A Full Moon Celebration
It was the day before my eighteenth birthday and the day my mom was throwing me a party. We were celebrating today because tomorrow, on my actual birthday, I would be leaving for New Orleans to get settled in before transitioning into my next adventure. I was lucky to have graduated from high school early, gaining college credits as I finished, and now I was able to start college this next semester. I was too late on my application process for starting on time, but I’m honestly okay with it. My dad wasn’t about to let me out of the house until I was eighteen anyway, so now that I am, I’m heading into the Big Easy early to settle into a place of my own. I didn’t have to worry about staying in a dorm because I wasn’t going to be attending a University. Vocational school, here I come.
We didn’t have a lot of money and I never had the grades in school to get me a full scholarship, so I decided the best route for me was to attend a vocational school, majoring in nursing. For as long as I can remember, helping people was kind of my thing. Actually, anything dealing with empathy was my thing and I hoped I was making the right career path.
As I stood in my room, finishing up on packing, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about last night and the two brothers. I pushed away thoughts of New Orleans and my new adventure and focused solely on the events of last night. Everything just kept getting stranger and stranger.
First, I had that woman, Lady Nila, come up to me as if I’m supposed to know who she is and then hand me her business card, telling me she can help me remember who I am. Weird. Second, I end up playing a stupid children’s game, that didn’t end up being a children’s game at all or stupid, and a complete stranger says the strangest thing to me right before he called me by my full first name.
Which reminds me, I thought as I spun to look at Brad laying across my bed, staring down at his phone.
“Brad,” I started, catching his attention as he looked up at me, “Did you tell those two brothers from last night my full name?” It was the only plausible explanation that I had. Otherwise, how else did Kit know my full name?
Brad scrunched his eyebrows together as if he were in thinking mode before answering. “No, I don’t believe I did. I introduced you as Emmy. When have I ever called you Emersyn?”
I shrugged. “Never, but isn’t it weird that he knew my full name?”
“A little,” he admitted, shrugging himself. “He seemed like a pretty smart guy; he probably just knew that Emmy was short for Emersyn.”
Yeah, unlikely. Who the hell would get Emersyn from Emmy? Emersyn isn’t exactly a common name. It’s not every day you meet someone named Emersyn.
“Whatever, let’s change the subject. What are you doing for me tonight? You haven’t said a word.”
He grinned. “Yeah, for good reason. It’s a surprise, Emmy. Have you ever heard of one?”
“Whatever.” I waved him off. “We should get downstairs before my mom comes up here and flips out.”
Brad slid off the side of my bed as he laughed. “Yeah, we already have one crabby ass today; we don’t need another one.”
“Hey!” I went to pinch his side for insulting me, but he took off running and got away from my wrath.
The party was just what I assumed it would be. Several family and friends filled the tight rooms on the first floor before they spilled out into the backyard while the children of the guests either ran around like chickens with their heads cut off or swam in the in-ground pool my dad had installed two summers ago.
“Emmy!” My grandma Ruth caught sight of me before waddling over towards me with her bad knee. I could have run but I wasn’t feeling that rude today. “The birthday girl!”
I gave her a fake, tight smile. “Hey, Grandma Ruth. Thanks for coming.”
She reached out and latched onto my cheek with her fingers and pinched me until my eyes watered. Her hands looked old and delicate, but the woman still had a death grip. Holy hell.
“You get more and more beautiful each time I see you, darling. I’d say it’s about time you found a suitor and made me some great grand-babies.”
“Don’t go giving her any ideas now, Grandma Ruth,” my mom interjected as she joined us in the hallway and I had never been more grateful for her presence in my entire life. “Why don’t you join us in the dining room so we can properly wish Emersyn a happy birthday and let her open her gifts?” Mom winked at me as she stepped up to Grandma Ruth and held her arm out to help the delicate woman get to the dining room more quickly.
I looked over my shoulder to find Brad and was displeased to find him still standing just behind me. “Thanks for stepping in and helping me out, best friend.”
Brad held up his hands in surrender. “Hey, I wasn’t about to get my cheeks pinched.” He covered his cheeks with both hands, pouting his bottom lip. “I’m a fragile human being, Emmy. She’d destroy these baby cheeks.”
I rolled my eyes at him before I grabbed his arm and pulled him down the hallway towards the dining room. “Oh, well we wouldn’t want your baby cheeks to get destroyed, would we?” I reached over and lightly slapped his cheek.
“Ouch!” He cried out with a grin and a wink in my direction.
