah. This was all his fault, if he hadn’t gone so crazy I wouldn’t be here. After a few minutes of thinking about his stupid face, I noticed something funny about the mirror. My reflection had started to look blurry. Confused, I tried to focus in on it, but the image wouldn’t sharpen. I felt some pressure in my limbs at the same time as the person in the mirror began to change. It began to bend and twist and I started to feel sick. I realized with complete and utter shock that this is the same thing I had seen the very few times I’d witnessed someone changing form into that of their Partner. This doesn’t make sense, I don’t have a Partner! After much more bending and twisting and a lot of pressure – but no pain – it finally stopped.

I looked in the mirror and I could have fainted. It wasn’t myself staring back at me anymore. It was Jonah. So he’d been right, after all, you could claim another human as a Shift Partner. I didn’t feel him with me though. Everyone always said you could feel the spirit of your Partner with you as you took their form, communicate with them even, hence why we call them Partners in the first place. As much as I was grateful that Jonah was not living in my head, it made me nervous that this was different. I was also thinking clearly. Supposedly, you follow only instincts when in your Partner form, but have clear memories when you return to human form. I suppose this could be because as fellow humans, we share the same instincts, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling of unease.

 As much as this was scaring me, I felt a rush of excitement. I’d heard tales before of people who were able to take multiple Shift Partners. This thought ignited a new slew of butterflies in my stomach, but they were good ones this time. If I could harness the power required to claim multiple Shift Partners, I could be anyone in the world that I wanted to be… as long as I killed them first. At first, I was surprised by how okay I was with this idea, but after a while, I became more comfortable with it. I grew up with the idea of killing, and if this is what it took to claim the life I wanted then so be it. Velka hadn’t left me with much choice.

I spent a few hours changing back and forth, really mastering the Shift. As soon as night fell, I set out as Jonah. I walked until I found a secluded neighbourhood. I scoped out houses until I found one which appeared to have only a single occupant. I watched the young women from her open window, she was the perfect target. I waited until she was sitting down to watch TV before reaching into the inside pocket of my hoodie and wrapping my fingers around the little knife I’d crafted out of wood. I may have failed to learn proper hunting skills, but crafting was something I’d mastered. I’d made this as soon as I realized I was going to be cast out. One can never be too safe. I studied her face for a long time before silently creeping in her window. I would need to know what she looked like in order to Shift. She didn’t notice me until I was right behind her, at which point she pierced the night with a loud scream. I quickly silenced this with a tackle to the ground. I’d done this with Jonah already, so I felt no hesitation as I thrust the knife into her neck, and waited for her breathing to stop. I realized now how silly I’d been to be afraid after killing Jonah. Nothing could compare to this feeling, this feeling of unrivaled power.

With a seemingly endless stream of pumping adrenaline, I spent the next several weeks honing my craft. Moving from city to city, I practiced my technique, claiming more and more Partners as I went. I always made sure it was at their house where they least expected it. This also allowed me to get to know them, study their face, so I could Shift as easily as possible. With every kill, I felt more and more empowered. I really could be anyone I wanted to be. In between hunts, I did some research. I found the Mayor of Walkerton’s name and address, and I started making my plan. Those bastards who ran Velka were going to pay.

A few more weeks and several kills later, it was time. I’d come to crave the smell of warm, fresh blood; the feeling of it sliding over my hands and slipping through my fingers. Right now there was nothing I wanted more than the blood of this mayor, the blood of one man who could take my old city down. The blood of the mayor meant I would have the blood of Velka.

I felt my lips curl up into an involuntary smile as I made a final Shift into a Partner I’d claimed only a week ago. A strong, young bodybuilder named Pat Walkins. I didn’t always learn the names of my Partners, but I made sure to get this one so my Shift would be perfect.

My heart was pounding hard in my chest as I approached. I crouched beside a bush just outside a window. I’d circled the house, nothing was open. I was prepared for this, it was the reason I chose such a strong Partner for the job. At this point, it was all or nothing. I backed up to get a running start and with an almighty yell, I slammed myself into the thin glass of the sliding door to his living room. I found him very peacefully watching television. I’d attracted his attention at this point, but all he had time to do was stand up, his face still frozen in shock.

“Hello, Mayor Clancy!” I said cheerfully as I knocked him to the ground and skillfully plunged my knife into his throat as I’d done to so many others before him.


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