Leaving A Life, and Finding Another
By Chaos Blackwing
© 2008 Chaos Blackwing
Jack wasn't sure how long he'd been running. All that really mattered to him was that he get away. Far away preferably.
Though he doubted that his old man would actually get off his fat ass and come looking for him, he wasn't going to risk it. Besides, he'd had enough of the crap the old man put him through. He still had the bruises all up and down his arms from when his father had dragged him to his room and thrown him into it. The marks on his face, when he'd been hit when he'd forgotten to do the dishes on time. And the bruised stomach, from when.when.well, he wasn't quite sure what that was from. His father was probably in a bad mood at the time, and felt that using him as a punching bag would cheer him up.
Last night he'd finally gotten enough of it, and after stuffing some clothes and what food he could find into an old backpack, he'd climbed out his window and booked it through the nearby woods. His house luckily was on the edge of the rather small mountain town that he lived in, and he knew that if he kept going in the same direction, he'd eventually come out at a road that passed through the woods. He figured that once he got there he'd try and pick up a ride hitchhiking, and from there.well he didn't really know what would happen then, but hopefully it wouldn't involve getting bruises all over his body from a temperamental old guy.
`I wonder how much farther it is to the road?' Jack thought as he walked through the woods, illuminated from above by the full moon. Though he hadn't done a whole lot of hiking, living in a mountainous area surrounded by woods for a little over fourteen years meant that he'd picked up a few tricks here and there. He knew enough anyway, to be sure that he was heading in the right direction; the only thing he wasn't sure of was the exact location and distance to the road. He'd only seen it on maps before, so he wasn't able to use any landmarks to pinpoint it's location.
After a little bit of walking, he noticed a dim light flickering a bit of a ways off to his left. Figuring that it was probably a car or something from the road, he changed direction and headed towards it.
As he got closer, he saw that it wasn't a car light or streetlight at all, but was rather the light from a campfire. Walking out of the trees and into the clearing that it was in, he saw a fire burning nicely in the center, surrounded by rocks and swept dirt. Off to the side was what he would guess to be a one-person tent, though it seemed a bit odd for some reason.
He didn't get a chance to examine it though, because in the next moment he felt a large hand land on his shoulder, and a deep voice come from behind him. "Well, what have we here? Bit late for a hike isn't it?"
Jack would have jumped up, had he not been held down by the hand on his shoulder. Instead, he ducked down under it, and jumping forward a bit, wheeled about to see who had grabbed him. What he saw didn't exactly calm him down.
Standing a few feet away from him, he saw a man, probably in his 30's or so. Standing a few inches taller than six feet, he positively dwarfed Jack's five foot five height. Though he was dressed in warm clothes - consisting of a heavy jacket, jeans, and hiking boots - from what he could see the man was solidly built. Not so muscular as to be grossly huge, but possessing what would probably be categorized as a medium build.
Clean shaven for the most part, what hair Jack could see peeking out from under the cap the man was wearing was a very dark brown color, almost black.
Cautious by nature, Jack was slowly edging away from the stranger all the while he was examining him. He was just about to turn about and see if he could make it to the tree-line when the man spoke again.
"Hey, you planning on leaving so soon? We just met. Listen, it's pretty cold out here, do you maybe want something hot to drink before you head out?" Though he hadn't noticed it before, the man's voice, deep and rough as it was, didn't seem to contain any of the usual warning signs that Jack had learned indicated trouble.
What finally decided him though, was the man's eyes. When he looked up at the man, he saw concern and humor, but nothing to indicate to him that he had any reason to worry about this man. In the many years living with his old man, Jack had gotten pretty good at telling when he should become scarce, just by studying body language. The man in front of him wasn't giving off any of the usual warning signs.
The man _was_ right, it was a bit cold out here now that he took the time to notice it. And besides, it wasn't as if he had any deadline to make to get to the road. Heck, who knows, maybe he could get a lift from this guy to some other town or something.
Looking up at the man's face, he saw the same smile he'd noticed earlier still on his face as he answered. "Well, I suppose I could go for something hot to drink. Long as it's not anything that's gonna disagree to much with my stomach." He said with a shy little smile.
This got a laugh out of the larger man. "No worries little guy, I wasn't planning on giving you anything to bother that stomach of yours. I think I've got some hot cocoa about here somewhere; why don't you go sit on that log next to the fire while I see if I can find some for us."
Looking in the direction that the man had indicated, Jack saw that a log had been placed near the fire; close enough to keep nice and warm, but not so close that the heat would be uncomfortable.
Settling down on it, Jack only then became aware of just how cold it was out here. He'd been so focused on getting away that he hadn't really paid attention to the temperature outside, grabbing a jacket as he snuck out more out of habit than anything else. But now that he was in a position to actually get warm, he could appreciate just how cold he had been. Close on this realization, came a rather frightening one. If he was only _now_ feeling the cold, it was quite possible that he could have frozen to death out here without any warning, long before he had reached the road. No wonder the guy he'd run into had looked worried!
