Flash Fiction Challenge: Dominator

Photo by K.S. Brooks

On the ranch, there was one pasture we called the far-back. It was 260 acres of good grazing, but it was well away from the house. The far-back was over a little ridge and a devil to get to if the creek was up.

My grandfather was always worried about the wild horses getting in there with the cattle. He said they’d eat the forage and bring in disease. There was no arguing with him on the issue. He made a point of running them off whenever he found them there.

When I got older, he’d send me out there alone. The main problem by then had been the coyotes. We’d lost a lot of calves to those vermin. I always took the rifle, but never once managed to get off a clear shot. The coyotes were just a little too quick for me.

At age sixteen with little else but girls and coyotes on my mind, I’d long quit worrying about the handful of wild horses. One day, I saw a little foal out there. He just looked back at me without a trace of fear. I know it sounds strange, but I felt an instant liking for him. There was something about the way he carried himself. He didn’t take any guff off the other foals, and asserted himself at every opportunity. I called him Dominator.

I didn’t know it yet, but Dominator would be the key to solving our coyote problem. That horse was a warrior and absolutely hated coyotes.I guess you could say he saved the ranch.

The first day I saw him in action was the first day I thought I had a clear shot…

In 250 words or less, tell us a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

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8 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Dominator”

  1. Half-breed. The slur was as dusty as old Westerns, yet it had sounded thoroughly modern coming from the senior with his wiry arm draped around the sweetest girl I knew. Tears pricked my eyes again as I unlocked Grandpa’s rifle from the cabinet. The coyotes wouldn’t steal any more from me.

    It took an hour to hike to the far-back where we had lost so many cattle. I lay down in the grass and fixed my eyes on the field. The black foal was hidden not far away. He was watching, too.

    The sun passed over the ridge and my fingers cramped around the gun, but finally, two of the varmints slinked into view. They were gray and scruffy–and wiry and mean. I raised the rifle, aimed, and cocked the trigger.

    Before I could shoot, the foal leaped up and screeched a noise no horse had ever made. He charged the coyotes at a heavy gallop then reared on two legs–not sleek, but stocky–and fearless. That foal was a mule. His shiny black coat from his mama had me fooled, but I could see then that his instincts were all donkey. My brave little half-breed threw a kick that could crush a skull in an instant, and both coyotes turned tail and ran.

    The diminutive Dominator trotted the other way with an attitude that said they might be back, but they’ll think twice. A pretty filly broke away from the herd and met him in the field.

  2. “Protect the colts.” That was what father told me. His last words before he had rod off, chasing down the runaway stock. That was two days ago.

    Now it was just me and Ginnie and Spike. The rest of the hands had run off with father. They left me to defend the colts alone. It wouldn’t have been my first choice but father told me that I was old enough now for responsibility.

    The first night went well. I had a fire to keep warm. The colts stayed close giving me company. The howl of the coyotes was a bit more than I was prepared for though. It was close to sun up when the fire had burned down to embers. But it had done its job and kept the coyotes away.

    Tonight, I wasn’t as lucky. I couldn’t find enough wood to get a decent fire going. The howls from the coyotes was closer than last night. Closer than I was comfortable.

    The fire had been going for hours. It was little more than embers now and the coyotes were much too close. I knew they were breathing just outside the ring of light from the fire.

    It was when I threw the last log on the fire. That was when they decided to show themselves. At first I thought Spike and Ginnie where close to me from fear. It was after they took out the first coyote that I realized they were protecting me.

  3. Flies swarmed the carcass and I cursed. This was the tenth heifer that had been ripped to shreds. A low rumbling growl made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I spun away from the remains and came face to face with Fang. His lips curled back, teeth gleaming. Five other coyotes circled the carcass. What devil drove these beasts to confront a human in broad daylight? And since when did coyotes hunt in packs?

    Fang glared with an almost human hatred. I raised my gun, shaking so hard the shot went wild. The coyotes didn’t flinch. Gramps thought the wild horses were a problem, thought they would ruin the field and contaminate our cattle. At least horses didn’t kill. I fumbled to reload, dropping a cartridge. Fang leaped before I could raise the weapon. I stumbled back, tripping over the carcass. Sixteen was too young to die.

    Something flew over my head, crashing into Fang. Dominator, the chestnut stallion that led the wild horses, trumpeted his challenge. A strange reddish hue glimmered in Dominator’s eyes and the white patch on his head shone like some weird third eye. His sharp hooves made short work of Fang and the other crazed coyotes, trampling even those who tried to flee. Was this the same bold colt I had spotted only two years ago? I stared in wonder, thankful to be in his favor. Dominator seemed to nod once with an eerie intelligence. Then he trotted off.

