18/Awakening Part 1
A low hanging mist rolled over the clearing. The surrounding forest darkened with the setting sun. A spectrum of oranges and pinks painted the cloudless sky. New faces awaited us outside the cabin. A dozen or so men were stacking twigs to branches to logs against each other.
“That’ll be a big bonfire.” I absently stopped before the towering stack. Thia walked on as if in a daze. “Hey!” My right hand reached for her arm to tug her back. “Thia what’s wrong?”
The smile flickered from her features. “I can feel her.”
“Feel...who?” My eyes darted from man to man but saw no other women around.
Thia looked to the sky, a celestial twin shadow rose just beyond the tree tops. “I have not felt this in so long.” Heartache and longing whined in her words. Her arms stretched above her head slowly until they reached for the sky.
Unease settled in my stomach, a foreign feeling to the calm evening. The fog crept closer. “Thia-” Her golden eyes snapped to mine with a warm smile. So many questions flitted through my head bouncing with force until a headache formed. I’ve heard of a man in the moon but a goddess? Maybe like all religions they needed an explanation for the whys and how it all began. My mother was a firm believer in Catholicism, ironically the same religion that her parents believed while turning their daughter out once she became pregnant with me out of wedlock. How could I ask if the story was true without sounding like a jerk? In the short amount of time I grew close to Thia and the others. Thia was a kind soul, I couldn’t hurt her by blatantly doubting something she wholeheartedly believed. “What do you mean?” I attempted to steer my thoughts back to her earlier comment instead.
Thia looked briefly confused as she translated between both languages. “The Moon Goddess looks down on us with favor tonight. I can feel her, the change, my pack.”
“You mean you don’t always feel...connected?” I struggled to translate her native tongue back.
She mournfully shook her head from side to side, her pin straight hair darkening by the shadows. “Not since Alpha Davis.” Thia leaned in and lowered her voice. “It is whispered our Alpha lost favor with the Goddess when he killed Alpha Davis. It has been almost two decades since anyone has felt the moon’s pull to transform. We struggle with something as natural as the shift.” Thia leaned away, her eyes darted around as if to make sure she didn’t get caught.
The foreign language weighted on my tongue. Most of what she said translated but something didn’t make sense. “But I saw Nash transform.”
Thia looked at me wearily, a word cursed under her breath. “Reckless.”
I hurriedly explained why he had to shift in the club. Thia tucked me under her arm and ushered me closer to the creek. “Do not ever repeat that Jessica. It is under penalty of death to shift in front of humans even if they know our secret. What was he thinking?” Her ranting had picked up in speed and I no longer understood her words.
The question was stupid but I had to reassure her somehow. “But Nash said I’m a special case and he’d get the ok to tell me. Besides Seth and everyone I’ve met has told me about werewolves, isn’t that also unlawful?”
“Not the same.” The cool mist blanketed us. “Our pack, our family, will not betray our own. We told you about us because you are one of us after tonight.” A slow rhythm distracted me momentarily. “We will not tell the council. Nothing stops the human from talking to another and another until the council must take action. We have lost one Alpha, our pack cannot survive another loss.”
A raw call bellowed from the fog. Within a blink, a flicker of flame beckoned. It danced low to the ground but grew in size. Thia linked her arm with mine and beamed. “It is time.” We stepped over rocks and roots, my eyes never left the swell of color. Silhouettes blurred into view and heat lapped at my skin. A steady beat vibrated up my legs, speeding up until it peeked.
With how much noise they made along with the blaze I half expected police to show up. “How haven’t you been found out by now?” My question was lost in the drums. Two solid hits preluded silence. The yips and calls faded.
Seth stood closest to the fire with a man and woman flanking him. I squinted when a string of smoke passed by. “Do you feel the pull!?” Seth yelled with vehemence. Agreeable shouts and fists rose in the air. Seth stepped away from the fire with his arms held high. “The Goddess looks down on us with favor now that Nash is gone.” Again yips and yells echoed Seth’s statements. I hugged my body, withdrawing into myself. Seth’s words grated. How well did I know Nash? Logically, not well enough to discount anything his own family said against him. Everything they said almost seemed like they were talking about another person entirely. Not my Nash. “She approves of our new pack mates.” Seth held up the woman’s arm who I now noticed was the maid from before. “Our sister who we will protect.” She looked anxious and attempted to free her arm a few times. “Our loyal brother who brought us Jessica.” A few heads turned following Seth’s pointed finger. I shielded my face from their stares until Thia tapped me lightly on the shoulder. “Jessica come join us!”
Thia encouraged me forward with a whisper. “You will not get this honor again for another month.” I sent her a questioning look to which she thankfully elaborated. My mind raced to piece together her bilingual sentences. “This sacred ceremony frees humans from their cages. When the moon is bright and full, the Goddess pulls our wild from us. She frees our beast, our true nature. Humans need a little assistance to see our Goddess in her beauty.” Thia looked skyward. The full moon reflected in her dark eyes. “Hurry! You must be bitten and chosen by Her tonight or you will have to wait another month!” I resisted but was pushed forward by the others. From a distance I could hear Thia call out encouragement. “She will choose you Jessica! You will not be denied!” The words were unspoken, but I could guess what happened if this ritual went wrong. A tangle of arms and hands pushed me with a firm but gentle grasp. My protests didn’t buy me any time.
Seth gripped my forearm tightly and now I understood why the other human girl struggled in his grasp. He was not gentle like the crowd of men who insisted I be here. Closer now I could see how terrified the other human girl was. Eyeshine reflected back the fire’s light giving the appearance of glowing orbs in the night.
“We welcome our new pack members. They know and accept our secret which is now theirs.” Nerves bubbled in my belly. I wasn’t joining anything, I was forced here. Just as my mouth opened to protest, Seth’s bruising grip left my arm and transferred to the girl. Drums held a steady rhythm once again. The moon was clear and full overhead. Fierce cries and yelps accompanied the thumps. The blaze at our backs heated us feverishly. “Let us see if she is worthy!” Yips and trills trumpeted in the small clearing enough to make me wince.
Something beautifully tragic happened before my eyes. No matter how much the girl screamed. How much blood ran down her neck and body, dripping from her elbow and fingertips. Not even when her struggles stilled. Seth at her throat biting and tearing savagely. And not even when her body fell from his arms to the ground.
I couldn’t look away.