Jack was broken out of his rather grim thoughts by the return of the older man, bearing two cups of steaming liquid, with a cushion tucked underneath one of his arms. Handing one of the cups to Jack, he placed the cushion on the ground a few feet around the fire and held his own mug as he looked at the boy.
Taking a sip of the drink, Jack scrunched up his face at the odd taste. It tasted like cocoa alright, but it had a weird aftertaste.
Looking over at Jack, the man saw his face and laughed for a second. "Sorry if it tastes odd; I think the powder mix is a little old. Guess that's what I get for not checking the `use by' date before setting out." Taking a sip of his own drink, the man introduced himself. "Name's James by the way, never did catch your name."
Not really sure how to act around the man, `James, his name is James his mind reminds him', Jack stuttered out his name, his face pointed down at his feet the whole time. "Umm, my name's Jack."
James took another drink from his cup before sitting it on the ground next to him and turning to look at Jack once more. From the serious look on his face, Jack was sure he was going to ask him something big, probably along the lines of `what's a kid like you doing in the woods at this time of night?'. Thankfully though, the man just wanted to know about the weather in the mountains at this time of year.
The two of them chatted about inconsequential for the next while, Jack eventually downing his drink, while James' remained mostly untouched. Finally though, James broached the subject that Jack had been hoping to avoid. And yet, when James finally came out and asked, Jack's mind just sort of went `what the heck' and told him.
And so out it came. The escape from his house, the trek through the woods in an attempt to reach the highway and flag down a passing motorist. The reason _why_ he was running. The yelling, the hitting. By the time he was through talking, he found himself shaking, almost sobbing, and being held gently in the arms of the older man.
By the time he calmed down, helped there by the sense of security he felt in the man's arms, it was quite a bit later. As he looked up, he realized just how tired he was. It was all he could do to keep his eyes open, and he just couldn't seem to focus them on anything for more than a few seconds. Figuring that he should probably find somewhere to sleep, he tried to get up, only to flop back down, caught by James before he could hit the ground.
Getting a little concerned, Jack tried to get up again, only to find that he just couldn't muster up the needed energy. Looking up worriedly at James, he saw that the man was smiling down at him, and seemed to be saying something. Through his lethargy, Jack could just make out his words.
"...little one. I promise you that you're safe now. You don't need to worry any more. You don't need to run any more. I'll take care of you. So go ahead and sleep."
Finally, Jack just couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. With a small sigh, he closed his eyes and passed out, falling limp in James' arms.
Jack slowly woke from the strangest dream. He couldn't remember any images from it, only sensations. The feel of his body shifting, muscles growing in some places and shrinking in others. An odd sensation across his whole body, sort of a tingling feeling. As if his entire body changing. Becoming.something else. Without a doubt the weirdest dream he'd ever had.
Upon opening his eyes though, he began to seriously consider the possibility that he was still dreaming. He wasn't in his room, and wherever he was, it was quite a bit different than what he was used to.
The first thing he noticed was that the room was quite dark, with the only visible illumination coming from somewhere near the ceiling, close to the walls. Surprisingly enough, despite the scant light Jack found himself able to see a whole lot better than he would think possible. This allowed him to study his surroundings quite well.
Looking about him, he saw that he was in a decent sized room, probably coming to be about 15 or so feet a side, The room itself was fairly sparse, with nothing lying about on the floors, or hanging on the walls. The walls themselves seemed to be a bluish color, with the ceiling the same. The floor was a greenish tint, looking like an off color grass in the hazy light sparse illumination.
It was about that time that Jack noticed something far more alarming than his strange surroundings. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw a long, fuzzy shape, and when he turned his head to get a better look at it, he got quite a shock. His hand and arm had fur on it!
When he reached over with his other hand to feel the fur, he saw that that hand had fur on it too! Looking down, he saw that the rest of his body seemed to be covered in fur too. The coloration reminded him of a fox, dark orange fur covering most of his body, with black on the ends of his arms and legs, and white on his chest, leading upwards and down.
Almost afraid of what he would find, he reached a trembling hand up to feel his face, only to find that that too had changed. Instead of a mostly flat face, it had expanded outwards, to resemble that of a vulpine muzzle. His ears too; when he reached up to feel them, had moved up the side of his head, and now were more animal shaped than anything.
Shortly before he began to panic, he heard a soft noise off to his right, and light spilled into the room from the doorway. Standing just outside the room, a huge, furry...something looked in on him. Because of the light difference, he couldn't make out any details, but whatever it was had to be at least six and a half feet tall, was built solidly, and seemed to have a whole lot of hair covering it.
