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Melinda Cooper stared dejectedly out the car window watching the lush evergreen scenery roll by. She adjusted her glasses and glanced around her parents’ van. Her father was sitting in the driver’s seat, whistling contently. Beside him in the front seat her mother had broken out the road map. She was slowly traced a gloved finger along the crisscross of routes and roads depicted on the parchment, her lips puckered in concentration. Melinda sighed and flopped back into her seat, blowing away a wisp of hair that obscured her left eye.

She was going to spend the next week – the entirety of her spring break – stuck out in the middle of nowhere.  No electricity.  No hot water.  Bad food, sleeping bags, mosquitoes, and trees for toilets.  

The whole thing had been her father’s idea. Though her mother had initially balked at the idea of camping he had managed to convince her that it would be a Good Learning Experience for Melinda, and once she was on his side there was no use arguing. What made it worse was that her dad wanted “to rough it.” After rummaging through the attic he had produced a set of camping equipment from his Eagle Scouts days and actually expected them to last the week using the outdated gear. The two-person tent had more holes in it than Swiss cheese. They could have at least brought that portable gas grill her uncle had given him for his birthday

“Only twenty more minutes, honey,” said Melinda’s mother.

“Great!” exclaimed her father excitedly. He turned back to face Melinda with a wide grin. “You hear that, sport? Only twenty more minutes until we’re at the campsite!”

Melinda rolled her eyes. It really bugged her when her dad called her “sport.”

“Shouldn’t you be watching the road, dear?” said Melinda’s mom, a hint of urgency in her voice.

“Sorry,” Melinda's dad had an almost comical sheepishness as he swerved along a tight turn, missing the guard railing by mere inches.  

Melinda sighed as she watched her father drive. No question about it, this was going to be hell. She glanced down at her backpack.  At least they had let her to bring her books. Assuming her father didn’t drag her on a nature walk every day she might actually get some good reading in.

“Melinda, darling,” said her mother after a while. “You haven’t said a word since we left. Are you feeling all right?”

“Hmm,” said Melinda.

“What was that?” said her mother.

“I said I’m OK,” murmured Melinda slightly more audibly. She reached down, unzipped her backpack and pulled out a thick paperback.  Licking her thumb she loosened her seat belt and flipped through the pages until she found her place.

“Melinda, you shouldn’t read in the car,” chided her mother, who had been watching her in the rear-view mirror.  

Melinda rolled her eyes.

“I’ll be fine,” said Melinda, already on the second paragraph of the page.

“You’ll get motion sickness, dear.”

“I’m only going to read a couple of pages, mother; I’m just trying to pass the time.”

Though she did not see it, Melinda heard her mother sigh in what she considered an exaggerated – almost melodramatic – manner.

“Alright, Melinda, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“I’ll be fine, mother,” hissed Melinda through clenched teeth.

“Aw, let her read,” cut in her dad cheerfully. “Once we get to the campground we won’t have any time for reading, eh?”
There was a long silence.

“What do you have planned for us anyway?” asked Melinda’s mother.

“You name it,” said Melinda’s dad enthusiastically.  “Hiking, fishing, rafting, hell, there’s even an old quarry near the lake where we can go rock climbing.  I threw the extra harness in the trunk just before we left.”

“Oh, that sounds…exciting dear,” said Melinda’s mom.
Melinda felt a weight in the pit of her stomach. This was going to be hell.

--

The “campsite” proved to be little more than a clearing in the woods linked to the main road by a dusty trail barely capable of accommodating their vehicle. There were patches of yellowing grass and empty beer cans scattered everywhere. Melinda and her mother were less than impressed. Melinda’s dad, however, couldn’t have been happier. He practically leaped out of the van and gazed about excitedly, bringing Melinda to mind of a schoolboy home for the summer.

“Man, this is great!” he exclaimed, rubbing his hands. “I haven’t been out here for years!”  He turned back to the van. “Come on, let’s break out the tent, the table, the cooking stuff, let’s go!”

Melinda groaned and pried herself out of the car, wobbling slightly as she stood. She steadied herself against the door as she recovered from the long ride. She stretched her thin, willowy body, running her hands over her hair. Her pale blue eyes squinted in the obtrusive afternoon light and dusty forest air. With a sigh she glanced over at her mother, who appeared to be just as disoriented as she was.

“Mom, remind me again why we’re doing this?” whispered Melinda, first making certain her father wasn’t in earshot.

“Because your father deserves a little vacation now and again and this is how he likes to relax,” replied her mother. “Besides, you needed to get out of the house.”

“Then why couldn’t we have gone on a trip that involves a hotel?”

“Look, honey,” began Melinda’s mother in a tired voice.

“Your father used to go camping all the time. He really loves it. Could you at least try to enjoy it for him? I’m making the effort.”

Melinda sighed.

“Well, yeah, I suppose I should. I love dad and everything, and I don’t want to hurt his feelings, it’s just…”

“Yes?”

“It’s just…couldn’t he have gone with some of his friends or something? Did he really have to take us with him? I was really looking forward to my spring break.”

Her mother raised an eyebrow.

“Oh really,” she said smoothly. “And what were you planning to do for the week?”

“Well…I…” hesitated Melinda. “Maybe sit around, catch-up on my reading.”

“And how is that different from when you’re at home?” said her mother.  She chuckled humorously. “Honestly, that’s all you do - go to school, come home, go on the computer, read, and go to bed.  To be honest I’m growing concerned about you, Melinda. When was the last time you went outside for a walk, or rode a bike or went to a friend’s house or something?”

“What friends?” sighed Melinda morosely. “You know all the girls at school hate me.”

