Jessica peered into the dark. If she focused on one particular spot, she could cut through its blackness and see it clearly. The space around her, however, remained thick with shadows.
They were coming. They were going to come into her home and rip her out. It wasn’t ironic, though. Her home had never been a safe place. Not with him in it. Jessica cranked her neck and stole another angry glance at the mangled body of the man who had the nerve to call himself a father. She scoffed at the thought, wishing only that he had more throat to tear out.
They rapped on the front door with no intention of asking her why she did it. To them, she was just a monster. A girl who refused to take her yellow pills — as if she owed society her complacency after the shit hand it had dealt her.
A starburst of electricity sizzled up Jessica’s spine. She could feel the bones extending, twisting under her skin. Her jaw cranked open, wider and wider. Razor sharp teeth as long as fingers pushed their way out. The pain ignited a sense of freedom she had never known before becoming infected.
Infected — what a joke. This was no illness. No disease. No curse.
This was a gift.
In one swoop, Jessica leapt off of her hind legs, and smashed through the window behind her. The glass shattered over her face and body, illuminating her, and throwing up bits of her animalistic reflection into the night sky. For once, she felt beautiful. Power, she decided, was beauty.
Jessica spent the next several weeks hiding in plain sight. Without the pills, she had little control over when and how often she changed from girl to beast and back again. It left her human form tattered and sore. She looked like any other runaway now, which meant, for the most part, she was invisible. She didn’t mind. There had been so little she controlled before the lycanthropy; at least this lack of control amounted to power, rather than submission.
Men approached her, though. Often. She simply had that look about her. Damaged. Mostly, she rolled her eyes and ignored them, but other times she went. Not for the reason they had hoped. She left wreckage in her wake.
“The streets are crawling with the disease. It’s a pandemic,” the news said. “Outreach programs are being instated to help these poor girls,” they promised.
Jessica laughed at this. Us poor girls. It was true that lycanthropy disproportionately affected women, but Jessica suspected it had less to do with female vulnerability and was more about giving an upper-hand to the disenfranchised. Maybe the world was correcting itself. Privilege was a finnicky thing.
Jessica swung around, a growl forming in her trachea. A young woman with running mascara and sweat-glistened skin stepped forward.
“You’re one, right?” she asked almost rhetorically. She did not have to say one what. Jessica knew what she meant.
“What’s it to you?” Jessica retorted. There was an edge in her tone that never existed before she became… one.
“I got something you might want.”
Jessica turned to walk away, but the woman came closer. Now she could smell it on her. The smell of new freedom mingled confusedly with old oppression. She was also a Lycanthrope. Curious, Jessica turned back to face her. The woman reached into her backpack and pulled out a ziplock bag of rainbow pills.
“They’re legit. I’ll sell them to you for a fraction of the price.”
Jessica didn’t want the pills. But she did want to know more about the woman. The traitor.
“Don’t you need them?”
The woman shrugged her bony shoulders. “I’ve got a hookup.”
“Do you take the yellow ones?”
The woman shifted in her sneakers. “Sometimes. Not always.”
For a moment, they just stood facing each other in the noisy silence of the city. Finally, Jessica gave a dismissive snort and walked away.
“You think it’s a revolution, right?” the woman called after her.
“So what if I do?”
“Power isn’t power unless it’s a choice. One that you make every day.”
Jessica stopped, the words seeping through the hairline fractures in her anger.
“Just take them,” the woman continued. “No charge. Keep them with you. Swallow them when it suits you. You don’t owe this world a goddamned thing — none of us do. Take it for you, not for them. Take it when it makes sense.”
Jessica stayed completely still until the woman came to her side and put the bag of pills in her hand.
“Control your power. Don’t let it control you.”
With that, the woman walked off, calling out a final word behind her. “And whoever fucking hurt you… tear his throat out.”
Jessica smirked, reliving it all over again.
© Shyla Fairfax-Owen
Note: While this is a standalone story, you can find the beginning of Jessica’s tale in Prognosis.