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Claw Hill

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Author: White Lion
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Winds of Change story universe


“Grrrr... What time is it?” I mumbled, wiping the sleep from my eyes.

The alarm clock said 9.00 AM precisely, not 8.00 as I had hoped.

Easing my aching body to an semi-upright position, I collected my thoughts.

“Damn, I’m late again. Must get that clock fixed.” I swore under my breath. This was the third Monday in a row I was late for school. My form tutor was sure to put me on detention after this.

I scrambled out of bed, and plodded to the bathroom. Mum was already at work, and my kid brother Jason was still in bed. He had the flu, and was not going to school today.

“Lucky sod!” I thought.

Once in the bathroom, I stripped off my t-shirt and boxers, and turned on the shower. Once the temperature was a nice luke-warm, I stepped in. The water and soap dribbled over my fairly scrawny body. I looked down at the white sticks that were my legs.

“Not really rugby player legs were they” I thought sadly to myself. I was nearly fifteen, but had only just experienced my voice breaking. All the other boys in my class were ahead of me in that, but now I was catching them up. Jenny, my former and only girlfriend, had tried to boost my confidence by saying that I looked like an English Brad Renfro.

“Who’s Brad Renfro?” I thought.

I turned the shower off, and dried myself. I was in no particular hurry. If I was going to be late for school, I might as well be really late. I plodded back to my room, and sat down on my bed. I glanced out of the window. It was early June, but the great British weather had done it again. Clouds loomed ominously on the horizon, and there was a definite chill in the air. Still cursing my defective alarm clock, I got dressed. My school did not enforce the wearing of a uniform, which did allow some self-expression from some of the other pupils. All it achieved for me was having a further source of taunting. I never had the right designer label, or the smartest cut of trouser. We hadn’t much money. Dad had left us when I was only nine – and Mum worked hard to keep Jason and I in the style to which we had become accustomed.

I rummaged through my wardrobe, and pulled out a pair of blue jeans. Turning back to the window, the approaching rain clouds persuaded to wear my denim jacket in addition to my favourite t-shirt (the one with a picture of a wolf on it).

Tip-toeing past Jason room, trying not to wake him, I made my way to the door. Putting on my sneakers, and picking up my backpack – I set out. I lived a good distance from the school, nearly two miles. I had to cross a small area of open space between my village and the main town. I liked this walk. It gave me time to ponder the meaning of universe, and our place within it. Halfway along the path, there was another track leading up to a craggy tor. This local landmark was Claw Hill, only about 800 feet high, so not a mountain – but the only high-point for miles around. I had always wanted to climb to the summit, but despite having lived here for most of my life, I had never gotten around to fulfilling this pledge.

I looked at my watch. 9.25 glared back at me. My first lesson would nearly be over already. I sighed. What was the point? I might as well play ill like Jason, and have a day to myself. Then a thought hit me. It seemed like a twinge of fate. Why not explore Claw Hill? I had my pack lunch my Mum had made before she had left this morning – so I wouldn’t be hungry.

“Stuff school!” I cackled out loud. Turning on my heels, and ventured along the twisting path that led up to Claw Hill. The going was harder than I expected. I wasn’t fit – or at least not as fit as I thought I was. I was only about halfway up when I noticed the storm clouds growing darker, and bigger. I hesitated. Only last night there had been a documentary on BBC 2 about the dangers of lightning. Heading to the top of an exposed hill in the middle of a thunderstorm was not a wise idea. Then it started to rain.

“Blast!” I moaned. There was very little cover to be found, but I managed to squeeze behind some rocks that almost made a natural stone arch. I waited for the rain to let up, but it didn’t. With nothing much else to do, I opened my lunchbox and took a large bite out of my ham sandwich.

“Yuuuuuuukkkkk!” I bawled. My Mum had put English mustard all over it. I spat it out, and wiped my mouth.

“Geeez! I’ll just have to go hungry.” I thought. I sat there for about another ten minutes, before boredom got the better of me. I decided to go home, at least there was warm. I stood up quickly, preparing to dash through rain – but I forgot that I was still under the stone arch.

Thwack!

I hit my head on the rocky roof, and fell down. I was out cold.

Feeling groggy, and with a splitting headache – I eventually came round.

“What a prat you are....” I sighed. Only I, Curtis The Mighty, could knock himself unconscious in the pouring rain. I glanced down a my watch. 12.57 it showed.

“Shit! Now I’m halfway through my day.”

I got up, slowly, and crept out of the archway. The rain had stopped, and the sun was shining.

“Ahhhh, this is not too bad. Perhaps I will make it up the hill after all.” I mused.

I started along the path, when I suddenly felt dizzy.

“Whoa, I feel strange” came a voice from inside my head. “Must have hit my head pretty bad.” I reached up to rub the bruise on my head, but my hair came off in my hands.

“Yikes!”

The blond strands that once flopped over my cranium were falling down like confetti onto the grassy hillside. I lifted my hands again to see what had happened. Was it the shock of the injury. Suddenly my heart missed a beat. I held my hands in front of me. There was fur on the backs. Brown, matted fur.

