You should not play with food. It is rude, and barbaric, and there is nothing to be had but carnal gratification for the feral.
Lazily dragging a fingernail down the young woman’s back, I grimaced at the delight the simple movement evoked. The faint pop as her skin split and the gush of blood that welled to trickle down her peachy skin in thick rivulets was … positively decadent. I could be creative when I wanted to be.
Blonde head thrashing, arms and legs jerking, she screamed. The sound was feeble and desperate. My heart leaped and pounded hard, making the urge to fool around with her harder to control.
You should not play with food, but that did not mean you could not.
My conscience got the better of me, and placing my hand to the nape of her neck I pushed down, crushing her larynx, savoring each snap and crack as her bones shattered. Her jerking stopped.
Dead food was boring food, but it was a balm to my ragged morality. Using my other hand to rip apart her thermal clothing, I clamped my mouth down on her side. My incisors cut through the flesh and ligaments with the ease of long practice. Even now, my stomach squeezed. The contraction so blunt and raw my leg muscles quivered. Hunger. Always am I hungry. The frenzy of my bites slowed and I appreciated the warm flesh, saturated with adrenaline, sliding down my throat. With each swallow came relief and disgrace. At least she was no longer in pain.
I paused. Manic cries were brought to me over the gathering storm. Her companion called to her from down below, from the easterly woods where most backpackers knuckled down to spend squally nights when camping. He sounded worried.
Shame and a self-loathing so powerful it felt hot rolled over me. I shuddered, easing away from the body, and became nauseated not by the food but by not eating it. It was a waste. The emerging beast smiled, making me lean forward to bury my head deeper into the steaming remains sprawled and broken in the snow.
Lightning splintered the heavens, starkly outlining jagged mountain peaks against a sinister and infinite sky. A rumble of thunder-followed close behind so deep it shook the ground. The wind howled, showering the rocky mountainside with hailstones the size of bush berries.
My cold, soaked skin grew colder, the silver-grey pallor darkening to chilly blue – the first sign of a full shift – and I sighed in appreciation. I cherished the cold. I lived in it and created it. The storms had always heeded my call and grown more violent in tandem with my savage moods. As did the wolves, I ran with cunning and fierce predators that could make the ferocity of my hunts seem bland. When a wolf pack hunted it was a sight to behold, nothing close to an Ukten, but impressive nonetheless.
The Uktena that took me over when the moon was full was a curse. I was a monster in its purest denotation. I was vicious and bound to darkness. The hunger for human flesh consumed me. It would not be so bad if I were in beast form the entire time. What made me so disgusting, such a grotesque creature to behold, was that a full shift into Uktena form was only triggered once I had succumbed to the urges that plagued my mind from moonrise to moon fall. When I shifted, my outer shell matched the twisted hunger that had held people like me captive for generations. It was ugly and gruesome. No matter how hard I tried nor how many chains or locks my Da used, I got out and found my pound of flesh. I was a cannibal. I ate people. In addition, each time I did, I liked it … more.
No animal could slake my hunger; only human tissue plugged the hole. I could not help it. As I said, I am a monster.
My spine rippled beneath my skin. Grunting, I stumbled away from the freezing corpse and fell to my knees on the riverbank. The first shift of the cycle was trigged by the first feeding and was excruciating. I leaned over until I could see my reflection in the still water.
Great chunks of flat ice still bobbed along its glassy surface even this late in spring. It stretched before me in a majestic glory too far for me to leap over. It was at least eighty feet wide, and started at the base of the mountain range, winding its way up from the lowlands until it disappeared into the apex of the rocky hills. They bottled the mineral water that trickled out the other side.
The Land of the Gaels was treacherous and dramatic. Sparsely populated, Baltic, and forlorn, it was the perfect hiding place.
I forced myself to watch every time the Uktena broke free and took control: always in the vain hope one day, I might be able to command her. It was a simple, but outrageous hope that one day my human side would stay present enough so that I could stop before I tore apart random strangers in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the very least, I could start to spare the good and eat the bad.
Like razors, the individual vertebrae of my spine jutted forth and sliced through my skin, which instantly healed over to leave the sharp bone tips exposed. I cried out, my head snapping back and my body convulsing. My torso lengthened, the ribs popping out as my waist collapsed, sinking into unnaturally slender curves. I hunched forward, gripping the icy ledge that unexpectedly gave way to the frigid water. Arms long and sinewy, I trembled as my mass stretched, legs becoming endless and pushing my height to measure over seven foot. I was well built as a human but now my muscles reformed, becoming as hard and light as carbon fiber, gifting me flexibility unlike any other backboned creature. My jaw opened wide and my lips plumped as they peeled back at the sides. Opening my mouth to scream, every tooth shot down in sparks of pain, lengthening into fangs, and a hidden row of teeth protruded out of my gums behind the first. My pearly canines would remain exposed, even when my mouth was closed, reminiscent of the saber-toothed tiger. Sensation after sensation bombarded my senses – tearing them apart only to revert and crush them together with breathtaking clarity. I keened shrilly as my nails lengthened and curled under into claws, gouging the snow so deeply I felt the frozen mud beneath the surface. I scrunched my toes up, but it did not lessen the hurt as my feet exploded into paws. My heels burned as wicked sharp talons sprung out, lifted high off the floor until only the fleshy pads of my toes touched the ground. I knew my skin was no longer tinged with varying shades of blue, but a deep azure: barring my collarbones, feet soles, navel, nipples, and palms – which looked like the membrane had been scrubbed too many times and faded. My skin did not have pores like a human’s so it was slick, slightly translucent, and showed exposed navy veins running across my wrists, neck, and the inner creases of my elbows. I worked my jaw, running my long tongue over two sets of teeth. My face was a thing of nightmares: haunting, evil, and elfin in its beauty. I had screamed when my mother had shown it to me for the first time when I was a girl. A mesmerizing sight, my hair had always been long: cascading to my waist in a blanket of white silk. It remained the same color even when I returned to human, but was thicker and wilder when I shifted.
Even my Da liked my hair; it reminded him of my mother’s. He had seen the beast in me when I was a child. Once, as I stood on the cliffs trying to understand the power I held, trying to comprehend why I would ever want to send my voice a thousand miles away on the wind, he had told me that I looked like an angel blessed by the Almighty. However, I had seen the fear and revulsion in his eyes as he had told the lie; trying his best to avoid adding to the guilt my mother punished herself with for spawning me. He had never beheld the dreadful splendor of my fully-grown Uktena form, nor did he want to. I could not blame him. It was not something you could look upon with love.