“It’s fine, friend,” he said smiling as though he could read Josh’s mind. “If I had gone so long without water, I’d probably look like a horse at a trough too.”
“Thanks,” Josh said, his voice a little hoarse still. “Who are you?”
“My name is Byron Mackintosh. I’m a rancher in the area. In fact, you’re on my family’s ranch, Mackintosh Fields.”
“How... How did I get here?”
“Well,” Byron began, “I was working in one of the Eastern fields and I saw smoke from a fire out in the middle of the plains. I thought it was odd that something would be burning there. When I went to investigate, I saw you unconscious and injured by a dying campfire against the old oak tree in the south plains. I assumed you needed help, so I took you here.”
Josh nodded. “Thank you.” He took a look at his bandages and gestured to them. “You?”
Byron shook his head. “No, that was my sister, Rose. She’s used to patching people up, so I let her take care of it. She and Lily should be back anytime now.”
Josh nodded again before he remembered the photograph he had seen on the table of the family. He picked it up and took a look at it. “Is this your family?” Josh asked as his voice was getting clearer.
“Yes. It’s an old picture from when I was a boy. Wait…” Byron stopped, analyzing Josh. “You can see that picture?”
Josh was confused as to why he had asked the question. He met Byron’s eyes before answering, “Yes. Why?”
Byron looked stunned. “Your eyes are all white I assumed you were blind.”
Josh was taken aback. “What do you mean?”
Byron got up from his seat and grabbed a tiny vanity mirror from the table. He handed it handle first to Josh who lifted it to his eye level. Staring back in the mirror’s surface was a duplicate of him with blank, white eyes bearing vacant irises. He looked as though he had literally seen a ghost. “Holy shit…” he whispered to himself in an odd mix of horror and fascination.
“So, you can see me, right? What color is my coat?” Byron asked.
“Dark brown.” Joshua responded, wondering if this was a trick question.
Byron’s face had an evident tell of utter awe as his jaw literally hung open. “That’s right. If you’re not blind… Spirits among us, you’re of the Coeden.”
“The Coeden?” Josh asked. Before he could get an answer, the front door swung back open.
“Byron! We’re back from town!” A high pitched, enthusiastic voice shouted from the doorway in the foyer. Mere seconds later, a very excited young girl ran into the parlor. Her face didn’t look a day over sixteen as it beamed with radiant excitement. Her hair practically glowed as a fiery red, framing her face with short locks on either side. The room seemed to buzz with energy and ran up to hug Byron.
“It’s good to see you too, Lily,” he said, returning the embrace. The girl- obviously Lily- was followed by an older girl with a much more subtle entry. She smiled, seeing the two exchange greetings, though it was a different smile from Lily’s. Where Lily had a smile that promised energy and excitement, this was a calmer, gentler happiness, like the warm breeze of summer. Her light brown eyes, much similar to Lily’s and Byron’s, seemed to shine as they smiled with her. Upon seeing her, Byron flashed an equal grin back and nodded. “Rose.”
“Good morning, brother.” She responded in a lilting alto tone with that same accent. After hearing it from a third voice, Josh could swear it sounded British.
“Byron, we went to the market and saw al sorts of things. I found this cool necklace that-“ She cut herself short as her eyes met Josh’s. “Rose! Our visitor is awake.”
With that, every eye in the room locked on Josh. There seemed an unspoken question on his face that luckily Byron was kind enough to answer.