…Imagine falling into a Jusenkyo spring, and never finding out how to release the curse…

River Wind

By Dan Stickney

Based on concepts and characters created by Rumiko Takahashi and used without her permission.


I knew I was in trouble the instant I fell into the spring.

It shouldn't have been a big deal, right? Fall in, get wet, no biggie. However, as soon as the water closed over my head, I felt a horrible tingling sensation, and I realized that something had gone terribly wrong. The next thing I remember I was standing on all fours in shallow water. I tried to brush my wet hair back from my face, but I couldn't raise my hand for some reason, so I shook my head instead.

"Oh sir, too bad." The guide was saying. I turned to look at him, only to have him disappear right before my eyes. I kept turning my head, trying to find him, and nearly jumped out of skin when he suddenly popped into view on the other side!

"...You fall into spring of drowned horse. There very tragic legend of horse that drown there, nine hundred year ago..."

I shook my head again and crawled out of the water. Damn it, why couldn't I stand up? And what was wrong with my voice all of a sudden? And wasn't that guide taller before I fell in?

"...Now anyone who fall in that spring take body of horse!"

Yeah, right. Like that could really happen. That's when the guide reached out, and started gently stroking my neck.

I finally found my voice, and let out a terrified whinny.


"Sir, come back! You need know about curse..." The guide's voice had faded into the distance as I galloped blindly down the valley with absolutely no idea where I was going, or why. I'd just suddenly been overcome by a overwhelming urge to flee, and I bolted. I have no idea which way I ran, or how far. I just kept going until my panic finally faded.

So that's why I'm here, though I don't have a clue where 'here' is. I thought I'd taken a good look at the countryside on the way into Jusenkyo, but there is no way I'd recognize it now. Horse vision is so different. There's a lot of contrast, but virtually no colors, and I can't see directly in front of my nose. My field of view seems panoramic, nearly 360 degrees, but it's mostly in two separate patches, one to either side. This means I'm usually seeing two different pictures at the same time. It's very disorienting. Worse, everything seems squished horizontally somehow, like watching a wide-screen movie projected without the special lens, and I can't seem to focus on anything.

At least my hearing is a lot better. It's kind of neat how I can point my ears right at the things I want to listen to, it almost makes up for the eyes. I can even point my ears in two different directions and listen to two things at once. And my nose is something else. I never knew that there were so many smells in the world.

Oh God. I've become a horse. I've been turned into an animal. This can't be happening!

Stop that! More panic won't help. Relax, take deep breaths, relax...

OK, I'm a little better now. Now where was I? Oh yeah. This body must have come with some horse instincts or something. Otherwise, I don't think I could even walk without falling down. It feels so weird having four feet like this. I'm trying not to think about it too much, because every time I think about it I start tripping over myself.

Aw hell. Who cares about extra feet? How the heck am I supposed to live without hands?

I wish I knew what kind of horse I am. Unfortunately, I can't see very much of myself. Hell, I can't even tell what color I am. Gray, I think. Or maybe yellow? I wonder why this matters to me.

Christ… Go to China, fall in spring, change into horse. It's ridiculous. I'm gonna sue!

Oh well, at least I won't have to pay back my student loans.

…I wonder who got stuck with my hotel bill?

Damn, I'm hungry. What do horses eat, anyway? Oh well, I guess I'll try some of this grass right here. Hey, that's not so bad. A little bland, but I've had worse. Ugh, that one tastes horrible. Damn, how am I going to tell the good ones from the bad ones if I can't see in front of my nose? Hey, that's it! My nose! I guess I'll just have to learn to identify them by smell. Maybe this nose is going come in handy after all.

Ugh. I wonder how many bugs I'm swallowing eating like this. I'm trying not to think about it.

Great, now I'm thirsty. Luckily I've been following this stream. It seems like I'm always thirsty. Maybe if this damned grass wasn't so dry...

Oops, there's the call of nature. At least I don't have to find a bathroom. Heck, I guess that's one advantage of being a horse - the whole damned world is a bathroom. Now all I have to do is figure out how. I keep getting this urge to lift my tail and lean forward. Maybe if I just relax and follow my impulses my body will do it naturally.

Ahhh. There we go. That's much better. Hey, wait a minute--why is it coming out that way?

