Cover of Animorphs book 3 'The Encounter', showing a series of images of a boy being digitally morphed into a hawk.

My name is Tobias. A freak of nature. One of a kind.

I won't tell you my last name. I can't tell you my last name. Or the name of the city where I live.

I want to tell you everything, but I can't give any clues to my true identity. Or the identity of the others. Everything I will tell you is true. I Know it's going to seem unbelievable, but believe it anyway.

I had blond hair, kind of wild because I could never get it to look right.

He was Dealin' Dan Hawke. He owned the car dealership.

He was the one holding the hawk prisoner.

She was a mascot. On the commercials he called her Price-Cut Polly. It made me sick. It made me furious.

"Tseeeeeeeer!" I screamed.
"Maybe he's got rabies!"
Hawks do not belong in cages. Hawks belong in the sky.
We call it thoughtspeak. It's something we can do when we morph.
If you've never seen someone morph, you have no idea just how incredibly weird it is.
"Oh. My. Lord," Dealin' Dan gasped. "Forget the bird! There's an elephant stomping over the convertibles!"
The elephant was gone. The girl had emerged.
The others are going to ream us out big time, aren't they?
She was a very pretty girl, beautiful even, except that she still had a two-foot-long gray nose.
Or maybe something about the lonely, defeated, yet courageous Andalite prince touched me so deeply that I could never regret fighting to settle the score.
They know that morphs had even infiltrated the home of one of their most important Controllers - Chapman.

I headed toward the tall buildings of downtown. I caught a beautiful thermal that billowed up the face of some skyscrapers. A thermal is like a big bubble of warm air. It rises beneath your wings and makes it effortless to just go soaring up and up.

I caught the thermal and went shooting up the side of the skyscraper like I was riding an elevator.

A lot of the offices were empty, since it was Saturday. But around the sixtieth floor I saw an old man looking out the window. Maybe he was some big, important businessman, I don't know.

But when he saw me he smiled. He watched me soar up and away. And I knew he was jealous.

Marco yelled for a while. Jake made us promise never to do something that stupid again. And Cassie, being Cassie, got everyone to make up and be friends again.
I guess girls think he's cute because he has this long brown hair and dark eyes.
Jake is big. Not football-player big, but solid. Jake is one of those people who are natural leaders.
guerrilla-commandoNinja-SWAT-team-hawk-from-hell
guerrilla-commandoNinja-SWAT-team-hawk-from-hell
"I'll put some food up in your attic for you in case you get home late. I don't want anything getting at it, though. Can you open one of those Rubbermaid things?"
A Google search for rubbermaid with a list of fetish-related links at the bottom.
I was used to being alone. And I had the sky.
I wondered if I should tell her what I had seen, the darkness within darkness, the hole in the sky.
An emptiness, a hole where no hole could be.
I missed school
Geese always seem to be on a mission. Like, "Get out of our way, we're geese and we're coming through."
Wolves make hawks a little edgy.

Again, we barely got out alive. I guess the question is, how many risks are we going to take?

How many more times are we going to barely escape?"

The floor of the barn is usually strewn with hoses
"Look, these aren't people we know," Marco argued. "They aren't my friends. Or my family." He shot a guilty look at Jake
Bird-watchers would think it was very, very weird if they saw a red-tail hawk, a bald eagle, a falcon, and two ospreys all flying together as if they were on a mission. And some of those gentle bird-watchers might be not-so-gentle Controllers.
"What I don't get is why I have to be a girl wolf," Marco grumbled.

"We had one male and one female," Cassie explained for the tenth time. "If two of us morphed into the male, we'd have two males. Two male wolves might decide they had to fight for dominance."

"I could control it," Marco said.

Marco, you and Jake already fight for dominance, and you're just ordinary guys," Rachel pointed out.

"She's right," Cassie said sadly. "I'm afraid your primitive male behavior might slow us down."

Jake said. "I got to be the male. You're one of the females. Get over it."
She removed everything but a leotard, kicked off her shoes, and stood barefoot on the pine needles.
Even though Cassie seems to have some kind of talent for it. She's never quite as gross as the others. I guess it's because she's so close to so many animals. Maybe she just has a special feel for them.
All over her body, the fur replaced the bright pinks and greens of her leotard.
Suddenly she fell forward, no longer able to stand erect.
She bared her teeth and snarled a warning that would have made a Taxxon back up. She had very impressive teeth.
Oooh, busted by Cassie the wonder-nose.
One was Jake. He was the dominant male. In wolf packs that's called an "alpha." So he had a special wolf job to perform.
My friends were really enjoying being wolves.

