The Returning Knight’s Story

(Editor’s note: I’m experimenting with a hybrid writing genre combining Flash Fiction/Poetry – let me know what you think. Does it work? Input appreciated – 326 words)

after years he returned from his duty as a crusader in a foreign land, riding a weary war horse in battered and bloody armor, the knight struggled not to think about the terrible things he saw in the Holy Land, where massacres of innocents were common and his soul shriveled watching and participating in…

the sun bore down mercilessly on his and his horse’s rusting armor, and his tortured brain, as he stared from behind unblinking eyes down the long dusty lane, where clusters of cobblestones laid by Roman engineers still existed after hundreds of years, reminded him of the rubble he left behind…

lurking behind his empty eyes was a shadow of recognition that he was once a husband and a father living peacefully in a green valley, where he and his bride were born so long ago, before the Catholic church came by and said he had to go, and defend Christianity for the sake of humanity, or be excommunicated by the church…

that man was just a memory as the knight rode down the road and considered what lay ahead with no emotion like he was dead, but instead he plowed ahead with no plan in mind, no speech to give about his harsh life when he thought about his young wife…

finally the day arrived and the familiar landscape of home rose like a blessing in green rows of trees surrounded by grassy knolls and a farm house at the bottom of the hill ahead, as the knight’s powerful horse picked up it’s gait unconsciously for his master to see his wife standing by a tree…

no Muslim warrior ever wounded the knight so badly

than after talking with her by the tree, when she said she thought he was dead and married again and was happy, with a tear in her eye that he could see, she turned and went back to her new family …

the knight got back on his horse, and rode into history.

***

Unsung Hero

450 words –

The dim glow of a quarter moon filtered through the curtains and cast shadows on the walls. Walter’s eyes struggled to make out the shifting shapes that pranced across them in a creepy parade.

Were they scenes from his past? Was waiting to die a way to suddenly come into contact with that mystical part of the brain scientists and poets write about? Do revelations reveal themselves before you’re executed?

The promise of a sure death was a blow to Walter’s soul and very being. He knew only hours separated him from the firing squad and eternity. This last night wasn’t for sleep. It was a time to pray. A time to accept one’s fate bravely. It was a time to fight the growing panic that comes when a body is not ready to die.

The idea of being tied to a stake and shot like a target didn’t register with his reality. How could this be? He wasn’t a deserter! They were wrong! The reason he was the only soldier left alive was because he never stopped fighting and the enemy drifted away after two days of fierce fighting. He didn’t run away, and come back to the fort after the battle was over like the tribunal claimed.

It was a case of universal injustice.

The rising sun went from blood red, to orange, to yellow, and finally burst into an azure blue. Not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful day to die.

When he heard gunfire coming from the walls he stopped pacing back and forth in the tiny room they locked him in next to the captain’s quarters. Screams of surprise and pain! A sustained rate of gunfire told him there was an all-out assault on the fort.

The battle lasted all day, finally slowing down at dusk. Walter looked out his shattered window and saw fires burning in some of the buildings across the courtyard. Bodies were everywhere. Legionnaires and Arabs. He could see the front gate were breeched.

He took a chance and climbed through the window. Taking a rifle from the dead legionnaire who was once his guard, he moved cautiously through the courtyard – rifle at the ready. After hours of searching he discovered he was the only survivor. Before disappearing into the desert the Arabs sacked the fort and spiked the two cannons. He scavenged bodies for rations.

Why no one looked in his room during the fighting was a mystery. It looked like his luck had changed.

Two days later a relief regiment arrived and discovered Walter. He told them his story. After a 25-minute trial the captain said “Arrest this deserter! We’ll make an example of him!”