“Miss Painter, it’s the police. We’re here to help. Open the door.” A deep, weighty voice spoke.
Camryn squeezed her eyes closed. No! She wouldn’t listen. Don’t talk. Don’t talk. Please don’t talk.
She heard a slow outlet of breath near the door, as if whatever was to come next was burdensome. “We know you’re alone. We just want to talk.” A female voice, low, grave.
The doorknob jiggled but the deadbolt held. “Please, Miss Painter,” the female coaxed. “Open the door.”
Another heavy sigh.
“Camryn? ” The deep voice was back. “It’s about your parents.”
Bile in her stomach rammed into her throat.
Fighting her will, the anchor on her chest pushed out the magma of sound. “Noooooooooo!” She sank to the floor, wrapped her arms around her stomach and rocked against the wall, hitting her back with each breath. “Go away! Go away! Go away!”
Boom! The front door splintered. Boom! Boom! The door exploded into the room.
Camryn screamed and ran.
Voices called. Lights blared. Faces appeared. Arms pulled.
A woman cop held Camryn tight against her bosom, suffocating the scream.
The cop stroked Camryn’s head. “It’s okay. Deep breaths now.”
Camryn’s breathing slowed and she raised her head to look at her captor. Camryn jerked as her vision blurred and sharp tingles on her scalp warned her of the coming change. Her hair grew longer as the shower of a thousand stings worked its way from her head to her chest. She grew taller, older. No. Stop. Stop!
She was becoming the cop.
She had to get away before they found out. Camryn kicked the cop in the shin and pushed.
“Crap!” The cop still held tight, but she listed to one side favoring the bruised leg.
Camryn squirmed and kicked again. He fingernails reached to scratch any skin—face, arms, anything to get the cop to let go. She had to get away before they saw the freak.
“Why you little…stop it!” The cop shook her hard. “Calm down. We’re not gonna hurt you.”
Pain worked its way from her stomach to her toes like the ripple of sheet lightning. Her nerve endings fought against the change. Her skin stretched, her lips thickened, her hair grew toward her shoulders. She slammed her knee into the woman’s stomach and then stomped on her instep.
Release! Camryn turned and ran blindly, her hands covering her face so they couldn’t see what she had become.
The man grabbed her around the waist from the back and pinned her arms against her sides.
“Let me go! Let. Me. Go.” She yanked and pulled to get away.
“Oh my god,” the female yelled to her partner. “Look!” She pointed at Camryn. “She…she’s…my twin.”
The tall man turned her around. “What the hell?” He took her now thick, long, auburn hair in his fingers, stared at her face, her eyes. His gaze dropped lower, then snapped above her head. “That’s impossible. No one can look exactly like you. Not in every detail.”
Camryn felt the change start again as male whiskers sprouted on her chin. She looked away, bending around him, openly staring at the female cop. Focus. Focus on the woman. She cataloged every physical feature of the female cop, chanting the details to herself—shoulder length blonde hair, triangle face, bushy eyebrows, tight lips…. She held her breath as she focused, hoping that not breathing could prevent any further changes.
Finally secure in the image, she let out the breath and her shoulders sagged. “They’re dead.” Camryn was proud her voice shook only a little.
The policewoman nodded, her eyes still wide as she stared at Camryn. “Yes.” The cop’s speech strained, as if she had to force each word out. “Car accident. Down a steep cliff. Into the water.” She finally looked away. “I’m sorry.”
As each day had passed, Camryn suspected the truth—but she’d refused to put words to it. As if words alone had the strength to change reality. She’d rather believe her parents had abandoned her than to believe they had died. Now the cops
were here to end all hope.
The female cop approached very slowly. “I can’t believe how much you look like me. I never knew anyone could... I never…”
The man snapped his head in her direction stopping the cop’s next words. Camryn kept her eyes on the woman. Maybe they’d treat her better because she looked like the female cop.
The man placed solid hands on Camryn’s shoulders, making sure she didn’t move. “We have a place for you to go,” he said. His voice sounded caring, but she didn’t trust him. “Someone to take care of you.”
Camryn didn’t look at him. Instead, she hung her head and kept the image of the policewoman in her mind. Please. Please don’t change now. Please.
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