F I F T Y - S I X
I gasped for air, clutching at my chest until my lungs were satisfied with enough precious oxygen.
“Where the hell am I?” I asked outloud, taking in my surroundings and noting an eerily quiet forest.
A forest that clearly wasn’t surrounded by bloody heads, Hunters, and Wolves.
“Where...” I trailed off when all my memories flooded back to me
Particularly the one where I died
Oh God, I must be in heaven...
Or a really, really deceiving Hell
I stood, realizing that my once tattered and bloody clothes were replaced with a similar clean and white pair.
Not really sure why I needed the clean clothes since I’m dead but, Okay.
Suddenly, children’s laughter sounded around me, echoing in the forest and calling to me on a level I didn’t quite understand.
I ignored my horrid thoughts and made my way towards the children’s laughter.
As soon as I saw the scene playing out in front of me, I stopped dead in my tracks.
“You guys are ruining the flowers!” a ten year old Taylor whined
A ten year old Ethan laughed as he continued to wrestle with a girl with short pixie hair.
“Lighten up Tay” Ten year old me said as she punched Ethan’s side “There are plenty of daisies here. It won’t matter if we mess up a few”
“You heathens are messing up all of them!” she whined, picking up a couple of more flowers “I need some undamaged flowers to give to Mom as part of her present”
“Wait Wait Wait!” Ethan said, pushing ten-year old me down the hill “Mom’s Birthday is today!"
Taylor smiled smugly at him ”
Why do you think I brought you two bozos out here? As company?” She snorted “As if”
Ten year old me snickered
“Wow E, how did you forget your own Mom’s birthday?”
“Does Kaden know?” Ethan ignored her
Taylor nodded, giving us a mischievous grin
“He’s out with Sky, picking up her present”
“I am so never living this down!” Ethan groaned “I’ll hear about this for the rest of my life!!”
“Ain’t that the truth!” “Taylor laughed “I love having a Latina mother”
Suddenly the scene before me shifted to the time where the three of us broke out Nanny Matthews from her retirement home when we were sixteen.
“You two ready?” Ethan asked
“Are you?” I heard myself taunt back
Ethan pinched me “If we get caught, I’m throwing you under the bus”
“Oh yeah?” I said “Do that and I’ll tell Nanny that you said she was crazy and deserved to stay in that home”
“I never said that!”
“She loves me more than she loves you” I grinned “Who do you think she’ll believe more?”
“Damn Kaden” he muttered under his breathe “For stealing the Favorite Grandson spot”
“Are we doing this or not?” Taylor said, looking at her phone “Because the home stops allowing visitors soon”
I cracked my knuckles
“Let’s do this Tweedledee and Tweedledum”
“Don’t call us that!” They shouted in unison
I snickered and walked toward the entrance of the home
“Hello Kassi Dear” a voice called from my right side
I turned and found my other favorite elderly person
“Rob!” I said with a smiled “How are you doing handsome?”
His eyes sparkled
"Oh hush with that handsome talk, you know if Marge hears you she will nag me senselessly about trading her in for a younger model”
“But she stole you from me!” I pouted “I saw you first!”
He chuckled, his eyes crinkling even more than usual
“So, what brings you here so late? Don’t you and Kat’s grandchildren usually visit after school”
I looked from side to side, making sure no nurses overheard us
“Can you keep a secret?” I whispered, urging him to come closer
“For you, anything” He said solemnly “Cross my heart and hope to die”
“The twins and I are breaking out Nanny for the night”
Rob’s eyes widened and he began chuckling
“Only the youth”
“Anyways” I smiled “Do you know where Nanny is?”
“In the Recreation room hustling people out of their money”
I snickered “And how much did you lose?”
He looked around, scanning the room for his wife
“Fifty bucks but don’t you worry your pretty little head” he rustled my hair “I’ll win it back before Marge finds out”
I gave him the stink eye
“Fine” he pouted “I’ll tell her”
“Good!” I said, walking to the Rec Room “Or else!”
