Fiction: Into the Water, by Nireka Dhameja

‘‘No please! Hold on!’’

Emma yelled frantically at the girl who was hanging from the bridge. Her hands were clasped in Emma’s and their fingers clung together in a desperate need of survival. The girl’s eyes were wide open and her face was crinkled with fear and panic. Her lips were bruised blue and her breath came out in shaky intervals.

“Please!”

Her pale white fingers were slipping. Emma was losing her grip. She heard a bloodcurdling scream.

The girl fell.

Emma’s sea blue eyes snapped open. She was sprawled out on a folding chair with sunglasses on her face. Her honey-brown hair was let loose in a few soft curls; she had curled it just last month when she turned 18. Fiddling with the necklace her family had gifted to her on her birthday, she started absorbing her surroundings and remembered where she was. The sun shone brightly as she gazed at the sparkling ocean in front of her. The island looked gorgeous in the morning. The water glowed like tiny crystals, engulfing whatever clear water was left on the surface. As she lay tanning, she noticed the various shapes of the puffy clouds above her. One was shaped like a white dove falling down from its nest. Its own home. The place it felt the safest, protected, and knew the best. Gone.

A snap of fingers above her face brought her back to reality. Emma lifted her sunglasses. A large muscular man wearing board shorts towered above her with a banner that said “Welcome to Raven Island!”. With a broad smile he told her about the activities, nature spots, and facilities available in the island. Emma just nodded along and pretended to listen to what he was saying. She thought, what an unusual name, Raven Island. I mean, out of all the possible birds, why would you pick a dull dreary raven? She zoned out a lot. There was always something that attracted her attention.

This time it was the musical sound of laughter coming from a girl across from her. She looked about her age, maybe a year older, just like the others on the island. But she still set herself apart from everyone else. With beautiful blonde hair in a short bob, she walked confidently and with a sense of calmness. Her movements were graceful but her face held no emotion. She was talking to a guy with a slow smile spreading on her face. There was an air of mystery around her that seemed to have caught everyone’s attention. As she walked, her white sundress flew with the breeze like the exquisite wings of a blackbird. Emma was still staring when she was suddenly met with her emerald green eyes. Emma felt a sudden chill on her spine, as if the air around her suddenly got colder. There was something in her eyes. Something cold…something hungry…and when she locked her gaze to Emma’s, she could feel it in her head, probing, absorbing. Emma saw a flash of curiosity strike her eyes.

A pamphlet was suddenly pushed into her hand. “Oh and don’t forget, like every year, we are going to have the Raven’s Hunt on October 31st, so in about a week. It will be the perfect spookiness to end your trip on, so make sure you come and join us!”

With this, the man waved goodbye and walked off to another poor victim. Urgh, she couldn’t wait to go back to her room and take a long bubble bath. She got up to take her towel and sunscreen, slung her bag on her arm, and starting walking back inside the resort. She paused midway and did a quick glance behind her, but that girl had disappeared. She shrugged it off and continued walking.

***

Ravens are said to be one of the most intelligent creatures. If a raven knows another raven is watching it hide its food, it plays with the other raven’s mind. It pretends to hide the food in one place while actually hiding it in another.

Sometimes, you don’t know what’s real and what’s not anymore. You’re clutching on to this version of the truth hoping that it will one day set you free.

But, you forget, what you don’t understand has the power to destroy you.

***

Emma lay sprawled out on her tub, peacefully enjoying the soft bubbles around her and the smell of lavender, her new bath bomb. She giggled at the thought of her dog who usually tries to jump into the bath tub and play with the bubbles. Suzy. Her fluffy white tail wagging as she lets out a playful bark. Oh, she missed her. She lay back, closed her eyes, and thought of all the mischievous things Suzy does, with a small smile on her face. As minutes passed, she started feeling a little drowsy. She was just so comfortable…..

“I don’t want to die,” cried the girl.

“You won’t. I got you. I promise.”

