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Flash fiction: The black pot

A small cast iron pot sat in the far corner of the little hut. Deep tribal voices echoed around, bellowing, baying and clamorous. The roof crackled as it burned. Women and children who had not been seized fled, wailing, with hands only to hold each other.

As the last blackened remnants fell, the pot rolled, clanking to a stop next to smouldering thatching.

Before the invaders had come the village had rung out with the merry chatter of women and giggling children. Their men came and went, hunting and trading. The pot had been one of the prizes among a successful trade in Kabul along with other precious commodities - woollen cloth, leather, needles and one small mirror.

Life on the steppe was harsh, but the families worked, cooked, sang and ate together. Sometimes the children took the pot and filled it with treasures of flowers, grasses and stones but it always ended up back where it belonged, filled to the brim with salty milk tea, simmering away over the cooking fire.

Now the pot lay where it had fallen as the last flames died away. Months passed and winter closed in like a dark cloak. A man on a giant of a horse stooped to inspect the ruins and spied the pot peeking out from the fallen snow. Hooking it among his skins and saddle bags, he rode for thousands of miles stopping only occasionally, using the pot to cook tea and broths when he felt safe to do so.

Through the steep mountain paths the pot clanged against stone, it's layered ashen patina flaking away. At his destination, the rider handed the pot to another man. They hung it over a small fire made on the stone floor and boiled a simple stew. A nourishing meaty smell quickly filled the small space. The men talked quietly of tactics, positions and dreams of wealth, reviewing what the horseman had seen. The Kabulis were herding a large mob of precious horses from Bukhara and Balkh and would pass on the second moon.

The men soon left, but the pot remained. Long lonely years were endured, seasons came and went. Occasionally, the shouts of men could be heard on the wind, but they went around. This cave was well hidden.

When the next people came great spans of time had passed, hundreds of years. The desert winds had brought sand and dust and creatures scurried in and out with the night.

These people did not touch the pot. They only looked, took photos. Endless lists of notes and measurements were made in small books with sharp pencils while they spoke seriously in low voices.

They were soon replaced with another group, including an archaeologist with a warm, well-lined face who carefully prised the pot from its position. The layers that had gently embraced the pot over the years gave way to reveal a smooth clean surface underneath. The archaeologist sighed wistfully to himself, 'if only these things could talk' he thought.

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