by Luke S
I was sixteen years old, squashed between two older men and being thrown from side to side by the rough sea that was punching the large boat. I could hear the quiet whimpers of terrified soldiers. An explosion went off in the distance. I knew I was getting closer but I couldn’t see it. The mixed stench of blood, urine and smoke crawled to my nostrils and slithered up them. I gagged and stumbled forwards into a tall trooper before I fell back into the wall yet again. I shouldn’t be here, I thought quietly.
John grabbed my head; it was the same every day. With a powerful shove he smacked it against the wall. I let out a loud groan of pain. “S-stop it John, I’ll tell mother!” I stuttered.
John crouched down to be level with me, still grabbing onto the top of my head, “Haven’t you realised that mother doesn’t care about you, little baby Albert?” He said in a mocking, baby-like tone. My two other brothers behind John, Jeffrey and Ronald, chuckled joyfully at my pain. John then pushed me down onto the grey carpet and kicked my arm. I screamed and then heard a loud shout from my strict mother for being too loud. John smirked, “You see what I mean when I say she doesn’t care about you?”
I stood up and punched John in the stomach, he stumbled back. Looking up at me menacingly, he growled the words, “You’re dead!” All three of them started walking towards me.
I was sitting on my stiff bed in my room, rubbing bruises and tentatively touching my eye that throbbed from the punches that I had received from my brothers the previous day, when, suddenly my door burst open and my tall and skinny mother stood there. She stared at me with the cold eyes that her ghost-like face possessed, “Off the bed! Don’t mess it up! Anyway, your father has been out at a pub since yesterday, find where he is and bring him home.” I hesitated; I was only 6 after all. “NOW!” she screamed. I got up reluctantly and walked across the rough carpet of my room, across the short hallway and down the flight of stairs. I put my black, leather shoes on and began the walk to find my father. Hours passed and I found yet another pub, I opened the door and entered it, crouched down and searched around. To my relief, I saw him, sitting at a table by himself. I sneaked around against the walls and reached him, “Uh-father?” He looked at me, “Mother sent me, she-um-said it’s time to come home.”
One year passed. I was in my room yet again, wriggling into the wrinkled sheets of my bed in my oversized, grey pyjamas I switched off the light. I tried to find a comfortable position. It was no good, the bed was old and overused. There was nowhere comfortable. I put my head to rest on the pillow and slowly drifted off. Suddenly I awoke, petrified. I was unable to move. I tried to turn my head. It didn’t budge. I started to panic. Everything underneath me felt the same. Slowly my eyes adjusted to the gloom; I was still in my room. A figure suddenly appeared out of the corner of my bedroom, it was completely black except for the eyes. They were plain white and emotionless. The figure took a few steps forwards. I tried to shout but nothing happened. It took one pace forwards. Two paces forwards. Three paces forwards. I shut my eyes tight, I couldn’t look anymore. More footsteps could be heard, getting closer and closer by the second. The sound stopped and a new noise began. Breathing, deep, slow breathing. “Albert...” said a rasping voice, “you have been chosen.”
My only thoughts were that I was going to die.
“Join us.” This time many voices spoke, but they were all the same. I opened my eyes reluctantly. Now a dozen cloaked figures stood in three rows of four, the original one at the front of them all, “Join us,” They spoke in sync, “Join us. Join us. Join us. Join us. JOIN US!” I found movement in my fingers. The figures disappeared. I screamed and heard the door of my parent’s room be flung open.
My large father jumped into my room, wearing nothing but a beer-stained white vest and baggy pyjama pants, “WHASS ALL THE RACKET?” he shouted, “WHY YOU BE WAKING ME AND YA MOTHER UP?”
I sat up; sweat dripping from my forehead, “People…in my room…couldn’t move.”
My mother walked into the room now, wearing her purple night-gown. They both looked at me like I was mad.
“What are ya talking ‘bout?” My father growled.
“There were…people in my room and I…couldn’t move…they disappeared.”
