Part 4
Chapter 6

I ran all night back to that dark cave I hid in. When I got there it was probably very late at night so I scrambled in and tried to sleep. I cried a lot, seeing my Daddies face just as the stinger did it's horrible work and killed him. His face hadn't shown any anger only sadness and regret like he blamed himself. It haunted me worse than his hatred would have. In those last moments he had seen past the armour but it was too late, my evil treacherous body had killed him.

I cried till I could cry no more eventually falling asleep from exhaustion. Even then I got no peace Daddies face haunted my dreams.

Next day I woke up hungry, I thought about drinking the remaining medicine bottles but I wasn't sure if it would be safe to do so now that I was no longer sick. I went out looking for something to eat. First I got some water in the old empty medicine bottles then I looked for some food. There wasn't much on the first glance, it looked like nothing but trees. I had no idea what I could eat, eventually hunger forced me to try some berries. Once I had eaten them something inside me told me that they were poisonous and I quickly spat the rest out though for some reason I didn't feel bad or anything from the ones I had eaten. When I tried to eat something my body would always tell me if it was good or bad for me. A few attempts later I found out I had just to put my hand on something and look at it intently than something new inside my brain would tell me if it was poisonous or not.

I found a reasonable supply of safe berries and collected as many as I could. As the sky started to lighten I retreated to my cave. I blocked the entrance with a rock and then began feasting on my berries. I fell asleep soon after, still tired from the trek to and from the village. I woke up in the middle of the day or night, I wasn't sure, after a very bad dream about Daddy and Mummy. I wished this stupid MORFS had never happened then Daddy would still be alive and I would be at home playing with Frankie. I cried myself back to sleep.

I got up hungry again, it was dusk outside so it was reasonably safe. The berries were nice but there just weren't enough. I needed something more substantial, I went looking for food finding mushrooms which were good if a little odd tasting. I still needed something more, something more filling. I was skittering through the forest on all fours when I felt a vibration. I stopped and slowly moved towards it poking my head out of the undergrowth. I saw several wild rabbits hopping about in a small clearing. Something in me changed, I felt a strange calm come over me and I was suddenly completely motionless. My eyes locked on the nearest bunny as it hopped towards me. Maybe it was just the hunger but it felt like instincts hard-wired into me took over. My pincers deployed and I readied myself. The poor unsuspecting bunny hopped nearby grazing on some of the grasses in the clearing. It got closer and closer and with my strange new senses I could feel the beating of its heart the blood rushing in its veins, every cell in its body was visible to me. I could sense it's every movement and know exactly when to strike without alerting it to my presence.

The rabbit got in range and the world seemed to slow as I leapt powerfully out of the bushes grasping the little animal in my powerful pincers, its small body trapped it saw the danger only when it was too late. I flexed forward for the kill, my stinger jabbing precisely into the squirming and squealing animal and then pulling back behind me ready to strike again. I watched as the venom did its work, the life rapidly draining out of it and within seconds the rabbit was dead.

I came back to my senses at that point realising what I had done, I had killed this poor defenceless creature. I was a monster, Poison as my mother had said. It had been minding its own business when I had stalked it and killed it. I had been cold and predatory, not myself but the monster. Was that what I would become? Was I still changing, loosing myself to this fearsome scorpion girl monster?

I cried over the corpse of the bunny, I couldn't eat it not now. I dug a hole in the ground and buried it. I wondered briefly if I should try and remember the special words priests said at funerals like I had seen on telly, hoping to somehow make up for my mistake, but I couldn't remember any and I didn't have the special book. Daddy had never been a fan of the special book, he said it was silly and full of things called contradictions; Mummy hadn't been pleased when he told us that, saying that it was against the Baby Jesus or something. At the thought of Daddy I burst into tears again. I tried to remember what sort of things the funny looking man said in his boring speeches at the church on the few times I went, but couldn't remember, all I remembered was the cold and hard wooden seats.

“Please Baby Jesus forgive me for killing the bunny and Daddy I didn't mean it please let me know it will be alright,” I said over my hole in the ground. There wasn't any answer and I felt silly talking to no one. If there was a Jesus he had been pretty mean to me so far, so it didn't seem likely he would start helping now. I had never been that fond of the fairy stories from the special book anyway, it seemed as made up as the other stories I read. It was like when I realised Santa was just mummy and daddy, when I compared their handwriting to that on the notes we got from Santa thanking us for the mince pies and carrots for the reindeer and realised it matched.

