Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2017 finalist, Phoebe Clifton! Phoebe finished 7th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Shadows In The Moondlight” We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!
Leave a comment below on what you thought!
Shadows In The Moonlight
by Phoebe Clifton
When baby Kamaria was born, she looked just like the moon. She had pale skin, nearly white hair, and dazzlingly blue eyes. Her parents, Ayo and Jelani, were surprised to see her because she looked so different from them. Soon after Kamaria was born, Ayo and Jelani took her to the town healer to see what was going on.
“Well,” the healer said, “she was born two weeks ago, which was the full moon, the blue moon to be exact, and it has been known to do…special things.”
“What special things?” asked Ayo angrily, “Give our baby white skin instead of brown? Blond hair instead of black?”
“Yes, but other things too. She will have to go outside every full moon to stay alive, and she will have the ability to sacrifice herself once in her life in a time of great need,” the healer shook her head, “I’m so sorry that this is your burden.”
“Don’t give us pity about our daughter. Do you think we care what she looks like? Do you think it will bother us to have to get her in the moonlight on the full moon?” Jelani’s voice was rising and the healer was beginning to look unsettled so Ayo put her hand on her husband’s shoulder and turned to leave.
“Wait, there have been many babies born on the full moon, but not all of them are like Kamaria,” said Ayo, “Why is that?”
“No one is really sure, but I believe that it’s the spirits choosing some individuals they think will do best with their power.” The healer looked up to the spirits, and the three adults joined together in a silent prayer.
Kamaria grew to be a strong and well loved woman. She had always stayed close to home and Ayo and Jelani looked after her unique needs. One full moon when Kamaria was 23, she was outside, running and enjoying her powers to make inanimate objects come to life, a power she had discovered only a few years ago. Her powers only worked while the full moon was up and it’s effects died away soon after. Even though Kamaria had to stay outside all night on the full moons, she always felt stronger and more excited at night. Sometimes a child would come up to her in the dark and they would play oh-so-quietly with the rocks and pebbles she made come alive. However, tonight she had a visitor that was not a child, but a Persian man she had seen around the village a few times.
“I couldn’t help but notice you outside at night a lot, so I thought I’d come to see you.”
Kamaria spun around, surprised to have a visitor so late at night.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you, but you are so kind and helpful to the villagers, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about you, so I wanted to come out and meet you myself.” The man was handsome. He had dark brown hair, deep brown eyes that looked as though they had so many secrets behind them, and his skin looked like he’d spent many hours in the sun as it was rough and dark. Kamaria noticed that he spoke with a thick Persian accent. “This must be the man who has been teaching Persian to the children,” she thought.
He picked up her hand and said, “I’m Javed by the way, Javed Attar.”
“Kamaria Baharia, pleasure to meet you.”
The two of them spent the night together, chatting and laughing. Over the next few months Javed and Kamaria became good friends. One cold December evening, a full moon, Kamaria was outside holding a rock that she had made come to life. She petted it’s head and sang to it. Longing to have a child of her own one day, she whispered a prayer.
Bring me a baby,
A child of the moon,
Bless me lord,
“That was beautiful.”
Kamaria jumped, surprised. She looked up and saw a bright, white-toothed grin and couldn’t help but smile herself. “Hello, Javed. I not seen you in many months.”
“You’ve been working on your Persian.” Javed chuckled.
Kamaria shot him a look. “I no good…but I try for you. So you no have to speak mine language. Where you been?”
Javed rolled his eyes. “I really appreciate you learning Persian, but this conversation will be quicker in African. I got a job in a village far west from here.”
“How was it? Do they treat you well?” Kamaria realized she cared a lot. More than she should as a friend.
“They’re nice but…not like here. I missed you.” Javed gave Kamaria a smile that made her blush.
“Stop it,” she told herself, “you have no feelings for him that go farther than friendship.” As much as she wanted to believe that, she knew it wasn’t true. Kamaria sighed.
