The howling of the wolves keeps me up, the moonlight slipping through the cracks in my shutters. The small house seems to be closing in on me, its walls laughing as if they know I can’t do it, that I can’t stay away from the trouble that will come and all the trials I have to face if I want the vision to never come true.
But something deep within me is telling me that I cannot escape this, that nothing will change the fate of my tribe, of me…
I close my eyes and roll over on my hammock made of lion and wolf skin. It’s not as comfortable as the beds filled with chicken and turkey feathers some of my tribespeople have, but it’s mine. And right now, things that are mine, things I can cling to and have them do what I want them to do makes me feel safe, grounded. It’s like they promise nothing will change.
But everything is about to—my body screams it.
There’s a knock at my door, making me jump. Who would be up right now? Everyone should be asleep.
Lily-flor is sleeping with Tani-mah and Rai-si in their house instead of with me so they can watch over her. The Wurn Tribe had really terrified her and they were afraid I wouldn’t be able to protect her if they came back. So it can’t be her.
And the Tribe Leaders are all asleep as well, there’s no doubt about that. They’re the rule-makers and rule-followers. They wouldn’t be caught dead doing something hypocritical.
On top of that, no one in my tribe would dare break curfew in fear of dying.
Because of these reasons, my curious brain is wondering who it is, urging me to get up, to open the door and see who is waiting outside. But todays’ events makes me stay, keeps me glued to the hammock in which I lay.
It’s unintelligible, but it’s a voice, and it sounds familiar.
Another one follows close behind the first one.
My eyes drift down to the crack at the bottom of the door where moonlight creeps in. I see two shadows—two feet. The black spots blocking the moonlight squish together and become one. The shadow disappears.
But something has slipped through the bottom crack.
There’s a sound of hissing and a small rattle.
I jerk up in my hammock, almost falling to the ground as its glowing green eyes look up at me. My heart jumps into my throat as it stares me down. Its tail rattles as it shakes it, the snake’s forked tongue slipping in and out of its mouth as it seems to smile cruelly.
“Hello, Cressa-la,” the serpent hisses.
My breath catches in my throat.It spoke!
“Don’t be afraid,” it says, as if it can smell the fear coursing through my veins. “I came to make a deal.”
“What deal?” I manage to croak out, my chest in pain from the lack of air being drawn in and out of it. Animals don’t talk. They don’t speak. They don’t have that capability, the brain capacity.But how is it talking to me?
The snake slides closer, the sound of its scales scraping across the rocky floor seeming too loud to bear. It leaves a wet trail behind it, making more questions rise. Snakes aren’t slimy nor wet creatures. They’re skin is always bone-dry.
“You know of the vision,” it hisses, its tongue slipping from between its scaly lips. “You’ve been told of what’s to come. And you understand who it is that will destroy everything you care about.”
My breath is heavy, yet nothing seems to be reaching my lungs. Black appears around my vision and modes of light swarm before me, my brain struggling for oxygen. This has to be a dream.
“What do you want from me?” I manage to whisper.
“Tonight is a full moon. Tonight you turn seventeen. I want you to go outside. I want you to look at the sky. I want you to see the moon.”
“Why?” My throat stings and my legs begin to itch.
“Because you touched the sea. Because you glow. And because you have something we want. I’m just more forward about it.”
I watch the snake as it rattles its tail once more.
“You will go to the shore down below, and you will go into the water. You will do as I say.”
There is a moment of silence as I try to breathe, clutching the animal skin holding my body above the ground.
“And if I don’t do it?” I gulp, trying to sound tougher than I am.
The snake slithers closer, its eyes glowing brighter and angrier. It grows larger, longer, thicker. Soon it’s the height of the room, staring down at me as its body glows a soft green. My body hits the stone ground beneath me as the hammock betrays me and I fall over backwards.
“Don’t do what I say and I will destroy your tribe and make you watch, and then you will live out your life among the ashes of your people, knowing you were the cause of their deaths.” Its dripping wet face sways closer to mine, its reptilian nose inches away. The tongue flicks my face as the snake hisses. “But if you go down there, if you do what I say, no harm will come of them. They will be safe.”
“Until the vision comes true,” I whisper venomously.
The wet snake chuckles, picking its head up with haughtiness. “Then I guess you have a choice to make.”
It rears its head back and drops its jaw, venom pumping from its fangs. It lurches forward and I jump out of the way, adrenaline allowing me to move as fast as I need to. Its head crashes into the wall, making my whole house collapse around us. I begin to dig my way out as the serpent move around beneath the fallen house.
