Dark Horses

By Jude Higgins

Over the years, again and again, the horses come to Alf in his dreams–

the rag and bone man’s chestnut mare, Lupin, the first horse he loved, who bent down and nuzzled him when he fed her a sugar lump;

Francis, the piebald pony who walked him around the field, the first time he felt the warmth of a horse’s flanks between his thighs;

Elijah, the cart horse, whose mane he groomed at the farm, the first time he met Charlie, the other stable boy;

Wiley and Gabe, the two hunters that reared and bucked before he and Charlie raced them through the green lanes, just weeks before they enlisted;

Deacon and Buster, the young farm horses that came close, whinnying and snuffling in the stables where he and Charlie spent a long, hot night, the day before they enlisted;

The starving war horses he and Charlie helped the vets treat for shellshock and ringworm and sand colic and anthrax in the veterinary hospital;

Billy, the horse with the sweet nature, the one they loved best, the one he and Charlie gave their sugar rations to, the one, although battle scarred, Charlie said could survive anything;

Billy, his belly ripped open by a shell, splayed out on a bloody road with Charlie broken beside him, his hand still grasping Billy’s mane;

the riderless, screaming horses galloping by — him stumbling after them;

Billy in an English meadow. A dream Alf had only the once. Him lifting his daughter, Pearl onto Billy’s back, he and Charlie both leading her around among the wild flowers and somewhere, in the distance, a skylark is singing.

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Jude Higgins is a writer, editor and writing events organiser. Her flash fiction pamphlet, ‘The Chemist’s House’ was published by V.Press in 2017 and she has been widely published in magazines and anthologies. She directs Flash Fiction Festivals, UK and organises Bath Flash Fiction Award. @judehwriter judehiggins.com


Art by Lesley C. Weston (Alcohol Ink, Graphite, and Digital)

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