Emma pulled the girls fingers abruptly and scratched her arm at the metallic nail on the railing of the bridge. Blood gushed out. She could already tell this was going to be a deep one. Ignoring the pain, she pulled harder. She tried to get hold of her arms but in vain: they thrashed so wildly, she could get no grip.

As Emma pulled hard one more time, she felt their hands slipping.

Everything went in slow-motion.

The girl started falling on her back. Emma yelled, “NO!”. She saw the girl’s face morph into shock and then panic. She started flailing her arms around the air, trying to hold onto something….anything. A single tear fell. And then the world caught speed and Emma heard a loud SPLASH!

Emma awoke with a loud gasp as two people lifted her off the tub and onto the floor. She blinked rapidly and saw two hazy figures. She was coughing terribly. As her vision became clearer, she saw a man who, judging by his clothes, clearly belonged to housekeeping at the resort, and then she saw her. The blonde girl from the beach. She had a concerned expression on her face; somehow it looked unnatural on her face, the creased lines creating a moment of imperfection. The man carefully helped Emma wrap a towel around her and then brought her to her bed. He had a moustache and lots of tight lines on his face. His skin was pale.

He opened his mouth and spoke in a rushed manner, “Are you okay? This young woman here was knocking on your door and she was sure you were in there. Luckily, when she didn’t hear any response, she quickly called us to check up on you. It seems you fell asleep in your tub.”

After a lot of thanking and reassuring that she was fine, he left the room. She noticed the girl was quiet all this time. She turned towards her.

The girl looked at her with a calm smile and spoke slowly, “Hi. I’m Serena. I was just going to all the rooms on this floor to tell them about the Raven’s Hunt next week. It’s going to be something you’ll never forget…..I promise.”

Her voice was as melodic as a nightingale, dripping with honey. Each word was lengthened with an eerie calmness to create an illusion of a symphony. It was soft and yet you couldn’t help but hang onto every word. Up close, Emma could see her smooth clear skin. Her cheeks held a slight tinge of sun-kissed pink. She could feel her magnetic presence and she felt it pulling her deeper and deeper. Like a tornado.

Emma stuttered, “Hi. I’m Emma.”

“I know”

There was a small pause as they simply stared at each other. Her eyes held mirth of some kind. As if Emma was a private joke that only she shared with herself. She got the feeling that she knew something Emma didn’t.

Brushing her blonde hair from her face, she finally said, “Well, I better get going. Don’t want to interrupt your sleep…. you’ll need it today. See you around”

As she turned to leave, Emma noticed a scar on the side of her neck. It was pinkish red, looked relatively new. She wondered if Serena had it today morning when she saw her. As the door shut, she sat on her bed, put the blankets over herself, and lay down gently on the soft pillow as today’s events washed over her. Unconsciously, she started tracing the scar on her arm.

The last thing she saw in her head as she fell asleep was a pair of emerald eyes.

***

Ravens are known to be scavengers. They like to eat the dead. But they have a rather unusual way of doing so. Some carcasses are hard for ravens to break open. So, they imitate wolves or foxes to attract them to those carcasses and then eat the leftovers. They pretend to be one of them.

It’s easy, you see, to pretend to be someone you’re not. But the truth is, no matter how hard it’s buried, the past has a way of catching up to us.

And sometimes, what we think is dead and gone….  is only lost for a while.

***

After twisting and turning on the bed, Emma finally got up. She looked at the alarm clock on her bedside. It was 2:06 am. She sighed loudly. It didn’t look like she would fall asleep again. It was dark outside but she could she could still see the silver moonlight. She got up to lift the curtains and stared at the moon. Shimmering above the ocean, it glowed like an old silver bullet. Combined with the dark sky, the colours meshed into a violet hue that streaked the entire island. Emma saw a flash of blue bruised lips. The image disappeared as soon as it came. She blinked and took a deep shaky breath. I’ll just go for a midnight stroll, she thought, that will calm me down. She picked up her jacket, wore slippers, and stepped out of her room.

