November 30, 2009
Seventeen years, and the pale white statue remained.
Oh, its surface had been scoured by wind, and rain, and sand, and salt, and all the ravages of time – but it would take centuries for such treatment to reduce the rearing horse to broken rubble and distant memory. The years had left their mark, in ragged grooves that ran like scars across the alabaster flesh. One proud ear was shattered and lost, and cracks running through one out-stretched leg spoke of a similar fate to follow.
But the statue stood, despite all the elements could throw at it upon this craggy field, where it looked down upon the lonely beach where tiny crabs danced their scuttling dance amidst broken shells and the bones of long-dead fish. The statue stood, despite all the power of nature that had laid low the once-pristine, white-roofed manor behind it. And the statue stood, despite all the will and wishes of Sir Thomas Kincaid, upon whose land it defiantly stood.
It had not been placed there by his design, however. To this day he did not know where it had come from – he had simply arrived at the manor on one crisp autumn day, and there the statue stood. The manor was merely his summer home in those days, and had seemed a safe retreat when the first rumors of war began to spread.
Sometime between the end of his summer vacation, and his hasty return two months later, the horse had appeared. An alabaster statue of a rider-less horse, caught in mid-leap with its front hooves extended tall and proud – as though at any moment the statue would launch itself down onto the beach below, and ride off into the crashing waves.
The land’s caretakers could not tell him exactly when it had arrived – they claimed it had simply appeared, upon one recent morning, and they had assumed he had commanded it to be so. The whims of wealthy men were not theirs to ponder, after all.
He had not know, then, how bad things would become on the mainland. That this would not be simply a temporary retreat, but instead the only haven he could find from the chaos spreading elsewhere in the world. That he would yet remain here, seventeen years later, even with one wing of the manor collapsed and only a handful of rooms that yet remained habitable, for him and the two servants that yet remained. Two friends, in truth, for the concept of service had faded with the fall of modern society. His huntsman, Roger, still gathered food and hunted game, while Alessandra still prepared their meals… but there was no service in this, only shared survival.
When first Thomas had seen the statue, it had disturbed him, but also sparked his curiousity. Some strange prank, perhaps? A message, from a fellow collector of rare curiousities?
He had been curious, so he had not commanded its removal. And when autumn came again, and no answers had been found, fear of embarassment held him back, for it would seem foolish to destroy it after letting it sit there for a year. And by then, the wars had gotten worse, and over the next few years, there were more important preparations to be made than tidying his estate.
And one day he found that he had grown old, and all but two of his staff had abandoned him, and it would be little worth the effort to uproot this strange unanswered mystery from the past.
Thomas stared at it now, bitter and angry that it yet remained. It seemed a symbol, to him, of all that had gone wrong with the world. He had his life, which left him better than many – and his freedom, which left him better than most. But no man can weather the collapse of civilization without some regret, and all the more so for a man so used to wealth and power.
He trudged over to it, his threadbare black coat wrapped tightly around him in protection from the wind. His stare could not topple it over, for all his will. Nor his strength – though that did not keep him from trying, each day at dawn. He hoped that one day the soil would simply lose its strength, its grip upon the statue, and the lightest push would send the alabaster horse crashing to the ground.
Yet until today, each attempt went the same. He placed his hands upon the statue, and it did not move. He pushed against it, desperately, and felt the cold, rough stone press against his skin… and then he would abruptly let go, feeling foolish, and stomp back to the house to pretend the attempt had never been made.
Today, the statue did not fall at his touch, but something far stranger happened. He placed his hands upon the stone… and the statue was warm to the touch.
He staggered away, instantly, tearing his hands free from that unnatural warmth. And as he watched, in fear and, strangely, excitement… the statue began to move.