Disclaimer: I do not own Magical Diary (yet), did not help create it, and totally have permission to write this (cool, huh?). All characters herein are original (except the old lady at the end), as well as the setting, plotline, horse, etc. No horses were harmed in the making of this fanfic.
UPDATE! Posted the next chapter, then realized that I had never posted the revised version of this chapter, and since the main character got a name change between the two, I figured I needed to do that (lol).
Krystal whirled around, releasing my arm in favor of planting her hands on her hips. "It's your birthday, Lexie! You should get to do whatever you want!" she insisted, looking as stern as she could manage through her obviously growing excitement.
I rubbed my wrist where'd she'd been gripping me. It was sore. I'd told her she was tugging too hard, but no, I was just going too slow.
I knew Krystal too well to really take what she was saying to heart. This wasn't about making my birthday wish a reality. This was about Krystal and her next adventure, the newest rule she could brake, the cheep thrills a twelve year old could find.
Twelve? That's right, Krystal's birthday wasn't until November. I was technically older than her. I'd never really thought about it before. Krystal's always been the leader, the rowdier, livelier one, and that had somehow made her seem like the older of us to me.
She was still staring me down, her brown eyes bright with determination. Normally, that made me ready to give in on the spot. Who could beat Krystal's stubbornness? Not me. But the fact that I could barely see her, right in front of me, in the darkness, made even more nervousness rise up in me. What did Krystal's stubbornness matter on a night like this?
The day hadn't been much better. It had been raining the night before, and the lightning had kept me awake. I had sat on my bed, perched by the window, and watched the sky with fear and wonder. Even if I was supposedly a teenager now, nothing scared me like lightning, yet fascinated me at the same time. I'd jumped ever time the light flashed or the sky rumbled, but I'd sat in that spot and never took my eyes off the swirling dark clouds. I wouldn't have been able to sleep even if I'd tried. The room seemed to sizzle with static, and my muscles felt stiff and tense.
So, naturally, I'd been dog tired this morning, while my mom bustled about the kitchen getting my cake together. Alicia and I were helping, making a family event out of baking the thing, while Dad tried to get his work out on the farm done as quick as he could. The animals were all pretty spooked, he'd said. Ian was helping him.
Things with the cake didn't go well. In my tired stupor, I made quite a few stupid mistakes, but Mom laughed them off. Alicia was growing annoyed but trying not to show it. This was my special day, after all. But then Dad came in, literally carrying my baby brother in his arms, and it no longer mattered that I was turning thirteen.
Ian was sick, not injured, thankfully. But it was still pretty bad. Dad hadn't realized he wasn't feeling well, and was berating himself for overworking him. Mom was taking control, as usual, and Alicia took right after her in looks and disposition, calling the doctor while Mom got Ian in bed with a wet washrag, warm soup, and some medicine. My cake was forgotten.
After my mom left to take Ian to the hospital, Dad went back to work, his guilt driving him to do more than he had planned to that day, just so he could be alone and think. Alicia was left in charge of me, being the oldest. She tried to keep me happy (it was my birthday, after all) by playing games with me. We played chess, even though she hates chess, because I like it. I won three games before the smoke alarm went off. That was when we remembered the cake.
We ended up skipping breakfast completely, and having grilled sandwiches for lunch. I wasn't the best cook and neither was Alicia, but we tried. It didn't turn out so bad.
We spent the afternoon in relative silence. I was curled up on the couch with a large volume of Shakespeare's work, and Alicia organized the farm's bills for this month. She had a mathematical mind like that. Dad never came back inside.
I had to get up quite a few times just to stretch. Walked around the house, too, just to be moving. I wasn't normally like that. I could stay dead to the world, immersed in a book for hours and never move an inch. Today, I still felt stiff and restless. My muscles ached, and I wasn't sure why. Growing pains?
The storm had lightened up by the time Mom called. Ian had a really high fever so they were gonna keep him over night. When Alicia went outside and relayed the message, Dad decided to go up to the hospital and stay with them. Again, Alicia was in charge.
It had been her idea to call Krystal. Alicia and I weren't especially close. We spent time together, sure, and loved each other like sisters should. But Alicia was fifteen, and to her I was just a kid, official teenager or not. Having Krystal over got me out of her hair and seemed like a good birthday present, even though we usually spent birthdays as a family.
Alicia had went to her room early, claiming to be tired. She was on the phone and both of us knew it. She didn't fall asleep till past midnight, Krystal and I checked.
This whole dumb idea had formed in Krystal's mind as soon as I mentioned being disappointed in my birthday. The plan had been to go riding after I opened presents. I hadn't even gotten any presents, and riding had been out of the question in this weather.
