The Judas Horse
by hundreds of horses
Was it the twinkle in his eye, or the way the corner of his mouth twitched, I shall never know. What I do know, though, is this: I never should have trusted him.
Great Meadows. This is our home. We defend it. Protect it. From them. They who take our foals from us, they who pen the mares. They who poison our water and destroy our turf. The reason for all this, I've one word for you. Humanity. They chase after us in a giant sky bird, bigger than two horses put together. They run us into an enslaving pen, where no horse has escaped unharmed. The horses trapped in there are destroyed. Their spirit, broken, their legs weary, their freedom... Gone.
I gasped for breath, sweat damp on my chestnut coat. "You alright?" my best friend, Sky asked. I turned to gaze at her, the panic still clear in my eyes. I opened my mouth to respond, but the words stuck in my throat.
"Another dream?" Sky asked. I nodded numbly, fighting back tears. Even though we hadn't been attacked for nearly a year now, the terror was still vivid. Sky sighed. "They're gone now, Sasha."
I tried my best to believe her, but I just couldn't get myself to. She hadn't been there. I had. I'd lost my dame. The memory came flooding back.
I was a foal, galloping at my mother's side. Dust clouded in the air, kicked up by weary, terrified hooves. The smell of blood and fear clogged the air, and I bleated fearfully. "Hush, Sasha, hush," my dame soothed as we galloped. "Hurry, dear! Keep up with the herd!"
The terrible whoop whoop whoop of the giant sky bird overhead drove me on. My lungs burned, and my legs ached, but I drove on, fear coursing through my veins. I couldn't lose my mother. That was all that mattered. Confusion and terror filled my heart. "Why are we being chased?" I bleated. My dame flicked her ear towards me, so I knew she'd heard, but she didn't answer. This gave me a new wave of fear.
Above the whooping of the sky bird, Celestene, my dame's friend, let out a whinny of terror. "A pen! Avoid it!" But there was no avoiding it. Men on horseback bunched us together, letting out their awful cries, forcing us into the pen.
"Sasha! Sasha! Stay close to me!" my dame cried as we were driven into the awful corral. Hot bodies dripping with sweat bunched together. There was barely room to breathe. I gasped a lungful of the hot, stale air, my thin legs trembling from our horrific run.
My tiny, heaving body pressed against the cruel bars holding us in. Splinters from the wood pricked y hide. "Sasha," my mother rasped. I gazed fearfully into her soft, sad eyes. "Sasha, you must crawl under the lowest bar," my dame persisted. I gasped in horror. Tears streamed down my face.
"I won't leave you!" I cried. My dame nudged my gently but firmly with her nose.
"Sasha," my dame's voice was soft but strong, and it frightened me. Her crystal blue eyes pricked into mine. "Go." Suddenly, the voices of the men pierced the air. A giant, resounding pop rang out, and in the midst of the crowd, a liver chestnut mare dropped to the ground. Now I understood. The men were out to kill us. "Sasha! Go! Now!" My dame cried, shoving me under the bar. I glanced back at her, whimpering.
I shivered as the memory went on.
Tears blinding me, I galloped off alone, as more pops pierced the air, and the stench of death wafted in the breeze.
That was it. I opened my eyes. I had been the only horse to make it out alive. All others were killed. Sky was staring warily at me. "Sasha," she whispered. "You're mother... She..." I shook my head to clear it.
"Let's go for a gallop," I said, hastily changing the subject. "A nice gallop will do me good."
Sky wrinkled her nose. "Sorry, Sasha. I'm meeting up with Destin, Remember?" I rolled my eyes. Destin was Sky's stallion friend. Not that I didn't like Destin, though. He was a nice seal bay stallion with lively green eyes, and a considerate attitude, but he just seemed to take too much time with my best friend from me. He was constantly sweeping off with her.
Sky nudged me. "You should get yourself a stallion."
I groaned. Not again. Sky was constantly trying to pair me up with someone. I just wasn't interested, though.
"Why go around, leaning on some stallion when you could be galloping?" I persisted. "Your tail lashing out behind you, your mane rippling in the breeze..." Sky snorted.
"You don't just go around leaning on them. You groom with them, graze with them..."
"Etcetera, etcetera. Yeah, I get it." I wrinkled my nose in disgust. "I just don't see how you could go around with a stallion like that. It's disgusting! Don't you ever want, I don't know, a little personal space?"
