On the night of the Hunter's Moon, you will bring a cup of milk from a black cow, a dagger that's drawn blood, a hawk's feather and three drops of blood. You will take them to the clearing and place them on the stump near the yarrow flowers. On the night of the Hunter's-
Tyler squeezed his eyes shut, pressing his palms against his closed eyelids. He ground his teeth till the whisper became a dull drone. He focused on the noises downstairs, his siblings talking to each other, getting ready for the day. The smell of breakfast hung the air. It was Saturday, so that would mean eggs and -
-a hawk's feather and three drops-
"Tyler!" His mother's voice rang out.
Swinging his feet over the edge of the bed, Tyler sat for a moment. He took a deep breath, then nodded to himself. Curling his toes into the carpet, Tyler got to his feet. He locked his bedroom door, then opened his closet. He trailed a finger along the top, finally selecting a pair of black pants. A pristine white shirt topped it, along with the plain black tie. Once dressed, he stepped outside, tying his hair back into a low hanging ponytail.
"Tyler! We're waiting for you!"
"Coming!" He called from the top of the stairs.
"It may not be Sunday yet, Evelyn, but we shouldn't let him sleep in a few extra minutes." Thomas nodded to his son. Even at sixty years old, Thomas' posture was impeccable, and his short light brown hair was only now starting to grey at the temples. "Although we were just about ready to starve." A grin came across the man's face, his hazel eyes twinkling with mirth.
"The rest of us are here waiting patiently." Evelyn said simply, looking up from where she put half a tablespoon of sugar into her coffee. Two quick turns of the spoon and she set it down, tugging on her already tight ponytail. "We shouldn't have to wait on account of-"
"Sorry, I was just-" Tyler made a vague gesture with his hand, falling silent when he caught sight of his mother's unamused expression. "Sorry." He murmured, taking his seat.
"Now that we're all here." Thomas gestured to the group with practiced ease, watching the heads lower in unison. "Our Father-"
-flowers. On the night of the Hunter's moon-
Tyler's brow furrowed. He clenched his hand into a fist, focusing on the sting of nails in his palm. When he opened his eyes, the rest of his family was already eating.
"I spoke to Mr. Watts yesterday." Thomas paused to take a sip of his coffee. "He said the parts for the tractor will be in this afternoon. Who would like to pick them up?"
"I'll go." Tyler and Theresa spoke as one.
"Theresa," Evelyn said. "I thought you and Trevor were going to be practising-"
"That's not going to take the whole day." Theresa brushed one of her dark brown braids back over her shoulder. "I don't ever get to go! You always send Tyler." On her left, Trevor flinched, sinking lower in his chair as if to make himself a smaller target in this battle. Across from him, Timothy looked between speakers, uncaring or unaware of the rising tension. He ducked his head, the fork almost disappearing around his fingers as he began to cut up his food.
Head bowed, Tyler fiddled with the rim of his coffee cup, refusing to meet the eyes of thse around him. It was easier to let it play out.
"Tyler's better able to help Mr. Watts load them on to the truck."
"Then why do you even ask?" Theresa's voice rose sharply. "You're always going to pick Tyler! You always pick him! Maybe if I heard voices like some kind of fr-"
One of the bulbs in the kitchen burst. Evelyn muttered under her breath. For a moment, the only sound was the scrape of Evelyn's chair against the hardwood floor. "Timothy, could you please help me change the bulb?" Walking into the kitchen, she grabbed the broom and began sweeping up the broken glass. "Watch your step there."
It was a long moment before Timothy came into the room. With his six foot nine inch frame, he reached into the shelf above the refridgerator and grabbed the box of bulbs. It was a simple matter to change out the broken one.
-cup of milk from a blac-
When the blond looked up, he was surprised to see the table mostly empty, the plates not even half eaten. "Theresa can go."
"Theresa has responsibilities here that she needs to deal with. You finished your lesson plans, haven't you? Good. Don't..." The older man paused. "She spoke out of anger. I'll-"
"It's okay." Tyler snorted. "I mean, it's not like she's wrong."
