At that moment, I felt further away from my home than ever before. Something internal separated me from it. Despite how much I knew I belonged there, I didn't feel it anymore. Something inside was beginning to break away.
I sat on the edge of my balcony; internally discomforted, letting my legs dangle off the end. As I gazed at my city beneath, I felt disconcerted. The castle in which I lived sat on top of a hill, just outside the outskirts of the city. My family's city. Ever since it's creation, the city has belonged to our clan.
One of my ancient grandfathers was a founder of the city. He had been a prominent farmer and as the population grew, so did his profit. Everyone around needed their food and my grandfather was the only farmer for miles. As time passed, he gained power and respect within the community. After he unveiled his secret, the people grew fearful and more respectful. Ever since the day my grandfather showed his other side, the city has belonged to us.
Although our life is eternal, we do age, at first. Our kind, or at least my clan, ages until we reach twenty-five. Then we are frozen in time, internally maturing until we are either killed or we relocate to live quietly. The Bradley family residence used to be in the center of the city, until my grandfather passed the city down to my father. Despite the fact that my mother and I both adored the city, my father resented it and didn't want to be in the middle of it or in control of it. So he moved us out of the center of the city and into our current residence.
The city's condition began to worry me. I grew more anxious and worried as the city became ridden with crime and death. The old Bradley place had been more than just a simple home. It had been a symbol of authority. After my dad left, the city was infiltrated by hoodlums, who took control of the city.
After the city grew more corrupt and desolate, my father gave up completely on taking control of anything. There was one night soon after, that my uncle Nicholai came to visit and discuss some business with my father. I had watched silently from the spiral staircase that overlooked the main room.
"Brother, you cannot let our family's city end this way." Uncle Nicholai had said.
"Nicholai, you know how much I resent the city. If the city folk wish to destroy themselves from the inside out, then so be it."
"Have you no decency, man?" Uncle Nicholai shouted.
"Father gave me the rights, Nicholai. You will not come into my home and speak to your lord that way."
"You were given the rights because you were first born, not because father thought it was right. It was tradition."
"No matter. Is this the only reason you've come? To belittle the way I run my city?"
"You don't run your city!" Uncle Nicholai was getting angry. "You let the hellions run the city."
"Think of it as free will. I instill rules and laws, but they have the choice to disobey." My father remained even toned. However, the irritation swam in his eyes.
"Your laws and rules aren't enforced and are meaningless. Something must be done, brother."
"I will not disturb the cycle in which my city functions, Nicholai."
"Fine then. You've damned us all." Uncle Nicholai stormed out of the castle. After a long sigh, my father moved to the window, silently watching over the city.
After that Uncle Nicholai stopped visiting. Rumors about my uncle began to fly. People in alleys whispered about a small group of warriors, under the command of my uncle Nicholai, who were assembling to overthrow my father. This caused me much distress, but I never vocalized my fears. I knew that in his own way, my father did care about the city. I didn't want to make him anymore stressed out than he already was.
"Scarlett!" My mother called from the lower floor, tearing me from my thoughts. As was expected, I picked myself up off the balcony and headed downstairs. It was the eve of my seventeenth birthday. The following day would be my Transformation. Up until now, I've left this little detail out. My family, my ancestors and I are what you would call shape shifters. My clan shifted into different types of felines. No one is sure where our type originated or how. Each one of us has a pre-determined alter soul, which is a feline. We are born with them. However, they are not accessible until our seventeenth birthday. Which is why we call it the Transformation. Midnight of its seventeenth birthday is the first time the shifter will transition to their feline form. On the eve of such a night, a psychic visits the home of the shifter to read the prophecy and reveal the AlterSoul of the shifter.
"What is it mother?" I asked, knowing full well what was going on.
"She has arrived. While you discuss things with her, your father and I will be upstairs."
I nodded in reply. Holding my head high, I walked into the dining room and seated myself across from our visitor. My home is a castle, as I previously mentioned. As many traditional gothic castles were built, ours was no different. The high walls, towers, dungeon and stone all made for a rather dismal atmosphere. The walls throughout the castle were slate and covered in many decorations. The large hallways were lined by paintings of each of the royal families before mine, dating back centuries. The main room was lit by a fireplace and the furniture was covered in pelts and other trophies. Never once would you have seen a feline pelt in our home. We refused to kill our kind. Every room in the castle was spacey and open, usually furnished with dark décor that our family had collected and passed down.