I decided to wash myself again, killing the bunny had made me feel dirty. Afterwards I went off gathering more berries, I wondered if I should make a fire. I wasn't sure how one did this but on the programs I had seen with people out in the wilderness they always made a fire. I knew it involved gathering sticks which I did but after that I didn't know what to do.

I went back to my cave and ate some berries, stacking my pile of sticks in the corner till I worked out what to do with them.

I slept fitfully in and out of consciousness with my dreams filled by giant rabbits chasing me for revenge. I woke several times in the night, to pace around my cave then try to go to sleep again. I even tried the fire thing a few times rubbing sticks together as someone had told me, but nothing happened.

I woke up at dusk again and wandered out. I could feel a big set of vibrations over to the far left and went to investigate. I was surprised to find a man seating by a tent, he was fiddling with some sticks. I carefully moved closer watching to see how he did the fire thing. He piled up the sticks with all sorts of dry leaves and stuff then pulled out a metal pole thing from his pocket. He scraped an attached metal plate thing across it generating huge amounts of sparks which soon caught the fire. I wondered where I could get one of those things they looked really useful. I stepped over to ask him forgetting what I looked like or that this was a complete stranger out in the middle of the woods.

“That was great, how do you do that?” I asked.

He whirled round surprised and then saw me lit by the firelight and the remains of sunlight. He screamed and ran off into the forest dropping his metal thing. I watched him run away from me feeling immensely sad and a little angry.

I decided I better put out his fire and kicked dirt over it till it went out. He had left all sorts of stuff around, a bag full of plates, cups, pans, tins and other goodies. I hesitated a moment then took it, he didn't need it as much as me and the hunger was getting to me I didn't want to have to kill again. I also grabbed his fire starting stick, a fancy looking utility knife, a sleeping bag, and a little mattress thing. I left him his tent and chair but made off with my booty before he came back or I lost my nerve.

I stowed my stolen goods in my cave sealing the entrance and then tried out the fire thing. It made big sprays of sparks, so I tried making a fire like he had done. I used my pincers and the utility knife to make a twig into little shavings of wood like I had seen him do and then built a stack of wood around it. After a few goes from the fire stick it lit and with some persuasion I got a fire going. It filled the cave with smoke very quickly so I had to put it out. I guessed I would have to do the fire thing outside or find some way to get rid of the smoke.

I rummaged through the rest of my haul and found a mini-book on survival which had stuff on how to eat wild animals and catch fish and all sorts. It rather turned my stomach bringing back memories of my bloodied pincers holding the dead body of the bunny. So I put it away, I almost threw it away but knew it might be useful later.

I examined the cans of food, he had various chicken things, tins of beans or soup, and then a surprise bonus a tin of spaghetti hoops! I put it to one side for a special treat I didn't want to waste it on just anything. I opened a tin of chicken curry with the utility knife and then ate it cold with a spoon I found in the bag. It was probably the best meal I'd had in a while.

After that I organised the stuff I had found into little piles on the wall putting any important items like the knife, the fire stick, the book, and the spaghetti hoops into my back pack so I could get them if I needed to run.

Afterwards I went out to collect more water and some berries plus some more sticks and things. I was scuttling through the undergrowth when I heard people so I hid against a tree.

“I tell you it was here!” said a voice.

“Oh come on, a monster roaming the woods,” said another voice.

I saw two men walking through the woods towards the little camp I had nicked all the stuff from.

“What! All my stuff's gone!” said the first man the one I had surprised.

“Serves you right for leaving it all out in the open you daft bugger. The shape you saw was probably some kids mucking about who swiped all your stuff when you ran away screaming like a little girl,” said the second one.

“Shut up! I should report this to the police!” the first man said.

“Oh yeah what’re you gonna tell em, 'I was out camping in the woods illegally and then a monster stole all my kit, they'll either charge you for the camping, or lock you in a cell for being drunk and disorderly, or both,” the second man said.

“Hmm, I guess. But I swear it was right here some kind of giant insect or spider all plates and prongs and the like. You have to believe me,” the first man pleaded.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know and Elvis himself gave you an autographed solid gold guitar but the fairies stole it while your back was turned watching the flying saucer he arrived in take off. Just get what little the thieving tykes didn't take and let's get out of here. My dinner’s getting cold,” the second man said dismissively.

The first man grumbled and gathered up his tent and the rest of the stuff and followed his friend away back towards the village. I felt a little guilty for taking his things but I needed them far more than he did. I continued on my way, got the berries and some water. I went back to my cave and read some of the survival book. It had pictures of how to make shelters and things, stuff on how to make things out of sticks. It also showed old tent things and how they had a central chimney arrangement with the fire in the middle and an opening at the top with flaps to let the smoke out. I wondered if I could do something similar by opening up the hole in the roof of the cave to let smoke out putting some sort of thing over it to obscure the hole and prevent rain from getting in.

