Once upon a time there was a horse.
He was an old horse, and no one rode him anymore. At the beginning, when he had started limping and tiring before the others, they remembered to take him out once a day for a short walk, maybe a munch of green grass, a brush, a whinny at the other horses. Then it became once a week. Then, when they remembered.
Then they forgot.
He was quiet. He looked out of his stall and observed the movements around him. He was bored. He bit at his door trying to make it taste like the green grass he could see, all the way down there. He was itchy. He rubbed his thick body on his walls trying to make it as satisfying as the brushes they used on the other horses. He was lonely. He nibbled on his own back trying to make it as comforting as if it were another horse. He became grumpy. He shied at strange noises and pulled his ears back when strangers came too close. He kicked at passing horses. They stopped coming close. They forgot his name.
One day something came along that he had never seen before. A tiny black blob of an animal, that crept along the outer wall of his stall in complete silence. Up she came, and sat under his stall door. The horse pulled his ears back, and grunted, but the kitten simply looked up and then straight ahead. The horse tried to touch her, to bite her, to push her away – he couldn’t reach. She was too small.
For an hour or more she sat. They came close, attracted by her kittenness but he glared at anyone that tried and they walked away, disappointed. The weather turned, clouds covered the sky and a breeze picked up, bringing the promise of change. The sky became darker as the sun swept lower over the horizon. Still, she sat. They left, locking the other horse’s stall and forgetting him. Or maybe purposely staying far, far away.
They had gone. The horses slept. The first drops began to fall. She stretched. He watched her.
She looked up at him, and his ears stayed upright, alert. She reached up – with the smallest paws he had ever seen – towards him, leaning on his door. He stood, looking at her. She jumped – one swift, clean, swipe of the paw.
There was a click.
The breeze had become a light gale, rolling leaves and straw against the lined up stalls. Opening his door wide, wide, wider. She had unlocked it. He lifted one hoof, confused, worried, surprised. She peered around the open door, stretched again and started walking away, under the steady rain, her wet fur slick around her body. He stepped forward and looked left. Then right. Then there was nothing left to do but follow her, his loud hooves suddenly silent, covered by the wind and rain like an invisibility cloak, his large body suddenly camouflaged against the stormy night.
He caught up with her in no time.