“Oh my god!”

The fur was growing before my very eyes. It was spreading up my arms. It tickled as it went, but I was too shocked to laugh. My face felt funny, all tingly. I could hear cracking sounds from my jaw, and I see some sort of elongation of my nose. It was pushing forward between my eyes, becoming a muzzle. My whole body felt like it was immersed in warm treacle.

“Help me!” I whaled, but no one could hear me. I stumbled along the path, clutching my swelling face. What was happening to me? Was I changing into an animal? No, that was silly. I must still be unconscious. Yes, that was it – I was dreaming.

“Argh!” pain shot through my hands. Looking down, I saw the my fingernails elongate, and harden into what looked like....... no .......they were claws.

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit” I kept muttering, starting to hyperventilate.

I was nearly at the point where the main path down the hill began, when I felt another surge of energy flow through my body. I winced in pain, clutching at my stomach. I could also feel the fur spreading over my back and down my legs. It pushed up around my t-shirt collar, and spread around my face.

I took another step, and then tumbled over. My feet were no longer responding to my brain. I yelped as my shoes began feel like they were crushing my feet. The pain grew until I heard a loud ripping noise, and saw my sneakers split open. Poking through were a pair of clawed feet. No, they were not feet. They were paws.

“Stay calm Curtis, you're not a kid. Don’t panic!” That was easy to think in theory.

I tried to stand up, but could only managed to crouch on all fours. The tingling sensations flowed up and down my body. The fur was growing thicker and thicker. My face contorted more and more. I could feel sharp canines pushing down in my mouth.

“Ouch!” I had bitten my tongue.

My jeans began to feel uncomfortably tight. I put a paw down onto my thigh, feeling new sets of muscles bubble up under the thick denim. The strange pulses flowed up my arms as well. They swelled and twisted, totally filling the sleeves of my jacket.

Cracking sounds came from my back. My shoulder blades were spreading, straining the back of my jacket. A lump was also growing up behind my collar. My whole body was growing at an alarming rate, becoming tremendously muscled – albeit furry.

“W-hats hhhh-appening?” I asked to some unknown force.

I twisted my head around to watch the strange transformation my body was undergoing. There was another uncomfortable surge of pain in my buttocks. I peered as best I could towards my expanding rear. My arse looked like two huge beach balls stuffed inside a pair of near-bursting blue jeans. As I watched, a third smaller bulge appeared between, and slightly above the other two. As I panicked, it twitched.

“Shit! I’ve got a tail!”

It was at this point that the transformation began to fascinate me. My fear was subsiding, being replaced by a strange level of calmness for someone turning into an animal. I never liked my scrawny human body anyway.

My stomach barrelled outwards. I could hear my leather belt groan under the pressure.

Kaplunk!

The buckle burst open, allowing my new furry gut to swell larger and larger. My wolf t-shirt was pulled very tightly. I sat back on my haunches, and looked at my expanding chest. With a mighty crack, my t-shirt split right up the middle. Where there had once been the picture of a grey wolf, there was now a mass of brown fur.

My fur!

My arms pushed against my sides, and my shoulders broadened. The seams of my jacket popped as my new furry shoulders forced their way through the torn fabric. I let out a sigh of relief as I flexed my shoulders, splitting my jacket clean down the back. My arms continued to bulge, the sleeves fighting to contain them. My watch strap snapped under the strain. Finally I could stand the pressure no longer. I flexed my paws up to my shoulders. The sleeves tore with a pleasing, prolonged rrrrriiiiiipppp!

I arched my back, trying to ease the pain in my butt. I could feel my jeans getting tighter and tighter. I dared to look down at my legs. My calves and thighs were bulging at tremendous speed. My buttocks were also approaching twice their human size.

“Aaarrgh!” I cried, or growled to be more correct. I tried to get to my feet again, but I couldn’t move.

There was a sound of ripping denim. The seams of my jeans were tearing down from the pockets. I growled to myself, wishing the change would end quickly. My thighs continued to grow as the jeans began splitting. Suddenly there was a loud pop, and the seat of my pants burst open, allowing my tail to wag in the fresh air. More tears opened up on my jeans. The fly-zip came away from the material with another satisfying rip! With one last heave, I stretched my legs – and my ruined jeans fell away.

I was now completely naked, except for my layers of thick brown fur and a couple of blue strands of denim around my neck. Stunned, I did not know what to do next. What had happened? What was I? Who was I? Secretly I hoped that I might be a wolf. I have always fancied being a werewolf – now I had done it. Then again, perhaps not. I’ve never known a wolf to be as big as a bear. A bear! Oh, shit – I’m a bear!

I sat on the hillside for what seemed like hours – trying to collect my thoughts. I finally decided that I must get home.

I loped along the quiet roads. There seemed to be no one about. Phew! I could get home unseen. I was nearly at my house when I noticed a man, or what I thought was a man stumbling down my road. As he got closer, I could see that he too was undergoing a change. He had small horns, and the distinct appearance of a goat.

He seemed not to notice me. Then I felt a strange feeling in my head. It was a voice, similar to mine – but very monotone.

