“The Fable of the Winged Horse” by Bob Rich
There’s nothing like a glimpse of the impossible to get you out of bed in the morning. That’s how I felt last week when I woke up at 7:00 am, and I saw the giant white horse looking at me with her piercing stare in my bedroom, her luminous white wings shining as brightly as iridescent moonlight stirring like hot milk in the night-time sea. At first, my heart was racing when I discovered the horse beside my bed: I jumped out of bed and just gazed at her in rapt awe from against the wall. But, her soft searching eyes introduced a calmness to my soul like a gentle kiss to my mind. And she quietly walked over to me with a waltz-like grace, before she silently kneeled and folded her glowing wings down to the carpet, as if beckoning me to join her on the daunting seat of her white back. Yet, the horse’s baffling mythical presence was blended with a strange familiarity that called me near to her; and, as I climbed onto her back, I wondered if she had followed me out of a dream. She straightened her posture in one swift fluid movement and, in a fleeting blink of the eye, it was broad daylight and we were high above the ocean, drifting out from a cluster of white clouds as the wind whistled ’round my ears like soft swirling laughter. Immediately, I saw a silver castle far beneath us, surrounded by a shining circular moat that looked like the fresh sparkling imprint of a kiss. My heart leapt as the horse folded her feathery wings and we fell downward in a twisting rushing spiral toward the castle like some kind of plummeting acorn unfastened from the clouds. Once we neared the ground, our flight burst into a diagonal trajectory toward the castle. I was surprised to see that, when the black drawbridge lowered, it was covered with bright diamonds. The horse concluded her nimble flight as she planted herself onto the drawbridge. I dismounted, just as a loud rumble rolled across the bridge like a seismic ripple, and the castle’s high spires began to disintegrate. The horse looked back at me with distress and then she galloped ahead of me toward the castle. I sprinted across the jeweled bridge and dashed into the collapsing silver castle, and soon I entered the dining hall where a duke and a duchess were asleep at the banquet table. “Your castle is collapsing!” I said, as the walls were trembling and quickly breaking apart. The winged horse cantered to the feast-covered table and furiously kicked the pot of soup so that it loudly exploded like a wet piñata to stir the napping royalty. The duchess rose up from her seat, looked around at the crumbling room, and hurriedly tossed a glass of sweet plum wine into the duke’s sleeping face. Startled, the duke leapt up, tasted the wine, and embraced the duchess, dipping her in his arms with a grateful kiss. Just then, a chandelier dropped from the ceiling and gracefully landed over the amorous couple, protecting them like love birds in a glistening cage as sheets of concrete from the upper rooms of the castle fell upon the chandelier but merely burst into soft clouds of gray dust upon the floor of the dining hall. Then, the winged horse rose up into the air, her wings flapping loudly as she approached me, and I could hear the royal couple yelling “Thank you!” to us as I climbed upon the horse’s back and felt myself pulled on the strong current of a metaphysical river to another time and place —
— which turned out to be a French village at midnight. The horse and I descended from the sky with meteoric speed, hurtling toward the top of a towering church in the center of the village. The closer we got to the village, the more apparent it became that a brush fire was racing across a mountainside with crackling intensity toward the same town, as if the fire was in a fierce competition with the horse to see who would reach the village first. Just as we got near to the church tower, the horse turned her head around toward me and she flapped her ears repeatedly and briskly until she could tell I knew that she was trying to warn me of something. I knew in an instant what the warning meant as we dove down into the church tower and rapidly neared a giant stately bell. Just as I hurriedly pressed my hands against my ears, the horse’s hooves kicked out at the enormous bell with abrupt compassionate violence, sending out a fierce toll that erupted windily through the air with the force of a lion’s roar. The townsfolk began stirring in their homes beneath us as the horse circled ’round inside the church tower to strike the bell a second time. So, I held my ears again as the toll rushed mightily all around us like a dam bursting forth into a river of sound. Then, we took flight out from the bell tower and watched as people ran from their homes for shelter, while the fire moved steadily through the forest like a bright menacing orange troop of skeleton soldiers, cracking trees in half with burning swords as the tall pines buckled and splintered from the heavy weight of the onrushing army of flames. But, I could tell the population below would be safe as the horse’s airborne path moved us to another time and another place —
— which turned out to be a coffeehouse, just a block from my apartment. It was 7:00 am again, back at the morning when it all began. The flying horse touched down in an alley behind the coffeehouse, and she bent down so that I could climb down and catch my breath from the miraculous journey. I was sure that the horse seemed to be smiling at me as she took flight once again and trailed upward, gradually disappearing from sight as she ascended like a vanishing equestrian eagle. Then, I stumbled into the coffeehouse, considering sorrowfully that no one would believe my outrageous tale. I took a seat at a table and buried my face in my hands to rest for just a moment. When I lowered my hands, I noticed a woman at the table beside me, and she had the loveliest smile I had seen in years. And, to my delight, talking with her was even more wonderful than my time with the winged horse had been. In two hours that felt like two minutes, I visited with the lady, at times feeling like her voice was turning to pure music. Then, as she was departing from the coffeehouse, I got her phone number and she suggested that I visit her at her store in a few days, next Saturday, when she would be covering the night shift. As the next few days came and went, I wondered if the horse would come to see me, to inspire me for Saturday night. But, each day, the horse never appeared, not even on Saturday, when I imagined the horse taking me on a thrilling nocturnal ride through the cool evening air over to the place where I would be seeing my lady friend again. I walked to the store on my own, and, as I expected, I had a very fine conversation with the woman I admired. Afterwards, as I walked home alone, basking in the glow that still lingered from my night-time visit with the lady, all at once I felt a warm breeze embrace me and the winged horse passed overhead, which is when I realized that, when it comes to falling in love, that’s magic you ultimately need to be responsible for yourself. Those are wings you must earn on your own.
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