One night, about a year ago, I was up late at my computer listening to music on my headphones and goofing around on the Internet when these song lyrics caught my imagination:
Now you are the warrior
Who will conquer this land
On a horse made of clouds
You will scatter the sands
For some reason I still can’t explain, the images from these lyrics, and that of the horse made of clouds especially, wouldn’t leave me alone. Since I was just up killing time, waiting for a little bout of insomnia to pass, I started digging around on the Internet. I was hoping to find some random clue or association to help me understand what this fascination was all about, but all the information I was able to find on the history of the band in question, the symbols in the lyrics, possible references, etc., did nothing to shed light on the little mystery of the song’s appeal. Eventually, I decided I would give up for the night and try to get some sleep after listening to the song one more time.
As soon as I put the song on, though, my computer screen started to flicker a bit and shift toward green before going completely blank when I tried to adjust it. There was nothing I could do to make it turn back on, so I decided to leave the problem for the next day and powered down the computer. After I shut off the lights and turned to go to bed I was annoyed to see that the monitor had clicked back on when I turned my back to it and was now displaying a vivid outdoor scene that seemed like a still photo until I noticed that the clouds above were moving slightly. I thought that the computer must have been hijacked by hackers and was about to unplug it when I noticed that the clouds in the scene seemed to be taking the shape of a horse, a vague impression of one at first that soon resolved itself into the unmistakable shape of a fluffy white stallion in the sky.
As the scene unfolded on my screen I felt almost present there in that idyllic landscape. While I sat huddled in the darkened room before the image, the horse of clouds descended to the earth where it was joined by the other horses taking shape from their environs. There were horses of grass and wild flowers rising from the meadow as well as water horses splashing from the brook that bisected it. Horses of the palest sky strangely, ethereally detached themselves to join their brothers in the growing herd that now included horses formed from leafy boughs and horses of muddy earth. Horses of asphalt and horses of signposts fell in with them as they made their way toward a town where a maddening variety of horses were waiting to meet them, made up of furniture, compost heaps, sporting goods, and roofing materials. Electric horses leaped from every transformer while the townsfolk cried out for joy and huddled together in small mixed groups of all colors and creeds to happily meld into piebald horses of men.
From there the proliferation of horses increased until the equine welter growing from the physical world was joined by immaterial horses formed entirely from such abstract concepts as love, bitterness, and contempt. Finally, off in the distance, I noticed a massive brown horse against the sky that seemed to be shedding some sort of material from its surface. When I moved closer to the gigantic figure I realized that the stuff dropping from it on all sides was manure, and that the entire cantering behemoth was formed from other, smaller, horses, and the unbearable amazement this inspired jolted me awake from the dream.
It took me a few moments to realize what was going on, but once I became aware of where I was, I took off my headphones and used my sleeve to wipe up the little puddle of drool that had built up on the desk as I slept. The sun was already up so I decided to trot down to Quick Chek for a sandwich and a cup of coffee.
While inside I nodded and said hello to a nice woman that I see there once in a while when another young lady in scant attire butted in loudly, saying, “why bother with an old nag like that when you can talk to this young filly,” as she walked out the front door, giving me a significant look. When I paid and left I saw her loitering out front, so I decided to give her a little piece of my mind for being rude to the woman in the store, but when I stopped in front of her, she caught me in her gaze and all I managed to get out was, “hi.”
“Um, hi,” she responded in a sarcastic little tone that reminded me that I ought to chide her for her behavior in the store.
But again I was disappointed when I heard myself say, “I like your shirt.”
“My shirt?” she responded incredulously.
“Yeah, it fits you really well, and I can tell it’s made of good fabric,” I said, having completely given up on trying to control what was coming from my mouth by that point.
“Well, it’s just a t-shirt, but it is soft. Would you like to feel it?” she asked, angling one shoulder toward me.
“Yes, thank you, you’re very kind,” I replied. I realized that it was, in fact, just a common t-shirt, but the fabric was as soft as she had promised, and it felt wonderful. “This feels wonderful,” I said while I smiled broadly, and probably stupidly, into her face and stroked her shoulder as if it were a little bunny rabbit.
That made her laugh, but when she raised her hand to her mouth she caught a glimpse of the tether she held in it, and her smile disappeared. I noticed that it had been cut, and she told me that she had tied her horse to the post out front with all the others to run inside, only to return a few minutes later and find that the animal had been stolen. I let her know how sorry I was and that I could only guess how difficult it must be to lose a horse like that. If it made her feel any better, I continued, I could give her a ride home. She said that she would like that, but when I turned to look for my car I remembered that I had walked there. I was about to turn back and apologize, and maybe offer to walk her home, when I felt her hop on my back. Before I could respond she prodded me in the flanks with her heels, urging me forward at a brisk walk while she gently guided me to our destination, running her fingers through my hair all the while and whispering soothing things to me.
