Paradise Threatened Ch. 02bylostangelkira©
Dana woke up with a slight headache, but she was feeling a lot better. Her heart started to hammer in her ribcage when she saw her clothes were different; a white sleeveless shirt and a light grey skirt. She was in a strange room. Catching sight of a mirror out of the corner of her eye, she turned and screamed in terror.
Looking back at her was a bat morph, much like the ones she'd seen last night. Her ears were tall and pointed, situated on the sides of her head. Her fur was the same fire red as her hair; she even had marks where her freckles were on her face. Her muzzle was a little narrower and longer than the other morphs she'd seen. Lifting up her arms, she trembled as wings unfurled and spread, connected to the inside of her arms and her sides, connected down to just a little bit higher than the top of her hips. Her feet were a little larger and longer now, her toes tipped with short, sharp claws.
"This isn't me," she whispered, panicking. "It can't be."
She pinched herself and screamed again when it hurt. This was real, she'd changed. Or did those monsters do this to her? Hearing someone coming up some stairs, she froze. Dana started to panic when the door opened and the human woman she'd seen with the male morph and their children the other night.
"Where am I?" she asked, her anger and fear mixing together. "Who the hell are you and what did you do to me!?"
"Calm down," the woman told her. "I don't want you upsetting my younger children. We brought you to our home, in Tranquility Valley. I'm Tanya Donniko and all we did to you is take care of you. One of my oldest sons found you in an alley behind my brother-in-law's place, burning up with fever. We brought you here, where you'd be safe until you were better."
"Liar!" she hissed, "You made me into a monster! I demand you change me back now!"
"You know we can't change people," she heard a male voice say. She looked up to see what could only be Tanya's husband...mate...whatever, in the doorway to the room. "The theory is that some people mutate, some don't. You did. And we're not monsters. We're morphs. Now, are you going to behave while you're here or do you want us to tie you up? I won't stand for you running around my house or this valley and terrorizing people."
Dana cringed when he glared at her, her fear overshadowing her anger. She slid into a corner and curled into a ball, trying to make herself as small as possible and started to cry. Feeling someone sit on the edge of the bed, she looked up to see the male sitting beside her.
"Please don't tie me up," she pleaded in a tiny voice. "I'll be good. Please don't hurt me."
"We don't want to hurt you," he told her softly, his hand gently squeezing her shoulder. "It can be disorienting and scary as hell when the Change happens like this, but it isn't the end of the world. Are you hungry? Do you need anything?"
"I am hungry," she said meekly. "Are you going to let me go?"
"You are free to leave this house whenever you want," he told her. "As long as you're well of course. We won't let someone go if they're sick. Come down with us and have some breakfast."
Both of them started for the door. With no other options and the prospect of being able to go home, Dana followed them downstairs. The house was large and reminded her of a farmhouse in its design. It was a beautiful home. She followed them down a hallway and down another set of stairs.
Hanging a right at the bottom of the stairs, they entered a large dining room. Four small children were seated at the table, two others around her age, 18, maybe 19. Once she took a seat, between one of the girls and one of the older boys, a plate of pancakes, eggs and ham was set in front of her.
As she started to eat, she could feel someone was watching her. Looking up, she saw the one that had spoken to her the other night, watching her carefully as he ate his breakfast. They ate in relative silence. Afterwards, Dana went out their front door and ran as fast as she could.
"Let her go, Jason," his father said when Jason went to follow her, making him stop in the living room. "She wants to go home."
"I just want to make sure she makes it there ok," he said, turning to his dad. "I know she hates us, that she's a part of the anti-morph group at the ceremony last night. But there's a chance that even if they recognize her, they'll hurt her. Her family might do the same and I'd hate to see her hurt or killed because of something that she can't control. She's going to need a friend and I'd like to be that friend."
"That and you want in her pants," his dad added. Jason looked back at his dad with wide eyes. "That's right. I know you have a way with the ladies, son. I've heard you in your room with a girl once or twice."
"Dad...yes, I think she's attractive and I'm interested. But she isn't and that kind of makes me want to get her interested. But right now, she's probably about to either have the worst day of her life or the last day of her life. Can I go now?"
