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Winning Stories - Henrietta Branford Writing Competition 2017

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The Branford Boase Award for


Blackout

by Orla Borsey, aged 13 years, Fleet, Hampshire

 

The train doors beeped. I was uncomfortable around a stranger at first, but he had a witty mind and a smile like a Cheshire Cat, so I was quickly snatched by his story. My brother had followed and sat down next to me. He kept asking how I could sit and stare for so long.

The mysterious man, who must've been in his eighties, told us a story about when he was a little boy alone on a train. The time was 01:21. I was dead tired and it didn't take long for my eyes to start closing, as if there were heavy weights on my eyelids. I can never tell when I drift off. Sleep catches you unaware, doesn't it?

Next thing I knew, Tom was shaking me awake. I threw my hand out to stop my older brother pulling me off the seat. I groaned and glanced around with groggy eyes. The train had stopped and silence filled the dark carriage. Slow as a snail, I rose from my seat, grabbed my bag and followed him out of the carriage.

A rush of chilly air blasted against my cheeks and I caught a pungent scent of coal and fire as we left the train and stepped out onto the platform. The giant clock read 01:21. It must have stopped. "Oh no." Tom groaned. I quickly turned and followed his gaze to the name of the station: Exeter, St David's. "We weren't meant to get off until Barnstaple. We've blown it." The hissing of trains, whistle of a guard and barking of a dog with bared teeth corralled Tom and me out of the station. We saw old fashioned posters plastered to concrete walls. Shouts echoed around the station. "Let's go!" Tom shouted as he grabbed my hand. We were disorientated and scared like rabbits in headlights. We panicked and dashed into a copse opposite the station.

The moon painted the ground and the trees silver. It sat like a shiny plate in the sky, soft clouds washing around it. We stopped running and collapsed onto the ground, panting hard like dogs. "Where...do we go?" I asked between breaths.

"We go to the city that's just out of these trees. Exeter, is it? We can find somewhere to stay there." Tom gasped. It didn't sound like a plan to me.

"I didn't think it would be so easy to travel. 2017's modern railway, eh?" I hung my head.

Tom shook his head and snorted. "You've always been the most sarcastic one of the family."

"I miss mum and dad." I sniffed. "Don't say that, Rose. They were the ones who were forcing us to leave home, remember?" He patted my shoulder. We groaned, stood up and began our journey into Exeter. We were going to start new lives.

In the crimson colours of dawn, we came across an area swarming with ambulance and fire services. To take a closer look, I crept behind a ruined stone wall, and watched stretcher after stretcher being carried by men whose faces were grim. The devastated buildings were scorched black like a thundercloud. Under bloodied, ragged cloths and blankets lay remains. Human remains.

The stench of flesh and blood made me gag. The scene was colourless, apart from the red crosses on ambulance vehicles. Fires lashed at the closely packed buildings. I was disturbed most by the women and children who wore old fashioned clothing, moaning by the sidelines at the thought of family never coming home again.

A tear leaked from my eye. "I want to go home." I muttered.

"Rose, we can't go home! Mum and Dad kicked us out, and they don't love us. Our parents let us be EVACUATED!"

A siren, loud, slow and wailing, sounded in my head. It took me a few moments to realise that it wasn't in my head - it was coming from the city. "I know we were evacuated!" I choked.

"I heard last night that our neighbours had died in hospital from the bombing last week. Our mum was scared."

"What about the man on the train?" I quickly changed subject, feeling a deep sense of unease. "He said he could help us if we needed it."

"What man?" Said Tom. He walked away from the scene, so I followed and pushed the conversation.

"The old man on the train!" I rolled my eyes. "Last night. He told us a story, don't you remember?"

"On the train? I didn't see one." He answered, glaring at me.

"Yes. You made a big thing about why I was staring without blinking for so long..." My mind went blank. I couldn't stop the awful feeling that something was terribly wrong.

Mum and Dad said we had to be evacuated from London because of the terrorist attacks this year. That can't be wrong.

Tom placed his hands on my shoulders. "This is 1939, Rose."

My knees felt like jelly. It was as if someone had just given me a smack around the face to wake me up. "You mean...the Second World War?" I asked, trembling.

My eyes snapped open. My heart was pounding. I jerked up and looked around. Tom had his phone out, talking to Mum on FaceTime. She smiled at Tom through the camera and said how much she missed us and that we could return to London after all the terrorist attacks ceased.

"Mum," I butted in, talking to the phone, "What's the year?"

She frowned. "It's 2017, silly." She sighed. "Unfortunately." I breathed. Being evacuated to Devon to Nan's house for a while isn't really as bad as the Second World War.

We stepped onto the platform, into the sunrise. The giant clock read 01:21. I stared at the clock. "Did I sleep on the train?" I asked Tom urgently. He rolled his eyes and sighed. "Rose, you sat on the train looking blank."

"Did I sleep?" I repeated firmly, feeling another blank-mind sensation.

"No."

Orla Borsey  |  Brianna Cain  |  Hadeel Elwilid  |  Jemima Gleeson  |  Zoe Latchford |  Isaac Tiomkin

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