Thanks again to Erulisse for beta-reading :)
These eyes now looked a little bit different than he remembered them, but at the same time they were the same, and he recognized them. Those were the eyes he had seen many times. The eyes that brought comfort.
Yes, it's me, her thoughts reached him. Don't worry any more. For the beginning, you'll transform into your usual shape, so we'll talk easier. I'll help you, and you'll find out everything.
The feeling of relief brought by these words was even stronger than the feeling of shock when he had recognized her. For a few moments he didn't think of anything else, but that he'd be saved. He wouldn't remain in a body of a bear forever, he'd transform into human shape again. He wouldn't be alone, he'd be able to talk about everything, and he'd find out what's going on.
First tell me how you transformed into a bear, he heard her voice in his head again, so he turned his attention to her. This silent communication by thoughts was something completely new to him and it felt a little clumsy in the beginning, but he managed to describe his afternoon. Having finished, he looked at her with hope and a little bit of despair.
I just want to be me again. I just want everything to be as it once was.
Her eyes gave him the answer even before she sent him the thought.
No, nothing will ever be as it once was.
Somewhere deep inside, he too was aware of that; but somehow, he hoped that she'd have a magical solution even for that.
But we'll be in it together, she continued encouragingly, and then started to explain. Just like you transformed into a bear when you wanted to be a bear – although then you didn't know it would really happen – now you have to want to turn into a human, the instruction came. Of course, you have to focus only on that and wipe out all other thoughts – just like you did before.
He blinked in disbelief.
It is that simple?!
Her face remained the same, of course – bear's mouth couldn't laugh – but he could swear that a spritely giggle reached his ears.
Yes, it is that simple.
Then, all that he had to do was to make it happen.
I want to be me again. I want to be a human again.
He repeated the same words one more time. With the same result.
You are too tense, he heard grandma's voice. Relax. Don't think about anything else. And don't worry about the outcome. I am with you, and it will be fine.
He nodded and closed his eyes, then took a deep breath. Relax. Don't think about anything else, he repeated to himself. He calmed and started to shut out all the surroundings. It wasn't easy, but he made it. Then he visualized his own human shape; finally, it remained the only image that remained, and grew in his mind.
I am a human.
A quiver. And another. Then, waves of vibrations through the whole body.
Just like before, when the echoing thought started the first change, the same thing happened this time too: he fell to the ground and started to shake, and it hurt again. It lasted for some time, and after a while, little by little, he calmed.
When he opened his eyes, he saw it was quite dark – a lot darker than it seemed only a short time ago. No, his transformation didn't last long, but his human eyes couldn't process much light. All the scents suddenly vanished from the world and he breathed the familiar regular air again, almost scentless one. A boring air, a passing thought crossed his mind. Everything was so quiet – the sounds of the forest were beyond his hearing again. He thought that the world was much more interesting and vivid while he was in bear's incarnation.
His grandma stood next to him, she too in her human shape now. Overcome by his own transformation, he didn't notice that she had also transformed. He slowly rose – it was almost unusual to stand on two feet again – and turned to her.
"What happened? How did it happen?" What am I? What are we? How did you know...?" He stopped. He had dozens of questions and wanted to ask them all at once.
"I'll tell you on the way back," grandma replied and took her cell phone. "But right now I have to text your mother. It's almost dark and she'll start to worry, while you and I have a very long talk ahead of us. I'll tell her that you ran into me on your way back from your trip and that I took you to my place for supper, so that she doesn't worry."
If grandma hadn't pointed out his backpack, still lying on the edge of the clearing, he would've forgotten it – he was still so overwhelmed by what happened. Then they headed back, using their flashlights to see the forest path.
"I felt your transformation. All of us can feel when it happens to members of our closest family. I knew the exact moment," she started. "I thought it wouldn't happen for several more years, and that I had enough time to prepare you for what's to come. The first transformation usually happens in the late teens." She stopped and looked at him thoughtfully. "It's possible that yours is the earliest change in our whole line. I wonder what it means... perhaps you'll be the mightiest of all."
What?! These words brought more incredible facts... and more questions.
"What...? I don't understand... All of us...? What line...?" He stared at her, forgetting to close his mouth after the last word. If his head hadn't burst by now, this could be the very moment in which it could finally happen.
"As you can see, our family is not like the others... and the trait I'm talking about is hereditary." She didn't say more, letting him draw the conclusion by himself.
He thought for a short while, and then he realized. Here, next to him, stood his father's mother, and not his mother's.
"So, my father..."
He hadn't really had the chance to know him. Being only three when his father died, he had only one blurry memory.
"Exactly," grandma confirmed. "He was like me, you are like us, and all of us are like our ancestors. Of course, I couldn't say anything to your mother – because anyone outside our family would proclaim us crazy. And even if an outsider saw the transformation with their own eyes, they'd probably consider us some dangerous mutant."
