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Archer's Paradox Chapter 3: Misplaced bullseye

by VengefulReaper

Warning: This work has been rated 16+.

Shivering, Jay’s fingers tightened around the tall, frosted glass, seeking comfort in its coolness as he settled into the worn armchair across from his father. The crackling fireplace warmed his skin but not his heart. The house that once exuded calmness and serenity suddenly turned against him. He was in a prison with his own thoughts and he had just received a visitor from the other side of the bars; his father. The water in the glass trembled in his grip, mirroring the turmoil within him like the restless waves of an ocean on a stormy night.

His father’s presence helped but the gap between the two was clouded by mist. For them to speak of The Ghost was to touch on something taboo and troublesome for both of them. Jay wasn't the only one running from his trauma. His father, being his instructor for archery, felt responsible for providing his son with the tools and the power to embark on that monstrous path.

After taking a soothing sip from the glass of water, he placed it on the coffee table with trembling hands and met the concerned gaze of his father.

The old man took a deep breath. "Let's start from the very beginning. What happened?"

Over the next twenty minutes, Jay explained his entire day thus far to his father who listened attentively. Though some aspects were difficult to revisit and the constant audience of his ghostly hallucination was distracting, Jay narrated everything.

“Why now?” Jay’s voice quivered with a mixture of frustration and uncertainty. “Ten years have passed since that day, and now he comes back.”

“Triggers,” he stated with a sigh. “They have a way of sneaking up on you. Today, Jason, you’ve had a lot of them.”

A wave of anxiety washed over Jay’s features as he struggled to comprehend his next steps. “So what do I do now? How do I get these voices out of my head?” His voice trembled with a raw vulnerability.

His father met his gaze. “I wish I knew, my boy,” he admitted, his voice heavy with the weight of their shared burden. “What I can tell you is that trauma doesn’t just vanish if you try to run from it. You have to face it and choose to live with it. Healing is a long and difficult journey, but by acknowledging you need help, you’ve already taken the first steps.”

Jay’s voice quivered as he wrestled his guilt. “But Dad... It’s not like losing someone or recovering from an accident. There’s more to this than just me. There’s everyone I’ve killed whose names I don’t and never will know. They’re all... dead.”

“Does Marty have the case files of the people you’ve killed?” he inquired gently.

Jay’s brow furrowed, confusion mingling with skepticism. “Why would I need that?” he asked.

Leaning forward, his father’s gaze dug deep into his soul. “As difficult as it may be to accept, you need to find out exactly who you killed and why. And then, my son, you need to find their families and seek their forgiveness,” he explained, his voice steady and stern. “It won’t be easy. It may be awkward, painful, and disappointing, but showing them you’ve changed is the only chance you’ll ever have at finding peace.”

“But have I truly changed?” he questioned. “If I were to put that mask back on and venture into the city, will I inevitably slide down the same treacherous slope I did all those years ago? Will I truly be different?”

The old man reached out, placing a comforting hand on Jay’s shoulder. “I can tell you this, my son: the Jason sitting in front of me now won’t harm a fly unless he absolutely has to. Whereas the Jason from ten years ago... he might have killed a man for something as petty as a hijacking,” he affirmed. “If that isn’t a change, I don’t know what is.”

Jay’s gaze flickered between his father’s earnest eyes and his clenched fists. “I... I don’t know, Dad,” he confessed.

A small smile graced his father’s lips. “You need to have hope, Jay,” he said gently, his voice filled with encouragement. “Hope that you can do this. While everyone else can cheer you on from the sidelines, you’ll never finish the race if you don’t take that first step.”

Jay’s gaze dropped to his trembling hands, and he clenched them into fists, determined to change his situation...somehow. “How do I start, Dad? How do I find the courage to take that first step?”

“Don’t focus on climbing the entire mountain in one go,” he advised. “Just focus on the next step right in front of you. Take it one step at a time.”

Jay inhaled deeply. “Okay,” he murmured.

As his father rose from the armchair, shuffling toward the fireplace to tend to the crackling logs, Jay couldn’t help but feel a mix of gratitude and frustration. His father’s words held a sense of wisdom, but they felt vague and distant as if he knew the answers lay within Jay was guiding him to discover them. Unfortunately, his father underestimated Jay's emotional ineptitude. He was an expert at concealing his emotions, but absolutely lost when asked to confront them.

His father turned, casting a tender gaze upon him. “For now, stay away from that bunker until your imaginary friend disappears. You are far too emotionally wrecked to go there right now,” he said.

Jay’s response was a mere whisper, layered with a mix of resignation and determination. “I didn’t like it there anyway.”


Jay opened the green gate to the range once more. One step at a time, right? If he was to confront his trauma he would have to revisit the places and do the things he had once given up. Archery was the very last thing he put down when he walked away from the city. While he was an instructor, he didn't actually shoot an arrow himself.

If he could systematically work his way through each thing he gave up and found the courage to do it again, he would eventually be able to confront his biggest challenge; the basement. By going down there, he attempted to throw himself into the deep end and then realized he couldn't swim.