“That’s not true.”

“Yes it is,” said Melinda glumly.

“What about Yvette?”

“Yvette?” Melinda hesitated, looking uncertain.  “I…well, alright, ONE friend,” she admitted.

“See?” said Melinda’s mother pleasantly, stroking her daughter’s hair.  “If you made one I don’t see why can’t make more.  You’re a very sweet, bright young woman.”
“That’s just the problem, mom,” sighed Melinda, gently pushing her away.  “I stand out.  I’m a nerd.  A geek.  A freak”

Melinda’s mother smiled.

“Well, they may have a point.”

“MOM!”

“Kidding, kidding!” said Melinda’s mother in a disarming voice. “I’m very proud that you’re such an excellent student. I just, well…I just wish you would find some other interests. Like tennis, or…or lacrosse or something.”  She glanced over her shoulder at Melinda’s father, who was lifting something very large and very heavy from the back of the van. She turned back to her daughter.  “To tell the truth, the only reason that I went along with your father on this expedition was to expose you to some…alternative forms of recreation. Come on - give it a chance. For all you know you may love camping.”

“Thanks, mom,” snapped Melinda peevishly.

--

The evening sun had just set over the distant hills painting the western sky a radiant, fiery shade of orange. The air was alive with the myriad gentle noises of the forest - the buzz of the crickets, the caw of the crows, and the whisper of the wind as it blew through the pine needles. Taken together these sounds wove a melodic cadence that soothed the mind and healed the soul.

The campsite now looked almost habitable. The empty beer cans lay crushed in a pile next to a tall evergreen. Several triangular green tents had been erected around a roaring campfire built from stones collected from the nearby quarry. Melinda’s parents were sitting together on aluminum foldouts, watching the flickering flames. Melinda herself was nowhere to be seen.

Melinda’s father turned to Melinda’s mother.

“I told you this was a good idea,” he said, smirking.

“Well, I have to admit this is much more enjoyable than I had anticipated,” said Melinda’s mother happily. “I was afraid you were going to go Navy SEALs on us, but this is nice. Everything’s so peaceful.”

Far off in the distance, a wolf howled.

“Hey, where’s Melinda?” said Melinda’s father, glancing about the camp.

“She needed to use the restroom,” said Melinda’s mother.

“She’ll be back in a bit.”

“Oh.”

The couple continued to stare into the fire.

“Is it just me, or was Melinda somewhat…unhappy today?” asked Melinda’s father hesitantly.

“It wasn’t you,” sighed Melinda’s mother.

“She’s didn't want to come here, and she wasn’t happy when I sided with you. Face it dear - she’s just not an outdoors person.”

“Eh. That’s why I thought we ought to bring her out here. Toughen her up.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, dear, she’s a woman, not a man,” laughed Melinda’s mother, though something about the tone of her voice suggested she was only half joking.

Melinda’s father blushed.

“Look…I thought we agreed to expose her to a variety of different things. She can’t live off books alone.”

“I’m more than aware of that,” continued Melinda’s mother evenly.  “But if we force this on her she’ll just shrink further into her shell.  She has to be the one to make the decisions, not us.”

There was a pause.  

“Ok, ok,” he sighed. “I’ll tell you what: If she’s still miserable after three days we’ll leave early, and I promise I won’t bitch about it.”

“Really dear, mind your language!” scolded Melinda’s mother in jest. She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead.

“Thank you.”

--

Melinda had in fact been watching the sunset from a small knoll not too far from the campsite. She figured that if she was going to be knee-deep in nature she might as well see what the big fuss over the panorama was. Sure, the sunset was pretty and everything, but she didn’t see what was so special about it. She couldn’t grasp why someone would hike fifty miles into the wilderness just to see something they could catch on television. What was the difference? - besides the mosquitoes, the cold, and the smell of course? Melinda sighed, shook her head, and turned back to the camp. She just didn’t get it, and she probably never would.

Her steps made soft crunching sounds as they pressed against the thick forest floor. Overhead, the stars were coming out. As she walked, Melinda began to appreciate just how…dark the forest would soon become. Night had just fallen yet she was already having trouble seeing her hands in front of her face. In the blackness of the nascent evening the trees appeared frightfully tall - the word “loom” certainly came to mind. It made her feel…vulnerable.
Slightly perturbed by the nighttime milieu Melinda quickened her pace. The tempo of her footsteps gradually increased until it was a steady trot. Somewhere, an owl hooted, breaking the deepening silence.

She had gone on for a minute or two when it hit her: she had no idea which way camp was.  She hadn’t followed a path to reach the summit of the hill. She had waited until after the sunset to leave! Stupid, stupid, stupid! Melinda considered calling out to her parents, but was suddenly struck by a rebellious impulse. She could find her own damn way back to camp, and if she got lost along the way it was her parents’ fault for bringing her out here in the first place! Frustrated, angry, and tired, she continued her trackless trek.

--

“MELINDA!”

Melinda’s mother waited for a response, and then cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted once more.

“MELINDA!”

Her cry went unanswered. She stared into the growing darkness of the forest, anxiously rubbing her palms together. Her lips were tight with concern. Suddenly, she heard someone approaching from behind. She whirled around and saw that it was Melinda’s father carrying a powerful flashlight in his right hand. The shadows around him swayed and stretched eerily as the torch’s beam swung up and down. There was a frown etched upon his ordinarily cheerful face.

“I checked all around the campsite,” he said in a businesslike manner. “No sign of her.”

“How long has it been?” asked Melinda’s mother in a shaky voice.

Melinda’s father looked down at his watch.

“About an hour,” he said.

