Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Horse by Nicholas Murray

A mysterious group of cloaked figures retrieve a dead horse for an ominous ritual in Nicholas Murray's piece of purple prose

They dredged the lake slowly and methodically. Apparently the horse had drowned there two weeks ago. It was important that the horse died naturally. It took five heaving and grunting men to drag the bloated, ugly corpse up through the mud and onto the grey embankment. One of the many hooded figures standing in the darkness leaned into my ear and croaked, "It's swollen because it's been down there so long." His sour breath wrapped around my face like the lake's own slimy fist. For a long while, each second itching like radio static, everyone stared at it, not moving. Shadowed faces watching for some sign, expectant of a reason to validate the arduous journey here. Waiting like standing stones, guarding their decaying prize.

After what seemed like an age, he emerged from among the silhouetted figures and approached the dripping mass of the animal. He was old, hunched over, limping but determined. The visible gloom of the torches caused his age to play across his face in yawning craggy lines. In his left hand he held a gnarled and warped walking stick that sunk deep into the mud with every other step. In his right he clutched a short knife, black handled and curved along one edge. Practical and entirely unceremonious. With a creaking effort he knelt beside the horse, knees almost touching dank fur. Its hulking size made him seem even more shrunken, and a blanket of shadow somehow even darker than the surrounding night stretched out from its distended flank, enshrouding him and joining him to the unmoving bulk before him.

After gazing at the beast for some time, a look of both pity and reverence, he raised his arm above his head. The blade shone dully, drawing a high, narrow arc in the murky air. In a breath the metal had disappeared within the massive side of the animal. A nauseating wet whistle filled the darkness as the horse's bloated belly deflated, sending a torrent of putrid-smelling gas into our nostrils. It was over in a second. The vast form had become a sunken mound of trailing skin, a rivulet of viscous bile oozing unhurriedly from the wound. He raised himself up slowly and edged toward the horse's head. Its eyes were long since gone, leaving gaping black voids. He leant down, holding his head just higher than the beast's, and with the utmost tenderness he whispered into the horse's ear. This was the moment. As he finished, he stood and waited once more.

The wind stirred, causing the grass to undulate faintly. A sound like an ancient chest being opened escaped from the corpse and suddenly every inch of it shuddered. This violent quivering led the horse to contort its limbs and with one desperate convulsion wrench its pallid form off the ground. It stood, solid and proud in unlife, pointing its sightless head up towards the hollow sky. He cautiously reached out a wrinkled hand. His fingers touched the matted and sodden mane. The creature didn't flinch. The other hand grasped the thing's back and with unexpected strength hoisted him onto its body. It reared ferociously onto its hind legs, both dreadful and magnificent, displaying the wound down its side once more. A flood of breath, foggy in the night air, shot forth from its nostrils and mouth. He held on, forcing the beast to submit. We stood. In shock. In silence. What would come next we could not imagine. It was his vision that was taking form before us. We would simply have to follow.

3 comments:

  1. this is brilliant. atmospheric, eerie, ritualistic.

    michael mccarthy

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  2. "Shadowed faces watching for some sign, expectant of a reason to validate the arduous journey here. Waiting like standing stones, guarding their decaying prize."

    I loved every bit of it. Very short and still amazing in my opinion, really well done and I would love to see more from you Mr. Murray!

    Ziyad Hayatli

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  3. Simply sublime!

    S.C. Kleinhans

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