Chapter 13:

The Ghoul Of Rapidity (Part II)

Black and White

(Scene three: Experience)

The eleven hours of the return journey was unexpectedly extended to thirteen hours due to the train’s engine failure. But the group finally came back home, an hour before dawn. Brian returned to the town as the state champ. He first wanted to get to his house. He and Emily mounted on Phantom and whooshed. The ranchers who came to meet the racers were left confused by the question of whether he won or not. And that was only until Whitney nodded and gestured, Brian won the state qualifiers and was selected to the December derby. Later the whole town got to hear it. In the morning, after sunrise, the ranchers in both ranches celebrated Brian’s victory and the pride he gave to the town, by throwing a small party. Even Oliver joined this party, despite the awful pain in his arms.

After the party, Brian tried to go back home. “Brian wait a minute. Do you know the date and venue of the derby?” Serena asked worriedly. “Oh, I kn…” “No Need tO WorRy about THat. hE GoT tHIs.” James came wobbling, holding a beer bottle. “J…James, are you drunk?” Whitney asked while coming behind Brian. “DrUNk? mE? NoOo. I wouLD nEVer drINK thOsE.” James said. “He’s drunk. What happened?” Serena asked. But James had no energy to answer. He just kept humming and wobbling; can’t even stay straight for a second. Brian went furious. “NataSHA chaLLENged me to dRINk at LEAST one, high suGAR CONcenTRATed ORANGE juice. And GUESS WHAT, this is my TENth. Hm hmmm.” James giggled. “But that’s beer. Not orange.” Whitney pointed. “No way. The laBEL is ORAnge knoW…”. Brian madly grabbed James by the back of his collar and dragged him to the trough near the stable. After filling the through full with water. “James, what do you see?” Brian asked James to look at his reflection. The moment James lowered; Brian pushed James’s face into the trough. On his mind, he kept counting. Every three seconds, Brian pulled out his wet face or otherwise he’ll drown. “If you EVER took ONE zip from these, god damn drinks, I won’t hesitate to throw you off the river.” Brian yelled and threw James back. He felt embarrassed about the fact, that his friend was a drunk. All Brian’s victory mood was gone. “Charlotte, make him run. Break some sweat. By any means necessary. And Serena, the derby is in Angel garden town. We need to go on a six-hour trip to the southern state next to our state, right? The date is twenty-fourth, this month.” Brian said and went back home. On the next day, James came and apologized Brian and told him that he didn’t intend to drink the beer, he just drank without looking. When others tried to stop him, he thought they were stopping him from completing the challenge. And that the taste was addictive. James even broke two crates full of beer bottles, when he realized what he did. 

For the next nine days until the end of the twenty-first of December, Brian and Phantom trained harder and harder for the December derby, building up stamina, agility and perception. Their capabilities started to increase day by day. And Brian kept a close eye on what Phantom ate and drank. He made sure Phantom was full of energy and in perfect condition on all levels.

On the next day morning, Brian was to leave the town before dawn. As usual, James and Whitney joined. They went all geared up in winter suits. Mr. Bolt, Emily, the elites, Natasha, Marshall, Jane and Jessica PROMISED, that they all will come in the morning, on the twenty-fourth of December. They left the train station at five o'clock in the morning, so they will arrive by an hour before midday at Angel garden. “Day after tomorrow…is the day eh?” James mentioned. “Yup.” Brian agreed. “By the way, Whitney, did you get what I asked?” Brian probed. “Yup. Sis said you and Phantom have to run twenty furlongs in the December derby track. And also said to, never underestimate a player in the event.” Whitney stated. “Like I’d ever underestimate a one. Anyway, thanks.” Brian said. “Well, you and Phantom are about to have fourteen new rivalries. Better get ready for it.” James said. Brian did a short sigh in agreement. They then laid their backs to the walls of the crate and waited for the six hours to pass.

Six hours later, they came to Angel garden station. The Angel garden station is capable of handling three trains at once. And it was pretty big. Another train came to the second platform, while the train from Broken Willows was on the first track. Since the horses can’t use the passengers’ bridge that runs across, above the rails, the riders that come to the second and third platforms had to carefully cross the rails and reach the first platform, to exit the station. Nothing too much of a surprize Brian and his friends received by the banner of the event. The difference between the December derby banner from other event banners was, that this banner was inviting people to watch the race.

