"Zoetrope" is a Flash Fiction story inspired by OLD ENGLISH TAROT: XVII The Star + Two of Batons
“Zoetrope” is a Flash Fiction story inspired by OLD ENGLISH TAROT: XVII The Star + Two of Batons

Zoe opened her eyes and listened for the sounds of the night, but heard only the dormant silence of the world in darkness. The sky beyond her window glowed with a silvery light that oozed through the glass, crawled up her bedspread and then cast shadows upon the opposite bedroom wall. Zoe turned onto her side, facing the wall. The light beamed and cloaked the posters of teen idols tacked on the plaster, so the wall seemed smooth and white, like a screen displaying the sleeping world’s shadows. She was now lying between two windows — one grounded in reality, the other suspended in ethereal mystery. On the wall, she distinguished the distinct frames of the windowpanes and the bony twigs of the bare branch that peeked through the upper corner of the window, although shrouded in the gossamer veil of the silver moon-glow.

Snowflakes began to trickle and swirl and their silhouettes played and danced upon the wall. Zoe watched the shadow-play in dreamy fascination. She felt nothing, except the strange floating sensation the world has before a snowstorm.

As the snow twirled and danced, a horse cantered onto the scene. Zoe listened for the sound of hooves, but heard only the sleepy silence of a moonlit world in the dead of a winter’s night.

Dead of night, she pondered the words and realized the world was dead, and it snowed on a coffin earth — hard and frozen, like marble. While these thoughts flowed through her head, the horse outline defined on the wall, and she saw a man atop the horse, but the man was not sitting on the horse — he was the horse. Four legs and body and flickering tail were all horse, but torso and arms and head were all man. Zoe rubbed her eyes; the figure paused in front of her window and the moon-glow projected its shadow on her wall. And then reason slithered through her fuzzy and entranced mind. Why would a man-horse walk in the suburbs on this icy night? How can the moon beam such bright light through the snow-heavy clouds?

The sludgy sound of a car on the snowy street broke the dead silence, and the headlights shone through the window, illuminating the entire room with their blinding and bluish light. Zoe closed her eyes, and when she opened them, the room was black. No moon glowed through the window and no shadows danced upon the wall. She rolled over onto her back as sleep weighed on her eyelids and plunged her into restful darkness.

Icy sunlight glistened on the snow-covered ground. Zoe sat up and gazed out the window. Her father appeared and stood in the driveway with a robe wrapped around his body and rain boots on his feet. He stared at the white ground. Her mother joined him; Zoe hurried out of bed and ran to meet them. The screen door thwacked with the muffled sounds of the snowy world. The front yard was a smooth blanket of fluffy snow, whose tiny crystals glittered in the pale sun. Zoe followed her parents’ gaze: the distinct trail of horse hooves cut through the snow, then vanished in the middle of the yard.


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