|You're the Inspiration
by Equestrian Horsewrangler
© Equestrian Horsewrangler -- all rights reserved
Tom leaned back in the chair with his eyes closed and hands locked behind his head, a Schadenfreude smile on his face while Alice feverishly scribbled on her notepad.
"I'm having trouble coming up with the next line to my poem," Alice said, flustered. She threw her pen down on the ground, and then dropped back onto her bed. Her head rolled toward her friend and she said, "Help me, please! You're always so good at this!"
Tom sighed. He hated poetry, from the heart-wrenching verses and the dainty wish fulfillment with which authors fill their tomes. Still, for some reason he was always good at helping others, something Alice was always ready to capitalize on.
He reluctantly turned to her and with feigned indifference, muttered, "Let me hear it."
Alice held the pad up and recited, "I wander the mundane avenues of life, each road a different adventure..."
Tom smirked. "Until I got hit by bus and lost my teeth, and now I must wear dentures."
Alice sneered and threw a pillow at him. "That's not funny, Tom! I'm being serious here!"
Tom deflected the pillow, and then sat up, giggling to himself. "Come on, Alice! I'm sure even Maya Angelou couldn't have come up with something that good so quickly!"
Alice continued to grimace. "I'm trying to construct something noble, and you're making fun of me!"
Tom took a hint and then rolled his eyes, returning to a reclining position. He lifted his hands in desperate gesture, his mouth agape when suddenly it came to him. "How about instead of ending the first sentence with 'adventure,' you change it to 'destination.' Then the second line can be: The routes we take will form our fate, our roads direct our transformation."
Alice's jaw dropped, and then she scrambled to snatch the pen off the floor and transcribe the words while they were still fresh in the air. "Brilliant!" she squeaked as her pen glided across the notepad. "You captured the 'street' metaphor I was using perfectly! Thank you so much, Tom!"
Tom just grumbled. "I don't know how you can stand that stuff! When I want literature, give me a good 'Punisher' comic book any day!"
Letting out a sigh herself, Alice sat up on her bed. "What I don't know is why you, somebody who's so clever with things like this, doesn't enjoy it. I love writing poems, but sometimes I just can't get it together. But whenever I'm around you, I can do no wrong. Either stuff just comes to me when I'm in your presence, or you actually just come out and tell me what to write." Alice then turned to him and smiled. "You're my own personal muse."
Tom stuck his tongue out in disgust. "I don't care. I can't stand all that soul-bearing stuff."
Alice crossed her shoulders. "Whatever. Look, I got to get started on my math homework."
Tom smiled as he got off the chair. "That, my dear Alice, I for sure can't help you with."
Tom wandered into his own bedroom back home, surprisingly greeted by a cool breeze. He could hear his mom now: "Why don't you open your window and let some fresh air in here." He glanced down at the floor and saw some white feathers lying on his floor.
He gritted his teeth and shook his head, and said under his breath, "Because all sorts of things fly in your room when you keep it open." He gathered up the little white trespassers and tossed them out his window.
He walked over to his desk and picked up a black composition journal, marked "Tom's Rhymes." He opened it to find every page blank, exactly the way it has remained since he bought it two years ago. His pen hovered over the pages as he desperately tried to think of something, anything to write.
Nothing would come to him. Frustrated, he threw the pen across the room and then shoved the journal into one of his desk drawers, not bothering to remember which one.
The next morning, Tom sat playing with his cereal, still pondering his lack of creativity from the other day. Meanwhile, his little sister Kate sang to herself from across the table.
"Froot Loops, Froot Loops are so great! I love to pour them on my plate! Red, yellow, purple and blue, I..."
She paused, not quite sure what else to say. Tom dropped his spoon in his cereal and looked up at her, "They make me hyper all day at school."
Kate smiled. "Yay!"
Their mother came in, scooping up Kate. "Let's go Katey, it's time to go to kindergarten. Better hurry up Tom, the bus will be here in 20 minutes."
As his mother walked away with Kate, he could still hear her singing the song:
"Froot Loops, Froot Loops are so great! I love to pour them on my plate! Red, yellow, purple and blue, they make me hyper all day at school!"
"Yes, they certainly do," he made out his mother saying as she closed the door behind her." He smiled and then finished his cereal.
After throwing on some clothes that probably matched, he shuffled out the door and locked it behind him. Once outside, he spotted some more white feathers, like the ones in his room. He picked one up and inspected it. It was about four or five inches long, obviously a flight feather of some sort. Judging by the number of feathers lying in yard, he assumed two white birds must have gotten into a fight here over territory.
