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Lusus Naturae

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     It all started with two old men, and a strange machine. Their facial features wearing the same grim expression. The pair knew that this would be their last chance to change things before the end of the world crashed down upon them and all of the people that they had come to care about. The last chance either of them would have at redemption or a slim chance of survival.

     The one in the long coat nodded to the other. He flipped a series of switches before slamming his hand on a button. The world flashed white.

     When the light died down, something about the two men was different. They were younger. Stronger. They also weren’t human.

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     When you had wake up that morning, you expect another day of running for your life, and nothing else. Just like the last week. And the week before that. You manage to find a large backpack, and stuff it full of canned food. Digging through the cupboards for anything edible, and manage to find some spam. That shit never expires and you aren’t about to leave it behind. Meat is rare around here, especially with the giant monsters that had decided to crash this dimension and leave the town in ruin about a month ago.

     You, as well as the others, ran for it to try and get the hell out of dodge but something was keeping you in. It was like a giant box that ranged the whole town. Nothing coming in, nothing going out. The town resigned itself to this strange and ruthless world that that fucking triangle called ‘Weirdmageddon’. The name was a little much, but you’re not willing to be caught to take it up with the dorito douche-lord himself.

     You cook the meat as quickly as you can. The smell might attract unwanted visitors, and with food like this, anyone falls into that category. When you go to grab the knife in your belt, you notice that something is strange is going on. You feel weird. Namely, your skin, or lack of it. Instead of normal human flesh, you see claws, and fur and small feathers running up your arms. You also notice that your clothing had somehow changed to support your new form. The pants are very uncomfortable, so you ditch them. If you’re a creature now, you don’t need clothes in the first place, but you don’t get rid of the shirt. It was your favorite one, and if anything, it would remind you of when you were human.

     Sitting back, you notice that the fur isn’t only on your arms. It runs up your shoulders, and you try to turn around and look at your back. That’s when you see the wide golden wings spread behind you.

     “Holy shit.” You whisper, but you can tell that voice feels different. Your voice sounds like more of a screech than words. You clamp your hands on your mouth, and feel something that isn’t normal at all. You get up, and pad around the house to search for a mirror. When you finally find one, the tiny feathers on your face fluffed up under your hair and you look into your newly golden eyes. You look like a creature from that one movie. What was it called again? Oh yeah, it was that wardrobe movie. Narnia. You look like the birds in the big fight scene. Golden feathers and all. If you remember right, you were a griffin with hair. What the actual hell. You expected chaos, but not this shit.

     You shake your head, needing to eat before you deal with all of this nonsense. You might as well just hide in a cave or something when you go back to the forest. Live the rest of your life out alone like the strange mythical creature that apparently is your life now.

     Actually, no. Fuck that shit. You’ve always wondered what it would be like to have wings, and you’re not going anywhere until you find out just how this whole flying thing works.

     The meat tastes better than normal, but you chalk it up to the distinct lack of meat in your diet, and go on your merry way. By that, I mean you struggle to put the damn bag on your back before mangling the straps and end up hooking it to a large belt instead. After you finish fixing up your new sachel, you wander outside, wondering just you you’re supposed to blend in as a giant bird cat thing-a-bob with some vaguely human features.

     You almost bolt out of the front door before you realize that this might be easier under the cover of trees that lay conveniently close to the back door. By the time you get back there, you notice a red light pass by. You wait until it passes to streak into the trees. You struggle to stay on your back two legs, so you end up running the way that you had watched other animals do. It felt weird, but not as weird as trying to run with two legs and bumping into things. You end up leaping over fallen logs with your wings held close to your body. You don’t notice the ledge until it’s almost too late. You grab onto a tree, digging your claws in until you’re sure that you’ve stopped. The tree is left with large claw marks in the wood when you let go. You decide to follow the ledge until you find somewhere safe to spend the day, and learn more about some of this new body of yours. You end up climbing a tree and finding a place where the branches support your weight. You were glad that you used to weave things together as a kid. Hopefully you wouldn’t be too bad at making a nest. It was the best idea that you have for a more permanent settling place, and the trees were especially thick in the middle. Besides, when does anyone looking for a monster ever look up?

     By the time night falls, you had gotten the nerve to jump from tree to tree in search of branches to frame your home with. You had torn some from trees a little ways away to use. They weren’t too comfortable, but you were starting to think that it might be a good idea to leave the comfort part of the bedding for tomorrow.

     Days pass, and you still hadn’t tried flying. Instead, you passed the time adding more sticks to your nest. You were proud to say that it was coming along nicely, and you had even found a large patch of moss that you used to line your bed.

     You tried not to think about falling when you try your wings. You wouldn’t admit that you were scared, but you were. Your feathers seem frail. Like they wouldn’t hold you up, even though your wingspan was truly impressive, and you spend hours watching other creatures fly through the skies the way that you had dreamed of for so long. You watch them closely before stretching your own wings to mimic what they were doing. The little birds cock their heads at you while you mess with your wings. You gave a little flap, and found the tips of your feathers brushing the ground.