<Jake, just how many more times are you going to pee?> Rachel demanded after his fifth stop.

<I . . . I don't know. I kind of have to do it a lot,> he admitted.

"OWWW-OOOOOOO-yow-yow-OOOOOO. "

<What the - > Marco started to say, but then he was doing it, too.

"Yow-yow-OOWWOOOOO!"

Cassie and Rachel weren't far behind.

"OOOOO-yowww-OWW-OOOOOOO!"

<I don't know,> Jake admitted sheepishly. <I just suddenly felt like it would be a good idea.>
<Once he started I . . . I kind of felt like I should join in,>
Feet like Tyrannosaurus rex.
They tensed up, then relaxed when they saw it was just a wolf pack minding its own business.
Unfortunately, since there were no convenient thermals, I had to flap my way up.
The five of us had been cowering behind a low wall.
It was shaped like a manta ray. There was a bulging, fat portion in the middle, with swooped, curvy wings, one either side. On top of the wings were huge scoops, like air intakes on a fighter jet, but much bigger.
So big around, you couldn't get your arms around it if you wanted to give it a hug.
I did my best to look like a normal, harmless hawk. Doing normal hawk things.
I mean, nothing that big should be floating in the air.

I know to human eyes, every hawk looks pretty much alike. But I knew-right away it was her - the hawk I had freed from the car dealer.

She, too, was riding the thermal, a thousand yards higher than me. Without even really thinking about it, I adjusted the angle of my wings and soared up toward her.

But part of me kept saying, "It's a lie. It's a lie. You are the hawk. The hawk is you.

<Four hounds and a bird versus a ship the size of ldaho!>

<A minute ago it was just the size of Delaware,> Cassie pointed out mildly.

Or maybe not the hawk herself. Maybe it was the feeling I had, rising up to meet her in the sky.

The feeling of recognition. The feeling of going home. The feeling that I belonged with her. It hit me in a wave of disgust and horror.

I was Tobias. A human. A human being, not a bird!
But part of me kept saying, "It's a lie. It's a lie. You are the hawk. The hawk is you. Arid Tobias is dead."
The feeling of recognition. The feeling of going home. The feeling that I belonged with her. It hit me in a wave of disgust and horror. No. NO!
Arid Tobias is dead.
My four friends stood stock still. They were staring with deadly focus at five other wolves. The two packs had run into each other.
<Lose what?> I yelled. <You're not a wolf. He's a wolf. Let him be boss wolf. You guys are way low on time!>
Jaws that could kill a moose scissored the air a tenth of an inch from me. I'm telling you, he was close enough for me to count his molars.
"Tseeeeer!" I screamed.
<Ahhhh!> I heard Rachel cry in my mind. Her morph was going all wrong. Her human hands appeared at the end of her wolf legs. But nothing else seemed to be changing. I looked, horrified, at Marco. His normal head emerged with startling suddenness from his wolf body. But the rest of him had not changed. He looked down at himself and cried out in terror. "Helowl. Yipmeahhh!" It was an awful sound, half human, half wolf.
I suddenly saw myself as they all must see me: as something frightening. A freak. An accident. A sickening, pitiable creature.

I was happy for them. Really I was. But suddenly I didn't want to be there. Suddenly I desperately didn't want to be there. I felt an awful, gaping black hole open up all around me. I was sick. Sick with the feeling of being trapped.

Trapped.

Forever!

Jake has always been a decent guy. In the old days he used to protect me from the punks at school who liked to beat me up.
"Because what counts is what is in your head and in your heart," she said with sudden passion. "A person isn't his body. A person isn't what's on the outside."

Continued 8 Nov 2017...

It was cold. It was dead. It made me feel bad to be eating it, but it filled me up.
<Don't be silly,> I said. <You guys barely escaped being . . . you know.>
After I was first trapped in my hawk body, Jake had removed an outside panel that led into the attic of his house. I flew in through the opening. It was a typical attic. There were some dusty old cardboard boxes full of Jake and Tom's old baby clothes. There were open boxes of Christmas lights and decorations. There was a chest of drawers with a top that had been scarred by something or other.

"Tobias, someday the Andalites will return. If they don't, we're all lost, all the human race. If they do come back, I know they'll have some way to return you to your own body."

<I wish I was sure,> I said.

"I am sure," she said. She put every ounce of faith into those three words. She wanted me to believe. But I could see the tears that were threatening to well up in her eyes as she lied. Like I said, hawks don't miss much.

