art by Wi Waffles
by Emma Osborne
When I was young I dreamed of becoming a lioness, but when the moons turned and I became a woman, the gods made me a mouse. My brother, who had been an antelope (and with those legs, everyone had guessed well beforehand) had laughed and picked me up in his dusty hands. For the first time, his teeth were sharp and dangerous. I squeaked, wishing that I was stalking around the village with golden eyes and a pad full of sharp claws. How many nights had I prayed for that shape? Not to keep forever. Nobody lasted forever when they changed. It was a moon, usually, or three. My Mother had gone a year as a lark, but everyone said that the women in my family were slow to learn. You changed back when you understood and not a day before.
"Keesa! I could eat you in a bite!" And this was my brother, who had once been an eater of grass.
The smells were what caused me to sit, still, in his hand. I remembered being curious, but not afraid. I sneezed at the tang of chili that blew in the breeze from the cook-fire. Someone had crushed garlic, too, and added salt. I had whiskers now, and they danced back and forth as I rose up on my back paws.
I could have been a lioness. Why hadn't I been made a lioness? I had my answer when the hunters came.