     The only way to practice this was to either go to the edge of the cliffs or to try a branch. You would try the branch first.

     As it turns out, it’s hard to learn to fly when you can’t find a branch without other branches getting in the way. You ended up climbing to the top of your home tree, as you had taken to close it, and gliding from it to another tree a little ways away. As long as you kept your wings out, the wind would carry you. You don’t dare enjoy your first try for fear of falling. The third time, you give a little flap. It doesn’t do much, so you gave the air a stronger push. You feel the new muscles stretch and contract, and the rush of wind running through your hair, and through the feathers that keep you aloft. After you land, you end up catching something for dinner before retiring to your treetop home for the night. You don’t have the energy to stay awake tonight. Not after your first real flight.

     As you settle down for the night, you don’t notice several streaks of red fur heading towards a cabin close to your home. You stir only when a howl pierces through the night. Before letting dreams of normality take you to a more peaceful place.

Chapter Text

     By the time you had woken up properly, the sun was rising. Wasting no time, you stretched in your growing nest. It was close to being finished. Your new muscles were sore, but you had found that, as a human, the best way to get rid of soreness was to stretch and work them more. You hoped it was the same in this strange new body. Well, there was only one way to find out. There were all sorts of weird feeling muscles in this form, and you took your time stretching as many as you could before flying.

     You took off, intending to do a few laps with your still new-ish wings to scout the area and get used to flying farther. A wandering Eye-bat had spotted you as you were making a nice smooth turn around a particularly tall tree, and the damn thing spent the better part of three hours trying to chase you down. You dove when you were sure that your wings wouldn’t hold out much longer, and you managed to squeeze yourself into a crevice in a cliff that was far away from your nest, and out of reach of the Eye-bat’s ray. By the time the Eye-bat had gone, you were hungry, and not wanting to fly for the rest of the week.

     ‘Well,’ you think, ‘my feathers are easily spotted in sunlight. Maybe it’s better if I’m up at night.’

     You had always thought that being awake at night was easier anyways. It would take a while to get there, but it wasn’t anything that you hadn’t done before.

     It might make life a little easier if you live that way until things get a little less chaotic. Then again, this is the end of the world. Chaos is part of the equation.

     Also, you should probably hide your nest from the skies as well. If those Eye-bat things pose a threat, you need to know that your home is as safe as it gets around here. Good thing the tree you picked had a ton of branches on most sides of it. Fluffy leaves are the best leaves and that makes your life a little bit easier.

     The walk back to your nest is too far, so you fly part of the way. Your wings ache when you land on the moss of your home, and you want nothing more than to sleep for the rest of your life… but that’s not an option with winged nightmares flying around and mess everything up. You drag yourself out of the comfortable moss, and look for the sky through the branches that hang over the nest. If you live there for long enough, the branches might grow and shield you on their own, but you don’t have that kind of time. You need cover as soon as possible.

     You flutter to the floor, and walk to a grotto you had flown past a few times. It has some strange plants. You have an idea for a bunch of vines and large leaves. If you manage to poke holes in the leaves and thread the vine through with these big ass paws, it would be perfect.

     Finding yourself in the grotto with the plants you’re searching for, you think of how you can pull this off. Maybe you could find fallen leaves and layer them so it looks the same. It might look a little off, but you’re not sure if the bats can tell the difference. You don’t want to take any chances, so you grab some fresh ones instead.

     Shoving leaves and vines into the bag, you return to your tree, and climb home. The sun is going down, and you hope that nothing notices the sun glancing off of your coat of fur and feathers. You hear something underneath you after you’ve hidden yourself in some of the lower hanging branches.

     You turn your head in time to see a wolf girl with a worn out green flannel and torn jeans look around before darting into the trees. Now’s not the time to worry about the stranger. You have time to fix the holes above your nest before trying to find more stuff for the bed part of it. You use the vines to pull higher branches over the holes, and you work until the patches of star light almost disappear. The moon moves across the sky, and you finally let yourself rest, not as concerned about your cover now that it’s dark. You won’t make much more progress until you see where sunlight leaks through in the morning. You’re sure that the demon bat didn’t see where you took off from, since you were already in the air when it found you. You don’t want to take any chances.

     If it did, you’ll deal with that in the morning. You’re too tired to deal with anything that doesn’t involve you sleeping until the sun is high.

     By the time you’re fully nocturnal, a week and a half has passed, and you’re still adjusting to sleeping all day long.

     Your pile of canned food is running low, and you have to go get more or suffer the consequences. This will also be one of the first times you’ll wander from the relative safety of your nest while you’ve been adjusting, aside from the short flights you’ve been doing to make you stronger. You’re not sure how you feel about the whole leaving thing, even if it’s only temporary.

     Pushing aside the dread bubbling to the surface of your mind, you fasten the satchel to your waist and take off for town. You keep low. The sun hasn’t set all of the way, and you don’t want to risk being caught by any undesirables.