I dismissed the idea for now I didn't seem to need a fire anyway and it would mean trying to climb up rocks and I had found my armour plates didn't grip well on rocky things. I got normal grip where my hands were still flesh but my feet and fingertips which were encased in shiny plates just slipped.

I spent the rest of the day reading and trying to occupy my time. It was really boring in the cave. I missed my sister, which set me off crying again. Eventually I went out for another walk just because I was cooped up in there. The forest was very pretty even at night, full of life that my strange new senses could feel. I wondered if all scorpions were like this, able to feel the life around them. It might make them better hunters or something.

I went down to the lake and decided to have another wash, I took off my clothes and had a little swim. It should have been cold but I felt fine, guess my armour worked in the water too. I had some trouble working out how to swim in my new body my tail made me bob about strangely, and I seemed to weigh more now, if I didn't paddle I sunk like a rock. I guessed it was all the extra weight of my plating. I had always loved swimming, Grandma and Granddad had always taken me and Frankie to the local pool. We loved it, they used to say we were like fishes swimming up and down the pool. I paddled about feeling the water around me and sensing the things moving around me. I swam around a little but it got tiring so I stayed in the shallows and paddled instead. I did that for quite a while till I began to see the first sign of light in the sky and began to get nervous of people seeing me. I grabbed my clothes and hurried back to my cave. By the time I got back the sun was already rising. I dived in and sealed myself in then dried myself off with my t-shirt and then laid it out to dry. I rolled out the mattress and the sleeping bag, snuggled up and got some sleep.

The next night I followed much the same routine eating a cold can of food from my stash with some berries and mushrooms later and then a walk around. I had a go at making stuff like the book had said but it wasn't as easy as it looked I ended up with a load of mangled twigs. It passed the time though and there was nothing else I could do, no TV to watch, no toys, no Frankie to play with. Just to occupy my time I had a look at making a chimney. I found if I went further down the cliff there was a sloped section that I could climb up to get at the roof I shifted some of the rocks about and found a gap that could serve as a chimney. I spent some time building a cap to stop water getting in out of convenient rocks. It would probably still leak in heavy rain but it would keep the worst out.

I tried out another fire under the new opening and it worked after a fashion. Some of the gaps let smoke back into the cave. I covered the holes with mud and that seemed to do the trick.

After that I went for another paddle to wash the mud off then treated myself to warm food, a tin of sausage and beans warmed over my new fire. I was very pleased and the food was only slightly burnt.

I slept pretty well that night, the success of my new chimney making me a little happy.

The days went on like that for a while, the pain of my rejection and the accident eating at me periodically. As I ate the tins of food I had stolen from the camper my supply quickly dwindled till I was forced to eat the spaghetti hoops I had been saving. After that I was back to what little I could scrounge.

It wasn't much and I was getting more and more hungry. Food seemed to get even harder to find as the seasons changed, obvious food stuff became rarer. I found my thoughts drawn to the bunnies to the memory of how easy catching one had been. I resisted, I didn't want to kill cute little fluffy bunnies even though hunger gnawed at my insides.

As I got hungrier my resistance broke down, predatory instincts grew stronger.

Finally I gave in and went hunting. The kill was surprisingly easy, just a mater of letting my new instincts take control.

I waited in the bushes for my prey, pincers at the ready, tail arched in preparation. As soon as one hopped in range I exploded out of the bushes and grabbed the squeaking animal stopping its heart with my deadly venom.

Then things got tricky, what did I do next? I wasn't sure, I needed to cook it but how and what to do about the fur? I went back to the cave to try and work it out. I decided to check the survival book to see if it had any clues, my tummy growling impatiently. The book had details on what to do with the rabbit, I tried to follow the guide, still it was horrible. It was very messy and seeing the insides of the animal made me feel ill but my gnawing hunger made me carry on. Eventually I had a fairly butchered (but ready for cooking) rabbit plus a pile of bloody guts I had to get rid of. I stepped out to dispose of the horrible bits and then washed off my hands. I found a clean stick to cook the rabbit on and returned to the cave to light a fire.

I followed the instructions of how to cook the rabbit and soon the smell of cooking meat filled my cave making my mouth water. I probably cooked it too long as it was a little burnt on the outside, I put it on a plate and then gingerly took a bite.

It tasted good, soon I was devouring the rabbit and in a short while all that was left was a pile of bones. I slept well that night, I felt a little guilty for killing the rabbit but I knew it was me or it.

