I gasp. A choked noise as blood reverses its flow back down my throat.
I can't- I can't breathe. The- My lungs can't inflate fully and I can- I can feel the blood pumping out of me. I can feel it!
It's.. oh god. Help me. Please, oh god please.
I can… I can hold it all in. I can do it! I just… I need-
'I NEED MY HANDS TO MOVE!'
And its coming. I can feel it, building. Growing, reaching, extending its skeletal fingers towards me and I don't want it! I want go home!
The blood in my throat grows thick; viscous tendrils wrapping themselves around it and squeezing. Squeezing what little air I have left out of me.
And I know this is it. That all too familiar feeling creeping up on me, like it had done in countless nightmares.
There is no bright light, no final meeting with the Reaper Man, no angels to sing me to rest.
Just the darkness and the emptiness. The feeling as everything I've ever known, loved, Felt, thought, wished and cared, becomes nothing.
Not even the cold reaches me.
I wake struggling, my hands mindlessly grasping at my throat and chest as tears fall heavily down my face and pathetic choked whimpers leave my mouth.
Arms fall around me in an embrace and I instinctively turn and bury my face into my 'mother's' chest to muffle the sobs. She whispers soft words of comfort as she tenderly strokes my hair; but I barely hear them with the blood pounding so heavily in my ears.
Several minutes pass before my sobbing stops and my crying ceases. A moment or two of further silence passes before the centauress slowly moves me back to peer down at my face with a look of sadness.
She gently wipes away what was left of my tears and gently places a kiss on my forehead. "My precious one, my Nilas. You need not fear the things that lurk in your sleep. They are not real. Come here."
I'm once again pulled into a soft warm hug that I tentatively return. I hadn't had a bad dream that bad for quite a while. I managed to luck out once with the whole rebirth thing; I guess it was a bit too much to ask for no nightmares about it. I only hope its not a recurring thing. I take the moment of silence to pull myself back together and go over things. I was going to assume that Nilas was my name. That was definitely going to take some getting used to.
A quiet, evil part of my mind whispers the fact that I currently have my face pressed into the bosom of a fairly attractive woman and I viciously and desperately shove the voice back down; the combination of that fact with what I knew of my new self made the line of thought far too disturbing to ever dwell on.
I look up at the woman, who is now smiling softly at me. "Now my wonderful little colt. You spent far too long sleeping yesterday, so today we are going to have many things to do. But first, you need to stand."
'Whoa, wait. She wants me to stand already? So I really did have a foal's quick walking ability?'
She must have caught my look of confusion because her smile becomes a playful scowl, though her eyes now hold a glimmer of excitement. "Now, none of that. I will not be raising a lazy stable dweller, so you better get moving since you will not be getting anything to eat until you do."
My stomach must have heard those words since it let out a long and loud rebellious groan which had the centauress giggling. I dropped my face down to give me a moment to think. It had nothing to do with embarrassment. Nope, not at all. And my face was certainly not getting hot. It was perfectly normal t- and now my ears were drooping. What the hell.
Still giggling, she rises smoothly to her feet. Hooves. Damn, another thing to get used to. I was once again struck by just how large she was. I had never been good at estimating height, and my new diminished stature threw off any chance of an accurate guess even further, but I had a feeling that she would have towered over me even when I had been human. I certainly wouldn't complain if she was average height for a centaur. It might be fun being taller this time around.
Right now though, she was like a colossus to me. The mental image of tiny centaur me scaling her like something out of SotC makes me grin and snort.
Figuring she was right and I'd wasted enough time just lying around I turn my thoughts towards figuring out how to get my legs going. I shift my lower half to allow my legs out from underneath it and begin the arduous process of figuring out how the hell I'm going to go from previously only having two legs, to somehow walking with four.
I tense and untense all the muscles along my body in an attempt to learn what does what. My legs twitch and kick lightly as my tail flicks back and forth. This is really fucking surreal, but I'm pretty sure its helping.
Oh hey, I'm also pretty sure I'm already visibly bigger today than I was yesterday!
