by Michael Bard
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Based upon requests of various interested persons, I've started a diary of my experiences after the EVENT. Hopefully they well help other centaurs with problems. And, of course, any others who have other problems that need solutions or have alternate suggestions should feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, since I at least try to write, I've tried both to keep true to my experiences, and make it at least a little enjoyable to read.
Oh, and (of course) places and names of others have been changed to protect the innocent and all that.
However, unfortunately, all good (hopefully) things must come to an end, and this is no exception. This is likely the most important part of the whole thing, the most thought provoking part that one would think should have happened a long time before this. What can I say? For me it didn't.
#10 -- i'm a centaur
There's one thing that never changes about hospitals -- they're boring. Sure, I had some work to do, I had writing to work on, but I couldn't do it all the time. The last week has been particularly boring. Boring and dangerous.
Here I've been stuck in the hospital for two months healing from an act of kindness against a world that hated me. An act of kindness that would not have been possible for a human. Which meant that I wasn't human.
Yes, an odd thing to say, but the truth. Yes, I was a centaur. I knew I was a centaur -- I had eyes, nerves, and all the other requisite baggage. So why was I still finding it so surprising, and so frightening?
I would stay up late looking at the city lights through the window, feeling the muscles swish my tail, scraping a hoof along the linoleum, and knowing that it was I, a centaur, not a human, that was doing it.
And then I'd flip on the light, grab the laptop, and get back to writing until I was literally asleep on my feet.
Today they started concentrated therapy to help me heal and stretch. It wasn't what I'd expected, as I was led to a physical therapy pool and then helped down a ramp into the warm water. It felt odd, I hadn't been in anything but a shower for months.
The therapy wasn't what I'd expected -- walking and trotting -- but instead simply stretching my right hind leg to help the muscle heal. It was relaxing at first, but after a few hours of the same repetitive motion, my mind started to wander. All I could feel was the warmth of the water, a slight tightness in breathing due to the submergence of my lungs, a slight ache at my waist, and the movement of the muscles in my leg. New muscles, foreign muscles, muscles that belonged on a horse and not on me.
And this time I couldn't run away.
All I could do was float there, my hooves just touching the bottom, feeling my new and inhuman muscles stretch and relax. Stretch and relax. Stretch and relax over and over again. My muscles that weren't my muscles stretching and relaxing.
What the hell had I become?
That first day became hell. Hell because I could no longer run as I'd been doing for months; hell because I had no work to throw myself into, no people to save, no hatred to flee, just time to think and experience myself. My new self. All of what I'd become, six limbs, four legs, and a tail!
What the hell could have done this? Think. I remembered the missing mattress, but there hadn't been enough mass there. That meant that the mass had been created from energy in an intelligent and carefully programmed manner. The energy in a fusion bomb comes from a number of atoms fusing -- I'd had kilograms added! And that wasn't even including the biological design. The pitiful genetic engineering that we're capable of is mostly hit and miss -- you think you know what a gene does, you insert it into an existing chain, and then see what happens.
Whatever had done this Event, this thing to me, had been able to create a completely viable complex lifeform from scratch. They'd examined it, figured out what bits were missing to make the whole work, created the genetic instructions, and then implemented their design. And they did this to around 800 people all at the same time! It boggled my mind. I would have disbelieved it, but I was living proof.
But why? Why??
It had to be something important, unless this act was trivially easy for whomever or whatever had done it.
Thank god the therapy only lasted for a few hours in the morning and ended before I started screaming. I was afraid, terrified. If something existed that could do this, transform all these people, then what couldn't they do?
But then I was pulled back into conscious realization of what I'd become for a student at the university had begun brushing me. Sure, I'd done it myself -- I had to -- but for whatever reason it was different when somebody else did it. Maybe because I didn't know where a stroke was going to be and thus had to react to it from surprise. Each stroke was thus an electric shock of startlement and exclamation, and each stroke was a nail telling me that I was no longer human.
I was a centaur who was turned on by horses. And I was a centaur who almost got high from somebody brushing me.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
When the brushing was finally over, my entire body was tingling
and had become a mass of quivering nerves and relaxed muscles.
I could barely stand to walk back to my room and had to lean against
an orderly for help.