From the distance, he saw another archer lining her arrow up with the buttress. Her blonde hair was tied neatly in a bun and she wore a bright blue cap to shield her face from the mid-day sun. Jay noticed her elbow sticking out of line as she drew her bow.

Katie, he surmised. He often recognized his students by their traits as an archer. Every beginner had a quirk to their form ranging from downright dangerous to barely noticeable.

"Katie! What are you doing here after class? Don't you have to go back to the city?" he asked.

Katie, completely engrossed in her shot, nearly jumped out of her own skin, dropping her bow and the arrow in her hand. "Oh, my God!"

Jay raised his hands in surrender. "Sorry if I scared you. Just here to take a shot myself, y'know?"

Katie's brows furrowed. "That's odd. You rarely shoot." She scratched her chin, deep in thought. "No, you never shoot."

"I haven't knocked an arrow in ten years. I guess even in a desert gets it occasionally rains," he replied with a smile.

"Ten years? You'd think a man who's so passionate about what he teaches would be obsessed with it himself," she said.

"Shooting a bow brings back a few old memories that aren't so nice. Nevertheless, I enjoy watching my students do what I no longer can," he replied as he picked up a club bow from the table, stringing it swiftly. He stood in line with Katie as he pulled out the arrow from his quiver.

"Nice wouldn't be the word I'd use," a playful voice in his head uttered.

You again?

The Ghost walked out from behind the buttress in front of him, curiously examining Katie's arrows. "We can do better than her, can't we?"

"Mr. Stones? Jay?" Katie asked repeatedly.

Jay turned away from the buttress. "Sorry, what were you saying?"

"And I thought I was fixated on my shot," she muttered. "Don't worry about it, honestly. It's good you didn't hear."

"Okay..." Jay replied with some uneasiness in his voice. "Does it have something to do with why you're here on a Sunday afternoon? I thought your dad would have wanted you back in the city."

She sighed, lowering her bow after releasing her last arrow in her quiver. "That's what I thought too. Then he told me I could stay at the village for the night. I've got nothing else to do here so I thought I'd put in some extra shots."

"And you planned to do that all alone?" Jay asked.

"I still am," she said nodding her head to Jay's untouched quiver. "You going to shoot or what?"

Jay stood in parallel to his target, his hands trembling as he nocked an arrow. But as he raised his bow, the haunting image of one of the victims he had killed hung from the buttress like a crucified body. The apparition sneered, its eyes harboring only anger and sorrow.

The Ghost threw his arm around Jay's neck. “What's wrong? Target panic?” the Ghost taunted, its voice whispering in his ear. “What’s stopping you this time? Can't you feel the draw to your target? You're resisting your nature, Jay.”

Jay’s heart raced, and he felt beads of sweat forming on his forehead. His mind was a battlefield, torn between the temptation to succumb to the illusion and the knowledge that he had sworn never to kill again.

“No,” Jay muttered, his voice barely above a whisper.

The Ghost laughed. “But you’ve tasted blood, Jay. You didn't drop the bow because you wanted to. You dropped it because you didn't want to face reality. You miss having the power of a life in your hands, playing with it like a toy.”

Jay’s grip tightened on the bow, his knuckles turning white. He took a deep breath.

It's not real, it's not real, it's not real.



As Jay approached the buttress, his steps felt heavy, weighed down by the burden of his hallucination and the toll it had taken on his mind. He reached out to retrieve the arrows, his fingers trembling. Katie tilted her head to the side, her brow furrowing with confusion as she examined the grouping of the arrows.

“Is it just me,” she began, her voice laced with confusion, “or do your arrows seem to form the outline of a person?”

Jay’s breath caught in his throat as he took a few steps back to view the buttress from a different angle. The apparition of his victim, though faint, still lingered in his vision. Every shaft was embedded in the leather pads of the buttress mere millimeters away from the contours of the person he had once taken a life from.

Silently contemplating Katie’s observation, Jay nodded. "I guess I can kind of see it."


1. Is the conversation between Jay and his dad realistic?

2. Does jay's arrangement of arrows show his proficiency with it as well the trauma linked to it?

3. Are the hallucinations confusing to read or can you follow what is real and what isn't well?

Is this a review?



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139 Reviews

Points: 8963
Reviews: 139

Tue Jun 27, 2023 2:03 pm
KaiaJersaga wrote a review...

Hello again!
I think I've got the storyline sorted out now, and sorry for my past confusion. :)

I realize now that Jay is quite a different person on the inside. Outwardly, he appears to be a confident teacher, well accustomed to the bow. On the inside, he is quite insecure and is being chased out of his own body by his past which appears to want to take over him. He appears to be afraid of this part of him retaking his sanity and causing him to kill people. The external obnoxious, confident self is a mask to hide his true insecurity...the true self that only he and his father know about.

The conversation between the father and son was quite realistic. The use of conflicting emotions and description add to the intense inner atmosphere of Jays mind. I know feel sympathetic toward Jay despite the fact that he was a killer. He is now trying to change his life and move on but the shadowy Ghost of his past lingers, constantly reminding him of his past mistakes.