“Where could she have gotten off to?” she murmured, rubbing her forehead.

“Well, the last time I saw her she was heading towards the portopotties near the main road. It isn’t too far, but considering how dark it is I suppose she could’ve gotten lost.”

“Oh Lord,” whispered Melinda’s mother.

“Don’t worry,” said Melinda’s father reassuringly.

“There are other campsites out there and plenty of people still have fires going. I’m sure she’ll stumble upon one of them and find her way back.”

“I don’t know, I mean, we camped on the very edge of the park. What if she wandered into the woods?”

“I’m…pretty sure that won’t happen. I mean…it’s a fifty-fifty chance, right?”

--

Melinda’s temper had dissipated long ago, replaced by mind-numbing panic. It was now nearly pitch black. She was lost, hungry, scared, and her feet were starting to kill her. She had already resorted to calling out for her parents but there had been no response. For all she knew she could be miles away from camp.

“Hello?”

“Hello!  Is anyone out there?”

“Please!  Anyone?  Is anyone there?”

Melinda stopped and leaned against a towering pine tree, gasping for breath. She had absolutely no idea what to do. Should she keep going? Should she stay in one place? Should she try to build a fire? For that matter, how could she build a fire? She lowered her head and moaned, repeatedly punching her fist against the base of the tree.

Inwardly, Melinda was fairly certain she’d come out of this unscathed. After all, it was only a medium-sized state park. There weren’t supposed to be any dangerous animals in these woods, and there was bound to be a ranger or two out there. They’d rescue her tomorrow - if not before the end of the night. Yet no matter how much she reassured herself there was still a nagging uncertainty - that unsettling but undeniable possibility that she could be in real danger. She had never experienced anything like this in her entire life. She was a wreck.

Melinda stared desperately into the gloom. All she could make out were the outlines of the closest trees and a hint of starlight above. However, something was slowly beginning to form on the periphery of her vision. Melinda turned and squinted her eyes. It was…about the shape and size of a large dog, and it was moving towards her. Suddenly she saw a flash of yellow eyes and two pointed ears. Melinda felt her blood turn to ice. There was no way that thing could be a dog. Shivering in fright, she began to back away - slowly. The creature stopped, apparently noticing Melinda, and began matching her movement step-for-step. Melinda knew that breaking into a run would be just about the stupidest thing she could do right now, but she was out of options. She took a deep breath, spun around, and bolted into the woods.

Leaves, sticks, and dirt were kicked up in her wake. Melinda could feel her heart pounding in her chest. Her feet - already sore from the long walk - hurt like heck. She had no idea if the wolf was chasing her but she was far, far too frightened to take a look. She moaned in frustration. There weren’t supposed to be any big predators out here! If she got out of this alive that wildlife website was going to receive a very nasty email.

She heard a low growl behind her, confirming her worst fears. She broke into an all out sprint, dodging and weaving between trees. Bushes and low hanging tree branches scratched her skin and tore at her clothes. She risked a glance behind her, and saw a huge, grayish mass rushing towards her. When she turned back around she was greeted with a stunning blow to the head. Her world blurred, and then faded to darkness.

--

Melinda’s body lay sprawled on the forest floor. Her eyes were shut and her lips pressed into a slight smile, as though she were gently sleeping. However, this benign image was marred by a thin trickle of blood running down her forehead.

The large wolf-like creature circled the girl’s body cautiously. It sniffed the air, and then brought its nose down to Melinda and smelled her. It whined, shaking its head vigorously. It paused and sat on its hind legs, staring at the girl. After a while it slowly lowered its head towards Melinda’s. It opened its massive, tooth-lined jaw and bit her in the neck. The wolf’s maw was so huge it encompassed her entire head. It shook her for a second - almost gently - and then lowered her back to the ground. Satisfied, it turned and disappeared into the forest.

Melinda’s eyelids fluttered open. Though she was barely conscious she later swore she heard a distant voice murmur “Forgive me” before spiraling back into oblivion.

--

Melinda’s father sighed as he put the cell phone down. He looked over at his wife, who was sitting next to the dying embers of the campfire. Her hands were on her face.

“Well, it’s a good thing you convinced me to take that thing along,” he laughed.

Melinda’s mother looked up and gave him a cold, hard stare.

“Yes, yes it is, and I wish you would take this a little more seriously,” she said angrily.

“Oh come on, she’ll be OK,” he protested. “The rangers said that they could search the entire park in a day or two. I’ll bet you she’ll be with us before tomorrow night.” He frowned. “Although I have to admit, this isn’t like her. Why would she run off?”

“Maybe she didn’t,” responded Melinda’s mother dismally.

“What, what, WHAT?” cried Melinda’s father suddenly. “What do you want me to say? That some psychopath kidnapped her? That some wild animal mauled her?”  He sighed. “At this point we really can’t do anything about it. The rangers can’t start the search until the morning and it’s too damn dark to leave the park. If she has any sense she’ll stay put somewhere conspicuous.”

Melinda’s mother was silent.

“I’m going to bed,” he muttered, and stalked off towards the tent.

When he was gone Melinda’s mother sat up and paced the campground nervously, occasionally glancing into the forest. She felt an urge to smoke, even though she had quit nearly three years ago. Minutes passed. With a defeated sigh she turned towards the tent.

She saw her.

“Melinda!” she cried joyously.

Melinda nodded dumbly as she staggered into the clearing. She looked as though she had been trampled by an angry mob. Her clothes were cut and torn, and her hair was dirty and disheveled. Her mother rushed towards her and gave her daughter a passionate hug. Her father peered through the tent flap, and then leapt out to join them. The couple embraced their daughter, talking and laughing with relief.

