By the time the full moon returns, we have received about three babies. Most of the time we gain no new children, and when we do, they don’t live long. We protect them as best we can, but accidents and incidents do happen, especially when you’re on an island encircled by nothing but water.
Most of my tribe has grown numb to the losses of the little children, but I never want to be used to it. I don’t want to lose that human characteristic. It’s too sad not to mourn over all of those potentially great lives gone forever…
Tonight I walk along the tree line at the bottom of the mountaintop, water in every direction around me. I’ve always pondered two aching questions; one of them is if there is another island somewhere and if it holds more people like me. The second is why we aren’t allowed to touch the water. The Tribe Leaders tell me to wait until I’m of eighteen years to learn about these things and anything beyond survival.
Few children live as long as I have. In fact, for a few years no one has survived past year two besides Lily-flor. She’s turning five in a few days. She’s the toughest little girl I’ve ever seen, but she still needs someone to watch out after her. That would be me. The Tribe Leaders assigned me to that job to teach me something about the importance of family and of the tribe. I don’t have to provide for her or anything. Instead, I’m a role model to her. The food part is Tani-mah’s job. For me, until I’m eighteen, it’s Nan-ah’s. Or it used to be before I decided to hold my own.
When I was a baby, just received, Nan-ah, the woman who raised me, claimed me as hers. I have no idea how old she was at that time, but I know she was young. Her and my relationship with each other is much like how I am with Lily-flor. Protective. Loving. Caring. Gentle. And then I started learning how to do things on my own and I drifted away from her. I hardly ever talked to her. I was always busy hunting or trying to study what the Tribe Leaders would do so I could become one of them some day. Tani-mah was the person I would always try to impress, and most of the time I never succeeded. And still to this day that notion is true.
In two days it’ll be my seventeenth year. It will also be a full moon.
I hold my spear in one hand and my bow is strung across my shoulders. Arrows are placed in a hollow wooden quiver held to my back with twine.
I step into the woods. It’s feeding time.
My ears have adapted to listen for sounds of animals. Many of them roam through here, however they’re mostly birds and squirrels. I’ve just got to keep my eyes peeled for the bigger animals.
My bare feet are silent as I weave between trees like a basket, and I can hear the rustling of leaves, of animals bustling about. It’s all so quiet and peaceful. Between the trees has always been my favorite place to be.
A graceful, four-legged animal jumps out into the parting of the trees where the moonlight stream down. It’s almost as if the air is filled with magic. The light spots on its back seem to glow as it bends to eat the grass below its hooves.
I crouch down low and place the spear on the ground. Quietly, I slide my bow around to the front of me and place an arrow inside of it. I line up my shot, one eye closed as the arrowhead points to the animal, ready to meet its mark.
Suddenly, a larger version of the animal steps out in front of the smaller one, unaware of my presence.
For a moment, I switch my aim to the older animal, excited that I’d bring back food to the Tribe Leaders. But then they look at each other. It’s a baby. A baby can’t be without a mother.
I lower my arrow and watch them, the moon rising higher in the sky. My stomach growls once, and I suppress the hunger. I can’t take away her baby, even if they are just animals. Mothers need their babies, just like babies need their mothers.
Then where is mine?
Nan-ah isn’t my biological mother, but she could be. She acts like it anyway. The only problem is that I don’t talk to her much anymore. I’m always busy with everything else… But she’s not my mother. And seeing her makes me wonder where mine is and if I even have one, which makes me question about all of our mothers.
I walk back out into the trees, the bottom of my legs itching. As I reach the rock that has turned to sand over the years, I look out at the never-ending water lying before me, once again wondering if there really is any other piece of land out there. It’s a big ocean. There has to be more land somewhere.
Something silver shines bright from under the water. It catches my attention, my head following my eyes as I pinpoint the source of the light. The water ripples. I stare at it for the longest time, wondering what could be out there.
“Hello,” I hear. The voice had come from a rock about one hundred feet away, the sudden sound of it making me leap into the trees. Nothing comes from the sea, nothing. Ever.
“Don’t be afraid,” the voice says again.
Then there’s more movement.
A boy’s head pops up from behind the rock, his hair dark in the moonlight and his skin seeming paler than it most likely is. I stare at him for a moment, confused. I had never seen him in my life, and he doesn’t look like he came from one of the other tribes. And why is he in the water?
“You’re a boy,” I blurt, a little scared.
“I guess you could say that,” he smiles. It’s a beautiful smile. I feel my eyes widen and my heart pick up its pace.
“Well, why are you in the water? We aren’t allowed in the water.”
“I live in the water,” he says, amusement shining in his eyes.
“You can’t live in water, boy,” I say as I step from the shield of the trees.
“Well I do,” he laughs, that curiosity and glint of familiarity settling back into his stare. “What’s your name?”
“Cressa-la.” I take another step forward, drawing dangerously close to the beginning of the sea. “What’s yours?”
“Tamir,” he says simply, as if what was happening at the moment isn’t at all strange. “I know your face.”
“What?” I’m taken aback. “What do you mean?”
I’ve certainly never seen him before, and he doesn’t look like he belongs in either of the tribes here. What if he’d been hunting me and he followed me, ready to eat me? Cannibalism isn’t new; it’s actually part of the island’s history, but do people still practice it?
He shakes his head, ignoring my question. “How old are you?”
“Sixteen years,” I say, realizing I probably shouldn’t be giving out this information. I don’t know who he is or where he comes from. What if he’s from a distant island? What if when he says he lives in the water he and his tribe have been traveling to find another island to live on? And how could my face possibly seem familiar to him when I haven’t even seen him myself? A chill runs down my spine, but for some reason part of me cries out in such a way, as if to tell me I’m completely safe around him. Could it be deception I’m feeling?
He smiles. “Me too.”
“Did you live on another island? Are you trying to find a new home?”
He bursts out into laughter. “No. I told you, Cressa-la, I live in the water.”
“But you can’t live in the water.”
He shrugs, a smile tugging on one corner of his mouth. My brain swarms with thousands of questions that won’t from. Who is this boy?
After a short pause of him watching me stand dumbfounded, he speaks again. “Well, goodbye.”
“Wait!” I cry before he turns away. “Will I see you again?” The question feels strange on my lips as it slips past them. Did I want to see him again? Would I get in trouble for talking to somebody in the water? I’m not touching it…
He turns back and smiles. “Of course… on the next full moon.”
With that, he disappears behind the rock, and I’m left standing alone on the shore, staring at the mysterious black waters of the sea.