Thunder roared. Lightning split the sky. Leeto’s mane flapped in the harsh wind. The man’s silver arrow glimmered every time lightning struck. He shot at Leeto. The arrow struck Leeto’s leg. At the same time, lightning struck Leeto’s hide. Leeto’s eyes widened.
Leeto was a special horse. All horses with his blood were called ghost horses. Ghost horses were magical. They were the only animals—or living creatures—to become ghosts after death.
But there were only two ways for a ghost horse to die. One was for two ghost horses to fight, which was rare. But even rarer was the other way—for a ghost horse to be struck by an arrow and lightning at the same time.
Right now, Leeto’s life was fading away.
* * *
Leah yawned and made her way downstairs. A bowl of oatmeal and juice were waiting for her. Leah sat down and took a big sip of juice. Suddenly, she heard a sound—something like hooves against metal.
Leah ran outside. A pure-black horse was standing next to the shed. Gasping, Leah drank in the sight. The horse’s coat was silkier than any she had ever seen. His mane and tail were longer than she knew possible. The horse was a gorgeous sight.
Slowly, Leah walked toward the horse. She grabbed a rope from the shed and looped it around his neck. “You beautiful thing,” Leah whispered, stroking his velvet nose. “Where’d you come from?”
At that moment, Leah was very glad that no one else was home.
* * *
“Come on, boy,” Leah urged. “Get in.” She held the door to the shed in the woods open and finally got the horse to step inside.
Then she noticed it. Right on the stallion’s forehead was a white marking, shaped like an arrow. “I guess that settles it, then,” Leah said in a low voice. “Your name is Arrow.”
* * *
“How was school today, Leah?” Mrs. Koble asked at dinner.
“Um, fine,” Leah said. “We learned four-digit division.”
Mr. Koble laughed. “I remember the good old fours. Did you have any problems?”
Leah stared at her beans. “No… Mr. Jacobs said I was best in the class.”
“We-ell!” Mr. Koble rang out. “Good for you, Leah!”
Leah smiled. “Pass the potatoes, please.”
Mrs. Koble slid the bowl her way. “Tell me, sweetie, what did you learn in history class?”
Leah groaned silently. She wanted to keep quiet so that she could have room to think about Arrow.
“Uh, about the defeat of the Spanish Armada… I think,” Leah replied.
“Quite interesting that was,” Mr. Koble approved, cutting off a piece of pork chop. “I loved reading about that so much when I was a kid, I went searching the libraries just so I could learn more about it.”
“That’s interesting, Dad,” Leah said. Personally, she didn’t know how anything about the Spanish Armada could be interesting. “Um, may I be excused?”
Mrs. Koble nodded. “Yes, dear.”
Leah jumped up and grabbed an apple from the fridge.
“Heavens!” Mrs. Koble exclaimed. “You’ve just eaten a hearty meal. Whatever do you need an apple for?”
“Uh, a science project,” Leah lied, bursting out the door before anyone could object.
Once outside, Leah breathed a sigh of relief and headed to the woods.
* * *
“Hello, my beautiful one!” Leah greeted Arrow. She held out the apple, and the horse gobbled it up greedily. Leah sighed. “I’m going to have to find you some real food if you’re going to stay here,” she announced.
Suddenly, Leah heard a distant voice calling her name.
Leah groaned. “That’s my mom. I have to work on a death trap called homework.” She gave him a kiss on the nose.
* * *
Leah woke to a strange sound. She heard a shotgun going off outside. A sick feeling washed over her. What if somebody was shooting at Arrow? Had he escaped?
Alarmed, she jumped out of bed and pulled on a pair of sneakers. Then she ran outside into the dark night. “Dad!” she called to the dark figure standing by the shed. “Dad, what’s going on?”
“There’s a horse,” Mr. Koble replied grimly. “Black as night. Shot at it.”
Leah held her breath. “Why?”
“It was trying to kick the shed down.” His voice was tight.
Leah’s heart skipped a beat. “What happened?”
“Bullet seemed to run right through him.” Mr. Koble sounded confused. “Leah, that horse was a ghost.”
Leah had to grasp onto her father’s arm to keep from falling. “But, Dad,” she said, “a ghost?”
Mr. Koble pushed her back. “Get down!” he yelled, focusing his gun.
Then Leah saw it. A pitch-black, yet transparent horse stood before them. Mr. Koble held up his gun.
“Dad, no!” Leah screamed.
But Mr. Koble shot.
Just like he said before, the bullet went straight through the ghostly figure. The horse was unfazed.
* * *
“Several people have reported a ‘ghost horse’ to have shown up in their yard,” the news lady announced. “It seems unbelievable, but it’s true. In fact, we even have some pictures.”
Leah recognized the horse on the TV screen. No doubt, it was Arrow. The white marking on his foreheard was unmistakable. But Leah wondered how this could be. Yesterday, Arrow was normal.
Leah jumped up.
“Where are you going, honey?” Mrs. Koble asked.
“Outside!” Leah answered. She grabbed a bag of stale bread and a carrot and ran outside. Leah ran as fast as she could into the woods. She ran until she could see the shed looming ahead of her. Panting, she burst through the door.
“Arrow!” she gasped. “You’re here!”
Arrow looked at her in surprise.
“How did you do that, boy?” Leah sighed. She opened the bread and held out a piece. Arrow ate heartily. “It’s not much,” Leah said, sitting on the floor, “but it’s food.” She dumped the bag out on the floor. As Leah sat there, watching Arrow eat, several thoughts swept through her mind. Why? How? When? They were all unexplained.
Finally, Arrow finished and lay down. Leah offered him the carrot. “I’d better go,” she said, shivering. She stood up. “See you, Arrow.”
For three nights, no sightings of a ghost horse were reported. Leah’s mind eased a bit.
But one Saturday night, Leah ran to the shed in the woods to say good night to Arrow. “Night, kiddo,” she said, hugging the black shape. “See ya tomorrow.” As she left the shed, a warm feeling came over her. She had a horse. Even if it was secret, she had a horse.
Suddenly, a hot light burned her back. Leah spun around. The shed was glowing. Arrow, transparent as ever, was galloping straight through the walls!
“Arrow!” Leah gasped. “You are a ghost horse!”
Arrow turned to look at her. A word on his leg shone like a scar. “Leeto,” Leah whispered. “So that’s your real name.”
Tears stung her eyes. She knew that Arrow would never come back.
But suddenly, she was happy. Leeto was meant to be free.