Dev continued to play with his stick, tapping at leaves and turning over small rocks. Brushing back her long, dark hair, Shaya glanced around the park. Grassy slopes with large patches of bushes rose up from one side of the path. To the other side, reeds and thin, spindly trees stood like petrified sentries around the pond. Its water lay still and glassy.
After bouncing up and down a few more times, Shaya sighed and continued along the path. Dev could be late home from school if he wanted; she wasn’t going to sit through another telling-off by their mother because of him. Dev was thirteen — one year older than Shaya — but sometimes it felt like he was seven.
She hurried along, hands jammed in her pockets, shoulder bag swinging against her side. As she passed a tangle of bushes to her left, something dark on the ground made her slow her steps. She stopped and crouched down.
It was a circular object, and appeared to be made of feathers. Shaya reached out for it, and just before she touched it, her spine prickled.
Quickly, she glanced around. No one else seemed to be in the park apart from her and Dev, and he was every bit as far back as before. No doubt he was trying for real, now, to annoy her. Telling herself the chill up her spine was only the result of the cold wind, she reached out and touched the small, black hoop.
“Mine,” a voice whispered.
Shaya sprang back.
She looked around again. The voice had sounded like it came from behind her, but the path was deserted.
“H— hello,” she said nervously.
No answer came.
Shaya bent down towards the hoop again. It appeared to be some kind of bracelet, and half of it was pressed into the ground, as if someone had stepped on it. The part sticking up had an oily sheen to it, the feathers glinting blue-black in the fading light. Taking a breath, Shaya reached out and snatched it up.