Dancing Horses

Copyright 2000 Julie Weathers
All Rights Reserved
No part may be reproduced in any form without express permission of the author.

Colton’s fingers chased the wedge of tongue around the basin of the horse waterer. It slithered and darted through the pinkish water as if it were still alive, deftly avoiding his grasp. A few drops of diluted blood trickled through his fingers when he finally captured it, but most had already drained into the water, leaving only pale blue flesh behind.

Turning from the waterer, Colton held the tongue up to the light. It was easy to see where the horse’s teeth had bitten through.

Another accident. Another dead champion.

His thumb traced lightly back and forth across the sandpaper-like surface. as he returned his attention to the waterer. The exposed wires were plainly visible.

He knew how the accident happened, but still didn’t understand why. It should have been impossible for the wires to jiggle loose. He’d been opposed to the heated waterers from the beginning and now, less than a week after their installation, they had a dead horse to show for the latest round of equine technology. He squatted to get a closer look, but learned no more.

"You want me to turn the electricity back on, Mr. Colton?" Hollywood asked in Spanish.

Since none of the stable hands spoke much English, Colton’s Spanish reply came more from habit than conscious thought. "No, leave it off until the electrician gets here. It shouldn’t be too long."

He wasn’t entirely sure the mare’s death was an accident, but what if it was? What if they had an entire barn full of faulty waterers? It would be better to leave all the power off until everything had been checked. There was no sense in taking chances.

He straightened slowly and shifted his gaze to the mare lying at his feet. What had often been described as a "large, kind eye" stared lifelessly from a bright copper head. Blood pooled beneath Cincolena’s mouth, staining the honey-colored pine shavings a deep crimson. A tiny ribbon of smoke spiraled upward from the velvet muzzle. Muscles and tendons were still contracted from the electrical charge that had ripped through her body, making her look hard and artificial.

As Colton stooped down to drop the tongue beside her head, the acrid smell of burnt hair stung his nostrils. He reached out, like he had hundreds of times before, to stroke her still, warm neck. His eyes closed tightly, trying to block out the sight.

Instead, the scene before him was replaced with visions of an overturned van full of screaming, terrified horses being burned alive. The nightmare that haunted his sleep now paid him a daytime visit. Dear Lord, what that van must have smelled like, he thought as his eyes snapped open.

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