Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Moonlight Ride by Tawny O'Hara

Domino, Skeeter, and author Tawny O'Hara

a Halloween story

The full moon is exciting to me as I gaze out over the SW New Mexico desert.  Everything is illuminated as though it’s merely a cloudy day and you swear you can see everything.  However the desert is deceitful and hides in the shadows, turning a bush into a crouched demon or maybe a ghost from the past.  Nothing I like better than saddling up my old Skeeter, with my wild horse and companion, Domino at my side watching and listening for any sign of danger.
This October evening was no different and I saddled up for an adventure I had yet to envision.  Being of Irish decent I will tell you I’m not superstitious, but being of Irish decent I don’t go out at midnight on All Hallows Eve or Samhain (pronounced Sow-Win). That is the moment the door to the other dimension opens and spirits walk across to our side.  Those not careful have followed spirits back across to be lost forever in that other ghostly world. 
Samhain was yet almost a week away and I would be tucked up in my bed with the spirit deterrents of carved gourds and candles to keep away anyone from the other side wanting to visit.
I tightened my gun belt and hoisted my old body in the saddle and Skeeter was anxious to go, so off we went with Domino bucking and running alongside.  We soon settled in to a walk and I breathed in the cool night air.  The rocking of Skeeter’s gait was almost hypnotic and began to ease me into a little nap when suddenly Domino began jumping and whinnying in front of us causing Skeeter to jump and turn quickly.  I peered into the darkness seeing only a Yucca, its stick tall above the plant and ladened with empty pods swaying slowly with the slight breeze moving over the desert floor.
I laughed a bit slightly nervous about the sound of my voice in that silent world.  “It’s only a yucca’s shadow you see Domi.  No monster is there.”  I couldn’t help but put my hand on my revolver all the same as I urged Skeeter towards the yucca to prove my point.  Domino was relentless and pawed the air in front of us trying to convince me of the danger.  I was about to yell at him to calm down when the shadow moved from the yucca.  Not a slow move like a human, although my gun was out and pointed in that direction, but a sudden zip and gone.  Domino stood heaving in short breaths and looked around. Now calmer but visibly shaken and on alert.
Thinking the sound of my voice would calm him I said, “Think of it, Domi, we could see Billy the kid and his gang riding to Mexico to evade arrest. Maybe even watch Pancho Villa and Zapata riding quickly in search of settlers. Doomed to ride forever across the desert.”  Domino calmed a bit yet kept watching for something only he could sense.  My words began to make me a little uneasy and I was beginning to feel like maybe this wasn’t my best idea.  I shook it off as being ridiculous and interrupted Skeeter’s unending search for that sweet green grass, with a pull on the reins and a nudge to her side.  She jumped to a walk and reluctantly moved through the sage brush, eyeing the mesquite beans as we passed.
Then I heard it.  It seemed to my imagination at first with just a low thumping way in the distance.  Domino moved so close he pinned my foot in the stirrup between his and Skeeter’s bodies.  I could see more fear in the large whites of his eyes than I had ever seen.  He backed a little, freeing my foot somewhat and placed his head across my legs as though holding me there.  The sound quickly grew louder and closer.  They were horses, at first I saw hundreds but they were unending in their numbers, running towards us.  There was nowhere to go. We seemed trapped and doomed to be trampled by the huge herd of rider-less horses. Just as we braced for the inevitable, they stopped. Dead stop.  I saw nor heard any signs of heavy breathing as they stood there facing us.  No glowing eyes of demon horses, just horses of all shapes and sizes.
From within the herd I heard a voice. “Do not fear.”  Domino relaxed and we looked out over the endless lines of backs that had no end.  I saw shifting in the herd as horses parted to allow something to move quickly toward us.  A Native American and a beautiful tall sorrel horse, walk towards us.  Both seemed familiar and then Domino let out a whinny and trotted to the horse nuzzling him with welcome.  The horse was majestic and looked at me with a kind knowing eye.  I knew him suddenly as Cowboy, the blinded horse I rescued from the desert after being dumped to die from a slaughter truck.  He was beautiful and could obviously see now.  I wanted to get down and go love him but he came over to me and I touched him.  He wasn’t warm and comfortable but I felt a love from him. I put my open hands over his eyes and he sighed  as my hands moved caressing his face. I knew then where these horses came from but now they were free to run and thunder across the land.  I knew I had buried Cowboy so I knew his companions shared his circumstance. I looked to my left at the man standing silently among the horses.  His cloth band around his head and his shoulder length hair and dress let me know he was Apache.  Then I knew him.
“I know you from pictures I have looked at for years.  You’re known by the white man as Geronimo.” I almost wanted to jump down and bow in his presence, but I was glued to my saddle.
