I could feel the sweat rolling down my face and back, making my hair and soccer jersey stick to my skin. I was charging down the field with the ball, easily outmaneuvering the opponents who got in my way. The roar of my fans in the bleachers sent a thrill through me, but I didn’t let it distract me from the game.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see one of my teammates, Sam. He shouted my name and tried to get my attention. I ignored him. I was going to win this game for us, just like I had for all the other games in the season. Passing the ball to him was like tossing a coin. Sure he might make it, but I didn’t like to take chances when it came to competition. I was determined to break my personal record of goals scored in one game.
There was only a few seconds left, and we were leading score with 56 to 8. I was forty feet from the goal when I saw an opening. The goalie flinched as I drew back my leg to kick the ball and I smirked. He’d learned during this game just how powerful my kick was. I wouldn't be surprised if he was covered with bruises under that uniform.
The black and white ball sailed beautifully into the upper right corner of the goal, with the goalie only making a half hearted attempt at stopping the ball.
The crowd went crazy, and I finally let myself bask in their adulation. “YEAH!!!” I yelled and threw my fist in the air. My teammates surrounded me as they cheered too. There were others that weren’t quite as enthusiastic--Sam and a few other guys who were buttsore about not being passed the ball enough--but what did it matter? We won!
We all jogged cheering into the locker room. The coach quieted us down. Even though we’d won, he wanted to tell us what we did wrong. Nit picky stuff, for the most part. Those of us actually doing work out on the field worked together perfectly. I already knew what he’d say to me: pass the ball more often Jaxton. I rolled my eyes. He wouldn’t have to say anything if it weren’t for the complaining parents who wanted to see their kids get more action on the field so they could snap a few cutesy pictures for their scrapbooks.
I believed in earning your spot on the field. Sure, I might not pass the ball often, but if my teammates didn’t trust in my ability to play--and win--then I wouldn’t even have the ball in the first place. And I definitely made the plays that counted towards winning the game time and time again.
I leaned back against the lockers and let the coach’s droning pass right over me, unheard. He did this after every game; didn’t want us to start getting cocky and slip up at the last tournaments of the season. We had a right to be cocky though. We’d won every game this season, and the last two seasons too, during my freshman and sophomore years. The team had looked up to me for leadership, and I gave them what they wanted. I lead us right to the championship.
Once the talking-to was over, I was one of the first out the door. Passing parents and fans clapped me on the back and congratulated me on the win. A cute blond girl gave me a wink and a piece of paper with her number on it before running off giggling with her friends. They didn’t look familiar to me so I guessed that they lived in this town. First we beat their team and then we get their girls.
I smirked and shoved the piece of paper into my pocket before climbing onto the bus that would take the team home. There was less people riding the bus home than there were on the way here. Some kids rode home with their parents but I preferred to hold on to that team feeling just a little bit longer before heading home. Not like my parents could make it to most of my games anyways. Too busy.
It was loud and rowdy on the bus. We reenacted parts of the game that were just hilarious and laughed about them till we had tears streaming down but faces, like the first time I came straight at one of the other team’s players with the ball, only to leave him staring in surprise and confusion when I went around him at the last second. Or when Greg almost hit a ref with the ball as he was passing it. The look on that ref's face has been priceless.
It seemed like hardly any time at all had passed before I recognized the familiar lights of my hometown, Fayton. It wasn't a very big town but I wouldn't call it small either. Our high school had almost 1000 kids attending.
I checked one last time to make sure I didn’t forget anything before stepping off the bus onto the asphalt. The exodus of boys that left the bus waved good bye to each other and gave a few last remarks of congratulations before we branched off to either wait for rides or drive home ourselves. Luckily, I was one of the latter. I was the oldest in my class and reaped the benefits with a new car on my 16th birthday. As I walked across the parking lot, it came into view. It was beautiful, a 2013 Chevy Corvette. A light blue one. Definitely the fastest car on the lot.
I slid into the driver’s seat and threw my sports bag into the passenger seat. It wasn’t a long drive to my house. When I arrived home that night, the house was dark and empty. Not so uncommon at the Ryler home. Both my parents had to work tonight, and wouldn’t be home until late. It didn’t bother me that they weren’t at the game. They knew I would win. There was a whole wall in my room dedicated to medals and trophies I’d won in various sports.
I passed these without a glance as I threw my sports bag in the corner and took a shower. After a quick brushing of my teeth, I trudged back to my room and fell spread eagle onto my bed. It was too hot to sleep under the covers and it was hard for me to fall asleep. Winning was such exhausting work, but it was exciting too and I had too much adrenaline running through me. I tossed and turned for several minutes before finally standing up to dig the piece of paper from my jacket pocket. Some mindless chatter would be just what I needed to help me fall asleep. I grabbed my phone off the bedside table before laying down again.
It didn't take long for her to text back.
Hi!!! Is this #10??
Great. She's an excessive exclamation points and question marks kind of girl.
I can't really remember everything we talked about. I gathered that she was some popular girl at her school and she thought I was cute. Sometime while we were texting, I fell asleep. I was right about her mindless talk putting me to sleep.
My dreams that night were strange, and I can remember them vividly. The first thing I realized was that I knew I was dreaming. My surroundings were clear too, not murky and indistinct, like you would expect dreamlands to be. I seemed to be inside a cave, standing in front of a small rock pool. The flickering light of what I assumed was a torch threw my long shadow across the pool. I couldn’t turn my head to further inspect my surroundings no matter how hard I tried. In fact, none of my body parts moved when I told them to except for my eyes.
A great booming voice echoed through the cave. “The first Seal has been broken and the first Rider summoned.” I wanted to shout back at the voice and ask just what the heck was going on. I couldn’t even make a sound. Great, one of those dreams.
Movement in the water caught my eye. Something white flashed just beneath the surface. A great white horse’s head broke out of the water with a neigh. My eyes widened as I watched it step out of the water. The horse's whole coat was pure, blindingly white. The horse shook itself off and appeared to see me for the first time. The sound of the horses hooves on the stone echoed loudly in the silence as it came to a halt in front of me. The horse lowered its head and met my dark blue eyes with its own gray ones.
I knew in the instant that our eyes met that this horse was far from ordinary. It was intelligent, that much was obvious. There was something else in its eyes too, something ancient…
The horse snorted and tossed its head, breaking our gaze. It moved around behind me, out of my view. I had the strange sense that it was inspecting me, judging me. The horse stopped and stood by my right side. Nothing happened for a while, but then the others came.