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Instead, I was focused on finding a killer. It'd found a family of campers--an adult male and two tweens, both boys. I wanted to find the bastard before it went and killed again. I won't go into the details of the killing, but it was like a shark in a blood frenzy. It was that bad.

All I wanted was to go on a nighttime run in the woods. Now I had to find a killer.

I slowed down as the killer's scent grew stronger. It smelled musky. Definitely not human. Beyond the trees was a clearing, and in the center I saw a deer. It was a big one, with at least a ten-point rack, something you'd see in the movies. Shiny coat, strong legs, and totally oblivious to the fact I was watching it.

Its scent was what I had been tracking. A deer? A deer killed those people? There was only one type of creature I knew that fit the description, but--

The deer's head jerked up as the breeze suddenly shifted, placing me squarely upwind of it. The branches under my paws cracked as I pounced towards the buck, who nimbly jumped to the side. I wound up with a clawful of dirt and grass and a pissed-off deer, who bared its fangs at me.

Yup, I said it had fangs, and they were tinged with red. I'd definitely found the killer, and it was a literal monster.

It lowered its head as I circled around the beast. I thought it was going to try and pounce, but then its back started to bulge, as if something from within was trying to get out. That something was three long spines, glistening like pearls in the moonlight. The points aimed at me were sharp enough to pierce its hide smoothly, but the rest of the spines were barbed, dragging along bits of the monster's flesh with a meaty ripping. The graphic emergence of those things distracted me from what was really happening, but when my view of the spines was blocked by the monster's ability to stand on two legs, I knew for sure what I was facing. A shika.

Clenching its newly-shaped hands into fists, the shika roared its rage out into the nighttime sky. It was now fully humanoid, and I'd lost whatever advantage of surprise I'd had. The transformation happened so fast I probably never had any advantage in the first place.

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