The truth is, I didn’t want to practice. I wanted to do whatever without learning the specifics.
When I was younger, I built an ultralight airplane, and my flight instructor told me to fly a few feet off the runway, then land. But I was having none of that and took to the skies. It was awesome and so easy; until I had to land. Turns out those specifics would have saved my landing gear.
But practice, I must according to Olivia. So there I sat, a few hours later, across from billy Jenkins playing brain games and thinking I would rather be flying.
Jenkins seemed amused with this and held out his arms like wings. Then abruptly crashed onto the floor, laughing.
We made the hour-long drive to the tribes Southport Meeting Hall three days later, giving Karen plenty of time to talk. A good thing because I could not get a word in edgewise. She was all business and wasted no time getting started upon our arrival.
“I’m sure you’re all aware of Jill’s mishaps by now, so I will get straight to the point and then introduce our new students.
“Last week, Jill Hanson was arrested after the body she was using triggered a facial recognition scanner. And this has become problematic due to the arrest of the real Becky White in Fairbanks, Alaska. In turn, Jill’s arrest video was leaked online, and similar instances are being posted to Youtube from around the world. Our cyber team has been uploading fake ones to discredit them and removing the real ones when possible.
“I have talked with all the tribal leaders, and we agreed to have everyone shift and stay in their originals until further notice unless your life is in danger. The only exceptions being those who have new verifiable identities, such as myself.
“So, If there are no questions, I would like to ask all of you to shift now.”
Seeing Karen in her leadership role was impressive. You could tell she had the full respect of every tribe member.
“Come on, Adam, I think you’ve been in your girly girl bod long enough. If you stay much longer, she’s going to trap you. Remember Kate? She’s still walking around Wilmington, talking to herself. Do you want to end up like that?”
“You sure know how to ruin a girl’s night,” he said, as red hair changed to brown.
“Everyone, if I can have your attention again, I would like to introduce our new students. First, we have Maggie Ried. Scott Bell is her teacher, and I believe most of you have already met with her.
“Maggie, do you want to come up and say a few words?”
Everyone watched as she confidently made her way on stage. “I just want to thank everyone for making me feel like family. I’ve never been happier than I am right now.
“We are family,” Karen interjected as others applauded.
And with that, Maggie stepped down from the podium, and Karen called me up. It felt like my heart was going to jump out of my body as I stood beside her. I hated being in front of a crowd.
“Many of you may also know of my own student, Christain Lore,” she said glowingly. “You may also know of our engagement. But I bet you didn’t know we are having a baby.”
“A Baby! screamed Linda Wilson as the crowd broke out in cheers. “Our royal line continues. I’m so happy for you Karen.”
“Lets hear the lucky man say something,” yelled Keith Decker from the back.
Karen smiled and pulled me to the mic as three hundred and sixty eyes watched me fall to the floor.
“Baby, wake up. You fainted.”
“Place this wet cloth on his head,” came another voice as my eyes opened to those staring down at me.
A week passed before I could wrap my head around it all. I was 28, a shifter, soon-to-be husband, and father. A good life, I suppose, but there was a sad side. Both my parents died when I was five, and I have no one to share it with. But Karen assured me my mind’s eye will one day present them to me. And last night, I could have sworn I felt the touch of my father’s hand and the lips of a mother’s kiss on my cheek as I fell asleep.
“Baby! turn up the volume, their talking about Jill’s arrest.”
“That’s right, Susan, Becky White has pleaded not guilty to the assault and battery charges. And you’re not going to believe this. She claims her doppelganger did it.”
“That’s right, a look-alike and her lawyers have video of her doppelganger being arrested right there in North Myrtle Beach minutes before her own arrest here in Fairbanks.”
“You can turn it off now.”
“Do you think it’ll all blow over?”
“I’m not sure at this point. It may, but I need to call a meeting with the tribe to set some new rules to live by for the next several weeks.”
“Really, Atlantis excites you? You didn’t act this surprised when I told you I could shapeshift.”
“I thought you were kidding, but I’ve learned to take everything you say and do seriously.”
