Monday, 8 November 2010

And The Loser Is...

Last week Nottingham Writers' Club held their Manuscript of the Year evening which I attended for the first time. It sounds grand but it is actually a fun affair where members can take along a piece of prose, written under a pseudonym. The entries are read out by a team of volunteers and then we all vote for our favourite, the votes are counted and the winner is announced. Maximum length is 250 words and this year's theme was 'The Darkness Came'.

The winner was a slightly racy story written from the viewpoint of a woman. It was a big surprise therefore when the big bearded chap sitting next to me revealed himself as the author.

Out of nineteen entries I didn't even make the top three but I know I didn't come last because one piece was disqualified for being a poem. That shows I can at least read the entry rules!

Anyway, as my effort will probably never see the light of day again, I thought I'd show it here:

Cold Steel

They say that if they told you what it would be like you would never go. But no-one could describe this. Not in words nor pictures. This hell-on-earth would stretch the combined imaginations of Brooke, Owen and Sassoon at their most eloquent. Where would they start? The noise? The mud? The threatening sky illuminated by exploding shells? You cannot describe terror. Only experience it.

A lone young soldier, disoriented by the smoke and commotion, is separated from his battalion. Stumbling into a bomb crater he confronts an enemy infantryman in an equally confused state. They both point their rifles but pause with fingers on triggers. He looks into the lad's face. Even younger than himself. Reminds him of his cousin, killed at Passchendaele. He tilts his Lee-Enfield down and fires. A splintering crack, a cry of pain and blood mixes with clay as the lad's knee shatters. The German goes down, dropping his own rifle.

He steps forward and leans over the figure. Not knowing whether the youth can understand he says. “You'll be o.k. Soon be home.”

And then he feels the hot, searing pain. Whoever coined the phrase 'cold steel' has never had a blade pierce his stomach. The last thought he has before sweet oblivion overwhelms him is his sergeant's voice.

“Look out for the bayonet, boys. If it isn't fixed to his rifle it's still on his belt.”

He never made a sound but his eyes cried for his mother. Then the darkness came.


  1. Thank you for sharing that, Keith! I'm amazed it wasn't placed. It isn't easy to get so much into 250 words. I've read it several times now and "He never made a sound but his eyes cried for his mother" gets me every time. Powerful stuff.

  2. I really like that, Keith. And it reminds me of one of my favourite poems (Houseman):
    I did not lose my heart in summer's even,
    When roses to the moonlight burst apart.
    When plumes were underfoot and steel was flying,
    In blood and smoke and flame I lost my heart.
    I lost it to a soldier and a foeman,
    A chap who did not kill me--but he tried,
    Who took the sabre straight and took it striking,
    And laughed, and kissed his hand to me, and died.

  3. Ooh, that sent shivers down my spin - I thought it was really, really good and I agree with Teresa - very surprised you didn't come in the first three. I'd like to have heard the winners. But I did laugh about the big bearded chap writing an erotic story as a woman!

  4. Thanks for your comments, everybody.

    You're right, Teresa. 250 words is pretty tight.

    Thanks for the poem, Frances. Not familiar with that one. I shall print it out.

    Thanks, Olivia. If the winner puts his up on his blog I shall let you know where you can read it.