As Bill walked quickly down the gravel road leading to his house, he wanted to know if the rumour was true. Several thoughts were going through his mind at the same time. If it was true, it had to be bad genes from her mother's side of the family. No one in the Baker family tree had been cursed by MORFS. This disease had afflicted the sinful people of Earth for almost fifty years, but the Baker family had been faithful and pure. They had been spared the stigma of a cursed child, until today.
After arriving at the house, he was about to yell for Elizabeth when he saw Annie standing in the living room. He didn't trust himself to say anything. Instead, he pulled off his boots and coat, dropping them on the floor and climbed the stairs. He saw the IV unit attached to Elizabeth's arm and his heart sank. The rumour was true. His beautiful little girl had been cursed with MORFS. Bill held her hand and prayed for her soul, but knew what had to be done. He heard Annie saying something from the doorway, but wasn't paying attention. He needed to get her out of the house to prepare for the next few days.
“Thanks for helping so much, Annie,” he said. Bill didn't want to give anything away to the young girl, so he continued to look at what remained of his daughter. “You should head home now. I can take care of Elizabeth until she’s over this.” Annie stood at the doorway for a moment but didn't say anything. She turned and headed down the stairs before going out the front door a few moments later.
Once alone, he began looking up information on the computer, making plans. Since he walked back and forth to the school, he didn't own a car. However, he knew where he would be able to get access to one of the four wheel bikes that were used for hunting. He just needed to make sure that no one would see him take it. The owner would notice soon enough and report it stolen, so that had to be left to the very end.
Over the next day or two, Bill completely ignored Elizabeth. She would sleep for hours at a time and he would occasionally hear her moving around. She was likely waking up to use the bathroom or to get cleaned up, but he didn’t look in on her until the third day. That was the day that he committed himself to getting the unsavoury job done.
He waited until he heard Elizabeth moving around before heading up the stairs. He might have been able to do the work while she was unconscious, but it would likely make too much noise. He didn't want to raise any suspicions, and he didn't want to take any chances. As Bill got to the top of the stairs, he almost panicked. The curse had changed Elizabeth into an abomination. Instead of his beautiful, little girl coming out of the bathroom, he saw a monster with a bed sheet wrapped around itself.
It was taller than he was, well over two meters with white hair over its entire body, thick neck muscles and powerful arms and legs. Its face still had a human appearance, but had a slight muzzle shape to it. Its face was hauntingly similar to Elizabeth’s, but it wasn't her anymore. He knew it would still think that it was Elizabeth and he would have to reason with it.
“Elizabeth,” he called to it and shuddered slightly as it stopped to turn and look at him. It seemed confused or tired, as it took a moment to recognize him. As soon as it did, it moved toward him with tears in its eyes.
“Daddy, what's happening to me?” it asked. The tears and the voice reminded him of Elizabeth so much he nearly changed his mind, thinking that he wouldn't be able to go through with it. But he knew that he and his faith were being tested. He needed to save the soul of his little girl, trapped within the hideous beast.
“It's MORFS, honey,” he explained, trying to keep his voice calm. “We need to get you to the hospital, though. Do you think you're able to make it?”
“I think so, I'll try,” she answered. “But I don't have anything that will fit me. What can a wear?”
Bill thought that there was no need to clothe an animal, but said, “I'll get you a pair of my shorts and a shirt. They should fit you.” He went to his room and started to look though his things. He didn't know why he had brought shorts and tee shirts to the far north. There wouldn't be any time that he could wear them. Even in the height of summer, the temperature wouldn't get high enough to need them.
Returning to her room, he found her sitting on the end of her bed and handed her the clothes.
She looked at him for a moment before asking, “Can I get dressed in private, please?”
Bill shook his head and stepped out of the room. “I'll wait for you down stairs,” he said, walking away.
After a minute or two, the beast came down the stairs and sat on the bottom step, clearly winded from the effort.
“I don't know if I can walk all the way to the hospital, Dad.”
He smiled, thinking that this was almost over. “You won't need to, honey. I borrowed one of those ATV things. You just need to get out to the sledge at the side of the house.”
It smiled for a brief moment before saying, “Thanks, Dad. I'm sure I can make it that far.”
Bill wrapped a large, thick blanket around the beast to hide it from anyone who might be out at this late hour and opened the door. Once it was lying on the sledge, he covered it with another blanket, replaced the cartridge in the IV unit and started the engine. It was asleep again before they even pulled out onto the road, which was good, since he turned in the opposite direction from the hospital.
He took his time to make sure that no one saw him riding the ATV with the sledge and the massive beast sleeping on it. He drove for more that two hours over the rock and snow to the point that he had selected. Once there, he stopped and removed the line tying the sledge to the ATV. Before turning the machine around to head home, he prayed for her soul. He was confident that the elements would deal with the beast soon enough.