The dining room was full of family and friends that I had previously seen milling about the house. When I entered the room, a loud cheer erupted around me. Several of them wished me a happy birthday as I made my way around the table and took a seat at the head chair.
A large birthday cake sat just in front of me with several candles stuck in the top. It was beautifully decorated and had “HAPPY 18th BIRTHDAY, EMMY” scribbled on the frosting in purple cursive. The sight of it was making my mouth water and I wanted to get the embarrassing moment of everyone singing to me over with so I could dive into a large piece of this sugary goodness. It was a rare occurrence that I was allowed to eat things like this; so when I had the opportunity, I took it.
Dad walked over, smiling down at me before he reached out and lit each candle. Soon after they were lit, the entire room burst out into off-key pitches of the birthday song, Brad out singing them all as he grinned over at me. He knew how much I hated the birthday song. People sat in front of their cake while several people stared at them as they sang to them. I always wondered what to do with myself. Did I smile and wave my hands at them like a concert conductor? Or, sit here awkwardly like I always did, my cheeks turning crimson, and wait for them to finish? See? Makes no sense.
When they all finally stopped singing and I blew out the candles, I was met with a loud cheer. Dad came back over and took each candle out before slicing into it. Being the birthday girl, I got the first piece and dug in as soon as it sat down in front of me. It tasted as good as I thought it would.
After we finished eating cake, Mom rushed us right into opening gifts. I think she knew how much I hated these celebrations and hurried them along as quickly as she could. She placed each gift delicately in front of me, allowing me to open them one at a time before she took them away and replaced it with another unopened gift. I received lots of items that would come in handy when I moved to New Orleans and got my own place, while other gifts contained school supplies. Mom then handed me a small stack of envelopes, from those that didn’t know what to get me so they just shoved cash into birthday cards and called it good. That was completely fine with me, though. Each card had a nice little inscription inside and was signed by a family member, stuffed with cash. If my math is correct, I’ve got several hundred dollars adding up here.
A loud ruckus came from the kitchen, no doubt one of my cousins broke something, as Mom ran out of the dining room. I looked around and saw that most of the partygoers were no longer watching me open gifts and envelopes and were talking among each other. I continued on with opening envelopes when I came across one that stuck out like a sore thumb. The paper felt like an old canvas and not your typical drug store product. ‘Emersyn’ was scribbled across the front of the envelope in perfect calligraphy as I turned it over and pulled the card out. It was the same material as the envelope but didn’t have any pictures or cheesy inscriptions on the front. I opened it and saw perfect cursive greet me as I began to read it:
May the sun bring you new energy by day.
May the moon softly restore you by night.
May the rain wash away your scars.
May the breeze blow away negativity.
Many blessings to you on the anniversary of your birth, Emersyn.
I flipped the card over several times, looking for something more but that was it. “A” was signed at the bottom, but I don’t know anyone with the first initial A. At least no one who would leave it so vague and then write something like this. I had no idea what the inscription meant, but the feeling I had inside told me that this card was very personal and I should never lose it. I don’t know why, but this card made me feel as if the person who wrote it carried a deep love for me.
“Who’s it from?” Brad asked, pulling me from my daze.
I quickly closed the card and shoved it back into its envelope. “Just another card. I think it’s from my grandma Ruth, she sure knows how to pick them.” It was a total lie, but I felt like I had to hide it. It felt as if though this card was meant for my eyes only and it would forever stay that way.
“Are we done here? My surprise is probably getting anxious without us.”
“Brad, just tell me what you have planned for tonight! It’s driving me crazy!”
He laughed and shook his head. “Not a chance. Go upstairs and grab a sweater and meet me outside in ten.” He pushed away from the table and squeezed through the crowd until he disappeared.
I grabbed up the stack of envelopes and headed to find my mom, letting her know that I was leaving with Brad and not to wait up. She was obviously upset that I was leaving my own party so soon but let’s be honest, nobody is going to even notice I’m gone.
As I stood in my room, I held the mysterious envelope in my hand and stared down at my name scribbled on the front. I really want to know who this is from but something tells me I’m not going to find out anytime soon. I walked over and slid it under my pillow for safekeeping and headed back out to go in search of Brad.
He continued to keep quiet about where he was taking me as he drove us out of town, but I had an inkling because he was headed towards the area we always threw parties at to keep us from getting in trouble with our parents and the cops.
“Are you taking me to Blue-Moon Hill?” I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.
“What if I am?”