And then it walked forwards, into the room and reached over to turn on the lights, and the answer of _what_ it was, was made abundantly clear.
One word ran through Jack's mind as he saw the creature: Werewolf.
Standing just a few feet from him stood a creature straight out of a movie. Standing on the ends of it's feet, it was just as tall as Jack had thought it to be. It was quite well muscled, and looked almost strong enough to toss a small car around. On top of it's shoulders, it had a huge muzzle, probably filled to the brim with sharp teeth. It's fur color was black, or maybe a very dark grey for the most part, with a slightly lighter shade covering it's stomach. It's eyes, when he could get up the nerve to look at it's face, were a dark shade of yellow, almost gold in hue.
And they were looking straight at him.
Jack, needless to say, was terrified. Here he was, waking up in a strange room, with his body changed to a completely different shape, and now in walks something that was probably thinking of the best way to eat him.
Slowly, trying not to provoke the thing, Jack backed up as far away from it as he could, curling up against the wall and trying to make himself as small as possible. He couldn't bear to watch as the thing did whatever it was planning on doing, so he just tucked his face down and hid it with his arms. Whatever it did, he could only hope it would be quick.
And then the unthinkable happened. It spoke.
"Well, I see that you're awake at last. That's good." Here it stopped talking for a few seconds, and it was only as he felt the bed sag a bit that he realized that the thing had sat down just a few feet away from him. "I'm sure you've got plenty of questions, and I hope I can help answer them for you." Once again the creature paused, longer this time. "Listen, I know you're frightened; I can only imagine how scared you must be with all of this happening, but I promise you, you're safe here."
The voice sounded sincere, causing Jack to peek his head up and look at the creature. It was sitting just two feet from him, perched on the edge of the bed. Though he wasn't exactly expert in werewolf expressions, it seemed to be smiling, the back of it's muzzle turned upwards, with a look of kindness in its eyes.
Just then it reached a hand towards him, and Jack involuntarily shrank back. Friendly it may claim to be, but that didn't stop it from looking pretty scary. Closer and closer the hand came, finally resting on top of his head. Jack could _feel_ the claws resting on top of his head, and they did nothing to reassure him. All he could do was sit there, trembling in fear.
And then the hand moved. Without leaving his skin, it gently ran down the back of his skull, the claws just lightly scratching his skin. When it had gone down about halfway down his back, he felt the appendage remove itself, only to once more land on top of his head. This time the backs of his ears were scritched a bit before the paw moved down, causing a slight shiver of pleasure to come over him. As Jack sat there, the paw continued to pet him, relaxing him more and more every time.
By this point Jack had moved from terrified to just plain confused. Here was a huge creature, more than capable of taking him apart, whether it be with claw or tooth, and all it was doing was petting him...talking to him. When it had reached out towards him, he'd shrunk back, expecting the worst, but this.this felt good. He didn't realize it at first, but Jack soon found himself making a light murring sound from the petting. And when he did discover himself doing it, he didn't bother to try and stop. The petting was just feeling /so/ nice.
Without stopping the motion of his hand, the creature spoke again. "I'm sure you've got lots of questions, so let me try and answer some of them for you. Let's start with what I'm sure you're thinking. First of all, despite what it may look like, I'm not a werewolf. Though I suppose in a sense I would be one. You see, it was one of my race that _started_ the whole werewolf thing when he was spotted by some farmer. Apparently he just couldn't resist checking this place out."
Here he paused to take a breath, and looking down, smiled at Jack. Seeing this, Jack just couldn't resist smiling back; he was coming to the conclusion that it was kinda pointless to be afraid of this creature, when all it had done so far was make him feel good. "My race is actually called the Grr'tah, and we're one of many space faring races in this galaxy."
Feeling brave enough to voice a question, Jack chose this time to ask something that had been on his mind since he got here. "Umm, why am I here? And why do I look so different? The last thing I remember is falling asleep at a guy's campsite, and then I woke up here. He's okay right?"
Jack didn't know why, but that last question seemed to bring a smile to the creature.
Stopping his petting for the moment, the creature stood up and walked over to something near the bed. As he walked he answered Jack's question. "Those questions are actually related. You see, I brought you here after listening to what your life was like."
Here Jack just had to interrupt. "But I've never told you anything! I'd never seen you before in my life before you walked in the room! The only person I've _ever_ really talked about my life to was..."
By this time the creature had finished adjusting whatever it was he'd gone to pick up, and he turned about to look at Jack. "A man who called himself James? A rather large man, who had his campsite set up outside the town you were running away from? A man you found yourself telling more than you had originally planned on? Watch closely, and maybe you'll see.you're not such a stranger to me after all."