The cold air greeted her with open arms and she started to relax as she felt the cool wind on her cheeks. Walking on the sand, she felt the urge to go closer to the ocean and so she picked up her slippers and started walking barefoot a little closer to the water. Her feet sunk into the wet sand and it tickled slightly. She felt……. alive. Her attention fixed solely on just one thing: being here. The feel of the wet sand, the smell of saltwater, the sight of the waves crashing against the shore. Her mind didn’t rush from one thought to another; she didn’t have to push images out of her head. For the first time in a long time, she was finally present in a moment.

As she continued walking, she saw a small figure at a distance. She went closer. There was someone with short blonde hair in a white dress. Serena, she realized. But what was she doing here so late at night?  As she quietly took a few steps towards her, she noticed that Serena was sitting down with her knees on the sand, her palms on top of her thighs. The water would come in small waves and touch the bottom of her dress. She was facing the ocean and her eyes were open. She was just staring at the water. She was staring with an unblinking gaze, devoid of any emotions, perfectly still and silent. Like a person in a trance, Emma thought.

“Serena”

Emma quickly hid behind a tree as she saw another figure approaching Serena. It was a young girl, about Emma’s age. She had brown hair in a short bob and she wore a pink sweater with chestnut brown pants. Something about her seemed really familiar. Emma suddenly saw a flash of the girl laughing with a wide smile and Emma complaining with a laugh, “yeah, that smile. Obviously, Devon will be a sucker for that”. And just like that, the image was gone.

“You can’t keep doing this, you know. She’s going to know,” she said in a hurried tone.

Serena blinked and turned towards the girl, “Dawn. Lovely to see you.”

“I’m serious. Your powers are getting weaker already. I’m starting to remember everything,” her voice starts to break, “this is not who I am. You made me this way.”

“Oh darling. I didn’t do anything. It was your decision, remember?”

“I hate you”

A gentle breeze floated through Serena’s hair.

“Please. You don’t hate me. You need me. Just like you needed Emma. You’re not smart enough, or pretty enough or interesting enough on your own. You’ve always needed someone else to follow”

Dawn averted her gaze, shaking her head, “That’s not true”

“You know it is. I’ve been inside your head, remember? Being who I helped you to be is the only special thing about you. Take me away and……what’s left?” Serena pursed her lips, as if she was challenging her.

“Please…..stop it” a pained cross between a forced smile and cry formed on her face.

With a soft smile, Serena said, “You’re not very good at this, are you? You’ll never win if you let the other person see how weak you are.”

“I’m not weak”, Dawn gritted out, lips quivering.

Serena spoke slowly, “you feel it, don’t you? The pain of your past memories. I can make you forget again. I can take away all your hurt….all your guilt…make you feel like you did when you first came here all those summers ago. That’s a nice ring. Devon gave it to you, didn’t he?”

There was a small pause.

A tear slipped across Dawn’s cheek. She swallowed slightly as she stared into Serena’s eyes. She looked transfixed. Slowly, she removed the ring from her finger and handed it over to Serena.

In a few seconds, her expression started to change from pained to empty.

Emma stared in horror as she saw a calm smile appear on Dawn’s face. She’s in a trance, Emma realized, it’s like Serena is controlling her mind. But how is that possible? And how did she know Devon before they mentioned him? Who is he? As Emma continued to stare, Dawn started walking away and Serena calmly went over to the same place she was in before, sat down onto her knees, and stared straight ahead with open eyes. This time Emma could see her clearly. She wasn’t staring at the water. No, she was staring at the moon.

She saw Serena gently place the ring into the water. She watched it sink carefully into the ocean making tiny bubbles on the surface. Next, Emma could’ve sworn the moon developed darker swirls of silver. The waves got rougher compared to their usual gentle nature. The tide increased and the loud crash of the waves could be heard so clearly, as if a person was hissing in Emma’s ear. The wind picked up speed and howled like a wolf who caught its prey. Serena’s hair shone brighter and her skin got fairer. Suddenly, everything stopped. There was silence. Serena put a finger inside the water and drew a tiny swirl. Her finger came up with the same ring that had dissolved into the depths of the sea. Emma gasped. Serena’s neck snapped towards her.