"Just make sure you're doing this for the right reasons, Jason," his dad said, turning and going back into the house. Shaking his head, Jason put on his sunglasses, went outside and took to the sky.
Dana breathed a sigh of relief when she reached the doorstep of her house. When she'd gotten out of the valley, she got together what little money she had, the Donnikos kind enough to take what had been in the pockets of the clothes she'd worn the other night and put it into the pocket of the skirt they'd put her in, and paid for a bus ticket back into the city. Everyone on the bus gave her nasty looks, forcing her to sit in the very rear of the bus. She didn't mind that, but the looks they gave her disturbed her.
When she got off the bus, she was only four blocks from her house. People threw rocks and whatever else they could find at her, forcing her to run. A few of them were friends or people she knew and she tried to tell them who she was, but they wouldn't listen. Walking up to the door, Dana opened it and went inside.
"Mom?" she called out, walking into the living room. "Dad?"
Her mother and father walked in from the kitchen. Both of them shrank back from her when they saw her.
"Mom, dad," she said, "It's me. It's Dana."
"Get out of here," her father said. "You don't belong here."
"Daddy," Dana said, tears stinging her eyes, "It's me; your little girl. I..."
"You're one of them now," her mother interjected. "You're not our daughter anymore. You are dead to us. We have no daughter."
When she tried to take a step towards them, her dad went over to his desk and drew out his pistol.
"If we have to tell you to leave again," he said, his voice flat, scary. "I will shoot to kill. Get out of my house, you freak."
Heartbroken and terrified that she would be shot, she ran back out of the house and onto the street. Before she got very far, her friends and fellow activists showed up, surrounding her, Jim at the very front of the group. All of them had blunt weapons.
"No," she pleaded, sinking to her knees. "Please, it's me; Dana. I'm your friend. Please don't do this."
"A friend wouldn't become a freak of nature," a girl spat, swinging her bat and hitting Dana's shoulder. Dana cried out in pain, falling all the way to the ground.
"It...it just happened," she said quickly. "I don't know why and I didn't want to become like this. Please, it wasn't my fault."
But they didn't listen. Instead, they started beating her. Dana wept from the intense pain as her bones cracked and broke and from the heartbreak she felt. In just one night, her life had been taken away from her. Her family had disowned her, tossed her out onto the street. Now her best friends were beating her to death for something that wasn't her fault. She was all alone.
Hearing the group scream and run, Dana gathered up enough strength to look up. The male that had spoken to her the other night, the one that had stared at her this morning was looking down at her, a look of horror on his face. Very gently, he picked her up, cradling her against his chest.
"I promise you're going to be ok," he whispered in her ear.
Dana laid her head against his chest, trying to ignore the pain and resist passing out.
He felt like throwing up when he saw her after the cowards that used to be her friends ran off. She was bruised all over, her clothes torn all to hell. After promising her she was going to be fine, he'd started running for the subway station two blocks away. His dad told him if he ever got into trouble in the city and needed help to take the E train to St. Josephine's, the only morph hospital in the area.
Taking the stairs two at a time, he bolted onto the subway platform, stopping at the ticket booth. Shifting her to where he could reach his pocket, his heart sank when he found he didn't have his wallet. He looked up at the teller.
"Please, sir, I need to get on the E train or she might not make it," he pleaded. "I'll give you my address and phone number and you can charge me later. Just please, let me get on that train."
The teller gave him an evil sneer as he leaned forward.
"No money, no ticket," he said. "Rules are rules."
"You--," he started to say when a woman around his mother's age stepped up to the booth and shoved a fifty at the teller.
"That should cover the both of them and myself," she said simply. "Now kindly hand over our tickets and this young man's change please."
Jason took the tickets and the change, going through the turnstile.
"Arrogant bastard," the woman muttered just loud enough for the teller to hear as she went through.
He turned around, holding the change out to the woman. She folded his fingers around it and pushed it away.
"Keep it," she told him. "I imagine you'll need it more than I will."
"Thank you so much," he told her as they got on the train. "Is there anything I can do to repay you?"
