As the alarm clock screams out its ultimatum, I groan in irritation and smack at it blindly, refusing to open my eyes. It absolutely cannot be time to get up. Didn’t I just go to bed? With another groan, I haul myself up and out of my warm nest, unplugging the alarm clock out of spite as I stumble my way towards the bathroom.
With less than an hour on my side, I have to shower & dress, find some sort of caffeinated beverage, and make my way to the office. Today’s surgery roster was full, and I had not a minute to waste. First, I’d tackle the surgeries, and then after lunch, a busy afternoon of appointments. I’m a veterinarian, and while some might think that vocation to be not as prestigious as a medical doctor or surgeon, the proudest day of my life came at graduation when I could officially refer to myself as Dr. Cory MacNamara. My parents would have been so proud.
Wow. Even now, twelve years later, thinking about my parents still makes my heart ache. They were brutally murdered when I was fourteen and though I was very lucky to escape, I can’t help but feel a little guilty to be alive. “Survivor Syndrome” I guess you might call it. The reason behind their murder revolves around a dark family secret, and is something I live with every day. You see, I’m a shifter, or what is more popularly known in today’s media-driven culture as a werewolf. I wasn’t bitten, or “made” as we in the know like to refer to those people who suddenly find themselves furry after a bizarre dog attack. I was born a shifter from shifter parents and come from a long line of weres on both sides of the family.
It’s not like what you think. Most of the stuff you see on television or read about in books is just myths & fabrications to make the story more interesting. What I live is quite different. Sure, I’m probably quite a bit stronger than you might believe, especially since I’m petite, 5’4” to be exact, and weigh about a hundred pounds soaking wet. My looks are quite deceiving. It’s tough to be menacing & formidable when you’re roughly the size of a Keebler Elf, give or take five pounds. I also heal quite a bit quicker than a normal person, but I’m not impervious to harm. Silver has no effect on me; a bullet is a bullet, it will hurt me regardless of what it’s made of. I can change form at will, though if I shift too often or too quickly back and forth, I usually feel hung over the next day. If I don’t shift often enough or if I avoid shifting altogether I tend to get a little hormonal, to put it mildly. PMS has nothing on me when, as my daddy used to say, “the animal is working its way out.” Aside from all that, I’m just a normal girl.
My parents were from Scotland originally, having immigrated to the good old U.S. of A. when I was just a baby. I grew up hearing stories about what it used to be like surrounded by a huge pack of grandparents and great grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, all sharing the same shifter blood. One big happy extended family. That all came to an end one night when a group of Hunters, who had been tracking their movements around the countryside, slaughtered most of my family in what can only be described as a bloodbath of epic proportion. There were very few survivors. My parents managed to escape with their skin intact and me in tow, and they fled to America as soon as they could arrange it. Honestly, I don’t really know much more than that. Shifters are a secret to the world, but for as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve been told to be mindful of the Hunters. As long as there have been shifters, there have also been the Hunters. They are few and far between, but they are the only mundanes to know of our secret existence, and they live only to eliminate us.
Once we were settled in America, my parents became quite reclusive, and we moved from place to place, packing up whenever they would get nervous or fearful. We lived quietly, and I was lectured all the time about the dangers of revealing my true self to the outside world. Mom and Dad were so afraid of being found & tracked by the Hunter that killed most of our family that any and all contact with surviving family members and shifter friends was broken off completely. I have yet, even now, to meet another shifter.
The summer I turned fourteen was when my world changed forever. We were living in Minnesota, on the outskirts of Fargo. It was early evening, and I was just coming home from a long walk in the woods. As I approached the house from the side yard, it looked different somehow. Like something was just not right. As I got closer, I saw the screened back door hanging off its hinges at an odd angle and I just suddenly knew. Breaking into a run, I dashed inside only to stop short. There was so much blood everywhere: large puddles on the floor, jagged smears on the walls. I found what was left of my father in the living room, and the remains of my mother upstairs in the bathroom. I couldn’t breathe. I felt dizzy and nauseous, but I would not allow myself to cry. I needed to think. I wasn’t sure if the Hunter was still in the house or watching me from the woods outside, but I went to my bedroom to grab my backpack and jam a few changes of clothes inside as well as an extra pair of shoes. Stopping by my parents’ bedroom, I rifled through my dad’s wallet, removing the cash and a small picture of them both. Stifling a sob, I stuffed this handful of money and memories into one of my front jeans pockets, and took off down the stairs and out the door. I had one hundred and twenty dollars to my name, and I was alone in the world with no where to go and no one to turn to.
I ended up at the bus station that night, and bought myself a one way ticket to Virginia Beach. Once there I slept on the sand under the boardwalk for several nights, until I was able to find a job flipping burgers and a shared apartment with several girls I worked with. I told them I was eighteen. They didn’t exactly like me, but I could pay the rent. I think they thought I was snobby or stuck up because I was quiet and introverted. I was just scared and feeling alone. Eventually, I managed to get my GED through Adult Education, and with the help of several scholarships and loans, I was also able to attend and graduate college. It was thus that I found my way in the world, and a place to call my own.
Now, several years later, here I am in Rochester, NY, starting over again. It seems I’ve acquired my parents’ penchant for moving around a lot. I guess I just don’t feel comfortable unless my life is in a constant state of flux. I plan to make this one stick though. I found a fabulous loft apartment in the artsy Park Avenue district, and I’m only a few minutes walk from the animal hospital. I even bought some houseplants for my office. What says permanent resident better than a Boston fern?
~copyright TC 11/2007