“Are you ok?” Javed looked worried.
“What? I- oh yeah everything’s fine.” Kamaria got nervous how he looked at her. She was furious at herself. The months they had spent apart changed her, she now couldn’t stop thinking about him.
“Come on Kamaria, I know you better than that.” Javed came closer. Soon their faces were only inches apart. Kamaria took a shaky breath.
“This cannot be happening,” Kamaria told herself. Javed reached out and tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear. But instead of taking his hand back, he moved it to her neck. He drew her so close their noses were almost touching.
“Did I ever tell you that your eyes are beautiful?” Javed whispered to Kamaria. Before she could respond, Javed pressed his lips against hers. They were soft and warm and Kamaria felt safe in his arms. For several seconds she enjoyed this feeling, not wanting it to end, but Javed pulled away. “I…I’m sorry I don’t know what I was doing.” He stumbled and sputtered.
Kamaria didn’t say a word, she just sat next to him and put her hand over his. They spent the rest of the night talking and looking at the stars. As the sun began to rise Kamaria couldn’t hold back the question nagging at her all night.
“Are you…” she sighed, “going back to the other village to teach?”
“Kamaria, I want to stay here, with you, but I made a promise that I would stay and teach for a few years.” Javed squeezed her hand.
That next years were awful for Kamaria and Javed. They tried to visit each other as much as possible but it wasn’t easy. One day when Javed was visiting he found Kamaria sitting on a swing in her yard.
“Hello Kamaria.” Javed was so excited to see her because they hadn’t seen each other in a many months.
Kamaria’s head swung around and a smile broke over her face. “Javed!” She ran into his arms and he scooped her up. She planted a kiss on his forehead and he set her down. He didn’t say a thing but picked up her hand.
“I’ve loved you since the day we met. Your smile and laugh brighten up my heart on the darkest of days. I love you for who you are and what you do. Kamaria, will you marry me?” Javed put on his sweetest smile.
Kamaria couldn’t hold in the tears. “Oh Javed, I don’t know what to say except…yes! I never thought this day would come. I love you Javed, so very much.”
Javed pulled her into a hug and whispered, “I’m sorry, I have no ring.”
Kamaria smiled, “How about a kiss instead?”
When they announced their engagement, no one was surprised. A few years after Javed and Kamaria’s marriage, they had a baby girl who looked so much like her father, Javed joked that they should name her Javed II. She had his dark hair, a big smile, and an innocent face. However, she had Kamaria’s eyes, bright, blue and shining.
“What should we name her?” Kamaria asked, “That has nothing to do with your name,” she added when she saw Javed open his mouth with a smirk.
“Well,” Javed said thoughtfully, “you are basically the moon itself, just more beautiful, so maybe we should name her Mahdokht.”
“Mahdokht?” Kamaria questioned, “What does it mean?”
Javed smiled, “Daughter of the moon.”
Every year, Mahdokht grew more clever, bright, and beautiful, and just like her mother, she was well loved by everyone in the village. A few weeks after Mahdokht’s ninth birthday, Kamaria was looking for her because she promised that Mahdokht could stay up all night with her for one full moon when she was older to see her mother’s powers. “Mahdokht? Where are you?” Kamaria was running around their small house looking for her daughter. “Sweetheart, this is special, the full moon is tomorrow and I want to prepare you.”
“Mamma! Mamma!” Kamaria heard her daughter crying from outside and she rushed out to see Mahdokht lying on the ground below a tree with her leg twisted at an odd angle and blood all around her.
“Mahdokht! What happened?” Kamaria was already on the ground, ready to help her child in any way she could.
It took several minutes to get Mahdokht as comfortable as possible on the couch inside before she could stop crying enough to explain what happened.
“I was trying to get higher in the tree than I got yesterday and…and,” Mahdokht cried for a while longer before she could continue, “I heard a cracking noise and the branch I was on fell and I hit the ground.”
