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Stray Arrow


Stray Arrow
by Evelyn Deshane

Nomi was talking to the sky again.

After Abigail cleared the wooden fence surrounding the militia’s property, she held her hand up to her forehead to block the sun. The field Nomi had been assigned to plough lay nearly barren, the red earth cracked from the plough’s wheels. When she did not spot Nomi, Abigail slipped into the barn next. She held a finger up to her lips when the cows mooed and the goats bleated. Soon, the animals paused and recognized Abigail from her many midnight passages through the barn better than the land’s real owners. Abigail’s dark clothing, along with her tanned skin and brown hair, were no longer strange and unfamiliar. The quiver of arrows that she kept over her back no longer seemed like a threatening weapon, either, but merely part of her body.

That was where Abigail found Nomi on her knees. She faced the small window inside the barn that looked out onto the skyline. Nomi held her dark hands together, her dark curls falling over her head as she bobbed along in prayer. Abigail only heard bits and pieces of her whispered words.

“Dear God… Please bless…Again and again…”

Abigail paused, hidden behind a beam so no one from the militia’s farm could see her. She made sure to keep Nomi in full view, and waited, as patiently as she could, for her friend to finish her prayers.

When the militia men had come to the country, they had brought their guns and their missionaries. The guns were easy enough to understand and tolerate. Guns, to Abigail, were almost simple when compared to what the missionaries tried to offer to help fill the void in the villagers’ lives: God. The missionaries handed out brown leather Bibles like candy and made the villagers sit in semi-circles, facing a man with dark clothing as he read aloud from the pages. The stories the Bible had were always so familiar, and yet, so far out of reach for Abigail to really comprehend. When she tried to ask questions, she got no real response. She wanted to know how a man in the sky could see all of them, know all of their names, and still allow for bad things like their land being stolen to occur.

“Because what may seem bad in one light,” the man in dark clothing had said. “Will be good in another. Have faith that the decisions people make are the right ones.”

Abigail had tried to heed the words, but she was too young to really listen. She often, like her father said, caused more trouble than she was worth. Abigail wanted to look at the margins of the story, at the message behind the words. She saw too many new interpretations and without someone, like her grandparents, to go to and ask questions, everything became static. Boring. Abigail liked the kind of stories that talked back. There was none of that in the Bible.

But slowly, Abigail watched as people turned away from their old roots. They no longer repeated the stories their grandmother and grandfathers told and instead, began to stare up at the sky. They became content with silence as a response and renamed that silence “faith.” Even as the man in dark clothing moved on to the next part of the world, people still followed his words. His stories, and the Bible they came from, became the new law of the land.

Nomi had resisted for a long time, Abigail knew. Nomi still had the memories of her grandmother and mother inside her head, taking up space and talking back. But when Nomi’s mother had died, and the men from the militia came and took her away to this farm, she had to learn to adapt. Her father came next, with a new wife, and new stepsisters for Nomi. Abigail’s own father pulled her family across town, into a village with people just like them. The divide running down the country was as deep and caustic as the drought that crippled many of the crops.

But Abigail was still determined to walk where she used to, hunt where she had been, and sneak into Nomi’s bed at night. For a long time after the men in dark clothing came, she and Nomi would find one another after midnight. Inside the barn and still wearing their bed-clothes, she and Nomi would trade the stories they remembered from their mothers and grandmothers. It had been enough for both of them to survive on for a long, long time. But now, Abigail had found Nomi in the prayer position yet again.

“You are forgetting your roots, my love,” Abigail stated from the sidelines of the barn.

Nomi gasped. She placed her hands against her dress’s apron, fingers splayed against the fabric. She stayed on her knees, but looked over her shoulders with a perturbed glance.

“You shouldn’t be here.”

“Neither should you,” Abigail said with a smile. She waited for Nomi’s face to soften. For her to be happy to see her. It had taken a lot to sneak out during the middle of the day. Abigail’s arms and thighs ached from running across the cracked earth of the deserted country, where there was nothing but trees and dying grass turning yellow in the sun.