Oh. God. Damn. It. Spring of drowned horse my ass. That wasn't the spring of the drowned horse; it was the spring of the drowned mare! It's bad enough I got turned into a horse, do I have to be a girl horse, too?

Oh well. At least this way I won't have to worry about getting gelded.


I think I've finally got this eye thing figured out.

At least I've sort of gotten used to looking in two different directions at once. Actually, it's kind of nice to be able to look at two different things at the same time - I really could have used that in my old job. It does make it harder to concentrate, though, so I guess nothing is for free. I've found that I do have some binocular vision, but only when I'm looking dead straight ahead.

Unfortunately, I still can't focus on anything. However, I have found that my eyes work kinda like bifocal glasses. If I tip my head up, I can see far away. Tipping my head down lets me see close up. I still can't see anything directly in front of my nose, though. It always scares the hell out of me when something pops out of my blind spot.

Man, I wish I knew where the hell I was, and how long I've been wandering. I've been covering a lot of ground, mostly because I only seem to need a couple hours of sleep a day. I still can't sleep at night though, it's way too scary. So I keep moving. I have to keep moving anyway, it's the only way I can find enough to eat. I'm always hungry.

Walk, eat, poop. Walk, eat, poop. That's all I ever do these days. Summer seems to be coming to a close. The nights are getting longer and the grass is getting scarce. It might be getting colder too, but I can't really tell through all this fur. I sure hope I can find enough to eat this winter.

Heck, even if I knew where I was, I wouldn't stay oriented for long. Something would spook me and I'd get lost again. God, I hate being spooked. A bird takes off, or a leaf blows the wrong way, and I'm a quarter mile away before I even realize I'm galloping. Half the time I never even become consciously aware of what scared me. I do notice it's worse whenever I'm upwind of something. For some reason, being upwind of cover makes me really nervous somehow. I wish I knew why I'm so jumpy. It must be something that's hardwired right into the equine brain. Everything scares me, and everything makes me run away. I've come across people six or eight times, and by the time I realize it they're dwindling in the distance.

Hell, what does it matter where I am? It's not like they're gonna let me get on a plane back to the States anyway. I'm sure I've long since been given up for dead.

I'm so lonely.


God I'm tired, and my feet hurt.

I was right to worry about food for the winter, because I'm starving. What little I can find to eat is dried up and nasty, and every time I walk through the woods I can feel the branches picking out every rib along my sides. I'm tired, footsore, cold, weak, hungry, and my tail's all matted too. I don't think I could get any more miserable.

Hey, what is that? Sounds like someone calling "Lai-Lai" or something. Whatever it is, it's in Chinese, which I didn't speak even when I was human. Oh well, I doubt many other horses speak Chinese either. I lift my head for the first time all day. It's some old guy in a Mao jacket and a fur hat, and he's carrying a rope. I turn my head to keep him in my left eye, but I'm not gonna move otherwise. I'm just too tired. So I let him walk up to me, and just stand there as he gently strokes my neck, murmuring softly. I can't help but relax under the first human contact I've had in months, and I don't object when he gently slips the rope over my head. Wherever we're going, I hope there's lots of grass there.

Do they eat horses around here? Doesn't matter, I guess. I don't think there's enough left of me to make a decent meal, anyway.


That bitch!

I can smell that damned grain, but every time I try to get close to the feed trough she pins her ears and runs me off. And if that isn't bad enough, she keeps coming at me in the pasture, running me off my hay pile, biting me and kicking at me. And all the other mares are doing it too. Guess I'm the low horse on the totem pole around here.

Fine, I'd rather hang out with the geldings anyway. They're much more pleasant company. Just think: if that had been a different spring, I might be one of them. There but for the grace of Jusenkyo go I.

At least she can't keep me from getting some grain and hay, and I'm feeling better. Just you wait till I get my strength back, you bitch. I'll show you who's number one around here then. Just you wait.


Well. I've finally figured out this grain trough thing.

Get here first, then stand your ground. I still can't stand up to the top mare, but at least I'm finally getting enough to eat. Look out, bitch, your days are numbered. Pretty soon I'm going to be the boss around here, I just know it. I'm about the fastest horse here already, and I like to prove it every chance I get. Pretty soon I'm gonna prove I'm the toughest horse, too.

