|The Transformation Story Archive||Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...|
The Other Side of the Fence
Old age, happens to the best of us. I know that I have only little time left, Before I go, I have to tell my story to someone. I suspect that you, more than most people will have the patience to listen.
It seems that life was set against me from the start. My mother was taken from me only the year after I was born. From then I was at the mercy of whoever would look after me. It was odd, but back then I never really questioned it, the way they looked after me. One minute I would be loved and the next, it seemed, I would be treated like dirt. The worst thing, was not the beatings, but the isolation. Often the only thing I saw was the view out the window, which never changed. That was while they loved me. After a while they got bored of me and handed me over to someone else. At first I thought my luck had changed, because I was suddenly surrounded by more than a dozen of my own kind. Even the food was better, like it was at the start, back at the old place, before it gradually became worse, when they got rid of me. At this new place I was almost pleased to be useful. I was looked after by one of them, and well. Every day It was fresh bedding, good food and grooming. I used to love the way I felt tingly all over when she had finished. Even the riding was not bad. First I learnt what they called "good balance", and then what must have been a hundred other tricks. Some of the things I did then I almost wish I could do now. Back then I could run a mile without getting out of breath. I could even jump a pickup truck, though you have to build up to a thing like that, but even the learning was sort of fun. That was before the grind.
The others in my group warned me that I was next. You see nearly every day, I would be taken into the school, and there I would spend ages being taught to go in all different directions, at the slightest hint from the boss. I knew damn well when I'd made a mistake, because she didn't believe in being gentle with the whip. Once or twice I really messed around, just to see what would happen, but after the beating I got, that was enough, and besides, they'd cut down my food. Back then it was only her who worked me. It was odd, as nearly all of the other fellows were ridden by dozens of different people. Being ridden by just one person made much more sense. You could get used to what they wanted, and sometimes you'd know what they wanted next. It actually felt good when you had done something right, they let you know it. It all changed when the boss put someone else on my back. I did not think that there was any reason to complain, after all she was the boss. If I knew then what I knew now I would have bucked, shied, rolled and ran off. To her credit there was nothing at all wrong with the new rider, she was nearly as good as the boss, and kinder with it. The problem was not being ridden by someone else, but by doing so you open the doors to the grind. If I'd have thrown off the new rider, then maybe I'd have got a reputation and would have been kept aside for those who really knew what they were doing. Or shot. But I didn't, so I paid for my mistake. It seemed that every week or so someone new would be put on my back, and each new person would be slightly worse than the last. To make up for this I got slightly more food and even got to go out often. If things had stopped there I would have probably never ended up like I am now. My second mistake was letting them encourage in me an indifferent attitude, "So what if there's an idiot on my back, kicking me in the ribs and pulling on my mouth, soon he'll be gone & I'll be fed." Looking back, with an attitude like that I almost deserved what I got, but not quite. None of God's creatures deserve to be treated unkindly.
After a while they were even putting absolute beginners on my back, though oddly enough they where not as bad as the ones who had had a little experience, apart from those who absolutely reeked of fear. At first I thought it was something they could see, but then I realised it was me!. After seeing that, I did not mind them so much. Often I could hardly tell which way they wanted to go because their instructions where all fuzzy. That was the thing that really confused me, the way that one persons signals & posture meant totally different things to another person's. Like I said It was not the beginners that caused the most grief but the intermediates, who had a little experience and therefore confidence, but had none of the precision or sensitivity of the more experienced rider. I'm sure to some of them I was just a rideable punchbag to take out their own problems on. God how I hated them, but by then this awful "I don't care" attitude really had a grip on me. It was easier to behave than complain so I behaved and endured the grinding endless injuries from useless riders.
It scares me to think about it but I might have stayed like that until I grew too old and was put down. In some respects I owe my life to Sampson. Sampson was a big grey of uncertain parentage. I especially remember him because he protected me right at the start when I was finding a place in the Herd. It was a blazing hot summer afternoon, in fact it was so hot that even the flies had gone into the shade. When me and Sampson were being taken out across the heath on one of the big circular walks that span the forest.
Normally we all loved these rides, as they make a pleasant break from the monotony of the lessons, but today it was just too hot. Even trotting made us break out in a sweat, but the riders above us, in their broad brimmed hats, seemed immune to the heat. It wasn't long before Sampson started to lag behind. I slowed down to let him catch up. I could see that the heat was taking it's toll and I started to head back. The riders were utterly oblivious to the Sampson's condition and just thought I was being disobedient. Eventually we came to a small stream, near the riding school, and they let us stop for a drink. I must have only got a few mouthfuls before I was urged on, and I tried to delay for a bit, but as we were near the school I eventually moved on. Sampson, who was a bit behind, must have had even less water than me.
