short story: Fire and The Moon by Alison Hawksworth

10/02/2019 Posted by admin

WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 28, 2017. Picture: Marina Neil
Nanjing Night Net

Read more finalists’ stories hereIN frustration, the fiery-haired girl stormed out the front screen door, slamming it behind her.

She plonked down on the top step of the decaying, weather-beaten veranda, mulling over what had just happened. She felt totally out of control and her feelings began to boil and bubble inside of her, despite the coolness of the night. She found that sitting still was impossible, so she marched out the gate and down the tree-lined road.

She didn’t know where she was going but the act of just doing something, anything, seemed to help ease her mind a little. Her stride changed from a march to a jog and finally into a lung-busting, heart-pounding run. She ran until she couldn’t possibly run any more. When she stopped she realised she was at the edge of the village. Being quite new to the area, she came across a small lane that she had never seen before. It had a large white rose bush at the entrance and meandered down towards a paddock.

The girl wandered down the dark lane, for there were no street lights here, and started to feel cold as the exertion of running wore off. She shivered and pulled her meagre cardigan more tightly around her.

The air was so calm and still that as she came nearer to the paddock, she could see the exhalations of horses, rising like the puffs of old steam trains, lingering a moment before disappearing into the dark, crisp night above. The nearly full moon poked its head out from behind a cloud and bathed the paddock and the horses in a silvery glow.

The girl clambered over the rickety, wooden fence and slowly approached the large beasts, as they glanced up at her unfazed. A white horse, almost crystalline in the glow of the moon, broke away from the others and ambled up to her. It seemed to sense her sour mood and looked down at her with its long-lashed eyes, as if it were looking down deepinto her soul itself. Then it nudged her with its velvety nose and stamped a front hoof on the ground, almost impatiently.

The girl touched the horse’s cheek, enjoying the feel of the soft, smooth fur. Then she raised her hand up to stroke the horse’s velveteen neck and her hand continued on down to rub the horse’s back. Over and down, over and down, in a hypnotic rhythm. With each stroke of her hand, she could feel a small piece of the hardened rock inside her crumble away.

Suddenly, the horse knelt down with its front legs and nudged her lwith its nose, as if to invite her to climb on. The girl, as if in a dream, grabbed the horse’s mane and pulled herself up on to its back and twisted her fingers through the silky hair. The horse gave a low whinny and then took off like a tightly coiled spring towards the fence, clearing it in a soaring arc.

The clip-clop sound of the horse’s hooves as it trotted down the little, dark lane penetrated the otherwise silent night. On they travelled, girl and beast as one. They cantered down the road, passing the girl’s house, then crossed the bridge and followed the path alongside the river. The horse broke into an exuberant gallop and the girl grinned – they both felt more free than they had in such a long time. There was no destination, all that existed was now.

After what seemed like hours wandering aimlessly through the surrounding villages and countryside, both the girl and the horse were tiring. The horse turned its head for home and they made their way along the river path, back over the bridge and down the road.

The girl pulled the horse to a stop outside her house and dismounted, feeling at once cold and lonely but with a sense of calm and serenity. She gave the white horse a final pat on its ever-so-soft neck, then stumbled up the crumbling stairs to her house, watching as the horse clip-clopped back down the road and out of sight.

Dragging herself to the front door, the girl turned the handle and was grateful to find it unlocked. She tiptoed quietly to her bedroom and opened the door. The door squeaked loudly and her alarm clock glared at her – bright red numbers breaking through the inky black, as if in silent reprimand at the late hour. She threw herself down onto her bed and was asleep in seconds, exhausted.

The girl slept late and when she arose mid-morning, the house was empty, thankfully. She had a quick shower and wolfed down a hasty breakfast. She was keen to see the white horse again, so she rushed out of the house and ran back down the road to the lane.

When she arrived, there was a young man mucking out the paddock. He was handsome – tall and slim, with long white-blond hair that kept blowing across his face. As he was tucking a tousled lock behind his ear, he looked up and noticed the girl standing by the fence. She was peering around the paddock, as if looking for something. She noticed him glancing at her and climbed over the fence.

“Hi!” she greeted him as she walked over, still looking around.

“Hey!” he replied, softly spoken. “Can I help you with something?”

“Yeah, I came to see the white horse but I can’t see it here today,” she explained.

“The white horse?” the young man asked, looking confused. “I’ve worked here for years and there’s never been a white horse.”

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