This is a FridayFlashFiction for Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds Blog. The challenge was “unicorns” Shortlink http://wp.me/p1BAlV-Q
Ol’ Blue Louise Sorensen July27, 2011
The first time I saw him, he was standing in my front drive, hitched to a carved wooden wagon that was painted green, pink and gold. Spanish guitar music floated softly on the air. The old white horse was boney, with bald patches and whip marks on his hide. There were running sores where the harness rubbed him. His ears drooped out of a battered straw hat and his eyes were blinkered. A long haired swarthy man in jeans and a white tee shirt stood smiling beside him. You don’t see this very often in the dairy land of eastern Ontario. I wanted to get my camera, but my head hurt too much.
A migraine was coming on from the heat; lightning flashes in my vision had been and gone, now my head was ready to explode in phase two. I did not need a stranger with a sad horse and a gaudy wagon in my drive.
“Good morning, lady,” the man said, bowing low. The horse snorted.
“Hello there,” I said, squinting my eyes from the sunlight filtering through the old maples. “Do you need some hay for your horse? I’d be glad to give you a few bales …and a good feed of grain to go with it.”
“You have a bad head, yes?” the man said. He had straightened up from his bow and was holding out his hand. He walked a few steps closer to me and blew dust from his palm into my eyes.
I staggered to the front porch stairs and sat down. When I opened my eyes, the headache was gone, and the sun had moved a couple of hours to the west. The swarthy man was frozen in place, the harness sitting in a pile between the wagon shafts, and the horse was lying on my front lawn, legs tucked neatly under him, nibbling on the grass.
I waved my hand in front of the man’s face. Nothing. Catatonia? Saw that the horse was crawling with flies, its eyes gummed shut with matter.
I hurried into the house and filled two pails with water, one to drink, and one to wash. When I got back, the horse was stretched out flat on the grass. I batted at the clouds of flies surrounding him, and pounded on his neck.
He roused slowly, and brought his feet back under him. I set the pail under his nose. His nostrils flared at the smell of water, but he couldn’t find it; I guided his muzzle into the pail. He drained it, then coughed and coughed. Staggering to his feet he coughed some more. I thought he might cough a lung out and wondered how I would explain a dead horse and its catatonic owner in front of my house. When he finally stopped coughing, he hung his head low.
I took this chance to sponge his eyes clean, but the flies wouldn’t leave him alone. Horse flies, house flies, deer flies; it looked like every fly in the surrounding countryside wanted to have a taste of this creature. His smell must have rubbed off; they started biting me too. Waving at them only excited them; soon I was covered in welts and drops of blood.
Looking around for something to fight them off with, I broke a leafy branch off a maple. Swishing flies with one hand, I sponged his eyes with the other. It took many passes to soften the gooey, smelly matter. It sucked up the water and expanded to two or three times its original mass when I wet it. I almost gagged at the large amount of pus, scabs, blood and fly bits that came off. When I finally got through the guck to his eyes, there was a pile of goo as big as a my hand on the grass.
All the while he had stood patiently, as though he knew I was trying to help him. Eyes clean, his wet face had acquired a blue tinge, as though the white had washed off. His eyes popped open; bright blue.
“Well, aren‘t you beautiful?” I said.
The horse nodded as if to say yes.
“What‘s up with your owner, Blue?”
He looked at the man, sauntered over, and breathed on him. The man dissolved in a shower of golden sparkles. I stood with my mouth hanging open. Blue turned around and kicked at the wagon with a hind leg. The wagon and ancient harness disappeared into golden sparkles too.
“Well…you‘re certainly full of surprises,“ I sputtered, wondering what kind of dust that man had blown at me.
“Yes,” a warm equine chuckle in my head.
Sparkles of gold flew around him and landed on his forehead, outlining and building, until he had grown the nub of a horn. Other sparkles landed on his hide and sunk in, healing the sores.
“I’m sure I didn’t see that!” I said, writing it off as a minor hallucination and patting his neck. “Good boy… you just enjoy the grass. We‘ve got plenty.”
Why was I babbling at a horse?
“ You can just stay here for awhile. There’s water over by the shed …if you get lonely, you can stand by the fence.“ I pointed to the corral where my three horses watched us, munching their hay. I almost kicked myself when I remembered fly wipe for repelling flies.
“You wait here a minute,” I said, and ran into the house. When I returned, he was still standing there, tossing his head and swishing his tail. I wiped him down with a generous amount of the stuff, and the cloud of flies moved off, looking for an easier target.
Turning to go into the house, I caught sight of my shadow. For a moment, as well as the usual human shape, it seemed to have sprouted wings.