Write a story set in an abandoned location. It could be a foreclosed house, a closed-down theme park, a ghost town, or anything else. Think about the location’s past and its story, and use those ideas to fuel your plot.
Tucumcari was 50 miles in the past when I saw the horse. At first, I didn’t know what I was looking at, the heat waving off the pavement blurring the scrub, sand, and figure at the road’s edge.
I slowed as I approached and passed, worried that the horse would move into my path. It stood still, reins dangling from cheeks to ground. An empty saddle perched on the horse’s back.
I stared at the horse in my rearview mirror and then it clicked. Where was the rider? I hit the brakes. I was literally in the middle of nowhere. 50 miles past Tucumcar, another 60 to Las Vegas. 110 miles of open nothing. No gas stations, no houses, not even an intersection. I hadn’t seen a single car since Tucumcari. A road through nowhere.
Out of habit, I checked to make sure the road was clear before shifting into reverse and backing to the horse. I pulled onto the shoulder a few feet away, and clicked on my hazards. I snorted, realizing the hazards were unnecessary, but left them on anyway.
I climbed out of my car, the oven dry air parching the lining of my nose on contact, and moved slowly toward the horse. It was huge, my head not even reaching his shoulders. “Hey, boy,” I hesitantly reached out a hand toward his massive head.
He chuffed once, then bumped my hand with his nose, blowing warm air into my palm. I rubbed his forehead, and slipped my fingers around the reins. The leather was worn, old. I moved my other hand to the saddle. It was worn, as well. “Where’s your owner, buddy?” I asked the horse. He didn’t answer, just nosed my hair.
“Anybody there?” I called. I waited. Tried again. “Hello?”
The horse and I looked at each other, contemplating what to do. “Wait here,” I said, then walked back to my car.
I sat on the driver’s seat, the door open beside me, and reached for my cell phone. Zero bars. “Of course. The middle of nowhere.” I couldn’t call for help, not that I knew who to call for a lonely horse lost in New Mexico. I was more worried about the rider. What if they were hurt? I could drive to town, but that was at least an hour one way. By the time anyone got back here, they could be dead.
I climbed out again, taking my water bottle with me. I opened the back door and pulled out my day pack, nestling the water in the side pocket, and pocketing my keys in the front pouch.
“I’m gonna see if I can find your owner,” I told the horse, rubbing him again on the forehead. “You should wait here.”
I adjusted the straps of my pack on my shoulders and headed off, moving between shrubs and around the curve of a stack of large boulders. In less than five minutes, I was unable to see the horse or my car.
As I walked, I looked for any sign that someone had passed this way before me. I saw nothing. I called, over and over, listening for any response. I heard nothing other than the creak of shrub in the breeze.
I crested a small rise and paused at the top, taking a deep drink from my water. I looked over the landscape spread before me. I saw her. Sitting, her back propped against a large rock, looking away from me, her gaze falling behind another curve of the landscape.
I smiled, glad to have found her, and started walking, my eyes not leaving my target.
Her eyes popped my way when my shoes scuffed through loose rock, sending them scuttling over the dry surface. Her eyes stretched wide, she shook her head “No,” willing me away.
I paused for a moment, then stepped her way again. He stepped into my view. “Ah, a bonus.” He smiled wide, rubbing his knife on the leg of his jeans.
I closed my eyes and pictured my abandoned car on the side of the road, hazards flashing.