     By the time you reach the edge of town, you’re running. Out of breath, you race into the closest door, and start your search for food. It’s empty, and so are the next three houses you try. In the fourth house, you don’t find any food, but you do find a large duffel bag, and it still has a strap on it! You put it over your neck and make sure it doesn’t restrict your wings. Satisfied, you nose around the house for anything else that might be useful. You hear footsteps wandering the streets, and you abandon any other things to dart for a back door.

     There isn’t one. The heavy footsteps come closer, and you swear that you can feel the ground shake with each step. There aren’t many places for someone your size to hide, but you remember opening a door and having to pull blankets off of you and shove them back into the closet. You could hide there. As long as you stay silent, you should be fine.

     This whole thing reminds you of a high stakes game of hide and seek and it’s kind of a weird feeling. You hope that the smell of stale dust and blankets hide your own smell. If this thing can smell, you’re done for if it comes in the house.

     The wait stretches on, and you find yourself surrounded by supplies. You could use a few blankets. You take a small one as quickly as you dare, and shove it into the bag. You stick a bigger one in the duffel, and hope that you can get away with your new loot.

     You can’t help your sigh of relief when you hear the sound fade. You have to get out of that closet. By the time you stumble out into the open, you realize that the footsteps may have faded, but that didn’t mean that the beast they belong to is well and truly gone.

     The only reason you know that now is that about a mile away is a giant monkey looking thing with pool balls in his eye sockets looking right at you.

     Fuck.

     You scramble away from the houses, and leap into the air. He’s started closing in on you when you reached about the height of the telephone poles, and you make to climb higher. He swipes a hand at you, his fingers brushing your tail. You screech at him as you make your escape. The green oaf doesn’t follow you through the trees that tower over even him, and you don’t look back until you’re sure that you are safe.

     Food from the town is out of the question, now. Looks like you’re living off of what you can find for a while longer.

     At least you have some blankets now.

Chapter Text

     Taking off from your finished, for now, nest is easy. Well, it is after you get down the tree, or to another tree to actually take off. It’s not that easy, but it’s worth it to keep your home hidden from the skies and the ground alike. Looking back at the tree, you notice that the leaves and vines you had collected are starting to look dead. You need to find a more permanent solution for that. One patch of dead things in a green tree looks really suspicious.

     After that first scare with the Eye-bats, you would be the first to admit that you’re maybe a little bit paranoid. The survivor in you says that it’s better to be safe than sorry. That’s the part of you that kept you alive so far, so you’d rather be paranoid.

     You grab your usual satchel, and say goodbye to your comfy home for the next little while. The sun is almost down, and it’s the perfect time to fly, saying as if anything chases you, you can fly towards the setting sun and blind them. It’s a good plan. Anyway, you’re flying. Enjoying the clear skies, and the wind blowing through your feathers. A few minutes of flying leave you wondering about food.

     Supplies have been dwindling, and you still don’t have enough nerve to go towards the town, so you duck below the tree line in search of food. You don’t find it.

     Instead, you find the searching light of an Eye-bat. It looks like it’s found something. You sneak closer, flying low to follow it. It seems intent on it’s target. It has no reason to be careful. Not that you’ve seen, anyways. It’s not like they have anything to fear.

     You stay silent when you find out just what it’s chasing. You’re not really sure what to make of it. You can’t tell what it is. All you can see is a streak of fur running from the damned Eye-bat.

     It’s not a hard decision, really. That’s probably someone’s kid. And if it’s not, you’ve got some food. It’s a win-win situation... if you come out of it alive. Now the only thing left to figure out is how you’re going to pull this off. You can’t exactly pull stealth mode when the Bat is already focused on your new target.

     You decide on a different approach. Shock and Awe. There’s only one of the night terrors. How hard can it be?

     Very hard, apparently. In order for your little scheme to work, you’ve gotta find a nice big rock and keep the bastard in sight. It’s not as easy as you think. The little thing scrambling around for safety isn’t doing much to help, but you don’t blame the little dude. You’d run too, if that thing was chasing you.

     When you find one, it’s heavier than you’d expect. Then again, it is a rock. Those aren’t known to be light. You’ve got some catching up to do when you can pick it up. Flying low over the trees, you spot the Eye-bat. Mentally, you praise the creature for staying ahead for as long as it did. It’s maneuvers are enough to let you catch up and drop the rock.

     It hits the Eye-bat’s wing. The monster’s beam shoots up. It’s pulled down, and you fly down to scoop up the terrified creature. It tries to squirm out of your hold until it realizes that it, he. It looks like a little boy. You’ll call it he until he corrects you. Until he realizes that he’s being taken away from certain death.

     The bat chases you next. It’s faster than you thought it would be. Maybe that’s just the extra weight. It doesn’t look around. It’s beam sweeps around, searching. Hoping to catch you off guard. Darting through trees isn’t going to stop this creature.

     Thinking fast, you don’t think of anything right off the bat. Hold on a second.

     Bat.

     What can you use as a bat? Branches. You’re in a forest. They’re everywhere.

