Excerpts From Unfinished Novels #2: Shift To The Beat Of Your Heart

Genre: horror/slice-of-life/thriller

Warnings: mild gore, mentions of blood

Word Count: 1582

Summary: Chloe’s spent years and years training and learning to control her bloodlust so she could finally join the human world and go to school. Naturally the day that was meant to happen was the day the world went to hell…

Excerpt is from the start of Part II of the novel.

It was meant to be Chloe’s first day of school, not the day the world went to hell.

She’d spent years, YEARS, gaining control of her abilities and taming her bloodlust, learning to control her body’s desire for transformation, to keep her movements smooth and natural, all so that she would finally be able to go out into the world. Her father Richard had done everything to try and dissuade her from the idea of going to school; he had been alive for over 150 years, he had multiple degrees, he could teach her anything she wanted. Chloe had had to patiently remind him again and again that it wasn’t about the learning, it was about the people.

Humans.

Chloe had read about them, had watched them from afar, but had never actually met one. There was something about them that was so fascinating; they were so physically weak and limited, and yet their minds…they were so full of creativity and ingenuity, shaping the world around them so that they could thrive. The books they read, the music and art they created, the technology they made, Chloe had absorbed it all throughout the early years of her life. At first, she had been content with her books, music, and recently, the internet, but now it wasn’t enough. Now she wanted the real deal; she wanted to delve into the world of humans first-hand – talk with them and listen to them, she wanted to get to know them. She loved her father, but since her mother had died when she was a baby it had been just him and her, and the occasional relative that came by to visit, and she was lonely and hungry for contact.

She’d argued and debated with Richard, hashing out the pros and cons of her going to high school, all of which boiled down to:

  • PRO: she would get to make new friends.
  • CON: she might reveal herself to the humans which would lead to either (a) them hurting/killing her, or (b) her hurting/killing/eating them.

Chloe hadn’t let up with her arguments though, and eventually her father had agreed that she could go to school once she’d been fully trained. This had led to ten human years of Chloe pushing her body and its abilities to its limit to ensure she could maintain a human form long-term. Once she had mastered this, they had taken mini-excursions to nearby towns, gradually increasing her proximity to the humans so she could learn to rein in her bloodlust in the face of their scent. There had been a few near-disasters but, for the most part, Chloe and her father were exceptionally proud of how developed her control was.

So now it was September. And Chloe was going to school.

She was in the kitchen, picking at her breakfast of deer heart and liver, her excitement causing her body to rapidly shift between forms.

“Honey, if you can’t control yourself here, how are you going to control yourself once you get into school?” Richard asked, looking over the morning paper.

Chloe swallowed a chunk of meat, quickly pulling herself into her human form. She smiled apologetically, and gave herself a once over to make sure she was completely stable, immediately zoning in on her right leg which would not stop twitching. She frowned down at the tendrils of black mist that were seeping from it, blurring its edges. Immediately they retracted and her leg was stable again. Her father smiled approvingly and Chloe sighed in relief and focused on the TV to distract herself. There was some generic morning chat show on, and the host was talking to three teenage girls. Chloe was about to change the channel when she suddenly noticed the headline at the bottom of the screen:

EXTRAORDINARY LIVES: WE’RE SHAPESHIFTERS, AND WE’RE PROUD OF OUR ABILITIES!

Chloe scrambled for the remote control, turning the volume up full blast.

“So the three of you are shapeshifters?” the host of the show asked, smiling his patented generic smile.

“It’s like, a bit more complicated than that,” one of them said coyly, “but essentially yes that’s what we are.”

“Okay, and what can you change in to?”

“Anything,” another piped up excitedly. “Actually our bodies shift naturally when left to themselves; we have to work pretty hard to stay in one form for a long time.”

“And that’s what you’re doing now?”

“Mmhmm.”

“I have to say girls, but I’m finding this a little farfetched; would you mind giving us a demonstration?”

“Sure!”