The sound of the bus's gears coming to a stopped forced Tom to abandon his investigation, dropping the feather as he ran to the vehicle.
He ran into Alice in the hallway between second and third period. She had a big smile on her face. "Guess what? I turned in that poem you helped me with to my creative writing teacher, and she said that she was considering giving me extra credit."
Tom smiled as well, glad that his poetic epiphanies were making other people happy, even if they couldn't do the same for him.
"See you later," she smirked as she continued along her way. Tom, in turn, looked at her in confusion.
"Um, aren't you going the wrong way?"
Alice stopped and spun around. "No, actually I was going to see my science teacher." She reached in her pocket and pulled out a long white feather. "I found some feathers like this outside my house yesterday. I've never seen any birds around here big enough to have this sort of feathers, so I was going to ask her what they belong to."
Tom inspected the feather and could tell it was the same type he had already encountered twice. "Be sure to tell me what you find out," he said. "I've seen some like this too."
Alice nodded and resumed toward the science department. Tom turned and continued to his history class.
Tom and Alice met up again after the last bell rang.
"Any luck?" Tom inquired.
"Not really," Alice responded with a shrug. "Mrs. McGuiness said it looked like it belonged to a larger bird like a seagull or herring. Definitely flight feathers though. She had no clue why they would be in this area."
Tom sighed. "Another of life's little mysteries goes unsolved. Oh well, it wasn't really important."
"Yeah, but I'll tell you what is," Alice blurted. "My creative writing teacher wants to see more of my poems, so I'll be needing your help soon."
A moan escaped Tom's lips. "Not again! You should have kept that denture line in so your teacher wouldn't bug you anymore."
"First of all, she isn't 'bugging' me. I enjoyed composing poems. Secondly, I don't see why you're not happy for me. It was your words that helped me get it together. Like I said, you're good with poetry."
Tom squeezed his hand into a fist. "Only when I'm helping others! I can't ever come up with anything for myself!"
Alice bit her lip, finally realizing why he didn't like poetry. She decided not to press the issue. "Um, listen, we better get going, or we're going to miss the bus."
Tom exhaled slowly. "You go ahead, I think I'm going to walk home today."
"Yeah, I'll talk to you later, okay?"
Alice nodded, and made a beeline toward the bus pool. Tom watched her, and with his arms hanging low, he turned and started off towards home. His house was only three blocks away, and he could cut through the woods to save some time.
"Stupid, worthless gift!" Tom muttered to himself as he entered the forest, leaving the school and the rest of civilization behind him. "A 'curse' is more like it! What good is it if I can't use it to make myself happy?"
He continued down a small path, swatting at branches, bushes and anything else in his way. Once he got to a clearing he shoved his hands in his pockets and brooded as he trekked across the trail.
A loud flapping followed by a clomping sound made him stop dead in his track. He turned around to find a white horse standing behind.
"I found you!" the horse exclaimed. Tom's eyes threatened to bulge out of his head at sight of a talking horse that seemed to have came out of nowhere. Before he could say anything, the horse stretched out two monstrous, white wings, one growing out of each side. The horse flapped its wings quickly and then folding them up neatly on its sides. A
few white feathers from the wings floated for a few seconds in the air before landing on the ground.
"Sorry," the horse said with a guilty smile. "I just had to get a crick out of my wings. I must be molting, I've been losing feathers for the last couple days."
Tom was dumbfounded. "Wha... what are you? What do you want?"
The horse snorted. "Can't you tell by my impressive wingspan?" he asked as he unfolded his flight appendages to full length. "I'm a pegasus! And what I want is you! I've been looking all over for you."
The horse folded its wings again and then began to circle around Tom. "Yes, you're the one all right. Although we must do something about your body; won't be able to fly too well, that's for sure."
Tom looked at the creature, a confounded expression on his face. "What are you talking about? You're Pegasus?"
The horse smirked. "No, not THE Pegasus. Just one of his descendants. My name is actually Xenophon. I was sent to observe you and see if you're qualified. And I'm proud to say you meet all the requirement, and now I'm basically here to recruit you; you're just the type of person we're looking for."
Tom wasn't sure what to make of all this, no reasonable question came to his mind. He just sort of absentmindedly blurted out, "Why?"
"Because of your gift!" Xenophon said with a smile. "All pegasuses are blessed with this talent, and you'd make a great addition to our group!"
Tom lifted his arms in confusion. "I..., I don't know what you're talking about!"
The pegasus rolled its eyes. "Poetic inspiration! Don't they teach you anything in these schools anymore? Back in ancient Greece, poets your age would have know all about this."
