At 4:00am the next morning my alarm beeped annoyingly. I couldn’t figure out why so I hit the snooze button, rolled over, and fell back to sleep. At 4:10 the alarm shrilled at me again and I realized I should have been out of the house already. I sat up and rubbed my face. I wanted to curse the thing that plagued my land. I pictured Max, he would work. This was my hideaway from the craziness of the world and my well being was being disrupted.
I tried to rise, but my body didn’t want to move. Wonderful, my muscles ached from the intense exercises routine I put myself through the day before. I stretched, stumbled to my clothes, got dressed, gathered my stuff, and made it down the stairs without falling. I put some coffee in a thermos and called for Killer.
“Come on Killer. I know no one in their right mind would be up this early, but we have to go.”
After a little coaxing he followed me down to the barn. He had no interest in Pumpkin this morning; his brain seemed to be as sluggish as mine. Ace stood silently in his stall. The moon let enough light into the barn for me to see, and I had my talisman on. I took these as really good signs. I hoisted the saddle and reins, strapped them on a sleepy Lightning, mounted her and set off for the bridge.
When we crossed over the stream I dismounted, got out my flashlight and maps, and then poured myself some coffee. I sat down, lit a smoke, and blearily scanned the maps. My body still hurt and my brain was still sleepy. I glanced at the bridge, sorely tempted to cross back over and go back to bed, but this was my home. I didn’t want protection. I wanted to be left alone. Darkness settle over me. The treetops barely let in any light from the moon. I couldn’t be sure if would find anything out here, or exactly what I was searching for, but I would sense it. I concentrated on the task before me, to find something, anything.
Almost positive this property belonged to Max meant I had to keep an eye out for him, and I had to take into consideration that his property covered a much bigger area than mine. I wasn’t sure where to start.
I sat, searching the map for landmarks so I wouldn’t get lost when I spotted a small picture of a house almost dead center in the property. I didn’t find any roads, but I didn’t have the best printout of the map either, and I was surprised I came across the house in the first place.
I drank another cup of coffee, slowly bringing my brain to life.
“Okay Killer, we’re walking from here, keep your eyes open.” I whispered through chattering teeth from the morning chill.
“We’re going to follow the edge of the property, wrap around and come back down the other side. We need to avoid the house at all costs. Maybe we‘ll find something.”
I led Lightning while moving the flashlight from right to left on the ground in front of me. I’d never done any tracking before, but I was confident I would know the difference between animal tracks, footprints, and something strange.
I took in the darkness around me and wished I could tell time by examining the stars. I didn’t own a watch and forgot my cell phone at the house.
What seemed like hours later we stopped, the sun still hadn’t risen. Maybe this thing was just haunting my property. Ready to head back I scanned my surroundings and realized I was lost. The forest surrounded me in a veil of surrealistic overtures, making every tree look like the next. Damn! I pulled out my map, some food and coffee. I found my landmarks on the map, but hadn’t seen any on the walk. I hadn’t paid any attention to the landmarks on our jaunt through the woods and wanted to kick myself for my lack of awareness. I wasn’t sure what to do at this point so I leaned my head back against the tree I sat in front of and closed my eyes.
The next thing I knew the sun shined brightly on my face, creating a red glow under my eyelids. The suns warmth brought me fully awake. I yawned and stretched before checking my map again. I searched for the sun between the trees, and led the animals away from it. I only had to walk about a mile before I cleared the trees and there it was. I couldn’t believe I’d been this close. The stream gurgled right in front of me, the bridge – nowhere in sight. Okay, so this morning didn’t turn out quite as I planned. I closed my eyes, told myself not to panic and pictured this as a adventure.
I love to read books. Every chance I get I usually have a book in front of me. This seemed to be the perfect time to find out if I had any kind of imagination similar to my favorite authors.
I smiled to myself and closed my eyes for a moment. I was the lost maiden trying to get home to my prince before the big bad monster found me. Lightning was my trusty steed that ran as fast as the wind and Killer was my vicious wolf that would fight till the end. I imagined Max as my prince, but scratched the idea right away.
Shaking my head I tried again with no prince involved. I had to save the queen from the evil wizard who was going to lock her in the dungeon. Lightning was my trusty steed and Killer was my big, bad wolf. The second scenario worked better for me. Feeling less panicked and considering writing a book I took on the role of a hero, hopped on my trusty steed, then headed upstream hoping I’d find the bridge soon.
I rode for a while with no success before coming to a shallow section of water. Lightning and I trudged through the stream and were hiking up the bank when I heard a loud whine. I glanced back; Killer paced the bank behind us with his tail tucked between his legs. With a long sigh I jumped off Lightning and called to Killer a few times. He wanted nothing to do with the water, so much for my vicious wolf. Oh well, my imagination didn’t seem to warrant any serious writing on my part anyway. I would leave that up to my favorite authors.
I cringed when I stepped into the stream. The icy water started to seep through my boots and jeans immediately. Great! I was still lost and now I was going to freeze to death because I had to get my dog. I crossed the stream, coaxed Killer through the shallow water, finally got him across, and squished back up the bank. I had to get home now, my freezing wet pants glued themselves to my legs. I shook my legs and jumped up and down for a minute to get some feeling back in my feet. Tired and cold I yanked the map out of my jacket and found the area I thought I might be in. I smiled. If I was right my cozy cabin was close. I snatched up Lightning’s reins, thinking I’d stay warmer if I walked, and had only taken a few steps when my skin began to crawl. My adrenaline soared and panic pulsed through my blood.
I searched the riverbank, turned around in a full circle and reached in my jacket pocket for my gun. Empty. My hand skimmed over my other pocket, empty too. I glanced at the pack on Lightning’s back. Was my gun in the pack? I wanted my gun, yet I didn’t want to take the time to look for it and I didn’t want to make whatever was threatening me feel threatened enough to attack me. Crap.Why hadn’t I kept my gun on me? I glanced over my shoulder, but didn’t see anything. I wanted to run; instead I slowly moved my head searching the area around me one more time. I noticed Killer and Lightning patiently waiting. I grimaced. Was I losing my mind? Not even Lightning reacted to the invisible intruder. Did I really have two defective animals?
I cleared my head, even if I’d lost my mind I knew I had to move. Though my nerves stood on end, and my hands shook I started walking. Better to be a moving target. Right?
My gut kept telling me something circled me. Strange shadowed blurs of movement contorted tree branches in my peripheral vision. As soon as I’d turn my head to get a good look the movement would be gone. I started to sidle up to Lightning to get my gun. Several things happened at once. My hand brushed Lightning’s saddle an inch away from the pistol grip, a roof blurred through my vision beyond the trees, then something yanked my feet out from underneath me, and started running with me in tow.
I landed with a hard enough thud to knock the breath out of me. Once my lungs filled back up with air my body went into motion. My arm flailed, trying to grab a hold of the ground to slow me down. Whatever had me sped up, along with my heart. Don’t panic, don’t panic, I repeated to myself as a blur of trees and branches flew past me at a fast pace. I had to save myself. I twisted, noticed a tree coming toward me, and made a split second decision to grab it and hold on for dear life. The tree came up fast, I twisted again and reached out for it. I was able to latch on the small trunk and wrap my arms tightly around the bottom. My nails bit into the bark. at the same time my feet hit the ground and my body began to swing around due to the momentum of the twist. I saw what was going to happen next, but couldn’t stop it. I commanded my arms to let go of the tree before my head made contact with the lower branch, but my arms wouldn’t budge. I quickly turned my head, so I wouldn’t smash face first into the branch, and felt a searing pain rage through my body.