Many dark years passed by up in the mountains and Percepção became accustomed to the ways of the Devil’s Horse. Thus, Percepção, though at first she tried to continue with her own life, learned to forego her own wishes in order that she might attend to those of the Devil’s Horse, which were fairly extensive and time-consuming. So she no longer walked along the hot white beach to and from school, she no longer studied, and she no longer saw her friends. It was too dark and tiring for any of that you see. Instead, she spent the days obeying the Devil’s Horse, which was extremely exhausting it must be said, and took up nearly all of the space in her mind. So much space in fact, that even if she had desired to go to school or study or see her friends, she would never have been able to.
After around one year had passed far up in the mountains, Percepção experienced something a little out of the ordinary. She had a strange dream, not quite a nightmare, but still, a dream that set her thinking. The dream, as Percepção can remember it ensued as follows: she was laying down in the forest, which was very noisy: raucous and boisterous. Animals were screeching and screaming, chanting and chattering, and the sounds of flames could also be heard. Percepção could see bright orange all around her, burning into her eyelids. The forest was on fire, giving a warm, encouraging and terrifying glow. In the dream, Percepção remained calm and uninhibited by the lively, forbidding noise and fire all around her. She was not distracted.
She then took in her hands a large pair of silvery scissors, the blades of which glinted beautifully in the light of the dancing flames. With these wonderfully sharp scissors, Percepção cut out of her chest her heart. She sliced the skin and then ripped out the grim and offensive organ that was inside. With her chest cavity open, she took the ugly heart in her warm bloody hands, stamped down upon it in the dirt, and waited for the fire to reach it. She then carefully sewed up her chest with a needle and thread, and wiped the blood off her hands on the forest foliage nearby.
When she awoke from this strange dream, Percepção came across a few thoughts in her mind, a few memories so to speak. These memories had quite an effect upon her for they made her realise just how very unhappy she had become. All the time she was serving the Devil’s Horse, though she did want to serve him, she was slowly allowing herself to die. She lost her body.
Her skin that had once been so soft and brown like a berry became transluscent and dry. Scabs and cuts became much more frequent upon the surface of her figure and her cheeks remained white due to the lack of sunlight, nutrition and sleep. Her curly hair became like twigs and her eyes gathered dark circles of sadness, fear and fatigue beneath them. Her eyes were dead save for the occasional glint of the demons inside and her organs became weak and ugly. Her liver shriveled like a raisin whilst her heart lost its grace and her eyes were blinded so she was unable to see clearly. Her tear ducts dried up like the hot sands of the desert so that no emotion might penetrate through. She was dragging the beast around wherever she went, which was most often where the horse himself wanted to go, and it was such a heavy burden. She could no longer dance with that old thing deadening her shoulders, and yet neither could she mourn the fact that she could not dance. There really was nothing she could do except obey. That old Devil’s Horse really was a nasty piece of work. Like a parasite it was clinging onto her and refusing to let go, and it needed her so much that she was resigned to her duty as its bearer.
Yes, though Percepção had now succeeded in identifying the source of her unhappiness as the Devil’s Horse, she simply could not shed its great weight. The only resolution she could harvest from her brain was to fight. She would continue to look after this dreadful creature, but she would become a fighter, for she feared that otherwise, if she carried on submissively beneath the beast, she would only destroy herself. Thus was how Percepção came to spend the next several years. She was always close to breaking but by learning to fight, she very fortunately did not. Rather, she gave in to the demands of the Devil’s Horse, but she would not give up fighting. For the horse it seemed a fine and sustainable relationship, but what he was unaware of was, that because for Percepção the relationship was entirely miserable, she was gradually but steadily gaining strength.
