Damian, I’m not kidding. We need to talk.
I sprinted through the woods, my chosen wolf form darting between the trees. Dametria realized I had left our underground hideout and was freaking out. Paranoia was all she felt since the day she betrayed me and I put her in her place. And then this new girl, the one that had caught my eye when I made my tribe walk down to Initi and warn them of the tsunami, has put even more of a strain on her. She was trying to be the dominant one, the one who controlled me and our relationship, if you could call it that. She was trying to show her strength, but by doing that, she was making herself weaker.
When the Wurn Tribe strapped Cressa-la to a tree, Dametria had been out giving orders to my people, ones I had given her. She would assist me with the Unwea Clan that made the land their home while I watched over the Revli Tribe and their... assigned activities. However, she had been in wolf form and heard the girl crying for help, and I believe her plan was to take the girl out while I wasn’t around, a bit of jealousy playing inside her. The only thing that stopped Dametria was that I heard the girl’s voice too. Once I dismissed my girlfriend, I got a good look at Cressa-la and untied her from the tree. I wanted to bring her to the Initi Tribe—she was getting in the way of my plans and Tamir had taken a liking to her. It’s how she survived getting hit by the tsunami. I wasn’t exactly sure on how the large wave only landed on her (and how she survived), but I knew it wasn’t supposed to happen like that. Something else was getting in my way, and I knew it wasn’t just Tamir or this girl’s doing. But on the other hand, there was this feeling inside of me pulling me towards her, wanting to know more. She was so different than what I’d seen: loyal to her tribe yet afraid of it, reserved but unashamed of how she feels when she shows it. Trusting until she realizes what she’s doing. A very peculiar girl.
Anyway, I was running through the trees, forgetting about my powers temporarily as panic set in. I don’t know what had come over me, but something inside me felt strange... not like how I’d been since my training. Something hard inside me was crumbling and I felt the weakness inside seeping out into my limbs. It was something strange, something not quite right.
And it was because of her.
My feet broke the edge of the forest, a flat rock with small sturdy houses drenched in moonlight as they stretched before me. Initi.
My eyes searched for the familiar house, well aware that Dametria would murder me whether she found me in there or not, and I nearly slammed into the door. Peeking over my shoulder as I felt my heart pound at the crumbling wall inside, my fists fell heavy onto the sticks, making the girl inside stir. She opened the door and I barged through, my hands on her shoulders so I didn’t trip over her as I shut the tough slab of mended sticks.
“Damian?” She yawned.
My finger found her lips to silence her as I watched the entrance, listening for Dametria’s footfall.
“What are you doing—”
I shushed her quietly as Dametria let out a howl, perking the girl’s ears up immediately.
“Why didn’t you just kill—”
Cressa-la slouched her shoulders and slumped onto her hammock, exhaustion beckoning her to go back to sleep. My eyes traveled past the cracks of the door as I slid quietly over to it, Dametria’s wolf form slipping by and disappearing from sight not a moment later. She would search the island for me. I’d have you-know-what to pay when I returned. But I shouldn’t have been afraid of her. I could kill her, should it have come to that.
But would I really be able to once the moment arrives?
I pushed it from my head. “Okay, she’s gone.”
I exhaled. “Yes, she.”
She shook her head, trying to wrap her mind around the situation that woke her in the middle of the night. “What are you doing here, Damian? I didn’t need you.”
The words stung a bit for some odd reason, but I pushed it away with an intrigued chuckle. This girl had no filter, but I wasn’t complaining.
“It’s nice to see you too.”
For a moment, I longed for her to keep going, to dismiss any attempts at filtering her speech. I wanted her to speak her mind. A slight green glow passed over my vision, and I knew I was about to get what I wanted when her brow furrowed. “I just... thought I owed you a visit is all.”
“It’s more than that,” she accused, crossing her arms. “You were running from something. Why did you run here? Of all places?”
“Because I could,” I told her, shrugging as if I had no other answer. Believe me, I thought, pressing my thoughts outward as another green light shimmered over the room. “And maybe I was running from something, but I’m here now. That should count for something.”
Our eyes stayed locked for a good moment, the betraying heart inside me pushing me toward her and wanting to feel our lips press together, wondering if it could stop the world itself. The animal didn’t fight it; it stared into my heart with a blank face.
She broke away before I could get control of my feelings, questions littering her eyes. Did she feel it too? And why did I care? Was it because I knew what she was? A One?
Was it because of what Morgiana had taught me—keep your enemies closer?
But she didn’t feel like an enemy. She felt like a tool I could use and toy with the emotions of until I got what I want, just like Dametria, the girl I thought I loved and grew tired of as the days passed on. And, yet, what I wanted didn’t seem to matter as much as she did. I didn’t want to trick her, but I wanted her by my side. Not Dametria, but Cressa-la. Forever and always.
