By Richard Godwin
He was cradling the broken pony in his child’s hands.
Tears splashed his glasses.
The room was a fog, the salt water from his burning eyes stained the glass he relied on to see through.
Teased relentlessly before it happened he shook, clutching at the fragments of his broken dream.
Joshua Hay was born on a small farm in the English countryside.
His father Stuart was an angry farmer who called his son a runt when he first saw him in the handmade cradle his mother Mable was rocking him in.
He saw early on Joshua would not fit the mould he’d cast when he impregnated his unbalanced wife and he tortured him verbally for his weakness.
At school Joshua was bullied.
He would return home and hide at the back of the farm and cry against an old stone wall with his legs tucked up and his body shaking as he buried his face in his knees.
He hated his face, considering it an object of weakness that could only inspire revulsion and at the age of seven he took one of his father’s razors and scored a deep scar there which looked like a question mark, a fact he found fitting in later life because he felt his entire existence was questionable.
He was a quietly spoken boy who showed others respect and got little in return.
His mother tried to love him but her husband’s despotic rule broke her spirit early on and she became reclusive and mentally unbalanced.
She would veer between trying to protect Joshua from his father’s barbs and hitting him across the head for his weakness.
She hated noise and used to scream if any sound interrupted her reveries, which consisted of dreaming she was somewhere else.
She became obsessed by silence. She would jump at an unfamiliar sound.
In later life Joshua’s only memory of her was a comment she made to him one morning they sat eating breakfast.
‘You are my mirror and the mirror’s broken’, Mable said, ‘we are both weak and you are weaker than me.’
She was setting a china cup to its fragile saucer as she said this and the sound of the clinking porcelain stirred something in Joshua and he snapped the handle of his cup off and clenched it into his hand so that it ran with blood.
He wanted to remember that moment and defy it in his soul and he yearned for blackness.
The sound became associated with disease for him and he could not hear china clinking without a reaction occurring which he hid from himself with years of practice.
His mother committed suicide when he was 14.
She’d got a lover, a local farmer. He used to meet her and make love to her in the late afternoons when Stuart was out.
She would lie in the twilight and feel her life fading as he entered her and she reached out for something that wasn’t there.
Her guilt as a Catholic became so burdensome to her that one afternoon as Joshua returned from school she hit her lover with a lamp whose fizzing bulb threatened her.
She smashed his skull and continued hitting him until he collapsed on top of her in some macabre climax.
She lay there with his weight pinning her to the bed and took the largest shard from the broken bulb and opened her wrists as twilight fell across the fields beyond the house.
It was a beautiful sunset Joshua remembered later, an intense pink with gold at the edges.
Sunsets like that would evoke a dark resonance in him for the rest of his life.
He entered the house and as he climbed the creaking stairs he smelt it.
The sweet smell of freshly spilled blood.
He wondered if a pig had been killed and he had missed its insane shriek before the slaughter.
And he knew as he stood there clutching the banister that what beckoned him was the room whose open doorway was more menacing than the bullies or his father.
He stood in the darkened hallway at the threshold of the door to his parents’ bedroom and knew his life was about to change.
He knew he was an impostor and would discover the tapestry of his future in that dark and bleeding moment.
As he crossed the Rubicon he felt a needle pierce his soul and knew all the bleeding he had endured physically was nothing compared to this, the sight of his dead mother with her lover on top of her like a bloated corpse in a church.
Joshua stood there in the red twilight staring at her face and he reached down and touched the blood on the sheets.
He had learned about female menstruation that day at school after a religious class on the meaning of the Virgin Mary.
As he looked at his mother her face became imbued with the deep religion of sexual sacrifice.
He left the room without washing and disappeared into the fields, sleeping in a stable with a horse his father kept.
When he awoke he could see the horse’s penis through the railings that kept them apart and Joshua decided he would return to the dream he had as a child.
He looked at his red hand and remembered his mother in the house and he recalled clutching the broken toy pony all those years ago and despising himself for dreaming of being a jockey.
He was small enough and hardly ever ate.
He looked at the horse’s penis, he imagined it erect, he memorised the shape of it and saw it move as the horse shifted position.
He washed his hand outside with the water from a pump and saw the flashing lights descend on the house in the distance.
He waited watching as they took his mother’s body away and that of her lover.
Then he returned.
His father was clutching a whisky as Joshua walked in and received a slap across the head.
‘Where have you been?’, his father said.
‘I didn’t feel well.’
‘Your mother’s gone.’
‘Dead. She was no good anyway.’
Joshua went upstairs and lay in bed.
He waited for tears that never came and felt an ice pass over him.
