See Part 1 for Disclaimers.
Thanks for coming along for the ride. I hope you'll continue to bear with me as it takes far less time to read a section than it does to envision it, write it and get it edited. As always, comments, suggestions, praise, criticisms or other forms of feedback are accepted and desired. I'm begging here - really. A few words does wonders to recharge my energy for this project. And, I always reply. So, please, if you've got a thought about the story, I would really like to hear it. Just drop me a word or two at: Dreams2Fly Thanks and enjoy.
Lee's eyes widened at the disaster unfolding before him. As he hesitated, it seemed as if everything around him slowed until it had stopped moving completely and all sound ceased. Even his heart seemed to have stopped, and his eyes were glued to the horse and rider at the center of the impending catastrophe. Still, he was able to see the entire set with perfect clarity.
Every raindrop between him and the horse hung suspended in its fall. The horse's eyes were rolled back, showing the whites; its front legs raised high, caught mid stride; its mouth was open with lips pulled back and teeth bared, mid scream. On its back, the child - they were still too far away for Lee to tell for sure which child it was - clutched at the saddle horn with eyes and mouth equally open and radiating terror.
Beyond them, he could see Jackie reaching out to grab her charge's reins as well as the back of the horse's saddle. It occurred to Lee that she intended to get behind the child and give chase. For some reason, though he hoped he was wrong, he didn't think she'd be able to catch the horse before something bad happened to its passenger.
Closer, Lee saw the two craned cameras pointed at the approaching pair, their record indicator lights glaring back at him. The platform they used to assist the riders onto their horses stood several feet to Lee's right, on the edge of the shelter under which the children had recently been huddled, just out of view of the cameras. Three fifty-five gallon drums stood at the back of the shelter, their feed lines snaking out to deliver fuel to the jet heaters. A bundle of cables lay at his feet, providing power connections to the main camera sitting slightly behind him, and the boom camera and flood lights to his left.
There was nothing between the horse and the field behind the set that would slow the horse down. It would be to and beyond him in mere seconds. Unfortunately, the terrain on the rear field wasn’t as even as it was on the set. Lee’s heart contracted as he thought of what would happen if the horse took that child beyond the area designated for the shoot.
That contraction was enough to set the world back in motion. The sound of thunder was the blood rushing through his veins; the whistle of wind was a huge gulp of air entering his lungs. Before he realized what he was doing, Lee was moving. The chances of him accomplishing anything that would succeed in protecting that child were slim and he hadn't the time to give thought to a plan.
Lee covered the distance between his place by the main camera and the horse shelter in about twelve strides and was still picking up speed as he reached the fuel tanks. He planted a foot at the bottom of the nearest tank, using the weight of the tank to give him a solid pivot point. As if he were rounding third base, Lee turned and kept running.
Lee risked a glance to his right. The horse had covered more than half the distance to the cameras. His heart beat painfully in his chest at the thought that he wasn’t going to be there in time. He leaned forward and forced his legs to pump harder. There would be no second take on this one.
The thunderous squelch of hooves hitting the soaked ground drowned out the sounds of Lee’s foot hitting the first step of the loading platform. He ignored the other three steps as his hands gripped the rails and used them to propel himself forward. He hit the top with the next step and allowed his knee to flex into a deep crouch.
Without looking, without thinking, Lee shot out of the crouch and into the air. He hadn't even the time to send a prayer to his gods. Either the horse would be where he needed it, or it wouldn’t.
The sudden jolt of landing on the horse’s back knocked the wind from his lungs and was almost enough to send him sliding right back off again. But, Lee refused to accept failure as an option. He allowed his momentum to carry his upper body forward, leaning in to and wrapping around the child. For an instant, as he grabbed the saddle horn just below the smaller hands clenching it, Lee thought he would be able to just ride out the horse’s panicked run, using himself as a safety precaution to keep the child in his saddle.
The sudden addition of weight to the already frightened horse’s back, however, spooked it even worse and it cut to the right in an attempt to escape this new terror. Unfortunately, the ground was too wet to support the weight of a full-sized, full speed horse. The rear legs, which had been the ones to begin the turn, slid out from under the horse eliciting a scream from the beast and a screech from the child on its back.
Lee grimaced as the situation went from bad to worse. The horse tried to compensate for the loss of footing, but it had too much momentum. Lee wrapped his arms around the child and leaned back, pulling the kid loose from the saddle and stirrups in the same instant that the horse’s rear end collided with the main camera’s base.
The passengers continued forward when the horse’s motion was halted by the collision. Lee kept himself wrapped around the child, protecting the kid as best as he could as the two tumbled free. They missed hitting the camera base and crashed instead into a light stand, which shattered in an explosion of light when it toppled and bounced off the falling camera.
Lee winced at the pain that lanced through his leg where the stand had landed, though he was glad it had stopped their tumble. Amazingly, they had ended up in a sitting position. Before he had a chance to thank which ever agent of providence that had allowed him to get the child safely free from the crazed horse and the disaster of falling equipment, something heavy and sharp struck the back of his head.
For Lee, the world suddenly ceased to exist.