Flash Fiction story number 9 in my 100 story series. There’s no particular order to the stories I’m posting other than their eventual place in the full collection later in the year.
I Managed to keep this one at a shade over 500 words (511). It’s a theme that’s been explored in other stories (and films) but I’ve tried to give it a new slant here. Hope it brings you a smile …
The world was in a mess, no doubt about it. People were reluctant to turn on the TV for fear of another of the almost hourly newsflashes popping up, informing the public about the latest terrorist outrage or of yet another pre-teen shooting half his classmates with a high-powered rifle. And on those rare days when no such atrocities took place, the regular news would be giving us the latest statistics on climate change, air pollution, and the imminent collapse of the economy.
A lot of people though had stopped worrying or even caring, convinced that it was only a matter of time before one of the bickering world leaders took umbrage at the latest social media insult and irradiated us all in a giant mushroom cloud.
Such fears weren’t helped by reports that the eastern dictator, Ting Wee Dong, had scheduled another nuclear test, the exact time and date to be kept secret. And just to show the West wasn’t to be outdone, the western dictator Donald Blair Bush had tweeted to the world that he too had ordered a nuclear test of the biggest and baddest bomb ever made, the exact time and date to be kept secret.
“I told you before, I want you to stop playing that game,” a mother was telling her son.
“But …” the young boy started to protest.
“No buts. I told you, it’s way too violent. The makers have allowed far too many psychopathic characters and guns and bombs and all sorts to spoil it.”
“But it’s at a really good bit now. Can’t I just play a little longer?”
“Why don’t you start a new game, one where people aren’t getting killed all the time?”
“Cos this one’s more fun. But I probably will start another one soon; this one keeps crashing every time the two sides start fighting or blow something up.”
At precisely 12 noon GMT the next day, the two most destructive weapons of mass destruction ever conceived were exploded simultaneously on opposite sides of the world. The earth literally shook. The combined blast of the two bombs had knocked it several degrees of its axis, along with opening up a ten mile crack in the earth’s crust that was getting longer with each passing hour. It had also done something to the magnetic core, causing our planet to stop spinning. To put it bluntly, we were all well and truly fucked!
“Are you still playing that game?” The mother called to her son.
“I was, but it’s crashed again. It’s stopped working all together now. I’m going to erase it and start again like you said …”
A trillion light years away in a different dimension where a million years was as a second to the beings who inhabited that place, a little boy and his mother had lost patience with us …
The lights went out, and our world ceased to exist …
A flash of light and a Big Bang … hopefully, we would do better this time around?
I Remember …
I’d lost track of how long the fighting had been going on. The noise and carnage all around made the passage of time meaningless, our only clue to its passing being the sky getting darker or lighter with the setting or rising of the sun, though fire and smoke from the bombardments often made a lie even of that.
Another deafening blast from an exploding Jack Johnson artillery shell sent us all scrambling for the nearest slit trenches, diving headlong in regardless of the presence of however many others might already be taking shelter. Bodies heaped on bodies, complaints and groans of yet another landing atop those already there. But no one complained too loudly. And why would they? Another layer of flesh and battledress provided added protection from the countless flying shards of torn metal from the discarded guns and tanks strewn about the battlefield. And even away from the abandoned weaponry, the landing of each additional artillery shell would hurl deadly stake-sized splinters from the shattered wooden fencing that dotted the national borders of the blood-soaked mud and ground for which we were dying, mostly to clutch a few more feet from the enemy. And though the trenches provided some physical protection, they were useless against the billowing black smoke from the shells and even less so from the stomach retching effects of the dreaded gas attacks. The one followed the other as surely as thunder followed lightning, the first to completely confuse and frighten us, making the donning of gas masks all the more difficult after the second.
“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” A voice was asking. I couldn’t make out the exact words; the noise all around was way too loud.
“I’m okay; really I am. See to the others,” I answered weakly, not knowing to who I was talking, or indeed if I really was ‘okay.’
I continued to huddle in the little area of space I had found for myself.
