There's a difference between being alive and living.
| "Clove, you ready?" I turn, the wind lashing my cheeks, the salt spray swirling into my lungs. I smile, a small, timid smile that is the opposite of how I feel inside. Danny nods, beaming at me in his exaggerated way, before grabbing my hand and yanking me with him over the rotting dock. For half a second, I am nothing. My lungs shut down, my heart beats in time with the clouds drifting through the sky. A tingling sensation rolls down my spine, settling in my stomach with a heaviness that is beyond physical weight. My eyes burn and shift, my hair intertwines itself in a haphazard halo. My spirit lurches and leaps, growling and whispering. The pain in my eyes is merely the intensity of the change. Ice trickles below my skin, burning my spirit with the daggers of the ocean. Then it's gone, fading away, reaching out and barely brushing over my body. My eyes fly open, and I am one with the ocean. Danny is next to me, yet I can only feel him, not see him. I am not exactly invisible, I am part of the ocean, part of Mother Nature. I am finally whole. The shattered and imperfect memories of everything around me pulses with an irregular beat, muffled by the waves sifting around me. Being human, only human, keeps me alive. The one thing I love most when I'm human is how much I can learn. My mind is extremely powerful, way more than normal humans. Knowledge fills me up, burning my spirit, eating away the armor I've earned. My run-down "home" is stuffed full of books, from myths and legends to biographies. Each page brings new memories, new experiences, new emotions that pound against me uncontrollably, mirroring the surf. Being human keeps me alive, educated. Being human is only temporary. When I am whole, when I am a Spirit, I am finally free. I close my eyes and let the memory of my awakening wash over me, in time with the opalescent light filtering through from the sky above.
The sky is brilliantly lit up, the stars as big as saucers, glittering and shifting like anxious smiles. Stripes of mint and celestial blue and African violets sail around the stars, expertly maneuvering around the quavering shapes of fire. The moon is the night’s eye, the craters clearly visible as the outlines blur with the darkness. The light is hazy and pale as it shines down on us, sending trembling shadows that bound over eyes and skin. A fire as large around as a Redwood tree sits in the middle, the ground dug down to soppy yet firm dirt. The flames are mesmerizing, starting at a blazing crimson, vaporizing into the darkest shade of plum. The embers that hover around the singed rocks spark into wispy tendrils of gold and teal. I can feel Mom everywhere around me, the silky orchid buds blooming in the shade of overgrown bushes, the pressure of the flames and moon’s light. I can feel Aura, as well, in the not-quite-normal birdlike creatures that hide behind thick trunks and jutting rocks. Scarlett is standing beside me, but her presence is overwhelming in my mind. Every word she’s ever said to me dissipating into smoke inside me, filling my lungs with a heaviness that is so…right. The bonds are magnified, close to painful yet a million miles away. Terra is standing centimeters from the flames, petting each thread of smoke like the ruff of a wolf. Dimitri is amongst the people scattered about, ankles crossed precariously on a sharply pointed boulder. Stella is sitting next to Serena, Iris, and three other guys that have similar shades of sierra colored hair. Their eyes are stark in contrast: baby blue, charcoal black, and chartreuse. I feel like I know how the oath, the ceremony, works. I step over the line of blackened rocks and floating embers, into the middle of the flames. For a moment, I feel nothing but the engulfing burn of fire racing up my limbs. I feel my skin peel and crack, but it all changes when the flames encircle me, yet leave me untouched. They dart forward, brushing against me, burning my skin in the best way, then resume their positions in the ring around me. My hair rises unnaturally up, each strand falling away from the others, winding together in a messy halo. Terra tells me to repeat these words, her face flickering and waving as the flames take her intense expression to a whole other level. Terra stares at me, her gaze focused on mine, grasping at every shred of my spirit. We speak in unison, the Unknown language odd and edgy, sticking on my lips, yet sifting out of my mind immediately. I can feel myself shifting, my bones moving unconsciously, my blood boiling and freezing. The realms in my vision, bursts of blinding light. The silence outside of the thunderous flames is both poisonous and binding. Pain grips me in an iron fist, a kind of pain that moves beyond flesh wounds and grief. The kind of pain that moves in waves, sinking, and spinning, catapulting in agonizing bounds through my body. For an excruciatingly long second, I am nothing. No pain, no emotion, no feeling. My skin cracks and shrivels to dust, no mouth to speak words out of. I am every creature, every