     There’s only so much you can do with the kid in your hands. You open the empty satchel and shove the kid inside. You’re relieved to find that he’s just small enough to fit. He doesn’t sound happy about it, but he doesn’t have a chance to argue. As soon as he’s safe inside, you fly faster. Catching branches on your paws isn’t hard, it just hurts. You bear it in order to survive.

     You find one that’s flexible and bend it as far as it’ll let you, hoping that your aim is true. When you let go, it swings right into the Eye-bat. It goes down, blinking fast. It’s wings twitch, and you deem it safe to go home. That thing isn’t getting up any time soon.

     You don’t really look at the creature until you’re a safe distance away, and you’re standing on dry ground. The kid looks a little scruffy, then again, everyone you’ve seen looks scruffy. This kid puts a whole new spin on it. His red fur is matted and dirty, and he looks like he’s about to cry or run. You can’t tell what he’s going to do.

     “W-Who are you?” The kid tries to keep the fear out of his voice. It doesn’t work so well.

     Either way, eating him is out of the question.

     “(Y/n). What’s your name, kiddo?” You wince at your voice, but the kid laughs. It’s a good sign.

     “I’m Gus.” He beams. You see a fang missing from the front of his innocent wolfy grin. “Hey, do you know where my family’s at? Wendy’s prob’ly worried sick.”

     “Who’s Wendy? Your mom?” You ask.

     “Nah, she’s my big sis.” His gap whistles, and he scowls a little. “She got prot-protective when she turned to a wolf kid.”

     “I see.” You pretend to think for a moment before looking at the cub. “Would you like me to help you find her?”

     “If you wouldn’t mind, ma’am.” Then he whispered to himself, “Pa always said to be polite to people.”

     It’s too cute. You almost don’t want to take him back. But you have to. You don’t want to find out what this Wendy person is like when you’re standing between her and her adorable brother.

     “She’s a werewolf, too.” Gus adds, trying to find a way to help you help him find his family.

     “What was she wearing?”

     “Oh, I think it was her favorite flannel and... a fuzzy hat.” He squints, thinking really hard.

     A-plus description there, kid. That totally helps a lot.

     “Okay, then. How about we go somewhere a little less out in the open and wait until morning to find your sister.” It’s easier to find things in broad daylight, and the kid looks exhausted.

     “Okay.” His voice is small, and he stifles a yawn.

     “So, how do you wanna go? Want me to carry you, or do you wanna use the bag?”

     “I don’t wanna go in the bag.” His sleepy protests are too cute.

     “Alright, little dude.” You sigh, “Let’s get you to bed.”

     “You sound” Yawn, “Like Wendy.”

     You don’t really know what to say to that. Instead, you scoop him up, and once he’s cradled and snug, you take off for home.

     He’s out by the time you get there, and you let him use your bed. You don’t have extra bedding for guests, and he needs it more anyway. You’re planning on staying up all night and finding his family in the morning, anyway.

     First, you’ll need food. Gus’ll need food, too.

     By morning, you’ve collected a couple of days worth of scavenged food from around the forest. It’s mostly edible roots and berries, but it’s not like you can be picky. This is the apocalypse. Picky eaters don’t last here.

     When Gus wakes, he shoots out of bed and scares the bejesus out of you. He looks around and tries to scramble out of the strange place that he doesn’t remember coming to. You catch him before he falls off of the edge, and you set him down in front of a small pile of food. Enough for one ‘serving’ for a kid about his size. By the time he sees the food, he recognizes you and realizes that he’s not in danger.

     Gus sniffs the food and, deeming it safe, eats as much as he can. Which is more than you gave him in the first place. You give him more until he’s satisfied, and you’re glad that you don’t have any little ones to look after.

     Well, you do for now, but that’s beside the point.

     The kid eats a lot. If he stays the night again, you’ll have to get more food for dinner.

     Speaking of, the kid was poking his furry little head out from behind a curtain of long vines that you wove together with the branches of your home. (You’re still working on a more permanent solution, aside from planting vines yourself) The kid’s claws dig into the edge of the nest as he peeks into the world outside.

     Gus looks down, and you see him climb out. You follow, not wanting him to fall without you there to catch him. He looks around when his feet hit the floor. He smells the air with his little ears perked up.

     “What’s up, kiddo?”

     “...” he sniffs again. “I smell something.”

     That’s helpful. “There’s a lot to smell around here, kid.”

     “No. I smell something.” He repeats, sounding impatient. He rolls his eyes and starts walking away. You assume he’s following that smell, and follow as he wanders into a thicket of blackberry bushes. You don’t fit in the space he squeezes through, so you jump over it. Gus isn’t on the other side. You figure that he’s still inside of the brambles. You munch on some of the fruits while you wait for him. Five minutes pass, and he’s still in there.

     “Hey, Gus, are you okay in there?”

     “Yeah. I’m just gonna wait in here.” Gus rustles around. “It’s part of the plan. My family knows where all the blackberry bushes are. They’ll find me soon.”

