In a time before coal or steam, when magic moved the tide and turned the heavens, there was a golden tree, guarded by an angel with a sword of fire. No ordinary tree was this, for it had sprouted from a pip spat by a god. Upon the tree grew a single emerald apple, and whosoever ate this apple would gain eternal life: this was why the angel was set out to guard it, for the gods are jealous, and will not suffer any man to have eternal life.
But as gods are jealous, so is man ambitious, and many heroes came to try and take the apple for themselves. One such hero was the bronze knight, and the angel saw well his burnished armour as he crested the first hill. Seeing this, the angel took up his bow and loosed a volley of arrows, each one tipped with serpents’ teeth. But the knight was unharmed, for his armour was Virtue, which serves well any who choose to wear it.
As the knight crested the second hill, the angel took up his javelins and hurled them out across the land, each glinting in the sun. These were tipped with dragons’ claws, but still the knight was unharmed: he lifted his shield, which was Hope, and shelters any who can hold it.
As the knight crested the third hill—the hill of the golden tree—the angel took up his sword of fire. The knight dismounted, and honoured battle began. The duel was fierce, and more than once the knight’s shield and armour showed their worth again, but in the end the angel had to yield, for the sword of the knight was Time, and eventually all fall before it.
“Alas,” said the angel, “I am vanquished.” He plucked the emerald apple from the tree and presented it to the bronze knight, though not before licking it thoroughly all over.
The knight made no move to take the apple.
“What’s wrong?” asked the angel. “Do you not wish to claim your spoils?”
“You are not gracious in defeat,” said the knight, and he got back on his horse and rode away across the hills.
And the moral of the story is: angels can be jerks too.
YOU ARE READING
What do a squeamish torturer, an intelligent zombie, a newspaper-phobic superhero and Genghis Khan have in common? They're all in this book, and their stories were all written for Flash Fiction Month 2014. With one story for each and every day of Ju...