It got easier each time I killed, eventually it didn't bother me anymore. I learnt to catch fish as well as rabbits and soon fell into a routine of waking up in the night then going out hunting and gathering. There wasn't much in my life apart from the essentials of survival, as winter approached and it became harder to find food.

As my usual sources of food got rarer I was forced to go further and further away for food. Eventually it got to the point that I'd had almost nothing to eat for several days. I was forced to head towards the village in the hopes I could find something to eat.

I was nervous, it had been months since I had run away. I snuck back in the dark, the months of hunting and running around the forest had made me very fit, so I covered the distance much quicker. I knew I would likely be either breaking in and stealing stuff or looking in the bins. I was so hungry I didn't care. Months of surviving in the wild had toughened me a bit, I was capable of things I would never have considered before.

I made my way through the village to where the shops and restaurants were in the hopes of finding something. I walked along the alleyways to the back of one of the supermarkets. I found their large bins and steeling myself I had a rummage through. I found a few tins that were a bit past their sell-by and a few other bits. I packed it into my backpack and moved along.

As I was passing the doors they suddenly swung open and a man stepped out carrying a box knocking me down. I screamed and scrambled away from him.

“Hey sorry, are you alright? What are you doing out back here?” he asked.

“Nothing leave me alone!” I cried.

“You sound like a kid! What are you doing out this late?” He asked and stepped towards me.

“Get away!” I shouted scared, my tail came up of its own accord ready to strike.

“You should be home, come here and I'll call your parents!” He said and lunged at me to grab me.

“NO!” I cried and struck out with my fists knocking him across the alleyway not knowing my own strength. I raced off into the night running and running to get away.

By the time I calmed down I was a long way away, I found myself outside my old house. In my terror I had run in that direction instinctively even though it was no longer safe for me. I made to leave but something stopped me, I wanted to see Frankie. I sneaked my way into the garden over the wall and then approached the house. As I got closer I saw people in there, but it wasn't Mum or Frankie, it was people I didn't know.

I peered in and saw a family in there, a mother, a father and a little girl maybe a few years younger than Frankie. I backed away a little confused and frightened, the house I had grown up in was now someone else’s. I ran to the back of the garden and climbed the tree where me and Frankie with help from Daddy had built a tree house on, just for somewhere familiar to cling to.

Even that was of little comfort now it was empty of the toys and things we had kept there. I sat on the floor sad now my whole past seemed to be gone. I checked our secret hiding place to see if anything was left there. I found a plastic box that looked like one of the ones Frankie kept her dolls in.

I opened it and inside was a scrawled note and something wrapped in Christmas paper. I read the note and recognised the hand writing as my sisters.

“Dear Jamie,” she wrote, “I hope you will read this, Mummy is making us move, I think so that you can’t find us and come home. I miss you lots and lots and I hope you will come home someday. I'm afraid that because of the move you won't find us. Mummy says you are dead but I know that's not right. Mummy got really sad when you went away but I don't know why she got mad when you came back she's mean now. I have left this for you when you come back so you know I want you to come home. Take care of him. Please try and find me, lots of love Frankie.”

I opened the parcel and found it contained Pinky Bear my sister’s most beloved toy, if she was separated from it she would be in floods of tears. That she had left it for me made me sad and happy at the same time. I hugged the bear and cried. I missed my sister so much.

I put Pinky Bear and Frankie's note away in my bag and carefully sneaked back out of the tree house and headed into the forest again.

With my small salvaged supply of food in addition to what I could forage I had a few days without needing to head into town again. I made regular trips in the dead of night and soon it became almost routine. But there was always the fear, of getting caught, of being trapped, of ending up in a cage. I was sure that it was what they would do to me and I did my best to avoid getting seen.

After days of careful trips I must have become slightly careless, the familiarity of the task making me feel safe. I didn't notice the signs, I had been taking stuff regularly from the back of the supermarket and I guess someone had noticed. They threw out stuff every day that was past its sell-by but was mostly OK to eat, at least according to the strange scorpion sense that told me if things were poisonous or bad for me. So I had taken to rummaging in their bins for food since it was easy pickings and the location was nice and hidden. I spotted some reasonably fresh looking tins just out of reach that would require me to climb into the big bin the supermarket used. I didn't really notice that they seemed to be placed there deliberately.

I clambered into the large bin and reached to get the tins, suddenly the top of the bin rolled shut trapping me inside. I cried out in shock and surprise, I tried to open the bin from the inside but it wouldn't budge. I heard a door open and people walking over, muffled voices came from outside. It explained why I hadn't sensed them with my predatory senses they had somehow rigged the bin to trap me, then hidden so I couldn't sense them.