"I have a son your age," she said as they took a seat. "He turned into an otter morph just a couple of weeks ago. With all of the people against your kind, the difficulties he's had at school and the divorce, I decided to move us out to Tranquility Valley. Would you care to help us move our stuff into the new house?"
"I'd be more than happy to," he told her. "I'm Jason Donniko, the son of the mayor of the valley."
"I thought I recognized you when I met with your father," she said. "But your eyes...they seem...off."
"You must've seen my brother, Charlie. We're identical twins, but Charlie has one green eye and one gold."
"Well, then it's nice to meet you, Jason. I'm Clarice Stark."
"A pleasure to meet you Ms. Stark," Jason said, bowing his head slightly as he couldn't shake her hand at the moment.
Twenty minutes later, the train slowed and stopped. Jason jogged off the train, running full out once he was off. He barged into the hospital emergency room. A human doctor ran up to him and looked her over.
"Take her into X-Ray Room 4," he told him. "She doesn't seem to be in any serious danger, but I'll need to see what broken bones she has and get splints and casts on her. But once that's done, you can take her back home with you. I'm afraid the hospital's too full to take on any new patients. We already have several smaller clinics open in other places to take on more patients and they're nearly full too."
"Thank you, Doctor," Jason told him, taking her to the room he'd been told.
Once again, Dana woke up in the same room again. Looking out the window, she could see the stars shining through. She felt terrible. She ached all over, her right leg and left arm feeling heavy. Dana sat up a little to see she had a cast on her arm and leg.
"Good, you're awake," she heard a familiar voice say. She turned to see the male from before, the one that saved her, sitting in a chair beside the bed she was in. "I was worried. My name is Jason Donniko. What's your name?"
"Dana," she replied, wincing and lying back down. "Dana Bridges."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Dana," he said, his smile warm.
She noticed that his smile reached his eyes. His dazzling, emerald green eyes... Dana shook her head. Now was not the time to start actually liking him.
"Why are you doing all of this?" she asked him. "Why are you so kind to me? I hate morphs and want nothing to do with your plans to enslave humans, yet you still keep helping me. Why?"
"Enslave humans?" Jason asked, a puzzled look on his face. "I don't know where you heard that, but we just want people to treat us as equals. A lot of us changed just like you did, for no reason at all. They are still the same people they were before they changed, yet everyone instantly thinks they're mindless animals. Take you, for example. Do you feel any different than before the Change?"
"Well...aside from the fur and wings...no," she said, thinking about what he just said. "I don't." Dana started to tear up as she remembered the way her friends...her own family, had looked at her. "God...did you see the way they looked at me? They...they really wanted to kill me."
She started crying, turning her back on Jason. Dana jumped when she felt his arms encircle her as he lay down behind her.
"You're going to be fine," he told her quietly. "You are safe here. Here in Tranquility...no one will judge you. We're all one huge family and we look out for one another. Just get some more rest. Things will look better once you get a decent sleep and your body gets a chance to heal. That's one plus side to being a morph; we heal a lot faster than humans. A day or two and the casts can come off. Do you need anything?"
"No," she replied.
"Good night then," he said, patting her on the shoulder.
He then pulled the curtains closed and went to leave.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"You're very welcome," she heard him reply. Dana turned over and looked at him, standing their in the doorway, looking at her.
"I pick up a lot with these ears," he said, a little smile on his face. He then turned out the light. "Goodnight."
Dana pulled a blanket over her and eventually fell into a dreamless sleep.
The next morning, she woke to the sun shining through the window, the curtains drawn over it. She sat up and stretched, actually feeling much better than last night. As she got out of bed, she saw a small pile of clothes lying on the chair next to her. After inspecting the clothes, she decided on a sky blue sleeveless top and a pair of hip-hugging jeans.
But she couldn't figure out how to wear the shirt, it was like nothing she'd ever seen. It was an oddly shaped piece of cloth with two spaghetti thin straps attached to the top and bottom corners. The pants she couldn't manage to get on over her cast. Hearing the door open, she pulled the blanket over her. When she saw it was Tanya, Dana relaxed.
"How do you feel?" she asked her. "We were all worried about you."
