The Horse Fields

Nathan Galdrar, former lab tech, stumbled on the unlikely horse pasture. A speckled Arabian raised its head, half-alert, and then returned to its grassy fare. Nat envied the beast. Fine gradients of potential morality and neurochemical engineering meant nothing to it. There were no horse criminals. No rehabs for recalcitrant equines.

An absurd thought stuck in Nat’s head, that the owner of this land could be held accountable for not making the greenery green enough to maximize the wellness of these horses. Back in the world, anyone who looked at Nat would see the angry halo of his guilt. The guilt of not being a perfect grass-tender. Only it wasn’t grass that he tended.

I’m not part of that anymore, he thought.

He hoped whoever lived here wasn’t so wired. Some people lived like that. Willfully disconnected, or gobbed with input-suppression plugins. Although – and this thought iced his stomach more than it should – there was no reason to think the horses themselves weren’t networked. Hell, they might not even be real horses. Nat had trouble shaking this idea, but in the end he decided it didn’t matter.

Whoever lived here. Back in the world it wouldn’t even make sense. That kind of ignorance was impossible. The punishment for Nat’s failure to predict had been to remove his ability to predict.

The horse’s head came up again, its mouth working. Sure looked convincing.