The Shadow Horse Your Father Gave You [Flash Fiction]

By Tori Telfer

On the best day of your life, your father ran to you in a dream and handed you a silver box. Inside the box there was a gray horse. “He runs through the night,” said your father. “Gallops through your sleep.”

So young, but you learned to ride out a nightmare quick. You learned that every dream has an escape hatch. The trick was finding the hatch in time, but so far you’d been very lucky. The shadow horse had a pelt that was cool and rough and easy to grab onto. You learned to love the sweet horror of flight.

Before bedtime, your father read on the sofa, and you sat at his knee. When you heard the crackle of a page turning, you’d nudge him, and he’d touch your forehead. He never mentioned the shadow horse, but you knew that one night, he’d run into your dream again, and you’d both touch the cold nose of the shadow horse, and wander the moody land of sleep together.

On the worst day of your life, your father died. At the funeral, you closed your eyes, felt for the wiry mane of your shadow horse, and swung yourself onto its back. You rode behind the coffin, staring at the hole in the ground from the horse’s great height. When it was all over, people tried to take your hand, and you whispered in your horse’s ear,Run. But the shadow horse ignored you and stayed by the grave, head bent.

That was when you realized you’d been tricked. The horse had never been yours at all.


Tori Telfer is a well-meaning soul from Chicago who writes both for money and for love. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming inStoryscape Journal, The Hairpin, Moltov Cocktail, Bustle, Cicada, andMuse magazines. When it comes to fiction, she likes to write about sadness and the apocalypse, like any good iPhone-toting child of the 21st century.