The Demon Horse, Or, Night of the Living Ed


Fear the goat from the front, the horse from the rear, and man from all sides. ~Russian Proverb

The Demon Horse Lives!

When I was about 12, I was reading some of my first Stephen King stories. While most of the other girls in my grade buried their noses in banal titles like The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High, the Master of the Macabre was making me read long after Mom had come by for lights-out. I was scared (whomever says they aren’t is surely lying) but also wanted to make sure the protagonists made it in the end. That’s what good horror is really about. Being scared to death, but also having some ray of hope at the end.

Which made it surprising when I was the last one to hear about the Demon Horse.

Maybe it wasn’t surprising. I walked to school or rode my bike, so I wasn’t on the bus, and I generally avoided kids my age and their silly gossip. I’m not sure where I heard about the Horse first, but when I did hear it, it was in awed, hushed tones. The way kids usually spoke about what the teachers did behind closed doors in the lounge. “It’s, like, a dead horse.” “I hear it made some kid disappear. That kid who lived on Merrill.” “Creepy, man.” I gathered through bits of these conversations that the equine in question was either a ghost or somebody’s bad idea of an urban (rural?) legend. It couldn’t be a real entity. It was one of those things, like Pennywise the Clown from It, that sounded scary but wasn’t real.

Demon Horse sees all

Being fairly immune to peer pressure didn’t mean I wasn’t curious to discover the truth, however. Like the fearless quartet of preteens in Stand By Me, I was both scared and curious. I’d already seen lots of strange stuff on my many hours riding my bike up and down the trails and the foothills. Death didn’t scare me; in fact, I kept a little notebook with sketches of animals who’d met their demise. Mom and Dad probably thought I was going to grow up to be a coroner. Between my King obsession and my all-black wardrobe, it was an easy assumption to make. I was a lonely kid with a wild imagination. And death was the ultimate of mysteries.

I didn’t know where Demon Horse might be and I certainly didn’t bother to ask. If I had, it wouldn’t be as much fun. If I was going to find him (or her) I’d have to do it on my own. So I started looking. Summer was giving way to fall and the nights were getting shorter. A few hours after school each day, I’d ride down unknown paths, not quite sure what I’d find. There was a dead pheasant and several dead field mice, but Demon Horse remained elusive. Then, one day, quite unexpectedly, I hit the jackpot.

It was a happy accident. Some farmer had cleared some of the growth around his beet field, opening up a path for my bike. I rode back to see what I could see…and there he was. Demon Horse. Or what was left of him. And I guessed he’d been dead for quite a while. All that was left of him was his bleached bones, in stark contrast to the dull pit of mud which had probably killed him. I imagined he’d probably either drowned or slowly starved to death. His skull remained too, its ironic grin and empty sockets looking helplessly skyward. After maybe fifteen minutes, I rode home. I’d seen enough.

Hell on hooves

I came home and immediately made myself some hot chocolate to go with my latest King novel (it might have been The Tommyknockers). Something about the close encounter made me want to purge Demon Horse from my mind. The other side of me admonished me for being such a wimp. I’d seen plenty of dead animals before. Why was the horse any different? I kept reading, trying to occupy myself with more fictional horrors, then did what little homework I had and went to bed.

Sometimes during my life I’ve had trouble sleeping. This was one of those nights. I tossed and turned but couldn’t drift off. So, sneaking back upstairs to the kitchen, I made myself more hot chocolate and vowed to read another few chapters of King. It was one of those crisp, clear early fall nights out, and the beet field behind our house was bare. Which is why I was convinced it was just a trick of moonlight when I saw it.

I blinked. I was just tired. But when I looked again, it was still there. Demon Horse.

Pale, ethereal, and unmistakable even from a few hundred yards. I wanted to scream, but avid readers of Stephen King just didn’t scream. The shade stood there, right outside that mud pit, as if staring at something. I felt the breath rush out of my lungs and the seismic trembling of my hands. Then, before I had a chance to move, the horse disappeared. One second it was there; the next it had vanished. As if it never really existed.

I don’t remember much else about that night, other than I read a few more chapters of The Tommyknockers and finally did sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I wanted to think it had all been a dream, or the aftereffects of the casserole Mom had cooked. I never told anyone else about my vision, even Mom and Dad, who might have taken away Stephen King in favor of something more “age-appropriate.” And I never did see Demon Horse again. His skeleton wasn’t even there next time I went. Maybe the farmer finally found him too.

Maybe he’s still out there, forever looking for a peaceful pasture in the afterlife. Maybe he was a trick of the moonlight or my fevered imagination. I doubt it, though…he’s as real, and just as eerie, as the Gunslinger or Misery Chastain or the Langoliers.

At least to me.

Had any close brushes with the supernatural or the weird? I’d love to hear about them at wikusandmurdock.com! Don’t forget to click “Like” and subscribe to P&Q so you’ll never have to miss another exciting installment.

 

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on October 1, 2011.

10 Responses to “The Demon Horse, Or, Night of the Living Ed”

  1. That is an amazing story. I also liked Stephen King but had never heard of Beelzebub’s Mount.

    That photo of the white horse is creepy.

  2. Night Of The Living Ed? That’s the best you could do? Well, I have to admit you got me to read your tale. I loved it. How about you expand upon it and write a short story? I’d read that, too!

  3. This reminds me of the “Whiteness of the Whale” chapter in Moby Dick. The strange way that albinism strikes fear in the heart of humans for various reasons. That chapter is almost worth the whole book.

    • That chapter is awesome! I’ve not just read “Moby Dick” but seriously enjoyed it. I think albino creatures scare people because they are, genetically, freaks. I later rode an albino horse at riding camp and never knew why I was so scared. Must have been that repressed memory.

  4. I’ve never encountered a ghost myself, and until I do, I cannot say that they exist. However, I don’t know if ever want THAT paradigm shifted.

    I, too, chose King over babysitters and twins driving Spider convertibles around Sweet Valley. Many of his books kept me up reading WAY past my bedtime. I remember the one book of his that scared me so badly was _Pet Semetary_. In fact, I couldn’t sleep with it in my bedroom. It stayed in the den…on the end table…under a lamp.

    I thoroughly enjoy your posts!

    • Awesome to find a like-minded soul who was reading good stuff even back then. For me it was “It,” which played on my twin fears of clowns and underground spaces like sewers. King’s been scaring me silly for almost 20 years now.

      I’m glad you enjoy the posts. I’ll be doing “scary” stuff all throughout October.

  5. Great story Heather! I too, chose King over all the lame teeny-bopper books. Heck, I conned our local librarian into letting me pick something from the adult section (since I’d read my way through all of the children’s and adolescent books in our little library), and read “Jaws” when I was 9. I picked up “It” when I was 10 and it has been and will always be one of my absolute favorite books. I think I have read it close to 100 times by now. In fact, just because you mentioned it, I think it might be time to make it 101. 🙂 Keep writing girl!

  6. “It” is an amazing book indeed. Probably one of the scariest books ever written. Even if I saw that horse again, he wouldn’t have scared me as much as the clown did. I’m glad you enjoyed the story; now go enjoy “It” yet again! 🙂

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