April Story Contest

Lightning Chapter Two: The Escape
By: spellcheck
Age: 11

I sat up and looked out my window again. I was still waiting for Aaron to get here. I hadn’t slept all night to make sure I wouldn’t sleep in. I looked one more time, and sat back in bed. Still nothing.
I had been reading while I was waiting, and I’d almost already finished Black Beauty again before I decided I needed to read something else for a change, so I went and picked up The Encyclopedia For Horses, and began skimming through it, looking for stuff I didn’t know yet.

The window was open because I’d wanted to be able to hear outside too in case I fell asleep, and to keep my room cold so I couldn’t fall asleep. I was half-tempted to shut it, but decided against it, knowing that I was probably going to fall asleep if I did. I sat up and looked again. Nothing. I was about to lie back down in bed when I heard a whistle; it was soft, but I heard it as if it were right in front of me. I stuck my head out the window and saw a silhouette of a horse about twenty feet from the yard. It was a big horse, but I couldn’t tell the exact size from here. I was already dressed and ready to go; I had wanted to be able to leave as soon as Aaron got here. I tip-toed down stairs and slipped out the door. It was cold outside, but I brought my black, fake leather duster/trench-coat that everyone commented looked like a vampire’s coat. I didn’t think it was that cool, but it was warm, so I wasn’t going to complain.

I ran out to the road where Aaron was waiting with a huge caramel-colored mare that was at least seventeen hands. It looked like some breed of draft horse, but I couldn’t tell what kind.
“Where’d you get that horse?” I asked, tilting my head sideways.
“Oh, our family breeds draft horses for working at our farm; they’re very against tractors and whatnot,” he explained.
Huh, I’d never heard of anyone who still did that in the U.S.; it was cool though.
“But then why do you take riding lessons?” I asked. I had assumed that he didn’t have any horses; otherwise he wouldn’t be at Redwood Riding Academy.
He shrugged. “Like I said, these are draft horses, that’s why I’m taking riding lessons, all that me parents can teach me is driving, but I want to learn both.”
He slid off; it wasn’t until now hat I realized he was riding without a saddle; just a halter and a lead rope that had been used to improvise as a bridle.
“No saddle?” I asked with a confused and slightly frightened expression.
He shook his head. “No; I was only able to get Sage, and she refuses to wear anything with a bit, girth, or tightens around her in any way or form, which is just about anything besides a halter and lead rope, and refuses to go beyond a slow canter or jump, because we got her from some people who treated her terribly. But don’t worry, she’s annoyingly stubborn, but not temperamental, she won’t run off or buck,” he explained.
I sighed with relief. “Okay, we can’t waste any more time sitting here, talking; we’ve got to go get Lightning.”
He nodded. “You’re right; let’s go.” he bent down, entwined his fingers together and held them out for me to step into, and threw me up onto the horse’s back.
I didn’t know how he managed that; I was a lot taller than most girls my age, and I couldn’t be much shorter than him, I couldn’t be that easy to throw. Apparently I was wrong.

He jumped on in front of me and picked up the lead rope. He clicked and tightened his knees around the horse, and it broke into a trot. We trotted for a few minutes, until we could see the riding school, then Aaron clicked again and the horse broke into a slow, loping canter. It took a few more minutes, and then we were at the gate.

“Oh great, we have a problem,” Aaron groaned, stopping at the gate.
I was confused. “What?”
He looked at me as if I was missing something obvious. “Because we have to get Sage past the gate, and she doesn’t jump, remember?”
Oh, right. “That is a problem.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“You don’t happen to know how to pick locks, do you?”
I shook my head. “No, but I do happen to know how to climb fences.”
He was confused this time. “How will that help? We have to get Sage in there too, you know.”
I sighed. “The barn has a gate in the back of it that is big enough for a horse, but only opens from the inside; if I can climb over, I can get Sage through that gate.”
He thought for a moment. “There’s just one problem, though.”
“That means going through the barn, and if we do that, we’ll wake up the horses, and if the horses neigh, it will wake up the owner,” he explained.
He had a point there. Great, now we were stuck. “Okay, then what do we do now?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know.”
I was about to suggest we go home, but I knew we couldn’t do that. We had to save Lightning.

