As we soar above the clouds, the moon shines with incomparable beauty, but with my haven miles away, appreciating the sight took a backseat as my impending doom loomed over me.
At the command of my Alpha, a man known to act upon every word that fell from his lips, I packed up a few of my belongings, and with my parents acting as escorts, walked to the pack’s gate, where the buses were already lined up.
Apparently sending a bunch of teenagers to a faraway land calls for happiness hence the smiles many parents spot. This is the first time my pack is participating in the Moondance ceremony, in over ten years. We assumed they had finally left us to our ways, considering how meticulous we are about the ceremony. We rebelled when the idea to update this age-old ceremony was planted in the minds of others. Then again… who is to say this invite wasn’t sent to the wrong address? Given the opportunity, I’d throttle the person at fault for ensuring that this invite arrived.
Alpha Lumai this morning delivered the news that it was time for us to follow through with our kind’s tradition: To officially become members of a pack. Happening only once a year, every eighteen-year-old in the pack is expected to participate in this grand ceremony held beneath the heavens. It is here that a young adult seeks their wolf, their place in the hierarchy, and the pack they identify with. Finally, the young werewolves seek their significant other who will make the whole.
“Mate,” one of the nearby members had whispered to me while the Alpha spoke. ‘Oh, Joy!’ The response floating around in my mind while my lips remained shut and I rolled my eyes. I wasn’t in the mood to be punished for talking out of turn. Interrupting Alpha Lumai was not a valid reason to have the bullwhip make an appearance.
In response to the question ‘why attend human school if we have a school for our own kind,’ the Alpha said, “Every pup has to complete high school first: to aid your interactions with humans.” Thus, my constant pleas to be homeschooled fell on deaf ears. I had tried every trick known. Yet, my mother stood firm while my father simply fell in line. I felt my daily exchange of pleasantries with the neighbors was enough to be classified as interaction.
I expected my graduation day to be the last day I would have to deal with a desk and books ever again. All the sports matches, dances, activities, clubs, and detentions simply vain memories.
“What a waste of expectations.”
I have a faint memory of my father explaining how ‘Were School’ works. Summons are sent out after a consensus is reached by the representatives of each continent. A date is set, numbers are crunched, time is allocated, and the school is notified. The ‘catch’ is that the location of the school varies as the years vary. Each continent is given the chance to host the Moondance. The only continent that doesn’t host is Antarctica for obvious reasons: food, water, housing, heating, etc. Besides who would want to live in an ice school for six months. We would all freeze and probably die after a week from hypothermia. As such Australasia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America, and Asia make up the continents on which Werewolf School is held every year.
A light snore escapes between my best friend’s lips. She had eagerly fought her fatigue, yet it held strongly onto the reins. Tendo’s head lulls against the neck pillow she secured around her neck as soon as we got onto the bus. Her eyes were lit with happiness during the Alpha’s speech; her sights already set on a mate her age that they may walk through the paces of life instep. If her mate so happens to share the same birthday as her… that would be icing on the cake.
It will never be up to her who her mate is, for she will love whoever the moon goddess sets before her willingly or unwillingly. The bond will make sure that happens. Though bonds can be made and broken, challenging a mate bond has massive repercussions that push you to follow its direction.
I thought the mate bond was an outdated folktale told to keep us on the straight and narrow. This notion and I have since parted ways, now werewolf school is the outdated folktale.
“School will teach you the truth about werewolf life and all its anomalies. Remove the weeds from your overgrown garden while shaping you for society,” these were the words my mother had uttered to silence my woes as we trekked back from the meeting.
“Arrghh!” I seek out my twin sister who sits silently tapping away at the electronic device seated in the cave of her fingers. She shifts her phone between her hands as she stretches her fingers. The dim light shining on Subbi’s face allows me to see the smile on her face. A giggle gathers within her but not a peep leaves her lips. Sizwe is still at the center of her thoughts.
Sizwe is her current boyfriend. An odd character he has; All the same he is one person I rub shoulders within a daily basis. Receiving a lash because I attacked Sizwe, would be a daily occurrence if not for Subbi. I would cry out in anguish when the whip strikes my back yet live to not regret putting myself in that position. Letting my ego swell at the thought of the damage I was able to inflict on the pompous jackass.
“Oh, stop sulking Zoya… There is no need for that,” Subbi speaks in a low tone.
“I just want to get off this mechanical bird and go home. No one from the time we were born had to attend this pop-up school. Why us? I could be running through the Congo trees, hunting something! Yet I’m in the air on my way to…to.” I stutter as the venue eludes me.
“Russia, Zoya it’s in Russia.”