And once I arrived I grabbed the laptop and flipped it on and wrote almost ten thousand words of escapist fiction.
Every morning they've dragged me to the pool, but I've found a solution! By staying up all night working I can fall asleep and dream my treasured human dreams and not have to think. It's only the brushing now. It leaves me quivering (both in delight and in terror) like a horse, which I'm not. Slowly it wakes me up from my dreams and imaginings into a soft glow of sensation and relaxation. At least it's not sexual anymore -- thank God for that.
Anyway, the publisher visited me today with some proofs for the collection -- everything looks good. They have some sketches for covers, one shows an elf standing on the conning tower of a submarine, but another, and the one I choose, shows a man dancing -- half human and half horse. That's the one I picked as I think it has the right feeling for the collection. They're also delighted with the volume of my work, but are still pressuring me for a centaur story. Maybe I'll give them one as I'm starting to run out of ideas.
I've also seen some disturbing things in the news. There were some statistics on us Changelings and it seems that almost 10% have either killed themselves, or gone insane and I think that I may soon be part of the latter.
Why, you ask? Well, I said I would be honest in this, and there's no sense in running away from it anymore. This morning, while I slept through therapy I dreamed and this time it wasn't a human dream. It was a centaur dream. I dreamed of running through the grass on all fours, splashing through a stream, and then seeking out a female centaur and mounting her and climaxing.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Sorry, I had to stop for a minute and recover. It was pleasurable.
God, it was pleasurable, more so than what I remember it was as
human. And I don't even know if it was real or not! I think it
was at least partially real -- the therapist had a smile when
I jerked awake afterward, and I could feel my organ collapsing
back into it's sheaf.
What have I become?!
They took me out to the track today and I was able to walk around without difficulty. It seems that I'm almost completely healed, although there are some concerns about the level of functionality that I'll regain. Amazingly there were some photographers there -- guess I'm still somewhat newsworthy. And unfortunately that suggests that I'll probably be newsworthy for the rest of my life, and unlike the famous, not have the money that usually goes along with it.
Walking around the track was, well, nice. Even in my sleepless state, a fast walk was enough to make my mind sharp; enough for me to feel the play of muscles and a hint of the hormonal high of the gallop. I'm not sure if it was fortunate or not that they wouldn't let me go any faster.
I haven't been sleeping well, or even consistently. I can't sleep at night and thus drive myself until I fall asleep, literally, on my hooves. Today a different doctor came to see me -- I think he was a psychiatrist. We had a brief talk and he asked me what was wrong. How the hell was I supposed to answer that? Should I say that I'm afraid of what I am, afraid of what I might become? Finally, all I said was that I was having trouble sleeping. I told him that it wasn't pain, or worry, I guessed that I just couldn't clear my mind to rest.
That's it -- I had too much to think about. Too many worries about my future and my health.
He added some sleeping pills to my shrinking daily drug intake and then left. For some reason he seemed uncertain even though I'd told him the cause.
And, glory be, the drugs worked! One pill and I was out like a light into a dreamless sleep. Glorious, peaceful sleep!
I feel great! Well rested, peaceful, and on my way to healing. Not only did I finish Ilisri today, but they let me get up to a canter. It was wonderful! I could have done it for hours but it's not as effortless as it was,probably because of my three months of forced bedrest. Still, they've given me permission to go out every day -- when it's not raining -- as long as I wear a jacket and have a nurse with me. And don't go any faster.
That's the one bad part. The limit. My body is ready; I can feel it. But the dire warnings they've given me not to push myself too hard are causing me to restrain myself. The remembered high is controlling the hormonal longing for now.
This does make one wonder though -- as a human was I this much of a slave to my body? Or am I becoming less than human?
Anyway, the rubdowns almost make all the pain of the last few months worth it. Doing it myself with inadequate equipment is no comparison. Sometimes I think that it would be nice to just be a horse and enjoy a brushing.
I had some trouble sleeping. I don't remember any dreams, but I must have had one as I had what is colloquially called a 'wet' dream. And for a centaur, it is very wet indeed. The nurse who helped me clean up the fairly significant mess asked me what I was dreaming about.
What the hell was I dreaming about? I couldn't remember. Human. It had to be human. And that's what I told her, haltingly of course. It's not something that I'm comfortable with discussing.
