Rachel sat back on her bed, leaning up against the wall while hugging her legs against her chest; she had to pull her hair over her shoulders to keep it out of the way.
The chaos continued as the radio played, and after several minutes of confusion, reports started flying in.
“The police have been overrun in Miami Beach; if you are there, then please find a safe place, a gang of people with abilities are controlling the south bridge. This just in—we’ve gotten reports that these monsters are humans that have gone through some kind of physical change.
“Please, if you have changed, stay indoors; there are panicked groups of people hunting you. I repeat—these monsters are human. The CDC has sent notice that they’re setting up a base at the University of Miami and the Baptist Hospital of Miami. The National Guard are heading to these sites to help keep the peace.
“We’re receiving some instruction from reporters at the White House—this event is worldwide, I repeat, this event is worldwide. There are riots all across the world; stay safe.” he cut off for a moment. “I’ve just been notified that we’ll be relocating to the Baptist Hospital of Miami; until then, Godspeed.” The radio cut.
What do I do? A fire broke out in the building from a man that suddenly lit up like he was doused in gasoline; sounds assaulted her from all angles. The halls were packed with people rushing away from the dorm. If I stay here, then I’ll burn alive, but if I go out, someone might shoot me. What do I do?
Twenty more minutes passed as she sat listening to the panic around her, too stunned to move as she stared down at the white hair across her lap. It can’t be mine ... I’m not a rabbit. She snapped back to her senses as she heard a megaphone in the distance. “This is the CDC; if you have been changed, please come to the University Main Building. Get in line and enter the controlled zone.”
Rachel swallowed nervously. Should I go? The National Guard is protecting them, right? What if they shoot me? A shiver ran down her spine. The CDC should be able to fix me, though, right? What if I infect others?
Closing her eyes, she shook her head, feeling the pressure against her rabbit ears. I need to figure out what happened to me. This is happening everywhere; it’s not going to go away. Taking a shuddering breath, she got up and moved to her mirror, hearing people rush down the hall and out of the building.
Looking at herself, she leaned in closer. I can see so much more ... it’s like I can see everything at once, I don’t have to focus that hard. Opening her mouth, she was relieved to find her teeth normal. At least I don’t have bunny teeth.
On closer inspection, she thought she had a unique beauty. Her eyelashes were dark and much thicker than before, but her eyebrows matched her new hair color. What the hell is up with my hair? It’s just too long and thick ... how am I supposed to live like this? It’ll take like half a bottle of shampoo—this isn’t productive…
Scratching her forehead, she took a deep breath. “Okay, no problem. Look for a hair tie ... pull it up in a high ponytail and head over to the CDC ... they’ll figure everything out.”
Cracking her neck to ease her tension, she was a little shocked at how light her head felt. Shouldn’t this much hair kill my neck? I don’t feel the pressure at all. Humming, she went to one of her trays by the window and pulled out a bow; she frowned as she looked at the current elastic hold she had in place. A ribbon would work better ... it’s freaking thick. She pulled it out of her hair with a little trouble before adding a ribbon.
Finished, she went to the door and took a deep breath. Feeling the doorknob, she didn’t find it hot. Opening it a crack, she peered out to see a few students that hadn’t left yet, one of them was a small teenage girl with black cat ears and a tail; she stood in her doorway, looking down with concern. She looked up as Rachel opened the door. “Hey, you changed like I did? What’s happening? What do we do?”
Rachel rubbed her shoulder, looking up and down the hall. “I think—I’m going to go to the CDC and see if they can fix me, or at least tell me what to do next.”
The girl’s brow creased. “Okay, I think I heard them calling out over by the main building.”
Rachel nodded. “That’s where I hear them.”
“You can hear them right now?”
“Can’t you?” Rachel asked, “They’re yelling pretty loud.”
She shook her head. “Only a little bit. It’s a bit muffled too.”
“We should head over that way—someone set the building on fire.”
“Yeah, I smell it on the other side of the building.” She fidgeted.
“Alright, let’s go.”
They made their way toward the side exit; pillows, backpacks, and clothes were randomly left everywhere; her hair blew back as she ran. She was a little surprised to see people moving a lot slower; the catgirl seemed to notice it as well as they zipped past people.
They darted around the crowd until they burst through the doorway. The area was in a state of pandemonium, individuals fleeing from anyone that didn’t look human.
Grabbing the catgirl’s hand, Rachel ran toward the main building, alert for threats. A few people were yelling for people to follow the CDC’s instructions, but not many listened. I guess it makes sense; the monsters are running that way. Who would go where the infection could be?
