The Last Centaur, Dying

He is dying, and yet it is not his body that seems to lose life first. The distant sea becomes mere paint on a far canvas, then the rocks that climb up to him also lose solidity. The trees, scraggly things unworthy of the name, flatten—their green, that had been so vibrant, paling when seen counter-posed to the red slash on his crumpling form.

His front legs go first, reluctantly. The knees buckle, and his head tips forward. But still he keeps his chin set, strong. Invincible, it wants to claim, despite the clear evidence against it. I am the last, it says, and I will not die, though I fall.

A sword falls from one hand, clatters on the rock. The other hand grips a harp, and beneath those hard fingers it looks like a weapon as well. Each note might summon something different—fire, a rain of arrows, a cloud of poison, perhaps an elixir to save him or attendants to carry him off to an island of healing. But no notes sound from the strings.

Above the knees, the front legs twist to one side, a mocking gracefulness in the movement, and the rear legs follow. His shoulders jerk forward at the movement. The chin is no longer enough to speak his defiance. He twists his head back and up. Perhaps a scream to the heavens, to absent gods, but whatever cry he gives is inaudible to mortal ears.

The spear above his navel quivers, and the spasm appears to pass from the wood shaft up into his torso. Other wounds on his powerful equine body weep blood. Flies come to taste it, and he can’t move his tail to swat them away. His shoulders slump as he slides further toward the ground.

Still he makes no cry. Not defiance exactly, but neither acquiescence. He holds his head back, his last glimmer of pride as the rest of his body fails. Anyone watching would have no doubt that he is mighty and inhuman and, most importantly, the last of his people. All this communicated in the tilt of his head, the collapse of his body beneath. It speaks of all those who have gone before, of lost generations of his people.

At the last even that head falls down. It lies in the dirt, but the dust pulls back, seems to recognize that this flesh has not come to return to dust. It is not made of such, this glorious head, this tragic form. One arm is flung out beyond the head, and the harp has ended up crushed against his side, but the head is alone, the focus of every noise and every line around him, drawing even nature to this focal point.

That dust-cradled head is the last piece of the body to fade into the light from which it came, to which it returns.


Daniel J Ausema  Daniel J Ausema's website has a background in experiential education and journalism and is now a stay-at-home dad. He’s had numerous stories and poems published, including a serial fiction project at Thaumatrope last April, as well as stories in Nemonymous: Zencore! and Cern Zoo and Raven Electrick Ink’s anthologies Sporty Spec and Cinema Spec. He lives in Colorado.