Tripping on Horse Mountain

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I’m deep in the ferns and red­woods as this sto­ry occurs. A rent­ed cab­in in the hills some­where between Gar­berville and Brice­land, I couldn’t find my home on a map if my life depend­ed upon it. They made a doc­u­men­tary out here once, called it Mur­der Moun­tain, but peo­ple for­get Alder­point is the real name of that place. That’s around here too, and it’s where my girl­friend Daisy grew up. It’s where she lived until I met her, six months ago. 

Present­ly on my porch smok­ing a doo­bie and watch­ing night­fall, I’m think­ing about the first day I laid eyes on her. June after­noon on the South­ern Eel, a qui­et spot I’d found the year before, nobody but me and the pass­ing riv­er. Then Daisy and her friend Jas­mine pulled up in a dust­ed-over Dat­sun pick­up, wear­ing biki­nis and fresh Hum­boldt tans. I shared my six-pack of 805 and we got high, just the three of us. The rest of that day was spent with me con­tem­plat­ing which of them was the cutest.

It wasn’t Daisy. Jas­mine had her beat six ways to Sun­day in the looks cat­e­go­ry. But sur­prise, sur­prise, not all men are as thin as veneer.

“Here, hand­some,” Daisy says, bring­ing a sledge­ham­mer over my rem­i­nisc­ing. She slides a hot plate on my lap and there’s a home­made bur­ri­to on it with a cup of her famous gua­camole, along with a hand­ful of blue-corn tor­tilla chips. 

“Hell, yeah.” I take my last hit on the doo­bie before crush­ing it on the porch rail­ing. “I’m starv­ing.” I say this, but it’s far from the truth. I’ve been eat­ing real fine since Daisy moved in. And starv­ing, well, that’s a mat­ter of per­spec­tive. In real­i­ty, I lit­er­al­ly have no idea what that feels like. But fig­u­ra­tive­ly, sure. Every damn day last month, in fact, dur­ing the end of the har­vest sea­son. Crop­ping, pick­ing, and then trim­ming weed for twen­ty hours a stretch, near­ly sev­en days a week, you’d be starv­ing too.

My uncle Fred was the one who got my LA-ass up here and into this busi­ness. He’d rode with some mean out­laws back in the day, mul­ing eight-balls of coke into the hills and bricks of weed out, and all the while threat­en­ing bik­er vio­lence on any wannabe rip-offs. Fred’s rep­u­ta­tion land­ed me a job and a snip­pet of local respect, and it turns out that’s all you need to get a peek behind the Red­wood Curtain.

So where am I going with this? Where does Daisy fit in?

I for­got to men­tion that Fred pulled his weight a few years ago, which means I’ve been through more than one har­vest up here. What that looks like is sim­ple as pie, but ugly as sin. You bust ass work­ing the crop for four, maybe five months, and if you stick around after, which I do, then it’s the rest of the year alone in a cold cab­in with shod­dy elec­tric­i­ty under end­less rainy days, and noth­ing but weed and piz­za runs to keep you enter­tained. Damn if Daisy didn’t show up just in time.

“Eat that, then come fuck me.” She says this mat­ter-of-fact­ly, a busi­ness trans­ac­tion is all, but I know it’s not true. I’ll eat this bur­ri­to and then the next three hours of my life will be a tour down Kama-sutra alley. 

Daisy’s no super-mod­el, no Jas­mine, as I’d men­tioned. She’s a lit­tle chub­by, not thin, not fat, her fig­ure sort of unde­cid­ed between ris­ing up with obe­si­ty or drop­ping down into sporty. She’s thick in the waist, heavy in the chest, and there’s no essay in her eyes wait­ing to be writ­ten. But her laugh… Her voice… That smile… And last but not least, her per­son­al­i­ty. Yes, Daisy’s a real daisy, spring­ing up from the land with ener­gy and artis­tic cre­ativ­i­ty. In a crowd­ed amphithe­atre, there’s no way in hell this girl would get missed.

The bur­ri­to tastes mar­velous. Of course it does. Carne asa­da with brown rice and sour cream, cheese, arugu­la, diced toma­toes, and a spoon­ful of corn sal­sa. There’s a fresh pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer—Everything But The—and I know after we roll in the hay, Daisy and I are gonna share that thing before doz­ing off to sleep. 