“I had to go to the market,” Abigail said when Nomi still didn’t respond. “I ran as fast as I could, after I got some bread, some apples, and a lot of things. But I wanted to see you. I figured you would be here. Aren’t you happy to see me?”

The barn grew darker as the sun passed away from the window and hid behind the clouds. A chill spread over them both as the cattle and goats murmured. Abigail shifted the quiver of arrows on her back. She slung her dark brown satchel over her shoulder again, feeling the deep groves the leather left inside her skin.

Nomi rose to her feet, brushing the straw out of her apron while still hiding her eyes. “I am, but you have to be careful. There are eyes everywhere in this place.”

“What good are eyes if you can’t really see with them?” Abigail said. She smiled, though she felt the resistance in Nomi’s words. Now that Nomi was no longer in the prayer position, Abigail hoped she would begin to open up. It was only when alone that Nomi turned to an empty sky for company, instead of repeating her old stories.

Abigail took a few steps forward in the barn, straw crunching under her feet. She reached into her heavy satchel, digging past bread, until she pulled out a bright red and green apple. She held it in front of her like a bouquet.

“For you, my sweet princess.”

Nomi smiled and lowered her eyes. She closed the distance between their bodies as she stepped forward to grab the gift. Abigail allowed their fingers to touch – but Nomi did not let it linger. She placed the fruit inside her apron and murmured a small, “Thank you.”

“Not going to eat the snack now?”

“I shouldn’t be so tempted,” Nomi said. “I will end up like Eve.”

“You give too much credence to stories that are not your own.”

“Aren’t they mine when they come from my mouth?” Nomi asked.

Abigail raised a brown eyebrow. “I don’t know. I liked the stories your mother told me. She always added new characters. Gave them new names – and new endings. If I told her I wanted a happy story, she allowed the prince and princess to run off into the sunset. If I said I wanted a sad story, before I really realized how sad stories worked, she would make the prince die in battle and the princess lock herself in a tower. Now I know not to ask for sad stories.”

“But they are a given,” Nomi argued. “Sad stories will happen whether we want them to or not.”

“True,” Abigail said. “But I’d rather believe I can change my own end, so long as I understand what’s happening.”

“And what of the princess?”

“And other princess?” Abigail asked, and then sighed. That was the only detail their mothers did not permit inside the realm of their stories: no prince and prince marriages, no princess and princess affairs. Two women could live together inside a castle, but they would never inherit a kingdom.

“Those two princesses were always part of the sad stories that I didn’t want to hear,” Abigail added.

“So perhaps it’s best we don’t have those stories anymore.”

“I don’t think so,” Abigail said. “I still think it’s possible to change. Especially for us. We can tell our mothers’ stories again, but make the endings different. We have the power to do that now. And when you speak aloud, you have even more control. But with those books, the word is written. It is always there. There is nothing to change it.”

“Nevertheless,” Nomi said, her eyes wide. “I will not eat the apple just yet.”

Abigail smiled, nudging Nomi slightly with her arm. “But enjoy it when you do.”

Nomi smiled briefly before her eyes grew dark again. “You shouldn’t be here. You still have hunting to do.”

Abigail smiled. Hunting was one of the few things her father asked of her that she knew she could do well. She was still learning her archery, but she could feel the muscles in her arms becoming steadier with each arrow fired. Hunting was easy – there were plenty of animals around for her to find. What Abigail relished, almost as much as Nomi herself, was going to the market. The vendors took her away from her family and introduced her to the world around her. All the foods were so different, as if adding ingredients was like a great magic trick that could produce never-ending and surprising results. Abigail studied the deep reds and yellows of the spices whenever she was there, trying to commit them to memory like a new story to tell. She couldn’t afford much of what remained at the market, now that the military men had come. She had to beg her father to let them get apples – and now she was giving them away without a second thought.

