“Draw back to the corner of your mouth gently, and make sure the string touches your nose,” I instructed. “because if it doesn't—”
“It will hit my nose when I release,” my younger sister Andrea cut me off. “Logan, you tell me that every time. Can I shoot now?”
I sighed and stepped back, nodding. Andrea released the arrow and it landed in the center of the knothole in the big oak tree we were using as a target. I whistled sharply.
“Bullseye,” I said. “Well done.”
After retrieving her arrow and putting it back in her leather quiver, Andrea nodded at me. “Your turn.”
I pulled my own arrow out and nocked it into the bow. I pulled back and aimed for the tree.
“Oh, good,” Andrea said. “It's touching your nose.”
I rolled my eyes and released. To my surprise, the arrow sailed past the ginormous tree and into the forest. I lowered my bow with wide eyes.
Andrea walked past me, heading for where my arrow disappeared. “Come on,” she called over her shoulder. “If you can't hit the largest tree in the woods, you can at least help me look for the arrow.”
I followed after her, slinging my bow over my shoulder.
Our parents fought often, but they never divorced because I suspect they believe that Andrea and I shouldn't have to go through the pain of losing a parent and each other. Whenever our parents were fighting, we grabbed our archery gear and ran outside to the woods to practice. So over the years, we learned to memorize the forest.
Although I knew every bend and branch, I stumbled a couple of times. It had rained last night (not surprisingly, it is Vancouver after all) and the rocks were wet and slippery.
Andrea had no problem navigating the forest. She and I practically grew up in it, but she seemed to know it much better than I did. Her copper ponytail hit her quiver and bow with every bouncy step she took, without so much as a stumble. She was still dressed from her riding lesson, because she never got a chance to change when she got home. Her white tee-shirt and black-and-red plaid over shirt was dusty, and the bottom of her jeans and riding boots were wet, with grass and hay still plastered up against them.
I had just come back from paintball with my best friend, Jordan and I was still mostly in camouflage, but I had undone my jacket to show my colour-stained white tank top. My combat boots were wet, and I could feel the rain seeping into my wool socks. I probably still had helmet hair, too.
“Andrea?” I asked.
“Why do you think mom and dad fight?”
She paused, but kept walking. “I don't know.”
I could tell she was uncomfortable about this topic. So was I, but we had to talk about it. “Do you think they'll break up?”
This time she stopped, and whirled around on me. “No,” she growled. “I don't want to talk about this.” She turned around again and began to walk faster, but with less bounce in her step.
“It's okay,” I whispered, loud enough for her to hear.
“What is?” Andrea asked sharply.
“It's okay to ask for help.”
She didn't answer that, but I could see her muscles tense in her back. She wanted to ask for help, I could see it. She was just afraid.
We walked in silence for quite some time, before Andrea stopped so sharply that I knocked into her. “There.” she said.
In the middle of a clearing, was a large circle of standing stones that I was pretty sure neither of us had seen before. In the middle of it, embedded in the ground, was my arrow, yellow and white fletchings gleaming in the sun. Although it was late afternoon, there was mist inside the circle, none escaping. By body was screaming at me to get out of there, but my mind was saying that I should investigate.
Andrea started forwards, and I caught her arm just before she entered the circle. She turned towards me with a confused look. “What? We found your arrow, and I'm going to get it.”
I shook my head. “There's something wrong with this place, Andy.”
She broke free of my grip. “Don't call me that.”
“Don't you feel it? There's something... off,” was all I could say. “Is it weird that we've practically lived here forever, and neither of us has seen this before?”
She shrugged. “I suppose. All the more reason to investigate.”
Investigate. One of my favourite words in the world. My hands twitched and I took a step forward. I shook my head and took two steps back. “No way.”
Andrea shrugged again. “Suit yourself.”
She strode strait into the center of the circle and wretched the arrow from the earth. As soon as she entered, the mist seemed to follow her, chase her, judge her. I saw it begin to cover her, like someone invisible was putting a blanket of fog over her. Andrea looked up just as it enveloped her, her eyes wide.
“Logan?” she asked, sounding scared.
“Andy, get out of there!”
“Logan!” Andrea screamed, just as the fog covered her completely.
Seconds later, the mist spread itself out again. The only thing left in the circle was my arrow, now laying down innocently on the ground.
Andrea was gone.
I charged inside the circle, ignoring what my mind was telling me. I was angry. Angry at myself for letting my little sister disappear. Angry at Andrea for venturing into the unknown without me. Heck, I was even angry at the stones and the mist for taking her.
I fell to my knees and picked up the arrow, crying. “Andy...” I whispered.
I felt the cool breeze of the mist being draped over me. Wherever Andrea went, I was going there too. I squeezed my eyes shut and let myself disappear.
A second later, I opened them, to find myself lying down in the middle of a gravel street, Andrea nowhere to be seen.