She and the girl next to her froze as three armed people in hazmat suits rounded the corner. They pointed their rifles at them. “Don’t move!” A man said.
The girl next to her started to tremble as they both raised their hands, fingers interlocked. “Please, don’t shoot!” They shouted in unison, eyes closing as they quaked.
“Okay, now follow us.” One instructed.
They opened their eyes, breathing deeply, and Rachel swallowed, shifting nervously as her focus moved between the three.
“I said, follow us!” A man yelled.
Flinching, the girls ridgely walked forward. The catgirl’s voice shook with fear. “What’s going on? You aren’t the ones shooting people, are you?”
“We’re part of the National Guard. We’ll escort you to the CDC Forward Operations Base. Just stay calm and do as you’re instructed.”
Rachel licked her lips as she nodded, and they walked toward the main building together. There were groups of people running that way, trying to stay as far away as they could from the two girls.
“What’s going to happen to us?” Rachel asked.
“To be frank, I don’t know. We’re only tasked with escorting those that have changed to the containment center.” One of the men responded.
The catgirl’s face started to turn red as she squeezed Rachel’s hand. “I—I don’t know what happened. I just—I was reading a book, and then I got ears and a tail ... this pulse shot through me, and they j—just appeared.” Tears dripped down her cheeks as she sniffled.
“We’ll get you to the center...” The man cut off as a few men shouted, running around the male’s dorm area.
Several people in hazmat suits chased a man that was on fire. “Get on the sidewalk! Get down, or we’ll open fire!”
The man on fire seemed to be crying. “I don’t know how to turn it off! I’m getting down—I’m getting down!”
The grass lit around him, breaking into a blaze, but his clothes seemed perfectly fine. One of the people trailing him had a fire extinguisher in hand as he sprayed him down, another person snuffing out the fire in his wake. His flames went out quickly, and he lay against the ground, shaking. The catgirl’s trembling increased as she watched the incident.
“Let’s keep going,” their escort prompted as a firetruck with several dents in the front rounded the corner to keep the dorm building from getting worse.
The closer they walked to the front of the Campus, the more people in hazmat suits and armed men with gas masks or face masks on could be seen. Coast Guard and other Military vehicles were roaming around with soldiers in protective gear onboard; a large military transport truck stopped in front of the main building as it came into sight. Soldiers prompted people off and directed them toward the left side entrance that led inside.
“Keep to the left. There’s a contained tunnel up ahead that’s been set up for intake.”
They both nodded as they neared, keeping close as they entered the line. Around them were others that had been affected; some changes were significant, while others were minor.
There was a man that seemed to have sprouted dark brown fur all over his body and had grown wolf ears and a tail. Another girl had thick tiger fur on her arms, legs, and face; she had tiger ears, but not a tail.
Everyone was silent as the guards directed them into the building. “Keep it moving. Nice and steady.”
There were a few men with their rifles raised, faces unreadable behind their tinted facial masks; the weapons made Rachel’s skin itch.
What will they do to us? This is a global event; a terrorist isn’t capable of that, right? This has to be some kind of massive natural phenomena or something. It was instantaneous, too; it’s not like we grew it over time.
She thought back on Cloe’s explanation. I changed multiple times. I swapped from normal to this—am I part bunny now? Her face paled. What’s dad and mom going to say?
The catgirl was getting control of her tears; she looked up at Rachel with concern. “Are you okay? You don’t look so good.”
Clearing her throat, Rachel shook her head. “I just—I don’t know what my parents are going to say when they see me like this...”
“They’ll support you, right?” The girl asked. “My parents would—I think. Although, I don’t know what they’ll be supporting. What are we now ... some kind of anime characters?”
“Anime?” Rachel questioned. “I haven’t watched any anime. Are there situations like this?”
“I haven’t seen any—but I’d imagine there are. I mean, there’s like, everything in the anime world. Beastkin are pretty popular...”
“Beastkin? Like, human animals?”
She nodded, moving up as the line pushed forward a little. “Yeah, like, cat ears and stuff. At first, I was a little thrilled. I mean, a lot of guys like catgirls—I’ve never had a boyfriend ... then everything went crazy. I could smell the fear, too; it was really strange ... everyone’s scared. I can really smell it.”
Rachel nodded. “Yeah, I’m scared too.”
Their hands tightened for a moment. “Thanks for bringing me with you ... I was a little stunned.”
