AN: This was written for a competition to PONY Mag, but never sent in. I thought you might like to read it. This is short, written a long time ago, and doesn't really explain much, so I might write some extras about what my character and Smoke do later, if I have time.
Enjoy, and please review! :)
I took my hands off of the Earthlian handlebars, and rested them behind my head, ignoring Emma's 'humph' of disgust. Just because she couldn't ride no-handed on my new tandem, didn't mean I couldn't. We cycled down the deserted streets of Thera, the planet I lived on, in Sol 7. It was a relatively new planet, and we were still getting to grips with everything. We were very advanced, however, and studied other planets as a way of learning how to take care of ours. I had taken Earth Studies at college, and the shop down the road had had a new stock of Earth stuff in. I loved learning about that planet. It was amazing. The tandem was from Earth. I loved it.
Riding a tandem was a lot different from riding Labradogs. They were the main source of transport on Thera. They looked like the Earth species 'Labradors', but were HUGE. A new source of transport were horses and ponies too. You could see them everywhere, pulling carts, or being ridden in Western Tack (we hadn't really taken to the English ones). We were more advanced than Earth, and knew that they were wrecking the place over in Sol 3. Which is why we didn't use cars, or anything that caused a lot of pollution, if we could help it.
I had learnt to ride from the age of 5, and was 13 now. I had always longed for my own pony. In our region, there was a riding stables that I rode and helped out at. My parents couldn't afford a family pony. We cycled along, and I was in a world of my own, staring at the green sky and the purple fruit hanging from the leaves, when a scream echoed throughout the streets. I bolted forwards, as our tandem lost control. I managed to save our fall, and we carried on, a little shaken, following the now constant scream, peddling fast.
We rounded the corner, and, to my horror, there was a stable block on fire. I heard Emma gasp. Suddenly, a sound echoed through the air, sending shivers down my spine, and I knew it would haunt my nightmares and stay with me forever. The sound of a horse screaming. A woman was running around the stable block, with buckets of water. I could hear the sound of sirens in the distance - fire engines. They only came out when lives were at risk.
Then I heard more screaming - a child this time. A small girl was waving a bed sheet out of the barn window, on the second floor, screaming as the flames got closer and closer. The fire engine skidded to a halt, and many men jumped out, hoses at the ready. I was shaking all over, the horse's scream still echoing through my ears. I was only vaguely aware of Emma dragging me out of the firing line of the hose, which soon doused the flames.
Emma and I stood, frozen, as we watched the fire-fighters go in the barn, one coming out carrying the girl, and another leading a small black pony. But I knew that wasn't the one I heard. I prayed that the horse I had heard scream wasn't dead. Please, please, please...
A shout could be heard from the end stall, and before I could stop myself, I was running towards it. Four fire-fighters were crowding a dapple-grey horse, about 15.2hh. When I got a bit closer, I could tell it was a beautiful Arab. They were trying to get it out, although I could tell it was terrified, bucking and rearing, fighting the many hands that attempted to tame it. Suddenly, one of them lost it, and whacked the horse on its nose. 'Be quiet, you stupid mare!' I was shocked. My father was a fire-fighter in his spare time, and he would never do that.
I raced forwards, and pushed the man out of the way. A silence fell across the half-burnt barn. I was unsure about the severe lack of smoke, but I heard a noise at the entrance to the barn where I had just come from - a suction. That was what was scaring the poor mare. I untied the neckerchief I wore, and covered the horse's eyes. Taking the lead-rope, I tugged gently, and lead her quickly and quietly out into the sunshine.
When we got out, I assessed her burns. Her quarters were bright red, and I knew they were bad. Within seconds of getting out of the barn, people were all around us with buckets of freezing water and sponges, cooling her off. She buried her head into the crook of my arm, like she was trying to hide from the world. The barn was almost completely destroyed. If the fighters hadn't come when they had, I thought that the horse in front of me would be severely injured or worse, dead. I didn't even think she'd make it now.
The woman who had been running around in the first place, came up to me, looking very pale. 'T-Thank you for getting her out... I only bought her yesterday, and already she's been a nightmare! Kicking and biting... It makes it worse to think I haven't even got a name for her...' She trailed off as I had a excellent brain-wave.
'Hey, how about if I look after her? I don't have anywhere to keep her though...' The woman sighed a breath of relief.
'Would you? Really? You can keep her here, if you want, I'll pay for her upkeep, if you could just look after her?' I nodded.
'I'd love to! She's so gorgeous. Did you say she didn't have a name?' The woman nodded, and I patted the horse's nose. 'Now, we can't have that, can we baby?' I had a thing about names. Some said that I was quite cruel with them, but me and Emma thought they were funny, like the time she had got three new chickens and asked me to name them; so I christened them Tikka Masala, Gougens and Drumsticks.