"But the weather's not bad anymore." Krystal pointed out, that gleam in her eye. "It's mostly cleared up outside."
"It's almost 2 am." I replied, worried about where she was going with this already.
"So?" Had been her answer. "So?" was always Krystal's answer.
And I admit it, sneaking out had been fun. The most fun I'd had all day. Between worrying about Ian, worrying about Dad, missing Mom, straining my relationship with Alicia, my aches and pains and restlessness, and being all around upset and trying to hide it that my birthday had gone so wrong, today had been terrible. Krystal made it all seem like one big joke.
So what if I was sneaking out waaaaaay past my bedtime? So what if my parents weren't home? So what if it was muddy and the lightning had scared the horses earlier?
Krystal made it all sound like fun. I felt like a secret agent, following her orders, spying on Alicia till she went to bed, pretending to sleep, all the while plotting our escape. We'd giggled and packed our backpacks with clean shoes and pajamas, so when we got back, we could change right on the back porch and if we got caught in the kitchen by the back door, well, we just wanted a midnight snack. Nothing wrong with that, no big deal. Krystal made it seem easy.
And it had been. I think that was probably what was scaring me so much. Dad had always said what came easy was never anything good. Anything worth anything had to be earned, worked for. So by the time we'd made it outside, the guilt I was feeling over all the rules we were breaking had surfaced, and unease was growing.
What were we thinking, sneaking out in the middle of the night to ride horses in the mud? Were we crazy? This was stupid.
"Oh, come on, Lexie!" Krystal whined, seeing my resolve waver right in front of her. "We're already almost to the stables! Don't chicken out now! I thought this was what you wanted!"
I'd cave, and Krystal knew it. It was only a matter of how long it would take her to get me moving again. I wouldn't go back inside without her, but she would go to those stables with or without me, and that was her advantage. Because I knew which horses were broke and which weren't, so I had to go, or Krystal could – would – get hurt.
I sighed, trying to fight a losing battle. This all just felt wrong somehow. It was more than the rules and the dark and the cold, it was like I could just feel it in my bones. I shivered, my fingers twitching restlessly. Something just felt wrong, darn it, but I knew I wouldn't get Krystal to see that. I wasn't even going to try.
Like a predator who knows when it's prey has given up the fight, a grin slipped onto Krystal's face and she reached out for my hand again. I hesitated, then took it.
"Ow!" At the same time, we both jerked back. I shook my hand, and Krystal stuck one of her fingers in her mouth for a second. "You shocked me!"
Our eyes met, and we both started giggling at the same time. Suddenly, we were just silly best friends again, not a care in the world.
"Don't do it again, got it?"
Still grinning, she grabbed my hand and started off, pulling me towards the stables. My smile faded, my momentary good mood dissapearing, as the building came into view. The foreboding was back.
And it smelled. I had never really payed much attention to how the stables smelled, because I'd grown up with it. It hadn't ever bothered me before. But now, as Krystal and I slipped inside, I was overwhelmed by the smells. The stink of the stalls, the horses, the leather riding equipment, it all wafted together, assaulting my senses.
I fought the urge to gag. Krystal didn't seem to notice my sudden nausea. She was skipping in front of the stalls, eyeing the horses with excitement. Krystal didn't ride much.
She skidded to a halt in front of a red mare. "This one! Lexie, can I ride this one?"
I thought we were here so I could ride. Since it's, you know, my birthday? But I bit my tongue. I didn't even trust myself to open my mouth. I could feel my gag reflexes at work, the urge hurl growing in the back of my throat. I didn't even move.
Krystal was jangling the lock on the stall gate. "Do you have the keys?"
I went to shake my head, but stopped mid way. The motion sent my whole head spinning. I felt dizzy, and it made my stomach even more queezy. I grabbed my head and leaned back against the door behind me.
Krystal frowned. "Hey, are you okay?"
Now she notices. I swallowed. Hard. "I'm fine." I managed, pushing myself forward. I stopped beside her, eying the lock. All the stalls had them, but they all took the same key. And that key was on dad's key chain, clipped to his belt, wrapped around his waist, sleeping on a chair at the hospital.
I picked it up in my hand, giving it a small tug, just to test it. I knew it would hold, but some stupid compulsion just made me do it. On the other side of the gate, the mare eyed the two of us nervously, now wide awake from our arrival. Her tail swished and she stomped once, lightly. Her eyes were big and bright.
