- Vol. 03
- Chapter 11
Image by Bruce Connew
BethanyBethany was a demanding child, always wanting more. She zapped up eighteen hours of her Mum’s day and still that wasn’t enough. She wanted her Dad to read to her after he finished his ten hour shift at work, to listen to her made-up stories which were all fluff and nonsense, to check for monsters before she went to bed.
Her parents could never give her enough of their time, even though they were spent, ashen-faced and bone-thin. Their physical decay still wasn’t enough.
So on her seventh birthday, her parents bought her what every girl dreamt about – her very own horse. Midnight black. Forged from the shadows.
Bethany immediately screwed up her nose. This horse was not the one she wanted. She had explicitly asked for a white one, sugar-white, pure and befitting a princess.
The horse watched her with large marble eyes, eyes which took in everything. Eyes which never blinked.
‘Do I have to feed the horse?’ she whined to her Mum. ‘It’s so boring. And ugly.’
‘Have you chosen a name for him yet?’ her Dad asked.
Her Dad’s smile disappeared.
‘Well, it’s certainly...original, sweetheart.’
Bethany called to the horse.
‘Come here, Horse.’
The horse, whose glossy coat reminded her parents of shifting shadows, didn’t move.
Bethany faced her parents.
‘See, it’s stupid. Can’t I have a white one instead?’
BethanyThe horse had impeccable hearing and an incredible memory.
A month passed with the horse mainly being confined to the stable, the gap in the slats barely big enough for him to glimpse the outside world.
‘Perhaps if you ride him, you’ll find you’ll like him more.’
Bethany mounted the horse and dug her heels in to its flanks. The horse whinnied.
‘Careful, dear,’ her Mum said.
‘Horses can be temperamental beasts,’ her Dad added.
But Bethany wasn’t listening anymore. She wanted to find out how fast this ugly beast could go. She wanted to see it foaming at the mouth. And she would.
She tugged on its mane and clawed her nails into the horse’s neck. The horse reared in pain.
And then the spoilt girl kicked the horse’s side.
The horse ran with all the power it could summon, all the rage it felt towards the girl; its nostrils flaring like giant caves. Bethany clung on; her face no longer flushed red but ashen-white. Unfortunately, she wasn’t bone-thin.
‘Okay, Horse. You can stop.’
BethanyBut the horse kept going, its hooves drumming a solid beat into the emerald earth, matching the blood pumping through its veins, hatred for the girl driving him home.
The horse skidded to a halt, throwing Bethany off its glossy back; her scream, the shrillest sound it had ever heard. Her neck was an impossible shape. And she was ugly.
After that, Bethany never walked again.
And the horse was confined to the dingy shed with only the gap in the slats barely big enough for him to glimpse the outside world.