Size / / /

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac #11 of 12

horse icon

In the Year of the Horse, Anshi carved a miniature stallion for his son Ryo. He painted its tiny hooves black and cut off a lock of his own hair to fashion its mane and tail. For eyes, always the trickiest, Anshi embedded two perfect apple seeds.

Ryo took the wooden horse, hugged it to his small chest, and ran off to play behind the house. When night came, Anshi's wife called their son to dinner, but the boy didn't come. Anshi searched everywhere, but instead of Ryo, they found only hoofprints the size of fingernails in the moist earth. Anshi tried to follow them, but the trail ended at the edge of the forest.

While his wife cried, Anshi set to work on another horse. He took great care to carve its legs strong and swift, its neck curved and noble. He used another clump of his own hair for its mane and tail, and found two more apple seeds for eyes. Anshi took his creation into the yard and stared at it in his hand, waiting for something to happen.

And soon, something did. The little mare shook her head like a child shaking off sleep, and pranced on his palm with her painted hooves. Her apple-seed eyes held a question, and Anshi nodded.

The smell of hay filled his head. In the space of a hoofbeat, he had shrunk to the horse's size and now sat upon her smooth wooden back. Grass surrounded them like a green field of wheat. Anshi stroked the mare's neck and said, "Take me to my son."

He felt the horse's wooden muscles bunch just before it sprang into a gallop across the lawn. The night air raked Anshi's face like soft claws. He clung to the horse's mane—to a tuft of his own hair—and hunkered low. When they reached the edge of the forest, the mare jumped. His mind erupted with the scent of apples, and then they were in a vast golden meadow filled with horses and people of all sorts. A village.

A man approached Anshi. "Father," he said, "it's me, Ryo!" Anshi wanted to protest—his Ryo was but six years old—but the man hugged him, and Anshi recognized his son. He had grown strong and tall, with eyes like his mother's.

"Ryo," Anshi said, his voice thick, "your mother is worried. You must come back with me."

"I have a life here now, father," Ryo said. "A wife and three children of my own."

Anshi's heart faltered, but he saw the joy in his son's eyes and could not weep. All children grow up faster than their parents expect.

Anshi pulled out his knife and set to work immediately, fashioning four new miniature horses for his son's new family. He wiped the unborn tears from his eyes and said, "I hope you'll visit often."


Jenn Reese photo


Jenn Reese has published stories in cool places like Polyphony 4, Flytrap, Strange Horizons, and various anthologies. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she practices martial arts, plays strategy games, and laments the loss of Buffy. You can follow her adventures at her website. To contact her, send her email at jenn@sff.net. Her previous appearances in Strange Horizons can be found in our archive.
Current Issue
24 Feb 2020

tight braids coiled into isles and continents against our scalps
By: Mayra Paris
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Mayra Paris's “New York, 2009.”
This Mind and Body Cyborg as a queer figure raises its head in Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s 2019 epistolary novel This Is How You Lose the Time War, as two Cyborg bodies shed their previous subjectivities in order to find a queer understanding of one another.
Carl just said ‘if the skull wants to break out, it will have to come to me for the key’, which makes me think that Carl doesn’t really understand how breaking out of a place works.
Wednesday: The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman 
Friday: Into Bones Like Oil by Kaaron Warren 
Issue 17 Feb 2020
By: Priya Sridhar
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: E. F. Schraeder
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 10 Feb 2020
By: Shannon Sanders
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
Issue 3 Feb 2020
By: Ada Hoffmann
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: S.R. Tombran
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 27 Jan 2020
By: Weston Richey
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 20 Jan 2020
By: Justin C. Key
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jessica P. Wick
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 13 Jan 2020
By: Julianna Baggott
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Terese Mason Pierre
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Terese Mason Pierre
Issue 6 Jan 2020
By: Mitchell Shanklin
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Nikoline Kaiser
Podcast read by: Nikoline Kaiser
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 23 Dec 2019
By: Maya Chhabra
Podcast read by: Maya Chhabra
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 16 Dec 2019
By: Osahon Ize-Iyamu
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Liu Chengyu
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 9 Dec 2019
By: SL Harris
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jessy Randall
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Load More
%d bloggers like this: