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Forces of Nature

This short story was November 2015’s Short Story of the Month! If you enjoy it, and would like to support more, please consider throwing me a buck here.

This story takes place in the world of the Nichol Coven. For more Witch-like adventures, maybe check out the novels? You won’t need any knowledge of them to enjoy to the story, though.

“It’s not possible,” she said.

“I can’t just blow this off, Grandma. I made state. And dammit, we both know I can go all the way.”

Grandma pointed at the date book on the table. “I just checked, and it’s not going to work. That’s all there is to it.”

“What, just because you have stuff going on that weekend? Just because of that, I get screwed over?” I was trying to keep my breathing steady. I had worked hard for this. This was the thing I did that didn’t feel awkward, the thing I was invested in. And… well, and SHE was going to go, so…

“Well, you know you can’t go by yourself,” Grandma said, crossing her arms. I had never really figured out how someone so thin could cut such an intimidating figure.

“Of course I can.”

Grandma raised an eyebrow. “Need I remind you of the last time you went by yourself?”

I gripped the table to steady myself, my nails fitting into the grooves left there from times doing this before. “That was 8 years ago!”

Grandma just shrugged.

“Why are you sabotaging me like this?”

“I’m just doing what’s best for you.”

“And what’s best for me is throwing away an entire year of practice and not being with my team?”

“In this case, yes,”

“Bullshit!” I yelled. I immediately heard the growl in my throat, but there was nothing to do about it now. “I know this stuff now! You’re punishing me for no reason!”

Grandma looked at me sternly as I bared my teeth. “This conversation is over. Go to your room. I will make you some tea.”

“You’re not winning this one.” I growled loudly. “The one thing… the ONE THING that makes this life not feel like a curse, and you’re…!”

“Go to your room. Now.”

I stood up, shaking, but instead of going to my room, I stomped out the front door, and slammed it shut. I could feel some of the wood crunching from the impact. I could hear Grandma sighing behind me, but it didn’t slow me down.

I went for a run, as I often did when I was frustrated. The pounding against the ground, the rustle of plants, and the rush of air past me helped, somewhat, to calm me, as I ran through the woods and eventually upward. There was a small ledge that overlooked a stream and a bit of wood. I laid down there, panting, and just looking out at what I could make out in the soft light of the moon.

I could hear her approaching easily, but I didn’t move. I expected she’d come find me. She always did.

“You’re getting predictable, Luna,” Grandma said as she approached.

I huffed.

“I’m going to sit down next to you,” she said. I let out a growl, but we both knew it was a bluff, and Grandma didn’t let it stop her. She sat down on the side of the ledge, and her hand reached out and started running itself through my fur. I closed my eyes.

We stayed like that for a long time, until Grandma could tell I was fully calm. Then she said, “Brought a robe, if you want to talk.”

After a lot of painful popping and cracking, I took the robe and threw it around myself, sighing. “Not much to say, though,” I said.

“Did you really mean what you said?” Grandma asked.

“I was angry. Who cares what I said.”

“No, I’m serious. About Cross-Country making things feel more okay for you.”

I sighed. What was I supposed to say? “All of it makes sense. And I’m good at it. Unlike… most of this stuff…”

“Most of it still doesn’t make sense?” she asked. Her face showed this was depressing news for her.

“I mean… sometimes… I’m doing it, but it’s all… I’m not good at this stuff. I’m not built for this.”

Grandma looked up at the sky, and sighed. “Neither of us wanted this, I suppose…”

“Don’t say that…”

“It’s true, though…” She turned back to me. “I know it’s true, but I guess I’d hoped that I’d… managed to make it okay for you… given the situation.”

“Grandma, come on… It’s… it’s fine…” Grandma mussed my already disastrous hair. I frowned. “Hey…”

“Accident or not, I love you, you know,” she said. “And I just want to keep you safe.”

“I know, Grandma…”

“But you’re right, you’re much older now, and you’ve worked real hard to do the right thing, and I basically never have to step in anymore. I should trust you to go on your own. So you can go to the race.” I gave Grandma an accusing look. She chuckled. “What?”

“This isn’t like you. You backed down.”

“Yeah, well, maybe it’s time I did for once.”

“You’re serious, then?”

“I have terms, but yes.”

“I can go?”

“Yes, Luna, you can go.”

I tried to wrap my head around that. “T-thank you…”

“You’re welcome.”

Grandma opened her arms, and pulled me into a hug. I hugged her back, blushing.

“Terms, though…?” I finally said.

“I’m sending plenty of your tea, and you’re going to drink it morning and evening, even without me pressuring you, just in case.”

“Guess that’s fair…”

“And if you do well… you’re going to have to get someone to take some pictures so I can see.”

“How does that help me not make a scene?”

“It doesn’t. I just don’t want to miss your big moment.”

I stared at her for a moment. She smiled. Finally, I shook my head. “Okay, yeah… I can ask someone else on the team to take some pictures, sure…”

“Good. That’s settled, then.” Grandma started standing up and brushing herself off. “Gonna run some more, or are you coming home with me?”

The question seemed potentially loaded. I was still having trouble believing I’d won. Was this a test? Which one was I supposed to pick? “I… don’t know…” I finally said.

Grandma held her hand out for the robe. “Just don’t stay out too late. You do have school tomorrow.” I handed her the robe, and she threw it over her shoulder and started heading back to the house. “Goodnight.”

I sat there naked for awhile, thinking. And then, in an explosion of pain, I ran down from the ledge and into the night.

I pulled the big leather duffel bag from the back of the truck. I could see Sarah waving at me from across the parking lot. I took a breath.

“Got everything in there, right?” Grandma asked.

“Yes,” I said for probably the 50th time that day.

“And you’re going to have tea with dinner? Got the big jug in there?”

“Yes, Grandma, I got it.”

“And…”

“Grandma. I got it.” I looked at her sternly.

She chuckled. “Alright. She pulled me into a hug and I tried very hard not to think about the fact that the whole team was probably watching me. “Win, okay? Have a good time?”

“I will…”

“Alright.” She broke the hug, and headed back to the truck with a wave. “Later, Luna.”

I hurried over to the bus.

“That is an ancient bag,” Sarah said as I approached. “Like, vintage.”

“Grandma and I don’t travel much,” I said, frowning a little as I looked down at her. I had a good foot on Sarah, easy. Then again, I did on most people most of the time.

“Uh huh.” She turned and headed towards the bus door. “Just glad you made it.”

I stashed my bag and hurried up into the bus to sit down next to her. I always felt like we were such opposites. She could talk to people, for instance. She was only on the Cross-Country team to give her an excuse to stay fit. And she was beautiful. Whereas I was just trying to fit in my seat comfortably.

“You ready for this, Luna?”

“Of course I’m ready for the trip,” I said. Hadn’t I been asked enough?

“Uh, sure, that too.”

“Wait, what you do mean?”

“The competition? Like, the race and stuff?”

“Right… I… I mean, I’m sure I’ll do fine…”

Sarah chuckled. “Yeah, I guess you have little to worry about, huh?”

“That’s not what I meant… I just… I don’t know… no sense worrying about it now?”

“Guess not.”

Coach called roll, making sure we were all there, and then the bus headed out. Sarah almost immediately pulled out her earbuds and put them in her ears, which was kind of a relief. I didn’t have to try to converse. I could easily hear her music as she stared out the window. I pressed myself back into the chair and tried to relax. I never really got the hang of how to do that in cars, but there was a 4 hour drive ahead of us, so maybe it was about time I learned.

The music shifted to a slower song. I tried to let the other conversations and the noise of the road and so many other little things my ears could pick up fade into the background as I listened. This song wasn’t so demanding. Like a light wind. I closed my eyes.

They popped back open as I felt Sarah’s hand atop mine.

I looked to the armrest between us. It was definitely there. If it was an accident, she would have moved it. I looked to her. She was still just watching the scenery.

I constantly ran through my head what I could do. Was I reading too much into the situation? Was I not reading enough? Was this… was this a mutual crush? Or was this some friend interaction I didn’t have experience with?

I stayed nearly perfectly still as the bus rolled on, not wanting to ruin it. But it was eventually announced that we were stopping for dinner, and Sarah turned to me. It shouldn’t have shocked me as much as it did.

“What do you think we should eat?” Sarah said, then grinned, “Nah, nevermind, you’re just going to say, like, the meatiest thing we can find, huh?”

“I… probably…”

She looked back out the window. “You’re so, like, one-note, Luna, I swear. No surprises. Makes you relaxing to be around, honestly.”

“You… that’s okay with you?”

Sarah chuckled and smiled. “Simple life is a good life, right?”

I thought about that. I was missing something, wasn’t I? “Is… that something someone said?”

“Me. That’s a Sarah Gelic special.”

I tried to keep my blushing to a minimum as the bus pulled to a stop. We lingered a bit as the bus started to empty, and then she patted me on the arm as she stood. “Come on, let’s go eat.”

Sarah chit-chatted about something going on between two classmates who I didn’t quite recall as we ate. They were in drama club or something? Honestly, my mind was elsewhere.

Simple? I didn’t really consider myself simple at all. But I suppose if that’s what I was showing her, I could keep doing that, right? How hard would it be to keep doing the same thing? If that’s what she liked? It seemed like it would be easy, but I was positive I’d miss something. I couldn’t miss something here.

“You’re thinking hard about something,” Sarah said as we started walking back to the bus.

“Huh?” I said, snapping out of my worry.

“You’re, like, breaking down the bonds of the universe with that level of thought, Luna. What’s up?”

“Oh… I’m just thinking about…” What was I thinking about? “About simplicity…”

Sarah chuckled. “Well, you’re never going to be like, all zen or whatever thinking so hard. Have to empty that head.” She got on her tip-toes and tapped my forehead, before turning and continuing walking.

“R-right…”

It was starting to get dark as we pulled into the hotel we were staying at. There were several other buses. It was going to be a big race. There were other students from other schools milling around in the lobby as well as we entered, as well as an odd smell I was having trouble placing. I was probably just tired.

Coach went to get the rooms sorted, and I went to the bathroom. I came out and looked for where Sarah was. I listened for her over the other conversations.

“…be silly… today was just, like, a travelling day, so of course I was going to dress like usual.”

“Usual, huh? And here I thought it was just to impress me.”

“Well, maybe it was, you never know…”

I hurried through the crowd and found Sarah talking to a large… person. It was wearing a track suit with the jacket unzipped, showing a tank stretched over breasts. There were a bunch of odd sharpie marks on the back of its hands. It wore a huge smile as it talked to Sarah.

“Sarah, who is this?” I said as I approached.

“Oh my, who is your handsome friend, Sarah?” said the person, grinning at me. It looked me over intently, in a way that felt a little off-putting.

“That’s just Luna. She’s, like, going to win the race tomorrow,” Sarah said.

The person laughed. “Oh really? Even beating me? Seems like a tall order.”

“I’m sorry, who are you?” I said to the person.

It grinned. “My name’s Lilac.” From behind it, an adult called out for people to gather for room assignments. “I’m sure I’ll talk to you both later, but for now, I best go.” Lilac winked at Sarah, and then headed to join its group.

“It’s like your sibling or something,” Sarah said, smiling. “Never met another person as big as you. Bigger, even. Like, did you see those muscles?”

“It?”

Sarah shrugged. “It told me to use ‘it’, who am I to argue?”

I watched Lilac and it’s teammates disappear into an elevator. “It smelled odd.”

Sarah laughed. “What?”

I blushed a little as I realized I’d said that out loud. “It… I don’t know…” What I wanted to say was that it was producing the odd scent I’d noticed when I walked in. It reminded me of Grandma. And that… that was something to potentially be concerned about.

“Guess it got you too, huh…” Sarah said, grinning. “Maybe we could sneak it into our room… what fun we’d have…”

“Why would we need it for that…”

Sarah laughed again. “Oh come on, Luna, don’t be silly.”

Silly?

“Coach looks like she has the keys, let’s go.” Sarah headed off.

“R-right…” I said, and followed.

We got into our room, and Sarah asked me to get the bags, so I turned right back around and headed outside to the bus. I had grabbed both of them when I turned around and almost ran immediately into Lilac.

“Whoops!” it said, grinning. “Scared you. Sorry about that.”

“It’s fine…” I said, and started heading around it back towards the hotel. But it moved to block me.

“We need to chat real quick,” Lilac said.

“I doubt it,” I said, and tried to get around it once more.

“Look, just wanna know, what are you?” Lilac said with a smile.

“What?”

“I mean, you’re not human… I think? I’m not really good at these things honestly.” Lilac shrugged. “So it’d be easier if you’d just tell me. Save us both a lot of time.”

There was a moment of shock, but it quickly turned to anger. Nobody had ever noticed before, or at least told me they had. This could not be a good thing. I gritted my teeth. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Sure you do,” Lilac said. “Come on, I just want to know what’s up, that’s all.”

“What are you, then? A witch?” I asked, setting the bags on the ground and crossing my arms. If it was a witch, that would potentially explain the scent. Grandma always said it was the smell of magic on her.

Lilac chuckled and grinned. “Real close. Right ballpark. I’m a magician.”

“Well, Magician, I’m just a normal girl here to run. That’s it. Okay?”

“Oh? Miss Normie Normal, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“Nothing odd about you at all, huh?”

I dug my nails into my arms a bit. “Yeah.”

Lilac shrugged, and pulled out its phone from its pocket. “Okay, I’ll figure it out myself then. Say cheese!”

“Hey!” It took a picture, and I lunged at the phone, but it had already put the phone back in its pocket.

Lilac just chuckled.

“Look, just stay away from Sarah and I, okay? If you’re a witch, you’re trouble.” Grandma was certainly a pain in the ass, at the very least.

“Magician.”

“Whatever.” I picked up the bags again.

“And you AND Sarah, eh? What’s the scoop there?”

“There’s no scoop.”

“Just friends?”

“Y-yeah.”

“Good to know,” Lilac grinned, and stepped out of the way. “See you later, Miss Normal. Digging your whole lady lumberjack look, by the way.”