“Did ya get it?” said a squeaky voice that sounded like an older boy.

“Yeah,” answered another voice deeper more like a man. “Look at it shake!”

“Who do you think it is?”

“Some tramp maybe I couldn't get a clear look on the video, I know that whoever it is has been going through our trash for the past few weeks now. They knocked Dave down when he was dumping some stuff and gave him quite a bruise.”

“The shouts sounded kinda high pitched.”

“Yeah maybe it's a kid or a woman.”

“What are we going to do with it now we have it man?”

“We're going to teach the filthy loser to respect my father's shop and to never mess with our bins again. Give me the bat.”

“I don't know Jason, shouldn't we just call Officer Davis and tell them this person was trespassing?” the second voice sounded uncertain.

“Look my father doesn't pay you to think! You stock shelves for a living Owen, leave the thinking to someone who didn't get kicked out of school. Now give me the bat!”

There was a pause and the sound of muttering then there was a crack as the plastic bin reverberated when it was hit by the bat.

“You hear that you dirty layabout! Now when I open this thing come out quietly and you won't get badly hurt!”

I didn't know what to do, I wanted to bolt and escape so I grabbed the good food and strapped on my backpack ready to run like the clappers.

“Get ready Owen,” Commanded Jason, “Let it get away and you're fired!”

I saw a crack of light as the lid opened slightly, there was a pause then someone threw it open all the way. I leapt out trying to run as someone swung the bat at me, it connected with one of my legs but my armour seemed to absorb most of the punishment. I scrambled along trying to escape but was grabbed and spun around. I managed to break free and make a dash for it, but in the confusion I found myself at the wrong end of the alley the bins were kept in, this part was blocked off on all sides, a dead end. I was backed into a corner, I scrambled about trying to see a way out.

I could see my two assailants now, one was a lanky older boy with greasy brown hair dressed in the uniform of the shop all bright yellows and greens. His companion was shorter but stockier with dark hair, dressed in dark jeans and t-shirt with a jacket baring the shops logo over the top. He was wielding a bat of some kind resting the main part of it on his shoulder while he clutched the grip in front of him.

“Jesus what is it?” asked the lanky boy whose voice I recognised as Owen’s.

“It's some sort of freak!” said Jason. “I'm going to beat this one black and blue!”

“Hey it's a little girl!”


“Come on man I'm sure she didn't mean any harm, there's no need to hurt her.”

“Says who! It'll be back again and again like some damn rat if I don't teach it a damn good lesson.”

“But look at her man she's got to be just a small kid, you can't beat a kid!”

“Shut up and stop it from escaping or you're fired!”

“Look, fuck you Jason, I've had it with your shit!”

“Hey Owen don't be such a loser! Owen, OWEN! Get back here!”

The lanky boy turned and walked off leaving his friend alone I looked for a way to get past the remaining guy. But he turned and held out the bat sweeping it in front of him to keep me pinned down.

“Well sod him then, just you and me darling!”

I had to defend myself I wished I had some sort of weapon against him. Almost of its own accord I felt my tail readying itself to strike if he got too close. I didn't want to kill him but I had no other option that I could see, I just wanted to get away.

He charged letting out a shout and running at me with the bat held high. My body flexed catapulting my stinger forward into him delivering its deadly cargo. The boy looked shocked, his momentum carrying him still forward but he tumbled lifelessly to the ground on top of me, the bat clattering down with a loud bang. I heaved his lifeless body off me, he was like a big heavy sack of potatoes and I had to roll him off me. I was a little surprised that I could move him at all since he must have weighed several times what I did.

As I was hefting his body off me I noticed something, he wasn’t dead. With my strange senses I could tell he was still alive, blood was still flowing and his heart was still beating. He just seemed paralysed somehow. I didn’t have the time to dwell on it so I grabbed my things and escaped to a safe distance away watching the alleyway from across the street hidden in some bushes. Sometime later the boy emerged looking unsteady on his feet but alive. I had a surge of hope at that, maybe my poisons didn’t kill humans; maybe I hadn’t killed my Daddy.

It didn’t last long, if I hadn’t killed Daddy he would have surely come looking for me and Frankie would have said something in her note. No maybe the boy had got lucky or maybe I had just learnt to do the paralysis thing, either way my mood fell. I watched the boy stagger off to get help then made my way off to the safety of the forest.

Back at the cave I ate a meagre meal of my scavenged food getting an early night cuddled up with Pinky Bear.

