Pooka

dark_horse_2-1600x1200I hunched down low, made myself small, made myself believe to be invisible. Lucky enough for me, nighttime has finally graced us with its crushing weight, blanketing the bog with dark, sinister shadows that crept along the wasteland where exposed water surfaces reflected the one-eyed glare of the moon. The intermittent luminance did not give me much to see by, and I cursed the thick, rolling clouds overhead as conspirators to aid in my demise. I squinted as something caught my attention. Twin red orbs were floating in the air a little long way from me, or seemed rather fixed to it, for it did not stir in the slightest. I knew what is was, having been born and raised within easy reach of the bog lands and all its tales, but I turned to denial and told myself that imagination must be playing me. However, imagination meant illusion. Illusion meant sanctuary for the weak. I wasn’t weak. My hands were the size of cartwheels. Then again, every dog is only as brave as on his own doorstep. My mouth went dry and I almost wet myself when the twin orbs did move, but as if slowly extending the distance between us, before it finally disappeared within the smog. I wasn’t drunk, nor was I on my way to commit some heinous crime, no. I was on my way for a pint, yes, but did not touch any yet. Besides, when drunk, who would cross the bog lands? That . . . thing was to leave me alone, according to Brian Boru’s treaty rules. It should still be in effect, shouldn’t it? I have done nothing wrong. Behind me, I heard a sudden loud splash as somebody of weight hit water, and shamed myself by screaming like a little girl. A grunt followed the splash, followed by a curse and some more splashing. I just got up and ran, without finding it a bit odd to suddenly run out of curiosity. I followed the togher road for some distance, sidestepped onto another intersecting road, which would take me away from the splash behind me and the eyes in front, but deeper into the coal-black bog. Deeper into danger. My heart was racing like the big angry boar in mister McLanahan’s pigsty, up the road from my own home. Suddenly I tripped on something small, bigger than a rock but smaller than a boulder, actually moving against my thigh, which sent me cart wheeling into deep water laced with peat. As I kicked myself upwards, my shoes sunk deeper into the messy sludge, sucking me right in. I got hold of the togher and slipped my arms around the top, pulling myself up and out. In the distance, I heard a horrible scream, just as a sliver of moonlight decided to break through the heavy clouds above to light up a scene too horrific to comprehend. There were more splashing accompanied by the sound of loud hooves hammering on rotten wood. A loud snort sounded. From out of wafts of drifting fog, a great black horse faded into view, rearing itself onto its hind legs, whinnying as if mad. It kicked at the air and sent shiny droplets of water in the direction of a strange man, waist deep in peat, obviously scared enough to stink up the whole place. The horse had a flowing white main that shortened behind its shoulder blades, but kept running along the entire length of its back before it disappeared into the flow of a long, white tail. The source for my earlier fright sat in the sockets where its eyes should be, fiery red orbs of fire, burning into your soul its malevolent intentions. It gave me one, grave look before it stomped one hoof on top of the man’s head, issuing  a loud crack to the otherwise eerily silent night. The horse cocked its head to the side, studied the man, before lifting him out of the peat with its teeth, and threw him across its back. The man wasn’t dead. Something else must have cracked for the Pooka would never pick up a dead body. Cold shudders racked my body as total silence adhered to the ways of the bog while I stared at the magnificent yet evil horse, its new rider slumped across its back, its mains flowing in a steady breeze, its fiery eyes scrutinizing my every minuscule move. It whinnied once before it suddenly took off into the night, its hooves still heard although body has disappeared. I took the long road home later that night, when all else faded away and my thinking became clearer. My wife waited up for me, worried. I told her what had happened and she laughed hysterically, although some concern did show on her petite yet pretty face. I swore to her that night that I would never drink again. She was awfully happy about that, no doubt, even though she did not show it. I kept my promise. Years after the terrible incident, I sat on my lawn chair one day with my three wee grand kids playing in the mud, telling them all sorts of stories of the bog, involuntarily recalling the final words my wife had said before we turned in that night so many years ago. “Dear, remember, it is often that a person’s mouth broke his nose,” after which she turned around and slept. . .

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