The young boy stared.
He sat three or four pews ahead, towards the middle of the church. He was dressed in black and up until that moment had bowed his head when needed, sang songs or listed otherwise. He hadn’t done anything he shouldn’t until the centaur arrived.
The half-man, half-horse dipped his head, too tall to fit through the church doors otherwise. He stood on the threshold of the entrance near the alter. The sound of hooves hitting stone pavers announced his arrival and was soon followed by the smell. A moth-eaten, sweaty musk added to the summer air.
The centaur ignored the many crosses adorning the church, preferring to make a sign of respect towards the flame hanging above the alter instead.
“Horse,” whispered the young boy. A chorus of shushes from the nearby adults forced the young boy into submission. He continued to watch the centaur however. If the centaur heard, he took no action.
Horse indeed. Aside from the boy, nobody else appeared to notice the creature.
The centaur’s human-half was that of a man around fifty-five. Sagging skin covered ageing muscles. Deep wrinkles trickled down from his forehead to the tip of his chin. Twin pits of blue stared out from behind sunken eyes. Jagged stitching marked the line between man and horse. Random, zig-zagging stitches wove man to beast. Here was the wonderful, I thought, poorly constructed. He wore no clothing save for a layer of sweat coating his equine body.
“You ‘right?” asked an unseen voice. It was the voice of a man. There was concern in his voice as well as judgement that something wasn’t all right. “Do you need ‘elp?” The man climbed over the pew and was now crouched to one side.
“I don’t think he can hear you,” said another. This time it was a woman.
I can hear you, I thought. How ridiculous. I wanted to explain that there was a centaur standing not fifteen feet away and that should be the centre of attention instead.
“Stay there, don’t move,” said the man.
I ignored them, feeling it appropriate given the circumstances. Their questions felt unnecessary and intruded of my privacy. Let them scurry about as a centaur climbed out from beneath the dust of ancient mythology.
Ignoring the distraction, I focused back on the centaur. He had now fully entered the church and was abling down the aisle. His sunken eyes scanned the crowd. There was something wrong with the centaur’s walk. His back left leg quivered. With each step he slightly stumbled to push the weight onto the other three.
“Is there anyone we can call?” asked the woman.
Not anymore, I screamed, or thought I did. It was some time until I realised that I hadn’t said anything at all.
“He can’t hear you,” said the man to the woman. He had been talking into his mobile phone but had turned back briefly to speak to the woman.
“I think — I think he can,” said the woman.
“He can’t,” persisted the man. He had delivered his words as though used to giving the final word.
“What does it matter, Harold?” she said. The man, Harold, turned back to his phone leaving the question unanswered.
The prattle, between husband and wife, I assumed, attracted the attention of the centaur. His gait had fastened, prompting an increased muffled thud as hooves hit the church carpet. There was no doubt anymore. He was here for me.
Harold shut his mobile phone with a clap. He popped it confidently into his pocket. “They’re coming, nothing more we can do,” he said.
“Call my sister,” said the woman. “She’s a nurse,” she added by way of explanation.
“Maude…,” started the man. his voice faded away under the steely disapproving look from his wife. Fumbling to get his phone out his pocket, Harold dialed a number. “No answer,” he said after a brief pause.
“Leave a message.”
“I’m not going to leave a message.”
Maude marched over to Harold. There was something in her stride that suggested that she would have to, once again, take charge. They slipped by either side of the centaur and continued their argument elsewhere.
The centaur was nearly upon me. The quivering in his leg was now more pronounced. A small patch of blood married what was otherwise unblemished fur. A soft grunt accompanied each step in between his heavy, laboured breathing.
“You’ve forgotten something,” said the boy. The adults didn’t shush him this time making him feel a little more bold. He stood up on his seat for more height.
I searched my mind. There was something. I could feel fuzzy thoughts trying to drag themselves into focus. Something about the centaur. My eyes screwed-shut as I concentrated, searching through the contents of my mind.
The centaur arrived at the end of the pew blocking any exit. Had I wanted to run then that option was no longer available to me. A thought floated within grasp only to drift away as I reached for it.
“Centaurs don’t exist!” yelled the young boy.
Oh, that’s right —
The wreck of the car pressed at me from all sides. My seat had collapsed. Twisted metal forced my body against the steering wheel at an alarmingly odd angel. There was enough breath in my lungs to force out a word. “Harold,” I whispered.
Harold lay ahead. Torn bits of car, horse trailer and flesh littered the road. Further on was a horse head slumped against a tree stump, its eyes staring back.
Closer in was most of Harold, save for a leg which was much further on. Behind him lay left-over bits of human, horse, and metal.