10 September, 2013

Sagittarius by Helen Murray

Welcome to Part One of my 12-part Zodiac Blog Series. On Tuesdays in autumn I'm posting a story or poem each written especially for this blog by a different author. Each piece of writing has taken one of the signs of the zodiac as its inspiration. For the full list of participants - from established authors to first-time writers - plus the posting schedule and links to previous stories and poems, please visit the Zodiac Blog Series Page.

This week we're kicking off with a story inspired by Sagittarius (The Archer) written by Helen Murray. Helen lives in Derbyshire, England, with her husband, mum and two daughters (aged eight and six). She writes short stories, Christian reflections and devotionals and has a novel-in-progress. You can find Helen on her blog, or on Twitter.

Helen says about this story: "This is a true story! Well, almost.  I am not such a wonderful archer and I didn't shoot my husband, but we did meet at the University Archery Club. We've heard all the 'Cupid' jokes."

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She loved the feel of the soft leather tab on the three middle fingers of her right hand. She loved the reassuring pressure of her left palm against the handle of her bow and the slow, luxurious stretch of the muscles in her back as she drew to a perfect anchor point under her chin, string just whispering at the tip of her nose. People often thought that the strength was in the arms in archery, but it was all in the back. Training muscles to do exactly the same thing, time after time.  



The real challenge of archery is in the mind, she reflected, as she raised her bow, fingers light on the string. Her gaze settled on the golden centre of the target; the orange crosshairs of the sight blurred to invisibility. Completely relaxed at a moment of great muscle tension, her breathing slowed right down to avoid any tremor of motion. Her concentration was complete and her release pure perfection as the arrow flew straight and true and hit the tiny black cross in the middle.



She was rewarded with a soft thud; a sound only heard when an arrow hit the dead centre of the boss, where the straw was softened through use. She didn’t need to hear the delicious sound, or even see the black carbon fibre arrow vibrate as it hit its mark; she could tell from the moment it left her bow that the shot was perfect.



Most of them were.



The competition was a formality. She had won everything this season. As she put together her equipment for the tournament, the slight anxiety dancing at the edge of her mind was not a concern to do well, or a longing to win, but the hope that he would be here.



She only saw him at the archery club, and he had a different set of friends. Once, in the pub after training she’d found herself hanging on his every word. He had made her laugh; made her feel special. He’d been interested in her, not just in her scores or her expensive archery equipment. She fell deeply in love, and she’d had an idea that he felt it too.



There hadn’t been another opportunity.



With a huge effort of mental discipline she put him out of her mind, but as the season wore on she found herself tiring of her single-minded lifestyle despite the medals and trophies. As she raised her bow for the final arrow, she reflected that she would swap it all for another evening with him.



She prepared to draw.



She had only to score an eight or above to win.



She had not shot less than an eight all day.



She drew the string in a smooth, well-practiced motion. As she settled into her anchor point she was aware only of her focus on the soft, distant gold. All totally still. She was ready.



And then, the smallest sound at the edge of her consciousness. A voice. Nothing more than a whisper, but it was unmistakable.



It was him.



Her concentration shattered into a million pieces. The sound of the crowd surged back into her ears and the archery field suddenly became alive with colour and movement. Her heart soared. She gasped - involuntarily she swung round, still at full draw.



She saw him.



She shot him.



Straight through the heart.

11 comments:

  1. This series really got off with a bang, eh. Fantastic piece. Also, ouch.

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  2. Isn't it wonderful? I love the fact you can get a double meaning from that last line. Did she literally shoot him dead? Or metaphorically capture his heart like Cupid? OK, probably the first, but I love the possibility!

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  3. I feel the same Chloe! It's reminds me of a Greek tragedy. The origin of Sagittarius perhaps.
    Great stuff.

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  4. Thank you kindly, everyone. You've made my day.
    Chloe, thank you so much for letting me be part of your lovely idea. Can't wait to see the others.

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  5. Beautiful piece of writing, Helen. Love it! The double meaning adds extra depth, dimension and tension to the whole story. Great stuff. Maybe a new genre for you, my friend? Blessings :)

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  6. I shoot bow, and I thought that your description was very well-written. Most people simply don't understand archery. However, I'm sure that if she was in a competition, she would know enough about the safety of archery not to whirl around at full-draw. At the same time, it made a shocking ending. Great job!

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  7. Serves him right for talking during her final shot!

    Great story - evocative and effective. Well done, Helen.

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  8. Joy - thank you! Really enjoyed it.

    Alicia - you're right. It's the only bit that doesn't ring true, but hey. Had to be done!

    Dan - absolutely. He had it coming... :-)

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  9. A fantastic start to the series, Helen. We are right there with the archer, every breath, every muscle squeeze, every yearning.

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  10. Thank you, Derek! Really looking forward to the rest. :-)

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