In ninth grade I started taking the bus to my K-12 school. Anyone could sit in any seat, and no one stayed in the same one any single day save for the elementary schoolers: three rows before the first emergency exit were practically where they lived in the mornings. Behind that area was fair game for everybody.
One day I happened to sit behind three of them as one told a story purely from imagination, a story about horses. I’d like to share it with you, with a little added of course.
Why Horses Sleep Standing Up
Long ago, there was a time on Earth when all horses of all lands slept solely on the ground and never standing up. It was a peaceful time, and each night one particularly large herd would gather together to sleep. The area within mountains which they lived was so secluded that none of the horses had to worry about carnivorous predators or any real danger.
Until one night, when some of the members began to disappear.
The horses thought it nothing, just one rambunctious colt that wouldn’t have been beneficial for anything. He’d probably wandered off to graze and gotten lost when he should’ve slept.
A second went missing the following night: a more level-headed young mare who’d just started raising a newborn. It was against her nature, and rather off-putting. The first colt hadn’t returned, either, so the tension grew worse.
More disappeared the four nights afterward, blood sometimes found in the grass, but the horses foolishly continued their resting on the ground. No one thought to stand guard over the herd, no one even considered the notion. Still more were stolen from them over the passing month, one being the leader of the group.
Finally, the weakest of them decided enough was enough. As the others settled down for sleep he watched over them. They figured him rather silly, paying little mind.
The hue of the sky grew darker and darker blue, soon black as pitch and filled with twinkling stars. As a full moon rose above the mountaintops he began to wonder if his efforts were for naught. The wind blew through his ears, and it made him rather cold. Without the shelter and body heat from his friends and family he held no protection against chills.
He was at the end of his rope when the rustling began.
At once several tendons of grass stretched high around an old paint, ensnaring each of her limbs and entrapping her in a tight hold. She roared, kicking and thrashing, but the vegetation proved too much for her frail muscles. It wriggled slightly in some places, after moments exposing previously unseen bone. It was the grass this entire, terrible time, he realized, not only do we eat the Earth, it consumes us as well.
The weak horse knew not what to do to save this new victim, and could only watch a gruesome sight unfold before his eyes. Blades of green drove into tender skin, going deep and drawing blood from her veins. More and more of her skeletal structure emerged, along with vital organs. Her eyes near popped from their sockets as she attempted a final whinny, only to be dragged forcefully underground with a few sickening snaps and crunches.
He simply stared, aghast, at the spot where she’d once laid. A single spot of blood remained.
His ears picked up on a second rustling, coming from the orphaned young colt who’d lost his mother. He couldn’t let such a young soul die when he’d so much potential.
Rearing his legs and screaming as loud as he could, the weak horse immediately woke the colt and surrounding herd. The grass quit shuffling, having its last meal for the night.
Knowing he had as much attention as he needed, the horse told what he had learned that night. Seeing the evidence of his words, all the others agreed they would learn to sleep standing upright instead of on the ground. It took years— generations, even— but they did.
Eventually, time passed and the herd split up. The individuals traveled to and created new herds, all under the same rule: you must sleep standing up, lest the Earth take you for its next meal.