Mudlarks by Emma Rowling
Pershore High School

The waves gently washed ashore and laid a small, brownish, worn-out looking lump on the dark silt before retreating back again into their icy barracks. Looking closer, one might be able to discern the features of a gallant soldier atop his trusty steed; albeit, the rider was headless and the stallion legless. If a head were upon those shoulders, it would’ve worn a sad, tired expression with a long story to tell.

After being made, their world was darkness. Then suddenly the darkness tore open for them to be plunged into a world of light, noise, grabbing hands and a child’s delighted laughter. “I love it! I love it! I promise I’ll treasure it forever!” Many happy hours followed of daring fights, thrilling chases and exhilarating escapades. Gradually, though, these became less frequent. One day they were being held very tightly and large hot globules ran down over them. Outside the child’s room two angry voices yelled:
“No! No! There must be a mistake – let me see!”

“There is no possibility of a mistake I assure you! Please calm down.”

“You’re absolutely sure it’s fatal? Please tell me this is some sick joke.”

“There is nothing we can do for your son if you refuse to go to hospital.”

The small figure and his horse could do little but watch and listen wide-eyed, the young child clutched them to his chest as they were enveloped in a sea of salty tears.

Some days or so later, the little horse and soldier were plucked hurriedly, and rather disjointedly, from their spot amid cries of refusal. Flying in a steel grip down a blur of stairs and out into a bitter, snowy street the little rider and his horse were pulled. Ominously gloomy skies loomed above as a carriage was hailed. “Please! My son needs to get to hospital!” The child and his toy were flung in an urgent manner into a dark carriage box, the door was slammed shut and there was a jolt of movement as the horses sprang to life. The figure could feel the hands of the boy were as cold as the ice on the street, and shivering violently. “What’s going to happen?” He whispered, and though reassuring words came from the father silhouetted against the light the soldier was once again showered in tears.

After that, the two tiny figures were brought into a strange, new place and raced through seemingly endless corridors; all the while seeing through two pale fingers. Eventually, the soldier could hear many voices as the child was placed into and unfamiliar bed while coughing and shaking. It seemed like forever with people going back and forth while the figure was clutched in a shaky grip. He could hear harsh, rasping breaths, over time they became slower and slower as the voices just got louder. Then the shaking stopped and the noise ceased, save for muffled crying. After a time, the once-loved toy was extracted from the cold, still hand. In a sudden fit of rage the lead figure was hurled roughly to the ground – shattering legs of the poor horse. The soldier and wounded steed – still connected – simply lay there, unmoving until they were picked up again.

Back through the corridors, back onto the street where the snow piled high and a chill wind blew, wailing as if it were grieving too. The toy was thrust into a pocket with only a sliver of harsh light in their view. After an age they were brought back out into a desolate looking place, a fast running river with an abandoned factory and dilapidated houses across its banks. The soldier and horse were held high up and, with an air of finality, thrown forward. They tumbled through the air before hitting the freezing waters and being swept away. Days, months, years, decades and more passed by and the child’s toy saw many places and travelled many miles.

Finally, after so long in the eroding waters the soldier and stallion were relinquished reluctantly by the river. At last it was laid on the dark silt, waiting to be found again.