The Darkest Day

Judge’s Comments – WINNER

There were a lot of wonderful images throughout this story that did a very good job of building the atmosphere. I particularly liked ‘The atmosphere was hollow, bare; the looming workhouse walls welcomed desolation,’ which I thought was a great line. I also liked the way the author described his character as being ‘hurled into the jaws of the workhouse’. The image of the institution as a literal monster is very clever. I also loved the cliff-hanger and want to know more!

The Darkest Day

By Matthew Porter

As the frigid evening breeze came swarming into the workhouse, Rose found herself in a snaking line of scruffy girls, doing the laundry. The atmosphere was hollow, bare; the looming workhouse walls welcomed desolation. She gazed longingly at the thick trousers and ivory shirts – proper shirts – that she was hurling into the laundry bag. Then Rose noticed something: a grubby hand stain on the girl beside her’s fresh laundry. She gaped at it. Returning to her work, she couldn’t help feeling a spark of sorrow for the girl.

Late that night Rose heard footsteps, echoing throughout the lonely rooms of sleeping children. Dum… Dum! Closer. Dum… Dum!

“Jane Tier, come!” the Master boomed, his voice seeping into their ears like venom. Slowly, silently, a girl stood up.

“You stained my best clothes, girl,” he spat, dragging her away.

Hearing the whip lashing at the girl, Rose felt a whip inside her. It never stopped. With every blow, nausea swirled in her stomach. She was ill. Tears trickling down her face, her eyes flickered shut.

Rose dreamed. She dreamed of her mother. Alive. Walking. Holding her hands out welcomingly like she would when they would meet again. If they would meet again. Rose desperately wanted to see her, dive into her open arms. She wished she could’ve stayed with her mother in the first place. She would still be cold, hungry, and unhealthy, but she would be loved, treasured like the largest pearl ever found. Instead, she was hurled into the jaws of the workhouse, forever watched over by the towering ceiling, forever forced to eat the watery mush that quickly dissolved in their mouths. She couldn’t stand it any longer.

As the moon leapt onto the wispy clouds, a silver eye peering upon the world, Rose waited for heavy breathing to fill the room. Everything seemed to stop: the wind held its breath; the world was waiting for the escape to begin.

Sitting up with a jolt, Rose thought. How would she do it? Could she dig herself out? The questions pranced around in her head.

Then, like it was guilty for all its crimes, the whip lay before her, beckoning to help, and a plan formed in her mind. Grasping the whip, she frantically searched for a window. The room was home to only one; it would have to do. It was ugly, coated in a fine layer of dust with a frame that had long ago lost its lustre. She whipped it. Again. Again. It remained robust. Bones aching, the menacing sea of nausea grew. Rose fell, and let go of the whip. Her breathing stopped…

and a ghostly figure of her mother walked up to her.

Return to Workhouse Voices Creative Writing