Of course I couldn't completely drown out the thought that it was centaur, or even horse.
I'm forcing myself to write this because I said I would and the idea of keeping a promise is all I've got left.
I'd been allowed to a canter for the past four days and I knew that today was the day. Today was the day that my hormonal needs would be satisfied, that I would once again experience the sensation of a body doing what it was designed to do; of biological systems working together in harmony so that the result is greater than any of them could achieve on their own. Today I knew I was going to gallop, regardless of what the doctors said.
When I reached the track in the morning, I was like a frisky colt. I kept taking little steps forwards and back; flicking my tail and then holding it still. The day was sunny but cool, with towering clouds casting intermittent shadows across the track. In the distance I could hear automotive traffic, and a flock of birds were twittering in a tree nearby.
I couldn't wait and as soon as I reached the field I leapt forward into a walk, a trot, a canter, and finally a gallop.
And it was there again! The feeling of muscles working in harmony; of blood flowing; of lungs stretching. A harmonic sum greater than any of the parts. One step, two...
Ahhhhhhhhhhh! And then screaming, stabbing pain.
Helpless, I fell forward on my upper chest and scraped across the gravel to a stop.
The doctors were running across the field towards me but ignoring them I stumbled to my hooves and started forward again. I wanted this, needed this, my body was screaming for this. I stayed at a canter for about fifteen seconds before leaping forward into a slow gallop which worked for one step, then two, and then the pain. A tearing stabbing pain in my right hand leg.
I managed to stay on my hooves, I guess because I expected it, and stumbled back into a canter. By now I couldn't see through tears but I accelerated back into a gallop, waiting for the pain but denying its existence. And it came, burning, stabbing, tearing, and I kept up the pace, willing the pain to go away, to get better, but it didn't. It got worse.
By the time the doctors reached me I was sprawled in the grass, oblivious to the world, unable to see through the tears and the anger, and the burning, sobbing loss. I think the doctors sedated me, but I'm not sure.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The next few hours were a daze. I think I was at least partially
conscious, as I have scattered memories of being led, and then
memories of x-rays and ultra sounds and other tests being made,
and finally making my way back to my room.
When I finally awoke it was night. I was again in the harness that I'd originally used, and was once again hooked up to an IV. Quietly I removed the harness and slowly, carefully, picked up the laptop and started it up and I started writing this entry.
I can no longer gallop.
I don't know how I got to sleep, I think that maybe I was crying on the laptop when one of the nurses came in and added something to the IV. My entire body was sore, there were scrapes on my four legs, and on my chest. My upper torso got off likely because it was clothed, but I can feel a swelling in my nose. Had it been bleeding? I didn't know.
I turned around and saw the doctor whose entrance had awakened me and he explained what the tests had found.
Apparently, when the paramedics had found me, they'd kept me from dying and set the bone as best they could. Not knowing how to fix a horse, they didn't do it perfectly. Upon my arrival it was checked and left, as it looked fine to the human doctors who'd treated me. But it wasn't. There were small saucers, kind of bruises on the bone, and tiny sharp edges where the two pieces of bone didn't quite meet. Their best guess was that when I stretched my hind legs in a gallop, then the muscles caught on those irregularities and that was the pain. If I galloped long enough, it was likely that the muscles would begin to tear.
Somehow I managed to keep from screaming and asked him to leave in a calm voice. I don't know if he did, and I didn't care. I turned and slowly walked over to the window and looked out at the world that I could no longer enjoy. The one thing that had kept me going through all the bad times, the one thing that had kept me sane was gone.
I was a human who'd become a centaur; a horse creature who could no longer gallop.
And I was a creature who hated life and just wanted to forget.
The week had been... unpleasant. The doctors wanted me to keep exercising but I didn't bother. Why should I? Instead I kept debating whether or not I should have saved the girl, and a small, frightening, part of me said that the price was too high. But the worse was that the dreams were coming back, even through the drugs. At first I didn't remember much of them, but by the 21st they were clear and very explicit. And messy in the real world too. And they were even more disturbing -- some involved centaurs, but most involved horses. I wasn't a horse! If I couldn't even gallop, then how the hell could I be a horse?? But then how could I be a centaur for the same reason? But I wasn't human anymore. What was I?