"Nonsense. She needs to realize that raising her voice will get her nowhere. Theresa will go next time. Does that suit you, Theresa?" He looked over to his daughter who stood in the doorway of the kitchen, smoothing out a wrinkle in her dark blue skirt. "The extra grain got delayed until Monday."
"Yes, Father. I'm-"
Thomas waved a hand, cutting her off. "We'll discuss this later."
Tyler kept his head down, finishing his meal. When he was done, he grabbed his plate and washed it off before putting it away. Movement caught his eye and he met Theresa's gaze across the room. She murmured something he couldn't make out, but it seemed friendly enough, so he nodded.
-blood. You will take them to the clea-
Tyler grabbed his wallet and opened the door. The weather was fairly cool, but it wasn't worth taking a jacket. Thomas emerged from his study and handed Tyler five one hundred dollar bills and a pair of car keys. "That will cover the repair. Be sure to fill up the tank as well."
Tyler nodded. "Of course. I'll be back soon."
The truck barely moved as he eased along the stone strewn driveway. Despite his pace, dust was kicked up, forcing him to shut the windows. With practiced ease, Tyler backed the vehicle up into the open garage door, then stepped out so the mechanic could finish. The owner was already waiting nearby and Tyler walked over to greet him, offering his hand. "Mr. Watts, thanks so much."
"Not a problem." Watts was a short haired man whose hair might have been blond once, but it was marked with streaks of grey now. Small glasses sat high on his nose and the snug fitting t-shirt he wore spoke of a body well maintained.
"I have your-" Tyler reached to his back pocket, freezing when Anderson raised a hand.
"Already taken care of, kid."
"Really?" Tyler blinked.
"I mean, if you really want to pay me again, I won't say no."
"Thanks," Tyler laughed. He made a mental note to return the money to his father later. Watts nodded and headed back into his office, clearly deeming the conversation over. He'd never been one for small talk.
Heading into the garage, Tyler did what he could to help load the equipment into the truck and was soon on his way. He cranked the volume as high as he could, but the voice was always there.
Bringing the visor down to shield his eyes from the mid-afternoon sun, Tyler frowned when he saw Theresa leading Trevor into the house. He was hunched over, favoring his arm. Wincing, Tyler parked the truck in the driveway and went inside. "Is everything okay?"
Trevor was sitting at the kitchen table, face pinched with pain. "Shoulder." He said simply. "I went to grab something and it popped out of place again."
Evelyn came into the kitchen, setting down a basket filled with gauze. "You simply must be more careful, Trevor-"
"I wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary. It just popped."
"That can happen. Shoulder troubles like this tend to happen more easily over time. It might be worth it to visit a doctor about this."
"Oh yeah." Theresa rolled her eyes; "You know he'll love that."
"I'll speak to your father. I can only wrap this so many times before Trevor could be looking at some serious damage." She walked in front of the seated man, her face expressionless. "Deep breath."
Tyler stayed well back.
-from a black cow, a dagger that's drawn-
With clinical ease, Evelyn took hold of her son's wrist with one hand, bracing his shoulder with the other. She moved slowly, but surely until the joint settled properly. That done, she attached a sling to the injured arm. "We're done. Upstairs."
As Trevor went to his room, his face ashen, Theresa looked over at Tyler. "So much for getting some practice in."
"Well, I'm not as good a shot as Trevor, but let me drop off the truck and I'll meet you over by the old barn. Should be twenty minutes at most."
"Really?" Theresa grinned. "Thanks, Tyler!" She clapped him on the back and bolted out the door excitedly.
Tyler put his hand on the doorknob when he felt his mother squeeze his shoulder. He went still.
"We both know it'll be that time of year again." Evelyn said softly, as if they were sharing a secret. "You've been strong for so many years now. I know it's not easy for you, Tyler, but-"
"I wish it was over with," Tyler closed his eyes.
"You can't give into it. You won't. I won't let you."
"I know. I know." Tyler took a deep breath and opened his eyes. "They're waiting for me."