And she smelled. I had tried, but I wasn't getting passed it. Maybe once we were outside again, I'd be okay, but this was driving me crazy. I was gonna throw up. I leaned forward, putting my other hand on the gate to steady myself. I closed my eyes, straining them to be as tightly shut as possible and gritting my teeth. As my shoulders rolled with my sudden gagging, my grip tightened on both the gate and the lock that I still held in my hand.
"Lexie? Are you sick?" Krystal put her hand on my back, and my shoulder bucked again as the next wave of nausea hit. No barf yet, but...
"Let's just go back, okay?" I forced out, looking up at my best friend, pleading. She looked torn, obviously worried, but just as disappointed. In the end, our friendship won out.
"Okay. Come on, you can lean on me if you need-"
Another wave hit, gagging me, and my fist tightened instantly in reflex. A metallic sound rang out, and I felt the lock crush in my hand. The assault on my sense of smell momentarily overrode, Krystal and I stared as I opened my fingers – and chunks of what used to be my father's pad lock fell to the ground. The gate groaned slightly as it tottered there, free.
That was Krystal. Only she could be impressed at a time like this. I was in shock. That didn't just happen. Snapping a lock with my bare hands was impossible. And I was still going to throw up.
I turned sideways, doubled over, and retched.
"This is so awesome! How did you do that!?" Krystal was, once again, lost to my peril. She rambled like she was talking to me, but she was already in the horse's stall, trying to beckon the mare out. I should have been trying to stop her, but...
I made a run for the exit. Once out, I hurled again.
Thankfully, the cool night air was a welcome relief. The scents of the stables were still strong behind me, but I already felt better, my senses clearer, wet, charged air charging through my nose and the scents of mud and trees taking over. I spat, trying to rid my mouth of the taste of my vomit.
Then I heard neighing. Panicked neighing. It was all the warning I got.
I hadn't even turned all the way around when the mare came bolting out of the stables. She tried to skid to a halt when she saw me, but she was going too fast. She went up on her hind legs-
-and came down on me. Both hooves slammed into my back, and I was plowed into the muddy ground. I was bombarded with so many different kinds of pain, I couldn't even scream. The air was gone from my lungs, ribs snapped in my sides, I felt something rupture inside me, and my face sank into the mud as my body caved under the weight of the horse.
I swallowed a mouthful of mud as I tried to cough. My eyes burned at the wet earth was forced under my lids. One of my arms was trapped under me, the other, pinned by my shoulder. I sucked up more mud through my nose. I wasn't getting any air. I couldn't breathe.
I couldn't feel, either. There was nothing but the pain, shooting through me like lightening. I thought the horse was prancing on my back, her hooves were pounding down on me again and again.
"Get off, get off of her! OFF!"
The weight lifted, but I couldn't move. My back wouldn't arch right, and my gasping face went right back into the mud. But I tried, tried, so hard, and brought my face up enough to breathe, to see. Air rushed into me, burning my throat and sending convulsive coughs through me. It didn't feel good, wasn't a relief. But I barely registered it compared to what was happening in front of me.
The horse was practically screaming. She stood, prancing in place, struggling against something it took my pain-consumed brain several seconds to identify. It looked like hundreds of green snakes had wrapped themselves around the beast, pulling on her, tugging, until she toppled. After another moment, the greenery became clearer.
And it seriously was greenery. The grass, the plants themselves, were reaching out of the ground like vines, strapping the flailing horse to the ground, much like I was. Krystal, who had apparently knelt down to check on me, was frozen at my side, staring with open horror.
"What on EARTH is going ON out here!?"
It was Alicia, racing towards us, her blond hair standing out painfully in the dark. She stopped short, eyes widening in shock. There was no mistaking how the plants moved, how they kept the horse tied up – like they were alive.
I coughed involuntarily, and blood came spilling out. Something inside me was wrong, very wrong. I was bleeding on the inside!
Panic set in. More so than before, it raced through me, setting my heart pumping and my mind reeling and throwing out any sense I had left. There was only fear. Fear and pain.
We were all still staring at the horse, flailing in the mud, fighting and kicking and screeching at the vines that held her down. One tightened around her neck, slamming her head down to the ground.
Her eyes were wide with terror. I stared at her, and I felt like she was looking right back, just as scared as I was, also in pain.
But not as much pain as I was in.
That horse had trampled me.
She wasn't struggling against the plants anymore. She huffed, twitched a bit, but didn't fight. We were still staring at each other when Alicia finally looked up and Krystal registered to her mind – and then me.
"Lexie!" She was slipping in the mud in her race to get over to us. She didn't even care about her night clothes as she dropped to her knees at my side. "Oh. My. Goodness. Lexie, what happened? Are you okay?"