My mother walked over to me and slapped me around the back of my head, “Nonsense!”
They both stormed off and slammed the door of the room.
The boat swayed massively and I fell on the ground, dropping my rifle. To my surprise, an older man around twenty-three years old helped me up and picked up my rifle, “You alright, lad?” he asked, handing me the gun. I gripped it firmly with two hands.
The man smiled and looked around. Another explosion went off, nearer than the last. “What is your name, lad?” he asked, the smile gone from his face.
“Uh-Albert.” I responded, a little confused. He looked at me with a serious expression, “When those doors open, you stick with me. Do you understand?”
I was awoken very early by my mother; it was a dark grey school day. I groaned and sat up rubbing sleep from my weary twelve year old eyes, then made my bed as neatly as I could. I trotted downstairs, only to be shouted at for going too slow, and made myself a small bowl of porridge. I sat down at the long, family table of our house. I ate a couple of spoonfuls when I noticed Ronald smirking at me from the other side of the table. What is he so happy about now? I wondered, They haven’t done anything to me yet. Unless- My question was answered when I felt something large grab the back of my head and it was smashed into the bowl of porridge. “You’ll have to be cleaning that up.” I turned around; John was behind me, looking pleased with himself. One shard of the smashed bowl had cut the left side of my forehead, leaving blood trickling down my face.
“Mother!” Jeffery shouted, sniggering a little. “Albert smashed his bowl and it nearly stabbed John!” I stood up. John wiped some of the blood from my forehead and spread it all over his face. My mother came rushing downstairs.
“M-mother!” John pretended to be hurt and limped over to her. “A-albert smashed his bowl on the table for some reason, turned around and punched m-me!”
My mother stared at me, her eyes wide. I knew what was going to happen next.
I stood in a neat line, my male classmates in front of me and behind me. The door to the school opened and our slender teacher stood there, staring us down with her soulless eyes. She walked slowly down the line, inspecting the uniform of each and every one of us, trying to spot the slightest mistake in neatness. She reminded me greatly of my mother. I heard the loud “CRACK!” as she slapped one of my classmates around the back of his head for having his tie slightly out of place. It was my turn for inspection before I knew it. She looked me up and down then at my hair. I could have sworn that I saw a little smirk before she hit me for a strand being stuck up. I gritted my teeth and looked at her with a sense of hatred as she moved onto the last set of students. The gaunt women finished her inspection of everyone then walked back to the front of the line and gave us the signal to go in. We obeyed and stepped through the door one by one before going to our seats. I sat down at my wooden desk and looked to the front of the room at the blackboard. I set my English and laid my maths book inside my desk. She scribbled the date and the word “Test” on the board before underlining them both. “Write these in your books and do it quickly!”
I opened my book to a clear page and wrote down the date and title. Mrs. Chapman looked over us. “As you all know, we are doing are test on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It must take up at least three pages in your book. You may begin.” I dipped my quill into the pot of ink next to me and began the long writing test.
I got up extremely early in the morning and rolled off my bed, walking to the corner of my room, I threw my pyjamas off and crouched down to pick up my clothes and pulled them on me. I silently opened my door and crept past my parent’s bedroom and down the stairs. I grabbed the house keys from behind the curtain at the door and unlocked it. I stepped out of the house and closed the door, locking it. I took one last look at the house before walking away, dropping the keys as I started. Off to war.
