I’ve always eschewed microfiction; I’m too verbose. I’ve refused to enter speed-writing competitions. But our creative writing tutor is nothing if not persuasive. Last week he gave us a challenge, reading out the opening lines of a story and demanding that we complete it in fifteen minutes. The challenge lines were:
From behind the lacy curtain she watched as four riders rode towards the house. Her husband had sent her in when he’d heard the hooves in the distance. She had no idea who they were…
In my attempt to meet the challenge I was obliged to interrupt the opening rubric, and I then wrote the following – somewhat to my surprise, to the tutor’s approval:
The Four Riders
From behind the lacy curtain she watched as four riders rode towards the house. Her husband had sent her in when he’d heard the hooves in the distance.
“Stay indoors, Angel,” he’d said. “I’ll deal with this.”
She had no idea who they were, but from the hills to the east came thunder, which rolled on and on, echoing across the valley. A hot wind blew. Leaves fell. Crops withered.
“Ah, I see,” she thought. “I wonder whether my husband will spot the clues? Quite what he means to say to them is a matter for conjecture. I hope he won’t greet them with quotations.”
In fact, the householder greeted the four riders succinctly.
“Hello,” he said.
“Good morning,” said the first rider. It sounded like the opening of hostilities.
“Good afternoon,” said the second. It reminded the listener that he hadn’t had lunch and was hungry.
“Good evening,” said the third, and the listener felt increasingly unwell.
“Good night,” said the fourth, and the householder fell dead on his front step.
“Happy apocalypse!” cried his wife from behind the lacy curtain, and blew a blast on her trumpet.