Abigail had met Nomi at the same market. She worked with her grandmother and mother then, sewing and weaving fabric. Her grandmother had been a silk vender, while her mother knew how to loom. Together, they had taught Nomi the art of working with their hands and creating beautiful things. Now, as Abigail stepped back inside the barn to eye Nomi, she could see how much the death of her family had changed her. She was not yet a woman, but her face was lined with worry and creased by fear. She wore dull clothing of grey, brown, and straw-yellow. Nothing like the purple cloth she had held around her body when they had first met. And worse, in Abigail’s mind, Nomi’s small hands were caked with dirt. As Nomi moved her fingers along her apron nervously, she left a trail in her wake.

Abigail took another step closer to Nomi, clasping one of her hands in her own.

“I will hunt,” Abigail said. “Just as you will come home with me. I will take you away from this place.”

Nomi met Abigail’s gaze, like that first time in the market. Abigail’s pale green eyes crossed with Nomi’s dark brown ones – and they stayed there, waiting. Their hands and fates interlocked. The first time they had met, Abigail had pulled Nomi behind the stacks of cloth in her mother’s booth and they had told stories to one another. They had linked their hands in friendship, but soon sought one another out for more.

“You cannot treat me like your princess,” Nomi stated. She looked down at the straw on the bottom of the barn, but she did not break her hand away.

“Even if I am your prince?”

“You are still learning how to hunt. You cannot take care of me.”

“I can hit almost anything now,” Abigail said, conviction in her voice. She dropped Nomi’s hand to reach behind and take out an arrow from her quiver, along with her bow. Abigail heard the rustling of doves from a nest built in the corner of the barn. A grey wing flashed, another body moved. A dove flew out of the nest and then perched on a higher beam. Just as it began to coo its morning song, Abigail raised the arrow and let go.

Nomi gasped as the arrow was released, only to watch as it flew through the small crack in the barn, just by the window where Nomi had been talking to God.

“Let me try again,” Abigail said. Just as she set up to strike the arrow straight into the nest, she noticed Nomi’s eyes were wide.

“Don’t…”

Abigail swallowed, feeling as wounded as she wanted her prey. “I can hit him. I can take him down. I will provide.”

“I know,” Nomi said, biting her lip. “But we all have a place in this world. That’s why I don’t fight the men. And that’s why you shouldn’t hit the birds.”

Abigail took a step forward and curled her hand around Nomi’s dark hair. She tried to see herself inside of Nomi’s gaze, inside of her dark eyes that were deeper and richer than the tea she saw men drinking at the market.

“What can I do to change your mind?”

“Nothing. Nothing will change my mind.”

But from the way Nomi said it, her eyes darting around, Abigail knew that she could. “What do you want, my buttercup? What do I need to get for you?”

“I am no buttercup,” Nomi laughed. “My hair is so dirty now. It’s never been the buttercup you want. I’ve always been like the ash in the soot.”

“Then I will get you water,” Abigail said, running her fingers over Nomi’s dark skin. “So you can feel clean. But you are already beautiful. You are my beautiful flower.”

Abigail leaned in, placing a small kiss against Nomi’s cheek. Nomi closed her eyes against the touch and seemed to hold her breath. She pulled away as soon as Abigail pressed for more.

“You keep telling me all these good things, but I don’t think you realize something.”

Abigail tilted her head, listening.

“These stories are only as good as the people who listen to them.”

Abigail paused, still waiting for more.

“You can’t have a story without an audience. I need someone to tell these stories too,” Nomi repeated, her hands trembling. She reached inside her apron, found the apple, and held it as if it was a crutch. “Whatever the stories may be about, I want a family to share them with. Right now, these people are all I have. They know Eve as well as I do. They know other stories too, ones that I want to learn. They are my family now. I must accept that.”

“Even if they’ve taken you from where you belong? And taken what you thought you knew?”

“Yes,” Nomi said, swallowing. “Because this is what I have now. And I must learn to cherish it.”

Abigail rested her hand on her shoulder. “What if I could be your family?”

“It’s too risky,” Nomi repeated. “In all those stories, you know that there have never been people like us.”

“But that doesn’t mean –”

“We all have a place here. And this is mine.”

