This is the last chapter. It was originally a short story that inspired the entire thing, and it's written in first person, present tense instead of third person, past tense. Casey's name was originally Nathan, and I think I fixed them all, but if I missed one, please tell me. :)
I cringe as the sun rises above the hills, raising my hand to block the rays from impeding my vision. Collin is practically rejoicing, but, then again, the dark-haired teen has always loved the sun. Casey pulls up his hood, and Jared simply keeps walking, ignoring everything that's going on around him.
"Should we stop to grab something to eat?" Collin asks, pulling out one earbud and tapping me on the shoulder. I glance at the others. Jared shrugs, not really caring one way or another. Nathan ignores us both, but that's typical for him.
"I don't care. McDonald's?" Collin makes a face, but nods. I'm not a big fan of the restaurant, either, but it's cheap, and it'll keep us going for a while. We need to get out of this small, village-like town (it consists of a gas station, bar, McDonald's, church, and a few houses. Apparently, that's all a town needs to get by these days) by the time the sun rises fully, and then it's on to the next town. This wouldn't be so bad if one of us could drive, but only one of us has a permit, let alone a driver's license.
"I'll go in and order." Collin says, unzipping my backpack and pulling out my wallet. We used up the last of his money a few days ago, and now we're working on mine. We only buy what's necessary, but money has a way of disappearing. We'll hit the gas station, too, for some bottled water. Caffinated pop can only get us so far. We need to keep moving until at least noon, and we need a way to keep awake.
As soon as we get to a small, grassy area where we'll wait for Collin, Casey curls into a ball and falls asleep. For some reason, he's always needed more sleep than the rest of us. Every time we stop, he'll take a five to ten minute nap, depending on how long it takes Collin to buy our supplies.
Collin always buys our supplies. Maybe it's because he's the most charismatic out of the four of us, but he always manages to spend a lot less money. When he's gone, Jared will draw whatever comes to mind, Casey will sleep, and I'll wait. Imagine what our lives could be like if we weren't cursed.
My name is Adeline Parker and I'm a shapeshifter. We're all shapeshifters, though we can turn into different animals. Collin's a panther. Casey is a bat. Jared is a falcon. And me….I can turn into a coyote. Not a wolf, a coyote. We had to leave our home before they found out. They've been hunting people like us for centuries. We're heading for a camp of shapeshifters that's supposedly located in Montana. Jared did some research, and that's where we're headed.
I hope it exists.
I'm brought out of my thoughts by Collin walking toward us, a huge grin on his face. He's holding three huge bags that look full to bursting, and a random McDonald's employee is following him with four large drinks. Collin drops the bags at my feet and takes the drinks from the girl. She smiles at him and goes back into the building. "We're close enough to our destination, so I got us breakfast. We can eat here," he says, smoothing down his hair.
Jared reaches over and shakes Casey awake. The black-haired sophomore yawns and stretches, looking remarkably cat-like. I open the bag closest to me and find four messily wrapped sandwiches. "Yeah, those are it. Those egg-muffin things." Collins says, jerking his head toward the bag. "I got one for each of us, then lunch and supper for the next few days. It's so processed we won't be able to tell the difference. Oh, and I got us each a large Coke. Caffeine is always good, especially for bat boy over there."
Casey looks like he's going to argue, but is too tired to. "Throw me one, Adeline," he mutters, sitting up. I pick up the one that seems the most securely wrapped and throw it toward him. He fumbles with the catch, but manages to grab it before it hits the ground. He's about to say the same to Collin, but Jared hands him a soda, because Collin actually would throw the cup at him.
I hand out the small packages, rolling my eyes as Collin withholds my pop until I hand him his 'egg-muffin thing.' We eat quickly; it's become a habit not to stay in the same place for long, even if Collin says we can relax. When we were first starting out on our journey, we were sloppy. As a result, they caught up, and we had to change quickly. We lost almost all of our supplies; the only reason we didn't lose more than we did is because Casey strapped a few of our backpacks onto Collin's back before shifting. Ever since then, we've been careful.
After gulping down our meal, we set off again. Ignoring the stares from citizens of the small town, we walked at a brisk pace, only stopping when Collin went inside the gas station to buy our water for the next three days. It was awkward without Collin there, he somehow bridged the gap between us. When we went to school, before we discovered our powers, we didn't even know each other. Collin was the class clown, Casey was the 'emo kid', Jared was the basketball star, and I was the straight A's student. The only reason we met was because of this…chat room. We would sit on there for hours, talking about all of our issues. Eventually, we decided to meet in the real world….and…that meeting didn't go so well. We got used to each other. We had to.
"Hey! I got wi-fi!" Collin exclaims, holding his iPod victoriously in the air.
"No!" Jared and I hiss at the same time. He glances at me, and then turns back to Collin. "Don't you remember what happened last time you used the internet?"
Collin bites his lip. "Oh. Yeah…but…we're closer now, wouldn't it-"
"You never know when they're going to catch up to us." Casey cuts in, now fully awake. "Last time they did, I almost died trying to save some of our supplies."
"Yeah, but you're the smallest out of us. You're the fastest…" Collin trails off; flinching under the glare Casey sends his way.
"It was day. I turn into a bat."
After a few more annoyed comments from Casey and sarcastic retorts from Collin, we are ready to move. We try to keep a low profile, because Jared has just pointed out that it's a Monday and, technically, we should be in school. We don't want to call attention to ourselves. For all we know, the girl who helped Collin carry out the drinks could be a spy.