     That would have been good to know earlier.

     “Do you want me to wait with you?”

     You ask again when Gus doesn’t respond.

     “If you don’t mind.”

     You can barely hear Gus’ quiet voice through the branches, but you heard clearly enough to stick around. You keep him company until you hear something rustling nearby. You stand, watching for any movement. You catch a glimpse of red fur. Seeing something that looks like Gus, you edge closer. That’s when you hear growling. A young woman in tattered clothing is crouched on four legs, bearing her sharp teeth as she snarls at you.

     “Where’s the kid.” She demands. Her sharp eyes never leave you.

     “Why should I tell you?” You crouch as well. If she’s going to fight, you have to protect yourself first. The kid will be safe. If this chick is his sister, then he has nothing to worry about. If not, then she’ll have to go through you and the thorns that protect Gus.

     “Who are you?” Her voice is low, her hackles raise. It looks like she’s about to pounce.

     Your ear flicks towards the bush behind you when you hear Gus moving around. The girl’s ears lay flat, and Gus bursts out of the bush to tackle you. He flips forward, and lands on his stomach between you and the girl.

     “WENDY! You’re here!” His smile is so wide his face might split in half. “Don’t worry about (Y/n). They helped me find you!”

     The girl, Wendy, trots over to her brother, still wary of you. After she looks him over, she looks at you.

     “What were you planning with my brother?” It’s safe for her to be suspicious. Even if it is completely unfounded.

     “Getting him to you.”

     “LIAR.”

     “Then we’re done here.” You turn your attention to Gus. “Get home safe, kid.”

     “Good Luck!” Gus shouts after you. “I’ll see you later!”

     “I don’t know about that, kiddo.” You mutter to yourself as you walk away, only to jump over the bush and right into someone much bigger. You can’t tell what he is, but you know that you’re terrified. He’s enormous, towering over you. Leaping into the air, you try to escape. The creature grabs your tail, and you’re dragged back to the earth. You rake your claws down the hand that keeps you down, and the creature lets you go. You run, not looking back, fleeing from your nest for the rest of the day, lest the beast follow you.

     Later, you realize that Wendy is the girl you saw from your nest a few weeks ago. Now that she knows where you are, you get the feeling that you are going to be seeing her around a lot more often. Guess you might see Gus around after all.

Chapter Text

     You go on with the rest of your week, happy to know that the little rascal is safe, but you can feel like something is watching you. It’s not all the time, but it’s often enough for you to be concerned. You look behind you, hoping to catch who or whatever may or may not be following you. All you see is the thick tree trunks and bushes of the forest. Nothing unusual, but there’s still that little prickle on the back of your neck. You squint into the dark trees, like that will make them give up their secrets. They stay still and silent. You move on.

     Taking the last of the roots you were collecting, you fly off to find a rabbit, your latest craving. The meat is lean and a little tough, but it’s still meat. You could eat a whole rabbit in one sitting, thanks to this strange form. It takes a while to find one, but the rabbit itself isn’t hard to catch. You’re sitting there, happy with your meal when you hear something rustling behind you. You try to act natural, picking up the meat, and walking away from your nest. Something shifts in the heavy brush. You can’t see what it is, but it hasn’t attacked… Yet.

     Someone is following you, and they’re about as subtle as a freight train in the silence of the forest at night. You take off running, gaining speed before launching yourself into the air, and let yourself coast above the treeline, knowing that if this mysterious creature can fly, you can find out who’s following you. If they can’t, they’ll have one hell of a time tracking you when they can’t see you clearly.

     Perks of having wings.

     You huff when nothing follows you into the air. You know there will likely be other times to catch a glimpse of this thing, but it’s still strange. You didn’t think there were enough survivors to have to worry about anyone following you on your nightly endeavors. Apparently you’re wrong.

     You let the wind guide you with the moon lighting your way, until you find yourself flying towards town. You land just within the safety of the trees. Do you want to try finding some supplies here? It’s probably not worth the risk. No one would be dumb enough to go in there for anything except death.

     You’re so going in there.

     If anything, you might be able to find some old sheets, maybe some rope. You could use some rope.

     Slinking past the buildings is easy. Eye bats beams are watching directly below their bulbous bodies, and that gives you enough time to dodge them and climb into an abandoned building through a broken window. Dust stirs around your paws, and you blink until your eyes adjust to the lack of light in the room. By the looks of things, no one’s stepped foot in there in a while.

     A fine layer of dust covers most things in the room. You pad over to a cabinet. Opening it slowly, you find some mugs. You take a few, and take a sharp knife from a drawer. Knives are useful, even if you have claws. You find some other useful things in the kitchen, including a few cans of tuna. You’re more than happy to take the food for when you can’t find anything on your own. You’ll have to remember where this place is, cause there’s more than you can take in one trip. Deciding to stick to small stuff unless you find something really good, you continue your investigation of the abandoned home.

     In another room, you find a curtain with vines and leaves printed all over it. You really broke into the right house this time. You take it, along with some blankets, and look around the rest of the house.