“Honey! Honey! Thank God you’re OK!”

“Where the heck have you been sport?”

“I mean, when you disappeared I was so worried!”

“We called the park rangers and everything! I’m so glad you’re back!”

Melinda cleared her throat.

“Uh, dad,”

“Yeah sport?”

“You’re in your underwear.”

“Oh, heh, yeah. Sorry,” said Melinda’s father, glancing downward.

Melinda’s mother’s voice suddenly became concerned.
“Honey…is that…blood?”

“Yeah,” muttered Melinda. “I hurt my head, but I’m better now…” With that said, she collapsed into a heap.

--

Doctor Michaels whistled as she examined Melinda’s forehead.
“That was quite a nasty blow you took,” she commented with a wan smile.

Melinda looked up at her and shrugged.

“The strange thing is,” she continued, brushing aside some of Melinda’s hair to get a better view of the wound. “There really hasn’t been any significant damage. Uh, internally I mean. A blunt blow to the head resulting in this kind of abrasion should’ve at least left a bruise or something, but all I see is a flesh wound, and even that is healing quite rapidly.” The doctor stepped towards the examining room sink and washed her gloved hands. “As for the cuts on neck, well, they do look like bite marks. We’ll get you checked for rabies later on, but from how you described the encounter I don’t think you have much to worry about. The wolf - or whatever it was - must have taken a nip out of you before realizing you weren’t on its preferred menu. No worries.”
Melinda’s mother sat up from her plastic chair.

“So, about that rabies test…” she said nervously.

“Oh, I already took a blood sample,” sniffed the doctor.

“I’ll have the results in soon, but again I wouldn’t worry about it. If the wolf were rabid I think it would have taken a bigger chunk out her.”
Melinda’s mother smiled.

“Thank you doctor. Will she be ready for school on Monday?”

“Doubtless, if the young lady thinks she’s ready,” she responded.

Melinda sighed and nodded her head.

“Yeah…actually, I’m really looking forward to getting back into the grind. I’m going to need a vacation from this vacation.”
The doctor laughed.

“All right, I think we’re done here. Be sure to contact me if anything changes.”

Melinda nodded.

Her mother turned to her as they exited the examining room.

“So, you got your wish after all,” she said, smiling wryly. “Half of it, at least.”

“Yeah…” muttered Melinda. “I’m…really sorry about that.”

“Sorry?” said her mother with surprise. “You banged your head on a branch and nearly got mauled by a wild animal. I don’t think you need to apologize for anything.”

“But still,” persisted Melinda. “I’m the one who got lost, and because of that dad lost his vacation. He probably won’t get another chance to camp for half-a-year. Besides, I was…I was a bit of a brat on the trip.”

Melinda’s mother nodded.

“You were,” she agreed.

“MOM!”

“What?” she said innocently.

“You’re not supposed to say that,” she laughed.

“Well, I’m glad you noticed it,” chuckled her mother. “Just be sure apologize to your father as well - I think he’d appreciate it.” She smiled. “Maybe you did get something out of this trip after all.”

--

It had been two weeks since the ill-fated camping trip.

The clock in Melinda’s room read 12:58 AM. Her parents were gone for the weekend, while Melinda herself was lying in bed, asleep. The blind of her bedroom window was shut, but nonetheless a faint, pale light was filtering through the thin gaps between the flaps, softly illuminating Melinda’s face. Otherwise her room was very dark and almost deathly still. Melinda’s head nodded uneasily on her crumpled pillow. Her right hand alternately gripped and released her blankets. Her breathing was slowly becoming more erratic and intense. Suddenly, her eyes flashed opened.

Her entire body felt incredibly hot! Her hands and feet in particular felt as though they were on fire! Not only that, but she felt…awful, as though she had suddenly become very sick. Gasping for air, she threw off the blankets, revealing her pale, sweat-soaked body clothed by only a white short-sleeve shirt and a pair of panties. She leapt to her feet and fanned herself desperately. Her exertions - if anything - only seemed to make her hotter. She was beginning to feel lightheaded as well. She stumbled to her bedroom door and out into the hallway. Having forgotten her glasses the world around her was a distorted blur. Nevertheless she found her way into the bathroom. She fumbled for the light-switch, her hands gliding across the smooth, cool marble of the counter. When the light flickered on the world went white. She yelped and quickly shielded her aching eyes from the stinging radiance. She reached out and shut off the light. She then knelt to the floor of the bathroom, gasping for breath, fighting the urge to vomit. Minutes passed. She felt the heat within slowly dissipating from her body, but the lightheadedness remained. With a groan, she rose to her feet and glanced around. Her eyes - having adjusted to the present gloom - made out the familiar contours of her bathroom. She turned to the sink and twisted the faucet. She cupped her hands and began splashing water into her face. The cool, refreshing water did much to calm Melinda’s body and nerves. The heat was no longer unbearable, and the nausea was gradually going away. She sighed with relief.

It was then that she glanced at the bathroom window.

The moon was in full phase - a perfect white sphere hanging in a starry sky framed by the window. It shone into the bathroom with a gentle, alabaster glow. Strangely enough, Melinda found herself staring intently at the celestial orb. She had never seen the moon more clearly in all her life. Well, perhaps she had…but she had never noticed it until now. It really was quite beautiful. She thought back to the camping trip when she had watched the sunset, and began to understand how a natural phenomenon could invoke such wonder. She stood straight up and slowly walked to the window as though in a trance. She sat down on the frigid tile floor and bathed in the moonlight, a smile growing on her face.

