Friday, 18 November 2011

Archie and the horse

The cart creaked and groaned as it trundled along the rutted track. The horse, a large black and white, skittered nervously, held in check on a tight rein. Aboard the cart Archie Lees, his wife, and their two small children jolted uncomfortably amongst the paltry pile of their possessions.

From the crest of the nearby hill a large band of heavily armed brigands watched the horse and cart approach the city gates. The same gates that had kept them separated from the spoils they had hungered after for so long.

As Archie pulled the horse to a standstill at the massive steel gates a small grille slid aside to reveal a pair of sharp eyes.

“What business do you have here?”

“We used to have a farm over in the valley.” Replied Archie. “The brigands stole just about everything we had, then burnt it to the ground. I brought my family here hoping to find sanctuary, and hopefully employment.”

“What skills do you have that the city can use?”

“I have a strong back, and a willing mind, I will be of use to someone.”

The grille slid shut with a loud clunk, and with the sound of powered pistons the massive gates cycled slowly sideways to reveal several soldiers armed with swords and crossbows.

“Bring your cart in here.”

Archie climbed down, grabbed the horse's bridle, and led it into the area between the inner and outer gates.

Two soldiers searched Archie, his family, and the cart for weapons whilst the others watched alertly. When nothing of danger was discovered the mood relaxed slightly.

The horse tossed its head nervously.

“Your horse seems a bit skittish, I hope he ain't going to run amok through the streets.”

“Don't worry, he'll be calm soon enough. He's a good horse, got real fire in his belly he has. Archie rubbed the muzzle. “It's okay Troy, be still, be still.”

The truth of the horse's unease was probably due to stomach ache. He hadn't wanted what was offered to him for breakfast today, he'd had to be force fed a special meal for the day ahead.

The soldier threw a lever, and the massive steel gates cycled closed behind the cart. As another soldier reached for the lever to cycle the inner gates Archie pressed the stud hidden in Troy's bridle.

Deep inside the horse's belly there was a minute blue spark as the contact was made.

The horse and cart, Archie, his wife and family, several soldiers, and both the inner and outer gates all disappeared in a white hot ball of vapour.

At the top of the hill the brigand leader vowed silently to himself that today's sacrifice would never be forgotten. Archie had given everything he owned for the cause. Having his family on the cart was the only way to give credibility to his story, and to gain them passage through the gate.

He raised his lance... The signal to attack.

A motley selection of powered vehicles built from parts scavenged from the contaminated land raced down the hill towards the city. On board, the brigands whooped their war cries. The weak soldiers and the soft inhabitants would soon be overrun. Archie's sacrifice had given them the city.

* * * * *

The gates have long since been replaced. Over the years the brigands and the captured inhabitants gradually integrated, until there was just a city again, just like before.

* * * * *

A group of five year old children attending their first day at school were gathered around a statue in the centre of the main square. The impressive marble sculpture of a horse and cart and four occupants, stood atop a plinth that bore the legend...


As soon as they were old enough to understand, every child in the city was told the legendary story of Archie Lees and Troy the horse.

* * * * *

From the crest of the nearby hill, a large band of heavily armed brigands stared down at the city, at its high unclimbable walls and massive steel gates. They watched, and waited, and plotted.

©2011 Stephen. J. Green.


  1. I wanted to believe in his drive to be useful, but wondered if something darker lurked.

  2. The way I learned it was with Troy the Wonder Horse, but why quibble over details?

    Good tale, well told.

  3. Dad, nice twist!

    Archie Lees! It doesn't have the same gravitas as Achilles does it?

  4. @John - There usually is something darker lurking isn't there? Not always, but usually. :-)

    @Tim - Thanks. Them horses named Troy get everywhere, don't they? :-)

    @Louise - Naah, not really, but I'm happy that the reference didn't go unnoticed though. :-)

  5. And so the cycle continues. History always has a way of re-telling its sad tales. A nice piece of work here, Steve. The ending is as haunting as the sacrifice.

  6. There is both a nice sense of completion to this and a greater sense of the infinite loop of history. It really feels like a timeless world you've created, with brigands, city walls and yet explosive horses.

    I knew Archie Lees had to be some reference, but it didn't click, even with the Trojan horse...

    Great flash, Steve. =)

  7. Well told, Steve. I love the way the brigands took the city only to have everything back the way it was. And such is life, huh?

  8. Nothing changes. Nothing stays the same. As soon as those gates slid open, I knew this was no ordinary horse,but the true nature of the family's appearance was a shock. It's good to read something so different on fridayflash.

  9. That poor horse!

    It's always the way, isn't it? Everything turns in cycles.

  10. @Stephen - Thanks, that is why I put in place the line "So we always remember" for if we do not remember the past, we are surely doomed to repeat it. And the new set of brigands are already on the hill, watching and waiting.

    @John - Thanks. The story is in essence post-apocalyptic, which means I can get away with motors AND bows and arrows. As for Archie Lees/Achilles, that was a tad tongue-in-cheek, my daughter ^^^ picked up on it immediately. (Like father like daughter)

    @Chuck - Thanks, I think the brigands got what they were hungering for, a better life possibly. Now all they have to do is keep hold of it, and bear in mind how they got it in the first place.

    @Justin - Thank you. Archie's sacrifice of his family hopefully added a bit more impact to the story.
    I almost called the story "A horse called Troy" but decided that might give the game away a bit too soon.

    @Icy - Honestly, no real animals were harmed in the making of this story. :-)

    Everything does turn, turn, turn though doesn't it? possibly the human life-cycle is too short for us to truly remember the past, and learn from it.

  11. Oh poor horse - I guess the struggle for power never ends and the wheel goes round and round. When will they ever learn eh!

  12. Hi Helen, Your comment just reminded me of a very old folk song called "Where have all the flowers gone" from back in the early sixties. An anti-war song asking the same question - "when will they ever learn?"


    PS Sorry about the horse, it was the only way I could think of to get the gates out of the way.

  13. I like the breaks of time in the story. Seems someone is always the underdog.

  14. Thanks Lara. Underdogs do have a habit of fighting back though, don't they?