It's funny. I don't ever remember being this competitive when I was human. In fact, I was kind of a nebbish. Of course, back then I didn't have to fight for my food.

Now though, I just gotta be first. I can't bear the thought of anyone outrunning me, either to the feed trough or anywhere else. The last few months have been a really hard lesson in "survival of the fittest".

Besides, racing the other horses is the only entertainment there is around here. And it's nice to finally be the best at something - even if it's merely the best animal.


Man, my mouth hurts.

As if it weren't bad enough that they had to strap that stupid saddle on my back, they had to cram that damned bit in my mouth too. And what the hell kind of bit is that, anyway? It feels like a plowshare wrapped in barbed wire. And to top it all off, some jerk has to jump on top of me, kicking me in the sides and yanking on my mouth.

Well, I'm not going to put up with this, that's for damned sure. I may look like animal, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let them treat me like one. It shouldn't be too hard to get them to leave me alone, Heck, I must have a thousand pounds on any of them, easy.


So much for that idea. I better submit pretty damned quick.

If the last few days have shown me anything, it isn't how big you are, it's how tough you are, and these men are all a lot tougher than me. Shoot, just their predatory body language alone is enough to scare the hell out of me.

I'm not gonna be one of those idiot horses that has to be "broken". This negative reinforcement stuff is for the birds. I'll do what you want, really I will. Just don't punish me anymore.

Oh well, at least the old man still likes me. He comes to stroke my neck and talk to me. I wish I knew what he was saying, because I'd happily do anything for him.


I'm sorry, I'm sorry, can't you see I'm sorry?

I'm trying, I really am. Can't you see that? Please, I'll do anything, just please don't punish me any more.



I'm a good girl?

Oh, thank you, thank you. Let me do it again. Please. I can do it even better, I swear I can. I'll be the best horse you've ever seen! Really I will!


I'm so proud of myself.

I got three carrots today, and lots of praise, and I only got punished twice!

For the life of me I can't understand why I didn't want to do this. Pleasing people is so much better than fighting them. Good horses get lots of treats, and the work isn't really that hard, is it?

I mean, I'm not broken, right? I'm just cooperating, right? Right?


Geez, I don't know what's got into me today, but I feel really bitchy.

I just lit into the former boss mare for no reason at all. Serves her right, the bitch. She didn't have to be so mean to me when I was the bottom horse. Anyway, things are a lot nicer now that I'm in charge around here. I get the most grain and the best hay piles. I especially like the way the other horses go all subservient when I approach 'em. I do try not to abuse my authority -- much.

Well, some of the other horses go subservient anyway. For some damned reason those stupid geldings keep coming up to sniff my butt. I've gotta squeal, stamp and kick to keep 'em in line. I wonder what the hell has gotten into them.

I can't believe I used to hang out with those dweebs. What a bunch of losers.


Well, now I know why it's called heat.

Damn it, I've been afraid of this ever since I realized I'd been turned into a mare. If the very notion of mating with an animal made me queasy, the mere thought of allowing a male animal do THAT to me was simply unbearable. I swore to myself that I would never, ever allow it under any circumstances.

Well, it turns out that it's pretty damned hard to keep that sort of pledge when the hormones are playing ping-pong with your brain. I got so hot and bothered there for a while that I'd have made it with anything - human, animal, or inanimate - just to get some sort of relief.

Funny, it never seemed to affect me this strongly when I was wandering the mountains alone. Maybe because there weren't any other horses around. More importantly, there weren't any MALE horses around.

Damn my nose. One whiff of that stallion and it was all she wrote. I never, ever imagined that a simple smell could do that to somebody. It's really scary to think that this can and will happen again

Want to know the absolute worst part about it all? I think I actually enjoyed it. The human in me, the man I once was, is horrified. The mare in me wants to do it again. The inner conflict is driving me nuts. It would be much easier on me if I could just accept that this is the way I am now, but that's so hard.

Man, am I sore. If you think losing your virginity was rough, try telling a stallion "Be gentle with me, it's my first time."

Hell, I guess I've lost more than my virginity. I've lost my manhood, too. There's no way I can deny being female now. First I lost my humanity, then they broke my spirit, and now I've lost my manhood. What am I going to lose next?

I'd be shaking in my shoes, if I was wearing any. People may not be able to tell when they're pregnant, but horses can. At least we don't get morning sickness.


