Winning Stories - Henrietta Branford Writing Competition 2019


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The Branford Boase Award for


The Shadows

by Wilf Squibb, aged 13 years, Lymington, Hampshire


The map had led us to an old wall dressed in ivy. I reached through the leaves till I was touching the bricks and felt my way sideways. The wall continued three paces then changed from the rough touch of fired sand to the smooth damp texture of rotting wood. We pulled the evergreen curtain aside. Beneath it was a hidden door. I grabbed the heavy iron ring handle that was riveted to the ancient wood and twisted it with both hands, hoping the door would open.

It creaked, and to my surprise, opened straight away. Jack, Anna, Lena and I pinned the hanging ivy aside, gingerly stepped into a room carved in the rock and exchanged apprehensive looks as a figure with a strange suit, which seemed to glow in a deep lilac, spoke.

“Hah, what children,” the figure chuckled, patronising and with a heavy Mexican accent, “what a coincidence, your map lead you here, to me.”

“What? You brought us here? How?”

“You have a lot to learn, Lena”

The figure move into the light, a girl. And she knew us. I thought for a moment,

Who is this girl working for?... Talon?

I stepped forward, looked down at her and asked

“What has Talon asked you to do here?”

She didn’t answer. She just put her finger on her lips and giggled.

“I hacked your map to bring you here today to see my surprise, good luck!” She explained, as she pointed towards the door. We all spun on the spot, turning towards our potential death. Omnics. Five-hundred Bastion units. It was lucky that the whole reason of this mission was to rid the world of these horrific robots, destroying everything and anything to do with humanity, as we had all our gear and armour.

“Lena, flank them and cause a distraction. Ana, get to high-ground and pick them off. Reinhardt, be our shield!” Jack ordered us to attack.

“Fight with honour, die with glory!” I bellowed, swinging my rocket hammer and decapitating those lifeless, ruthless robots and squashing their helpless ‘bodies’.

The fight only went on for a glorious 10 minutes but a lot went on.

We really smacked those rust buckets into dust, Ana, always as good a sniper as ever, picking off all the threats with her scoped biotic rifle; Lena, confusing them by using her time travel blink and blasting them with her beautiful twin pulse pistols. And Jack, the leader, destroying the omnics with his trusty heavy pulse rifle.

Only five Bots left out of the 500 that were there. They were circling Jack, Lena and me, we called in unison for Ana, but no reply came. Then it hit me – I have a rocket hammer – why don’t I use it! So I ordered the other two to stand at my feet and I wheeled around swinging my hammer in a circle, knocking all five robots out in one go. A cheer of relief arose from our tired mouths.

“Oh yes, what about Ana?” Lena asked.

“Let’s split up and look for her, I will go into the woods, Jack – you climb the boulder and look for her from up high and Lena, guard the door in case she comes back this way.”

It took us hours to find Ana, she was behind the boulder. In the fight she had been knocked out by a rogue Omnic and dragged away. She had a gash in her leg and she was in shock, I called up Jack and Lena when I found her and they hurried over. We took some bandages from Jack’s med-kit and mended her leg as best as we could, using a nearby stick as a splint. I gently picked her up and we our way slowly back to the boulder. As we went – we sent Lena to double check around us for any surviving robots.

Once back at the boulder, we settled Ana, and tried to work out how to get home.

“I think we should call Brigitte to come and pick us up on the hover-plane,” I suggested.

“That could take hours,” said Jack, “and besides, Sombra could have hacked our comms as well as our maps.”

“What other options do we have, we have to get Ana some more medical help soon, and she can’t walk far. I think it would be best for us to at least give Brigitte a call. We can be on our guard for any arriving Omnics!”

“I think it would be the best approach,” agreed Lena, and Jack did nod eventually.

“I’ll send a message then,” said Lena “but we – wait, what was that?”

There was a blinding flash of purple light illuminating the doorway. Instinctively I picked Ana up, Jack reloaded his rifle, Lena turned to face the light.

Then, there was another flash.

Yosuf Ali  |  Amelia Barwick  |  Elisabeth Goldsmith  |  Alice Rose Jennings  |  
Sara Mazilu and Salam Rajab |  Wilf Squibb

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