“What if…” Abigail continued, but was cut off by one of Nomi’s fingers against her lips, shushing her. Abigail knew that as soon as Nomi pulled her finger away, there would be a black mark of soot against her lips. Abigail yearned for a real kiss from Nomi’s lips, ones that reminded her of the times behind vendor tents, in bright colors. Even if dirt and soot was the only mark she could have now, Abigail knew she would take it so long as it was from Nomi.

“If you’re not careful,” Nomi warned, her voice now a whisper. “If you do not do as you are told, one of your arrows will go off the mark. It will become a stray. I cannot handle anymore strays.”

The words hurt Abigail, but she tried to not let it show. “What does it matter, so long as you hit the target?”

Abigail took a step back from Nomi. In a fluid motion, she pulled an arrow out of her quiver and pulled it back against the bow. She spotted the nesting doves inside the awning of the barn again and she shot. She felt as if she was working within fractions of sections, in between her breath and heartbeats. She closed her eyes, not bearing to see the trajectory of the arrow– until she heard the sudden oomph of a body falling. She spotted a gray mass on the pile of hay in the corner. The cows and goats bleated at the sudden sound, and then left the barn in an eerie silence.

Abigail ran over to her carcass with a smile on her face. She was relieved when she noticed that the bird had not suffered. The arrow entered the dove at the base of his breast and then emerged at the center of his wings in the back. Right in the heart, Abigail knew. He was killed instantly, as if she had meant to do it all along.

“Here,” Abigail said, scooping up the bird. She ran the few paces back to Nomi, whose eyes were tense.

“Quiet,” she hissed.

Abigail paid no heed. She handed over the small carcass of the bird to Nomi, who griped it in her dirty fingers. Both of their hands were soon covered in a small trail of blood. The feathers were matted, stuck together and forming small petals away from the center of the wound. Abigail took out the arrow from the bird and slid it back into her quiver, her smile never wavering.

“I know,” she said, realizing Nomi’s silent horror. “It is a brutal death. But it’s good for us. Good for you.”

“Don’t you need him?”

“I do. But I know I can hit others. I know I can catch more. I know I’m good at this, if I just try. Will you believe me?”

Nomi examined her, slowly letting the horror fall away from her face. She glanced down at the bird, his wound, and her prospects of a good dinner tonight. She placed the bird on a pile of straw by the doorway and then turned her focus to Abigail.

“Thank you,” Nomi said, a small light returning to her eyes. “But do you see my point?”

“All I see is you.”

“God,” Nomi said. “Even this bird has a place. Even this bird needed to fit into this plan.”

“But I shot him down,” Abigail emphasized.

“But God allowed you to do so.”

“Practice did,” Abigail correct, her voice stiff. “I shot him down with practice.”

Nomi’s eyes softened, almost patronizing. Abigail crossed her arms over her chest, wiping the rest of the blood away on her clothing. Nomi took a step forward, tentatively touching Abigail’s side. She linked her hand around the wide belt that Abigail now wore to keep her materials and the money her father had given her. For a moment, Abigail sighed and felt how fragile her lungs had become. She felt the deep groves from the satchel on her arm and the weight of all the things she carried. She tried to blink it away, to carry her burden like a prince. Nomi touched her with both hands, leaving marks of blood as she went. Abigail felt herself melt into the touch and stared at the blood as if those were her wounds.

“I’m sorry,” Nomi said quietly. “I wish things were different.”

“I wish we could go back in time,” Abigail said. She lowered her eyes to the straw of the barn, back to where the dove lay in a bloody mess.

“Time only goes one direction. We must make do with what we have.”

Abigail turned to Nomi again. “Do you know what my favourite story was? Of your mother’s?”

Nomi’s face was pained. Before Abigail could offer to make it better, both women heard the sound of thick boots and men on horses. Nomi’s eyes went wide in fear.

“The soldiers,” she whispered, her voice harsh. “They are back. Quick. We must hide.”

Nomi grabbed Abigail’s hands in hers and pulled her into one of the stables. The horse neighed and clicked its hooves as it moved out of their way. Nomi and Abigail both fell down on the pile of straw the horse had been eating from, their bodies pressed tightly together. Abigail held Nomi’s waist, perching her body on top of hers. She used her back and the arrows she held like a shield to protect them. Her satchel of food fell down and apples rolled to the ground. The horse sniffed the red skin and then bit through it with his teeth.

