January Story Contest

Soul Whisperer
By: Spellcheck
Age: 12

   I stared out my window and sighed deeply as I watched the horses graze quietly. I had always liked animals, but horses especially. There was just something about them… I don’t really know how to explain it, I just like them.
   I had grown accustom to looking out my window each morning and seeing the horses in the past year, but in the next year or so… don’t think about that! I scolded myself. I forced the thought out of my mind and slipped my boots on. I had to give them hay now, and I couldn’t afford to be bawling in case I passed Joshua or Sarah while going outside.
   Josh and Sarah were my foster parents. I had been in foster care since before I could remember, moving from home to home, have no permanent family. This was my first time being at a house with horses, and that made it even more depressing to think about leaving than usual.
   I couldn’t help but hope Josh and Sarah would adopt me, but it was highly unlikely. I had almost been adopted a few times before, but every time I would accidentally do something to make them think I was insane.
   You see, I have a tendency to hear voices. It wasn’t like they were actually talking to me or anything, more like I would hear clippings of conversations, even when no one was around or the only people who were around definitely didn’t say it. It usually wasn’t very bad, maybe only once every two weeks I would even hear one word, but here it became more and more frequent, sometimes as much as three or four times a day. It was always worse outside, but it had happened inside before too. Sometimes I could hear entire phrases; the most recent one was, “What! Couldn’t you have waited five more minutes? You’re so selfish!”
   Most of what I usually heard had strong emotion in the words, like anger or excitement. Sometimes I heard words with duller emotions, but they were never quite so clear and were easier to ignore. I had long since learned to ignore the voices, but every so often I would still ask someone, “did you say something?” or, “did you hear that?”  Before I would realize what it was.
   In my other foster families, they would usually ignore me when I turned at or acknowledged a sound that no one else heard, but when it got to the point when I would answer questions that no one asked, that’s when they would hand me off to another family as quickly as possible. One family I had when I was nine actually had me tested for Schizophrenia (a disorder where you hear voices) but I had come up negative; the doctor explained that I had described what I heard differently then if I was Schizophrenic, and that if it truly was a disorder it was nothing he had heard of before.
   Josh and Sarah hadn’t gone that far yet, but with as bad as the voices were here, I knew it was only a matter of time before either they or Michael began to notice. Michael was my foster brother; he was a year older then me, but we were really close, almost like twins. I hoped I could trust Michael to keep my secret if he found out, but it was likely he would tell Josh or Sarah first.
   Once they found out, it would all be over. Every time I got sent back, I would always tell myself, don’t worry, there’ll be other families, you’ll have other chances. But I was thirteen now, and the likelihood that a teenager would get adopted was extremely slim. I always tried my hardest not to react when I heard the voices, and I was slowly getting better at it, but as I get older, the voices get worse. 
   I realized I had been staring out the window, and looked away, shaking my head to clear my thoughts. I walked down the hall and into the kitchen where Sarah was almost finished cooking breakfast.
   “You’re cooking breakfast already? What time is it?” I answered my own question by looking at the clock above the oven. Eight-thirty; I was supposed to be up an hour ago. It was summer, so I didn’t have to worry about school, but I had to do my chores, and we had a strict rule in this house: the animals eat before we do. I didn’t like the rule at first, but I had to admit it prevented procrastination really well.
   “Better hurry, Jasmine, or Mike and Josh will eat all the good stuff,” Sarah warned jokingly.
   I nodded quickly and left, turning around and running out of the kitchen and into the front room. I ran out the door and sprinted down the path to the barn, skidding to a stop when I reached the pasture behind the barn.
   The pasture behind the barn had about ten acres in area; it held a few horses who were going to start being trained to ride soon, and the eight best riding horses: Little Bee, an eight-year-old red dun quarter horse (QH) mare; Curious George, an thirteen-year-old yellowish-grey QH gelding; Chex, an eleven-year-old Palomino QH mare; Dancer, a seventeen-year-old dark brown ex-racehorse thoroughbred mare;  Rusty, a thirteen-year-old reddish-brown paint horse gelding; Jesse, a fifteen-year-old blue roan mustang mare;  Freckles, a twelve-year-old light grey (slowly going white) QH mare; and Nacho, a ten-year-old yellow dun QH gelding.
   Despite being the youngest, Little Bee was easily the sweetest of them all, in fact, she was so nice and easy to train that she could have been a lesson horse for toddlers since she was two. She was also my favorite of the eight. These eight horses were Sarah and Josh’s favorites, and would never be sold as long as they had something to say about it.