When we got to her house, she hopped down and brought me some water, pouring some of it over me to cool me down. I moved around the yard a little, shaking off the moisture until she came out with a little bag of sweet oats that she fed me from her hand as she looked me over and said, “You are a sweetheart. I think I’ll keep you . . . would you like that?”
I thought about it for a second and decided that, yes, that would be very nice, so I looked down and gave a little nod as I finished chewing my oats.
“Okay, then, I just need to take a look at your teeth, please,” she said, so I opened up wide.
My mouth was scarcely open, though, when I thought of all the fillings I had in there and started to get self-conscious, and before she was able to get a good glance I remembered the crown I had recently got on one of my molars and snapped my mouth shut before she could see it.
“Come on now, let me see,” she said as she draped her arms around my neck, but I was adamant. When playful cajoling didn’t work, she turned to tickling, and when that didn’t work, she turned to force. I was pretty sure that there was no way that this small woman could get me to open my mouth if I didn’t want to, so I didn’t really resist as she pinned me to the ground, which turned out to be a mistake, because once she had me firmly straddled beneath her all she had to do was pinch my nostrils shut to make me open up and, quick as a snake bite, shoot her small hand between my teeth.
I didn’t want to bite her, so all I could do was slap at her fingers with my tongue in protest as she pried my mouth open and jerked my head to the side to let the sun shine in and lay my dental history bare.
“Just as I thought,” she crowed, “no wisdom teeth! Probably doesn’t have the sense God gave a horse!” and then I woke up.
I was lying in my bed when I awoke this time, in a lather and breathing heavily in my too-hot room. Now, I had been through the whole dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream bit before, so I figured that since I was probably going to be exploring my unconscious for a while longer, I might as well try to make myself comfortable. There was a nice little breeze rustling the trees outside my window, so I slipped out of my clothes and went out to enjoy the open air.
It was sunny and pleasant, and the light wind against my body felt great. I was having a wonderful time outside, waving at all the nice dream people driving down the street and doing some light stretches when a woman from up the block came walking by with her dog and raised an eyebrow.
“I think you forgot something,” she said, as she nodded down at my lack of clothing.
I pretended not to know what she was talking about, but I was beginning to suspect that this might not be a dream at all, so I finished the set of toe-touches I was doing and went inside and got dressed.
By this point I was a little worried about the whole nakedness faux pas and that some of the neighbors might take it the wrong way. Since it isn’t really unusual behavior that tends to unnerve people, I thought, but erratic behavior, I decided that I would probably have to start taking regular strolls outside in the nude just so people in the neighborhood wouldn’t think I was some kind of weirdo. It was while I was coming to this conclusion that my phone rang. When I picked it up, I heard a low whickering on the other end and asked, “Is this a horse?” The loud neigh in response told me that it was, so I thanked it for calling and hung up. So this was a dream after all, and a good thing too because I was not looking forward to walking around naked in front of all those people every day.
I was feeling very relieved when I walked back into the front room, so I was able to take it in stride when I saw the head of the massive white charger leaning into my open window and nibbling on one of my plants. He was all saddled up and ready to go, so I said what the hell and rode off in search of something to do.
That day we rode. I let the horse roam where he pleased and wasn’t disappointed, as he took us to places of such beauty that I would have never believed that they could exist in New Jersey. We made new friends everywhere we went, and that night we camped under the stars. The following day we had several scintillating adventures which I won’t get into here and even solved a mystery or two. I wanted to continue on like this forever, but it was a Sunday and I had work in the morning, so we turned in early, battered and bruised from all of the riding and fighting we had done, but happy to have had such a fine weekend.
The next morning Bucephalus II, for that was the name I had given that unsurpassed steed, allowed me to ride him to work, but when I asked if he would wait for me in the warehouse attached to my office until the work day was through, he turned his head away awkwardly and I knew that he wouldn’t. Our farewell was emotional yet dignified, but when I reached my cubicle I broke down and wept without restraint.
Oh Bucephalus II, how I have wondered where you are and what you might be doing. Are you still near, or have you wandered to some far-off place in Pennsylvania, or, perhaps, upstate New York? Are you, even now, riding off to war with some other doughty horseman? Do you ever think of me as you graze under a starry sky?
JASON MACIAS is a librarian from New Jersey. He is also a deadly martial arts master. Well, maybe not a master exactly, but he practices judo diligently. Or, he practices it anyway, when he isn’t busy daydreaming or being lazy.