The Longest Winter
The old woman snapped the lever on the rifle down and up quickly, ejecting a smoking bullet cartridge from the gun’s chamber. It was as if she had handled the gun her whole life. She immediately took aim at the coyote directly ahead of her and fired off another round.
POW!! The bullet hit the beast square in the forehead, killing it instantly. She pulled the lever up and down again, loading another bullet.
“Ya’ll wanna piece of Ruth Montgomery Saint James?” She said taking aim at another coyote as it fled.
POW!! She caught it in the back. It yelped in pain and tried to run but its limp made it an easy target.
POW!! The second round dropped it as it hit in in the side, striking several vital organs.
The remaining coyotes ran off back into the woods, yipping and howling in terror as they fled.
POW!! “That’s right you filthy curs!! Don’t you ever step foot near my house again, ya hear??” The old woman screamed into the night, her breath making vapor in front of her face as she yelled. She caught her breath and wiped her nose. She hadn’t had an adrenaline rush like that in a while.
“Damn mongrels.” She said, breathing heavily as she composed herself. She set her gun down and leaned on it like a cane. She gripped her chest while catching her breath. Suddenly she heard something. It sounded almost like baby kittens, or small birds. She held her breath and listened carefully trying to pinpoint the sound’s location.
Meanwhile, under the porch, the mare desperately tried to stop panicking. The coyote was gone, but a new threat had arrived. Humans had never been kind to her, not even once. Their only response to seeing her struggling to survive on the streets of the village was to treat her like vermin. They threw things at her, screamed at her, and chased her away. She saw several fluffies get caught in traps and killed. Humans were not to be trusted.
But her foals didn’t know any better, and the recent scare left them terrified and squealing. The mother didn’t know what to do. She tried to pull them off of her back but she was still trembling with fear and adrenaline. Her body wouldn’t move. She couldn’t even see straight; her vision was a blur and all she could hear was her own heartbeat pumping loudly in her head.
Suddenly she heard foot steps above her on the porch. The old woman was slowly walking forward towards the stairs in front of her, each step creaking the old wood beneath her feet.
The old woman reached into her robe pocket and pulled out a few bullets. She loaded them into her gun and placed her finger on the trigger, ready to shoot. It could be a porcupine, a raccoon, who knows. She wasn’t about to take any chances. She then reached into her other pocket and pulled out a small flashlight. She stepped down the stairs and slowly walked around the porch. Her heart had stopped racing and her breathing was back to normal. She was cool and calm now.
As she shined the light on the hole at the side of the porch she continued to listen carefully. All she could hear were peeps and chirps. Perhaps the varmint mother had been killed by the coyotes and only the babies were left? She decided to take a look and see for herself.
Her old bones ached as she slowly crouched down. She pointed the flashlight under the porch while laying her head down on the ground to see. It was definitely some sort of creature, but nothing like anything she had ever seen before.
“What on earth?” She said to herself.
The mare looked back at the old human now starting at her through the porch hole. Still shaking in fear the fluffy pony’s brain frantically tried to think of a way out of her predicament. The old woman shined a flashlight in the mare’s face. It hurt her eyes and she covered them with her arms.
“Is that, a little horse?” The old lady said out loud. She shined the light around the inside of the porch. There wasn’t anything else, just a shivering ball of fluff covering its eyes. She squinted while shining the light on the pony’s back. There they were, three chirping little foals.
“My word.” The old lady said, shaking her head in disbelief. Suddenly she remembered something. It was several months ago, a news broadcast on the radio talking about something called a “fluffy”. They were tiny ponies, originally meant to be living toys for children, but now were loose on the streets like stray cats and dogs. Most importantly, the old women remembered that the broadcast said that… they could talk.
“Hello?” She said in a sweet voice. “So you’re what the coyotes were after. It’s alright now, they’re all gone. You don’t have to be afraid.”
The mare continued to hide her eyes and quake with fear. Maybe the old woman would just go away and leave her alone. Her babies continued to squirm and cry on her back. The green earthy male climbed down and began pushing the mother’s fluff, hoping for milk.
“Well look at that! What a cute little baby!” The old woman said with a smile. “He looks hungry!”
The mare tried to peek over her arms covering her eyes, but the light was still too bright. She squinted and was able to make out the outline of the woman’s face peering through the hole.
“Oop, sorry. Is this too bright?” The woman said with a chuckle. She shined the light in a different direction so that it lit the area without blinding anyone.
“Come on now, don’t be shy.” She said encouragingly. Are you a fluffy pony? Can you talk, hm?”
The mare remained silent. Meanwhile her other foals climbed down to join their brother, poking at their mother’s tummy in hopes of getting her to turn over and expose her teats for feeding.
“It’s ok, I won’t hurt you.” The woman said in a soothing voice. “Your babies are hungry. Don’t you want to feed them? I shined the light away from your face, I’m sorry if I scared you.”
The mare’s heartbeat finally began to slow down after beating rapidly for what felt like days. She had never encountered a kind human before. It was strange to her. She had a memory of a little girl once saying “pony” with a smile, shortly before the child’s mother pulled her away and screamed “go away, you filthy shitrat!”
“You want something to eat?” The woman asked, interrupting the mare’s flashback. “Are you hungry, like your babies, hmm?”
The mare’s eyes were beginning to adjust to the light filling the area. She looked at the woman but said nothing. She had calmed down but still didn’t trust the human. Her foals continued to poke her side, squealing for milk. She curled inward and pulled them into her fluff, covering them with her tail.
“Oh, so it’s like that huh?” The old woman chuckled. “Alright then, I get it. Momma’s lookin’ out for her babies. That’s ok. I would too if I were you.” The old woman flinched in pain as the dirt and gravel dug into her knees. She slowly stood up and stretched her back. Her old body wasn’t meant for this kind of excitement.
She took a deep breath and exhaled, the fog from her mouth dancing in the porch light.
“Been a while since these old bones got fired up like this.” She said out loud. “Back in the day I would have gotten at least two more of those curs with old Debby here.”
She looked down at the old wood engraving on her gun. It said Debby in cursive. She rubbed it fondly, remembering her father who gave it to her.
“Well if you want to stay out here in the dark, I understand.” The woman said into the night, throwing Debby over her shoulder. “But if you change your mind, just knock on my door and I’ll let you inside.”
With that she slowly creaked her way back up the porch and back inside the cottage. She set Debby down by the door and headed towards the wood pile. She threw another log onto the fire and slumped into her rocking chair.
“What a crazy night.” She laughed to herself as she slowly began to rock herself to sleep.