A tingling sensation washed over Melinda - one so strong she shuddered involuntarily. She began to feel very, very hot again. Her body temperature rapidly increased until it felt as though her blood was boiling. Her heart throbbed wildly in her chest. Beads of perspiration ran down her reddening skin. Melinda screamed in fear. The heat flowed down her arms and into her hands, intensifying at the end of her fingers, which turned bright red and pulsated as though infected. She felt an incredible tension within them - as though they were about to explode.

And explode they did.

With a blood-curdling crack all ten of her fingernails disintegrated before her eyes. The pain was so intense Melinda swooned. She slowly opened her tear-filled eyes, and what she saw shocked her to the core.

She had grown claws.

Large, curled, black claws - claws like an animal had.

Suddenly both her hands filled with heat and began to stretch and bulge in ways that seemed impossible. Her fingers elongated and partially melded together at the joints. The skin of her palms thickened, becoming dark and tough - like the pads of paws. Paws! Her hands were starting to resemble paws! Melinda watched in horror, unable to tear her gaze away from the metamorphosis she was undergoing.

A growing itch in her chest region finally drew her attention away from her hands. She looked down and saw that black, thick, curly hair had appeared between her petite breasts. And it was spreading. The itching sensation - and the hair - slowly ran across her entire body. Melinda wanted desperately to scratch away at this nuisance but was afraid of cutting herself with her new claws.

What little clothing she was wearing had become extremely uncomfortable. She reached down and clumsily tore off her panties with her clawed hands and then pulled off her shirt and threw it to the floor. The encroaching fur - yes, that’s what it was, fur - already encompassed her entire body. It was jet black. Melinda whimpered in disbelief.

What’s happening to me?

Another wave of heat and pressure washed over her, this on far more intense than all the rest combined. Melinda’s body swelled with incredible energy. It seeped deep inside her, permeating her body, filling and molding it in strange, disconcerting ways. She heard her bones crack and pop as they repositioned themselves. She felt her skin tighten. A familiar pain erupted in her toes as ten more claws burst from her skin, shattering her well-manicured nails. Her feet stretched and her knees bent as she assumed a digitigrade position, resting on the balls of her feet. At the same time her calves and thighs bulged with toned, powerful muscles. This jarring development caused her to lose her balance, slipping to the hard tile floor. Grimacing in pain Melinda lifted herself up off the ground, only to realize that she assumed a four-legged stance more suited for an animal than a human. She screamed and pushed herself back up upon two feet, steadying herself on the bathroom counter. Suddenly her arms and chest jerked wildly. The change was moving into her upper body! She felt her abs tighten until they were as hard as rocks. Her stomach compressed, becoming as flat as an ironing board. Her biceps, triceps, and shoulders bulged with power.

Her heartbeat grew faster and faster. The pressure across her body intensified until it reached a crescendo. Melinda’s vision blurred in the sheer intensity of the moment. The whole experience was so surreal - so impossible. After what seemed to be an eternity the pressure slackened. Melinda stumbled back on her feet, shaking her head in confusion.
Just as she recovered she felt an intense pain around her tailbone. It felt as though something sharp was trying to pierce through her flesh from within. Melinda quivered as a tiny nub pushed its way out above her backside. It grew, forming a black bushy tail. The pressure immediately traveled up her body to her head. Melinda screamed as the veins in her neck and forehead throbbed uncontrollably. Her entire face cracked, and slowly began to push outwards. Her nose turned glossy black and swelled. She tasted the bitter tang of blood in her mouth as her teeth grew, becoming razor-sharp fangs and incisors. Suddenly her still-expanding noise tingled. As she breathed in she began to detect an astounding range of different odors all around her - some familiar, some wholly alien. Simultaneously her ears traveled up along her temples, growing up and over her forehead forming two demonic points. The noises around her - her grunts, moans, her breath, her heartbeat, the sound of her feet scraping across the tile floor - all became magnified and exaggerated. Melinda reeled back as sensory overload paralyzed her already overwhelmed mind.

The transformation accelerated. Her nose and jaw jutted out from her face in tandem, forming a short muzzle. Her glistening fangs lengthened, overlapping her blackening gums. Her eyes - once a dull azure - swirled and changed to a deep, feral yellow. Melinda screamed, her voice becoming rapidly more deep and guttural until it resembled the howl of a wild animal. Melinda took one final breath, and ROARED - all her pain, confusion, fear, and frustration exploding from her body like a supernova. Her world went hot, scorching white, and then slowly faded to darkness.

--

The first sensation she experienced when she awoke was a sickly sweet aroma.
Her nose twitched, sniffing, taking in the air around it. Melinda shuddered as numerous powerful scents - most of them revolting - reached her nostrils. Gradually, her nose became habituated to the stink. Melinda’s eyes fluttered open and shut. Awareness returned to her.

Everything felt so…weird. Melinda was having difficulty giving it words. Her mind was awash with half-finished thoughts, desires, and sensations - half-dreaming, half-awake. She vaguely recalled something about fur and claws, but the notion soon drifted away.

Slowly, her thoughts became more organized and lucid. Her body stirred. She tasted blood in her mouth. Then, she remembered. Her yellow, wild eyes shot open, darting back and forth.

Melinda stumbled to her feet in a daze. She knew that something was wrong, but she still couldn’t remember what. Her eyes wandered over the sight of the bathroom sink, the soap bottle, the toilet, the mirror…

And there - staring back at her in shock - was a black, wolf-like creature standing on its hind legs.

Melinda screamed.

She immediately cupped her mouth.

Her voice - it was deeper.

She looked down at her hands. They were hairy paws adorned with razor-sharp talons.

No!

Melinda stumbled back in fear, slipping on the slick bathroom floor and landing on her butt. A sharp pain shot through her backside as she hit the ground, causing her to yelp. She instinctively twisted her body around and stared down at her rear. She had bruised her tail.

Her tail?

She had a tail!  Not only that, she was covered in jet black fur!

Melinda quickly scrambled to her feet. It wasn’t easy, as she was unused to having digitigrade legs. Shivering in terror, she slowly looked back into the mirror. The wolf stared back at her.

She was it. She was the creature. A single word floated to the surface of her conscious mind.

Werewolf.

Melinda stood there in shock. Her mind reeled in confusion and fear.

How was this possible? How did this happen? It had to be a dream.

...But it wasn’t. Somehow, she knew with every fiber of her being that this was no illusion. She was now a werewolf.

Her lips quivering, Melinda stepped back into a corner of the room, crouched down to her knees, wrapped her arms around her legs, and shut her eyes. She just sat there huddling in the corner for well over a minute. She was deathly afraid.

Does…does this mean that I’ll…I’ll go nuts? Go on a rampage? she thought frantically.

Another minute passed. Nothing happened.

I…I feel different, thought Melinda anxiously. But…I don’t feel angry or anything. I just feel…different.

Very different, in fact. Every movement of her transformed body - no matter how slight - awakened a new sensation, both wonderful and frightening at the same time. The biggest change was her skin. Being covered by fur was beyond words. She could feel it press against her legs as she rubbed them together. She could detect the slightest breeze in the air around her. It was strangely intoxicating. The next biggest adjustment was her body as a whole. Her mind was unused to this form; it still thought she was human. Her bones, her muscles, her ears, her nose, her legs, and her arms all felt out of place. Yet these feelings of inconsistency were slowly fading away. It was as though some new “werewolf” part of her brain was taking over. The process wasn’t invasive or frightening at all, though; it felt perfectly natural, almost welcome. Next was her tail. It took her a while to locate the muscles controlling it, and even longer to master them. It was incredibly strange - having a tail. It was especially strange having it wag in the air while her butt remained perfectly still. Gradually, though, she became comfortable with her new appendage.

Hmmm...

Melinda’s fear of herself gradually waned, replaced by an intense curiosity. She rose to her feet - much more smoothly this time - and stepped towards the mirror. Her toe claws made little clicking noises on the tile floor as she approached the counter. Once more she looked and saw the black, female wolf creature staring at back at her. It was odd, though. All the monster movies always portrayed werewolves as hideous, drooling monstrosities of flesh and fur. Melinda didn’t look anything like that. She looked like, well…what you would get if you took the body of a human and the body of a wolf and melded them together; her canine and human characteristics complimented each other perfectly.

She was, in fact, beautiful.

Gorgeous, really, thought Melinda, amazed. The transformation had also enhanced her build. Her skinny arms had been replaced by smooth, fur-covered bulks of toned muscle. Her chicken legs now looked powerful and taut. Despite her increased mass her waist had actually slimmed a little. Her hips were smooth and round while her abs were tight as a drum. She had grown - and Melinda gasped at this - to at least seven feet in height.

“Wow!” breathed Melinda.

She blinked. Oh yeah, her voice - it had changed as well. She looked at herself in the mirror, and spoke.

“My name is Melinda,” intoned the werewolf before her.

Melinda almost jumped this time. It still sounded like her, but there were new undertones. She sounded much deeper - much stronger. It was kind of cool.

Now utterly fascinated by her new self Melinda turned her attention to her face. Her head was decidedly more wolf-like than any other part of her body. It was covered in a short, fine layer of black fur that shone in the moonlight. Her nose and jaw formed a short, sleek muzzle. Her ears were now pointed tufts that twitched in the direction of the slightest sound. Despite all this it was not the head of a wolf. For one thing, her muzzle was not complete. The contours of her face were gentle and smooth. Her yellow eyes shone with intelligence and energy. Finally, the hair on her head had not been replaced by fur. As a matter of fact it had gotten longer. Her stubby bowl cut had been transformed into long, luxurious ebony locks. She sighed happily as she caressed her new mane. More than anything else in the world she had always wanted hair just like this.

“Maybe…maybe this won’t be so bad,” said Melinda to herself.

She now felt remarkably calm. She was, however, beginning to wonder what she was going to do next. Her stomach growled, providing her with an answer.

She was ravenously hungry
I've decided to upload my series The Woods - A Werewolf Story - deviant art. If you have even the slightest bit of interest in werewolf fiction chances are you've already read this. Still, it makes it readily accessible. Enjoy.
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:iconfoxxmaster:
Foxxmaster Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Great story.. Keep it up!
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:icongeno1312:
geno1312 Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2014
I'm working on a Werewolf story myself. The Ongoing War, I call it. It's a werewolf vs. vampire story. The version I currently have posted is a first draft
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:iconekajnothgierc:
EkajNothgierc Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
This short story is fantastic! It makes me want to be a werewolf more than ever.
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:iconheliotroph:
Heliotroph Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2014
Thanks! Keep reading the other chapters.
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:iconrick490:
rick490 Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2012
Did you ever post this story on a diffrent website? Because I swear that I read something like this years ago, like a long time ago.
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:iconhalo4isawesome:
halo4isawesome Featured By Owner May 18, 2013
Its a ripoff of the lycanthrope club.
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:iconsabreml:
SabreML Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2014
You realise that the lycanthrope club was made by Heliotroph too, right?
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:iconhalo4isawesome:
halo4isawesome Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2014
Yeah I didn't when I posted the comment, kinda dumb of me.
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:iconheliotroph:
Heliotroph Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2012
Yes. It was written nearly a decade ago and posted on several other sites before I created a DA account and uploaded it here.
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:icondeathstarshotput:
deathstarshotput Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2012
Great description on the transformation and the character meeting the acquaintance of her new form.
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:iconxxrml:
Xxrml Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2011
sdsdsd
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:iconxxrml:
Xxrml Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2011
Good job Heliotroph! I think this story is absolutely fantastic! Can't wait until I read next chapter. I really like that Melanie doesn't lose her human mind after the transformation. In general I don't like the fact that a werewolf becomes a killer after his/her metamorphosis.
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:iconjasonpictures:
JasonPictures Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2011
Me too.
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:iconotherkincatfolk:
OtherkinCatfolk Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2011
I hope your going to continue this. It's amazing! Very captivating and descriptive.
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:iconheliotroph:
Heliotroph Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2011
Thanks. Not to be snarky, but you ARE aware I wrote eight more chapters of this story, followed by a sequel - The Lycanthrope Club - longer than the first, have nearly completed a novel-length third sequel - Crescent Shadows and several vignettes set in the same universe? They're all on my DA page.

Also, are you actually an otherkin?
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:iconotherkincatfolk:
OtherkinCatfolk Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2011
I actually realized that after i posted the comment.
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:iconcresent-filled-night:
Cresent-filled-night Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:iconmoarplz:
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:iconfireflasch:
FireFlasch Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2010
That's a great story.
I like to read it
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:iconlorddeathmuffin:
LordDeathMuffin Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2010
possibly the best werewolf story I have read yet. Gratz!
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:iconstriker07:
striker07 Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2010
Cool story can't wait o see more.
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:iconbuyakaesha:
Buyakaesha Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You have a real talent =] The way you describe the werewolf's instincts and new senses is wonderful. You are incredible at describing detail in a simple, but fascinating way. When some books put in too much detail, I almost get bored, but I couldn't get enough of your style of writing. Keep up the awesome work =D
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:iconrexlupis:
rexlupis Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2009   Writer
Quite well written; you're quite adept with description. I'll have to read the rest some other time.

:+fav:

You might enjoy the novel on my Deviant Art page; it's a fair bit more conceptual than this and quite light on description, being written in a first person, stream of consciousness style; but the protagonist is a werewolf, albeit in a fantastical, science fiction meets fantasy meets dystopian epic world(s).

It is definately hard to describe in a meaningful way, but I figured I should put my years of studying philosophy in the ivory tower to good use, and I wanted to push the boundaries of constructions such as character archtypes and genre.

I find the werewolf is a most excellent mythos for dealing with the concept of the duality of man, not to mention I've had a mild obessession with werewolves since my youth.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed your work. Good luck to you!
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:iconheliotroph:
Heliotroph Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2009
Werewolves have equal potential to represent the savage, destructive side of humanity - that raw, unadulterated, violent emotion - and are kindling of man's dwindling connection to the natural world and his unconscious self.

Werewolves are traditionally symbolic of the feral, unsympathetic side of nature, and their destruction represents man triumphing over such base forces physically, mentally, and spiritually (often with a gun and a silver bullet, symbols of humanity's ingenuity and purity, respectively). However, there is another dimension to the horror that werewolves invoke in people: the invasion of the body. Our culture places great emphasis on outward physical appearance.
One's body is supposed to represent one's overall worth - especially for women. Think of how much television, movies, magazines, and other media directly and indirectly tout the "perfect body" as the ultimate achievement and how much money, time, and emotion people invest in pursuit of what our society considers beautiful. Lycanthropy represents a gross betrayal of the body. It strikes us right where it hurts the most, corrupting something we are supposed to have complete mastery over. This may account for why people find werewolves so particularly distressing; they embody multiple aspects of what society fears and abhors.

Getting back to the metaphysical aspect of lycanthropy, I would argue that the transformation represents a "freeing of the id" so to speak. That is, lycanthropy does not so much create violent, emotion impulses as it releases innate ones. The psychologist Carl Gustav Jung described the mental development of humanity in four stages: the Primitives, who did not differentiate themselves from the natural world, the Ancients, who saw themselves apart from the natural world yet still controlled by it, the Moderns, those who completely rejected the natural world for intellectualism, and the Contemporaries, who
accepted the natural world for what it is yet valued their individualism and intellect. Jung - in a vein similar to but not identical to Freud - believed that mental illness was the result of the unconscious mind coming into conflict with the conscious mind. Modern humans - believing that they had risen above their animalistic nature - chose to ignore their emotions in favor of pure
intellectualism and logic. However, as their bestial urges were pushed deeper and deeper into the unconscious they began to rebel, manifesting themselves as neurosis. The Epic of Gilgamesh is thought to be symbolic of this mental insurrection. The great king Gilgamesh - representative of civilized, Modern man - had become too strong, overpowering and terrorizing his subjects. So the gods of ancient Babylonia sent the man-beast Enkidu - embodying untamed nature
- to be his equal.

Jung argued that the only way to overcome this conflict was to find compromise between the unconscious and conscious just as Gilgamesh and Enkidu eventually made peace and became the greatest of friends. That is, in order to find psychic resolution the Moderns would have to acknowledge their primal side and seek to integrate it into their consciousness, becoming Contemporaries. Jung - who was fond of using alchemical metaphors - described the process as sort of a distillation of the id into the ego, creating a new, more stable, more powerful
mental architecture - a mind greater than the sum of its two parts. It therefore could be said that Lycanthropy is another representative of this rebellion of the id. Total rejection of the curse would lead to great mental anguish and eventual insanity, i.e., the classic, maddened, ravaging wolf-man. Conversely, if one accepted and sought to understand the condition for what it was, it would be possible to merge the human and animal halves and become something far greater - neither human nor wolf, but the best of both worlds.