Things were starting to seem very familiar and I had a niggling suspicion in the back of my head. Regardless, that would have wait for now. I had more important things to do.
I spend a minute or so just shifting my body around to get used to it and occasionally glancing at the centauress, who has her chin resting on her hand as she watches me with a small smile.
Slowly I bring my front legs up underneath me and began shakily lifting myself up. Once I was sure I had a firm footing on the woven mats that covered the floor, I push off with my back legs and stand.
That lasts for about half a second before I over-balance and go forward over my front legs, which fold up underneath me and leave me sprawled out face-first on the mats. A snort from above me makes me look up.
My 'mother' was biting her finger to try and stop herself from laughing at my predicament. I frown at her and she has to cover her mouth with her entire hand this time, though her shaking shoulders give away what she is doing.
Well, if she was going to be like that. I flop onto my side and frown harder up at her.
She takes a deep breath and composes herself. "I am sorry my precious one, I should not laugh. It was a good first try. Up you get, give it another go."
I had an easier time getting up the second go, and fairly quickly I was up on my feet. Hooves. Fuck.
The occasional twitch of my previously unused legs has me desperately adjusting my centre of balance but otherwise I was up.
I raise my hands into the air above me and let out a cry of victory that, of course, comes out as a whinny. It does little to dampen my mood, though.
I look over at the woman with a massive grin across my face. An equally large grin stares back at me as she claps softly.
"Well done, Nilas. Your father is going to be very proud when he sees." She extends her arms out in the universal hug position towards me. "Now, walk to me. Carefully my little colt, it will difficult at first."
I carefully lift one hoof off of the floor only to have to place it down swiftly to stop myself toppling over. I stagger sideways slightly before I get my balance in check. She wasn't kidding about it being hard. I feel like I'm trying to walk on stilts.
Alright, easy now. Horses alternate their legs, right? Come on, man; you've been around horses for a decent part of your life, you should know this. Hell, its how every quadrupedal animal walks. You've got this!
Ok. Front left, back right, front right, back left. Doing good. Front left, back right, front right, back left. Just a little more. Front left, back right, front right, back left. Shit! Bit of a wobble but you've got it, keep going. Front left, back right, front right, back left. Wow, walking with four legs is way different than two. Doesn't have the same feeling as bipedal movement. Fuck, stop thinking about walking with two legs. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Recover. Recover!
No, no, no, no!
Something about thinking of walking with two legs threw off the pattern I had been getting into, and my legs stopped responding and decided to do their own thing.
I fall ass over tea-kettle backwards from trying to over-correct and end up almost hitting myself in the face with my hooves. Stupid hooves. Stupid legs. Stupid horse butt.
I flop sideways against the padded floor and sulk for a bit before a shadow falls over me. A hand gently moves my face up as the centauress looks me over from where she is crouched over me; a tinge of worry evident on her face. "Are you ok, my precious one?"
I huff and nod, managing a small smile which she returns. "That is good. That means you can get up and try again. You are strong, you will get it soon."
Nothing more to it then. I push myself back up to my feet. Hooves.
It turns out that centaurs are omnivorous. I hadn't really given it too much thought beforehand, but the idea of not ever eating meat again is horrifying. I enjoy the taste too much that even if I had ended up as a herbivorous species I probably would have tried to eat it anyway, social stigma be damned.
Anyway, after several hilarious attempts to walk, or at least hilarious according to my 'mother' who was fighting down giggles for most of them, I finally managed a passable attempt with a minimum amount of wobbling and stumbling. Frustrated at my multiple failed attempts, I'd eventually stopped focusing so hard on how I was walking and just did it. Something in the back of my mind clicked and my body seemed to instinctively know what to do. I almost hit myself for not having thought of it earlier.
The only problem afterwards was trying to not to focus too hard on the walking, since whenever I did I'd start to stuff up again; my legs deciding they each wanted to do something different to the others.
