We all have secrets. That generally isn't a new concept for people. Everyone has to decide who gets to know those secrets and who has to be left in the dark. I have problems with this every day. I'm sure a lot of other people do too, but my secrets can hurt the vast majority of the population than just who I have a crush on. I have been told since I was young that what I knew no one else did. It used to be great, like I was let in on some super-secret, but childhood ended and now that I'm older I want nothing more than to have the ability to be open with the people I meet. I just happen to be a little different from others.
Not different in the sense that I don't fit in with various stereotypes, though I suppose that too, but different in the sense that I was raised by an elf and a centaur. While most kids grew up chasing butterflies, I grew up chasing fairies. That right there makes it rather difficult to find a match on OkCupid, but I survive. I am human but the woman who raised me was an elf named Osonia, she is gifted in magic and taught me everything I know about the subject. My magical ability isn't really enough to get me into Hogwarts, but it's rather helpful in a pinch.
When magic can't help me I rely heavily on my combat training instilled in me by my centaur father figure, Zykeus, who was a strong military force to be reckoned with when he was on active duty. He taught me everything I know about combat, with and without a weapon. Zykeus even taught me how to ride horseback, not something that is usually done but it is the easiest way to carry around a small child. I was dropped off as a baby with no one to look after me. Osonia had found me and decided to protect me. Zykeus joined her, in hopes that I could bridge the gap between our world and the human world, my world? That doesn't sound right.
Before I continue I am going to tell you that what I do is not strictly legal and by that I mean almost nothing I do is legal. I regularly hike off designated trails in national parks, I steal things, and I frame people. Yeah, one of things is not like the others, but there is a reason for that. In case you didn't pick up on why, it's because I visit my family living in national parks. I can bet that not one person has seen a centaur near a trail, I mean can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if anyone got wind of living mythical creatures. Bad news for a lot of people.
The other two I'm going to combine into one so as to make it more interesting, because I have a good story of the time I almost got thrown into federal prison for stealing. Yeah, my life is made of good times and a great deal of yolo.
To help clear things up I steal artifacts of great importance to the mythical community. This can be pretty much anything. These items also range in size from a coin to very large tapestries or blankets, as heavy as an arrow head to a suit of armor. Let me tell you that suits of armor are very hard to get through airport security and if you crack any medieval jokes TSA will not suddenly become your friend. I will neither confirm nor deny that I tried this.
Back to the actual story:
I was in New York trying to steal one of the animal pelts they were putting on display. I never feel bad about what I take, they have others, and I'm doing them a favor. It turns out that one of the coyote pelts the curators were planning on displaying was used by a notorious skinwalker back in the 1980's. It's not like the museum knew the devious deeds that are associated with it, to them it was just a pelt they had found.
The coyote pelt was being displayed on the first floor in the North American Mammals exhibit of the New York Museum of Natural History, which was in the center of the first floor. It was one of the first rooms you came to if you went down the main staircase, first room so a lot of people to witness me trying to steal things. It was October and cold, maybe my hoodie would help hide the coyote pelt I was trying to smuggle out. Usually I get lucky with crowds, I get there at the sweet moment when very few people are around and I can slip small things into my pockets. Occasionally I use Osonia's magic tricks to reach through glass display cases and pick up what I need. More often I have to use disillusionment charms to hide from security cameras; I guess I should add breaking and entering to the list of illegal things I do. I mean you don't think I carried a suit of armor out the front door do you? I would have been a walking one woman band.
It appeared as though my luck had run out, there were student field trips and gossiping mothers as far as the eye could see. It probably didn't help that it was right at the lunch rush so the place was bumper-to-bumper with people sitting and eating sandwiches. I tucked myself deeper into my black "I heart NY" hoodie. I wished I could pull the hood up to cover my bright and memorable curly blonde hair but after much experience I learned that that only gets the security guards to look at you a little longer.
I tried to get my backpack through, but it seemed that even though most of the exhibits were behind glass that wasn't secure enough so all bags had to be handed over to coat check. I was just glad that I had two dollars on me. Cash was not always a luxury I had, plus I was short on two things: cash and height. It would be fine, I hope. I continued my way into the museum, taking my time to look at things, casually walking down stairs and right into the exhibit of North American Mammals. Of course I lingered here, everyone was either eating on the floor below me or in the lobby above me, so there were fewer people and it was generally much cooler.
I was also checking out security. There was one security guard at the front of the room, he was barely paying attention to this exhibit since the gift shop was right next to this room. I could easily take advantage of his divided attention, have before and will again. It was the security cameras that always got me a little nervous. What if my magic failed? What if the person on the other end of the feed wasn't fooled? What if the guy at the end of this hall with a taser at his hip wasn't fooled?
