This one word blazed like a flame in Emily's mind. She was sitting in class, chewing on the end of a pen, and wanting to run away. Or scream. Or do something, instead of listening to a regurgitated, dumbed-down version of things she ad already read volumes about. The teacher was a short, dry woman with her graying hair in a tight bun and her spidery fingers wagging like those of the lawyers on TV. Her droning voice barely reached Emily's brain, whose ears were more tuned to other things. A pair of blackbirds were courting outside the window. Her classmates were whispering behind her, making derisive comments about her appearance. Noises, movement, smells, details flooded her mind. There was nothing in particular to focus on, just the slow passage of time.
So she contemplated that. How many classes will she be required to sit through, how many frustrating hours will await her until her life inevitably ends? In her body, cells were doing their thing: growing, dividing, secreting substances...but with every passing moment, they were getting closer and closer to their functions grinding to a halt. Emily didn't find the idea scary or unsettling. What she found somewhat unfair is that she could have spend the time genetics and luck allowed her better than trying to keep herself still. Stillness was, to her, something of death and sleep, and at the moment, she was feeling too alive for her own good. She tried to entertain herself by imagining a tiger running through the jungle in the pursuit of prey. Unaware to her own movements, she began to tap her feet under the desk. Then stomp them. Harder.
"Emily Diana Starkweather, what on earth are you doing?"
"What does it look like?" She blurted, then realized what she said. Her cheeks turned deep red in embarrassment as the rest of the class began to laugh and the teacher began her usual lecture of admonishment. This was by no means the first time for the pale, heavy-boned girl to be scolded like this. But this was the first time she felt something move inside her. She looked the teacher in the eyes with what she meant to look like confidence - but the old woman reacted like she had just seen a ghost. She froze and started to back away slowly towards the classroom door. Deadly silence fell on the scene.
"What the hell is going on?", Emily tried to say, but only a rough growl emerged from her throat. She suddenly felt stronger, larger than usual, until she something forced her to fall forward to land on her palms...which weren't palms anymore. They were clawed, padded paws, covered by yellowish fur, just like her entire body. She felt a tail sprout from her bottom. A part of her thought of it as funny - being a teenager, she found almost anything having to do with body parts below her belt funny -, but it was also painful, horrifying, and... exhilarating. She was becoming a tiger, in the most real and physical sense of the word. Smiling in her mind, but snarling on the outside, she lunged at the two popular girls who always made fun of her. Flesh was torn, blood was splattering, claws and teeth were driven into their guts. The last thing they heard was their own gasping, rattling last breath and the screams of terror as the rest of the class were also slaughtered.
Tired after the carnage and having drank its fill of the taste of freedom, the big cat licked its paws and lay down to take a nap amidst the torn remains. The staff later found the sole survivor, Emily Starkweather, Grade 10, sitting naked in a pool of blood. Whatever happened to her afterwards is unknown...but tales and "sightings" of huge feline species still persist to this day around the Great Lakes.