animal, every seed, or root. Talons and nails, webbed feet, paws, fingers, claws, fins, leaves. My skin shifts and stretches and shrivels. Glittering scales, wrinkled, leathery, smooth, silky, unmarred. Feathers of all shapes and sizes, tuffs of vibrant color, thick coats of nature-coated fur. My eyes are the most unbearable. I see from over the clouds, from under the dirt, specks of light and overwhelmingly heavy mud blocking my sight. I look over the dipping planes of Africa, the hyenas that move as one, cackling away on their gangly limbs. The Nile crocodiles that blink so slowly, challenging, bitter, knowing, compassionate in an ancient reptilian way. The herd of elephants surrounding me, tusks shining like slivers of the moon in the dying light. Then I’m looking up at the treetops, each branch swaying, the leaves shaking as a Golden-Lion Tamarin shoots through the air, long tail extended for balance. I move through every crevice, under every plant, through every cloud, my eyes those of who I belong with. I carry the force of a herd of African elephants, tails swatting flies, trunks enclosed around each other’s tusks, guiding, pushing, and the delicacy of a crane, dancing in the gale, moving as one with the crashing skies. I see the world as a star, heat and ice surrounding me in a scratching, pulling effort. I see the world as a sapphire teardrop against a curtain of black, the eye of the storm, of the universe, every creature the dewy eyelashes. I see the world as a seed, sprouting, stretching, swelling with the moist soil hugging my roots, the promise of sunlight above the canopy of thick leaves and nests. The homes of so many, shadowing me, urging me to keep flourishing until I break through. Every color is encompassed in each flawed fragment of Earth. My eyes feel like they are burning, then freezing, snow and ice wrapping against my eyelashes like tentative fists on doors. The flames that had left me untouched suddenly rush forward, squeezing me, grasping at every part of me as they shift my spirit. My eyes move, extend, open. Textures, sounds, memories. The greens of the forests, lands, planes, take shape, languid and solid. The blues of the ocean, of the sky, of the eerie light cast from dusk, smooth over in places, but stay rigid and rebellious. The reds of the flames, of sunsets and sunrises, of clay walls amongst wind-withered stone, defy against gravity as they rise, and reach out to the stars. Numbness drowns me, chokes me. The intensity is worse than the pain, if possible. Burning, lunging, receding, crashing. I can feel the bonds shifting as well, the intensity lessening in Aura’s and Mom’s. Scarlett’s stays, diving and pounding out a rhythm. Every color, every shade of nature, of life, is echoed in my eyes. The hazy violet that has always been is melted, molded, surrounded by the memories of each life that lived and died. Not just my eyes, but inside me. My spirit shudders, balancing on the edge of something terrifying and reviving, completely unlike my actual awakening. Scarlett fills me, and I am seeing me through her eyes. Surrounded by flames, tantalizing, lethal. My eyes…they've completely changed. Each eye holds different color. In the center, glowing powerfully, is Mom’s lilac. My lilac eyes, still there, another piece of memories. Molded around the core of purple fire are memories. Not just two-dimensional colors, but memories, emotions, experiences. The reds are lit up, flames inside, an African wildlife raging, the smooth lines of a Baboon’s nose. The blues are the depths of the ocean, reefs disappearing beneath roiling shadows, thunderclouds marring the robin’s egg blue sky, the not-quite shade of a snow-leopard’s dusk shadowed coat. Every color is a memory, raw and stirring, shifting with the slightest feeling. Open and pulling, so pulling that the feeling is almost painful. So intense that it is blinding, my eyes, my whole spirit, pouring into Scarlett. The pain is riveting, the sight of Mother Nature is not just breath-taking, but breath-shattering. The oath still rings out, endless echoing. I've changed.
My tears mix with the salt water hugging me. Scarlett, so close, yet a million miles away. My bond-mate, unreachable. Terra, waiting to change, desperately waiting, unable to reach me. Dimitri, Stella, Iris, Aura...trapped in their worlds. Ever since I was awakened, my life has been under the control of Mother Nature. I store the memories and thoughts away, and lose myself in my spirit. I glide through the water, watching my equals, the stunning marine creatures, swim with me. A whale shark's shadow drapes across me, his scarred underbelly flying by overhead. I watch as a school of Yellow Tang's hover next to me, fins swaying lazily, before disappearing into the still blue. I watch as I slowly dissolve into nature, relief and every other emotion coursing through me. I feel every life's heartbeat, I feel every piece of Earth. I feel the heat of the stars, shattering in the night sky. My last thought before I change for who knows how long is: There's a difference between being alive and living.