“AND 21!” a familiar voice rang out “Pay me my money!”
I leaned against the wall and watched the scene play out in front of me with amusement
“Which sucker’s next?” Nanny Matthews asked without even looking up from counting her money “Dave? Round two?”
“I’m in” I said loudly, drawing her attention “If you can handle loosing”
Her head snapped up and she grinned when she saw me
“My sweet Kassi!” she stood and came toward me “How is my granddaughter doing?”
“Better now” I hugged her, inhaling the sweet scent of her sugary vanilla perfume
“And the Twins?” she asked, pulling back from me and pinching my cheeks “You’re not eating enough”
“I ate a whole pizza before I came here” I snickered “And the twins are distracting your nurse”
Her eyes lit up
“Tonight’s the night?”
She giggled lightly before going back to the poker table, collecting her winnings, and saying goodbye to her friends.
“Bye losers” she snickered “I’ll see you tomorrow”
“Come on Kat” a man groaned “One more round!”
She shook her head “Can’t, my family’s here”
She looped her arm through mine and dragged me toward her room
“Come on” she whispered “I managed to loosen the lock on my window yesterday when the others were practicing Tai Chi”
“One day they’re going to put you in the room without the door right by the nurse’s station on the third floor”
“I want to see them try” She snorted before opening the door to her room.
There was a light tap on her window and Ethan’s face popped into view
She went over, unlatched the window’s lock and pinched his cheek so hard that he flinched
“Ow!! What was that for!!” he cried out, cupping his cheek
Nanny shrugged “Just felt like pinching you”
“NANNY!” he whispered harshly “You’ve never pinched Kaden or Taylor like that before? Why is it always me!”
“Just something about your face” she stroked he chin in thought “Is just so pinchable. Like your father’s”
“Or punchable” I suggested
He shot me a dirty look
“Are we doing this or what?” he asked his grandmother with exhausted sigh “Or am I leaving your old behind here?”
His eyes widened and he slapped his hand over his mouth as he realized what he said
Nanny’s eyes narrowed into slits
“Nan...Nanny...I am so sorry!” he pleaded “I didn’t...”
“Save it” she smacked his head “Or this old behind is going to whoop yours”
She gave him the evil eye “You’re not too old for my belt”
There was a knock on her door and we all froze
“Is everything alright in there Mrs. Matthews?”
“Yes Dear” Nanny called out “Just taking a number two”
“Gross” Ethan whispered loudly
“What was that?” The nurse called out
Nanny smacked Ethan’s head twice and I shushed him
“Nothing Dear!! Just finishing up”
“Okay” The voice said, sounding farther away “Let me know if you need any help”
“Will do!” Nanny called out before climbing out the window
I followed her and gently closed the window behind me
We all made out way to the car where Taylor sat anxiously waiting
“What took you guys so long?” She asked, starting the car “I’ve been here for half an hour!”
“Stop complaining” Nanny said as she smacked her granddaughter’s head “And drive the damn car”
Taylor grumbled under her breath
“What was that?” Nanny asked, raising her eyebrow and cupping her ear “I couldn’t hear you?”
“Nothing Nanny” Taylor said quickly “I was talking to myself”
“Good” Nanny smiled “Now turn left”
“Why?” I asked, leaning forward between the two front seats “Where are we going?”
“To a strip club” Nanny said casually
“WHAT!!” the Twins and I yelled
“Do you guys really think I would take you to a strip club?”
Ethan raised an eyebrow
“Well Dad said...”
“Your father exaggerates” she rolled her eyes
“So you didn’t beat up a lady winking at grandpa?” Ethan raised an eyebrow
“Oh I did”
“And you didn’t bite a kid who bit dad when he was younger?” Taylor added
“Different times” Nanny defended herself before engaging in an argument with the Twins
I smiled and leaned my head against the cool glass car window as I listened to them argue
“Take the next right” Nanny instructed
“Where are we going?” I asked
Nanny turned in her chair and winked at me
“We’re going to a street race”
Suddenly, my other memories began playing out in front of me.