Through the small knots in the wood and grates in the barn, Nomi and Abigail could see the shadows of the men as they tied up their horses outside. There was the crackle of matches and the lighting of cigarettes before they began to laugh and joke. The men spoke in an old language that even Abigail did not recognize from the markets. Their tongues were thick, heavy with an accent that was from a lower region of the country. Sometimes, Abigail could recognize words – but she understood the way their bodies moved even more. Each man possessed a casual arrogance, the kind that soldiers who believe they are always right have. They were the militia men, with dark green vests, black hats, and crests on their shoulders. The type of men who broke into houses and stole little girls like Nomi from her bed.

“You must leave,” Nomi whispered into Abigail’s ears. “It is not safe here.”

“It’s not safe for either of us,” Abigail said. “But I’m not leaving without you.”

“I…” Nomi began. Abigail pressed her lips against hers before she could finish.

Nomi opened into the kiss, breathing into Abigail’s mouth all the fear she had kept back. Nomi linked her hands around Abigail’s waist, touching the small of her back. Abigail pressed their hips together. Soon, their tongues touched in their mouths. As Nomi pulled away, Abigail linked her hands around her neck and deepened the kiss again. Nomi went back willingly, falling into Abigail’s arms and body like an old habit.

Their first kiss – during the middle of the market, hiding inside the shadow from the vendor’s tents – had been small and chaste. As they learned how to sneak out and into one another’s arms, their feverish desire for one another had grown. Soon, they learned how to find rivers and ponds on the scorched earth, taking off their clothing so they could bathe together. Nomi, with her dark skin and hair, was always beautiful underwater. Abigail always felt that her olive skin and dry, tough brown hair was like the hay they laid on now. It was only underwater, when she could wrap her arms around Nomi, that she felt as strong and as beautiful as her.

When the missionaries came and took Nomi away from her mother, she had changed. She had learned to keep her desire for women, and especially for Abigail, under a tight pressure. Abigail still believed that Nomi loved her and wanted her the way she had in the water. But it would take a long time, especially now, to undo whatever damage had been done. As Abigail ran her hands down Nomi’s torso, she placed a hand over her heart, between her breasts. Nomi didn’t push her away. She opened her mouth more, kissing Abigail with a passion that had almost been completely snuffed out. Almost.

Nomi’s free hand reached up to Abigail’s dark hair, around her neck, and held her tight. Now, as Abigail pulled away, Nomi pulled her back. She deepened the kiss and allowed their bodies to move together, crunching the straw.

When they heard the sudden din of the military men, Nomi and Abigail both froze. They stretched their ears to hear the subtle tones of voice, the horses’ hooves, and the bleating of the sheep. Abigail forced her memories away as she felt Nomi tense. They held one another, cheeks pressed together, until they were sure that the men left.

“I think we’re safe,” Nomi whispered.

Abigail pressed her mouth over Nomi’s for another quick kiss. “Will you not come with me? Even after all these close calls?”

“We have luck,” Nomi said. “Faith. That is all.”

Abigail wanted to say: but we have practice and practice always makes perfect. But she held her tongue. She kissed Nomi again. The smell of smoke lingered in her nostrils from the men and their many cigarettes.

“I have to get back,” Nomi said, breaking away from the kiss. Her voice was soft. “They will be looking for me soon. For dinner.”

“Yes, I know,” Abigail said.

They both rose up from the straw pile. Abigail stood on her feet, trying to get her balance as Nomi fixed the rest of her apron and dress. She picked out small pieces of hay, and then tut-tuted about the small amount of blood leftover from the bird.

“I will have to wash all of this in the river again,” Nomi mentioned.

Abigail smiled. “Maybe I should join you.”

Nomi’s eyes widened with the memory. As quickly as it occurred, it was snuffed out.

“Careful now,” Nomi said. “We must leave quietly.”

Abigail poked her head around the corner first. Seeing no danger, she stepped away from the stable first and hid inside one of the shadows of the barn. Nomi walked over to the small dove and held it in her hands again.

