• The day started out like any other. The sun was shining, and there was hardly any wind to speak of. The villagers went about their daily tasks, as they usually did. Animals made noise, and children played in the dirt streets of the village. Everyone in the village was completely oblivious as to what was about to happen. For on that day, everything about their world would be thrown on its head. None would be spared from the change that was to come.

    Around noon on this particular day, one of the hunters noticed that the forest was eerily silent as he tracked the deer he'd shot a short time before. As he continued to follow the trail left by the injured animal, he had a feeling that he was being watched, though there was nothing there when he turned around. When he finally reached the fallen deer, the feeling that he was being watched intensified, and he quickly spun around when he heard something moving in the brush behind him. He caught a glimpse of something dodging behind a tree when he turned, and he sighed as he realized who it was.

    "Alright, Jenna, come on out," he said, and the girl in question peered sheepishly around the tree. "How many times have I told you not to follow me this far into the forest?"

    "Oh, come one, Johnny!" Jenna said. "You know I don't like staying in the village."

    "That's no reason for you to follow me," Johnny said.

    "Why don't you just take me with you, then?" she asked, huffing a bit.

    "I've already told you why you can't come with me, Jenna," Johnny said. "There are too many dangers in these woods for you to be gallivanting around here, either on your own or with me, especially when I'm hunting."

    "Oh, please!" Jenna said. "Other than bears or snakes, what could possibly be here that would be considered dangerous?"

    "It's best not to speak of such things here," Johnny said, lowering his voice.

    "And why not?" Jenna asked. "What is there to be afraid of?"

    "Jenna, I'm not going to speak of this now," he said, handing her his bow. "You'll wait until we get back to the village, and the elder will answer your questions."

    "Fine," she huffed, taking the bow. Johnny nodded once, then picked up the deer and threw it over one shoulder. This done, he started back toward the village, with Jenna following. As they walked, Johnny once again felt like someone was watching him, though this time, he knew it wasn't Jenna, as she was beside him, and looking straight ahead. The closer to the village they got, the weaker the feeling became, until it disappeared altogether.

    "Well done, Johnny!" Elbert, the village elder, said, meeting the two of them at the village outskirts. "That will feed many bellies this night."

    "Thank you, Elbert," he said. The elder nodded, then turned to Jenna.

    "Jenna, you know it's forbidden for you, and any other youth, to enter the forest alone," he said, a disapproving note in his voice.

    "I wasn't alone!" the girl said. "I was with Johnny."

    "Yes, after you snuck out of the village for the umpteenth time," the elder said. "These rules are here for a reason."

    "I'm old enough to make my own decisions," Jenna said, a bit annoyed they were still treating her like a child. The truth of it was, Jenna was barely fifteen, and in the eyes of the elder and many of the hunters, she was still a child. She might not be a child in age, but her maturity level was still that of a rebellious child.

    "You may be old enough, but you are still considered a child here," the elder said. "Until you are deemed old enough, you will not leave this village without an adult. Is that understood?"

    "But—" Jenna began, but Elbert cut her off.

    "No buts, Jenna," he said, his voice firm. "My word is final, do you understand?"

    "Yes, sir," she said, her tone of voice defeated. From the look in her eyes, however, the two men knew they hadn't heard the last of this. As the girl left to find some of her friends, the hunter looked at the elder.

    "She'll do it again, just watch," Johnny said.

    "I know," Elbert said. "The problem is, one of these days, she's going to go into the forest, and she's not going to come back."

    "I just pray that when that day comes, one of us will be able to find her and bring her home," Johnny said, and Elbert nodded.

    "You'd better get that deer to the cooks," he said. "They'll be eager to prepare such a large amount of meat."

    Johnny nodded, then headed for the center of the village, where a medium-sized building stood. It was here that any animals hunted were taken to be cleaned and distributed. He walked inside and smiled at the few cooks he made eye contact with, and the head cook approached with a smile on her face.

    "You've done it again, young Johnny," she said.

    "I try," he said, returning her smile. Two of the larger women came forward and took the deer from him, and he nodded once before leaving the building and heading for his home. As he walked in the door, his wife greeted him with a smile and a kiss, then beckoned for him to sit for lunch.

    "I assume you got whatever game you were after?" she asked, and he nodded as she placed a bowl of stew in front of him.

    "Aye, I got a good-sized buck," he said. "I left it with the cooks not five minutes ago." His wife, Anna, smiled as the two of them began to eat.

    "Jenny followed me again," he said, a few minutes later. Anna sighed softly and shook her head.

    "That girl is too rebellious for her own good," she said. "One of these days, she's going to get into real trouble, and heaven help us when that happens."

    "Aye, she may well wind up being the death of me, or the elder, if she keeps up disobeying orders like she's been doing," Johnny said. "She actually asked me what could be so dangerous in the woods, besides bears and snakes."

    "Did you tell her?" Anna asked, a hint of fear in her voice.

    "No, I didn't," Johnny answered, shaking his head. "Honestly, I'm not sure it's wise to tell her."

    "Johnny, she needs to know," Anna said. "Otherwise, she'll wind up getting lost or worse, getting herself killed."

    "I know, but it's not my place to tell her," he said, and his tone of voice told Anna he wouldn't talk further on the matter. She sighed softly, but let the matter drop, knowing that he was right when he said it wasn't his place to tell Jenna of the dangers of the forest. Jenna, meanwhile, was talking to a couple of her friends about the same thing.