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Dawn: A Short Story

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

[This is the first story in Pure Intentions.

]If you enjoy it, please feel free to make a donation or buy the paperback!]


DAWN

Most forms of storytelling have a very specific view on how creatures like me feel. In almost every book, TV show, movie, or even song, shapeshifters prefer to be human.      I just don’t get it.      Ever since I started shifting, even when it was just for a few hours in my younger years, I have always preferred the animal. Maybe that’s why I can not-shift so long now… I’m almost to a full month without turning human once. They warn me that if I’m not careful I’ll stay that way but that’s kind of the point.      My humanity forces its way to the surface, though, on this cool September morning, and if history means anything then I’ll be stuck like this until October. Most of my pack do everything they can to hide their animal, lying as often as they breathe, bending over backwards and sideways to cover their tracks, trying to find ways to shorten their animal phase as much as possible…. It’s clear that they feel the animal within is a bad thing, that it’s not who they want to be - who they are.      Even if they were born animal like me.      This Dawson Carmen Edwards, age nineteen, height five-foot eleven-inches, weight one hundred-eighty, male human form is my bad phase. Not that I haven’t put my time into that life - managing to graduate High School and pass some online Community College classes. I even hold a job at the local cafe! (At this point they don’t even schedule me; I just pick up shifts whenever I want. I think the lie for them was that I have some sort of chronic illness and need to visit the hospital often?) But every night I do whatever I can to shift back… again and again and again until finally I’m home.      Some of the pack thinks I’m crazy, a lot of the pack stays clear of me - as if how often I shift back or my love for being animal is something they could catch, like influenza or the plague.      Though it’s clear shifters make up at least thirty percent of the world population, each culture has a different interpretation of why, how, and if it’s good or bad. There is one thing in common from where I live in North California, to towns in Ireland, villages in Africa’s cape, to little farms in places like Tajikistan - we have to stay hidden. Animal or Human born, we have to hide. Shapeshifters have to stay a secret or be put to death worse than The Salem Witch Trials.      Another reason I love animal me… people are absolutely horrible. People have the ability to end hunger, to end homelessness, to educate the world, to bring a reasonable type of peace… but instead they cause chaos, war, and create goals that can never be obtained. Animals not only let nature takes its course but respect in rulings without a fight. Animals know that reality can be harsh, but in the end it is for the better.      Staring across the rolling mist over the mirrored lake, I throw a fist of dirt down the shore. Another fucking month. Or so, at least… I don’t actually know how long I’ve put-off shifting.      I know it’s September by the smell of the air - the smell of the temperature getting colder, things slowing down, life starting to drain from the forest around me. I know it’s September by the change in the leaves - the colors not so emerald, now moving towards golden to get to the Autumn orange. I know it’s September by the sunrise, the way the little orb of light is shielded in layers and layers of sky and clouds and moisture that it sits there like a Bob Ross painting. I know it’s September because there are less birds, less insects, and less shifters.      Finally, the sun is high enough, the air not so chilly, my eyes have adjusted, my body wants to cooperate, and I start towards the cabin. Willow should be there and if she’s not she’ll at least left a journal for me. She is the only human I like and I am the only animal she likes. She was human born but is atypical to shifters, like me, and prefers to be animal. I take care of her when we are wolves together and since she’s spent more time human, she takes care of me when I’ve shifted. We’re not on the same exact schedules, however, so we leave journals of what’s been happening or what needs to happen while the other’s away.


*


The cabin is still, empty, cold…. I have to use the key under the back mat to let myself in. I try to smell around, see what I can find out, but the human nose is just not meant for that. Throwing a blanket over my shoulders, I turn on the heat before heading into the small kitchen. A few things in the freezer, no dairy, no bread… lots of canned food. Then, there it is, the leather journal next to the phone. A few thoughts here and there, but like always her entries get longer and longer the more I’m gone. The last one:


August 30th, 11:03 PM Hey Dawnie, I know I’ll be shifting within the next day or so. You’ve been a wolf a while now and I’ll try my hardest to find you. Hopefully we don’t pass like ships in the night… I miss you. My animal shifts aren’t as long as your human, even though I’m trying. But this shift, well…. If I know you’re human, I might have to make an exception. There’s just something we really need to talk about, or I guess I really need to talk to you about. Anyway, there’s a decent amount of food left, though you’ll need to get the cards out of the safe and get more. Also, all the bills are paid through the end of the year except utilities. Make sure those are covered. Everything should run pretty smoothly otherwise…. I know how much you love being a wolf in the winter, so maybe skip the classes this semester? I bet the cafe will need the help since it’s by the University. I was thinking about that little book shop we found, up the valley… I bought a new bookcase in case you go back. I know you hate things that make you human and all, but you have really excellent taste. I always love finding what you’ve picked out next. Again, I miss you. It’s getting harder and harder… I just wish I could find something - anything, about either syncing up our shifts or making animal phasing permanent. Oh, and I rearranged our room again… I hope you don’t mind. I just get that we’re unsettlingly feeling when things are the same too long. Plus, with the changing of the season, it was about time. After all these years, though, I think I’ve got our tastes compromised enough. {Laughing}  Do you remember when we would fight over the room? We would take the time when the other was shifting to Completely re-do the room before they got back. You had your rustic shit, I had my floral vintage stuff…. We did that for, what, two years? Then we tried splitting the room in half… that worked out for a while. But, then, well….. I think about the first time my shift matched with your animal phasing… I think about it a lot, actually. There’s just something about being animal… your mind quiets, your emotions aren’t complicated, your needs are simple and clear. And I had you…. I had you and everything was taken care of. … I miss you. I won’t be long, I promise. Dearest, Willow.