"Wait." Evelyn opened up a cabinet near the fridge and pulled out a battered Thermos. A few flecks of the original dark green colour remained and there was a small dent near the bottom. She unscrewed the cap and ladled in some soup from the counter. "Take that over to Heath, would you? He's so forgetful sometimes."
Tyler nodded and took the Thermos. Though he knew the soup inside was piping hot, it still held a chill. "I will." Without a look back, Tyler opened the door, turning up his collar against the cool October air. He climbed into the driver's seat, taking care not to slam the door too hard. As he drove, he could feel his mother's gaze on him.
Tyler kept the speed low to avoid kicking up too much dust along the familiar path. He pulled up near the silo where he could see a single figure hunched over some hay bales. Tyler watched the redhead cleanly slice through the cord holding a bale together before sending the pieces up the shute into a silo.
"Heath," Tyler said, causing the redhead to look up.
"Hey, Tyler! Oh, fantastic. This'll go a hel- heck of a lot faster now."
"First thing's first." Tyler handed him the Thermos, chuckling at the look on his face, as if food had never occurred to him. "Take a break, and I'll give you a hand. I'm giving Theresa a shooting lesson, so hold off for thirty minutes and I'll come back, all right?"
"Lemme guess." Slater gave the Thermos a little shake. "Evelyn's orders?"
"Which is exactly why I'm giving you that soup and you're going to eat it."
"All right, all right. Hardly a chore, really."
"Give me a hand with the truck first."
"Right, and you're gonna try teaching Theresa again? Good luck with that. I mean, I know your Dad's big on miracles and all, but-" He trailed off.
"Don't be like that." Tyler forced himself to keep a straight face. "She keeps practising and one of these days she might hit something. I know I shouldn't make fun, but-"
"It's funny." The two men finished in unison.
Slater sat down on a hay bale, his feet dangling as he opened up the Thermos. "Go on, get. I promise I won't work a bit till you get back." Tyler stood and dusted off his hands, brushing them on his pants. Between the two of them, the truck was unhitched in short order.
"Better not." Tyler gave a quick wave.
He headed down the trail towards the barn. The wind was rustling a bit, barely kicking up the leaves around his feet. Tyler closed his eyes, tried to focus on the rustling -
-You will take them to the clearing and place them on the stump near the yarrow flowers. On the night of the Hunter's--
Tyler batted his fist against his leg. He walked up the gentle slope to the barn. The truck was parked, the wheels crooked in a way that would launch their father into a doozy of a lecture. Theresa was standing near the remains of an old gate; the hinges had torn off ages ago, leaving it useless, but making for an excellent practice point. Theresa was hunched over.
"Hey," Tyler called out.
Theresa turned, the rifle pointed at him.
"Whoa!" Tyler threw his hands up in the air. "Theresa..."
"Tyler!" She lowered the weapon and he finally took a deep breath.
"You know better!" He snapped. Tyler put his hand on the barrel of the weapon, his face flush with fear. "You know the first rule of guns."
"Don't point it at something you don't want to shoot." Theresa droned the oft repeated words. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay." Tyler loosened his grip and put his hand on his sister's shoulder. "It's okay. You've got the targets set up already? Good."
"Yeah," Theresa chuckled. "I'm sure they'll be safe for another day, the way I shoot."
"I wouldn't worry too much. There'll probably be a stiff wind to knock them down sometime."
Theresa smacked Tyler's upper arm with the back of her hand. "Rude." She muttered, but she was laughing as she said it. "All right, let's go."
"We can't leave it like this," Tyler said, some time later. "It's not right." He put the safety back on the rifle and placed the empty weapon on the gun rack.
Theresa said nothing, seemed unaware of his ministrations; instead she stared out at the cans perched on top of the fence mockingly.
"Not right." Tyler said simply. He grabbed his sister's hand and they trudged towards the barn. Ignoring his sister's questioning, Tyler walked over to the closest can, a dented thing with only a few red flecks of paint remaining. He met his sister's gaze, winked and swatted it off the post.
