by Kelvin Webb
You came to us in the guise of a horse, I remember. Out walking in the early morning in the bottom fields, the mud seeping up around our boots, we heard a noise and looking up through the mist lifting off the dewed grass, we saw you silhouetted just beyond the top gate. The children ran to greet you and I casually followed behind, no fear. It was when I got close enough to see, when they had unhooked the gate and you began stepping in, then I saw what we had invited, it was too late to scream.
Not all horses are the same, not all horses have strength and pride, some, like you come dragging broken hooves, sunken eye sockets hidden by the sagging flesh sloughing off your crumbling bones. But still a horse no less.
You followed us home, me walking in front, hoping you would leave but horses like you never do, the children danced around you, oblivious to your stench. I lost them that afternoon; it was that quick, their mother forgotten for a game, picking up the dregs of your fallen mane from the floor as you led them along. I sat alone on the sofa, the cold slate floors fencing me in, my arms wrapped around me trying to hold in what I had already lost. They returned late that night and as I put them to bed, wincing at your smell on them, I tried to tell them but how do you tell a child that death has followed them home and it now stands outside their window, its putrid breath against the pane.
I stayed up, thinking, planning, and waited until the early hours of the morning, then crept out into the field, naked with a cold sweat upon me. You must have seen my back reflected in the moonlight, I heard the crack of your bones as you sped up behind me and so I ran, through the sting of the frozen grass and the rake of the wind. A plague horse coming for its sacrifice. At the gate I turned, arms wrapped around myself as you came, slowing, enjoying my fragility, a frigid lump of flesh on the metal blue night. Then when you came close, when I could see past your eye sockets at your worm filled core, I opened my arms, smiling and let you in. Let you into my world, my breast less chest glistening and framed by dark scars, you saw yourself reflected there and stopped, unsure. Just long enough for me to close the gate and keep you out for a few years longer.
People say I’m cruel when I tell the children I boiled you down to glue but I’m not lying, I never lie now, I just used the memory of you to bond us together even stronger.
Kelvin Webb is a Cornish man who spent too long staring out at the sea as it ran away from him. He now spends his time writing fiction rather than drowning. You can catch up with him on Twitter @kelvinwriter