Chimera Moon

by Charlotte Teeple-Salas. Shortlistee of the Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults competition 2021

‘Strange things happen under a Chimera Moon,’ Mum would say, as the sea lapped against the hull of our boat, lulling me to sleep. ‘Clouds turn red. Flowers open to greet the night, and sleep under the sun. Creatures roam far from their habitats. The sea unexpectedly falls, the tides refuse to cooperate, and at any moment, the landscape can shift. If you’re not careful, Calliope, my little muse, you may find yourself in another place.’

My little muse. Mum’s nickname for me before she disappeared.

I no longer believe her words as I once did, but now, as I pop my head out of the aft cabin hatch of our sailboat, the damp, cool dawn kissing my cheeks, Mum’s words echo in my mind. Something is happening in Lotus Cove.

The seals have lured me from my dreams, their desperate barking morphing into cries of Callie, Callie, Callie, selkies calling for my help. Clustered where rocks jut out from the cliffs like a diving platform, and the sea level drops from the bay into a dark, cold abyss, the seals are agitated, their attention directed at something in the water.

Our sailboat, Ourania, strains on her anchor, the rope creaking as she rises and falls on sudden swells. Is it a storm? Apart from a few pink-tinged wisps to the east, the horizon is cloudless.

I see it then, a metre high dorsal fin, black like squid ink, tearing through the water. An orca, hunting for breakfast.

Near Olympia Island, this far south?

It’s a sign, answers a voice − a slumbering, older voice from so deep within me, I wonder if it’s my soul.
I know I shouldn’t actually talk to the voice, but I can’t explain it − since yesterday, when we arrived back on the island for the summer, it’s… awakened.