“Drive faster then. I need a drink.” It was no surprise that he was taking me there and I knew he probably set up some kind of gathering with all of our friends. Not only was it my birthday tomorrow, but I was also leaving town; so, it was only a matter of time before he threw me a party. I’m just glad it’s here where we could all let loose versus being held at someone’s house with their overbearing parents watching our every move.
When we arrived, Brad parked among several other cars in the field that lined the tree line before we got out. This place always made me feel so peaceful. When you walked through the tree line, the terrain started going up into the forest where it opened at the top just enough to hold a fire and have a small gathering. This was where we always partied for as long as I could remember and other kids had partied here for years before us. It was almost a tradition to have underage parties here.
I saw several familiar faces as we climbed the hill and joined the party at the top. Several of them wished me a happy birthday and gave me a quick hug as I passed by them, heading for the drinks.
“Well, this is a surprise,” a familiar voice said as I grabbed a drink from a fellow classmate.
When I turned to see who was talking to me, I felt a cold chill run up my spine. It was Tristan from last night and he was watching me intently.
“What are you doing here?” I asked before putting the cup up to my mouth and took a greedy drink.
“The same thing you’re doing here: drinking.” He held up his own cup, giving me a wicked grin before he took a drink and hid his mouth. “Happy birthday, by the way.”
I stared at him for a long moment before finally giving him a timid smile. “Thanks, but it isn’t my birthday until tomorrow.”
“Oh?” He genuinely looked surprised by my revelation. “So... you’re not eighteen yet, huh?”
The way he asked me that made my skin crawl. Was this guy a total creep, or what? So what if I’m not eighteen yet?
I looked around, hoping to find Brad or someone else who could protect me should the need arise.
“Where’s your brother?” I asked, hoping to change the subject off of me.
“He really wanted to be here but he had other things to take care of tonight. Perhaps you’ll see him later.” His brow cocked as he watched me. “Do you feel different?”
“What?” His question completely confused me. Why would I feel different? “I don’t understand what you mean.”
He shook his head. “Nevermind. Have a nice night, Emmy.” He walked away from me and I stared after him with the most confused expression plastered on my face. The guy was seriously freaking me out right now.
I spun and finally saw Brad walking over towards me with a smile on his face before it fell.
“Are you okay?” He asked.
“Yeah. Fine.” I looked around and didn’t see Tristan anywhere and tugged my lips up into a fake smile for my friend. “So, what do you have planned for me tonight?”
He grinned. “I’m going to get you so drunk that you’ll be too hungover tomorrow to make the long drive to New Orleans and I’ll have my best friend for a day longer.”
I playfully nudged him with my elbow. “That’s not going to happen.”
He let out a sigh. “I’m really going to miss you, Em.”
“I know, buddy, but don’t worry- you’ll be joining me in the city before you know it.” Brad was a year younger than me and was currently a senior at our high school. He wanted to move to the big city with me so badly but for obvious reasons, those plans were pushed off. We made a promise that once he graduated in the spring he could join me in the city.
“I know. It still sucks, though.” Brad wrapped an arm around my neck and pulled me away from the keg and towards the fire. “Come on, let’s mingle with everyone.”
After several drinks and what felt like hours of mingling, I felt the need to stretch my legs and get away from the fire which caused the front side of my body to feel overheated while my backside was frozen.
Brad was telling one of his infamous ghost stories around the fire while everyone seemed to be eating out of his palm, allowing me to escape without notice. The moon wasn’t full tonight, but it was bright enough that it allowed for easy seeing in the darkness of the forest. I looked around and saw a worn path leading into the forest and headed in that direction. I loved going for walks in the woods; it felt more like a home than any city or house ever did.
My hand skimmed across several tree branches and trunks as I made my way down the trail, listening to the quiet forest around me as the sounds of Brad’s theatrical voice and the popping coals of the fire slowly whispered into nothing. I was completely enveloped by the forest now, the moonlight shining brightly down to give me just enough lighting to see where I was walking.
A large oak tree came into view and I couldn’t help but notice how old it looked, but still beautiful and grand. The trunk was three times the size of any of the other trees surrounding it and when I looked up, her branches were full and plentiful with leaves.
This seemed as good a place as any to sit down and take a breath. The ground was cool to the touch as I sat down, leaning my back against the strong trunk of the oak as I closed my eyes and tried to be one with nature. It was always so peaceful just sitting in the forest with its bewitching sounds: the gentle breeze through the trees, frogs croaking off in the distance, while crickets and katydids sang their unique and loud chirping.
