I grew up running with a wolf pack: my four cousins and little brother. During this time, I became acquainted with the extremes of the emotional spectrum. While other children grew up with family trips to the zoo on lazy Sunday afternoons or matching sweaters on Christmas cards, the children of my family had one binding code: everything we did was done in extremes. Whether it was hide-and-seek with the lights off in my grandparent’s farm house or running wild along the rural roads long after sundown, the children of my family grew up knowing nothing of apathy. Instead, we became a pack built on a rough-and-tumble sort of relationship with the ultimate goal of cementing a sense of dominance within the group. Of course, we had our sweaters and zoo trips as well, but these memories are white noise in comparison to the vivid symphonies of other memories that I can recall.
Among the most animated of these comes from the summer I was in eighth grade, a time when Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games warped itself into my family’s collective imagination. Under its influence, the theme of every game we played became apocalyptic warfare. Together we built a universe in which we, a set of six obnoxious pre-teens, were humanity’s sole hope for survival, and as such we armed ourselves for the fight. What started off as weapons of air shifted into solidity as my grandfather took it upon himself to craft a toy very much not suited to a klutzy fourteen-year-old who felt she was invincible: a bow and arrow.
The bow itself was nothing special, just a limber tree branch knotted with string, but the arrows were another matter. I was given a quiver of wooden dowels sharpened to a point and, to top it off, one real arrow with a metal tip. This arrow became my prized possession, so much so that I took to giving it the nickname ‘Bulls-eye’, even though I never actually shot it at anything. The dowels I let fly at practically any opportunity, but Bulls-eye remained untouched. It was, to me at least, a shot that was only to be used in some sort of cataclysmic circumstance, almost as if the existence of time and space itself rested on that metal tip. Nothing less than the entirety of it unravelling would be worthy enough to oversee its release. And as fate would have it, the universe did fall apart that summer.
They say when Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to mankind, Zeus punished him by chaining him to a rock and sending an eagle to tear his liver out while he remained helpless to do nothing but writhe in agony. When my cousin stole from me, I unleashed upon her the fullest force of wrath I could muster. Such is the way it works when one is living with wolves: pride is everything. The protection of ones ego is held at the highest accord, and my hubris had been called into play through this act of theft. All summer long we had been competing to see who could curate the most spectacular arrangement of rocks, pine-cones, broken class, and any other sort of garbage we could find. To think that my treasury had been looted in an act of what I could only imagine was spite felt like some sort of unforgivable sin to me and that it was now my place to cast supreme judgement.
With the rational benefit of foresight, I see now that my actions were completely out of hand, but in that moment I felt completely rabid. If you want to run with wolves you have to prove that you are willing to sharpen your claws and bare your teeth, and I knew my honour had been challenge to a duel. Without any rational thought, my fingers reached back into my quiver as I prepared to play my ace in the hole.
I can distinctly recall how light Bulls-eye felt in my hand at that moment, almost as if it were weightless. Had it held some weight, it may have even stayed my hand, but it remained as light as the feathers it was adorned with. I inhaled as I drew back, thinking myself akin to Katniss, and for a moment time stopped as I took aim. With tunnel vision I aimed that deadly metal tip at the mess of blonde hair that was now sprinting away from me. It didn’t even occur to me in that moment that her reason for moving was to get away from her deranged cousin with a weapon, only that she was running and I felt I had the shot. With the string of my makeshift bow pulled as taunt as it could be, I let the arrow fly. Blood rushed into my ears, and for a second the world seemed to pulse in tune with my own heartbeat.
I told myself that I wouldn’t miss.
And I didn’t.
Or at least, I hit as much of my target as I could considering the fact that my bow was, quite literally, a tree branch and string incapable of shooting with any considerable force. However, it served its purpose well enough to net my arrow in her mess of golden hair. As the realization dawned upon us as to what I had actually done, we all shared a moment of collective horror. I had shot a weapon. At my cousin. A living, breathing member of my family. All over the fact she had ‘stolen’ a bucket of pine-cones from me. No one said a word, but together we shared a silent understanding; the adults must never know.
There was an awkward pause in which no one said anything, until my cousin slowly pulled Bulls-eye from her hair. She held it out to me, and I tucked it back into my quiver where it remained nothing more than a trophy in a case for the rest of my summers. As quickly as the moment had come, it was gone, and with no time to loose, my wolf-pack family and I hurled ourselves right back into the apocalypse. There we remained, frolicking and feral, until my grandmother called from the house that it was time to wash our hands for supper.