Excerpt from The Hunt
A rustling comes from not far off, the delicate footfalls of a rabbit emerging from a burrow. Sasha can’t see it, but has a sense of where it is, nibbling at the weeds near a bush just barely visible in the fog. A morsel of real meat, just yards away. Her stomach sounds off again, rattling her bones, the acerbic taste of bile creeping up her throat. She’d seen Therin and other members of the pack catch rabbits many times. A short chase, an easy kill. She could catch it, eat some, then share the rest with her pack. Energy for hunting the caribou.
Sasha rises to her feet, knees bent, crouched low to the ground. She strides up out of the clan’s small valley, higher than the bush so she can descend down upon the rabbit. Every few yards she stops to listen—it would be easier in wolf form, but she still is able to detect the rabbit’s small movements, the uncertainty in its steps. Not yet. Sasha gets up a few yards higher, stooping behind some scrub. She spots it, just barely, a gray and twitching outline in the fog. As it emerges farther out from under the protection of the tangled branches of the bush, Sasha can almost taste its scent on her tongue. Now. Shift now.
Sasha allows her human mind to slip into instinct, into sound and smell and hunger and desire. Her pulse rushes inside her ears like a whitewater river. A throbbing ache overcomes her body. Her bones begin to creak, to crack. Jaw elongates and strengthens, as do her teeth. Hands shrivel and pucker into paws. Spine lengthens into a tail. Skin ripples with the sprouting of thick fur. And as the shudders of the shift ripple through Sasha’s newly formed canine body, the world explodes her senses. Scents and sounds overwhelm, so strong they’re dizzying. She smells the pungency of spring pollen, the freshness of new buds on pine trees. She hears the rustle of bird-wings against leaves, chipmunks’ tiny scrambling paws along the contours of the stone, the snow and it’s steady trickle along and into the earth where worms creep and nestle in the soft loam under the surface of the soil.
Sasha’s world is alive with movement and aroma in a way it never could be in human form. Her human mind feels cloudy and distant while the hyperawareness of the surrounding land is now in Sasha’s forefront. As the shock of her shift settles, she shakes her body left to right, fluffing her fur. She lifts and places each paw, testing her balance. She can see farther, distinguish more. And her hunger echoes through her body, thunder through a canyon. Her urge to feast is more distracting, acute.
Sasha’s human mind whispers from its chasm in the consciousness of her wolf form, an image, rather than words, coming to the foreground. The rabbit. It has meandered out from under its hiding place. Sasha watches its back lengthen and then round with each careful advance. Its ears are trained in opposite directions, hazelnut eyes soft but alert. It bows its head and Sasha can hear the pop of grass blades torn by its teeth. She waits for a moment of distraction, waits for the rabbit to become lost in its task, even just for a second.