Low and behold, that’s exact­ly how this night plays out.

•••

She’s up hours before me this morn­ing. I’m not sur­prised. She can’t sit still. Something’s always nag­ging at her, a project here, project there, every bit of them prod­ucts of her own mak­ing, none of them mine—which is just fine. 

That’s the lim­it of my poet­ry, so I clam­ber out of bed and stum­ble to the kitchen, stretch­ing some sex-induced kink out of my ham­string. There’s hot cof­fee in the pot, and I’m quick to pour myself a cup. I take a sip and look out the win­dow. I see her out there, stand­ing in the drizzle…

And holy shit, there’s a wild horse next to her! 

Daisy’s hands and face are raised up, cradling the creature’s head, and she’s smil­ing, look­ing like she’s about to kiss the thing on its puck­er, but then out come a hand­ful of real daisies, and the horse’s lips grope for­ward greed­i­ly, gob­bling up the lit­tle yel­low flowers. 

I’m watch­ing this morn­ing anom­aly take place, and I’m grap­pling with a few ques­tions. Where did the horse come from? And where did Daisy get the daisies? All I know is shit don’t bloom up here in November.

Curi­ous, I creep out­side and stand on the porch—not get­ting too close, I’m a city boy after all. I’ve nev­er been less than a hun­dred feet from an ani­mal as big as this. How many hands tall? A lot.

“He’s so pret­ty,” Daisy says, glanc­ing my way with a smile. This girl is fearless.

I don’t say any­thing yet. I’m just star­ing at the ani­mal, observ­ing its chest­nut coat spot­ted with flecks of white and black. I have no idea what type of horse it is, but it’s def­i­nite­ly some­thing Geron­i­mo would ride.

“You can come pet it,” she says.

“I’m alright.” I sip cof­fee and study the scene, still wrestling with my questions.

The horse fin­ish­es its chew­ing. Then it does a quick series of movements—stomp, shiv­er, snort, flick of its tail—before it turns its bulky head in my direc­tion and stares right at me. 

I take a step back out of instinct. I’m still aware of how mas­sive this thing is, but all I see are its enor­mous eyes. They look like big glossy orbs, a cou­ple of eight-balls in cor­ner pock­ets, with atti­tude. What the hell is it think­ing? And then… Do I real­ly want to know?

“Go on, boy,” Daisy says, pat­ting the horse on the flank of its neck. It turns around and ambles off into the near­by woods, the heavy sounds of its hooves plod­ding slow­ly over the earth, yet all I hear is Godzil­la stomp­ing its way through Tokyo. Only after it’s gone do I come off the porch and meet up with Daisy.

“Where the hell did that thing come from?” My ques­tion comes out harsh­er than I meant it. Daisy doesn’t reply. She looks at her feet, at the path the horse took through the trees, and then at me. And this is the first time I’ve seen her with­out a smile.

•••

Days go by, with food, sex, and movies absorb­ing our hours. A win­ter storm came and went, leav­ing the land damp and spongy. But then the sun decid­ed to shine. And it’s still here, with all its glo­ri­ous warmth and bright­ness. The sec­ond anom­aly this week.

“Let’s go to the riv­er,” Daisy says. 

“Right now?” It’s late after­noon, and that star in the sky will be a dis­tant mem­o­ry in a few hours.

“Yes. Right now.”

“Well, alright.”

We scram­ble our way out the door and into my truck. Daisy’s got her biki­ni on, but I’m wear­ing noth­ing less than sweat­pants and a hood­ie. No way we’ll be get­ting in the water this time of year. 

She grabbed her beach bag before we left, tossed in some snacks and a few beers. Twen­ty min­utes lat­er, we roll up to our favorite spot, and I get out of the truck and throw the bag over my shoul­der. I gaze at the fad­ing sun, now eclipsed by the tops of red­woods, and I’m won­der­ing just how long this riv­er trip will last.

Daisy blos­soms in laugh­ter. She runs full-bloom down to the beach, bare­foot and half-naked, excit­ed as the first day we met. I watch her go, my thoughts torn between relaxed delight and sim­mer­ing con­cern. She’s infec­tious, no doubt about it. But I know that very soon now, this day will turn dark and cold.