“Thanks,” I said, barely holding back a growl as I stomped back into the hotel.

“That took awhile,” Sarah said as I walked into the room, threw the bags onto my bed, and started digging out the jug of tea Grandma had sent. Sarah chuckled, “You look, like, so pissed. Like cartoon steam from the ears pissed.”

“I’m fine. I just need some tea,” I said through my teeth.

“What, that super gross stuff your Grandma makes? You actually brought some with you? I thought this trip would be a reprieve from it.”

I set the jug down on the edge of the bathroom counter and tried to unwrap one of the plastic cups. But I was having trouble managing my strength, and I ripped the whole cup in half. I slammed the cup down on the counter in frustration, sending a shockwave through it.
And the jug wobbled, and tumbled onto the floor.

I cried out as the tea poured out onto the floor. I grabbed the jug up as fast as I could, but it was mostly empty.

“Jesus, Luna, what is the problem in…” Sarah said as she peeked her head in. “Oh.”

I could feel my canines elongating in my mouth as I shook with frustration. So I put the jug to my lips and downed the rest of it. The tea tasted awful, but what’s worse was the sensation it always caused. It was like ice spikes spreading through my veins. But I was used to pain at this point. And it did always calm me down.

I took a breath. And looked down. Sarah was already cleaning up the mess with a towel. “Hey, look on the bright side,” she said, “Now you don’t have to drink any more of that stuff.”

“I… guess so…” I said, still trying to wrap my head around that. I shook myself free of thought, though, and helped Sarah finish cleaning.

“See? Like nothing happened,” Sarah said. “And with the last vestige of your Grandma’s influence slain, you’re free to… I dunno. Do something.”

“Sleep?”

“Well, I mean, that’s the boring obvious option, but I guess we should. Being tired tomorrow would be, like… bad. You’ve got a race to win.”

“You’re really confident that I’ll win…”

“I have never seen you not do that,” Sarah said, shrugging.

“But I mean… surely this is another level…”

“Probably.”

There was a moment of awkward silence.

“I’m going to get changed for bed,” Sarah said, leaving the bathroom for a moment and returning with pjs. “So shoo.”

“S-sorry,” I said, moving out as she closed the door behind her.

I flopped down on the bed and looked up to the ceiling. What was I going to do tomorrow without that tea?

I’d just have to stay calm.

The image of Lilac grinning at me flashed through my mind, and I dug my nails into the comforter. It was going to be at the race, wasn’t it? I’d just have to stay away from it.

“There’s definitely something going on,” Sarah said. I hadn’t noticed her coming back. I turned to her. She was wearing a light tank and these tiny sleep shorts and goodness. I turned away immediately. “When have you ever thought so hard about, like, anything in your life, Luna?”

“Uh… I don’t know…”

“Oh, I got it,” Sarah said, smiling slyly, “you’re still thinking about that Lilac person.”

“What?”

“No no, it’s perfect. You’re really just a big softie inside. Now, finally, someone bigger than you to hold you in it’s big arms…” Sarah faked swooned onto the other bed.

“N-no…”

Sarah chuckled and turned towards me. “If you have a crush, you can tell me, you know…”

“I… why would I…”

Sarah laughed. “I’m sorry. I’m being, like, so mean right now.” She sighed. “It’s okay. Just, you know, don’t sweat the small things, you know? It’s not a big deal.” She started getting into bed.

“I don’t need anyone to hold me…”

Sarah raised an eyebrow. “Oh? You sure about that?”

“I mean… yeah…”

“Okay,” Sarah said, “But I totally don’t believe you. Now get ready for bed, we’ve got a race in the morning.”

“Right…” I pulled the light shirt and shorts that passed for pjs out of my bag (I never wore anything like that at home) and got changed. I stared at myself in the mirror as I brushed my teeth.

Held? Like… from behind, and…

I shook my head angrily. No. No, I should be the one on top.

I rinsed my brush and walked back out, turning off lights and getting under the blankets.

“Night, Luna,” Sarah said.

“Yeah… goodnight…”

The next morning, the whole team was stretching at the course before the race. I was mostly focusing on my breathing. Just me and the course and nothing else. I looked forward to it.

“Oh, hey, there’s my parents,” Sarah said as we finished up. “Guess I best go talk to them before the race.”

“Yeah, right,” I said.

“Back in a bit.” Sarah headed off towards them.

I closed my eyes and just focused on the smells and sounds. The various runners warming up, shoes impacting dirt, the smell of grass and the first hints of sweat in the sun. Just me and the course.

