I have been a very happy Pegasus for most of my life. I love flying, love the way the clouds taste as the tickle the underside of my nose. There is something delectable about saving Greek heroes from their folly, showing up unexpected with just the thing to say.
It is not always easy being a monster, but I like it. I feel good with it.
“You are not a monster” I hear a lot of folks tell me. Monsters have tentacles and fangs and gore dripping from their pores. Monsters plague dreams. But I tell you, no, I am a monster. For a monster is any creature that does not fit in with the day to day lives of man. We are the things on the edge of reason, and an Angel is just as much outside mortal ken as a Demon is. A Pegasus is just as strange to come across at a mall as a Shuggoth is, and the Shuggoth is far more likely to be heading to be heading to the Apple store than I am.
So I tell you now that though I am beautiful, I am also terrible. I am a thing on the edge of dream, making love with fear as I skirt through the lands called fantasy. I am a monster. But it is what I have always known.
Some people say that being a Pegasus is so much better than being a horse, and I have had my own thoughts on the matter. We who are in the kingdom of the equine, beasts beyond the majesty of their standard four legs and forelock, come in many shapes. We are Unicorns, Pegasi, Centaur. We have cousins in the form of Baphomet, of Aquarius with her glittering tail…
I say that Horses are magical creatures. My mother was a horse, a noble beast who pulls carts and works hard for a living. Without the horses such as her, where would our world be? She is the kind of mare who stomps her foot and the world hears. When a hero takes an arrow in his back, she will ride with all her might back to home, carrying his unconscious body until it can be revived again by the men of medicine and magic waiting behind stone walls.
Unicorns are horses with glitter. With magic. With beauty… and carrying a blade. A Unicorn enraged is a terrifying beast indeed. Black Unicorn comes out of nightmare, White Unicorn out of dream, but both have the capacity for blood when not rescuing maidens, sizing up purity, or inspiring another generation of dreamers.
Pegasus have great capacity, but we are set apart. Not at home in the stable, not at home in our nests once full grown. We can fly and dart, move and inspire, walk through fables and folklore, make heroes out of men who just wanted to farm their fathers’ land. My wings stretch and I know my purpose, I know my dreams, and I walk out into the world soaring high.
Centaurs are the best of both worlds, horse and man, rising above horses in their capacity for lyre and poems. They train warriors, they lead armies, they are beautiful and terrible.
I know I stand out, those days when the horses play I don’t often get called… I am riding off for another adventure they say. But two days ago I had lunch with a Centaur. I had lunch with a Centaur.
He asked with me to ride with him, to a gallery set aside for the Gods. I clomped alongside him, though he was so much taller than I, and I so longed to fly. We arrived at the gallery and took in the sights, until we came to a painting. He told me he had painted it.
In the foreground was a Unicorn, who was cutting off his own horn. In the distance, off to the right, a group of horses played.
What a terrible sight I cried! How could he? How could this beautiful beast get rid of what made him different?
Because it made him different. When horses gather, sometimes a Unicorn will come along and ask to join in. Some are invited in for they are beautiful freaks, awe inspiring. They bring strange tales of maidens and rose gardens, can entertain. Horses can go home to their stables and tell their friends how they met a Unicorn today, and you would *not* believe what that they said- Unicorns say and do the darnedest things.
But not every Unicorn is so blessed. Um, can you take off your weapon, the ferocious stallions say, nervous being unable to protect their own. No, I can’t take it off you silly thing! Did you call me silly? Hooves hit dirt, clods flying. Hooves hit dirt, Unicorns defend themselves… and blood falls.
I blinked at the Centaur. No! No, it couldn’t be… and yet I had seen it a hundred times before. Horses like Unicorns on their terms, when they add but do not terrify. Some Horses seek out Unicorns, ask how to become a Unicorn, strap on horns and parade about for the evening then return to their pastures by day, happy to have something stable, something solid. The Unicorn wanders, sometimes welcome, sometimes not. Trading his glitter for a bowl of hay, his tears for a place to lay his head.
I looked at the painting and saw the choice. A Unicorn has a choice, to loose his horn. Cut off your horn Unicorn, grow out your forelock, and you can be just like us. Leave behind your maiden claiming ways, leave your rose gardens, and you can be one of us. You can have a home, have a way of life, have a family.
My eyes wanted to tear, but I fluttered up for a moment and asked him to show me the next. My eyes went wide as his hands, such strange beautiful hands on long arms above his torso, pointed out the next piece. A Pegasus, a brother of my blood, whose wings had been torn off and he was struggling to move.
I saw his truth in the pigment. This truth, gods, I knew it in my heart. I have a choice too. Each Pegasus does. I can try to become a horse too. I have felt those days in my marrow, gods to just be normal. To just be normal, please Zeus, grant me this! But the painting shows the truth so clear, blood spilling out, stumps of wings left.
Even if a Pegasus survives the ordeal of ripping off their wings, they will never blend in, not quite. Tell me of those bumps, what befell you horse? How can I ever hold a saddle? Saddles will always have to be customized to fit on me. I will always feel the phantom limbs of what could have been, what should have been.
Beyond that, a wingless Pegasus can not do what they were set on this plane to do. We hear the call of the gods and can not go to Olympus! I have had my wings clipped and bound before, for my own good they say, and I may have survived by it but that loneliness hit my soul. I tried to walk into traffic, hoped someone would end my life instead of being able to serve my calling. There are tales of pegasi who do just that, cut off their wings… but what sort of life is survival?
I did not want the Centaur to show me the last piece, but I know I needed to see it.