The formation of the arrows Jay shot in the end was stellarly written. I didn't expect that. I was so drawn into Jays feelings and trauma that I like Jay forgot the thing he was doing until Katie draws his mind back to reality. Perhaps Jay won't ever be able to use the arrows for anything but killing someone...But on the other hand, perhaps him shooting the imaginary victim is a symbol that he is trying to kill his past. Only, his past easily slips past arrows. Creepy. But very well written. Applause to you, VengefulReaper!

As for your questions....
1. Yes.
2. Definately. As I remarked, I really like that scene. :) Probably my favorite so far.
3.I have not gotten confused since the last conversation. I understand now. ;) It is quite clear that these are hallucinations and flashbacks. Nicely done.

I have no particular pointers for improvement; this was an excellent chapter. ;)

VengefulReaper says...

Thanks for the review, Kaia!

The external obnoxious, confident self is a mask to hide his true insecurity...the true self that only he and his father know about.

I'm not going to pretend like that's something I intentionally wrote lol, but I like it a lot. I'll probably add more of that to his character arc!


KaiaJersaga says...

Hah, hah, XD. I always come up with interesting ideas and theories about people's works on YWS. ;) But glad to spark an idea. :)

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827 Reviews

Points: 109
Reviews: 827

Mon Jun 26, 2023 10:23 pm
vampricone6783 wrote a review...

Jay and his Dad’s conversation seems realistic to me. The detail of Jay’s arrows forming a person is well done, showing how much his time as Ghost affected him. It’s easy to tell what is a hallucination and what is not. It will take a while for Jay to overcome his past mistakes, but it will be worth it when when he eventually does.

I hope that you will have a fantastic day/night.

VengefulReaper says...

Thanks for the review!

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51 Reviews

Points: 40
Reviews: 51

Mon Jun 26, 2023 7:15 pm
Ari11 wrote a review...

Hello! Ari here.
I haven't read the other chapters yet, but I'm really liking your writing style so far. It's very good at conveying the emotions and mannerisms of your characters, especially during the first scene where Jay is talking to his dad. It's obvious that this is a very heavy and emotionally taxing conversation for Jay, especially in the intro sequence.

Shivering, Jay’s fingers tightened around the tall, frosted glass, seeking comfort in its coolness as he settled into the worn armchair across from his father. The crackling fireplace warmed his skin but not his heart. The house that once exuded calmness and serenity suddenly turned against him. He was in a prison with his own thoughts and he had just received a visitor from the other side of the bars; his father. The water in the glass trembled in his grip, mirroring the turmoil within him like the restless waves of an ocean on a stormy night.

This is a great starting paragraph because it sets up both the physical and emotional state of the characters. You know where they are--in the house in front of the fireplace, sitting in worn armchairs--and how they are; nervous, confused, and afraid. I especially like the line 'the crackling fireplace warmed his skin but not his heart'. It's a great metaphor to display the disconnect between the setting and Jay's mental state.

Another great detail you had was the analysis of Katie's form. It painted a great picture of her character as well as driving home how much Jay knows about archery. As a fellow archer myself, it can be easy to let your elbow stick out at an odd angle when pulling back, especially when you're as engrossed in the shot as Katie was. Unfortunately, that makes it harder to keep your line taut and you tend to shake more, throwing off your aim.

And finally, the questions at the end of your writing:

1. I'm not a psychologist, so I don't really know what a 'realistic' conversation is. But I don't think you should worry about that. It's fiction, after all, not everything has to be realistic for it to be good. The important thing is the emotion of the characters, the message of the conversation, and how it affects the plot. Since this is a big, important convo it's going to weigh a lot on the plot, meaning it's probably going to be more cinematic anyway. Don't worry about realism, worry about how it's going to push your characters on to a new adventure.
As for the message, it's very clear: try to heal and don't blame yourself so much for your past mistakes.'
And the emotions are also very transparent. Jay is doing just that, blaming himself for everything he's done ten years ago. This is good from a storytelling standpoint because it also helps set up the impact of the hallucinations later on.

2. Yes, I think the person-shaped arrow cluster is very good at showing both how good Jay is with a bow and how bothered he is by this hallucination. Anybody who could purposely miss that closely is a highly skilled archer.

3. I thought it was very clear what was a hallucination and what wasn't. As I said before, this chapter is very well written.

Well, that's all from me! Great chapter and happy writing!

VengefulReaper says...

Thanks for the review! You're right about not worrying too much about realism. As Thanos says "Reality can be whatever I want" lol.

Also, nice to meet another archer on this site! My elbow sticking out was (and sometimes still is) a personal flaw in my form when I shoot.

Ari11 says...

Yeah I do the same thing XD
My bow also tends to tilt to the side, and sometimes I lock my elbow, too, which is a VERY bad idea. I've gotten a couple of burns from the string for that lol

Sometimes I'm terrified of my heart; of its constant hunger for whatever it is it wants. The way it stops and starts.
— Poe