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The Wall

Desperately I ran, time was short, and I couldn’t bear to not succeed, I thought it would be easy, I was clearly having myself on. Each flight of steps and each paving stone became a potential stumbling block, I ran on like a man possessed. Sometimes I would briefly see no others but as soon as I thought I was alone someone would step out of a guard house or appear from a valley on the wall ahead of me. Twenty eight minutes was the absolute maximum time I had.

It was China, 1986, still a mystery to the rest of the world, I knew there were risks but I was ready to take them. My mission had been conceived a year earlier, but the chances of success were remote, time was short, and the heat of the day would stretch me to the limit. This was not like a saunter through the cool Ming tombs or the summer palace, this was the Great Wall, in the heat of summer.

To be successful I had to be unseen, one carefully targeted shot was all I needed but the task was daunting. I ran on, my heart pounding and my mouth dry. I tripped going down some stairs from a guard house, there were two men right in front of me and they each jumped away just in time for me to twist into the wall of the stone tower and break my fall with my shoulder, the crunch was sickening and for a moment I thought all was lost.

In pain, I regained my composure and focused on the task, a few minor trips warned me that I was still in a precarious position. Twenty seven and a half minutes…. looking good. I stopped and carefully scanned the vista ahead of me, not a person anywhere.

I balanced the camera on the parapet, set the self-timer, stepped in front of it, “Click” I got the impossible shot, Me, The Wall and not another soul in sight, I made it back to the bus with fifteen seconds to spare, easy.

© Matthew Penfold 2009

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For Star twister 55 prompt = easy
Word count = 350


run, easy, desperate, twisted tales, the wall, ttst55


  • H Maria Perry
    H Maria Perryalmost 5 years ago

    Excellent! I felt the heat, the stress, and enjoyed the success right along with you!

  • Thanks so much Helen, I’m still trying to find the photo, it’s a slide and I sure hope it isn’t lost :-)

    – Matt Penfold

  • Arcadia Tempest
    Arcadia Tempestalmost 5 years ago

    Well you always deliver me thinks Mr P….speaking of P…that was one thought that crossed my mind and you had to get back in time or left behind. But should of known better that your great love of the camera would be behind this. Love the pace you built….I was getting thirsty reading and feeling like I wanted to get some bandages ready for you…. Very entertaining with a clever click twist at the end :))

  • LOL, you would think of that, even the soft drinks were pretty dodgy back then, I think the sellers refilled their bottles at home. if you bought a drink you weren’t allowed to leave with the bottle, that meant if you wanted to take it away they poured it into a plastic bag for you, gross!
    Thanks KS :-)

    – Matt Penfold

  • Nascha
    Naschaalmost 5 years ago

    hehe! esxcellent read….thank you Matt!! xx

  • Thanks Jane, much appreciated :-)

    – Matt Penfold

  • Teacup
    Teacupalmost 5 years ago

    Was there in ’87 – ’twas tricky to get an alone shot for sure. Excellent read – enjoyed the twist. x

  • Thanks Alison, it sure was tricky, I think a lot’s changed since then :-)

    – Matt Penfold

  • Shulie1
    Shulie1almost 5 years ago

    Wonderful story – when do we get to see the photograph!

  • Thanks Shulie, as soon as I can find it I’ll post it :-)

    – Matt Penfold

  • Mel Brackstone
    Mel Brackstonealmost 5 years ago

    Hey, for the first time I picked what you were doing!!! Now I want to see the pic :))))

  • Well either you’re getting smarter or I’m losing my touch or both ;-) Then again you could be a bit obsessive about photography Mel, maybe you think they’ll all end with a snap… lol

    – Matt Penfold

  • John Braxton  Sparks
    John Braxton ...almost 5 years ago

    Another good story…this cheeky reader enjoyed it. You captured tension beautifully and I share your pain, I can’t take a good picture to save my life.

  • Why thank you cheeky sir, your kind comment is greatly appreciated ;-)

    – Matt Penfold

  • Zolton
    Zoltonalmost 5 years ago

    This is cheery. The perfect shot. Great!

    If you feel you are being picked on in the Star Twister forums just let me know. I realize what a delicate and sensitive flower you are. ha ha ; )

  • Thank you so much ZoZo, I really appreciate the offer of protection, and sometimes those others can be just so childish, it’s good to see you maintaining some decorum ;-)

    – Matt Penfold

  • KMorral
    KMorralalmost 5 years ago

    Very nice! Great twist- I was building myself up for yet another twisted murder and all he wanted was a photograph! I’ve been reading too many of Sol’s work!

  • Yes Kmo, reading more than just a little Sol Sol can have a rather undesirable effect, I believe you’ve witnessed the disturbing behaviour of John John lately and I can only assume that is due to his indulging far in excess of the recommended average daily allowance of vitamin SZ ;-)
    Thanks for your lovely comment.

    – Matt Penfold

  • Mark Bateman
    Mark Batemanalmost 5 years ago

    Phew.. I’m breathless after that. A great write with great pace..!

  • Thanks Mark very much appreciated.
    You show remarkable resolve to keep out of the mad house, I hope you’re not missing the fun :-)

    – Matt Penfold

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