Prey! Eat! Prey! Eat!

“Hey, get outta my head” I growled incomprehensibly.

I did feel hungry. All I had eaten today was one mouthful of revolting ham and mustard sandwich. Whilst I fought with my sub-conscious, the goat-man had gone.

“Has the whole World changed?”

I lumbered up to my front door, and reached into my pocket for my keys.

“Bummer!” My keys were still in my rags back on Claw Hill.

I thumped on the door. No answer. I thumped again, splintering the wood. Still no answer. I was just about to strike a third time when the door swung open. There was Jason in his pyjamas, still totally human.

He just stood in the doorway. His mouth open, his eyes filled with fear.

“Mum! Bear! Mum – help!” shouted Jason, forgetting Mum was at work.

“Jason, it’s me, Curtis” I growled in a deep voice not even vaguely similar to my old one.

“Nnnn- nah!” Jason murmured, still looking like a frightened rabbit in the headlights of a speeding car.

I hadn’t all day to explain. I pushed past him, and sat my huge furry butt on the bottom of the stairs.

“It’s true Jason. It’s me. Somehow, I’ve changed. So have other people.”

“C-ccurtis?! It is you....” whispered Jason. Jason was never fast for the penny to drop, but he seemed to recognise something about me. I assume it was my eyes. He was looking in awe at them. I turned around and looked in the hall mirror. I was a bear alright, a grizzly by the looks of things. However, my face was just about recognisable under all that fur and elongated muzzle.

“Something strange has happened. I was walking over Claw Hill – and then this happened to me.” I explained.

Jason, perhaps with strange innocence of youth – seemed not too phased by my explanation. Jason was only twelve, and perhaps hadn’t lost too much of his imagination.

“Let’s turn on the television. I wonder how many have been affected?” I growled.

Jason, regaining his composure – shrugged and said “Sure.”

I fell back onto all fours, and walked towards the sitting room. It was then that I realised how huge I’d become. I couldn’t fit through the door. My butt was just too big.

“I’ll stay here” I said, and reversed back into the hall. Jason, looking a little wearily at me now – walked in and turned on the TV. BBC1 was the only channel operating. It was a news report. The newsreader was some kind of dog-morph, interviewing a lizard. We managed to learn that the strange changes were happening across the World. Only children were unaffected.

“That explains it.” as I turned, and gave Jason a look of envy (or as close to envy as a teenage grizzly bear could).

The phone rang. Easing my bulk away from the door, I allowed Jason to pass. Coughing, for he still was unwell, he picked up the receiver.

“Mum! What’s happened. Everybody has become animals. Curtis is a bear.”

I could just hear the panicky voice on the other end of the phone.

“No, Mum – I’m fine. Still me. All the children are!”

More muffled sounds followed.

“A lizard? Wow – have you got a tail?”

“Tell her I’m okay.” I called. Jason nodded in acknowledgement – and he passed the message on.

He put down the receiver.

“Mum’s a lizard! Everyone at work has changed. Cooool!” Jason smirked.

“Hey! It’s not funny.” I replied.

“Yeah, well – hey man – can I have a ride on your back?” Jason asked.

“Geez – okay then.” I replied. I was always having to do something to please my baby brother. I guess that this wasn’t to be any different.

That was that!

Gradually, the World began to come to terms with what happened. Everyone was some sort of creature – with no pattern to the changes. Parents could be a bird and a cat, and the child would be a dinosaur – YES, a dinosaur.

No one changed until they were in their early teens – going through puberty (as if puberty hadn’t been bad enough before). Instead of acne, you got scales or fur.

I had grown use to my new form. I enjoyed my new strength, as well as my improved sense of smell and hearing. Clothing was a bit more tricky. None of my old clothes even came near to fitting now. Mum bought me some Extra Large tracksuits, with holes cut in the seats to accommodate my tail. However, I tended to walk about naked. I had fur, so what did it matter. Nearly everyone else was naked to some degree.

A year had passed since the change, and life in Britain was slowly beginning to return to some normality. All my class mates had changed. We now had everything from parrots to warthogs sitting behind rows of desks.

It was now the week after Jason’s thirteenth birthday. He was looking much older now, and his voice had started to break. He still liked to tease me about my morph.

“Hey, Yogi? Where’s Booboo?” and stuff like that.

I ignored it mostly, as I knew it would be his turn soon.

At supper, Jason continued to make sly remarks at me. I frowned, and let out a low growl. Just then, Jason reached up to his nose. It felt rough, and was getting longer. Before my eyes, it had become hard and shiny. A horn! A rhino horn!

“Oh no!” squealed Jason. “I don’t want to be a rhino – I want to be a bird!” Jason jumped back from the dinner table, clutching his sides. His skin turned grey, and became pitted.

“It’sssss your firsssst sssignssss dear. It’ll stop soon.” hissed Mother from the kitchen.

“Wha – argh!” shouted Jason, as his legs ballooned – splitting his jeans.

His whole body swayed, and then stopped changing.

I grinned back at Jason. He too, grinned back at me.

“Fancy an arm wrestle bro?”