The Horse In The Sky
Posted by Jay H Patel on Jul 13, 2018
The Horse in the Sky
"As we get ready for landing in India, please return to your seats and fasten the seat belts. It's 7am at our destination, with a temperature of 30 degrees celsius on land. If all goes well, we should hit the ground running in about 15 minutes." Mann was awakened from his sleep by the lights coming on in the cabin. He sensed activity around him as other passengers also woke up, some talking to each other, others standing up to make a last trip to the bathroom. He was too tired to pay any attention to his surroundings, or even to blink his bloodshot eyes. Finals week had taken a toll on his body, leaving him with barely any sleep in the last two days. Confined to a narrow window seat in the Boeing 777, Mann felt an uneasy tension all over his body. One part of him did not want to stand up ever from the seat, while another part yearned to stretch his limbs out in the open. He generally preferred the aisle seat when traveling because it gave him the freedom to move around at will. On a window seat, he would not disturb his neighbors even if he badly needed to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, the only seats available on this flight when he checked in were window seats, so he had no choice. Glancing at his watch, Mann realized that it had been 18 hours since he boarded the plane and he had slept through the last 8 hours entirely. His body really needed the rest, he reflected. Still only half awake, Mann looked outside the window.
The clouds were just below the plane, creating a surreal view out of the window as though the plane were traveling on a "road of clouds". Instantly captivated, Mann gazed at the clouds with an almost childish curiosity, with his eyes still half closed. It's not often that one gets to look down at the clouds instead of up at them, he thought. There he was, 5000 feet up in the air, at a point in space that he would probably never be returning to again. Even if he did, he wouldn't know because the skies don't have street addresses, unless one were living in the fictional world of the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk. The transient clouds were too flaky to be relied upon as any landmark. Suddenly, Mann was distracted by a figure formed outside the plane. It looked awfully similar to something he had seen before, something alive..he could just make out its' legs..1..2....3..4! Four of them! A tail, yes, and big torso. And what looked like a long neck with hair on its back...it was a horse, yes, a beautiful white horse with an elegant mane! Mann's eyes widened in awe at the strange sight. It was like nothing he had ever seen before. A few minutes before or after, and the winds would have beaten the clouds into another shape entirely. He sat up straight in his seat to take in the view.
The horse moved. She shook herself, looked around and threw a brief glance straight at the window where Mann was seated. Mann was stunned. Was this a dream? "Maybe I am still sleeping.." And then, the horse started galloping with abandon across the surface of the sky. Her mane glittered in the golden rays of the sun, casually riding up and down in sync with her body movements. "This cannot be real!" But alas, it was. Mann could think no longer. He surrendered to the strange view of the horse running around, and immediately sensed everything the horse was experiencing; the breeze on her face, the blurred view of the Earth through the clouds and the feeling of being alone in a vast amount of space. His fatigue vanished, and he felt an unusual sense of comfort. Mann was lost; there was only the horse. The horse stopped right outside his window and looked into his eyes. Mann looked back. They gazed at each other like lovers would. Quite naturally, Mann lifted his hand towards the window, trying to caress the horse through the glass. The horse bowed to make herself reachable.
"Sir, please fasten your seat belt..sir..sir..we are about to land." Mann
snapped out of it, and noticed a tall air stewardess on the aisle talking to
him. "I'm sorry," he said. His mind was still out there with the horse. Was it real? What just happened? "I need to see the horse again.." Minutes felt like hours as he struggled to fasten the seat belt with trembling hands. "Where's the slot?!" The harmless belt suddenly became an evil villain standing between him and the horse. Just like how his final exam a few days ago delayed the start of his vacation. He finally managed to pull together the two ends of the belt securely, and returned to touch the horse.
But, the horse was gone. Poof. No sight of the lush mane or those
endearing eyes, just plain old clouds. Mann jolted forward from his seat to search for the horse past the right edge of the window, but was promptly held back by the seat belt. He retreated into the seat. Left, right, up, down..looking at every feasible angle through the window. The view outside the window was once again static and uninteresting. Mann wiped off the sweat that was beginning to form on his forehead, and started cracking his knuckles loudly.