The music of the woods was interrupted when I heard howling from my friends. It was a weird tradition to cheer and howl at the moon when the clock struck midnight, which also told me how late it was and that it was officially my eighteenth birthday. However, this wasn’t what was weird at the moment. I slowly began to feel a pulsing in my veins that became stronger and stronger with each breath I took. It was almost painful and now I couldn’t help but wonder if an insect from the forest floor had bitten me while I rested here.
I tried to stand up, but the pulsing only became stronger. Tree branches began cracking and snapping around me and I hoped that it was Brad coming to check on me.
“Brad?” I called out, my voice shook and sounded unfamiliar to me. I desperately wanted to stand and tried again, only to feel too weak to do so.
The sounds of the snapping branches became louder and almost sounded as if the forest was groaning. My heart thundered in my chest as I whipped my head in all directions, trying to find the source of the snapping branches but I couldn’t see a thing all of a sudden. The moonlight was no longer as bright as it was just seconds before as darkness surrounded me, leaving me in the pitch black.
I tried once more to stand on my feet but something grabbed my arm and slammed me against the tree trunk. I screamed out as pure terror ran through me. Who had just touched me? What had just touched me?! But as I continued to scream, the touch on my arm wrapped tighter around me before I felt something else slide up my other arm and eventually cover my mouth. It was then that I knew what was touching me.
The oak tree’s roots and branches were gripping me to its trunk, holding me tightly against the base as I tried to wriggle free, but to no avail. My chest tightened with fear as hot tears pooled in my eyes before they slowly slid down my cheeks. The roots and branches tightened on my arms and mouth before I felt more of them spreading across my legs and torso. It felt as if this tree was holding me captive and I was experiencing a wicked nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. I could no longer scream as my growing fear paralyzed me and stole my breath away.
I squeezed my eyes shut and silently begged for someone to come find me, to wake me, because I knew I was sleeping. There is no way that this is real, but when I opened my eyes and saw that I was no longer on the ground and the pain from my throbbing veins met my conscious mind, I knew I wasn’t sleeping at all.
My eyes stared straight up, too afraid to see how far off the ground I was when I noticed the moonlight was shadowed by dark storm clouds that swirled wickedly in the night sky. The branch holding my mouth captive slowly retreated as I watched the clouds swirl faster and faster, breaking away from the moon and allowing its brightness to be seen once more. Once the clouds were cleared away from the moon and it was fully visible again, the branch was completely away from my mouth as I took a deep breath and tried to scream again, but it was a failed attempt when said branch plunged into my mouth and down my throat. I felt my throat gag and constrict as the branch slid farther down making me feel as if the tree was trying to grab my soul. My eyes watered while my entire body stiffened, sweat trickling down my spine as an overwhelming feeling swam through me that told me I was going to die tonight.
It was then that I noticed the moon getting brighter and brighter as the pulsing in my veins pumped harder and harder, making it feel as if my veins were about to burst. I didn’t know how much longer I was going to be able to hold out against the excruciating pain running through me when it looked like a beam of light shot out of the moon and straight into my chest. I thought for sure I was going to be met with more pain but when the moonlight touched me, a warm calming sensation took over and drowned out the pain I was suffering from.
The pulsing in my veins slowed to a steady beat as I felt more than saw the moonlight spreading throughout my body. It felt like I was being recharged like a car battery, every sense in my body becoming more and more aware and sensitized with each pulse.
I no longer felt the paralyzing fear that had gripped my chest moments ago as I laid weightless in the branches of the tree, allowing the moonlight to do whatever it was doing to me and enjoying the sensations that it caused.
My eyes closed once more as I felt a smile spread across my lips. When I opened my eyes again, I saw that I was being lowered back down to the forest floor as the moonlight followed my body. Once the familiar cool ground met my backside, I felt the branches slowly release me as the moonlight began to fade away from me.
As I sat on the forest’s floor, feeling the pulsing through my veins as if it were my own heartbeat, I began to feel a burning sensation on the inside of my wrist and it hurt like hell. I quickly grabbed at it, but a branch from the tree wrapped itself around my wrist, holding me back. The burning was almost too much as I cried out, watching something burn into my fair skin. I couldn’t tell what it was but it reminded me of a leaf, and it was being burned into me like a branding iron without the brander itself.
Once the leaf was completed and the burning sensation subsided slightly, I felt a shock wave slam into me, throwing me into the trunk of the oak, knocking me out cold.