Tom just shook his head.
Xenophon sighed. "You really don't know? Well, you see, Pegasus, THE Pegasus I
should probably add, had traveled to Mount Helicon one day when he struck the rocks with his hoofs. At the point where he struck the mountain, the fountain of Hippocrene sprang up from the rocks. This fountain was the wellspring of poetic inspiration. From that point on, Pegasus and all his descendants became the muses of poetry. It's our job to inspire others to express themselves and the world in creative verses."
Xenophon took a step towards Tom. "That's why I was sent to find you. You have the gift of inspiring others. You simply must join us!"
"I don't understand," Tom mumbled. "Why was I chosen?"
"You have the spark," Xenophon said. "It's rare, but some humans are born with this gift. I myself was once human, and a poet. Perhaps you read my epic poem, 'Anabasis?'"
Tom shook his head no. "We read 'The Odyssey' last year."
Xenophon sighed again. "Figures. Homer gets all the publicity. Anyway, what would you say? You would get to become a pegasus, soaring through the air whenever you wish and living with the rest of the winged horse herd on Mt. Olympus. We still come down to the earth, of course, to spread epiphany to those poets who need it the most."
Tom stopped to think about this. He was being offered an exclusive opportunity,
and these creatures, which according to Xenophon were the experts of poetry, actually wanted him, a mundane human to join them. It sounded like an amazing honor, but how could he leave those he loved. "But, what about me family, and friends?"
"You may return to visit them whenever you like. Please join us, Tom. I know that in the past you weren't happy with your gift, but you will be once you see how it makes so many others joyful. And," Xenophon added with a smirk, "If that's not enough, you get some really neat wings out of the deal as well."
Tom was flustered. "I... Can I have some time to think about this? I mean; this is a really big decision."
Xenophon nodded, remembering his own choice all the millennia back. "Very well. I'll meet you here tomorrow morning before your school starts. If you choose not to join us, than I'll wish you luck in your affairs."
With that, he opened his wings and began flapping for takeoff. "I certainly hope that you join us, Tom. You really are special, and it would be a shame to squander your talents."
Tom watched as the winged horse flew away, and he slowly placed his hands in his pockets, turning and continuing on his way back home.
Tom's mind wandered throughout the rest of the evening. He kept looking around the table at his mom, day and sister. How could he leave them? It would seem so selfish to become something so powerful and in turn break the hearts of those who care about them.
But at the same time, this really was an incredible opportunity. Up until today, he never believed there were any such things as pegasuses. And he certainly didn't think his talent at inspiring others would ever be of benefit to anything that really mattered. Would keeping his talent to himself and only helping those close to him be even more selfish?
His mother soon took his sister up to bed, and he was left alone at the table with his dad.
"Dad, can I ask you something?"
His father set down his fork and looked at Tom. "Sure, go ahead."
"When you fought in Operation Desert Storm, did you think it was selfish of the Army to make you leave your family and risk your life?"
His father's eye's rolled backwards as he let out a sigh. "No, not really. I guess in the short term Tom, something like that might seem out of line, but you have to realize that sometimes you have to take a risk in order to help people."
Tom nodded as his bit his lower lip. "Even if it meant that your family might never see you again?"
His father placed ran his fingers over his mouth, and then swung his hand in a half-wave gesture. "I hope you understand that just because I left you and your mother, that doesn't mean I didn't care about you. Sometimes we have tough decisions we have to make, and that means sacrificing our own personal principles for the greater good."
Tom crossed his harms and nodded again. "In your opinion, was it worth it?"
"Yes," his father said. "Sometimes helping other people is the most important thing you can do."
Tom thought about that as his father got up from the table. He sat at the table for what seemed like a half-hour, staring off into space.
That night he lay in bed and thought; it was all he could do. He thought deeply about his place in the world, what he could do, and who he could be. A thousand questions poured through his head. A thousand answers followed. They all competed for supremacy in his mind, and the whole battle was unnerving as it was tense. Only one thing was clear to him as he lay in his darkened room.
The night seemed endless.
The next morning, Tom got up early. He slowly slid on his clothes and wandered around the house, looking in at his family as they slept in their bedrooms. His father soon woke and began his morning ritual before heading off to work. Tom made sure to say goodbye to him.
His mother and sister also went through the motions, and when the time came for them to leave, Tom rushed to the door.
"What are you doing?" his mother asked, confused by his behavior.
"I just wanted to say I love you," Tom blurted.
"Oh! Well, I love you to, dear," she responded.
Tom nodded. "Goodbye Katey."
