The Girl who Dreamed of Horses
She was already halfway there while she finished brushing her teeth. When she closed her eyes, Rebecca could already see the vast, open plain that was the prairie, could already smell the grass and feel the wind tousling her long, red hair. The cold wetness of rinse water dripping onto her nightshirt brought her back to reality, at least for a while. It was so hard to stay in the present when she had such wonderful dreams.
They had been going on for quite some time now, and they always started the same way. She was alone on the edge of the prairie, with a rocky landscape stretched out before her, and she was waiting for them. It was never a long wait. Soon the faint sound of hooves would grow into a thunder, and they would be there. A dozen horses, maybe more, all of different colours and sizes, from tiny grey foals to a mighty black stallion that she knew was the herd's leader. They would come to her, and before she knew it they would all fly across the prairie so fast that she could barely breathe. She never sat up, that wasn't part of the dream, and she never actually saw the horse she was riding. All she knew was the speed, the glorious speed.
Rebecca had always loved horses, for as long as she could remember. Every chance she got, which wasn't near as often as she would have liked, she would go to uncle Jake's farm and ride her favourite; a kind grey-and-black mare called Lady. They never went as fast as in the dream, though, nowhere near it. She closed her eyes again, and imagined the prairie...
An impatient knock on the bathroom door made her dip back into the every-day, and she hurried to finish her evening routine. Ray was waiting outside with an annoyed frown on his face. Usually, the two siblings got along fine, but when it came to their shared upstairs bathroom there was always friction. They both felt that the other took too much time, and always at the wrong time.
"Your shirt's wet," he said, pointing at her chest. "Right there."
Automatically, Rebecca looked down, and of course Ray flipped his finger up and bumped her nose. With a squealing cry of outrage she pushed him hard in the chest, but ended up almost falling over, herself. At fourteen, more than two years her elder, Ray was a lot bigger than her. They bickered for a little while, then went their separate ways after a brief hug. That was typical of Ray. No hard feelings. Never any hard feelings.
Rebecca went into her room and closed the door behind her. She didn't bother to turn on the light; there was enough light coming in from the streetlamp outside her window. There were still a few minutes until her bedtime, but the sheets looked so inviting, so tempting. All her homework was done, and nothing she could think of doing was better than the dream. And she was already dressed for bed, in her oversized pink nightshirt and nothing else. So she took off her pendant, a stylised silver horse's head, slipped in underneath the comforter and pulled it up to her chin. Then she closed her eyes. A few minutes later the door opened quietly, and she felt her mothers soft lips on her cheek, a quick caress through her hair, then the door closed and she was alone again.
Would he be there tonight, too? Lately there had been someone else inside her dream, at least that was what it felt like to Rebecca. Not that she was dreaming about him, but that he had entered her dream. He was a little bit older than her, maybe already twelve. And he was cute, she thought as she hid her face in the pillow to keep her giggles from being too loud. He was taller than her, had long blond hair and large blue eyes that shone when he talked to her. She could never recall what they were talking about, but in the dream she hung on to his every word. The funny thing, funny as in strange rather than amusing, was that she couldn't remember what kind of clothes he was wearing. It was as if he didn't have any, but he wasn't naked either. That, Rebecca felt sure, was something she would definitely have remembered.
* * * * * *
Sleep came easily, but not the dream. She had a fitful sleep at first, tossing and turning and wrapping herself up in her comforter. Then there was a dream about school, where Rebecca kind of floated behind herself as she went about her business. She followed the dream-her to class after class, only they weren't her usual subjects. Her school did not teach kung fu; even asleep she knew that. Nor did they ever read comic books aloud in English Literature. It was fun for a while, for Rebecca to watch Rebecca struggle with the sound-words of a Spiderman comic, but she soon grew restless.