Teary-eyed, I close the leather and hold it to my chest. That’s the only thing - literally the only thing - I don’t like about being animal: most of the time I am without her. The tear stains on the pages don’t help either. There are feelings we share that I don’t know either of us understand. I, as a human, do not understand this confusing emotion just the same as how she doesn’t quite get our alpha-mates wolf dynamic.      One of the reasons I read so much, in fact, is to try and understand the concept of ‘love’. That is the most common theme in literature, in plays, in poems, in storytelling all together… it is new found love, long lasting love, true love, or lost love. But even after spending hours and hours, days to weeks, and practically years trying to understand that feeling, I’m not sure I can.      Without being able to understand it, I’m not sure that is what I feel and therefore I have not ever said it to Willow. I know how important and life-changing that can be and I never want to hurt her.  I want to say it, I want it to be true, I want it to be that simple - the animal in me what’s it to be that simple. I love her, she loves me, and we mate. But humanity is unnecessarily complicated. There are all these rules and regulations and expectations or rituals… and they keep changing as quickly as the season - I can’t keep up. I want to… but….      I sigh and put the journal back down by the phone. Wiping some tears off my lashes, I walk down the micro-hall to the bedroom. Letting out a breathy laugh and toss the blanket over the plush armchair in the corner.      The raw cabin walls give the room a classically natural feel, a soft hint of forest and rain holds in the air. Cracking the window, fresh air flutters through the soft white curtains, flowing through the room like the early morning sunlight. Curling iron makes up the head and foot and frame of our king bed, reminding me of the bench we sat on when we first kissed. A puffy white comforter is perfectly placed over the thick heating blanket I turn on. Two layers of pillows have blue cases that match the woven throw and the fitted sheet. Instead of nightstands there are black bookcases filled with a perfect collaboration of mementoes, books, and other knick-knacks.      After pulling a shirt over my head and some sweatpants up to my waist, I sit on my side of the bed and hold a picture of Willow and I last Autumn. Taken almost a year ago, in fact, it was on the anniversary of our first date. Her copper hair is the same shade as her fur glints in sunlight, her green eyes have golden flex that expand when she shifts, and the way her cheek is pressed against my chest is the same as when we lay by the lake.      Then and there, though it is many hours away, I decide that I will sit on the covered patio all night if I have to, but I want to be available for Willow. She has a knack for hanging around the cabin when she shifts, especially if I’m already human. Maybe I’ll run to the store and pick up some raw steak…. I truly feel something deep and strong for her and all I want to do is make sure she’s okay. After all this time, she’s turned into my everything.