“See… My lack of knowledge as to where we are going is another reason as to why I should not be here. We’ve been in this medicine cabinet for the past 5 hours. The only form of activity we’ve done is to breathe in filtered air. This we do unconsciously.” Subbi places her phone into the pouch in front of her. “Only four more hours until our layover. At least you don’t have to change planes. Alpha Lumai was kind enough to get us a plane,” Subbi’s face relaxes as she fixes a pillow behind her neck. Her fascination with that family makes me sick. Sizwe is Alpha Lumai’s son, and for some godforsaken reason, Subbi happened to take a liking to him. They have been in this self-indorsed lovey-dovey state for the past two years and it seems not to be ending. Her being my twin only made things a hundred times worse.
Twins have a unique connection. By sharing the same womb, they establish their first connection with their sibling. No amount of pack change or distance can break that connection. It’s the only connection that may match up to the mate bond. I can feel my sister and her feelings regardless of where I am.
Subbi on countless occasions let the wall we had built between us slip. Giving me a bird’s eye view of her solitary encounters with Sizwe.
No one deserves to feel firsthand how much affection their sibling has for another person who they regard as scum. Now don’t get me wrong Sizwe will be an amazing Alpha when the time comes for the challenge. But he has not grown on me as he has my sister. We may look alike but rest assured we have different tastes in everything.
I looked up at the sign above the plane's lavatory. The red hue not flicking indicating that it is vacant. I unbuckle my seat belt and rise. My black sweats hug my ankles and waist as I tug at my top back into place so that the straps are taut. The shades of brown that litter my body evidence of long days spent in the Pan African sun.
I walk towards the front of the plane using the seats as support. The clank of the latch assures me that someone will not walk in on me, and for the first time in over 12 hours, I am alone. I look at my reflection, the pitch-black curls that take up half my skull are held back in a puff. My coffee brown eyes a canvas for my emotions. I learned at an early age to keep my emotions hidden.
“Emotions are what people use against you.” My father’s voice flits across my mind.
Lips a shade darker than my skin rest above my pointed chin. I smile as I turn on the faucet. The water rushing into the basin beneath it. I splash the water onto my face and use the wipes provided to dry it off.
So far, I had gotten away with packing clothes of my choosing as my mother was gushing away with Subbi about the trip and outfit choices. ‘Like she would be wearing other than her usual choices’ I thought as I zipped my suitcase. I grabbed my gym towel taking care not to tug on a nail. I had so far managed to grow them out without one breaking and I hoped to keep them this way. I walked down the staircase, determination setting in. The gym, which takes up half the basement had mirrors on every bordering wall. I heard grunts that increased in loudness as I got closer to the floor. I stepped into the gym as my father threw a punch at the bag in one of the corners. Where Subbi had taken after my mother, I had taken after my father. We spent our days hunting and working out together, with him teaching me various self-defense techniques. I laid my towel on one of the machines and began to stretch. Dad threw a couple more hooks at the bag before taking it into his grip and slowing its swinging. He began to walk towards me as he took off his gloves. “Grab a pair of the pads and some half-cut gloves… We can talk while you throw a few,” He said before guzzling two bottles of water. “I don’t want to talk dad,” I remarked as I reached for my toes while my legs were crossed over one another. He chuckled lightly but heartily. “Thus, says the progeny to her maker. Now you may take after me but the fact that you don’t want to talk about the things that are bothering you is all your mother.” I glared at him beneath the curls that had fallen in front of my eyes which only caused dad to laugh even more. “Grab the stuff pumpkin and suit up. We are talking about whatever you are brooding over which I’m sure must deal with Lumai’s announcement. So, let’s hear it.” I handed him the hand pads then proceeded to strap in. I raised my fists ready to throw about a few and release myself of some tension. “Why do we have to go? For years since I was born our continent didn’t participate in any of this. Then for some magical reason, they want us to go! Why?” I ducked as dad swiped at my head. “So, in short, you don’t want to go! Why though?” “I was enjoying living my life here. Why does this have to shake it up? Besides, there is a possibility I may not come back!” I kicked with my left leg making sure to form a ninety-degree with my knee before gathering the energy to kick. A scowl formed on his face, “Sefya… Why wouldn’t my progeny comeback?” My dad preferred to call me by my middle name. “Well to this entire process there is the possibility of your progeny finding her ‘soulmate’. And for your information, I don’t look forward to that. I’d have to move away.” “Hmmm. I see. Well I must confess the prospect of having you move isn’t amusing but it would give my progeny carrier and me ample time to get acquainted. Fewer people in the house.” I stopped and stared up at my father in disgust. “You would only produce more progeny. Mind you I am still shocked by the fact that you made a physical carbon copy of me. One who has practically moved out already and has that awful boy’s tongue forever down her throat.” My dad grabbed a hold of my hand as I prepared to twist it upward. A stern look had settled on his face and grey clouds seem to invisibly gather above him. “They share tongues now!!!!” he bellowed. “Daddy it’s more like puppy kisses…” “That doesn’t paint a better picture for me. And