Tanya M. Rose had accepted her fate long ago. She had mastered the occasional transformations which had been the bane of her existence through most of her childhood and teenage years. By her thirtieth birthday she had finally embraced the power that was hers.
She=d married, had a child and lived a relatively uneventful life, occupied mainly by her family -- the joys of her son=s birthdays, holidays and accomplishments in school and sports.. Recently she discovered she was pregnant. With this second pregnancy there was some anxiety and trepidation. Two reasons -- safety of the child and her troubled marriage.
Now she wondered how, for instance, had her curse not been transferred to her son? Would this one be the same? Was her lot genetic or some sort of otherworldly magic? She had not made the change the first time. All nine months had gone smoothly. She knew that anger and rage had the potential to spontaneously begin the transformation, but she had been content, calm and happy as the foetus had grown into an infant. Must have been shear luck since the thought had not occurred to her then. Now, with this new one, she worried. Her relationship with her husband had lately been hurtful and strained -- on the verge, open and festering. She would have to use every trick she knew to remain serene, to avoid any paroxysms of anger. Resentment and dislike were dangerous enough but she could not allow herself to dwell on her problems with her increasingly infuriating spouse. She just didn=t dare do anything to interfere.
It might be a good idea to get away -- take a few days to herself. It couldn't be far -- no farther than she could drive in a few hours. Living on the Olympic Peninsula didn't give her many inspiring options. She didn't want to go to Seattle as that was not the place for contemplation or decision making. The towns along the bay and the coast were boring. She could go to Forks or La Push or just enter the Olympic national forest and hike. She could camp out for a night -- that would be good. A wise woman would not do such a thing on her own, but Tanya was no ordinary woman and had good reason not to be afraid of the wilderness, and then end that was what she decided on.
She walked toward the woods. It was early. Everything was soggy from the torrent of rain the night before. But the sky was clear, it was going to be a beautiful sunny day. She didn't mind that her shoes and pant legs were soaked as she tramped through the long wet grasses. Anyone living in the Pacific Northwest couldn't mind rain, dew, puddles or mud too much. Life couldn't be put on hold because of the weather. A person wouldn't get anything done if they waited for the sunshine.
On the drive up she was preoccupied with the unpleasant track her marriage was taking. Hopefully nature would soon take her attention and give her some peace. She would work out her strategy in the dusk by a campfire. There was just too much at stake to be unprepared. This time around she would settle for sad and hurt and disappointment -- getting mad or, God forbid, giving way to rage wouldn't be in her best interest.
As she entered the pines she felt the nudging of the panther inside her. The big cat wanted out -- wanted to yawn and stretch, run, chase, kill something. Nevertheless, her protective instinct was stronger. She didn't want to lose the baby or give it her curse. It was true that she wasn't absolutely sure that a brief change this early on would hurt the tiny thing, but taking a chance wasn't acceptable.
How astonishing idiotic it would sound, she thought, if she said something aloud like, "I'm pregnant and I can't let myself turn into a cougar until after I give birth." She laughed out loud. What a sick joke that part of her life was! Her human and feline sides were aware of each other but kept apart. Normally Tanya compartmentalized, truly separated, the two aspects of her existence. Now she couldn=t afford to ignore or forget the beast inside
She sat by the fire and watched the flames. So much for working out how to deal with her conundrum. There simply was no sure-fire answer and there wasn=t anything more to think about. She just had to be strong and mentally alert and avoid questioning or arguing with her husband. AThat=s it Mrs. Rose. Suck it up and deal with it.@ So, she ate one of the sandwiches she=d brought, lay down by the fire, covered herself with a blanket and closed her eyes.
Something woke her. It was early, probably a couple hours before dawn. She sat up. She felt eyes on her. The tiny hairs on her arms stood on end. Something or someone was prowling around in the blackness of the trees. The fire had died to hot embers under cool ash. She sat dead still, listening. Bear, lone wolf, badger, wolverine? Maybe it was only a racoon or something small which caught the scent of the sandwich crusts she stupidly threw aside last night. Then there was movement and something very large stepped gingerly through the huge tree trunks. Her initial fright had subsided. Now she felt irritated and annoyed that an animal would dare to come so close. She yelled out Aget!@
She could barely make out the form but it was definitely a large mountain lion. It dropped something on the ground and then retreated. She did not move until she heard its footsteps flee up the forested hill. One of the few senses she shared with her feline avatar was her sense of smell. She looked over at the little package the big cat had dropped. She could smell the blood and she could smell the urine also in the area where the cat had sprayed. So it was a male. Marking its territory? She approached the little bundle. It was rabbit. The blood was fresh.
A gift. AHow strange,@ she thought. AIs he like me B one of my kind?@ Tanya had never met another werecat or whatever she was and a feeling of alarm seized her. She wasn=t sure how to react. She decided she had better leave the area at once. She tried to think of some reason why the male was following her. Some of the feline attributes that she shared with her other self were weird. She only came into estrus twice a year and, obviously, she wasn=t now. She was pregnant. But what else could attract a male and compel him to offer a gift of meat?
Out of nowhere a sudden flashback from her teenage years. She used to walk down to a meadow with a book sometimes. A few times, much to her dismay and disgust, she had awoken with the taste of blood on her tongue. Usually it was accompanied by a bit of fur or a few feathers in her mouth or stuck to her lips. As an adult her panther, cougar, whatever did not eat what it caught anymore. Its pleasure was to stalk and chase B never to eat the prey. Even though her cat=s brain did not work the same way that her human brain, she was more in tune when it was loose. It did not think in sentences but it was not compelled to eat even when it was hungry B something human restrained it.
She buried the rabbit under a foot of soil and leaves. She rolled up her blanket, stuffed it into her pack and headed out the way she had come.
TO BE CONTINUED