- Pragya Pai
The Stable Boy and The Beast
“We better get back to the stable, it’s getting dark,” said the stable boy. “It won’t take long for night to fall.” He tugged at the horse’s rein. The horse, tired from the day’s work, wanted to graze some more and refused to budge.
“Come on, Coco.” The boy rubbed the horse’s dark mane. “It’s time to go. You can rest in the stable.” He pulled at the reins again. The horse gave a small neigh and tapped her hoof.
“Good girl, Coco.” The stable boy and the horse started their journey down the hill.
The boy looked over his shoulders towards the horizon. The sun had begun to set. He could feel anxiety settling in as he traced the outlines of the pair’s faint shadow.
After a quarter of an hour or so, the stable boy led his horse into the stable. Washing her, refilling her grain and water buckets, and putting on her blanket for warmth took a long while. By the time the stable boy was done with the chores and ready to proceed for home, the sun had vanished and darkness had taken hold of the world.
The boy slowly stepped out of the stable doors, shivering as the cold air struck him. He could see his home in the distance, close enough to be visible through the winter’s mist, but too far for him to walk alone. He could see smoke coming out from the chimney. Mother must have lit the fire, he thought, there will be warm food and soup at home. He hoped that the thought of Mother’s delicious tomato soup would lure him towards the cottage.
Bravely, he took a step forward. Clutching his arms across his chest, he tried to fight the cold wind and the fear inside him. Don’t worry, Mother, I’m on my way. Breathing heavily, he walked. He happened to step upon a twig, making a sound in the quiet night. A beast pounced on him. Witlessly, the stable boy hurried back to the safety of the stable.
He banged the doors close, out of breath, his cheeks red with the chill. His face felt hot, tears clouded his eyes. He rocked himself to stop crying. A while later, the tears had stopped but fear still had him in its clutches.
Deciding to be brave once more, the stable boy opened the door an inch and peered out, looking out for the beast that had driven him back into the stable. But his misty eyes could see no one in the night. He stepped out again, ordering himself to be courageous. But as soon as he went past the lights of the stable, darkness engulfed him.
The stable boy rushed back to safety. Tears once again trickled down his cheeks. Mother, come get me, I’m scared. But he knew Mother was too far to hear him. One of the horses neighed in the stable. The stable boy had a choice to make- go past the beast to Mother and her wonderful soup, or spend the night in the freezing stable with nothing to eat.
Mother will wonder where I am. Not wanting to worry her, the stable boy decided to make a run for it once and for all. He stepped into the cold night for the third time, his heart pounding. Closing the stable doors behind him, he ran across the field. The beast was right behind him, howling, baring its fangs.
The stable boy ran for his life, forgetting all about the stable and the hot soup. Too scared to even shout for help, the boy kept running, until he tripped on the very same twig that had awoken the beast. The grass broke his fall, and the boy buried his face in his palms, waiting for the beast to strike. But there was no strike. Slowly, the boy dared to look up to see what the beast was doing. He saw no beast, just darkness- regular, unimpressive.
The boy turned, lying on his back to catch his breath. Have the stars always been so beautiful? He wondered looking up at the night sky, of which he hadn’t taken notice ever before. Has the moon always sparkled this brightly?
The stable boy stood up in the night, not afraid anymore. He stayed there for a moment, the cold breeze caressing his face, the moon and stars smiling at his bravado. Darkness still loomed, it was still night after all. But darkness didn’t scare him, it welcomed him.
He made his way across the field fearlessly. Occasionally, he looked back instinctively for the beast that had pounced on him, but he knew in his heart that there was none, only his imagination and fears.
At long last, he reached the cottage. He jumped over the fence, too happy to be careful, and opened the door. The aroma of Mother’s cooking greeted him, as did Mother herself.
“I battled a beast tonight, Mother!” The boy announced as she gave him a hug.
“Wash up, dear,” said Mother. “Let’s talk about it over a bowl of warm soup.”
The stable boy looked back at the stables, barely visible in the mist, and closed the door. He was safe. He was home.