In some ways, I realized, my situation wasn't all bad. For one thing, I had no homework.
For another, I could fly.
Then I waited till I saw Jake, Rachel, Cassie, and Marco come out
I guess really it's okay most of the time. Really.
Tom looks just like Jake, only he's bigger and has shorter hair
"Oh, I'm there," Marco crowed.
Marco raised his hand like he was in class. "How about if we, um, go back to talking about birds?"

"Okay, look, what if that ship didn't get blown up or disintegrated or whatever. What if it was flying over the city and suddenly the cloaking device was turned off?"

...

"We'll have to get inside that ship." He winked at Marco. "Want to know how?"

Marco shook his head. "Not really."

"Through the water pipes. As fish."

<I'm cool,> I thought-spoke privately to him, so Marco couldn't hear.
"Okay, so now what?" Marco asked. "Do I sneak into the mall without Rachel being able to see me, or do we all sit around and play Doom?"
"And trust me, Marco, if Rachel sees you at the mall making faces while she's on the balance beam, she will turn into an elephant and stomp you." Marco winced. "Remember the good old days when all a girl could do to you was call you names?"
There was a long line of towering clouds running to the mountains. Perfect weather for me. Thermals are what push those clouds up so high.
With my eyesight and the reaction time I have, I could probably be major competition in Doom.
I was the ultimate airborne spy
No, I cried voicelessly. But I could still see the dead rat. And I could taste it. And no matter how many times I said "no," it would always be "yes."
Colors and bright lights all around me. Like a high-speed kaleidoscope. The Gap. Express. The Body Shop. Easy Spirit. Mrs. Fields.
Nine West. Radio Shack. B. Dalton. Benetton. A world I knew. A world where I belonged. Places I had been. Foods I had eaten. The world of human beings. Zoom!

But I wasn't going to stop. I wasn't going to slow down. I was just going to end this right now. I would hit the glass at full speed and maybe that would awaken me from this nightmare.

...

I didn't care. I wanted to hit something. I wanted to wake up. I wanted to fall to the ground because my wings had disappeared and been replaced by clumsy legs and flailing arms. I wanted to be me again.

I am human! I am human! I am Tobias!

But I couldn't fight it anymore. The hawk had won. I had killed. I had killed and eaten. And I had loved it. The ecstasy of the hunt. Ecstasy!

The hawk flew fast and straight.

I let it go. I surrendered.

Tobias, a boy whose face I could no longer remember, no longer existed.

I found a place for myself. It was perfect red-tail territory - the place where I had made my first kill. A nice meadow surrounded by trees. Not far off there was a marshy area that was good, too.

The nights belong to other predators, mostly the owls. At night my human mind would surface.

The human in my head would show me memories. Pictures of human life. Pictures of his friends.

The human in my head was sad. Lonely.

But the human Tobias really just wanted to sleep. He wanted to disappear and let the hawk rule. He wanted to accept that he was no longer human.

No hawk was crazy enough to go after a full-grown raccoon. That was not a fight the hawk was going to win.
I floated overhead, waiting to see if she would spot me. And waiting to see what she would do when she did notice me. I had to be cautious. She was a female, and females are a third bigger, on average, than males.
"Gurr gafrasch! To me! Getting away! Hilch nahurrn!"
Birds aren't exactly made for hugging.
Rachel thought about that for a moment. "The Yeerks and their slaves aren't killing to eat," she said. "They are killing to control and dominate. Killing because it's the only way you can eat, because that's the way nature designed you, that's one thing. Killing because you want power or control is evil."
I want to speak out loud, but I have a mouth that's only good for ripping and tearing.
Rachel came closer and stroked my crest with her hand. It made the hawk in me uncomfortable. But at the same time, it was similar to preening, which is kind of pleasurable.
<More than ever, I understand that. See . . . there are human beings all over, trapped in bodies controlled by Yeerks. Trapped. Unable to escape. Rachel, I know how they feel. Maybe I can't escape. Maybe I am trapped forever. But if we can free some of those others. Maybe . . . I don't know. Maybe that's what I need to do to stay human.>
<Excuse me. Jake? Did Tobias just say 'skunks'? I must have heard wrong, because only an idiot would think hanging out with skunks is a good idea.>
I decided to try a joke. <Chase him out here. I'm hungry.> Only Marco laughed. The others all acted like I'd said something embarrassing. Maybe I had.
The four of them were barefoot and dressed only in their morphing outfits: leotards for the girls, bike shorts and tight T-shirts for Jake and Marco.
"We're four - I mean, five - fairly intelligent human beings. And we can't outsmart one fish that probably has an IQ of four?"
The gift of the Andalite. The curse of the Andalite
I'd just had a flash of memory, watching the four of them straining to get out of their wolf bodies. What if they were trapped in fish morph?
But people are funny - they never think something bad will happen to them. I knew it could happen.
Then, there, way down below, on a branch . . . the hawk. The female I had freed from captivity.
Some people think hawks mate for just a season. Some people think they mate for life, and I don't really know which is true.
One thing I knew for sure: I wasn't ready to settle down with anyone.
They were still fully human, so they could hear my thoughtspeech, but could not respond in kind.