“You can’t run, Cressa-la!” It cries as it bursts from the wreckage, uncovering both of us. “No matter what you choose!”
Another snake appears from around the house next to mine. It’s exactly like the first one with the way it looks and its size, only it doesn’t glow. It hisses and slithers across the stone easily, as if it were made of water.
I find myself screaming for help as I begin to pump my arms and legs, running away from the two large snakes.
And suddenly I realize I’ve been looking over my shoulder for too long.
My feet pound on nothing but air.
I cry out again as I fall.
The ground rushes up at me and I do my best to curl into a ball. The rocks and branches cut and tear into me as tears threaten to fall from my eyes. The wind is knocked out of me as a tree stops me, forcing me to break out of my ball and lay there in an arch, my back dripping with blood and sweat. Dirt coats my skin and my vision pulses in and out with my rapid heartbeat. I cough once, the action sending pain smashing throughout my body.
I lift my tired eyes up to the rock from which I fell. I must have tumbled half way down to the water.
Through the densing trees, I see the first snake appear over the edge. It laughs at me. The sound sends sorrow, hate, sadness, and fear through me.
Rai-si was wrong.
I can’t change the vision. The future is set. I. Will. Destroy. Everything I love is in jeopardy. Everything I know will be gone. Forever. All because of me.
“Go, Cressa-la,” the wet, glowing snake calls down to me as the second one appears and looks down over the edge. “Follow the pull of the moon. You can’t resist its gravity for much longer!”
It laughs and disappears over the edge. The second one hesitates, its full attention on my mangled body. Something different flashes in its eyes, something human, something… something I don’t quite understand.
Before I can wonder what it is, it disappears too, leaving the noise of the forest to take over the sounds of my breathing and pounding of my heart.
I lie there a moment longer, sucking in as much air as I can. Once I’m positive that no one is coming to help me, to save me, I begin to move. My body aches and cries out with every twitch of my muscles. The world sways around me and I hold to the tree that had stopped me for support.
Had no one overheard what happened? Surely someone was awoken by the house falling, or pulled from a dream because of my scream…
But maybe it’s not that nobody had heard, but that no one wanted to risk his or her life for me. The survival rate out here is slim and they didn’t want to make it any slimmer. What if they didn’t care what happened to me?
They sure wouldn’t if they were enlightened on what had happened when the tsunami was supposed to hit.
I take one last glance towards my home and turn to walk down towards the water. I have no choice. They’ll destroy my village if I don’t go down there. Maybe in the vision I don’t go touch it, and that’s why the village is destroyed. Perhaps this is me changing the vision. Could that be a possibility?
The moon climbs higher and higher in the sky and my legs become more and more itchy. It gets harder to tear my eyes away from the ball of light in the sky as I near the water. I try to walk slowly, to stretch out the time I have left. What’s so important about me touching the water on a full moon? And what is that snake? Why are these animals trying to kill me? The dolphin, the snakes, the wolf… and why can two of themtalkto me? Am I slowly going insane?
I close and rub my eyes, my body crashing after the rush of adrenaline. My muscles cry out for me to sleep, but something inside pulls to stay awake. As I move closer to the water, the moon seems to push me a little more, as if it wants me to go for a little swim.
The trees fall away, breaking into a sandy shore where the black waves overlap each other. The moon shines silvery light down onto it, seeming to make the waves dance. My eyes shift upward to the light in the sky, and suddenly my body is lighter. The sensation of floating slips into my limbs. My feet keep moving, and it’s as if I’m walking on air. Maybe Icanfly. I can drift right over the water. Perhaps the snakes will be tricked into thinking I really went into it. I’ll just go right over and never touch it.
“Cressa-la!” I hear, snapping me from my haze.
I stand before the water, just out of its reach. Out farther from the shore is a boy. The fish-boy who calls himself Tamir. I feel my breath hitch in my chest and my heart begin to beat quicker.
I shake my head, suppressing the strange feelings inside me.
“Cressa-la, what are you doing here?” He calls, moving closer in the water to me. “Why are you out here so late?”
“I should be asking you the same question,” I say, partially defensive and somewhat scared. Some part of me doesn’t want him to know why I’m here. Maybe he’d try to stop me. But if he did, the snake will kill my tribe, somehow, some way, and the vision would no doubt come true.
“None of us can resist the call of the moon,” he says quietly. “So I make it easier and come up here while all the others lock themselves away. I’m never a danger to anyone when the moon is full out here, especially when I’m dry… until tonight. You need to go.”