“MUSTANG!” Brian heard someone with a girl’s voice shouting. Three of them looked back. ‘That Lippi an? I’ve seen it somewhere.’ The girl thought. The girl who yelled was Neila. And she was with Natalie and Luke. AND they were with their horses. Neila was in a cream-yellow colour Akhal-Teke, Natalie on a black Friesian and Luke is on a golden-brown Hanoverian. “Luke, Neila, Natalie! Pretty long time eh? Are you here for the race?” Brian said. “I remember you guys. Brian, Whitney…who are you?” Neila probed James. “I WAS CAME WITH THESE TWO.” James shouted in embarrassment and pouted. “Anyway, nice to meet you guys too. Who competing from your town?” Natalie said. “I will be competing. And from your side…” Brian asked back. “NATY. HE DOESN’T KNOW ME.” Neila clanged to Natalie and cried. Brian was confused. “Neila was the champion in the last year and two years before that.” Luke exaggerated. “And you’re the one to be proud of?” Natalie mocked Luke. “Whoa that’s awesome. What was your timing?” Brian got excited. “twenty furlongs in three minutes and eighteen seconds.” “Yet so far, no one was able to break the record.” Neila said and Natasha added up. “Why don’t we head to the registrations? We’re the only ones in the station as non-workers…” James cut to the chase and said. “Fine… fine. Let’s move out.” Whitney said and both teams went to the Saints’ downs race course, to get registered. 

After a few short minutes, they came toward the entrance gate to the race course. The town was double the size of Broken Willows. Brian tried to get inside the race course. Then two security guards blocked the path. “Only the racers and staff members can enter the race course.” The guards said. “I am a racer, Broken Willows town. I want to get registered…” Brian said. “Oh. For that, you need to go there.” A guard pointed to Brian’s right. There was a small hut and a few people were sitting there with loads of papers. “Oops. Sorry for bothering you. Thanks.” Brian thanked. The guards slightly smiled and nodded. “Marcus!? Why are you at the registration desk?” Brian asked. “Oh, hey Brian. You came. Wait a sec. I’ll fill your form.” Marcus said. James and Whitney were a bit surprised by that. Neila and her friends already completed their registrations and went ahead. “Alright. Here’s your room key. Take your numbers over there.” Marcus said and gave a small key. “Room?” James and Whitney said and looked at the key. There was a number printed on it as, ‘104’. “Since only two people can stay with the rider or jockey, we’re not offering a cottage. But the room has plenty of space. In this way, all fifteen competitors can get to know each other and build some connections.” Marcus explained. “Here’s the town’s map. This is the race course and this red dot is the place you now need to go. The blue dot is where you are now. The yellow box is the station.” Another person in the hut/tent said while giving the map of the town. Tourists can easily get lost here. “So, ADVANCE! TO THE RED DOT.” Brian cheered up. “Wait. Your number?” another person said. “Oops. Almost forgot.” Brian excused and went back. “Almost!? He completely forgot.” Whitney said to herself and to James. James agreed by nodding.

After some time, they reached the red dot. “Whitney, I am not dreaming right?” James asked. “Nope. And you ain’t the only one surprised.” Whitney said and pointed to Brian. Brian was staring and jaw-dropped. The red dot was a wooden mansion. They went inside. The mansion has two floors, excluding the ground floor. Brian, Whitney and James’ are in the same room and there were told almost everything happening inside the mansion, runs on a schedule. Breakfast at six, lunch at two, dinner at eight and so on. All fifteen rooms in the mansion filled before dinner.

In next day morning (the twenty-third of December), was for the jockeys and their horses, to come and experience the race course. No matter how many times they came there, no one out of the other fourteen competitors, misuse this time. They all came inside the race course. Whitney, James and other friends/assistants couldn’t enter the race tracks, but they were allowed to stay in the grandstand. The grandstand looks empty, even though around forty people looking at the riders from different places because of its colossal appearance. Brian was jaw-dropped and speechless. “I…can’t…count.” Brian said to himself and Phantom. “Over one hundred THOUSAND people can come and watch here.” Neila said. “HOLY JOCKEYS!” Brian was astonished. “Attention all jockeys. Attention all jockeys.…” A female announcer got the attention for a moment. “You have this whole day to prepare for tomorrow’s derby. Tomorrow’s race will be twenty furlongs. First, five players to finish the distance in the least time will be awarded. Thank you.” The announcer finished her words. The jockeys forward a but they were intelligent as Brian. None of them run and made an unwanted competition. Everyone asked their horses to walk the whole track. But Brian thought to try something different. He asked Phantom to fast walk. From morning to afternoon, out of all the fast walks, Phantom couldn’t keep it for more than three furlongs. It had to rest time by time. But though Brian didn’t notice, the other jockeys started to underestimate Phantom, as it had no stamina. Though didn’t realize it, Phantom waited for only a couple of seconds to let its legs rest. After some hours, the sunset began. “Hey! Mustang guy. We’re leaving, don’t be late for dinner.” A friendly male competitor said. He looked to be only just a couple of years older than Brian. His name was Karl Peterson. “Huh? Oh. Thanks, mate. I’ll definitely be on time.” Brian said. He deviously waited until everyone except Whitney and James, was in the grandstand and the tracks go out. He took the moment and made Phantom to got one lap, around the track, slow running. So, Phantom could stretch its legs. Then they went back to the mansion. 

