The Hour of the Horse
The turmoil that ripped me out of my sleep was absolute. Yelling and shouting everywhere. Infernal noise. The barrack lights going on and out again, as far as the neon tubes could cope. On and out. On and out. I hadn’t got the slightest idea of what was going on or how late or early it was. Men were storming in, kicking against the steel bed frames. They thundered stroke after stroke down on the startled occupants, literally whipping them out of their bunks. After another staccato the lamps stayed dark, but our nocturnal intruders keep switching their torches on and off, flashing in our faces, blinding us. From all directions came the eldritch crackling and white-blue arcs from spark sticks being set off in the air.
I positively felt out of the upper bunk, grapping the guardrail almost too late. With my feet struggling for hold on the floor, I dangled by one arm, then lost my grip and landed on my arse. One of the blokes, wearing a cowboy hat with plastic horns and dressed in black like the rest, nearly jumped me.
He kicked and cursed and cropped me back on my legs. I still hadn’t fully comprehended the situation. Another man was terrorising the inmates driven into the aisle with a let’s rape whistle similar to Miss Cuntling one’s. She herself was nowhere to be seen though.
“Chest inspection!” a third wanna-be gangbanger proclaimed.
He had a spark stick in each hand, the larger, non-telescopic versions the guards were issued with. With a leap he was squatting in front of the nearest footlocker and performed a drum solo Lars Ulrich would be envious of. He finished by bringing both sticks down hard on the bunk bed frame, right next to a squeaking Zero-Eight.
I doubted the following inspection provided much info about the content of our chests, since they were just throwing our stuff about the barrack’s floor – although I could be wrong about the proper procedure.
More yelling surged in from outside, accompanied by eerie “Ponewo!” chants. The horned cowboy-demon and his mates, having finished with our footlockers, drove us towards the door, towards the cataclysmic noise.
As I was pushed into the night, the next wave of surreal terror crashed down on me. The area in front of the barracks was filled with dark-clad figures, many of which sporting outlandish headgear or viscous flogging devices. Bengal fire illuminated the pandemoniac scenery, casting hard shadows and pulsating crimson against their own smoke. In arbitrary intervals the powerful floodlights left and right of the square came on, blinding us anew, only to throw us back into the blood-red night again seconds later. I chanced a glance to the side, confirming that the girls from the other groups had been torn from their slumbers with equal brutality.
A hand grabbed the nape of my neck, pinching a nerve. As I arched back with a yelp, my new attacker revealed himself at my left. He was wearing a horse mask – no fetish item, but a cheap rubber one made for carnival or Halloween.
“Whinny!” Horsehead screamed into my ear, again and again until I neighed in despair. He joined in, a crackpot duet. All around me other inmates were subjected to various debasements just as randomly.
The lunatic chanting was suddenly drowned out by a ghetto blaster at full throttle. Strategically positioned on the whipping post, it carpet-bombed the area with a twisted medley of neighing, western music and screams of a girl under the lash. Under a torrent of intentionally contradicting orders and hurtful gropes we were shoved into line, with no regards to the usual fall-in order. In those wee hours, beneath a cloudless and starlit sky we were shivering in our unmentionables, all the while being circled and harassed. If it was more than 10 degrees Celsius, I’d be surprised.
The ghetto blaster fell silent. Next to it Creepy Chap had secured himself a vantage point on the scaffold. He was dressed in dark also, and had further enhanced his outfit by means of a black cape and a long staff with a chess knight glued or screwed to its top end.
“Ponewos, are you all here?”
Aside from some careful confirmations we remained silent, too afraid to do the wrong thing – which of course was the wrong thing to do! In mere seconds those ghastly minions were all over us.
“I can’t hear you!”
“Louder, you bloody slags!”
Under their constant motivating we screamed “yes” in unison for half a minute, until the first fearful voices started to give up. Creepy Chap, apparently tonight’s master of ceremony, silenced us with an imperious gesture.
“Ponies, are you all here?”
Again we shouted “yes” from the tops of our lungs, which triggered immediate retaliation.
“How does a pony speak?!” Cowboy-Demon demanded.
Several of us stomped down once for “yes”.
“Wiih-hiihii!” Horsehead pointed out.
Several others neighed. Some did both the stomping and the neighing, a combo to which our nocturnal tormentors reacted with disturbing tolerance.
“Ponies, get nekkid!”
Sadly enough, this was one of the least strange orders so far. Whilst we were complying, the minions threw pony boots in front of us.
“You’ve got thirty seconds to hoof up! Tick-tock!”
“This is not a drill!”
Of course it was…
Apart from the boots we were fitted with only minimal tack: straight steel bits held by a single strap around our heads, leather cuffs above the elbows – unlinked for the time being –, simple harnesses. The latter were richly adorned with glow sticks.
