Write Stuff Guernsey Literary Festival

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Highly commended

Am I really free?

By Oliver Connolly
Year 10+, Elizabeth College

The ripples in his tea hit the walls of his mug, and bounce off. The ripples are caused by the shaking of his hand, as he fights to bring it to his lips. Some tea spills over the edge and paves its way down the bulldog on the face of the mug. His lips feel the cool touch of the ceramic and his mouth fills with the hot liquid. The spilt tea drips off his mug and lands painfully on his leg.

He cries out, and collapses to the ground. A wildfire of pain races through his body as his body hits the mud. He senses the presence of a man next to him; ‘He’s been hit, medic!’ The man disappears. Now, he closes his eyes - the pain is unbearable. He feels the presence of another man next to him now, hands on his arm, gently shaking him.

‘Harold, Harold. It’s okay, you’re safe here’. He opens his eyes to see a fireplace, the flames dancing around the wood. ‘Can you hear me?’, he looks over and sees a carer by his side.

‘Yes, dear. I’m alright.'

‘Can I get you anything’.

‘No, I’m quite alright’. She moves off toward the doorway, looking back just before she exits. Upon inspection of his lap he sees his mug sat in his hands, luckily still half full of tea. The distant groaning of a jet gets his attention.

He faintly sees the silhouette of a fighter overhead. He screams and screams, the searing pain in his leg wetting his cheek with emasculating tears.

He wakes up again in his chair. Pushing forward the lever on the arm, he moves forward. He can see the flickering flames again, now in the shiny metal of his limb.

Listen to the story read by Andy Hislop

Guernsey Literary Festival · Am I Really Free?

Judge’s comments - Onjali Rauf

A surprising and intriguing short tale which leaves the reader asking so many questions and truly feeling the vulnerability and frustrations of pain, disability and even perhaps, the futility of war. The image of the tea cup being held by one who is struggling and proud, yet broken on so many levels, is beautifully conveyed.
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