“It’s okay, Granddad, it was the local kids letting off some bangers and fireworks,” I finally heard a familiar voice telling me. It was Patrick, my 15-year-old grandson. I became aware of him taking my arm, helping me rise to my feet from the doorway in which I’d crouched to take shelter.
“Children? Fireworks?” I questioned, still a little dazed and confused.
“Yes. They were playing at being soldiers, pretending the fireworks were the sound of bombs and artillery fire.”
I nodded. Yes, it was making sense now, though I admit it takes me a little longer to grasp things these days. My mind isn’t as sharp as it once was, but my memory sadly is in this case.
It was coming back to me now. All that was a long time ago, November 1915.
It was still November but the year was different now, 1985 I think.
It wasn’t just the children, it was the people too. Some of them like to start their celebrations a day or two early to coincide with the weekend, Patrick was explaining to me. He’s a nice lad, kind to me, you know.
His gentle patience was helping me to remember and understand. Yes. It was the same last year, and every year as far back as I can remember.
It was Bonfire Night …
A poignant and well-crafted emotional thriller,
…and another well deserved five stars…
Touching The Wire by Rebecca Bryn is the first book I’ve read by this author, and a first class one at that. Rebecca Bryn is another member of and an active contributor to our Indie Author Fb support group and IASD website, as well as contributing to several other online writing groups. In addition to her current three novels, she has also recently contributed one of her short stories to Ian D. Moor’s You’re Not Alone anthology of short stories by Indie authors from around the world, the proceeds of which are all being donated to Macmillan, a charity that provides help and support to those affected by cancer. She is a UK based writer currently living in St. Davids in South West Wales, along with her husband, a rescue dog, and in her own words, twenty very talented sheep….
Click on thumbnails for website and Amazon links to the above:
Further links to Rebecca Bryn’s writing can be found at:
Note: As you will see from the following review I’ve prefaced it with the author’s own Amazon blurb; it’s often a dilemma as to how much plot detail to include in a review without giving too much away or simply repeating what the author has already said. In the case of an Amazon review, not to include such detail doesn’t present a problem generally as anyone reading the reviews are already likely to have read the the said blurb, but with a blog review it’s likely this will be the first time the reader has even heard of the featured book hence my inclusion of the blurb here…
“He had no way to tell her he had given her life: no right to tell her to abandon hope.”
A story of every man and woman interred in Nazi death camps throughout the Second World War, this novel is based on real events.
Part One – In the Shadow of the Wolf
In a death camp in 1940’s Poland, a young doctor and one of his nurses struggle to save lives and relieve the suffering of hundreds of women. As their relationship blossoms, amid the death and deprivation, they join the camp resistance and, despite the danger of betrayal, he steals damning evidence of war-crimes. Afraid of repercussions, and for the sake of his post-war family, he hides the evidence but hard truths and terrible choices haunt him, as does an unkept promise to his lost love.
Part Two – Though the Heavens should Fall
In present-day England, his granddaughter seeks to answer the questions posed by her grandfather’s enigmatic carving. Her own relationship in tatters, she meets a modern historian who, intrigued by the carving, agrees to help her discover its purpose. As her grandfather’s past seeps into the present, she betrays the man she loves and is forced to confront her own guilt in order to be able to forgive the unforgivable and keep her grandfather’s promise.
“A young woman bent to retrieve her possessions. An SS officer strode past. ‘Leave. Luggage afterwards.’
She stood wide-eyed like a startled deer, one arm cradling a baby. Beside her an elderly woman clutched a battered suitcase. The girl’s eyes darted from soldier to painted signboard and back. ‘What are we doing here, grandmother? Why have they brought us here?’
The wind teased at her cheerful red shawl, revealing and lifting long black hair. She straightened and attempted a smile. ‘It’ll be all right, Grandmother. God has protected us on our journey.’
Voices rasped, whips cracked, dogs barked… An SS officer pushed towards a woman of about fifty. ‘How old?’ She didn’t respond so the officer shouted.
