Read part one here!
What rotten luck! I was stranded in an empty, shadow of a world with a cowboy from space who was just as afraid of the dark as I was. Brilliant!
“But you’re from space!” I cried. “You can’t be scared of the dark!”
“Shhh!” He looked around warily. “You’re afraid too.”
“I’m a child! It’s okay for me, not you!”
“Well that’s not very fair,” he said.
I paused and pondered on this. It was true. Why were children allowed to be afraid but not grown-ups?
A howl echoed in the distance. The Cowboy sprang up from the bench, his eyes wide. A cool breeze chilled me to the bones and the stars began to fade into an inky sky.
The silence resumed.
“The ghosts are here,” he whispered. My breath caught in my throat. I pinched myself several times but nothing happened; this wasn’t a nightmare I could wake from. The darkness swallowed us up, closing in like a predator to its prey. My cosmic companion shook in his seat, eyes darting from left to right as he clasped his shaking hands together. It felt like we would be stranded here, in this abandoned park, forever sinking in our fears.
Enough was enough. I wanted to get home, wherever that was, but I wasn’t going to find it if I wept on a wet bench. I straightened myself up and grabbed the Cowboy’s hand.
“Come on,” I said. “Let’s run around.”
The warmth of another person seemed to melt his terror. We broke out into a jog around the park and my dress glowed like a pink ember. The eerie wailing returned, piercing the silence in between our heavy panting.
“What are you doing?” asked the Cowboy.
“I’m making some light.”
As we ran, the tattered old dress lit up more and more, bringing the park back to life around me. My dress was no longer pink but gleamed bright white, like a brilliant star.
“How is this helping us?” asked the Cowboy, but he let go of my hand and gaped at me. A mix of excitement and confusion spread across his face. I stopped running and felt the ground disappear from beneath my feet. I flailed around helplessly, floating in the air.
The Cowboy grabbed my hands but my white gloves slipped off and he fell back to the ground. I screamed in terror, not wanting to be floating all alone in the dark with nothing but the howls of the wind for company. He jumped up and seized my wrists but couldn’t pull me down. The two of us floated higher and higher, away from the park and the world, with only a glowing dress as a guide into the unknown.
“What’s happening?” shouted the Cowboy. His eyes were shut tight and his long legs thrashed about.
“Stop moving, you’re making me wobble!” I yelled.
The park grew smaller, as did the world around me. I couldn’t hear the whooshing of the wind; in fact, I heard nothing at all. In front of me hung a big blue-green orb with swirls of white clouds, suspended in a silent orbit. I nearly let go of the Cowboy in amazement.
There we were, floating aimlessly in space, my dress burning like the brightest of stars, the Cowboy’s clammy hands gripping my wrists. His eyes were still shut as he whimpered to himself, but I couldn’t look away from the spectacular display around me. I spotted white wisps in the distance.
“Look, the ghosts are coming!”
I expected him to scream as I kicked my legs to try and move away, but instead the Cowboy laughed in delight.
“It’s not the ghosts, they’re the horses!” He let go of one hand and whistled with his fingers into the silence of space. “Oh, silly me, I need the whistle.” From his waistcoat pocket he produced a silver tube and blew hard.
No sound came but the white wisps became bigger and bigger until I saw they weren’t clouds of smoke at all, but horses. Five beautiful creatures of glittering white and manes of silver hair galloped effortlessly across the cosmos. They had no wings nor a unicorn’s horn.
“Come here Bess,” said the Cowboy, waving over the horse at the front of the group. He stroked Bess’s muzzle and she closed her dark eyes in comfort. I did the same to the horse behind. Its coat was like soft powder and they glowed just as brightly as my dress.
“You’re not afraid when you’re with them?” I asked.
“Not as much,” said the Cowboy. He smiled at them all and helped me mount a horse before sitting on top of Bess, positively beaming. Once more, the wailing came from behind us, piercing through the stillness of the galaxy. Green smoke drifted from Earth, coming closer to us.
The Cowboy fumbled with Bess’s reins until he blew on the whistle again and the horses flew forward. I gripped my own reins and tried not to fall off. “What do we do?” I called out.
“Nothing, just keep running to Farallon!”
“But where is Farallon?”
The Cowboy didn’t respond.
The horses were like soft glowing clouds, and they moved like them too. Their graceful gallops couldn’t outrun the green ghosts, whose moans rang louder in our ears. We flew through deep space towards stars that moved further away from us. A green face appeared at my side, its grin as yellow as cheese and breath to match. It had tiny, dark eyes set deeply in its face, and awful slime drooling from its mouth.
I tried to scream but my voice was trapped in my throat. A wet feeling slipped down my shoulder as I felt the slimy hand of the ghost dripping on to me. The Cowboy glanced behind and saw the green ghosts gathering around us. He yelped and blew hard on the tube, but the horses were already running as fast as they could. I pulled on the reins of my horse and it moved out of rank to come side by side with the Cowboy and Bess. The wetness spread across my shoulder to my neck. Another ghost wrapped his slimy hands around the Cowboy. I pulled my horse over to get closer to him and my hands fumbled around for something, anything, till I grabbed the tiara from my head and threw it towards the ghost.
I had forgotten that gravity did not work in my favour. The tiara floated uselessly away. I fought back tears and tried to focus: why did they keep following us? What did they want? Their strange, crooked shapes looked like the shadows of the flies that buzzed around in my room.
An idea struck me.
“Stop running!” I yelled to the Cowboy. “Tell the horses to stop!”
He looked confused, but he obeyed. He pulled on the reins, even though he and Bess were covered in green slime. All the horses slowed to a stop, dripping with slime.
“Are you sure about this?” he said.
I said nothing and desperately hoped that the plan would work. My dress began to dim. I stayed as still as I could but my hands shook on the reins. The glow of the horses began to fade away. They were no longer white, but a dark shade of grey. Much to my relief, the green slime began to drip off.
“It’s working!” I said, but the Cowboy was not happy.
“We’re losing our light!” he called out, his voice filled with fear. The ghost slime slowly receded, but the spectres remained in front of us, with their awful yellow teeth and small, black eyes. They stared at us—watching as our light vanished completely—and the darkness of space cloaked us once more. My body tensed in fear, but I could not take my eyes off the ghosts.
“Your Highness… the dark… it’s so dark…”
“We have to stay still, otherwise they’ll keep chasing,” I said, barely moving my lips. I was scared to my bones. The ghouls’ long yellow teeth flashed at me and I blinked away, clutching the reins of the horse tightly. Tears ran down my cheeks as I wished I had never bought this dress in the first place. I wished I had listened to Mum, and I wished that she was there with me.
“Look, they’re leaving!” said the Cowboy. I opened my eyes and saw the ghosts drifting away from us until they became nothing more than a green haze floating towards Earth. I shook my head when the Cowboy lifted the silver tube to his lips. We waited until the green smoke was completely out of sight. The horses had grown so dark that they were almost invisible; it was as if we sat on nothing, and simply floated by ourselves.
Finally, the ghosts were gone. I glanced around at the emptiness of space, the cold darkness, the terrible silence. But somehow it wasn’t so bad. Maybe monsters lurked in the dark, but other things might be sitting there too. Like a cowboy in need of a friend.
He blew on the silver tube and away we went, gathering speed and light, riding until Earth was nothing but a blue speck in the distance.
Keep an eye out for the third and final part coming soon!