With the town in sight, Bill stopped at one of the many bays in the area. He had selected it because the water here was particularly deep and dark, a perfect place to get rid of the ATV. After putting it into neutral he pushed it into the water, watching as it disappeared completely under the surface. The walk to the house was a little over two kilometers, but Bill didn't mind the distance or the walk through the cold morning air. It allowed him to think and to pray for the soul of his little girl again.
To ensure that there was no possibility of the beasts survival, Bill waited an entire day before calling the police to report Elizabeth's 'disappearance'.
As the sun slowly climbed over the horizon, ice and snow on the small lake reflected the bright light. Beth still felt like crap, but stirred under the blankets when the sun got in her eyes. She vaguely remembered her dad helping her get onto the sledge, but couldn't remember anything after that. She peeked out from under the blanket, looking at her surroundings, trying to make sense of what she saw. The lake was completely frozen, with a layer of snow that looked like it had been blown into the low area. Beyond the lake was ... nothing. It was rock, snow and clear blue sky for as far as she could see. Beth couldn't understand why she was outside in the cold. It didn't make sense.
She rolled onto her other side to look in that direction and realized that the IV unit was still on her arm. The indicator panel still showed that she hadn't completed the second stage of MORFS. Fortunately the replaceable cartridge in the unit was nearly full, so she wouldn't have to worry about it yet.
She stood up to look for her dad, hoping that she would be able to see where he was. The moment that she stood up, she regretted it. Her stomach lurched and her head started to pound even harder that it had been. Without even bothering to look around, she sat back down. She could do that later, when she felt better. Instead, she hit a button on the IV unit to manually administer a sedative and went back to sleep.
The next time that Beth woke, it was to the beeping of the IV unit as it started to shut down. The indicator panel showed that she was over stage two and it wasn't needed anymore. She felt great! She was thirsty and a little hungry, but felt better than she could ever remember in her life. She pushed the blankets off of her and stood up, looking around again. The sun was low in the sky and looked like it might be setting, but she wasn't sure. She'd have to wait to see which direction it was going before knowing if it was morning or afternoon.
Then it finally dawned on her, she was standing outside in the freezing cold in nothing more than a pair of shorts and a tee shirt but didn't feel the cold at all. She might as well be standing in her living room, or on a beach in the tropics somewhere. However she wasn't in either of those places, she was at the side of a frozen lake in the middle of nowhere. Over the last few days, she had noticed that her skin had turned dark, almost black before the thick white hair started to grow out. There was no mistaking her as anything other than a polar bear hybrid. It was the only explanation for her not feeling the cold that she could come up with.
“Where the hell am I?” Beth said out loud. She turned around several times, hoping to see something in the distance that would give her a clue as to where she was, “I can't believe he left me!” However, since neither her dad nor the ATV were anywhere to be seen, she had to assume that he had abandoned her. Beth slumped back down onto the sledge with her emotions running wild. She felt angry, hurt and scared all at the same time. Being abandoned by her dad reminded her of how her mother had abandoning her, years before. The emotions and memories were too much, and she started to cry. Each time she tried to stop herself, she only started again, harder than before. Beth didn't really stop crying until long after she ran out of tears.
When Beth was able to look up at the sun again it looked as if it was a little lower in the sky. If it had moved, it wasn't much, but she was convinced that direction was west. Unfortunately it didn't help her at all! She had no way of knowing if walking in that direction would take her back to town, or further away. What she did know, was that staying in one place was pointless, and likely deadly. Since Beth knew that Iqaluit was on the south shore of Baffin Island, she decided to head south. It was as good a direction as any other. It had the advantage that she knew that she would get to the south edge of the island if she walked far enough.
Fortunately for Beth, the bottom of her feet had grown thick pads that not only protected her from the cold ground, but also from the rocks and stones. It didn't take long for the sun to finally set to her right as she continued to walk. When the sun was fully below the horizon, the night sky filled with bright sparkling stars. Beth had always liked to look up at the stars at night. It wasn't something that she had been able to do much when she lived in Toronto. The bright city lights washed out most of the dimmer stars, leaving only the brightest ones visible. But here, in the far north, there were more stars than she had ever been able to see at one time in her entire life.
As Beth looked up to take in the beauty of the clear night sky, she noticed something moving behind her out of the corner of her eye. She was both hopeful and scared of what would be behind her as she turned to look.
“Oh my God!” Beth exclaimed in the frigid air. What she saw was so amazing and beautiful her eyes went wide in surprise. The sky was painted in colours of green, blue and even red for as far as she could see. She needed to look up and turn her head from one side to the other to take it all in. Looking almost straight up into the sky, she lost her balance and fell to the ground, still staring at the image in the sky. Seeing the northern lights wasn't new, but they had never looked like this before. Beth was mesmerized as much by the changing patterns as the colours in them. Beth continued to sit on the ground and stare at the light show, completely forgetting her situation. After some time, she realized she was tired, and decided to try getting a little rest for the long walk ahead of her.