“Thank you, for this,” she said before tucking it away in her apron pocket. “And for the apple.”

Abigail smiled weakly. “Anything for you.”

Nomi and Abigail stood just in front of the barn window, paces from one another. They lingered, even as light outside waned. Straw crunched under their heels and the animals bleated in a bored tone.

“Will I see you again?” Nomi asked.

Abigail nodded. “So long as God will put me here…”

Nomi nodded, smiling. “I hope He will.”

Abigail rolled her eyes at her own foolishness, but she still felt her heart quiver inside of her chest. No matter who was telling the story, she knew that she and Nomi were destined, fated. Theirs was the one story, she was sure, that could not be moved or changed. Abigail took another step forward, her arrows shaking in her quiver. She wrapped her arms around Nomi in a hug and kissed her cheek. They would always love one another, Abigail knew, in any time or place.

“I love you, my buttercup.”

“Go on now,” Nomi said, moving her hands in a shooing motion. Abigail reached in for one more kiss, before she walked outside the barn and into the parting clouds.

* * *

With the sun above her parted in the clouds, Abigail was able to walk across the deserted parts of the country with enough light to feel safe. In many places, the earth was scorched and cracked, a deep red hue like some of the spices in the market place. It had been a long, long time since the rain had fallen. The apples that she carried on her back would be the last fruit for a long time, before the figs and the dates were brought out into market. And even then, Abigail didn’t know if she could afford those much longer.

When she was young, Nomi’s mother told Abigail a story about the fig tree. This had been her favourite story, because the fig had always represented the beginning, middle, and end of every story.

“The fig tree is the one that gives us life,” Nomi’s mother, Narda, had stated. “First you have the fruit that can be eaten both fresh and dry. It can be savored or preserved and turned into wine. Then, there are the many seeds inside that can repopulate and make more trees. The leaves of the fig tree are big; they can be folded for clothing, for blankets, and then used to catch the rain water when it falls. During times of famine and drought, when people thought their end was near, the fig tree always proved them wrong. People would walk towards the fruit tree and wait underneath it, opening their mouths up like a drain. They would eat the dried fruits until the rain came and was caught by those big leaves. They were always, always rewarded for their patience. You can change the ending, if you really want. Walk towards the one thing that gives you hope and wait. Be patient. Your ending will come – and I promise you, for both of you girls, it will be a happy one.”

Narda’s rich voice still echoed in Abigail’s ears as she walked. The tale allowed her to focus on something other than the dryness in her throat and the heavy weight on her back. Her shoes, once made perfect out of the hide of their last goat, were now as cracked and worn as the deserted plains. Abigail knew that she could not stop. The food had to get back before the last light, before dinner would be served. Though she knew her father, Abraham, would lecture her about waste, she took out another apple from the bag and began to eat it. There were no fig trees around her on the plains to sustain her, even if she had wanted to sit and wait for the rain to fall.

Abigail had reached the high hills just before her small village when she saw it. The tops of everyone’s homes were now the same sandy red color as everything else around from the wind storms. But her tent – the one nearest the edge, was a bright white. Her father had cleaned it, and now Abraham was talking to the sky.

Abraham stood as he prayed, his large arms open. The wind opened up his dark blue robes, exposing his meagre peasant clothing underneath. Abigail watched from the hilltop as her father murmured and nodded. She could not hear any of the words, but she knew from her father’s gait and his dress that he was about to engage in something serious.

Abraham turned around and walked back into the tent. He emerged with Abigail’s younger brother, Isaac, in his arms, still wrapped in his swaddling blanket. Isaac’s blanket was the only piece of fabric, like the top of their white tent, which was not caked in a thin layer of dirt and dust.

Abigail shifted. She dropped the core of her apple into the sandy earth and rested her hand on the base of her quiver. Where are you going, old man? she asked herself. She lowered her free hand over her eyes, blocking out the sun so she could see farther on the horizon. On the tip of the wind, she thought she heard the mumbled ending of Abraham’s prayer.