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry. I’m going to bandage you up as best I can but the healer is gone for a few days so we’ll have to wait before we visit her,” Kamaria looked at her daughter’s leg to examine the damage. It was definitely broken, and there was a long, deep gash running almost the entire length of Mahdokht’s leg.
“I want Papa,” Mahdokht cried.
“I know sweetheart, but you know he’s on a trip and he won’t be back for two days,” Kamaria patted Mahdokht’s head.
The next morning things had gone from bad to worse. Even though Kamaria had bandaged Mahdokht’s leg, the Attar house was in the poor area of town, so there was a lot more dirt and germs in the house and Mahdokht’s leg was beginning to get infected.
That evening Mahdokht passed out from the worsening infection and Kamaria was frantic. Seeing her young child sweating and barely breathing, Kamaria was in tears. She knew full well what would happen to Mahdokht if the infection spread anymore. Kamaria also knew what would happen to her if she didn’t go outside tonight. She was preparing to watch her own child die and die beside her when she remembered what her mother had told her long ago.
“You have the gift to sacrifice yourself for someone you love. All you have to do is put one hand on your heart and one on their’s and say out loud, “I give you the gift of life.”
Kamaria knew immediately what she wanted to do. She took a last look at her suffering daughter and felt glad she would be fine in a few moments, but so very sad not to be there to see her better. Kamaria put one hand on her heart, the other on Mahdokht’s and whispered, “I give you the gift of life.”
Mahdokht awoke, feeling perfectly fine. She looked down at her leg and saw that it was completely healed, no cut or anything. Mahdokht rose from the couch feeling happy but confused. “Why is my leg better, and where is mamma?” Looking down at her leg some more, Mahdokht realized there was a large pile of powder on the floor near her feet. A closer look told her it wasn’t powder at all, but moon dust. Mahdokht thought, “Mama told me once that she could sacrifice herself once for someone else, so she must have used it on…me.”
“No…no no no no no! Mamma!” Mahdokht slumped over and cried for minutes which turned to hours.
Javed opened the door with a smile on his face, happy to see his family. However, it quickly faded when he saw his daughter crying. He rushed over and put his arm around her. As soon as he got closer, he saw the moon dust and knew what was wrong. Javed sunk down next to Mahdokht and they cried together far into the night.
Three years to the day of her mother’s death, Mahdokht walked into her father’s bedroom, and to her surprise, he wasn’t bent over his desk working on the next lesson for his students, he was packing.
“Papa, what are you doing?” Mahdokht asked curiously. Her father hadn’t gone on a trip since her mother died.
Javed turned and his face was solemn, “We are leaving this house and we aren’t coming back for a while. Pack everything you need, we leave before sunrise tomorrow.”
“But-,” Mahdokht didn’t get to finish her question before Javed gently picked her up and put her in the hallway and closed the door. With no better option Mahdokht turned and walked quickly to her room and packed only necessities and her most precious belongings, including a picture of her and her mother, a spyglass, and a pearl bracelet Kamaria had given her on her ninth birthday. Aside from it being her favorite present ever, it was the last thing Kamaria ever gave to her.
Mahdokht sighed and a tear rolled down her cheek, “I miss you Mama, I wish you were here.”
“Mahdokht?” Javed peeked his head into the room, “I’m really sorry I pushed you away, you have a right to know what’s going on.” Javed took Mahdokht in his arms and wiped her tears away, “We are going on a… journey… to find some sort of closure for your mama’s death because I have noticed how much you’ve changed in the past three years and how hard it has been for both of us.
Sunrise the next morning brought a short breakfast and quick baths before Javed and Mahdokht were standing outside the house. “Well, off we go,” Javed said, “I have our money and food.” Both of them took deep breaths and started off to wherever their feet might lead them.
As Javed and Mahdokht walked, the temperature dropped a noticeable amount. By the time the sun began to set, the temperature had dropped even more and Javed and Mahdokht were putting on jackets.
