He could see shapes in the trees. Patterns in the wind-blown leaves. The moonlight flickering between the branches danced on the ground, shifting like a kaleidoscope as he walked. Shadows tugged at the edges of his vision, trying to steal his attention. Every bush, every tree looked like someone hiding, waiting, watching. But there wasn’t anybody else out here. There couldn’t be. David had been down this path twelve times before, and he’d never seen a soul. There was no reason for anyone to be out here tonight, especially this late.
David tugged on the straps of his backpack, feeling the reassuring weight pulling down on his narrow frame. He wasn’t nervous. At least, not anymore. And after tonight, he’d never have to be nervous again.
After passing the last rotted oak tree, he turned into the clearing. The wind had pushed a thin layer of leaves over the bare dirt. Setting down his backpack on a large rock, David started brushing away the laves until he could see the familiar lines carved into the ground.
He turned around and started to unzip his backpack. As he reached in to pull out a candle, a voice rang out across the clearing, chilling his blood.
David stopped, and turned slowly around, his right hand reaching instinctively toward the small knife in his pocket. Emerging from the trees he could see a girl in a white coat, about his height, holding out her hand. Her long black hair drifted in the wind, partially obscuring her thin, pale face.
David looked uneasily at the girl. “What are you doing here?” He slowly slid the knife out of his pocket, just in case.
“I’ve seen you here before,” she replied, stepping cautiously across the figures carved in the dirt, “and I know what you’re doing. It isn’t right.”
“That’s none of your business. And… how many times have you been following me out here?”
“Enough times to be bothered enough to stop you.”
David was starting to lose patience. The moon would be hidden by the clouds in a few minutes, and he’d have to act fast. He couldn’t mess up a year’s worth of work because of this girl. “I really think you should leave now. I don’t want to have to hurt you.”
The girl stepped closer. She was only about three feet away from him now. She stared intensely at him with dark brown eyes. “Put the knife down.”
David was startled by the aggressive tone of her voice. He hesitated, and took a step back, lowering the knife to his side. “What are you trying to do?” He struggled to hide the nervousness creeping into his voice.
“I’m trying to help you.”
The girl jumped forward, catching David by surprise. She slammed into him, pushing him backwards. He lost his balance and fell, hitting his head on the rock. As she knelt over him, the night slowly faded to black.
...ghost horses... we ride, tonight...