“So nobody runs you over…” was the explanation of the article that buckled me up. How foresightful. More likely the light show was meant to make it easy to spot anyone who might be slacking in the ordeals to come. After the chemicals had mixed, we looked like those blokes from the Tron flicks.
As soon as we were tacked up tight, our hosts’ whips and spark sticks asked us politely to queue up on hands and knees. Through the cold dirt we crawled towards yet another nightmarish figure, wearing steampunk goggles and a top hat with a working flashing light on it. One by one we had to stop at him to receive the final accessory for tonight’s event.
Some lesser demon handed him a random plug from an array of boxes. With bitter amusement I registered that no lube was planned for any of us. The one to be fitted was Zero-One, our resident redhead. She squealed around her bit as the bulb was rammed home. The split crotch strap of these harnesses allowed for it. Next on was a girl from another group, who’d wound up with us in the chaos.
Now I noticed his yell wasn’t a signal to hand him a new plug at all, but a caution before ramming it home in a wide swing. As curses, wolf whistles and lashes were raining down on me, I crawled forwards to accept my present from Top Light Hat.
And in it went. Ripping me. No big deal. Just boys being boys.
Behind Top Light Hat another weirdo awaited us, dipping a hand in a bucket of white paint and smearing a layer down our faces, from forehead to tip of the nose. It took my dizzy mind a while and several looks at other girls to grasp the meaning of these marks: They symbolised blazes. Like on a horse’s face.
On MC Creep’s say-so we were allowed to stand, but had our shoulders pulled back sharply as the elbow cuffs were connected. He had climbed off the flogging scaffold and was now walking up and down our line, bringing down his staff with every other step like a fantasy book wizard.
“Rejoice, ye who have gathered here, for the Goddess of the Night has granted you the elusive gift of time beyond time: The Hour of the Horse!”
“Ye may romp and frolic, and let your spirits embrace the marvels of mare-dom.”
I would rather let his face embrace the marvels of a baseball bat, but sadly it wasn’t the Hour of Beat the Shite out of thy Plaguers. If this whole insanity was only a means to subject us to sleep deprivation, we could count ourselves lucky. But if the “marvels of mare-dom” were born out of the staff’s monotony of boredom, things could go incredibly far south.
By pounding his staff on the ground thrice Creepy Chap called upon his myrmidon once more. Within seconds the lashes were flying again, sending us on our way along the well-known route around the camp.
“Move! High steps! High steps!”
Don’t haze us ponygirls! We are an endangered species!
My bare body, already covered in fear-induced sweat, was soon chilled through by the biting air. My nips had hardened painfully around their rings, but at least they weren’t further tormented by bell-clamps. I was lost in an all-over-the-place hybrid gait of trot and gallop, my forearms flapping awkwardly due to the elbow bondage. Around me other illuminated ponies passed by or were overtaken by me. I didn’t consider it wise to be too slow, yet was in no hurry for what was awaiting me after the run. Along our path handlers and guards were standing in small groups, cheering as we fillies passed by, beating us to drive us on, deafening us with air horns. Some ran along for a short distance, others were more resourceful and privileged: At least three had provided themselves with loud ’n’ heavy ATVs and were racing them back and forth the long straight along the northern fences. The riders were brandishing lunge whips, cracking them in the air closely above or behind us. Not only was that scary as hell; one miscalculation could take out an eye. Distracted by this very responsive audience I nearly missed the first obstacle. Held up between two rather unfancy jump standards a horizontal pole was blocking my way at a height of about sixty centimetres. I have you know that jumping in pony boots is nothing one can do gracefully at first attempt, and neither is hurdling. I overcame the barrier in an awkward combination of both, only happy not to have ended up with broken toes or ankles. More poles were positioned on my track every some hundred metres, manned with joyful spectators. Sometimes they just bellowed or pretended to leap in my way the moment I jumped, sometimes they’d brought their air horns out again (I suspected them being the same blokes as before, having taken shortcuts – there was no way so many different people were partaking in our harassment). At one obstacle ponies were encouraged to lift their cramping legs especially high by having bangers been thrown in their path.
This terror without end came to an end with terror on the home straight. Magnesium flares stuck in the ground were guiding us in into the final gauntlet, suited to warm us up after our stint in the crisp night. Creating some outrageous guard of honour, a score of minions had armed up to flog each arrival through the blazing wall of fire that marked the finishing line. I saw each ponygirl in front of me being swallowed whole by the flames as I staggered towards it in exhaustion. If I just managed to build up speed one last time, I could make it, too! It was only a curtain. I’d jumped through a camp fire at the beach one night, one of those beaches and nights with friends, beer and the one mandatory guy who couldn’t play the guitar for shit. It went well back then, despite or thanks to half a six-pack in my bloodstream. Tonight I wouldn’t leave uncharred, if not by fire, then by everything else that had happened.
