With a start, Eryss jolted out of bed, on to her feet and across her bedroom floor as the anxiety of the fall lapped eagerly around the corners of her mind. It had been so.. real, she realized. The anger she felt, the terror, the wind, all of it, as she had dreamt of defying her mother and trying to show off her riding ability. She sighed, glaring back at the bed. "It wasn't my fault." She whispered flatly, "mom never trusts me to do anything. She doesn't even trust me with my own flipping horse."
Still, the vivid image played out in Eryss' mind's eye. The fall had seemed so real, more real than anything she had ever felt before during sleep. Images of her hair, knotted and windblown, and Aspen's wide eyes and flaring nostrils, danced around her vision, 'causing Eryss to shake nearly uncontrollably as the anxiety that lapped around her mind crept willingly into the rest of her being. Instinctively, Eryss wrapped her arms around herself and began rubbing vigorously, trying to coax the shivers away. She yelped in surprise as she rubbed tender spot, causing her arm to flare up with a weird tingly sensation she hadn't felt before. Confused, Eryss gingerly explored her arm with tender fingers, cautious not to upset it again. She was surprised to feel.. was that, dirt? And lumps?
Eryss felt sick to her stomach as she explored her arms, here and there she felt tender spots and a weird grainy substance on them both. It felt almost like the dirt from the arena. Panicked she ran to her mirror - and was met not by her usual bedhead, but instead the matted, wind-strewn mess of hair she had seen on herself as she rode Aspen in that god awful dream. She saw the same outfit, caked in a mixture of dirt and blood and grass stains, that she had worn in the dream. Her lip was busted, dirt compacted where the skin split. She screamed, backing away from her broken appearance...
"Eryss!" Josie screamed from across the arena, breaking into a full run toward the downed horse and her daughter. She was intercepted by Clark.
"Honey, slow yourself. Calm. That horse is liable to be in flight mode, we don't need to bring any more anxiety than necessary to the table." He spoke urgently, cupping his daughter's chin and forcing her gaze away from the scene, "Breathe, right now." Josie barely heard him as cruel visions taunted him, but deep down she knew he was right. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Aspen struggling to get up, a horse as panicked as he might have been if he had fallen into a quick-sand pit. She looked to her father and breathed, which earned her the merciful release she needed. She turned her attention back to the horse and rider and strode quickly over to them, calmly but urgently clucking to Aspen and trying to get a good look at Eryss' frame. It wasn't pretty.
Behind her, Josie could hear the other ranch patrons being given instructions or volunteering to help. "Peter, you get that ****ed horse away from my granddaughter." One voice said, "I'll call the ambulance" the other chimed in. None of it mattered to Josie though, instead she eagerly coaxed Aspen toward, snatching the broken reins when he was close enough and leading him toward Peter at a brisk jog. After she handed him off, she closed in on her daughter. The first thing Josie noticed was Eryss' lip, and the bruise that was already beginning to form on her arm. Eryss' head lolled to the side, her lips barely moving to speak. But maternal instinct kicked in, Josie easily understood what Eryss was trying to say. She rubbed her daughter's hair, shushing her.
"Mom's right here Eryss, and she's not going anywhere. It's ok, it's alright..."
As she shot backward, Eryss collapsed into the bed. "That was just like in the dream.." she said quietly but hoarsely. She could feel the tears stinging the back of her eyes, the fear welling in her belly. "Mom..!" She said loudly, which even to her own ears sounded more like a gasp. She shook her head, earning herself a headache, took a deep breath and tried again. "Mom!" She said, this time the word sounding at least loud enough to penetrate the walls of her bedroom. Her fear swelled as she got no response from either her parent or grandparents. It wasn't right, normally there was someone around to answer her calls. She rose from the bed, gingerly making her way to the door of her room and cracking the door open. "Mom?" She called again through the crack, though she was met with no returned call. Resolutely Eryss eased the door open and stepped through it and into a prison of white.
