So I was looking into mythology for evidence possibly supporting “little horsey tadpoles” and came across “capaillín” which is the Irish word for pony. Immediately I thought of the horrors of pint-sized murder horses arriving on the beaches en masse every November to dole out death in the cutest ways possible.
The sea wasn’t always the sea, and the island wasn’t always the island.
The world had just begun forming, a goliath crash of a myriad of elements- fire, water, earth, air, and the horses. Always the horses. They tumbled through nothing, through everything, grabbing at what they could.
They found spirit, and wind, and they were that, but they were also earth and water and fire, always fire, a storm brimming on the edge of everything, of nothing. They were fierce, they were gentle, they were singers and fighters and lovers and gallopers, drinkers of the wind, and above all else, they were wild.
Slowly, the world grew tame. Women began to raise earth from water, began to build islands from the curves of their palms and shape them with the press of their bare feet on rich dirt. The men kept the sea, let it run wild but held it at bay, protecting the land that their shaking, new legs straddled.
And the horses grew frantic. They were at once the island and the sea, and the tumbled from the waves and onto shore, but then dove back into the water. They longed to run, they longed to swim. They sang their desires into the wind, and it curled around the humans, wailing into their ears.
And then the Time came. It was when the world began to turn bronze, the stars began to change in the sky, the days began to creep a little shorter, the nights a little darker, a little longer. The humans called it November. The horses called it the end.
And they were desperate for it, desperate for their everything and nothing, and they began to gallop, throwing the elements together.
Their race stirred up the winds, their hooves stirred up the ground. Their tails dragged through the ocean, and the fire in their heart, always there, tore the rest of the elements apart. Storms began to rip along the edges of the island and the sea, trying to join them again. To erase the line between them.
From the sea, to the sea.
One storm threw a horse ashore. She was smaller than the rest, scrubby, but she was beautiful, the golden color of the sand that swirled in the sea, legs black like kelp. The horse was the sea, but she was also the land, and she stayed on the beach, looking out to sea for a long, long time, and for once she found peace. The storm lingered off the coast, and though a gentle breeze ruffled her mane, she found stillness for the first time in a long time.
And so she stayed, on the island.
The horses grew tired as the days grew longer. They slowed their storms, stopped them, and raged restlessly along the coasts, along the line that gradually brought the island and the sea close enough to kiss. And when the days grew shorter again, they raged, but there was new desperation to it, for their lost sister on the island.
But the little dun mare was content. She had the wind in her mane and the earth on her hooves and the fire in her heart, and though she missed the sea, she could do without it.
So the years passed on the island, and she had her foals and they, too, grew to love the land, knew to be wary of the sea and it’s storms. They had earth and wind and fire, and if something wasn’t quite right, if they weren’t complete, then they would busy themselves. They helped the humans, they carried the women and pulled the ploughs for the men, and in turn they got hay in the winter and water in the summer. And all was okay.
Then November broke across the island again, and there was a mare on the shore when it happened, sand and kelp like her mother. Unlike her siblings, who were bays and grays and pintos and roan, she could not shake the longing for the sea from her mane. It was there, and so was she, when one of the wild ones from the sea tumbled ashore.
It was a stallion, red like blood, but it was not like her.
He was not a horse made for the earth. He did not have gentle, round ears and soft whiskers and wide, trusting eyes. He had long, wicked ears and teeth sharpened by screams and eyes that were narrow and filled with spite for the people that took what he was away from him. He had his fire and his water and his wind, but there was no earth beneath his hooves.
Except now there was, and he and the island pony were nothing alike, yet they were everything the same.
The fire. The wind.
The island was not home for the stallion. There was no shifting of the waves sucking at his hooves, no undulating calls from his kind echoing in the back of his mind. It eased a part of him that he knew he’d been missing, but opened up a great new chamber instead. So, frantic for the sea, the stallion leaped back in. He wanted the island, he needed the sea.
The mare stared out after him. She wanted the sea, she needed the island.
The stallion came back next November. He shook the surf from his mane and raced the mare along the shore, and though she was fast, she was little, and his long strides easily outpaced hers. There were other differences, too- he ate meat, and she could not tolerate death. Her whinny was for honey and oats and the response of her humans. His was a cry for battle.
But they were both made of wind and water and earth and fire, always fire.
He came back next November. And the one after that. Slowly, the other horses began to come back too, the other capall uisce. Their storms were still there, but they began to grow less frequent. Novembers were for the earth beneath their hooves, and it wasn’t much, but it wasn’t enough.
They always slipped back beneath their waves come December, as the world grew colder. They never stayed for long. They couldn’t. Their need for the sea was greater than their love for the island.
And come springtime, when the capall had long gone, the island pony stepped into the sea.
For a moment I am completely struck by the injustice of this, that I’ve been offered a ride and now I have to share it with Sean ‘Keep Your Pony Off This Beach’ Kendrick of all people. And then I see that Kendrick, too, has seen me, and is uncertain about getting into the truck, and that pleases me. I would like to be terrifying. I glower at him.