Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

#fridayflash 52: A new horse

"So who's the new horse?"

"What new horse?" I questioned, giving my student a puzzled look.

"The grey out with Jasper."

"I don't have any grey horses and Jasper's turned out alone," I told her as I headed out to the paddocks to check. Sure enough when I got there, Jasper was grazing quite peacefully on his own -- no sign of any new horses in any of the paddocks. I looked at Kellie and raised an eyebrow.

"I *swear* there was another horse out here when I came to get Swizzle. Gorgeous grey -- and you know I don't usually like greys -- but this one's coat seemed actually white. Had its hindend turned to me, was grazing over in the corner," she pointed to where she'd seen the mystery horse.

"Ok," I didn't really know what to say. She wasn't prone to hallucinations and it was a gorgeous fall day -- too cool to be heat stroke. No signs of drugs or alcohol use. "Are you feeling ok?" She rolled her eyes in dismissal in typical teenage fashion. Ok no worries there. "Well, if you see the mystery horse again, take a pic for me." I told her, only half joking.

We dismissed the incident and moved on -- the whole thing turning into one of those jokes that decades from now would still hold meaning for us and no other. A week later I was turning out horses. The morning was a photographers dream -- our valley was shrouded in mist, and the sun had just crested the hill behind the paddocks, it's beams emphasizing the power of the mist as they failed to penetrate it. The first four horses were already out and I was walking out with the fifth, still half asleep and appreciating the quiet morning, I had the horse in the paddock and was taking off her halter before I realized we weren't alone. I looked in disbelief. There, hidden in the mist, a stunning grey horse was grazing at the end of the paddock. But none of the other horses had given any indication there was a stranger in their midsts. I quickly relocated my mare to another paddock, keeping my eye on the new horse the whole time.

That paddock had been empty, so the gate had been open -- I entered, closing it behind me out of habit. I approached from the side as I would any horse; the mist was playing mind tricks -- the horse seemed to waver in and out of my vision. At times seeming to disappear into the mist and otherwise being as solid as all the other horses around us. The geldings I had turned out first were watching me attentively, but seemed to be paying little attention to the new horse. While she had yet to acknowledge my presence by so much as a sideways glance. What horse didn't at least make note of a strange person in their vicinity?

What I saw next would challenge all I'd ever been taught. The horse lifted her head and looked over her shoulder at me, finally acknowledging my existence, and when she did, I froze. Protruding from her head was a long, thin, crystalline horn. She flipped her head, tossing her mane in a way that only ever happens in fiction, took two canter strides, cleared the paddock fence with perfect form, and was swallowed by the mist. All while my brain struggled to combine what I'd seen with what I knew. A unicorn? Unicorns didn't exist. They certainly didn't graze in my paddock. And yet, I had seen it.

A trick. It had to be a trick. Somebody glued something on the horse's forehead. But then, where had the horse come from and where had it gone? And how come none of my horses had been concerned about it? Cows were regarded as monsters plotting world domination, sheep -- well anything little and fluffy that bounces is clearly pure evil, and even ponies were not above suspicion -- but unicorns didn't get so much as a blink from any of them? How could that be possible?

Over the next few days I started carrying my camera everywhere. Each morning I awoke filled with excitement that I might see her again -- turnout was suddenly a chore I looked forward to. I contemplated leaving food for her, but knew that my horses would just eat it. But I never saw her. Beginning to doubt my sanity I became less careful about having the camera and chores returned to feeling like work until one morning, cameraless once more, she returned. I approached cautiously, stopping a few strides away. She looked at me and I felt as though I were being evaluated, although I had no idea the criteria. She flipped her head in the air, once more sending the mane flying, the rising sun reflecting off her horn. Head held high, she stood perfectly still and looked at me. I approached carefully, keeping my eyes down and moving slightly sideways as though she were a skittish horse. After only a few steps I heard the most musical laugher. I stopped and couldn't resist a glance. She was facing me head on, proud and tall. For all she might look like one, this was not a prey animal. She closed the distance between us, staring straight into my eyes the whole time. It was the most disconcerting feeling. Part of me was concerned -- it was a wild animal, I was alone, and I had no idea what she might do. Part of me was absolutely enthralled with awe. I couldn't have moved at that point for anything. And part of me was wondering if I'd actually lost it. Was I really seeing this? Was I dreaming? Hallucinating?

She bowed her head and her horn gently touched my shoulder as though she were knighting me. And then I knew. The myths were true. All of them. And I'd been chosen.

My life would never be the same.


So this story was inspired by this article:

Which I'm *still* shaking my head about, but it amused me so....


Such a magical story! I can't help but wonder what sort of adventures she'll have now that she's chosen.


I like the vocabulary and word choice you used for this. It really emphasizes the benefits of writing what you know. Nice writing.


Thanks Eric! Not sure if I'll follow it up or not, but I left it open to that possibility intentionally :)

Aidan - thanks for that. Can't say I even considered the vocabulary since it's very much "my world" -- will make me more carefully consider what other situational vocab I include in other types of stories...


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