At least if I was a horse I wouldn't remember what I'd lost.
A large part of me wanted to just give up. Maybe if I wished hard enough I could just become a horse and then not have to worry about the pain and the frustration. I've done everything I can and now I have nothing. Most of me refuses to consider the other route available -- just too stubborn, or too much of a seeker of pain, I guess.
But then, why should I bother worrying about that either. And suicide would be too much work. Oh well.
Anyway, it seems that today I'm free to go. Happy, happy, joy, hoy. It's another nice day, as though it matters, and it seems that the company I work for has hired a van to take me to a surprise. I tried to smile when they came up and my manager walked me into the trailer, but I don't think it worked. The trip was a fair distance out of the city and then into the country and I must admit that it was an odd but interesting sensation standing in a horse trailer, bouncing and jostling, as I sped down the 401. Eventually we got off the main highway onto a road, and then off the road onto a dirt road (not pleasant) and finally we turned up and into a dirt driveway of some kind. And then we stopped.
As I couldn't turn around I had to wait until someone came around and opened the ramp at the back, and then I carefully made my way out and onto the ground.
I was on... well I guess you'd call it the ranch that belonged to the farrier (whose name was Rita Harrington -- I don't think I've mentioned that). She was there. Most of my co-workers were there. My friends were there. My family was there. Most of my aunts and uncles and cousins were there. Even some of the doctors (including the psychiatrist). Above all was hanging a sign: 'Congratulations on your recovery.'
I wanted to just turn away and flee, but I couldn't flee, and it wasn't right for me to dampen their enthusiasm. So I smiled as best I could and tried to be happy. I don't know how well I hid my true feelings though, it was hard. Here I was, a human who looked like an animal, and an animal who couldn't gallop. And of course the gifts didn't help. Things like bags of horse meal (I could eat it and it would help my budget, but still!), bristle brushes, lotions and clippers for my hooves, a spare set of horseshoes...
Why were they doing this to me?? I wasn't a horse. I wasn't even like a horse as I couldn't even gallop! I had to be human -- my mind, my intelligence were the only things I had left. And they gave me horse supplies?!
Or perhaps they were trying to tell me something. Was I denying the truth? Would I be better off as a horse? No pain, no memory, no gut wrenching sense of loss.
As the gifts ended and with a smile (I hoped) still plastered on my face, I gave quiet thanks. I refused to give rides for now, even though a modified saddle and blanket had been among the articles, and just said that I needed some time alone. I did, but not for the reasons they probably thought. The psychiatrist started to follow, but I just accelerated to a canter and left him behind.
A few minutes later I reached a wooden fence and stopped under a tree, smelling the horses on the wind that blew from the far side. It was then that I let it all out and started sobbing. I wasn't a horse, I'd never been a horse, so why all these godforsaken gifts. Why remind me of what I'd lost?? Why remind me...
What was that? It was a scent, but it was so intoxicating, so sweet. It was like nothing I'd ever scented before.
I turned and trotted over to the fence to try and follow the scent.
What's wrong with me? I am not a horse...
Sniff. I accelerated to a canter and a few moments later I saw a fence, closed and latched. Automatically I opened it, trotted through, and closed it. What was I doing...?
Sniff. I turned and followed the intoxicating, wonderful scent. It was a melody, a perfume of love and sweetness, an intoxication that made my heart pump faster, and buried my sorrow and pain. It was a joy, a need. I could feel my centaurhood growing and burning as I trotted and entered the barn. I could hear and see the group in the distance, and saw Rita heading towards me at a fast walk -- as I opened the door to the barn she accelerated to a run.
The scent, that wonderful, all encompassing, heavenly, sweetness of impossible joy.
My hooves thudded loudly on the cement, echoing off the walls. The barn was empty except for one stall which contained a mare. She looked up and nickered and I realized that the scent was coming from her. I reached the stall and then screamed out loud, a scream more equine than human -- I couldn't reach her. I couldn't reach the scent of heaven wafting through my nostrils for she was in a narrow stall and I couldn't get around her. Screaming and rearing up I kicked, my fore-hooves pounding on the stall door and cracking the wood with a sound like a rifle.
It was a stall, a door, I could open it. Was that what mind was for?
