International flights aren’t known for being particularly enjoyable; this flight was certainly no exception. “Next time Alex you’re paying for first class!” Tegan mumbled as she attempted to gain as much room as she possibly could in the cramped airline seat. Oh how she wished poor Sally was in the seat next to her instead riding in cargo. The NFL linebacker wanna be she was stuck next to was definitely taking up more than his paid for portion of the aircraft cabin. Tegan fiddled with the seatback entertainment system in front of her hoping to find a movie or two to help pass the time. Snakes on a Plane? Seriously?! Who was the marketing marvel who made that decision? Birdman? Nah. she thought to herself as she continued to scan the offering. “Now we’re talking!” she whispered as she her all-time favorite movie showed up in the listing. Popping in the stiff headset ear buds she hit the play button and began tuning out everything else around her as the opening music to “Young Frankenstein” began.
Leaning her head back against the head rest as she reclined the whole six inches she was allotted and allowed her eyes to slide shut viewing the movie by memory as the familiar voices soothed her. Each scene passed by in shades of grey in her minds-eye. The theater scene with Frankenstein and the creature dancing to “Putting on The Ritz” made a subtle smile appear on her face as she relaxed. She envisioned the villagers in their peasant garb chasing the unfortunate monster down the street after the musical debacle, their torches and pitchforks bobbing as they ran.
The scene before her morphed from black and white to the muted sepia colors of an antique photograph, then to intense brilliant color. She could see the vibrant orange and yellow glow from the torches and acrid smoke from the fires that surrounded her burned her throat. The shouting of the men close by as they yelled battle cries over others screaming in pain was nearly deafening. The clanging of steel blades rang in her ears as metal collided and scraped apart. In the distance someone yelled her name “Tegan!” Whirling in the direction of the voice she caught sight of a man on a huge grey horse covered in mud splattered leather armor as he spurred his mount hard. The charger trumpeted loudly as he leaped forward at his riders command. Her foggy smoke-infused brain took a moment to register the action and realize he was coming right at her! “Run!” Her instinct screamed! “Run!” The ground shook as the horse and rider charged toward her and Tegan frantically flung herself aside barely evading the man’s hand as he reached down attempting to grab her as horse and rider thundered by.
Stunned and dumbfounded she sat watching as the rider gathered his mount to a sliding stop in the mud and expertly pivoted the charger to face her. The grey snorted, pawed the ground impatiently and then urged on by his rider charged forward once again. He was coming…for her! “Oh God!” Panic clawed at her as she scrambled backward trying to get back on her feet but no matter how hard she tried she just couldn’t seem to gain purchase, something held her trapped. Looking down she saw a length of rope had somehow wrapped itself around her ankle as she slid around on the slick grass. Fumbling, she reached down frantically trying to free her foot from its snare and then gagged as she realized it wasn’t rope at all. Sucking in a breath she gingerly removed the slimy length of intestine she had inadvertently stepped in. “Oh God, I’m so sorry…” she whispered to the man whose entrails trapped her, his lifeless eyes staring at her without condemnation. Standing on shaky legs Tegan forced herself to step over the body and backed away, never taking her eyes off the rider focused on her.
The rider was focused so intently on Tegan as he charged that he didn’t see one of the fallen men on the ground hefting a huge spear with great effort until the anguished scream of the charger split the air. Both horse and rider were lifted off the ground as the horse reared attempting to free itself from the impalement sending both crashing backward to the ground. Tegan froze, she couldn’t think, couldn’t move. All she could do was stare stunned as the horse frantically fought to get up. She barely registered the shouting of the man behind her. Someone distant was saying her name again. She shook her head for clarity and had just long enough to mutter “Hey! This isn’t Young Frankenstein!” when she heard a man yell “Tegan, git doun lass!” She whirled around to see where the voice was coming from and through the fire and smoke saw the outline of a man, leaping over bodies as he ran toward her, sword drawn. “What the hell?!”
Tegan woke with a start, immediately wide-eyed and looked around feeling disoriented. She’d been dreaming again but this time the dream was different. “It was so real…so very real” she thought as her heart hammered in her chest. She could still smell the smoke from the camp and hear the cries of the injured and dying in her ears as if she were still there. She shuddered trying to rid herself of the images and thought “Ok, that’s it! I need a shrink!” Then she rang for the airline attendant and ordered a double Johnny Walker Red straight up.