The last of the row showed a Centaur holding a sword, cutting himself in half at the waist, where fur met skin.
You… Oh gods, tell me no my friend! I looked at him and his head nodded, and I knew his truth.
Even if a Centaur were to cut off his arms, he would never be a horse. Even if he were to hide his lower body, he would never be a man. The most he could achieve by trying to become normal would be to become an ugly horse, forever ridiculed, forever tormented… and no longer able to defend himself.
Centaurs are gifted hunters, talented artists, ferocious beasts. They are monsters worthy of respect. But horses only want to spend time with them if they claim horses as theirs, feed them and care for them and put them under them safely, few Centaurs are welcome at pony parties. Unless of course we have need for a Centaur, find value in them, need to know how to journey into the underworld or fight Medusa… then we might ask one, then leave them be.
The lonely Centaur in the painting had chosen the only path he felt he had. He cut himself in two and ended his life, because at least in death horses and men alike could partially empathize with the part of them they mirrored.
I nuzzled the Centaur and left the gallery. I thought on the Unicorns, Pegasi, Centaurs and horses I loved. We all had hooves, had we not? We all were born, and all would die. We all had seen sunsets and sunrises. Wasn’t it enough?
I left his side and went to the side of a horse I know. I asked him to come to my home, instead of me going to his. He always liked me so when I added magic to his world, but coming into my field, not even into my secret grotto… his eyes went wide. This is home? How do you not go mad from the wonder of it? How can you call what you do work? How? Why? What?
He blinked at me and I nuzzled him. I was sick of being a monster. Make me feel like a horse again, make me remember what it is like to feed from troffs and breed like others. Let me recall this, for a moment, please. But his eyes were wide. His eyes were wide and I let him kiss my wings, see parts of me that were there to examine. Never in my life, such an amazing creature. I stopped my ears with my own moans, hoping I could believe it, somehow stop myself from flying as he lifted me into the air and without thinking I took flight.
I flew and flew and flew until I reached the realm of a Unicorn I adore. I landed and approached him on hoof. I told him the tale of seeing a vision of a Centaur, and he shook his head and said it was a strange vision, but that he adored me nonetheless, and I adored him in it. I regaled him with other sights I had seen from seas away, over digital waves and frothy foam. He said I was the strangest beast he had ever beheld, and was blessed to know me. I loved him and how his beautiful body mounts me from behind, his shape fitting mine so very well. I ponder what shape we might take if my wings were not there, if I were a horse or Unicorn. If I were not the most fantastical beast the Unicorn had ever met.
How often it tales of old do we see groups of Unicorns? It is rare, but when we see them, such inspiration! Such beauty, and magic. But they are hidden away from mortal eye. They are hidden because when monsters host their monster balls, we make magic. We make magic that causes some to raise their arms against us, makes others doubt their own journey. Monster balls sometimes lead to a horse realizing the truth of the horn that was cut off at birth by well meaning equine parents, horses who loved their young pony well.
Th next morning, waking from the home of my magical Unicorn lover, I walked outside. I began to trot. I galloped. I lifted my head and soared. I flew and flew and flew and… saw in the distance a fellow Pegasus.
His head threw about and whinnied a beautiful Pegasus whinny at me. My heart melted. He told me of his day and I told him of mine. We laughed at our friends, equine and monster alike. We told tales of far off seas and waves and foam, and knew them as a day in our lives. Neither of us were any more strange than the other, just two monsters taking to the skies and planning our next visit to far off shores. We spoke of Pegasi and Unicorns we would see there, beautiful stallions and mares we adored who would be in attendance, the few goats and pigs and dogs and cats and werewolves we knew were to be walking those halls. We laughed and kissed and spoke of Pegasus things, and said goodbye for now, each with different paths to fly before we rest our heads.
I am not a Centaur. I know few of them, but love many of those I have met. Centaurs who carry music and wisdom and strength and have no way to be horses or men.
There are beautiful horses and ugly ones. There are proud plow horses and skittish ponies. There are hard working ones who live up to their potential and those that would rather wander, dwindle, and fade away.
The same is true of Unicorns. How many Unicorns have I met who think themselves horses, or think themselves Pegasi, or strive in vain to be Centaurs and feel themselves always lacking? How many ugly Unicorns I have met, I could cry at it! How many glittering beasts who create wars with their own kind, who gouge out the hearts of maidens and men alike.
Being a monster just makes us a monster, makes us magical. Every horse carries magic too. Every mortal soul, touching on this thing called making the world in our image, the gift of the gods still writ upon our hooves and tongues.
Being a Pegasus does not mean I am guaranteed to do good work on this planet or above it. It just makes me have different gifts, a different dharma, than most horses.
But I close my eyes and see my Centaur’s friends eyes. How when he was still small he realized that he was beyond the ken of his parents, who cast him out of their hearts. The stones that have cut into his skin. Of all the power and grace he holds back out of fear of yet again scaring away the horses that he wishes he could frolic with. I wish I could hand other Centaurs to him, but I know so few. I do not know where they gather. I do not know the ways of their kind.
I close my eyes and see him. His eyes wet as he stared at the last painting. My eyes wet as I stared at him. I close my eyes and feel his pain, imagining stumps on my back.
I am still a happy Pegasus, happy to be a beautiful freak. A cherished monster. A creature on this plane with a purpose. But now, more than ever, I value the other monsters in my life, all of their power and beauty and pain, all of their hopes and dreams and possibility. I love them all, even the Shuggoth and pigs. I now can close my eyes now though, and see the horn half cut, and wonder how many monsters we have lost over the years.