"I feel pretty good," Dana said. "Thank you. Um...could you help me get dressed? I'm having trouble getting these pants on and I can't figure out this shirt."
"Sure," Tanya told her. "Hmm...maybe instead of pants..." She went over to a door in the back corner of the room and rummaged around in what must be a closet. A few minutes later, she came back over with a short navy blue skirt. "This'll be easier to put on and take off if you need to use the bathroom."
Dana took the skirt from her, undid the clasp in the back and put it on easily. It stopped about knee-length, maybe a little shorter.
"Now for the shirt," Tanya said. "Turn around and look to your left, into that mirror." Dana did as she asked.
"With your wings and all," Tanya began, placing the cloth over the front of her. It reached down to just above her belly-button. "Normal shirts are too uncomfortable. This way, you're covered and comfortable."
Dana watched as Tanya took the top straps and tied them around the back of her neck. Then she took the bottom straps and tied them around the back of her hips, just under her wings. "There you go, all dressed and ready for the day. You want something to eat?"
"Just some cereal," Dana said. "I just want something quick. I...I need some time alone."
"Of course," Tanya said, patting her on the back. "Do you want me to bring it up here?"
"If you don't mind...could I eat outside? I need the fresh air."
"Whatever you want, dear," she said, smiling.
Dana smiled back, following her downstairs. After making herself a big bowl of Cheerios, Dana went out the backdoor and sat at a picnic table sitting just off the back porch. She ate her breakfast in silence, looking out at the valley.
It really was a beautiful place; sweeping lawns and fields of bright green grass stretching as far as the eye can see, small groves of trees dotting the landscape in between houses, a swiftly moving stream running at the bottom of the small hill into a small, crystal clear pond. Dana shielded her eyes a little, the sunlight bothering her a little. Hearing the door open, she looked to see Jason coming outside, wearing a pair of dark sunglasses.
"Good morning," he said with a cheerful smile on his face, setting a bowl down in front of him as he sat down. "Feeling better?"
"Very much, thank you," she said, still a little timid around him. "And...how are you this morning?"
"I'm feeling pretty good," he replied. Jason set a pair of glasses just like his in front of her. "Wear these. Your eyesight is a lot better than what it was and really bright light can blind you if you're not careful. These should protect your eyes just fine."
"Thank you," Dana said, putting them on.
They ate in silence for a while, Dana unsure of what to do or say around him.
"Um...do you have any plans for today?" Jason asked.
"I'm just going to stay in my room," she told him, looking away from him. "It's better that way."
"Why would you say that?" he asked her.
"It's better because...I don't want to be in anyone's way. I've already imposed on your family enough as it is. And before now, I persecuted and went after morphs avidly. I'm scared that they'll want to get their revenge on me."
She felt him take hold of her hands in his.
"Dana," he said softly, but firmly. "Look at me."
After a moment's hesitation, she looked up at him.
"You're not in the way and you haven't imposed on us one bit," he told her. "We're more than happy to help anyone who needs it, morph or not. Life is too short to waste on hate and revenge. Why don't you come with me to the summer carnival this afternoon? I promise it'll be fun."
"You really want to go out with me?" she asked him. "Even after how I treated you?"
"What can I say?" he asked, a silly grin on his face, "I like a woman that's hard to get and I can be a stubborn idiot at times."
Dana laughed, feeling a little weight lifting off her shoulders. "Well, I guess I could go with you."
"Great. I've got to go help my dad at his workshop now. Meet me here at one-thirty?"
"Sounds good," she said, "I'll see you later."
He smiled and blew her a kiss before taking their bowls inside.
He had a skip in his step as he went into the house and handed his mom the bowls he and Dana used.
"You look happy," his mom chuckled, loading the dishwasher. "I take it your conversation with Dana went well?"
"She agreed to go with me to the summer carnival," he told her, washing his hands.
"You know, I don't think I've ever seen you like this about a girl before. All the other times, you were kind of...nonchalant about going out with whatever girl you asked out. What's so different now?"
"For one, Dana wanted nothing to do with me before and that made me want her more. But with her needing to adjust to her new life, I really want to help her, be a friend. Maybe something a little more if I'm lucky."