  4. I raised my rifle to take aim at that thieving coyote, but the little colt came between us. I was about to curse at him for spoiling my only shot when I heard a yelp. My gun went lax as I gaped at what I saw. That coyote went flying through the air and landed several yards away from the calf it had been after. It managed to find its feet and slink away, tail between its legs.

    The colt turned to give me what felt like an “I told you so” look and began to graze while the calf beat a hasty retreat to its mother.

    From that day the colt was a frequent visitor to the far-back. His visits always seemed to coincide with the presence of coyotes. I found a couple of dead ones, their necks broken and hoof marks on their bodies.

    We never lost another calf. By fall, my dad had to admit there might be something to my story, though he never got to see Dominator in action. Yes, that’s what I came to call him.

    As winter set in, Dominator lost interest in his own herd and became a permanent fixture among our cattle. I think he likes the carrots and apples I leave for him. Next year I’ll see if I can train him to the bridle and saddle. I’m not very big, so I think he’ll carry me in a couple of years. We have a bond, Dominator and me.

  5. When I opened my eyes, I heard high-pitched giggling next to me.

    “Seriously? You thought you could shoot that coyote?”

    “Bwahahaha,” another voice chimed in.

    Two prairie dogs sat atop a mound, staring right at me. I scanned the area, figuring SOMEONE else had to be there. But I didn’t see anyone. Just scrub brush, cacti, and my horse.

    “Yeah, we’re talking to you, Gomer.” His mouth really did move, and he pointed a tiny boney and furry clawed finger at me.

    I blinked hard and squeezed my forehead. This couldn’t be happening. My horse was also staring at me. “What’s the matter, got a headache?” he asked.

    My lungs locked up. I felt paralyzed. The only thing moving was my thoughts. And they were going round in circles, unable to grasp why suddenly, today, animals had started talking to me.

    Then a coyote, a roadrunner, and a buzzard moseyed over to me.

    “It’s true. You probably are the worst shot I’ve ever seen,” the coyote said. It was so strange the way his mouth moved, revealing his teeth each time he enunciated a word. I never realized dogs had lips before.

    “Are you all just going to stand around staring at him? He’s going to bleed out. Horse – run back to the ranch and get the old man,” the little colt ordered. Thank goodness one of these animals had some kind of sense.

    I looked down upon my body and saw the hole in my shoulder where the old gun had backfired. Piece of crap antique.

  6. Drawing nearer, my perfect shot was obstructed by a dark flash of fur. Before I could react, the coyote was on top of me. The rifle flew from my hands and all I could do was let out a horrific moan as I crashed to the ground.

    The coyote attacked for what seemed like an eternity, first my arms then my legs. One final lunge for my jugular and I knew it was the end for me. I closed my eyes and hoped that my death would be quick and painless.

    In that very instant, I felt the coyote get thrown off of me with such an incredible amount of force, I knew it had to be my grandfather coming to the rescue. I opened my eyes not to my grandfather, but to Dominator.

    He and the coyote landed with a heavy thud next to my rifle. I reached for the rifle and took aim. Mercilessly, the trigger jammed.

    The coyote seemed to be winning this bout with Dominator and I could not bear to watch him get killed by this beast.

    The gunshots that came next startled me. There was no mistaking the sound of my grandfather’s rifle.

    The coyote was lifeless on the ground, with Dominator standing above him. As my grandfather and I inched closer, we realized the coyote’s neck was broken.

    Dominator had won the battle before the last shot was ever fired.

  7. I had picked a perch on the top of the ridge for my nightly watch and I’d aimed so many times at the coyotes that I’d stopped counting. But each time, the lead coyote would sniff the air and move his pack away, only to strike after I’d given up the hunt.

    And then, the next morning, another calf would go missing.

    For months, I watched over the herd, hoping for that perfect shot. When it came, my heart beat so hard against my chest that I thought the coyotes could hear it. I held my breath, eased back the trigger and aimed at that sneaky gray fur-ball that pointed his nose toward our cattle.

    Suddenly, upon the crisp nighttime wind came a squeal that curdled my blood! I heard hooves pounding the sand, thundering closer to the wily coyotes. I lowered the rifle and squinted to see the young brown stallion dash into the throng of biting, growling animals. Tufts of fur flew when the Dominator bit and kicked the coyotes until they yelped and quickly withdrew.

    I watched the triumphant horse as he limped away. He’d disbanded the coyotes but he’d been injured in the process. It took some coaxing but I got the wild horse to follow me into our pasture where I fed him and tended to his wounds. His big brown eyes told me that he was home.

    Now, the Dominator stands guard among his cattle, head held high, daring those coyotes to return.

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