This story was composed for a literary competition celebrating Ray Bradbury. Obvs, they didn’t pick mine. So I’m publishing here. Rules: 451 words or less (Fahrenheit 451) and in the style of Bradbury. Mine was exactly 451. Also, one was to pick a theme. Choosing a word from the stream-of-consciousness string of nouns that Bradbury would use for his stories. I chose “The Ravine”.
My body is in the ravine. On my back. Legs twisted and broken. Flesh is taken from my side by dogs. Stones and leaves are taking blood from my injuries. Life is a stain. Draining away. Being stolen. I’m almost gone.
I’m not sure when I came into being. When I came to my conscious mind. I just have memories. Like anyone. No one remembers being born. I just am. But not for long.
I like to run. I’m good at running. That’s good because I have to run. From them.
They are afraid of me. They don’t like me. Always yelling. Always pursuing. Always. They aren’t kindly calling me, looking for the lost. They are mad. And I know, because I exist.
Tug-tug. Tug. I can feel my body moving left-right, left-right, left-right. The dogs are almost done.
- That’s my name. I know my name because it was called every morning at work.
451, move forward.
I enjoyed my work. For as long as I did it. Mainly because I was good at it. I was designed for it. I haven’t been at work for several days. My teammates won’t ever know what becomes of me. My death will be a secret to keep.
My brown, muscular legs are losing their power now. Winding down into the earth. I raise my head to look at the men standing over me. They click their cheeks against their teeth. One man has tears in his eyes. The others have steel. All have regret.
What a waste.
I wouldn’t go back. Not even if I could. The world is too sweet. Colorful. Warm. I would die anyway, if I went back, knowing what I know. Seeing what I have seen.
They didn’t expect me to know things. I tried to keep it inside. I tried not reading in front of them at all. Or, if I couldn’t help myself, pretend to be curious, but dumb about papers and pages and books. Eat and nibble at them. Nudge and slobber on them. But also read them.
It worked. Until I spoke. In anger and frustration.
They froze. I froze. We paused in that enormous moment and wondered about more than work, deadlines and productivity. We thought about life. The door was unlocked. I kicked. And ran.
Now. Here. This is where my intelligence has brought me. Bleeding out in a lonely, lovely dry river bed of wild taste and feeling.
They stroked my tangled mane and rested their palms on my cold, barely-beating chest.
They said, “We’ll take you back.”
Please, bury me here. Please don’t take me back. I want to live and die on the out.
“You were our best horse.”