“Well, I guess that’s a positive.”
“Can you show me the Atlantis text?”
“There isn’t any; my knowledge of Atlantis comes from the memories of my parents and their parent’s parents.”
“You can recall all of their memories?”
Not all, as information gets passed from one generation to the next, bits and pieces get lost in the clutter. They’re there but harder to find. It’s taking me years to retrieve our somewhat compete shifter history.”
“Will I be able to retrieve it one day?”
“No, our ancient history can only be accessed by those with pure pedigrees. Meaning everyone in their family tree was given the gift by a parent.
“Those who obtain the gift through a teacher have a recorded history that’s been muddled by the memories of the plague’s younger children.”
“So you’re basically calling me a mutt.”
“Basically, but you’re a cute little puppy, and I love you just the way you are.”
“You know, you’re starting to hurt my manhood a bit with all the cute talk.”
“I’m sorry, babe. I’ll try to cut back. After all, the father of shifter royalty deserves respect.”
She returned around three o’clock to find me asleep on the balcony, my eyes opening when she laid her head on my shoulder.
“Where have you been?”
“One of our tribe members had an issue.”
I’ll have to admit it felt good to hear her say ‘our tribe.’
“Are they okay?”
“For now. A shifter named Jill Hansen got arrested for a warrant after a facial recognition scan. The damn things are everywhere these days and causing a lot of problems for us. Seems the body she was using got into some kind of trouble.
I bailed her out, and she switched to her original. So there’s no chance of her getting picked up again. But the cyber team will have to monitor the situation.”
“We have a cyber team?”
“At some point, they’re going to find out the original body of Becky White was in Alaska at the time of her arrest. And that’s going to be hard for the North Myrtle Beach Police Department to explain. In the past, they would cover up such a thing. But there has been a re-awaking over the last few years. And people are starting to believe in the supernatural again, causing some to ask questions.”
“Isn’t shifting supernatural?”
“No, it’s as natural as breathing. Every human used their shifting ability in the past as a means of survival. But the plague changed all that. There was an attempt to re-engage the others during the reign of Atlantis before it sank. But the following centuries were devastating, and our numbers fell once more.”
“You know, there’s another reason I never told you about our history or made a shift in front of you until last night.
“If I were to expose a potential student to our history and make a shift in front of them, they may change their mind and refuse the gift. They may even go so far as to betray me with a hidden camera. Think about it; millions could be made, and shifters would again be hunted down like they were in the old days. In contrast, withholding the information until they transition protects me and puts them in a predicament.”
“I’ll answer by saying this. Betray me, betray yourself. You are one of us now and will suffer equally.”
“So you didn’t trust me.”
“You have to understand, relationships crumble every day over the mundane. And I had no way to know for sure how deeply you loved me until yesterday when you laid on the bed before me. A trust like no other was given and taken at that moment by both of us, sealing our fate forever.”
Feeling panicked, I stood up and stared out over the balcony onto the beach below.
“Slow your breathing, it will subside, and we can continue.”
“What about the others? You said you’ve loved no one like me. But they laid before you as well.”
“This is true; shifters and students love one another like family. But you’re my soulmate, and even you, my once bonehead bodybuilder, has to know the difference.”
“I’m sorry, my head is spinning right now. Yesterday, today, it’s all too much. I need to lie down.”
Taking my hand, she led me inside to the couch, smiled, and left the room.
“What have I gotten myself into?” Half of me wanted to flee, while the other wanted Karen and all she entails. Seeing her long legs shimmer through white pantyhose as she reentered the room in a sexy nurse’s uniform sealed my fate.
“I hear you’ve been feeling a little under the weather. May I sit beside you?”
I nodded as she sat, slowly crossing her legs for effect. “Oh my, your temperature seems to be rising. Have you been under a lot of stress lately?”
“Well, let’s see if I can do something about that.”
Her dark hair engulfed my face while red fingernails moved beneath my shirt. With a kiss, time disappeared, and our bodies became one with each shift, lost in the depths of ecstasy.
It was midnight before I woke up, and Karen was nowhere to be found.