“Just feel that sun,” she says, spread­ing her arms, open­ing up to the sky. Her whole face smiles as her hair reach­es the small of her back. I can’t help but notice how her arched fig­ure ampli­fies the ampli­tude of her breasts.

I walk down to the beach and sit on a rock. I feel the sun’s warmth on my cheek, and it’s a good feel­ing. Maybe I’m glad we came here after all.

“Let’s have some of that beer,” Daisy says, flop­ping child­like onto the cold sand near my feet, her legs and arms sprawl­ing every which way. She digs into the bag and pulls out two cans. I pop them open for us, and we take our first sips. Then she digs into the bag again, and out comes a small Ziploc con­tain­ing what looks like dried mushrooms.

“Where’d you get that?” I ask. Despite my lib­er­al ten­den­cies, I’ve nev­er exper­i­ment­ed with shrooms. 

“Picked them myself.” There’s a hint of pride in her voice, but my con­cern doesn’t waver.

“And they’re safe to eat?”

“Of course they are.” Daisy’s smile makes a mock­ery out of my question.

She opens the Ziploc and delves her fin­gers into it, inspect­ing the dried morsels. I get a weird shiv­er, as I’m remind­ed now of that horse’s lips grop­ing at those flowers.

“Are you gonna eat some?” I ask.

“Nope. We’re gonna eat some.” Then Daisy’s hand comes out of the bag­gie and stretch­es my way.

•••

I swear to God the trees are glar­ing at me. We’re sur­round­ed by hun­dreds of them, red­woods on both sides of the riv­er, and the looks they’re giv­ing are noth­ing short of unsettling.

We’ve con­sumed their kind before. Long ago. Remember? 

Christ, now they’re talking. 

No dif­fer­ent. They break down like all the oth­er crit­ters. Morsels to the land, they are.

Need­ing to dis­tract myself, I reach for the snacks in the beach bag, and then notice my hands are glow­ing a deep pur­ple. The col­or is pul­sat­ing, mim­ic­k­ing my heartbeat.

“Get the Chee­tos.” It’s Daisy’s voice now, not the trees’, and it momen­tar­i­ly snaps me back to real­i­ty. I get the Chee­tos, pull the bag open, and sit down in the sand next to her. I eat a few until I real­ize I’m hear­ing them howl­ing with each bite I take. The Chee­tos, they’re alive, and their imp­ish faces are cry­ing for mer­cy as I shove them into my mouth. Crunch, crunch, crunch—each sound being the pop­ping of their tiny heads.

I set the bag aside and lie flat in the sand, my stom­ach sud­den­ly queasy. Damn, I’m trip­ping. I close my eyes and focus on my breath­ing, hop­ing this moment will quick­ly pass.

Not sure how much time lat­er, but I’m star­tled by the sound of Daisy’s sharp inhale, and her jump­ing to her feet.

“Oh, yes! They’re here!”

Who’s here? I sit up and look around, then watch as she runs down to the beach. She gets sev­er­al yards away, and then I see them. Horses—plural.

I scut­tle crab-like up and back, look­ing for some place safe, look­ing for a rock to crawl under, cer­tain that all those hooves will crush my exoskele­ton into dust. There’re three wild hors­es not twen­ty feet away from me, and I’m ter­ri­fied. I con­sid­er run­ning for the truck, but then I freeze. Daisy just jumped up on one of them, right on its back, and now I can’t take my eyes off of her.

She might be part Chero­kee, now that I think about it. It’s the same horse from ear­li­er, and Daisy is sit­ting on top of it, her long legs spread wide over its flanks, her spine stiff and straight. The horse moves grace­ful­ly along the beach and river­bank, Daisy’s hair and tits and hips rock­ing ‘n’ rolling in slow motion, the kinet­ic weight of that crea­ture being the dri­ving force behind all her move­ments. I still can’t take my eyes off of her.

“You should try it,” she says, and her voice rever­ber­ates up and down the canyon.

The two oth­er hors­es are stand­ing an arm’s length away from me, and on oppo­site sides, as if to cor­ral me in. They’re not gonna let me get away.

