The King Bids Me Ride

by Peter Wild

The King bids me ride and so I ride. The King bids me ride and so I ride, though it be late in the day, figuratively and literally, though the moon doth punish the night with her scalding light, though the combined forces of our many enemies gather like stormbanks on the brow of the hills overlooking our city and though it may be many days before I reach my destination, too many days to count on the fingers of my hands and the fingers of the two riders sent to accompany me on my journey and though we may never return to see our city standing, still I ride. The King bids me ride and so I ride, even though I leave my wife, my dearly beloved wife, gasping and blowing like the sails of a ship in a gale, my dearly beloved wife in the midst of labour, our fourth child, my first son, possibly, due at any time so the ruddy-cheeked midwife had it and my wife, weakened and poorly despite the attachment of leeches and the drawing of blood into a cupped glass, gripping my hand, knowing I have to do that which I am called to do, knowing there is but one option when the King calls, the option being to ride, if that is what the King bids me do. The King bids me ride and so I ride for a rider is what I am, a man put upon this Earth to deliver messages from one place to another, swift as the North wind, driving my horse on until soapy foam spews forth between her teeth, until the sweat and heat of the beast between my thighs gives me pause to wonder how long she herself will last and whether I chose right in the stable with the rain thundering against the panel roof, the fetid breath of war and pestilence close by, tight agin me like the collar of a shirt. The King bids me ride and so I ride, though it be the last time, though each step takes me closer to my doom, though I am committed to a task I don't believe has any genuine value because in the final reckoning a man such as I stands or falls according to his ability to take an order and hold a position and do what needs be done. The King bids me ride and so I ride.

6S

Peter Wild, whose full catalog is here, is the editor of The Flash & Perverted by Language: Fiction inspired by The Fall. You can read more here.