“You honor me.” He smiled a beautiful smile I had never seen in the pictures. “One horse honors you and that was enough to stop on our travels on this night to honor you. You are brave to ride on this night of the blood moon so I will tell you this.  You may see things you have never seen but wished to.  Some is now, some is not.  Some will be real and some will not. Hold to what you know and stay close to the gelding, he was sent to protect you and tonight you may need him.” I knew Domino was special and coming from a wild herd off the Apache reservation made him even more special to me.  Then I got to know him and we became so close we read each other’s minds at times.
I thanked him for his kind words and wished to talk to him more as meeting Geronimo had always been a dream of mine, but he was gone.  My hands were suspended in air with no horse’s head between them and all the horses faded into the blue glow of the moon.  We stood there listening to the thundering of hooves disappearing behind us from invisible horses.
Domino put his head down and snorted and nuzzled Skeeter.  Skeeter took that opportunity to take a bite from a small cropping of grass at her feet.  Domino looked at me and began walking forward.  I squeezed Skeeter with my legs and we followed.
We walked on both Domino and I thinking about our experience and Skeeter thinking about the next chance to grab a bite of grass.  I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and checked the time.  It was after 12 AM.  We had been walking for over an hour.  I was getting nervous from the shadows that moved and tried to put it off as a trick of the eye while moving across the desert.
In the distance I saw the glow of a campfire.  Fires out here with the dried grass are dangerous and I urged Skeeter on towards it.  Domino walked behind as though he was a pack horse and not the noble protector I know. I stopped Skeeter just outside the light of the fire and noted five young boys dressed in old attire, looking dirty and tired squatted around the fire.  Each one sported a gun or two in holsters.  One carried a long barrel rifle with two guns slung low on his hips threatening to pull the baggy pants down with them. Some wore cowboy boots but others wore old time high top shoes.  They were unconcerned with my presence as was Skeeter with theirs as she once again took the opportunity to grab a few mesquite beans she must have missed in her daily outings.  The boys seemed to be arguing and the one with the rifle pulled a gun putting it to another of the boys head.  “We go to Mexico and lay low then we come back when this all blows over.”
“Ok Ok!” the other boy said, not acknowledging the gun pointed to his head.  The boy holstered his gun and laughed taking his saddle and threw it across his horse.
“Put out that fire before they see us and let’s ride.  We’ll be there before sunup.”  The other boys followed suit and kicking their horses into immediate gallops they ran towards us whooping wildly.  I pulled Skeeter to the side but she was very involved in the mesquite beans and balked swinging her head in retaliation to being moved.  Domino stayed behind me again wild eyed and frozen as they rode right into and out of us.  I turned Skeeter and yelled at Domino.  “Let’s go we get to ride with Billy the Kid!”
I pulled Skeeter around so hard she spun around on her back feet and ran with the ghost horses.  Skeeter gave out early and the ghosts faded in to the night. 
“Wow that was fun, eh Domino?”  I looked around only to see the white on his butt shining in the moonlight still standing where we had been.  He turned towards me when he heard his name and trotted towards us.  He was almost saying, “You want to run with ghosts go ahead.  Not my bale of hay.”
“Well kill joy,” I patted his head and laughed. “So they are ghosts but you saw them and I got to ride a little ways with them.” I took my hat off and swung it around nudging Skeeter to go faster and faster in the direction we had been going prior to Billy. “Whoo hoo this is scary and fun!”  Domino wasn’t as impressed in the evening ride as I was.
I took out my cell phone and checked the time.  It was going on three and I had never ridden Skeeter this long before. I turned her around and saw the faint glow of my porch light far off in the distance.  “Guess it’s time to go home now Domi.”  He was anxious to get back to the safety of his shelter and sleep so he took out running ahead of us.  Skeeter found new energy and decided to run along with him.  That all soon petered out and we walked slowly and silently towards the house.  I started seeing the shadows zipping in and out of the mesquite and from sage brush. They were starting to form taller shapes and there was no denying they weren’t shadows.  I didn’t know what they were but my gut told me they weren’t good. Domino dropped back to walk beside us watching the same shadows.  I wanted to ignore these ominous shadows and make it home so I squeezed Skeeter into a gallop just as what felt like a rope tightened around me and pulled me off a frightened Skeeter.  As I lay there I saw transparent ropes being thrown around Domino and Skeeter who reared and whinnied in protest.  I could barely make out the outline of a rope around me and quickly struggled to remove it.  Getting to my feet, I ran to Skeeter and then to Domino, standing in front of him just as fearful of these black shapes as my horses were.  Then I heard laughing and men speaking in Spanish. Then one materialized into a person, a bandito type person with dirty teeth or missing teeth I couldn’t tell in the moonlight.  Had he been a real human he would smell of days without a bath, sweat and tequila. But he wasn’t real.  I kept telling myself this but the fact remained I had been pulled off my horse and they were aware of us.  He walked towards me winding up his rope and reaching out he pulled my hat off and threw it on the ground. 
