It was difficult to describe the way it felt when I changed. It didn’t hurt…but it didn’t not hurt. I’d once told a friend that it was like peeling off a fingernail where most of the skin wasn’t attached and so you didn’t bleed. My muscles shifted around. My bones popped and cracked as they rearranged into the lithe, streamlined form of a wolf that stood perhaps half a foot taller and several pounds heavier than a real one. When I was within the city limits, I always went with my full wolf form. I could switch to a form between the two that was bipedal—the kind that normal people wrote into movies like Van Helsing or the Benicio del Toro remake—but if anyone caught sight of me, that would be that. Supernatural folks stayed under the radar, if only because humans are ruled by fear and panic, and to know that a cute black girl could turn into something that could tear them apart in just the blink of an eye would induce instantly genocide on our kind.
My fur was dark-brown, matching the color of my skin, and my mane had black streaks running through it and along my spine, ending in a tuft at my tail. A shudder spilled through me once the transformation was done and I shook out my fur, getting used to the change in senses. I could smell who had been in this alley within the last four days. I could hear the kids playing basketball four blocks away. I could taste the vile air coming off the dumpster nearby. I could see through the veil of darkness draped over the city as if it were broad daylight.
Being a wolf is where it’s at, man.
Vlad turned around and smiled warmly at me. “Such a pretty thing. I’d forgotten.”
I rolled my-now-golden eyes and he chuckled before following my lead. He turned away and rid himself of the boxer shorts.
Vlad’s transformation was smoother and faster than my own. He just sort of…melted into a puddle of dark mass and then reformed into a black-furred wolf slightly taller than me, but not as bulky with muscle, with startling arctic blue eyes. He walked over and sniffed me a bit, then nuzzled me, his shoulder bumping mine playfully. I heard his voice in my head as clear as day even though his fanged jaws never moved.
Where are we off to, my dear?
Follow me, I replied. Stay close. People are jumpy around this area and you don’t want someone to pop a cap in your furry ass.
He laughed in my head as I broke into a sprint further down the alley.
Midtown Atlanta’s nightlife was delightful. I loved it. Music pounded through the buildings, whether just a private citizen jamming in their little studio apartment or a live band a local dive bar getting it in for the night. I could smell every dish from fine dining restaurants wafting out through their front doors as new customers walked in. I could hear people on their first dates walking towards their cars, laughing nervously and flirting. I could see the cars rushing back and forth over the pot-holes, honking and screeching and filling the air with noise.
Life. That was what I liked about Atlanta. Life happened. It never slept.
Kyoko M is the Amazon bestselling author of The Black Parade and the Of Cinder and Bone series.