Theresa clapped her hand over her mouth. She looked around, as if checking to see if someone was watching. A hesitant hand reached out, stopped and then she knocked another over. Once all the cans were done, Theresa looked over at her brother. She pulled him into a hug. "Thanks." She said softly. Her grip tightened for a moment before she pulled back. Smiling, Theresa climbed back into the truck and headed home.
"Hey Tyler," Heath pulled his hair back into a tighter ponytail. "Have you seen my-?"
When he looked up, the blond was gone.
Evelyn hummed to herself as she dropped the chopped vegetables in the boiling water. She looked out the window. The wind was picking up and the clouds were getting darker with more than just the coming night. Her fingertips drummed an anxious rhythm against the now empty cutting board. She took a breath. "Timothy, can you go find Ty-?"
The wind caught the door as Tyler opened it, slamming it against the wall. Evelyn jumped, the knife clattering from her fingers to the cutting board. "Do you have any idea what time it is?" Evelyn's sharp tone faded. Her gaze drifted lower. Her now empty fingrs gripped the counter top. "Tyler."
"Yeah?" Tyler's voice was thin, reedy, as if he was having trouble getting the words out. It was as if he was looking straight through her.
"Put down the knife." Evelyn murmured.
"The what?" Tyler looked down. There, clenched in his right hand, was a switchblade.
Rain struck against the window and Tyler covered his face with his pillow, but it did little to drown out the noise.
"How can you support this? He brought a weapon into this house! I told you he needs to see the doctor."
- of blood. You will take them to the clearing and place them on the stump near the -
"The boy has a gift! I will not let you suppress it with chemicals. You have NEVER let him-!"
-the yarrow flowers. On the night of the Hunter's-
"The moment he brought a knife into this house, he became a danger to this family!"
Wham. That sounded like Theresa's door.
WHAM! Timothy's door slam seemed to shake the house, perfectly timed with a crack of thunder.
Tyler reached under the pillow, cupping his palms over his ears.
"A danger? It's Tyler! He is something special and you would rather suppress it than let him explore."
Slam! Trevor's door was the last to close.
"And what do you think will happen, Tom?! What good would come of this? What if nothing happens? What if our boy-?"
Tyler's brows furrowed and he squeezed his eyes shut more tightly.
a dagger that's drawn blood, a hawk's feather and three drops of blood. You will take them to the clearing -
His fingers unclenched and he focused on his breathing. The tension slowly began to leave his body as he relaxed. His parents' shouting became a distant sound, as if it was something he was remembering from years ago.
-Hunter's Moon, you will bring a cup of milk from a black cow, a dagger that's drawn blood, a hawk's feather and three drops of blood. You will take them to the clearing and place them on the stump near the yarrow flowers. On the night of the Hunter's-
The next morning, Tyler stood in front of his mirror. He put on his white dress shirt and a simple black tie. His hair was tied back into a ponytail to keep it out of his face. Dark grey dress slacks finished the look and nodded to himself. He hesitated at the doorway of his bedroom and took a deep breath before stepping out and heading downstairs.
He could smell the coffee percolating on the stove and the familiar scent of pancakes with apples, the Sunday tradition.
"Good morning," Thomas said.
"Good morning." Tyler returned. Evelyn pushed her chair back and Tyler started to stand as well. "Let me-"
"It's fine." His mother said sharply. "Theresa."
Looking between the others, Theresa quickly followed Evelyn into the kitchen.
Tyler looked over at his brothers. Timothy was waiting patiently, so tall in his chair that the top part of his face was shadowed by the plain chandelier over the table. His face was turned, watching the women in the kitchen.
Trevor was across from him, fidgeting with his sling.
Tyler caught his brother's gaze. "How's the shoulder?"
"Good," Trevor said. "I-" He quieted when Evelyn and Theresa returned, each holding two plates.
Conversation was clipped. Nobody spoke unless to ask for something. Tyler skipped his customary second cup of coffee. He went back to his bedroom, pacing the length of his room until he was called to the door.