“Damn, I knew you were big, but I had no idea what guns you were hiding under that oversized shirt!” My eyes popped open and I took a deep breath, trying to stay calm as I looked straight at Lilac standing before me. Now that it was in its race uniform, I could see that basically every inch of its arms and legs were covered with weird sharpie shapes as well as muscle. “Still, pretty sure I got you beat. How much do you bench?”

“What do you want?” I asked. “I’m trying to prepare for the race.”

“Right, right, okay, just wanted to show you this.” It pulled its phone out of its pocket, hit a few things, and then held it out at me. There was an extremely long text full of jargon I didn’t even begin to understand.

“Self-replicating and victim-influenced morphogenic field…” I read aloud. “What is this?”

“Oh, you don’t know? Damn,” Lilac said.

“Just explain it.”

“I don’t know either. She always goes on and on like this, but I thought maybe it’d make some sense to you.” Lilac shrugged.

“Why would I even have any idea… look, just leave me alone, okay? I have to run a race.” I turned away, and closed my eyes again, trying to focus.

“Anyway, so I asked her to put it in words I understand, and what she came up with was wolfwere,” Lilac said behind me. I took a big breath. I had to stay calm. “Some kind of reverse werewolf, I guess? Some silly nerd term, but I guess it gets the idea across. Seems I was right about the non-human part, anyway.” I turned back around, gritting my teeth. “Did I get it right, Miss Normal?”

“What do you want from me?”

Lilac grinned. “I want to fight you.”

“No.”

“What? Come on,” Lilac said, suddenly looking let down.

“No, I’m not fighting you! I don’t do that anymore!” I had promised.

“Anymore?” Its face lit up again. “So you used to?”

“Just leave me alone.”

“Oh come on. We can’t just have this sort of meeting and not see who’s better, right? We gotta fight!”

“If you want to find out who’s better, we have a race in like 10 minutes!”

“But I can’t go all out in that…”

“Why not?”

“It’s too obvious, isn’t it? Can’t just let everyone know I’m a magician, right?”

I could feel the growl building in my throat. “Well, you’ll have to be happy with that, because that’s all you’re getting. Now leave me alone.”

Lilac grinned, leaning in close. “I know you want to fight me, though. It’s written all over you. In your very nature, yeah?”

“GO AWAY,” I growled at it, and then stomped off, shaking. Several people heard me yell and were looking over to us, and I wanted to put as much distance as I could from it and its ridiculous ideas.

I walked a little ways into the treeline, and tried to once again breathe and focus. But it wasn’t doing much. I pounded a frustrated fist into a nearby tree. It broke the bark and left a dent. Grandma would have been so angry, if she had been there.

But it was just me.

I could hear people calling for the racers to gather at the start. I took a few deep breaths and started to head over myself. Just get this over with and get away from it. That’s all.

“Hey, you okay?” Sarah said, coming up next to me.

“I’m fine,” I said. The growl was right there. I barely kept it out of my voice.

Sarah frowned. “Well, like, hey, you know you got this, right?”

I nodded. I couldn’t trust myself to speak.

“And I’ll do my best not to bring us down on the tail end, so don’t worry about it, okay? Worst case, it’s just a race. No big deal, right…?”

I nodded again.

“There’s something else… this is so unlike you. You’re normally so focused and calm and stuff at races…” Sarah said, putting a hand on my shoulder.

“I… we’ll talk about it later… okay? We’re out of time…” I spoke quietly, hoping that would keep the growl out. Sarah nodded, still unsure.

We lined up. I growled as Lilac stood next to me, grinning at me. “Oh my, someone’s mad…” it said.

I ignored it.

The gun sounded, and I pushed ahead of the pack. I normally tried to be calm, and steady, and keep pace, but today, I didn’t care. I sent anger into every step and quickly put a gap between me and everyone else. Far behind, I could hear our frustrated coach, yelling at me to slow down and set a pace. I didn’t listen.

It was several miles into the course before I felt like I could breathe, and try to focus again. I slowed, and listened to the rhythm of my feet hitting the ground. Maybe I had enough space to relax. And it probably wasn’t a good idea to beat everyone else by quite this much.

It wasn’t until the last mile that I started hearing someone approaching. One person, ahead of the main group, it sounded like. I looked behind me, and saw Lilac grinning at me. I turned back around. I had to ignore it.

But it kept slowly gaining. It called out to me, “Can’t believe you’re already out of juice!”

I growled, and sprinted again. I could hear Lilac laughing behind me as I put more distance between it and myself. Color faded in and out of my vision as I pushed through the finish line, got recorded, and then pushed through the crowd of onlookers to get away from everyone. Who knew how I looked, but everyone let me go. I must have looked real bad.

I sat down in the grass and put my head in my hands. I was breathing hard, tongue hanging from my mouth, as my heart slammed about. I soaked completely with sweat. I rarely put myself through that much exertion when I was human. And I was still angry. It shouldn’t have been able to goad me into doing that. I shouldn’t have drawn all that attention. Grandma was going to be so pissed.