She smiled. “It’s nice having someone with me.”
They fell silent as they made it to the double doors and entered. There was a long white plastic tunnel that had been placed at the entrance that led down the hall. Keeping close to the walls, she could hear dozens of fans sucking air all around them, but her focus shifted from the changed humans to a group of men ahead of them, talking amongst themselves. They were toward the back of the line.
“Do you know what’s going on?”
“Yeah, man, this has NASA written all over it. Did you see those lights in the sky—the fractures?”
“What? No, probably aliens; they’ve made a deal with the government, or it’s been taken over.”
“From outer space? Nah, extra-dimensional beings. This is straight from the invasion handbook. The National Guard picked me up before I could get to my bunker. This is where they’ll send us into their dimension to work as slaves on their sun-powered dimensional labor camps.”
“What are you talking about? Why would extra-dimensional beings want to turn us into monsters?”
“It’s not about ... oh, we’re getting close to the end of the line. Just remember, high frequencies can disrupt their brain activity.”
“Whatever, dude; this is totally NASA—the freaking moon landing was a cover-up.”
The other man chuckled. “Wait, really? Cover-up for what?”
“A fake recording for when they found alien life.”
“You guys are idiots. It has to be extra-dimensional beings. That technology would be too powerful for moon-based aliens. It has to be type-two aliens—at least. Moon-based aliens aren’t strong enough.”
Swallowing nervously, Rachel shifted a little, but the catgirl nudged her. “You listening to those alien fanatics up ahead?”
Rachel chuckled a little. “Yeah, a little.”
“It has to be a god or something.” She huffed.
“What?” Rachel’s brow furrowed. “A god?”
“Yeah—well, it would be in like, a light novel. Isekai? Ever heard of it?”
“Umm, there’s a word called isegye in Korean ... it could be translated as other world.”
“Yeah, oh, you’re Korean, cool—I’m Zoe, by the way. Umm, normally you have people travel to other worlds, but to me, that light everyone’s talking about, it sounds like energy from another world. Stuff like that is what gods do—well, usually ... not that I believe that.” She flushed.
“Who knows what to believe now...” Rachel whispered. Her attention swapped to a pair of scientists in the building as she listened in, brows furrowed. “Can you hear those scientists?”
Zoe frowned. “Umm, I hear a lot of people. What are they saying?”
Rachel repeated what she heard, whispering since she knew Zoe could understand her.
“These people have literally changed; did you see the scans sent over from the hospital? Their biology has been completely altered. Blood work will take a few hours, but...” He cut off before swearing. “What is happening? A person with a tortoiseshell attached to his back—it doesn’t make sense.”
“The physical change was shocking, but the changes in the brain were what caught my attention. Their brain has physically altered as well, but not by much. Several areas are abnormal, and it’s different for every patient. It doesn’t make sense; there’s no pattern to it.”
“One man was cured of cancer and was able to recover. Did you read that in the joint report? Any injury starts to heal; slowly, but every scar he’s had is now healed. He’s in perfect health.”
She heard another person run up to them, a woman. “Did you see the recent update; read over this.” She fumbled with something. “Look at that!”
“This isn’t a prank, right?”
“This comes straight from the University of Michigan Hospital; it just updated.”
“A woman changed into a panther-like creature, sprouting ears, and a tail with fur growing on a few parts of her body. She entered labor fifteen minutes ago—they’d already planned for a c-section previously, and a child was born—the baby boy had the same animal characteristics as the mother ... an hour ago he was normal in the scans?”
“This makes no sense—at all...”
Zoe nodded with a serious frown. “A panther-like woman ... I’m only a cat, though, right? I wonder if she’s stronger than me?” She asked, looking off into space. That’s what she got out of all that?
“What do you mean?” Rachel asked.
“Oh—have you not noticed ... well, I guess only people with Isekai knowledge would really try it.” She muttered. “Think about your stats sheet or—like, your strengths and skills.”
Brow furrowing, Rachel thought about the skills she had, and to her shock, suddenly she knew. “It’s like—how do you even explain it? It’s like pure knowledge flowing into my brain? I know I’m more agility based; I have high burst power, but my endurance is low—but above average.
“It’s likely to do with my training every day; I have high stamina to spend, but low endurance. How do I explain it? I have high stamina, but it drains really quickly. There are skills, too; a Race and Type ... I’m not human...” She muttered. It was something she couldn’t deny; she just knew it was true.
