I grew up in a large suburb outside of Houston. It was during the early 90s when a lot of farmland settled by the original German immigrants was being bought up by developers and turned into new homes. My family lived at the very end of our subdivision, and past my house was a great expanse of farmland, flanked by thick woods, and old decaying wooden shacks from the 1800s.
Every day on my walk home from school I would pass by a particularly overgrown old shack, which I guess must have at some point been a house, which leaned like it would fall over at any minute on its tired old foundation, and just beyond it was a long row of fence. It was my daily commute to and from elementary school, and I’d walk by it, pick up interesting rocks and things, and I never thought much of it. There was always construction while the subdivision was expanding, so they had dug long trenches for what I suppose was for sewer, and erected electrical lines through the farmland.
Beyond the fence was a small lake, which I had often snuck in to explore and catch frogs, but after an encounter with a water moccasin, which is a species of pit viper, I decided to stay clear of it. The farm had cows which would meander through the meadow, and one large black horse.
A storm had rolled in during the previous night, and I remember that the clouds were so thick and black that it felt like night when I had arrived at school. It didn’t take long before the storm was in full force, and the power had gone out at school. Our teacher decided to have us all sit together on the floor and read to us for the rest of the day, which was fine by me.
The storm had passed, but the darkness lingered when I got out of school. I walked the now muddy path in the strange darkness past the crooked house, and beside the aging fence, each step becoming more and more difficult as the mud collected on my shoes. That’s when I heard a thrashing. The cows weren’t there, but I remember clearly that old black horse. I remember thinking that it was sick, or injured, or something.
Its black coat was slick, and steam was rising off its body in the cold air. It was kicking its back legs wildly, and violently slamming its face into the muck. It had a weird look to it, not like it was panicking, but like it was calm, and it didn’t look to be out of breath. Again it slammed its head into the mud, and kicked out its legs, then shook its head from side to side furiously. I stopped to watch it; looking back I wish I had just kept walking. I remember that after a minute or two it stopped and looked up at me, the grime sliding off of its face.
It must have been in a matter of a second, because I had no time to react, and the horse had charged towards me. It didn’t jump over the fence, but instead lowered its massive head and tore through the gap between the fence boards.
The wood cracked and splintered as its muscled body strained and its long neck extended through the gap. The horse savagely lashed out and started snapping at me. With its entire body covered in huge, swollen muscles it would recoil then slam all of its weight back into the fence, attempting to break the boards. It did that again, and again. Its enormous, broad teeth came inches from me, and I fell out of my shoes backwards, leaving them stuck in the mud. It’s a miracle that the fence was holding it back.
I could see it clearly now, the horse was burned, badly. The skin around its mouth had been seared off, and tendrils of pink, bloody skin snaked its way over its face like a spiderweb. The absence of skin made its teeth seem even larger, its black gums exposed, and its mouth frothing with spit that I could feel hitting me in the face. At that moment I was absolutely terrified that this horse would kill me. I remember wanting to get up, but the thick mud had me trapped.
I also remember the smell. It was like sulfur—a mixture of wet animal, burned meat, and singed hair. But what has stuck with me the most were its eyes. They were cloudy like black ink poured into milk. As it struggled to reach me through the fence its nostrils flared, and I could feel the heat of its breath on me, its teeth snapping shut over and over, the clacking noise of the heavy teeth slamming together was deafening.
I left my shoes and ran home. I remember my mother screaming at me about the mud when I stormed in. I told her about the horse that had nearly killed me, and that I had left my shoes there in the mud. She grabbed me by the arm and was going to make me take her back there to get them, but I cried and screamed not to go, so she went alone.
When she got back she had my muddy old sneakers in her hands, and she told me that she saw the horse. It was dead. A farmhand was dragging its body behind a tractor, and he told my mom that the horse had died earlier that day. One of the power lines that had been installed running through the meadow was knocked over during the storm, and the horse must have been near the lake, because it had been electrocuted and killed. He said that it had died instantly beside that lake when the power went out hours ago.