A young woman, with pitch black hair and beady black eyes, stared at me from across the table. Wrapped around her thin body was a black shawl, covering a slinky black dress. Three medallions hung low from her neck and around her fingers were matching rings. Her eyes were filled with distrust and resentment. Probably not a fan of my kind. And as fate would have it, sometime in her life an ancestor of her's told her that delivering prophecies to Halfies was her destiny. Halfies are what the humans in our town called any kind of shifter.
"Scarlett Bradley, I assume." Her voice was as friendly as her appearance. Its raspy tone was almost as bad as claws against blackboard.
"Yes, and you are?"
"Starr and that's all you need to know." Starr reached for my hand and pulled it forward. She began muttering, low and quiet, in tongues as her fingers traced over my palm. As each second passed I grew more and more anxious. Her voice became louder and the lights suddenly died out. My hand dropped to the table as a match sparked on. Starr lit three candles and then picked my hand back up. Her head was bowed and she began to shake. A moment later her neck snapped back up and her eyes glowed bright white.
In an unfamiliar voice, she said, "There is much turmoil ahead of you, young one. As tragedy will strike repeatedly, a difficult decision will reveal itself. You will have to choose. Save yourself and abandon everything you know or give up a piece of yourself to save it."
"What?" I replied. That didn't make sense. What would I have to do? Starr's head was bowed again and suddenly the lights flickered back on. The candles extinguished themselves and a chill raced through the room.
Starr's voice returned as she coughed and ran her fingers across my palm once more. "Your AlterSoul is a lynx, Scarlett." Starr reached into the bag at her feet and removed a small piece of paper. "Your lynx is special. Best night vision possible with flaming orange fur. She's beautiful." Starr sketched out the lynx and handed the paper to me. "You'll see the true beauty when you transform."
"Starr, is there anything else you can tell me about my future?"
"Scarlett, I cannot explain your future. I myself do not know what I said. All I am is a messenger. What was just said is between you and your god."
"Nothing at all?" I pleaded. Her beady eyes glared at my pathetic countenance. She sighed and held out her hands.
"Give me your hands and bow your head." I did as I was told. Starr gripped my hands tightly as she muttered in a distinctly different language. The room began to spin and everything became hot. A stabbing pain coursed through my body for just a moment, before it receded. "Your future is cloudy. There is much deceit and discontent. Amongst all of the tragedy, there will be a realization of truth."
Suddenly, Starr dropped my hands. A breeze blew back through the room and Starr rose. She glanced down at me, sadly. "I pity you." She said with finality and took her leave.
The spirit's words replayed through my mind. Save yourself and abandon everything you know or give up a piece of yourself to save it. A moment later, my parents descended the stairs.
"What is it, Scarlett? What did your prophecy tell you?" Mother asked with intense curiosity. My mother was of another clan, one who was much more organic and natural with their transitions. They believed in a coming of age transformation ceremony, where the Halfie is cast into the forest to experience their transition alone.
"Father," I glanced up at him. "Something is very wrong. Do you know who possesses the psychic?"
"Yes, it is the god who watches over whatever animal your AlterSoul takes a form of."
"Mine was a lynx. So you're saying that my AlterSoul told me my future?"
"The god who guides the lynx did, yes." He studied me, carefully before sighing. "What was it exactly that you were told?"
"Something about tragedy and a decision."
"What exactly were you told, Scarlett?"
I repeated the words as they replayed through my mind. "There is much turmoil ahead of you, young one. As tragedy will strike repeatedly, a difficult decision will reveal itself. You will have to choose. Save yourself and abandon everything you know or give up a piece of yourself to save it."
My mother gasped. "No."
"Yes, my dear." Her father sighed, "The Rebellion is on the rise, Scarlett. It's more than just a rumor. My men have seen them. This is probably the beginning of the tragedy that your future holds. Other than that, I cannot interpret the prophecy." He looked at me with compassion. "Scarlett, I want you to stay away from the city. We don't need the Rebels to get a hold of you. We will see you in a few hours for your Transformation"
My mouth opened and I had a protest forming, but I closed it once more. "Thank you, father." I sighed and returned to my room. Once again I took my place on my balcony. My city stared back up at me, calling. There was nothing that I wanted more than to jump down and run into it. My Transformation was only hours away and I had done nothing in preparation. My family's history called for 'mental and physical preparation'.
As children we were told that the Transformation was a magical and enlightening experience and if we were lucky we would get a strong animal. If we did, it meant that we were destined to be strong warriors and fight for our kind. If we were given a smaller and meeker animal, we were meant to orchestrate and lead the future generations. My lynx was strong and sleek.
As I grew older I learned that the Transformation was physically and mentally challenging. No matter how much preparation we put in, nothing could prepare us for what we'd experience.