Writing on the Wall

'Brown' | Flash on the Front Line

I have submitted three stories to the Writing on the Wall - 'Flash on the Front Line' competition. The first one was called 'Brown' which is below;


Red Flash
Flash on the Front Line


Brown



When his eyes were closed John saw the vivid colours of the countryside around Ingleton. His eyes were closed a lot these days.

At night he’d open them to see rare colour splash across his otherwise little changing murky vista. The Germans and Allies exchanging their flash bangs, illuminating their little piece of earthly hell into bizarre shadowy life. As the light of the evil fireworks played with the craters and detritus of no mans land his eyes played tricks, showing him dancing couples, bands and good timers cavorting across the macabre stage in complicated rhythms and entrancing moves. He hoped to see an entire enticing play eventually, but so far without fail they had spluttered into blackened monsters sprawling through his poisoned imagination.

These dances of the night were preferable to the usual bored quiet of the day and the haunting monotonous views. The brown mud of the trenches, brown rock, brown soil, brown uniform, brown craters, brown corpses, their brown hell. Brown.

‘Brown!’

John Brown stood uneasily to attention, grateful that he didn’t drop his gun into the muddy slop as he’d done once before.

‘Sir!’

‘At ease, Private,’ Corporal Draper said pulling out some cigarettes. He proffered one to John who took it. The tobacco briefly freed his nostrils from the stench.

‘Seems a long time since we signed up John,’ Draper said nonchalantly.

‘A lifetime or two, Sir.’ John said.

‘At least we’re here with our friends. It’s good that we know everyone here,’ Draper said. ‘Can look after each other.’

‘Yes, Sir.’ said John.

‘How you finding it yourself, Brown?’

‘Brown, Sir.’

‘That’s what I said.’

‘No, I mean I am finding it brown, Sir.’ John said.

‘Yes, I suppose it is,’ Corporal Draper said.

Draper paused.

‘How would you like to leave the trenches for a bit?’

‘Would be nice,’ Brown said, ‘A pint, then a long bath would be heaven.’

‘It would. But it’s not that far I’m afraid.’ Draper pulled on his cigarette seemingly puzzled that the barely filled paper had gone out.

‘Woods went over last night on a recon to draw any alterations the Germans have made to their trenches,’ Draper said. ‘Did well the lad too. But got caught on his way back. He’s just over there in the tree stump crater.’

Draper vaguely indicated over John’s shoulder towards no mans land.

‘We need someone to go out tonight, find him and get back whatever he sketched.’

‘That would be me, sir?’

‘Yes, Brown, that would be you.’

That night Brown did a sterling job belly crawling the short dangerous distance, finding the inert Woods not twenty metres from where he’d talked with the corporal earlier.

He eventually found the grubby scrap of paper. Woods had written:
“No changes. A bit muddy - probably brown.”

Brown lay back, laughing out loud as the night’s colourful fireworks began exploding above him, filling his vision, bombarding his ears. He waited for that nights play, hoping that there would be no monsters.


Comments

'Dig' | Flash on the Front Line

I have managed to write and submit three stories to the Writing on the Wall - 'Flash on the Front Line' competition. My second one is; 'Dig'


Red Flash
Flash on the Front Line


Dig


Dig like your life depends on it.
Your life probably does.
Dig in. Dig a hole. Your hole. Your home for the night. Maybe for longer.
Maybe eternity.
Dig. Dig like your life depends on it.

The mantra goes round and round - as mantras should. As the soil is moved from below me to the side of me, spilling up around me in a ugly grey mud. The shallow rock thankfully breaking up quickly under the bayonet, under foot and my angry pressure.

Dig like your life depends on it.
It probably does.

The hole is your whole. Your life right now and your chance of life tomorrow. Expanding quickly in your vision, but slowly in reality.

It strikes me I might be digging a grave.

Dig.

Tired men all around me are carving out their holes with urgency. Friends old and new cracking into the mudstone, creating first slabs then bite sized chunks, throwing them into the air in little one man explosions.

Dig.

Phillips keeps repeating “It’ll be over by Christmas.” I don’t know how they know that. Just another mantra - keep saying it and it’ll be true. Until it’s past Christmas, then what?

It’s so damn cold here right now, the only thing warming me is the digging.

Dig.
Your life depends on it.

Remember last summer when we sat in the glade with our lunch and cider? That little depression we hid in, watching the children walk past without them seeing us? Our little secret. That’s my hole right now. A deepening depression into the French soil.

Dig.
A deepening depression.