She looked to Krystal when I didn't answer, but she was still staring at the mare, like I was. "What is that? What are those? How are they doing that!?"
She sounded more panicked with each sentence. Alicia reached over me and grabbed her, jerking her head around to face hers.
"Focus, Krystal! What happened to my sister?"
"T-the h-horse." Krystal stuttered out. "The h-horse s-stepped on her."
"H-ho-ors-se..." My choking voice sounded more like a hiss as I tried to say the word.
"Don't talk." Alicia immediately demanded.
"L-look at t-the hors-se..."
I was still staring at her—couldn't stop. The mare's eyes were still locked on mine, still filled with fear and pain. But the vines were receeding. And the horse wasn't moving.
I felt like I couldn't move, either, locked in a staring contest with the animal. My pain didn't matter, I could barely feel it. Breathing wasn't important. The coughing had stopped. All I could do was stare.
Just watch, as the light in the mare's eyes slowly dimmed, then died out. Like a flame, snuffed. The fear and pain was gone. The brown, glassy orbs were empty.
Instinctively, I moved. I don't even know why I did it, but I pulled my arm out from under me. I had both palms to the ground and was pushing myself up before Alicia realized what I was doing.
"Lexie, don't move-"
But I didn't listen. I let my fingers sink into the mud and pulled my knees forward, under me, then propped up on my tiptoes. A little wobbly, I stood.
I was fine. Nothing hurt. Nothing.
I popped my neck, flexed my shoulders, stretched my body. There wasn't a thing out of place. Nothing felt wrong anymore.
I was still staring at the horse. The horse that had trampled me.
I was fine. She was dead.
We walked back to the house together. I don't really remember it. I couldn't tell you if anyone said anything. It seemed hazy, a blur. When we got back, Alicia made me stand in the shower, clothes off, so she could check me over. There wasn't even a mark. She would have sworn up and down Krystal had made the whole thing up if she hadn't seen me cough up blood. It was still there, trailing down my lip.
I washed, taking my time in the shower. The ache that had been bothering me all day was gone, and my muscles felt smoother under my skin. My body was more comfortable to me than it had been since puberty, like it had finally finished whatever growing it had been doing and I was finally the me I had been striving to be for years.
When I shut the water off, I heard the yelling.
Krystal couldn't keep her voice down, couldn't stand still. She was pacing the living room, still covered in mud herself, raving about crazy, dumb animals and how I should be dead and the plants coming alive and killing the horse. Stuff nobody was ever going to believe.
Alicia gave Krystal a drink, and she must have drugged it, because ten minutes later Krystal was knocked out cold. We left her in Dad's armchair, and took the couch.
I'll always respect my sister for not asking me anything else that night. I wouldn't have been able to answer her, anyway. We curled up together on that couch under the same blanket, I put my head on her shoulder and she put hers in my hair, and we slept like that. I'd felt closer to her then than I had in years; since we were kids and we'd run around the farm, chasing chickens together, smiling and happy, careless.
The next morning, Krystal was eerily calm. She'd overreacted, she'd said.
"Killer plants, immortal teenagers... what nonsense."
The horse had gotten tangled in some shrubbery, broke her own neck in the struggle. Krystal had scared her, trying to shoo her out of the stables. She had knocked me over, but hadn't actually hit me. Everything was fine, she'd said.
Except that Krystal went home before Alicia even started breakfast, and didn't speak to me again after that. She was never hostile, it was just like we simply weren't friends, hadn't ever been. I didn't even try to get her back. I didn't have any other friends, and didn't care to make any.
Alicia went with Krystal's story. She was back to being normal Alicia, my math wiz older sister with her own life. Our parents called, said they'd be back later that afternoon. Ian's fever had broke in the night, and he was doing fine. Alicia told them about me and Krystal sneaking out the ride horses, and that Krystal had spooked the red mare, who then busted her gate open, ran out, and got caught in the bushes. Snap.
Dad was obviously upset, but Mom tried to smooth it over since my birthday had been one giant disappointment. I still got grounded for a week, though.
The mare's name had been Ruby. She'd been abused by her previous owners.
After we hung up, Alicia made breakfast. French toast and fried eggs that ended up scrambled instead because Alicia couldn't use a spatula right. We were just finishing up when a knock came at the door. She answered it while I did the dishes.
At the sound of my name, I put down the washrag and dried my hands. By the time I was done, Alicia had returned, looking a little confused. She was leading an older woman in.
"There's a lady here to see you."
The woman smiled at me warmly, but I didn't recognize her.
"Dear wildseed," she stepped forward, her shoulders back proudly and an air about her that almost...hummed. "It's time for you to make the Choice."