[THIS IS A NOVEL IN PROGRESS.]
My entire life has been one bad situation after another. I don’t remember much of my childhood, just the constant running. My family – we’re all broken. That fire…that’s when it all really started for me. That day, we lost Mom.
And it was all my fault.
“Jason, stop picking a fight with your brother. You know it won’t end well…for him,” Mom teased.
I climbed off Seth’s back. Even though he was four years older, I was almost as tall as him. But because he was older, Seth always tried to tell me what to do.
It annoyed me, and I started challenging him to ridiculous competitions that usually either ended with us laughing at each other or with me flat on my back.
On rare occasions, when Mom or Dad weren’t around, we would use our abilities.
What exactly is my ability?
Dad rarely acknowledged that I even had abilities. I think it made him nervous. Mom always smiled.
“Jason, your power is unique – more special than any of ours. It’s strong and – ”
“Stronger than Dad’s? But he’s super strong.”
Mom’s smiled widened as I titled my head in bewilderment. “Your power is destined for something great,” she continued. “But it also scares people.”
“Because people are afraid of things they don’t understand. In a few more years, you’ll understand everything. But for now, think of that voice in your head as a…misunderstood animal. It’s dangerous and scary only if you can’t control it.”
“But what if I can’t control it. What if – what if I hurt someone?…What if I hurt you?”
Mom pulled me into a gentle hug. “No matter what, remember that I believe in you and what you are destined to become.”
Suddenly, a knock came at the door. Before Dad could answer it, Carlile burst through.
“They – They’re coming. The Raeders are coming.”
As if on cue, Max started crying. Mom lifted him out of his crib and bounced him gently on her hip. Her face was calm as she looked at Dad expectantly.
“We need to leave. Laura, pack what you can. Carlile and I will buy you as much time as we can,” Dad instructed firmly.
Mom nodded and carried Max with her into the bedroom.
“Dad, what should I do?” Seth asked.
“Take Jason upstairs. Pack some clothes and food. We’ll need it.”
“But I can fight with you!”
“No. Do as I say. Go.”
“But Dad – !”
“Ray,” Carlile interjected, placing a hand on his shoulder. “There are a lot of Raeders. His ability could come in handy. Richard is on the way to intercept them. We need every able body to get out of this.”
“See! C’mon, Dad. Let me help!”
Dad sighed but agreed.
“I want to help too!” I blurted.
Dad flinched. “No, Jason. Stay with your mother. Get her and Max out safely. That’s what you can do. It’s a very important job. I need you here, kiddo.”
“I – Okay…”
Carlile, Dad, and Seth slammed the door behind them. Hearing Mom rummaging around in the next room, I went to help her.
“…I’m almost done here, Jason. Why don’t you go upstairs and pack some clothes for you and Seth. Quickly, okay?” Mom said as she zipped Max’s diaper bag.
Mom cupped my cheek with her hand. “That’s my favorite Shifter.”
Shifter. Hearing that word, knowing that whatever it meant, it was me. I swallowed hard.
Reaching our room, I began throwing Seth’s drawers open and stuffing every piece of clothing I could get my hands on into a small duffel bag I drug from beneath my bed. The squeak of a floorboard behind me caused me to drop the bag. Spinning around, a cloaked figure stood in the doorway. My heart pounded in my ears and my blood chilled.
“Raeders,” I breathed.
The figure walked calmly toward me, ignoring the explosive crash downstairs. The only features of the man’s face visible beneath his hood were his eyes, piercing and…not human.
He reached for me. Instinctively, I whipped out the dagger I kept hidden beneath my mattress and slashed at him. He stared at his bleeding hand and his eyes narrowed. With movements too fast for my eyes to follow, the man lunged and a sharp pain shot through my shoulder.
The man pinned me to the ground, gripping my injured shoulder tightly. Something inside me changed. My skin moved and the image in front of my eyes was pushed away from me. Suddenly, I was watching from a distance as the man let me go and my body stood up. Then, I transformed – Shifted – for the first time.