Zoe nodded. “We’re Beastkin, right? That’s what I am.”
Rachel shook her head. “I’m Mythickin.”
“Seriously?” Zoe asked, letting go of her hand; the fear in her voice was gone. “That’s probably rare! It’s like, mythic—umm, like fairytales or something.”
Rachel sucked on her lower lip for a moment. “I’m a hare, not a rabbit ... I’m a Lunar Hare—I’m really not human anymore.” Tears slid down her cheeks.
Zoe hugged her. “It’s not that bad, right? I mean, I’d be lying if I haven’t thought about being a Beastkin once or twice; now I really am a catgirl! You’re even a Mythickin; that’s amazing!”
Rachel was trembling as she shook her head, hair shifting in Zoe’s arms. My parents, they’ll—can I even go back to school like this? How can I make my parents proud—I’m a freak now? I’m a part of a different world ... they’ll ostracize me, maybe even disown me.
Their conversation had sparked a lot of interest from people surrounding them as they realized their own race and changes. Unease began spreading like fire as the information cycled down the line, but before things could escalate any further, a loud voice caught everyone’s attention. “Hey! Keep the line moving.”
Rachel sniffed, wiping her tears away while pulling away from Zoe. Swallowing, she cleared her throat. “Thanks. I’ll be okay. Maybe the CDC can find something to change us back.”
Zoe looked skeptical as they slowly moved further down the hall with the line. “As I said, it sounds like some god or something. I doubt they’ll be able to do anything. They’ll probably just tell us we’re different and then they’ll try to figure something else out, like what we can do ... I just hope the world will accept us. I read a few stories about people changing, and the world hated them.” She muttered.
Rachel let her words slide past her; she had to believe she could return to normal. Her entire life was linked to that thin, fragile string; gaining her parents’ recognition was contingent on that. Wait ... what if dad or mom changed? What if Nam changed? Maybe I can be a Lunar Hare and still be okay ... maybe.
They finally made it up to the desk as a large space opened up. Plastic was hanging from the ceiling, and people in hazmat suits were walking around, directing people. The woman at the desk instructed people to different parts of the building. “Women right, men left.” She repeated the instruction as they neared, and they followed the guides to a few classrooms.
A person standing against a wall ushered a few of the women in front of them into a room before holding out her hand. “This room is full. Move to the next one.” She pointed at the next door down.
Nodding, the girls filed past her to the room. Inside were a few personnel that were laying down mats, blankets, and pillows. “You may be here for a while,” one said as they brought in more materials.
Rubbing her arm, Rachel nodded as she glanced beside her at Zoe. They moved to the back corner, pulling over two mats and grabbing their bedding. Sitting against the wall, Zoe watched as women and girls slowly entered the room, receiving the same instructions they had. Some were more human-like than others; several looked like demons with red skin, horns, and two of them were nearly hairless.
Zoe scooted closer to her, throwing the blanket over herself. “Can—can I sit next to you?” She asked with a trembling voice. Rachel nodded, and she leaned against her shoulder, staring at the door with uncertainty. “I think it’s sinking in ... I—what’s going on?”
Rachel smiled a little. “I thought you had a god theory.”
She shook her head. “I don’t know—I just—I hope everything turns out okay.”
They stiffened as gunshots sounded in the distance, and Rachel heard someone shouting. “Death to the devils!” It was too far away to be recognized by anyone without enhanced hearing, but the faint sounds of the bullets made everyone in the room flinch.
The space filled quickly; the humans exited after they finished bringing all their supplies. The last person in a hazmat suit shut the door, staying inside. She looked around at them, taking a deep breath.
“Okay, so, right now, we’re still trying to get the situation under control. You are safe here. The local Police, Military, and National Guard are sorting things out. We are currently running a lot of tests in every CDC base around the country; private companies have been conscripted into aiding as well.
“This was the fastest location we were able to set up, and I’m glad you are all safe. You will be safe here as long as you stay inside, and we will do everything in our power to find out what is happening.
“Please, please stay inside; the National Guard and Coast Guard are currently patrolling the area, and the military is moving to keep the peace. The local police have also been ordered to help bolster security around the University.” Nodding, she walked out of the room.
A few of the demon-girls started crying, and a woman with falcon wings sprouting out of her bare back stared blankly at the floor; the back of her dress seemed to have holes in it, perfectly forming around the base of her wings.
The silence stretched on as the chaos was slowly brought under control, and Rachel heard less and less violence outside. So, this is all real ... what’s going to happen to us?
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