Clover sat on the dust-coated hard-wood floor. The light penetrated the tainted window and painted on the envelope laying in the girl’s hands.
Her fingers trembled as she turned it around for the tenth time. No sender information, no anything. Her teeth dug into her lip and she cut the paper open with her long, neglected nail.
Nifty handwriting emerged. A familiar one. Clover traced with her fingers the words “Come home.” engraved harshly with black ink.
The teenage girl pressed her nose against the paper. A smell of petrichor, lilac and sea salt entered her nostrils. Not possible, she thought.
Her fingers traced the series of numbers, covering the middle of the note.
Coordinates, she realized.
Her eyes drifted to the end.
“With Love for Clov and Dari.” How stupid sounded that now. But not three years ago, no. Clover’s fingers crumbled the letter on the sides.
“Darius!” her voice raised and bounced off the walls of the foyer, decorated only with a scruffy couch, up the winder steps and through the long hallway to Darius’s room.
He was rolling in his crumbling bed, trying to cover his body in its entirety with the blanket, but failing miserably. He pressed his head with the pillow and turned around.
“DARIUS!”, vibrated through the spider webs and sunk into the not-so-soft furniture beneath him.
He threw the pillow across the room, where it fell, creating a cloud of dust.
“COMING” he answered and slid into his worn-out blue sweater with holes for thumps and into his roughed up sneakers. In them, his pinky laid bare to the conditions of the outside world.
Clover was fiddling with the letter, now sitting on the couch.
“What’s wrong?” He asked from the top of the staircase.
“We’ve got a letter,” she answered.
“That’s not possible,” he said while quickening his pace, “no one knows we are here. If they do, then we have to go. Now. “
“It’s not like that, " she responded firmly clutching the letter to her chest “It’s Aims.”
“Aims is dead,” he stated, his voice roaring through the foyer of the abandoned mansion, “and so is the rest of the pack. Let it go, Clov.”
“Just look,” she handed him the letter and he perched on the sofa next to her.
His eyes traced the carefully engraved symbols. He bowed his head and took the smell in his nostrils.
“Lilac and petrichor, " he looked at Clov who grabbed his hand.
“Aims,” she said. “And if she is alive…”
“Might be a hunter’s trap. “
“It might not.”
“But how is it possible after all this time?” Darius asked.
“I don’t know, but don’t we owe it to them to try and find out”
“We do.” He focused on the note. His fingers flipped it.
“Only on the Blue moon. Neither before nor after.” The familiar signature pierced the page harshly.
Clover looked at Darius with a puzzled expression. “But that’s tomorrow night.” Her voice faltered at the last word.
“Stop grumping around and get to work!” Darius ordered. Clover looked through the fog, into the darkness but saw nothing.
“But don’t you find it a bit odd,” she said as she picked up the paddle again. “That the coordinates led us here of all places?”
“What? That they led us to the middle of the Sunken sea and we are supposed to expect what? That the pack has evolved into mermaids or sea-wolfs or fish? That we dropped our perfect safe house, which will probably be overtaken by squatters when we get back? That we stole a phone and went through all that shit, just to get to the middle of the fucking sea?” His voice raised “No, I don’t find it odd at all! I find it crazy and on top of that, to do all that with the full moon upon us and hope it will all work out so that the hunters don’t actually find us when we transform.” Tiny flames burned in his eyes.
Clover continued paddling.
“But why is it called the Sunken Sea.”
“How should I know? I’m not a historian.”
The phone beeped. They had reached their location.
“I don’t see anything,” Clover said. Darius sniffed the air.
“It’s probably below.”
“Gosh, I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this. You know that they would get us with a ship or something.”
“Well, they didn’t.”
They stripped most of their clothes and dived into the darkness.
In the moment of the plunge Clover’s bones turned into icicles. The moon above reassured the wolves they would not die tonight. At least not from freezing as their blood was boiling from the oncoming change.
They ducked beneath the surface and swam deep into the darkness. Clover felt her lungs shrinking and her ribcage collapsing inwards. She looked at her hands upfront. They hadn’t started to change yet. The pain was from the altitude, not the moon.
The darkness took shape. A massive building, that had sunk sideways, was beneath them. Its ancient archways and chambranles marked its position among the relics of the old-world.
What would it take for a building that big to sink beneath the sea and on top of all to do it sideways, Clover wondered.
They dipped beneath a lingering archway, stuck in the sand.
Darius pulled Clover by the hand. He pointed at the top of the building.
They swam towards it. The world started to darken before Clover’s eyes. The waters were enveloping her in their cold embrace.
Darius dragged her to the window and tried to open it. It wouldn’t budge. He looked up. Moonlight was seeping through the blackness. He clenched his fists and they covered with thick black hair. His nails grew and his fingers twisted. The fire appeared back in his eyes.
He reached for the window and prompted it open.
The water sucked in the two teenagers. Darius held onto the window tightly, but Clover fell. She opened her eyes while her body was sliding down a cold ceramic floor accompanied by a tone of water. She screamed as the ‘waterslide’ reached its end. This half of the building had become one with the seafloor.
How is this standing, she thought as water rushed down on her, choking her airways. She swam up and saw Darius dangling from the window frame, taking the front force of the persistent water.
He released one hand and reached for the window, fighting with the current.
He closed the window, sealing them in, and dropped from the frame. Clover swam to the side, but still felt him hit the water.
Darius sank beneath the surface and Clover dived in and dragged his body to the surface.
She shook his lifeless body.
“Come on!” She yelled.
