FINDING THE MARK
My friend, Meghan, is renowned for her unflagging honesty and determination, so when I decide to write her a story, I knew I wanted to focus on those laudable characteristics. She also happens to be a fledgling archer, with a longstanding love of Katniss Everdeen.
This story is also a part of a larger project in which my close group of friends is endowed with special abilities to combat a spreading darkness. Sounds like just your typical day, right? Enjoy!
Finding the Mark
At the center of the glen, Meghan stood alone, eyes closed, hands hanging loose by her sides. She would not fail again. This time, she would do it right.
A round, vibrant sun bathed her in a late morning light that caressed her skin and warmed the grass beneath her bare feet. The smell of oak leaves drifted by on a breeze as it passed through the circle of trees surrounding the young woman’s sanctuary. Crickets chattered in the overgrowth, indifferent witnesses to Meghan’s quiet practice. Beyond the deep valley below, goose-down clouds floated slowly past snow-capped mountain peaks that jutted up through a sprawling green forest that stretched to the west in an unbroken carpet.
Meghan breathed in the crisp mountain air, filling her lungs with the cleanest molecules she could ever hope to enjoy. Amid the darkness behind her eyelids, she considered this fact for a moment. An article about how humans were breathing the same air today as all creatures who had come before sprang to mind. To think she shared breath with a dinosaur brought a smile to Meghan’s lips. But there was no time to linger on the thought. The others were depending on her; depending on her gift and the power it bestowed. Meghan needed to get it right.
Fifty yards from the lone woman, a collection of stones were stacked precariously on top of one another like freshly constructed cairns. Meghan slowly opened her eyes, each of her deep breaths now quiet and full of intent. She held her hand out to her side, then raised it overhead in a gentle motion, all the while her fingertips stretched out straight to the blue sky above. A pair of sparrows streaked by as Meghan concentrated. Tiny droplets of perspiration collected one by one on her forehead, coalescing and then rolling down her brow. Meghan stared with unwavering focus - eyes straining, body tense - at the awkward stacks of stones that watched her with quiet indifference.
One second passed, then two, and then three. Meghan counted them off in her mind, trying hard to eradicate her self and concentrate only on the task at hand. As the clouds drifted by overhead, a peculiar sensation warmed her chest. It moved through her arms, out to her fingers and beyond. She felt for a moment as though she could grab the sunlight, to mold it to her purpose. Within moments, strings of light gathered at the edges of her fingertips and grew rapidly in length. What were disparate threads of light mere seconds before twisted together, called by Meghan’s will to her purpose.
Ribbons of light expanded and flattened as Meghan remembered her nickname; that of an ancient god perched high atop fluffy clouds and wielding great lightning bolts. “Zeus” the others called her. A weighty title, saddled with pressures and demands Meghan wasn’t sure she was ready to shoulder. She shook her head to dispel the thought.
Sweat poured now from Meghan’s brow and dripped down her arm as the pieces of light became a shard. Jutting and angular, its bright surface reflected the azure sky and seemed to evaporate the air around it. The smell of burnt ozone permeated the space nearest this sliver of sunlight, and yet it did not burn Meghan to touch. Sensing the task was complete, Meghan allowed herself a small grin, but knew this was only step one. Step two was the hard part.
The spear of light in her grip, Meghan’s arm trembled with crackling energy. Before she could think, she cast her arm forward as fast and straight as she could. The shard of light obeyed her command and hurtled toward the apathetic stone targets with the speed of an arrow. Meghan watched the shard of light race where she hoped her eye and arm were guiding it: directly into the stack of stones that somehow resembled a gray goblin.
The bolt nicked the edge of the uppermost stone, toppling it to the ground. Far off on the opposite mountain, a flash of light and cloud of dust exploded amid the wind-worn foliage. In a second the sound of the impact cracked in her ears. Meghan scowled and huffed in frustration.
“Damn it,” Meghan muttered to herself.
“Better than I could ever manage!” A warm, self-deprecating voice encouraged from behind.
Meghan yelped in surprise and hopped forward, then turned to see Brian holding a picnic basket. An irrepressible smile spread across the light crafter’s face as she wrapped her arms around her companion. A square of shimmering energy revealed a dingy city beyond the spacial engineer, its smoky sky dark and full of gray flakes that fell like snow. When an enormous creature draped in black shadow stalked past a tall glass building, a frigid tremor of fear crept up Meghan’s spine. Noticing her deepening frown, Brian stepped through the portal and the doorway to somewhere else winked out of existence.
“I’m not good enough. Not yet,” Meghan said, her tone confessional and dejected. Out of the corner of her eye, she glared again at the targets waiting at the opposite edge of the clearing. The image of the city-crushing behemoth flashed in her mind.
“You know, ‘good enough’ is a relative evaluation. I have no doubt that when you need to be, you will be ‘great.’ The desire to succeed just has to outweigh your fear of failure,” Brian explained. He smiled broadly at Meghan and with solemn eyes, nodded in assurance.
"Oh, is that all?" Meghan sarcastically. She opened her hands to stare at the lines that criss-crossed her empty palms. Questions of ability and doubts born of fear cast her eyes downward. But Meghan could feel Brian’s eyes on her, somehow watching with confidence. She thought of his doors, of Devin’s swords, of Cassie’s shields, all wielded without worry… or thought...
Eyes ablaze, Meghan shook her arms and stepped away from Brian as he continued unpacking his basket. She squinted at the stubborn, mostly intact stones only long enough to find her aim and stretched her hand out to try again. Threads of light gathered at her fingertips and in one smooth motion, the young woman raised her hand overhead to cast another javelin. She forgot Zeus and thought of Artemis; thought of launching the shafts of vibrating, shimmering light like arrows at the enemies that would do her friends harm, do Brian harm, do the world harm.
In a second, a shard of light darted with a flash from her hand. A stack of the brownish gray stones exploded on contact with the javelin. Dust billowed into the air and danced on the breeze as the sound of the blast echoed in the valley below.
Brian clapped and cheered. Meghan breathed a sigh of relief. As she watched the smoldering ruins of the stone, a ray of sunlight bathed the glen in a reassuring warmth. Turning back to Brian, Meghan felt for the first time as though this power were truly hers.
“What’s for lunch?” Meghan asked through grinning teeth...