The guys are gradually stopping now. Happy with their holes or too tired to dig any more. They’re climbing into them. Readying themselves for the night.

I’m so tired with the marching and the weight we carry. The digging. But still how can we sleep?

We’ve heard some gunfire. Our bullets or theirs?

They are digging in too. Little pockets of protection from our guns.
They are hiding from us as we are from them, yet we could shout to them, they are that close. They are hiding from me and my gun.

I don’t want to fire it. I just want to dig.

Dig, like your life depends on it.
Dig until you are somewhere else. Somewhere safe. Anywhere but here.

It’s so cold on the ground. I can feel the heat drain from me into the soil. I’m turning to ice, to stone. I feel like I could die here without a shot being fired. We could all die from this cold. What kind of war would that be? A nil nil draw with no one left to fight to a victory.

The heat has sapped from me like sucking juice out of plum.

If I dig a little deeper would the earth give me its heat?

I need to dig a little deeper.

Dig. Like your life depends on it. Dig.

I won’t be home for Christmas.


Comments

'The Attack!' | Flash on the Front Line

I have managed to write and submit three stories to the Writing on the Wall - 'Flash on the Front Line' competition. This is my third one; 'The Attack'

Red Flash

The Attack!

The zing of coffee woke Roman up with a jolt. The aroma filled his nostrils and lungs and his eyes were popping.

‘Wow!’ Roman said. ‘Is this stuff even legal?’

‘Isn’t this the best coffee ever?’ Natalya said.

‘Wow!’ Roman said again.

‘It certainly sets me up for the day,’ Natalya said before wiping her cappuccino pencil mustache from her comely lips.

Roman looked at the mug, then the table and chairs and then around the coffee shop. He was sure all the colours were brighter and bolder after he’d drunk the coffee. He shook his head wildly trying to get back closer to his pre-coffee normalcy.


Suddenly cold he stopped and surveyed his surroundings. He was near the crest of a low hill a few hundred metres from a large stand of silver birch. The wind was blowing with a cutting bite through his face and he could smell salt. Visibility was poor but he knew he was near the sea.
His mouth was full of the taste of stewed coffee.

‘What’s wrong?’

Roman looked up and saw two men staring at him dressed in camouflage fatigues and loaded down under their own personal arsenals.

‘You okay, Roman?’ said one of the soldiers. ‘Look like you’ve seen a ghost.’

Roman felt he was in a realistic dream as he licked the salt off his lips. He tried to think what he’d drunk and eaten the night before.

He looked down and saw a tin can with coffee in his right hand. In his left he had a gun and he realised he was wearing the same gear as the two soldiers.

The coffee shop had been real. He was sure. It was tangible, solid, bright and bold. His beloved Natalya was there looking as hot as his coffee was. And the coffee, well that was as real as anything could be.

Yet here he was standing in a fox hole on a hill somewhere holding some lethal coffee cocktail in one hand and a weapon in the other. This was real as well.

He couldn’t work out which was reality, which the dream, and his breathing started to get heavy. He felt himself gasp for breathe and he dropped the tin spilling its silty contents by his soiled boots.

He could feel the concern of the two soldiers as they looked on helpless. His breathing went from quick pants to sudden stops and his vision blurred. He hoped the soldiers would fade into memory and the coffee shop would return, but as his vision failed him the cold freezing his hands told him otherwise.

‘He’s opening his eyes,’ said one of the soldiers.

‘I think you’ve had a panic attack,’ said the other.

Roman tried to sit up and felt bruised from a fall. He looked past the soldiers and saw the birch. This hill must be the reality. Surely. He couldn’t remember a thing since the coffee shop though.

‘Where am I?’ Roman said forlornly.


DSCF0404_1



Comments

Writing on the Wall 2014

It's time for Merseyside's great Writing on the Wall (WoW") Festival. I've managed to get on the Long List for the last two years. Can I make it three in a row? Or even make it to the Short List this time? Umm, not sure about that. Two years ago the theme was the End of the World (full on Mayan prophecy time), last year the theme was Horror. And this year? Well, possibly a combination of the two with the anniversary of the First World War being commemorated everywhere it's "Flash on the Front Line".

You can put a maximum of three stories (of c.500 words maximum) in for the competition - although only one per person can get on the Long List.

Red Flash
I've done two so far and will probably do a third. Will put them on here as well as the WoW website - largely because their site doesn't allow italics or bold - which doesn't help at least one of my stories ("Dig").

Watch this space. Or better still, get writing and put something out there.
Comments