I slid off Sage and walked towards the gate.
“What are you doing?” Aaron asked frantically.
I didn’t answer; I just climbed to the top, and jumped over.
I walked towards the barn, and crept in, tip-toeing so I wouldn’t wake up the horses. I found the feed room, filled a bucket with oats, and walked out. Aaron was waiting for me at the gate.
“What were you thinking?! You could have been caught!” he whispered furiously.
“Tie Sage to the gate where she won’t be seen,” I ordered.
He was confused, but listened anyway.
We walked over to a place where trees were covering the fence, and tied her to the gate right by them.
“Come on, we’ll have to climb over,” I told him, and began to climb.
“What are you doing? There’s no way we can get Lightning anywhere without Sage!”
I shrugged. “I don’t care. We have to try.”
He sighed and nodded reluctantly. “I guess you’re right; let’s go.”
We climbed over and walked as quietly as possible to the barn.
I slapped a hand to my forehead. “Oh, no,” I groaned.
“What is it? We didn’t forget something else... right?” he asked, looking slightly frightened.
I nodded. “No halter or lead rope.”
He sighed with relief. “Don’t worry, I brought one.”

I hadn’t noticed until now that he was wearing a backpack. I was so oblivious sometimes. Now that I think of it, I hadn’t realized until now what he was wearing or what he looked like at all. He had semi-dark skin, black hair, one green eye, and one grey-blue eye; you’d think that that would be the first thing that I’d notice. And he was wearing a normal T-shirt and jeans.
“Good,” I said with relief, and started walking again.
We were silent until we got to Lightning’s pen.
I looked around it and saw a big tarp and a gun right next to it. And right next to the pen were tire tracks leading out towards the mountains. Lightning was nowhere in sight.
I froze. They’ve already done it? I thought hysterically. Aaron seemed to be thinking the same thing.

“Th-th-they’ve d-d-d-done it a-a-already!” I barely managed to choke out the last few words.
Aaron nodded mechanically.
I looked way out to the mountains, and saw headlights following one of the trails.
I fell to my knees and felt the hot tears running down my face.
Looking back to the mountains, I stood up, drying the tears off my face. I turned to Aaron who looked like he was at a loss.
I grabbed his hand and led him to where the gun was.
He looked down at it unseeingly. “What’s the point of this?”
I examined it, and stood up defiantly. “It hasn’t been fired yet,” I answered, a hint of hope almost noticeable in my voice.He looked at me.
I almost smiled. “They haven’t put him down yet.”
His eyes widened. “You’re right!” but his face soon fell. “But we still can’t save him; they’re way up there already, and besides, how are we going to stop them?”
I glared at him. “Can’t you think on the bright side for ten seconds? We’ll think of something.”
He nodded hopefully. “Of course we will; where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
I smiled. “That’s the spirit. Let’s go!”

We ran to the fence and climbed over, bringing the bucket of oats.
I climbed the fence half-way, using it like a mounting block to get on Sage, and Aaron climbed on behind me, not even commenting about being in front. I clicked and tightened my knees, and Sage broke into a trot. I urged her into a canter, but I couldn’t get her to go any faster.
“Come on, Sage,” I urged her, but she did nothing. I wasn’t going to hurt her any time soon, even if she wouldn’t go faster… that’s it! I shouted in my head. I wasn’t going to hurt her, but she didn’t seem to like me, and I could use that to my advantage.
I leaned forward. “Whoa, girl,” I said, and pulled back slightly on the reigns.
She didn’t respond.
“What are you doing? We want her to go faster!” Aaron whispered hysterically.
“Geez, Aaron, calm down,” I muttered and repeated the process.
Still no response.
I release my grip on the reigns and said with a fake-scared voice, “Whoa, girl!”
She lurched into a fast canter, thinking she’d taken off with me. She thought I had no idea what I was doing, and couldn’t control her. I pretended to try to pull back on the reigns again, and she lurched into a gallop. Yes! I thought, and we galloped toward the headlights.I looked back at Aaron, who looked shocked and awed at the same time. We followed the headlights for a few minutes, and then they disappeared.