“And he gave God a sacrifice, so God gave him another chance. We will go back to the way things used to be, if we offer up the firstborn son.”

Abigail’s eyes widened. She had never read the books the missionaries gave out. She didn’t want to become infected with the words on the printed page. Instead, she had focused on the stories she knew by heart, in her memory, from Nomi’s mother and the vendors. But she had overheard enough words to know the story about sacrifice. She knew enough to know that no one was really safe.

Abigail stood, utterly paralyzed, as Abraham brought over Isaac to the small rock by the foot of their base camp. The people around them in their small shanty village did not seem to see. They all stayed inside their tents, minding their own lives on the pages of the Bible. Only Abigail, with the sun directly behind her, cast a shadow on the earth.

Abraham unwrapped the small baby over the rock. He turned towards the sky again, talking to nothing at all. He reached into his pocket, taking out something silver and shiny under the light.

“Oh no,” Abigail said aloud, finding her voice. “Oh no, oh no.”

She lowered herself in the bushes. Her heart thundered inside of her chest, making each movement as she reached for her bow and arrows seem as if it was occurring in slow motion. The lub-dub of her heart was replaced by the screaming oh-no inside her mind. She watched, her green eyes wide, as Abraham kneeled before the infant. Isaac began to cry as the knife was raised – and so Abigail pulled out her weapon and aimed. She readied her bow, controlled her breaths. One shot, she knew. One shot would be all she would ever have.

Lub-dub, went her heart. Oh-no, went her head. Abraham kept talking to the sky. Lub-dub. Isaac cried. Oh no. Abraham lowered the knife. Abigail aimed for his neck. Lub-dub. Oh, no.

Abigail fired.

Her shot soared through the air. Against the wind and the sand, the arrow volleyed straight into Abraham’s neck and out the other side. Blood spurted from the wound, marking the infant Isaac on the rock. Abraham feel forward, half of his body over his nearly-scarified son. Before the body could hit the ground, Abigail was on her feet. She ran towards the rock before the other villagers noticed – and before, if there was a God, could punish her for what she had done.

Abigail had gone against the story. She had ruined the sacrifice that was written on the pages and spoken of from ages ago. But she did not care. Abigail knew that this was not what real life was about, and because years ago, Nomi’s mother had told her she could be something different if she understood the story enough to change the end.

Abigail ran towards the rock with all the strength she had left. She ran until she found Isaac, covered in blood and screaming. She wrapped him back up inside the white cloth her father had him in. She fashioned the sheet into a sack for the baby against her chest. Blood streaked everything she touched, creating a sticky paste that mixed with the sand. But none of the blood was hers and none of it was Isaac’s. That was all that mattered.

“Shhh,” she said to Isaac who still cried against her chest. “My love, my love. You will be safe. You will be free.”

She tied the final knot above her neck, securing them both in place.

Then she heard the villagers. Roused from their own lives, they were now aware of the small massacre which had occurred. They shouted and turned towards the sky, asking for vengeance in heated breaths. Abigail began to run.

As she ran, Abigail dropped her arrows only once. She stopped to pick each one up again and tied the quiver’s leather strap tight against her shoulder. Even as Isaac cried, Abigail knew she could afford any stray arrows. Not anymore. Fate was a cruel burden that she knew she must carry on her back—one arrow at a time.

Abigail turned back towards the deserted parts of the country and ran to Nomi’s house.

* * *

Evelyn Deshane's creative and nonfiction work has appeared in Plenitude Magazine, Briarpatch Magazine, Strange Horizons, Lackington's, and Bitch Magazine, among other publications. Evelyn (pron. Eve-a-lyn) received an MA from Trent University and is currently completing a PhD at the University of Waterloo. Evelyn's most recent project #Trans is an edited collection about transgender and nonbinary identity online. Follow @evelyndeshane or visit evedeshane.wordpress.com for more info.

Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

Lots of places! But I think every one of my stories starts with an emotion I've experienced in some way, and that I've tried to communicate using different genres, styles, or symbols as a way to obscure its origin. Basically, I use fiction to feel my feelings. :)


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