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|This started out as a free write for my college creative writing class and ended up being my final piece I turned in for the class. I hope you enjoy it. It features the character I've created, Tara McCarther, who is definitely my alter ego. This is sort of a side story and the only complete story with her in it.||
The first time Tara heard the song Freedom, she was in the middle of the wasteland riding her horse and searching, though for what she did not know. At the time, the song was no more than a collection of notes that kept running through her head, haunting her like cries of pain echoing in her dreams. Tara could not understand the importance of this song for her, but she knew somehow that this small melody would play an important role in her journey.
As Tara rode through the low scrub and cacti, she kept repeating to herself the few notes she had come up with. Reaching around, she pulled a pad of paper and a pencil out of her travel pack and on a whim, began to write, not the music, but the feeling. Lost in thought and concentration, Tara did not notice the sky as it changed from clear baby blue to an orange purple and then indigo. To her, it seemed, all of a sudden there was no light left to write by. With a heavy sigh at the lack of usable light, Tara gently pulled her horse to a stop, wishing she could at least find a watering hole. She was fine, with several full canteens hanging from the saddle, but it was the horse she was worried about. He had not had water since the last small oasis, an hour before she first thought of the song.
With slow movements and a grimace, Tara took one of her canteens and as well as a small pan she used for cooking, and offered the horse the water in the pan. Tara’s thoughts returned o the song, drowning out the bubbling and splashing as the horse greedily sucked down the precious water.
It was late the next morning when Tara finally began traveling again. She had slept deeply, dreaming of vague, now forgotten, images of the song and had not woken at the rising of the sun. The horse had wandered of in search of water and food to eat and he had refused to be caught until Tara finally and reluctantly offered him some of the grain she kept in her pack.
Once underway, the day flew by as Tara and her horse traveled among the low hills and mesas. For now she rode in silence with the occasional cluck and encouragement to the horse. The days passed quickly with the terrain varying only slightly and all the while, the song grew and was shaped into something Tara could not describe. She managed to write down the basic melody and progression of chords but was not satisfied. The song needed something more. So she started thinking of the words that would express those feelings she had written not long ago.
All too soon the wilderness ended and Tara came upon a forest shrouded in mist. Strange shadows flitted through the fog and sound was stopped as if by a solid wall. The horse shook his head, deciding that though forest had plenty of greens, he much preferred the arid climate of the wilderness. As Tara entered the heavy silence she spoke to the horse, comforting him.
"Hush, we’ll keep to whatever path we can find and we will not stray from that chosen path." Her words were empty in the forest. No bird sung in the trees and the plants were not green with the vibrancy of life, but the rotting darkness of decay. The smell of that rot and decay pervaded the air as much as the sight overwhelmed the senses. The trees she could see were shrouded in mist and were hung with vines, creeping up to slowly draw the last bit of life before moving on to their next victim. The ground underfoot made the sound of a shoe, worn soaked with water. The horse gingerly picked his way across a clear forest floor, finding the firmest ground. Tara breathed the air, it was heavy and pregnant with moisture, and she and the horse were covered immediately with a fine sheen of water. The leaves above her rustled with unseen creatures, causing the horse to swing his head back and forth, searching for a danger he could not see or smell.
Without warning, a low, booming crash resonated through the forest. Though the sound was far away, the horse was startled and in his leap of fear, almost deposited Tara in a bush of what looked like poison oak. The two of them were both splattered with mud from the forest floor and the horse no longer wanted to stand still. The whites of his eyes showed clearly and his nostrils flared, doubling in size. Another crash echoed, this time much closer. Tara was having a difficult time staying on the horse. Her head whipped about, looking for the direction in which the crashes were coming from. A third crash sounded and this time Tara saw the top of a tree come falling down no more than 100 yards away. Both Tara and the horse were now spurred on by fear, the horse gathered himself to start fleeing, Tara offering no resistance. Just as he was about to leap away, a tree fell right in front of him. The horse reared up and danced away on his hind legs. Tara threw her body forward trying desperately to remain balanced. She could feel the sweat from the horse mixing with the dampness of the forest. Her hair clung to her face. Backing into a tree, the horse sprang forward with a cry of surprise and leapt over the fallen tree racing into the forest.
Branches reached out to tear Tara’s clothes and scratch the horse’s body only fueling his fear. Ahead of them a tree began to lean to the side, its ominous groaning instilling panic in Tara’s heart as they raced to beat it to the ground. Tara ducked as the side of the tree barely brushed the horse’s rump. One of those branches snagged her hair and ripped strands as she was pulled away by the horse. They raced through the dark forest, altering their course as trees fell in their previously intended path. The forest was slowly but surely herding them to an unknown destination.
They had been racing through the forest for almost ten minutes when the trees suddenly stopped and not far after the tree line, the ground did too, splitting into a wide chasm. The horse threw his weight onto his hind legs and skidded along the ground, moving toward the drop off. Tara shut her eyes, fearing what she thought would inexorably be a long fall to the bottom of the chasm when the horse reared up once more and hopped backwards on his hind legs. Tara slid down the back of the horse, landing on her seat. The horse dropped back down onto all four legs and stood very still, his legs trembling.
Tara slowly stood up, looking around. The tree line stood not far away and she could see tracks from the horse as he was stopping. She looked down into the chasm and could not see the bottom as it was hidden by a dense layer of clouds about a mile down. As she was looking around, the crashing sound started again. This time, the trees far down the line on both Tara’s left and right began falling. These trees were tall enough that they reached all the way to the edge of the chasm and were spaced so close together that there was no way to hide between them.
The horse was shifting too quickly for Tara to remount and all she could do was grip the reins tightly to keep him close to her. It seemed to Tara an impossible situation. The fallen trees were lining up next to one another with no space between them and as soon as she began moving closer to the tree line that was standing, the pace of the falling trees sped up, leaving her no time to reach what might be considered the safety of the forest.
She turned to the horse, "I guess this is it my friend. We have come to the end." The horse looked straight into her eyes and nickered, the pitches of his sounds of comfort echoing the melody of Freedom. In response to hearing her theme, Tara began humming the song. The pace of the falling trees perceptibly slowed. Tara’s eyes widened and she stopped humming when she saw what happened. The pace of the falling trees quickened. The horse shoved Tara with his head and she quickly resumed her humming. Soon, without realizing, Tara began to slowly chant the words of Freedom, unconsciously putting the words to the rhythm of the melody.
"Though dark the road be
My heart yearns for answers
I must journey on.
I have often wondered
Of the stars in the heavens
I must journey on
This burning inside me
Calls to my soul
I must journey on
I have left all behind me
To follow the sun
I must journey on
Others do not see
Their sight is clouded
I must journey on
The road stretches on
Through to the horizon
I must journey on
My soul is now free
The life that thrives within
I have found my home"
With each word she spoke the forest pulled back. The mist was blown away, the choking vines withered and died. The forest came alive and birds appeared among the leaves. Tara turned to mount the horse, now singing her song and was amazed at the sight behind her. There was no chasm. Ahead of her a green field stretched into infinity with low rolling hills and clumps of small trees. A short distance away, smoke rose from a clump of chimneys, hidden behind a small rise. Tara smiled as she rode toward the village; she had finally come home.
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