Some praising and encouraging words and several motherly hugs and kisses later, I was given some bread, cold cooked meat and an apple and sat down at the wooden table in the centre of the room. The centauress sat down beside me and pulled me close as we both ate in silence, though she seemed strangely pleased with how quickly and happily I ate the meat. I was just happy to eat something, and the food wasn't too bad for what it was. I wasn't sure what the meat was, though. For all I knew it was from some fantastical creature, like a manticore or something.
The comfortable silence gave me a chance to have my first proper look around the house that had been the only place I had seen the entirety of my new existence. The room I was currently in was, quite frankly, huge. I was pretty sure that it in itself was larger than the house I used to live in when I was human. The walls were wood and decently tall; made up of planks running horizontally with thick heavy beams running vertically in places for support and what I assume were windows spaced out along three of the walls. There seemed to be quite a few of them, as well. Two solid wood doors sat closed against one wall, most likely leading to other rooms of the house. A single door was built into the wall opposite and, judging by the windows that sat on the same wall, lead to outside. Each door was far taller and wider than any one I had seen before.
My examination of the walls done, I turn my attention next to the contents of the room itself. A surprisingly large pile of blankets that could only be where I had slept the night before sat off to one side of the room, looking incredibly comfortable. There didn't seem to be any beds, though being a centaur probably made having one a pointless endeavour for multiple reasons. A small bookshelf sat in one of the far corners, with a decent amount of books on it. On the other side of the room was what passed for the house's kitchen and where the centauress got our food. There was a large stone fireplace, some cooking pots and utensils and various other olden-looking things that were no doubt useful for cooking and preparing food as well as furniture for storage and other stuff. The most surprising and interesting part, however, was what I was pretty sure was some kind of magic refrigerator that the meat was retrieved from. I'd have to have a closer look at it later.
That had me wondering, was one of the two centaurs able to do magic? Could both of them? I hadn't seen anything suggesting it but that didn't necessarily mean anything. Could all centaurs do magic then? Could I? That would be fucking awesome!
Where is the man, anyway? He was already gone by the time I woke up and I had no idea how centaur's lived, so I couldn't even begin to assume what he could be up to.
Reaching the end of that line of thought, I went back to scoping out the house. Having exhausted most of the interesting parts, I turn my attention upwards at the roof. It was thatched, with supporting beams of wood forming a skeleton that sloped inwards till it reached a point. More wooden beams ran from the base horizontally across to the opposite wall. All in all, it looked like your stereotypical fantasy house. Not exactly the fanciest place to live, but nothing like the hovels that you would see in depictions of medieval villages. It was comfy, cozy and there didn't seem to be any errant breezes.
That makes me wonder, what kind of area is this house in? It's been way too quiet for me to think it was part of a village or town. I'd have to go outside to find out I suppose.
Movement to my right makes me look up as the centauress gets to her hooves, glancing down at me as she does. "Just sit here for a second. I will be right back."
I watch as she crosses the room and makes her way towards on of the doors leading into another room, and disappears inside. She returns a moment later with a bundle of cloth in her hands. As she makes her way back she flicks her head up at me. "Hop up."
I stand up like she asks, craning my neck to watch her as she comes to a stop in front of me. I make a questioning noise and she just smiles. "Arms up above you."
I hesitate for a second before doing so, and my vision is cut off as she drops the bundle of cloth over my head. After a moment it returns as she pulls my head and arms through the holes in it.
Ah, she was giving me a shirt. A white, plain looking tunic apparently. I was wondering if or when I was going to get one. I was practically swimming in it, though. I grab the excessive fabric and pull it out in front of me, looking up at her with a questioningly. She just laughs lightly and adjusts it. "It is a little big now, yes. But you will grow into it very quick and if we are to go outside I will not have you running around naked."
I glance down at my exposed lower half and then back up at her. You know what, I wasn't even going to question it. Not that I could, anyway. I really needed to start trying to talk more. Not being a very talkative person in my last life was becoming a bit of a pain.
Taking my tiny hand in hers, the centauress began leading me towards the front door. "Come on, my little Nilas. There is much more to see then these walls. I'm sure you are going to love it."