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User:FelixSagittarius/At the Ranch Pt 8/9

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At the Ranch
Preceded by: At the Ranch Pt 7/9
Succeeded by: At the Ranch Pt 9/9
Separator r left.png  At the Ranch Pt 8/9 "New Friends/Changin' "  Separator r right.png
Tales from the Blind Pig story universe

By Felix Sagittarius


We made our slow way back toward the Gate, and the anxious crowd of humans waiting for us there. Pastor Svenson, nee Lucifer, and I lead with the rest spread out around us. When the gate came into sight, I picked up to a trot and went ahead to explain what had happened. Wideload and Bella stayed with the Pastor, helping him as best they could.

The Director was beside himself with worry, after seeing me depart rapidly with the raging Lucifer hot on my tail, and was elated to see me on my return. I also noted Tommy lying on the ground, awake but dopey.

"James, I'm delighted to see you again!" called the Director. "When you ran off with Lucifer on your tail, I was afraid he'd kill you. Where is...ah! there he is. What happened? He looks completely different."

I stopped before him and began tapping out an explanation for what had happened. *Sir, Lucifer was crazy. What we call the horse mind was in control, and it believed I was a threat to his herd. He was going to drive me off or kill me. I kept ahead of him for a ways, causing him to run through brush and such to tire him. He had an accident and fell during the chase, and knocked himself out. When he woke up, the human mind was in control.*

Lucifer was almost up to us know, limping along on his scraped and somewhat battered legs. I turned back to the Director and said, *Sir, may I present to you Pastor Steven Svenson, nee Lucifer?*

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I was sent back to the barn for the night, to recover and be checked for problems caused by what was now being called 'the Great Race'. Tommy and Wideload were there too - the dart gunner on the wagon had tried to shoot Lucifer in that scramble at the start, missed, and hit Tommy. He was almost over it by now, and laughing that it was one way to get back into drugs. And it now seemed wherever Tommy was, there was Wideload. They were inseparable, an item.

Pastor Svenson and I had adjoining boxes, and, once his legs had been treated, we had had a long heart to heart about what was going on around here, who and what I was, himself, and the other things that needed clearing up. Steven had been a fairly young man, in his early thirties when the Martian Virus had changed him, and a city boy who'd only seen horses in parades and with cops on their backs. The Change had taken him completely by surprise, and when he'd gotten over the initial effects, he was lost inside his own head. The horse mind had been all but forced to take over, and so things had gone, until Epona and myself had been able to help him.

"Well," he laughed quietly, "it seems I don't have a flock to care for any more, but a herd!"

"Just remember, we may look like horses, but we are still fully human in our minds and souls," I replied. "And the vast majority of these people are going to wish to have you as their Priest. How you handle that aspect is for you to do - I follow a different path, as I've said."

"Yes, the Angel said something about that," he mused. "That all paths to the Light had the same end, as do all paths to the dark. I have my bias, obviously, but I'll leave you to your faith, and minister to those people who wish my help."

"Ought to be interesting, getting in touch with your hierarchy, telling them what and where you are now, and asking their permission to work here," I said. "Talk to Mr. Jakes, have him take a dictated letter from you to send them, and see what happens."

"A very good idea," he said. "I'll speak with him in the morning. Right now, I'm tired - it's been a rather interesting 'first' day in this body. A good night to you, brother."

"And to thee, brother. If you have any troubles, we are all here to help you," I replied. "Sleep well."

Svenson gently settled himself on the hay, then rolled on his side. In moments, he was gone, the soft sighing of his breath the only clue he was alive.

I ate my supper, then walked over to Bryce and Terri's boxes.

"How you doing, Bryce?" I asked.

"A lot better than I'd hoped!" he replied. "The vet said the ribs are almost completely healed, and there's even hair growing back in the bald spot in my mane!"

"The bites are completely healed, I see - only a few white hairs to show where they were," I noted. "How's that hoof you dinged on the gate getting away?"

"Completely healed - I thought I'd broken it, but it turned out to be a stone bruise, and it's fine now," he replied. "But, I must say, it shook the hell out of me seeing Lucifer and you coming into the barn side by side, I'll tell you! But, it was also obvious that something had happened to him, that all the 'crazy' was gone. All I heard was something about a chase and now he calls you brother. Care to explain?"

"I'll be happy to try," I replied. "You've talked to Tommy and Wideload?"

