Saturday, 6 December 2014
This is a short story I wrote for a flash fiction competition at Watford Writers. It was my first evening at the writing group and my first entry. I was very proud my story was voted into second place.
A Jolly Good Catch
We’d always thought of Edmunds as a good catcher and usually we applauded him for it.
It was a good thing until that night. A good chap to have fielding on the rutted, makeshift pitches we used for battalion cricket matches. He could catch any ball that came at him, however fast. He’d always manage to wrap his fingers around it and throw it back in one rapid, seamless movement.
That night was bitterly cold. There was an iron frost and the sky was full with the cold sparkle of stars. The half moon threw shadows over No Man’s Land, turning shell holes into pits of stygian hell. Moonlight glinted off the rifles and bayonets of the dead, strewn like random, broken puppets across the frozen mud.
We huddled on the fire step waiting for a German raid. The frigid air carried every sound we made, so each cough, foot stamp and curse must have carried to the German lines.
All we could hear was crackling frost, distant shelling and a machine gun chattering down the line. Every time a Very light briefly lit up the dark night we expected to see the raiding party creeping towards our wire.
We were so lost in our waiting that at first we paid little heed to the dark object that flew with a faint hissing noise over the parapet.
Edmunds, acting on his famous reflex, stuck out a hand and caught it.
‘Jolly good catch,’ cried one of the men as another Very light lit up the sky.
Edmunds looked down and seemed confused by what he’d caught.
‘Throw the bloody thing back over the wire.’ I screamed before scrambling to get as far away from him as possible.
But Edmunds didn’t move. His usual faultless follow-through was gone.
The thing went off. Ears ringing, I turned to see Edmunds explode into a human fire ball. I saw his lips move, but could hear nothing over the roar of the flames. His catch had probably saved us, but the price he paid was a hideous death by fire.