“Let’s go, cow­boy. Get on up.” Daisy is look­ing at me, her eyes twin­kling. “They don’t bite. Wait a minute—yes, they do.” She bursts out with laugh­ter and I watch as her body sud­den­ly splits in half at the crack of her ass. She col­laps­es as her legs rip apart and slide down the horse, and the spill of her guts and gore splash­es vio­lent­ly into the water. Her arms are dan­gling where her legs were and her head is sit­ting sad­dle, and all I can do is blink my eyes…

Then one of those hors­es abrupt­ly neighs into my ear, and fuck, now I’m hurl­ing bloody Chee­tos onto the sand.

•••

Wake up, cowboy!

I open my eyes, and sec­onds pass as I process my sur­round­ings. I’m in my room, in my bed, with Daisy stand­ing over me. 

“It’s about time,” she says. Then she smiles and runs her hand across my cheek. 

“What hap­pened?” I say. I’m con­fused. And now alarmed, as I taste bile in my mouth.

“You tripped hard, that’s what hap­pened.” She sits on the bed next to me and starts rub­bing my hand. “You’ve been lying here for almost two days.”

“Here? In bed?”

“Yep.”

I wait a minute, and then notice I need to use the bath­room. And that I’m dying of thirst. And that, yeah, maybe I’m a lit­tle hungry.

“Get your­self up when you’re ready. I’ll make you some food. What do you feel like eating?”

Just think­ing about an answer sends my stom­ach roil­ing once again. “I guess nothing.”

She chuck­les. How ‘bout some daisies?

But that’s not what she said… At least I don’t think it is.

•••

I know that two days have passed since I woke from my bad trip. And I know that since then, every­thing has been just fine and dandy. Nor­mal, even. But I’m both­ered by these invol­un­tary thoughts that keep bring­ing me back to that day on the riv­er. We’ve had sex three times since yes­ter­day morn­ing, and through it all, I felt like I was walk­ing on thin ice over a pit of sharp stakes. I was ter­ri­fied I’d rip her in half, so I took it slow.

We dis­cussed piz­za for din­ner, and for­go­ing a trip to town, we’re now in the kitchen mak­ing our own. I don’t recall mak­ing piz­za before, but it turns out it’s pret­ty damn easy. The dough is the hard­est part, but Daisy’s got that licked. The top­pings are a no brainer—sauce, cheese, onions, and sausage. We both laugh after I say skip the mush­rooms, and less than an hour lat­er, we’re sit­ting on the couch eat­ing our din­ner and watch­ing some Avengers flick.

About halfway through, Daisy needs a bath­room break, so I pause the show. I’m alone now, and I notice the quiet­ness of this moment. The only sounds I hear are the faint buzzing of the refrig­er­a­tor and the con­stant drip­ping com­ing from a dis­tant rain gut­ter. Like the piz­za, this moment fills me with con­tent. I real­ize I don’t even care if we fin­ish the show. I could just sit here and lis­ten to the night slip away. Maybe Daisy’ll be into that.

A minute lat­er, she comes run­ning into the room.

“Lis­ten!” she says, look­ing at the win­dow. The cur­tains are closed, but she’s star­ing any­way, as if she can see some­thing out­side, see what it is she’s hearing.

“Lis­ten to what?”

“Shhh!”

I clam up. I see her smile, and then I hear it. There’s some­thing mov­ing out there, things mov­ing. I fig­ure the noise out. It’s Godzil­la again, but with all his broth­ers this time, clomp­ing their way around the cab­in. I can hear them walk­ing slow­ly, the sounds of their hooves and their heavy bod­ies echo­ing from every cor­ner of the property.

“Can you hear it?” she says.

“Yeah. I hear it.”

She gig­gles then. “Fuck­ing awe­some. There’s a lot of them.”

I don’t know what to do, oth­er than think about how strange and unset­tling it is to have a herd of wild hors­es pac­ing cir­cles around my house.

But Daisy doesn’t give me a chance to think too long.

“I can’t take it any­more.” And after she says this, she runs out the front door and into the night.

I’m close behind, except I stop at the thresh­old. It’s dark as hell out there. And they’re mov­ing faster now, I can hear them. And even though I can’t see them, I feel their pres­ence. Like a freight train right out­side my door, their stam­ped­ing bod­ies are shak­ing the crap out of my cabin.

“Daisy!” That’s all I can stom­ach to do, is call her name. “Daisy, where are you?”

She’s gone, gone with them. And after a minute, their com­mo­tion fades away, as if they’ve spread out into the trees.

