@#@#@ The Year You Were a Horse, v. 4.0 @#@#@
By Mike Meginnis and Russ Woods
m: This was before you grew up to become a human person. You were young. You were a colt. Your legs were thin and weird. You ate grass. You ate carrots. You were groomed in a stable. You were a little girl's gift. You met her at her party. You meet her at her party. There is cake and there are laughing children; you are inside, in the family's ballroom. The little girl is turning twelve. Her father has covered her eyes. "Here he is," says her father. "Your special surprise." He motions for you to come closer. There is a little yellow flower on the brim of his hat. Exits are north (the grand double doors) and south (the servants' entrance).
r: move closer to the father
m: The father guides his daughter's small white hand to your nose. She hesitates, feeling the warmth and the damp of your exhalations. She looks frightened, excited, overwhelmed.
r: lick the daughter's hand
m: The daughter shrieks and giggles, terrified and delighted. Her father uncovers her eyes but you can see now that she's blind — the eyes are milky and dull, only faintly blue. She gropes at your nose with both blind hands. "Isn't he beautiful?" says her father.
r: radiate beauty
m: The little girl says that you must be very beautiful if you are her own horse. Her father asks her would she like to ride you. She looks uncertain. A good horse could show her that she's safe. A bad horse could spoil her forever, for horses.
r: i'm am a very, very bad horse.
m: What do you do to this poor little blind girl?
r: i attempt to fit her entire hand into my mouth, as deep as it can go in, and then bite with all my strength. simultaneously, i kick the father in the chest.
m: The little girl's wrist breaks in your mouth, and her skin breaks and there is blood, and the father falls down hard. Pandemonium! A weeping blind girl, trying to pull her hand loose from your horse jaws, shrilling children running circles, an old millionaire struggling to stand up in spite of broken ribs, an uncertain wait staff and caterers calling for help, and you at the center, still radiating equine beauty.
r: i bite her hand clean off and bolt north, tiny hand in my mouth.
m: You burst through the double doors in a bravura display, trampling innocents in your wake. You are now in the grand hallway of portraits that leads to the ballroom. The west wall is hung with dozens of paintings of kindly millionaire fathers in their sunday best. The east wall is hung with paintings of their beautiful blind daughters, from their naked shoulders up. Candles dangle on invisible wires that hang from the ceiling—some lit, and some not. Exits are north (more double doors) and south (the way you came).
m: You are in what may be a living room. There might be dozens just like it in a mansion such as this. There are black sofas, red recliners, hat racks hung with jewels. There is a roaring fireplace. (Not lit, but roaring.) There is a coffee table with an exposed lightbulb standing up brightly at its center. You hear what might be a mob forming behind you. The little girl's hand tastes like spring rain and mint leaves. Exits are east, west, and south. Somewhere a phone is ringing.
m: You find your way, after walking quite beautifully through a series of rooms, outside the mansion, which is (coincidentally?) now partially on fire. The yard is a massive croquet course where no one has ever cleaned up a game when they were finished, littered with bright balls, wickets stuck in the ground or overturned, and forgotten mallets. Exits are anywhere but the mansion. There is wilderness in all directions, and beyond that, mountains. (The blind girl's hand tastes now more of clover and honey.)
r: bolt deep into the wilderness
m: You kick up clots of grass and dirt in your wake, pull wickets from the ground, kick the little colored balls, and snap the handles of mallets in half as you gallop toward the wilderness. How lovely is your mane in the red, uterine glow of the setting sun?
r: My mane is four hundred lovely.
m: What will all that lovely and a copper penny buy you?
r: jack shit.
m: You are in the forest. You can hear sirens in the distance: the firemen have come to put out the mansion. You can hear early owls. You can hear leaves and twigs crackling like they are living things. You can hear the moon is coming.
r: dig a hole
m: You dig as best you can with your hooves. After five minutes of effort, you have made a shallow depression, ankle deep, about as long as your neck and your head. The earth is moist and warm. (The little girl's hand is increasingly difficult not to swallow.)
r: bury the hand in the hole
m: It comes out soaked in your pink spit and foam. You cover it with the earth. Now your mouth is empty. Your tongue feels lonely, like the girl's remaining hand.
r: walk slowly back toward the mansion
m: As you return to the mansion you see that the firemen have arrived. Their trucks have many hoses, which have been guided through the windows of the mansion and the doorways, and are presently spraying water absolutely everywhere, burning or otherwise. The men in yellow raincoats and heavy black boots swarm the grounds. Very few have stopped to play croquet.
r: i want the girl's other hand
m: Horses don't always get what they want. You'll have to take it.
r: look for any sign of the girl, or of the presence of medics of any kind
m: You wander the grounds, searching. You do not see the girl. There is an ambulance among the fire trucks, white, with a red plus sign on its side, empty.
r: enter the mansion from the servant's entrance
m: You'll have to go into their quarters. Where the servants sleep, and dream of horses like you. (But tonight their quarters are empty, except for the children, who reach to pet your coat as you pass, but seem too frightened to really touch.) How gorgeous is your skin, just visible in the dark of the silent servants' quarters?
r: 600 gorgeous
m: What will you do with all that gorgeous?
