In The Shadows
By. S. F. Wheeler
“How much further?” I asked after we had walked for three hours straight.
“Not too far.” Conner said. “Do you need me to take your bags?”
“No.” I said.
“I think you should stop asking.” Colby said. “That’s the seventh time I heard her say no to you.”
“Is she always this stubborn?” Conner asked.
“Umm… Yes.” Colby said.
“Hey. I still have ears.” I said.
“Don’t worry it’s not too far. We like to move around a lot but we stay in the same area. Throws Mill off. He thinks we’ll run for the hills or something.” Conner said taking one of my bags and ignoring my protest. “Down there.” he pointed down into a valley.
It was filled with lushes green grass and tall trees, starting to turn for fall, with a lake in the middle. Tents were set up by the edge of the lake and a small fire was started.
“Awoooo!” Conner howled and people popped out from their hiding places.
“Who’s they?” One of the boys asked. They all seemed to be between sixteen and nineteen and most of them were blond. Was it a coincidence or were they all related?
“Shifters.” Conner said.
“A girl?” a skinnier boy with pale blond hair said. By skinny I mean he didn’t have a ton of muscle like the others and his hair was so pale it looked like golden snow.
“That’s what I said.” Conner laughed.
“I’m Colby.” Colby said with a smile.
“And a kid?” the only boy with red hair said disapprovingly.
“He could shift when he was four.” Conner said. “He’s better than you, mate.”
“What are they here for?” One of the black haired boys asked.
“They’re shifters.” Conner said.
As they fought, the boy with the pale blond hair pushed his way threw the crowd.
“I’m Will.” he said. “Sorry about them. We haven’t seen new people in awhile.”
“I’m Angel.” I said.
“Give me a moment to get their attention then we’ll figure something out.” Will said.
“Good luck.” I said. Will smiled and shifted into a red fox. He let out a screech like a woman being strangled, and the group went silent. When he shifted back he cleared his throat and said “Guys this is Angel and Colby. These are the pack. Rick is the red haired one. That’s Ian the dark haired tall one. Derik the dark haired short one. Tyler the little blond one. Devin the tall skinny blond hiding in the back. Tanner the blond with the beard. And Frank the oldest one. He also has blond hair.”
“And this…” Rick said shaking Will’s shoulders. “Is golau.”
“Who?” I asked.
“Golau is welsh for pale or light.” Will said. “Because of my hair and the fact that I grew up in a welsh family, they like to call me it.”
“He’s secretly a vampire.” Derik whispered really loud.
“You know I’m not a vampire, Derik.” Will said un-amused.
“Anyway. You and Colby can have my tent and I’ll bunk with Rick.” Will said to me.
That night I got Colby ready for bed then went for a walk to think things threw. We never had any problems before and we never left the house. Sure we could survive in the woods but I don’t want to end up moving from place to place like ‘the pack’. And what about Colby, he couldn’t keep up with us on our walk here let alone if we had to run form the big scary Mill. I’d have to think of something.
I found myself on a small cliff not to far from camp. It looked out over the whole valley and I could just see the roof of the house off in the distance. I’m not really sure how I got to the top of the cliff but I had a good view of the camp from here. I averted my eyes when two of the boys came out of their tents in nothing but their boxers and started whipping one another with towels. Are boys usually like that? I hope not. I noticed there was one tent for everyone but one. Even if Colby and I weren’t using one of the tents there was still one missing. And one person missing. Conner. He didn’t sleep with the others. Weird.
“What are you doing all the way up here, mate?” Conner asked. I jumped when I heard him behind me and spun to glare at him. “Sorry. Would you prefer I make some growling noises first?”
“And how would that help?” I asked.
“It wouldn’t that’s the point. It’s supposed to be funny.” Conner said.
“Funny?” I repeated.
“Tell me you’ve heard a joke before. Or laughed once in your life.” Conner said moving to sit on the cliff with me.
“I haven’t had much time.” I said. “It was only me and Colby for two years. Everything before is either forgotten or unforgettable.”
“I know what you mean. My mom use to sing for me at night to get me to go to sleep. I still have trouble sleeping without hearing her sing you know.” Conner said.
“Is that why your up here on a cliff at midnight?” I asked.
“Yes. That and my tent is just back there.” he said pointing behind us. “Why are you here?”
“I don’t know how you guys like to do things but I would prefer not to run for the rest of my life. I’d like to have a real home and a real family again. I don’t want to be sitting on a cliff in the middle of the night wondering ‘what if’.” I said.
