I have a new one for you, guys. I've been playing around with this idea for a while now. Trying to set it sometime in the early 1700's. This is a side project so i might be slow to update. Disclaimer: I don't own anything that is already owned.
I pull on my brother's jacket and one of his hats, my skin flushing with goose-pimples from the building excitement. The chill blowing through the window prompts me to wrap myself in the scarf I crocheted last season. My well worn boots slip over my heel with a satisfying pop. I take a few moments just standing in the middle of the room, thinking about what the night's going to hold for me before closing the window and blowing out the candles.
I close the door to my brother's room as I leave and find them ready to go.
Samuel gives me a sideways look, "What are you doing, Cecil?"
James looks up from stringing his bow. "Is that my coat and jacket?"
I look down at myself, "You said I could wear it when we hunt."
Samuel frowns and slings his quiver over his shoulder, "No, not tonight little sister. You're staying here."
"But the moose! I can help bring him in! It's dark and an extra pair of eyes will help."
Samuel puts a soft hand on my shoulder, "James brought up some water. Stay here and clean yourself for tomorrow. I've met a few possible suitors around town today and they want to meet you in the morning."
I step back from him, "I don't need you playing the matchmaker for me!" I yell, hurt by his words. "I can do more than stay in a home and have children. I can bring down that moose with you and James. You're not mother or father, so stop trying to be." Why is he so anxious to be rid of me?
"This is what they would have wanted for you! I am the oldest and it is up to me to find a husband for you, that is the end of it! You are not coming with."
He yells so much more lately, mostly at me. "I'm best with the bow, please let me help the both of you." I turn to my other brother and hold up my hands to him, "James, tell him."
James pulls his knit cap over his short, scraggly blonde hair. "Just let her come, Samuel. One day she'll live as a spinster, so she will have to know how to survive."
"I'm sixteen, hardly a spinster!"
"Enough. James, lets go. Cecil," He takes both my hands in his, "We won't always be here. You are the youngest and, if God is good, you will outlive us. I need to know that you will have someone to care for you."
I open my mouth to tell him I don't need to be sheltered but he cuts me off.
"I know you are strong but there are times when you may feel powerless against the world. I want you to have someone to remind you how strong you are." He plants a soft kiss on my forehead, "Prepare for tomorrow, please, for the family."
James opens the door and without another word, they are on their horses and crossing the field, leaving me standing in the doorway. My heart sinks. Why did I have to be born a girl?
The cool mountain air of the Carolina Provence blows my hair round my face and I tuck it up into the hat. It's irritating at first, but reminds me of what one of the Indian children told me once when we were hiding in the forest together so no one would see us play. The spirits of the dead are with us in the wind. I feel the breeze again and bite the inside of my cheek.
"I miss you father. I miss you mother. I'm being strong for you. Help my brothers see that."
In the distance I hear a moose call. I'm sure they heard it too. If I could get to it first, track my brothers, the moose, even land they killing blow. I could do it and still be back in time to clean up. If Samuel can handle the world on his shoulders, I should try to as well. I close the door behind me and run for the barn.
Our small herd of goats are in for the night, and their bleating perks up as the barn door opens. I pass the two stalls holding them and head into the tack room. I pile up the blanket, bit and reins, and saddle into my arms. It's so heavy but I make it to my horse's stall and toss the load on the edge of the door. Heather shifts uneasily but I calm her with a hand on her nose. A gift from my father and the first and only horse I ever broke and raised. The saddling job is fast and messy but I grab my bow, some arrows, and two field knives before flying out of the barn and into the wood.
Reaching the forest, I follow the path at a trot, passing the spot where my brother's had dismounted and tied their horses. I had set up a tree blind not far from this area a while back to watch deer travel on the path. They should pass by on their way back to their horses. Hiding Heather behind low branches, I climb off her and up the ladder at the base of the blind, settling myself on the ledge against the trunk. I'm downwind and the cold air numbs the tip of my nose, prompting a covering from my scarf.
Samuel and James break loudly through the underbrush, arguing. They must be packing in early.
"The call was close by. We can still catch him." James protests, running to keep up with Samuel's fast pace.
"He was heading over the mountain top. We can chase him up there but we'll lose him as soon as he crosses over. We still have some venison stored, we don't need to wind ourselves tonight."
Out of place movement directly across the path from where I'm set. One moment we were alone and I simply blinked and three others have appeared. A tall blond man, a young dark haired man, and a red haired woman wearing a dinner dress.
My brothers catch the change and draw back their bows. They point at the strangers, probably expecting a mountain lion. I almost call out to them to stop them, but something keeps me quiet. At the sight of the three newcomers, they instantly relax their strings.
"Forgive me," James begs, "You startled us. We were hunting and didn't hear you approach." He lowers his bow.
"Are you travelers?" Samuel asks. He looks as uneasy as I am. Nothing about this feels right.
"We are." The woman says happily. Her voice is overly cheerful and light like small bells. Her dress is so out of place in the woods. If she is truly as vain as she seems, it's disgusting. What is she doing here?
"I'd avoid pressing west." James perks up. He never takes his eyes off her, the scoundrel. "There's pox in the mountains. Perhaps this isn't the best place for you, Miss."
"We appreciate the advice." The young, brown haired man speaks finally. His voice has a strange accent. Thinking of it, they all do.
Watching from the trees, I see the strangers circle my brothers. The tall blond man stands behind James while the younger stays close to Samuel. The woman keeps their attention away from her friends by moving between them. They're acting like wolves. The tension is thick and I fit an arrow onto my bow.
"Is the hunting well out here?" She asks them.
I notice Samuel's hand move slowly to his knife, "It's slow tonight. We are actually on our way back home."
The woman frowns, "but you haven't caught anything yet."
"That happens some nights, Miss. James?" Samuel finally notices they're surrounded. "James!"
James is looking between the woman and boy behind Samuel with a confused look on his face, "Where are your supplies, if you're traveling?"
The man behind James grabs him suddenly and bites into his neck. The scream chills me and I nearly walk of the blind to get to my brother. His hands push and tear at the monster's face, but it's in vain. The screams stop and I can hear the gargle of blood coming from his gaping mouth over the creature's growls.
"James, no!" Samuel pulls his knife but the younger man is on him in an instant. Even being half Samuel's size, he restrains him with no effort. The woman laughs and licks the side of my brother's face. The boy pulls him to the ground and digs into his throat like an animal.
I don't scream, pure shock keeps me silent. So much blood. The scarf around my nose and mouth muffles my heavy breathing. How did he move so fast? My brothers never had a chance to move.
The woman is the only one standing off by herself. Her laugh still plays in my ears. She is an easy target. A quick kill. The bitch. The demon. I have a single chance.
I look down from the ladder where my horse still stands. God save me. I draw back, take aim at demon woman, and release. I don't wait for assurance, but drop onto her back. The force of the landing spooks her and she runs. All I can do is keep gripped on her mane and fumble to grab the reins.
"Fly, Heather," I whisper to her as my feet find the stirrups and I give her an urging kick. We weave through the trees, passing as close to them as we can. Noise behind us, like breaking branches. I can't look. I'm so close to the edge of the forest. If we could just hit the edge of the forest, home is just in the clearing. I pull a knife from each side of my belt and peek over my shoulder.