The fire-horse gallops on the wind, its thunderous hooves pounding through the rumble of the ocean waves. Clifton sits on a rock and watches the galloping horse with its fiery mane setting the sea ablaze, as an ominous shiver crawls up his spine. The fire-horse encircles him in a spiral of flame and ash, yet Clifton sits, both paralyzed and mesmerized by the fire-horse with the blazing mane. Pausing before him, it rears up on its hind legs and fire sparks from its nostrils, roaring its disturbing and portentous neigh. It fixes its fire-eyes on Clifton, and Clifton gasps awake.
Thunder roars, like a thousand mustangs galloping across the sky. The moon and stars cower from the raging storm that spatters jagged beads on the windowpane. The rain pounds a booming tattoo upon the roof, and the wind howls a wrathful lament.
Clifton gazes at the window; the fire-horse sticks in his throat and strangles him. He heaves for breath, but his lungs burn with the embers of the blazing nightmare.
Lightning flashes and thunder clangs like a gunshot ripping through the violent night. Scarlet raindrops splatter on the warping windowpane and long fingers smear the glass with the sticky blood of instant and brutal death.
Tears spring to Clifton’s eyes, and he weeps into his pillow, trying to choke down the wheezing sadness that will haunt him forever more.
Dawn rises, gray and cold and damp. It peeks through the window and meets Clifton’s tear-stained face and sleepless eyes. A knock breaks the silence, and Clifton listens to his father’s slippered footsteps shuffle to the door. He hears his father’s anguished cry and stares out the window, knowing long before the telegram arrives that his brother has died in action.