As you can imagine, I had a ton of wonderful entries for She Shifters. What made me select one story over another? That’s a tough question. But in this instance, I can tell you that Michael’s story struck me due to its fairy tale quality, quiet dignity and beauty. ~DD
From “Thwarting the Spirits” by Michael M. Jones…
In the city of Puxhill, there is a park. Crowded by day, deserted by night, it’s a patch of green set against the urban jungle. Tonight, with the full moon shining overhead, impossibly out of their natural habitats, a mongoose and a cobra fought with tiring implacability.
The cobra was a textbook example of its species, nearly eight feet long with a magnificent hood and cold eyes. It would not have looked out of place wrapped around the god Shiva’s neck.
The mongoose was short and slender, brown of fur and long of claw, and likewise far from home.
They wrestled and leaped, paused and charged, slithered and struck. Evenly matched in speed and ferocity, neither seemed capable of gaining the advantage for long. A keen-eyed watcher who got past the impossibility of the scene might have picked up on several things. First, that both creatures were significantly larger than most of their kind, possessing preternatural presence and power. Second, that while they struggled with all their strength and cunning, neither actually seemed intent on winning. Though compelled to battle, they refused to carry it to its natural conclusion. The blood flew from a multitude of wounds, but none were by any means fatal.
At last, the night ended. The moon set and the sun peeked over the horizon. As dawn broke, the two creatures reeled apart as though repelled, putting a good distance between them. The sun’s rays flowed through the trees, striking one and then the other.
Changes began. Bodies twisted, bones cracked and elongated, scales shed and fur fell out. Claws and fangs retracted, and their many wounds healed as though never inflicted. It was a swift, brutal process, over in a minute, and it left behind a pair of naked, exhausted women in place of the creatures.
The cobra was the first to recover, picking herself up off the ground to brush away the grass and dirt. Tall and lithe, radiating a queenly grace, she was all sinuous curves. Her skin was a smooth bronze, her eyes wide and dark, her lips full, currently pursed in something between frustration and amusement. Long dark hair tumbled luxuriously down her back, stray waves falling to not quite cover small breasts. Even naked, she exuded confidence. Those who knew her would have recognized her as Purnima Gurtu, a graphic designer for a local advertising agency. They’d finally know why she never joined them for drinks on the nights of a full moon.
The former mongoose was several inches shorter, with a stockier, though equally sleek, build. Her skin wasn’t quite as dark, and the stubbornness to her features made her look defiant and a little aggravated. Glittering dark eyes and brown hair cut to the nape of her neck echoed her animal alter ego. She wasn’t so confident in her nudity, immediately turning away with an arm over her breasts. This was Hala Laghari, a research librarian for nearby Tuesday University, and she really wasn’t happy.
“This can’t go on,” Hala said, voice clipped with annoyance and embarrassment. She bent over to retrieve a small backpack from where it had been stashed in the nearby bushes.
Purnima paused to ogle the other woman’s round backside as it was unwittingly offered. “I agree. It’s not doing either of us any good. Sooner or later, it’ll all end in tears.”