First day in a workhouse

Judge’s Comments – Runner-up

I loved the personification of hunger in this story, and the image of it wrapping its arms around the narrator, which is a wonderful, vivid description. I also appreciated the way this story ended on a cliff-hanger. Great building of tension there, and I think Nikitas should write the rest of this story now!

First day in a workhouse

By Nikitas Baltsezak

Hunger was my constant companion – it followed me everywhere till I would eventually fall asleep. Even then I could feel its strokes and breath, wrapping its arms around me. Misery and solitude – my other true friends – I was in a good company and never alone.
It was a typical dismal gloomy morning when I arrived at the Cleveland Street Workhouse with my mother. The scent of rain hung in the air as I watched the sky darken and the colours fade away as the morning arrived. Nestled in the central London, surrounded in gloom and murk, stood our dreary prison, or formally known as the workhouse. 

“Oi, what are you waiting for? Get ‘in!” bellowed the man. Me and ma were bundled in separate ways. They put me in ragged clothes, cut my hair with blunt scissors and gave me a cold shower. I begged pleadingly “Please, can I see my ma?” This remark was ignored so I asked the man once again, “Please, can I see my ma…?”

The man simply retorted, “’Morrow. Now you have school. Ain’t that right, sonny?” I was taken to a big room where I could see thousands and thousands of children lined up in silence with a look of despair and fatigue written over their faces. This was the grand hall. I was served a piece of bread and a bowl of gruel; then I followed the children to an unremarkable classroom. 

The teacher was a cold stern gentleman with a look which could pierce through every child. Swish! Swish! Anyone out of place would be instantly flogged into place by Mr Ogden’s ferocious whip. 

“God is good. God is holy. God is life.”  

I wanted to scream, “No, he ain’t! He ain’t good to me!” But I kept my mouth clamped shut.  

“Write! Write! You lazy worms!”  

A boy next to me was unlucky, he stammered, ”I don’t know how to write, sir.” Horror was depicted on Mr Ogden’s face as he threw the boy a few feet backwards. The wretched boy lay under an avalanche of tables and chairs and the teacher manoeuvred towards him and kept whipping him. 

“Silence, you ungrateful dog!” Then the teacher calmly walked away with a smirk enveloping his face. The withering poor little boy was taken to the infirmary. I would not have liked to be in the excruciating pain the boy was in. From that day and forward I grew to hate the teacher and I vowed I would not make the same mistake the boy did. 

“How are you…?” I whispered when I saw the boy again. All I ever got was a mournful moan of despair… 

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