Cornered Horse

Cornered Horse

A Poem by Louis McNab

One silent evening there is a rattling noise in the farmer's barn. The man goes to investigate.


In the beginning, there was silence.

Initially, it was a simple clanging noise, much akin to the rattle of leaves on a dreary autumn evening, the winds scattering them loudly across the barren farmlands. In the big wooden house, atop the hill, all was well. The farmer sat and ate in silence, the porcelain face of his wife cracking at the edges. The noise came again, only louder. These are no leaves, said the farmer. He got up and walked over to the door, his feet shuffling like the dust of summers past. The wooden floorboards creaked under his weight as he made for the door. There was no time to be lost and no time to be gained, only silence to worship and the night to remember. Just as he was about to exit, he stopped for a moment and pondered.

The tanned, muddy arm extended from the sides of his emaciated torso and reached for the hat that stood on one of the coat racks. It was an old hat, dusty and worn.

As his firm fingers crawled over the aged fabric, he pondered once again. Strangely enough, he could not remember how he came to hold it at that moment. Perhaps he had put it there on a similar autumn night many weeks ago. As his mind returned to that evening, he recalled the same noise, albeit quieter. No matter, he whispered under his heavy breath, it was all time lost and time forgotten.

The night was a cold, bitter one. There was no light, save for the moon rising quietly above the slow-moving clouds of age. As the door closed behind him, he stood and pondered for a moment. This yard, this house, this entire world was given to him in a flash, a brilliant moment of perfect clarity. Oh yes, he remembered the day very well. It was on the day that his father died, almost twenty years ago. Back then, there was something in the young man's eyes that revealed a certain eagerness, an almost palpable air of youth around him. And on the day his father died, that glow vanished. On that day, he had aged a million years.

No matter, he said to himself and ceased his almost religious pondering. Carefully, he made his way across the wooden steps of the house and with a slow shuffle, set for the barn. It was not the barn it used to be. Cracks and holes lined it's formerly red front, the wooden beams now stained with dust and weather. Even though he could not see the cracks in the darkness, he could feel them, not only on the barn but on his body as well.

And another bout of quiet pondering and reminiscing ceased as he dragged himself across the auburn dust. No time to be lost and no time to be gained. A large gust of wind swept up the courtyard, a combination of cold air and dry red dust impacting the man's frail figure. The wind had temporarily covered the strange sound. It was still there, this time louder than before.

Slowly, the shambling farmer opened the wooden flaps of the barn, his foot pushing the doorstop firmly and with pin-point accuracy. He had done this more times than he could remember. As he was about to fully enter the barn, the farmer paused, his feet frozen. Dead silence reigned. Nothing stirred and nothing rattled. Outside, the wind began to pick up, clouds of red dust moving across the courtyard that stood defiantly behind the man's back. Then, there was another sound.

It was soft, a murmur, a whisper. As the man listened, a pattern emerged. Two short breaths, two short stabs of air and then two long, drawn-out ones. It echoed through the empty building. Suddenly, it stopped. And without skipping a beat, without passing a single overdue moment, it began again, just like it did before.

One, one. Two, two.

The man walked forward, the rubber soles of his boots dragging across the hay that lined the floor. First, he took two steps and paused. The stabs came back, now more frantic. It was a sound three-three combination now. Three short stabs, three long ones. The farmer took another two steps and again, without a wasted moment, the stabs followed. A sudden gust of wind from the other direction carried a stench into his face, an entirely familiar odor. He knew it well.

The whole barn stank of death.

Just as he was about to continue forward, the farmer reached into his pocket and retrieved a metallic object, shining defiantly in the night's peaceful glow. Slowly, carefully, he lifted it to his face and traced it's outline with his left index finger. It was a very shapely object with many protrusions cut into it. They were all perfectly symmetrical, perfectly aligned and entirely inhuman.

With one firm tug of his right thumb, he pulled the hammer.

The stabs sped up once again, a five-five pattern emerging. A great darkness had entered the barn.

There was no more moonlight and no more wind, only deathly silence.

With yearning, almost brutal care, he approached the wooden door of a stable, the one that lay the closest to the left, a pit of great darkness and depth extending forwards, the rattle of an oil lamp disturbing the silence. There was a shape in the solitude, sprawled in the great pit of blackness. Even through the night's veil the farmer could see it twitch and move lightly. Slowly, he reached towards the oil lamp with his left and turned the little brass knob.

An instant flash of light had incinerated the darkness and revealed the true horror of the pit, blood running out beneath the wooden door. A horse, it's face dry and empty, it's eyes pleading with the void, the pupils dilating randomly. The farmer ran his eyes across the shape in front of him. The animal's mouth hung open and it's tongue lay spread across the hay, trickles of blood pouring out of the orifice. The smell was unbearable. Tiny drops of blood lay in it's fur, the hair thick and heavy with torn flesh and other viscera. The horse's guts were scattered across the hay, the thick, red liquid seeping into the wood beneath it. It's stomach was torn open by a wolf or a coyote, the aforementioned pests roaming the lands that surrounded the farm.

The man lowered himself on one knee and took a closer look at the animal's savagely twisted, frozen snout, the features permanently paused in between a scream and a cry. As slowly as he had lowered himself, the farmer stood up and raised his pistol, the muzzle pointing directly at the animal's head. Without further hesitation, he pulled the hard, metal trigger.

In an instant he became the monster and the victim.

The resulting explosion had propelled the bullet forward and pushed it into the flesh, tearing veins and nerves on it's way in. A large fountain of blood, as tall as the sea itself rose into the glow of the lamp.

The farmer shot again and did not miss.

This time, the fountain was bigger. A sudden spasm of the horse's muscles sent it spiraling upwards, it's legs bending under it's own weight, blood shooting from the open wound, viscera splattering across the wooden walls. In that one moment, it's head had reached towards the sky like a brilliant radio mast. Seconds later, the horse's legs went limp and gave way. And with a final cry, the tormented animal collapsed and died.

Two brass casings lay beside it, unmoving and unforgiving, gleaming defiantly in the darkness.

© 2013 Louis McNab

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Added on February 27, 2013
Last Updated on February 27, 2013
Tags: death, prose, prose-poem, euthanasia, horse, mercy, memories, night, poetry, gun


Louis McNab
Louis McNab


I'm a 17 year old prog rocker, soon-to-be college student (hopefully) and chain smoker who writes anything at all, really. Q: Can I use some of your *anything at all ever* A: Sure, I don't real.. more..