Story and Artwork by Ian Sifton, Age 17, Canada
Polly Starfire, Born August 1st 1975, Died March 14th 1991, A Wonderful Daughter and Caring Citizen.
“And my best friend,” Zoë added in her head.
She stood in front of the grave twiddling the blue flower in her hands. A breeze flew by, and she turned her gaze towards a rumble in the darkening clouds.
A storm was coming.
Amongst the jumble of emotions her inherently heightened senses could detect, two stood out. The first was disappointment. She was disappointed with Polly for never coming to her for help. The two of them, like other Fables their age, had difficulty dealing with the control of their Changeling sides. Some people had turned to helix, a new street drug that made it easier to control transformations, but with very dangerous side effects. And she was crushed by her inability to see how deep and how dangerous Polly had gotten into it.
The second overpowering emotion was anger. It was coming from the crowd of Polly’s relatives. Clad in black, they had come to pay their respects. But they weren’t angry that Polly was dead. They were angry that Zoë was at the funeral. She could hear it in the air; every other blink, their eyes flashed from normal to scarlet, trying to burn holes in her back. Her family and Polly’s had never seen eye-to-eye.
Spent with grief, Zoë finished her goodbye. Walking away across the frosting grass, she silently dared the cold faces of the Starfire congregation to break the wide berth they were giving her. Some looked away; others frowned in her direction or whispered to another.
One girl, Polly’s cousin umpteen-times removed, caught her gaze. Zoë kept walking but didn’t break eye contact. The girl’s eyes flashed scarlet like her hair, and she curled her lip in a small snarl revealing a fang. Zoë stopped in her tracks.
The air tensed. Eyes flashed in the girl’s direction. Anyone with heightened senses like Zoë and the Starfires could tell when a Fable was transforming.
She eyed the girl in a deadlock. She could feel her own brown eyes turning the colour of amber. Her feet dug into the ground, ready for the girl to make a move.
“My friend just died.” She muttered under her breath. “I’m really not in the mood to care about our families’ damned political feud.”
The Starfire girl’s bright hair whipped back as the wind came down. Baring her teeth she stepped from the crowd. The onlookers sucked in breath. Zoë clenched her fists, nails digging into her palms. From deep inside her, a feral and wild fury crept up her throat. She wasn’t ready to unleash it yet. She was too young to control it. Despite what she’d just said, she didn’t care anymore. She wanted to scream, claw, and bite. Make someone pay for putting Polly in the ground. She didn’t care who it was. She just wanted to get it all out.
And since this girl wanted to make a face and bare fangs, she was more than welcoming Zoë to let all hell loose.
Then quick as a flash, someone else appeared in front of the girl.
The woman’s jet black raincoat amplified the colour of her pinned up red hair. She looked frailer than the Starfire girl, but her aura was of one who knew how to wield authority. Mother Nightfeeder, the legends called her. Zoë knew her as Mary Starfire, Polly’s mother.
Mary glared furiously at the girl, who now looked like she was leaning towards flight instead of fight.
Leaning in, she whispered something into the girl’s ear so low that Zoë couldn’t hear. The girl’s eyes quivered for a moment before glaring in Zoë’s direction. Then she nodded and stepped back into the crowd.
Zoë unclenched her palms and felt her eyes return to normal. The growl in her throat receded but clawed impatiently at her insides. Slowly, the crowd turned their attention back to the grave. The wind rustled through Zoë’s dark hair, a drop of rain tapped her shoulder. Mary walked over to her. The two stared at each other silently for a moment. Zoë had never known what to think of her; after all, Mary had never approved of her friendship with Polly.
Mary reached into her coat. Zoë instinctively tensed, but relaxed when she saw that Mary had only procured an umbrella. The rain was coming down faster. She opened the umbrella and looked into Zoë’s eyes one more time. The weather had now turned into a downpour.
No please, thank you. She thought. My hair’s not getting soaked here.
Then, as if reading her mind, Mary handed the umbrella to her. Confused, she took it after a moment’s hesitation. It was only then that Zoë took a good look at her. Even soaked in the rain, Mary looked strong and beautiful. She’d been through a lot the past few days. If it weren’t for the fact that she might kill her if she tried, Zoë wanted to give her a hug.
But Mary’s face was turned back to the cemetery, and all Zoë could do was walk back to the car.
Her dad was waiting for her. She got in on the passenger side and slouched into the seat, not caring that the leather was getting soaked and ruined.
“You okay?” he asked through the cigarette in his mouth.
“What do you think?” she shot back.
His response was a sigh and another drag of his cigarette. Zoë half-heartedly wished for one herself. Then her dad opened the door.
“I’ll be right back. I just need to speak to Mary.”