I pulled Sage to a stop with a little bit of a struggle, and waited to see if I could see them again. Nothing. I brought Sage back to a trot and followed where I last saw them as best as I could remember. We kept this up for a few moments, and then the headlights went back on… right in front of us. I pulled Sage to a complete stop, and jumped off, tying her to a tree. Aaron jumped of after me, and we snuck up to them and peeked out of the trees. They had Lighting tied and another person was digging a hole. There were five dogs that were tied together, and tied to a tree with a bow-line knot. Lightning look terrified; you could see the whites around his eyes, and he was stiff from fright.

I gasped. We had to think of something quick! Aaron was staring with wide eyes. I pulled him away from the terrible scene, and faced him.
“We need to think of some thing, and fast!”
He nodded. “We can’t just go out there and yell at them; that’ll just get us in trouble.”
I nodded in agreement. “We need a way to stall for time. Like a distraction to get them all away long enough to get Lightning.”
“Good idea, but how?”
My eyes lit up. “I have an idea!”
I didn’t answer. “Come with me.”
I snuck up behind the dogs that were still sleeping, and carefully pulled the knot loose that bound them to the tree, but making sure to keep them tied together.
“What are you doing? You’ll get us killed!” Aaron whispered anxiously as we tip-toed in the other direction. I ignored him and led him by the hand to a place about a quarter mile away.
I stood still and whispered, “I’m going to scare the dogs and we’ll untie Lightning once they’re all gone chasing the dogs.”
He opened his mouth to object, but then closed it. “Fine. It’s a long shot, but it’s the only one we’ve got.”
I nodded.
“One problem, though.”

I shot him an angry look. “What might it be this time, Mr. I-can’t-think-on-the-bright-side-for-ten-seconds?”
He rolled his eyes. “I’m not that bad; besides, it’s logical this time. How exactly are we going to scare them?”
I gave him an incredulous look. “You really think I’d bring us all this way without a plan? You obviously don’t know me very well.”
“Fair point. What is it?”
I bit my lip.
“You’re going to think I’m insane for this, but I’m going to freak the dogs out by howling like a wolf, and while they’re trying to catch the dogs, we’ll sneak in there and untie Lightning.”He blinked. “What?! That’s the most insane plan I’ve ever heard!”
“Have my insane plans failed us yet?” I asked half-mockingly, half-serious.
“Well, no, I guess not,” he admitted. He looked down at his watch. “Oh no! We hardly have anytime left before they shoot Lightning!”
I gasped. We really spend too much time arguing, I thought.
I cupped my hands around my mouth and let out a loud howl.
I had always been good at imitating animal sounds. I’d never thought it’d come in handy besides scaring people whenever I went camping; apparently I was wrong. I tried as best I could to imitate a wolves’ way of making one wolf sound like two or three. I’d never done so well in my life. I ended the first howl, and started another one right after, to make it seem like there was more than one wolf. After a second, I heard dogs barking and men yelling.

Aaron grabbed my hand and pulled me towards where they had Lightning. Once we reached it, we peeked out of the trees to make sure that none of them were still there, then ran up to Lightning and began untying him. Aaron and I helped Lightning. Aaron quickly finished and came up beside me to make sure that Lightning didn’t get loose, and we attempted to lead Lightning to Sage.Lightning tried to jerk away, but we held tight. I gave him the bucket of oats, and he stuck his nose in, apparently forgetting to be afraid. Wow, he must be really hungry, I thought. I stroked his face and neck, and spoke to him softly, trying to keep myself calm at the same time, because, if I was scared, it wouldn’t help us calm Lightning down at all. He looked as if he had no idea what I was doing, but wasn’t going to object. He acted as if he’d never been treated kindly before.
Poor horse, I thought grimly. He has never known any kind of kindness before. No wonder he’s so wild.
Once he was finished with the bucket of oats, I clicked and tugged forward a bit, and he took a step forward. For this, I told him he was a good boy, and stroked his face again. He took another step forward, and was soon walking where we wanted him to. I led him to Sage, and Aaron helped me on like he did before, and jumped on behind me. I urged Sage into a trot, and Lightning followed semi-willingly. We trotted for a while, and pretty soon, Lightning broke into a canter, and Sage followed when we told her she could.