What? Where am I? Why is it so dark?
I am your Beast. When I am in control, your body is mine to command. Relax, boy, and watch.
Watch what? What are you going to do?!
What I was created to.
“Jason!” Mom shouted, skidding to a halt in front of us. “Leave him alone!”
I expected the figure to attack her, but he merely stood aside and pointed.
In a deep, raspy voice he said, “Kill her.”
Fire instantly swarmed all of us. A growl escaped my lips, unfamiliar and threatening. Mom’s fighting stance changed as she relaxed. She lowered her guard, and the creature I had become jumped.
I felt the tear of flesh against my – the Beast’s – claws. Mom staggered and tears streamed down her face. She reached toward me as she collapsed.
Even if I wasn’t suspended within my own body, no one could have heard my scream above the roar of the flames that now engulfed the house.
As soon as I returned to normal, I collapsed numbly on the floor.
What…? I don’t understand what just happened. What did I do?
“…Oh god, no!”
I recognized Dad’s voice, but I couldn’t look away from Mom. He must have noticed the cloaked figure because hate entered his voice. “You’re going to pay! I’ll make you pay for touching my family!”
The cloaked figure turned his head toward the new spectator and charged. “Don’t worry, you will all join her soon enough.”
The fabric of my shirt protested against Carlile’s tug. I looked up at him. “Jason, what happened?”
I looked around at the flames and Mom’s body.
“I-I didn’t mean to. Mom…”
None of us were ever the same after that day.
Carlile apologized the next morning and admitted tht he was the one who told the Raeders where we were. I’d never seen Dad so angry and hurt before. Carlile didn’t offer an explanation, just let Dad punch him a few times and left.
Richard helped us for about five years – until his wife died. We lost contact with him after that. Since then, we’ve been moving from place to place. It would take the Raeders a few weeks to find us, then we’d move again. It became routine.
I had just turned eighteen when we came across a small town wedged between two mountains.
“Huh. This place is very secluded. It kind of looks like somehing from the Dark Ages. Are we really going to live here?” I asked, climbing out of the truck.
“Secluded is good. It means it’ll take the Raeders longer to find us. But you know the drill – ” Dad began.
“‘Don’t get too comfortable in case the Raeders show up and we have to split.’ Yeah, yeah. You say that every time. Relax, Dad. I have a feeling about this one.”
“If Jason’s got a ‘feeling’, it can’t be a good one,” Seth retorted, tossing my duffel bag at me.
“You’re hilarious. Max trusts my ‘feelings’. Don’t you, Max?”
“‘Course!” Max eclaimed, laughing when I ruffled his hair.
“Alright. Less talking, more unpacking,” Dad ordered.
Dad, Seth, and Max disappeared into the apartment. I looked up at the mountains.
These ‘feelings’ of yours…Why do you not tell your family that I am sensing danger?
I don’t know. Maybe part of me likes seeing them relax and actually be able to have fun for a little while. Then again, if I told them, we’d have to leave and that would be boring.
Your attraction to fighting and killing Raeders is perhaps the only thing we may ever have in common, Jason Nichols.
“You’re probably right. I guess that makes us both monsters,” I whispered.
A cold chill suddenly crept up my spine. I whipped my head around, searching for straying eyes.
My attention strayed to the mountains again.
“Jason, c’mon. You going to help or what?” Seth called from the apartment door.
Thank you for reading Chapter 1! This is the third re-write of BeastWatcher: The Shifters and I would love to know what you thought of the first chapter!
Does it make you want to read more? Do the characters interact well with each other? Was it emotion-envoking?
Or maybe I focused too much on the drama? Perhaps the mystery of Jason and the Shifters was spoiled?
The estimated length for BeastWatcher: The Shifters is 60,000-70,000 words. I’d love any feedback on anything and everything about this chapter – even criticism!