I took off my jeans, sweater and shoes and stuffed them in a little cubbyhole I'd made in the corner of my garage. We never have figured out how to morph clothing, other than skin-tight stuff. Besides, a big bird of prey would look kind of conspicuous flying around in a pair of Levi's.
I tried to relax and focus on my morph. It was tough. I'd made my Dad feel bad. I didn't like that. It wasn't his fault, any of it. How was he supposed to know his wife wasn't really dead?
Or at least, not for sure.
My mom, her body anyway, was Visser One. The original leader of the Yeerk invasion of Earth. My Mom was a Controller.
She'd faked her own death when her assignment on Earth was up. She didn't want to leave any open questions as to what happened to my mother. So there was a boating accident. And for two years my dad and I thought she was in the ground.
Then I learned the truth. No way I could tell my dad. And the truth was, she was as good as dead. Probably.
I'd seen her last on a blasted mountaintop. I'd led her there, me, her son, as part of a plan to take down Vissers One and Three.
The last I'd seen her she went off a cliff. No body had turned up, but that may have just been the Yeerks cleaning up their own mess.
For two years, dead. Then alive. And now?
It was a totally impossible situation.
I was almost glad to have this mission. As dangerous as it was bound to be. It would keep my mind off Dad and Nora and all the hopeless conflicts I was feeling over it.
I concentrated on the animal I wanted to morph. Osprey. Fish-eating bird of prey. Eyes like lasers. Six-foot wingspan.
And I felt the changes begin.
Morphing is totally bizarre. It makes even the wildest and creepiest movie effects seem ordinary. There's something about watching your entire body completely change its shape that never ceases to freak you out.
I was shrinking. Rapidly. From five feet to four. To three. To two. The garbage cans my dad had bought at Home Depot were as big as three-story buildings now. The push broom leaning against the wall was as tall as a tree.
My bare feet quivered. My toes began to merge, to melt together, the way cookies melt into each other in the oven when you put them too close together on the pan.
Five stubby toes became three long slender ones. A fourth toe sprouted out of each of my ankles. Then a long, sharp talon slithered out of each toe.
Next, my skin started to itch.
Pfft! Pfft! Pfft!
The hairs on my arms started growing like superfast growing grass. Then each long hair blossomed into a feather. Black feathers along my back. White feathers on my front.
Now my arms would transform themselves into wings. I would be able to fly. And as soon as the morph was complete, I could lose myself in the simple, straightforward mind of the osprey. At least for the time it took to fly to Cassie's.
Come on, come on, I urged. Osprey.
My eyes were supposed to go telescopic. Allowing me to spot glittering fish through reflective water.
They didn't. Instead, they began to grow darker. Blurrier. Until I could see only dim shapes around me. A hazy combination of black, white and gray.
My arms! They weren't becoming wings! What was happening? I felt them stretching out in front of me. The skin on my hands turning brittle, like armor. Fingers merging, becoming two barbed claws.
Something was wrong!
My face . . .
A pin-prick on each cheek! Two long whisker-like hairs sprouted outward. Instinctively, I swept them in front of me, gauging the wind, the temperature, sensing my surroundings.
Antennae? Birds don't have antennae!
Dim eyes. Pincers. Antennae.
I was half-osprey, half-lobster?
A useless combination of mismatched parts.
I struggled to stand on the osprey's narrow legs. Dragged the lobster's heavy claws along the dirty garage floor. My antennae swept back and forth, faster and faster, desperately searching. For what?
Suddenly, the lobster's mind took over.
Water! Where was the water!
I had lobster lungs and gills. But I was nowhere near water.
No. NO! This couldn't be happening.
The lobster's panic was intense. Desperately I tried to fight it.
Come on, Marco. Settle down. Just morph out and everything will be fine.
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