Tyler stared up at the clouds. The day was overcast and the air smelled of rain. He pretended not to notice the uneasy glances cast in his direction. The air was colder now. The Hunter's Moon was tonight.
Thomas stepped up to the podium. He placed his hands on the edges, the spots so worn from his grip that the paint had begun to fade. He looked out at the assembled congregants; his family watching him, Evelyn guarded, Tyler distracted, the twins and Timothy all rapt. One pew behind them, Heath was there, hair tied back, suit done up, ramrod straight.
He took a deep breath. The nerves always lingered, but it was a good kind of stress, an eagerness to pass the word on; though he knew that this time, the words would not be well received by all.
Clearing his throat, he began. "We've all been on the receiving ends of gifts that didn't quite fit into our scheme of things. A sweater that doesn't fit, or a decorative Elvis plate-" He waited a moment for the polite chuckles to die down. "But there are other gifts, more intangible."
Evelyn squared her shoulders. If looks could have killed, Thomas had no doubt that he would be ashes on the ground at this moment. He inclined his head, then looked past her.
"The gifts I'm talking about are those from God. And you know, sometimes, they don't feel like gifts. They can take many odd forms, even our hardships, or our burdens. But you have to remember Jeremiah 29:11: 'For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.' Whether it feels like a burden is immaterial. For you see, God never gives us more than we can handle, even if it doesn't seem that way. Know that He is always there, always shouldering part of the load with you."
Tyler could feel his mother's gaze on him like a physical thing, pressing down on his neck, keeping his head down.
-a hawk's feather and three drops of blood. You will take them to the clearing and place them on the stump near the yarrow -
"- Romans 12:2: 'Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.' We must accept-"
- clearing and place them on the stump near the yarrow flowers. On the night of the Hunter's-
Tyler dug his nails into his palms. A drop of sweat formed by his hairline, tracing a slow, ticklish path down his cheek, but he didn't dare move.
Someone jostled the pew. Tyler looked up. There was a lineup out the door. People were stopping and talking to his father. Tyler stood up slowly, tightening his ponytail; he took small steps, knowing from memory which floorboards would creak. His gaze fell on Heath who gave him the same bright smile he always did. Tyler couldn't help but smile back before he dipped out the back door. Once back at home, Tyler closed his bedroom door and lay on the bed. No work today, nothing to do but sit and wait.
Evelyn stirred the pot and stared out the window. It felt like it should have been raining, but what little was left of the sunlight shone brightly. Her fingers tapped a nervous rhythm against the countertop. She looked over her shoulder, spotting a familiar figure in the semi darkness of the dining room. "Timothy." She called out. Her youngest came over, ducking down to avoid hitting his head on the top of the doorframe. "Dear, there's something in that cabinet above the fridge that I need you to get for me. It's small, right in the back. Please."
Timothy nodded and with his tall frame, he easily reached the back of the cabinet.
"Thank you, Timothy, that's it. Please hand it over." When he dropped it into her outstretched hand, her fingers closed quickly, covering the label. She swiftly slid the small orange cylinder into the pocket of her apron. "Go wash up."
Evelyn pulled the roast from the oven. It was cooked perfectly and she barely noticed the scent of fresh rosemary mixed with the other spices. She looked outside again. It was nearly dark now. Another year, another Hunter's Moon. She took out a knife and began her work.
-blood, a hawk's feather and three drops of blood. You will take them to the clearing and place them on the stump near the yarrow flowers. On the night of the Hunter's-
Tyler's fork stuck into the cut of roast, pushing it towards the center, getting as close to the mashed potatoes as he could without touching, then drawing it back towards the edge. Back and forth, again and again. Across from him, Trevor was having a hard time eating with his off hand, as the right one was still in a sling from his injury.
"Tyler," Thomas said softly, gesturing with his chin towards the kitchen. "Your mother's been in there for a few minutes. Go check on her, please?"
