(This is the final chapter)
Jessie heard a sound that chilled her to her very core. Similar to when Uncle George had recently woken her up calling her name, and she thought he was in some kind of trouble. Only this time, he wasn't calling her and she could tell from the fear in his cries that he really was in trouble now. Something was happening with him in the pasture. And she knew Silk had something to do with it.
She took off running as fast as she could, knowing instinctively that her uncle's very life was in danger. But instead of heading into the pasture where he was, she raced into the house. Jessie knew what she was looking for, and where Uncle George kept it. She also knew deep within herself that it would one day come down to this. Oh, she'd hoped it wouldn't, but it was inevitable.
She frantically hurried with her task at hand as she unintentionally listened to Uncle George's sickening screams. When she also heard a horse's angry squeal, she knew then she'd been right, of course. It was Silk. That good-for-nothing...!
She cursed under her breath, which is something she'd never done before. She'd been raised not to use bad language, and honestly had no desire to. Even when she was at school and the other kids were using those words, she wasn't even tempted to repeat them, even though she knew she wouldn't get in trouble. They were just distasteful to her. But somehow, this situation was different, and it just came out of her.
Jessie didn't like it, but she would be forced to do a lot of growing up this day.
Uncle George was in the field, doing his best to fight off the crazy mare. He'd already been knocked down several times by Silk, who had tried again and again to stomp him with her front hooves. Each time, however, he'd managed to roll away just shy of where they landed and get back to his feet. Another tactic she tried was to cut him off from escape. Uncle George had headed for the gate to get out of the pasture, but Silk anticipated his move and ran around him to the gate, blocking it with her body. Even if he had managed to get out of the pasture, Silk would just have jumped the fence and went after him, just as she'd jumped it to get in there in the first place.
When Uncle George saw that he couldn't get out, he stopped. Just stopped cold, not knowing what else to do. Silk pinned her ears and charged him, with teeth bared. He tried to duck out of the way in time, but again the powerful animal plowed into him with enough force that the breath was knocked out of him. His body slammed into the ground with a sickening thud, and he lay sprawled in the grass. Silk whirled around and caught him by a leg in her teeth. She placed a vice-grip on it and began dragging him through the field. Uncle George was completely helpless; all he could do was yell and hope someone, anyone would hear him and help!
On this unplanned tour of the pasture, he saw with horror the mutilated body of the little calf that had been trampled earlier. A few seconds later they came upon the carcass of the bay gelding, and Uncle George got a glimpse of its ripped-up muzzle. Sticky, half dry blood was still soaking the ground around it, and still oozing from the terrible, fatal wound. He realized that this horse that was dragging him around by his leg was responsible for destroying these two animals. Was this going to be his own fate too?
Just when he thought that this was it, and he was surely a goner, he heard a loud crash, and the crazed horse uttered a cry and stumbled. She didn't let go of his leg, however, but continued to drag him mercilessly over the bumpy ground. Then he heard the crash a second time. Silk screamed and collapsed to the ground, releasing Uncle George's leg in the process.
When he looked up, he was shocked to see Jessie standing over him, holding his shotgun in her arms. Normally he would have gone ballistic seeing her with any weapon, but right now he was just very, very thankful. He said not a word to her, for none would come. Likewise, she said nothing to him. Instead, she looked at him, then walked over to Silk.
The mare was struggling to get up. She bled heavily from several places where the buckshot had struck her, but apparently it'd missed any vital areas. Silk scrambled to her feet and stood facing Jessie, who no longer recognized the horse she'd raised and loved. It seemed the feeling was mutual, for Silk no more seemed to recognize the girl either.
They stared at each other for several seconds, eye to eye. Then, Silk took a step toward Jessie. The mare's intentions were unclear, for there was neither friendliness nor fight showing on in the horse's expression or body language. Either way, it didn't matter. Jessie had to finish the job, that much was clear. Silk was dangerous.
As the mare took another step toward her, Jessie yelled, "No!", which startled Silk into a stop. Jessie then raised the shotgun and aimed it square at Silk's pretty little proud head, and fired.
When it was all over, Jessie ran back to a very stunned Uncle George, and collapsed into his arms in tears.
Stammering, she said, "A-are you hurt bad, Uncle?"
"No, Jessie, I'm fine. Just several cuts and scrapes and a nasty bite on my leg. I'll be just fine. But what...how did you...?"
Jessie spent the next several minutes explaining to him, through sobs, all about Silk's unprovoked attacks. She even told him about the time on the trail when she'd turned on Jessie, and that she realized that it was Sleek who'd killed the boy in the corral.
"I didn't want anyone to know, because I knew if they did, they'd have her destroyed!" Jessie cried. "She was my horse. Mine! And I loved her. But in the end, I no longer knew her. I was always afraid of her, even when I tried to protect her. But lately I no longer loved her because she was so different..."
"Not true, Jessie. You still love that mare, even if you think you don't. That's why it was so difficult for you to do what you did."
"But Uncle, I had to do it, because she'd just keep on hurting or killing more people if she didn't! There was something really wrong with her. She was too far gone."
"I know that, girl. You did the right thing, and I'm very proud of you. But I know how hard it was. I could see it etched in your face when you pulled the trigger. It was an incredibly brave thing you did."
Jessica said nothing, but walked over to where Silk had fallen. She stared down at the body of the strangely-colored mare, as if pondering the direction her life would take now. She then felt a hand on her shoulder and looked into the sympathetic face of her Uncle George.
"I think we'd better get to burying that horse, before the coyotes and vultures start coming 'round here," he said.
Jessie was surprised. "Bury? But we never bury horses or cows here! You always call that dead livestock removal place to come pick them up..."
"Yes, I know. But even though Silk turned nasty, she was still special. She was your horse, Jessie. You're hurting over all this, and no wonder! You need closure, and I think the best way to get it is to have her buried here on the ranch. That way, you can still visit her and tell her all your secrets. She will still be there to listen to them. Unless, of course, you'd rather that she wasn't here?"
"No, I don't mind," Jessie said barely above a whisper.
The next few hours were spent mostly in silence as the girl and her uncle laid the once-beloved horse to eternal rest.