She slumped in her seat, uncomfortable and bored with what felt like hours trapped in the small hire car, trapped within its thin metal frame with her parents.  Her eyes stared unseeing into the passing countryside, trees, hedges, houses, farms.  Nothing seemed to change.  She had earphones in, discouraging conversation further if the look on her face wouldn’t.

She was crushed into the wagon, the stale smell of too many bodies in too small a space and then slowly the wretched stink of other, worse human odours.  Bodies jostled against each other, total strangers often as the wagons jolted over the tracks.  It was dark in the confines of the wagon and no-one said anything.  She fought to keep her balance and keep her emotions in check.

This wasn’t the holiday she had been counting on, a special summer treat now she was sixteen, an important pilgrimage.  So her parents said.  It was boring, it sucked and she’d rather be on the beach.  They were tense in the front seats, they’d stopped trying to make small talk ages ago.  She couldn’t see what the fuss was about.

She’d just turn sixteen, she thought how in another life in another place that she’d still be at school.  There hadn’t been any school for a long time.  And now the day had finally come and she was here, travelling possibly the same route that her father and her older brothers had in previous years.  They’d had no word from any of them, a thought that made her heart run raw.  Now it was her turn, her mother by her side now.  She reached for her mother’s hand.  She didn’t want to know what the future held.  The wagons were slowing and soon this sorry mass of humanity would be herded forward.

The car pulled up.  She thought about staying put but her parents’ faces allowed for no argument.  She huffed and flounced out of the car, throwing her hood over her head, it came down low over her eyes.  Her father rolled his eyes but they walked forward together.  They came to the gate.  She looked up sharply, pulling the plugs from her ears and making her hood fall back.

Arbeit macht frei.

As the shadow of the gate passed over her, her life changed forever.  Nothing could ever be the same again.

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood


This week’s challenge was to take our characters on an actual journey in 300 words or less.  Naturally I’m over the word count again!


40 thoughts on “Journeys

Add yours

  1. After a second read, I was better able to pull apart the two stprylines to see how they interwove–and that they were, in fact, two separate storylines.

    The issue isn’t the writing, both stories are well done, I think formatting needs to be addressed to give the reader a clue that the voice/perspective/environment is shifting, especially in such a short piece.

  2. I liked this a lot. I’d love to read it in a more expanded form-I feel like there’s holes (but I’m sure it’s from the limit of the word count :-) I enjoyed it very much-thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for your positive comment, I did struggle with the word count and went over (quite) a bit. I’ll have to see about expanding it, a little bit scared by the idea. Many thanks. :)

  3. I enjoyed reading it, because the writing was so well done, though I was confused. Now I understand a little more what is happening, and I like the idea of it. I think it might work a little better in a longer piece, where the different scenes could be even more clearly set. You could also differentiate with italics or something like that.

  4. The writing is so strong, but I admit I was a little confused reading the first time around. I think the parallel story lines are a fantastic approach but would work better in a longer format where the distinctions could be more clear. Very powerful stuff though.

  5. I loved the way you revealed the place without ever saying where you were. I thought we were talking about the holocaust with the jostling bodies. And with the phrase “made her heart run raw”. And then I knew when you ended with “Arbeit macht frei”.

    I also liked how the teenager was concealing her own discomfort from herself with boredom and attitude and then how it all fell away with her hood.

  6. I loved the two parallel stories here-the intertwined stories of the sixteen year old in the car and the sixteen year old in the wagon was brilliant, and this would make an awesome longer piece too. Really original!

  7. I was a bit confused at first but after reading the comments and re-reading the story, I got it. And really enjoyed it. The 300 word limit probably had a part to play in the confusion. But I want to read the rest of their story and that’s always a good thing!

  8. Yeah I think their does need to be some difference between the two story lines because that was way confusing. Other then that I loved it. I;d like to read more for clarification.

  9. The ending really packed a punch, but like everyone, I had to read it twice to “get it”. You did a great job of describing what it must have been like in the train cars on the trip.

  10. Ok, I was confused at first too, but now that I’ve read through the comments, I totally get it. And I think any confusion can be easily cleared up when you’re out from under the 300 word limit.

    Aside from that, this is great. I’m totally intrigued and want to know more. This sentence in particular really grabbed me : ” … sorry mass of humanity would be herded forward.”

  11. Having read the story twice, and the comments, now I completely understand the journey. What an awe striking story indeed, especially the ending. It is a bit confusing to read, though, and you may want to take that into thought and clear it up some for easier reading. Until I read your explanations, I had no idea it was 2 different stories weaved together. I’m not exactly sure how you would do this, but it’s a beautiful story all the same. I want to know much more about this family and what they’ve been through.

  12. This is really powerful! Good stuff! My only suggestion would be to differentiate between the two story lines by emphasizing one with italic or some other characteristic. Of course, you may have been keeping them the same on purpose to unsettle the reader, in which case, well done and ignore my comment. ;-)

  13. Carrie leaves great comments.

    Sometimes the words limts deprive us of seeing the story take shape. I suck at writing flashbacks and present changes but love reading them. I bet with another 300 words, this story would be clearer to most.

    I like your style. I want to read more and more.

  14. I’m totally intrigued. Where in the world is she going? You definitely left me wanting more. One small discrepancy, you mention that she is traveling the same route as her father and brothers and that there has been no word from them. Yet she is in the car with her parents? Just uncertain if I am missing something. Otherwise, you totally caught my attention.

    1. Sorry if it’s a little confusing to follow, it is in fact two parallel stories both written in the present tense. I’m glad though it caught your attention and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. :)

  15. I found this a bit confusing to follow. Are you bouncing back and forth between the past and present?

    Specifically this: “And now the day had finally come and she was here, travelling possibly the same route that her father and her older brothers had in previous years. They’d had no word from any of them, a thought that made her heart run raw.” I makes me think her father is gone but at the very end you make a mention of her standing in front of the gates with her parents.

    If I understand the meaning (it appears to be a piece involving the Nazis) then this could be a very powerful and emotional scene.

I'd love to know what you think, concrit is especially welcomed on fiction pieces. Thank you.

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