Eventually we got back, and they untacked us and put us away. I could see Sampson straining to get to a bucket on the over side of his door. After a while he started to bang on his door, but he often does that, especially if he has ran out of hay so no one even bothered to see what he was kicking the door for. After a while he went in to lay down and the banging stopped.
Later that day one of the stable girls came along to set us fair for the evening, and when she came out of Sampson's box she was crying. I had a premonition that he was dead even then. She came back with the boss and she went in to see what was wrong. She came out shouting and so angry her face was all red. I have never seen anyone so angry. She shouted at the bawling stablegirl and she kicked over the bucket of water by Sampson's door then she shouted some more. Eventually she calmed down and she only cried a little when Sampson's body was taken away.
I may not have been the smartest creature on the earth, but I was suddenly sure that Sampson had only died because no one had checked his water.
Sampson was my oldest friend and now he was gone. It makes me angry even now to think that he was dead because someone didn't even have the presence of mind to put a bucket full of water inside his door. It make me sick to think he must have died looking at it. Too far away to do any good, but full in his sights. It all seemed so hopelessly unfair.
It might sound strange now, but then I was almost overcome with the "I don't care" attitude, because it was easier than coping with losing my friend Sampson. But, now I was sickened by the attitude that had somehow pervaded all my thoughts. That moment I swore to always care, and to never let Sampson's memory die.
I don't think sentiment is really part of the horses attitude, as almost all of the other horses seemed to forget about Sampson, or at least bury his memory very quickly. Meanwhile I was in hell. I was miserable because Sampson was dead, and as I had decided to care, it made me disobedient. I chose to care if my rider was cruelly Useless, I chose to care if I was tired, I chose to care if my food was late. For all my caring I received an endless round of beatings, kickings and rationing. Eventually it became to much. Still sore from the last days injuries I decided to run away.
I waited until there was a moonlit evening, before I made my escape. I waited for ages until I was sure there was no one about. Fortunately for me they had not got into the habit of locking the bottom bolt on my door, and with one massive blow from both hooves the door flew open.
I ran onto the heath, and was soon exhilarated by the freedom. Out of instinct I followed the surest path. Then I realised I was following the same route that we had always ridden on. With a conscious effort I ran off the track and began to head directly away from the school.
After a mile or so of the best galloping I've ever had. I began to tire. I realised that I could never hold the pace so I slowed to a steady canter. After a while, I came to a main road. Fortunately there was no traffic at this time of night, and I could cross without fear of being seen. It was at this point I utter despair washed over me. I had been driven to shows before, and much further than I could run. I knew it would not be to difficult for them to find me, especially if they used all the horses to hunt me down and bring me back. Then I thought about my feet, and how they would need to be shod or at east trimmed soon. The boss didn't seem to like getting us shod that often, and mine were due to be done soon. As I thought about these depressing things I sought the shelter of a small wood in which to hide. A big horse on the heath would stand out like an apple in an empty bucket.
Once inside the shade of the wood I began to try and plan what to do next. Dawn would break soon and then my absence would be discovered. I tried to make a plan to get away, but it just wasn't there, I could not do it. I had as much ability to plan then, as I have a grasp of the higher aspects of metaphysics now. I could have wept for being so stupid. My situation was awful, and I knew they would catch me and take me back. I started to foam and shake all over with absolute fear.
In the midst of all terror I heard a voice, and I would have ran away from it as fast as I was able, but I couldn't. I was frozen to the spot. My feet seemed like lead and I could hardly even step back when the speaker arrived. In the dark I could not make out his features, but I knew he was unlike any person I had ever met. His voice was odd and he didn't speak like any person I knew. He spoke with total authority and seemed to convey that I could trust him. There was obviously something powerful going on as, despite my fear, I found myself trusting him completely. Eventually I stopped trying to get away, and I found I could move again.
The odd thing was that I didn't want to.
I slowly found myself becoming able to understand what he was saying. Not just knowing what he wanted, but actually understanding every word. It was like listening to another member of the herd, except it was so much more. Concepts started to form in his words that were beyond the ken of any horse I had ever met. I realised there had been a change in the way I understood language.
We were talking man to man.
