It had just been here, and now we couldn’t find it. I looked around me then out to the woods beyond. Then, over at my cousin. “I saw it go down, didn’t you?”
He nodded. “Right here. Your shot took it clean. It should be here. But, there’s no sign of it. No blood or anything.”
I sighed. Maybe the deer I had shot had gone off into those woods. But my cousin was right. There should have been at least a trail of blood to follow. I had seen it go down under my arrow as well. “Come on. We need that meat. We’ll have to go in after it.”
I could feel his hesitation though and turned to face him. And he shook his head. “I’m not going in there. Haven’t you heard the stories?”
“You know I have. I’ve told you some of them.” I turned back toward those woods, supposedly haunted, and away from him. “But, I don’t have a chance. Ma’s counting on me. If I don’t bring that meat home, we won’t have anything to eat. And the little ones need to eat.”
I knew he didn’t follow me as I started for those trees. His family wasn’t as desperate as mine. His father was still home, so he didn’t have to provide for his family when he wasn’t even a man yet. We were the same age, but by circumstance, I had to be older, to act older. I wasn’t bitter about it. It just was what it was. I took another arrow from the quiver on my back and held my bow ready for when I came across the animal. Not only did we need the meat, but I couldn’t afford to lose one of the arrows I had crafted myself.
I took another step deeper into the woods and heard the crunch of a foot on dead leaves and sticks to my left. I turned, bringing my bow up to aim at whoever it was. I wouldn’t let anyone get between me and my family’s next meal. But, there was no one there.
Then, another crunch. This one closer and behind me. Could it be the monster reported to live here? They said you wouldn’t see him until he was right on you. I shook my head. I didn’t believe in monsters anymore. At least not the ones that lived under the beds and in our nightmares. I turned again and still nothing. Letting out the breath I’d been holding, I started forward again.