Anomaly

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6. Adventure Has Its Price

ANNA

Anna and Ava were seated in the living room, reading the novels they had started the first night they arrived the cabin. Anna wasn’t particularly interested in her novel as she wasn’t a fan of reading. Unlike her, Ava was so engrossed in her book.

Anna was completely bored. She wanted to move about and do something much more fun than reading a novel. She threw her book on the table, seeking Ava’s attention.

She succeeded as Ava gave her a questioning look. “What’s the matter?”

“I’m bored.”

“You’re bored?”

Anna nodded.

Ava pointed at the book on the table. “Aren’t you enjoying the book? The title makes it seem like it’s interesting.”

She shook her head. “I’m not really interested in reading like you, Ava; you know that.” She rocked the chair she sat on and sighed. “I wish Beck was here. The boredom would have been less.”

She tilted her head. “I know Beck’s stories are interesting, but you have to at least read to stay occupied. It’s not my fault there’s nothing to do around here.”

At that moment, the idea of an exciting and adventurous thing she could do flashed in Anna’s head. A mischievous grin on her face soon followed.

Her facial expression must have been the reason Ava frowned. “I know that look. Anna, what are you up to?”

She raised her hands up in surrender. “Nothing, I swear!”

“Then why do you have that signature grin of yours?”

“I want to explore the woods.”

Right away, terror was all over Ava’s face and her hands trembled, letting the book fall to the floor. “D—did I hear you correctly? Didn’t you pay attention t—to the story Beck told us about this p—place? H—have you for—forgotten what he told me l—later that night?”

“Ava, come on. I won’t spend so much time for the ghost to sense me.” She rolled her eyes.

“Anna, th—there are dangerous a—and wild animals out there.”

“I’ll be careful. I promise.”

“Anna . . .” Ava whined.

She went on her knees, clasped her hands together, gave Ava the puppy eye, and pouted. “Please, Ava. I’ll be back before you know it.”

She shook her head. “Okay, fine. But I’m going with you, and we must stay close to each other.” She pointed at Anna. “Don’t get carried away, Anna. We have to be back here once we notice the sunset.”

She grinned. “I promise I won’t be carried away, Ava.”

******

About ten minutes later of strolling in the still and shady woods, Ava was still walking and Anna followed behind her. There was no conversation, at the moment, between them, so the only sound in Anna’s ear was the crunching of dry leaves caused by her and Ava; aside that, the place was so deadly silent you could hear a pin drop a mile away.

Then, Ava’s voice filled the silence: “When we get back home we have to tell people about this route. I don’t want people facing what we’re facing now.”

Anna nodded, humming.

Despite the fact that she was out of the cabin, she was still bored. Ava had been monitoring her movements. She couldn’t go to where she believed she would find something sweet to discover. She gave up, hoping for the right opportunity to get away from Ava and discover things in her own way.

A movement by the side of Anna’s eye caused her to sway her head and focus her attention on it. There was a figure walking in the opposite direction. The figure was like that of a man. However, she wasn’t sure if it was a male or female as the figure looked skinny.

She looked at Ava—who was staring at a tree—hesitating whether or not she should go and investigate. Knowing Ava, she wouldn’t let Anna go. I’ll be back before she knows it, she thought before stealthily stepping towards the place her gaze was previously fixed on.

She searched for the person, passing through the trees and looking all around her. She took note of where she was so she could easily find her way back.

When it seemed hopeless to find the person, she turned back and headed to where she last saw Ava.

By the time she got to the spot, Ava wasn’t there. Anna looked around. “Ava! Ava, where are you?”

She went in the direction they passed through to get to the spot the first time. Anna called, shouted, and begged Ava to reveal herself. Still, the woman didn’t come out of her hiding place.

Then, Anna heard footsteps of someone running. She swayed her head to the direction to see just in time a figure far away from her, running in the opposite direction. Anna’s legs drove her in that direction as she said, “Ava, wait! Come back. Ava, I’m right here.”

The person stopped running and bent over, placing their palms on their knees and panting really fast.

