The hero shifts his helmet into a more comfortable position, anticipating the struggle ahead. His muscles are stiff with nerves, and his hands tremble slightly. With the faintest of grunts, he mounts his sleek Pegasus, a beauty of a creature. Her dark amber eyes gleam in the sunlight, sparkling in the warm air. A moment’s trepidation, a deep breath for courage, and they depart. Careening into the chaos beyond, the temperature dropping with each beat of the pegasus’s wings, the pair builds up speed. Their hair and fur, streaming behind them, is whipped into a frenzied dance by the wind, roaring in their ears as they enter unsafe territory. Despite the frigid gusts, the man begins to perspire, adrenaline pulsing at irregular intervals.

As the rider begins to wonder about the coming challenge, a monstrous behemoth lashes out from behind a tree, bellowing fury with a hair-raising scream; the man and his steed swerve to avoid it. The beast is slow, and quickly falls behind the steed and her owner. They continue to rise and accelerate, pursuing the horizon with ever-heightening fervor. In response, the demons of the earth rise from the crevices of the world, forcing the hero and his shining companion to prove their might or fall prey to the shattering void of defeat. Despite his ominous premonitions, the rider knows no fear; a pure determination keeps his mind in the essence of the moment, coaxing wit and dexterity into exhaustion, stretching his fortitude to the point of collapse. Pitted against every conceivable weapon known to nature, the pair swerves, dives, spins to the next moment of safety; the man’s eyes are dilated in exhilaration, the steed’s in physical trial. The horrors of the underworld, shrieking in rage and agony, redouble their efforts, set on annihilating the impudent trespasser. Hope sparks in the man’s mind; in the heat of the moment, eschewing the clutches of death time and time again, they have nearly completed their task. Their destination in sight, the comrades goad each other into exhilaration; the surrounding combatants roar with blood-curdling rage at the audacity of the challengers. In one last monumental effort, the paladin and his stallion evade the pandemonium of the outside world and clatter to a halt in front of the royal palace, a towering monument to humanity.

The hero dismounts and tethers his steed, praising its performance with emphatic words and forceful strokes of his hand. The animal, shaken by the recent catastrophe, is exhausted. He removes his helmet, gleaming with sweat; his face is flushed with blood and his hair is unkempt from the harrowing journey. His confidence returning, he pushes open the palace door, and enters. A beautiful virgin princess greets him with a radiant smile. The hero flushes with dignity and pride at the grace with which she turns to the task at hand; he has been expected. After a minute’s wait, she returns with the fruits of the riders’ perils, the spoils of war: a croissant and a cup of coffee.

“How was the ride?”

“The cars, they’re ridiculous. Nearly knocked me off my bike. Only in New York City.”

Paul Khermouch
Age 17, Grade 12
Stuyvesant High School
Flash Fiction
Gold Key

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