“Hey Pancho, this ain’t no hombre!  This is a Chica!  She’s an old Chica!” He said in a thick Mexican accent laughing a full belly laugh as he talked.
Domino stood snorting and panting from fear and Skeeter began to become concerned with the situation also.  I stood my ground in front of Domino taking the ropes off him.  He didn’t run as most horses would and neither did Skeeter.  They stood beside me snorting and pawing the ground.
“She got protection horses with her out looking for fun.”  The fat dirty bandito turned towards the shadows lined up in front of us.  One of the shadows started moving and it morphed into a man.  He had a big head that matched his packed overweight body.  When he walked towards me I heard the jingle of his spurs.  Bandoliers were crisscrossing his chest. I knew who this was. Pancho Villa.  Another shadow tall and muscular appeared next to him. This man had holsters and also monster spurs that jingled as he moved beside Pancho. I felt a terror rise up in me as I recognized the famous Zapata. Pancho hated Americans in this area but Zapata was worse and loved to torture and thought nothing of killing a white person even and old woman. The eyes of these two were piercing and evil.
“You can’t hurt me because you are dead.” I tried to tell myself this but somehow I didn’t believe it due to recent events.  “How can you be real it isn’t even Samhain yet.  How did you pass thought?”
“I know nothing of what you speak. You are just crazy woman on my land.”  Pancho turned to Zapata who was not Zapata any more but more akin to a demon.  “Time we rid our land of this pestilence.”
You aren’t Pancho or Zapata, are you!” I exclaimed. “You are pretending to be!  I know who and what you are, and you can’t touch us.” Suddenly a roar filled the night air and the moon turned
bright red. Domino pawed the ground and Skeeter no longer seemed as ditsy as she had before.  The red glow of the moon turned the blue glow into a fiery red making all around look sinister and terrifying.  I fell backwards into Domino and then found I could no longer stand from fear which put me underneath him.
The evil shadows seemed to engulf us as the booming roaring voice blasted the night. “You have no protection here. We live in your fear in every corner. This land has suffered much pain; evil has traveled both back and forth through it. This land is ours.  Your faith has forsaken you in your foolishness.” The shadow grew and laughed. “You love the old stories of the murderers and evil that ran this land.  The wars and bloodshed spilled on this land.  You shall join them with no story of your own.” 
As the shadows seemed to grow they merged into one blackness, darkness with no light started to engulf us as Domino rose up standing tall and snorting loudly. The air was heavy and putrid as the shadows whipped around us without real forms anymore. I pulled my gun then realized no bullet would harm them.  I started crying to God to protect us and the more I called to God the louder the demonic laugh became.  A blue glow surrounded the two horses and me and I heard a swooshing sound of big wings beating the air.  I looked up and Domino had wings emerging from his back.  Beautiful white strong wings.  His hooves came down on a black shadow and it screamed as he stomped it into oblivion.  He fought one after another as Skeeter sheltered me behind Domino.  I heard the thundering hooves again and the darkness stopped, it quivered and then it fell to the ground as thousands of hooves trampled it into nothingness.
“It is time for you to go.” Geronimo emerged from nothing and put his hand out to help me up.  The hand was hard and calloused but kind.  I got back on Skeeter who appeared to be ditsy Skeeter again. “Many things you see out here are residue of the past but some are real.  Some are good but always with good comes the evil.  We come in the form you see in your heart.  But the horses will run forever and their presence is real.  Sadly their spirit numbers grow daily but they are your angels as Domino and Skeeter and all those that dwell with you are your protectors. None that love you have ever gone but stay to care for you. Your superstitions are just that.  But your love draws the lines that no evil can cross. As you learn to love this land the evil loses its grip on it.  That is why it seeks to destroy you. Remember that and you ride safe wherever you go.”  He turned back to the horses and as they started to run he and they faded into the darkness.
        The moonlight was gone and it was dark. A thin golden red band was appearing on the eastern horizon.  I woke with a jolt as Skeeter moved to a new clump of grass. Domino was standing near me, head down, asleep.  I reached out with my foot and nudged him and he jumped with a wild look in his eye, looking around.  Skeeter swung her head around and touched my leg with her nose. “Ha it was all a Halloween dream.  Man did that feel real.”  I pulled the reins up and nudged Skeeter towards home. I looked over at Domino and saw a small white shiny feather in his mane. I plucked it out and thought I’d put it in my hat.  When I took my hat off there stuck in the brim was a beautiful tail feather from a red tail hawk.  I was just asleep that’s all.  None of that happened. However I think I’ll wait to go riding in the moonlight for awhile.

From New Mexico, USA, Tawny O’Hara is an equestrian and author. Her first novel Angels Come with Fur is an anecdotal account of her life with Great Danes. It has rave reviews around the Globe, and is accounted as a favorite of many.

Read Tawny’s Riding & Writing interview…

1 comment:

KAN said...

That was AWESOME!