Taking a deep breath I clearly muttered the spell for disillusionment. I didn't feel any different, I never do, but I just had to believe in the fact that it worked. Now that I was just a smudge in the corner of the security guard's eye I cast another spell to help me reach through the glass to grab the pelt. There was a slight hesitation when my fingers brushed glass, but sweet relief swept through me just as my hand swept through the glass. Since the pelt was so new to the museum the curator had not yet had the time to properly secure it to the coyote mannequin. Their time crunch was my gain.
Gently, so as not to tear the pelt, I pried the skin from the foam. It didn't take too long, but I knew my spell would only cover up so much movement and only for so long. I lifted up my sweatshirt and wrapped the pelt as best I could around my middle before gingerly pulling my sweatshirt back down. Yeah I looked lumpy, but the important part was that I got the coyote pelt and would get out of this cleanly.
But of course I didn't. I stepped back through the window between the hallway and the display case, cast a disillusionment charm to distract from the fact that I seemed to have gained ten pounds,if you were being generous, in the tens minutes I had been there. It was when I was securely back in the hallway, ready to leave with my prize, that I felt a strong pain in my stomach. It was an agonizing clawing pain that started in the pit of my stomach and branched out to my entire body. I dropped to my knees, hugging my abdomen praying for the pain to stop, and eventually it did.
When I was finally able to sit up I realized I couldn't stand. My center of gravity was in the wrong place and it was close to impossible to get it back far enough to stand. What kind of stomach flu was this? I wanted to call for the security guard, but also realized that that would be a terrible idea since I still had the pelt underneath my hoodie. It also occurred to me that I couldn't stand, so I was still stuck in the middle of an exhibit with tourists everywhere while still having the coyote pelt underneath my hoodie.
Crawling seemed to be my best option. I took a tentative step forward only to want to hurl. What I saw before me wasn't a hand. It was a paw. I had somehow changed into the coyote, which should not have been possible since the only way to do that would be to commit the worst of deeds in the eyes of the Navajo, killing a family member. Which was a problem since I didn't even know any of my blood relations. Clamping down on my panic I steadied myself enough to get to the back entrance of the room, where the security guard wasn't. My stealth only lasted so long before some kid from one the school tours screamed bloody murder. That of course had the security guard running, first towards us then away from us and towards the phone.
I will spare you the details of my attempted escape and cut right to the part where I got caught by Animal Control. As my luck continued the catch pole they had thrown around my neck loosened the pelt just enough that it transformed me back into myself. There I was, a 5'3" curly blonde girl in a black "I heart NY" hoodie and faded blue jeans, with the loop of a catch pole around my neck and a coyote pelt in my hands. I don't know what confused them more, how this had happened in the first place or what they would file their paperwork under. I'm guessing shapeshifting emerging adult was not a category yet established by the NYPD. Well, to their credit I'm a first for a lot of things.
My luck continued to flourish, since their confusion would not stop them from arresting me. Wrists in cuffs and head ducked I was escorted to the city holding cell until the officers on duty got enough time to give themselves a good enough lie to cover the situation. That gave me plenty of time to agonize over what my ability to be a skinwalker meant and, more importantly, which family member I had killed.
It would be a lie if I said that I have never gotten caught before. It happens, but when it does I usually work my magic, which is a combination of personal charm and actual magic, to get out of whatever trouble I'm in. Works like a charm, pun intended. This time was different, though, I was in jail, they still had the pelt, and I was stuck in the quiet realization that I apparently killed someone I never knew. The last part ate at me the most.
Before now I never gave a thought to my blood relatives, I never had too, Zykeus and Osonia had always been more than enough for me. They had been parents and their families had been mine as well, needed anyone else had never even occurred to me. Maybe that was the reason my parents had given me away. One of the guards banged on my cell rattling me right out of my thoughts, silently he led me to be processed into the system.
They already confused officers got to puzzle out why I wasn't in the system, not even a birth certificate. I did not exist in the eyes of the government, which was poetic since the people I lived with also did not exist. The befuddled police officers were completely lost after that and agreed that the best course of action was to let me off with a warning and a firm word. As for the coyote, it was recorded as deceased. It was by pure dumb luck that the pelt was laying on a desk unguarded, along with my back pack.
With my hoodie sleeves covering my hands I rolled the pelt in to my bag and left without a backwards glance. Maybe it was time to look into my history, maybe it was time to find out where I came from. Even though it was the driest month of the year for New York City it started to rain, with hunched shoulders and my hood up I trudged on ward.