Featured Story

We love fabulous stories by awesome young writers! We will always share the best stories sent into us. If your story is featured on here, that means your book will be published in our anthology of short stories! Featured stories usually change monthly so make sure you check in!

 

Time is Ticking

by Johana Pusuluri

aged 14 from Devon 

“Good luck!”

 

A swarm of kids gathered and gazed up; eyes swirling with anticipation as Ajay, who was perched on the rickety fence, smiled at them hesitantly. Fear seized his throat and butterflies tumbled in his stomach. He couldn’t speak. Instead he simply nodded at the group, giving them a shaking thumbs up.

 

Closing his eyes, he remembered what his mother told him everyday, that his name meant ‘the one who is invincible.’

 

I’ll show them what I’m made of, Ajay said to himself as he shut his eyes and pushed himself from the battered fence. The fence gave an ominous groan but Ajay was safe on the other side, at least for the moment.                                                                                                                                                   

 The fence reminded Ajay of the border between his country, India, and Pakistan and the ongoing war between them. As time passed, the situation worsened and more and more people, soldiers and civilians were killed with every minute. Time really was the greatest thief of all. Ajay’s father had been killed whilst fighting for his country and Ajay struggled to find a reason to smile and laugh and embrace the feeling of happiness except when playing cricket.

 

Cricket was his father’s favourite sport and naturally playing it made Ajay feel closer to him. Cricket was a reminder that his father hadn’t left him. Every time he picked up a cricket ball and felt its smooth toughness, he had a flashback of his father teaching him how to hold it. Every time he gripped the bat he remembered his fathers hand on his, those tender loving hands shifting his around the handle. Everything he knew about cricket came from his father, every little tip and technique. That’s why it was so important to him to retrieve the cricket ball even if it meant going into the feared field because he had to make his father proud and, of course, they had to continue their game.

 

Sand blew around Ajay and the sun shone on the arid, deserted, bare field. Cockroaches scuttled around the rubble and lizards lay lazily in the trees, blinking in the sunlight. His tongue was dry and sweat dripped down his face. Ajay could hear clinking chains and distinct low growls. The wind whistled to him, as if to taunt him-dare he move forward. The shadows of the trees swaying in the slight, refreshing breeze danced in front of him, without a care in the world.

 

Ajay’s heart pumped rapidly, a shiver ran down his spine and sparks of fear frequently flickered in his eyes. From the shadows of a manky, ramshackle shed, a huge slobbery dog plodded towards him with a look of suspicion.

 Sandy-coloured fur and with chocolate brown eyes, the dog’s heavy and dusty paws thudded with every step. He came to a halt and spat the cricket ball out, glaring at it. It rolled towards Ajay but it came to a halt midway. The dog just continued to glower at the ball. Didn’t it have anything better to do than make Ajay exceedingly nervous?

 

Ajay debated whether or not to get the ball or to go back without it. But then he heard his father’s voice, “Come on, son,” and he knew he had to make his father proud.

 

The fact that the dog just let the ball roll towards it confirmed it. He was going to retrieve it— whatever the cost. He took a fearful step forward and regretted it almost immediately. The dog gave a low warning growl and his eyes conveyed the same message as they lit up suddenly. His distrustful glare soon returned to the ball.

 Ajay ran. He ran faster than he had ever done before and skidded to grab the ball. Just as he pushed himself up, the dog wrenched Ajay’s shoe right off his foot yet Ajay just kept running, ignoring the pain of the sharp stones as they pierced his foot. He just kept running although he could feel the dog’s wet, revolting slobber on his legs.

 

Suddenly, the rusty chains that had bound the dog for so long broke with a loud snap but still Ajay didn’t look back. The dog never stopped snapping at his heels. Ajay hadn’t realised how vast the field was until he ran. He felt like a small cat at the tips of a beast’s clutches in a completely deserted field the size of the ocean. But as large as it was, Ajay could see the fence nearing.

 

“Almost there,” he comforted himself. Almost there…almost.

He jumped up on to the fence, nearly missed and was hanging by his fingertips whilst the dog barked and snapped at him. Classic. Just when he needed the most strength and concentration, he had a dog barking like mad and about to bite his heels off. Great. The dog tried to jump and each time Ajay could feel its breath but it never got him. Ajay pulled himself up, out of the dog’s reach and pushed himself back over the fence.

 

Panting, he looked around at his friends who cheered and patted him on the back, congratulating him. They even threw him up and carried him around. He had made them proud. Had he made his dad proud? Surely he must have. He displayed all the qualities his father valued the most- courage, determination and perseverance. He hadn’t given up. But actually, his father looking down on him from above had no strength in him to be proud after watching that scene. All that he had watched left him terrified. Through the pain of splinters and stones, Ajay was just glad that he was safe.

  But something was bothering him. He couldn’t stop wondering why the dog let the ball roll in the first place if he didn’t want Ajay to have it. He practically gifted the ball to Ajay since Ajay hadn’t needed to prse the ball from the dog’s mouth. The dog just let it roll to him. Or towards him at least. Yet when Ajay tried to get it, the bog barked relentlessly. And why those doubtful expressions?

 

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Realisation struck Ajay as sharply as the hands of a grandfather clock when they strike twelve. The ball was a bomb, ready to explode.

Featured stories still to come. 

The Storm in the Glass by Poppy David aged 14 from London

Black and White by Valerie Anireto aged 13 from Abuja, Nigeria

The Talent Show by Ana Cuseta aged 11 from Valencia, Spain

Sir Arthur Canoon Doyle and the fairies by Loveday Lock aged 11 from South Wales

The Burglary by Matthew Wong aged 11 from Hong Kong

Beatle-weetle by Niall Hamilton aged 6 from Doncaster 

Small and Beautiful by Katie Bates aged 10 from Newton, USA

Temptation by Tommy Bustard aged 10 from Portballintrae, County Antrim, N Ireland

The Journey Across London by Jacinta Khadouri, aged 11 from London