He edged closer. As a doctor he held a privileged postion, but he’d also discovered he had a gift for languages. He translated the German to stilted Hungarian, adding quietly. ‘Say you’re under forty-five. Say you are well. Stand here with the younger women.’ He moved from woman to woman, intercepting those he could.‘Say you are well. Say your daughter is sixteen. Say you can work or have a skill. Say you aren’t pregnant.’
Miriam’s eyes glistened. ‘May He rescue us from every foe.’ She touched her grandmother’s cheek, a gentle lingering movement, and placed a tender kiss on her baby’s forehead. She moved to stand where he pointed.
Miriam’s eyes met his. He had no way to tell her had given her life: no right to tell her to abandon hope. ‘Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.’ “
Words readers have used to describe this story – ‘astonishing – compelling – relentlessly engaging – important – complex and brilliant.’ Readers’ feedback, via reviews, is hugely appreciated.
Touching The Wire
By Rebecca Bryn
(Available from Amazon in both eBook & paperback formats)
There are many adjectives I could use in my review of this book: powerful, moving, emotional, heart-breaking, and heart-warming in places to name but a few. It would be easy to say this book is about the holocaust, but in truth that aspect of the book is more of a vehicle and backdrop to the real story – of courage, the struggle to survive against impossible odds, and later in the story, a search for the truth and long buried secrets of the past. The strength and emotion of the writing gives the book a ‘true story’ feel to it, like you’re a witness to a heart rending tragedy unfolding before you and yet behind the fiction there exists the uncomfortable knowledge that such tragedies were all too real at the time. This work of historical fiction is both a thriller and a detective story, as well as one of impossible and enduring love and sacrifice. Imagine yourself as someone whose profession and calling is to do whatever they can to save people’s lives and alleviate their suffering, and then having to witness and be a party to unimaginable cruelty and sadism, to live amongst it every day knowing the slightest overt criticism or resistance to it could mean your instant death; in short, a concentration camp doctor is emotionally torn apart by the horror of his surrounding and work. He does what he can to minimise his patients’ suffering, often having to commit the most appalling acts for a greater good. And then he falls in love with just such a patient. Having to see her suffering makes his position even more intolerable and at the same time, urgent. He promises that the true horror of the concentration camps will one day be known, and from that promise a generations spanning story of cleverly crafted detective work, family secrets, and the horrors of the past emerge.
There are some obvious comparisons with Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark here, i.e. someone working with and for the Nazi regime, doing what he can at great personal risk to help those suffering at its hands but who isn’t without his own flaws and guilt, having at times to make impossible choices that will determine who lives and who dies. The stark imagery and cold reality, and indeed brutality at times, emphasise the horror of the period and place in which much of the story takes place. The author doesn’t try to sensationalise or exaggerate the descriptive elements relating to the concentration camp and the atrocities being committed on a daily basis but simply recounts them as essential elements to the story without venturng into melodrama. The sheer scale of suffering and the numbers involved can often be hard to take in or comprehend, much like the astronomical numbers and distances when considering time and space, but the personal tragedy and individual stories of the characters here does more to bring home the appalling truth of those times than many a factual account ever could.
The blend of German mythology and analogy interwoven into the narrative and those parts of the story told in flashback give the story an added dimention that works well, perfectly in sync with the younger characters and their part in the overall story. I would say also this last element, while not exactly traditional fairy tale stuff itself, does provide the reader a respite from the harrowing reality of past events, and time to pause and consider what they’re reading. The scene transistions betweeen the past and present are skilfully handled and the subtle and occasional use of German dialogue adds to the authenticity of the writing, but without confusing non-German speaking readers given the obvious meaning and context when it is used.
Although a work of fiction this is a well-researched and vivid account of an horrific and shameful period of what many would still consider to be relatively recent or modern history. This isn’t a book that can be read lightly or as pure entertainment despite the intriguing and expertly crafted storyline. I must admit the historical elements, the mythology, and the central character’s past had more impact for me than the present day aspects of the book, but every element of this story was superbly told and related well to all the others. I could easily visualise this book as a major film on a par with the likes of Schindler’s List…
Rebecca Bryn’s Books: Click on thumbnails for Amazon links