The ocean had already cut the sun in half when I reached the ledge overlooking the Cove of the Dead. The thorn bush which had saved my life was still there at the end of the broken trail, and, down at the cove, the arch, like the remnant of a dwelling carved in solid rock by ancient giants, loomed majestically over the sand.
Trying not to think of my previous mishap, I bent over the cliffs looking for a path. I knew it had to be there—after all, I had heard Tío Ramiro climbing while I was trying to disentangle my dress from the thorns—but I searched in vain.
I was about to give up when I saw the steps, crude steps carved in the rock cleverly hidden behind a bush. My back to the ocean, to avoid looking down and being pulled into the void, I started my descent.
When finally I reached the sand, my heart was beating so furiously against my chest I had to lean against the cliffs and rest for a moment. Then, followed by the piercing cries of the seagulls, I dashed toward the arch along the stretch of land covered by dead algae and broken shells the tide had just started to reclaim.
It was cold under the arch, cold and damp, and the air was filled with strange groans and whispers. It took me a moment—a long frightening moment—to understand that the noises did not come from living beings, but from the water dripping between hidden cracks in the rock.
Trying to laugh away my fears, I crossed the cave formed by the arch and stepped outside into the unknown. But the same cove and the same cliffs still surrounded me. High above, Athos, the golden moon, stared at me unblinkingly from the same sky. I was still in my own world!
I kicked the arch in frustration. Pain shot through my leg, but the rocks remained. Not ready to give up, I dashed back inside and examined the cave, looking for an opening that could be a passage into the other world. But I couldn’t find any, and although I pushed all the bumps I found on the rocks, no hidden door opened.
Defeated, I collapsed on a small ledge that ran along the back of the cave. My mind empty of thought, I watched the waves break against the arch and, after turning into swirls of white foam, flood the cave. Soon the water reached my knees. I knew I must leave if I didn’t want to get trapped inside, but a strange lassitude overcame my limbs and prevented me from moving.
Suddenly a tremor shook the arch. For a moment the rocks, the water, and even the air seemed to melt away as if caught in a blaze. Then, as quickly as it had come, the quivering left, and the cave resumed its former shape. But not quite. Something was wrong. I strained my eyes and looked around until it hit me. It was darker now, and the water—the water was gone! I jumped to my feet in alarm and ran to the opening.
It was also dark outside the cave, almost as dark as a clouded night. But when I looked at the sky, I did not see any clouds. In fact—and my heart jumped inside my chest and stopped—the sky was just an empty extension of blue and purple; Athos the golden moon had disappeared. And the cove was gone, too. Instead, a white sandy beach stretched itself along the ocean for as far as I could see. Further inland, over the dunes that had replaced the cliffs, a full moon was rising. It was a foreign moon, small and pale.
Don Alfonso was right, I thought in awe. I really am in another world!
Something hard hit me in the back, and as I fell to the sand, I heard footsteps closing on me. Before I could react, a strong hand had grabbed mine and was helping me up. A deep baritone voice was talking in words I couldn’t understand. Instinctively, I reached for my arrow. Then froze. A tall boy with very short hair was staring at me. His completely shaved face, wore the most disarming smile.
“Who are you?” I asked.
Carmen Ferreiro Esteban