This is an old story I came across in a half-forgotten folder. It was, surprisingly enough, a writing assignment for IGCSE English back in 2013. It seems to have turned out nicer than I remember.
My name is Sheridan. I am a pegasus. I can’t fly.
Physically, I suppose there is no creature better suited to flight than I am. Like all pegasi, I’m grey and graceful, with all the power of the horse I resemble, but weightless as a bird. Sometimes when the wind blows it speaks to me like a brother. That’s when I throw open my wings, five metres from tip to tip, and stand quivering slightly with longing. But I am Sheridan, and quivering is as far as it goes.
I stand well away from the edge of the plateau, wondering what it is about heights that makes me so afraid. Most of my herdmates love the height; I can see them skimming through the air miles above me, just silver flashes in the blue sky. It must be windy – two of my older brothers are dicing each other back and forth, lightning fast on the air current, then slow and powerful as they make their way back with steady strokes of their wings. I shake my mane and snort irritably. I’ll never be like them. Everyone knows that Sheridan is barely brave enough to walk up the ledge that leads to this little plateau, a peaceful green place overlooking the tall pine woods where we shelter and build our nests. I don’t look too hard, because the distance makes me dizzy. Instead I pretend not to care that at the age of four years, a fully fledged pegasus stallion, I have to be left behind with my flightless little sister, Donnahue, who is only six months old.
I swish my tail and try to shrug it off, lowering my head to take a bite of grass, but my muzzle has barely brushed the soft vegetation when I hear a shrill sound somewhere between a horse’s neigh and an eagle’s scream. I jerk my head up, ears twitching to catch the sound, wings half-spread – as if that would make any difference. There it is again, high, quavering, piercing as a thrown knife. It’s the scream of a pegasus foal, and she’s in trouble.
Donnahue. The name flits through my mind like a swallow and without thinking I break into a gallop towards the edge of the plateau. There are wolves in the forest where Donnahue is hidden, and bears and catamounts, which are worse. The edge speeds up much too fast and I brake, skidding on the grass, sending bits of pebbles tinkling down the steep drop to land amidst the topmost branches of the trees. My head spins. Jump, I urge myself. Fly or you’ll be too late. But I can’t.
I look up at my herd and neigh as loudly as I can, the sound shaking my entire body, but the wind that my brothers are enjoying is too loud for them to hear. Rearing in frustration, I paw the air and neigh again, loud enough to burn my throat. None of them react. Thoughtless with panic, I wheel around on my hindlegs and sprint towards the narrow path along the ledge that leads to the forest.
This is the part that I hate. The ledge hugs the cliff face so tightly that I can’t spread my wings to keep my balance; I usually negotiate this at a brisk walk or, if I feel brave (which I seldom do), a slow jog. I slow to a canter, but the pace is still breakneck on the loose rocks and slippery grass. My front hoof slips and I fall on my knees, one hind hoof leaving the ledge entirely to swing out over a deadly drop; I try not to look, but see the white shape of Donnahue bolting through the trees, her stubby little wings uselessly spread. A huge cougar, tawny and bigger than she is, is right on her heels.
I rise to my feet and look down the path, and time slows to a trickle. It’s so simple. Even if I gallop, I won’t make it to Donnahue in the seconds that I have. If I don’t make it, Donnahue will die. If I fly, I’ll make it. If I fly, my sister will live.
Donnahue screams. I shut my mind down and jump off the cliff.
And I fall.
I fall like a stone, only stones don’t have bones that shatter on impact. The wind howls past me, flipping me upside down. A branch whips across my face, drawing blood, and I only have moments left. My outstretched hooves find a tree trunk and in one desperate movement I kick out with all four legs and slap both wings down at the same time. My wingtips brush the ground, but I feel myself lift. Beating my wings again, I point my nose towards the sky and burst through the branches.
My spinning world has become a peaceful panorama of blue and green, but there’s no time for elation: below me, flitting in and out of my vision, Donnahue is flagging, the cougar close enough to breathe on her hindlegs. I turn and dive towards her, ignoring the speed that makes my stomach lurch. Then, she trips. Her slender legs cross and she falls headlong, and the cougar gathers itself for the last leap. I pin my wings to my sides and dive through the branches, forelegs outstretched, and my front hooves meet the cougar’s shoulders with a bone-shattering crunch. The forest floor rushes up to meet me and I fall with a force that jars every bone in my body and snaps darkness down over my eyes.
My name is Sheridan. I am a pegasus. I can’t fly.
Mentally, I suppose there is no creature better suited to flight than I am. The dizzy heights make my head spin with a delicious freedom; the blue sky calls my name with piercing sweetness. Sometimes when the wind blows it speaks to me like a brother. That’s when I move my wings gently, one long and perfect, the other broken and crumpled, dangling uselessly by my side. Then I raise my head and watch my baby sister Donnahue, newly fledged, swooping through the pure blue sky. Safe. Free.
My name is Sheridan. I am a pegasus. I flew once. I don’t regret it.