Whips and crops and canes flew again, their impacts only rising above the pain blur if they were located at an especially sensitive spot. A blow to the kidney almost sent me down, a snap against an elbow made every nerve in my arm explode. One ridiculous high-step, and another, and there was the fire. I closed my eyes and threw myself through the inferno. Unbelievable heat engulfed me, singed me, reached out to devour my flesh. And was gone. I opened my eyes in utter relieve, only to run straight into the burning horizontal pole some metres behind. With a shock-filled and very horse-like screech I stumbled and tumbled over it. Miraculously most of my body made it, yet my left leg became caught. I landed flat in the dirt face-first, with the shine still lying on the pole. In panic I tried to get away as flames were licking at my boot.
Somebody leant over me, yelling the monosyllabic command again and again, yet distinctively undermining his cause by bringing his birch down on my shoulders every time I tried to follow. A hoof thundered down close to my head as the next filly jumped the pole, showing far better situation awareness. I managed to roll myself off and struggled to my knees. The birch-wielding minion grabbed my harness at the centre ring near my navel and with frightening strength lifted me up on my feet. The split slut strap, carrying a good deal of my body weight in the process, cut deeply between my legs. The pony plug was rammed high up my rectum. Keeping the harness tension up, my “rescuer” forced me to look at him by yanking at my hair. He brought his face close to mine and ran his tongue from the tip of my nose up to between my brows, thus bifurcating my blaze.
And boy, did I run! Away from the fire and away from the demon with his tongue now white. My leg muscles were close to failing, but all I felt was his burning trail of saliva on my skin. I didn’t even pretended to perform any sort of gait anymore, and after another fifty metres I all but collapsed on the square before the barracks. Many other ponies had already huddled together against the cold like penguins, and every single one of them was close to a breakdown. As more were arriving after me, I shivered into some sort of trance, where sleep was impossible and wakefulness unbearable.
I regained full consciousness with a start as Creepy Chap took his rightful place on the scaffold again.
“Have ye seen the glory that is the Hour of the Horse? Have ye marvelled at its wonders? It bestows upon you the beauty of the beast. It cleanses with fire and blesses with cold. And as it has since ancient times it reveals unto us the finest of breed, a mare truly bound to grace and greatness! Behold your queen! The Horse of the Hour!”
A tall and stunning girl with Slavic features was shoved towards the structure. Already detacked save for bit and tail, she had her fine-lined body at the ready for more paint markings. Along the way to and up the scaffold white hands pressed against her skin, granting her a bizarre coat pattern. Looks apart, I had no idea what indicators had revealed her to be equine royalty. Maybe she’d come in first in this totally arbitrary and fucked-up race. Trembling and distressed to her core, the girl was now standing on the platform, dozens of smeared hand prints on her and having His Creepiness closing in to perform the grand finale.
Leaving the bit with its simple strap in place, he buckled a second, far more elaborate harness around. From the very top of it, at the crown of our queen’s head, a fitting or socket of some sort jutted out. With rising horror we saw Creepy Chap mounting a magnesium flare upright to it. With a crimson burst the flare ignited, hissing out sparks before producing a stable bulgy column of light and heat. The girl, standing straight and still not due to aristocratic breed but form sheer anguish, was crowned with a fiery plume.
Creepy Chap tapped the wooden platform with his staff again.
“Ponies, pay your homage!”
Under his minions’ encouraging shouts and lashes we fell into an atonal crescendo of neighs and hoof clonks. Glowing smoke hovered above the scaffold. Our queen was engulfed in an aura of superheated red. Tears cascaded down her terror-contorted face as the paint on the insides of her thighs was being washed away by urine. Louder and louder the cacophony rose, a perfect soundtrack to the in its deepest meaning night-marish scenery. In my mind I screamed at them to just leave us alone. My throat was raw, my leg and core muscles crippled by cramps as after about a minute the flare lost its intensity. It belched out smoke and fire for some more seconds before having consumed itself, leaving behind a smouldering bolt. The girl adorned with it was close to fainting. Creepy Chap made his “silence!” gesture. At once the stomping and neighing ceased. Self-importantly he beckoned his hype man with the illuminated top hat to take over.
Top Light Hat flashed into action.
