My eyes close in pleasure as I inhale the fresh air. Lifting my head to the sky, my burred tongue sneaks out to catch a taste of the breeze.
I feel like one of the luckiest males on Earth, especially when I gaze at the trees surrounding me as far as I can see. The cage I grew up in feels more distant and less real with every passing day.
As I walk to my assignment, I put in my earbuds. I’ve found that music soothes my heart, so I listen to a mix I made of songs that make me happy.Walking on Sunshinefills my soul with joy as I travel Main Street’s wooden walkway toward my destination.
Maybe it’s my tiger DNA, but I pause and let my stripes blend in with the dim light between the Town Hall and what will soon become the library. I breathe in again, enjoying my freedom.
They tell me all a human would smell out here is the scent of pines. Sure, I smell that, but there’s also cinnamon, sugar, and liver pâté wafting at me from Jenna’s bakery. There’s newly sawed wood from the remodel in the bookstore. The faint scent of ozone drifting from the west means we might get an afternoon shower.
Olivia, the female I’m on my way to meet, steps onto the walkway to clean the dust off her shop window.
I get a whiff of her, a bitter combination of anger and regret, something she reeks of whenever I'm close enough to scent her. She didn’t appear happy when she was assigned to mentor me.
When the US military rescued me three years ago, I was little more than an animal with no hope of freedom. Today is my first day at an actual job.
The army freed us from the hellish rogue science facility where we were bred, born, and held prisoner. All one hundred of us splicers were dangerous, feral beings who couldn’t function outside of our primary directive: to do battle and follow our masters’ orders.
Though when they rescued us, the military didn’t know what to do with a bunch of humans spliced with animal DNA, they loaded us into black helicopters and flew us to Area 51. I experienced the first kindness I’d ever known when they gave us individual rooms and real food three times a day while they assessed, educated, and socialized us.
Two months ago, our liberators decided we were ready for the next step in our journey to walk free among the human population. They released us from our underground barracks and brought us to this huge parcel of land in Texas they call Splicer Town. Though the property is bounded by tall fences topped with barbed wire, I have more freedom than ever before.
A few days ago, Colonel Slater called my name along with nineteen others for the next phase in our transition from caged killing machines to males who can integrate into society.
Eighty males were deemed unsuitable and remain relegated to the southern barracks. I’m one of the twenty lucky ones the military chose to integrate with the twenty human females they hand-picked to interact with us.
Although I thought I was adjusting well and taming my animal urges, my body went haywire two days ago when the women set foot in the facility for the first time.
That first night, when they introduced us to the females, they were smart to surround us with armed soldiers in riot gear. Even though the twenty of us were considered the most domesticated of the group, it was all we could do not to pounce like animals.
When the women’s tempting, feminine smells wafted to my nostrils, it went straight to my head—and my cock. The moment I caught their scents, sweeter and more seductive than any I’ve previously known, fever swept through my body like wildfire. I snarled at my splicer brothers, using every ounce of self-control not to bare my teeth and growl.
The overwhelming need to prowl, hunt, show my prowess, and prove I could provide was pumping through my system with the force of a hurricane. I wanted to strut and roar and scratch my name into the wooden walls of the room where we were gathered.
I’d never seen a female in the flesh until two days ago. Never evensmelledone.
I’m learning to handle my feral urges, especially because Colonel Slater, who is in charge of this program, has made it very clear the women are off limits.
They’re housing us on this vast acreage at the site of an old ghost town that used to be the set of a television show. We’re building it into a proper town that will someday become a tourist destination.
At the end of the main street that was part of the set, they constructed a rustic Town Hall that connects to male and female dorms. The soldiers who watch us are housed in a military barracks nearby.
The women are organizing shops along the wide, dirt Main Street in the replica of the Old West town. They’re here to teach us to socialize as well as learn life skills so we can eventually run these shops.
The military promises to announce our existence to the world in due time. Because they fear the knowledge of our existence will cause panic, they want us to be accessible here in a safe, controlled environment where people can voluntarily visit.
Though it pains me to be considered so dangerous I need to be locked away, one look in the mirror reminds me why most humans would consider us terrifying. When I remember what the human females looked like the night they first saw us, their faces contorted in fear, their bodies curling in on themselves in self-protection, it certainly slams home the message that we’re little more than beasts to them.
Perhaps human’s senses are sharper than we’ve been taught. It’s as though Olivia senses me. She turns, perhaps seeing my silhouette among the shadows.
I exhale a calming breath and approach the woman whose turbulent emotions and delicious scent swirl through me like the approaching storm.