First Moon – Chapter 18

CHAPTER 18

When he changed, hunting was natural.  All of his senses and instincts worked together.  As a human, Ben struggled with even the most basic functions.  Hunting the smaller animals would be easy, or so Ben thought.  He started off with squirrels and chipmunks.  His senses had become unbelievably acute which made finding his prey very easy.  Identifying and focusing on them however, was the difficult part.

Depending on the direction of the wind, he could smell every single plant, animal and dropping within fifty yards.  He could smell the moss on the sides of rocks and the different smells of bark on various trees.  It was incredible, but also overwhelming.  At first, anytime he ran he would get disoriented from the bombarding stimulus on his senses.

He could easily see the squirrel bobbing and weaving along the ground, leaping onto trees and running across their branches.  With his keen vision, Ben could lock onto it even in the thickest foliage.  Focusing his hearing and smell was a trickier task.   The sound of a snapping twig under his feet or another animal darting off through the bushes would catch his attention and he would lose his focus on the animal he was chasing.

His sense of smell wasn’t a distraction so much as it was an underutilized advantage.  It was the most potent of his senses but also the most difficult to focus.  Long before he could see or hear an animal, he could smell it.  He was fast, strong and agile, but he was also a full-sized, six-foot two-inch human which seemed to be a permanent side effect of the curse.  He was at least 4 or 5 inches taller now.  Because of his size, he was out of his element and the little critters had several advantages.

In a straight foot race through an open field he could catch anything in the forest.  Dodging and weaving between trees, chasing tiny critters that could run under intertwined roots and up the sides of large trees was more difficult than Ben had anticipated.  After six attempts at the same squirrel, Ben sat and leaned against a large tree.

Physically he was fine, in fact he was ready to run a marathon but mentally he was exhausted.  The thrill of the hunt was tough enough to contain but the frustration of failure was grueling.  “At this rate, I won’t have to worry about eating the waiter.  I’m going to starve to death” Ben sighed as he threw a small twig.

“Don’t look so smug you stupid squirrel” he cursed as he waved his fist at the little critter up in the tree.  “I could just let go right now and change.  I’d be swallowing you whole in a few seconds” he threatened half heartedly.

That was when it dawned on him.  Old Jed said to “push the limits” of the curse.  He always called it a curse and got angry anytime Ben used the word ‘ability’.  Jed would say, “The second you start believing it is anything other than a horrible curse, you start enjoying it.  You start giving in to it.  You lose yourself to its awe and wonder.  Remember that you moron”.

“Push the limits, huh old-timer?” Ben said out loud.  “I’ve been doing this wrong…” Ben mumbled.  He was trying to ‘fight’ the change instead of ‘using’ it.  Trying to block the emotions altogether was useless and he was failing miserably at it.  He needed to change his strategy, to find a way, not to resist changing, but to change only as far as he wanted to.

Staring at his hands, he focused hard.   He felt a small snap and a sharp pain in his right hand but nothing more.  Shaking it off, he tried again.  This time he didn’t stop when he felt the pain.  The cracking and crunching sounds vibrated through his ears.  The bones in his hands flexed and stretched and his fingernails extended and hooked.

His eyes flooded with yellow pigment that created the now oh so familiar, eerie hue in his vision.  His teeth began to protrude until he could feel the top canines in his lower gums.   That was when he pulled back.  Flapping his hands side to side and shaking his head, Ben tried his best to clear his mind and suppress the surging beast within.

He watched as his hands twitched and contorted back to normal.  His finger nails thinned and snapped off just beyond the ends of his fingers and his teeth painfully shrunk back into his gums.  It took nearly ten minutes to revert back.

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