Sheila and her husband Ewan met Tegan at the Edinburgh airport. She did her best to try to stay focused on their conversation in the car but found her attention constantly diverted to her dream on the plane and the man who shouted her name. Who was he? He obviously knew who she was. “Tegan, you must be totally knackered after that long flight! You look like you can barely keep your eyes open, are you sure you don’t want to just go to the house and hit the hay?” Sheila asked. “Oh no, I’m fine, really, dinner sounds great and Sally needs something to eat too.” Tegan assured her with a smile. It had been a long flight but a glass of wine and a bite to eat was definitely in order for them both.
It was nice to see Sheila again. She hadn’t changed one bit from the spastic teenager Tegan remembered in High School. Stifling a yawn as Sheila chattered on and on…and on, Tegan couldn’t help but imagine her old friend in one of her cheerleader outfits manically rooting on the football team to what she always seemed to perceive as her own personal victory. Shelia was as bubbly as ever, never taking a breath before her next sentence. Truthfully, being around her was just a tiny bit exhausting. Sheila in small doses was the best way to take her.
Ewan, Sheila’s husband, was more Tegan’s cup of tea for conversation. He was intelligent, well read, and had a keen sense of humor but sometimes his thick Scottish brogue became bit hard to follow. She was sure however as the night wore on the scotch in her glass magically enabled her to understand him. “Whit d’ye mean lassie? I dinna hae nae accent, ye do!” he joked as he laid it on thick and gave her a brotherly jab in the side with his elbow as he slyly sneaked a bit of ham to Sally under the table; instantly earning himself a friend for life. Tegan liked him, he had a natural way of putting her at ease and the tension began melting from her body as she relaxed. She wasn’t sure if it was the company, the scotch, the nostalgia, or the atmosphere in general but right now, it was just what she needed. “Ok Alex, you were right. I needed this. Cheers girl!” she thought as she raised her glass to her friend.
It was a shame they only had the one night to catch up before she was left to tend the house on her own but Sheila made sure she provided Tegan with a list of things she could do to keep busy during her stay. High on that list was a ride in the countryside to Jedburgh Abbey a sight Sheila insisted was an absolute must! “It’s nothing but ruins of course, and it will be a long ride, but I just know you’ll love it. You’ve always loved history so it’s right up your alley.” Sheila said sweetly. “I haven’t ridden in years!” Tegan protested already sympathizing with her soon to be sore backside, but Sheila was having none of it. “It’s the only way to really experience the countryside, trust me. It’s too beautiful to miss.”
The next morning Tegan awoke to find Sheila bustling about the cottage pulling together the last “absolutely necessary” items for their vacation. “Good morning Tegan! I hope you slept well” Sheila said in a voice that was far more enthusiastic than Tegan was ready for. “There’s some breakfast in the kitchen if you’d like, Ewan insisted on cooking you a hearty Scottish breakfast to make a good impression on you.” A jaw cracking yawn threatened to unhinge Tegan’s jaw as she muttered “morn’n” unenthusiastically. Carefully she negotiated the dangerously steep stairs down to the first level of the cottage to find her mouth beginning to water at the heavenly smells emanating from the kitchen. She stood in the doorway and watched as Ewan prepared a feast large enough for ten people, then politely cleared her throat and said “Good morning…” “Guid mornin lassie!” He said to her in his smoky baritone burr. “A hae cooked up a wee bit of breakfast if ye like.” “A bit?” she replied, “there’s enough here to feed a small nation but it smells heavenly!”
Shelia popped her head into the cozy little kitchen as Tegan selected some food from the feast Ewan had provided. “I found it!” she sang, proudly holding an emerald-green cable knit turtle neck sweater out towards Tegan. “Here Tegan, this is for you. I’ve had it forever! This shade of green just isn’t for me, but it’s perfect for you! I think it’s actually the same shade of green as your eyes. So…see, it must have been made just for you! You can wear it on your ride this morning.”
