Tommy stepped through puddles of polluted rain, each one reflecting an artificial orange glow. Fleets of cigarette butts sailed the puddles in search of a new world. Under a hedge, a discarded burger box boasted life that had been resident there for months.

He was about to cross the rail bridge, his least favourite place in all of East London. He’d just gone by a memorial laid against a brick wall for a recent killing there. He was reluctant to pass but it was his only way home. He lit a fag and shoved his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket. The rain came down harder now. He bowed his head to stop the streams of filthy water getting into his eyes.

He walked down an alley and saw the entrance of the bridge — a filthy grey tube. The steps were slippery with urine and the air stank of illegal substances. He took one last pull on his cigarette and dropped the butt at his feet. His foot slipped slightly on the first metal step, but regardless, he trudged up the steel staircase in echoing booms. Tommy could feel the not-so-distant child within turning and walking away; it took guts and a willingness to act irrationally to pass the bridge unscathed.

He reached the top and realised he was not alone. He had feared the possibility,  had somehow known someone unsavoury would be there. About four of them — dark figures with hoods and caps over their faces.

They were dark shadows reflecting teachings of hate and murder, glamorised by public view, standing clustered inside the dark tube. Not one of them bore his own personality, just shadows of another shadow. In the darkness shone their blades, silver hate and twisted power flicking around in their fingers.

Tommy turned and walked calmly back toward the stairs. The air was quiet, save the hammering rain on the iron roof. Then he heard the clatter of the gang behind him bursting into a bloodthirsty charge over the iron floor.

He started to run but found himself slamming into the bodies of two more thugs heading him off at the stairs. Adrenaline struck him; it drew his hands from his coat — shortly after it drew the knife.

Tommy’s innocence flew from his pocket in the flash of a blade; it followed the sharpened edge into the body of the boy in front of him. The lifeless body crashed down the stairs and splashed in the rain and fluids; tomorrow that patch of darkness would be martyred as a victim dealt an undeserving death. Tommy had built a wall of flowers, decorated with photographs and love notes for the deceased, though each item hid the dark surface of the bricks behind it.

He bolted down the stairs and leapt onto the rails, cold fear screaming from his lungs as the breath burned his lips. They pursued like beasts, matching his fear-fuelled escape.

If they were to grab him and pull him to the floor they would kill him slowly and painfully. His heart pounded the walls of his chest and he dared a look over his shoulder at the dark figures running at him, their silver knives bobbing in the dark. The iron bridge loomed dark and ominous against the night sky, its silhouetted grey metal shell framing their pursuit. Tommy’s feet pounded hard against the rain-slick railway sleepers, his feet not staying long enough to feel any vibrations running through them.

Briefly his world lit up, the darkness fled and each shadow was exposed to itself. Fearful eyes glared from under wet hoods. The floor screeched and sparked and a wall of light powered through the shadow. The darkness dissipated in seconds, the dark figures disappeared. The train powered on under the bridge, its wheels screeching and roaring, and for one brief moment its lights cleansed the bridge of its clinging shadow.

M.Sherlock is an avid short story writer looking to make a career of writing as soon as possible… but for now he just enjoys writing for the sake of writing.

Rate this story:
 average 0 stars • 0 reader(s) rated this
  • Celeste goschen

    That was a five from me! So evocative, twists and turns beautifully executed. Stunning read.

  • Very powerful, Michael. I particularly liked, “Not one of them bore his own personality, just shadows of another shadow.” Congratulations. 🙂

  • Avis Hickman-Gibb

    Very atmospheric, good action and it kind of gripped…. but too many “he”s embedded and it distracted me, sorry!

    And by the time I got to the end, I wasn’t certain of what had happened, but that might be because I was counting the “he”s.

  • Not too bad until I got to the ending – I have NO IDEA what really happened!! Did Tommy get killed? Or just the bad guys? I couldn’t tell.

    I also had trouble visualizing the setting … on this side of the pond a “railroad bridge” is a bridge with tracks on it, but I think the author was referring to a “pedestrian overpass” across the tracks … right? … took a while to figure that out. Confusing.

  • Avis, Thanks..i agree i could have proofread those a bit better.

    Jim…we call them rail bridges in England…or where i come from anyway. And yeah…some people had trouble in the end…some people didnt. They all get killed basically, but it kind of up to how teh reader wants to read it.

    Thanks for the comments all

  • Hi, Michael. Not everyone can make the transition from being an EDF reader to an EDF writer. (Not many want to, I realise that.) Top marks to you for having the guts to put your writing up here to be commented on. You’ve always been candid in your comments on my stuff, so I’m going to repay the favour. My take is that there’s a great story of fear and paranoia in here but it’s struggling a bit against all the adjectives and beautiful words; I can’t quite hear what it’s got to say. It’s easy to be seduced by language – golly, have I been there! – but I bet you’ll soon find the lure of telling a great story overcomes the temptation to compose lovely sentences. I did like the fact that his own fear is matched by that glimpsed in the eyes of his attackers. The story comes full circle, even if the ending is a bit obscured. I think this is good work, a strong base on which to build.

  • Pingback: EDF DEBUT « M.Sherlock’s Blog()

  • Thank Sarah…Ive been trying to get here for months…but alas im still only a kid…and still learning the ropes….and there are a lot of ropes to learn.