“You won’t remember this. You didn’t see anything.”

Emma stared into Serena’s emerald eyes. Suddenly, she felt cold. Very cold. She felt a push in her head. Like as if someone was trying to get in. Her head started to hurt, then it started to throb, then it felt like it was exploding and she yelled out in pain.

In a snap, it was gone.

Serena was gone.

***

In Denmark, people believed that Ravens were exorcized spirits, and that if you looked up at them and there happened to be a hole in the bird’s wing, you might look through the hole and turn into a raven yourself.

Imagine waking up to find out you’re someone else. A shadow of who you used to be.

You’re here but you’re not really here. You’re somewhere far away. You wonder where. You’re just…..gone.

Has the real you been lost and forgotten……. or only sleeping, waiting to remember?

***

The next morning, Emma woke up in her bed. It was a little chilly. She remembered going to sleep early last night because she was tired after the almost ‘drowning’ incident. She felt strangely refreshed and started getting ready for another sunny day in the island. On her way to the beach, she saw Serena. They smiled and waved at each other. She knew Serena would like for her to be close to the water so she stayed at the shore and just stood facing the ocean. Soon, Serena joined her.

“Did you sleep well last night?”, Serena asked.

“Oh yes. Best sleep I’ve had in months”

“Good. You’ll need it. You have a long night ahead of you. You will come to the Waterfall tonight, won’t you?”

“Do you want me to come?”

“Yes”

“Then I will definitely be there”

Serena nodded and flashed a knowing smile. Then, she walked away.

Emma felt happy that she had pleased her.

Time seemed to pass really fast. It was 8:00 pm and it was time for Emma to change quickly before she headed to the waterfall. She entered her room and quickly swapped her shorts and top for a white dress. She admired herself in the mirror. Her hair looked straighter than usual and her skin was clearer than ever. She gave a calm smile and saw flecks of green in her blue eyes. Her gaze went to the clock and she cursed. Crap, it’s already 8:30, I have to meet Serena in 5 minutes. She doesn’t like to be kept waiting. She rushed out of her room and in the process ended up knocking down a picture frame. She went to pick them up and paused. It was a picture of her with 3 other people. A middle-aged man, a middle-aged woman, and a young girl possibly 10 years old. The girl was grinning at her and the man and woman had their arms around Emma’s shoulders. They were wearing matching Christmas sweaters and were standing in front of a fireplace. Her heart felt heavy. She saw a necklace sitting on the side of her table and a strange pull made her pick it up and wear it. She tried to think of who they were.

But, she couldn’t remember.

Slowly, she put the picture frame back down and continued walking out the door. She locked her room and turned to go to the lift. But, she stumbled into someone. A small whimper escaped her but then she realized who it was. “Dawn…hi….you scared me”

“How do you know my name?” Dawn asked suspiciously

“What do you mean? You’re Serena’s friend. Any friend of hers is a friend of mine,” Emma smiled

“Oh no. She’s done it to you too.”

Emma let out a chuckle, “What are you talking about? Nobody has done anything to me”

“But she has!”, Dawn pleaded, “Look, this is not you. Serena has taken your memories and made you into her puppet. She needs you to be obedient to her in time for the Raven’s Hunt.”

“Right”, Emma snickered.

Dawn’s eyebrows furrowed and she looked frustrated. Her eyes suddenly widened and she pulled out a picture from her pocket. It was a picture of Emma and Dawn laughing in the woods behind the waterfall. There was another boy in the picture whose arms were wrapped around Dawn.