“What ride?” Tegan said cautiously around a mouthful of eggs. “The ride to Jedburgh Abbey, remember? We talked about it last night” Sheila reminded her. “I’ve already arranged for a horse at the Inn for you. You don’t have to worry about a thing. They’ll even pack a lunch for you to take along. Oh, and I’ve called ahead and made a room reservation for you at the local Inn too. No worries, it’s on us and they will put both you and the horse up for the night so you don’t have to make that whole journey in one day.” “Seriously Sheila, I haven’t ridden in years.” Tegan replied, cringing at the punishment her posterior was going to take. Sheila just laughed in that irritatingly bubbly way that always made Tegan want to slap her.
“Beep! Beep!” interrupted the amiable scene to announce the arrival of the airport taxi. “Well, we’re off for some fun in the sun!” Sheila said with a smile. “Make yourself at home here, and have some fun while you are at it. This is a vacation for you too.” Sheila said and then kissed Tegan on the cheek while tousling her thick auburn hair. “Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have hair like that!” Sheila said under her breath as a smiling Ewan pushed her out the door towards the taxi waving goodbye on his way out.
By noon Tegan found herself sitting astride Sebastian, a huge but gentle black gelding with faint dappled spots in his coat. The Innkeeper at the Black Bull assured her he was “the gentlest beastie.” The tiny English saddle she sat on felt foreign and completely inadequate to the task of keeping her astride the big horse should he decide he really didn’t want a passenger but she clung to it gamely doing her best to center her seat. Reaching forward to stroke his neck she whispered “remember Sebastian, I’ve been told you wouldn’t hurt a fly, don’t let me down.” The huge horse flicked his ears toward the sound of her voice shook his head, tossing his main back and forth and turned back to look at her, nudging the hand she extended towards him affectionately.
Dubiously Sebastian reached down to sniff at the dog by Tegan’s side. “Sebastian, I would like you to meet Sally. I hope you two will be good friends.” Sebastian sniffed at Sally and Sally, in return, licked his muzzle in greeting. “Looks like you two will get along fine” she said as she did one last check of her backpack to make sure she had everything she needed. She had her camera, her wallet, cell phone, wind-up flashlight and her little laptop in case she felt inspired to get some work done along with a few other odds and ends in her little purse. She looked down at Sally, grinned and said “ok, girl…looks like we’re ready to go.” Taking a deep breath she gathered the reins and urged Sebastian forward down the road to embark on their journey.
An hour outside of town Tegan brought Sebastian to a halt. Her backside was already complaining and there were still a couple of hours to go to get to the Abbey. “It’s time for a break guys my keester is already killing me” she said. She had spotted ruins of a structure on top of a hill in the distance. “I bet I can get some great shots up there and this will prove that I actually did something while I was here.” She said to Sally as she held her camera up and urged Sebastian in the direction of the ruins.
The ruins were much more substantial that she had first believed. Many of the walls were crumbling but a few of the interior rooms were still complete. Tegan slid off Sebastian and allowed the gentle gelding to graze. Taking a deep breath she looked around, the sun was shining, there were a few billowy clouds in the sky, and the heather that surrounded them in an abstract water-color of white, green, and purple swayed gently back and forth in a soothing rhythm. Sighing, she inhaled deeply. “This is my idea of Heaven. Pure, unadulterated Heaven!”
Gazing at the ruins of the ancient structure she thought about its history. She wondered about the events that may have unfolded there over the centuries. “If you could talk what would you tell me?” she wondered aloud and slowly walked around the ruins, letting her hand run over the ancient eroded stones as she strolled. As she walked she tried to envision what the structure would have looked like in its prime.
After a few hours of exploration the growling in her stomach reminded Tegan that it had been several hours since Ewan’s mammoth feast at breakfast. She unpacked her little picnic lunch and gave a shrill whistle. Sally’s head popped up from the purple heather where she’d been investigating a rabbit hole, immediately she began bounding her way through the grass, anxious for the treats she was sure would be coming her way.