With those words, she stopped, and when he regarded her face under the flashlight, it seemed to him she was thinking.
"Maybe it is exactly that," finally she said. "A mutation of some gene, back in the ancient past. Scientists could probably find it out if they analysed my or your blood. But that doesn't matter now."
She smiled and her eyes shone; that face with wrinkles and framed by grey hair suddenly looked much younger. In those deep wise eyes, both human and bear's eyes at the same time, lay hidden a whole world – the world he would now discover.
Grandma started to walk again, and they carried on towards the road and the place where he had left his bike.
"A long, long time ago, the world looked completely different," she began to tell her story. "It was filled with creatures different than today, and magic still didn't vanish from it. It was a time in which lived a man named Beorn..."
Just as she had announced, the talk was really a long one. She talked during the way back, during supper and after it still. He got answers to all of his questions. He found out all about their family and the incredible secret hidden in them; about the world many thousands years ago in which elves, hobbits, orcs and mighty wizards walked alongside men; about how all those exotic creatures either left their world or became extinct, and all the magic disappeared.
"I am so sorry that your first transformation happened when you were alone, and that you lay there frightened for a long time," grandma concluded the story. "Now I regret not telling you earlier, because that way you would have been spared that ordeal. But I thought you would cope with it easier if you were a little older, and besides that, just as I already mentioned, I thought a lot more time would pass until your first time. But now you know."
They fell silent, sitting in the living room of her apartment. The light was dim – there was just one small lamp – and while listening, he almost expected that creatures she talked about would emerge from some dark corner of the room.
"Oh... so many things to think about," was all he said in the end.
"I know," she smiled sympathetically. "I understand that you heard so much new information at once, and that most of it must sound incredible to you. But still, you and I are a living proof that the story is true."
He slowly nodded. If he hadn't been through the transformation, if he had just heard the story, he wouldn't have believed it. He was sure that this night it would be very late before he'd be able to fall asleep; there was so much to think about.
"Err... these transformations we go through... they don't just happen unprovoked? Without notice, in inconvenient moments?" he asked, with a great sense of discomfort. Ever since it crossed his mind back there on the mountain, he couldn't escape this thought.
"No, you don't have to worry about that," she replied and smiled. "You won't change unexpectedly while you write a school test, or when you go for a walk with a girl." Her smile became mischievous for a few moments, but then she became serious again. "To go through transformation, you have to completely focus on it. And even with a lot of concentration, in the beginning you won't always make it – as you noticed while you were trying to transform back into human form."
His sigh of relief expressed how much these words comforted him. He was really very scared of a spontaneous transformation.
"I don't doubt at all that you'll practice," grandma said merrily, a smile back on her face. Thinking of those words, he realized her assumption was correct, although he hadn't consciously made that decision until this moment. But now that he knew who and what he was, of course he intended to explore his nature.
Then he remembered something.
"Are there more people like us? That man Beorn... does he have more living descendants?" he asked.
"Yes," grandma confirmed. "There aren't many of us, and we live in different parts of the world so most of us never meet, but we do know about one another and we are in contact – by letters in the past, and by e-mail nowadays. They know about you – I told them I had a grandson. After all, there's one more important reason for us to be in touch. The thing that should be avoided at all cost is that somebody from our family remains alone, and that he or she thinks they're monsters if they go through a change. Several people from our line have the instructions how to find and contact you in case I died before your sixteenth birthday, so that they could tell you about the history of our family. However, now I can inform them that their actions won't be necessary."
"I see," he replied pensively. Then, thinking about it, he realized something. "One day... if I'll ever have kids... I have to tell them what you told me – and I have to find others who can tell them if I won't be able to." He shivered, remembering how frightened and desperate he felt on that glade.
"Exactly," she nodded. "It is very important that we preserve the knowledge about us. There are no more orcs today, and none of us has to go into battles like our ancient ancestors. But the prophecy written many millennia ago says that Morgoth Bauglir will return one day, and with him, many of his evil creatures. No one knows when it will happen. It could be during your lifetime, but it may not happen for many centuries more. But when it does happen, all of us will stand together in a final battle against evil. We are stronger than ordinary people and we can give a bigger contribution, and my heart tells me that it is our family that will have a significant role in that battle," she ended gravely.
He nodded, just as serious as she was. No, nothing will be as it once was, but he was no longer scared; and he suddenly felt that this was the first day of his adult life.
"I'll remember everything you said, and I'll make sure my children learn it too," he promised.
Err... clothes. I thought about it much. Really. And finally decided to ignore it. Please, you ignore it too. :) You can imagine that grandma brought spare clothes with her, if you want. :) But actual describing it... I have a feeling that it would totally "kill" the situation, if you understand what I mean... so, ignore it, or imagine whatever you like. :) Thanks! :)