Now son, I have to explain this to you because you have never been a horse, and can't know how they talk. When you're a horse there are not really any words as such, but certain signals mean certain things. If I point my ears back it means I am displeased, if I whinny I could mean one of a many things, probably that I'm over here and pleased to see you. There's a quiet little noise that means run like hell. You can express how you feel, playful, angry, uncertain and so on by the way you look, move and act. As horses we sense and we react. We feel and we act. Actually saying things is a different matter, the ability to converse as humans do just isn't there.
Anyway back to the point, I suddenly found myself able to understand what the man was saying. I use the term "Man" loosely, because although he had the form of a man, he was beyond any man you could imagine, like stars are beyond mud.
He said he was sorry that I had suffered so much, and that Sampson was in heaven now. He said that there was a way out of my problems, but I would have to be brave. Then he gave me a choice, to be alongside Sampson in heaven or to live life as a man. Well I was stunned. I could not believe that there was a way of becoming human, that was surely impossible. The man said no, it was not impossibleAll creatures have the ability in themselves to develop from what they were born as. It's just most of them get stuck in one rut or another and never seriously try. Then I realised the man was reading my thoughts.
It felt odd, being so open to someone, that they could see inside your mind like that, but again the Trust that this man emanated stopped me from being as anxious as I would otherwise have been. I asked the man which would be best, and he laughed. He said that Sampson would not miss you until he saw you, and the only person I'd have to worry about would be me. As my mind started to clear I asked the man why I'd got the choice. He said it was because I had tried to care, to fight against my nature and to hold Sampson's memory. A decision started to form in my mind, spurred on by the clarity of thought that I knew could be mine. I needed to know one thing, so I asked the man. If I choose to become a man, will you help me out of the ruts that you say other people fall in?
The man muttered something under his breath about overdoing the shrewdness, but after a short period of time spent talking to himself he agreed. "I will help you for two years, but you do realise that it may be counted as an unfair advantage."
Well as a horse I was well accustomed to unfair advantages, basically everything from a lead rope upwards.
After the man had agreed, I decided that Sampson could wait.
"Make me a man". I said.
He warned me the transformation would hurt, as all life's great passages did. I braced myself as best I could. At first my entire body seemed to tingle, as if I had just been groomed. Just as I was beginning to enjoy it, the tingling became more intense, until it felt that even my heart was on fire. By then I was sick and dizzy. I had no idea that I could hurt so much. Bright colours and half seen places flashed in front of my vision, but eventually the pain overcame me and I passed out.
Look at me son, it makes me sweat and shake just remembering it.
Anyway, after a while I woke up and as soon as I opened my eyes, I shut them again. I had to blink getting on for a dozen times before I could make sense of what I was looking at. Everything was so unbelievably complicated and I could see it all in complete clarity. Looking back I think that I must have been a bit short sighted before the change. I reckon having two fields of view in perfect focus would have given me a permanent headache.
My clarity of vision was the first thing that struck me, but the whole way of moving was alien to me. Walking on all fours was uncomfortable and slow so I tried standing up. It is remarkable how insecure you feel when you take your first step on two feet. That and the incredibly complicated vision, made my first attempt at walking more than a little shaky. I was so wrapped up in the physical side of things I almost forgot to look for the Man who changed me. I looked up from the ground and there he was right in front of me. He asked me if I was all right in this Form and I said that I was getting used to it. Minding my manners, another feature of being human I guess, I thanked him. You'll be needing these, he said as he handed me a set of clothes. After some effort, despite their perfect fit, I managed to put them on.
Just as I had got dressed the man waved goodbye. Good luck, was all he said before he smiled and vanished.
Looking back, I s suspect that putting on the clothes cinched the . transformation. With the clothes came loads of useful memories. It was strange, remembering things I could not possibly have done. Quickly I became more confidant in my new body. I was certain I could drive, yet I had obviously never driven a car. I even knew where I had parked but how could I have possibly known that? I didn't even own a car, Let alone the sports car that appeared in my mind's eye (another new thing) when I thought about driving. Sure enough I even found a car key in my pocket.
Shell-shocked from all these swirling bits of memories, I headed up to where I knew my car would be, parked on the plateau of a hill. It was a good place as the view in the dawn light was fantastic. I could even see the horses galloping across the heath. Watching them gave me a tiny twinge of regret. I almost wished that I was with them. Until I realised that It was me that they were looking for.