The moon shimmered through the glass, highlighting the inside of the building, filled with tones and tones of books, and setting on Darius’s face.
His eyes opened and he spasmed, spitting out a lot of water.
He and Clover started crouching in pain. Her back curved inwards, his spine elongated into a tail. The water burst through them and infused their lungs. Hands turned into paws and faces elongated. Snow-white hair engulfed Clover while Darius was completely covered in raven fur.
They punched their way to the top again and coughed up the water in their lungs. Darius saw a soft blue light shinning on Clover. He turned around and noticed a door half-way up to the window they fell through.
The wolves swam to the end of the hall, climbed the pile of bureaus and bookshelves.
How convenient, Clover thought, can’t be a coincidence. She jumped to the door. The blue light seeping through was fading.
She hid the knob with a paw and fell through the opening. Next minute, her wolf body was flying forwards and then falling again.
Clover’s nose hit the green-covered wet ground and her world plunged into darkness.
A room, built up from thick branches and vines surfaced from the darkness. Through smudged edges, Clover realized she was in a hutch. Something rough scraped her skin. A blanket.
Naked. Awesome, she thought and sat up with moans and crackles. Every single bone and muscle in her body screamed from last night’s full moon. She stretched her legs with a loud pop and looked around the hutch.
Darius was laying across the room, unusually pale for his complexion.
“Psst. Darius. Wake up!” She threw her pillow at his face.
“What?” He mumbled.
“Where are we?” Darius stood up quickly, covering his nakedness with a blanket.
“I have no fucking idea,” Clover answered, “Oh, see, clothes.” She pointed at two neatly put piles of clothes by the entrance of the hutch. Darius got his clothes and gave her the other pair.
In green cotton shirts, brown linen pants and deer boots, they stepped outside.
A woman was sitting on a small wooden chair, looking at her feet. The wind was gently ruffling her waist-long brown hair. The door closed behind Darius and she looked up. Her features softened and her lips curved into a smile.
She jumped and hugged them.
“You made it! You made it! You made it!” Aims babbled out. “I knew you would. The others didn’t believe me but I knew you would!” She started kissing their heads from the bear hug. “Oh my, you’ve gotten taller. Was it really that long?”
“It was THREE YEARS,” Clover broke through the hug. “Where were you?”
The pack was starting to gather around them.
“We waited for you! We waited for so long!” Clover continued.
“I’m sorry. We couldn’t send a word earlier, the humans were looking around the site of the library. Our existence was on the map and we would’ve endangered you.” Aims reached for the girl. A tear rolled from Clover’s eye. “It was too big a risk to take. I’m sorry.” Aims said.
“Where even are we?” Clover asked, regaining her composure. She and Dari looked around. They were amidst an immense forest. The sun was leaking through the leaves, colouring everything in orange.
“Let me show you.” Aims said and led them through the forest.
Every few seconds a hutch appeared. They were all similar in size and structure to the one they woke up in.
“I’ve told you the myth of the Forbidden Valley, where thousands of years ago, the first ‘monsters’ were banished, to die ‘their deserved ending, completely forgotten and alone’ because the humans thought they were abominations.” Aims led them on a small curved path with berries growing on both sides. “There the witches, werewolves, warlocks and vampires were supposed to kill each other or die of starvation. But you see that plan didn’t quite turn out as expected.”
The path ended and in front of them sprawled a hill. “The so-called ‘monsters’ were quite civil, so they formed an alliance to live in peace through their ‘death sentence’. The witches took their time and managed to conjure up animals whilst the warlocks were focused on plant life. The werewolves and vampires united and build homes for them all.”
They climbed the hill. Upfront a fleet of buildings, completely overtaken by plant life, still stood unconquered by time.
Aims led them on another path through the trees.
“At some point, the portal opened again. No one knows why. But we suspect that when all the creatures came through, something in the fabric of the world shifted and a big portion of the land fell, including the Library, which held the secret entrance for the portal. It was never discovered because people were terrified for ages of the Sunken Sea. That is because whenever a ship enters it and reaches the middle, it sinks and can never be discovered.”
“Why didn’t our boat sink then?” Darius asked.
“Because on every Blue moon, the portal opens and stabilizes the realm and so does the door you came through. That is the only way in or out and it opens only on a Blue moon on Earth.”
“What do you mean on Earth?” Clover asked.
“Look up.” Aims said.
They got out of the jungle pathway and onto a huge crossing with a large picnic table in the middle. Clover aimed her eyes at the sky. Next to the rising sun, which was strangely close, were perceptible two moons.
“Wow,” Clover exclaimed.
“Ha, ha. Wait till you see the perks of it on a werewolf.” Aims winked and chuckled.
“Wait a second. How did you all even get here?” Darius asked.
“Well, we…” Aims said.
“Come on, now.” A tall young man called from the picnic table. “Too much bedtime stories, not enough food. Come here you rascals because they won’t let us start eating without you.” He pointed with a look at a serious man with thunder-struck white eyebrows.
Darius smiled and run towards the young man. The man lifted him in a bear hug.
“The band is back together,” a teenager with long blond curls, carrying four plates of food, came from behind Clover and startled her. “Welcome home, Clov. I missed ya. It’s tough being the only youngster here with brain sells.”
“Hey! Watch it, Blondie!” A woman hissed at him. She walked to Clover and hugged her and Aims. With one under each arm, she led them to the table.
“Breakfast time!” Someone shouted.
Clover and Darius were met with a series of hugs and pats on the back and two giant plates full of meat, eggs, bread and berries.
It was time for a long-overdue family meal.