Every morning before the horse awoke, Percepção disciplined herself to wake early and practice fighting. She made a small clearing in front of the cave where the horse could not see her and every morning she saluted Mars, the powerful god who was to help her to fight. She would then proceed to train her body and mind to attain stamina, strength, calm and resilience: to learn to fight. Though waking even earlier than the beast that held her meant that she slept even less than she might, she found that the skills and practice of fighting sustained her perhaps even more so than sleep could have. For sleeping only led to nightmares after all, whereas fighting very slowly led to strength. And so for hundreds and hundreds of days Percepção practiced and practiced, at first grasping only the most basic of defense traditions, but progressively learning to master the most deadly of them all. Arts from all over the world that could serve her well in any a fight she might face. She became an expert at the Russian Sambo, used in the past to eliminate attacks from the Mongols, the Huns, the French and the Germans. She became a skilled authority in Muay Thai, the ancient art of eight limbs, and she became a wizard in the lightening quick Malaysian practice of Silat. Not to mention her proficiency in Filipino Eskrima technique and Israeli Krav Maga. Learning to fight provided her with just a small interlude between long times of hell of caring for the Devil’s Horse, and soon she began to feel that she really was becoming stronger, a fighter. Oh but that old horse still weighed her down, he never gave up. Rather, the stronger he saw Percepção become, the closer he held her, crushing down on her bones and damaging her internal organs. Her liver shrank and crumpled, her kidneys started to bleed and her stomach came to disintegrate bit by bit. Fortunately, Percepção continued to fight and the beast could tighten the grip on her, but not entirely destroy her.
This went on and it seemed that fighting was the only remedy that might defeat the poison that radiated from the Devil’s Horse. A cure of sorts, a neutralizing force that caused somewhat of an impasse between parties. A stalemate situation. But stalemate is better than being in the losing position, wouldn’t you agree? So Percepção continued on and on, in spite of the seeming futility of her actions and efforts. Several years passed and she came to be used to the situation. She was more familiar with the pain, although it did not cease to hurt her just as it had at the very start, like a stiletto stabbing down on her weakening heart. Just like that. Spring arrived every year and Percepção had to suppress the resentment she felt as she saw the new flowers and buds so cheerfully peeping through the forest floor.
This was followed closely by summer, when it was hot and humid, and the strength to care for the horse was so hard to find, and Percepção could feel her veins throbbing on her hot body. Then came autumn, when she had to suppress once more her emotions, this time sorrow, as those very same plants she had observed growing withered and died. Yet winter was the worst time of year, and winter always came around. During this time of year it was most difficult to care for the horse as Percepção was sapped of energy and left freezing and malnourished, like a husk. Nevertheless, she continued and after many spring times, summers, autumns and winter seasons had passed by, something a little peculiar and unexpected began to happen.
Around the month of February, Percepção found that she had noticed a change in the physical appearance of the Devils Horse. This change must have been occurring for quite some weeks, very gradually, but it was at this point that Percepção noticed the difference. It was strange; the beast seemed to have shrunk in size, or maybe just in stature. Anyhow, Percepção could look at the beast in the eye when she stood, rather than having to look up to see his face. His black coat became more matted and sticky in places, and in areas hair had just fallen, leaving small but worrying bald patches, and revealing pale milk skin. The Devil’s Horse looked less like a stallion and more like a mule. Though his muscles bulged, he did not embody a bestial specimen of strength and power, rather more, a sinewy creature filled with spite and longing. The changes continued into March and soon Percepção saw that the grinning demon that had always lived within the horse’s burning eyes, grinned just a little less, and grimaced just a little more. During this time of uncertainty and change, Percepção continued to care for the horse, and still she carried on fighting as well. But as she fought, she realised that she experienced a new feeling along with the hatred and resentment towards the horse that she had learned to live with. It was quite an odd feeling, as it seemed to contradict entirely the disgust she felt, and yet, this new sentiment would simply not extinguish that disgust. She understood this feeling to be pity. And though she had always pitied such a deplorable beast, now the pity was becoming increasingly prevalent. Percepção came to realise that she was watching the creature die.
And the last part soon!