Title: The Edge of Neight, aka StallionCrest 6/8 (As the Stall Turns? Days of our Rides? General Horsepital? The Colt and the Beautiful?)
Rating: PG-13/All Audiences (if you watch TV soaps, you're good)
Summary: Who is the horse in black?! What happened to Ransom? Is he paralyzed? Did Fancy ruin her handmade Vera Wang, crystal studded wedding dress? Did any of you get the bridle bridal joke? Are you even reading this sentence?
Warnings: DID I MENTION THIS WAS A SOAP OPERA ABOUT HORSES? There will be: Kidnappings! Spanish! Amnesia! Deserted Islands! Evil twins! Cold, cruel stares as the camera fades to black! Intense looks! Burros! Thesaurus abuse! Loads of adjectives! A beautiful and meticulously made banner so you can get a visual! Ahaha.
Chapters: One Two Three Four Five
The Edge Of Neight
click the title to listen to the (newer) theme song!
PART SIX: The Aftermath!
Top O'The Line stirred. The world came into focus. She was lying in the hopital barn, the distinct sound of a shotgun cocked in the background. She whinnied in fear, her eyes rolling, crazed with terror, "I'm alive! I'm fine!" The doctor stood next to her and set the gun down. "Oh, good. We just wanted to be prepared in case we needed to operate." He slapped her flank and she wobbled off the table and stood on her trembling legs. A few tentative steps and she gained her confidence back. She tossed her mane and looked around the room, peering over the bleeping machinery that monitored her progress.
"Where's Fancy? Where's my daughter? Did she get married? Did I miss it?"
An uncomfortable silence swept the room. Clover nudged her way through the crowd. "She's been kidnapped! Two wild horses in cheap Western saddles stormed the wedding and drove her off!" She began to cry. "And Skidoodle's gone missing, too!"
Stormy gasped. "What!?"
Top O'The Line swayed on her delicate, million dollar legs. She thought she might faint again.
"Unhand me, you brutes! I won't go without a fight!" Fancy whinnied and reared back on her legs, pawing at their faces, her bridal bridle sliding off her head.
Apple Dapple chuckled and leaned back against the railing of the ship. "Better calm down, Miss. Wouldn't want a beauty like you falling over the edge."
Road Hard stepped forward slowly, hooves up to pacify the spitfire thoroughbred. "Now, now, don't get yourself all worked up. We just saved your life!"
"Saved my... whatever do you mean?"
Road Hard shook his head in amusement. "She's beautiful, Doodle, but not the brightest star in the sky, is she?"
A dashing dapple-grey, black-masked horse stepped out from behind a packing crate on the ledo deck. He tossed his head and the black mask fell off his face. "She's pairfect. Hello, Fancy. Me name's Skidoodle. I love ye."
The world came crashing around Fancy. Could it be? Could her true love be here, saving her as she had hoped and dreamed? "Pinch me!"
"I beg yer pardon?"
Fancy blushed and looked over the railing and stammered, "I m-mean, I just can't believe this is happening!" She buried her face under the tarp of a safety pontoon. "I love you, too. And it's nice to meet you."
Road Hard and Apple Dapple melted into the background, which is to say, they went aft, to leave the young lovers their moment alone. Skidoodle and Fancy looked at each other, their nervousness apparent.
"So..." she began.
"So..." he interrupted. "Sorry, you go."
"Um.... Do you like to canter?"
Darkness crossed Skidoodle's face. He whipped his head away, not wanting to frighten her with the intensity of his shocked and enraged face, the emotion rippling across his features like thick black smoke over the prairie, consuming everything in its path. He forced out a tortuous groan and hoarsely whispered, "How did you... know?"
"I'm sorry, did I say something wrong?"
"Did she put ye up to this, that barmy bint? I... I can't believe ye'd say that to me, after all I've been through with the caircus." He whirled on her, eyes filled with emerald fire, glossy black fetlock hanging becomingly to the side in a rakish manner. "Are ye this cruel, lass? Is this how ye get yer kicks?"
"I don't understand... I just wondered if you liked to canter, you know, move at a moderate pace in a three-step pattern, faster than a trot, but slower than a gallop?"
"I know what it is, damn yer black heart!" He turned his hindquarters to her. Skidoodle felt his heart breaking. Would something like this come between him and his lady love? Just when he finally had her? She must know about his past, her choice in words was just too perfect, and too cruel.
The ocean seemed to pick up Skidoodle's mood; the waves soared and plunged, the boat riding them, the ocean spray dousing them in its icy chill. The ship gave a sickening lurch under their hooves as it raced down a colossal wave. Skidoodle and Fancy began to skid towards the railing - hooves were terrible for traction on the smooth wooden deck. The new shoes Fancy had been fitted with for her wedding were slick as ice. As the ship tilted dangerously to the side, Fancy slid out of control towards the railing. Her body hit the iron bar like a ton of bricks and she flipped up and over, splashing into the sea below.