With my hands fumbling, I felt around and found the latch and opened it whilst I danced on my hooves. My horsehood was burning with need and urgency. The scent was there, all around me, filling my nostrils, my mind, driving away the pain. Slowly I led the mare out as she lipped my lower back and then there was room. Room to answer that glorious heavenly scent of joy and love and forgetfulness. Turning, I danced around her until I was in position and she raised...
What the hell was I doing?? Somewhere behind me I heard a shouted "No!" but I took a hesitant step forward. My body was desperate, burning. I could feel sweat caking my sides, substance dribbling out of my horsehood. The mare was mine, and I was hers. Being a horse would be so much easier, not having to live with the pain.
But I was not a horse for I couldn't gallop. Still... if I was a horse, would I care? All my mind had given me was memories of pain and loss. Was that the price of being a man?
But I wasn't a man. How could a man be ready to mate with a horse? How could a man feel this burning need? This siren call of hormones and pheromones?
But a horse could gallop and I couldn't! Not anymore.
I felt a hand touching my burning flank; a voice saying something, but to me it was nonsense. All I could see was the mare, her tail up and inviting, her scent filling my head. I swallowed and stared and took a step forward and the mare nickered; I reared up and landed on her back, feeling her tail tickling my lower chest; feeling her inviting flesh on the tip of my...
I felt a hand on my back as I recognized the words: It was Rita.
I recognized the words -- I could think.
I stopped at the edge as the mare nickered and whinnied her own frustration, all four of my nostrils (nose and breathing vents) quivering, my legs shaking.
I could think. Somebody cared. As a horse would I know this? Did it matter that somebody cared, was it worth the pain to know that somebody cared?
And then I remembered something. It was something one might at first think odd given the situation, but it fit. A couple of years ago I'd found a website written by someone who had supposedly become a centaur -- before there were any Changelings of course. And on that site there was an essay about what a centaur was, about what I was.
A centaur was neither a horse nor a man. A centaur was more a state of mind. A centaur was the best of both: A horse in speed and grace and power, and a man in kindness, caring and self sacrifice. A creature with mind, not instinct.
And a centaur would not do what I was about to do.
Now my head was completely clear. The mare was just a horse, a horse with a scent that, while interesting, was a dim echo of the scent I'd been looking for.
I was not a man, or a horse, but in a sense the best of both. I was a centaur. I was an intelligent creature, not a dumb animal.
Sure, you might think this is the corniest thing you've ever heard, and maybe it is. I like to think that I hadn't changed mentally, that I would have saved the girl if I hadn't become a Changeling, that I would have not struck back at those who tormented me if they had hunted me as a human for other reasons, but there is no way I can ever know for sure. But, at that point in my life I was losing it. I'd lost the one joy I'd gotten, and forgotten what it meant to think, to have friends, to be respected and liked, maybe even loved. I'd hidden in a shell while I claimed I was exposing myself to the world. But, I think that when confronted with the ultimate test, when shown the choice of beast or man; of forgetfulness or memory; I chose to be man yet keep what I'd been given. I chose to be myself, enjoy the gifts that I still had, and go on with life. I decided that intelligence, the knowledge of caring and love and thought, was worth the pain and anguish.
I chose to be a centaur, an intelligent creature.
Note: For those who are curious, the web page I'm referring to can be found at http://www.centaursite.com/CSOM.htm. It was still there last time I looked. Note that it doesn't completely contain what I described above but hints at it. It hints at some bits, and I filled in the rest myself. Back to the diary.
As I sort of hopped backwards off the mare, Rita asked me if
I had been about to do what she feared I was going to do, and
I answered truthfully. When asked why I hadn't, I basically told
her that I'd chosen mind over animal. Together we put the disappointed
mare away, and as we walked back together she told me what the
gathering was really about. The psychiatrist had assumed that
I was having problems adapting, which was true, and that I was
trying to stay human. So the gifts were designed to force me to
confront what I truly was. At that I laughed -- it had worked,
just not the way he'd thought it would.
But in the end it worked, and that was what was important.
For I was a centaur. Neither human, nor horse. A centaur.
Wounded, scarred, but still alive. Still with my mind and my intelligence; with kindness and hope.
And ultimately, that is probably the most important thing.
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