Chloe’s jaw dropped as the bodies of three girls on the TV exploded outwards in a haze of black mist, and their bodies started going through their natural cycle of shifting between forms – human, animal, and anything in between; forms that shouldn’t exist naturally. There was a shocked gasp and several screams from the audience, while the host of the show smiled triumphantly. Distantly, Chloe registered her father muttering something, but she was far too engrossed in what was happening on the TV; shifters, revealing themselves to the world without a care, and so far, no one was trying to kill them! And they hadn’t killed anyone either!

“That’s amazing girls,” the host said.

“Thanks.”

“So can I ask why you’ve decided to go public with your ability?”

“We want to be famous,” the third shifter told him. “Like, make a reality TV show about our lives or something.”

“Well I think that sounds like a definitely possibility.” The host chuckled, but quickly went silent when he registered that one of the girls was sidling around the back of his chair, her hands caressing his neck. “Umm…”

“Brianna, what the hell are you doing?” one of the other girls hissed from the couch.

“I can’t help it Sarah,” Brianna said pitifully, her hands, now claws, starting to dig into the hosts neck. “He smells so good…” Long nails extended from her claws and pierced the host’s neck; he let out a cry of pain as blood ran from the puncture marks.

“You said you had it under control!” Sarah yelled, standing up and striding over to Brianna to pull her off the host.

“I’m sorry!” Brianna wailed, as she was dragged backwards.

She hadn’t managed to pull her claws out fully, and as she was dragged backwards they ripped open the skin of the host’s neck. Blood gushed out and Sarah stumbled backwards, throwing an arm over her mouth and nose. Now free, Brianna leapt onto the host, her mouth descending onto his neck, clamping down ferociously on the wounds to bite and tear at his skin and muscles. The host screamed and flailed, trying to shove her off, but his attempts were useless.

The studio was in chaos; people were screaming and trying to exit the room in a stampede. Several people tripped and fell and were trampled on, blood leaking out onto the floor from where they had been kicked and stepped on. Brianna was working her way through the now-dead host’s neck, Sarah was curled up on the floor, rocking and sobbing, and the third shifter had descended onto the audience, biting and tearing into any body that she got her claws on. The carnage continued on-screen for a few moments more before it went blank, the scene in the studio replaced with a sign saying ‘We’re sorry, we are currently experiencing technical difficulties.’

Chloe gaped soundlessly at the TV, her heart pounding and body shifting rapidly from one form to another, any semblance of control vanished.

Richard sighed, slowly folded up his newspaper and stood up.

“Shit,” he hissed, slamming the paper down on the table, causing Chloe to jump in alarm.

“I’m sorry honey, but you won’t be going to school today.”

“Why? No one’s going to know that I’m a shifter; I won’t act like them I swear! You know I have control!” Chloe protested.

“It’s nothing to do with your control,” her father replied, scrubbing a hand wearily over his face. “Now that those idiotic girls have revealed themselves to the world, people will start hunting us.”

“But no one knows what we are; we’ve always stayed hidden.”

“There are people out there, people from your mother and I’s past, that know of us. The only reason they haven’t come looking is because they’ve not needed to. But now…We have to leave. Go to your room and pack a suitcase – essentials only.”

“What? What do you mean we have to leave?”

“We need to leave Dublin.”

“For how long?”

“Until it’s safe. Which may be never, I don’t know. Go get your things now, we’re leaving in ten minutes whether you’re packed or not.”

Chloe stared at him wide-eyed, wanting to argue with him, plead with him, make him realise that there was no need for them to run. He stared back at her pleadingly, and Chloe all but sprinted out of the kitchen and up to her room. There was some brief agonising over which books to bring, but before she knew it Chloe was bundled into the passenger seat of her father’s car and they were speeding down the road. Richard’s legs were shifting so wildly Chloe was surprised he could work the pedals, and she struggled to gather her thoughts, to say something to him, try to figure out what was going on.

“Where are we going?” she eventually blurted out.

Her father sighed and replied, “Somewhere I’d hoped you’d never have to know about.”

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