"That I have," Bryce replied. "While you were busy with Pastor Steve. Wideload said you stopped and Lucifer charged you, then bounced off, reared up and over, then fell with a shriek while you lay down. You were both out for a longish while, You came to, said some strange things, then Pastor Svenson awoke, and the old Lucifer was gone."

"That's pretty much what Bella told me," said Terri.

"Well, there are two ways to explain it, depending on your level of skepticism," I replied. "The first is that Lucifer slipped on some mud and fell down, and that when he woke up, the Pastor was in control."

"If you're going to tell all, we want in on it too," said Wideload, coming over with Tommy beside him. "I looked over the ground after you two were down - there was mud, lots of hoofprints, but no skidmarks that I saw. Now, give."

"All right, but this is something that happened beyond the Veil, so its going to be vague, as such things are for mortals who venture there. I Was a Wiccan High Priest before I changed. After I did, Epona asked me to become one of Her Priests," I said. This caused a bit of a stir among my friends, but no one commented. "When I was running from Lucifer, Epona whispered to me to let him touch me, which is why I let him to collide with me. Afterwards, She called me to come to her, which is why I lay down. She had called the Pastors spirit to Her, and She and I were able to instruct him in what he needed to know to be what he now is, a fully integrated and functional being. He was grateful to the Angel, as he saw Her, for the help. She called us brothers, and sent us back to serve and help as we can."

"Then I awoke, and things went from there." I said. "Please, no questions - that was on the other side of the Veil between this world and of the spirit, and a mere mortal sees only what he is meant to see there. I would tell you more, if I knew more. Pastor Svenson is himself again, and my brother. Who, or What, Epona is, I can't tell you, simply because I don't know."

"And if nothing else, a good tale," Wideload chuckled.

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The next morning, The Director and I went back to the Herd, and, after the Morning Count, I gave my lecture on Tap Code and its use for speaking with Humans. The SCABs were delighted, and the Director was happy too, taking the opportunity to chat with several SCABs who he'd ridden and worked with.

I spoke with Bella, letting her know how Pastor Svenson was. She felt a great deal better, knowing the bullying, demanding Lucifer was gone, but was worried about who the new Herd Stallion was going to be.

"Why not just wait until the Pastor is back, and ask him?" I replied. "He's a good man, and you already know something of him. And, remember, Lucifer was forcing an equine mold on the Herd. We are, and yet aren't, horses - why not let things run and see what happens?"

"Let me think on that," she replied. "There have been some incidents, and we all need to think."

"Time we have lots of," I agreed.

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I cane back to the barn to talk with Pastor Svenson and tell him the news of the Herd. As I walked in, I found him and Mr. Jakes going through the contents of a fairly large box. Mr. Jakes looked up , smiled and waved, then went back to sorting the boxes contents.

"Hello, James," Pastor Steven said, "We've been going through my old mail! Theres a lot of it, from my Church people and from the Church authorities, and now that I'm myself again, I'm going to try to answer it, with Mr. Jakes help!"

I snorted at that, then said, "Signing each card with a hoofprint?"

"You know, that's a good idea! I was wondering how to personalize them," he replied. "We tried a pen in my mouth, but the fine control for writing just isn't there. But a hoofprint, and a statement 'his mark' would do fine! Right now, we're grouping them, who they came from and when. They seem to have dried up when there were no replies, though. The last quarter of the box is primarily Church bulletins and documents. But, now that I'm back, I'm going to at least answer the cards of the parish people."

"Have you sent off anything to your church superiors yet?" I asked.

"Yes, this morning, with Mr. Jakes help. Should be interesting there when they figure out what has happened here!" he laughed.

"Be even more interesting trying to find you a celluloid horse collar!" I replied, and we both chuckled.

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The next morning, Bryce, Tommy, and I were cleared to return to the herd. We made an interesting group as we walked down to and through the gate with Wideload and Terri tagging along.

Now that I was a part of the Herd, I spent a good bit of time making acquaintances with the other members. I introduced myself and chatted with them and spent time getting to know them as people. They were uniformly delighted to be able to talk to Humans once again, and I was showered with praise for coming up with the Tap Code. I finally gave up on denying its invention, and simply tried to show how to use it more efficiently, based on the experience I'd had in working with it.

But, one day, I overheard some of the mares chatting, and got another shock. I'd been to Morning Count, where I always tried to be in the front row; no particular reason, just the way I've always tried to do things. But as I was walking off, I heard one of them say, to her friend, "He looks like he'd be a good Herd Stallion. So proud, and after what he's done for us. I think I'm going to vote for him." Her friend had quietly giggled and replied, "Sure, and he's so handsome! I wish I knew him better. Young, strong, smart, just what we need."