“New course record, they say… maybe even more.”

“Please go away,” I panted at Lilac, standing behind me.

“And I bet you could go even farther than that… it’s awesome! We totally have to fight, right?”

“Go away…”

“You know, your just a friend Sarah seemed really worried about you before the race… maybe she’d like to know what’s going on with you…”

I turned and growled at it, baring my teeth. Lilac laughed. “Oh goodness, yes, that’s what I’m talking about! Let’s go, let’s do this.”

“Don’t you dare…” I growled.

“All I want to dare to do is fight you, yeah? Or hey, how about a race, but with no restrictions? Nothing to hold back? Nothing against the rules? You like that better?”

“Leave her alone!”

“Maybe Sarah could even be there, officiate, see what you really can do…”

I stood up and grabbed the front of its tank. I could feel my nails ripping into the fabric as I got in its face. It just grinned. “Oh my… that’s what you want, hm? Well, maybe if you win, I’ll give it to you…”

“Luna!” I heard Sarah call, coming over to see what was happening.

“Sarah! Good job at the race!” Lilac called at her.

“Fine! Fine, you win! Just leave her alone!” I growled.

Lilac did a little fist pump. It looked like it was bursting with energy, even after running the race. “Yes! Alright! Back here, at midnight. I’ll be waiting.”

Sarah reached us, and I immediately grabbed her arm and dragged her off away from Lilac.

“H-hey…! Hey! That hurts, Luna!” Sarah complained. I let go, and took a shaking breath. Sarah rubbed her wrist. I might have left a bruise. “What is going on between you two? Are you fighting? What would you even have to fight about?”

“It’s… not important…” I managed to get out, trying to get my anger under control. I couldn’t look at Sarah. I couldn’t see color at the moment. She’d notice my eyes.

“Hey, like, you’ll probably never need to see it again after today, right? So, like, why is this so important?” Sarah said.

“I don’t want to talk about it!” I said, growl escaping on the last word. Sarah jumped a little.

“Luna… seriously, are you okay?”

“I… just need a moment, okay?” What I needed was some of Grandma’s tea, but that wasn’t going to happen.

Sarah looked me over for a moment, and then sighed. “Okay. Whatever. They’re giving out the awards in like, a minute, though, so hurry up.”

I watched Sarah go, trying to breathe.

There were pictures, of course, where I tried to look a bit more normal. I don’t know if I succeeded. I hoped I would, because I knew Grandma would look at them. We then went back to the hotel, and I took a very long shower. I ached all over, from the run, but also from my anger. Pushing myself back towards my normal self hurt, and I did it without thinking when I was angry. I’d felt worse, but combined with the emotional exhaustion, it felt a bit too much to handle that evening. I wanted to do nothing.

But Sarah was clearly distancing herself from me, not really talking during dinner. And as we were coming back from the meal, Lilac was in the lobby, and it winked at me as we passed. It was clear I couldn’t just leave this situation alone.

I listened to Sarah sleep as I tried to think about what to do. It’d find a way to tell her. But how could I go meet it? The course wasn’t a great distance away, but I couldn’t just walk there.

I’d have to run.

I waited until the last possible moment, stripped, and snuck out of bed. I went to the door to the room, opened it, and stepped outside, clicking the door closed behind me. I listened for Sarah stirring, but I heard nothing.

I walked outside. I was all alone. Bones cracked and splintered inside me. Muscles tore. Every inch of me was pain. But it soon dulled to a more manageable amount.

I was on all fours, and I ran. It was normally a nice, if painful thing. Some time to feel right. But instead I was steeling myself.

I found Lilac leaning against a tree, messing with its phone. It noticed me approaching, and laughed. “Oh my goodness look at you! That is so badass!” I let go, and my body started forcing its way back to human. Lilac winced a little at the sounds, but then grinned. “Oh my, hello, Miss Normal.”

“I showed, so you are going to say nothing, right?” I said, already feeling the growl building just from seeing it again.

It was still staring at my naked body, but shook itself out of it. “I’m sorry, I was a bit distracted. Damn, girl.” Lilac chuckled.

“You won’t tell her, right?” I growled.

“Oh, I was never going to out you, I’m not that much of an asshole,” Lilac said, waving away the concept. “We supernatural whatchamacallits have to stick together, right?”

“You threatened me!”

“I was helping you along. You wanted to be here, admit it! You wanted to trade punches, come on, admit it.”

“I’m not supposed to fight anymore!”

“That’s not a no on wanting to, though.” Lilac turned away from me. “Whew, gotta get a different view, the heat coming from over there is too much for my eyes to handle!”

I growled.

Lilac laughed. “Seriously, though, you look delicious.”

