Gingerbread House Lit Mag

Shape Shifter

Mother told me stories. They were stories of the monsters that hunt at night. She also told me of the rule our people have. There is only one.

To prevent any supernatural spirits from entering your home burn the shifter’s hair at the entrance of your house. Walk counter-clockwise around your home, lingering at any doors or windows. Continue around the perimeter until you reach the entrance once more. Bury any remaining hair in the earth at least one yard north of your house. A female shifter is best because of their long hair.

Excerpt from The Essential Book of Traditional Medicine: Chapter 4: How to mitigate harm, create enhancing potions, and cure common illnesses and diseases with the supernatural shape shifters.

My ears pick up the rustling of leaves. It is a subtle noise but I hear it. A part of me wants to forget everything, go home and hide but it is too late for that. I have held it in for as long as possible.

The witching hour beckons and it’s a summons that cannot be ignored.

With a deep groan, I set it free and as always it quickly overcomes me. It begins with the tendons in my neck, they thicken and I scream from the pain of it, the pleasure.

I know he sees me. The moon, a waning gibbous, shines brightly upon me. There is nowhere to hide.

It ends when my fevered skin settles beneath my fur. I turn in this form slowly, allowing my body to become accustomed to the change and the added weight on my head. I meet the hunter’s greedy eyes. He grins.

I run hard on my four legs, the way mother taught me. But he is quick and carries less weight. I am struggling. I am not meant to run as I am, but I know what will happen if I stop to rest.

I can almost feel the wooden bat hit my flesh like it did mother’s. How he relished the beating.

I remember how his men held mother down by her horns, her face pressed into the dirt. Down his arm came with the bat. Over and over it thudded wetly, until the skin on her face split and scalding blood ran down her neck.

But she got away. She came back to me.

I held her to my chest and cried as I cleansed her ruined face.

To guarantee conception have your wife eat the shifter’s uterus. If a boy is desired cook the uterus rare. If a girl is desired cook well. For best results, harvest after midnight while the shifter is transformed.

Excerpt from The Essential Book of Traditional Medicine: Chapter 4

When I was little, mother used to take me to see others like us. We are not many but for protection we tend to stay close. I was four when I saw the first.

She was a woman, older than mother, and she was missing her left arm. The stump that remained was covered in a soft white material. It reminded me of a sock. I tried to look away but I couldn’t.

It was then mother told me the stories of the monsters at night.

As I grew the stories never ceased and the limbs never stopped being taken. One day it might be a leg, on another an arm. Sometimes entire bodies vanished only to reappear as empty shells, husks devoid of organs.

I had nightmares about these monsters. I cried and cried but one day mother picked me up in her strong arms and carried me into the forest. We walked for hours. I can still remember the smell of her long hair against my face. She smelled of clean eucalyptus and soothing lavender.

Usually, when I was in her arms and her shoulder pillowed my cheek and her hair blocked out the world, I would fall asleep. Mother did not allow it this day. She led me through the forest slowly and pointed out markers. I memorized the way.

She stopped us at a distance of a small clearing but I could still see what she had wanted to show me.

Nestled beside a small stream there was a decrepit house made of wood and metal sheets. A man was sitting there on a dark wooden chair. He was old but I could see he was still strong. I knew then what mother was trying to tell me.

It was our secret but whenever it became too much, when the haunted faces and the missing limbs and bodies pressed down on me, that is where I went. I watched the man in silence and it made me feel better.

One day, I must have gotten too close. Despite the vast distance between us we locked eyes, the old man and I.

My body instinctively recognized the predator in him. Gooseflesh spread through my arms and chest causing me to shiver. Only Mother’s presence stopped me from running away. She was holding my hand in hers.

To cure diabetes you will need the arm of a shifter to make a potion. See page 62 for ingredients and the step by step instructions. Drink this potion in the form of tea twice a day. Two teaspoons should suffice.

Excerpt from The Essential Book of Traditional Medicine: Chapter 4

Mother and I hid the day after the beating. We tried to cover her swollen and battered face with scarves but someone must have seen. Someone must have known who to inform.

The call came again. The witching hour cannot be ignored no matter how much you try to fight it. No matter how much you pray on your knees and beg.

He must have been waiting.

We were soon trapped and mother did the only thing she could do. She stopped running. I bellowed for her to keep moving but she stood strong and unmoving as he came at her with his blades.

I remember her large brown eyes staring after me. She stood there as his knives bit into her tender flesh. She watched me run away to safety.

My heart hurt as I ran. It still hurts.

For strength, the shifter’s heart must be eaten. It will provide the strength of six men.

Excerpt from The Essential Book of Traditional Medicine: Chapter 4

My cleft hoof catches and I fall with a sickening thud. I try to get up but I can’t get my trembling legs under me. Nostrils flaring wide in fear, I paw at the ground and push up. I try to take off but I am too slow.

Pain slices down my backside as the blade sinks down to hit bone. I scream and jerk my head but my horns fall short, they are too small.

Another stab, this time my leg. I fall heavily and watch the monster move forward. Will it be my heart, arm, or gallbladder that he will cut from my body first? Will I be able to remain silent as mother did when he butchers me?

Like mother, I refuse to look away.

Only I notice the shift in the dark.

Mesmerized, I watch as an animal that should be extinct in this land leaps.

After a while, the screaming and whimpering of a man being eaten alive stops.

The cougar looks old but despite its age, the fur ripples with muscle. The pelt is an almost silver dun color, the exact shade of an old man’s hair. Our eyes meet; his positioned forward, mine to the side of my head.

My instinct is to run, his to chase. Only the trickle of blood falling from his chin remains unfrozen in time. We stare at each other for a long time.

He flashes his large canines. I twitch my ears. In the silence that follows there is an unspoken understanding. We separate onto separate paths.

Mother told me once that there is only one rule that we must follow, and it is this: Do not reveal yourself. Never shift in front of a human lest the skin on your back be stripped and your organs consumed, for they are monsters.

Joanna Benitez

Joanna Benitez is a storyteller living in Los Angeles, California. Her writing currently revolves around folklore, mythology, and fairytales. Some of her short stories have been published in the Northridge Review, Body Part MagazineFantasia Divinity Magazine, and Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s Les Cabinets des Polythéistes, among others. When she is not writing or reading she can be found walking her dog, Luna.

Artwork: Kmye Chan, Faun.


This entry was published on July 31, 2019 at 12:02 am and is filed under 37 (July 2019), Fiction. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.
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