It floored me. Me, an old balding fat man, being seriously considered for THAT post! Then, I remembered, what Doc Malcolm had said, back on my Change day, "...lucky you, about five, I'd say. Fully mature, but not much more..." Again, I was startled by what the Change had done to me - I was young again, about the age of my early twenties! I shook my head. At least, I had the knowledge and experience to do it right this time! I walked off with a spring in my step, head held high, hearing the mares whispering behind me.

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One Saturday, after I'd been there several months, I was off grazing when I received a message that people were waiting at the gate for me. I immediately trotted off that way, my curiosity raised. Who would look for me here? As I approached the gate, I recognized them - Martin, my lawyer and Ham friend, and Scott Gilman, aka Parsifal, my SCA buddy! They waved as I came up, and I went over to the cement pad that had been set by the gate to let us use the tap code more efficiently to 'speak' to the clerks in the small kiosk there.

"Greetings, Martin!" I rattled off in Morse. "What's up, that you've come so far? And please tell Parsifal I said hello!"

Martin smiled and translated, then he said, "I need to talk to you privately about some legal matters, and Scott wanted to see you, so we got together and he rode down with me. Is there somewhere private we can talk?"

I replied, "I know of a small grove a little ways from here. A short trot for me, but perhaps a longish walk for you."

"We expected that, and came dressed for it," Martin replied.

"Well, then, come in to the pasture, and I'll show you the way," I said.

About fifteen minutes later, we were all in the open space in the center of the grove. I waited while my friends found seats on a fallen log, then asked, "So, what's up?" in Morse.

"Perhaps I should let Scott go first," Martin said. "He's told me he's a polymorph, and says he may have a solution for you that will make things easier by far."

"That's right, Felix, I may have something that will free you, and let you get back into the world, at least in a way." Parsifal said, using my SCA name. "You helped me through the nightmare of finding my 'self' after I Changed, and now it's time for repayment."

I nodded, intrigued, and moved over closer to him to watch. He reached up and put a hand on my head. He closed his eyes, removed his hand, and took several steps backward...then, he Changed. It took a few minutes, and was - interesting - to watch, but he ended up as my twin! Looking closer, not just my twin, but a duplicate!

He smiled at me and said, in Horse, "Hello, Felix. My, this form is - different! I hadn't tried a horse before, just smaller animals and such. Give me a minute, and I hope to have something to show you." He closed his eyes and stood, apparently feeling out the equine form. He said, "Ah, I hoped so! Watch closely, and I'll show you something." He seemed to shiver around the head and neck, then, suddenly, out of the shivering, there appeared the human part of a centaur! He looked down and back, then moved his hands.

"As I suspected," he said happily, "you can do this too!"

I stood motionless, stunned by the revelation. He walked over and said, "Here's what I want you to do. Close your eyes, and calm your mind - that's the hard part. Then, Try to see yourself as a centaur, then look for a faint purplish thread. There may be two of them. For me, there are hundreds, and finding 'me' again among so many was the hard part of finding my way back. Choose the brightest and 'reach' for it with your mind. For you, who haven't shifted before, the result will be somewhat disorienting, but keep trying, until you feel stable again. Then open your eyes. Try it now."

I closed my eyes, stilled my mind, drew up a picture of myself as a centaur, then began looking for the 'threads' Parsifal had mentioned. They were there! And, knowing what to look for, very obvious! I wondered that I'd never seen them before. I picked one, the brightest, and reached for it. The world seemed to shiver around me. I kept reaching, until the shivering stopped, Then, I opened my eyes.

Oh, my Gods! the COLORS! The world seemed to explode in color before me! That was the first thing I noticed. Then, how narrow my field of view was and that nothing blocked my view! I felt my hands, then held them up in front of me. I worked them, bending each finger and thumb, then touched my face. I laughed aloud, like I hadn't since I Changed! I looked at myself, and saw the ruddy color of my lower bodies coat for the first time. I unbuckled the halter and removed it, then reached out and caught my friend in a tight hug, crying with joy.

Parsifal hugged me back, then said, " Follow the same thread to go back to being a horse - it works both ways."

I stared at him and said, "Why would I want to?"

He grinned and said, "Several reasons, but I'm going to let Martin tell you the most important one."

