by Lenard Soie
A boy loses his way off the forest path, only to discover something waiting for him.
| The tall trees of Gougane Barra passed by with no recognizable pattern. Their twisted limbs were strange and alien to Fearghas as he wandered cautiously through the thick growth of the forest floor, long since losing the trail he was supposed to be following. Not that it mattered, he hadn't a home to go back to nor a scrap more than the burlap sack he wore around him as a tunic. These days he slept on the cold damp ground, alone and afraid.
It wasn't until he heard running water that Fearghas realized the scratchy dryness of his throat. He followed the sound, desperate to quench his thirst. He dove into the stream and scooped water into his mouth with his hands, savouring the relief it brought. He was far too invested in drinking that he didn't notice that a large white mare stood in front of him, partially submerged in the water, until it was close enough to touch. The horse seemed to glimmer in the rays of moonlight that peered through the treetops. Fearghas stopped his mad drinking spree and stared the mare in its eyes, captivated by its beauty and curiosity.
There was a moment of silence between the small boy and the magnificent beast, both amazed by the other. Fearghas had never been this close to a horse before. The animal looked so perplexed by the boy and its long rhythmic breathing almost sang to him. Fearghas reached his hand out, expecting the horse to spook and gallop away. But it didn't. The mare simply allowed the boy to touch its long white face. The birds whose songs always seemed to fill the forest air fell silent. There was something he couldn't identify that told him to mount the horse, be it curiosity or fate. Climb, the voice whispered.
He had never ridden a horse before but for some reason, he knew exactly what to do. The water that they were both standing in didn't seem to affect either of them even though it was up to Fearghas' knees. He grappled onto its back and swung his leg over with an expert precision that he didn't know he could do. The horse leapt into motion, but not forward, down. It seemed to sink into the ground and Fearghas looked around frantically. Within moments the mare was already submerged and Ferghas struggled to keep his head above water. He tried to pull on its mane to help it but his hands were stuck on its sides like they were sewn on. The very same water that had been only a few feet deep before now seemed endless. Water flooded into his lungs in a burning invasion as he tried to kick and thrash away from the steed he was stuck to. The greenness of the forest was lost to a sea of blue and finally to pure blackness.