   Dancer at the moment wasn’t actually in the pasture; she was in the barn because she had foaled last night. We had named the colt Hermes because we expected him to be fast; we had accidentally bred Dancer to Watch Red Song, a barrel racing quarter horse who had come in seventh place internationally, when Sarah and Josh were tacking care of him temporarily for a friend. They would probably be turned out into the pasture in a day or two; we seldom put horses in the barn because there were so many; it was mostly used for sick or hurt horses or mares that were close to foaling.
   My job was to feed the rescue horses; Sarah and Josh liked to take in horses that had been abandoned, neglected or abused. Dancer and Jesse were some of them. Dancer had broken her leg in a race and was going to be put down; Jesse had been taken from the wild when she was barely four months old, and had been badly abused and neglected until she was two when the owners had been turned in and Sarah and Josh adopted her. Now they were both excellent riding horses. Most of the time Sarah and Josh would sell the rescue horses once they were back to peak condition and trusted humans again, but every so often they would decide to keep one.
   I walked to the barn, turning on the water to the hose that would fill up the horses’ water trough as I did so. I walked down the barn isle until I reached the tack room which was at the other end. I opened the tack room door and pulled out two rope halters with lead ropes, a western saddle, a saddle blanket, and a driving harness.
   I set all of the tack except the rope halters on the fence and walked through the gate into the pasture. I whistled once I had walked about fifteen feet into the pasture, and the seven trained horses looked up, immediately coming toward me, some even trotting, the other horses hung back to continue grazing. They stopped about five feet in front of me, waiting for me to come to one of them with the halter. I smiled at how well behaved they were being, and walked up to the side of Chex’s head, allowing her to put her nose into the halter, which she did. I then walked her over to the gate, dropped the lead rope,  and walked away, shooing her away when she began to follow so she would stay by the gate, which again she did.
   I walked back to the other horses which were waiting patiently for me to come back with the other halter. I shooed away the ones in front in order to get to Jesse who was in back. I let her put her nose in the halter then lead her to Chex. Although Jesse was a Mustang, she seemed to have a lot of draft blood in her; in fact if you didn’t know she was a mustang, you’d probably think she was some sort of heavy draft horse if not for the fact that she was only fifteen hands high.
   It would be a tight squeeze if I tried to bring them both out at once, so I just led Jesse out, leaving her on the out side of the fence, trusting her not to run away—which I knew she wouldn’t—and then led Chex out. Once the other horses realized I wasn’t going to take them out, they went back to eat.
   Not needing to tie either of them, I moved Jesse a few feet away from Chex to give myself room, and then put the saddle on Chex. I didn’t usually ride with a bridle, just the halter and lead rope, which worked just as well. I praised Chex for holding still while I saddled her by scratching her under her chin and kissing her on the nose.
   I then walked over to Jesse with the harness and led her and Chex over to the cart. I put the harness on Jesse then hitched her to the cart. Jesse could be driven, but I didn’t know how to drive a cart yet, so I had to lead her with the halter and lead rope instead. Luckily the bridle part of the harness could be removed, so I wouldn’t have to worry about them getting in the way. I would lead her while on Chex’s back so that we could go faster.
   I checked over the harness one more time to make sure it wasn’t too tight or would rub against her the wrong way. Finally satisfied, I led her and Chex over to the haystack. Of course, they both immediately began munching on the hay, but it didn’t really make a big difference in the huge stack of at least two-hundred bales.
   There were about fifteen rescue horses, so they would need about two and a half bales of hay, which I rounded up to three, and another three tonight. I lifted the bales with some effort, but eventually I had all three in the cart. I grabbed a spare piece of baling twine off the ground and put it in my pocket.
   I led Chex and Jesse away from the haystack, they resisted a little bit, but not much. I put my foot in the left stirrup and mounted Chex. I could mount from the right side too, but I just happened to be on the left.
   I asked Chex to walk and she did so immediately, and Jesse followed even before I pulled on the lead.
   The pasture that held the rescue horses was about a quarter mile away, so it wouldn’t take long to get to them.
   There were about eighty horses on the farm, along with about ten chickens used for eggs and two cows used for milk. They used chickens for eggs because it was cheaper, but they used cows for milk because Sarah couldn’t drink store-bought milk because of the way it was pasteurized.
   There were a few bumps here and there along the beginning of the path, so I kept Chex at a walk, but when we got to the point where it was almost entirely flat I asked her to trot.
   We got to the rescue horses in just a few minutes. I slowed Chex and Jesse to a walk, then a complete stop. I dismounted Chex and led Jesse about five feet from the fence.
   I hopped into the cart and used the spare piece of baling twine to cut open one bale. I grabbed a section of hay about twelve inches wide and tossed it in with the mares and geldings, then another twelve inches to the stallions. Usually the mares and gelding were separated as well, but for now their pen was being used for something else. I continued distributing hay like this until there was only about fourteen inches left. I took that fourteen inches and carried it over to what used to be the geldings’ pen, but now held Cobalt.
