Animal


Jo ran and didn't stop even when she reached the end of the street. In a panic, she picked a direction, turned and sprinted on. People shouted behind her and as she ran past the rows of shops, fingers pointed at her. It couldn't be true. It couldn't be true.

At the edge of the shopping strip, Jo stopped and looked at herself in the window of a boutique. She gasped. Two bright orange eyes with cat slits for pupils gazed back at her, wide and bright and animalistic. Jo shuddered. They were right. What had happened to her? She looked like one of them. She didn't understand what had happened. One moment, she'd been yelling at Bertie - that jerk. Every time she saw Jo, she had to say something terrible to her and today, with her terrible day at school and her late night, and everything else going on, Jo just couldn't take it. And she'd yelled back. But then, Bertie had gasped, screamed, and pointed. "Freak! Freak!" she'd cried. And when everyone else had started shouting, Jo knew something was wrong.

Behind her, someone else screamed.

"There she is! We have to stop her!"

Jo gasped and kept running. Suddenly, someone reached out and grabbed her arm. Jo jerked back and - to her horror - growled. She covered her mouth with both hands.

"Jo, it's me."

She blinked and her eyes focused on Samuel. "It's you! Samuel, I'm still in here. It's still Jo. You have to believe me."

Her friend nodded. "I do, but I don't think anyone else will. Jo, you've got to get out of here before they take you to prison." "But this isn't my fault. How is this even possible? Neither of my parents are Changers."

Samuel beckoned her down the alley. "I know. I know. It doesn't make sense. But there's no denying it. You're going to go full animal soon."

He was right, of course. Jo could feel the animal rising within her.

She followed him down the alley and into the twisted backstreet, the playground of their childhood. They ran and ran until they reached the city gates and the big wall that surrounded it. Jo walked up to the loose panel in the wall. They'd gone through it hundreds of times before.

"Will you tell my mom and dad I love them?" Jo said.

"What? Why would I tell them that? I'm coming with you."

Jo stopped lifted the panel and turned to him. "No you're not." Samuel crossed his arms. "You need help. I'm not letting you go out there alone."

"But I'm a Changer now." Jo gestured to herself. "I'm dangerous."

"You're still my friend and I'm not letting you just go."

"But...but..." Jo looked around. Why was he always so stubborn? "I'll need someone on the inside. You know, in the future."

Samuel held up a hand, which was usually an indication his mind was made up. "Nice try. But I'm going with you."

The sounds of shouting grew behind them.

"Hurry," Samuel said. "If we don't go now, you'll never get out."

Jo sighed. "Fine. But when you see me starting to turn, run away."

They climbed through the panel and felt around in the dark until they reached the other side of the thick wall, and unhooked the loose panel into the jungle.

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