by Chris Bartlett

He was really pushing his luck this time and he knew it; those bloody things had been chasing him for weeks now, and he’d skipped about 300 years in the past few days alone.

Under normal circumstances, this was a little too far back for him; people’s personal hygiene left a lot to be desired and he often had to resort to shoving Olbas Oil or Vic up his nose just to make things bearable, but these were increasingly dangerous times and it really was any old port in a storm.

Mummy and her bloody chip.

Thankfully his pursuers were of the human variety this time, but it was the same old story, caught in flagrante, wrong place, wrong time.

Next time he got his leg over, he’d make sure it was somewhere he didn’t have to escape on anything with four legs; his arse was killing him and he really wasn’t what you’d call a natural horseman.

Cars or motorbikes were fine, anything just as long as he had something soft to sit on.

The sleek black beast snorted and sweated as he barrelled through the woods and at last put a decent gap between himself and those malodorous buggers.

Jesus H. Zombie Christ, he could smell them from there.

Galloping over a particularly nasty and deep hidden pothole, he just managed to stop himself from falling.

‘Whoa man, that was a close one…’

Just about remaining upright in the saddle, he was unable to save his hat, and the increasing speed snatched it from his head, sending it spinning silently into mid-air, before it landed unceremoniously on the ground with a dry thud.

Damn and sod, that was brand bloody new and it had taken ages to find one that didn’t make him look like someone’s maiden aunt on a beano to Southend.

He wasn’t a huge fan of head-gear, it nearly always made his scalp itch, but it was more often than not an unfortunate but necessary evil to blend in.

He thought of stopping to pick it up, but the idea left his head kicking and screaming almost as quickly as it entered, and he carried on in a growing huff.

For a split second he thought he spotted somebody watching him back between the trees, and he was sure he could detect that very faint whiff of fresh electricity, and he knew it wasn’t him.

At last they reached a bend in the road, and he spotted his opportunity; a very narrow gap in the trees, just wide enough to slip through.

Pulling hard on the reins, the horse slowed, still breathing hard.

Cantering down to a brisk trot, he guided them both into the woods and away from the track; leaves and twigs crackling loudly under hoof, until they were far enough back to remain unnoticed.

As they came to a final crunching juddering halt, the horse fidgeted and struggled to catch its breath; steam belched from its nostrils in plumes that hung like little white clouds in the crisp unpolluted autumn air.

The rumbling grew louder and he could hear voices shouting some incoherent rubbishh. The language really had changed and he could only really make out every other word, but he had enough about him to bluff his way out of most situations, although perhaps best not to get his mobile out in public and start taking photos again.

If there was a next time.

He held his breath as they rattled past in a deeply ungainly but determined pursuit, eventually letting out a huge sigh as they carried on without stopping.

As it grew gradually quiet, he painfully slid off the sweating horse and stretched his legs.

Reaching into his shoulder bag he pulled out the arcane maps and paperwork.

These at least might give him some idea what to do next.

© Chris Bartlett 2016

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