Once I had made it into the car, after setting off the alarm twice, I considered where I should go. I felt a little uneasy heading back to where I knew my house would be. I sat back on the comfortable seat and ran through the changes that had occurred to me since last night.
My body was changed out of recognition, but the vast physical changes in my body were nothing compared to what must have gone on in my head.
The new memories and language thing was just part of a whole gamut of changes. My whole way of thinking had changed from what now seems superficial and reactive to a much deeper and more complex way of being. I must have sat in that car for hours exploring my own mind.
Finally I was so thirsty that I had to move. I started the car, even remembering to use the choke. Very nervously I stalled it trying to pull off. Although my memories were there I had let my fear crowd them out. I relaxed and tried again. Smoothly I pulled off and I soon found myself following the route home.
When I got to my new home I found that there was a parcel and two letters addressed to me "Roger Cheval." It may have been only a scrap of a foreign language, but it was yet another thing that was previously beyond my understandingdifferent languages in the same species.
After fetching a glass of water I set down to drink. Somehow it seemed too cosy. After all how could a whole life be constructed at the whim of one horse? Somehow the change made more sense than the material goods. I began to wonder If I had not changed, but occupied the body of a man. The depths of my thoughts seemed to suggest against it but still I had doubts gnawing away at my mind. Perhaps some poor man way yet in my horse form, suffering as I did back then. The thought made me feel anxious and gave me a headache to boot.
Pondering the nature of my situation, I opened the letters. By now, I already knew I could read, as the road signs on the way home had made sense. I wondered what else lurked in my memory..
The parcel was a manual of things I should know and do. It was incredibly detailed and listed lots of things I would need to integrate into society. It covered everything from personal hygiene to etiquette to the law. The second letter was an unsigned card the message was " Good luck on your new venture" At first it made me uneasy, but then I realised it did not matter if someone else knew my situation, because there was nothing they could prove, and if they were powerful enough to turn me back then they'd hopefully have more sense. I don't think anyone would dare undo the work of the Man who changed me. Then I considered that whoever had sent the letter was obviously friendly, and I could do with a friend. The whole world is a big place on your own.
The third item of mail was oddly comforting. It was a certificate of Authenticity. Apparently my form was a new creation and therefore completely original. I was yet again amazed at the detail of my memories. I began to appreciate the work of the Man. He must have made the memories himselfdetails to help me make my life normal, to prevent me ending up in outcast for inappropriate behaviour, or worse imprisoned.
The next week or so I stayed inside and read the manual and got used to my new body. I found my hearing was much duller than before, but the loss of sensitivity was more than made up for by music. Music is amazing stuff and I found that I could appreciate all different sorts of music and each piece would alter my mood in a particular way. I even found myself dancing to some of it. My sense of smell was, for want of a better word less descriptive. My sense of taste was shifted completely. I survived on the frozen food in the house. I discovered I liked nearly all foods, but some much more than others.
Reading the manual prepared me for most foods and I even liked chilli, even though it made my eyes water, and my nose run. Whilst experimenting, I found that my emotions where remarkably variable. I decided to explore my mind a bit more and find out what I was capable of. That's how I discovered one of the best things about being human. I found a pen and a piece of blank paper and began to draw. My first drawing was of a tree, and I tried to draw it as best as I could. I tried to copy the tree outside but somehow on the translation to paper it became a mockery of what I saw. You have no idea how much it upset me, that tree. I tried several times before giving up. I tried one last ditch attempt, at being "creative" when I realised how silly I was being. Being creative is not the same as copying. I again drew a tree, but not a copy of the tree outside using the experience just gained. I drew a fantastic tree. I admit artistically it was not the best drawing in the world, but it was pretty good. It pleased me immensely to find myself able create something, albeit on paper, unique to me. I even imagined the landscape the tree would grow in, and for a moment I was there...
Despite an endless amount of self discovery, after a week in the house I began to feel penned in. It gave me an odd sense of liberty to carry my own keys, to be able to come and go as I pleased. Firstly I had to get some food. Money was no problem, as my precise financial status was laid out for me in the handbook. I was allowed a moderate amount of money to spend as I pleased every week. Out of this had to come all of my expenses, including food & bills. Apparently paying bills seems to be a thing most humans do. After surviving buying food, and incidentally discovering my signature, I decided to buy a television. When I got it back to the house I had quite an amusing time getting it to do work. The reason I bought a television was because I needed some quick way of seeing what I could find out about human beings. After spending ages of watching television, ranging from the "educational" to the pointless and bizarre I felt quite sick. That night my dreams, another new thing, were full of the images I had seen. The next morning, following the manual's instructions, I showered and shaved. Before sitting down to watch some more television. After about thirty minutes of watching some incredibly stupid people arguing, I was rescued from the threat of destroying my own television, by the mail. Another letter hit the mat, and I shot over to it, surprisingly eager to find out what this new letter was. By the time I had finished reading the pointless advert for some equally pointless product, I was both disappointed and angry. Disappointed, because the letter was useless to me, and angry because I had just discovered I despise unsolicited adverts.
