The Rider

A mysterious rider and a mysterious journey

by Lily Ferguson / Garnet & Black

The graveyard was nothing remarkable. Birds flew above, singing the songs of early morning as they started their journey across the skies. Tombstones scattered themselves across the fields, decorated with bouquets of many shapes and sizes. The grass had gone for the winter and was replaced with a thin layer of snow that blanketed the ground in an icy chill. And sitting there, still as the air around him, was a rider atop a modest white carriage. His passenger stood opposite him, shivering in the cold. He held out his hand to her, offering a ride. She accepted and climbed aboard the carriage. The rider offered her a blanket to stay warm and she took it, wrapping herself in its warmth. And no sooner than the rider had appeared, he left.

The rider drove slowly through the fields before them, being careful to avoid the bumps in the road. His passenger was sound asleep, her snores joining the earthly chorus that filled the rider’s ears. He looked over to her, and his eyes filled with sorrow and pain. She had lived a life filled with pain, and even now as she slept, he could see a small tear fall from her face. She held back much grief, and it had overwhelmed her. He wanted to help her, but he understood it was too late. What happened had happened. He only hoped these last moments could ease her pain. And so he kept riding.

When she woke up, she wiped the tears from her face and huddled close to the rider for warmth. He asked if she had slept well. She dreamed of the people in her life. She missed her friends and the nights they had spent together under the starry skies. She missed her sisters, even though they always made fun of her. She missed her dad, who had never failed to let her know how much he loved her. But she missed her mom most of all. She hadn’t seen her mom in several years and she missed her so much. As she started to cry again, the rider pulled out a handkerchief and gently wiped the tears from her face. He pulled her close, holding her tightly as she sobbed into his shoulder. He told her it was going to be okay. He told her that once their journey was over, she would see her mother again. That made her happier, and after a while, her tears stopped, and she fell asleep again, this time laying on his shoulder. He could tell she slept with a little more peace.

As she slept, she dreamed of her life. She remembered her friends, and how they would spend time after school talking about their days and about who they wanted to date. She remembered her sisters, who fought and argued with her, and who helped her study for her classes and taught her the things her mother wasn’t around to teach her. And her mother. Oh, her mother. She had died when she was young, and yet it was a wound that she could never close. She remembered now the way her dad lashed out afterward, so afraid of losing the daughters he loved that he fought and kicked and screamed for them to obey him so that they didn’t leave him too. She remembered her oldest sister, who left one day and never came back. She couldn’t understand why she would leave her and her other sisters to suffer. One day, her father had too much to drink, and she was afraid, more than she had ever been. She couldn’t live with it anymore. And so she ran from him, head pounding and her body bruised as she ran out the door and into the street, her father chasing after her. Into the car that was driving through the neighborhood, over the speed limit. And then she woke up.

She woke up startled, sweat pouring down her face despite the cold around them. She looked at the rider, and he looked back, both coming to an understanding of the sadness inside of them both. She wanted to cry, but no tears would come, so she did nothing, staring through the rider’s hollow eyes. "I'm sorry," he said, and the words cut through every layer of pain and ache that guarded her heart, cutting through the walls she had built up to protect herself. "No one should ever have to go through what you have, and I'm sorry." And at that moment, the child looked like her mother in every way. The way her hair fell across her face, the way her eyes pierced right through you, and most of all, that face that held back a thousand wounds.

"You are strong, you are brave, you are kind, and you are everything your Mother could have ever wanted you to be. And soon you can see her, and you can tell her all of the amazing things that her daughter has become." The dam broke, and as she reached for him and he reached for her, she let go of everything she had hidden inside-- every wound and scar that never healed. And as they embraced, their journey continued, carrying them slowly to eternity.

Eventually, the carriage stopped at a small house. As she stepped out of the carriage, she thanked the rider for everything. She offered him to live with her in this new place, but he politely declined. He had other passengers to take, other promises to keep and miles to go before he sleeps. As he left, she stared at the house she had grown up in. It was full of memories, both good and bad, that flooded her mind as she walked up the driveway. As she reached the door, she thought she could smell her mother’s cookies in their oven.