This is a short story that I did a few years ago for English. I thought I would share it with you because it is something I am very proud of and have got several wonderful comments from family and friends.
October 8th 1916
Dear Edward Smith, I haven’t heard from you in a long while, my old friend. I thought seein’ that I had some spare time that I’d be the first the one to write. How are all the folks back home? I am in Somme, in North East of France in the front lines. I want to tell you that you should not be ashamed of not serving your country by fighting in this war. No shame in suffering with epilepsy. War is not glorious; it is like a living hell. I know that you are unlikely to believe me so I am going to tell some truly horrific experiences of this bloodthirsty war.
On the first night at the front three of us were sent on night petrol. Two sergeants stood side by side in the trench, their stern faces lit by the dim glow of a gas lamp. They looked like two grim vicars after a funeral. “All of ye are going to be real stealthy like, so none vile Germans know you are there, and find out what they’re planning?” The sergeants eyed us beadily. “Sir, yes, Sir,” we replied fervently. “Then get to it,” the other sergeant barked sharply. We didn’t look back and walked proudly into no man’s land. I was unable to take it in at first.
There were dead bodies and body parts strewn in the deep black mud as far as the eye could see. They were just corpses shadows of the men they once were. It was a sickening and sorry sight. No man’s land is infected like the body with the foulest disease and the odours is the toxic breath of death itself. The hideous land stretched out before us, we walked silently until we reached enemy trenches and crouched noiselessly in the mud. Nearby a poor soul twitched on the barbed wire. I noticed, shocked that the solider was 16 years, a kid and looked a bit like your Tom. I didn’t care about eavesdropping on the Germans anymore; I was completely absorbed by this young son. I couldn’t believe someone so young would have the stamina, in more ways than one, to be in the depth of the action. A vile noise rushed out of his frothing mouth. He was pale as a ghost, as if all his colour, vibrancy and youth had died and seeped into the unforgiving ground. He hung there, painfully, like Christ on the crucifix, deep pain spread across his face. In my fatherly concern, I shuffled over to him and whispered in his ear, “It’s all right my son. It’ll be over soon.” He gave me an imploring glance and hoarsely whispered, ”Please, I don’t leave me to die alone.” “Sure, kid, sure. What do you want me to do?” I calculated that he at least another agonising day entangled in the barbed wire. I thought then if I were to die in this war, I would want to die as quickly and painlessly as possible and not excruciatingly slow like this poor lad.
“I want the pain to end…please…just shot me. So the pain can be over,” he whimpered. I took out my handgun from my pocket and looked at the boy. He nodded feverishly. My hand shook. “Could I really do this?” I thought to myself. “Could I do this to a young lad who shouldn’t even have been here?” I got behind him and aimed at the back of his head and fired. The shot cracked in the darkness echoing loudly in the silence of the night. The young lad’s body lay limp on the barbed wire.
Then I realised the full extent of what I had done. Suddenly no man’s land was alight with gunfire. The German’s had been alerted by the sound of the gunshot. A shell landed a few yards away. Dirt flew up. Huge clumps of earth fell on top of us. We had to move quickly to get to some kind of cover. Another blast, much closer than the last, exploded and left a ringing in my ears. Unexpectedly the earth erupts in front of us. A hellish scream. I saw that Private Alfie Pickit, an old neighbour of mine, lay still less than a metre away from me, his body a mangled mess of what it was only moments ago. I closed my eyes. I couldn’t look again. It was too real. I looked around for cover. The only things I could see were dead bodies and I knew instantly what I had to do. I wriggled across like a snake to one of the dead bodies and took the jacket off; I then threw it over myself and curled up into a ball against the black mud. I knew I could do was to try and wait it out. The only way I could get through this would be to stay put.
By some miracle I got back to British trenches. I was the sole saviour of that night petrol. When the sergeants saw me they were damn surprised. They wondered how I managed it. “It was all luck, nothing to do with me.” I said. I spent the next day in the trenches. I lay down in a hollow of a trench and tried to get a few precious hours of sleep I could get before I was called to do afternoon chores. Some oblivion. But every time I closed my eyes all I could see was Private Alfie Pickit being torn apart by that shell. It was my fault that some were killed last night. It was my fault that Alfie had died, how could I live with that burden? Besides the lice were making me itch, the bastards, so much that I wanted to scratch my skin off. The rats are the vermin that are most feared here. The rats are as big as cats and gorge themselves on human flesh. So sleep is hard to come by.
A few days later, new recruits arrived. The sergeants weren’t much help ‘cause they didn’t say nothin’. That night I woke up with a jolt. The shells were especially bad that night and got nearer and nearer. Close by me was a new recruit, looking petrified. His knees were to his chest, shaking violently and he rocked backwards and forwards. I got up and let ‘im cradle into my chest, like ye do with a child. He had shoulders just like my William. I miss them so much. I put my arm around him an’ just let him stay there until it was over. When all was quiet I let go of his shoulder. “Its over now, son. We got through alive.” He suddenly came out of his trance and blushed a deep red, embarrassed. “It’s all right, you get used to it.” He nods but still had a far way look.
See Edward, that’s why you are lucky not to be mixed up in this war. You can enjoy your family and a luxury of a comfortable bed. Just cherish what you have because I tell you how many soldiers out here fightin’ would love to be you right now. Its like this I never no if I’ll ever see you again, or anyone at home for that matter. I never know if the next bullet from the German machine guns will be meant for me. So realise the gift of time and knowing most of the details in the near future is something you should take pleasure in.
Your loyal friend always, Robert Thompson
So that is my story. I would love to rub this short story in Mr Clarke’s face but sadly it would take a lot of effort to do this. Several years ago, when I was selecting my IB subjects I put English at higher subject. Mr Clarke said ”Are you sure you want to do Higher Level English?” Yes I was sure. Since, I moved school to do GCSE’s i am look at what I did achieve within a month being there, I was put in a box but then I was free.
By the way, my Dad sent this to one of his best friends who is a writer and lecturer of English Liturature who said “ I had a read of Katharine’s story. It’s really excellent! If one of my third-year students at Goldsmiths (a university) had handed that in I would have been quite pleased with them. So all praise to her! All the same, Katharine’s ability means that she can afford to set herself higher standards… The best analogy is to think of being musically gifted at the same age, of having an ear, sensitivity and ability that is impressive but that still needs a great deal of nurturing.” I was astonished by that comment…
What do you think of my short story? Drop a comment below.