“Wait! Dad, that’s not a good–”
Slam! Went the door.
Her father didn’t bother to shield himself from the rain, so by the time he got to Mary his jacket was drenched.
Zoë rolled her eyes and silently swore to the ceiling. “Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t do anything stupid.”
The blow to her dad’s jaw could be heard from the car, so when Mary started shouting Zoë thought she was sitting right next to her.
“Get, Out, Of here, Bigby! Do not ever cross my sight again! Or, so help me, I will bury you where you stand!”
Big Bad Wolf, AKA town sheriff, AKA her father, dragged himself up from the soggy ground. He clutched his mouth with one hand, broken no doubt. His jacket and hair were covered with muddy splotches. He gave Mary a sidelong glance before walking back to the car.
Zoë looked at him with an annoyed glare. “Now, it’s my turn to ask. Are YOU okay?”
“Sheh brock mah jahw.” He grumbled as he pulled out of the parking lot. He twisted his neck sideways and moved his mouth up and down. “Don’t worry, it’s already healing.”
“I was leaning more towards why she decided to deal you a sucker punch.”
It was dark now. The downtown streetlights cast shadow after shadow on her father’s grimaced face. He was thinking hard about something. He always made that face when he was figuring something out.
“I needed to ask her some questions about helix. Considering what happened to her daughter, I thought Mary would want to help me.”
“At a funeral!? You thought that would be the best place to question the parent of my dead friend! And you wonder why she cracked you across the mouth!”
“Better now than wait for it to be too late. Tomorrow someone else could OD and I need to find the supplier.”
“And how is questioning my friend’s mother going to help a case that you’ve been stuck on for three and half months!?”
The tears were finally streaming down Zoë’s face. The anger she’d kept down for the past week was bubbling up, and, again, she felt her eyes changing to amber.
Her dad looked at her, and his expression took a somber note. “It almost got out again, didn’t it?”
Zoë opened her mouth to launch a volley of accusations. Nothing came out.
She collapsed into her seat and let it all out in one giant howl. The angry looks, the disappointment, the fury, it was all too much. She was tired of keeping it all in. It wanted out, and she did too. She tasted blood in her mouth and ran her tongue on the inside of her new fangs.
Let it all out.
And everything went blank.
“Zoë Wolf, open your eyes. Look at me please.”
She opened her eyes. Her father was on his knees holding her face in both hands. His face was bloody and wet with rain. Were they outside? It smelled like a downtown road. And was something metallic burning?
A part of her wanted to sink her teeth into his face, to taste flesh. But something made her stop. His face had grown hair. His bones had gone angular and his muscles bigger. And his eyes were now amber just like hers. And what she saw in the reflection of those golden mirrors shook her to the core.
She was a wolf, literally.
Her father in control as he was, had only transformed halfway. She, on the other hand, was a different story. In his eyes she saw a big black snout attached to a dark wet head from which to glowing orbs of yellow flared with confusion and hate. Her body had grown bulkier, and her outfit was torn where new muscles bulged. She stood on legs that seemed to go from hind to human with each pant of breath and thought. The horror ended at her hands which were now big, hairy, and tipped with wickedly sharp nails.
She didn’t know whether to feel free or mortified. Her head was spinning between reason and instinct. She felt herself trying to break free of her father’s grip but he held her face like a vice.
“Listen. To. Me.”
She glared at her father.
“I know this hasn’t been easy for you, okay? It was hard for me growing up to keep my Changeling under control. And I know it has been harder for you to control it these past few days. What happened to Polly wasn’t your fault.”
Bite him, a tiny voice inside her said. Sink your teeth into his neck.
“You don’t need to blame yourself, or your Changeling. Remember that you are a Fable, my daughter, and more than that you were the friend of a Nightfeeder.”
Nightfeeders. Slaughter them all.
“It’s a burden what our kind has to go through growing up. But you being Polly’s friend shows that you can be better than what is locked away inside you.”
He’s a fool. You don’t want to listen to him.
“Remember that, Zoë, remember who you are.”
Kill him now!
NO! That’s not what I am…
I am you.
No, I’m Zoë.
Is that what you think?
She opened her eyes. She took in all that was around her. They were in the middle of the road. The rain came down in a torrent. The car was flipped over; flames licked the sides of the engine. She looked at her dad who still held her face in his hands.
His eyes. They were brown again.
She felt something rising inside of her. A lump of concern and fear welled inside her throat. After what felt like forever, she dared to ask the question that was anchoring her bones to the ground.
“Dad?” she whispered.
“Am…am I…are…my eyes…?”
She waited to for him to look downcast and tell her the words she dreaded to hear.
But he smiled and said, “Yes, Zoë, yes they are.”
And she collapsed into his arms, the tears coming down like the rain.