Danger in the Dark

Judge’s Comments – WINNER

This is nicely descriptive – I particularly liked the mention of the creaks as the women settled down in their beds, and the silence of them all besides this creates a quite a vivid atmospheric. I liked the flash of bravery and determination of the character of Anne Corley as she keeps her diary. I think we’d all like to believe we’d be that brave in similar circumstances! There could perhaps be an interesting follow up where Anne gets caught?

Danger in the Dark

By Millie Logue

The dank room seemed to stretch for yards as Matron ordered the workhouse women inside. Low, iron-framed beds lined the walls. Each hand clutched a candelabra; the wax dripped down the metal structure. While stood stoically at the end of their beds, Matron paced the room, the austerity on her face daring them to breathe.

“Lights are to be extinguished immediately. If I see so much as an ember in this room, all shall go without dinner.” They all knew that this was no empty threat; it would be acted on without hesitation.

“Do you understand?”

“Yes, Matron.” The muttered chant echoed simultaneously.

Standing by the doors, Matron oversaw as they settled onto the mattresses, the creaks the only thing disrupting the silence. With one final glare, Matron glided from the room – locking them in – at exactly eight.

Every candle was killed. Every candle, that is, except one. A minute glow continued from the back of the room. Anne Corley, a lowly pauper girl, retrieved the parchment, dip pen and inkwell she managed to sneak in upon her admittance.

The light emitting from the candle only offered little assistance to her sight, but she would clutch at every beam offered by the dying wick. For just shy of a month, Anne had been keeping a journal of her times in the workhouse, hoping that when they were re-read, she would be free of the building’s clutches.

She positioned herself as comfortably as possible and began to scrawl in her messy cursive:

October 20th, 1852

A broth was served at dinner, cold, but I suppose that was to be expected, especially by now. After two months of vigorous labour, I should be accustomed to this place’s disturbing ways. I spent the day in the kitchens, making meat puddings for the cook to serve at lunch. Three hours down there had my fingers numb from kneading.
Due to my lack of cleanliness on Wednesday last, Matron decided to place me in solitary confinement for three fretful days. I was deprived of food and the little warmth I am usually allowed! I must say that this is a most concerning issue, and if I didn’t have my wits about me, I’d have sent a letter to the Master of this institution, demanding something be done about this cruelty.
I hope to return to you with happier news,
Until then I bid farewell.

Footsteps pierced her writing trance as she signed her initials. Scrabbling to stuff the equipment away, she blew out the candle {to clear any evidence that she was awake}, lay down and drew the thin sheet over her body just as the door swung open…

She had narrowly escaped.

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