*


Heart pounding, eyes unable to focus, a pounding on the door makes me wake in the middle of the night. Stumbling out of bed, my hand guides me into the main living area. The pounding is from the back door. Blinking and straining to see, I open it.      “Willow?” my scratchy voice asks against the thunderstorm.      Soaked to the bone, covered in mud, ragged nails digging into her sides she’s blinking too. Her gaze is off by a couple inches, her lips are chapped, and she’s convulsing. She opens her mouth to speak but she ends up coughing and shaking her head, her knotted and matted hair moving stiffly around her shoulders.      I pull her in and slam the door. Even with all her will, she shouldn’t have been able to shift this quickly. It’s only been two weeks! There’s a significant chance that it won’t hold and she’ll be back to a wolf at any moment.      Keeping her tight to my chest, I sit her down with me on the couch, wrapping the blanket around her. The heat is thicker in this part of the cabin, anyway, so it should be soon that she’s okay. Hopefully.      “Willow, honey?” I push the air away from her face.      She lets out a groan and after flicking on the lamp I can see her tears.      “Oh, sweetie…” I sigh and pull her close. “Willow… why? Why didn’t you wait… a bit longer… the shift would have been easier.”      Minutes pass and she starts to still. Her breathing more rhythmic and calmer, her hands curled around the blanket in fists loosen, a little bit of coughing and she’s finally able to speak. “D-Dawnie?”      I move her a little and face her to me, “Yes, sweetie, of course.” I kiss her forehead, “Willow….”      “Oh Dawson,” and she starts crying all over again. Her tears flow softly, little light droplets rolling down her cheeks, her eyes seeming more focused, the pupils pulsing as she looks at me. Her strong hands come to my face, her palms resting against my jaw. Her long fingers reach into my hair, “Dawson… I just needed you….”      I kiss her softly. “Hey, sweetie, it’s okay. I’m right here.”      Our foreheads rest together, “I can’t do this anymore! I can’t be without you…. We have to figure out a way.”      Nothing good will come out of me arguing or reasoning with her right now. If I want to keep her stable, not letting her shift back into a wolf, she needs to be calm and collected. Fed, warm, comfortable, rested… safe.      The tip of my nose brushes against hers, “How about a hot bath? I’ll get you all cleaned up. Then I’ll cook some food and we’ll get in bed…. I can start reading one of the new books to you.”      Finally, a little smile breaches her lips. “You went to that little bookstore then?” her voice still a little shaky.      Nose tingly, eyes blurring I kiss her again. “Of course. You got that whole new bookcase! I had to fill it.”      Her eyes that are still heavy with gold look into mine, “Dawnie….” Right as her breath intakes sharply, I burst out “I love you.”      Her micro-expressions flitter through a wide range, but it settles with a huge smile, little wrinkles around her eyes, and a little laugh. “I love you! I love you so much. So, so, so much! I waited so long to tell you! I’ve felt this way for so long; am I so completely in-love with you.”      Chuckling, I look at every little detail of her face. Humans talk so much…. Usually it annoys me, but from her? She could talk all she wants.      She kisses me and then continues, her eyes searching my face, very noticeable going side to side. “I thought… I mean, I’ve waited ‘cause I know you have a hard time with human stuff. And love is… complicated and not at all logical.”      “But I love you,” I assure her.      The new book series I’ve rapidly read through in the past two weeks is The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J. R. Ward. And for once, love makes sense. All the brothers feel this “Mine” thing… this all-consuming need to be there for the female. They want to protect, love, keep happy, and mate the females they are attracted to. There are rituals similar to humans, there are factors similar to animals… it makes sense to me. And in reading book after book, mating after mating, I knew that what I felt was truly a thing called ‘love’.      A happy sigh and she quickly and passionately kisses me, “I love you.” After a long moment she gives me another hum of an exhale. “How about that bath?”


*


The storm passed some hours or so ago, there’s only the echo of wind outside. After our bath, Willow leans against the counter, wrapped in my sweater - that is oversized on her five-foot one-inch, one hundred-twenty five pound frame - and her jogger sweatpants are tight around her curvy hips. Her tan skin is glowing from the soap and warmth and she wastes no time in filing her nails. As I seared off steak, warm up some corn and broccoli, we hold a small conversation of what happened while I was away and what then happened while she was away. Pretty much usual as always, though our hearts had pinned so painfully for the other.      Full bellies and happy hearts, we curl into bed, and though we are exhausted we actually pull Hulu up on her laptop. She has been very invested in a show called Brooklynn Nine-Nine while I was away and its sixth season was picked up by NBC and she is anxious to see its continuation. Seeing as I genuinely enjoy the show and it’s diverse, top shelf, high quality of entertainment, I happily let it stream.      Hair finally dry, the curls fall down from where she rests her head on my chest. Her little fingers run softly across my stomach, side to side, and our breathing is almost synced. I curl my neck to look at the time above the date on the screen, it’s almost sunrise and, “Hey… it’s our anniversary,” I pull her close. After a moment she giggles and pulls herself up, over me, kissing my softly. “Happy anniversary.”      After some more kissing, some fondling… some happy, sensual closeness, we notice a lightening of the sky beyond the window. At the same time we ask, “Want to go watch the sunrise?”      Hastily we pull some clothes on. I then grab the woven throw and follow Willow out of the cabin. With er hand in mine, she pulls me along, and then tugs me to where she sits on the top step. Sitting close, wrapped together, I hold my arms tight around her. I don’t know how we managed it but I can tell….      The forest floor beyond our cabin rolls with little hills and has waves over and under tree roots. Patches of green can be seen and also the last of Summer’s wild flowers releasing their last breath. Mist is thick from here to the horizon; the sun’s light shining in beams through the trees. The Autumn canopy is a range of beautiful fiery colors, the leaves rustling softly in the breeze. Everything is so quiet, so still, so calm… all I can hear is Willow’s little breaths and feel her pulse against my fingers.      I can tell… in my heart, my soul, my body - every fiber of my being, in the farthest reaches of my mind…. Something in our love, in our Mating, has finally let us sync. Human, animal, it doesn’t matter.      Together we are one and in this new day is the dawn of our lives… finally whole, finally together, now and forever.




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