Four Horse Island
: A New Morning by w.j.debi
Artwork by nikman at FanArtReview.com
Sunlight caressed my aches and pains with its cozy warmth. I snuggled into my pillow. Wait. Sunlight? I opened my eyes and looked over at the stateroom's sliding glass doors, then at the clock. "No. I've slept halfway through the morning," I moaned.
Sitting up too quickly, hazy blotches filled my vision. Dehydration and exhaustion from yesterday no doubt contributed to my queasiness. I'd be fine once I was up and moving.
I drifted over to the mini fridge and took out a cold bottle of water, rolling it over my cheeks and forehead. Oh, that felt good. I returned to sit cross-legged on the bed, then uncapped the bottle and filled my mouth. Count to ten before swallowing. Take it slowly so you don't make yourself sick.
As I meticulously consumed my water, my gaze fell on the empty bed across from mine. Where was Cozette? Was she safe? What about everyone else who had been on board? The lack of lifeboats indicated they had abandoned ship. Why?
At least I had the horses and the goat for companionship. How were they doing? They probably needed water and food.
A wry smile crossed my lips as I envisioned my instructor for the mountain rescue team lecturing us, "The correct order is: first, take care of yourself; second, take care of your partner; then you take care of the patient. If you don't go in that order you are no good to anyone."
Okay. First, see to my own needs. Next, check on the horses.
Yesterday's clothes hit the floor, and I luxuriated in a long shower. It was probably foolish but, hey, there was no competition for the hot water this morning, and I wasn't sure how long the power would last. I might as well indulge. Besides, the steam cleared my head and it felt so good.
Fresh clothes and the bright sunshine enhanced my mood--until I stepped onto the deck. No crew members waved and smiled back at me. No passengers scurried to the dining room to get in line for breakfast.
I strolled to the dining room doorway and felt my enthusiasm drain completely. Silence.
Until today, breakfast had been served buffet style with so many people milling about that we had to jockey for a position. Lunch and dinner were divided into two shifts to accommodate everyone. If you arrived late, it was hard to find a seat. Today the room was empty. The tables were bare; the seats unoccupied; no food enticed from the buffet tables.
I was alone.
Why had I let Cozette talk me into this trip? Oh, yes. The fun, the adventure of exploring, the possibility of meeting men who liked adventure and nature. Yes, that was it. But I'd never been on a cruise, so why choose one so far away from the mountains, deserts, and safety of the land I loved?
Cozette, did you look for me? Did some handsome man have to drag you to safety? I hope so. At least one of us should live the dream.
To keep from sinking into despair, I marched through the dining room, eyes forward to avoid the lonely furniture. When I entered the kitchen. I paused for a moment. Passengers weren't allowed back here. So much for that rule.
Rummaging through the cupboards and refrigerators, I made a meal of scrambled eggs, ham, oatmeal, a banana, and some yogurt. I'd eaten so little yesterday that I didn't feel a bit guilty filling the hollow pit in my stomach. I wasn't sure what the day might hold. Would I be hauling buckets of water for the horses, and a bale of hay down the ramp for them to eat? Maybe I'd figure out how to get a hose across the deck and down to them? Or did they wander off somewhere and find fresh water and grass?
Wait! What was on this island? There might be predators. Did I save the horses from certain death in the cargo hold only to expose them to death in another way?
Calm down. At least they stood a chance of surviving if they were free. They would band together for protection. Who knows? Maybe the horses were safely enjoying a good rub down and plenty of feed and water from friendly islanders. I didn't know, but it was time to find out.
I cleared away and washed the dishes. Might as well keep things tidy. Next, I looked around for some kind of treat that I could use to entice the animals so they would come to me. I found some carrots and filled a bag with a couple dozen. Then I headed for the ramp at the back of the ship so I could look down at the beach.
Traces of hay remained on the ground, but the horses and goat had cleaned up nearly all of it. Hoofprints on both sides of the ramp indicated they had rejoiced in their freedom and investigated their surroundings before going up the beach. Their tracks indicated they had climbed a nearby hill. That's all I could determine from here.
Hopefully, the horses had gone in search of fresh water. Some of the horse wranglers at home said horses could smell water. If you were lost in the backcountry, give your horse its head and it would find water for you.
Clutching the carrots, I headed to my stateroom to retrieve my backpack. Aloud, I started listing things I might need: a flashlight, a sandwich, water of course... It's approaching midday. I can give myself three, maybe four hours to find the horses. Then I will need to head back to the protection of the ship for the night.
A lump formed in my throat. "Please be nearby, my four-legged friends. You're all I have right now."
All rights reserved.
w.j.debi has granted FanStory.com, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.
FanStory.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you. Privacy Statement