THE HORSE

© 2013 by Michael Skywood Clifford

When I discovered my brother was still determined to destroy the horse I knew his venomous passion against it still burned. It was cursed, he said. He had come to believe that having it anywhere near him was bad luck. I have always believed the opposite, my proximity to the horse always brought me good fortune.

I remember my joyous childhood in Westphalia, riding on the rocking horse’s back, dressed in my black and white cowboy fringes, and looking out of the window into the vast fields of sunshine. Yet, when it was left behind in Germany and I returned to England, my happiness fled and my life clouded into a dreadful teenage of mental problems and institutions.

The horse however was eventually returned to our family and instantly again I felt its benign presence. Especially during my years at Brunel University where I came down with a first in Egyptology. My brother, on the other hand, only had bad experiences with it. He had suffered a dreadful fever when it had been stored at his house for merely a fortnight. Two years later, when he stayed in a house where the rocking horse was on display, the new arrival to his family, his beloved daughter, Hanna, died of cot death. Afterwards he always associated the horse with evil and never stopped cursing it.

The propinquity of the horse seems most terrifying to me as I write this history.

According to the information provided by my grandmother the horse originated in Persia and then spent some time in Hanover before coming into our family in the mid Nineteenth century. In 1835, when it was originally carved it was imbued with some special wood joints which, according to legend, became alive with magic when covered with colourful paint.

Yes, it was only four days ago when I learnt again of my brother’s intent on destroying it. It was presently being stored at my Aunty’s and doing neither him harm nor me good, so why should he be so passionate? I believe he resented that its magic would give me some some overall advantage in the run of our lives. We had always been highly competitive with each other and did not care for each other at all. He did not want me to have any advantage if he could help it.

I went up to my Aunty’s – where the horse had been stored – to assess reclaiming it within the next few days. It had to come out of her house because her bungalow was due for extensive building work. After a chat and a cup of tea with her in the lounge, I went into the ‘Majorca room’, so called because my aunty’s late husband, Gordon, had been an advocate of all things Spanish.

The room was light and airy with mats on a tiled floor. It sported a 70s interior bar, exhibiting bottles of Cinzano, Martini and Black and White whiskey, all with their period labels; nothing had been changed since Gordon’s death. All around the room was paraphernalia of his fairground trade: soft wrapped toys, a ventriloquist’s doll and a shoe box in which a fake mouse could be moved with a hidden lever from beneath to scare young women. On the floor were large brown chimpanzees that could play the snare drum or tambourine when their clockwork was wound up.

Then I studied it: my wonderful horse at the end of the room. I hadn’t laid eyes on it for months. Some time in the past the horse had been restored and remained well maintained. Its head arched in a swagger of style. Its leather saddle and rustic bridle contrasted with the dapple grey pattern on its flanks. Its heavy-lidded black irises penetrated me with the brittleness of jade, with the aloofness and deadness of hieroglyphic eyes. Its teeth protruded as if about to bite and the blood of vermilion painted inside its flaring nostrils and around its gums looked as if it had already bit deep. It was impressive and I felt proud to be standing in its aura again.

My auntie had now joined me in the room and asked where it was going in my home. “In pride of position in the front bay window,” I explained. I felt a charge, an energy, a force standing next to it. It had been at my aunty’s too long!

The telephone in the hall rang and my heart began racing. My aunty returned with alarm on her face and the receiver in her hand; it was my brother. He was madly irate. He was coming over, he barked on the phone, and he was going to finish the horse forever. I attempted to calm him but he cut me off abruptly. I grew alarmed. I knew he was now on his way.

My aunty began whimpering knowing the volatility and violence of my brother. But I wasn’t going to put up with any of his nonsense. These days I always travel armed. I always carry my pistol to protect myself.

Even though I hadn’t come to retrieve the horse today, I was forced to bring my plans forward. I set about, as quickly as possible, to get the horse into my car. It was large but its body separated from its pedestal, so I was convinced some combination could be made to fit it into my moderately sized Renault. However I was slow in action and time raced because I hadn’t achieved anything by the time we heard my brother’s car pulling into the drive.

I hate my brother. I regarded this present behaviour of his as intolerable. I became utterly incensed at his arrival. I went into a bedroom over looking the front drive. I put my revolver out of the window and fired a warning shot at his windscreen. It shattered. He jumped out and ran to the back of the building skip at the front of the drive to protect himself from my fire. He carried something but I couldn’t quite make out what.

I went back into the ‘Majorca Room’. I tried to pull the body of the horse away from its pedestal but for some reason the two sections seemed stuck. As I struggled, I could swear I heard the rocking horse breathing heavily, then actually snorting. I stopped and looked at it and its head seemed to have developed an animation. Despite its eyes looking like death from a unknown and dark dimension, they now seemed to want to communicate.

For some reason I became apprehensive, fear brought up the hairs on my neck; my eyes watered, my body trembled. A red horse ran past me, a horse of blood, a horse of war. This made no sense. I tried to pull myself together. As well as my brother closing in, I suddenly felt that the mental problems I had suffered in my youth were closing in too.

I could hear shouting in the hall, the whimpering of my aunty. And then, as expected, my brother careered into the room and stood before me. I turned, I aimed for his leg, but he leapt towards the horse and I mistakenly fired straight into his chest. I swallowed with horror.

He groaned and with stupendous effort he unstopped the bottle he was carrying and poured its contents all over the horse. He then gradually slid to the floor. He sat bleeding on the tiles surrounded by passive clockwork monkeys.

I was frozen with inaction. I could neither move, speak nor think. Much as I knew fast action to save my brother was of the greatest necessity, I was a block of stone. My aunty fortunately had gone down the corridor and had rang for an ambulance.

Now, here in this accursed institution, I despair of my fate. When the ambulance arrived the police came also. My brother was taken to hospital (where I am informed he’s still in intensive care) and I was taken to the police station. Then the damage my brother had perpetrated to the horse became immediately apparent. Paint stripper had eaten its dappled pattern, swathes of grey ooze ran down its flanks, red paint dripped from its nose. This accumulating miasma of colour was causing potential damage to the hardened tiles of the ‘Majorca Room’. The rocking horse was quickly thrown into the skip by two helpful police officers.

And if this wasn’t bad enough, yesterday I received even worse news. My aunt, wearing an expression of woe, came to see me here.

I pleaded with her to rescue my horse from the skip but, alas, it was too late. A father and his two young children had noticed it there. He asked if he could take it to restore it for his children. Vexed by the continual friction it had always caused in the family, my aunt agreed. The man later returned with a van and took it away.

Now I am incarcerated in this asylum. I shake with terror at what may befall me without my beloved rocking horse’s protective influence. It is lost to me as I am lost.

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