     You don’t find any rope, but your stomach has had about enough of this whole not eating yet thing, and grumbles at you. You might have to leave so you can eat in peace. You go back to the window, preparing to head home. You step away from the window into the relative safety of the house when you see something dragging itself towards your temporary hiding place. A strange beast that seems to be nothing more than a head with a single arm passes the window, shouting about being hungry, and smelling food. You dart out of the window after it passes, slinking back into the dark forest with your new stuff and the food.

     The way home is full of foraging for roots, berries, anything edible. After Gus had eaten most of your stash, you need to stock up. By the time you’re done, the bag is bulging, and you’re more than happy with the night’s events. When there isn’t room for anything else, you head home. A pair of eyes watch as you make your way through the forest, happy with your findings for the night.

     Once you’re home safe in your nest, you take out your loot, humming a tune to yourself as you hang some of the roots to dry. The meat needs to be eaten sooner, so you skin the rabbit and dig in. A bush rustles close by, but you’re too busy enjoying your meal to notice.

     Gleaming green eyes watch you closely, before nudging the bush in front of its nose, hiding it from view. It had been a pain to follow you into town and back again, but it was worth it to her. After all, now she knows where your hideout is. At first, she was surprised at how close it was to the blackberry bush, but there’s nothing she can do, but she still sure of how she feels about that. The chances of you having seen her before the other day are too high. She decides that she doesn’t like it. She’ll have to find the twins and see what they think of all this mess.

     You are blissfully unaware of the set of eyes locked on you as you undo a few days worth of work and push the net of vines to the forest floor. It falls in a heap, and the girl hiding in the bushes takes care to not jump at the sound it makes. You take a sturdy branch from the forest floor, and hook the curtain to the stick using small holes and thin handmade rope. It takes a while, and stowaway makes herself comfortable under the bush, watching you work.

     You look up at the first rays of daylight, content to be done working for the night. You yawn, and climb up to your home. You stuff the stick into the tree, hooking on something hidden from view, and you go inside for some well deserved rest.

     The wolf girl leaves after she’s sure that you’re not going to wake up and chase her down. By the time she gets back, her brothers are up and waiting for her. She smiles as they play together, and goes to a thick bush for some sleep. Now that she knows where you’re living, she doesn’t need to follow you any more. She is relieved to know that she can get back to her plans with the others. She doesn’t want her brothers having to live like this longer than they have to.

Chapter Text

     The day passes peacefully, and when night falls, you’re up and it’s time to get more food, and finish with the curtains you had found. You yawn, and eat some roots and a can of tuna for breakfast and bring your things to the forest floor to work. Thoughts trail through your mind as you get back to work. That curtain isn’t going to build itself, after all. By the looks of things, you’re going to be in this for the long haul.

     Your hands work and the sun carves a fiery path past the horizon as you begin your work. Your ears twitch at the sounds of the forest. Once you think you hear something stepping on a branch. You don’t look around, thinking that your sneaky little friend might be back. You hope that you catch a glimpse of them tonight.

     The night goes by with little distraction for you as you lose yourself in the methodological work. Punching holes through the sturdy fabric, stringing the vine along, cutting holes, stringing the vine. Your rope replacement until you get around to skinning branches and making it seems to be working well. You just need to make sure it’s finished before they dry completely. Maybe you’ll make some wooden rings or something instead. That might be worth looking into.

     You’re so lost in your thoughts that you almost don’t notice the sound of wings fluttering overhead. A bit of unusual light catches your eye and you slowly set the vine down. Man, you wish you had worked in your nest instead of out in the open. There’s no going back now, and you haven’t started flying for the night. You don’t know how much you need to warm up your wings, and you really don’t want to find out now. Hiding behind the wide trunk of the tree, you take a look and realize that it isn’t the usual red glow of the eye bats. Instead, it looks like fire.

     You squint at the brightness of it, waiting for your eyes to adjust so you can see who’s behind the flickering flame.

     When they do, you feel the need to run pull at your stomach. It’s one of the demons that the asshole triangle brought over with him when he started this whole mess. She doesn’t quite look like she did when she first stepped through the gash in the sky. You can’t quite put your finger on it. Maybe it’s the color of her flames, or the manic rage flickering behind her eyes. Either way, it’s not normal. Her gaze scans the underbrush until her eyes land on your abandoned project.

     Her eyes widen and she cackles as she sets the forest aflame. You watch as your work catches fire, and she looks around. You hope that the smouldering flames stay away from your nest. Everything is up there, and it would be a pain to get all of that back.

     Something must hate you, because the flaming bitch sets a nearby bush on fire, as well as a tree. She’s not going to control it, and there’s nothing you can do without water. The trees around you are starting to catch and Pyronica laughs as she watches it burn. Things are starting to get heated. You feel the heat pressing in around you. You suck in a breath and try not to cough through the smoke. The bitch keeps laughing as she flies away, deeming her work finished.

