The “Real” Murph
A walk on the roof with Dragonflyers
and Author Scott Tarbet
Rather than “walk,” perhaps it is more appropriate to call this a “dragonflight.” Author Scott E. Tarbet told the story, “The Year of No Foals,” in the fantasy anthology, The Toll of Another Bell. This was where he introduced me to his character, Murphy Hargreaves. I begged Scott to help me get this interview. Murph captured me as soon as he was introduced. He is a “Horse Man” and a horseman. He is the kind of trainer who sleeps in the stables, personally overseeing the care of his horses. He has done that job for as long as he can remember, and he was still doing that job in Dubai, when we met on top of a high rise building. That was his work and his home, right there on the roof.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is how I found out about Murph in the first place: I read that he just showed up one day, when a young girl, Britney, and her widowed father were about to lose their farm. That year, all of the foals from their purebred mares died. Almost all of them died, I mean: Murph helped to save one. That foal was from Britney’s favorite mare, Tildy. Murph saw that her pregnancy went to term. The foal was abnormal at birth, with six legs. Other than that, it was healthy, but Brttney’s drunken father still wanted to kill it. Brittney saved him from death at her father’s hand, and named him “Silver.” She became his best friend, raising him herself under Murph’s watchful eye.
All goes well enough after that, until the day the colt climbs the tree. But, I”m getting ahead of myself again.
Murphy Hargreaves was an enigma to me when I first met him, but he gave enough clues to guess at who he really was. When I met him on that roof in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, I was waiting for my own ride. We were outside of the stables of the dragonflyers, where he still spends every moment of his life, caring for new breed of six-legged winged horses. Here is a transcript of the talk we had that day.
Me: Scott E. Tarbet, the storyteller, has told about the emergence of the horses he calls “dragonflyers”. And he says you had a rather large part in that. Would you please tell me more about your part in it?
Murph: Ginger, honey! I remember like it was yesterday when you were a horse-crazy little girl. Now I hear as how you have little ones of your own. And now here you are, back at it again. Only this time you’ve traveled halfway around the world to take home a dragonflyer. My, doesn’t time fly?
I wouldn’t say that I had a big part in the emergence of the Dragonflyers this particular time, any more than a midwife says she made the baby. Nor any of the other times the magic horses have come into or left the world—the unicorns, the Pegasus, all them. They come into the world when it is their time, when the world needs them. And I’m always there, in one form or another, to help it along.
That’s the way it was with Britney and the Dragonflyers.
Me: How long have you been working with horses? Have you always been a horse trainer?
Murph: Oh, pretty much as long as there have been horses. I was there when they made those cave paintings of horses in France. I was there when the first halter went on the first horse ever domesticated. I knew each of the race of Mearas, and each of the Hippoi Athanatoi, just as I know each of the Dragonflyers now.
Me: Do you have a favorite horse?
Murph: Of course! It’s always the one that was born latest. For instance, right now there’s a little appaloosa filly in Britney’s stable. Can’t wait to see her after her metamorphosis.
Me: What was it like, when horses only had four legs? Were they easier to handle?
Murph: Easier to handle? Hmm. I suppose so. Because you can’t “handle” a Dragonflyer that doesn’t want to be handled, that’s not bonded to you forever. Try it, and you wind up on the ground and the horse winds up gone, and you will never get near it again. There is no “breaking” a Dragonflyer, as you might think to do with a normal, terrestrial horse. Either the Dragonflyer is yours, or it is not. You belong to each other. Or you don’t.
So there’s no steed as easy to ride as a Dragonflyer. Because of the mind-to-mind link, there is no “handling”. You and your mount are bound together. Where you want to go becomes where your Dragonflyer wants to go, and it just happens. Plus, it’s very nearly impossible to fall off. If Dragonflyers feel you tilt, they move beneath you to compensate.
It’s like no other riding experience you’ve ever had.
Me: What is your earliest memory?
Murph: Oh honey! This form you see sitting here on this bench, the form I took a few hundred years ago now, is just one more avatar—one partial manifestation of the totality of who I am. (In your traditional Christian religion you have some very similar beliefs about what you call God, if you think about it.) Murphy Hargreaves is no more, and certainly no less, than an avatar of Hayagriva, who is himself an avatar of Vishnu.
So asking for my earliest memory is like asking me to describe the taste of salt. There just aren’t words in English, or Hindi, or any other language known to human-kind, to express what time was like before there was time, or what space was like before space.
But that’s nothing you need to worry about. You see me as I am because that is what you need to see, what is best for you. Here and now. You and me. Lots of my other avatars would scare the spit right out of your mouth. In every important way, ol’ Murph is all you need to know.
Me: You tended Tildy, the mare who changed the world. What did you do to help her keep her foal that year, when all the other foals died?
Murph: I’m sad about all the other foals. But they were just foals. And they will get their chance at their mortal frames. That shot those government people gave all the horses—that vaccine—that is what did in all those other foals.
But it was all according to plan. For two hundred generations, probably more, Tildy and her ancestors had been getting ready for Silver to come, and they knew it. When the time came, I came. We talked. We agreed. It was the turning of the tide.
Me: You’ve said you’ve always been a horse trainer. Do you also train people?
Murph: Well, hon, let me answer your question in two ways:
As Hayagriva, to millions of Hindus and some Buddhists, I am the symbol of pure knowledge, guided by the hand of the divine, over the forces of ignorance and evil, passion and darkness. I am love through thought and understanding. With one hand I bestow wisdom. In another I hold the book of knowledge. In the other two, I hold the conch and the discus: the symbols of putting knowledge into action.
With all that in mind, think of the story, “The Year of No Foals”, and the part that I played. Think of Britney, and how she learned and grew. Everything came together when it was supposed to come together, including the pain that Britney went through that made her the person she was. That prepared her for her part in the change.
So, Ginger, you tell me: is it “training” to offer a steadying, guiding, comforting hand? To offer necessary bits of information at the exact time they are called for, as long as the recipient’s ears are open to hear? What do you think? Does the Creator of the Universe “train” people?
Me: Do you see Lakshmi often?
Murph: Every moment of every day. Lakshmi is the light which is the life force of all things. She is the power. I am the tantra—the action. She is the yin, I am the yang. We cannot be separated. Without her, I am not. Without me, she is not.
Scott E. Tarbet
Scott E. Tarbet is the author of “A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk” from Xchyler Publishing; “Tombstone”, in the paranormal anthology “Shades & Shadows”; “Ganesh”, in the Steampunk anthology “Terra Mechanica”. He writes in several speculative fiction genres, sings opera, and was married in full Elizabethan regalia. He loves Steampunk waltzes, cosplay conventions of all flavors, and slow-smokes thousands of pounds of authentic Texas-style barbeque. An avid skier, hiker, golfer, and tandem kayaker, he makes his home in the mountains of Utah.