"Hmm? Right." His chair scraped against the floor as he rose, pretending not to notice the twins leaning close to each other, their voices nothing but breathy mumbles. He knew what they were talking about. It was always the same thing at this time of year.
His feet made no sound as he walked, well aware of which boards creaked. Tyler poked his head into the kitchen.
Evelyn stood near the edge of the counter, hands obscured by the bowls of ice cream on the counter. They'd had the same bowls for as long as he could remember. Six bright white bowls with a robin's egg blue band around the top. They were all identical save for the last bowl in the line, which had a chip of blue missing. From this angle, Tyler couldn't see his mother's hand, but he could hear the dull thud of a knife hitting the cutting board. Tyler took a half step back, taking himself out of her line of sight as she moved, bringing the knife up. It was covered in white powder. Her hands were shaking as she brushed the powder into the bowl with the chipped top. It disappeared into the ice cream.
Tyler cleared his throat and stepped in. "Do you need a hand?"
Evelyn dropped the knife with a gasp. "I- Tyler! Yes, yes, please." She picked up the knife by its handle and dropped it into the sink where it sank down under the bubbles. "You take those three. I'll be there in a minute."
Watching her son leave, Evelyn pulled the empty pill bottle from her pocket and threw it into the trash, burying it under a few scraps of paper. She grabbed the last three bowls and doled them out. One to Trevor, one to Theresa and one to Tyler. "Tea will be ready in a few minutes."
"You not hungry, Tyler?" Trevor asked.
"What?" Tyler said, blinking a few times; it felt like he was underwater. His fingers kept brushing against the broken blue spot over and over. "I'm good, actually."
"Any more?" Timothy's voice boomed, making Tyler jump.
"I'm afraid we're all out, Dear," Evelyn said. "I'll be going to the store tomorrow."
Without thinking, Tyler passed his bowl across to his brother.
"Tyler!" Evelyn snapped.
"What?" Tyler tilted his head. "You said we're out and I'm not hungry. No sense letting it go to waste, is it?"
Evelyn looked around the table, at all five sets of eyes on her. "No," she swallowed hard. "No, I suppose not." By the time she finished, Timothy had swallowed his first bite.
Tyler sat in his bed, knees drawn to his chest, staring out the window. The Hunter's Moon hung low, huge and orange, seeming to take up the entire night's sky. He rested his cheek against the window.
- night of the Hunter's Moon, you will bring a cup of milk from a black cow, a dagger that's drawn blood, a hawk's feather and three drops of blood. You will take them to the clearing and place them on the stump near the yarrow flowers. On the night of the Hunter's Moon, you will bring a cup of milk from a black cow, a dagger that's drawn blood, a hawk's feather and three drops of blood. You will take them to the clearing and place them on the stump near the yarrow flowers. On the night of the Hunter's Moon, you-
"Your mother is upset." Thomas said, stepping softly into his son's room. "Beside herself, really. She wants to take you into the city this week," he shook his head. "She wants you to be put on medication. What do you think?"
"I want this to stop." Tyler rested his chin on his knee. "That's all I want."
"Would you like to hear what I think?" Thomas sat at the edge of the bed. "I will tell you what I know. You're special, Tyler. I've known that from the moment you were born. Whatever it is you're hearing, it's important."
"What if it's not?" Tyler swallowed hard. "What if I'm just-?"
"Then you'll still be my son and you will still be special. I think you've been living with this for far too long and if nothing else, you need to find out, one way or the other." Thomas placed a brown paper bag between them.
Tyler pulled it closer and opened it. A jar with milk sat at the bottom. Next to it was a feather so big it nearly poked out of the top of the bag. Half hidden by the jar was Heath's switchblade. He looked up at his father in shock.
"Your mother and I will be in the living room. Go through the kitchen." Thomas patted Tyler's knee and walked out of the bedroom.
Tyler looked down at the bag, then the doorway.
- take them to the clearing and place them on the stump near the yarrow flowers. On the night of the Hunter's-
He shut his door tightly and got dressed, putting on dark dress pants and a t-shirt and a heavy sweatshirt. Holding the bag tightly against his chest, Tyler made his way down the stairs.
