Horse by Michelle Kulwicki

I murdered my mother when I kicked my way out of her womb. My hooves were still soft then, shrouded in tissue that would soon shred away, but even a soft hoof is still a hoof and the flesh of a human body does not stretch the way a horse’s does.

Before I was born, I was the seed of an idea, then I was a pulpy substance that began to blossom, then my mother read to me, stories of bright horses running wild, stories of little girls who changed the world. She hummed in the shower and sang at the sink, and I knew what the words I love you sounded like before I knew I had hooves instead of feet. 

A newborn foal can stand free of its mother within 30 minutes of birth. It took me longer because I was only part horse, but the nurses at the hospital watched with mouths wide open as I teetered on my long, gangly limbs from blood-soaked bedding to the warming station that they’d prepared for a regular infant, the kind that is only a little bit wild. 

“She has a good set of lungs,” the doctor said to my mother who was smiling the sickly sort of smile of someone who knows they’re dying. Slipping away, passing on, moving beyond the veil, losing the battle, kicking the bucket, taking a single last breath—all of these are human, but I watched her eyes close and it was nothing so idiomatic. I screamed because I was hungry, and they forced a bottle in my mouth so that I would learn to suck.

Later, my feathered feet grew hair long enough to pick up mud as I trotted back and forth from school. Sometimes I whinnied at my classmates and it sounded nothing like a horse because human throats are shaped differently than equine throats. They laughed, because they liked to see me try. Once, a teacher tried to herd me back to class, but my legs were meant for running and so I took off down the hall. 

Later, I would learn that wild horses grieve communally and in silence. I took up painting and left streaks of her in everything I made; the ochre of her skin, the violet of her veins, the deep crimson that surrounded me for a 12 month gestation. I love you, I painted, horsehair brushes dragging against the canvas. It was silent, but there were no others to share my pain. I yearned for something more than myself. 

I trotted around the confines of an apartment too big for a single woman, even a single woman with hooves. I made single-serving bowls of pho, single-serving cups of yogurt, single-serving packets of oatmeal because I still craved the taste of oats, even if they were not wild. I got a cat, because a friend told me a cat would help the loneliness, but all the cat did was hiss everytime I clacked by—the hard keratin of my hooves echoing against the wood floor. All the cat did was remind me that this was not enough.

At night, I dreamed of growing my own wild thing. I pressed my hands against my stomach as it distended from her powerful kicks. I hummed for her, and sang for her, and told her stories of horses and little girls. I understood my mother, then. I was restless for the moment I set her upon the world, desperate to watch her burn as bright as the blaze on the bridge of her nose.

Michelle Kulwicki is a speculative fiction writer, and a lover of mysterious things that go bump in the night. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in several short story anthologies and literary magazines including Fusion Fragment, Wretched Creations, and the winnow, among others. Website: | Twitter: mk_writes_