The Train

1st in the 'Write Along 2018' competition

Stepping into the train, I took a longing look at the flowers scattered among the snow-covered ground, the pines swaying rigidly in the wind and the people who rushed past, covering their heads with hands, bags, clothing and all sorts of garments to shelter them from the wild snow.
I sensed a need for me there. I felt a tingle, a whisper, a tug that was too familiar.
The train’s carriages clung to each other in a quiet desperation and despite not moving at all, the train creaked eerily in the chilling winter wind. I did not have to fear, I could not feel fear. As I passed three empty carriages, I checked the clock outside. Three minutes until departure. I gently travelled towards the front of the train, looking for the source of that tugging sensation.
I soon realised that the train carried only one passenger, an old and bony man occupied by a thin sheet of newspaper which looked fragile, crinkling at every touch and previously used as the edges began to fray. The man wore a tattered grey coat and a droopy brown beanie, his silver hair stuck out in various places and a short beard covered his mouth.
I took a seat opposite him. He could not see me but I could very well see him. I saw his fear, accompanied by a streak of anger; his emptiness, led by so many things he couldn’t comprehend and his deteriorating health, characterised by the tremors in his hands and the odd beating of his heart. If I could feel, I would’ve lowered my gaze and fiddled with my hands solemnly. Instead, I stared at him, reading the tiny expressions on his face, identifying the cause for each wrinkle on his forehead.
The train let out an eerie squeak and deafening honk as it began to move in a painfully slow chug, screeching every few seconds. The man continued to read, his sullen eyes fixated on the midsection of the newspaper. Curiosity led me to sit next to him and acknowledge what he was engaged in.
It was something about a German leader, something about Jews, something about death.
A lone tear left the man’s eye, I reached out to wipe it but it did not work. Of course it didn’t. I just sat next to him. He needed me more than he needed anything else, and I was here. I have chosen him and I was going to stay. As the man drifted into sleep, he covered his head with the newspaper, hiding an identity, he didn’t know that I was there to protect him. I wasn’t going to leave until he’s safe. There’s no need for terror in my presence.
People call me Miracle. But I like to go by the name Mercy. I can’t get to everybody, but the people I do encounter leave behind a legacy, a story, about me. And it’s what I work for, it’s what I work tirelessly for.


23 was established in 1997, and since then we have successfully completed numerous short story and poetry competitions and publications.
We receive an overwhelming positive feedback each year from the teachers, parents and students who have involvement in these competitions and publications, and we will continue to strive to attain this level of excellence with each competition we hold.


Stay informed about the latest competitions, competition winners and latest news!