r: buy the moon
m: The moon belongs to you now. (For all the good it does you.) (Does it feel good?) You are in the mansion, in the ballroom. You are knee-deep in water. You can see your long face in the water. You can see the ceiling, painted with a picture of heaven as imagined by a blind girl, which is to say mostly blue and clouds that don't look like clouds. A few of the children splash-fight in the water. One of them is in the corner crying, alone. A round one.
r: walk over to the crying child
m: The child hears you coming. When it sees that you've returned it ducks down under the water, curls into a ball to hide.
r: stick my face in the water above the child, try to lick its head.
m: You lick the back of the child's head, and its neck. The water disguises any taste you might have found in its hair or on its skin.
r: i want to do something beautiful for the child.
m: Would it be beautiful to eat the child's hand?
r: no. i own the moon now. i have responsiblities.
m: What is your first responsibility?
r: my first responsibility is to try to get the child to climb on my back.
m: You kneel in the water and wait. The child has to come up for air. It regards you with justified suspicion.
r: make a silly face
m: The child laughs; it understands that it should climb on your back. It hitches up its little shorts and mounts you.
r: stand up and walk a little circle around the pool to make the child comfortable
m: The child clutches painfully at your mane to stay on. It says you are a good horse. The other children all run from the ballroom. The water is slowly draining out the doors. The blind girl is being taken away in the ambulance. You can hear the siren.
r: what are the exits?
m: Exits are north (the grand double doors), south (the servants' quarters), and up (through the dome, to the moon).
m: So you walk to the moon. It is very cold in space and there is not enough air. The child dies on the way, but it doesn't seem to mind. Its skin turns gray and it sits a little more upright, more confident on your back. So you are on the moon. There are craters. There are faces in the moonsand. When you look at a star you can hear its voice, a small thing, like a bell with a tongue.
r: dig a hole
m: You dig a hole in the moon, through the faces of the moonmen in the sand. By definition that's a crater, right? The crater's about as deep as your horse tummy. The sand is silvery and sharp, cold. The crater's very dark inside.
r: keep digging
m: Now you have dug the beginnings of a tunnel. The sand is easier to push aside the deeper you go, softer and more pliable, but also colder. The dead child is kissing your neck for a while.
r: tunnel deep
m: You dig to the center of the moon. At the center it is hollow. There is a stable down here. There is lots of silver hay. There is a robotic stableboy who wants to feed you, shoe you, and brush your pretty mane. There is a silver candle with enough light.
r: let the child down from my back
m: The child curls up in the hay. His eyes will never close when he sleeps. The stableboy offers you a moon carrot.
r: eat the moon carrot
m: How does it taste?
r: It tastes wonderful, like the center of the moon and watching a sleeping child.
m: What is your second responsibility?
r: My second responsiblity is to become a person.
m: How does a horse become a person? Why would it even want to? You are better this way.
r: Are you sure?
m: Who am I? Nobody, that's who. Do what you want.
r: I kiss the child on the head.
m: The dead child's forehead melts a hole in the shape of your kiss.
r: i turn and head back down the tunnel
m: The stable boy says to wait. He says he wants to brush your mane. But he can't leave the stable. The tunnel is the way you left it. So is the moon, and so are the stars. You can see your mother on the earth below. She isn't thinking anything about you right now. You can tell.
r: where am i?
m: You are in yourself, your horse body, on the moon that you own.
m: The tunnel, to the stable. Out, into space. Down, onto earth. Inward, inside your body. And the dark side of the moon.
m: You are a small horse standing on a horseheart. You can feel it pumping horseblood. You can hear it, too. Exits are the lungs, the veins, the stomach, the cock, and inward, inside your body.
r: examine horseheart
m: A horseheart is a large and many-splendored thing, a knot of muscle, embedded with tiny horseshoes, with jewels, with fingers and sugar deposits, with brick and wire.
r: lick sugar deposit
m: The sweetness of the most beautiful note in a piano's many keys, held down, and held down, and resonating.
r: exit into lungs
m: In the horselungs you are surrounded by sheer white curtains. They gently stroke your skin. There is a crush of air, and then there is an absence. There is a crush of air, and then there is an absence. The sound is like covering your ears, and then it is like blowing through the holes in a violin's body.
r: examine horselungs
m: The network of blue veins inside the curtains. They turn red when the air presses in. You see the blood cells are many even smaller horses. They snort the foam that is their medium.
r: push on a vein with my nose
m: This pinches the vein. The tiny blood horses collide with your obstruction, they make a wall with their bodies, turning purple now, now black.
r: bite the vein
m: The little horses pour down your throat and fill your stomach, very quickly. Your larger body makes a panic sound. The lungs heave all around you, and threaten to collapse.
r: exit through windpipe
m: You leave your horse body. It deflates, slowly, until it is a pool of pretty horseskin. But if you are not in a horse body then you cannot be a horse.
r: look at myself
m: This, then, is your body. This soft, pink thing. What do you think of it?
m: What is your third and final responsibility?
r: to be awesome
Bio: Russ Woods lives in Chicago where he edits Red Lightbulbs and Love Symbol Press. He has a thing at solarflareshavebeenknowntocauseheartache.com.