Chapter 18:

018 ┃ Bulls-eye Blunders

The Isle of the Forgotten

Spud was hiding behind the rubble of a crumbled house. He tried not to make the slightest noise, but it was not himself he was worried about. Several meters away from him, Dawn was in a vicious fight with a massive beast. Although he had seen her triumph on numerous occasions, this time it seemed she was losing.

The stalker struck her with its lizard tail, and the girl fell harshly to the ground. Her spear was broken, and now she was coughing up blood. Spud felt his heart pounding in his chest. He had to help her. She was going to die.

As the beast approached Dawn, she attempted to stab it in the head in a desperate bid for survival. But the stalker grabbed her arm and squeezed until a painful crack was heard, followed by her agonized screams. Spud tried to think of something to do, but nothing came to mind. He didn't know how to fight like Dawn, he didn't know how to use the bow, he didn't even have the courage to face the beast. He felt helpless. A sharp pain pierced his chest as he watched Dawn scream in pain.

In an instant, the stalker swiped its sharp claws across Dawn's neck, and the screams ceased. Her head rolled away from her lifeless body, which collapsed on the ground. Spud screamed in desperation. His only friend, the only person he knew, was dead. He couldn't look away from Dawn's severed head looking at him from a distance. Her face was stuck in an expression of horror as if she knew that she was going to die no matter what.

The stalker now set its sight on Spud and started to charge toward him. In tears, the boy tried to react. He was next. He had to run. He tried to turn and start running, but his legs wouldn't respond. He was paralyzed. He could only watch as the stalker pounced on him, claws raised…

Spud bolted upright in his bed, drenched in sweat. Lion was startled by the boy's abrupt movement, but seeing that nothing was wrong, curled back up in his lap. The boy looked around, frantic. He was in his room. It was only a dream.

He took a deep breath and wiped his forehead. Several days had passed since their visit to the lake, but the sight of the family's skeletons still haunted him. The image kept reappearing in his mind, making him think that he or Dawn could be next. She had protected him multiple times, but he couldn't protect her. He didn't know how. If things continued this way, the dream he just had would become a reality. If only he could learn to use the bow...

He looked out of the window. The sun was beginning to rise, which meant it was safe to go outside. He could go out and practice a bit before Dawn woke up. It wouldn't matter if she discovered him, but he preferred not to tell her. It would be like admitting he was helpless and didn't know how to do anything. He had to do it alone.

Spud took a deep breath and focused on a tree about ten meters away. Although Dawn had taught him the basics when they were fishing at the lake, he hadn't hit any of his five shots. Clearly, this was much harder than he had thought.

He turned his head to look at Lion, who was sitting on the porch watching him. The cat had been paying attention for a while, but now his eyes were slowly closing.

"Lion, don't fall asleep. I'm going to hit it this time, for sure," Spud promised, keeping his gaze fixed on his target. He tried to mimic the stance that Dawn had taught him a few days earlier. Straight back, shoulders down, feet apart. He was so focused that all he could see was the tree he was aiming at. He could do this. He released the string and… the arrow disappeared into a nearby bush.

Spud lowered the bow with a sigh of frustration. Why was this so difficult?

"What are you doing?" asked Dawn, watching him from the porch with her arms crossed.

Spud jumped in surprise and tried to keep his composure as he looked at his companion.

"Dawn? What are you doing up so early?" the boy questioned, nervous.

"I could hear you swearing from my room," she answered, suppressing a smile.

"Oh, sorry," he apologized, blushing from embarrassment.

"And? What are you doing with the bow at this hour?" asked Dawn as she crouched down to pet the kitten.

Spud tried to think of a plausible excuse. He couldn't tell her that he was practicing to protect her; that would be too embarrassing. She would definitely laugh at him.

"I... I want to learn how to hunt," he lied, avoiding her gaze. "That way, we'll have more food and won't have to rely solely on what you bring in."

While Spud didn't feel good about lying to his companion, it wasn't entirely untrue. If he learned to hunt, it would mean he knew how to use the bow well, fulfilling his objective anyway.

"That's great. I gather you're not doing too well," teased Dawn.

"It's harder than I thought," admitted the boy with a nervous laugh.

"It's normal, it's only your second day handling a bow," she explained with a calm tone that made Spud nervous. "Do you want me to help you?"

"No, no, don't worry. You already did a lot by teaching me the other day at the lake. I can continue on my own. Besides, I don't want to waste your time," Spud dismissed as he collected the wayward arrows.

"It's not a waste of time, it's teaching you to use the bow. You'll learn much faster if there's someone guiding you," Dawn countered.

"No, really. I'm sure you have more important things to do."

Dawn's expression hardened and Spud was reminded of the sharp-edged Dawn he had first met.

"Don't be stubborn. I'm going to help you, that's final," the girl declared, seriously.

Spud sighed. If there was one thing he'd learned from living with Dawn, it was that it was nearly impossible to make her change her mind.

"Which one of us is the stubborn one?" Spud mumbled under his breath.

"What did you say?" she asked firmly.


Dawn sat on the porch next to Lion. Her eyes were fixed on Spud, which made him feel even more nervous than before.

"Let me first see you shoot. That way, I can correct you. But before that," she directed and went into the house. After a while, she appeared with a large, multi-colored target and set it about ten meters away from Spud. "I haven't used this in months. Come on, try to hit this."

Spud took a deep breath and loaded the arrow. He tried to keep all of Dawn's advice in mind, but when he shot, the arrow didn't even come close to the target.

"Do you see? I can't even hit the target. I'm pathetic,"

"Don't say that," she ordered imperatively. "It's your first day actually practicing. What did you expect?"

"I don't know. It's just frustrating," he complained.

"Do you want to learn or not? Try watching how I do it," she suggested as she approached Spud and took the bow. After barely a second of aiming, the arrow shot out and hit right in the center of the target.

A. Hoshino