She took one last look at the scrawny red-haired girl, whose greyish-green eyes were staring at the pages in front of her while she tried to pronounce 'thwip', then she looked around to see if she could find something that would lead her to the desired dream. Almost immediately, she saw him. He was standing by the windows, his blond hair almost luminescent in the sunlight, and unlike everyone else in the classroom he was watching her. His smile widened when her eyes met his blue ones, and with a nod he beckoned her to follow him.
They stepped out of the classroom window, and an instant later they were standing on the edge of the prairie, looking out over miles upon miles of endless open space. This was the first time he had been with her before the horses came, and she watched him up and down. She still couldn't quite tell if he were wearing clothes; he looked naked, but she could see no details of his body. Shielding his eyes from the sun with his hand, he was gazing out over the prairie, just as she heard the first distant rumblings of hooves.
"They're here," he whispered. "They've come."
And then they were surrounded by horses. Rebecca's field of vision was filled with flying manes, sweat-glistening fur and swishing tails, her ears heard only the thunder of the hooves and her nostrils felt only the strong scent of the animals. Could you really smell things in dreams? She looked around for the boy, but he was gone. Then she didn't care anymore because she was riding, galloping over the open fields with such speed that her hair stood out behind her. The wind made her eyes water, and she screamed out her joy as they thundered towards the ever-distant horizon.
He was with her again, his boyish giggles loud as he swerved in and out of the herd. Always within hearing, always out of sight. After looking for him for a little while, Rebecca gave up and just enjoyed the ride, joining in his laughter at the top of her lungs. Then she heard him close by, and snapped her head around. There he was, only...
It wasn't him, couldn't be him.
Galloping right next to her, his rich golden mane flowing in the wind, was a young palomino. Not a foal, nor an adult horse. A boy, a colt with large blue eyes that mesmerised Rebecca as she stared into them. He laughed, a neigh that rose and fell in pitch, and she joined in again. It was no use trying to figure things out. How a boy could be a horse didn't really matter. All she needed was to run by his side.
Run? Yes, she realised, she was running. Or rather, galloping. For when she looked down to finally find out what her horse looked like, there was none. Only her hooves that pounded the dry ground, making her fly across the prairie. Rebecca would have clutched her heart with joy, but she didn't have arms anymore.
Instead she flicked her large head this way and that, making her mane swirl. She cried out a long, shrieking neigh that the other horses answered. Among their voices, to her delight, she recognised some. Her father was there, a proud grey with a silver mane, running abreast with her mother, a chestnut like Rebecca herself. And right behind them, almost grown but still skittish like a foal, was Ray. Rebecca fell in by his side and rubbed her muzzle against his side. He, too, was a chestnut, but darker than her, just as he was in her dream.
Was the girl-Rebecca just a sleep-fiction? Was she a horse who dreamt that she was a girl? Just a few minutes ago she had been sure that this was the dream. The prairie, the herd, the boy who was now nipping at her hind to steal her attention away from Ray. Could this be her reality? Back then, in school and in their house and in her room, it had all felt so real, but now she wasn't so sure anymore. She thought about the scrawny girl with the long red hair and the greenish-grey eyes that she saw in the mirror every morning. The girl who had a whole life away from the prairie. The girl who wasn't a chestnut filly playing with her brother and her palomino friend.
Which one of them was the true her?
Could she be both? Maybe she had two families, the same two families. Only one human and one equine. Would it be so strange to have both dream and reality, real? Her thoughts slowed her down, and earned her another nip. She reared, neighing angrily as she kicked with her front hooves at the boy, but then Ray sneaked up from behind and pushed at her with his muzzle. When she turned towards him, she almost fell over. Both colts used her off-balance to gain ground, and she had to gallop at full speed to catch up.
* * * * * *
Just then, the alarm bell rang, and Rebecca sat bolt upright in bed, gasping loudly. It took her a few moments to find her hands and figure out how to use them, but then she managed to stop the annoying sound. She was still panting hard as she got out of bed and took off her nightshirt. It was wet with sweat, and she made a grimace as she ran a hand over her chest.
