Chapter Fifty Six

The night went by faster than I had anticipated, and apart from Tyler's little episode earlier, everything seemed to be going great.  Kimberly had found a stick on the ground, and she was having a good time throwing it for me.
 
“Fetch!" she said again, hurling it out into the woods with all her might.  I chased after it, not having to go far before I found it lying on the ground, and brought it back to her.  This was one game I wished she hadn't decided to play, because… well, sticks taste nasty.  Especially when they've been sitting on the ground for who knows how long before some little kid decided to pick it up.  A normal dog wouldn't have minded, but I had a teenage girl inside my head that kept worrying about getting splinters in her tongue every time I bit the rough, dead wood.  Still, if it kept Kimberly entertained until sunrise, then I'd run and fetch that dirty old stick as many times as she told me to, splinters or no splinters.
 
Tyler was still keeping his distance, and I couldn't figure out why.  Something had happened when Kimberly had touched him, but what?  He didn't seem to be afraid of her or anything, but the last time she'd tried to pet him he had gotten up and moved to a different spot.  After that, she had been content to play with me.  Still, I was a little nervous about what was going through his head, and I made a mental note to ask him about it when we changed back in the morning.
 
“Good girl!" Kimberly laughed, trying to pull the stick out of my mouth.  I clenched my teeth around it harder, and pulled back.  I didn't pull as hard as I could have, because that would have resulted in me dragging her across the ground, but I did make her struggle a bit to get it back.  Finally, I relented and opened my mouth.
 
“Beat you!" she giggled, waving the stick enticingly in front of my face.  “You… you want it?"
 
She was still giggling, but her breathing was getting heavier behind it.  I cocked my head in concern, but Kimberly didn't seem too concerned about it.  I had just gone a little too hard on her playing tug-of-war, I decided, and made another note not to put up such a fight next time.  I lowered my head playfully when she pulled the stick back, barking softly.  Then she whipped it forward, throwing it again, and I spun around and chased after it.
 
I hope she gets tired of this soon, I thought, finding it on the ground again.  She's not the only one who's out of breath.
 
I brought it back to the clearing, and laid it down at her feet.  When I looked back up at her, I noticed she was still breathing heavily— even harder now, like she was about to throw up.  She barely glanced at the stick when I set it down, and then went back to staring blankly down at her shoes.
 
Hey, I thought, taking a step closer to her, knowing she couldn't hear me, are you feeling okay?
 
I got close enough to look into her eyes, and felt my blood run cold.  Her eyes were yellow.  Wolf yellow.  Just like they had been when I first brought her into the moonlight at the funeral home.
 
Then she screamed.  I backpedaled in surprise, her high pitched voice ringing in my sensitive ears.  She put her hands to her belly, like she was having a stomach ache, and fell to her knees.  She was still breathing hard, broken only when she let out another scream.  It wasn't a scream of fright, I realized.  It was one of pain!
 
I ran to her, sniffing her all over, trying to figure out what the problem was.  Her eyes were yellow, but other than that I couldn't figure out what was wrong.  Her body heat was rising to feverish levels too, I could feel it just standing next to her.  She looked up at me with huge, frightened yellow eyes, silently begging me to help her— but I didn't know how.
 
There was a rustle of leaves behind me, and I heard Tyler say, “She's trying to change.  You have to stop her!"
 
I turned to look, and saw him kneeling next to me in human form again.  He was staring at Kimberly in horror, and when I looked again I could see why.  Her teeth were growing, becoming pointed, and way too big to fit in her little mouth.  I looked back to Tyler, waiting for him to do something, but he just sat there, watching her.  Not knowing what else to do, I shifted back as well.
 
“What do you mean she's trying to change?" I demanded once I got the use of my voice back.  “It's not a full moon!"
 
Tyler shook his head, bewildered.  “It can happen before that.  I was worried about this."
 
I looked back at Kimberly, who collapsed onto the ground, writing in pain.  “What do you mean you— never mind, what do we do?"
 
“You have to stop her," Tyler answered.  “You have to stop her before she changes."
 
I looked down at her, and thought for a moment.  “Maybe I shouldn't," I argued.  “If we can get this done with tonight, we won't have to worry about it on the full moon."
 
“No, Amber!" Tyler shouted, rounding on me.  “If she changes for the first time without the full moon, she'll die!"
 
I froze, his words taking a few seconds to sink in, and then I dove for Kimberly.
 
“Kimberly!" I shouted into her face.  “Kimmy, you can't do this.  You have to stop!"
 
I don't know if she could hear me or not, but she kept wriggling around on the ground, moaning.
 
“It… it hurts," I heard her mumble, and I looked back up at Tyler.
 
“What do I do?" I asked, starting to panic.  I had promised to take care of her.  I couldn't lose her, not like this.  Not before I'd fixed things!
 
“Knock her out!" Tyler ordered.  “That's the only way."
 
I turned back to Kimberly, and gasped when I saw brown hair starting to sprout on her arms.  I was running out of time.  Tyler was right, I decided.  If she was unconscious, the transformation would stop.  I raised my hand and made a fist, preparing to hit her on the head as hard as I could, but I hesitated.
 
I… I couldn't do it.
 
“I can't," I said, lowering my hand.  “I can't hurt her!"
 
“Amber, she's going to die!" Tyler shouted from behind me.
 
“I know, but I can't do it!" I bawled, tears running down my face. “I… I just can't!"
 
Then, before I knew what was going on, I felt Tyler's hand on my shoulder.  He shoved me out of the way, and I went skidding across the ground like I weighed less than a doll.  I rolled back over and saw him kneeling over Kimberly.  With one hand, he grabbed her shirt and jerked her upright.  He raised his other hand, curling it into a fist.  A gigantic, rock hard fist…
 
“No!" I screamed, scrambling to get up.  “Don't!  You'll kill her!"
 
Tyler ignored me.  His fist fell, striking Kimberly on the head with a crack that made me want to throw up.  Kimberly's head fell, and she stopped moving.
 
 
 
NEXT TIME: Well… that just happened.  Too bad, because things were going so well!  Is Kimberly okay?  I think Tyler owes Amber an explanation…
 

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