A loud buzz disturbed Hector. He flicked his ears and shook his head. The buzzing quietened but remained. The air was cold. Dozens of tiny feet crawled upon his back. Hector looked up at the stars, then looked around him. He was standing at the bottom of the slope leading up to the farmhouse. He was beyond the cow paddock, and he had no memory of getting there. Looking behind him, he saw a long section of the cow paddock fence flattened. Three fence posts had been uprooted. Hector shook his head. Shiny specks moved in the grass and drifted up before him. Tiny wingbeats hummed.
Hector squeezed his eyes shut then opened them. He shook his head and grunted. A flurry of shiny specks swirled up from the grass, so many it blurred his vision; they hummed so loud that for a moment he could barely hear anything else. When the sparkly swarm dissolved into the night, Hector was left staring up the slope, staring toward the farmhouse. There at the top of the hill, beside the house, stood the big blue tractor. It was all the great bull could see; everything else went black. He slammed his hoof to the ground and snorted through his wide nostrils. A mind-consuming mix of fear and fury overflowed him, and he charged up the hill with a dreadful bellow. As his hooves thundered upon the turf, swarms of shiny specks rose from the grass in his wake and flew after him, a hundred thousand orange beetles joining the charge of the great bull. Up the hill he raced, gaining speed, snorting madly, numb to everything but his lust for destruction and his mission to save Mr McGinley.
The great bull closed in on his target. The tractor was huge and immovable as a mountain, but Hector had no fear; in that moment he would have charged the farmhouse had it provoked him. Hector ran faster than he had ever run before; he lowered his head and levelled his horns. He gave a bellow that woke half the farm in sickening fright. The impact that followed shook the ground and thundered. The tractor rocked forward; Hector gave a mad, shrieking bellow and shoved his head further against the metal machinery, but the tractor held its ground. A light came on in an upstairs window of the farmhouse. Hector’s right horn wedged behind a hydraulic cylinder, and as he yanked his head free the tip of the horn broke off. He staggered back and shook his head. His chest heaved, and blood streamed down the middle of his face. He snorted and stamped his hoof, then circled the tractor. He rammed the giant rear tyre, then backed off. He whipped his tail to the side and levelled his horns again. Light shone from the kitchen window. Hector came round and faced the tractor head-on. He charged. The bull locked horns with the tractor, knocking off a headlight and crushing the grill. A struggle commenced, beast versus machine. The tractor would not back down, but as Hector turned his powerful neck, the front tyres shifted a little in the dirt. Hector stepped back and rammed the grill again; it squeaked and buckled. The back screen door of the farmhouse swung open and smacked the wall, and a bleary-eyed Mr McGinley ran out holding his shotgun. He stopped in his tracks and stared gaping at the extraordinary scene. The great bull attacked the tractor at its flank, getting his head low against the chassis and pushing up with his neck. The front tyres slid inch by inch across the dirt; shiny orange beetles swirled like a thick whirlwind; Hector dug his hooves into the turf. Then, heaving with all his strength, the great bull did what no other animal on the farm could ever come close to doing: he lifted the tractor. With a squeak from the suspension, the huge machine tilted a fraction, and the front left tyre rose six inches off the ground. Mr McGinley blinked hard and came to his senses. He shouted as loud as he could. His voice penetrated Hector’s crazed rage, and the great bull dropped the tractor and stepped back. He looked at Mr McGinley. Fear surged through him—not for himself, but for the farmer. “No!” he bellowed, lashing out at the tractor with his horns. He knocked the exhaust loose and it leaned outward. The beetles rushed upon Mr McGinley; he tried to swat them away. Seeing his foe wounded, Hector attacked again, this time tearing the exhaust free. It clanged on the ground. The great bull’s eyes widened, he stamped his hoof and snorted, preparing for the kill. A boom like thunder rang out. Hector jumped back and turned to Mr McGinley; beetles dispersed into the sky. As smoke wafted from the barrel of the farmer’s shotgun, raised high in the air, he turned the weapon toward Hector. His hands trembled, and he spoke softly, staring at the great bull in amazement. Hector huffed and snorted. He stepped back. He looked at the tractor, dented and damaged, and at the exhaust lying on the ground. Delicate silence replaced the heavy, droning hum of the beetles. The fury drained from Hector’s chest and he suddenly felt weak. A fierce pain hammered in his head. Mr McGinley lowered his gun a little and stepped forward, speaking with a soothing voice. Hector stared at the tractor. “What have I done?” he whispered to himself. He turned and ran down the hill.
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