March 31st 2023
The auction catalog was thirty-two pages. Chrissie went back to page five, the corner dog-eared, and reread a description:
Lot No. 10—Stable No. 45—Registered Name: Shooting Star—Sire: Spitfire—Sire of Dam: Blackbird. Piebald Pegasus mare, 4-years-old, standing at 16.3 hands. On pasture turnout since injury (see appendix for vet details). Currently barefooted.
Chrissie wobbled on her crutches.
Jane steadied her, looking competent in her calf-length boots and stylish rose-gray breeches. Not one to fall from the saddle and break her femur.
Chrissie pushed away, shoving her crutches forward, their metal bottoms dusted by the dirt floor.
The sale barn was massive. The scents of hay and manure and stale air jumbled together. Fates crisscrossed here. Some unlucky lots would end up in the slaughter barn. Potential buyers didn’t want to waste time or funds on has-beens or broken things.
Chrissie understood. Even she had to be picky. A mount for a flight cadet should be sure-footed and reliable. She had made the mistake of taking on a lease before. An aged gelding, easily spooked, without proper strength for maneuvers. He had dropped her on their first take off. She’d learned her lesson then: she needed a partner as a steed. A bond woven of understanding and trust.
Gold numbers passed by: thirty-seven, forty, forty-two. Chrissie took a deep breath at forty-five, then peered between the bars of the stall.
Wide walnut-brown eyes stared back. The mare snorted, pawed a front hoof, both ears alert. Her wings were darkness itself, folded against her sides. The right wing was wrapped with tight fabric and medical tape.
Jane reached for a paper pinned to the stall’s woodwork. As she read, her face grayed. “Says multiple fractures. Even healed, she may never fly again.”
The mare’s mirror-like eyes held Chrissie’s own reflection. Beyond the hurt and the fear, the light shined through.
“She will,” Chrissie said. “And she knows what it’s like to fall, like me.”
Anna Madden lives in North Texas, where the prairie reaches long tallgrass fingers toward the woods. Her fiction has appeared in Solarpunk Magazine, Shacklebound Books, Luna Station Quarterly, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @anna_madden_ or visit her website at annamadden.com.
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