Dawn rambled out of desperation, “We’ve been here before. All of us…. please…. try to remember. It’s the night before the Raven’s Hunt….Serena’s powers are at their weakest. You can do it. When…when we took the picture, you complained about how my smile could make any guy fall on his knees. Y..you said you missed your family…….especially Lisa, your little sister. You made a promise that when you kissed Zac, you would let me know. And then a bug came and sat on your nose so you screamed and……”

“…..Devon laughed and told me that I was not much of a nature’s girl” Emma finished quietly.

That’s when she saw everything.

Flashes of memories. Laughter. Giggles. Kisses.

Zac was her boyfriend. Blonde hair, leather jacket, sideways grin. Dawn was her best friend. Devon was Dawn’s boyfriend, who constantly bickered with Emma, but she loved it. They were inseparable. They did everything together and were always the centre of attention. They had come to this island as strangers and formed the most beautiful friendship she could’ve imagined.

Her eyes started tearing up. “I remember”

Dawn flashed her classic wide smile and hugged her tight. They held on for what felt like forever. Once they separated, Dawn got a thoughtful look on her face.

“Okay, but Serena can’t know that you remember. Your life is in danger”

“No! I can’t do that. I stopped being me. I did things I’d never do just to make her happy. There was this illusion. I was free to make my own choices but I couldn’t choose what I really wanted. And I… I got lost. I can’t go back. What if I get lost again?”

Emma cried out with desperation in her voice.

“You won’t. This time you’ve got me. And I know what we’re up against”

Emma looked at Dawn for a few seconds and whispered, “What is she?”

Dawn looked away and replied, “She can control people’s minds. She has an enchanting voice and personality. She is always seen near the water. At night, she gains her powers from the moon. She has to make sacrifices to the water to keep herself beautiful. Prized possessions of people. Things that make them who they are. By giving that away, she makes them forget. She wants you to be the ultimate sacrifice for some reason. Some may say, she belongs to Greek mythology.”

Suddenly, Dawn looked at Emma dead in the eye, “You know”

Emma fearfully whispered out what she had been thinking all along,

“Serena is a siren”

***

Something that not many people know about Ravens is that they have a really good memory. The next time you think of chasing ravens from your yard, think again; they do not forgive and forget. They remember faces.

Memories. They’re all that’s left of us when we’re gone. And when we’re alive they make up everything we are. There are times we wish we could forget who we were. But we can’t control which memories will haunt us. If you ask me, nothing’s really ever forgotten. Sometimes it just takes the right push to bring it all back.

***

It was a blood moon night. The specks of black in the crimson red moon were so clear, it was hard not to see it. It was inevitable. The Raven’s Hunt was tonight. Emma was ready. She didn’t know whether her plan would work or not; all she knew was that she wasn’t going down without a fight. She zipped up her white dress, grabbed her necklace, and stepped out of her room.

When she reached the beach, she saw a large group of people and the large muscular man she met on the first day explaining the rules of the hunt: “Remember, stay in your groups. When you are surrounded by the people you know, the game is easier to win. The clues are all connected to the life on this island. Because just like life on this island, nothing can survive alone” Emma heard snickers and lots of ‘oohs’ behind her but she couldn’t help how her heart skipped a beat when the man looked her dead in the eye while saying the last sentence. She managed to avert her gaze and looked around. Serena was nowhere to be seen. She made eye contact with Dawn from a distance and they both slightly nodded at each other. It was time. It was time to play the game.

Emma solved the first 6 clues with ease as she remembered the island since last summer. The 7th clue was in an envelope of a different colour. Instead of the usual blue, it was emerald green. She knew what that meant. She opened the paper and saw beautiful red cursive writing, “Come to the place where it all started. The scar on your arm, the tremor in your breath……..the place where you let her go” Emma shivered as she felt a cool breeze hit her. The bridge, she realized, she’s talking about the bridge.

She started walking towards the bridge that constantly haunted her in her memories. The moon had turned a darker shade of red and the wind was getting slightly rougher. Her white dress flew around her as she took her next few strides.

And then she finally saw her.

