From the dawn of prehistory to an apocalyptic day after tomorrow, shifters and their friends have been in the background of every historical event. Shapechangers, healers, hunters, shamans, and great leaders, have always been around. We recognize the legendary ones, but must always keep in mind that Gomer is a good dog.
Note: This novel is about 112 thousand words in length.
The paparazzo waited until a few minutes before sundown, listened for any approaching cars, then slipped from behind the house, and hurried down the gravel road. He got to the locked gate just about sunset and it was obvious that everyone had already passed. With his usual disregard for privacy and no trespassing signs, and especially since no one appeared to be watching, he clambered over the fence, and took the shortcut crossing the pasture. He knew from experience that walking on dirt or gravel might raise a bit of noise and dust. The short grass of the pasture was not only quieter but also a more direct route to the opening between the trees.
When he slipped between the rungs of the pasture fence and stepped into the woods, he realized he would be dealing with a full moon and no street lamps. One of his vest pockets yielded a pair of un-tinted wrap-around safety glasses. That would keep him from having a stray branch poke him in the eye.
With a long lens camera in hand and the smaller one safely tucked into a vest pocket, Frank followed the hard-packed dirt road for a short distance. He could hear some music and occasionally a flicker of light from beyond the bend in the road.
When he got closer, he could discern the shadowy outlines of some of the campers and several bright lights. That was when he decided to slip into the bushes and follow a game trail that looped behind a small, brick building. On closer inspection, he realized the brick structure was a simple bath house. Four toilets, a couple of separate showers and a pair of sinks on each end made it a typical campground luxury. There was a small cleared area around the bathhouse, but it looked like everyone was gathering further into the campsite. An aluminum ladder was lying next to the pump and that gave Frank an idea. Moving as quietly as he could, he picked it up and leaned it against the back side of the bathhouse. A heart-pounding climb later, he was lying on the back slope of the roof and peeking over the top.
The young couple he had noticed several times before, were sitting on a simple wooden bench that was part of the three rows of benches that formed a semi-circle. This was a small, natural amphitheater that faced the lake. Four telephone poles had been set into the ground at an angle so that they formed a tall wooden pyramid over a small stage. There was a cross at the crest of the pyramid. All of the Travelers and their friends had joined and the priest took the stage.
The padre watched the last stragglers sit down and held up his hands. “Okay, everyone… Pay attention! I know we all want to get going, so I’ll make it brief. For the benefit of those who are here for the very first time, I want you to remember that the outside boundaries of my property are all marked with a white-painted fence. Do NOT cross these fences. We have more than two hundred acres to run and that should be enough. We have never allowed hunting with weapons, so there are way too many deer.” That comment drew smiles and nods from one Traveler group and similar from a scattering of others before he continued. “In addition, my flock has done very well this year and I’ve selected a dozen to cull. They were released in the pasture just outside the woods. Now for the warnings. Do NOT go near the house. The front pastures are not for hunting and my dogs are not tolerant of strangers. Only the forest and the two lower pastures are for our hunt this evening. Steve? I believe you had something to share as well?”
Steve stepped up on the stage and addressed the small crowd. “We are going to have a contest for the largest deer brought down tonight. We’ll weigh it as it is brought in and tomorrow, at the swap meet and luncheon, we’ll announce the winner. That’s all and good luck!” He thanked the priest and stepped back down.
Once again the priest held up his hands for attention. “Just one more thing… Don’t forget I’ll be holding services right here at ten in the morning. Any questions?” He looked around for a moment and when there were none, he continued. “Please join me in a prayer.” He bowed his head and asked for the Lord’s blessings on their gathering. At the muffled “Amen” he lowered his arms and started to get undressed.
Frank was grinning like a fool. It was illegal to hunt deer at night and here was a whole pack of folks getting ready to do it. Not only that, but it looked like this priest was running an illegal hunting camp. He did wonder what they were going to use for the hunt, since there were no rifles that he could make out. Several of his shots would be high quality with all the bright light they had around that stage. It looked like a couple of campfires had been setup, along with some charcoal grilles, but none of these had been lit, yet.
The photographer let his attention slip during the prayer but it snapped back a moment later when he saw first the preacher and then about a dozen others getting undressed.
“What th’ kinky hell is goin’ on?” Frank murmured to himself. This didn’t stop him from taking shot after shot as some of the gypsies walked back to the campers and others were getting naked. There were several very pretty women, but one absolutely stunning young woman had black hair that flowed past her shoulders. She and her boyfriend were also stripping. Well aware of the fact that sex sells, he made sure to get plenty of her images. He stopped, yanked the memory card from his camera, replaced it with an empty one, and kept shooting.
Father Phil was standing, naked and with his arms folded, watching the others. Frank made sure he got several shots of that pose. It would not go over well with his church leaders, but it would surely make Frank a ton of cash.
