He stared at his reflection in disbelief and shock until a single tear rolled down his long nose into the water, then he awoke.
The colt woke up surrounded by straight rows of dirt as far as he could see. He looked to the south and saw a dust cloud rising toward him. Out of the cloud came large creatures he did not recognize heading straight for him. The creatures that approached him were Oxen. The oxen’s shoulders were muscular and hunched over from over use. Their skin and eyes were a dull gray. They were as wide as they were tall. Each one had scars up and around their shoulders & neck some more than others. Every ox had a neck brace that pulled a big wooden box with wheels or big sharp blades. The blades dug deep into the earth fighting against their every step the oxen made.
They came up gruff. “Who are you!?” they bellowed. The colt replied, ‘I, I don’t know’. “What do you mean you don’t know?” they scoffed. The colt did not respond. “What are you doing here?” they huffed. The colt replied, “I don’t know”. The oxen looked at one another laughing with some mixture of disgust. One of the oxen spoke up, “I’ll tell you what, we have more than our fare share of work. You will become one of us to lighten our loads.” The colt thought it kind to include him.
Next thing the colt knew, they strapped him with a neck brace and a wooden box with wheels to carry. “Move Out!”, said the oxen then the whole crew headed out back toward a large red building in the distance. When they arrived each one got detached from their wooden carts & heavy blades. But they always keep the neck brace on. Some migrated over to piles of hay to lay down and eat. Some of the oxen went to a big wooden tub filled with Apples and yellowish water. They sat and drank and drank and drank until they started smiling, laughing and falling over. Other oxen watched moving pictures on a thing up in the corner of the big red building until they fell asleep. The colt found a quiet place to lay down and rest the night. The neck brace was uncomfortable but over time he would get use to it. As he fell asleep, he wondered why their eyes were so dull and the demeanor so gruff. That night he dreamed he was a wild beast running across mountain vistas with fiery eyes.
As morning arrived, he was strapped to his cart and sent out the fields. In the fields he saw oxen start to dig new rows in the dirt and others dug rows already made. His job was to carry the dirt they dug up and haul it to another part of the field to dump it into a large pile. Days of this turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years. The same tasks went on and on and on with little purpose or reason.
As the years passed he grew taller than all the other oxen and could haul as much or more than some of the larger oxen. His neck brace grew tighter and tighter as he grew. He thought he had grown to be one of the tallest oxen in the field.
The cold tried various evening distractions as the other oxen’s did. No distraction took away the dull ache in his mind. What was all this labor for? Straight rows and piles of dirt as far as the eye could see. No one seemed so bothered with the daily tasks as he. As the years passed, his vivid dreams lost their color. The fiery eyes in his dreams changed to glowing embers. The glowing embers turned into gray ashes.
One day like any other, he was dumping dirt near a row of trees. He heard laughter like he had never heard. With his cart still strapped to him, he made his way through the thin line of trees to an open road. What he saw astonished him. There before him was a whole community of majestic beasts. They were wild horses passing through. Larger and more grand than he had ever seen among the oxen. The horses came in all colors. While, Brown, Black, Even mixed colors as if a painter painted them as artwork. He even saw a white horse with a brown patch of color over its eye. These creatures where wild, yet gentle, strong yet playful. They ran all different directions none of them walked in straight lines. They did not have a clear leader but he could spot many noble beast among them. They were young and old yet all appeared to be in their prime. Nothing strapped to them to slow or hinder them. On the top of these wild horses, was unkempt, long and flowing hair in black, blond, golden, and dark brown. He noticed they had no scars about their shoulders and neck. Their skin was sleek & smooth reflecting the sun’s light. They leaped, kicked, and ran as fast as lightning in the front end of a storm.
He kept slowing moving toward them, until somehow his cart got stuck on a tree branch and underbrush. He began to struggle to get it loose. The noise caught the attention of the wild horses who began to move toward him. He felt fear mixed with excitement. When they got to him. They looked at him in silence for what seemed like forever. It felt to him like they were looking through him, deep inside where his ashes lay. He felt ashamed to have them look at him.
Up that close he could see their fiery eyes. They had a deep flame that he never saw in the eyes of the oxen. The sight of them mesmerized him.
Three of them came out from the group toward him swiftly as if to harm him. All at once, they rose up on their back legs. They came crashing down on the wooden box. Over and over the horse raised up on their back legs and crushed the wooden box cart. They continued until it was nothing more than splinters. Then one turned around and kicked off his neck brace with one kick. It hurt but the relief of the brace being gone covered over the pain.
When it was all done, the one painted white horse with the brown patch on his eye came out from them to him face to face. He spoke, ‘You are free, now live as you are’. As fast as it happened, it was over. They all turned and galloped away.
He felt invited to join them yet was not asked to. He stood for a moment, looking back to the woods where the rows and neck braces waited for him. Then without a moments thought he ran after them. When he joined them, they began to run. All them in full stride. He felt clumsy in his stride yet he found he could keep up with them. They ran with such freedom as if they ran to enjoy the feeling of the breeze against their faces. They ran to feel the wind flowing through their mane.
He still could not figure out why they would include him, an ox. They ran for what seemed like hours over mountain he did not know existed. Across grand vistas alongside other creatures he had never seen before. The sun was bright but not hot, the air was full of scenes he had never smelled and with anticipation. Each one ran their own paths yet they all stayed together. They ran until they came to a lake, where they stopped.
They bent down to get a drink. He was tired but it was a different kind of tired. When he bent down to get a drink, staring back at him was a wild horse, not a oxen. He stared at his reflection in disbelief and shock until a single tear rolled down his long nose into the water. He said quietly, I am not an ox, I am not an ox , then louder I am not an ox!, i am not an ox! He continued until this truth was resolute somewhere deep inside him. As he looked at his reflection again he saw something faint in his eyes. It was the flicker of a wild-fire burning as in his dreams yet now he was awake.