***

There’s an old story about a raven and a tree, arguing over who is the strongest. The tree tries to prove its strength by standing up to a storm, but the more it fights, the harder it falls when the wind blows it down. The raven, in turn, doesn’t resist the storm. So, the question is who’s going to bend and who’s going to fall?

Because no matter how strong you think you are, you can’t control the coming storm. Because no one remembers the last time they were caught in it.

***

Serena’s back was turned away from Emma and she was staring at the water. She whispered softly, “You’re here.”

Slowly, she turned around. She looked as radiant as ever. With her floating golden locks and soft smooth skin. Emma swallowed slightly, “I need to know. I need to know……. why me?”

Serena smiled, “Why you? Because you’re that girl. That girl who everyone loves. That girl who can get away with anything. The one everyone wants to know. You’re that girl who can even drown a girl and get away with it”

“I didn’t drown her!”, Emma yelled

“Oh sweetie, but you don’t believe that. I would know. I’ve been inside your head, remember? You blame yourself, don’t you Emma?”

A tear slipped down Emma’s cheek.

“She slipped”, Emma’s voice broke

“Did she?”

Emma averted her eyes and looked down as more tears fell. She gently closed her eyes. When she opened them again, pain shone clearly through them.

“I can make you forget. I can take away all your hurt….all your guilt…”

Emma stared at Serena, transfixed for a few seconds. Her sea blue eyes battling a pair of emerald green eyes. Suddenly, she blinked and started shaking her head furiously. “No. no. You made me forget about the people I care about. I won’t let you do that again” she said with determination in her voice, nostrils flared.

Serena’s calm expression first changed to surprise, her gaze went to Emma’s neck, and then anger morphed her features. Emma looked down and just saw her necklace resting on the neck. She wondered, why did Serena look at my necklace and then get angry? Serena immediately grabbed Emma’s wrist, forcing her to look into her eyes, and spat out, “Do you even remember that night? The last time I took your memories, I erased some things about that night. Here. Relive it again.”

Suddenly, Emma felt a force pushing…….trying to get inside her head. Pain blasted through her as she clutched her forehead and let out a loud scream. A flash of memories burst through her head.

“I got you. I promise.”

Emma tried to get hold of the girl’s arms but in vain: they thrashed so wildly, she could get no grip.

As Emma pulled hard one more time, the girl let go.

Everything went in slow-motion.

The girl started falling on her back. Emma yelled, “NO!”. She saw the girl’s eyes close and then when she opened them again, there was a sense of calm in them as she fell. But that wasn’t what bothered her. What bothered her were the eyes that she finally saw. The eyes that she could never see in her previous flashbacks.

A piercing pair of emerald green eyes.

Emma gasped and came back to reality as her eyes snapped opened. “It was you. You were the girl”

Serena smiled,” That’s right. I was the girl who drowned.”

“But how…why? You let go.”

“I did. It was the only thing left to do. You see, I was with you on the island. I tried talking to you and your friends, but did anybody care? No. Nobody cares about the ugly girl. No one wants to know the girl who follows people………I was invisible. I was lost in the crowd. Just following blindly. Trying to be someone.”

Serena’s eyes became vacant. She paused.

“I was attracted to the ocean that night. It was a blood moon night, just like this one. I felt a pull………a calling. I knew about sirens. That’s all I ever wanted to be. A creature so beautiful yet deadly. Someone everyone loves yet fears. Someone everyone sees.”

Serena’s eyes filled with wonder. She gave a soft smile as she looked at the ocean, “The water was my answer. According to the legend, the sacrifice of a soul as dark as a raven would lead to the origin of a siren. I knew my destiny. This was it. I was ready.”

Quickly, Serena’s face contorted in anger, “But, you just had to show up, didn’t you? With that stupid necklace and those heroic ideals that your family raised you with. You weren’t just beautiful and likeable, no, you just had to be altruistic too. You wanted to help me. That’s when I knew. I hated you. You were the very goodness I needed to destroy in this world.”