We almost make it out. If we were a few feet farther, in the shelter of the trees, we would have made it. I officially hate McDonald's.
They come for us in three huge, white vans. I don't know why they're hunting us; if they just want to kill us or use us for some sick experiments, but I don't want to know. We've got no chance against them, even if we transform.
"Transform?" Collin asks quietly. I sigh, look around at the others, and nod. Even if the rest of us don't transform, Collin is our fighting force. I have a feeling that we'll all transform, though, except perhaps Casey.
And with a flash of red, we begin to change. Jared's fully changed first; he's always been the fastest at that. Nathan doesn't even bother, preferring to take a chance on staying human.
I crouch down, baring my teeth. I always defend Nathan while Collin takes the offense and Jared attacks from above.
They move out of the vans faster than we could've imagined. One van stays full, though. Perhaps they're going to use that one to cart us to wherever they plan on taking us.
There are too many of them. Collin's amazing, taking out as many as he can. Somehow, he's managed to get past the whole killing people thing. Maybe he just looks at it as being a video game. I wouldn't put it past him.
A few break away from the others and head toward me, probably sensing Casey as a vulnerable target. With a jolt, I realize the one leading them toward us is Casey's step-brother. I mentally wince. This must be hard for him.
Jared tries as hard as he can to keep them away, but soon I'm tossed into the battle. I bite and scratch as much as I can, but eventually we're overwhelmed. I notice Casey doesn't even try to transform and escape, like he would have a few weeks earlier. Instead, he allows his hands to be tied behind his back and is thrown into the third van. A bullet finds its home in one of Jared's wings, and he falls to the earth. He transforms back, pale and shaking. He's thrown in along with Nathan.
Now it's just me and Collin. He's fighting as hard as he can, but I've given up. I transform back and allow myself to be pushed into the van.
"He's a fighter."
I jump, looking to the driver of the van. It's a man, probably in his mid-twenties or younger. He has one of those timeless faces, one where he could be eighteen or fifty. His eyes are a startling blue, and his hair a pale blonde, almost white. He's watching the commotion outside, an interested expression on his face.
Collin is losing.
He's powerful, but even a panther isn't a match for fifteen grown men equipped with guns. I see him get shot one…two…three times. He transforms back into his human form, and they throw him into the van roughly, despite his injuries.
Tears well behind my eyes when I see him; but why? I don't like him like that…sure, he's amazingly gorgeous, but I don't like him. It must be because his injuries are so bad, and I don't think he's going to make it.
I don't think he's going to make it.
It's horrible, but I have to admit it. I don't think he's going to make it.
"Ready? Let's go!"
The van shoots off, going as fast as it can go. The driver has a crazed expression on his face, and is narrowly missing trees. We aren't on the road anymore. "Where-where are you taking us?" Casey asks, pressing himself against the side of the van. He looks like he's going to be sick.
"To the camp, of course!" the driver exclaims brightly. "I'm a shifter, just like you!"
I blink. He's….a shifter? Then why was he working for the-
I fly forward, slamming into the back of the passenger seat. We've run into a tree. Collin groans as he's tossed across the van, but doesn't do anything else. Jared's eyes are as wide as they can possibly be, and Casey is against the driver's seat. "What the hell?" Casey gasps. "Did you just run into a tree?"
The driver turns around. "Good thing I had my seat belt on. Anyway, they're catching up. You, you're not injured in the least. What can you turn into?" The question is directed toward Nathan, who is still glaring at him.
"A bat." Casey mutters darkly. "Why does it matter?"
"Because you're going to get backup. The hunters will be on us in a few minutes." The driver leans eerily close to Casey face. "Keep going straight until you find a path. Yell at the top of your lungs that Ian sent you."
Casey gulps, and nods. He changes and is out the window in a second. Ian turns to me. "You're not really injured, either, but I need your help with holding them off until he comes back. Coyote, right?"
"Let's get out here, and protect them. The falcon's not in mortal danger, but we need to make sure the panther's okay."
I crawl out the back of the van and shut the door behind me. Ian appears beside me. "I will warn you, though; I'm not a very good fighting force."
"Neither am I," I say, changing. I'm completely fine, because I gave up early.
He's a fox. It's kind of funny, but, then again, I'm not one to talk.
Just as Ian thought, they're here soon. Only one van this time, but there are multiple people piled into it. They are trying to kill this time, I suppose. Not only would they have absolutely no room in the van for all four of us, but they have a…malicious look on their faces.
This battle is fiercer than the last. I lose track of Ian, and soon we're overwhelmed. There's a gun pressed against my head, but they haven't pulled the trigger yet. I'm terrified.
Just as I'm about to be killed, a hoard of exotic animals pour out of the trees. Casey in his bat form follows, perching on top of the van and transforming back.
The man that's holding a gun to my head yelps as a huge lion knocks him away, tearing into his flesh. I wince and beckon for Casey to join me inside the van.
Collin is sitting up. I don't know how he's conscious, but he's managing to play with his iPod, too. Ironically, he's playing that one song that goes, 'Let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the floor.' I roll my eyes.
"Does he have any food in here?" Casey asks. Jared nods and reaches over into the passenger seat. "He stopped at the gas station, too." He throws us each a bag of chips with his uninjured hand, and we sit there, watching the battle through the windows, listening to Collin's iPod.