“Ava! A—” She cut her speech off when the person turned to look at her.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t Ava neither was it Beck who could help Anna find Ava; it was a skinny man, who wore checked suspenders over his pale white shirt and faded black pants. He looked just about the age of Bruce but then he probably was a few years older. His pale blonde hair was packed up in a ponytail with a rubber band. His right eye was as blue as the ocean while his left was as green as the leaves in the forest she was in. She felt a bit scared seeing two different colors of eyes on one face; it was as if she was staring into the eyes of a cat.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought you were—”

The person stood upright and gave her a questioning look. “I was your sister, right?”

“Yes.” She turned around to continue searching for Ava.

“Where do you think you’re going?” the man asked.

She stopped in tracks. Was it right to answer him or not? She wasn’t sure about that, however she said, “Nowhere,” so he would not ask further questions and let her be.

That didn’t work because he asked another just as she was about to take a step: “Weren’t you warned about this place?”

“I was.”

“So why are you outside the cabin?” His voice was louder this time. She turned around and saw he was right behind her.

She narrowed her eyes at his. “I got bored, and I wanted to do something adventurous to kill the boredom.”

She turned to go again.

“Do you love your sister?”

She stopped and grunted. Couldn’t this man just let her alone? “Yes.” She moved forward.

“Are you sure because you would have listened to her if you do love her?”

She snapped her head in the man’s direction. “I love her!” she barked at him. Her face felt as if it was just brought out of the oven as her brown eyes were narrowed at his blue and green ones.

He had a complacent smile. He examined her from head to toe with his thumb and index finger under his chin. Then he said, “You’re so perfect for the ritual.”

Due to her bewildered state, her face was scrunched up. “What ritual?”

He looked into her eyes. “Don’t tell me you still don’t understand why you’re here.”

It was now Anna understood why Ava hated strangers: they were creepy and vexatious. In fact, vexatious was an understatement: they were a gigantic pain in the behind who never minded their own business.

Anna was about to leave again but didn’t as the man held her wrist and dragged her in the direction opposite where she was headed. “Come with me,” he said, dragging her aggressively.

She struggled to get out of his hold. “Hey! Let go of me! Where are you taking me to?”

He stopped walking and looked at her. A wide smile, which revealed his imperfect set of yellow teeth, was displayed before Anna. She hissed, being disgusted, at the sight of his teeth.

“On an adventure,” he answered her question.

“I only go on adventures by myself.”

He faked a sad face. “That’s too bad”—his face became normal—“because as I said earlier, you’re perfect for the ritual. I would have chosen Ava but you’re younger, meaning you’d be more powerful. And, you did say you love Ava, so I want to spare her.”

Anna stood transfixed to the ground. “Who are you?” she inquired of the man. He had just mentioned her sister’s name. Was he someone Ava knew and she didn’t?

He still was grinning as he said, “I’ll tell you who I am after the ritual. But if you don’t want to do it I’d go for Ava. So choose: you or Ava.”

He wanted her to choose. Who was she going to pick: herself or Ava? Anna bowed her head. It was all her fault she was in this situation. If she had just managed the novel she wouldn’t be a sacrifice for whatever ritual this man was talking about.

Then it hit her: the ghost. The ghost, which hunted for human souls, was the one holding her hand. Anna knew Ava would never forgive herself for letting Anna out of her sight. She wanted to choose Ava but changed her mind when she reasoned within herself that Ava had lived longer than she had. It would be better if the younger, possibly, died while trying to reverse whatever was the reason the ghost was stuck in the woods. That way, Ava could achieve all her dreams which she had begun to pursue.

“I’ll do it,” she said with her head still bowed.

“Perfect.” She heard the glee in his voice.

Gradually, tears formed in her eyes. Why hadn’t she listened to Ava, or Beck? She had actually thought he just formed the story of the ghost and how he lost his parents and wife to hide the true reason why he didn’t want Ava and Anna to be in the woods.

“Am I going to die?” she asked with her head bowed when she thought the ritual would include the end of her life.

He grinned mischievously at her. “That, Anna, depends on how cooperative you are.”

AUTHORʼS NOTE

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