<Forget the plan. He's here.>

No one asked who. They all knew from the way I had said it.

He was here.

Visser Three.

As I watched, her hair disappeared completely. Her skin began to harden, like it was coated with varnish or something. Like she had been dipped in clear plastic. Her eyes swung around to the side of her head. Her face bulged out into a huge mouth that gaped and seemed to be blowing invisible bubbles.
"See, a fish can survive out of water for a couple of minutes. And the fish we're morphing is small." She looked at me. "Small enough for a red-tailed hawk to carry."

From her lower back her body stretched out, elongated.

"Ooohhh!" Rachel cried.

A tail had just suddenly spurted from Cassie's behind.

I have watched Marco morph into a gorilla, Rachel become an elephant and a shrew and a cat, Cassie become a horse, and Jake become a tiger and a flea (man, was that weird!)
<I was scared,> she admitted. <I . . . I know this sounds crazy. But I just keep seeing myself. Fried. With a wedge of lemon and some tartar sauce.>
"I'd have to be crazy not to be nervous. Oh well. Here goes." She started to morph. I'd seen three others do it now, so it wasn't a surprise to me. But it was still horrifying to watch a friend, someone you cared about, twist and deform and mutate before your eyes.
"He gulferch you and eat your lulcath. Ha ha."
<We're looking at the bottom of this intake pipe. There's tremendous suction,> Rachel reported.
<It's like being sucked up a straw by a giant.>
I soared high on a nice thermal pattern created by the ship itself

While I watched, they brought the Hork-Bajir who had carelessly fired off the Dracon beam. They dragged him before Visser Three.

That Hork-Bajir may have been made a Controller totally against his will. He had lost his freedom to the Yeerk in his head. Now, he was about to lose his life, for something that he had no real control over. I couldn't hear what was happening down on the ground. But I could see. My hawk's eyes could see far too well.

I turned away. I won't tell you what was happening to the Hork-Bajir. That memory will be my own private nightmare.

He was sending his creatures into the sky. Looking for a bird that was no bird.

Me.

I knew the look in their eyes. The look of the predator.

And me, their prey.

I flew straight for those red Jell-O eyes.
<Tobias! We're trapped! The tank is full, but the grate won't open. Cassie and Jake have already morphed back to human, but they can't get it open. We're trapped in here!>
We had lost. The Yeerks had won, finally. And when we were gone, the last hope of the human race would die.
They would hit the ground before Shwoooop!
<It looks as if you have run out of time,> Visser Three said in my head
The Taxxon's weak grip was no match for my speed.

The Dracon beam tore loose from his grip.

I knew just where I wanted to go. Wingtips actually hitting the ship on each downstroke, I raced toward the ship's bridge. Toward the tiny windows where I had seen the Taxxon crew. I could not save my friends, perhaps. But I could try to grant Rachel's last wish. I could try to bring this ship down.

I saw the bulge of the bridge. I gained a foot. Another. Another.

Then, with one sharp talon, I pulled the trigger on the Dracon beam.

<Fry, you worms!>

There was no recoil. Not like a regular gun at all.

But a beam of intense red light lanced from me to the bridge. It burned a hole through the window, sliced through a fat Taxxon, and began slicing up control panels and instruments like a hot knife going through butter. I squeezed that trigger for as long as I could. At last, exhausted, I could do no more.

The hawk. She was scared and wanted to run to the sky. But the sky was not a sanctuary for her.

I don't know which ship fired the Dracon beam

"Look, um, Tobias . . . maybe this seems crazy. But Cassie and I were thinking, you know, that maybe we'd go back up to the lake. Try and find ... her body. The hawk. You know, and at least bury her."
I went to the window. It was a beautiful day outside. The sun was bright. The cumulus clouds advertised the thermals that would carry me effortlessly to the sky. I flew.
I am Tobias. A boy. A hawk. Some strange mix of the two.