But then I hear it, com­ing from some­where out there. It’s Daisy, and she’s laugh­ing. Then she’s moaning—it’s the same moan she makes in our bed. And now her moan com­bines into the sounds of high-pitched ecsta­sy, as if she’s reach­ing her cli­max. I’m hav­ing a hard time believ­ing what I’m hear­ing, so I call out to her again. “Daisy!” But my shout goes nowhere. She moans loud­er now, and I can hear the heavy breath­ing in her voice, and the pas­sion in her tone, and then the entire night sud­den­ly spins before my eyes. It’s ver­ti­go, and it takes me back to the couch, where I fall rough­ly into the pil­lows and throw a blan­ket over my head. From here on out, it’s noth­ing but darkness.

•••

Once again, I wake to a moment of con­fu­sion. It’s morn­ing now. I’m still on the couch, and I hear the birds chirp­ing out­side. I smell cof­fee and pan­cakes in the kitchen, and I see Daisy stand­ing there, busy at the stove.

I sit up, rub­bing my eyes and look­ing around. The mem­o­ries from the night before are still so fresh, they might as well be rest­ing in my lap.

Daisy glances my way and sees that I’m awake. “Hey there,” she says with a smile. “Good morning.”

I don’t know how to han­dle what I’m feel­ing. I don’t know how to ask her what hap­pened last night. Did she real­ly run out there with those hors­es? Did she real­ly have sex with one—or all of them? What the hell was that all about, anyway?

“I made break­fast,” she says. “And there’s cof­fee. Would you like some?”

Slow­ly, I get up, afraid my world will start spin­ning again. “Sure,” I reply, stum­bling toward the kitchen. “I’ll take some coffee.”

I lean against the counter and watch as she pours me a cup. She’s smil­ing as she does it, every step of the way, and I’m pic­tur­ing her in some 60s TV sit­com, play­ing the house­wife role—Jeannie or Samantha—one of those ladies. 

“Here you go, handsome.” 

I accept the cup and look away, try­ing to pre­tend the night before wasn’t the weird­est night of my life. I get two min­utes more of denial before I can’t take it anymore. 

“Daisy, what the hell hap­pened last night?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what did you do… you know… with those horses?”

She snick­ers, then turns away. Wouldn’t you like to know? But once again, that’s not what she says. “I went for a ride. That’s all.”

At least now I know it wasn’t a dream. I head for the bath­room, and that sets every­thing back into nor­mal mode. We putt around the house for the rest of the day, and it’s all well and good as long as I don’t think about last night. Evening rolls in, and our famil­iar rou­tines have done a good job at blur­ring the weird­ness from ear­li­er, so I’ve made a good attempt at mov­ing on. I’m think­ing about tak­ing some bong hits and then cook­ing us some steaks, when sud­den­ly we hear a honk come from outside.

I go to the front door, Daisy at my side, and when I open it, we see Jas­mine hang­ing out the pas­sen­ger win­dow of her boyfriend’s Jeep. 

“What’s up, girl?” Daisy asks.

“Get your stuff,” Jas­mine replies. “We got us anoth­er one. And it’s going down tonight.”

“Oh, shit!” Daisy says. Then she squeals and runs to the bedroom.

I’m stand­ing there feel­ing dumb­found­ed. “What’s going down?” I ask.

“She’ll tell you,” Jas­mine says. “Make sure to bring a coat… It gets cold up there.” She turns to her boyfriend, says some­thing, and then they dri­ve off.

A few min­utes lat­er, Daisy comes hur­ry­ing out of the bed­room. She’s dressed warm, a coat and beanie, thick sweats and Ugg boots. “Let’s go,” she says. “And get your coat.”

“Where’re we going?” I say this as I walk down the hall, and Daisy doesn’t reply. I get my heavy wool jack­et, slip it on, then head back to the front door. She’s already in the truck, so I shut the door and head out. I get in, turn the truck on, then repeat myself. “Where the hell are we going?”

“Horse Moun­tain, sil­ly.” An arc­tic snap erupts over my scalp, then leaks down my spine. Horse what? “Come on,” she says. “Let’s go.”

I real­ize my hands are trem­bling, and that fear has sud­den­ly washed over me like a wave of ice. I don’t even have the guts to ask her for clar­i­fi­ca­tion. “Where’s that?” is all I can say.