Memories that all involved Ethan
I dropped to my knees, tears streaming down my face as I watch my friends and I laugh together, cry together, and even argue together.
“Why are you doing this” I yelled out, wiping angrily at my stupid tears “I did what you wanted, took every single thing you threw at me with stride, died at the stupid moon just like you predicted. Is it so hard to ask for peace in the afterlife?!”
“For one’s true nature to be shown, death must be known” a voice whispered from behind me “For death creates life, and life ascends the Throne”
I turned around and gaped at the figure in front of me
It was me
A more ethereal and regal me but still, me nonetheless
“How is this possible?” I whispered, scrutinizing every little detail of myself
Fake Me smiled
It wasn’t me standing in front of myself
It was Selene, the Moon Goddess
“Hello Kassiopeia” Selene greeted in a light tone “I’ve been expecting you”
I squinted at her
“If you want me to talk, you can drop the disguise” I sneered “It really doesn’t help your case”
“I assure you this is no disguise” she clasped her hands in front of her “This is truly what I look like”
“You’re trying to tell me that we’re twins?” I asked in disbelief
Fake me, who I was 100% sure was Selene at this point, laughed melodious
“No my child, we are not twins” she gestured to me “It just so happens that my daughter, your ancestor, took my likeness when she was created. Therefore, all the others like her in your line also happened to take my likeness as well”
“How convenient” I sneered “For your little body snatching scheme”
She tilted her head to the side like she didn’t understand what I was saying
“Don’t pretend like you don’t know” I said angrily “I know about your little ‘Return to your dead Lover’s side’ plan. I know that once we’re done here, you’re going to use my body for as long as the Wolf Moon lasts to spend time with him”
Selene remained stone still but her eyes betrayed her
Mentioning her dead lover struck a nerve
A nerve I was going to keep striking until she felt the same pain I did
“I don’t know what...”
“Oh, save it for someone who actually cares!” I snapped at her, moving closer to where she stood “Because I don’t give a damn about you or your fake words. They mean nothing to me. You mean nothing to me. You’re just a typical Greek Goddess who upset the balance of the world in order to save her mortal plaything, a plaything you would have got bored of when he stopped being useful and exciting to you!”
“ENOUGH!” She roared, her once perfect image distorting with anger and rage.
Her skin began to glow, taking on a luminescent hue and the sky, which was once bright and sunny, began to grow darker and cloudy with each passing second
“You know nothing you insolent child"
“I KNOW ENOUGH!” I snarled “I know that you Gods and Goddess love to cause trouble for your creations. You would rather see us mortals struggle than watch us succeed. Admit it, you created your Wolves because you enjoy watching us fight and kill each other. You take pleasure in watching us fall”
“I created you to give other species a chance at survival” she said softly “Just like Prometheus created his mortals”
She waved her hand and an opalescent throne appeared along with a stool.
She ascended the throne and nodded at me towards the stool.
I remained standing
“When the mortals were first created and fire was gifted to them, they began to hunt every species out there, from boars to lions, and even Pegasus, they would stop at nothing to satisfy their need to hunter. Soon, their blood thirst drove them to hunt more than the need to provide for their families did, thus causing an unnatural shift in the balance of the world” she paused and looked at me, making sure I was paying attention “And also, unbeknownst to Prometheus at the time, created the Hunters. An organization dedicated to the extinction of Mythical Creatures”
She sat straighter in her throne
“The more and more species they hunted down, the more the world began to shift balance” she waved her hand and an illusion of hunters chasing different magical species appeared in front of us. The species ranges from Wolves to Nymphs and even Centaurs. The illusions were so real that when I went to touch the Centaurs beautiful mane, he hissed at me.
“The Wolves came to me one night after a group of Hunters ambushed them outside their hunting grounds. They pleaded for me to save their species and, at the time, I admit I had no use for saving their kind”
She had the decency to look slightly ashamed for a moment before she snapped back into Goddess mode.
