What I expected him to do was shoot me. I didn't expect him to talk to me. I mean, who talks to their prey?
With every sentence, he seemed to move closer to me. "You thought you could evade me?" the hunter asked, his voice echoing off the rock behind me, "thought you could fool me?" he laughed—his chuckle surprisingly striking my heart not with fear but with a jolt of annoyance. It occurred to me that this hunter was awfully cocky.
"You always think you have the upper hand," he took a step towards me, "but we know. I know. I know that you and I are of equal intelligence. That's why I have the upper hand—because I knew you would be clever enough to find a hiding place." He took a couple more steps in my direction—his gun still pointed at the space between my eyes.
I didn't know what to do. If I ran he'd shoot me, but if I stayed he'd shoot me. It didn't seem possible for me to get out of this situation without sustaining some sort of bullet wound.
I looked up to the goggles on his face. Even though I couldn't see his eyes through them, I knew he was staring into my bright yellow ones.
When he spoke again, his voice was softer and less boisterous, "I wonder what color your eyes really are."
His words stirred up more fear in me than his gun. My real eye color? Did he mean what I thought he did? Did he know I was a shapeshifter?
"Are they blue? Green? A warm brown?" he smiled at me.
I unwittingly took a step forward—something about him seemed…familiar.
"I bet you have these luscious blonde ringlets that reflect the rays in direct sunlight," he whispered. What he said, of course, wasn't at all true, but the sound of his voice was somehow drawing me in. "Or maybe you like to change your hair color in an attempt to match that beautiful light of yours."
Light? What light was he talking about?
Then it hit me. The light he was talking about was my aura. But if he could see my aura that meant he had to have one too. I stared at the glass where his eyes would be and slowly enlarged my scope of vision. Nothing. The hunter didn't have an aura—either that or it didn't work since I couldn't see his eyes. That had to be it. After all, only other supernaturals can see the aura of another supernatural. But if I really couldn't see the hunter's aura because I couldn't see his eyes, then that meant he was a supernatural…like me. It also meant he definitely knew I was a shapeshifter. Why would another supernatural hunt shapeshifters?
He took another step—making the distance between my snout and the tip of his gun only a few inches. So close to the barrel, I could see the woods around me reflected off its clean surface. There was no residue on the gun. He hadn't been the one to shoot at Jet and I before. Was it possible that he didn't want to kill me?
"Change," the hunter whispered to me.
It was then that I realized how close we had gotten—and how dangerous it was for me to be that close. I started to back away.
The hunter frowned. "I said, change back," he said a bit more harshly.
I continued to move back towards the shadow.
He raised his gun, resting its butt in his armpit, and aimed it at me—both his eyes locked on the bullet's target. "Change!" he shouted, "or I'll shoot!"
When my dad had pretended to be a hunter that day when I was nine, I never expected to find myself in the same, but very real, situation seven years later. I knew what I had to do—nothing. I had to let myself get shot. I couldn't reveal myself to this hunter.
Accepting my fate, I took a deep breath in and closed my eyes.
When nothing happened immediately I admit I peeked. And it was a good thing I did because in that next second a blur that blended in with the night air struck the hunter—knocking him to the ground.
Jet rushed to my side. He nudged my neck with his snout to make sure I was okay. I nudged him back but our reunion was short-lived when we both noticed the hunter reaching for his gun. Jet snarled and jumped towards the hunter—actually landing right on top of him—his paws making contact with the young man's chest. The hunter was desperately trying to get a hold of his gun but Jet reached out and bit the hunter's arm. He cried out and rolled over in attempt to cover his arm, throwing Jet off of him. Running back to me, Jet jerked his head to the right. I didn't need to be told twice. Following Jet, we ran away from the injured hunter as fast as we could.
Later that night, after I told my dad and siblings about Jet and I's confrontation with the hunters who knew we were shapeshifters and after my dad forbid any of us from shifting for the time being and after Jet decided to go home, I found myself in my Jeep driving down the road to Tommy's house. Despite the traumatic events that had happened earlier, I was still determined to figure out what this prophecy said or if was even about me—in fact, after what happened, I was probably even more determined to find the prophecy.
