My head throbs as I sit up. The world around me is blurry at first, but it clears as my eyes gain focus. Bubbles drift up from my lips. I’m underwater.
I sit in a hollow rock, almost like an underwater cave, with sharp, twisted, and gnarled coral creating something like a cage. It would be impossible for me to try to escape. Possibly even deadly.
My blue glowing overtakes the darkness as it grows brighter with every beat of my heart. Fear: the single emotion coursing beneath my skin and manifesting the color escaping from my pores. I close my eyes and unsuccessfully try to suppress it.
A dark giggle floats through the water and to my ears. I try to find its source, but no luck comes from searching. The increasing glow halts as my body shakes violently. My legs begin to burn.
Another laugh sends chills down my spine. I try to stand in the water, my legs giving out although the water makes me feel lighter. I cry out as I sink to the rocky floor. It’s as if they’re severely broken. I understand they aren’t—but the pain…
Oh, Cressa-la, the voice chuckles darkly. The same voice that has haunted me each time I touched the water. It’s the voice of the fish.
A light flickers on, and I can see a wall of rock a few feet from the coral.
‘What do you want from me?’ I ask, balling my hands into fists to hide the shaking. A slight blue glow continues to illuminate from my skin as I strain my eyes to see into the darkness past the jagged coral.
Nothing much, the voice says. It’s rather simple, actually. And all I ask is for you to cooperate.
The fish is suddenly in front of me, black modes in green light lazily sprouting from its gray rubbery skin. Its body shifts slowly at first, but it seems to change all at once into a creature similar to Tamir. Her black hair floats around her body, radiating power. Green plants cover her torso while her dull, dingy yellow tail starts a bit lower than Tamir and Rave’s had. The togetherness of the scales reach down from her hips to her knees, calves and ankles protruding from the bottom, and her feet are extremely webbed and deformed, reminding me of a duck. The dilapidated colored scales stretch from her shoulders and up onto her neck, dodging the gills on either side. A few even poke their way out of her skin on her otherwise flawless face. She looks so different from Rave and Tamir… But why?
‘What is it?’ I ask, unable to process what I’m seeing and what I have seen since the night of the wolf attack.
‘Yours are stronger than even my King; I can see it in your eyes. I need you to give them to me,’ she speaks, her voice just as chilling as it had been in my head.
‘What are you talking about?’ I shake my head, trying to understand.
Gifts.That’s what Tamir had called it, whatever happened that night on the full moon.
‘I don’t know how.’
‘Of course you do!’ She growls, getting freakishly close to the sharp needles poking from the coral, her eyes on fire. She takes a deep breath and recomposes herself. ‘Look, I’m not asking for much. It won’t kill you. Just… do it.’
’I… I don’t know how to do what you want me to do. I don’t even really understand what thisgiftis.’
‘Why, you little—’
‘She’s telling the truth.’
Out of the darkness appears a familiar face. I stare, my mouth open in awe. Words escape me.
He glances at me for a moment, sadness in his eyes, and then turns back to the girl.
‘Dametria,’ he barks sternly, touching her arm. She looks at him fiercely and snarls.
‘She’s telling the truth. I don’t think she’s become a full Tribe Leader yet. She doesn’t know all their secrets.’
’Then why was she in the water tonight? They only go through the Island Holes when they become Tribe Leaders—and she came through twice. She should know!’
‘Calm down. She has no idea. You took her too soon.’
Dametria growls and yanks her arm away from Damian. ‘I should have never told you what I was up to. You let her fall from the moon too early.’
She swims away quickly, black and green matter following her as her body reconstructs itself once again into the dolphin in the darkness. Damian leans against the wall, his chest bare and his scales mimicking Dametria’s, the green color glinting off the mysterious lighting. His scales are much like Dametria’s as they claw their way up the sides of his neck, a single set of gills placed beneath the base of his skull. They don’t touch his face but litter his shoulders and the lower half of his body. Unlike his partner, he has a full, dark green tail with long, streaming fins along its length and placed at the very bottom, reminding me of the leaves hanging from the branches of willow trees.
I stare at him, my stomach in knots once again. Everything inside of me wants to scream, to shout, to figure out what’s going on—but instead I do nothing. I sit there. I stare. I question. My insides twist as unease slips into my veins, and what little trust I’d had in him begins to ebb away.
‘I’m sorry,’ he says quietly, shaking his head and standing up. He still doesn’t look at me, doesn’t even glance my way. ‘It’s what we have to do to live.’
‘What are you going to do to me?’ My voice quivers with enmity and dread.
His jaw tightens and his gills flare, stimulating more anger to stoke the fire in my chest.
‘What are you going to do to me?’ I shout. Pain erupts through my body.
My body panics. I feel it fear for its life—and I can’t fight back. I’m stuck. My heart caves in on itself, giving up. My eyes, they cry, although it’s unseen in the liquid I’m trapped in.
Suddenly I wish I had never discovered Tamir behind that rock, that I had never tried to rescue that fish that… monster that imprisoned me here. I wish I had never been present for Rai-si to receive the news of the tsunami, that I would never have been thrown into the hole that we received the babies from.
And then another part inside of me opens. It’s almost as if it’s calling to something, someone far away. My heart swells with something and my eyes stop crying. I glow brighter.
I don’t have all the answers I need yet, and I’m not ready to give up until I completely understand what purpose I serve and what it is I’m supposed to do. Tamir, the Tribe Leaders, Damian, Dametria, Lily-flor, the water, the moon, the snakes, the wolves, the Wurn Tribe, the Revli Tribe… They were all put in my life for a reason. They became a part of my testimony for a purpose. I just have to figure out what that purposefulness is for.
Something stirs inside of me as the water starts to shift around my body. I watch as the cave fills with light and as I feel myself stand. The pain is intense, but I push through it, gritting my teeth.
Suddenly, my glowing ceases to exist and, aching, I stand before the coral holding me captive. I reach out to touch one of its points.
My frame jumps as it shocks my finger. I shake my hand off, staring at the sharp bone-like structures before me. They seem so… shatterable. It makes me question why, of all people, they wanted me, and why they placed me behind breakable structures.
It’s what we have to do to live.
Damian’s words replay in my head. Why do they want my gifts? Do they need it to live? Surely I’m not the only One-Hundred on the island or under the water. And what Dametria said about my being stronger than even her King’s… Could she have slipped up and told me something she wasn’t supposed to? Was it a hint towards something significant?
And suddenly, I know this isn’t over.
I close my eyes and breathe. There are two choices: stay and find out what they’ll do to me, or escape. The latter option frightens me.
I need to escape. I want out.
My eyes flick open.
The light coming from me is brighter than anything I’ve ever seen. I let out a cry that is shriller than the loudest animal wandering around my tribe or in the woods. Surges of energy explode from my frame and the coral is demolished.
Sounds of things breaking echo back to me. Loud voices bounce off the walls, their words muffled. The sounds dart closer.
There’s a ringing in my ears.
Red glints in the water, my light bouncing off of it.
My light disappears as my own blood drips from my nose and drifts before me, and it’s replaced by darkness. Once again, my heart, my soul, my body calls out to be held by someone, to feel safe in someone’s arms. But there’s only one someone that stays planted in my mind. And I haven’t seen him in a long, long time…
Find me, my brain whispers, as if someone could hear it’s nonexistent voice, everything fading to black. Tamir, please find me.