"Close your eyes," I said. Kimberly obeyed. "Reach down deep inside yourself."
"What does that mean?" she asked.
"It means..." I paused and opened my eyes. How did I describe it? I could tell her to turn her thoughts inwards, or pretend she was reaching into her heart, but none of it would matter if I couldn't make her understand what I meant. "I can't really explain it. You'll know what I mean when you do it."
Kimberly grumbled something I couldn't make out, but I let it slide. The fact that she had come to me asking for help was a huge step forward from the angry, distant little girl she'd been before. I didn't want to push her away again by chewing her out for every little thing.
Just a bite, my wolf side insisted. Just a little bite. Little blood. Not hurt bad. Teach her respect.
I pushed the mangy mutt deeper into my subconscious, where I couldn't hear it so clearly.
"You're looking for something inside you," I went on, closing my eyes again. Sitting crosslegged facing each other, it almost felt like I was teaching her to meditate. "I've always thought it felt like a great big light switch. When you flip it, you'll change."
Kimberly arched her eyebrow, but didn't open her eye. "There's a light switch inside me?"
I smiled at her innocence. Man, I had missed seeing this side of her. "Not a real light switch. It's pretend. It just... you know, feels like one."
We were in Stark's garage. After hearing what we wanted to do, and getting a promise from both of us not to leave, he had set out a blanket and space heater for us. The floor was hard and, despite its best efforts, the heater couldn't completely chase away the cold, but this was still the biggest room in Stark's cabin unless we wanted to clear the furniture out of his living room. Plus, one of the windows gave us the perfect view of the moon, something we both knew would be extremely important.
"You and I don't need a lot of moonlight to transform," he'd told me after I asked him for permission. "We've developed enough control that we don't waste it. We could probably change a dozen times both ways before we started to feel moonstarved. But Kimberly's a different matter. She's only ever changed when the full moon made her do it. She'll probably struggle to start the change on her own, which means she'll burn through her moonlight very fast." He had poked me directly in the chest then. "Whatever happens, never let her move out of the moonlight."
That was why I had her sitting directly in front of the window, where the moonbeams would touch her before they did me. It was an odd sensation, being able to feel the moonlight. As werewolves, we're able to absorb the light of the moon like sponges, or maybe solar panels. Lunar panels? I dunno. Anyway, it's a necessity of life for us, just as much as food or water. I've never been moonstarved, but I have firsthand experience just how much power it gives us. After being mauled by a silver-toothed dog, one of my arms was numb for days until I let it soak up some moonlight. It had healed it within seconds.
Sitting where we were, I could feel the moonlight shining in through the window and being absorbed by Kimberly. It was like we were standing in a current of water, and we were both holes in the riverbed. It passed Kimberly first, so she drained more of it than I did, but I still got enough to make my skin tingle.
I cracked one of my eyes open and saw Kimberly sitting still as a statue in front of me with a look of intense concentration on her face. Despite her enthusiasm, I had my doubts as to whether she'd be able to do it. It had taken me six months before I found out how to shift at will, and that was mainly because I was facing off against another werewolf and my instincts had taken over. Kimberly was trying to learn just because she wanted to, so she—
"I think I feel something!" she exclaimed. Her body went rigid, and I felt a sudden surge in the moonlight around her, like her body was taking a deep breath before jumping into a lake.
A chill ran down my spine. "Yep," I answered, opening both my eyes. "You've found it. I can tell."
How had she been able to find the switch so easily? She'd barely been a werewolf for two months. It was like watching a baby learn to run without having even learned to crawl first.
"So, what do I do now?" she asked.
I hesitated to answer. The moonlight was still being sucked into her body like a whirlpool, so much so that I wasn't getting hardly any at this point. What could she possibly be absorbing that much for? Our bodies absorb light naturally, and they always stop at a certain point, as if it knows when it's full. Kimberly's body was doing the equivalent of putting a hose to her mouth and swallowing every drop of water that came out of it. Was it possible for a wolf to absorb too much moonlight? What would happen if they did? Would they burst? I found myself standing up and slowly making my way to the door...
"Don't do anything yet," I said, reaching for the doorknob. "I think I need to bring Stark in here."
Kimberly was starting to breathe heavily. A pit formed in my stomach. I'd heard her breathe like that before, the night Tyler took us both out into the woods to get her accustomed to being around other wolves. Her wolf was starting to wake up inside of her. Before too much longer, it would force its way free.