I patted the horse's nose again. Her quarters were bright pink, but her brown eyes were calm. The perfect name came to me, as the un-settling smell of burning flesh filled my nostrils.
'Well, Smoky Bacon, let's welcome you to the family!'
I stood at the fence of the paddock, watching a beautiful dapple-grey horse canter around, her head held high, the burns on her quarters settled down to scars. She was gorgeous, her groomed mane and tail glimmering in the sunlight. She whinnied, and bucked, trying to shake the braids out of her mane. 'Smoke, you don't want to do that! You'll ruin it for the show!'
When I had come home with the news I'd adopted a horse, my parents took it quite well. Surprisingly well, actually. I think they were just glad I was actually doing something I enjoy - being around horses - than doing something I detested, like having to help out at the nearby gym because I had nowhere else to go.
So over the weeks, I had come down to the house where the barn had burnt. I had taught Smoky Bacon that all people weren't scary. I thought that she'd been abused, with the evidence that I thought there were whip marks over her back, and she was scared of big sticks, spades, forks and riding crops. It hadn't taken me long to figure out she had never been backed, after I was thrown into the water trough.
Eight months later, I had a amazing horse. She had beautiful gaits, that made you feel like you were riding on a cloud. She greeted me with a whinny, and could cheer me up when I had a bad day. She wasn't perfect. She still had her scars, a slight fear of crops, and had an annoying habit of bucking when I asked for a canter. However, I would never wish for anything different. Her ticks were what made her Smoky Bacon.
I had entered her for a day's load of events in the summer show. Jumping, dressage, cross-country, then a fancy dress competition. I wasn't totally sure about having jumping and cross-country in the same day, but my friends and family had assured me I was doing the right thing. I took a deep breath, and decided I should turn in for the night. I was camping in a tent next to the field, given that I had to be up at the crack of dawn.
Clambering into my tent, I went through the dressage test once more. Turn right at C... No, left at C... Or is it change the rein?I sighed and gave up. I could never concentrate like this. I had practised the routine so often on foot, that I was sure that everyone who came to watch me occasionally knew it by heart too. I snuggled deep into my sleeping bag, and as soon as my head hit the ground, I had disappeared into the land of dreams.
I took a deep breath as I attached the thin material to Smoky Bacon's mane and ran off to find the lighter. The day had gone amazingly well. We hadn't hit any poles in the jumping and had had only a slight spook during the dressage. We got a clear round in cross-country, and had crossed the finish line with seconds to spare. Smoke had been amazing, responding to my lightest touch and not even trying to shake the plaits out of her mane. Good scores all round... I was ecstatic. However, this class was risky, given with what I was going to try and do. Smoky could either trust me, or run and ruin her life all over again. I located the lighter underneath the seat, and pocketed it, running to change into my own clothes before we were due to enter the ring.
We stood at the entrance to the ring, waiting for the number before us to be called. I was stood on Smoky's back (being a dab-hand at vaulting), and, as the number before ours was shouted out, I flicked the lighter on. Whoosh! The trail attached to Smoke's mane went up in flames. She raised her head and snorted in surprise and fear, but was quickly calmed by a few comforting words from my mouth.
Our number was called, and I squeezed my toes into her back, urging her on. We had three laps in which to show off to the judges, and I was determined to make it count. We turned right on entering, and I pushed her into a canter quickly. There were big hovering screens at each end of the arena, and I glanced at one, watching us.
There are no other words for it - we were beautiful. I had on a headdress and a long, flowing cloak. With Smoke's train alight, we looked amazing, flames blowing back. I could hear the audience 'Ahh'ing and 'Ohh'ing, and I tried to bite back a grin as we came to a halt in the middle and made my bow to the judge. Now, we played the waiting game.
I took a few deep breaths as we re-entered the arena. The panel had made their final decision about the winner of the summer show. I held my breath as they called forward four of the competitors; four of around 250. They paused to wait to announce 1st place. Then, a pretty woman beckoned me forward. I felt dizzy. Was she really talking to us? Yes, she must be. I stumbled forward, earning a laugh from the audience as the head judge crowned us winners. I hugged Smoky Bacon tight, burying my tears of happiness into her warm, solid neck. A few months ago, I thought that this horse would have been dead; up high in the heavens. Now, I knew that heaven was on Thera, right beside me. Winning didn't count. It was just an added bonus. What really counted was that I had made the best four-legged friend in the world.
Oh, and this was written before I'd read The Hunger Games, by the way. Honest!
I'd love a review :) And... Should I write some more?