In a world that has forgotten the ancient bond between horses and humans, can one girl’s dreams make people remember?
Several generations into the future, Sahara travels with her clan in a barren environment where recyclables are bartered for sustenance, and few remember horses or their connection to humans. But Sahara has recurring visions of riding astride on magnificent animals that run like the wind.
With the help of Evan, a young herder from the Gardener's Camp, Sahara discovers a crumbling book containing pictures of humans riding horses and learns her visions are real. Confronting a group of hunters led by hot-headed Dojo, Sahara rescues a wounded horse, but the animal escapes before it can be tamed.
Sahara is labeled a foolish dreamer and almost gives up her quest. Following horse tracks into a remote ravine, she finds wild dogs attacking a dying mare, and must drive them off in order to save the foal. Now she must attempt to raise the young animal, finally convince her clan of the ancient bond between horses and humans, and learn the secret of her true identity.
Sahara held the book cautiously, unsure what to do next. The woman, Evan’s aunt, seemed to sense her discomfort.
“Go and sit,” she croaked, motioning to the chair. “More comfortable.”
As if holding valuable treasure, Sahara settled herself in the chair. The book was so old it was falling apart. As she opened the cover, the first page crumpled into a heap of small pieces. She glanced up in horror.
“Careful,” Evan said.
Sahara nodded, then willed herself to caution. She turned each page slowly, with great care. Many were filled with words. Sahara glanced at these but kept going. Soon she came to drawings and pictures. She saw a horse standing perfectly still, while a man adjusted equipment on its back. A large leather seat, with a blanket underneath, rested on the horse’s back, held down by straps under the creature’s belly. Several pages later, the pictures showed a man astride a horse, just like in her dreams. The horse and rider were making turns to the left, turns to the right, even backing up.
Could a horse be trained? Was it possible? But they were wild creatures – faster than the fleeing deer, impossible to catch, gone at the first sight of humans. Even in her dreams, they trembled at her touch.
Sahara looked towards the back of the book. A horse again, this time hooked to a large cart with straps and harness, similar to what she used on Banner and Blitz. Could horses be used to pull their recycled goods? Surely they could pull more weight than the dogs. Sahara had a hard time concentrating on just one picture. She wanted to study all of them, understand, learn. Had people from the past, before the Dark Days, before the famine and sickness, actually done these things with horses? Were her dreams real, not something she had invented in her head? Were they memories? And why would these dreams come to her, Sahara, a girl from the Trader’s Clan?
Sahara was so absorbed in the pictures and images that she scarcely noticed Evan, who had crept closer to look over her shoulder. Now, sensing his presence, she stole a glance backward.
He looked serious, puzzled. “You have dreamed these things?” he asked, pointing to the pages in the book.
“No, not exactly. Not how to do these things. I only dreamed of being on a horse’s back. How it felt when it was running.” She closed her eyes, remembering. “The wind in my face, the feeling of floating, going so fast it felt like flying.”
“Like a memory?”
“How could it be a memory?” She shook her head in disbelief. “If it’s true that people did ride horses in the past, how could I have these memories?”
The old woman, Evan’s aunt, had been silent throughout this whole conversation. Now she stood, her fragile body clinging to the warmth of the fire. “Perhaps the memory has been in you always. Perhaps you were born with it. Perhaps it shows up now for a reason.”
Her answer, if any, was lost to the commotion below. Shouts and hurried commands echoed through the night. The sound of dogs pursuing a quarry raised an eerie prickle on the back of Sahara’s neck. Carefully setting the book down, she rushed to the door of the small dwelling, where Evan peered into the darkness.
“What is it?”
“It sounds like Dojo, and it looks like a group of hunters.”
Sahara pushed past him, trying to see. She heard the frantic voices of dogs, and saw torch lights moving quickly down the valley.
“They have gathered the chase hounds for a hunt,” said Evan. “He has been boasting all over camp about going after the horses.”
“No!” cried Sahara, her heart racing. “We have to stop them.”
Evan shook his head. “I tried to tell him . . .”
But Sahara was not listening. Pictures from the book still swam in her head.
Now she knew her dreams were not fantasies – things she had imagined. Humans had ridden horses. Humans had trained horses. There was a book to prove it. They must not hunt them. They must not kill them. She had to stop Dojo. Without thinking of a plan, she pried the creaky door all the way open and rushed headlong down the steep hillside into the night.
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