With a satisfied smile, she continued, “So here I am. About to destroy you. With you as a sacrifice, I can finally get immortal powers. A soul as pure as snow yields powers as strong as the earth. Now walk. Walk to the edge…..and jump”

The water started changing colour. It was now crimson red and bubbling. Serena’s eyes kept switching colours between green and red. Emma didn’t know what to do, she could feel a powerful dark force surrounding her. She started proceeding slowly. She put one foot into the water and then another. The water was now blood red. But then, she stopped.

“Make me”, she said slowly, “Go on, make me. That’s what you do, isn’t it? Only you can’t. Not this time. You forget, just like how you’re attracted to the water, I am too. You forget, ravens don’t just symbolize darkness and death, they symbolize rebirth too. You made me see things, hear them, messed with my head. You took everything away from me, but guess what, I am still here. Serena, you can’t make me do anything.”

Serena grew impatient. Her eyes snapped to Emma’s necklace again and she let out an exasperated groan. 

Emma gazed at her necklace again and finally realized its significance.

Her eyes went wide-open and she spoke slowly, just figuring it out, “You said my family ideals were the last straw that made you hate me. That gave you purpose…….You keep staring at the necklace my family gave me every time I question your powers. The last time you made me forget, I wasn’t wearing my necklace. Your powers don’t work if I’m wearing it…….You need a person’s prized possession as a sacrifice. All this time, I thought I was the prized possession. But no. It’s the necklace, isn’t it? All you need is the necklace.”

Serena’s eyes widened as Emma removed the necklace and held it securely in her hand.

“This is what you want, right? Well, you’re not going to get it.”

Serena burst out laughing then.

“What are you going to do? Destroy it? Do you really think you’ll still be alive if you destroy that necklace? It’s already magically tampered with……….it’s the most prized possession of a pure soul. If it dies, you die with it. Oh wait, let me rephrase that, your goodness dies.” Her smile widened, “You become the raven”

A tear slipped down Emma’s face as she realized that she had no way out. She thought of everyone she loved in that moment, faces flashing in her head: her mom, her dad, her sister, her boyfriend, her best friend, her dog,…….herself. With a defeated look, she started walking towards Serena.

Serena’s eyes sparkled as her smile widened even further. “I knew you would realize that I was ultimately more powerful than you”. She spread her arm, waiting for Emma to place the necklace in her hand. Emma lifted the necklace and started placing it in her hand.

Another tear fell on the necklace and Emma saw the reflection of her eyes staring back at her. Her sea blue eyes.

She stopped abruptly and whispered softly, “There’s a reason why your eyes could never be sea blue. Even though you are the chosen one, the siren who brings an end to purity, you still don’t get the eyes of the water. You don’t get all the powers of the water. Without me, you’re weak.” Realization flashed in Emma’s eyes. She knew what to do.

Serena replied confidently, “The only way to survive is to give up now. You know that.”

Emma looked right into Serena’s eyes, and spoke calmly, “That’s where you’re wrong. There’s another way to survive. By giving in. By living alongside the darkness. Because that way, you still end up alive”. In the next second, Emma broke the necklace and Serena screamed out in pain.

The water bubbled with fire and Emma watched the necklace disappear into flames and ashes. The last thing she saw as the ocean resumed its calmness was the reflection of her own eyes:

A pair of raven black eyes.

***

The next time you find yourself afraid of ravens, remember this:

Every monster you meet was once a creature with a soul as soft and light as silk. Someone stole that silk and turned them into this. So, when you see a monster next, do not fear the thing before you.

Fear the thing that created it.

***

Nireka Dhameja is s sophomore student, currently doing her Bachelors in Psychology and a minor in English Literature at the American University in Dubai. Nireka was born in India, moved to South Africa, then Toronto, and finally Dubai. She loves the freedom of writing, drawing on her experiences but at the same time leaving room for a little magic. She is also passionate about music, dance, and photography. She hopes that her words create an emotional impact, even if for a few seconds, like she feels when she dances: as if she has been holding her breath forever and is now finally exhaling.

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