Martin said, "Well! Scott said he could help you, but this! I'm astounded! Welcome back, James Welcome back! Let me look at you - hmm, its you, but not...weird. I recognize you, but the ears are still equinish. They've moved down to a human location, but they stick out and up. You can probably move them if you try. The eyes are bigger, further apart, and solid brown, but with a round pupil. Your hair matches your coat color, and...yes, theres a distinct line down your back. No bellybutton, either. I'd bet that the torso is solid muscle, with enough cartilage in the ribs to support the shoulders. A human/horse hybrid - just like the Greeks said!"

"Well, at least I can talk now, and have my hands back! The two things I missed most!" I laughed with joy.

"Your voice has changed too," Martin replied. "You used to be a light tenor, like most men, but now, you're a deep baritone. The Opera company at home may want to speak with you!"

"Just so I have a voice! Now, what did you need to speak to me about?" I said.

"We've got a solid court date, and I've gotten the Judge to allow you to testify in your own behalf!" Martin said. "I showed him the videos we shot of you using the Talking Box, and he's very interested. But, now that you can do this! HHS will have to let you go, and release your property too! There'll almost certainly be a court fight over it, but showing that you can be a useful member of society again, instead of just an intelligent horse, that will almost certainly make them drop the case!"

"So, I leave this place and go back to simply living on my own again?" I said.

"That's right." Martin replied.

"I have certain responsibilities here, and friendships...Parsifal, do you think the other SCABs here can do this, go to centaur?" I asked.

"I don't know, your the only one I've tried it with." he replied.

"Will you show this to another horse SCAB, please?" I asked.

"Uh, it may not work," he replied. "Do you want to show this to someone, then have it fail? It could be a crushing blow."

"Let me think on it for a minute," I said, and walked a short distance away.

"Lady Epona, what should I do?" I prayed. "I want my freedom, to be back in my life, but not at the cost of leaving the SCABs here totally without hope. Epona, I want to free them as my friends have freed me. Will this work for those SCABs here?

"This is one reason I wanted you as my priest, that you care about and for the others here." She whispered to me. "You are still my child, as are they, but, yes, they can become as you. Show your brother first."

"Lady, what of the others, those in other than equine form. Can they be helped?" I asked.

"They are not mine, but I am told, yes, they can." She replied.

"Thank you, my Lady, thank you." I said, then turned back to my friends.

"I will take the risk. If the people here can, they should at least know it is possible!" I said. "Wait here, and I will get my brother."

I closed my eyes, stilled my mind again, and reached...falling back to equine. I opened my eyes, and saw once again with the wide angle, almost colorless sight of a horse. I sighed, then trotted off.

I returned a few minutes later with Pastor Svenson. We walked into the grove, and he stopped when he saw my friends.

"James, what is this? Who is that man? And I don't, I do. Its you, right down to the smell! How can that be? What is going on here? You said you had something to show me, are these it?" he asked.

"Brother, these are my friends, and a way to freedom from being trapped as horses forever," I replied. "The one seated on the log is my friend Martin, a lawyer and fellow radio Ham. The other, my duplicate, is a polymorph friend, Parsifal. He has showed me how to escape, and now we will show you. Watch me."

I closed my eyes and reached again, and felt the shiver of change. I opened my eyes and said, "We believe that you and every SCAB on the ranch can do this or something like it. Parsifal would like to 'see' if you can. Please, let him touch you."

Parsifal had gone back to human while I went to centaur. Now, he walked up to Pastor Steven and held out his hand. Steven backed away, not sure what was happening. First he'd seen me become a centaur, then Parsifal become human. He was deeply confused, both over what was happening, and what he was needed for.

I said, "Please, brother, he needs to touch you so he can see if it is possible for you to change to this form. Let him, he won't hurt you."

My brother gathered his courage, then walked forward to meet Parsifal. He put out his nose, and Parsifal stroked it. Parsifal closed his eyes and stepped back, then he Changed to a mirror of Pastor Steven. I watched as they talked in the quiet language of Horse, then the Pastor closed his eyes.

It took a little time to still his mind, as he wasn't as used to meditation as I was. Suddenly, he shivered - and went to centaur. I watched as he opened his eyes and looked around, stunned by the color, then as he looked at his hands, and touched his face. I walked over and hugged him, then said, "Welcome to the world again, my brother!"

Preceded by:
At the Ranch Pt 7/9
At the Ranch Succeeded by:
At the Ranch Pt 9/9

To be continued...