War Games

errrr basically lads and ladettes, this is a school thing where i had to interpret dulce et decorum est (wilfred owens war poem, safe?) as a short story, but i fort daaaayum girl we could make this HAPPEN. here it is then hap'nin'. i know that the title is absolute filth but i'll change it yo.

A grubby face, smeared with grime but awake, alert. A pair of eyes, screwed up to shield them from the sun, scanning the street for hostile movement. But the enemy are nowhere to be seen; an elegant lady’s tapping along the close, pushing a pram before her navy blue court shoes. A cat navigating a narrow brick wall.

The boy blinks behind his round, wire-rimmed spectacles. He is unsure, thrown by the altered course of events, a little lost sailboat bobbing in unchartered waters.

He surveys his weapons, ranged before him like sacrificial offerings: a stick, found on an unauthorised expedition to the woods a week ago, three good size stones- but not too big, because if someone gets hurt and he has to call a parent the game’s over.

Especially if there’s blood.

He takes a moment to prepare; is it possible to carry everything at once? His pockets are big enough for one stone each, plus one in his hand and the stick.

He peers round the chrome bumper of a motor-car, careful not to touch the scalding metal that has spent hours baking in the summer sun, and still there is nothing to be seen: the road is quiet, not a whisper of wind disturbs the unearthly silence.

And so it is time, time for the stubby-limbed soldier with grazed elbows and dirty fingernails to creep from safe haven into enemy lands.

Placing his feet slowly and deliberately, he treads carefully, gazing round with exaggerated twists of the neck, arching his back and pointing his toes in a parody of stealth.

As soon as he abandons his post, stirrings. From behind a fence, amongst the wildest grasses on the street, from doorways, they advance on him; slow, sinister, each with their sticks and stones to break his bones. Boys and even some girls, gappy teeth and mops of straggly, home-cut hair that frame glittering eyes and freckle-splattered snub noses


He knows he is surrounded, he acknowledges it with a lazy grin, but stays true to last summer’s oath of nobility and courage; with a whoop and a yell he plunges into action. Waving his stick and hollering, the gang answers with war cries and shrieks of their own, and the calm street erupts into violence: the clatter of sticks mingles with the rattle of stone missiles clattering away from their targets and the shouts and cries of a battlefield. Friend turns on friend in the tumult, that morning’s hosts of sophisticated soirées and tea parties now vicious warriors swiping at one another’s flushed pink faces.

But someone somewhere had gone too far, one strangled yell echoes louder, jarring with the notes of laughter. This cry is threaded through with pain, and alarm, and fear.

As the stomping, battling children fall still, some still brandishing weapons, mid-strike, as in a tableaux of child’s play, someone still is yelling out and stumbling, wailing and screaming and pointing in horror at the ground. Pointing in horror at the only figure on the tarmac that has not lain still for a second before leaping to its feet. Pointing in horror at the girl who has not got up again.

Most of them know not to hang around, they know this is more than a clip-round-the-ear’s worth of trouble. They scatter, and he is alone once more, alone with the girl who has not got up again.

He edges closer, not, as before, creeping with pinched fingers like a cartoon villain, but shuffling, uncertain. Sticking straight out of the girl’s chest, at a right-angle to her prostrate form is a long, sturdy stick.

The angle of the stick forces her to arch her spine for comfort, but by the way she is scrabbling at her shoulder with one hand, desperately stretching to reach behind her, he knows that the stick has pierced her shoulder through, and that if he should look he would see the blunt, splintered end of a stolen tree branch poking through her thin shirt.

Blood has already begun to seep from the wound, like treacle dribbling onto the tarmac, like water spreading through her clothes.

He is close enough now for his lengthening shadow to fall across her. Her eyes are flicking between the stick protruding grotesquely from her chest to his own face, tears leaking from beneath the lids with every blink, and he cannot bear to look at her. He averts his gaze, but the sight of her feet scratching the tarmac as she tries to get up turns his stomach. His eyes catch sight of her twisting, wringing hands, coated in red smears which she transfers to her clothes, her arms, her face, her grip slipping and sliding in panic as she tries to grasp the stick and pull herself free.

He does not know her name, but he knows she is younger than he is. He does not know what dying people look like, but he knows that he has never heard a human make the guttering, choking sound she is making. He does not know that he will hear that sound again and again forever.

So he turns his back on her. And he runs.

The End

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