It took a few minutes, but we eventually reached the riding stables. I pulled back on Lightning’s lead rope and slowed Sage at the same time to help get Lightning to slow to a trot. We walked out of the trees and walked towards the gate. Aaron slipped off Sage and grabbed the make-shift reigns while I held tight to Lightning. Aaron walked to the road to make sure there were no cars coming, and that no one was anywhere in sight, and waved his hand, signaling for me to come. I clicked and tightened my knees, but Sage would not move. I tried again, and she finally started walking.She walked ahead of Lightning, and I pulled on the lead rope as she did, attempting to get Lightning to walk. Lightning hesitated for a second, but then started walking. I walked over to Aaron, who grabbed Lightning’s lead rope below where I was holding it, and started walking. Lightning walked slowly, carefully measuring each step. We soon got across the road, and started towards Aaron’s house. Luckily, no cars came by. If even one had, we would be totally busted, and probably get Lightning actually put down this time, and we would not have a say about it. But if we were caught, then Lightning would probably get put down by a vet or something where they wouldn’t shoot him–at least I hope.

We reached Aaron’s house, and he led Lightning to the shadow of some trees to help stay undetected. I slipped off Sage and untied the end of the lead rope from her halter, so that it was now just an ordinary lead rope. I took hold of Sage’s lead rope with one hand, and helped Aaron keep hold of Lightning with the other. We walked behind his house and I found that his backyard wasn’t as big as you’d think for so many horses. There was a semi-big barn right in the back, and four different paddocks, all interconnected with currently closed gates. The barn was definitely not big enough to have as many draft horses as Aaron had implied.
“How do all your horses fit in that barn?” I asked; there wasn’t another one as far as I could see. He shook his head. “They don’t. All the horses in there are either foals, mares that are expecting, or horses that are still in training. That’s why I could only get Sage; she’s the best-trained horse here that I can still ride besides my uncle’s horse.”
“Then where are the others?”He looked at me with a confused expression, but then it turned to understanding.
“Oh, huh, I guess I never told you, did I? Our farm is up in Idaho, so the horses won’t do much good here in California. We would have our farm here, but we inherited the land up in Idaho, and it has been in our family for generations, so my dad won’t give it up. And we don’t move the horses up there, because I refuse to go to Idaho–trust me, I’ve been there, and it is not fun. Way too cold– and my mom grew up out here, so my mom doesn’t want to leave.”

I nodded, but I was still confused.

He saw my expression, and laughed silently. “I know, my family is weird, we can never make up our minds.”
The mention of his family made me curios. “What is your family like?” I wondered aloud.
“Well, actually, there are eight people–six kids–in my family, but I’m the youngest, so I stayed here with my uncle.” I was probably being over-curious, but I couldn’t help it. “Your uncle? Why is he here?” It was a pretty personal question, but it slipped out before I could stop myself.
Before I could apologize, he was talking. He didn’t seem to mind the questions. “My uncle used to have a farm too, before it got burned down in a fire that killed his family and forced him to sell his livestock as well, so my mom–his sister–made a deal with him that he could stay at our farm if he kept up the chores, watched me, and didn’t make any big decisions without her or my dad’s consent.”
Why is he being so open? I wondered. I wasn’t going to ask that, because that would be very personal.
He was staring off into the distance now. “You know, I was always kind of the odd-kid-out, what with having such a huge family, and my family being so “old fashioned” as they put it. I’ve never really had any friends, and because I kept being teased, my parents have now decided to home school me after summer is over. I’m not going to complain, because I should have fewer problems then, but it isn’t really going to help with the teasing at Redwood.” He was talking like he forgot I was there, and was just talking to himself. I assumed he was referring to Redwood Riding Academy.

