I run hard as I try to out pace the men behind me. My legs ache from the exertion as I coach more power from them and my lungs burn with exhaustion. Now is no time to curse not working out more. Several hours sitting on hard steel is the has left my muscles cramped and cold. Hunger is my biggest enemy. The growling in my stomach means that I do not have enough fuel to go far.
The men behind me are FTRA, a violent gang of homeless freighthoppers. I had stumbled on them while looking for a squat for the night. I should have been more careful, but I was in a hurry. Not only do I need to loose them, I still have to find a place to hide for the evening.
I leap over an overturned barrel then dodge between two old, rusted box cars. I try changing directions and even crawling under a train. No evasion tactic convinces them to give up. I find myself running into a maze of freight containers. My one saving grace is that they do not split up, using their numbers to head off my escape. In the end, it turns out that they do not need to. I run myself into a dead end. Freight containers form a box canyon that I cannot climb out of or even try to climb under.
I turn to face the three men stalking up on me. They know I am trapped, they may have known I would end up here from the start. I back up till till my back is pressed to hard metal. I ball up my hands into fists, instincts switching from flight to fight. The worse part is I can feel my blood growing warm at the thought.
“Leave me alone,” I shout at them lamely, “I don’t want any trouble.”
“Yea, well you got it you little piss-ant,” one of them says as he pulls a hammer out of a loop on his pants, “No one steals our squat.”
“I wasn’t trying to steal it, I was going to leave as soon as I saw you there,” I plead. They do not care about what I have to say. They’ve made up their minds on what my crime is.
The first one steps forward and swings at me with his hammer. I jump back and hit the cargo container. This makes the other two laugh. He comes at me again, swinging the hammer down. Instinct, and I’m not sure it is my own, moves me forward. I throw up an arm to block the downswing, catching the handle on my forearm. It hurts, but less than a ball-peen to the head. I punch as hard as I can, catching the man on the jaw. I follow with a kick to the gut that knocks him backwards to land on his ass at his buddies’ feet.
I cradle my left arm. Good money says the bone is cracked if not broken. The men are not laughing now. As the first man stands up, cursing vehemently, the others draw out knives. The weapons and violent intent do not frighten me though. Instead, it makes me angry, makes bare my teeth. We have passed the point of return as the moon peeks over the shipping crates and illuminates the scene in its pale light.
As they move in for the attack, I let out a scream of pain and double over. They for a moment by the unexpected reaction, watching as I fall to the ground in pain. Their shock wears off though, probably thinking it is just some ploy on my part. They surround me and start kicking at my body, intent on stomping me to death. Part of me wishes that they could. I do not feel their blows. The only pain that registers is the deep twisting inside of me. Everything burns as though my blood were replaced with acid.
If they had bothered to look closer they would have seen the start of the change. Even with my eyes closed, I know what is happening. I can feel every little bit of it. My head starts to reshape, bones crunching and moving, new ones growing. My ears slide up my head while my mouth extends into a muzzle. My legs twist and reshape to be more like a dog’s legs. It feels like they are breaking, and maybe they are, only to be knitted back together once they are in the right position.
Distantly, I can hear one of the men shout and the kicking stops. They must have finally realized that something was not right, seen that I was undergoing an unnatural transformation. My skin itches as if every square inch of it was being gnawed on by an army of fleas as thick fur sprouts from it. My eyes finally open and I can see my attackers backing away. I once watched the transformation in a mirror and know that my eyes are now an luminous yellow.
My body start to swell. One bicep balloons out with new muscle then a calf. None of the transformation happens in a predictable order. Fangs feel my mouth as claws sprout from one hand then the other. This is what finally sends the men fleeing. It is too late though and they will not be able to run far enough or hide well enough. As the last of the transformation sets in my mind finally fades from consciousness to blissful darkness as the other takes over.
It is the next morning when I wake up, the sun ushers in dawn over the horizon. I am naked and cold, laying in a field outside the train yard.. Blood stains my hands and face. I am not hungry now, and that thought sickens me. There is nothing to do about it though. I head off in search of clothes and shelter. I must weather two more nights of this.