He got up and opened an old trunk in which he’d stored the broken pieces of the pony.
And finding some glue he stuck it together.
It was the small hours of the morning when he heard his father stagger to bed.
He decided he would become a jockey and he would kill anyone who stood in his way.
The next day at school he punched one of the bullies so hard he broke his nose.
He found he had a ravenous appetite afterwards and began eating large meals.
His father would be permanently drunk and do little on the farm and Joshua began to develop weight and strength.
He took over some of his father’s chores and found the lifting gave him muscle which he used to thrash the boys who had made his life a misery.
He beat one up so badly he needed to go to hospital.
Joshua was left alone by them now and he grew into a large strong young man.
By the age of sixteen he knew he could not become a jockey.
He would not give up on horses.
He found his father dead one afternoon as he returned from school and stood there looking at him before burying him in a field.
At school the next day Joshua said nothing and wondered where he would go.
The sight of two boys who used to bully him laughing enraged him and he waited for them in an alley he knew they used on their way home.
With a stick into which he’d inserted a nail he punctured one of their throats and stove the other’s head in with a brick.
He returned home and lay awake wondering if he would go to prison.
The entire school was questioned and no one was arrested and a few weeks later Joshua realised he could kill who he chose and get away with it.
He was running out of food at the house and the next night he packed his things. He walked out into the field and opened the door to the stable.
He let the horse free.
He found some money in his father’s drawer and took the cash and left travelling by bus to the next county.
He looked out of the window at the darkened landscape and knew what he would do.
His face at the window seemed less his own than the invocation of someone else’s.
He found a job on a farm.
He became a ploughman.
He would lie in his bed in the morning listening to the wind outside before rising and ploughing the soil.
He would speak in tongues at midnight and watch his eyes change colour.
He had green eyes and they would turn red when he looked at himself in the mirror at those times.
The farm was set in open flatland and winds would tear at the house and make the horses neigh wildly in the blackness.
Joshua imagined them tethered to a bleeding post which was covered in human skin on which some mystic mantra was written.
He dreamed of their coupling and the strength of their libidos.
When he masturbated he summoned images from the grave.
He studied the history of ploughing and turned the yellowed pages of the book he bought at a market with religious fingers.
He heard by candlelight an unwritten symphony caress the dawn that often rose as he fell asleep book in hand.
The music would evoke memories he didn’t recognise as his own, memories of a weak boy bullied and afraid.
He read of the scratch plough, the crooked plough and its evolution to the modern form.
He used two ponies to plough the field and he smelt the earth and felt aroused by it as it broke and fell against the sky.
He felt he was commissioned with an act of devotion to a dark and hungry god who wrote the word justice on the wall at night in the crimson blood of some unknown beast.
He understood he was bringing nutrients to the surface of the field and what the field was in time and shadow.
And he learned that deeper tillage needs a harrow and planting follows.
One day as rain fell and raised the smell of damp earth into the air Joshua stood in the field and considered that he had to harrow the flesh of man.
He watched the drops fall on his share and knew the harrowing had to begin and that it was a mystical act he was compelled to engage in as part of his devotion to the god he served.
He bought a mould board plough and kept it in his room.
The farm was owned by Adam Grimes, a surly man who left Joshua alone, paid him his keep and gave him a room over the kitchen.
There was a cook’s hand called Mary who worked there and she would flirt with Joshua who didn’t notice.
She was a buxom country lass who liked men and liked ensuring she was found attractive.
Joshua was a virgin.
One blazingly hot summer’s afternoon as he sat sipping tea in his room Mary walked in and removed her top.
‘Bit hot in here aint’ it?’, she said.
Joshua looked at her breasts and wondered.
He wondered where the ploughing would begin.
She walked over to him and put her hand between his legs.
‘You’re hard Joshua, can I have a feel?’
And she pulled his penis out.
As she masturbated him he saw his horses and their wild beauty and he became aroused.
He pulled at her dress, fumbling with her body and clumsily entered her.
‘I’ve been on my rag but it’s almost stopped’, she said.
After she had left Joshua rubbed his hand in the stained sheets and smeared her blood on the mould board plough.
He could hear Mary washing dishes below and the sound of clinking china.
He left his room and went to the stables.
He reached under one of the ponies and felt its penis, rubbing the organ as the animal stared at him with the eyes of the violated.
He brought it to climax, holding the horse’s head with strong and knowing hands and he cut a piece of the animal’s tail off.
He rubbed its semen into the tail and waited in the dark.
Joshua killed Mary that night as she walked home through the fields.
Using a section of share he’d removed from an old plough he severed her throat.
He’d sharpened the share and it was like a razor.