Within moments the minions were all over us again, oddly enough tearing away our tack. As soon as my harness and elbow cuffs were gone I was thrown to the ground face-down. Two attackers – and nothing else they were – grabbed my legs and pulled the hoof boots off. My plug was yanked out with such speed and force that I feared my bowels would follow. I was freed from the bit, but immediately a hand helped itself to a good hold of my hair. Controlled like this I was led on hands and knees to a developing formation of fillies. Now I understood that the “ponytrain!” command hadn’t been a verb in imperative mood, but a noun. I was made to grab the ankles of the girl in front of me, and felt my ankles clenched likewise. As soon as the last pony was hitched, the train set in motion. Left arms and legs, right arms and legs, one’s face always in perfect rim job distance to the pony in front – a debasing and tedious procession. Knees, shines and insteps abraded by dirt and gravel. Backs, bums and thighs kissed by the whips.
The inconsistency caused by our missing attire was quickly explained by where we were headed to. At the end of the line two old friends were waiting, one of each side of our path. Both Cowboy-Demon and Horsehead had clamped large-diameter water hoses between their legs, holding the sturdy nozzles like gifts to womanhood. As the ponytrain arrived, they opened the valves under the cheers of their co-minions and cleansed each filly with considerable pressure. Grime and blood was washed away from every accessible part of the body, although the dynamic duo was aiming particularly at the face. I don’t have to dive into the symbolism. I also don’t have to point out that the water was ice cold.
Past the water-spitting gargoyles we were allowed to stand up. Coughing and spurting we staggered about in distorted circles, our maltreated bodies chilled through to the bones. Under immense strain I put one foot in front of the other, going nowhere, just keeping in motion. If I collapsed now, I died, of that I was sure.
After an eternity of freezing the last pony had been duly processed. With well-known techniques we were first split up into our assigned groups and then ushered back towards the barracks. Halfway there a voice from behind bellowed at us to take up our clothes. My fingers were almost too stiff to pick up my belongings. I didn’t dare hope our torment to be over, but closer and closer came barrack No. 3. As I put a bare foot on the concrete step in front of the door, I turned around against all reason. The scaffold lay in darkness, so did the square. Gone were the minions, disappeared into the realm beyond the dark, just like nightmares tends to do.
Inside the barrack the lights were on. Mercifully the heating, too. All around me shell-shocked girls were trying to warm up. Not a few were crying. Fifteen, a blanket wrapped around her, was cowering in a corner. Ten was one of the most composed girls, but even she appeared deeply unsettled as she was putting on as many shirts as she could find in and around her chest.
On a lighter note, our barrack looked like shit. Pillows, clothing and personal stuff were scattered all over the place. Almost all bunk beds were out of alignment. If these deficits were still present in the morning, there would be hell to pay. Eleven dragged herself up the littered aisle. She, too, looked tortured. Welts of all sizes, forms and colours criss-crossed her skin. She must have taken at least two dozen of their best. I didn’t dare view myself in the mirror. But what I could see of my body without the help of reflecting surfaces was either covered in cuts or marks or bruises.
With a sound of utter exhaustion Eleven slumped down on her footlocker. With numb hands she tried to brush away the wet hair sticking to her face.
“Has anybody of you being hurt?”
Ten stuck her head through the collar of her third shirt.
“You fucking kidding?!”
“I mean, beyond the normal amount.”
My knees became weak. We had been centimetres away from proper face whippings, close to hypothermia, and a fit of panic would have ended our queen’s reign with third degree burns. But Eleven’s reference to rape was suitable to upset me even more. Getting facelicked certainly qualified as sexual harassment, but wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to a girl in this night. Not with that atmosphere created. I hadn’t smelled booze on anybody, but they’d behaved utterly shitfaced. How easily one could have decided and put into action to “borrow” a ponygirl for breaking her in a bit more behind the barracks?
“You’re planning on cleaning this mess up, I take it…”
Kandrin, dressed in tell-tale black, was standing in the door and feeling smug with herself. She hadn’t addressed me specifically, but I had the distinct feeling I would be the first to know if the clean-up wouldn’t turn out satisfactorily. Our group leader took it upon herself to further inspect the chaos, eventually stopping at my bunk. Its mattress had got out of place, revealing something that caught Miss Cuntling’s suspicion.
“Hiding something, are we?”
My heart skipped a beat as she reached under the mattress and pulled out the subversive item. I supressed a sigh of relief as she brought to light Eleven’s book. She looked at it, then at me, scoffed condescendingly and threw the book on my bunk. Maybe she was more the bodice ripper type.
Kandrin turned around to leave.
“Lights out in fifteen, without a spot on the floor!”
Quickly I corrected my mattress’ position, lest anyone see the “Burning Bright” article still sticking beneath it. That had been narrow. Whoever was halfway in the condition helped to clean up the room. Some of the girl even found distraction in the task. I did not. I had lost all sense of time over our ordeal, but I made a wild guess about how long the lesser demons have had full sway over us: sixty minutes, from 2 o’clock light saving time to 2 o’clock standard time. The Hour of the Horse.
With a sinking feeling in my stomach I wondered what would be in store for us at New Year’s Eve.