It seemed like it had been ages since her mom had made the call, but sirens finally rose at the head of the farm's driveway. "Eryss they're here now, they're going to take care of you." Josie sighed in relief, kissing her daughter's forehead carefully. She rose from Eryss' side, holding the only standard that had survived the accident for support. Clark and Peter had lead Aspen to the barn and phoned in the vet. Mom had gone inside to make coffee and find a blanket a few minutes after calling the ambulance, Josie hadn't moved, waiting for Eryss to speak or wake up. Other than when Eryss had first called out to her, though, Josie hadn't heard a peep from her beautiful girl. She was stiff now, sore, and tired, and Eryss wasn't moving, and Josie felt horrible. She moved toward the gate, opening it and flagging the EMTs. They had to get her to a hospital. Had to.
Eryss rubbed her eyes and stared around the apartment in confusion. This was it, this was the crappy apartment in Chicago that was furnished with her father's ultra-modern, sleek black furniture and painted a stark white to match the bland white, pristine carpet. The barren walls lead to windows with boring views of other city buildings across the street. "Mom?" She called again, walking forward into the sterile settings, acutely aware that her matted hair and disgusting clothes would probably leave a trail of brown in the white. She explored the area while waiting for a response, noticing how all of it was wrong. Pictures should have been where vacant areas were present. The couches were supposed to be harsh rectangles and all of these couches were rounded and smooth. The only thing that was normal, she realized, was the note written in her mother's scrawling cursive sitting on the kitchen table. With a deflated sigh, Eryss approached it. "Of course." Eryss grumbled miserably as she read the letter. "Working late." She read aloud in a mocking tone, snatching the letter from the table, crumpling it and throwing it across the room. As soon as it hit the floor though, the letter reappeared on the table, crisp and clean has it had been moments before. Eryss jumped as she watched the letter disappear and reappear. Then a slight anger rose in her as she snatched the letter, ripped it to shreds, and dropped it on the floor. Again, as each sliver of paper hit the floor, it reappeared on the table, crisp and clean and mocking. Eryss screamed at the table, or the floor, or whatever was making the letter stay pristine, kicking the table and earning a sharp pain up her leg as she did so. Out on the street, sirens rang and bounced off the buildings and only served to fuel Eryss' fire more.
The tears that welled in her eyes came as a surprise though, she was mad, she shouldn't be crying, but the tears pressed on. Before she knew it, Eryss was curled in a ball on the floor of her father's ugly apartment, crying. She hated this place, she hated her father and her mother was at work, "working late," and she was alone. Terribly alone. And angry. She balled her fist and punched the couch beside her. No sooner had she hit the couch than it had burst into a cloud of colorful confetti and the scene changed from stark black and white to empty blackness. With something light, something floating, toward her. Fear compelled her to run, and so.. she did. She ran back to the door way that should have led to her room, where she had emerged from only minutes before, and was shocked to be back in the ranch house's second-story bedroom, the one two doorways from the left of the top of the stairs. All things familiar waited to greet her as she slammed the door shut and leaned against it, panting.
The EMTs made quick work of getting Eryss onto a gurney and hooked up to the contraptions that would be used to monitor her body while they raced toward the hospital. They had offered to let Josie ride with her daughter in the back of the truck, but Clark had insisted Josie stay behind and that the family go to the hospital together. The EMT boys, Jason and Geoff, partially raised with Josie and her family, nodded solemnly and swore to take good care of their precious cargo en route. Though she had been reluctant to stay behind, she had done so for her parent's sake.
"How's the stupid creature?" Josie asked bitterly as she walked in stride with her father toward the house and waiting coffee mugs.
"He's gotta few bad splinters in 'is legs," Clark said, looking grimly forward, "Nothin' too serious that I can see, Peter neither. Our regular vet ain't in so some guy named Scott'll be our vet t'night. He's on 'is way."
"Well at least he won't die."
"Naw, horse's made'a steel. He ain't goin' nowhere. Peter's going to stay with 'im tonight. We're going to get cleaned up 'nd go to our girl."