Katey smiled and waved goodbye while she and her mother exited the house. Tom sighed as he looked about the house. He nodded his head to himself, and then left the house.
Every step toward the woods seemed like a mile, the whole trip a lifetime. Tom took a deep breath as he entered the tree line, making a straight path for the clearing. The woods were quiet that morning, and Tom smiled to himself as he continued on his trek.
He arrived at his destination five minutes later, surprised to see Xenophon was already waiting.
"Good morning, Tom," the winged horse said with a smile.
"Morning," Tom said in return, looking around the glade.
"Big choice you have to make," Xenophon said.
"I've made it," Tom responded, almost robotically. "It was a tough decision, but I'm confident I made the right choice."
"All right," the pegasus said. "Let's hear it."
Tom closed his eyes for a brief second as he exhaled, and then slowly looked the pegasus in the eyes. "Okay. I want to join you."
Xenophon smiled. "I'm sure it was very hard on you, but trust me, you won't regret your decision."
Tom slowly nodded.
At that, the winged horse began to recite something in some ancient tongue, and Tom became woozy. He fell down on his knees with his hands planted on the ground, supporting him. He felt himself get swell up, growing in every direction. His nose and mouth grew out from the rest of his head, forming into a solid muzzle while his ears became pointed and traveled up the top of each side of his head. His hands and feet thickened and then hardened into hooves, while the bones in his arms and legs grew and twisted in painless transformation.
A long flowing silver tail burst from his rear as his clothes ripped off him, his shyness about his nudity quickly alleviated as soft white fur spurted out in every direction, coating his body in hair. A long silver mane burst forth from his head and neck while his body took its final definitive horse shape.
Xenophon nodded at the change. "Looks good so far. Just one thing missing to finish the package."
Tom felt a vibrating sensation as a fold of flesh burst out of each of his sides, below the withers and a few inches back from directly above his point of shoulder. Each new appendage took the familiar look of wings, with the top joint extending forward past Tom's neck. There was a slight itching sensation as feathers instantly grew out from the
wings, the largest flight feathers extending back to his rear quarter. Tom watched in fascination as the wings folded neatly along his flanks.
Xenophon smiled. "That's one way to do it. Or you can twist your wings so they run vertical like mine, with the elbow of your wing joint facing up toward the sky. Just remember to use your muscles to lift up on them a bit, or you'll drag your flight feathers across the ground."
"Um, okay," said Tom. He looked about the world around him, suddenly so different to him now that he was in this new body. "What am I supposed to do now?"
"Why, we fly to Mt. Olympus of course!" Xenophon answered, almost as confused about the question as Tom was while asking. "You'll have to meet with everyone else."
"Fly?" Tom stuttered. "I don't know how!"
"Of course you do! Sometimes, however, we all need some... inspiration."
With that, Xenophon spread his wings and with a few well-timed flaps was airborne. Tom swallowed nervously, and then followed Xenophon's lead.
"Look at you go!" Xenophon screamed from out in lead. "You're a natural!"
Tom watched his wings instinctively flap and he let out a triumphant whinny as he sailed through the air, effortlessly tearing through the azure sky.
It was a year later that Alice found herself sitting at her desk, a sole tear running down her face as she remembered Tom. It had been a year since he mysteriously disappeared, and she felt guilty about leaving him alone that day.
Wiping the fluid from her eye, she picked up her old notepad and looked down at the page, on which she had just written: "What happened to you, Tom?"
Suddenly, her arm took on a life of itself as her hand involuntarily started to write. She dropped her pen once she regained control of her arm, and looked down in shock at what she had wrote.
"I'm okay," the message read. "I'm helping people to realize the joys of poetry all over the globe. I couldn't be happier. Please, don't give up writing, Alice. You have a good spirit, and I always enjoyed your poems."
She started to cry again as she read the message for a second time, looking up in time to see something floating in the air outside her window. She dashed to the window and see what it was, but by the time she opened it, whatever had been outside was already just a dot in the horizon. A small object fluttered past her face and she reached out in time to grab it. Opening her hands, she found a long, white feather.
Alice slowly closed her hand around it, and looked out at the evening sky, wondering if what she had been witness to was real. In the end she knew it had to be true, even if she could never prove it. She sat down, opened up her notepad, and began to write, the words just coming to her, like when she used to be with Tom.
Elsewhere, Tom sailed across the skies, looking back on Alice's home with a smile on his face.
"If you could only know how happy I finally am helping others with their poems," he said. With a strong flap of his wings, he flew further into the heavens. "But perhaps, one day you will."
Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard. Please send any comments or questions to him at email@example.com