“But after...” she trailed off “After my...Mate died I had to fuse his soul with that of the willing Alpha in order to save both my love and the Wolves”
The illusion changed and this time I watched as the soul of a wolf fuse with the soul of Endymion.
Two small, glowing orbs encircles each other before fusing into one and traveling into Endymion’s lifeless body.
Suddenly, his body began to glow and he began to shift from man to beast.
It was honestly like the ending scene of Beauty and the Beast where the Beast transformed back into a man, except this time, the man was turning into a beast.When the transformation was finished, Endymion looked nothing like the shifters do now. Instead of looking completely like a wolf, it was like the two souls that fuse together couldn’t decide which gene needed to be more dominant so they decided to split themselves equally, which resulted in him looking like the Wolf Man.
“Thus resulting in the first Wolf Shifter”
I glanced at her and was surprised that she graced a small smile on her face.
“The Wolf Moon was created on accident” she said softly “It was a result of saving my Mate”
“But the books said...” I struggled for words “And the Hunters said...”
“Mortals have misinterpreted history before” she said “It hasn’t been the first time nor will it be the last”
“Then what the Hell is the Wolf Moon all about?” I asked in exasperation “Because honestly with me being dead, this Wolf Moon isn’t looking too great”
“For one’s true nature to be shown, death must be known” she smiled “For death creates life, and life ascends the Throne”
“Yeah, I know” I sneered “You mentioned that already. That’s why I’m here, because you know, I’m dead”
“You’re not dead” She said simply
I gave her a look
“No, you’re in the In-Between”
“You mean I’m not 100% dead?” I asked hopefully
She nodded again
“You’re in between life and death” she said “That’s how it’s possible for me to talk to you”
“But my friends said that I would die during the Wolf Moon...” I trailed off
“Did they specifically see you die?”
“Yes” I said
She raised an eyebrow
“Are you sure?”
“They said they did?” I said, questioning my answer
“They saw a particular vision and misinterpreted it” she said “What they saw was your friend, Ethan, dying. Not you”
I winced at the mention of Ethan’s name and she gave me a sympathetic smile.
“The Wolf Moon” she began “Like I said was created by accident but I can assure you, is nothing bad”
She got up from her throne and approached me
“The Wolf Moon is just the name for the fusing of souls between my descendant and one of the first Alpha’s”
She gestured to the recreation of Endymion’s first shift
“Your body is preparing itself for it’s first shift and ascension as Queen of the Wolves ” she said “That’s why you’re here. Even if you didn’t get hit by that bullet, you still would have came here”
My eyes widened
“So, I’ll look like him?”
“No,” she shook her head “Like everything else in the Human realm, all creatures learn to adapt in order to survive”
She softly caressed Endymion’s Wolf Man form illusion and it nuzzled her palm
My eyes widened
“Our children were no different” she whispered “What was once acceptable in my time is no longer the case in yours, therefore, during the Wolf Moon your fused genes take this into account and allows you to shift into a full wolf”
She looked at me
“Well, in your case, you could summon your Wolf without having to shift”
I gaped at her
“Can everyone do this?” I asked “Summon their wolf and not shift?”
“No,” she said “Only those from your line, and even then, only a handful could actually attain this gift”
My mind was overloading but there was still one question that was nagging me.
“If I was going to come here regardless of getting shot, then why did Ethan have to die?”
“The Wolf Moon is a blessing for those like you” she started “It gives you time for your body to prepare to shift and take over the responsibilities as Ruler of the Wolves. However, with every blessing comes a curse. In order to get to this transformation stage, your ancestors had to either “die” themselves or witness a death of a loved one so tragic and heartbreaking that it forced them to shift whether they were willing too or not”
She grasped my hands and held tight
“For one’s true nature to be shown, death must be known” I whispered to myself “For death creates life, and life ascends the Throne”
A tear slid down my eye
“So...Ethan, would have died either way”
“It was his destiny” Selene squeezed my hands before letting go”His fate was sealed from the moment his Mate died”