“Like ‘what if’ I wasn’t a shifter. ‘what if’ my parents weren’t on that plane. ‘what if’ life was different.” Conner said.
“Exactly.” I said.
“Wondering will never get anything done.” Conner said. “Do you know what time of year it is?”
“Judging by the turning leaves it’s the start of fall.” I said. “And you can always use the moon to tell the time you know.”
“It’s hard to find the moon most nights. Too many clouds. And it doesn’t help during the day.” Conner said.
I pulled down my sleeve to revel the tattoo like mark on my wrist. It looked like the moon and right now it was saying it was a quarter moon.
“What’s that? Conner asked.
“My moon.” I said. “It changes when the moon changes so I always know the time.”
“That’s amazing.” Conner said. “So what’s on your hand?”
“My hand?” I asked.
“There.” Conner said pointing to the palm of my left hand.
“Shadow symbols.” I said watching the symbols appear and disappear in the palm of my hand.
“What do they mean?” Conner asked.
“Right now it’s saying… Fire, Danger, windmill, run, hide. And it repeats.” I said.
“Windmill? What windmill?” Conner asked.
“Mill!” I said. “We need to put out the fire and hide.” I said leaping from the cliff. I landed as a bluebird and called for Colby.
“Fly and hide.” I said to him. He shifted to a little gray jay and flew into the trees. “Conner get your pack to cover the tents with those tree bows then shift to gray jays and fly into the trees to hide. Tell them to scatter but stay in groups.” I said helping him douse the fire.
“You heard her!” Conner yelled. “Cover the tents and scatter into the trees. It’s Mill.”
It was terrifying having to wonder where one kid was but to have ten to wonder about was excruciating. I managed to fly into the trees and find Colby, and Conner was a branch over. I could sort of see two other birds huddled in the branches above us and three others in the neighboring tree. I don’t know how Conner doesn’t die of worry when he doesn’t know where his pack is.
“Tex!” I heard Mill shout. “Where have you blundered off to now?”
“Here!” Called a young man with a brown military haircut. He looked ninenteen or so and he was carrying a rifle.
“When I told your mother I’d take care of you I did not think you would wander off so much. I told you to stay by me.” Mill said then he mumbled to himself something about stupid kids and not listening.
“Sorry uncle Mill.” the boy, Tex, said.
“Tex. You go over that way and see what you can find.” Mill said pointing to the camp.
“Yes uncle Mill.” Tex said.
“Oh no.” I said though it came out as chirping the others could understand me. “I have to stop him.”
“I’ll go.” Conner said. “I’ll distract him and you guys run.”
“No.” I said. “No running. No distraction. I’ll get rid of them.”
“How do you expect to get them to leave?” Conner asked.
“Did you notice how he was carrying the gun?” I asked.
“What?” Conner asked.
“He wasn’t holding it like he wanted to shoot something he was holding it like he was nervous he would have to shoot something.” I said.
“How do you know, maybe he just didn’t know how to hold it.” Conner said.
“He’s military.” I said. “He knows how to hold a gun.”
“Military? How do you know all this?” Conner asked.
“Just trust me on this one. I can get them to leave.” I said and leaped from the branch.
I got to the camp just as Tex discovered our tents. He sighed and looked into the woods with a distraught look on his face. He opened his mouth to speak but I shifted to human form before his eyes and he stood there in awe.
“Don’t do it.” I said.
“You are real.” Tex whispered.
“Yes.” I said. “And in danger.”
“Mill wouldn’t hurt you.” Tex said.
“No? Then why do one of my friends have a bullet wound?” I asked. I noticed Will trying to hide it earlier.
“He… he shot at you?” Tex said. “but I thought…” he took his gun and opened the chamber to see very real bullets in the gun. “I thought they were tranq darts. I would never shoot an innocent.”
“I know.” I said.
“You do?” he said.
“You’re military. One thing I know about the military is that they would never hurt an innocent unless they tried to attack you.” I said.
“How do you know I’m military?” Tex asked.
“Your hair for one and your dog tags are showing.” I said tapping the shining tags around his neck.
“Privet Tex Summers.” I read. “I’m Angel.”
“Tex!” Mill called.
“Please Tex. You cant let him know we’re here. He’ll kill us. There aren’t many of us left and I’m the only known female. You have to get him to leave.” I said gently touching his arm. He steered at my hand then looked at me with a smile. God guys are so predictable.
