The horses were out again.
Lisa grabbed a flashlight from its position near the back door, and slipped out of the house, listening for the tell-tale sounds of horses hooves and whuffling. They never usually went far, just into the long grass in the ditches, looking for the greenest, freshest stuff across the fence from the paddock. But she knew that they wouldn’t want to be caught, either.
Holding the screen door, she let it slip closed, softly, not wanting to alert them to her presence, hoping that if she moved slowly and quietly, she’d be able to sneak up on them a little easier tonight. A rope waited for her just outside the door – this wasn’t the first time Romeo had slipped the gate open for the rest of the herd. And if she could catch that wily old coot, she’d get them all to follow him right back into the pen.
The flashlight she held even had a special red light, that the horses couldn’t see as easily, so she could watch where she was going without alerting them to her presence, or spooking them into thinking a vehicle was bearing down on them. She flipped it on now, and swung it out into the night.
There. Romeo’s dappled hide was just barely visible in the crimson light, and Lisa could see that he was mired deep in the ditch, happily munching on his favorite grass. Moving cautiously, she snuck in behind the spotted stallion, knowing that he’d be too engrossed in his eating to notice her till it was too late.
She was right next to his neck, getting ready to slide the rope over and around his head, when she heard the first scream.
Romeo’s head flung up into the air, and he trumpeted a call, responding to the mare that had screamed, throwing Lisa backwards to land on her butt in the ditch, the flashlight dropping to the ground, red light spinning. Scrambling, she flipped around and grabbed up the light, shining it into the dark night, wondering what had happened to her mare. It sounded like Shadow, the lead mare of the herd, but she’d never heard her scream like that.
Lisa’s heart was pounding as she pulled herself back upright again, searching the darkness for a sign of what had happened. She could hear the horses calling out to one another. Romeo was the loudest, screaming his fury to all the others, who were panicked and running. Some she could tell were headed back for the barn and safety, others were running off into the night, and Lisa knew she’d have the devil of a time finding them without help.
Suddenly, everything went silent.
All Lisa could hear was the shallowness of her own breathing, adrenaline pulsing through her veins, she ran toward where she’d last heard Romeo freaking out, hoping that she’d just find them calmed and waiting, out of breath.
Shadow was on the ground, surrounded by a glistening wetness. Lisa knew it was blood, even though the red light showed it as black. Romeo’s dappled hide showed the same wetness, as he lay just feet from Shadow’s torn body. Not what she’d been hoping for, at all….
And neither were the eyes, the glaring, shining eyes, too high for a cougar or a wolf, and the growl as it lifted its face to stare at her from the darkness.
And the screams went on, as the red light shone on into the night, everything glowing with a brilliant, crimson hue.