I parked my car in Tommy's driveway and walked up the steps to ring the doorbell. I hadn't gotten to see Tommy a lot over the summer, and whenever I did get to see him it was usually at the beach or in town. This was the first time I had been to his house since Tommy, Jet, and Cammie tied me up and brought me here to figure out how to get me out of the siren's control.
Tommy answered the door. "Hey," he said, "Come on in." He swung the door open wider to let me in and then closed it behind me. He led me into his kitchen and opened the fridge. "You hungry? Thirsty?" he asked, "Want some water?"
"Sure," I said and sat down at the counter.
Tommy grabbed a water bottle from the top shelf and slid it over to me. "I'll go grab the book." He disappeared down the hall and returned a couple minutes later with the old, large book that I recognized from last spring. It had been extremely useful last year—telling us almost exactly how the siren could take control of people. "Okay, so what are you looking for?"
"A prophecy," I said, "about shapeshifters."
"A prophecy?" Tommy asked, "Hmm…well, if it is indeed a prophecy then it would probably be in the seers' history. But if it's about shapeshifters then it could be in that section too." He looked up at me as if I knew the answer.
I raised my eyebrows at him and gestured to the book. He was the expert, not me. I didn't even know what a seer was—although, I was able to gather that it had something to do with predicting the future.
Turning back to the book, Tommy began flipping through the pages. "The seers made a lot of note-worthy prophecies," he said, "it'll probably be easier to look through the shapeshifter section for it."
Again, I didn't say anything. I had to trust Tommy when it came to supernatural information.
"Do you know what it's about?"
I shook my head. "I was hoping you could tell me."
"Hmm…" Tommy said again. His eyes moved so quickly across each page that I wondered how he was able to even see the words on the page. "Here!" He pointed to a paragraph in the middle of the page.
"Where?" I asked eagerly, leaning in towards him.
"It talks about a prophecy spoken by a seer named Porias a thousand years ago."
"Does it say anything about who or what is in the prophecy? Is the actual prophecy written in the text?"
"No, it doesn't have the real prophecy written here," Tommy said, "you guys tend to be pretty protective of your history, and future I guess too."
"Okay…but what does it say about the prophecy?" I asked. Although seriously disappointed that the prophecy itself wasn't in Tommy's book of all things supernatural, I had to know what it did say about the prophecy.
"Alright, alright. It says here that the prophecy involves a shapeshifter of multiple animals and a hunter," Tommy paraphrased.
"Yeah," Tommy nodded, "Marina, you do realize that you are a 'shapeshifter of multiple animals', right?"
Ignoring his question, I asked, "Is there anything else there?"
"Marina, I think this prophecy—whatever it says—is about you," Tommy said seriously. He looked away from his "supernatural encyclopedia" and up at me.
I wrinkled my nose. "It could be another 'shapeshifter of multiple animals'," I said, but even as I said it I didn't believe it.
Tommy shook his head. "The gene allowing shapeshifters to turn into more than one animal has been inactive for over two thousand years. You're the one."
I laughed. "You make it sound like I'm the savior of the supernatural world."
Tommy didn't laugh. "I don't know what this prophecy says exactly, but you very well could be."
I stopped laughing and stared at Tommy. "You're serious? You seriously think that I'm the shapeshifter the prophecy is referring to?"
I was the one. Well, crap. I was almost afraid to ask Tommy, but I did anyway—I had to know everything I could. "What else does it say?"
Tommy turned back to his book. "Only that the outcome of the prophecy will change the shapeshifters' world forever."
"Change shapeshifter world forever?" I gulped, "but there's not that many shapeshifters around these days, right?"
Again, Tommy shook his head. "Actually, Marina, shapeshifters are probably the most prevalent of the supernaturals alive today."
"Yeah, apparently it has something to do with your ability to fit in easily to normal human life and your desire to live in clandestine tribes. Not to mention you didn't have to avoid being burned at the stake during the witch trials." Tommy chuckled, but this time it was me who didn't laugh with him.
"How many?" I whispered.
Tommy scrunched up his face and made like he was doing intense math in his head. "Umm, probably around five hundred—"
"Oh that's not—"
I didn't speak—I couldn't. Five hundred-thousand shapeshifters? Five hundred-thousand shapeshifters all expecting me to be the one to change their lives. No pressure.