Once more he focused on the raven-haired beauty and her boyfriend. “Damn! She has great tits.” He muttered. At that instant, she gave her boyfriend a quick kiss and the pair of them squatted down. They seemed to glow a bright blue for just a second and before his camera could adjust there was a large gray wolf and a sleek black leopard in their place. Frank’s jaw dropped wide open. He tried to refocus and then realized that there were a whole series of blue flashes and in every case, the humans were gone and had been replaced with some wild beast. A few of the ones that kept their clothing sat sipping drinks, smiling, pointing and commenting on the changes their friends and family were experiencing.
His heart in his throat, Frank kept shooting, more from habit and reflexes than anything else. There were huge dogs that he recognized as Deerhounds, more leopards and wolves and even a black bear.
As the last of them ran, bounded and loped out of the light and into the woods, he began to understand.
That was when it dawned on him. His escape path led through the woods and back up a quarter mile of uphill country road to his car. All the beasts had run deeper into the woods, but he remembered the preacher saying they could hunt the pastures as well. Those pastures were between him and the safety of his car.
Three years later, Sapphire stared at the old mirror over the dresser and whispered, “Shit! Here I am, almost eighteen and still a scrawny bitch. No wonder only the loser geeks seem to like me.”
Only one guy had invited her to the prom and she had accepted just to avoid the ignominy of attending alone. All the big, handsome dudes had hooked up with the blonde babes with their Barbie doll figures. She still wasn’t sure Roger was a good idea. This evening was only their second date and the prom was still a couple of weeks away.
The fancy bra had some padding, but it didn’t do that much for her baby boobies. Well, maybe the tight sweater and really short skirt would help.
“Wow!” His soft exclamation told her she had chosen right. “You look great.”
“Thanks. Come on. Let’s get out of here before mom gets back.”
“She knows we’re going out tonight, right?”
“Yeah, but she hates this skirt and heels. She says it makes me look like a hooker.”
Roger all but laughed. “I guess she thinks that’s a bad thing, eh?”
She was all set to take his head off, when she saw the grin and realized it was just his half–assed, nervous attempt at humor. “Yeah. Whatever. Let’s get moving.”
The movie was just okay, pizza with the other couple was fun, and finally, they ended up alone in his car. They made out for a few minutes and then, he pulled back. His face, in the moonlight, was troubled.
“What’s the matter, Roger?”
“You know, I really like you and I’m really happy you’re with me. Right?”
“Yeah… and what are you getting at?”
“Saph, I get the feeling you’re not really here. That you’re really tense and worried and… I dunno… Maybe I’m doing something wrong.”
She sat back in her seat and looked away for a moment. “I’m sorry. I know I should relax and try to be sexier, but I just don’t feel it.”
“Is it me? My looks… or am I doing something you don’t like?”
“I don’t know. I enjoy your company but I just don’t feel comfortable for some reason. I’m sorry. Maybe you should find another date for the prom.” As soon as she said it, she knew he was both hurt and pissed.
“Yeah. You’re right. Maybe I should.” He started the engine and drove to a nearby convenience store.
“Why are we stopping here? You want a drink?”
“No. I’m fine. Just fucking fine. My girlfriend just dumped me two weeks before the prom and I’m just fucking fine. Get out.” He hadn’t raised his voice, but the tone scared her.
“Hey! We’re five miles from my place. Just take me home and we can talk about it tomorrow.”
“No need for any more talking. You’ve been teasing me for the last month and I’ve had enough. Just get the fuck out of the car. You got a phone. Call your mom. I’m heading back to town.”
She was close to tears. “Come on, Roger. I know you’re mad, but this is the middle of nowhere. It’s not the best place for a girl to be alone at eleven at night.”
He got out, came around to her side, and opened the door. “Get the fuck out, now!”
She stood up beside the door and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Please don’t do this.”
He grabbed her hand and yanked her out of the way, and slammed the door.
“Ouch! What the hell was that for?” Suddenly, she wasn’t as hurt as she was angry.
He swung around and slapped her face, his arm was returning for a backhand when she stepped aside, grabbed his wrist and yanked. Roger stumbled forward, banged his chin on the roof of the car and her elbow caught him hard in the rib cage.
With a yelp, he stumbled away from her. “You fucking bitch!”
Stepping away from the car, she balanced herself just as he reached out again. She slapped his hand aside and his face took on a mask of pure fury. He rushed in, punching at her face and she spun his attack aside, snapping a kick to the side of his knee as he passed. He yelled and tumbled over the rough gravel.
When he got back up, his face was bloody, the shoulder of his shirt was torn and he was limping. Muttering obscenities, and without waiting for another round, he stumbled around the car, got in, hit the door locks and almost ran over her toes backing away.
She watched him peel out, scattering gravel. Then she heard someone clapping softly, behind her.
Note: This novel is about 112 thousand words in length.