“Papa, are we going north? It’s getting awfully cold and if we get far enough that it begins to snow, it’s possible we’ll get stuck in a blizzard.”
“Yes Mahdokht, we are going north and we’ll be in the snow in about two days. I hope there won’t be a blizzard but if there is we’ll just find shelter and we’ll be fine.” Javed sounded tired from the uphill trek and he knew it must be even harder for Mahdokht on her short legs. “If you need to rest we can stop and sleep.”
Mahdokht yawned and stretched her arms, “I am tired but if… if…”
Javed turned when he didn’t hear his daughter’s voice anymore and he saw her lying on the ground, already half asleep. Smiling slightly, he covered Mahdokht with a blanket and laid down next to her, falling into a deep sleep.
The next morning they started on their way again. It was a mildly uneventful day except for a run-in with a bear, but Javed scared it away by banging together the pot and pan they had brought. The next few months passed by in a similar manner. One day, Javed and Mahdokht were feeling particularly discouraged. They were considering turning back even though they hadn’t found anything close to closure. However, the next day, the blizzard hit. The disaster started that morning when Mahdokht woke up to see snow being thrown all around her.
“Papa! We have a problem! The wind is picking up!” Mahdokht called, shaking Javed awake.
“What? Go back to sleep Mahdokht. Please, I-” Javed sat up to the wind picking up even more speed. “We have the start of a blizzard.”
Now fully awake, Javed began directing Mahdokht on what needed to happen. “We need to pack up everything right now and get a move on. We must find a cave where we can find shelter and then we can figure out what to do from there.” Within an a few hours, the blizzard had fully formed and there was no cave in sight.
“Mahdokht, I’m so sorry. All that’s happened out here has been bad. Everything from blisters to blizzards and we haven’t had anything close to closure.” Javed was nearly in tears and he sunk to the ground. “All I’ve done since your mother’s death was try to protect you. She made me promise if she died, I would look after you and put you before everything else. Now I’ve just taken you away from all you’ve ever known and maybe we’ll never make it back.”
“Papa, no,” Mahdokht said, “We will make it back but not until we find closure. But first we need to find a cave and wait out the blizzard. We won’t last out here for much longer, so we need to keep moving.”
“Since when has my little girl gotten so wise?” Javed said smiling up at his daughter.
“Oh, just since I was taught well by a wise man named Javed Attar.” Mahdokht smiled back at helped lift him off the ground.
The wind was only getting worse and even though it wasn’t currently snowing, the snow already on the ground was blowing around them making it nearly impossible to see.
Unwilling to give up, Mahdokht and Javed trudged on. The moon rose, a full moon, and even though the travelers couldn’t see it, it was beaming down at them, giving them a blessing.
It was nearly ten o’clock and the darkness was making it even harder to see amongst the snow. Mahdokht and Javed couldn’t even see each other, even when Mahdokht held tightly onto Javed’s backpack so she wouldn’t fall behind. Still with no luck in finding a cave, both Javed and Mahdokht were getting tired and cold and both were thinking they might not make it when suddenly the wind just stopped. It didn’t just quiet down a little, it fully stopped and the snow fell back to the ground.
“What is going on?” Mahdokht asked, “I know weird things happen but this is really weird.”
“You’re right, I’ve never seen that happen before, but what a blessing,” Javed breathed a sigh of relief.
“Mama,” Mahdokht had her head turned up to the sky, looking at the full moon.
“What?” Javed asked, looking where Mahdokht was pointing at the moon.
“It’s a full moon, and Mama was watching us struggle to find her and she stopped the blizzard and let us see her again.”
Tears of happiness and sadness mixed on both of their faces as they felt the moonlight washing over their bodies.
Since there were no trees to make shadows in the clearing Mahdokht and Javed were standing in, the moonlight was reflected off the snow all around them, making it sparkle. It looked like there were lights shining on the blanket of snow that covered the ground.
After what might have been minutes or hours, Mahdokht and Javed opened their eyes and turned to see their shadows in the moonlight.