On a tower of metal and light, I saw the span of a great and perilous land. Overhead, three small suns raged in the sky. I was a shard of night beneath cold steel and rusted iron.
The wind rushed to me the scents of damp rosewood, fertile soil, pearled barley, bay leaf, musty fur, and chimney smoke. Miscellany of a simpler life. I crouched on the platform and the lids of my tawny eyes narrowed against the glare of the sun-lit Earth. The village of Toah lay in the valley below; it was a small and peaceful place, nestled like a babe amid those cold forests. Children played kickball near the horse stables and the women washed their laundry in the nearby stream.
Clouds rolled forth from the horizon reaching hopefully Westward as the storm before me fell over the village and claimed daylight in its smoky fingers.
With bandaged hands and sure boots, I climbed down the watchtower. This place would suit me fine. The rainfall would cover my trail and mask my scent, leaving the villagers ignorant as they cowered from the downpour. If I was good about it, a jug of mead would very well be part of the meal. My mouth watered at the thought of biting into the hen's neck-snapping it-the hot blood splashing over my parched tongue as I tore it apart. The thought of all I would be tasting almost made me fall out of the tower.
But my fatigue was making it harder to keep from slipping.
My feldgrau gambeson bunched as I fell from the last foothold and landed onto the uneven dirt, the shock of a twenty-five foot drop piercing up through the soles of my boots. A cloud rose at my feet-scents came with it-the typical wildlife smells: sparrows, local cats, rats, spit from a small boy who drank cider, as well as the faded smell of a drunkard's piss. To Toah, this tower was a place of congregation and socializing. I took a risk climbing it, but I had to see what I was to expect. My luck had not been good to me, and I didn't want to take the chance of running into a large dog or, worse, a small militia.
I brushed my dark hair away from my face and stood upright. I last cut my hair with a pair of shears found in a garden shed...but I had gotten clumsy and my bangs were now at an uneven slope, so that only one eye was covered and the other completely exposed. I couldn't wait for the hair to grow out so that I could mend my mistake. Even in a practical sense, it was annoying to march about the way I looked.
My brown cotton pants were baggy, and the seat of them molted with wear. My boots were dusty and worn, and the soles threatened to separate all together. I looked like a pauper, and that was all I could hope for, as people tended to ignore me. But I couldn't take all the credit for my appearance. My clothes had once been my mother's clothes. I came to acquire them when she passed away not long ago. It wasn't until the recent year that I could fit into them...and I did so awkwardly.
I could still smell her in the fabric.
I was tired from walking all day, and didn't wish to be seen by anyone, so I slinked off into the cover of the woods to find a berry bush and a soft patch of ground to rest on. I waited until the suns were out of sight before I came back again.
Darkness. The new moon. I knew this even with the cloud cover.
I took off my boots and hid them near the berry bush, along with my other meager belongings. I had to take them off, or I'd tear through them.
Contrary to your assumptions, I am not a human.
Amid the bay trees, under the blanket of shadow that fell with Night's passing, I shifted.
Now you can take that word and dissect it. Pick it apart however you like. Peek under the definition and garner whatever idea you'd like from it. Did I shift position? Did I shift demeanor? Did I shift motive?
No. I shifted. I changed. I transformed. I, being one thing, became another. ...Or was always the 'one thing', and had only made it possible to gain a better perspective on the matter.
But shifting hurt. It always hurt. Payment to the One for use of her gifts. It led me to wonder...was my ability really inherent and unavoidable? Or just a privilege? If the latter was the case, could I renounce what I had? Would that make life easier? ...But something resisted this thought, and in me came up a feeling that tasted of anguish.
My skin rippled and tingled as-beneath-my muscles shifted and bones snapped and curved to their new places. The transformation always began in the torso and spread its way out all at once, debilitating me completely before it was done. The nerves screamed. The muscles felt like they were tearing, ripping, shredding themselves as I shifted. I bit the inside of my cheek. Fur sprouted along my body. From my tailbone sprouted a tail, which forced its way through a discreet opening in the seat of my pants. Blood pounded in my ears and hot-cold flashes ravaged me until all fell quiet. When I stirred I was on the ground. My clawed hands sought placement in the dirt and I pushed myself up from the ground like a drunkard stirring from sleep.