After saying this, he reached down to manipulate something on his wrist and suddenly.he wasn't there. In his place was James, standing there smiling down on him. "Recognize me now? I'm sorry I didn't tell you who I was before, but I didn't think you'd believe me without some visible proof."
Jack was nothing short of stunned. Somehow the creature that had been standing before him had turned into the man he'd met before. All Jack could manage was some halfway decent speech. "But...what...how..."
Seeing the state his little `change' had put Jack in, the wolf creature deactivated the device he was wearing and changed back into his normal self. Walking back over to the bed, he sat down and resumed his petting, hoping that would help calm him down. Looking down at the small form by his side, he continued with his explanation.
"The device I just used allows me to change my outward appearance. It is typically used to infiltrate a planet or place undetected, and is often used by those wishing to study a race without the more...excitable members of that race discovering them."
Jack finally found his voice again, and turned up to look at the creature/James. "So is that what you are? Like some sort of scientist?"
This got a chuckle out of the large creature, the sound so deep it reverberated through Jack.
"Not quite little guy. While I said that it's primarily used that way, it isn't the only time that device is used. If you know where to look, you can usually find pretty much anything. I got me one so that I could relax between journeys on the various planets I pass."
Jack still looked puzzled. "So, you're like a...tourist?"
"Not exactly. Let's just say that I have the funds available to pretty much go wherever I should want to." All the while they were talking the creature was gently stroking the back of Jack's head and neck. He knew that this next part would probably frighten him, but he was fairly confident that Jack would adapt quite quickly to the situation. Taking a breath to clear his mind, he began.
"Now then, little one, Jack...I think I should explain exactly what is happening here. When I first encountered you, I figured you to be just a lost kid. No problem I figured, I'd just wait until you fell asleep and then take you to the nearest town, no-one the wiser to my involvement. But after you started talking to me- "
Here he paused again, and it almost appeared the he was blushing under his fur. "I suppose before I go on I should tell you something. The drink I gave you wasn't chocolate. Or at least it wasn't all cocoa. I slipped a very mild drug into the drink, something that had been discovered to have a relaxing effect on most mammals. At first it gradually removes the inhibitions your race has for talking, and then a little bit later it acts as a sedative, causing you to fall asleep. I figured I'd have you drink it, find out why you were in the mountains, and then take you back to town as I said."
Here Jack piped up again. "So what made you change your mind?"
"I was just getting to that. You see, after you told me your story I knew that if I brought you back to your hometown you'd probably just run away again. And maybe that time you wouldn't be so lucky; maybe you would be hurt or worse trying the second time. I knew I couldn't let that happen, so I decided to take you with me."
`Here it comes' he thought, `I hope he isn't to shocked at this next part'
"I brought you along Jack...to be my pet"
As soon as Jack heard that, he snapped quickly out of the mild trance the petting had put him in. The creature, James, wanted to make him it's pet? That didn't bode well at all. The mental images that were conjured were anything but reassuring.
Seeing the effect that his statement had caused in Jack, James hurried to try and reassure him. "No no no, don't worry, it's not what you think. When I say I brought you here to be my pet, I didn't mean anything bad with it. All it means is that I'd take care of you, keep you safe and fed, that sort of thing. Nothing bad at all see?"
Thinking about it for a bit, Jack began to calm down again. If that was all it meant by the `pet' thing, than Jack didn't really see any problems with it. He was however still bothered by something. "Okay, I guess that doesn't sound so bad. As long as that's all you mean by it I don't see any reason why not. But.umm, why do I look like this?"
Greatly relieved that Jack had accepted so readily, James tried to explain the reason behind his change in appearance. "Well, that's actually related. I knew that if you were to be with me, eventually we'd encounter someone else, even if it was just whenever I went in to get supplies, or drop off the maps and such that I've created. You see, shortly after humans were discovered, it was decided that it posed too great of a risk to bring your species into space. Far too dangerous. And so, your planet was declared a `no-go zone' for anyone but the properly cleared scientists and observers. Naturally, to take one of your race off of your planet, and into space would be a great offense, with very harsh punishments. To get around this, shortly after I brought you onboard, I had my medical computer sort of `re-calibrate' your genetic and biological structure to that of another of the space faring races. It's not too uncommon for a person with my job to have someone to travel with; it tends to make things function a lot smoother. That way, should we encounter anyone, I can just say you're an orphan or something, and I felt sorry for you and brought you along with me. Simple, see?"
After listening to his long explanation, Jack sat in thought for a number of minutes, just staring into space. Eventually though, he came to his conclusion. Why not travel with James and see all sorts of strange new things? After all, the whole reason he'd been running away in the first place was so that he could try and start his life anew, to get away from the horrid situation he had been in. This promised to do all that and more. So why not?
With that decision made, Jack looked up at the hopeful face of his new...caretaker? And his next question brought a beaming smile from James.
"So, where are we headed next?"