He watched as Mary’s neck opened up and streamed with blood.
Then he stripped her and tied the piece of tail to her throat, pushing the end into the wound.
He was aware of being aroused as he did this and he ejaculated on her corpse.
He looked at her and her vagina seemed sterile against the black earth.
Joshua discovered the secret meaning of the furlong and the chain that was used to measure the field and he measured time with the implements of husbandry.
He farmed flesh and the animals who served him were the agents of law and they bred in the night.
Mary’s body was discovered by a local boy who ran screaming to the police who took it away and questioned the village of Toft and its inhabitants.
They came to the farm and found Joshua in the field and asked him if he noticed anything missing from his ponies.
He scratched his head and looked at the police officers.
He could see they lacked understanding of what was about to occur.
‘I did notice it now you mention it’, Joshua said. ‘I thought the horse had snagged his tail on some barbed wire.’
‘A young woman who worked on this farm’s been murdered’, the police officer said.
‘I heard about Mary, it’s terrible, what’s it got to do with my horses?’
‘It’s all part of the investigation.’
They left him and he continued ploughing.
He never called them ponies to other people, only when alone or with them.
He knew what they were.
He knew what he would do.
By the fading twilight he looked at the scar on his face and saw it was the shape of a mouldboard.
He saw that he was the ploughman.
The sign was on him and he saw his eyes change colour.
He said it over and over rocking on his heels Equus ferus caballus.
He knew the cabalistic forms of night and stretched his words like membranes across the frozen landscape.
The earth looked like the blurred shadow of a fecund vagina in the night.
The smell of hot petals and wet leaves rose through the air.
The intense stillness seemed to still the air.
The landscape was waiting for his share’s turning of its slow and ovulating body.
He would go to Toft and stand at the bar and watch the locals.
He blended in unnoticed as a smoke smear on a dirty pane of glass and saw the slow meanderings of time and all its disillusionments on the faces of the tired men and women who came to clutch their beers and head away.
He drank whisky and felt the heat work its way into him like the cipher of some unread code.
And the visitations grew heavy in his mind like the unfolding of some ancient soil beneath the ploughshare in his soul.
He mastered the names for the plough, sulh and medela, geiza and huohili, aror and pelem, plogu and plugu.
These were the mystic names he cast by midnight with the slow turning of the soil.
He fed on worms and their counterparts within the textured earth he ate by the handful.
And he hungered for the taste of flesh.
Two locals he observed with particular attention were a woman by the name of Daisy and her husband Tom.
Daisy was a young attractive brunette and she would flirt with the men at the bar, often placing her hand on their shoulders and laughing with them.
Tom didn’t care, knowing his wife was his and enjoying the fact that she was attractive.
Joshua could see the sign was placed on them.
The heavy shadow of a mould board tailpiece fell across the room when they entered the pub.
This was the sign they had to be taken to the dark earth.
One night when a pregnant moon sat overhead Joshua made his way across the field with the share in his coat.
He stopped in the illuminated woods and watched the light fall between branches and looked at the metal and saw the earth there.
He went to the stable and felt the penis of the second pony grow as its eyes stared at night.
He tasted the semen and laid it thickly on a piece of its tail which he held aloft outside and watched turn to the relic of some bruising that was ineluctable and prefigured.
He headed towards the village.
A cat crossed his path and he sliced its head off and nailed it to a tree with the tools he had brought with him.
He passed through the sleeping village to the house Daisy and Tom lived in.
And he entered by a back door like some unsummoned wraith.
Tom and Daisy were naked in bed and she was astride him, moving with fervour and Joshua stood at the open doorway and watched her moonlit breasts swing in the blackened air of night.
As she moved she seemed imbued with the sin he sought to remove and he walked towards them.
Only Tom’s quick gasp as he saw Joshua there with share in hand alerted Daisy who turned her head just as Joshua moved the share through the air.
He sliced her throat as cleanly as ham and held her head back to widen the gaping wound.
It showered Tom with blood and Joshua reached down and cut his chest apart.
He let them bleed to death.
Then he removed their hearts.
He took these to the pub and nailed them to the door and left them thickly smearing blood on the peeling paintwork of the refuge from the tired redundancy of local lives.
He attached the pony tail to them.
It hung like a penis from their swollen forms and it seemed that blood and semen were related, as if the hearts like testicles bore the living vital liquid that conjures the scar of man from the earth.
He walked back to the farm and lay blood stained on his bed and rose at dawn and smeared the blood on the share that stood in its altar and he prepared for work, ploughing the field until sundown.
He felt he would father offspring through his ponies and he considered the method of achieving this.