Sky chuckled. "One day you'll understand. Just wait. One day, you'll be swept off your hooves by some casanova... Who'll be laughing then?"
I sighed. "Good luck with that." Sky giggled.
"Whatever. I'll see you later, Sasha." I sighed and nodded.
"Yeah, bye." And with that, I took off. The wind gust at my face, and my legs propelled me forward faster and faster. I pinned my ears in determination to go all the faster, when suddenly, I heard more hoofbeats from behind. I smirked. Sky must have changed her mind after all. I skidded to a halt and whipped around to face her.
All the color drained from my face. It wasn't Sky, it was a bachelor stallion, and he was coming right at me!
I let out a cry as the stallion slammed into me, and we both went tumbling across the ground. As soon as we drew to a halt, I scrambled to my hooves and hastily galloped off.
"Wait!" I slowly stopped and glanced backward. My breath caught in my throat. It was a glossy blood bay stallion with a thin stripe running down his nose. I stared at him.
He grinned sheepishly at me. "Sorry about that." I opened my mouth, but closed it again, not knowing what to say. Fear gripped me. This stallion had to be a bachelor, and bachelors stole mares from their herds to start a herd of their own. I gulped. I liked my herd, and my home, and to be taken away would mean less protection. Less protection from humans. The bigger the herd, the more secure.
I took a step backward, away from him, and the stallion grimaced. "I really am sorry... I-I was just wondering if you knew where a herd is?" I just couldn't get myself to speak. Something about this stallion was mesmerizing, and I couldn't tell what. I seemed to just open and close my mouth. Open. Shut. Open. Shut. Like a stupid guppy.
"Listen, my name's Liam... And... I know what this looks like, but..." Liam sighed. I pricked my ears. I did know what it looked like. It looked like a bachelor trying to trick me so he could steal some of my herd's mares. "It's my herd," Liam continued. "It... It was taken." My heart dropped like a stone and pity swelled in my heart.
"You... You lost your herd?" I whispered. Liam nodded.
"I-I just want some protection..."
I nodded. I understood completely. All fear I'd had of Liam dissipated.
Suddenly, hoofbeats rang out, and Liam and I gazed backwards to see Sky, galloping like mad towards us, tears streaking down her face.
"Oh, Sasha!" she sobbed, burying her face in my mane.
"Sky, what is it? What's wrong?"
"Sasha, it-it's Destin. They-they got him!"
I gaped at Sky. "What happened?" All the while, Liam stared at us, a puzzled expression written on his face.
"We went out alone," Sky whimpered. "And m-men on horses came, and they r-roped him... There was a l-loud sound and-and... He was dead!" she wailed.
Immediately I knew what had happened. Destin had been shot. I felt tears pool in my own eyes. Destin was gone. It seemed crazy that I'd never see him again. I'd never hear Sky gush on and on about how kind he is. I'd never see the twinkle in his eyes, not ever again. Suddenly, a realization hit me like lighting.
"Then the humans must be close to the herd!" I cried, my voice raising in a pitch. "We have to warn them!" I turned to Liam. "Follow us!" Liam nodded gravely at me, and with that, he, Sky and I set off, racing towards the herd. My heart in my throat, I charged towards the grazing lands. We ripped up chunks of the familiar grass as we galloped with fierce desperation. The herd was in danger of being discovered and round up.
The herd loomed ahead, and I could pick out a few horses in the large crowd. I charged toward them, Liam and Sky at my hooves. "Men!" I cried with all the air left in my gasping lungs. "There are men coming!"
The horses' eyes rounded with fear and rimmed white as the realization struck them. The strong scent of fear heavily bathed the air. That's when our lead stallion took charge.
"Follow Gold Dust!" he shouted. Our lead mare set off at a gallop and the rest of us took off after her. In all the commotion, no horse seemed to know that Liam was there with us. My legs already tiring from the race here, they were positively burning as we charged away from our home. I felt a gnawing at my heart. We were leaving our home.
Where were we to go after this, even if we did manage to avoid the swooping ropes that were to come? I felt myself begin to slow, and drop behind the herd. I panted and pushed myself on with all my strength left, but I couldn't manage to escape the butt of the stampede.
Then, from in front, Liam dropped back and galloped steadily beside me. He cast me a wary grin, but it made me feel heaps better. I blushed and glanced away, focusing on my rhythm.
Then, the herd slowed to an even canter, to a trot, to a drag-hoof walk. Our sides heaving, our coats drenched in sweat, we all slowed to a halt. Continued in comments section