The following story was written by a Year 10 student at Brune Park Community School during a creative writing workshop I ran there. I think it’s a deeply impressive piece of writing not only for the vividness of detail but also for how much the writer identifies the importance of passing on tales of remembrance from World War One.
A Ghost Story
by Caitlyn Chetwood
“It was one of my late shifts working as a guard in the gallery. Only the artwork was lit, it was nothing I wasn’t used to, just an average night. The gallery had closed at six and would open again at nine in the morning. My friend Allen had worked six till eight yet had left early as his wife had gone into labour with their first son. Therefore I was needed to work eight till five.
I was looking at a painting of a field. It was beautiful, full of small red flowers, possibly roses or tulips, each individually drawn and painted. It was initialled ‘V.C’ , to whom these initials belong I do not know but there is still a familiar feeling about them.
Suddenly, the lights flickered off. I looked down at my watch and it said eleven o’clock. It was amazing, while I was looking at that painting, three hours had passed. I notice that one painting is still lit. It is a drawing of men in the trenches from world war one.
I hear the dragging of shoes behind me and turn. In the shadow, I see a figure of a young man, no older than fifteen. He has a disfigured and shredded face, barely looking human. His teeth and jaw bone showing through his right cheek, teeth were missing, some were yellow and some were black. The few wisps of hair that were viewable seemed mousy brown, dirty and flat. His eyes lost of a soul, no light, no hope as if he sees no good in this world anymore.
Staring into his eyes, I see his final scene. He was climbing over the top and began running as fast and as far towards the enemy as he could get. Yet there is only so far a young boy of his age could go without needing to catch his breath.
He stopped … yet in those few seconds he forgot where he was, he forgot to keep low and out of sight. Rounds were fired, catching and ripping at his stomach. One ripped away his cheek on the right side. His fatal blow was a shot to the heart… he froze, fell to his knees, realizing this was his final scene. Just before his sight died there was a small wave of white, cheers from one side and silence from the other, yet no shots were fired from that point on. The memory fades and I see the ghost once more.
I realize he is still wearing his uniform of damp brown, not damp with water but damp with blood causing it to stick to his body. The hole in his clothing and chest, the trench coat to large for someone so young, his boots are torn and falling apart. He holds in his right hand the number 8, his first weapon handed to his by his officer, the weapon he fought and died with.
He approaches closer. I notice he’s quiet. The only noise is one of his boots dragging, the same noise I heard the first time the ghost appeared. The poor young boy is slouched with nothing but sadness in his movement, slow and carelessly walking, blood still flowing out of his chest.
He grabs my wrist, not violently but softly, almost like a plea for the peace he never lived in. It makes you feel cold and lose all happiness, almost making you feel how he felt and feels, lost and alone. He tightened his grip around my wrist slightly, tears in his eyes yet not crying, making me feel like he was begging for my help. I stood there crying out “Im sorry but I can’t change anything, im sorry your dead and that you lost your time.” His grip loosened and eventually dropped.
He yet again came closer. His breath was even colder than his touch. It smelt of blood and metal as well as the mouldy bread with maggots in that he ate before his death. His breath was damp with the tears he had cried in that battle and was shallow from the effort he put in his last run on the earth and soil he fought and lived on.
He spoke… his voice was no more than a whisper saying “just make sure the past does not repeat itself or you will lose all that’s dear to you, family, friends…” He paused and looked in his left hand. Enclosed was a necklace with only one charm, a gold heart. Inside was a picture of a young girl, “… and loved ones” tears strolled from his eyes “I loved her and because of that war … I lost her!”
The clock struck eleven thirty. He only spoke once more and he said “Do not let the past repeat itself.” To which I said “I will do all I can to prevent it”. With that he left, fading before my eyes. The lights came back on.
The night continued as normal from then on and I swore to myself I’d stick by my word. I would do my best to prevent the past from repeating itself ever again.
So, my dear boy, this was the story of the young soldier and sadly, George, the tale is true and your father will say the same, because as his father I have passed it down so future generations of our family will give the warning the young boy gave to me and I do my best to stop what may start again.” So the grandfather finished telling the tale of the young boy to his grandson George. The young boy said to the grandfather “Granddad did you ever find out who V.C stood for?”
The granddad replied saying “Yes, I did. It stood for Victoria Cresent who I went to go see. She was one hundred and three years old. I spoke to her about the drawing. It turns out she had painted it for her lover who went to war and never came back. The flowers were actually poppies. She asked why I was so interested and I told her and you’ll never guess what?”
George replied “what??”
“That lady’s love was the same boy I met that night and her knowing he’s never let go of that necklace left her at peace. It was as if she lived only long enough to hear of him once more, so she passed away happy and dreaming of him.”
The grandfather would never get to tell that story again yet in many ways he would as George passed it on to his son and that son passed it on to his and so life went on forever with the tale of the young boy being told.