The boat came to a sudden stop. I looked at Robert but he wasn’t looking back. Fear took over me, swallowed me in its dark mist. Then it happened; the doors opened and we charged into the entrance of hell. Water now stained red, splashed on my pants, leaking into my boots. I barely knew what was happening. A man on my left side got a bullet through his skull, forcing his brains and blood to drip out the back of his head and bounce in the water. I stumbled onto Gold Beach, (nothing golden about the place, at least not anymore), Robert beside me. I took much needed cover behind a large lump of sand, still thankfully with Robert. I shakily propped my rifle on top of the lump and fired blindly. The stench of blood and dead bodies crept up my nostrils as helpless souls screamed for help, seeping their life’s elixir into the blackened stained sand. Explosions went off everywhere, surrounding me it seemed in every direction. After receiving the nod of approval from Robert, I wearily ducked out from cover, not really daring to put my head up. With one hand, I fired in-front of me, still without looking. Suddenly, a smoke bomb rattled across the coarse sand before coming to a stop at Robert’s feet. It detonated and an ominous grey cloud of death wrapped itself around me like a cobra. I felt like I had plummeted into nothingness. I charged forwards, coughing as I went. Escaping from the deathly jaws of smoke, I looked around for my friend. “ROBERT? ROBERT WHERE ARE YOU? ROBERT!” I knew that I couldn’t stand still so I scurried forwards. An explosion went off close to me; instinctively I threw myself onto the ground before crawling forwards like a dog. I called for Robert one more time, but it was no use. I stood up and darted to my right but the fighting didn’t get better that way at all, I should have stayed at home. I thought, It’s over. I am going to die.
I threw myself on the ground as if I had been shot and lay there, hoping that the fighting would eventually stop. There was a large clanking sound to my right, I turned my head in that direction, completely forgetting that I was pretending to be dead. A shell was on the floor about two metres away from me. I scrambled away like a maniac, getting far enough away before it detonated. I got up again and ran in a completely random direction. My ears felt like they were going to burst. Spinning around frantically, I darted back in the direction where I had lost Robert, “ARE YOU OUT THERE? ROBERT? ROBERT?” I had no idea why I was shouting. My voice was lost in the chaos, It was worthless. I looked in all possible directions that he may have gone and ran in the direction that I thought was the most likely. After a few minutes of running, I found what I was hoping I wouldn’t, “Robert...” I muttered. His mangled body was lying in the dirt, a bullet hole through his throat. “Robert-it’s all my fa- GAH!” I screamed, flopping to the ground as a bullet pierced my shoulder. “HELP! SOMEONE! MEDIC!” My cries were heard as a young medic came over to me and dragged roughly me towards cover. My relief was short-lived and ended when a shell rolled behind the medic’s feet. It caused a short explosion, killing the medic and sending me flying. I landed on the ground and my face lolled to the side into a large flame. My skin caught fire and I screamed the loudest scream I would ever let out. Luckily, there was a small pool of bloodied mud that I smashed my face into, eliminating the fire. I rolled over and muttered, “Help me…” Then I passed out.
Twenty-Six years passed. I was sitting alone, on my armchair in a small dingy apartment, wearing a stained white vest, baggy trousers and holding a bottle of beer. I took a large swig of the mind-numbing nectar. Damn it- I’m just like that wretched father of mine. I’m glad he’s dead. I thought, looking over at the smashed family photo that I’d left on the floor. I gently touched the burns on my face yet again, thinking absently about the beautiful redhead who had glanced my way this morning from under a dimly lit streetlight, probably on her way to work, before I snapped back to the here and now and counted up the money in the two wallets that I had stolen that day. Six pounds- I still didn't have enough to pay my rent though. I looked around the apartment and only then realised what a mess I was. I stood up and walked from the living room and kitchen to the room opposite me. It was part bedroom and part bathroom. I tossed my dirty clothes on the floor and hopped into my tiny grimy shower. I washed all I could and dried myself with a damp towel. I put on my neatest clothes and set out of the apartment, locking the door behind me. I searched the streets for anywhere that I could get a job, stepping over chewing tobacco and cigarettes as I went. People looked at my face in disgust as I walked past but I was learning to ignore their taunts and sneers instead of beating the life out of them. To my great surprise, the redhead from earlier wearing a uniform that resembled that of a manager's stood at the other side of the road and instead of looking repulsed, she smiled at me kindly before crossing the road towards me, “Hello,” she said, “How are you?”