So things went for month after month as winter gradually passed I got better at finding food in the forest and didn’t have to make the risky trip to the village. It was better that way, less painful if I stayed in the forest I didn’t have to face what I had lost. As time went by my skill as a hunter improved, I knew the places where I could hunt well and my strange scorpion senses became more sensitive. In the quiet of the forest if I was still and relaxed I could sense all the life around me, feel it flowing around me like water.

Time passed and I almost didn’t notice it since all my concern was with surviving, I improved my little cave a bit making places to put things and constructing a little bed but for the most part I would wake at sunset go out hunting then eat and maybe have a paddle.

Nearly a year had passed in the forest, I could see the leaves turning colours again showing autumn was just around the corner. I had begun to feel oddly tight and constrained like I was wearing clothes that were too small. No matter how I tried I couldn’t shift the feeling, I tried moving around a lot and washing in the lake more but nothing seemed to help. The feeling got worse until suddenly one day when I was stretching to try and shake off the feeling there was a cracking and tearing noise and my back felt odd.

I reached behind me and was horrified to find my armour had split along my back. I worried I would bleed from this hole or get a nasty infection, so I tried to pull the split closed again. As I pulled it only seemed to make the armour loose all along my back. I decided to leave it alone and hope it would heal on its own but over the course of the day more and more of my armour came loose till it was even peeling away on my arms and legs. I went to bed scared not sure what was happening to me and what I should do.

Come morning all my armour seemed loose like dead skin even the parts on my face were pulling away from me. It was like I was wearing a big suit of dead skin. It itched and eventually I decided to pull all of it off. I bent over and tried to ease myself out of the split in the back after a lot of wiggling and twisting I had pulled the entire upper body out of the pale yellow armour. Out of the armour my body looked oddly shaped as it the armour was still there but pale white. I was all soft but not like it had been before, when I was still a real girl.

I gradually worked my lower body including my tail out of the armour. After a few hours of wriggling I was all pale white and I also had an empty Jamie suit split at the back. I put it down in the cave not sure what to do. I went out for a walk feeling the need to move for some reason but after so long encased in armour I felt naked and vulnerable.

I walked through the woods flinching at every leaf that hit my body I was cold shivering without my armour to protect me and keep me warm. Over the course of the rest of the day I felt the urge to keep moving and so went on a lot of walks and waved my arms. I began to feel warmer and I noticed something strange, my pale skin was darkening. It was also becoming tougher, by the time it started to get light in the sky my skin was becoming hard armour again. I realised what must have happened I had grown too big for my old armour and had shed it and was now growing new armour.

By the morning of the next day I was fully covered again in yellow armour a shade or so darker than the old stuff so that it was almost brown. I felt much better, the constrained feeling was gone and I no longer felt exposed. I had hated the armour at first but I had grown so used to it that to suddenly find myself exposed without it was an unpleasant experience.

I kept the old Jamie suit in case it was useful, I was becoming a bit of a hoarder and had all sorts of things I had found stacked in the entrance part of my cave. You never knew what would prove useful.

I lived day to day only noticing the passage of time by the changes in my food sources. I shed my skin a few more times as I grew, each time my new armour got darker and darker.

During the summer there were more people in the woods and I did my best to avoid them. Sometimes they would catch a glimpse of me if I wasn’t paying attention but I tried to hide myself from the world.

But there was a flip side to hiding myself away I got more and more lonely with no one to talk to or play with. I both longed for people and feared them. I began to take some risks getting closer to people so I could listen in, even if I couldn't be with any of them I could at least watch from the shadows. I used my hunting skills and powerful new body to observe people and remain hidden. I would sneak up to the campsites and watch the late night talks round the fire, listen to the songs, and watch the dances. I watched people enjoying themselves even if I could never join in. Many times I longed to step out of the bushes and join a group of campers gathered round a fire enjoying the evening, but I restrained myself and kept to the shadows knowing I could never be a part of that world. I also took to following people through the woods, I would pretend we were on a walk together and I was just lagging behind trying to keep up. I did that to you when you came near the cave.

Even with my new senses and carefully chosen hiding places, there was still some risk to these activities. Very occasionally I would be unlucky or get distracted or just fail to anticipate a possible downside and someone would catch a glimpse of me usually from far away. In that case I just ran before they got a better look and laid low for a while.