   Cobalt was one of the latest rescue horses; the previous owners had attempted to turn him into a racehorse, and with any other horse it might have worked, but Cobalt was the wildest horse I’d ever seen in my life, and that’s saying a lot compared to the other rescue horses. Even Sarah and Josh agreed, and they had seen way more than I. He had nearly killed his previous owners and was barely saved from slaughter by Sarah’s arguments and—luckily—the judge knew her and how good she was with horses, and decided he would let them try and tame the horse. The only problem was that we were given a six-month deadline to make Cobalt into a horse that an intermediate rider could handle.
   Cobalt had been here for two months, which was more than enough time for him to have at least gotten used to the other horses, but he still attacked anything that came within fifteen feet. Sarah and Josh still couldn’t even get in the pen without Cobalt attempting to stomp them into the ground. Josh had been kicked once already, but luckily Cobalt had barely nicked his leg, so there was no permanent damage, Michael had been bitten on his arm and Sarah had gotten a concussion when Cobalt grabbed her by the shoulder with his teeth and actually threw her into the fence, if not for Josh she probably would have been hurt a lot worse.
   When Cobalt was being trailer-loaded to come here, Animal Control had to knock him out with a tranquilizer gun and practically drag him into the trailer. Once he was here, it took thirty minutes for him to wake up, which wasn’t enough time to get him into this pen, he had thrashed and kicked and even dragged Josh about twenty feet before he had to let go. Cobalt had galloped faster than any racehorse I’d seen and jumped a five-and-a-half-foot fence with ease before the Animal Control officer shot him with another tranquilizer, not enough to knock him out, but enough to make him too groggy to put up much of a fight.
   It was sad that such a magnificent horse might have to be put down. As Sarah always said, “There’s no such thing as a bad horse, just one that’s misunderstood.” I had to agree.
   Cobalt was beautiful, he had long, muscular legs; a slightly arched neck; not really a small head, but not large either; a high-set tail, almost as high as an Arabian; semi-long, pointed ears; a slightly long back; a long, fine mane and tail; and his hooves were hard and black, they would probably never have to be shod.
   But above all the most beautiful characteristic was his color; he was a beautiful silver-black color. He looked like a pure black horse had rolled in some really shiny ash. The silver was mostly concentrated on his back, but there were some silver accents on his ears, face, and nose; his legs had a silverish look when they glinted in to sun, but were otherwise black, and his mane and tail were and impossibly shiny, dark silver. Not a spot of white was on him.
   I was almost convinced that he really had just rolled in ash or something until it rained last week, and the real dirt came off, making his silver coloring even shinier.
   I slowly approached his pen with the hay, and the moment he saw me he shot forward to the front of the pen, stopping about six feet from the fence and turning his hindquarters to me. He turned his neck to face me and pinned his ears flat against his head, daring me to come closer.
   Most of the other horses liked me even more than Sarah, Josh, or Michael; that was why it was my job to feed the rescue horses, but for some reason Cobalt hated me way more than anyone else. He usually just stays in the back of his pen when the others feed or water him and waits for them to leave before he eats or drinks, only threatening or attacking when they come in, but with me he once even came right up to the fence and bit me as soon as I had given him his hay. I had a nasty bruise on my shoulder for a week.
   Luckily today he didn’t feel like biting or kicking, he was just threatening. I tossed him his hay and backed up immediately.
   I mounted Chex and gave her the command to walk, but she stayed still. I realized it was because I hadn’t actually meant the order, I had continued to remain still in the saddle so she presumed I wasn’t serious about the command. My attention was still on Cobalt, watching him as he slowly munched hay.
   He lifted his head slightly and focused his dark eyes on me, a look so threatening it made me cringe and look away. Any normal rescue horse would have looked away when our eyes met, but he just looked at me, no, glared at me. I swear this horse could send a whole pack of wolves running with their tails between there legs with a simple glance.
   I didn’t know what it was about Cobalt, but something about him made me like him more than the other horses, even though he scared me to death. It wasn’t how pretty he was, and it definitely wasn’t his attitude, I just liked him.
   I told Chex to walk, really meaning the command this time, and she walked forward with Jesse following on the lead rope.
   As we were walking I could help but think about the deadline. Just thinking about it made my heart clench. We only had four months left and we were getting nowhere. If Cobalt was to be a good riding horse in four months, we needed a miracle. But I wasn’t going to give up hope, not now, not ever.


Author’s note: I’m not sure how many more chapters there’ll be, probably about two or three. I hope you enjoy them all!