Sunday, 23 October 2011

Mammoth Competition - Runner-Up: Dorothy Davies

A big Feardom welcome to author, editor and medium Dorothy Davies. Dorothy is the first of three runners-up in my The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Vol 22. competition with her story Victims of War.

Please read her story and give Dorothy your feedback. This one will touch your very soul.

Victims of War by Dorothy Davies

Do you not think a train whistle is the loneliest sound in the world?

Or is it just that I think so, because I am here on this station – because trains are my life?

Have you not seen them, the young men in khaki, hiding their fear behind gallows humour and stiff upper lip, when you know well they are not old enough to leave home, to face the guns, the foe in all their fierceness to push us out of Europe…

I see the men; I see the light around them. I can tell before they go who will come back missing a limb or even two, for those limbs have no light around them. I could go to them and say ‘don’t go, don’t go, for you will come home legless, armless or wounded in some terrible way. But they would laugh at me and get on the train anyway.

But the real nightmare I live with day after day is the ones I see with no heads, just a skull. Oh yes, I see the ones who will not return and how sad, how heartbreaking sad is it to see them for are they not young and energetic and have much to give to this world?

How many are so shown to me? I cannot say. In a crowd there could be 3 or 4 of them, maybe more. I see the skulls; I turn away for I cannot bear the thought of the loss of the young men.

The draining of the country is how I see it. Those who would work, those who would labour, those who would teach, those who would lead, they are heading for the Front, that mystical ever moving ever dangerous and treacherous Front, where they will come face to face with the enemy, with gunfire, with barbed wire and with every fear there is known to man.

They will come home damaged in body and in mind.

So you see me, a porter here on this station, ushering the young men onto the trains, smart in their uniforms, casual in their humour, dying inside with fear and gut wrenching longing not to be there, someone they ignore completely. I wave my green flag, I blow my whistle, I send the train out of the station to the coast where they will board the ships that will take them into Hell and damnation. For they will return changed beyond belief, beyond recognition, except for those who wear the skulls, who will end up under grass in a foreign land.

Those who boarded those trains are the lucky ones. Those who stayed behind suffered the agonies of being left behind.

I wanted to go. I thought I had to go.

But I looked in the mirror the day I was due to go to the recruiting office, I looked and I saw –

A skull.

And I could not go.

I stay here, with my cowardice. In my own hell.


Bio: Dorothy Davies, writer, editor, medium, resident of the Isle of Wight, fanatical Predictioneer and horror lover.
Dorothy Davies
Author and editor.
Amor Vincit Omnia

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  1. thanks so much for featuring this story, Lily, it's already become one of my favourites. For any new people checking in with comments (I hope!) just a reminder that Google puts me on here as Antonia Woodville, one of my alter egos.

  2. Antonia - I didn't realise that yours was an alter ego. This is an absolutely beautiful piece of writing. It has such a huge amount of emotion in it and really moved me.

  3. thank you, Phil. The story came very quickly but refining it to the requisite 500 words was tough.
    I have several alter egos, this one was chosen some time ago in honour of my medieval hero, Antony Woodville, Lord Scales of Newcelles and the Isle of Wight, 2nd Earl Rivers (Wars of the Roses and all that...) but it was not intended to come up when I logged in on blogs. It just does.

  4. Beautifully written, Dorothy!

    A very moving story of the horrors of war and the 'curse' of being able to see one's own fate.

    Indeed, there is no hell worse than the one of our own construct.

  5. Oops.... clicked the button too soon!

    Congratulations on your anthology entry! Echoing Lily... this truly does touch the soul!

  6. I was so impressed by this story DD/AW ( :) )

    You give us such a feeling of depth with the character in so brief a time. Then, when I got the impression you were bringing this down in a firm anti-war stance, you learn that the whole thing is countered by his secret shame.

    Wonderful, moving stuff.

  7. thank you, Veronica, Chris, it was a moving story to write, compared with the 500 word story I sent to Pill Hill's 366 Daily Frights, which starts something like 'I stood on his doorstep wondering what sort of sight I was, blood streaming from the empty eye sockets...' (it's called 'I Can See You Now' which gives you an indication of the content...) that was pure blood and gore, this was pure emotion.
    It's been accepted for Dark Dispatches, a Static Movement anthology which already has one of my stories in the TOC. The editor said this will follow it. Nice contrast, that story is set in the battle of Barnet in the 15th century.

  8. Great story, Dorothy!

    I love the classic horror atmosphere and it´s a great response to the challenge -- true damnation here!

  9. thank you! It felt good crafting this one.

  10. Fantastic, Dorothy/Antonia.

    I think that's enough said.

  11. Very poignant story Dorothy. I love the way you show so many sides to the devastation of war on a personal level.

    I loved the ending and felt it had an M.R James feel to it, which is a huge bonus for me.

  12. thanks, David, Tony, it means a lot to have compliments from people who consistently write better than I do - or else I would win more often!!!
    I have never read much MR James but perhaps what I have read has influenced me more than I realised. Certainly this story is completely different from the one I wrote a day or so earlier.


Lily Childs is a writer of horror, esoteric, mystery and chilling fiction.

If you see her dancing outside in a thunder storm - don't try to bring her in. She's safe.