One of these times I was watching a family, I had been feeling especially lonely around then so I had taken an extra risk in coming out in the early evening while it was still light. There were three people in the family a girl maybe a little younger than me and her parents. I had started watching them as the girl resembled Frankie a bit. They were having a little party for the girl as it was her birthday. I watched the happy girl unwrap her presents and eat toasted marshmallows with her parents. At first it made me happy to watch but then it made me think of all the birthdays of Frankie's I had missed and it made me sad. I retreated away from the main campsite to a small wooded area within its fenced off grounds and sat on a tree stump crying a little not wanting to watch any more.

In my upset state I didn't really pay attention to my surroundings so I didn't hear someone approaching until they were right next to me.

“La la la la la la La ...” I heard someone singing behind me the singing abruptly stopped and I spun round.

The girl from earlier was stood a meter away from me staring at me with a look of shock on her face.

I expected her to scream any second now but she just looked at me a bit more then clasped her hands behind her and said, “Hello, I'm Gina what's your name?”

I froze not sure what to do, most of me wanted to run but I was still very lonely and her resemblance to Frankie made me want to talk to her.

“J ... J ... Jamie,” I replied haltingly.

“You look funny, why do you have that big thing on your back?”

“It's my tail.”

“It doesn't look like a tail, not like a puppy or a kitty tail.”

“No, it's not that sort of tail.”

Gina nodded enthusiastically agreeing with me, “so are you staying at the camp too?”

“No I live in the forest.”

“You wanna play?”

I watched for a bit wondering why she didn't care about the way I looked, “Okay what shall we play?”

Gina squealed with joy and sat down next to me. She proceeded to show me some complicated hand clapping game where we sang a song and performed a series of hand movements. She didn't flinch at all when she felt my hands and soon I forgot my nerves and just played with my new friend, the two of us giggling like mad when one or other of us got the pattern wrong and we had to start again. I almost forgot where we were till a grown-up's voice called through the bushes.

“Gina! Where are you?”

“I'm in here,” Gina replied leaping up and turning to towards the voice.

I panicked suddenly realising how exposed I was and knowing that an adult was coming looked around for somewhere to hide and spotted an easy to climb tree. In a flash I was up it and hidden in its branches, my pointed fingertips and toes digging into the bark to provide good grip as I climbed.

“Who is that you were talking to?” asked Gina's mother as she came into view.

“My new friend Jamie,” said Gina pointing to where I had been.

“There's no one there pumpkin.”

“Where did she go?” Gina asked a frown wrinkling her brow.

“Maybe she had to go home too. It is pretty late... You shouldn't run off like that. In fact if there was another girl out here we should go check if she got back to her parents okay. Did she tell you where she was staying and what did she look like?”

“She lives in the forest and she had a big brown shiny tail, shiny brown plates all over her skin, blonde hair with twigs in it, and black eyes.”

“What?! Oh ... Oh I see she's just an imaginary friend.”

“No she's real, we played pattycake together.”

“Of course sweet heart, I'm sure she had a good time.”

“She is real! She is! She was right here.”

“Yes, yes now come along I'm sure you will get to play with her again later but for now back to the tent.”

The two of them went back to the camp area and when I was sure they were gone I made my way down from the tree. I felt conflicted, yet again being close to people nearly led to me being discovered and maybe captured but I had enjoyed talking and playing with Gina. As I sneaked my way back to my cave I considered going back there again to see if we could play some more. In the end my need for company won out over my fear of capture.

I did my hunting had a wash and then went to sleep a bit early so I might be awake to try and see if I could play with Gina again.

Come evening of the next day I made my way through the forest, being extra careful in the light, to the campsite. I got to the same clearing and sat and watched from a tree. A short while later Gina came running happily into the clearing and looked around.

“Jamie? Are you here?” she called looking around.

I waited till her back was turned then climbed quickly to the ground, “Hello Gina.”

“Hey! Where did you go yesterday?”

“I was scared so I hid.”

“Oh, but it was just my Mum.”

I shrugged, “I don't like grown ups.”

“Me either they're always telling me what to do!”

I nodded and then walked over and sat on the tree stump. Gina came and sat next to me and surprised me by reaching out and touching my tail. I jumped and backed away.

“I'm sorry, I wondered what it felt like,” she said simply.

I looked at her for a bit, she didn't seem to mean any harm. I sat back down and shifted my tail so she could touch it.

“Be careful of the tip it's very sharp,” I cautioned her.

She ran her hands along my tail which was a peculiar sensation, no one not even me had done much touching of my tail. I didn't like the reminder that it was there and no one else had been keen to get close enough to touch me. To find that I could feel with it was something new and a somewhat pleasant sensation.

“It's all smooth and shiny,” Gina said feeling my segmented tail with a big smile.

She eventually stopped and I almost wished she hadn't it was the first friendly contact I'd had since I had changed.

