Necessary Leave

The train wheezed and creaked to a halt. Michael stood and moved along with the others to the platform. Men surged towards the gate, and he followed them. As the first few returning soldiers stepped through, there were glad cries. Some of the men speeded up. A few slowed down. Michael didn’t vary his pace. It was good to be back, though.

That last night, when he was wounded, he hadn’t thought he could stand any more. Even if they sent him back after a rest, just getting away from fighting for a while… The home front was so quiet, so peaceful.

When he reached the gate, he hung back, to see who’d come to meet him. Most of the folks waiting were old. Well, he supposed the young guys were off fighting somewhere, and the girls were in factories keeping up war production. Irene had written that she’d taken a job in a munitions plant.

He saw a flash of red hair. There she was!


“Irene!” He kissed her, slowly. “They let you off to come meet me?”

“The plant’s closed. There was an explosion…”

Geez! Good thing you weren’t…”

She cut him off. “Michael… this is Heaven.”

He felt a pang. Irene! But they were together, and he’d never have to fight again.

“We’ll have time together later, I promise. But right now, with all those Nazis he’s been getting, the Devil’s making things pretty hot. You’re needed, up at the front.”

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Two twists for the price of one! I originally wrote this for the weekly prompt competition in Twisted Tales.


peace, soldier, twist, war, wwii


  • DBALehane
    DBALehaneabout 6 years ago

    I think this works a little better than the first – but I see I was almost there with my interpretation of the first version :) I think a nice touch would be, as Michael kisses Irene, he notices she feels cold. You could have him emerging through clouds of smoke (heavenly mist) on the platform to add even more mood. I really do like this concept, and ending works much better now. Maybe I was just being slow first few times around ;)

  • WanderingAuthor
    WanderingAuthorabout 6 years ago

    I like the idea of the smoke; have to see if I can work that in. I’m not sure if Irene would feel cold, though – she isn’t a dead body, after all, but a spirit. I’ll have to ponder that one.

    I don’t think you were being slow the first time around. For one thing, I confused two readers: my rule is, if two readers have the same problem, it isn’t the reader. :-) I think one reason it was confusing is that I worked, in effect, a double twist – first, that he was dead and in Heaven, second, that even in Heaven he can’t get away from the war. Such a corkscrew plot requires special clarity.

    It is really a useful lesson. When we write a story, we know what we mean, so the result is clear to us. But it may not be so clear to someone who doesn’t already know what we mean.

  • Faith Puleston
    Faith Pulestonabout 6 years ago

    J.P. Sartre wrote a whole book swapping from the material to the immaterial, using italics to mark the difference. The atmosphere here had the same effect on me. No problem with comprehension (I’m a bit slow on the uptake if a plot gets to mysterious), but I thought the real twist (the atomic explosion) could have come even later. That said, it’s a good story. The question remains, why does it take some authors 800 pages to say less?

  • deliriousgirl
    deliriousgirlabout 6 years ago

    Well, I think it’s brilliant and I love the end!

  • Thank you!

    – WanderingAuthor

  • bonbon3272
    bonbon3272about 6 years ago

    And Michael is an arch-angel’s name. Nice twist…yes, two twists! Nicely done!

  • WanderingAuthor
    WanderingAuthorabout 6 years ago

    Actually, I can’t claim too much credit for the name. I did think of that afterward, but it is a name that came naturally to me. One that sticks in my mind every May. So it was more of a personal quirk.

  • Miri
    Miriabout 6 years ago

    i love the twist at the end! made me think of groundhog day….neverending fighting for the poor chap!

  • MaKayla Songer
    MaKayla Songerabout 6 years ago

    Wow! This was great! Loved the double twist! :D

  • Bob Fox
    Bob Foxabout 6 years ago

    Cute compound twist— caught me anyway!

    Should the verb ‘speeded’ be ‘sped’ instead?

  • Bob Fox
    Bob Foxabout 6 years ago

    Cute compound twist— caught me anyway!

    Should the verb ‘speeded’ be ‘sped’ instead?

  • Thanks.

    I think that’s one of those points that could go either way. I do see what you mean, but even after reading your comment, it still feels right the way it is. A strict grammarian would probably say one or the other was “correct”, but in writing it is about what works, what feels natural (and sometimes the strict rules of grammar are so forced, they create a stilted effect).

    – WanderingAuthor

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