“That’s right,” she replies. “You haven’t been there, have you?”

I shake my head.

“Alright then. Bet­ter let me drive.”

We switch places, and now I’m sit­ting in the pas­sen­ger seat, won­der­ing where this night’s going.

Daisy puts the truck in gear, smiles, and looks at me. “Boy, are you in for a treat.”

•••

Thir­ty min­utes of moun­tain roads lat­er, and we pull into a large open space sur­round­ed by a wall of earth. I can see the canyon arms through the truck’s head­lights, as well as the lights from a dozen oth­er vehi­cles. There’re maybe twen­ty oth­er peo­ple here, min­gling under the moon­lit sky, with beer cans in hand, and the embers of cig­a­rettes and roach­es burn­ing like fire­flies in the night, reflect­ing off their faces. We get out of the truck and I fol­low Daisy as she leads me toward the oth­ers. They’re gath­er­ing at what turns out to be the cen­ter of this hilltop—the cen­ter of Horse Mountain—and I see numer­ous lawn chairs spread out in a cir­cle, along with sev­er­al piles of wood, fresh­ly lit. The small bon­fires are also set up in a perime­ter, and as we get clos­er, I real­ize that the chairs and the fires, they’re all encir­cling an enor­mous black pit, with a rough diam­e­ter the length of a city bus.

“What is this place?” I ask.

Daisy ignores me as she runs over and starts hug­ging peo­ple. They’re all locals, I can tell, and not just because she knows them. They’ve all got that Hum­boldt Hills look, a cross between hill­bil­ly and bik­er, each with long hair—men and women alike—and with rough looks on their faces. The last bon­fire I’d been to was up in Arca­ta, host­ed by col­lege kids, and that’s not what I’m see­ing here.

I’m not intim­i­dat­ed by these peo­ple. Some of them I know, and I’ve been liv­ing up here for a few years, so I’m sure they all know me. But I am intim­i­dat­ed nonethe­less. And curious. 

I qui­et­ly fol­low Daisy as she makes her rounds, and then, like every­one else, we ulti­mate­ly find our way toward the cen­ter of the hill. Now I’m damn curi­ous, as I’ve got a bet­ter look at that hole in the ground.

I can’t help myself, so I ask again. “Daisy, what the hell is this?”

She sits on a rock, as all the lawn chairs are now tak­en, and she looks at me and smiles. “Oh, you’ll see.” Then she pats the rock, ges­tur­ing for me to sit with her. I do, and she wraps her arms and legs around me, cud­dling me in close. 

It’s cold, damn cold, and now I’m look­ing at some of those fires burn­ing around us. I see a spot that looks good, and I elbow Daisy and nod my head toward it. “Wan­na go sit over there?” I say.

She laughs. “Fuck that.”

I wait a sec­ond, won­der­ing about her response. “Why not?” I final­ly ask.

“You don’t want to get too close.” 

“Too close to what? The fire?”

“No. Too close to there.” And she’s point­ing now at the black pit.

Of course, I’m think­ing she means it’s dan­ger­ous, because we could fall in, and I’m won­der­ing how deep it is. I’m even con­sid­er­ing walk­ing over to take a look, but then I hear a sud­den holler come from near the vehi­cles. A few locals respond with cheers, and now I’m hear­ing some­one plead­ing and crying.

“Let’s go!” Jas­mine shouts. She’s sit­ting in a chair beside us, a cig­a­rette dan­gling between her fin­gers. “Fuck yeah. Let’s go!”

I’m won­der­ing what the hell is hap­pen­ing, because now I know not every­one here is hav­ing a good time. 

I see it then. Three dudes are drag­ging some­one along, some guy strug­gling hope­less­ly to get away. They pass by one of the fires, and I get a good look at him. He’s some Mex­i­can dude I worked with, an undoc­u­ment­ed man fresh from the bor­der. I remem­ber he had a knack for trim­ming weed, and that he kept to him­self, and was always quiet.

But he isn’t qui­et now.

These guys, they drag him over to the pit, and I’m think­ing holy fuck, they’re gonna throw him in, but they don’t. They make quick work with a roll of duct tape, and now he’s sit­ting up on his knees, star­ing down into the hole, his hands bound behind his back. He’s cry­ing, and blab­ber­ing on in Span­ish, so I haven’t a clue what he’s saying.