“Tex!” Mill called again.
“Nothing here uncle Mill. I think they left the woods hours ago. Maybe we should try the town.” Tex called.
“Thank you Tex.” I said. “We owe you.”
“Can I see you again?” he asked.
“Your uncle cant know we’re here.” I said.
“He wont.” Tex said. “I swear.”
“Then take this.” I said unclasping my string bracelet and handing it to him. On it was a little silver bell. “Ring it when you absolutely need me and no other time.”
“Come on then Tex. We’ll try the town.” Mill called.
“Till then.” Tex said running off.
“How did you do that? They’re leaving.” Conner said when I returned to the tree.
“Boys will always be boys.” I said.
“What?” Conner asked.
“A few hair flips and fluttering my eye lashes did the trick.” I said.
“You flirted with him to get him to leave?” Conner said amazed.
“It worked didn’t it.” I said. Conner chuckled to himself.
“Coast’s clear, pack.” Conner said a few minutes later.
We all returned to our tents but I kept watch. I sat on the cliff again and steered at my hand. The symbols were gone now. I drew the symbol for fire, that was stuck in my head, in the dirt with a stick. It kind of looked like a flame. The second I thought it the dirt blazed up and the stick caught fire. I scrambled to put the fire out. What just happened? The symbols had never done that before. Curious, I drew it again. The same thing happened. The symbol itself caught on fire and stayed on fire until I broke the symbol. Still curious and amazed I drew the symbol for flower. A beautiful tulip grew in fast-forward on top of the symbol.
“How did you do that?” Conner appeared behind me. “You grew a flower.”
“It’s the shadow symbols.” I said. “Watch.” I drew the fire symbol right next to the flower and it caught on fire.
“Holly shit.” Conner jumped back. I drew the water symbol but it only made a puddle of water.
“What if you drew it on your hand?” Conner said.
“Um. You can.” I said. “Id rather not turn into water.”
“Then draw it on me.” he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes.” he said holding his hand out to me. I burnt the stick a bit so the ash rubbed off and drew the water symbol on Connors hand. His hand filled with water and he healed it over the little fire. A small stream of water poured from his hand and doubted the fire. He rubbed the symbol off and the water stopped.
“I have to try something.” I said taking the stick and drawing a symbol on my own hand. It glowed then shined until it was as bright as a star. “It means light.”
“Wow.” Conner said.
“They never did this when I drew them on paper.” I said. “I have an idea.” I took a rock and drew two symbols on it. On meant switch like on/off, the other meant light. I tapped the switch symbol and the rock lit up. “It worked!” I touched the switch symbol again and it went out.
“Can you make me one?” Conner asked.
“Sure.” I said.
After showing the rest of the pack, I made more light rocks that I decided to call glowstones. I made a small glowstone for myself and put it on a string that I tied around my neck. I also made a small one for Colby that I tied to his wrist.
The next morning we decided to move the camp to our shack. I hoped Mill wouldn’t look there again but just in case I had an idea. I drew invisible symbols on all the tents and they vanished. I made sure to put a rock at all four corners of each tent first and a stick where the door was. Everyone who entered the tent vanished as well. I turned the shack invisible too and put trees all over the place so it didn’t look like the place Mill saw. Just in case.
“Too bad there isn’t one for strength.” Will said to me.
“There is.” I said.
“Really?” Will said. “You wouldn’t draw it on anyone though would you?”
“I can draw it on you if you like.” I said. “It can come off.”
“Really?” Will said. It must be hard being weaker then everyone around you. I took out my marker and pulled Will’s sleeve up and began to draw the strength symbol.
“That feels weird.” Will said.
“Try it out.’ I said. He picked up a bolder and smiled at me.
“Like a feather.” he said.
“Thanks.’ Conner said appearing at my side.
“For what?” I asked as I ate my rabbit and berries.
“What you did for Will.” Conner said. “I haven’t seen him so happy before.”
“I didn’t do anything.” I said.
“I seen the symbol on his arm and I bet it means strength.” he said.
“You must be seeing things.” I said.
“Well thanks anyway.” Conner said. A high pitched ringing sent me falling to the ground with a whimper. “Angel! Are you alright?” Conner tried to get my attention but it was useless. When the ringing stopped I got up.
“I have to go.” I said. “But I’ll be back. Can you watch Colby?”
“What. Sure but what’s going on?” Conner asked.
“He needs help.” I said.
“Who?” he asked, but I shifted into a cheetah and zoomed off.