“What are they?” Jeneka couldn’t keep the awe out of her voice. The statues loomed in the afternoon sun, large, intimidating, and breathtaking.
“Horses.” Jake stood a short distance from her, as if wanting her to experience this on her own.
She moved closer to the largest one. Some genius had formed metal into the most magnificent thing she’d ever seen. The portrait galleries in the museum didn’t come close to this. The sun bounced off the creature at angles that made it appear to move. She could swear the tail flicked in the slight breeze. They looked like no metal she’d ever seen before: golden brown with hints of green. From a distance it all appeared smooth, but up close she could see the seams where someone had welded the parts together to create the whole. There were seven of them in total, and they ran through the courtyard with a joy she was sure she’d never felt. The smallest, the baby, cavorted in front of his mother. The largest towered over all of them and commanded the most attention. She stood next to it, entranced by the sheer size. She reached out and brushed it with her fingertips. Then she laughed.
“Why are you laughing?” Dru’s voice behind her sounded tense.
“I’m not sure what I expected to find in the Historic District. Murder. Rape. Maybe strange diseases. But not this. This is…” She couldn’t find words for what this was. Her head barely reached mid-leg on this magnificent creature. And unlike the buildings which marked the entrance to the forgotten wasteland, these figures remained pristine. Intact. Whole. Unmarred by graffiti or even bird shit. She put her palm on the horse’s nose. She almost expected it to snort.
“Beautiful. And we don’t deserve it, right?”
She turned to glare at Jake. “Of course you deserve it. Everyone deserves to have beauty in their lives.”
“What?” A confused look settled on Jake’s face.
“You believe that don’t you? Whatever the station in life, everyone deserves happiness?”
“Well, sure. But…” Jake trailed off. His eyebrows furrowed and he stared at her as if he were suddenly afraid.
“What is it?”
“You done that three times now. The first time I thought it was nothing, but this time I know it isn’t.”
She tilted her head to the side. “What?”
“You knew what I was thinkin’. Just then.”
“Anyone would know what you were thinking. You said it!”
Jake shook his head. “I didn’t say nothing. Not since we got here.”
It was her turn to be confused. “You’ve been talking the whole time. We’ve been having a conversation, or hadn’t you noticed? I thought you said you didn’t do drugs.”
Jake stood a little straighter, clearly offended. “I don’t do drugs.” He pointed an accusatory finger at her. “You got somethin’ freaky goin’ on. Somethin’ ain’t right.”
“The only freaky thing going on here is you,” she retorted. She stared at him, one hand still on the nose of the magnificent statue. The metal felt cold under her hand, even though the day was quite warm. He almost looked scared! Who would have thought, the brave, tough leader of a gang in the Historic District afraid of her, the scrawny geek from Oceanside.
“Look, I’ll show ya.” Jake turned his back on her, but didn’t walk away. “Nobody knows when the horses got here. They are older than the buildings. They are our symbol of freedom from the tyranny outside.”
“Well, that’s interesting but why the history lesson?” What the hell was he talking about? Tyranny?
Jake turned to face her, his face pale. “What did I just say?”
She held her palms out. “You know what you just said, for crying out loud.”
“Repeat it.” His voice was shaking.
“Nobody knows when the horses got here, they are older than the buildings. And something about tyranny.” She stepped closer to him. He stepped away from her, his hands up. She stopped, unsure why he was keeping his distance. “What’s wrong?”
“That’s what I said all right. But I didn’t say it. Not out loud. Just stay right there.” Jake took a deep breath. His facial muscles twitched; his eyebrows furrowed; his lips formed a thin line. When he spoke again, she could hear him, but for the first time she noticed his voice was right there, in her head, instead of coming through her ears like it should.
“The horses can’t be seen from the outside, because they are in the exact center of the Historic District. Some say they can come to life, but that’s just crap talk.”
Her mouth fell open. She gaped at him. Her pulse beat against the side of her neck and she felt suddenly a bit nauseous. Her hand flew unconsciously to the necklace hiding underneath her shirt.
“What did I say?” Jake crossed his arms in a satisfied way; a man who had finally made his point. “Repeat it!”
“The horses are in the exact center of the Historic…District…” Her voice trailed away. She gulped. “But…I…” She gulped. She shook her head and tried again. “Your lips didn’t move. Jake, your lips didn’t move! How did you do that?”
“I didn’t.” He pointed a finger at her again. “You did.”