This was one of the few moments in Tegan’s life when she felt truly content. Sebastian grazed just a few yards away occasionally swishing his tail to swat at a fly. Sally was curled up on the blanket, her belly full of chicken, snoring happily in a sunbeam. “Life just doesn’t get much better than this.” Tegan said quietly “I think you’re on to something Sally” she said as she lay back, using the saddle bag as a pillow, and thought about all the things that may have happened throughout the centuries at this site. As her mind wandered, she thought about a bustling town, kids playing, a busy market, the smell of baking bread in the air, the repeated clanging of a blacksmith’s hammer, and ladies hanging laundry with their little ones clinging to their skirts. It was a happy scene of long ago where knights fought for their ladies and honor and chivalry wasn’t dead.
Tegan saw herself flying across a field, on the back of a huge bay destrier. Her hair flying like a banner, skirts billowing behind her as she sat crouched low over the horse’s neck with its mane whipping her face. She heard men behind her yelling at her to “stop!” and felt the breeze from an arrow split the air as it whizzed past her cheek. She pressed closer to her mount, and felt steam rising off the horse under her as it strained to go faster in their desperate attempt to avoid the flying arrows. She knew she had to keep running, she had to get away…their lives depended upon it!
A thunderous “BOOM!” jolted her out of her dream. “What the….?”, she said as she raised her hand to shield her eyes from a lightning bolt as it sped across the sky sending electricity through the air. The first few ice-cold drops of rain landing with a “plop” on her face brought her instantly back to reality just before the heavens opened up and a sheet of icy rain came plummeting down. Blinking rapidly, she looked around trying to readjust herself to her surroundings as another streak of white light illuminated the valley below her. Sally sat shaking at her feet, leaning up against her for comfort, chocolate eyes huge with fright. Tegan reached down patting her faithful friend on the head. “Everything is fine girl, lets just get Sebastian and go find somewhere to stay dry for a bit.” Whistling as loud as she could she prayed Sebastian would hear her and respond. Sure enough, the black gelding nickered in response and came trotting up the hill, eager for food and shelter. She gathered up Sebastian’s reins and led him toward one of the interior rooms of the ruins.
“Well guys looks like we are going to be stuck here for a bit, I don’t think this storm is going to let up anytime soon. I’d better call the Inn and let them know I’m ok.” Tegan retrieved her cell phone. “Damn! No signal. I guess, for now, we’d better just plan to settle in here for the night. I wasn’t planning on camping out but it could be worse right? We have food, we have shelter, and I can get a fire going. This won’t be so bad.” The room she had led them into was dark now that the sun was going down and cold but at least it was dry and there was plenty of food left, so really…all she had to do was start a fire and sit back and relax. Things could be a lot worse.
Hours later Tegan stood up and attempted to rub at the crick in her neck she’d gained from laying against the cold, hard stones. She must have managed to doze off again. As she stretched her sore cramped muscles she looked around. Something wasn’t right but she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was. She had the oddest feeling that something had changed. The hair on the back of her neck stood up and she vibrated with an electric energy that made her edgy. “Get a grip Tegan” she muttered. Sally was still snoozing away on the blanket and Sebastian was still happily munching away on grass, everything seemed just as it had been before she dozed off. “You’re letting your imagination run away with you again girl.” She thought, “You’re just feeling the electricity from the storm….that’s all.”
Glancing outside she saw the rain had stopped. The sun was getting low in the sky and daylight was fading quickly. “Well guys, if we are going to get back tonight we had better get started.” Tegan quickly gathered the remainder of the picnic and packed it away in Sebastian’s saddle-bag. With a great amount of effort she managed to get her foot in Sebastian’s stirrup “damn he was big”, she thought, and hauled herself back into the saddle. “Come on Sally, time to head back girl. Sebastian, I certainly hope you know your way home, we will see the Abbey another time.”
It seemed as though they had been plodding along hours when Tegan reached into her pocket for her cell phone, to check the time. She flipped it open and read 12:15. What?! There’s no way that’s the right time, this thing must have gotten messed up during the flight over, it’s can’t be past midnight! The sun hasn’t even set completely” she muttered to herself. The rustling from the bushes next to her was her only warning before she felt a sudden and vicious yank on her hair that caused her to lose her balance and sent her tumbling out of the saddle backwards to land hard flat on her back with a thud sending the air rushing out of her lungs before she heard a loud “crack!” that rang in her skull and the world went black.
If you have read this far, thank you so much!
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