“Is there anything you needed?” she asked, standing.
“Well I wanted to check up on you as well. How are the full moons treating you?”
“I wouldn’t know, I haven’t seen any for two months.”
Something inside me lifted, glad she’d heeded the warning I’d given her the last time I saw her. She should have been glad I caught her when I did. She would have toppled off that cliff. I guess losing control of your emotions can bring forth something productive sometimes. “Good.”
The want, the need to feel affection from this stranger was overpowering, green appearing once again, entrancing her for the moment as I found myself shifting forward the tiniest bit.
“Yeah,” was all she said, her voice hoarse and her muscles tensing. Was that fear in her eyes? Or was it a reflection of what was playing inside me? I was almost worried my accidental hypnosis spells weren’t working as well as I wished.
She cleared her throat. “I did what you told me to. No seawater, no moonlight. Aside from what we boil for bathing.”
“Good,” I repeated, not sure if it was her who was hypnotized or me. I wanted her to want me, to love me like no one ever could. I wanted us to be wrong, but so wrong we were right. Dametria was someone who the gifts thought would be the most compatible, a ‘soul mate’ as I would say, but I was wrong. A soul mate isn’t determined the moment you were born, but the moment they’re brought into your life. And you just know when it’s meant to be. And the way she made me feel in that moment... I would conquer the universe for her. I never loved Dametria like that.
We were so close now, almost touching. Her breathing was rapid and our eyes were lost in each other’s... in the moment, I leaned forward, the green shimmer returning. It caught her attention because she pulled back. My heart increased its rapidity in my chest. Why wasn’t it working?
“Your eyes... “
I snapped back to reality, pulling away and turning in the other direction. Where was my head? If I didn’t get a grip, this would happen every time I saw her. I’d lose myself...
I inhaled deeply, hearing her rummage around the room aimlessly. Once I was sure I could control myself, I spun back around to find her smoothing out the covers made of skin on her hammock. I found a nervous chuckle, letting it out and allowing it to release some of the pressure on my chest.
“What are you doing?” My words were light and airy as I moved closer to hear her better as she mumbled, “I’m fixing my hammock. Is that so strange to you?”
I shook my head as I responded quietly, “I’ve seen stranger.”
“Yeah?” she asked, finishing up and turning around. Her irises caught mine, bright blue, and once again, I was back in the palm of her hand, unable to look away from her, and her from me, until she turned to the stove. She lit it quickly and pulled out a stick ablaze with its flames. She set a handful of wood in a small bowl on fire, held out by sticks to light up the room a bit. “Like what?”
“Like...” I turned away, looking elsewhere as I shifted around the room. “Fish people. And transforming animals...”
“Transforming animals?” she asked, my words catching her attention again.
Her eyes snapped away, mind elsewhere. “I don’t understand any of it.”
Green shivers across my vision. It was like I couldn’t control the gifts I’d been born with and had worked so hard to hone. I was back, melting beneath her and burning like the wood in the fire. I wanted her to be mine, and, for a brief moment, I believed she wanted it too.
“What’s happening to me?” she whispered, absentmindedly leaning in closer.
“I could ask myself the same thing.”
The words weren’t manipulative. They weren’t deceitful. They slipped out as truth, yearning for answers from the bottom of my heart as my hand lifted to her face, my skin feeling the warmth of her cheek. Tingles rushed across its surface, my heart in my throat. Maybe I could disappear from the world I ruled, forget the quest, forget Dametria... I could cloak myself and leave it all behind for a life that supported my happiness. Things could be better.
This... whatever this is, whatever it could be or could have been... it couldn’t. The game I was playing was much larger than it and me, and had no room for my feelings. People were counting on me to change things, because I was apparently the only one who could.
I clenched my fists, hoping that somehow, someway, she could be worked into my life when this plan was complete, not knowing at the time that she’d be the one to get in the way.
“I’ve got to go,” I said through clenched teeth, taking Cressa-la off-guard.
Why does selflessness hurt so badly?
She sputtered as I unlocked the door, the last chance I had at happiness dissipating.
The door revealed the night sky, another howl launching itself into the distance. I’d have to face Dametria, but she would never know of what happened tonight for as long as I lived. Especially after finding Cressa-la.
“Wait, will I see you again?”
My eyes traveled over my shoulder and landed on the necklace I’d given her before. The one I was supposed to give Dametria all those years ago. “You’re still wearing your necklace, right? Just blow it if you need me.”
With that, the trees surrounded me, my arms pumping through the air. I had a mission to carry out. And when it was complete, then, and only then, could I live happily ever after.