Its late. The moon, full and heavy, is blindingly luminous through the window above Ava Danes bed. Its not a comforting light. It only makes the wide night sky seem even blacker.

Ava can feel it through the glass, bathing her sweating skin like iced water.

Shes so hot.

She leans over and heaves open the window. Her shaky breath mists out and mingles with the humid night air. She lifts the damp, dark hair from the back of her neck, to expose it to the cool breeze.

So many scents and sounds carry in from outside …

Theres a tiny electric buzz sparking in her bones. It tickles and warms her as if her whole body is itching on the inside and she has no way to scratch. Its maddening. Dizzying.

Ava shuts her eyes and shakes her head. She wants to let go. To lose the fear and the doubts – just give in to the craving. Why should she fight it? This has to happen …

Avas heart begins to pound. It feels like a fist knocking against her ribs, so hard it hurts. She can see its movement beneath the soaked white cotton of her nightclothes.

The moon seems incandescent like it has caught fire.

Ava knows now. It will happen tonight.

The burning heat now pounding through her body seems to be melting her bones. The pain is delicious and irresistible. Ava wonders how she could ever have wished it away.

The change feels maddening near now. Why won it come?

Ava clutches the bedclothes, panting for breath, filling her lungs with the scents of the night. She could howl with pain and frustration.

So close …

She bites her lip, tastes the iron tang of her blood – then smiles as, under the moons gaze, spasms of sheer exhilaration shoot through her.

It has begun.

Ava laughs feverishly as her bones begin to shift. Muscles tear and ripple. Teeth twist into spikes. Silken hair sprouts from every sweating pore. She shucks off her damp, clinging clothes, rolls over onto her front, and then giddily raises herself from the bed.

Her heart beats sure and strong. This room, these things, these meaningless possessions, none of them are hers. All she owns is the night world outside – and everything in it.

She leaps through the window onto the roof outside, then down to the grassy verge leading into the woods. She glories in her speed, her agility.

Soon she is bounding over sweet-smelling earth. At last, she feels alive. Feels she belongs. She catches the sweet smell of a frightened animal close by. She slips through the undergrowth towards it. A deer, startled, bursts from its hiding place and starts to bolt. She matches it for pace and watches it swerve and dance with fear.

Finally, she tires of the chase and slams the animal to the ground. Her claws tear into the deers flank; her jaws close around its throat, sharp teeth piercing the downy neck. Blood floods over her lips. Its everywhere, sweet and sticky, she is bathed in it. Exultant, she raises her head and howls her thanks to the moon …

*****

A high scream tore out of Ava as her eyes snapped open.

She jolted upright in her bed, trembling, gasping for air. She pressed her hands to her face, fingers searching the smooth clammy skin as hot tears poured over them. Then she gagged. The dream had never been so vivid; the blood had never seemed so real.

The moon was just a soft glow through her flimsy curtains, but Ava feared even that intrusion. She pushed sweat-drenched hair from her eyes and turned on her bedside light. Looking around at the familiar objects in the room, she reassured herself she was normal. For now …

But the images of the dream wouldn fade this time. The moon. The blood.

The exultant wolf.

Thats going to be me, she thought, still trembling. Thats what Im going to become.

Ava dreaded the day she would think those thoughts not with fear and guilt and shame – but with pleasure and pride …

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