I am to assume you also get a few puppy kisses as you most elaborately called them?” His eyes zoned in on my face, “Daddy I’m the daughter that doesn’t want to find her mate. I left the whole puppy kisses thing in second grade.” I tugged my hand away from him and took up my stance again, only to have my father stare at me with greying eyes. “You had boys shoving their tongues down your throat when you were in the second grade!” He bellowed across the gym. “Yukata and I were only messing around daddy.” I realized my mistake as soon as the bird had flown the coup. Thembiso Daka’s eyebrows rose to the ceiling. The extent of his daughters’ activities from very early on hitting him like rocks. “Remind me to strangle Bukata.” “On the plus side, we are both still virgins. I contemplated losing it once…” I looked up from my fists to my father and I was sure that thunder clapped above us. “No thoughts of losing it…. got it. But my point is that I don’t want a mate dad. I don’t want to deal with all the possessive acts and the overprotectiveness and all that.” I resumed my punches and kicks. Dad didn’t say anything about what I said but I knew that he was analyzing me rather well. “Did we not make good enough role models as mates such that you would feel this way?” My father asked as I began to pull off my gloves. “No. No. you guys made great role models. If I wanted a mate I would aspire to have a relationship as eventful as yours. It’s beautiful. Both of you are amazing warriors hence why you are not high ranked is puzzling to me. I just don’t want one dad. I’m not yet ready. That’s all it is; I just want to have a quiet life in our forests.” I grabbed my towel and wiped my face of the sweat that had gathered at my brow. “Sefya, you can still do all that. And traveling would be even better with a companion don’t you think? A person who can share all those memories with you. Besides a werewolf’s live is longer due to slow aging. It gives you more to firm up your relationship with.” “That’s a great thought dad but, chances are excessively slim at this point. I will most likely be expected to pop out kids in a short time. But how can I raise a kid when I still feel too young and inexperienced?” My father closed the distance that had grown between us when I moved to get my towel. Without the slightest hesitation, he unfolded his arms to encompass me and held me to his chest. A tear slid down my eye. It dried on my top lip. “Sweetie... Daughter of Thembiso and Nomsa Daka. Our pride and joy. Your body is your do deal with as you see fit. Don’t let anyone rob you of your rights, you will get to do so much more. All it takes is time which you still have plenty of.”
I stare at the wipe that sits in the palm of my hands. ‘Daughter of Thembiso’. Reality settles in once more, and I toss the wipe into the bin. Immediately the door slides open, the light in the room turns off. Standing across from me is one of the girls who was in my Geography class. She leaves me ample space to maneuver my way back to my seat.
Having eaten drowsiness has led most of the passengers to a comfortable rest. One person stands out as his head is thrown back with his mouth gaping wide. It’s a pity my phone is stashed away in my backpack.
‘Russia better be worth putting me through all this hell.’
A ping cuts through my dreamy haze. “Welcome to Russia. You may collect your hand luggage and proceed in single file to alight the plane. There are buses waiting off to the side for you. Have a great stay.”
“How long was I out for?” I ask not recalling the layover at all. The thought of sleeping for four hours only to wake in Russia is very unnerving. “Zoya we need to get moving could you please stand up?” Tendo barks in my ear. She usually is in a bad mood for the first few minutes after waking up. So, her tone comes as no surprise to me. “How long was I out? I don’t recall the layover. Did we even alight the plane at all?” Subbi is folding the blanket she used to cover herself throughout the flight. “You slept throughout the layover. Out cold. I tried to wake you. But the sleeping pills I slipped you did their job perfectly.” I raise my face to look my sister in the eye.
“You drugged me!” I shout as my anger begins to fester.
“Of course, we all were!” Chills run up my spine. “We all were… what if something happened! What if we were kidnapped?” I spoke incredulously. “Oh, please Sefya don’t be daft. A simple plane with eighty restless wolves, teenagers by the way, with the only supervision being one attendant is not the site for a beautiful story. So, the alpha asked that we take pills.” I blink rapidly at my sister, “I wasn’t told that.”
“Mum made me give you the slip because she knew you wouldn’t take it. You are like dad in that respect.” I pick up my phone in disbelief with the intent to contact my mother.
’The sneaky she-wolf had managed to do it again. And this time she used my very own partner in crime to do the dirty work.
I shake my head as the line in the aisle begins to move and the numbers in on the plane thin out. The little I overheard of my sister and mother’s discussion, is that it’s supposedly summer here. We will be here for the next six months with little heat from the sun. Comparing the sun’s intensity to its intensity when over the Congo, this is as good as what we experience in our cold season.
Despite the underlying point the people in the distance seem to be embracing summer wear. My eyes zoom in on some short sleeves and sleeveless outfits. Of the attendants in the hangers. Only when Subbi joins my side do I realize that she has changed her outfit to match with me. From here on out we will be surrounded by anonymous people most of the time. I am lucky to have a sibling with me. A small piece of home is better than having nothing at all.
We descend the steps and follow the people that are ahead of us to the busses waiting not too far away. Tendo has fallen back to talk with some of the guys that are looking around, taking in the scene before them.