“If you’re not going to out me, I am leaving,” I growled.

Lilac turned back around and grinned. “We’ll run the same course. But this time, no holding back and no rules, yeah? Everything is fair game but, like, leaving the course?”

“Bye,” I turned, and started focusing to turn back into my normal form.

It planted its hand on my shoulder. “Luna, come on. You’re clearly stressed. You’re already here. You’ll feel better.”

I grabbed its hand hard and looked into its eyes. “I was doing just fine before you showed up.”

“Were you?” Lilac said, its face clearly trying not to show the pain from me sinking nails into its wrist. “Or were you just being good to be good?”

It refused to break its eye contact like I was expecting. I eventually let go of its wrist with a huff. “If I win, you never come near me and mine ever again.”

Lilac grinned, licking blood from the little cuts I had left in its wrist. “Cool. And if I win?”

“Whatever,” I said, walking to the starting line.

Lilac laughed. “Oh my, that is a dangerous thing for a naked girl to say around me…”

Why did it keep saying that? How could it possibly be finding me attractive when it so clearly saw what I really was? “Let’s get this over with!” I growled.

Lilac shed its jacket and pants, leaving it in just running attire. It lined up next to me. “Three two one go, okay?” it said.

“Just count!”

“Three… two… one… go,” it said, and immediately shoved me. I wasn’t expecting it, and I crashed to the ground.

“What are you…!” I yelled, but it was chanting, like Grandma did, but in a language I didn’t recognize. It brushed its hands against the sharpie drawings on its legs and they started to glow.

“Ride the Current!” Lilac yelled, and there was a flash of light from the designs and a strong smell of magic. And then it started running, at an incredibly fast pace. “Later, Miss Normal!”

I barked angrily at it as it started to disappear into the distance, my body contorting and cracking loudly. And then I was off, paws beating against the ground as I worked to make up time. Whatever it had done, it was fast, for sure. But I was tired of it having the upper hand, and I was tired of holding my anger back. Rage fueled each movement. It had been so long since I let it without remorse. It felt… better than I’d want to admit.

It took me about a mile to close most of the gap. Lilac turned around, running backwards with just as much ease as forwards, somehow, grinning at me. “I’m glad this is a bit of a challenge!”

I ignored it, and pushed forward. There was maybe a length of about three people between us.

It started chanting again, and brushed its hand against a mark on its arm, which glowed. “Gale Force Punch!” it shouted, and thrust its arm forward. I yelped as a loud, ear-destroying crack rippled across the space, and then I found myself off my paws, pushed back by a powerful wind. I bounced against the ground painfully once, twice, before I caught myself.

So that was how it was.

I closed my eyes for a moment, and breathed in, catching its scent on the air. And then I dashed off after it.

It had a much longer lead this time, and there was only about a mile left by the time I gained enough for Lilac to turn around again. I barked at it angrily.

“What? We agreed on no rules!” it said, laughing. Then it started chanting again.

But this time I knew what was coming.

“Gale Force Punch!” it yelled, and I leaped to the side as the crack cut through the air. I felt a gust, but I didn’t fall.

And then I snarled, and pounced.

Lilac fell to the ground with my full weight pressed upon it. I snapped at its neck, but it caught me with a hand under the muzzle.

“So eager!” Lilac panted as it tried to hold back my snapping jaws. I was going to put an end to this. I wasn’t even considering what that meant.

It pushed hard with its other hand, and I fell backwards onto my back. I scrambled to get back on my paws, but it was behind me, on me, arm around my neck, weight pressing down on top of me. Held from behind.

“This is a much better position for you,” it exhaled.

I lost focus, and fell back towards human. I shivered as it kept pressed against me. “N-no, that’s not…” I stammered, before letting out a growl and pushing up off the ground hard. Lilac stumbled backwards, and I tackled her. “You can’t dominate me!” I growled in its face.

“Oh?” Lilac smiled. “You’re going to dominate me then?”

“I…” I started, but lost my words, and just growled in frustration.

“Being so close like this… I could swear you were gonna kiss me,” Lilac’s eyes connected with mine.

“S-stop it…”

“I thought you were going to be in control?”

“I am!”

“Then what are you waiting for?”

I growled in frustration.

And I kissed it.

And again.

And again.

It wrapped its arms around me as we made out there, on the grass. I felt like I could barely get enough air. I ran my hand down its body, and under its shorts, between its legs.

I found nothing, and froze in confusion.

“You won’t get far like that,” Lilac said, and rolled, flipping me onto my back. “Why don’t you let me take over from here…”

“W-what…” I started, but it kissed me quiet. And then kissed me lower, and lower, until I could not help but make noise. I cried out. And then I laid there, panting, trying to catch my breath. It laid down next to me, letting out a big sigh.