     Fuck. She can fly. That blows your original escape plan out of the water. As soon as you’re sure it’s safe, you run for it. Dashing over the uneven forest floor and away from your home. You don’t stop until you find the stream you had seen on your way back home a couple of days ago. You see a streak of red darting directly into the water. The thing hisses as the flames go out. Instead of something dangerous, you find the sopping face of a familiar werewolf. The one from the other day.

     “Were you the one that was following me?” You squint at her, preparing to try and take off.

     “Who else did you think it was? That asshole?” She jabs an open hand to where Pyronica had set the fire. “If it was her, you’d have been burned a while ago.”

     “So I guess that’s it with the blackberry bush.”

     “Dude, you just lost everything and you’re thinking about that?” Wendy looks at you with wide eyes.

     “Eh, it’s not like I’ll die without it.”

     “Yeah.”

     “How long have you been following me anyways?”

     Wendy thinks for a moment. “...Three... maybe four days.”

     “That’s not creepy at all.” You mutter.

     “Hey, it’s not like I stole your brother or anything.”

     “I didn’t steal him, I saved him.”

     “From what? Your wonderful personality?”

     You glare at her, turning and fluffing up your feathers. Her fur rises and she snarls. You crack your neck, preparing for a fight when some screaming white thing goes streaking past and plummets into the cold water.

     You and Wendy blink at each other before turning towards the river. There’s a soaking girl sitting in the bottom of the river, but something seems wrong. She seems taller than she should be, compared to the size of her torso. After everything that’s happened, there’s no way this is just a normal little girl. She beams at Wendy and her braces flash in the distant fire light. She stands and you see just why she seemed disproportionate. You also notice the horn sticking out of the middle of her forehead and her longer than usual ears sticking out from under a bright red head band.

     The girl trots up to Wendy, and tackles the shockingly nonchalant wolf girl in what looks like a bone crushing hug. You get your first look at this stranger. She’s got a tapered tail and for lack of a better explanation, she looked like a unicorn if someone mashed it with a dash of human, shoved the whole mess in a blender and pressed puree.

     “WEEEEENDYYYYYYYY Wendy Wendy Wendy, you won’t believe what we found! You’ve gotta come back to the shack with me right now .”

     “Alright, chill out, Mabel. I’m coming.” She shoots a glance at you before speaking again. Her look tells you that she doesn’t want you to follow them. The unicorn girl seems to have other ideas.

     The girl, Mabel, turns her hundred watt smile towards you, and you feel a storm coming.

     “HI! I’m Mabel. What’s your name? Do you wanna come with us? You’re coming with us, so let’s get going!”

     You tell her name out of pure confusion, and she smiles wide before tugging you towards the where the fire is smoldering and towards a bunch of scratched out signs with over-sized question marks on them.

     You’re not exactly sure why you’re still following this bouncy child, but you do anyways, thinking about what you’re going to do now that everything you don’t have on your person was reduced to charcoal somewhere behind you. You take a moment to mourn your little home while the little girl tugs you along an overgrown path through the trees.

     Wendy is trailing behind you, so you don’t bother turning around. You don’t know how you thought things would be alright. It is the end of the world, after all. Nothing stays the same and nothing is going to be fine. That’s part of the whole end of the world thing.

     You’re dragged out of your thoughts when Mabel pushes you towards a rickety old shack. There’s another voice you don’t recognize coming out of the house. A little deer boy with a hat and matching vest is standing in the doorway, looking you over like you’re hiding something dangerous and he’s standing in your way.

     “I don’t know you. What are you doing here?!” He stands in front of the shack in what you assume is supposed to be an intimidating stance, but he looks too adorable for his posturing to have its desired effect.

     “Aw, come on, bro-bro. We need as much help as we can get with this plan.” She pouts. Her brother narrows his eyes more before he goes back into the depths of the house. He sticks his head out long enough to put his fingers in front of his eyes and point at you in the classic ‘I’m watching you’ way. Wendy slinks past you, into the open door behind him, and scoffs. Mabel tugs you inside, and you follow slowly. You get the feeling that this house is hiding more than it seems with its unassuming structure.

     It feels like this place has secrets. You’re not sure if you’re ready to find out.

Chapter Text

     There was no stopping the surprisingly strong child that is Mabel from dragging you inside of the foreboding shack.

     The house seems too small with all these people inside. Even though the house is huge. It'll be hard to get out fast, and something on your gut tells you that you'll need to. Would it be suspicious if you just leave? You don't know if you can break Mabel's strong grip on your arm. She looks at you like she knows exactly what you're thinking and smiles wide. It’s disarming, and you find it’s effectiveness a little alarming.

     It's cute, terribly cute, but it doesn't do much to comfort you. The child takes you into the shack and you find that there are more than just these kids staying here. There are all sorts of creatures sitting around, looking worse for wear.

     Looking around, you see Mabel approach a gargoyle. He doesn’t look too happy about having so many guests, but he picks up Mabel and a smile melts his stony expression.

