“Autumn in New York is so lovely,” they said. “The colors of the leaves are so vibrant!”
Sure, sure they’re lovely when they’re still suspended from the branches. They’re vibrant when they first land on the ground. All those yellows and oranges and bright reds.
You’d get sick of them surprisingly quickly if all you could do was lie in a pile of the rotting things and stare at the sky with one eye and the ground at the other, for days at a time. Don’t believe me? Trust me, I know.
After all, that’s my life.
You all know the story, I’m sure. Mild-mannered school-teacher Ichabod Crane comes to Tarrytown to lead the charge for education, falls in love with Katrina, and has a series of run-ins with a Hessian on horseback, a soldier name of Brom Bones who lost his head – quite literally – by a single, spectacular, sword-stroke. Goes around now with some squash or gourd tucked under one arm.
Calls himself the Headless Horseman.
Makes a show of being all scary and magical.
Truth is, magic’s got nothing to do with it. It’s Daredevil that gets Ol’ Brom where he wants to go.
Daredevil… now that was a horse. Bred in Spain, brought him over to the colonies from Seville. He’d been trained by the same folks who taught the Lipizzan stallions all their cool tricks. Blind as a bat – blinder, really – Brom didn’t need a head to get around as long as he had that horse.
But I digress.
You all know the story of the Horseman, but did you ever stop to wonder what happened to his head?
It’s okay. I know how it is. Man riding around without a head – that’s a scary thing. Head rolling around without a man – that’s just unfortunate.
At least the grin without a cat was still welcome at tea.
Leaves. Leaves and mulch and dirt and worms. Rain, mud, snow, ice, grass, and leaves again. On and on through the wheel of time.
Wheels go round.
Heads go rolling.
The Horseman, he’s Brom Bones… he’s got the stories and the screams and the flickering firelight that makes the shadows shrink and grow.
Me? I’ve got a name too, you know.
I used to be Abraham von Brunt, but that’s a name that requires legs and arms. And a chest. And broad shoulders.
At this point?
Well, my hair is dirty and matted, my eyes are filled with grit and I cannot get the taste of old dirt and rotting leaves out of my mouth or nose.
Well, at least until the next rain.
I’ve managed to see a bit of the world, though.
Figured out that wiggling my ears and scrunching my nose could give me a bit of mobility.
Find the correct angle on the right ground, and heads will roll.
And every once in a while some kid who wants a disgusting keepsake will use a stick to shove me into a satchel, and carry me around for a bit. I don’t have vocal cords anymore, but I can project my voice into a willing person’s head, give them directions.
Or… suggestions, I guess.
I’ve given up any hope of reuniting with Brom.
My new goal is to make it back across the pond. Not to Austria or Germany, though.
Nope. I aim to make it to Scotland.
I’ve heard there are whole clans of Scotsmen lopping each other’s heads off like it’s some kind of Game.
Pretty sure one of those bodies could use a spare.
And if not?
One option is to become a willing participant in that other game – the one with the brooms and the ice.
Team could make a pretty penny if they had a stone that could Suggest that the opponents miss some shots.
And option two? That’s the one with less pain and more dignity.
See, the people of the Isles are closer to real magic than they are here in the Colonies. Maybe they can build me a strawman body, like the ones they prop up in fields to keep the pests at bay.
It’d have to be pretty well packed though… to bear the brunt of it all.
Inspired by Fran Hutchinson.