See also: [link]
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:iconrexlupis:
rexlupis Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2009   Writer
Oh, and as an aside... Obviously you're an intellectual; do you ever torture your mind enough to write more conceptual fiction, or do you prefer to "paint with words" instead?

I hope you didn't take my comment about my piece being "more conceptual" as cock-measuring or an insult. That wasn't the intention; I was simply stating my intentions with my piece were more conceptual, whereas your's seemed more artistic. I guess it goes back to that left-brain/right-brain theory, right?

(And, of course, if we can learn to balance both we create real beauty... If only that were easy ;) )
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:iconrexlupis:
rexlupis Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2009   Writer
As for that link... it is doubtful I will read it in its entirety. As you probably already noticed, I've already seen the Ginger Snaps trilogy, I read "Blood and Chocolate" when I was twelve or so (I never bothered to see the film, I personally thought the book was lacking) and I'm very skeptical of modern feminism for the same reasons I'm skeptical of modern puritanism, combined with my mother being a moderate feminist and my sister being a staunch, almost psychotic feminist, I really get quite annoyed at how they construct gender and then claim that it was society that did so, as if society has a will apart from individuals...

Granted, we are pack animals and there is something to be said for group mentality, but since I am a die hard individualist, I find most feminist writing too abrasive for my taste; sort of like taking a punch to the face for sleeping with your best friend's sister when it was really some other guy.

All that being said, DeBeauvoir's "The Second Sex" is still a classic, and any so-called feminist really should read that book. However, while it was pertinent back in the mid-20th century, nowadays feminists seem to take extra joy in beating a dead horse, and that's something I can't condone. (Yes, I acknowledge that there is still inequality in the world, but if you define individuals as a herd and then look for specific cases where herd #1 and herd #2 has a power imbalance, you will always find it, whether you define these groupings on race, creed, religion, sex, sexual preference, or even hair colour. This is one of the worst horrors of modern academia, IMO, and the never-ending problem of using statistics. All I can say in such a regard is that there will always be inequality, based on the nature of man, and it is up to the individual to transcend such situations, rather than forming a foaming-mouthed mob that is out to reconstruct language or create a deeper fissure between themselves and everyone else.)
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:iconrexlupis:
rexlupis Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2009   Writer
Yes, I know of Jung and Freud; thanks for sharing your thoughts nonetheless. These are concepts most certainly in my book, albeit more subtlely. There are a set of transcendental beings called "The Ancients", which is sort of a nod to Jung, as well.

It is good to see that "great minds think alike." A lot of what you mention here is already a subtext to the main character's, Val's, psychology. What I summed up a phrase (the duality of man) is certainly a concept one could study for his entire life. You've certainly unpacked a lot of the key cultural and philosophical elements; most importantly the fore-fathers of modern psychology, who, despite writing over a hundred years ago, are quite prevalent in our society today.

I do enjoy Mesopotamian myth. The Gilgamesh epic, if I recall correctly, is also where monotheism got the idea for Noah's ark (there is a flood where Gilgamesh collects the animals on a massive boat) and possibly also the story of Moses being found by the royal family (it may have been a different Mesopotamian epic, but for some reason I recall it being Gilgamesh being sent down the river in a basket of reeds as a baby... I guess after I post this, I'll have to check wikipedia or some other source.)

As for the perversion of our physical form: yes, I do agree that is one aspect of the horror of lycanthropy, coupled with the horror of disease. These two concepts are obviously inter-related. I think the "Ginger Snaps" movie trilogy was an excellect werewolf study on this concept, as well as a discourse about our struggle to control our biological urges.

The one thing that will not be present in this novel is the adulation of a puritanical "commanding of nature." The setting I have created is more about the Aristotilean mean and the problems of the excess of control and domestication (hence why it is also a dystopian novel.) Thus, the werewolf embodies the tragic, reluctant, anti-hero. He embodies everything The State abhors, but also, in spending a lifetime of being tortured for their ideals, becomes something that is more of a sin to control and domesticate than it is to allow to run free.

Granted, there is still some discourse about self-control, man's place in the natural world, questioning of naturalistic spiritualism, and so on... Just not "The white knight comes and shoots the evil vampires and werewolves with silver because he represents The Good and must triumph!"

The concept of freedom versus puritanism is something that has always fascinated me. I do think, again to reference Aristotle, that it is a matter of degree; of finding a suitable mean. I think when puritanism is in excess we often see some of the worst atrocities man has ever created; it doesn't neccessarily matter what the foundation for the puritanism is (Christianity, Communism, National Socialsm, Muslim fundamentalism, etc...) just that when these forces become systems of control and domestication on a wide scale and become too powerful that they cease to be about finding truth and beauty and more about converting heathens, we tend to see people slaughtered in the hundreds of thousands to millions.

In such a state, one has to wonder what is worse... the horror we feel at being impotent to control our own bodies, or the horror of seeing people tortured and put to death because "man is, at essence, a sinful ceature."(sic) This is one of the ideas really at the core of the Val Gedso epic. I think in modern society we, again, have managed to give people with so called "moral agendas" far more power than they should ever have, and it worries me.

In trying to find sympathy for the werewolf, we also see how people are marginalized and ostracized and that, sometimes the people who are making the loudest claims about "being good" are often the most evil.

To quote good ol' Fredrick Nietzsche: "Be careful when one fights monsters, lest he become one himself."
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