“Danger?” I ask, his words adding on to the fright swelling inside me. “What danger?”
He hesitates. “When the moon comes out, we’re more powerful, especially the ones with… gifts.” His eyes seem to flash slightly as he says this, and his skin begins to produce a light blue glow. “Cress, you need to go home. Now.”
I stare at him for a moment, wanting to tell him why I can’t. I open my mouth and the air I had been holding in escapes in a loud exhale. “I can’t,” I tell him, shaking my head as my body cries out for me to collapse onto the sand and my heart tearing with each second passing, knowing this could be the end of me, of my tribe.
Tamir’s eyes narrow questionably as he swims closer to me. “What do you mean you can’t?”
Am I allowed to tell him?
I look back into the trees, searching for the snakes, for the glowing green eyes that are burned into my memory forever.
My body snaps back around and my eyes shut, a tear falling from one of them. One of my hands lift to cover my face, and as I sink to the ground the other one follows. There’s movement in the water as I bury my head in my knees and try to quiet my sobs. The vision is coming true. There’s no way I can stop it. I will be the cause of death for everyone I love.
A hand touches my shoulder and I jump violently in the other direction, my eyes wide and my heart beating fast. The blue light coming from my skin begins to fade as another face comes into view. Tamir.
“It’s okay, Cress,” he says quietly, gently to me, his skin radiating a soft blue like mine. “It’s just me.”
I relax, my head collapsing into my hands once again. Next to me, Tamir shifts his body. His shoulder touches mine as he gets comfortable, sending electric chills down my side. I have to slow my breathing.
We sit in silence for a moment like that, still and quiet. I glance down at his light green tail, finding it odd that I was expecting something else. It shimmers in the moonlight, glowing dimly.
“What’s with all the glowing?” I ask quietly, trying to keep my mind far from the thought of snakes and what the first one had said to me. It seems absurd, like it didn’t happen and like I shouldn’t be afraid. But then again, Iamsitting by a boy my age that seems to be half fish, not to mention the scales growing from my own two legs. This is like a warped version of reality.
He leans back, placing his hands behind him and sighs, looking up at the moon. His glowing seems to grow a bit brighter.
“Everyone has feelings, emotions, thoughts, along with different intensities of them. We glow for two reasons. One: to tell us what we are, and two: because we belong to the sea. It’s a strange thing to try to comprehend, but all I know is that it happens and that’s that.”
“Is that a ‘we’ as in you and me, or a ‘we’ as in people like you?” I ask quietly, letting the conversation distract me. The moon seems to have some hold on me, like a finger touching my skin lightly, or like invisible eyes following you.
Tamir chuckles at my question, bringing me back to the present. “Either way you’d question what it makes you.”
“Then whatdoesit make me?” I mutter, picking at the sand in front of my scaling feet. The moonlight bounces off of the blue scales playing peek-a-boo under the skin. They’re beginning to poke out like the ones on my calves, my flesh peeling away little by little. “What do the scales make me?”
It takes a moment for Tamir to answer. I can tell he’s choosing his words carefully, and this makes me wonder what he knows about… whatever this is.
“Different,” he nods.
I peek up at him, hoping to read his face. Instead, my face turns red as I find him staring at me with wonder in his eyes.
I avert my own back down to my feet, only to find my skin start to glow blue. It makes me blush all the more and glow even brighter. Frustration builds inside me.
“How do I make it stop?” I ask suddenly, embarrassed as my heart races.
“Glowing happens when impure water touches your skin. Tears are made of salt water, Cress, just like the sea. The salt and… magic isn’t boiled out. All you have to do is wipe it away or let it dry.”
The coldness of the smashed water on my cheek suddenly shifts to the front of my mind as I reach up to touch it, followed by Nan-ah’s words. Magic is what’s wrong with it. My fingers move across my cheek and brush it away, the wetness of the tear moving onto my fingertips. I wipe it quickly on my top, and the glowing fades away as the breeze blowing over the water dries my fingers. A sigh of relief rushes through me, a bit of sadness stinging my heart. One problem down…
I gaze out at the sea and everything comes rushing back.
“I can feel it,” I whisper, looking down at my hands. “The pull of the moon. The snake said that I can’t resist its gravity for long…”
“What snake?” Tamir asks, his voice sharpening.
I look over at him, an unreadable expression on his face.
I close my eyes and hang my head. “There was a snake. It was all wet and came into my house and it began to talk. And then it grew and threatened me and made my house collapse, and then there were two of them and they almost killed me and then… and then I fell from the rock my tribe sits on…”
Tamir says a word in a language I don’t understand and begins to make his way towards the water, maneuvering himself with his arms.