He knew they were not horses but breeders of man. That they were a mystic beast tethered to the plough and all its dark husbandry.
He considered the Royalty of horses.
He saw the prone form of Catherine the Great beneath the stallion she craved, his erect penis entering the Queen whose sexual appetites knew no bounds.
He could see the harness breaking as the stallion crushed her to death.
He knew the horse was the breeding choice of Queens.
He lay in the dark on his bed and heard the scuttling of rats in the roof overhead.
And rose at dawn with his share and went to the stables.
He brought both ponies to ejaculation and inserted their sperm inside him, sticking his finger deep into his anus and lying prone with legs spread in imitation of woman.
He lay in the hay and imitated the movement of birth and felt some liquid wash force him to turn his head and look beyond the door into the darkness.
He saw something move there and knew its name and he rose and went to his room.
He knew he was involved in the mystical menstruation of some violent birth and that the measuring of flesh and its piercing was only the beginning.
Joshua continued to work the field.
Adam Grimes rarely troubled him.
He’d taken to drinking and wandering about his farm.
He would sleep with the cook.
Joshua would hear her groaning below him as they stumbled about the kitchen.
Their noises were the sounds of pigs and cattle.
Joshua rose one day knowing he was the farmer and the farm needed to be brought under the rule of the plough.
He stood in the field and watched autumn gather in the myriad colours of the blending trees.
A leaf punctured at the edge by a twig that wind had swept across it flapped in the breeze and it seemed to Joshua a hand opening and closing in the air whose violence told him it was time.
The wind increased and threw branches through the air and Joshua went into the stables.
It was as if the horses knew, since they turned and neighed with some ritual hysteria as they saw Joshua pick up the mould board they pulled.
He inserted the jutting end of it into the first pony’s anus and pushed deep until he saw blood and spoke the mantra of his god.
Then he did the same to the second pony and left them bleeding as he descended on the sleeping farm.
It was a black dawn and Adam Grimes lay sleeping next to the hot body of the cook.
He didn’t hear the creak on the stairs outside the bedroom nor see the shadow of the share fall against the window pane as Joshua raised it over his head like an executioner.
He was aware of his dream changing colour and in it he coughed as his throat was removed.
He coughed his Adam’s Apple across the room and it landed with a thud on the carpet waking the cook.
She sat up and the sight of her naked breasts evoked some deep rage in Joshua’s soul.
He hacked her into twenty-two pieces and watched her body fall onto the carpet like meat.
He stood there with the dripping share as day broke like a wound across the skyline.
He laid the meat on the carpet and shook the blood from Adam Grimes’s throat, watching it bubble and froth there.
He went down into the kitchen and broke all the china, scooping the shards into a large sack which he took upstairs with him.
Then he violated the corpses with the sharp edges of the redundant vessels, inserting pieces into every orifice he could find both natural and inflicted.
He could hear the sound of running water and wondered if the oceans were flooding the earth or the rivers had burst their banks.
He dragged them outside and laid them in the field watching the sun scatter rays that cast shadows on the soil.
And he went into the stable.
The ponies were bleeding and reared when they saw him and he took from them what he needed in his dark invocation and laid it on some tail and wrapped this impregnated hair across the bits of mutilated corpse which glowed in the sunlight.
He tethered them to each other in a mad tryst of carnival butchery and laid them in the earth and saddled the ponies up pulling them away from their blood which pooled on the floor.
He bridled them deep with the stirrings of arousal in him and thought of the cook and her wasted body.
He mounted the first pony and rode it over the shallow grave ensuring its hooves impacted the bodies and were smeared in the flesh and blood.
Then he loosed it and watched it cross the field where all things he harrowed existed within the space of measured growth he had engendered from the plough.
He saw the day was slowing in the sky and wondered how much time had passed.
A pink sunset was falling and he heard the clink of china in the distance from the empty farm.
He tied the pony and turned and entered the farm and found two hands clearing the few shards he’d left on the floor.
They looked at him and he entered them with the share, removing intestines and organs.
Then with night upon him he left and returned to the pony.
He mounted it and rode into Toft.
He entered the village and struck the locals who were walking about, decapitating and mutilating them.
Joshua rode through Toft maiming and killing until a man walked out before him with a gun.
He shot his head off and Joshua fell and lay bleeding in the street seeing the black night over his head like some mystic caul.
The village was full of the dead and bleeding.
The pony raced away and disappeared into some fields.
Joshua left the scene and returned to his field.
He could hear the hush of coming winter there and laid his head in the soft soil.
He could smell the earth and its dampness and knew he had harrowed well.
He held his share in his hand and saw the plough till the soil of the field.