As if to confirm my thoughts, her eyes flew open, and I saw that they had turned yellow. Bright yellow, as if they were... my stomach dropped. No, they didn't just look like they were glowing, her eyes really were glowing! Slowly, her head swiveled around to look at me, and I saw the unmistakable gaze of a predator looking at its prey.
"Kimberly?" I asked, my voice wavering. What was I so scared of? She might have been a werewolf, but so was I. I was bigger and stronger. She was just a kid. "Kimmie?"
"I told you..." she growled, her voice becoming deeper as she got to her feet and faced me, "... you don't get to call me that!"
She took a step towards me, and I pressed my back against the wall. Fur began to sprout from her skin, dark brown like chocolate. Something was wrong here. Very wrong. I didn't know what it was, but it was making my wolf panic inside me. Her body shifted under her clothes, and she fell to walk on all fours, a tail emerging from the top of her pants.
"I don't... like you..." she managed to snarl before her face pushed outwards into a snout, and her voice turned into a feral growl. She struggled to move, her clothes suddenly too small for her. I heard fabric rip as she took another step toward me.
My heart began to race.
Get a grip on yourself! I snapped inside my head. She's just a kid! Even if she tries to hurt you, you can handle her!
But then she did the last thing I was expecting her to do: Kimberly began to grow. Like a balloon, her body inflated, getting bigger and bigger by the second. She wasn't being filled with air, though. There was nothing beneath her skin but rock solid muscle. I could see it rippling under her fur, swelling to proportions even greater than was natural. Like a werewolf on steroids. Her clothes, which had restricted her only moments ago, were torn to shreds without her even having to move a muscle. She was only five years old, but at that moment her wolf was as big as mine...
And she wasn't done growing yet.
"Kimberly?" I yelled, knowing she either couldn't hear me, or just wasn't listening. "Kimberly, what's going on? Stop it!"
Kimberly's head touched the garage ceiling, and she glared down at me, a wolf the size of a pickup truck. I saw undisguised hostility in those gleaming yellow eyes.
"STAAAARK!" I screamed at the top of my lungs.
Kimberly snarled and lashed out with a paw almost as big as my torso, throwing me across the garage until I struck the far wall. Stars danced in front of my eyes, and I fell flat on my face. My head spun. I tried to get up, but couldn't find my balance. On the other side of the room, Kimberly took a step towards me, teeth bared. Every one of those teeth were twice the length of my fingers.
Suddenly, the door flew open with a bang, distracting Kimberly— followed by another, louder bang. The scent of smoke and gunpowder filled the air, and Kimberly was thrown off her feet with a whine.
"Stay down!" I heard Stark command her. "Don't you move!"
Through hazy thoughts, I began to work out what was happening. Stark... smoke... gunpowder? He had shot Kimberly!
"Don't worry, Amber," he said. I was able to focus my eyes enough to see him standing with a hunting rifle pointed at Kimberly's prone form. "I've got this under control."
"Amber?" my mom's voice came from the other side of the door. "What's going on? Are you okay?"
"Stay in there, Jennifer!" Stark yelled.
"D- don't... hurt her!" I begged him.
Stark took a deep breath, but didn't lower the gun. "I won't have to. I'm her alpha, and I've told her to—"
Faster than my dizzy eyes could see, Kimberly kicked out at him with her back paw. It connected with his stomach, throwing him backwards so that he collided with the wall as well. The gun went off, but didn't come anywhere near hitting Kimberly. A small shower of ceiling plaster rained down on her, making a big gray spot on her brown fur. Kimberly got back to her paws, favoring her right leg. A stream of blood spilled from her side, pooling on the floor. Suddenly, the garage seemed to grow darker. I guessed the bump on my head must have given me a concussion. When the light came back, I noticed that Kimberly's wound had stopped bleeding. My heart was trying to pound its way out of my chest as she turned to look at me again, and she bared her teeth. I was weaker, smaller, and already injured. Whatever had happened to Kimberly, I was no match for her now.
Leaning her head back, Kimberly let out a howl loud enough to shake the windows, and then turned tail and ran for the garage door. For a second, I hoped she wouldn't be able to get through, but my hopes were dashed when she tore through the hanging metal door as easily as if it were made of tinfoil. A sudden wave of ice cold wind and snow blew through the hole...
And then Kimberly was gone.
NEXT TIME: Well… bet you didn’t see that coming! Raise your hands if you had any idea that was going to happen. Now put your hand back down, you liar. So, Kimberly’s a giant monster wolf. What does this mean? And what’s going to happen next?