Thursday, May 28, 2009

Directly Outside 8

Note: This short piece forms part of my Koala Smackdown punishment. I do have another, longer, slice of fiction stewing away in the hopper, but I’ve gone with this one first because it’s so bloody miserable. Best get it out of the way now, methinks.

Directly outside my window, horses shamble into the courtyard, their legs cut down to stumps.

None have riders, yet it is clear they have been humbled at the hands of men.

On their mutilated hoists, they gather, proud, and I wonder how they can bear to stand.

Matchsticks. Feeble matchsticks.

Pausing to rest in the mist, the horses look weary. But is it from the labour of an arduous journey? Or is something about to happen? Some unspeakable thing they dread?

As I watch them breathe the air, I sense the rhythm of my own breath; notice when I’m out of synch, adjust.

Odd to do this, I think, but odder still that all are as one. If charmed, I am, it is not by a single creature — it is by their unified souls.

Now the horses stand in a circle. Equally strange, but I no longer care how or why: I am beguiled.

A small gap opens in their ranks, and though I am far away, it is as if I am stood amongst them, waiting.

With a nod, they blow through their nostrils, blow through their nostrils — blow through my nostrils, I must.

A cloud of vapour billows from me, settling among the other wisps of silver with an ethereal billiard ball poof.

And now we rock onto our stomachs, wait.

I feel a stabbing pain, and bunch up.

Can no longer see the horses.

Am I dying?


I wake, covered in vomit. My guts are knotted and my every muscle aches, yet nothing can keep me from crawling to my feet to look out of the window.

The horses stand, motionless, gazing at a dapple foal testing its hooves on the flagstones. The mist has cleared, and beyond the courtyard, a grassy hill ascends into the blue. Across its summit, barbed wire coils, cutting us off from the horizon.

The foal gallops into the grass and I see now what must be.

Run, foal, run. This is what we sing.
Run, foal, run, we pray.

But the further the creature races away up the hill, the larger the wire looms.

Jump, foal, jump, we cry.

My wish, like those of my newfound kin, is earnest, heartfelt and true, but before my stunned gasp is fully drawn, the foal kicks and bucks, snared in the wire. Maybe it will tear itself free and return, wounded but still alive? Or maybe the horses will gather beside it and ease its final suffering?

No: now there are men — men gathering with sticks. Their gait is workaday, careworn, and as the foal’s shudders ripple along the wire, they beat it slowly and dispassionately to death.

Long after the men are gone, I stand among the horses, till my eyelids finally sag for want of sleep. I know, in the morning, all these beautiful creatures will be gone, leaving me alone once again.

The hill and the sky will fade too, and with them, the cruel wire. But I shall not forget the foal’s sweet face as it turned to race up the hill for as long as I am trapped in this place, doomed only to witness as the world spins by, directly outside...


JaneyV said...

This is heartbreaking Whirl. Despite the ugliness you describe, the writing is very beautiful.

I hate barbed wire.

Sock Monkey said...

Clearly the baboons were a metaphor...

writtenwyrdd said...

Bittersweet. You write ugly so beautifully. It's a strange talent, Whirl. And as always I'm left wondering at the narrator who sits locked behind that window.