The television called, and like a sucker I went back to it. This time some more stupid people were making a patently flawed scheme to get one over on an ex friend. Suddenly the thought crossed my mind. I had a choice. I could sit in front of the television for the rest of my shortened life, and waste the massive gift given to me or explore life and try to be the best man I could be. I decided to strive.
I returned the television that day. It was odd, but the second I went to unplug it I sensed a wave of hate come from it. The hate was gone almost as soon as it had came, but I knew that I had won a battle.
The next battle was even harder. I did not notice it at first, and it took a stupid lump of metal to push the point home. After about a month or so I found that I was beginning to hunger for exercise. I suspect it might have be a phantom of my horse existence, but I was sufficiently craving exercise to go to the local gym and try some of their machines out.
I found, by concentrating hard, I could lift all the weights on the chest press, I think it was. As I was pushing them to and fro I noticed other people staring at me. It dawned on me that maybe this was not normal human behaviour. After a few more repetitions I began to get bored so I got off to look for a different machine.
One of the fellows, a muscular guy came up to me and looked me straight in the eye. He asked me how I became so strong. I asked him what was an normal weight to push and he pulled the pin out of the weight rack and put it about three quarters of the way down. He managed to push the bar away, but it was obvious he was straining. Suddenly I felt incredibly weak. As an experiment I tried a different machine, and sure enough, I was hardly able to lift more than half a dozen weights, let alone the whole stack. Disgusted I walked out.
It took me two whole weeks of thinking before I came up with the answer. The problem was insidious doubt. As a horse I never doubted my physical ability in the face of it's proof. As a human it seemed that doubt was an altogether different enemy. My weakness was a result of that doubt. There and then I declared war on all forms of self doubt, and decided to crush it from whatever direction it arose. Two weeks later I went to a different gym. I found that If I made a conscious effort to fight off the self doubt I could overcome it and was again able to wave those pesky bits of metal about. It was interesting to note that the reaction of the people in the gym was exactly the same. This time I expected the questions to again attack my ability with doubt. I was ready for them. What I did not expect was to be shown out by an irate weightlifter, with a bad case of lost face and wounded pride. I guess back then I was still learning about people.
More than half of being human is the interaction with other human beings. As you have always been a human, I suspect that you have no idea what a glorious thing it is to share ideas, thoughts, and feelings with other human beings. Back at the start, the conversations were nothing like that at all, but with time and persistence I grew more accustomed to other people and began to communicate. Inevitably I began to make friends.
Friends are fantastic, and life without them is largely pointless, but they don't grow on trees. Though it took time, pain and persistence I made and kept many friends. In my time I won the heart of a few ladies. I learnt what it means to love, to lose, and to forgive. I learnt about many different kinds of love. My strongest love, my wife taught me more about life was more than I could possibly share with you now. Besides, I suspect you know a thing or two, and what you don't' know you'll enjoy discovering, even if it hurts like hell at the time. I know that having children, and the joy and pride they give, not to mention the laughter, the frustration, and the stress , has made me a real man.
The chance to help them grow up, then see them as adults, and even endure the bittersweet pleasure of watching them leave home, is an undeniable blessing. They have all got families of their own now, and I can honestly say they still love me, and that I'd be welcomed in any one of their homes, but they don't need me any more. I suppose it's better that way.
My wife passed away long ago, and even in her passing she kept her promise. She was, until now, the only soul I told about my past, and once she somehow saw I was telling the truth, she promised to teach me more about life. She was always true to her word.
Son, listen to me. You are a man, and with that comes all the blessings that you can imagine. As a man, however, you are in a constant battle with things that would keep you down. Doubt, laziness, fear. All are deadly given time, but you have the strength in you to overcome them. Take chances as they come, and if they don't then make them. Live each day, not passing the time, but striving to be better. There is no such thing as only human. I know.
The Other Side of the Fence copyright 2001 by IC.
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