By: Leia Stone


A wave of dizziness crashed over me and I looked down to see that I had lost a ton of blood, like a bucketful. My heart raced at the sight of all that thick crimson fluid. Dammit, while the hunters were distracted with the circus was a great time for me to run and get the hell out of here, but I felt like I was going to faint. I just had to be a fire-breathing dragon with no special healing abilities, didn’t I? A defective dragon. Any mythical dragon I had read about or seen in movies had healing powers, so what the hell?

Please, God, don’t let me die like this, I begged in panic. I hadn’t been to church since my mom died of breast cancer when I was sixteen, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask for God’s help now. If the big man upstairs was real, maybe he would have mercy on me. The sudden cracking of bones startled me, until I realized they were my own. I was changing form, back to human. I had zero control over this; my dragon seemed to be the one in control, which terrified me the most. Well, I came into this world as a naked human, best to die as one too.

As my body finished its change, I collapsed naked on the snow and pine needles in a puddle of blood, and looked up at the bright blue sky. That falcon was circling above me, cawing as if calling out to his family. The way his wings glided across the sky looked so free, and I longed to be up there with him. Damn, the Earth could really be beautiful. Humans weren’t so bad either, although I preferred animals. Maybe if reincarnation was real I could come back as a bird, or even a dolphin…

My mind was going spacey, and I knew with one hundred percent certainty that I was going to die. A wolf growl pulled my attention from the sky to the drama unfolding before me. I watched in fascination as the … pack of circus animals … stalked around me and the three hunters, forming a circle. Make that two hunters; the one who had the knife was definitely burned to a crisp. So they could die? Good to know. One of the hunters, the one with the gravelly voice wearing a ski mask, bent down and picked up the red glowing dagger and advanced on me.

“Keep the shifters out of my way while I finish her off!” he yelled to his partner.

What could I do? The trees surrounding me were blurring at the tips and I knew I was moments from passing out and leaving this body. Still, I’d grown up poor, without a father, and I’d lost my mother at sixteen, so I wasn’t weak. I’d taken care of my dying mother for two years at the tender age of fourteen, until she became a living skeleton and passed away. At that point, you just wanted them out of pain. But I had grown up way faster than the other kids my age and I wasn’t dying now without a fight. I didn’t have it within me to give up. I reached my arm out, blindly grasping until I had the harpoon grasped in my weak left hand. If I was going to die naked in the woods, this freaking arrow was going to be shoved in some douchebag’s eyeball.

I propped myself up on my elbow and raised the arrow at the oncoming hunter like a spear. That’s when the circus attacked. They charged in unison, both horrifying and beautiful. The lion leaped into the air, knocking one of the hunters down. Then the smaller coyote went in for the kill, going right for the throat. I’d never seen anything like it, and my favorite show was Animal Planet. It was as if they shared one mind. The hunters fought back but they were no match for the pack of wild animals.

The hunter holding the glowing red knife screamed as the small black wolf tore into his neck, coming away with a chunk of flesh. I wanted to look away but I couldn’t. I was both terrified and fascinated with these creatures. Once the circus had killed the hunters, one of them, the black wolf, turned on me, approaching slowly with her head down. I instinctively knew it was a female. Or my dragon knew and I got it from her; it must have been one of my new senses. Hardly practical. Hardly going to keep me alive when she attacked me.

“Stay … back...” I fought to speak, my voice deep and warbled. Too much blood lost. This wolf was beautiful, so beautiful that I wanted to reach out and touch her silky black fur. Stupid idea, but clearly my blood loss had taken my brain cells with it.

Then my delusion ramped up a notch. Before my eyes, the wolf began to … transform. Like I did. Her bones cracked and shifted as her body slimmed down, until kneeling before me was a young girl in her early twenties, with long raven-black hair, and a body covered in tattoos, naked as the day she was born.

“What the fu—?” Before I could finish that thought, the darkness took me into her sweet embrace and I welcomed death.


I CAME TO in snippets. First I awoke in a car, moaning; the man who held me was screaming, “Drive faster!” Then I was back out. When I awoke again I was clothed and fighting the strong bearded guy, the same one who’d been holding the shotgun. He was pinning me down, and I panicked, punching him in the jaw. Then I went unconscious again. The last thing I remembered was fighting the raven-haired girl as she helped the bearded guy force me into a cage.