He had left the horse and half of his soul behind. The horse didn't care about him. The clouds didn't care about his existence. They were there before Mann met the horse, and they continued to be there after. In fact, they were there before he was born and would continue to be there after he dies. The Earth, the solar system, the galaxies, all existed before Mann and would continue to endure after him. Even his greatest victory was limited to Earth, and 99.99% of the universe didn't give a damn about it.
Tears started dripping from his eyes as a strange sense of emptiness and fragility took over. He did not want to be cast aside by the
universe. He wanted to be a part of it. He wasn't just a speck of dust in the dunes. He just wasn't! With tensed muscles, the love for the view outside quickly transformed into an all-pervading hatred, a bitterness. He felt like screaming at the top of his lungs as his mind raced from one thought to the next at a rate of a million per second, desperately attempting to recover his earlier sense of confidence. And yet, he had caught a glimpse into the frailness of life in a timeless macrocosm, and there was no way to undo it. The horse in the sky had worked her magic and disappeared, never to return except in his memories. After a few heated minutes, Mann dropped back into his seat like a marathoner had just completed a 20 mile run.
The wheels of the plane hit the ground running, and soon came to a standstill next to a gate. Mann got off the plane, grabbed his checked-in luggage and headed to the Arrivals area. His parents were waiting for him eagerly, having not seen him for about a year. They hugged Mann tightly, and he reciprocated by breaking down completely. His parents thought he was just missing them and these were just tears of happiness, so they did not probe. On the way home in the cab, his parents bombarded him with questions about college but he avoided most of them with curt answers. Mom and Dad were slightly confused by his quiet behavior, but figured he was just too tired to talk. After all, he had just been on an 18 hour flight from the other part of the world. Reaching home, he went into his room, closed the door and collapsed on his bed right next to the window.
2 hours later, Mann's eyes opened to a drizzly view outside the window. The recurrent pitter patter sounds of the rain falling on the window seal, followed by the occasional rebounding of even tinier droplets in a random direction each time drew Mann right into the zone, putting him in direct touch with his senses. He stood there observing and listening intently, feeling every moment patiently as it went by. Close to a few hundred beads of clear water had hit the point Mann was gazing at by now. His mind wandered upwards, literally, attempting to reverse engineer the path of a droplet as it fell through the empty space above his apartment. His head followed suit out of the window, inserting itself into the torrent without hesitation for getting wet. As the first few ice cold droplets landed on his face, shivers went down his spine. He instinctively withdrew back into his cozy burrow, and... felt a strange sense of deja-vu.
Then it struck him. The horse was back. She was going to roam around on the streets of Earth for a while, and get jumped on by kids. And then she would take a stroll through the farms, nourishing the plants. As she got tired, she was going to take a nap in the reservoirs. And soon after a couple of days, she would return back to the heavens, at a different point, in a different shape altogether. And someone else would see her through a plane window the next time around..until she disappeared again to return to Earth for a while. And this would keep going on forever.
Mann ran out of his room straight into the rain, momentarily stopping to give Mom and Dad tightest hug ever. Their surprised eyes followed him as he looked up into the sky and felt water droplets hitting his smiling face. Of course he belonged to this universe! He was a part of the beautifully cyclic nature of life...destined to fly in the heavens and stay grounded on Earth. He was the horse in the sky. Every living being was.
This is a reality-inspired fictional short story I wrote in 2014 and mostly kept private. I'd like to share it with the ServiceSpace community today. The story is about one's relation to the larger universe. I had the chance to read it out to my mom, who cried upon hearing it. Hope some of you found it an enjoyable refresher! Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: The name of the protagonist, Mann, in the story is pronounced Muh-nn with an emphasis on the n's. Mann means mind in Hindi.)