Five Types of Horses
Upon parental request, surgeons attach a fifth leg to your horse body. They sew it into your chest so that you have three front legs and two back legs. Your blood fuses and accepts the extra limb. It is invisible to the rest of the world but it is there. The God Leg, they call it. Your parents take you to barns of worship from birth and you assimilate into religion naturally. A Disappearance occurs at least once in every five-legged horse’s life. You sin for the first time: molars grind stolen hay in the wheelbarrow bed of your mouth. Saliva softens the grains as you chew. As your stomach fills, the God Leg withers. First a small tip of the hoof. Then the knee. You try to adjust but the humans only call this a limp. You’ve heard of horses sinning so much that their God Leg disappears completely. It takes a prayer of forgiveness for the God Leg to restore. You think of this before you sin again.
You have four hooves. The God Leg was never sewn into you. Other foals talk exclusively of a barn in the sky where only five-legged horses go. You push aside your mane to hear the clacking of a fifth hoof when they trot. You wonder if the humans can hear it too. You want to hear it but cannot. Or maybe you heard it once. You attend a barn of worship for five-legged horses and attempt to neigh in their language. But you feel like a foreigner. Their prayers do not taste natural on your tongue. Perhaps you want this fifth leg. How will you learn to walk with it? You buy a prosthetic to test it out. You read from their manual but have more questions than answers. You fumble in the fields. The prosthetic juts against your chest unnaturally, rubbing against your ribcage. You collapse with many attempts; weak legs bruise. You get up and slip. Bones tire from trying like sticks failing to make fire. Other horses encourage you. Or maybe you haven’t told anyone you’re trying this. To have faith in the God Leg you must first have faith in yourself. It would be so easy to give up.
You can feel the sutures of the stitches in your torso. The threads make cross-shaped Ts on your chest. Grass nuzzles your coat. The God Leg assimilates into your coat as the stitches dissolve. You train the fifth leg like how humans train tricks for equestrian competitions. Except you don’t need a trophy to feel accomplished. You wipe the dirt off your old prosthetic and raise it onto the top of a fence post like a trophy. And now you trot with the five-legged herd. But you weren’t raised like this. You question: Will your family recognize the sound of you coming home?
You cut off your God Leg. Afterward, there is a temporary hole, a fleshy cave of war. But you do not have to act like a five-legged horse anymore. Hair grows over gaping emptiness. Later, and when you do not expect it, a wind surges under your coat. It travels, rushing through currents of nerves to where the flesh was cut off. Hair rises. You flinch. The pace of your lungs’ inhale-exhale breaks into a broken trot. You feel around with your other hooves for a fifth. But there is nothing. You confirm that you have onlyfour legs. You do not have a God Leg anymore. Somehow, humans haven’t detected the amputations of horses for centuries. The world is full of these invisible histories.
Horse teachers neigh foreign languages of microscopes and telescopes. Factually, humans see what was once invisible. Their bendable joints and movable thumbs make technological creations feasible. You spit and neigh with jealously. Your hooves cannot make inventions; your hooves cannot prove anything. You predict humans will create an invention that will make the God Leg visible in 2088. But first, you must make them understand. Acknowledge my God Leg, you urge the humans. Acknowledge the lack of my God Leg. Pay attention.
Kathleen Roland is a native of Jacksonville, Florida. She currently attends the University of North Florida with the quest of obtaining an English degree and minors in creative writing and photography. Her work appears in Gingerbread House, Just Poetry, the Gateway Review, and Élan.
Illustrated by Meghan Murphy.