Friday, March 28, 2014

Moonlight

by Lisa Kwan

Written for: The Writer's Tower
Theme: Moonlight (January)
Deadline: 5th February 2014
(Written on: 19th January 2014)

I have a secret. A terrible secret.
A secret that is revealed only in the moonlight; that only the moon knows.
It threatens my very existence, and the safety of all dear to me. Evidently, this is not by choice. I do not know the how, or why; but I remember exactly when it first began, a horrible indelible memory that will follow me forever. It was on a night like this, the sky pitch black without a single star to be seen, yet almost as bright as day because of the illuminating pale light from the moon.
I look up sorrowfully at the moon, as round as a robin’s egg, and as blinding a white as the pebbles that lie at the bottom of the Nizhoni river near home. She has witnessed horrible things happen, at this very spot where I lay, silent and without judgement. I feel a shiver run down my spine, the beginnings of my curse. And once again, as I always do, I hope and pray to Mother Earth and the powers of wind, fire and water, that I have managed to stay far enough away from my family to keep them safe. Safe from the evil that is me.


Our home is far from where I now lie still, savouring my last moments before it begins. I shut my eyes and listen to the sound of my breathing, focusing on breathing in the chilly night air, and exhaling out my mounting fears as I feel the next shiver, deep within me. I ignore it. I need to stay calm for as long as possible. As I drift off into troubled sleep, I dream of my soul mate, Magena, whose name means Moon; named for the full moon on the night on which she entered this world.
We grew up apart, our families cautious neighbours who had settled in different parts of the land, separated by the Nizhoni river. Each had staked a claim on their territories, an unspoken rule being never to interfere or trespass on the other side, or face dire consequences; consequences that could lead to bloodshed. Our families enjoyed peace, but it was a fragile one. We were reared to never fraternise with the other family, to stay well away to avoid any possibility of destroying the harmony between us. This practice goes back centuries, long before our oldest generation’s time. What started it, we do not know. But we know better than to question the elders.
She had grown up beautiful and strong. Despite her young age, she was powerful and revered for her hunting skills. Her reputation reached even my family; but it had little effect on me. I, myself, was equally revered, having made a name for myself on this side of the Nizhoni. I had been given the name Cheveyo by our elders, which carried the meaning Spirit Warrior. And true to my name, I was strong and as powerful as the legacy my departed father had left me. I knew I was strong, but I had no idea that I was about to meet my Achilles’ heel one clear moonlit night.
The recent arrival of several newborns in our family had caused a sudden shortage in food. So a small group of our best were sent out to bring home meat. Of course, I was to lead the group. We set out as a pack, silent and deadly, knowing that the survival of our family depended on us. I gave the signal to split up, trusting my alphas enough to be able to handle whatever may come on their own. Yet, with one howl, we could reassemble and take down a mighty bear if necessary. I do not know how else to describe it but that we may be many, but we are one; of one soul, one essence.
Separated from the others, I crept alone, my face close to the ground, attuned to the sounds of the forest and listening for sounds of life; hoping for a young fawn to have wandered away from its protective mother. Such a creature would provide enough for our young ones, if only for tonight. But all of a sudden, I stopped dead in my tracks. I smelled her, long before I could see her. She was foreign, alien; and did not belong on this side of the Nizhoni. My eyes searched for her—was she hidden behind the shrubs up ahead, or had she merely passed by? Either way, finding her would mean her certain death.
At the exact moment I saw her glowing eyes, she emerged from the darkness and pounced upon a hare that had been resting at the roots of the cedar tree. I watched silently in awe as she bit off the throat of the hare, its blood barely spattering; a clean and swift kill, with the least amount of suffering for the prey. That act alone betrayed her identity—she had to be Magena, the infamous skilled hunter from the other side. Still I watched as she lay the hare down gently on its grassy grave, and bowed her head low before it, as was our custom after each kill; thanking the Mother for her gracious provision. As she raised her head, I realised her eyes were locked on mine. It was no surprise that she was completely aware of my presence the entire time, being the skilled hunter that she was.
As I returned her stare, she knew, and I knew, that I should kill her right then, and it would be justified. She was trespassing, outside her territory; and worse, hunting our prey. I stepped forward into the clearing, where she stood with the dead hare at her feet. When she remained motionless, I moved closer, close enough to be conscious of the fact that, though she was smaller than me in size, she exuded confidence and daring. She was intimidating, I would give her that, especially with her reputation preceding her. But as I continued to stare unblinking at her eyes, reflecting the glow of the moonlight, I realised she was neither aggressive nor defensive. I was surprised to find that, despite her display of cold violence just moments earlier, her eyes were gentle, compassionate.
Her eyes, I thought, as I opened my own to stare up at the moon once more, were what drew me to her. I had met my soul mate, and it was undeniable. We survived enraged attacks and retaliations from both sides of the families opposing our union. We survived banishment and isolation from our communities. We endured random assaults, bloody strikes as we patiently and quietly licked our wounds. And we embraced them once more, when they finally accepted us and welcomed our young family, now with Taima, Honovi and Songaa, home.


I instinctively curl up into a ball as the next searing pain tears through my insides; my ribcage feels about to burst open from the inside out, to free the monster that is about to emerge. Even though this has already happened for countless moons, once every full cycle, my eyes are squeezed shut, trying hopelessly to shut out the unspeakable pain. I gasp. I stand up on all fours, my hind legs stretched out as far as they can go as my sharp claws tear at the hard ground before me, leaving deep scratches. In the involuntary physical jerking and shaking, I bite my tongue with my sharp teeth, tasting my own blood instead of a young fawn’s or a hare’s. In spite of all that is happening to me, I notice, and watch, the drops of blood that drip from my jaw fall on the grey fur of my forepaws. I hear continuous cracks and breaks as my bones fracture and snap into place. And in my last moments as me, I raise my head to the moon, soaking in the cursed powers of the moonlight, and release one final howl.

When I come to, I stare down at my new body, at the repulsive hairless creature I have become. My forepaws no longer look like they used to, but now have five long slim appendages that extend outwards, still sharp and deadly. My hind legs have grown longer but my tail has disappeared. I stand up on my unstable hind legs, still reeling from what happened before. I feel the familiar rising urge to kill, to ravage, to destroy; signalling that my transformation is now complete. I suddenly see flashes of my past kills in my mind: the terrified face of a young female human, the blood pouring out of the neck of an adult male, the guts of another spilling out onto the blood-stained grass.
And the very first, when it all began: the face of Magena, her eyes still glowing from the reflection of the moon’s light, as I tore her limb from limb and then tossed what was left of her carcass into our beloved Nizhoni river. When I realised what I had done, I howled up to the moon in utter despair. I am a monster, an abomination of nature, cursed to be imprisoned within this human body, to be slave to its uncontrollable evil.

If I had to kill, I want it to be the humans. If I kill them, I protect my family. I protect them from myself. As I stumble forward towards the lights of the nearby human village, I forget about my family. I forget about Magena, Taima, Honovi and Songaa. I see movement in the darkness ahead, and my body surges forward of its own will, ready for the kill.

I have a secret. A terrible secret.
A secret that is revealed only in the moonlight; that only the moon knows.


THE END 

© COPYRIGHT OF LISA KWAN 2014

(Names and meanings of Native American origin)
Cheveyo = Spirit Warrior
Magena = Moon
Taima = Thunder
Honovi/Songaa = Strong
Nizhoni = Beautiful

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