"I really need a grooming," she muttered, then broke into a giggle as she realised what she had just said. "Or maybe just a shower."
She pulled on a pair of panties, then walked towards the bathroom. It was locked, of course, and she pounded the door furiously, ignoring the muffled protests coming from within. After what seemed like forever, the door finally clicked open, and Ray came out wearing a towel around his waist.
"Hold in your reins, sis," he chuckled, grinning at her. "No need to bring the house down."
Rebecca remained frozen on the spot, watching her brother's naked back and his glistening wet reddish-brown hair until he had closed his door behind him. It couldn't have been a coincidence. It just couldn't! Ray wasn't interested in horses like she was, and he never used horse analogies. Was she still dreaming? Or was this the horse-Rebecca's dream? Shaking her head to try and clear her thoughts, she locked the bathroom door and hopped into the shower.
Hot water streaming down her body woke her up a bit, and her thoughts became more clear. Of course she wasn't a horse! That had just been a dream, this was reality. As for what had possessed Ray to make him talk about reins, she had no idea. But it must have a rational explanation. Maybe all her chatter about horses had finally rubbed off on him. That would be something, maybe they could go riding together some time!
After her shower she hurried to get ready for school. She paused only for a quick sandwich before she kissed her mother and father goodbye, and ran with Ray to their bus stop. This morning she barely even listened to her brother as he talked about whatever was on his mind, and she almost shrugged him off as they parted ways at school. The dream was still playing in her mind; she had been a horse. Not ridden one, she had actually had hooves and a mane and a swishing tail, and it had been she who had thundered across the prairie.
She didn't come out of her reverie until the second bell rang for her first class. English Literature. It took some effort to bite back a giggle as the thought struck her that she still didn't know how to pronounce 'thwip'. No matter. She seriously doubted that they would be reading comics in class for at least as long as old Mrs Archer was alive. Just then, the door opened, and a boy stepped in. Rebecca almost gasped out loud. He looked so much like the boy in her dream. Her palomino friend. A tall boy with long blond hair, and when he turned to look out over the class she saw that his eyes were a deep blue. She pinched her arm, and the sharp pain told her that she was really awake. This wasn't yet another dream.
"Class," Mrs Archer said, touching the boy's shoulder. "This is Geoff, he's just transferred to our school. Please make sure he feels welcome."
"Hi Geoff!" the whole class chanted, and he waved shyly to them.
There were a couple of desks available, but to Rebecca's mixed horror and delight Geoff didn't hesitate as he steered towards the one right next to her. They greeted each other in low voices, then both of them focused their attention on Mrs Archer. After class was dismissed, though, Geoff lightly touched her arm as she was about to leave.
"S-sorry," he said, blushing slightly, "but I just wanted t-to ask your name."
"I'm Rebecca," she answered, almost drowning in those blue wells. "N-nice to meet you, Geoff."
"You too." She could see his eyes flicker to her horse pendant, then back to meet hers. "So, you like horses?"
"Yeah, I love 'em." She smiled, and his face lit up as well. "You?"
"Yeah, me too. I often dream about them. I dream about being a horse, a wild one with no owner or anything."
"Y-you do?" Once more, Rebecca felt the thin surface of reality begin to crack underneath her. "You're a... a palomino?"
"Yes," he whispered. "And let me guess. Chestnut, right?"
Rebecca nodded, not trusting her own voice at the moment. They stared into each other's eyes until Mrs Archer cleared her throat, and they had to go. After a quick blushing moment of awkwardness, she stood up and held out her hand. Geoff took it, and she pulled him to his feet. As they left the classroom, side by side, Rebecca slowly brought her spinning head to a halt. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe it wasn't. It didn't really matter. She knew that this was reality, but as they parted ways for their second classes she also knew that she would see Geoff again. Tonight. When they both woke up from their dreams of being human, and were back in their other real lives.
Back on the prairie.