Thursday, 23 September 2021

F Fic, Non-fic

The White Horse of Death


by David White

She was the definition of majesty. Her flowing mane as the wind swept it up into the air above her elegant head as she ran this way and that. Her dark eyes glowing from the fresh morning sun. Her muscles working hard as she galloped through the soft, wet mud. Her movement was fluid and gentle, motivated by something none of us could truly pinpoint in her heart. It was as if she was searching for something now lost. That was most likely the case. You see, she was now alone.

At one time she had a rider. A commander who also portrayed a sense of majesty in himself. No, he was not of a divine nature, but he carried himself in a way that deemed him worthy to sit upon the back of that animal. Now, she was alone. Moving from the far left of our trench to the right, not finding the familiar features of her master.

She kept her head down, as if analyzing the white, empty faces of the dead beneath her hoof. It was a sad sight to see. A creature that did not ask for her current conditions. An animal that had no quarrel with this world that was at war with itself, hoping to find some rationale with the booming of artillery and the screams of the dying. She just wanted her master to return to her. Comfort her. Console her. That would not be the case, for her rider was brought back to the trenches in the heat of battle, only to be covered by a green blanket, now stained red.

If we were to leave the safety of our trench to retrieve the horse, we would inevitably be shot killed by the Huns, only adding to the field of corpses. All I could do was pity her as my eyes followed her every movement. They filled with tears, knowing she didn’t deserve the place she was in. Knowing she’d never find the one that she cared for.

It was in this moment that I forgot my own mortality, letting the anxieties float away. I turned to my left and then my right. Every man that I fought with, whether they were officers or pawns, all watched. It was a moment that I would never forget, as it was the only moment that I didn’t have my weapon fixed to kill. Without knowing until later, my rifle fell from my grasp and collapsed on the trench floor, not to be used for the time being. She slowed her pace as she grew tired, stopping fifty yards in front of me. Her saddle looked heavy. I fought with myself, not wanting her to suffer her duties any longer, but it would mean death. But, I could die knowing the last thing that I did was save a life rather than take it away.

Without a hesitation, I leaped up over the trench, ignoring the immediate protest from my sergeant. As I placed my foot in the mud, I let my arms float in the air in a gesture of neutrality, taking slow steps toward the horse. It was a long walk. It felt as though the field were growing in length and the horse was distancing itself from me, but without her taking a step. I approached her with caution, not wanting to alarm the enemy across the way, but also not wanting to give her a fright. I knew nothing of horses, but naturally I began to whisper soothingly to her. Her eyes connected with mine. Her mind fully was fully alert. I observed it in her expression. She wanted to go home like the rest of us. Before I knew it, my hand connected with her soft, short hair. My hand moved up to her mane and brushed it back, letting it settle. She calmed at my soft whisper. I reached the strap of the saddle underneath her and released the buckle, loosening the leather seat on her back, letting it slide onto the ground, making a splatter of blood and watery mud as it landed.

She seemed to understand what was happening. I’m unsure to this day how, but I knew she did. I faced her in a direction that I knew she would find unscathed pastures and pushed her away. She trotted off from no man’s land, never to return. It was my moment of normality in the face of chaos and confusion. The only thing that made sense, but in that instance, the solace quickly left me. Across the way, the Huns were now visible above their trench line, weapons trained down range.


I grew tired. More tired than I had been before. The fighting never ceased. It took a toll on my fellow comrades. The insufferable artillery that pounded us day in and day out. I wanted to go home to my family. My father insisted that I help him on the farm, but I wanted to fight for the fatherland with my friends and brothers. And now, here I was, fighting with what was left of my friends and brothers, praying to God for my last breath to be quick.

When we stormed the British trenches and gassed them, I then regretted my quixotic view of warfare, believing it to be adventurous and heroic, whereas in reality, it was hell on earth. Though the Englishmen were my enemy, I did not want to see them killed in such a manor, if killed at all.

As I contemplated these things, someone directed my attention to a solitary horse galloping on no man’s land, closer to the enemy trenches. I crept up to the top, seeing the most beautiful of God’s creations. She was white, her pale skin glowing in the sun. For a moment I thought that this was a steed of the Heavens, come down to take away the righteous souls amongst the dead. But after watching her closely, she appeared to be lost and without any direction. She carefully galloped amongst the corpses of my allies and those of the enemy. She gracefully stepped between them, as if having respect for their lives now lost. She then had this effect on me that I did not expect her to have. She brought me back to a time and a place that filled my heart with peace. She reminded me of a world that was not involved in this world war. I was home with my father, chopping wood for the harsh winters. I was home, planting the seeds that would feed our family. I was home, riding my horse through our fields. I was home, making love to the woman I asked to marry me before they sent me off to war. But this animal was not at peace as I was.

For the first time, I had remorse for something other than myself. If only there was something to do for her, but it was not my place. She did not belong to me, nor my side of the battle. What was I to do as I watched helplessly? I imagined that she had a good life before this moment. Raised in a stable amongst other steeds. Fed and groomed to her satisfaction. Maybe she was a show horse, trotting in a tiresome circle for the pleasure of those watching as her sophisticated gait impressed them without end. Maybe she was a leisure horse, used for the pleasure of a hobbyist.

Whether these were true or not, what I could surmise was that she did not belong here. Not in the sense that she was born and bred for the single reason, to carry a commander into battle, only for him to die. Only for her to live without her soul purpose. This was indeed an undesirable fate. But for her to be taken from her home, from her family and from her stead, to be tossed into hell itself is a malicious act. Now, she stands as the sole survivor in a field of the dead, unsure what to make of it all. Some might say that a horse is loyal to its cause. That it belongs with the British army or the Germans or even the Ottoman Empire. In reality, its war is not with us nor with anyone. It does what it is told because that is its lot in life. Never to have a life of its own.

I fell from my place at the trench and collapsed onto the ground, holding my face in the palms of my hand, when a rush of soldiers brought their weapons to the ready. Were we charging? Were they charging? I gripped my rifled and picked myself up from the dirt to see what alarmed them. The horse was now stopped, facing the east. From out of the enemy trenches, a solitary soldier approached the horse carefully, not wanting to alarm her I presume. The soldiers around me were ready to fire if the order were given. The enemy soldier pushed the saddle off of the horse’s back and pushed it away from the battlefield, setting her free. In this moment, this man was not my enemy. How could he be? We seemed to share the same conviction. He looked satisfied before remembering where he was. The soldier returned to his trench. Not long after, a barrage of artillery landed in our trenches. The whistles blew and like that, we were humans again.

David White graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in Film and Television and a minor in Creative Writing. He has a deep passion for all things storytelling in various mediums of fiction and entertainment. Art is not only about great stories but great messages as well that will make people think.

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