“What?” I ask, alarmed.
Tamir pauses as he reaches the waves. “What does it—what did it tell you?”
“It said I had something it wanted and it told me to go into the water or else it’d… it’d destroy my tribe.”
Tamir begins to glow, its brightness increasing quickly as I watch the anger form on his face.
“What?” I ask.
Tamir shakes his head. “Don’t do it, Cress. It’s not worth it.”
“It’s not worth it? My tribe coulddie.”
“They could already be dead, Cress.”
This response makes me sway a bit.
“Someone like that makes their own rules and breaks them.”
“Some—you know what it is.” Horror sinks into my heart as I turn back towards my home, to the rock that disappears into the tall island. I can see it just above the trees from where I sit. Straining my ears, I listen for screams, for cries of help, for death. But nothing is carried in the wind towards me.
“Just to be safe,” I sigh. “I have to go into the water.”
“No,” Tamir barks as I stand up. “No, Cress, don’t do it.”
I turn to him again, his face beautiful in the moonlight. I divert my eyes to the water before my heart makes me stumble over words, before I cave and make the situation worse. “I have no choice. The vision will come true.”
I close my eyes and take a deep breath, walking forward. I set my eyes on the moon and let it lead me. Soon I can hear the water around me. It’s there… but it doesn’t touch me.
Confused, I switch my gaze down to my feet. The water has moved away from where I’m walking. I take another step and the soles of my feet touch nothing but dry sand, every bit of the water moving as if it is afraid to touch me.
“What’s going on?” I ask as I turn towards Tamir. His hands are outstretched and his body is glowing bright blue. “What are you doing?”
“Saving you!” He says with a strained voice.
“Stop it,” I growl, anger making tears jump into my eyes once again.
“I can’t,” he replies. “I can’t… You… you can’t fall to their… their deceit. His lies…”
“Tamir, they’ll kill my tribe.”
“Don’t you get it?” He cries, the circles of water around my feet growing as the light coming from his body increases. “I don’t want you falling for the same thing I did!”
“What are you talking about?” I shout, the light growing too bright to keep my eyes fully open. He’s too bright.
What emotion is he feeling that’s doing this?
I shield my eyes from him with my arms as the water around me gets further and further from my feet.
“Never touch this water during a full moon.”
Tamir’s voice is closer. Way closer. As if he’s right in front of me.
I open my eyes to see his face just before mine. I stumble back a step, his hand catching my arm gently. A shiver makes my veins tingle. The water around us seems like it’s fifty feet away in every direction. And then I notice Tamir’s tail.
It’s not there.
“Your tail,” I gasp. In its place are light green scales that cover the lower parts of his legs, turning into skin as it reaches up past his knees. Shorts made of hide wrap around the lower part of his body and his chest is bare, several pink scars twisting their way along the skin stretched over his muscles.
“I’m one of the gifted,” he whispers. “The moon makes me stronger.”
Tamir’s eyes are on fire, glowing with the colors of the forest I spend my days in. He looks at me in a way no one else has before. It makes my heart do strange things, my lungs not work properly, and my stomach does flips. What is this feeling?
“Cress,” he whispers, one of his hands touching my cheek. My breath catches in my chest as I start to glow. “Don’t let them sway you. Don’t let them take you or change you. I was lucky…”
“What happened?” I ask, my breathing shallow, but not from fear.
He shakes his head. “That’s a story for another time, Cress… What’s important is that you know never to touch the water during a full moon. Never.”
“Because you’re part of the One-Hundred.”
He nods twice, never taking his eyes from me. “Everyone on that island is a one-hundred, but not every one of them is gifted.”
I watch him for a moment, waiting for him to say something else, to clear up the hazy thoughts in my head.
“You’re part of the One-Hundred, Cressa-la. Saved and gifted. And… maybe more than that…” his face drifts closer to mine. “And I think I know why.”
Suddenly, he collapses to the ground, his back arching. The water comes crashing back, however it seems to form a dome around me, none of it touching my skin.
“Tamir!” I cry, his still body disappearing into the darkness of the water. Blood crashes into the invisible dome around me, making panic bubble up beneath my chest.
How do you manage to slip from my grasp every time, Cressa-la? I hear, the voice in my head distorted and distant. I turn in a circle, stopping when I see the dolphin, blood drifting from its smiling mouth.Sorry about your friend. I needed him to disappear.