Shh!—Part One of Two

by Kate O'Callaghan about a year ago in fiction

The Sad Tale of an English Coastal Town, 1945

Shh!—Part One of Two


A small silence.


Another pause.


Waves broke across the rocks in front of William. The sea was rough today.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Go and get me some stamps from Mr Maxwell down at the post office," his mother had said, passing him some coins.

"Then, meet your brother outside the school, near the beach." She kissed him on the forehead.

"Oh, don't forget your gas mask!"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - -

William checked his watch, school was to end in 10 minutes.

"Enough time to pick an apple from the tree in Mr. and Mrs. Chapman's garden," he thought.

- - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The bark was rough against William's hands but the climb was short.

Soon, he lay on a fairly sturdy branch that supported him from his groin to his shoulder. His arms reached out toward the roundest, healthiest apples he could see between the leaves.

"Little William Harper, out to steal again!"

A voice cut through the branches.

"Get down from there, boy!"

Dropping from the tree, William came face to face with the stern, sullen expression of Mrs. Chapman.

Before he could make up a half-baked excuse, he was sharply pulled from the garden by his ear. Mrs Chapman only letting go when William let out a small squeal.

"I suggest," she began, towering over the boys' short frame. "...that you find better things to do when waiting for your brother!"

"I'm sorry!"

"Don't you sorry me! Stealing. Is. Wrong! Does the church teach you nothing!"

"It's hard for us! With dad gone!"

Something akin to sympathy crossed Mrs. Chapman's face.

There was a pause, and another 'whoosh'

"Don't tell Mr. Chapman," she stated, shoving something into his arms.

A second later, she was gone. William looked down to see two, rosy apples so big they barely fit within his palms.

Heart hammering, William managed to arrive at the school gates in time for the bell.

Him and Percy walked home in silence, mouths full of sharp, sweet apple.

Their mother was concentrating hard when they arrived; counting rations.

Wordlessly, she stuck her hand out toward William. He gave her the stamps and went outside to play with Percy and the neighbour's young girl; Lucy.

"Did you guys hear?" she asked, baiting the two boys.

"What?" asked Percy, eyes lighting up.

"I overheard mother talking with the postman, he says the Germans are doing awfully well with that new gas."

"So?" William asked defensively

"So..." she paused. Her name being called out from her house. "I wouldn't forget that gas mask if i were you." She ran back inside, her plain yellow dress flowering behind her. This left the two boys alone.

"Hey, Will?"

"Don't worry Perce, we'll win it yet."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

William woke up. There were people speaking German outside the house.

Oh God.

The Germans, they were outside the house. On the street.

He heard heavy footsteps approaching the bedroom door.

Percy, on the bed below, began to whimper, having woken up moments before.

The footsteps closed in, William held his breath, not daring to make a noise. The figure was directly outside the bedroom door.

Light from the top floor's oil lamps illuminated the frozen figures of William and Percy in a flash, shocking them and leaving their eyesight blurry.

The figure put his finger up to his lips.

"Shh!" he hissed firmly.



The boys' father stood in the doorway, in muddy boots and a tattered uniform. In his hand were two brown boxes. They contained two small gas masks.

William placed one over his head and face. The sticky rubber pulled at his cheeks uncomfortably.

A white vapour had begun to climb the stairs. It seeped through the house like water through a dam. Slithering through the tiniest of gaps. Not many of the villagers would be aware of its presence until it was too late.

'Listen my boys.' A hard hand fell onto William's shoulder. 'Stay quiet, stay out of sight and keep those masks on'

'What about you and mummy?' Percy asked, his small voice cracking

'Mummy is sleeping darlings. I made sure of that.' He whispered

They didn't have time to decide what that meant.

The gas was reaching up toward the old soldiers uncovered face.


A German was knocking on their front door. William and Percy looked to their father, who had begun to breathe the gas.

He was on all fours, retching. A small amount of dark liquid leaked out from between his lips.


'Öffne die Tür!'

'Ack!' Their father gave one last shuddering breath before vomiting the dark liquid over the floor and collapsing, his eyes wide.


The door had shattered, footsteps rang out in the house, mixing with German shouts.

Percy looked at William. Wide eyes reflected his own, staring back at him in panic from behind circles of glass. The footsteps grew louder.

A masked man peered into the bedroom, emerging from the white fog spotting the two boys immediately.

He glanced around him and his eyes seemed to be deciding on something.

He put his finger to where his mouth should have been under the gas mask and a muffled 'Shh!' was heard.

'Nichts hier drin!' He shouted downstairs, to his brothers in arms. Before dissolving back into the fog.

William and Percy remained frozen to the spot. Listening through the rubber.

The dull thud of boots began to fade. The Germans were leaving.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Message from the author:Thank you for reading! This is my first attempt at a thriller/horror story and feedback would be appreciated!If you would like to see a Part Two, tell me here Thanks again!~Kate O'Callaghan
How does it work?
Read next: Run Necromancer
Kate O'Callaghan

An aspiring female writer from the UK, 20

See all posts by Kate O'Callaghan