She sprints through the woods, her long dress, torn and ripped apart by the passing branches. The woods crowd around, intimidating her. Her hair is disheveled, face overwhelmed with fear and anger. Looking behind her every other step, she desperately races towards an unknown destination.
“CORA!! GET BACK HERE WOMAN!”
She cowers at the sound of his voice. His horse snorts in confusion. His alcohol drenched breath shouts for her, piercing through the trees as it does through her ears. He kicks his horse in random directions, chucking an empty bottle on the ground.
“CORA!! I SWEAR TO OUR ALMIGHTY GOD, COME HERE!”
Cora rushes further into the woods, she trips and rolls down an embankment, slamming into a small pond resting at the bottom of the embankment. Cora struggles to swim to the top, being pulled lower and lower by an invisible force. She kicks harder, as the surface gets further and further away. She screams in the water, bubbles rising, but she remains below.
He appears at the top of the pond, never looking down. His horse steps onto the pond’s surface as if it were a clear glass floor. No plummeting into the water, no sinking into the endless earth. Nothing.
Cora suddenly finds footing on solid ground. The water has vanished from around her. She’s at the bottom of an empty well, with a glass ceiling. A soft blue light appears before her. Calm and peaceful to look upon. Her eyes glaze over, she hasn’t felt such peace in her life, and wishes this moment would never seize.
Sunlight flickers around the silhouette of a man, wearing a cowboy hat low on his head. He turns towards her, but Cora can’t make out who it is. “Hey Kiddo.” The voice pierces through Cora, she gasps, a twinge of pain impales her heart.
The blue light slowly fades, until there is nothing. The water rushes in around her feet, her screams ring through the well until they’re finally silenced. The glass ceiling returns to its water form. Cora floats up to the top, bursting through the surface, gasping for air. She hurls herself onto the edge of the pond, glancing back at the water, but it has vanished. Her eyes widen, her face fills with confusion. Her husband Jordan rides up behind her, leaning down from his horse, grabbing her by the hair. She squeals. Helpless.
Cora’s ripped dress hangs from her, defeated and tired. She drops to her knees outside her home, looking out into the dark woods. Her husband lays on his cot, passed out with a rhythm of snores. She cries alone, staring into the crowded nothingness this world has become to her.
“Help me,” she whispers to herself, burying her head in her hands.
The sound of trickling water grows louder and louder around her. She quiets herself, listening. She lifts her head and sees another pond just feet away from her. She steps towards the pond with hesitation, looking down into the ripples, seeing herself. The soft blue light appears again, hauntingly calm. Oddly seductive.
Cora and her husband dismount their horses in town. She holds a basket on her arm, wearing a hat and simple dress. She pulls her hat low in an effort to cover her bruised up face. Her husband walks beside her, his hand on her back. Not in a loving manner, more in an effort to claim ownership.
Outside the corner store, an torn up poster with a young girl and older man on it, hangs from a single nail that reads “WANTED - The Kiddo & Wild Booker.” Cora stops to glance at it, her eyes well up as she gazes at the old photo, only for a moment before Jordan ushers her along.
They enter the corner store, a melancholy weight in Cora’s step. Jordan grabs her shoulder, pulling her ear closer to his mouth, “GO GET THE RUM.” The older store owner glares at Cora with more ferocity than one ever wishes to experience. She looks away from him quickly, doing as Jordan tells her.
Cora puts her hands on the bottles of rum, knowing she is purchasing the very thing that causes her so much misery. A blue light appears in front of her eyes, blinding her like the sun. She shies away, covering her eyes with her palms. Her head throbs in pain, she collapses to her knees, dropping a bottle of rum on the floor. It shatters. Jordan rushes up behind her, shoving her to her feet.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” He demands.
“I--I’m sorry my vision went white for a moment, I’ll be fine. I just need to sit.”
Jordan shoves Cora down onto an apple crate right next to her.
“You two are going to have to pay for that you know,” the store owner points at the shattered bottle on the ground. “Always pulling this kind of shit when you come here.”
“I GET IT.” Jordan pulls out money from his jacket, sliding it towards the store owner.
A group of men ride up to the store, outsiders to this town, never a good sign. They barge in, hands on their weapons, eyes darting around the room in an attempt to frighten all those inside. The owner rests his hand on the shotgun strapped beneath the counter.
“What do you gentlemen need today.” The owner asks dismissively. They stare him down, staying silent. Until the leader finally utters, “Everything.”
They wrestle their guns out and point them at the owner, he rips out his shotgun and holds it back at them. He bellows, “God damn it, you troublemakers need to leave us small town folk out of your bullshit!”
Jordan shoves Cora behind some barrels, grabbing at his gun. Cora starts to breath heavy, sweat beading down her face.
“Drop your weapons!” The owner shouts.
“I don’t think so,” the leader mutters.
The store owner fires his gun at the leader, all four outsiders fire upon the owner. He ducks down as everything behind him is shattered by bullets. The four men disperse across the store, looking for any goods they may want. Each one starts cramming items into their packs.
Jordan and Cora cower behind a wall of items. The leader rounds the corner, Jordan fires, hitting him in the stomach. He shoots back at Jordan but misses, a gun battle ensues between all five men.
Cora crawls towards the back of the store, while the men fight to the death. She opens the back door, tumbling out onto the dirt. One of the men follows her outside, grabbing her by the dress and turning her on her back. “Where you think you’re going pretty lady.”
“Don’t you touch me.” Cora tries to get back on her feet but the man presses down on her throat, grabbing a knife with his other hand and holding it over her. “You’re not going anywhere.”
A deafening blue light overwhelms Cora’s eyes again, the man disappears from her line of sight.
A pond in the distance is all she sees. She looks at her feet. Her body is floating towards it, then right above it. She gazes down at her reflection on the ponds surface. All she sees is herself.
The man presses the knife against her belly as he grabs her legs with his free hand. She whips her hands up, snatching his hand with the knife and shoving him back. She scratches his face repeatedly, yelling at the top of her lungs. He attempts to push her back down, but her body is invincible. It becomes detached from Cora, losing all sense of boundaries and rules.
Cora elbows the man off, latching onto the knife and ripping it from his disgusting hands. She slashes him in the face, nearly cutting his nose off. He screams at the top of his lungs, clutching what remains of his face. The man screeches at her, “What are you --!” Cora kicks him in the face before he can finish.
She hears Jordan screaming from inside the store, “CORA!”
She blankly stares into the back door of the store, a bloodied knife in hand. She quickly realizes what she has done. Dropping the knife, staring at the blood soaked dirt beneath her. She glances up at her horse tied to the side of the building, shutting her eyes only for a moment. Before running.
The pond tremors gently, the rippling water goes on and on.