Warnings: this is COMPLETELY unedited. There will be typos, clunky sentences, and entire segments that will not make it to the final product.
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Brave. I knew I liked you.
A voice. How odd, thought I, that here, at the end of all things, I should hear a voice. Of course, I ignored it.
I had no child. My child was dead. This voice was cruel. “Go away,” I croaked, and realized I had spoken.
I could communicate so clearly now. The ease with which it came was disturbing, startling. There is some safety in the confusion of voicelessness.
“No,” said the horse, and his wide hooves clopped into view, inches from my face.
With the leisure that comes from passing into that quiet, still land beyond sorrow, I contemplated. Had I ever seen a horse speak before? No. Had I seen any animal do so? Well, no. Then perhaps it mattered that this horse did? I could not tell. I only knew sorrow. I knew only its flavor, its scent, its dusty-dry blood. “Go talk to someone else.”
He clopped his hoof, hard, in disagreement. “You have lain here long enough. Rise and walk, night-child. Life has not ceased to be.”
“It has for me.” I turned my face to the grass, already bereft of her scene. Completely bereft, as if she’d never been.
“It has not for you. Rise and walk.”
“No.” And some ridiculous instinct rose in me; a stiffness, a desire to resist. To rebel. “You cannot force me to obey you.” My eloquence pleased me, just a little bit, and I wondered if somehow, she knew. Would she like my words? Would she enjoy what I had to say? Would she –
He bit me on the head.
Teeth gripped my curly hair, yanking it sharply to pull me off the ground. I reacted as any man would, screaming, reaching back to try to pry his mouth off me, but he let go before I could grab him. I gripped my head, scalp stinging, and yelled at him in complete inarticulate rage.
“Rise, night-child,” said the horse, and shook his head in an attempt to dislodge those of my hairs which had stuck between his teeth.
“No!” My Beast reminded me he had blood, warm and salty, but it was not human, and would keep me alive. Did I not want to die to join my child? “Leave!” I punctuated by bellowing at him, raw sound without words. My wrath needed no translation.
The horse went nowhere, but merely watched me, tail flicking at thirsty insects less picky than I. “Night-child.”
“She is dead!” I screamed this. I screamed it so hard my throat hurt. I screamed it so hard my voice came back to me, echoing against rising stone in the distance. I screamed this so loudly that birds as far as the eye could see took flight and sped away.
The horse spoke into the odd and empty silence that followed. “You are not.”
“What does that matter?” I tore a fistful of grass and dirt and threw it at him.
Not one blade came close. He turned his long face sideways, watching the blades drift to the ground. “The demon which killed her lives, as well.”
He was speaking of revenge.
I had never thought the word before, but I knew it, understood it with the word-gift the god of death had bestowed on me. And as one who has never before tasted honey, or for the first time encountered chocolate, I felt the world around me dim as a new sensation filled my body from head to toe.
I could take revenge on this creature.
I could hurt it the way it had hurt me. I could take things IT loved away, give IT such pain and sorrow and harm that it begged for mercy and wept and pleaded, and I would give it none.
I did not realize I was growling until I wetted my chin with my own saliva, and I opened my mouth – now full of sharp, brutal teeth – to roar my defiance against this distant demon’s victory.
Its good luck would end. I would find a way. I would make it hurt so much.
The horse stood quiet through all of this, unmoved by my snarling and snapping, visibly unconcerned as I leapt to my feet, howling like a demon. He shook out his mane and trotted closer. “Ride atop me, as before, and I will take you far from here. You are not yet strong.”
Not yet strong. I knew what he meant, and knew the implications. I was not yet strong enough to hurt it, but I would be someday. I had to survive. I had to grow. I had to learn.
I clutched her ruined gown to myself, folding it gently. There was nothing left of her, not a hair, not even her ash. Dust to dust; she had blown away. I had her dress, now free of her blood – it, too, had decomposed. And I had her memory. I had her love. Now, I had her purpose.
A purpose all around her. A purpose that might not bring her back to life, but would make it – I thought – easier to accept her death.
I would grow stronger, and find a way to kill the demon who had killed her. Then… then, I thought, then I could be at peace.
And this wonderful, unusual horse had showed me the way. “Go,” I said, mounting him clumsily. “I want to leave here. I do not want to see it anymore.” I no longer wanted to see these gray shores, these miles of flat, grassed plain with rumpled mountains in the distance, and waves of white-capped steel licking at this shore. I never wanted to see it again.
Some part of me knew then, and knows now, that I will never forget that place, not if I live to be a million years old. Its shape engraves itself on my heart with every slow, grieving beat.
The horse left, carrying me casually. I refused to look back one last time at the cave where I had known her skin, but not her name. I refused.
My child would be avenged.