• The being's hands were disconcertingly gentle.

    Long, slender fingers coiled around the base of my neck and my lower back, hoisting my frail body off the ground. A soft figured cradled me against it like one would support an infant, and I relished the closeness. My body craved this warmth.

    In the back of my mind I could recall another time when this sort of closeness was more familiar to me. I tried to grasp firm hold of this memory, anything to show me who I was or how I got here, but it was quickly forgotten at the taste of cool liquid on my lips.

    I gulped greedily, gratefully, not caring how it hurt each time the water splashed inside my empty stomach. I had not realized how very parched I’d become until moisture returned to my scratchy throat. I drank until the water was taken away.

    I could feel the human awkwardly snap the lid down on the empty canteen, leaning my fragile weight against its chest so it could manage this. Female, my mind registered at the pillow-like feel of its– her– body. I opened my eyes a slit in an attempt to view my savior.

    Her face was pleasant to the eye, with its high cheekbones, dark skin and large chocolate eyes; however, in the same it was weathered and aged. Though she must have been young, judging by the lack of lines around her mouth and eyes, her skin had a rough-looking texture to it, and her perfectly curved lips were set in a hard line. She walked confidently, as though she had taken the same route many times. Her eyes, unfocused, seemed unaware of her surroundings.

    My position was not an easy one to travel in. With every step, I was bounced and jostled. I managed to stay quiet, not wanting to draw potentially dangerous attention to myself. The lack of contact I'd had for who knows how long had made me wary. I owed this human my life, but that did not mean I would relinquish it easily.

    When I wasn’t watching the little changes in the woman’s expression, I watched the sky. The sun was just reaching its highest point, noon, so we had been moving for about six hours. I marveled at how long this human had been supporting me without the slightest complaint.

    We continued to travel and I continued to watch the sun’s progress across the sky. Approximately two more hours passed before we reached our destination. I felt the slowing of my human’s pace. The tight line of her mouth relaxed into what might’ve passed for a smile if it weren’t so wan.

    I couldn’t help but start at the vibration in her chest when she spoke. She didn’t notice.

    “Cher,” she sighed, her eyes softening, finally focusing on something.

    I tried to use my peripheral vision to glimpse what– who– she addressed, but the angle I was positioned at prevented this. It wasn’t until the being was directly over me that I could see it without causing myself to be noticed.

    Cher, as the woman had called her, had a pleasant face as well. She stood taller than my savior, her shoulders broader, her jaw more defined. Her plump lips curled up into a relieved smile, the porcelain skin around the corners of her silver eyes crinkling. She had fur– hair, I mean– that hung to her waist in golden spirals.

    This Cher, with her intimidating beauty and fierce stance, touched a certain part of what should’ve been my memory. She was not human; I could tell as much, despite her features, but I could not quite wrap my mind around what she was. I racked my brain for the word. I had seen her kind before, but I had no memory of where or how.

    I was distracted from my musings when Cher spoke.

    “Erica,” she sang in a lovely soprano voice, leaning over me awkwardly to embrace my savior and plant a kiss lightly on her forehead. Concern shone from her stormy eyes. “I’m so glad you found it in a weak state. I was worried sick over the idea of you fighting one of them.” Cher threw a passive glance in my direction.

    “I actually saved her.” Erica threw a wary glance at me as she spoke. “She was dehydrated and quite near death when I came across her. I couldn’t– Cheron!"

    Disbelief, then anger, washed over Cher’s marvelous face. I couldn’t resist crying out in pain as she snatched me out of Erica’s arms and flung me at least five yards away onto the hard earth. Cher drew back and slapped Erica sharply, the impact causing Erica to fall back, an uncomprehending expression on her face as she gazed up at Cher. Cher’s expression, on the contrary, was one of disgust as she towered over my human savior, gesturing wildly with her arms as she yelled in a frantic, yet menacing tone, her captivating, musical voice suddenly distorted in her fury.

    “How could you? So it’s a she now? Not only did you save one of them, but you’ve taken a liking to it! What’s next? Are you going to name it? Buy it a doggie bowl and kibble?” Cher fumed, her pale skin seeming to grow paler by the second, her teeth suddenly appearing sharper, more animal-like.

    All I could do was stare in shock, momentarily disregarded by the two. I struggled against the part of my mind that was inaccessible, trying to comprehend this conversation, feeling as though I should.

    As I warily studied the predatory stance Cher had taken on and the familiar-yet-not bloodthirsty look in her eye, two of the turning wheels in my brain clicked, and I knew. I remembered what these beings, beings like Cher, were called.