The following is a featured short story by Mariah Avix.
By Mariah Avix
The impact on the solid pine door reverberated through the house.
Faye was out of bed and running to the front door in a heartbeat. She flung open the door and stared down at her half boy, half falcon son. His wings twitched and stretched out as they tried to shift to arms.
He croaked out the worst word. “Fire.”
She shifted in a moment. She couldn’t stay. He would be ok. He had to be.
Her husband came out of the bedroom.
She dove off the edge of the porch and spread her wings. He would stay, he would raise the alarm, he would take care of Jacob.
Faye angled toward an updraft. The gulch. There were always fires in the mountains, but fire could go from small and local to drawing unwanted attention quickly.
She spotted the orange lick of flame and pulled her wings in. Faye aimed for the fire and let her instincts take over. Her speed increased.
The tops of several trees seemed to be on fire. Smashing into a strong heated updraft she lost control for a moment, spreading her wings out she crashed into the top of one of the flaming trees. She shook herself before diving off into a slow circle of the area.
Several trees at the base of the cliff were fully consumed. The river bed was wide and the fire wouldn’t cross, but there were a few young pines growing out of the cliff side.
If one of them caught it would climb fast. The forest above was brittle from the dry spring. It could go up in hours. If she took down the three young pines it would be a manageable burn. She didn’t have time to get gear, but there were stashes across the forest.
She pushed off the tree and flew to the nearest cache. An axe.
She clutched the axe in her claws and struggled with the short flight. A blast of a flaming current threw her off and one claw lost the grip. The axe started to slip and she made a decision. Pushing the last few wing beats quickly until she was over one of the pines.
Faye let go of the axe and dove down, slamming into the tree as a falcon and shifting in a moment to a woman. She reached out and caught the axe, and then she let out the growl of pain from being naked, clinging to a pine tree on the side of a cliff.
She hacked at the tree and climbed down to the base. She stood leaning against the cliff and started swinging the axe at the tree, painfully aware of her bare toes just inches from the head of the axe. She switched and started swinging at the other side, hearing the tree start to crack she began to worry about what would happen when it fell. She had two more trees to take down.
Faye hacked away at the tree, feeling the heat rising up along the cliff, the strong gusts creating a more dangerous space. As the tree drooped down hanging by only a bit of the trunk. She set the axe down on the tree and took a deep breath before shifting and grabbing the axe with her claws.
She waited, feeling the gusts, watching the fire, and finally pushing off the tree, realizing how exhausted she was. She dodged an updraft and landed on the next tree, she shifted back to her human form and swung the axe, lodging it safely in the tree before flying back across the gap that seemed to widen.
She landed as a peregrine falcon on the top of the tree and swayed in the wind. She shifted to human and threw her weight down, falling toward the fire below her. Clinging desperately to the branches the tree swayed and cracked loudly. She shifted and was slammed by another draft.
Faye let the draft carry her up, she rested for a moment, spreading her wings wide. She looped around and watched the first tree fall down the cliff and crash into the flaming trees below. Two more trees to go.
She landed on the second tree and shifted, taking up the axe and hacking away. Her mind wandered back to Jacob, he’d crashed into the door before, but never that hard. He had to be ok. He had to be. He had saved homes, protected families, and kept their secret. He would be ok.
She missed. The axe bounced off the tree and bashed into her leg. Faye shrieked in pain and clutched at her leg. She didn’t have time for this. She had to focus. The gash was deep and the pain consumed her.
A deep roar resonated through woods and echoed through the gulch. She threw back her head and brought her fingers to her lips letting out an ear shattering whistle.
The roar responded and she sighed. Not close enough yet to yell to him. She needed some cloth, something to wrap around her leg, to bind it, hold it long enough to get home. She whistled again, and waited for the roar.
“Jacob will be fine.” The voice boomed across the gulch and Faye looked up to see Chuck at the top of the cliff as a man. He’d probably come all the way through the forest as a bear, but had shifted back to give her the message.
“I’m bleeding, why do you have to be naked? We need to get these trees down, this one is almost done, can you get down here?” The ache in her leg was screaming at her.
“You get out of here, I can finish this.” He shifted back into the form of a giant black bear and roared.
Faye rolled her eyes and swung the axe one more time, lodging it deep into the last bit of the tree. “Just jumping down here will dislodge it, so be careful.”
The bear roared again. Faye struggled to shift as the loss of blood was making her woozy. She watched Chuck land on the tree and leap again as it cracked and fell under his weight. He landed on the final tree and it dipped under his weight.
Faye flew home, Chuck would have to finish it himself. She saw her door, high up in the trees. She could feel the blood still dripping from her and glanced down, smashing into the door.
She looked up and saw her husband fling the door open just as she slipped into unconsciousness.
About the Author
Mariah writes magical tales of how technology will change our world, and technologically laced tales of magic, that probably isn’t real.
She is currently working on a series of novellas about shapeshifters who fight wildfires, a trilogy about a woman who refuses to admit that she has the M word (magic), and endless flash fiction.
When she’s not writing she walks along the rivers and parks throughout her city looking for inspiration.