Part of the current GCSE course requires a creative writing response from a studied poem – although the precise content of the story is completely flexible. Here is my modelled response, originally taken from my favourite war poem, Julian Grenfell’s “Into Battle”. The story is reimagined in my cyberpunk universe, Slick Thames set in a near future, semi-apocalyptic London.
Gren sits with his back to the tree, feeling the warmth of the earth beneath his arse and the weight of the cold handgun against his leg. It hangs heavy and awkward and bashed painfully against him on the way here.
There would have been a day when the sun would have warmed the earth where he sits, harsh and bright in a crisp spring air; now, the earth is warmed from below by the movements and hearthfires in the underground tunnels and the sun is forever obscured by the smog-choked clouds.
He takes the silent moment to himself to calm his breath and steady his hand. His feet are tapping together rapidly, more from impatience than fear. He remembers Silva’s lips when she handed him the piece – “He is dead who does not fight. Who dies fighting has increase.” Her contacts flashed as she spoke and she swallowed the sadness of her brothers’ murder. The west parks had been hood territory for years, but some young punks with garish rave-ware had made inroads into the barren spaces with their red paintsprayers and their cudgels. Carlos’ and Santos’ bodies were still warm when they’d been found, but the fire had gone out. Scorched and melted plastic across the brothers’ bodies added insult – their ware hadn’t been taken, so the death was for murders’ sake.
Gren presses his wrist and the harsh blue figures on his skin flashes 1642. He’s been here three minutes with still no sign of the punks. The cold metal of the piece in his pocket pushes heavy against his bruising thigh and he looks up at the cold metal of the statue in front of him. The gentle horse’s face is painted red, the man on its back wears a tattered denim jacket and a makeshift mohawk. The horse has all four legs on the podium – Gren’s grandfather taught him that it meant the man had died of natural causes, not in battle and not of wounds. Silva’s words surface again, but Gren doesn’t know which death he prefers.
“Captain’s still got his uniform, eh, Sid?”
“Course he has, Nasty – noone’d finger our stuff.”
Gren feels his throat tighten and he tosses back his hood. The piece comes out of his pocket as he gets to his feet, rooting them firm apart. He doesn’t see their faces. He doesn’t hear the bang. He just feels the cold pressure of the trigger as he pulls.