Some­thing tells me I should inter­vene, though. But then the fol­low­ing shit happens—and it hap­pens way too fast. 

A cou­ple of guys start play­ing con­ga drums, and then I notice dozens of hors­es milling about, just beyond the reach of the fire­light, and then those dudes play­ing the drums—fuck, now they’ve got horse heads them­selves, with manes flow­ing rhyth­mi­cal­ly to the beats that they’re play­ing. I feel Daisy squeeze and pull me in, and I hear her pant­i­ng, as if she’s get­ting horny, but I don’t dare turn around and look at her. 

That Mex­i­can dude is pray­ing now, I could tell, pray­ing in his cry­ing voice, and goose bumps trav­el up and down my arms. But shit, it gets worse. Now there’s a rum­ble on the land, so I’m think­ing maybe those hors­es out there are gal­lop­ing about.

“What the fuck…?” I man­age to say. And Daisy doesn’t reply, oth­er than her breath­ing gets loud­er. She’s excit­ed, and I’m ter­ri­fied, and Jesus Christ, none of this should be happening.

But like I said—it gets worse.

The rum­ble grows loud­er, and now every­one is hoot­ing and hol­ler­ing, except that dude near the pit, who’s cry­ing for his madre, but he ain’t mov­ing, and I don’t know why. And then sev­er­al flash­lights flick­er on, just as I see a horse of colos­sal size rise from the pit. My God, it’s a mon­ster, ten times big­ger than any oth­er horse, and I’m just see­ing the half of it. Its head and mane are loom­ing over that poor dude like some Hun­gry Hip­po, and its front hooves are stretched out on the ground, stomp­ing and smack­ing, kick­ing up earth. It gives a loud neigh and shakes its head, reminds me of some creepy Dis­ney ani­ma­tron­ic, and then, in one quick motion, reach­es down and bites that dude in half. 

I hear the echo of a water­mel­on being dropped from off a roof. And I’m look­ing at just the bot­tom half of that guy, blood bub­bling out of his tor­so like a foun­tain. And now I’m see­ing that giant horse chomp­ing daisies, but I know it ain’t flow­ers or hay or oats in its mouth, but that it’s…

I’m hurl­ing again, and Daisy pulls away from me, curs­ing some­thing about how I’m ruin­ing the show, but I don’t care. I’m vio­lent­ly throw­ing up my last meal, and it’s all I can do to keep from pass­ing out.

•••

Our ride down the moun­tain is qui­et and eerie. I know she’s mad, but I don’t care. I’ve got one thing on my mind, and one thing only… but that’s a lie. I’ve got one thing on my mind, and sev­er­al oth­er things plagu­ing my thoughts, all hav­ing to do with what I just saw.

We’re almost home, and I final­ly break the silence between us. “Daisy,” I say, look­ing at her sit­ting behind the wheel, a frown on her face. “Remem­ber those shrooms we had, down at the river?”

“What about them?”

“Well… do you think I’m still tripping?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

That’s what I thought. And that’s what I was afraid of.

She parks the truck and gets out, not say­ing a word, still mad at me for ruin­ing her show. 

“Throw me the keys,” I say. She stops abrupt­ly, then turns and looks at me. I can see she’s curi­ous now, and even a lit­tle ner­vous. She’s prob­a­bly won­der­ing what my plan is. It’s late, after all. “I’m gonna make a run down to the liquor store,” I lie. “Get some more beer… and maybe some whiskey.”

Daisy shrugs, then throws me the keys. “See you when you get back.” And the tone of her voice tells me that some of her anger has dis­si­pat­ed. But I don’t care.

I get in my truck and put it in gear, then back out of there and dri­ve away. Maybe I was wrong about who I real­ly am. Maybe I am as thin as veneer… Because I nev­er even look in the rearview mirror.

What’s scarier than short horror fiction?

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Con­tribut­ing Author // chakalives@gmail.com // Author Web­page

Chris Riley (he/him) lives near Sacra­men­to, Cal­i­for­nia, vow­ing one day to move back to the Pacif­ic North­west. In the mean­time, he teach­es spe­cial edu­ca­tion, writes cool sto­ries, and hides from the blast­ing heat for six months of the year.

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