He looked back at me, and continued before I could talk. “It’s kind of nice to be able to finally have a friend to talk to. I guess I’ve just been bottling it up for so long.”
I was at a loss for words.
He glanced at me and laughed. “Sorry, I’m babbling, aren’t I? Let’s go.”
I clicked, and tugged on Sage’s lead rope, and she started walking. We walked over to the barn, and Aaron stopped. “Should we put him in the barn, or the pen?”
I thought for a moment. “Well, it might be a big risk to try and put him in a stall; he already hates small spaces, and we don’t want to push our luck. If he throws a fit–and that’s putting it mildly–your uncle might hear, and find us. On the other hand, the pen would make it too easy to see him from the house, and then your uncle might see, and it might be hard to get him again because he’ll have room to run.”
He nodded. “Yeah, either way I guess my uncle is the biggest problem. But given the pros and cons, I think the pen will be better; I’d rather have trouble catching him, than find out how he reacts to the barn.”
“Good point. But which pen?”
He looked worried. “I don’t know.”
I gave it some thought. “Well, I noticed that he’s not so wild when he has another horse with him, but will do anything to be with another horse, that’s why he was freaking out at Redwood; he could see and hear the other horses, but couldn’t get to them.”He raised his eyebrows at me. “Wow, you really pay too much attention, don’t you?”
“Well would you rather it if I were oblivious? If I was, then we would still be at Redwood, mourning over Lightning,” I defended myself.
He shook his head. “True, but you’re only oblivious when it’s not important, although I do suppose that’s a good thing.”
I changed the subject. “We spend too much time arguing. We need to decide where to put Lightning.”
“You’re right… about both things.” He laughed as he said the last part.
I chuckled silently. “I think we’d better put him in the pen farthest away from the barn so that he won’t hear the horses very well.”
He shook his head. “If we do that, then he’ll freak out when he heard the slightest sound that suggests that there are other horses there, and could hurt himself trying to jump the four-foot fences.”
I nodded, thinking again. “Do you think he’ll be okay with Sage? I mean, if we put her out with him so he has company; he doesn’t seem to mind her.”
He debated. “That’s a good idea, but we probably don’t want to risk them in the same pen just yet, we should put them in those two pens in the back there that are side-by-side, that way he has company, but they can’t hurt each other.”“Okay, sounds like a plan,” I agreed.

I followed Aaron to the first pen, and led Lightning in with Sage.
Aaron took Lightning’s halter off with a quick, gentle move, and let Lightning go into the pen. As soon as he felt the halter come off, Lightning lurched forward, into the pen, kicking hind legs, and bucking around.
“I think he likes it,” I commented.
“I hope so,” Aaron said as we put Sage in the pen right next to him.
I walked away from then pen and Aaron followed. I was about to say I had to go home, but another thought came to mind. “What are you going to do about your uncle?”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got that covered; I’ll just tell him that I’ll do the horses for a while because I know how hard he’s already working. It should keep him away for a while. He trusts me.”
“Okay, good, I’d better get going now. It has to be almost three A.M. by now,” I said.
He looked down at his watch, apparently shocked at the time. “Actually, it’s three forty-five.”
Wow, it’s almost four o’ clock in the morning! I thought with surprise. “Well, at least its early July, so I don’t have to worry about school for another two months.”
He nodded. “Yeah.”
“Well, I’d better get home. Hey, I’ll give you my phone number; if anything goes wrong with Lightning, you won’t have time to walk all the way to my house, and then walk back in time, and I seriously doubt you can drive.”
He nodded. “Good point.” He handed me a piece of paper and I wrote down my phone number.

If only I had my own phone, then I wouldn’t have to worry about my mom or dad picking up the phone when Aaron called, but my parents refused to let me have a phone until I was sixteen. I thought it was unfair, but reasonable at the same time, because if I had my own phone, then I was more likely to get in trouble with friends, and do stuff like sneak out… oh, well, I suppose it’s a bit late for that, but at least I wasn’t, like, sneaking out to the movies or anything, I wasn’t that stupid. I actually had a good cause. Of course, Mom wouldn’t approve of it anyway, but that’s beside the point. I turned around and walked home, prepared to drop dead once I got to my bed. I hadn’t realized how tired I was until I got there.

Note to readers: This is only the second chapter, there should still be a few more. If you noticed, I might have changed a few minor details; this was simply to help fit the story as it altered. If you have any ideas as to what should happen next, I’m all ears! Just send me a W-mail! Hope you enjoyed!