“So do you want to play?” I asked hesitantly.

“Yeah, I'd like to play hide and seek but I promised my Mum I wouldn't go far.”

“I'm really good at hide and seek,” I said with a big grin, I suspected I would win hands down in either the hiding or the seeking thanks to my scorpion senses and hunting instincts.

“We can play jacks instead,” she said pulling a small ball and some metal jacks from her pocket.

She had to explain the game to me as I had only a vague idea of how it worked but soon we were playing away using the large flat tree trunk as a playing area. We happily played away for quite a while, I didn't do very well to begin with but eventually my skills improved and I gave Gina more of a run for her money. We played until I heard someone moving towards the clearing through the bushes. I leapt up and scrambled up the tree.

“Hey come back!” called Gina looking up the tree but not seeing me.

The same woman as last night entered the clearing, “Come on Gina, I said five minutes then off to bed.”

“But I was playing with Jamie but you scared her away, she flew up a tree.”

“Oh yes, well I'm sorry for scaring her off.”

“She let me feel her tail it was all shiny.”

“Oh really darling,” said the woman distractedly as she picked up the ball and jacks, “well come along I'm sure you can see her again another time.”

Gina waved to the tree I was in and I felt like waving back but didn't want to give away my position. Gina and her mum left the clearing and went back to the camp so I slipped off out of the campsite and into the forest to begin my daily activities.

I met with Gina every evening afterwards and we played and talked. It was nice to be treated as normal again, but it couldn't last. I was playing with Gina in the clearing an evening or two later and this time I didn't hear the approach of her mother. She saw me sat with Gina playing some game or other.

“OH MY GOD!” screamed the woman, “GINA GET AWAY FROM THAT THING.”

“Mummy it's just my friend Jamie,” my little friend explained.

“Get away from my daughter!” she pulled Gina towards her and positioned herself between me and her, “away you foul thing! You monster!”

She picked up sticks and stones then began throwing them at me.

“No don't hurt her!” cried Gina trying to stop her mother. I raised my arm protecting my face from the attacks my armour protected me from any harm but the words hurt me more than the pebbles ever could.

There was a crashing sound of breaking foliage signalling someone running through the undergrowth. I looked frantically for a good escape route but it was coming from behind me and Gina and her mother were blocking my way ahead. A large man exploded out of the bushes.

“What is all the racket about?” he shouted then saw me and Gina's mum.

His eyes narrowed in anger, I flinched in terror and tried to make myself small.

“What the hell do you think you're doing!” roared the man, I cringed back sure he was about to attack me too. I shielded myself hoping my armour would protect me.

I didn't see what happened next but I heard the man move over towards me, “Leave her alone! Get out of here!”

There were some noises and for some reason I heard someone moving back towards the campsite. I wondered what was going on had Gina's mum gone for reinforcements?

Then I felt some large hands grip my shoulders they were strangely gentle but it still shocked me. I let out a piercing scream and lashed out at my attacker I opened my eyes to see the man wearing a shocked looking expression on his face go flying away from me and smack into a tree. He collapsed in a heap on the ground and I scrambled up before he had a chance to try and catch me again.

“No wait don't run! I didn't mean ...” he tried to say but I was too quick for him I dashed through the bushes leaping over the fence and escaping into the night.

I had just learnt another lesson that I could not be around people. Gina might have been friendly now but when she got older she would hate me just as much as the other adults. I had to be more careful and remain hidden it was the only way to be safe. I returned to my cave my only sanctuary in this cruel world I sealed myself in and held my only reliable friend Pinky Bear tightly and cried myself to sleep.

I confined myself to the forest for the next few days not going back to look at the people. When I did get enough courage to go back for a look Gina and her family were gone. I couldn't stop myself watching people but I never again got so close as I had with Gina. Sometimes I saw people like me that had been changed, living among the normal people but I didn't understand how that could be. I assumed unlike me their changes were just skin deep, inside they were still people. I was an animal inside I hunted and killed, I had killed daddy, I was a monster.

As the years passed and I grew I became faster stronger and a better hunter. I shed my armour several times its colour getting darker and darker till it was black as night. I became more adept at hiding and moving about unseen. I found I could locate food even in winter so I didn't need to leave the safety of the forest at all.

I was lonely but I was safe I watched people from a distance not straying from the shadows. Then one day I was woken by a terrific crash and someone crying out in pain. I went to see what it was and found a man who I had followed only the night before lying at the bottom of a cliff badly wounded. I couldn't leave him to die so I brought him to my cave not knowing what else to do and that’s how I met you.


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