‘Moonlight Island’

The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell and Ontario’s first indigenous lieutenant governor James Bartleman present Isaiah Aguonie of Sheguiandah with the James Bartleman Indigenous Youth Creative Writing Award.

A short story by Isaiah Aguonie

Darkness and grief are slowly falling upon the land. Neche is hungry. It has been five days since his last meal. The rival pack hunted all of the food before they left. The north side of Moonlight Island used to be full of life. Neche had many great memories of growing up there when he was just a pup. Now it is an empty wasteland. Neche knows that he must travel to the south side of the island if he wants to survive. First, he must travel through the Cavern of Death, then through Serpent’s Pass, and up through the Swamp of Suffering. It is a possible journey, with a pack. Alone, Neche is worried for his life.

He sets out on his journey.  To find food, first he heads towards the Cavern of Death.  Legends say that a bear the size of an oak tree lives in the cavern. Slowly, he creeps down towards the opening of the massive cavern. It is dark and damp. He sees the light towards the end of the tunnel. He creeps onto a ledge. Rocks break off and he falls deeper into the cavern. He hears water dripping and big footsteps. They are getting louder and louder-something was coming closer. Could it be the big bear he heard about? He ducks down into a crevice. He hears a growl- it is the bear! Neche and the bear see each other. The bear comes running towards him. Neche charges, running underneath his legs and climbs up a couple rocks and makes it to the top half of the cave. He runs towards the light with the bear right behind him. He leaps through the hole at the end of the cave, crashing down into the waters of Serpent’s pass . The bear tried to squeeze through the hole but got wedged and has no choice but to back up. Neche is safe from the bear.

Now, he is being pulled downstream towards the Swamp of Suffering. Serpent’s Pass is a long river that ends in the Swamp of Suffering. The swamp has a quicksand pit so large that almost no animal has made it out alive. Legends say that it is a portal to the spirit world.

    After floating down the river for hours, Neche falls asleep. He dreams of his mother, Mitena.  She comes to him and says, “Neche – you must hold on. You must save Moonlight Island from-” The water jolted him awake. He smelled fresh meat. Neche slowly makes his way to the river bank and hobbles up a small hill. His vision was getting blurry. Out of the corner of his eye he spots a rabbit. He quickly jumps on it and bites its neck. Finally, a good meal! As he was about to feast, he hears a quiet whimper. He looks over and sees a wolf pup. He couldn’t eat the rabbit, so he walks over to the pup and drops the rabbit at his feet.  The pup could barely lift his head.  Neche asks, “What’s your name?” The pup responds, “Myeengun”. Neche tears the rabbit into small pieces for the pup.  Then, he collapses from exhaustion and falls into a deep sleep. He dreams about when he was a pup. His favourite memories came from the days he spent with Waaseyaa, his older brother. One day, they were out hunting for food when they came upon the forest pack. The leader of the pack spotted young Neche and attacked. They started biting him everywhere- in his arm, in his leg, and on his tail. Quickly, Waaseyaa jumped on top of the alpha, locking his jaw on his neck. As blood started to drip down, the pack backed away from Neche. Waaseyaa growled and showed his teeth. The forest pack ran away. Waaseyaa put Neche on his back and carried him all the way home.

Myeengun woke Neche up by jumping on him. He brought him a piece of the rabbit to eat. Neche ate the meat quickly.

Neche and Myeengun decide that they will travel to the south side of the island together. They make their way towards the hardest part of their journey. Their limits will be pushed. The Swamp of Suffering is a deep, dark place where no wolf dares to go. As they enter the north side of the swamp, they start to smell it. They smell the stench of death and grief. Neche puts his paw onto the wet land. He feels an evil vibe. They carefully walk to the other side. Every sound scares them; from twigs breaking to wind howling. They come to an old tree. It seems to be warning them to turn around.

Neche looks to the right and sees a huge hole. He walks over towards it and sees two red eyes deep down in the hole. “What could it be?” asks Myeengun. “Look out!” cries Neche as a massive snake lunges towards them. They run south trying to escape the powerful jaws of the snake. Every second, the snake gets closer. They can feel it closing in on them. Neche yells, “jump!” as they approach a large quicksand pit. Neche and Myeengun leap onto a tree stump in the middle of the pit. Then, they jumped to a boulder and make a final leap to the other side of the pit. They look back to see if the snake is coming. The snake starts to slither through the quicksand. It starts to slow down. The more he fights it, the quicker he sinks. Neche and Myeengun trot away, saving their energy for the final climb up a hill in front of them.

As they make it up the hill, they can see the south side of Moonlight Island. They made it! Neche hadn’t seen such a beautiful place in a long time. There was so much life on the south side. The south side is known as a sanctuary. Wolves live in peace, and there is no shortage of food. Myeengun runs toward a small wolf pack. He jumps on top of a female wolf- his mother. He was so happy to be home! Neche walks around and explores. He has finally made his journey. He has overcome many obstacles, cheated death, and made a new little friend in the process. He has fulfilled his destiny. He breathes a sigh of relief. “Now, to get some dinner” he thinks. He goes for a quick hunt in the forest after he sees a rabbit heading in that direction. As he’s silently walking through the forest, he hears something. All of a sudden, a dark shadow appears. It’s a wolf. “Noodin?” Could this be his old best friend? Why was he snarling so ferociously at him? “Noodin- it’s me, Neche. I’ve missed you!” As Neche walks happily towards him, Noodin lunges for Neche’s throat. What has happened to his friend? What is really happening on the South Side of Moonlight Island?