The group I am with have just moved into the new house. My husband and I take the master bedroom and we have the TV and phone in with us because we're the main owners of the place. Our bedroom is at the top of the stairs and at the front of the house.

Another couple that we don't really like have taken the next bedroom, across the hall from ours. When I wake up, the tv and phone have been taken to the other bedroom. I'm upset, but they try to explain it away.

I let it go, trying to remember something about the night before, something about a predator prowling on the balcony that runs along the front of the house and is accessable from the doors from the landing at the top of the stairs.

I wake in the middle of the night again. This time I know there is someone or something outside, but on the ground. I go out of the room and then out onto the balcony. I watch in fascination as a man shapeshifts into a large feline beast and moves up onto the balcony. When I don't scream or run, he shifts back to a man and we talk.

Time passes, perhaps a month.
I wake in the middle of the night. Something is wrong and I can hear howling from many voices across the city. For some reason I raise my head and howl too.

I move outside, upset, and shout out "Zazu" which was the name of the shapeshifter, but I know he will not answer because he is dead.

I turn at a sound behind me and see an older woman also on the balcony. She confirms that I have howled for Zazu, already knowing the answer. I howl again, pained at Zazu's death, and am joined by the voices across the city, including the woman's. She smiles as she pushes me off the end of the balcony.

I twist as I fall, knowing that I must land on my feet. I scream up at the woman who pushed me and she leaps down in the form of some great wolf-like beast. It is when I smell her that I realize that I've shapeshifted and am now in the form of a large cheetah-like beast. I fall back against the wall, shifting back, frightened.

She explains that I must go with her, that I cannot stay here any more now that I am known to have shifty ways. I follow her, knowing that she is speaking truth.

We get to a place of rituals. There is an older man there, too. I can tell that he is a shifter too, even though there is no physical sign of it to look at him. He asks her if I am up to the challenge and she says that I am and that if I go it is up to me. I don't know what the challenge is, but I agree to run the course.

I enter and am moving easily through the dangerous landscape. I am about halfway when I feel what is waiting at the end of the course and my excitement nearly gets me killed. Only my speed and reflexes and then letting my intellect rule over my instinct keeps me from harm.

I keep myself from becoming too excited as I finish the course, taking less than an hour to do so. At the end, I know somehow that to cross the line I see means that I will not be coming back, so I sit on the near side and wait.

Zazu is sitting in man form on the other side of the line looking unkempt and sullen. He asks who I am, not knowing my shifted form. I change back and say "Don't you recognize me?" in a slightly teasing voice.

"You!" he cries out. His expression changes from sullen to joyous and leaps across the line, pouncing on me, cat-like, knocking me flat on my back. He stutters a few half questions and then kisses me. I kiss him back.

The landscape around us fades and we are back at the ritual place with the woman and man. They are discussing the fact that it only took me half an hour to run the gauntlet and get to the end and that it was a very short time, especially for someone who had only first shifted less than a day before.

Time passes, perhaps a year.
Zazu and I are in an alley. We are both in beast form, but need to shift in order to deal with a contact. Zazu changes, but I refuse, sitting very still in the middle of the alley. Slowly, my fur turns stone grey and seems to harden and eventually I seem to be a statue.

Zazu consults with the woman and man, who are in the shadows. They are surprised and amazed at my transformation and tell Zazu he must make the arrangements on his own.

The man we are to deal with enters the alley. He marvels at me, thinking me just a statue. He touches my face, tracing a detail and gets a shock, which he thinks was a sharp piece. The business is successfully concluded and he leaves.

I shift back to my beast form and inform them that the shock he got was because he had an evil heart. They are amazed that I can shift to speak while in beast form.

Later, I explain that all shifters should be able to do small things like that, but due to what they have been taught, they don't believe they can and so do not try. I tell them they need to learn to think 'outside the box.'