"FANCY FACE! WHEEEEEE HEE hee heee!!!" Skidoodle was nearly beside himself - he had twisted trying to stay aboard and his hindquarters were up near his front end. He thundered to the railing and dove off into the water in a spectacular half-gainer that would have made his grandpa, the Atlantic City diving horse, proud. Apple Dapple and Road Hard slid into a packing crate, protected for the time being. Road Hard choked back a scream at the sight of his friend diving over the railing, but Apple Dapple put a hoof to his shoulder to soothe him. "He comes from a long line of diving horses. If anyone could survive a fall like that, it's Skidoodle." He couldn't help his voice breaking when saying his friend's name.
He prayed to God that he was right.
Justin Time's head bobbed as he looked Clover over, making sure she wasn't hurt. Clover laughed and shook her too-long fetlock out of her silly face, "I'm fine, Justin, I promise."
Justin snorted, glaring at the wreck of stalls and trampled flowers that was the wedding party. "What was that all about? This is horrible, horrible! Top O'The Line fainting, Fancy Face abducted, and hell..." he whinnied softly, hiding the anguish in his eyes, "I never wanted that for Ransom Paycheck, never!"
Clover whickered and touched her nose to Justin's. Her gentle eyes were a balm to his bruised soul. "Do you think he'll... make it?"
Justin squared his shoulders and sighed, "If ever there was a horse that could come back from a broken spine, it's that black bastard, Ransom. Who could have done this?"
Realization dawned on his face. He whipped his head left and right as if the thug would materialize right before him. He trotted back and forth along the fence line, thoughts racing into each other like bumper cars at a kiddie's... circus.
"Skidoodle! That circus skedaddler has to be behind all of this! I knew that delinquent was trouble the first time I laid eyes on him!"
Clover looked horror stricken. "No! Oh, no, it can't be! He wouldn't... he couldn't!" But couldn't he? She clapped her hooves to her mouth in a panic. She grabbed Justin's shoulders, forcing him to look into her soft, guileless eyes. "He... he's done something bad before."
Justin could barely hear her, she was whispering so softly. "What do you mean? What has he done before?"
A twig snapped behind them in the trees, but they paid the sound no mind.
"He's... he's hurt people before. He told me... He told me about a friend of his, ZippityDooDah. He caused a fire at the circus and--." Clover gulped. She whispered so softly that Justin had to strain his ears forward as far as they would go to hear it.
"He killed her!"
"That settles it. He's the blackguard that caused all of this devastation! If he does anything to Fancy, I'll--." He reared back, hooves clawing at the air like sharpened knives, "I'll kill him."
Clover moaned and sobbed, terrified by what might happen because she had told Skidoodle's secret. "No, no it couldn't have been him! The fire was an accident, you didn't see how upset he was just from the memory!"
Clover rested her furry, silly face on Justin's shoulder and they made their way slowly back to the stables to check on the other guests.
A grey-dappled horse with a rakish fetlock, a black eye-patch and a mossy green eye stepped back into the shadows of the woods. He checked the slip of paper where the Star W Double T Walking F Rocking U Flying C Circle K Ranch's address had been written. The ranch name was circled harshly with red ink and the hastily scribbled name "Skidoodle is here" written over it. He had found where that murdering, cantering bastard had been sold, but evidently something had happened to him. Had he come all this way to find the cousin that murdered the mare he loved only to miss him again?
He reared back and punched at a tree knocking pine needles to the forest floor amid the squawking of birds that lived in it. He needed to learn more about the goings on at the ranch to find the whoreson and wreak his vengeance. He adjusted his eye patch and whispered to no one, "I'll find you, Skidoodle. I'll find you and make your life as miserable as you've made mine. I'll take the woman you love and kill her, just like you did to me."
Skedaddle snorted malevolent fire from his powerful nostrils.
A steady beeping noise pulsed in his skull like a heartbeat. Every inch that had any feeling in it hurt like he'd been whipped mercilessly. His eyes felt glued shut, his mouth was as dry as August hay.
"Where... where am I?" Ransom Paycheck croaked. He forced his eyes open and saw a doctor holding a clipboard standing near a series of levers and pulleys. His addled brain couldn't make out anything aside from the shotgun perched in the corner. He moaned and tried standing up, but his body, so strong and powerful before, would not respond. "What's happened?"
The doctor moved close and shone a light in his eyes testing his reflexes. "Good. Good to see you awake. It was touch and go for a while there."
Ransom blinked bringing his eyes into better focus. He was lying on a large, curved board. It hurt to move his head and he could hear a metallic chinking noise anytime his body shifted. He appeared to be bound and strapped to chains that reached high overhead, connected to a crane. He let out a pained moan: an Anderson sling.
"Give it to me straight, Doc. Tell me what's wrong with me."
The doctor wrote a few more notes, sighed, and set his clipboard down. "You've been in a terrible accident, Ransom. You've had a spinal fracture that could be permanent, we just don't know. We have to wait for the swelling to go down." The doctor shifted the shotgun out of Ransom's view, then turned back with a determined look.
"A fracture in your thoracic vertebrae is causing all the damage. You're paralyzed, Ransom."
Ransom groaned in desperation, "But it's not permanent, right? You don't know if it's permanent, do you?" He gulped, "Will I be able to... stud?"
The doctor patted his shoulder gently, "No. You may never be able to perform stud services again."
A flock of doves burst from a copse of trees, frightened by the gut-wrenching wail of agony that sounded from the hospital barn.
TBC! RIGHT HERE!