This sucks. I'm so tired, and so fat, and so...pregnant.

I'm too fat to want to get up, but I'm too fat to wanna lay down either. I can't believe I've been living this for almost a whole year.

Yeah, that's right, nearly a year. And it feels like I might have another month to go. Another month of aching, and bulging, and peeing every five minutes. Not to mention getting kicked from the inside. The little bastard has hooves, too.

At least they gave me my own paddock, so I don't have to fight with the other mares for my food. And they have been cutting back on my training for the past couple months. Still, I don't think I'll ever get my filly-like figure back.

This really sucks.


It's a filly. She's a filly, and she's mine, and she's the most beautiful thing in the whole world.

I thought nothing could be worse than pregnancy right up until the contractions started. I was really scared, but I would have been terrified if the old man hadn't been there to help me. Thankfully this horse body seems to have come equipped with a full set of equine instincts; as soon as I relaxed and stopped trying to think about it my body knew what to do, and I just lay down and pushed her out.

Anyway, it didn't take nearly as long as I feared it would. There are some advantages to being a four-legged animal after all. Like a straight birth canal with lots of expansion room.

It still hurt like hell, though.

Then, after the birth itself, there was the long, fearful wait for her to stand up. I spent the agonizing minutes as best I could, licking her clean and memorizing her wonderful smell.

When she finally struggled to her feet I think I was the happiest mother on the planet. It's too bad her grandparents will never know about her. Though it's pretty tough to imagine what they'd think if they knew their son had just given birth to a horse.

I just wish I could get used to this awkward tugging on my nipples. I also kinda wish my udder wasn't between my back legs like that. It seems so... undignified, somehow.

Not for the first time I desperately wished I had a voice to thank the old man. I had to settle for whickering and nuzzling his chest, instead. He seemed to understand.


My daughter is beautiful.

Don't take my word for it; everybody else seems to think so, too. You should see the people line the fence when we're galloping across the pasture.

She has my color, and her father's nose, but she moves even better than either of us. I couldn't tell you how I know, but even as an awkward newborn I could see that she was a horse in a million. She should be somebody's show horse some day.

God, I hope that's what happens to her. Most of the other possibilities are too frightening to contemplate. The hell of it is I'll never know. I've seen what happens around here. Once she's weaned, they'll sell her and I'll never see her again.

Once, I would have said good riddance, She's only an animal, after all. Not a real, if cursed, person like me. Of course, back then I was human, and male.

Now I'm a horse, and I'm her mother. I dread what is to come. So I try to take each day as it comes, knowing that it's not likely to last much longer.


My udder is killing me.

They took my daughter away today. I swore I'd be brave about it, but I couldn't help responding as she whinnied in panic, wishing I could tell her what was going on.

Horses do have a language of sorts, but there's no way to express abstract concepts in it. We're pretty much limited to stuff like "I'm hungry" or "I'm horny" or "run away!"

Of course, the whickers between a mare and her foal pretty much say "I love you" in any language. Even humans seem to understand those.

So anyway, now she's gone, and I'm depressed, and I've got a case of mastitis that you wouldn't believe. My nipples feel like red-hot rocks.

The old man came and spent extra time with me before he gave me a special treat. Maybe he knows how I'm feeling.

This isn't the first time I've wished that horses could cry.


Shit, I just got sold.

There was no warning. Sure, a bunch of guys came to look at me, but then they always look at me. After all, I'm the best-looking horse around here by far, except for my daughter, of course.

Anyway, this time was different, because after they'd looked at me someone slapped a halter on me and led me out to a waiting truck.

It took quite a while for them to get me loaded. I wasn't scared to load, I was scared to leave. This farm, meager as it is, had become my home. Still that sort of behavior is normal enough, so it didn't arouse any suspicions. At least I'd seen enough money change hands to know that I wasn't likely to be bound for the slaughterhouse.

After I was loaded, the old man came to say goodbye, and I was surprised to see tears in his eyes as he stroked my neck for the last time. It's OK, old man. You can do the crying for both of us.

Despite all that's happened to me, it's kind of scary to think that I can be just bought and sold like, well, an animal.

Thank God I'm still a young and pretty horse. Someday, this truck might really be headed for the slaughterhouse. I try not to think about it too much.


Coming Next: Chapter 2 - Japan