A few short hours later, the rising sun turned the cold, clear sky a deep red before it showed itself the next morning. It had been a long time since Beth had sat and watched the sunrise. The bright sun was a comfort after the long night. She closed her eyes as the sun hit her face warming her mind and soul. She still didn't feel cold, even after sleeping outside on the frozen ground all night long. She might not have felt cold, but her stomach reminded her that she was hungry with a loud rumble.
Ever since arriving in Iqaluit, people had told her not to eat snow or ice as it would make her feel colder, but it was the only thing for her thirst. Beth started walking south again and absently chewed on some snow to stop the rumbling of her stomach. After climbing a small hill a gentle breeze blew in Beth's face. The air was crisp and clean, but had an odd odour to it. She raised her head slightly and inhaled deeply to get a better idea of what it was. Whatever it was, it smelt good, and her stomach rumbled again in agreement.
Using her nose to guide her, Beth walked faster to the source of the wonderful odour. She was surprised how far she had to walk to find where it was coming from. Without a watch it was hard to tell how much time had passed, but she guessed that it was over an hour. What she found was both intriguing and disgusting. As Beth stood on a small hill overlooking a huge bay of open water, she could see a dark red stain on the snow. Getting closer to the 'scene of the crime', Beth guessed that it had been a seal at one time. What remained of the animal was little more than skin, bones and the blood stained snow. The smell of it was incredible. Beth thought that it would be disgusting and something she would never have considered eating, but she couldn't even remember that last meal that she had or how long ago it had been. She had lost track of the days while going through MORFS and had been on nothing more that the IV unit during that time. Beth picked up one of the bones that still had a small amount of meat on it. She looked at for a while until the wonderful smell and her stomach convinced her to try a piece.
“Well, here goes nothing,” she said before biting into the meat. The taste of the raw meat was like nothing she had ever had in her life. It was also nothing like she expected it to be. The taste was even better that the aroma, if that was possible. Without even a second thought, Beth took another bite and then another. When the meat was completely cleaned off the bone she had been holding, Beth picked up another one. Just as she was about to bite into the piece of meat remaining on the new bone she heard something come at her.
She turned around and stood up, seeing was a polar bear rushing at her. Her standing seemed to make it pause for a moment before it stood on its hind legs only a meter away from her. It was about the same height that she was now, and female as well. It roared at Beth, while trying to get between her and the remains of the seal. Beth turned with the animal as she started to step back from it. She didn't understand why it hadn't simply attacked and killed her. Once the animal was between the dead seal and Beth, it dropped down to its four legs, turned back to the seal and started to chew on one of the bones. The ease at which it was able to crack and break the bones sent a shiver up her spine.
Beth was amazed that she was still alive after this second polar bear attack. Then she noticed something odd, the polar bear that had attacked her in town had one blue eye and one green eye, just like she now had. This bear had the same odd coloured eyes as her and the first bear. Beth was watching the other bear to see if it would change its mind and attack her when she noticed another bear coming out of the water a short distance away. Unlike the bear near her, this one was coming closer, and was huge. The first bear roared at the new arrival, then started to chew on another bone and didn't seem concerned by its approach.
Beth took another step backwards without realizing it. Unfortunately, she stepped on a loose rock, and fell to the ground. The smaller of the two bears looked at her and made a sound. Beth could have sworn that it was laughing at her, but it was just a bear. It couldn't be laughing at her being clumsy, could it?
The larger of the two bears was still getting closer. It looked like a full grown female and was likely the mother of the smaller bear. Beth didn't want to move, realizing there wasn't anywhere to run to anyway. Sitting on the ground, her head was at the same level as the bear. When it was close enough, it sniffed her. Beth was certain that the bear would swipe at her, or bite her any moment now.
She let out her breath as the large animal turned away. She was just starting to get her breath back when something very unexpected happened. The mother bear grabbed one of the bones from the remains of the seal and dropped it beside her. When the smaller bear roared its objection, she roared back at it, even louder, making sure that it knew not to argue with its mother.
Beth picked up the bone and looked at it for a moment before saying, “Thank you.” The bone was the same one she had when the smaller bear had rushed at her. As she ate her meal, the two bears lay there watching her. After a while the mother bear got up and grunted at the smaller bear before walking off. The smaller bear jumped up and immediately started to follow its mother. When the mother got a few meters away and noticed that Beth wasn't following, she roared loudly at her and started walking again.
Beth stood up and said, “Either I'm going crazy, or I've just been adopted.” Although the cold didn't seem to bother Beth, she still had no idea where her next meal would come from. Following the bear cub and her mother seemed crazy, but it was still better than being out here alone. Running to catch up with the two bears, Beth thought that no one would believe her when she got back to town. That is, if she got back to town.
To be continued...
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/