(Scene four: Vigorous) 

As time passed by, the day finally began. The moment to prove Phantom’s speed and Brian’s courage. At ten o'clock in the morning, all Jockeys and their horses are called to appear in front of the grandstand before the opening ceremony beginning with Marcus addressing the audience and competitors. Brian’s or Phantom’s, the number was finally revealed to Whitney and James and to the crowd. It was number one. Mr. Bolt, Emily, the elites, Natasha, Marshall, Jane and Jessica arrived on time and waited in the grandstand with Whitney. Each jockey can have one of his or her friends/assistants on the grounds in case of emergencies. For Brian, James went and stayed behind the starting gate.

“Sis, you look troubled.” Whitney said. “Why are you all looking troubled!?” she asked when she saw all elites’ faces. “This is bad. This is freakishly bad.” Pete said. “Would you mind explaining?” Whitney said unamused. “Number one and fifteen are the worst position an inexperienced rider can get.” “If Brian didn’t get a lead,  in the beginning, he might, I mean definitely get pinned downed to the rail.” Oliver and Gerald explained. That made Emily worried as well. “Phantom, let’s have a running start.” Brian said to Phantom. Phantom moved back seven feet. The cheering team from Broken Willows was troubled.

“Alright folk. Racers are at the starting gate. We’ll bring the countdown.” The announcer said. This announcer sounded surprisingly calm but excited. The alarm will ring after three beeps. Just after the second beep, Phantom started to run. The gates opened with the alarm going crazy. The riders rocketed. For some reason,  Nelia’s Akhal-Teke was delayed a few milliseconds. But they caught up to the top four. Brian intentionally belated one second. Now Phantom and Brian were in the last position.

“We have number one trailing and number TWO (Neila) on a rapid chase. Looks to be the Mustang is BROKE.…” The announcer was no different from the previous one. He just started to keep blabbering words he gets to his mouth. Brian and Phantom’s cheering team went to utter disappointment, even before the race come to an end.

Brian’s trailing distance kept increasing. ‘Why are you trying to be the last? You know your strength.’ Marcus was questioned about his thoughts. Minutes later, on the moment Neila reached to top two, Brian asked Phantom to speed up. He was intentionally saving energy. At that moment, sixteen furlongs were covered by the leading rider. “WHAT AM I SEEING here folks!? Number one is SPEEDING up. He avoided the PINNING down to the RAIL. WHAT an approach. That’s one fast Mustang. Who’s gonna win? WHO will be the CHAMPION? Looks like number two gonna win for the THIRD TIME.…” the announcer went crazy. The entire audience’s attention turned to the black Mustang. Phantom kept passing one after the other so easily and seamlessly. Brian reached to top two and he’s against Neila. They didn’t look at each other. Only one furlong left. Phantom increased its speed without a warning to Brian. Brian almost lost his balance, but luckily held still. Then out of the blue Phantom gained an unparalleled lead with Nelia’s Akhal-Teke. 

“Who is this VIGOROUS horse!? I CAN’T believe THIS. Number one WON THE DECEMBER DERBY! For the first time in history, all the other fourteen were OVERTHROWN by a MUSTANG with a RECORD breaking time of TWO MINUTES, forty-six point seven seconds. Victory by a lead of THIRTY-EIGHT seconds. What a MAGNIFICENT run.…” The announcer said and also announced the top five jockeys’ numbers and the time elapsed. Neila was unable to reach her own record. Her time was ‘3:24.68’ as told by the announcer. Phantom had to run half a furlong distance to slow down. 

