The wind dance—its origin is unknown. Still, the clans cease their fighting once a year, gather together at the heart of the forest. Feasting and festivities drag on for a week before the actual ceremony. Legend has it the first time the dance was ever performed, a boy actually turned into a bird. No one believes that now.
No one but me.
The Raccoon and White-Tailed Deer Clans arrived today, the last two. The thirteen clans each form a circle of shelters, creating a larger circle of them all. My clan, the Fox, was the first to reach the site. Some clans drag along odd items—junk they call “re-frigerdators” and “lightbubs” and “stovies.” They think the magic of the dance will make them work again.
I know better.
I hide in our hut and watch the sunlight filter through the green pine needles clinging to the fresh-cut branches, making patterns on the dirt floor. My body hungers for the forest but my parents keep me inside, afraid of the other clans. The wailing of the baby next door drives me to shove my fingers in my ears. I conjure intricate birdsong in my head, punctuated with the predatory shriek of a hawk.
I pretend my arms are wings.
Tonight is the dance. I sneak from my family’s shelter and squat in the shadows near the great bonfire, watching the elders smooth a hard circle around it with planks of wood. They stamp the ground with their feet, making it hard. The fire roars as it is fed, leaping with warm yellows and spitting bits of blue. The sparks float on an invisible breeze. Energy surges in the air tonight.
Only I can feel it.
I join the dancers in the circle. My skin prickles as the drum beat starts up, poompa, poompa, triggering the rise of adrenaline. The mixed clans begin to circle, slowly at first, then faster and faster. We pretend the dance is a collective thing, but it is truly individual. We move as one, but the heart improvises. We stamp our feet in time to the bone rattles and deep deer-skin drum booming. The shaka-shaka starts the high singing wailing. Hiya-hiya-lllaaaa… The fluctuating, shivering melody plays me like a stick running down a washboard. I pound and spin, jerk forward and back.
I am electric. Light.
I move so fast, the world is a blur of fire and darkness. Yet I am not tired, despite the bounding of my heart. I tilt my head to the sky, my eyes capturing the velvet navy and pinpricks of stars. They spin, come closer, plummeting into my chest one by one. I shout and jump to the sky, reaching out to grab the full moon.
And I fly.
Shrieks and streams of garbled dialect float from below, but I don’t care. All that matters is the wind flumping my feathers, anointing my head with the sacred oil, the magic, of the wild things. I stretch and relax my talons, marveling at the moon’s gleam on the sharp bronze. Launching myself onto the moon’s currents, I screech.
I am strong.
I am fierce.
I am free.
About the Author
Ashley Wilda is a writer living in eastern Virginia. She particularly enjoys writing action-packed YA fiction but loves reading any work whose words sing and whisper magic to the reader. In addition to writing, she loves reading, hanging out with her family and friends, rock climbing, practicing Krav Maga, and any other kind of adventuring. She is currently editing her first novel, The Hunted, a YA near future urban thriller, and her first novella, a YA contemporary thriller entitled Run. She is a reporter for Forum Magazine and fiction editor for Second Star Magazine. Visit her website at: http://ashleywilda.com/?page_id=4.