    I think i have some other EDF stories in the slush right now….i cant really remember actually

    However i did put it in teh custom bio but that wasnt used. I would like to thank Gay Degani and Kevin Shamel for the proofreading on this one, they made it happen

  • Hey don’t do yourself down – you got here and that’s a huge achievement. It’s a tough gig and you made it. For a good reason: you’re a good writer. The fact that you want to get better might just be what tips the balance from being good to getting great. Thanks for taking my comments so well – another sign you’ve got what it takes.

  • gay

    Michael I love it. I agree there are some parts that would have benefited from clearer language, some editing of language, but much of it is gorgeously wrought. The overall story itself is compelling. I was drawn in from the beginning, so clear there as to what his emotions were. So congratulationson the story and congratulations to you are a writer.

    I’m lucky enough to see how this story has grown from one draft to another.

    You have what it takes to succeed both because you have a natural fluidity with words, but also because you are so open to what people have to say to you about your work. What I like about you is that while you listen to what people have to say, you also follow your own instincts. That is advanced thinking for someone so young. To be able to do both things. A lot of writers do one or the other, at least at the beginning.

    It is easy to be swayed by the comments of others and to feel undermined, but a good writer, a promising writer, listens to all, but finds his own path through it.

    As Sarah said, almost every “new” (and I might add “old” ) writer can be seduced by language. After all, it’s what is encouraged in school. It’s a quick way to reassure a tired teacher that you “get it.” I was the same way.

    Learning to edit, to see the story in all those words, is a difficult skill to learn. You are already thinking that way. About the growth, about you as the artist acquiring a skill, enhancing your natural talent with craft. That puts you waaaay ahead of the game.

  • gay

    Oops! I want to be clear. I was not a tired teacher seduced by fancy language. What I mean is I had to learn to edit also. We all do. It’s part of the whole process of becoming a writer.

  • I really like the way it turned out, M. Good to see you took advice (especially from Gay), but spun it to fit your personal style.

    Yes, the ending is a little unclear–I still got it–and there are a lot of descriptives, but I found the story easily, and enjoyably read. I like the description.

    I like it a lot.

    Good story, M.

    AND Happy EDF Debut!!!!!!!

  • Thanks guys…and thanks a lot Gay for the nice comment there.

    There is a story “Death is a weird shade of pink” that i honestly cant remember if i sent to EDF…i might have to send it or trouble jordan with seeing if i sent it, id rather not have to but i really cant remember if i sent that in.

    And yeah…this story definatly needed some re-working in that ending.

  • Michael – like some of the others already mentioned, I also had trouble with the end and not knowing what happened.

    You definitely have a skill with language/imagary/description. One of my favorite lines is:
    “Fleets of cigarette butts sailed the puddles in search of a new world.”

    Keep at it!

  • Angela

    Great job…love the title and the story’s thrill. Congragulations!

  • Congrats on your EDF debut, M.! I loved the play of light and dark in your story, and you set a good atmosphere. Like others, I was a little confused about the ending, but it was a dramatic read nonetheless.

  • M,
    Congrats on the debut. You are now an Author.
    A gritty atmospheric story and it had a great premise. It has a nice voice, but as others have said, the flow gets a bit lost. Overall, I liked it. And Hope to see more.


  • Well, i was an author before this 😛 i have pieces elsewhere. But this is my first piece in EDF…whoohoo

    Thnaks for the awesome comments guys

  • Hi Michael,

    I was bowled over by your writing in this story. Definite 5 from me. The language is sleek, skillful, haven’t read such lucidity and crispness in a short story in a long time. I’m very impressed. Be sure to let me know when you write a novel, I’ll be waiting to read it. I know how critical you are, I’ve seen your comments on many stories here on EDF, and I think you have brought that criticism, honesty and scrutiny to your writing in this story. Well done.

    I could picture everything here, including the ending. I found the use of ‘filthy’ twice in close consecution, which could be changed. And I feel the title doesn’t work well for the story. But I love the imagery, the sensory info, the light chasing out the dark shadows. It was a pleasure to read the language here. I am usually put off by a writer being so immersed in the beauty of the words that he forgets the story, which, I think is what some folks are saying here, but I disagree.

  • Very topical and I could see the place, you know. I particularly liked the reference to building a wall of flowers form striking that blow. I imagined the hoodies disappeared not wanting to be identified in the train light and that, that is how he escapes – but of course this is a regular way home presumably so he may encounter them again… Frtightening thought! You really built the tension well and I also liked the way you linked his youthfulness to his fear – although in truth that always remains.

    A fine debut.

  • Good work, M.–congrats on the EDF debut.

    I, too, was confused about the ending. Important to note, though, that I cared enough about the story to read through all the comments hoping to find out what happened to the protag.

  • Shadowkeir

    Most interesting. So glad you made it. I sort of understand it but havng known you for so long in real life it surprised me how dark and gruesome it all is. That isn’t a bad thing mind, I love it. Keep it up Michael.

  • Oh, somehow I missed this yesterday, nice work Michael, and congrats! I love the atmosphere and tension you created.

  • Thanks everyone

  • Dark and foreboding – delightful.