The announcer asked the top five players in come in front of the grandstand and the other ten competitors to stand behind them. The event was about to end. Same as before Brian got a red rose bouquet and a red rose garland from Phantom. “Hey wait a minute.” Oliver said. “What is it?” Charlotte asked. “Why Phantom let that guy give him a garland? He didn’t even let any of us when we tried to touch it.” Oliver said. “That really makes sense.” Serena said. “He is mysterious as his name sounds.” Whitney said about Phantom. “How is the view from the bird’s eye?” James asked while coming to the grandstand. “More to see than on the ground level.” Charlotte said with a smirk to make James pout. And he did. Brian was awarded a large golden trophy with an equestrian on top of it. Neila received a smaller silver-plated version of what Brian got. “Brian Timber Bolt, from Broken Willows. You and your horse Phantom finished this year’s December derby with a record-breaking time. for that, your horse’s hoof print will be on our hall of fame of hooves. AND a title for your Mustang.” The secretariat of the organizing committee of the event stated. Please give us the hoofprint of Phantom; the VIGOROUS.” He said. A person kept a small shallow pad with red paint. He then placed a white paper on the ground. “Buddy, place your hoof in here, then here.” Brian said while dismounting, and bent to place the red paint pad underneath Phantom’s foot. Phantom was so happy at the moment. It placed its hoof hard. The paint splashed out and covered Brian’s face. The audience found it hilarious. the person who came to get the hoof print got it. He wrote down Brian and Phantom’s name, year, event venue, date and the record, under the hoof print. He then placed it inside a glass frame and went back to the grandstand.

After the ceremony ended, Neila talked to Brian. “You are such an unpredictable player in the game Brian. You are a worthy opponent. Congratulation!” Neila said. “I’ll be heading back to Iycehaven then. Safe travels.” She said when Luke and Natalie came. “Thank you and safe travels to you three too.” Brian greeted back. 

“Looks like you and Phantom are more than we see you both are.” Mr. Bolt said. “Big brother! YOU DID IT AGAIN! YOU WON! YAY!” Emily got hyped up and cheered. The elites, Whitney and James came behind them. “Nice race Brian” “CONGRATULATIONS! From all of us.” Serena and Natasha said on behalf of everyone. The grandstand and the entire race course turned empty after five minutes later the ceremony ended. Now it’s only the Broken Willows team. Brian took out a small black colour box from his pocket. Mr. Bolt went to buy the return tickets from the station with Emily. Jane and Jessica congratulated Brian and went with Mr. Bolt. After the two of them disappear out of sight, Brian kneeled down on one knee. And took a proposing posture. Everyone gasped. ‘You taking the wrong action’ Serena thought. ‘Rest in peace my fellow friend’ James thought while keeping his hat to his heart and looking down. Whitney felt embarrassed. “Whitney…will you…take this?” Brian said. “HUH!?” Whitney was surprised and had nothing to do other than take the box into her hand. Brian stood up. Marshall, Gerald, Pete and Oliver took off their hats and did what James did. Whitney opened it slowly, expecting there would be a ring. But there wasn’t. inside the black box was a golden colour frame, custom made, to fit Whitney’s performer’s badge, on a white cushion. “You are now officially an elite. Welcome to the team.” Brian said. Whitney was happy and furious about what Brian did. She understood he did it for a surprize but, she punched him right in the face. “IF you dare do that again for fun, I’m gonna CRUSH you like an orange.” She said and her face was even horrifically terrifying. Brian apologized sincerely. “Go and say your goodbyes to your rivals,  Brian. Pack your stuff. Come to the station before eleven.” Serena said. “Oh, I see. Thanks for your support guys.” Brian said. He, James and Whitney went back to the mansion to pack their bags and say farewells.

Three of them came to the mansion and when Brian tried to push open the door, Luke and Natalie opened it for him. Then two competitors threw bagful of confetti at Brian, and the remaining twelve competitors shouted, “Congratulations!”. Brian was stunned. Then one by one approached Brian and asked, how he did those tricks, how he knew, likewise so on and on and on. They all admired and complimented him. While these happening, Whitney and James, packed Brian’s bag too. When they were about to leave, Brian thanked them all for their support and wished them all good luck in their future plans. Then Brian and his friends came on time to the station and headed back home. “I FORGOT TO…” “Buy souvenirs? Don’t worry.” Mr. Bolt completed Brian’s line and showed him a huge bag. Brian only stayed five minutes awake and he fell asleep in an instant.  

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