Shapeshifter
CHAPTER
1
1. The Finding
I roll over in my half-sleep, expecting to feel Wren’s tiny body against mine, her meager heat pressing up to me. Nothing. That drags me from my fantastical dreams into the waking world. ‘I am Ky Rau.’ I think to clear my head. ‘Today is the Finding. Wren had nightmares and went to sleep with Mum. I can sha—‘ I cut myself off. I don’t think the Gen can detect thoughts, but better safe than sorry.
I pull myself up, the rough blanket wrapped around me in case Wren was hiding somewhere waiting to jump out and scream boo. She does that sometimes. I looked behind the bookshelf we shared, the desk we shared, in the closet we shared. No Wren.
When I was almost sure Wren wasn’t in the room, I slowly began taking off my shirt. Yeah, she probably had nightmares and—
“BOO!”
“AHH!” Wren, the tiny terror, jumped out from under the bed, the one place I’d forgotten to look. I stumbled back and hit my knee on the bedpost before crashing down on the bed again. She jumped on top of me and bobbed her head up and down.
“I scared you, I scared you!” Her blonde hair whipped around and her pale skin seemed to glow with happiness. Sometimes I’m not sure I’m was born. Maybe I was adopted. Because Wren is the carbon copy of Mum and Dad died when I was ten and he was always away. And being adopted would sure explain—
“Okay, okay, ya got me!” I said. “Get off me now?” She got down. She was already dressed for the Finding, wearing that old dress I got at the small dress shop. The one with bluebirds all over it. She looks so nice because it’s her first year in the Finding. I was going to wear black. Black is what I’m comfortable in.
“Thank you.” I got up. “Go annoy Mum.”
“Noooo!” Her little 6-year-old frame bounced up and down. “I wanna ask you somethingggg!”
“What?” I asked, already knowing what the question would be.
“Do you think I’m a” She lowered her voice so I had to lean in to hear her. “Special?”
“No.” I stood up. “We would know.” ‘They don’t know about YOU,’ a voice inside my head whispered.
“Are you a Special?”
“No.” The lie rolled ever so easily off my lips. “We’d know.”
“Fine, I’ll go find Mum.” She left, the dress swirling around her skinny frame.
She reminded me of a small, hardy porcelain doll. So small, so delicate, yet fiercely determined to survive. I fight the urge to grin and fully took off my shirt, replacing it quickly with a plain black one.
359 years ago (to this day) the world was destroyed. By crazy people with giant nuclear bombs. And something called cl-i-mate change. And droughts. And other stuff I forgot. The final result of 7 world wars, 5 major droughts, and all the huge deserts turning to arctic zones, was Terra. Don’t ask me who named it, the guy was a moron.
Some say the Specials came from the amount of toxic waste that was dumped on Nor Amarika during the 6th World War. Others say they’ve always been there, guarding some portal to a world far beyond everyone’s imagination. Ha. Rumor junk. The Finding was invented to weed us out and destroy us.
I come out of my room, sleep deprivation from dreams is taking it’s toll. I don’t FEEL nervous about the Finding. I’ve managed to evade them before and I would do it again for the last time. But some part of my brain must have been nervous, because the dreams were worse tonight. I’ve always had vivid dreams. But last night was the worst since Wren got double pneumonia and there was a 30% chance she’d live.
I yawn so widely my jaws crack and Wren wraps her arms around my legs.
“Pick me up!” She begs me to pick her up every year before the Finding, and because I’m ten years older than her, I do it. She wraps her arms around my neck and snuggles into me. I wonder what will happen when I don’t go to the Finding anymore, because 16-year-olds don’t go to the Finding. And I’m almost 16.
Mum doesn’t say a word to us as we leave. If either of us turned out to be Special, she would have time to say goodbye to us in private. The Finding was first thing in the morning, so we didn’t eat anything.
The other children in our sector of the housing section came out with us, all moving toward the circle-like space that the other houses formed. Most of the kids were walking relaxed, their arms at their sides, faces relaxed. Butn some of the younger ones, doing this for the first time, like Wren, are wrapped around their older siblings’ legs or bodies. Terrified of powers they may or may not have.
The circle-shape center can barely hold all of us with the platform for the Ruler. We cram shoulder-to-shoulder. Me holding Wren creates some room, but not much. She huddles nearer to me and almost cuts off my breathing passageways. I don’t mind. I’m too busy fighting the nausea that’s settled without my consent in the pit of my stomach.
The Ruler pushes through the mass of children and onto the platform. She’s young, about 19, but the last Ruler died a few weeks ago. But this wasn’t this Ruler’s first time hosting a Finding. She’s been to bigger, richer towns than ours.
“Hello, all you children,” She says, and at first she sounds reluctant, like she doesn’t want to announce the Specials for them to be taken away. But she quickly corrects it. “One among you has a unique power, one of the oldest group.” My heart starts pounding, yet I keep thinking ‘Not me, not me, not me, not me.’ “He has evaded me for several years. I admit he’s special of the Specials. I think his power has something to do with changing one’s shape.
“So would Ky Rau please come up on the platform and tell us what power he possesses?”

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