A Horde of Horses
Some people have nightmares about being chased or of falling or drowning. Others suffer from dreams of fires or natural disasters.
My nightmares involve horses. Which is odd because I’ve never ridden a horse, and the closest I’ve gotten to a horse is seeing one in a pasture while driving by in my car.
In my dreams, I start off walking in my neighborhood, usually from my apartment to the supermarket. I don’t notice anything amiss until there’s a tap on my shoulder. When I turn around, a horse’s muzzle brushes my face.
For some reason, I don’t find this odd. I reach into my pocket and pull out a sugar cube. There’s always a sugar cube in my pocket. Never mind that I would never carry sugar cubes in real life. I don’t think I’ve ever bought sugar cubes. I’ve only seen them in restaurants when I order coffee. And on television, where someone is feeding sugar cubes to a horse. I suppose I’ve only ever seen a horse eat sugar cubes, apples, and hay in my limited experience, and it’s not feasible to fit an apple – or hay – in my pocket, even in my dreams.
The horse takes the sugar cube from my palm. It raises its head and snorts, then looks down at me, expecting more. I search my pockets, but all I have are my keys and cellphone. I’m not carrying my credit cards or any cash, so I can’t buy more treats.
I shrug my shoulders to tell the horse that I can’t help it any longer. That’s when the second horse emerges from behind the first one. Has it always been there, but I didn’t notice before? I turn to walk away from both animals, but I see more horses approaching me from every direction. They come pouring out of every doorway along the block, from inside homes, stores, restaurants. They emerge from around the corners of buildings and shadowed alleyways.
I want to run, but my legs are frozen. Even if they did move, I wouldn’t be able to outrun the horses.
“Help,” I yell, but the sound dies before it leaves my mouth. There’s no one around. The cars have all disappeared, and so have the people on this street. I glance from one window to another, but I see only empty rooms beyond the transparent panes. Where has everyone gone?
The first horse nudges me in the back, sending me forward. Its companions form lines on either side of me, allowing me only a narrow path between their towering forms. Not seeing another option, I walk along in the direction that the horses lead me. They shift their bodies to alter the path. It curves to the right, but I can’t see over them toward the destination.
A traffic light passes overhead, informing me that I’ve crossed an intersection. The procession of horses streams along, carrying me along with them. They whinny, they stomp, they snort. They stink.
There is just enough room for me to walk unobstructed, but sometimes, I feel hot breath on the back of my neck or a nip on on my hair. I don’t know which animal has done it because they take turns circling me and eyeing me. I keep my head down and shuffle forward.
The equine wave directs me toward a warehouse store, the Costco knockoff that we have in town. There are no windows on the sides of the building, just a giant metal door that’s now rolled up to leave a gaping entrance. The lights are on, but I don’t see anyone or anything moving inside. The horses that are closest to the entrance turn to the side as soon as they near the doorway. The ones behind them follow suit, creating an illusion of waves breaking upon the shore.
They mean for me to go inside.
I step through the doorway. The heavy metal door clangs shut behind me. The bang of metal hitting concrete startles me, but just as jarring is the silence that encompasses the warehouse afterwards.
I’m alone, a prisoner of the horses outside.
Then I hear a footstep. It comes from in front of me, inside the warehouse. A woman steps out from behind a pallet of breakfast cereal.
“What’s happening?” I ask.
Her face is expressionless. She reminds me of a zombie, except that she looks normal, down to the rosy color of her cheeks. However, she doesn’t answer me.
Behind her, more people walk into the center aisle where I’m standing. They all wear the same bland looks on their faces.
“Are you all OK? What happened to you?”
A small girl next to the woman says, “The horses want us.”
“Want us for what?”
“The horses want us,” she repeats.
The crowd continues walking toward me. Their numbers circle me in every direction. I back away until I hit the warehouse door.
“What are you doing?” I say to them. “What do you want from me?”
The little girl is the only one who speaks. “The horses want us.”
Something strikes the metal door behind me, nearly knocking me down. I hear faint neighing on the other side of the door.
The crowd of people moves closer still. The girl is within arm’s distance.
More banging against the metal door. I cover my ears with my hands and close my eyes.
That’s when I always wake up.
I don’t know what would’ve happened next, and I don’t want to find out.
I also don’t know why I have these recurring nightmares. Like I said, the closest I’ve ever been to a horse is driving past one in my car. But whenever I do now, I wonder, why does it want me?