     You tear your eyes away from the heartwarming scene to take in the rest of the shack and its inhabitants. Once you spot the talking bear with seven heads, you walk right back out the door. That’s too much weird for you right now.

     “Wait! Where are you going?” Mabel squirms out of the gargoyle’s grip. She darts in front of you, holding her arms out like that would stop you. You pause for her sake.

     “I’m going home.”

     “But... it burned.” The little girl tugs on one of her too long sleeves. Her sad eyes stare at you. “I thought you could stay here. Grunkle Stan already said it was okay…”

     You don’t want to go, but you can’t stay right now. Not here, with all of these strange creatures. You don’t know any of them at all. Not even Mabel, if you’re being completely honest with yourself.

     “Sorry, Kiddo.” You walk past her, pausing to pat her on the head before you continue. “I can’t stay in such a small space with so many people… creatures… whatever they wanna be called. I can’t do it. I need space. Especially with everything that’s happened lately. I need somewhere to start over.”

     “Then would you at least stay close by?” She widens her eyes and her lip quivers. She’s pulling the puppy eyes, and it’s getting to you.

     “...Alright. I’ll set up close by.”

     “YES! Then we can have sleepovers and talk about boys and play games and it’ll be SO MUCH FUN!”

     You aren’t sure what to say to that. She seems to be too energetic for her own good, so you smile, and say goodbye before leaping into the air to scout out a new home base.

     The skies are lined with light, and you take a deep breath, trying not to let exhaustion wash over you. Usually, you’d be in your nest, getting comfortable. But no. You’ve got to stay awake because of the flaming asshole of a demon bitch. You mutter sleepy, bitter profanities to yourself and the wind swallows them up after you. The trees around here are huge. You might just pick one at random for today. Just for today.

     You almost don’t notice that you barely avoid crashing into the tops of one of the trees. You can’t bring yourself to care right now. All you want is sleep in your nice, warm, comfortable... Burned…. Nest.

     You manage to catch yourself on a branch and find somewhere slightly more sheltered. You collapse close to the trunk of the tree, feeling safer beneath the branches that cover the sky. You don’t sleep well. You find yourself waking throughout the night, which is slightly annoying, and you take a moment to mumble angrily for a minute before rolling over in the forked branches you had found and slipped into sleep once more. You find yourself waking to nothing throughout the day. Your sleep addled mind doesn’t wonder why. It’s only later that it sticks to you. You manage to stay there for the rest of the day before taking off to find another tree. The next day is spent in a different roost. A week later, you’re no closer to finding a new home, and you’re getting further and further from the shack.

     You think it might be the discomfort at being so close to town, even though you’re a safe distance away. It feels like something strange is watching you. After the sun sets, you take off to see if Mabel knows what that feeling was. You didn’t feel watched in your last home, or the one before. When you were still human in this strange town.

     You don’t make it far from where you spent the day before you see another strange creature. It looks familiar, and most of the familiar monsters here aren’t friendly. You start when it stirs. Watching the creature carefully, you don’t realize that it’s watching you in turn. The little blue glob with eyes, limbs, and a hole in it’s head was planning something as it faked sleep and observed you. It had never seen anything like you before. That had to mean something. It turned ideas over in it’s deranged mind as you dared to come a little bit closer.

     Ignorant of it’s plotting, you give it one more suspicious glance before leaving. Deciding to walk away, into the trees.

     At first, you don’t seem to notice that you’re walking away from the shack until you come across the husk of your home. By now, the enraged flames had turned to smouldering embers.

     You turned away, unable to stifle the sinking feeling in your gut.

     It had taken so long to make that home. You would have to try again. You wander further, still feeling the feathers on the back of your neck ruffle in a mockery of human shivers.

     “The eyes are watching, aren’t they.” Someone whispers from a bush a little behind you. “Don’t you know? They are everywhere.”

     You run back to the bush faster than you can think. When you get through the branches, there’s nothing there. Still feeling like there’s something wrong, you take off. But even with flying as fast as you can, you still don’t feel safe. Something in the back of your mind tells you that you’ll never feel safe again.

     That the demon has banished safety in order to invoke chaos.

     You look down, trying to find somewhere to hide from this feeling. You see nothing through the thick trees. Except for a pair of eight ball eyes. You startle in the air, and fly higher, hoping to get out of his reach.

     He doesn’t try to catch you. Instead, his face twists into a cruel grin that does nothing to cure your anxiety.

     Something big is coming. You don’t know what it is, but you know that it will change everything you know about this strange place. You can feel it in the wind, rustling through the trees below and whispering secrets through your feathers.

     You feel like this isn’t where you should be. You should find that little girl. Mabel.

     She had managed to be happy here, so she might know how to feel safe again. She is more than she seems to be. You can feel it.

     You bank around, back towards your old home. Towards the rickety old shack that seems to offer some kind of protection inside of its walls.

     The whole way there, you feel the eyes on your back. Watching. Waiting. Yearning. You’re not quite sure what they’re waiting for, but you hope you can at least find somewhere even a little safe to rest.