Evelyn stared at the fire. She brought her glass to her lips, rolling her eyes when she realized it was empty. She looked for Thomas and, failing to spot him, stood up. She yawned and picked up a tissue, wiping away a ring of condensation that had formed beneath the glass. She maneuvered through the living room, past Thomas' chair and around the dining room chairs, stopping to push one properly into place and stepped into the kitchen, her feet instantly chilled against the tile. She turned on the light and froze. "Tyler."
He was standing there, a bag pressed to his chest, the door half open.
But he'd already bolted, the door slamming against the wall.
She bolted after him, clutching at the doorframe. "Tyler!"
Evelyn bolted up the stairs. She moved right past Timothy's room. "Theresa! Thomas! Trevor!" Timothy snored as if in response. He hadn't even put on his pajamas.
"What's going on?" Theresa blinked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
"Tyler has taken off. He's going to-" Evelyn shuddered. "You need to bring him home. You and your brother. He cannot be allowed to do what he's trying to do. Understand?"
Trevor emerged a few moments later, half dressed, fussing with his sling. "What do you want us to do?"
Evelyn looked up at the ceiling, murmuring to herself for a few moments. "Bring the gun."
"Mom!" Theresa gasped. "You can't-"
"Of course not." Evelyn snapped. "But if he succeeds, you might need it." Her hand shot up into the air, cutting off any further arugments. "I'll explain later. For now do as I say!"
His whole world had turned into wind. Leaves whipped all around him. Rain was heavy in the air. The cold had numbed his fingers. A leaf hit him in the cheek, but he batted it aside. Tyler ducked his chin towards his chest, the flimsy paper bag crinkling as he tightened his grasp. He pushed off a tree, hissing as a splinter caught under his fingernail.
Tyler leaned against a tree, blinking up at the night sky. He'd only climbed a short hill, but it seemed close enough to reach for the moon.
- You will take them to the clearing and place them on the stump near the yarrow flowers. On the night of the Hunter's-
The sound of his brother's voice propelled him forward. He could hear Theresa's voice behind him, the twins falling into an accidental harmony as they called for him.
Tyler stumbled on his way up the hill, taking the fall on his shoulder to avoid damaging his cargo. His fingers dug into the damp soil as he propelled forward like a sprinter at the block.
There was only one place with yarrow flowers.
The small, bunched white blossoms stood out in sharp contrast to the damp night, as if they were being lit by something all on their own. Slowly, carefully, he opened the bag.
-On the night of the Hunter's Moon, you will bring a cup of milk from a black cow-
The milk was in a small jar, he recognized the ones his mother would put canned goods into in the fall.
-a dagger that's drawn blood-
It was Heath's knife. Tyler made a mental note to apologize later.
-a hawk's feather -
Tyler thought his hands would be shaking, if only from the cold, but they weren't.
There was one thing left. Swallowing tightly, Tyler picked up the blade and held his hand over the tree stump. He grimaced as he pressed the point into his fingertips and held it over the stump. One.
"Tyler!" Trevor stopped at the edge of the clearing, as if he didn't want to be tainted by whatever was happening. He was panting from exertion; Tyler could only imagine how sore his shoulder was within the sling. "Stop it!"
"I can't." Tyler called back. "I have to make this stop!"
The second drop fell, mixed with a splash of rain.
"Mom said you have to stop!" Theresa joined them a second later, rifle drawn. "Tyler, please."
The third drop fell.
He felt like there should have been an explosion, or a flash or music or something. There was nothing.
Nothing except the man who had stepped out from behind a tree.
Whatever the man said was cut off by Theresa's scream, the rifle swinging wildly as she aimed.
Tyler staggered forward, his eyes widening. Four drops of blood, five, six, seven... so much, too much. He looked down at the widening stain on his shirt.
There was a flash then, and Tyler was unaware of the man and the twins being knocked off their feet by the force of it.
As Tyler dropped to one knee and then collapsed into the dirt, there was only silence.