I’m not sure how long we laid there, but it eventually spoke. “Feeling better?”

“Yeah…” I admitted. I was calm. It felt like it had been a long time since I had been, way longer than it really was.

“See? Told you you wanted to fight me,” it said, chuckling.

There was another long pause. “Am I… should I…” I searched for words. “Am I supposed to return the favor…?” I asked, unsure about this stuff.

“No way for you to,” Lilac said. “And I got what I wanted.”

“What… are you…?”

Lilac got to its feet, and offered me a hand, grinning. “I’m a force of nature. And a magician. And Lilac Quirrel. It’s nice to really meet you.”

I took its hand, and it pulled me to my feet. It then tugged me close with that hand and whispered in my ear. “You were delicious.”

I blushed, and pushed it backwards. “C-come on…”

Lilac laughed.

There’s this constant feeling I have, of what I am being wrong, and a problem. Constantly playing at being human, but never even getting close. On the way back to the hotel, though, I felt none of that. At least until I discovered my error. I had left with nothing, including the key to the room. I stood outside the door, trying to figure out what to do. I had to get back in at some point.

I eventually sighed, and knocked softly.

Sarah sleepily opened the door. “Luna? What are you…” She then noticed I wasn’t wearing anything, and gasped.

I pushed my way past her into the room. “I got locked out.”

“You got locked out without any clothes on?” Sarah said, clearly struggling between looking at me and looking away.

“Yes,” I said, grabbing the blanket off of my bed and wrapping it around me. “Sorry for waking you up.”

“This… what is going on, Luna? Running around outside without anything on is… like, it’s not something stable people do…”

I sat down on the bed and took a moment to try to think of a way to salvage this. To make Sarah think I was normal. But I found that tonight, there was no panic in it. No desperation. Because at least one person understood. Sort of. Why not more? There was literally everything to lose, but for once, I felt like I might be able to handle that. “I’m… not stable, Sarah,” I finally said.

“Don’t be silly…”

“I mean, I try not to let you see it… I know you… I know I should probably be normal, that you like me for that… but I can’t do that all the time… so…”

Sarah sat down next to me, frowning and thinking. “I’m not sure I’m following.”

“It’s… that’s okay…”

“You have a giant bruise on your side…”

“Yeah… I bounced off the ground pretty hard when I got hit… I don’t think I broke any ribs, though… it’d probably be hurting more, wouldn’t it?”

“I have no idea.”

“Yeah… me either…”

Sarah ran a hand through her hair. “So, what other non-normal things should I know about other than, like, naked nighttime fights, I guess?”

“I have anger issues… that tea is medicine, I guess… it… helps me with it.”

“Suppose that explains today.”

“Yeah…”

“Anything else you haven’t told me?”

“I don’t know… I’m gay?”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

I had absolutely no idea how to read her reaction from that, but I had said half of it, so it seemed silly to bail now.

“And I really… and you’re really important to me…”

“And this is related to the gay thing?”

I winced a little. “Maybe? If you want it to be?”

“I’m not really into the idea of a girlfriend that, like, shows up all beat up with no warning or whatever,” Sarah said.

“R-right…”

“So you’ll at least have to give me some sort of heads up.”

I tried to process that. “I… what…?”

Sarah shrugged. “I mean, I dunno. Like, we have a thing? A good friend thing? And you seemed dedicated to that and why would I just kinda throw that away on lust, you know?”

“L-lust…?”

“But we could try, if you really want to. Try something more… date-ish. I don’t know.”

“We could…?”

“Maybe. We’ll see what I think about it in the morning.” Sarah looked to me, and shook her head. “Let’s at least not do this lovesick puppy thing right now, though, okay?”

“Y-yeah, sorry,” I said, trying to look less… adoring.

“Did you at least win the fight?”

“No, but… it was probably best I didn’t.”

“If you say so.”

“I… yeah…”

“Well, okay. I’m tired, alright? It’s like 4 in the morning.”

“R-right, sorry…”

“So let’s sleep.”

I nodded.

Sarah leaned over, and kissed my cheek. “Night, Luna.”

I watched her get all the way back to her bed and under the covers before I managed to respond, “Goodnight…”

I laid in bed for awhile, thinking. There was really no way this was going to work out, was there? She seemed so reluctant. Didn’t she?

This was almost certainly going to be another disaster. Not to mention the trouble I was going to be in when I got home and Grandma found what happened. But maybe that was okay. It felt okay, for some reason. It didn’t make much sense that it did, though.

Life was so much simpler before humanity.

Or maybe I just make it more complicated than it is.

Maybe.

Thank you very much for reading my story! If you liked it, please share it with your friends and stuff. That would mean a lot to me. There’s plenty more stories and things coming, so I hope to entertain you again soon!

Published inShort Stories