At first only the black horse had wings. They were papery, like onion skins, almost no color, and I could tell myself they weren’t there, that it was the window throwing a reflection, but I saw them stretch. Uncrumpling. The horse bent forward, cropped grass. He said he had been a racehorse once. The white horse was shyer, stood in his shadow. She didn’t show her wings right away.
The horses shouldn’t have been able to get into Tom and Delia’s backyard. The fence was tall. The boards were tight. I wondered if Tom and Delia had seen them there.
It was better not to ask.
On the day the world ended Tom and Delia came for me in their green van. It had a gold frame around the license plate, two kneeling girls with their hands linked over their heads as if they were chained together, or praying.
Delia in her white clogs, Tom in his blue scrubs. I went to preschool then. Teachers were crying, looking at their phones. Delia had a mask like doctors wore on TV and she said my mother was hurt in the attack and they would take me to the hospital.
But we didn’t go to the hospital. We came here. They said they would keep me safe. The windows were nailed shut. They said the world outside was in its final flames. Even the air could be poison.
But those two horses, eating grass outside my window, don’t look afraid.
Delia taught me to read from a book. Little Visits with God. It tells you all the things to do to make God happy, like cleaning your plate at every meal and making your bed without being told. She taught me to do sums and write Bible verses on yellow sheets of lined paper. She doesn’t do that much anymore. She says I know all I need to know for what’s to come.
The black horse’s wings are bigger than his body now. Their dark feathers shine. The white horse’s wings uncurl slowly, a little more each day. She says she lived on a farm where people didn’t feed her. She says being hungry is hard to forget.
Fasting and prayer. That’s what Delia calls it, when I’m bad.
I wonder what’s on the other side of the fence. I think maybe those horses know.
Fences won’t stop horses with wings.
Someday, Tom and Delia will go to work, the way they always do. Tom in his blue scrubs, Delia in her white clogs. Someday they will forget to lock my door.
In the book about God there’s a picture of a boy walking on the beach with Jesus. The boy leaves footprints in the sand. Jesus doesn’t. Jesus leaves no trace of himself behind.
I’ll be like that.
Kathryn Kulpa (@KathrynKulpa) is a writer, editor, and librarian with words in Jellyfish Review, Pithead Chapel, and Smokelong Quarterly. She was born in a small state, and she writes short stories.