As they entered the house, they were met with more than the smell of a fresh brew. Eggs, bacon, pancakes and french toast sat waiting on the table. Helen stood over the oven, frying what looked like hashbrowns. "Been busy mom?" Josie asked with a strained chuckle. Though she didn't feel hungry she couldn't help but notice that the aromas made her stomach grumble with an eager anticipation of putting food in them. Helen simply turned to face her daughter. "When this kind of stuff happens, I've found that people are hungrier than they admit and I need something to do with my hands. It's how I got through you being in the hospital." She said, gesturing to the three figures hunched over the breakfast table, devouring food. "Sometimes it's the best I can do to help when other people have the situation under control."
Josie couldn't help but feel offended and grateful toward her mother at once. A part of her wished that Helen had joined her at Eryss' side while waiting for the ambulance. Another thanked her heartily for providing the food that she was sure would be eaten within the hour. So she just gave her mom a hug. "Thanks."
"We need to talk about what happened." Helen said grimly after giving a full-hearted hug back. Josie stiffened nervously, hoping that this wouldn't turn into the conversation she had first had when she got out of the hospital.
"I don't want to sell him on her." Helen said quickly, interrupting Josie's thoughts. "Neither does your dad. But your dad does want him off of the property.. back at Joe's, for more training. Until Eryss is out of the hospital and free and clear to ride again. Given who he is, honey, this is a huge step for him. I think.. you should talk to him about this."
Mixed emotions coursed through Josie, anger and gratitude among them. When it had been her falling off of a horse over a jump, Clark had stopped at nothing to sell the horse and entice her to give jumping up. All her mother had said was that he only wanted to send the horse back in for training. She could live with that, couldn't she? But why couldn't she keep the horse here? She approached the men at the table, intending to discuss it with her dad, who simply handed her a plate of food and instructed her to sit.
"Josie, you remember Dan and Chris, don't you? They're some of our old clients, used to send us horses for training." Clark said as Josie settled into the chair across the table from him, selecting a fork and nodding.
"They heard over the scanner that something happened at the Sinscy farm, came right over to offer us support."
As panic subsided, Eryss slowly moved away from the bedroom door and toward her dresser, opening it for a hopeful change of clothes. In the dream she had wet herself, and even though she was starting to feel like she was still dreaming, a fresh change in underwear and clean clothes sounded good, really good. Nothing could prepare her for the rattle snake coiled in her dresser drawer, rattling away and swaying on end, poised to strike. Adrenaline fueled her in slamming the drawer shut just as the snake lept off of its coils. She panted and returned to her bed, dismayed at there being no change of clothes. It was then that she glimpsed the glowing thing, floating gently in the corner. She jumped.
"I have a message for you." It said from behind the cloak that covered its' form. "It's from a friend."
"What, are, you?!" Eryss shouted at the thing, scuttling back on the covers of her bed and curling to rest on the headboard. As the thing floated closer, the cloak snagged on the floor and pulled off, revealing a jackalope. Its' antlers stuck up, proudly marking ten years in prongs, and its' rabbit ears simply twitched.
"I'm a guardian." It said, gently landing on the bed, sitting just in front of the footboard. "It's my job to protect you, Eryss."
"You shouldn't know my name!" Eryss screamed at it, reaching behind her and throwing a pillow at it. As the pillow eased through the Guardian's body and landed on the floor behind it, the pillow reappeared frustratingly back where it belonged on the bed.
"But I do know your name, Eryss. It is my job to protect you."
"What do you want?"
"You should listen to your mother. She knows much about the world."
"She doesn't trust me, or have faith in me, or believe in me, or anything though.."
"Have you given her reason to have faith in you, Eryss?"
This question offended her for reasons she didn't understand. Of course she had given her mother reasons to have faith in her! Especially since moving. She had a job and was finally doing well in school!
"Ah, but tonight you took that faith away from her." The guardian said, responding to her thoughts.
Ok I'll stop there.. I forgot Momma Scinscy's name, sorry guys. ): Hope it was enjoyable, and eager to see what you can do with this! Also hope you don't hate it.
The path is different for you and me, but the journey begins in the heart.