Running Shoo – Episode 87

I’m not going to win any prizes for my archery that’s for sure.

After a morning and an afternoon of practice however, I could get the bolts to go approximately where I wanted. There’s a knack to it. As long as I took the time to put Queenie (my beautiful black wood crossbow) against my shoulder, line things up straight, and pull the trigger without twitching, she performed as expected. Mostly.

I only lost one bolt. Since we were trekking consistently uphill, I figured if I shoot straight ahead, I’d always be able to find it, but the gods of lost things intervened.

As a target, I put one of the larger pale-yellow fruits we had left on the blunt end of my spear and got Nom to scoot ahead and stab it into the ground. It was working well until, after a few shots, my bolt whizzed past the fruit, hit a rock, and ricocheted off into some trees, never to be seen again.

That wasn’t on. I only had a limited number of bolts and no idea when I could get more, so I had a root around in Daisy’s pocket of endless junk. I found various items of tat made of plastic, worth a fortune in the last town and hopefully the next, but I put them all back. They weren’t what I needed.

Eventually, I pulled out a chain of coloured hankies tied together.


I attached them to the bolt which made it dead easy to find and didn’t seem to too badly affect its aerodynamics. We got through six fruits. Not because I hit them, but because Nom can only be in the proximity of something edible for so long before she’s taken over by her instinct to chomp.

I did wing one fruit. I was very happy with that, and I can generally get the bolt close enough that if it was a person, they’d be shot in some part of their body, even if it was just a finger.

Thinking about it, getting shot in the finger would be an excellent way to discourage unpleasantness. Non-fatal, and it’s hard to be mean to someone when one of your digits is spinning through the air.

Once I decided I knew how to use Queenie, I had a go of the jagged stone short sword. This is when things took a concerning turn. I found a dead tree and gave the sword an experimental swing. I expected to barely notch the wood.

The blade embedded itself halfway through the trunk.

I pulled it and it came out like the tree was made of jelly.

For a moment, I regarded the sword fearfully, kind of glad I was holding it at arm’s length. The strange metallic stone from which it’s made, which is probably spaceship hull, is apparently ludicrously sharp.

As a further experiment, I swiped at some thick branches.

It lopped them clean off.

Oh, my days! If that was someone’s arm, it would be on the floor!

Gingerly, I put the sword back in the scabbard. That was enough practice with that thing, thank-you-very-much. I decided the sword was an emergency-only weapon (though if I ever start using a weapon in a non-emergency, I’ve taken a wrong turn in life.)

Next, I examined the spear. It had a head of the same dark stone. I don’t think Nom’s baby version did, but mine was definitely an uneven chunk of the same material strapped to the shaft. I’d not yet tried it on anything, so I jabbed it at the tree a few times.

Each time it slid in like I was stabbing custard, not rock-hard petrified wood.

I swallowed, leaned the spear against the tree, pulled out a bolt and looked at it. The head was again made of that same material and was wider than the rest of the bolt. Gods, I could shoot someone at the front of a post office queue with that and take out the granny at the back. 

I felt myself go pale. I was blithely tying hankies to this earlier. Nom was running and grabbing it for me.

We’re lucky we’ve not just got stumps now.

Very, very carefully, I slid the bolt back into its quiver.

Enough practice for today I decided. These things were too dangerous. I also wasn’t keen on the fact that, if I’m honest, being in possession of such lethal tools gave me a dark little thrill; a tiny glimpse of potency that pleased me in all the wrong ways. My years of fear, frustration and general powerlessness will, if I’m not careful, have me inventing reasons to use them. Danger.

So, we’re now back to vanilla walking. It’s a beautiful day, the landscape is really giving it some Spring, there’s flowers everywhere. The trees are producing blossoms. Birds wheel, mammals frolic, it’s idyllic, but I’m not taking it in.

Because I’m also a coward and these weapons are horrific. I can barely imagine what they would do to a person, and I have a sword and a quiver full of arrows strapped to me, plus a spear in my sweaty hand. It feels like one wrong move, the slightest trip, and I’ll collapse into a pile of Shoo cubes.

I’m now in the strange position where I’m terrified of my own weapons.

In fairness, this is probably a healthy stance towards weaponry.

“Shoo?” Nom asks

“Hello,” I say, distracted.

“Why are you walking funny?” Nom asks.

She’s right, I’m walking like I’m got landmines strapped to me.

I try to relax.

“Now you’re walking a different kind of funny,” Nom observes. “Have you had an accident?”

An accident? What does she… Oh. Ew.

“No, I haven’t had an accident.”

“Don’t be embarrassed. It happened to me once after I ate a runny racoon. Have you eaten any runny animals?”

I laugh.

She looks awkward, “what? Why are you laughing at me?”

“Nom, you’re the only person I’ve met who could eat a runny animal and not be dead.”

Her eyes go wide, “Really?”

“Yep, you’re definitely special,” I tell her. Her face scrunches up in thought and I can see her little wormy brain working on this idea. I imagine the other children down the mine cruelly reminded her that she was different all the time, so I add: “Special in a good way.”

She gasps and beams, “I’m special?” she says. I nod and she dances a happy little jig. “Special! Special! Hooray!” She leans down to address a flower, “Hello flower! I’m Nom and I’m special. You’re special too. Hooray!”

It would be sweet except she spoils it slightly by eating the flower.

I take a deep breath, try to ignore the arsenal attached to me. I mean, I’ve been carrying it for days without incident, so it’s not going to suddenly turn on me now, right? I give myself a shake to get my head in the game, sigh, and trudge onwards.

I want someone to tell me I’m special.

After a while, we come to the top of the current hill. Well, I come to the top of it normally, Nom dances over it, still delighted at her new-found specialness. Gods, I wish I was so easily pleased. Over the top of the hill there is a long, straight stretch of grass and flowers and then, as it has been for days, more hill.

Except this time there’s a town there.

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