Lacey invited me to go to Chincoteague Island with a group of her friends. The island where the wild Chincoteague ponies live. I accept her offer and mentally prepare for the trip. I dislike going places and doing things. I wouldn’t have agreed to go if Lacey weren’t beautiful in the same way that the cream in that Cadbury’s chocolate commercial is beautiful. Because she is, I agree to go to the island.
“Lacey, what’s your dog’s name again?” I ask. Lacey looks over at me from the driver’s seat. The small dog sits on the floor in front of me. I hold the dog’s shoulders. The dog has buried his teeth in my left hand, and his facial fur is streaked with a surprising amount of my blood. “His name is Kip,”she says. “Is he biting you?” “Yes.” I say. “Kip is biting me.”
The ponies approach me cautiously. They appear friendly. I’m mesmerized. I’m also pissing in the bushes away from the campfire where everyone else drinks whiskey and coke and eats veg-kebabs. The largest of the ponies sniffs at the air and takes several steps back. I zip up my pants and hold my hand out to him. He comes close. His leg muscles quiver. His huge eye looks empty. I imagine that I can see directly through his eye and into his brain behind it. I have an urge to jump onto this pony’s back and ride to the fire pit and pull Lacey up with me and then ride into the woods to start a colony of feral people who live with the feral ponies. Instead, Kip runs through the bushes and chases the ponies into the woods. He disappears into the woods.
Thirty minutes into the woods I feel sure I’ll find Kip. Lacey became frantic when I told her that he ran into the woods and wouldn’t come back when I called him. “Why didn’t you grab him?” Lacey asked between sobs. I didn’t have an answer for this, so I just smiled and shook my head. I’ve decided to use this as an opportunity to really impress Lacey. One hour later thoughts of Lacey’s gratitude and the forms that gratitude might take continue to spur me on. Even though I have no idea where I am, I’m still looking. It’s not pitch-black, since the moon glows overhead like a light set in the side of a swimming pool. I’m struggling over a log across the path when I hear something and look up into the clearing in front of me. The same group of horses I saw earlier stand in front of me. They’re still, and they stay still as I approach. They stand in a patchwork of mosses. I reach out toward the big one, and I hear a small animal coming up behind me. Kip lunges at the big pony who starts and turns quickly towards me, slamming his head into my body and slapping me to the ground. Somehow I’m not trampled. I grab at Kip as he zips past me. He stops only to bite me on my middle finger and then pursues the ponies. I follow him into the black of the island.
The sun at the top of the clock in the sky. Ants play on my knee. I used to think that ants didn’t play. Evidence that I used to be mistaken. But not anymore. I think the ants don’t play, in fairness, when humans watch them. But when an animal watches them, they do. I’m an animal now. They play like stick figures. I don’t need water or food. I don’t even need thought. I will become a tree.
Time passes. I watch the clouds and then think better of watching the clouds, as it requires too much thought. I realize that this line of logic also requires too much thought and probably places distance between me and my animal self. I go back to watching clouds. Then I smell pony on the air. A stony feeling rises through my stomach and into my face. My fingers stretch and elongate, become points. I bite my tongue until it bleeds. I rise naked. Smashed ant bodies cover my knees and thighs. I run to the pony and turn my empty eye directly to his.
Apparently, when they find me, I’ve eaten part of a pony. I’ve wrapped my loins in ponyskin. I try to deny it. Blood streaks my face. “What in the hell?” Lacey screams at me. She holds Kip who came back during the previous night and urinated in all of my bags. “You ate a pony? You were lost for just over twenty-four hours.” Kip barks at me. I bare my teeth and start to jump at him, but Lacey’s honest expression of fear stops me. I don’t really feel it anyway.
Clothed and in my right mind, I sit in the passenger seat next to Lacey. Kip sleeps between my feet. Lacey has lectured me for an hour about cruelty to animals. I think of nothing in particular. I nod. I apologized as we got into the car. I shift in my seat and upset Kip, who reaches over and bites my leg. I restrain myself. I make no move to stop him. Instead, I cry. I lower my head. Lacey sees I’m crying. She reaches a hand over and rests it on the back of my neck. She speaks softly and I imagine her arm running between me and her like a leash.
Image by Gabe Stevenson