With a crashing of the underbrush a deer exploded out of the woods and leaped across the path, disappearing into the trees.
Dungiven bolted. He probably didn’t even see the three-rail fence; she knew she didn’t. He ran straight through it and brought it down in a splintered, crashing wreck. Lynn was launched off his back and landed hard on the forest floor.
She sat up, groaning. Dungiven stood nearby, his head hanging down to his knees. “Oh Christ,” she sobbed. She tried to get to her feet but sank back down – her knee flared with pain and she was shaking. After a few moments her heart slowed and she pushed herself to her feet. She hobbled over to the horse. For a moment she just hugged him, his neck damp with patches of sweat, whispering an apology. He was unresponsive. Painfully, she reached down and began to feel his legs. His left foreleg had a warm spot – probably a bruise, she thought. He flinched and yanked his leg away when she ran her fingers down the long bone under his knee. Right where he must have hit the jump, she thought, and looked behind her.
She had to look twice but it did no good – the jump wasn’t there.
It was dark, yes, but it wasn’t that dark. She could still make out trees and brush. The path had been visible as a slightly paler trail along the ground. Now there was nothing. No path, no fence, no short ride home.
Lynn’s hands shook so hard she could barely hold onto her cell phone as she fumbled it out of her pocket. She punched in the number to the barn phone and pressed send, imagining what she would say. Not the truth, she thought grimly. She would save that for later. The phone beeped and flashed “no service” on the display. “Damn,” she muttered, and cancelled the call, trying the main house. Even if the van weren’t quite home yet, Mrs. Hunt surely would be. Once again the phone beeped unhelpfully. Dungiven cocked his ears forward, his nose at her shoulder, his warm oaty breath misting on her vest. Lynn cancelled again and dialed 911.
Nothing. In the middle of a dark forest, she stared with a sinking heart at her useless phone.
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