Silverlink Writing Group: The Writers


Ian Holloway


Here are some samples of my work.

Page last up dated 2 November 2009

Your characters have been entombed in an underground bunker.  You can have as many characters as you like and the story can be set in the past, present or the future.  You only have 500 words to tell your story.

Word Count = 502



Stale Air

He had spent many hours persuading others that it was worth re-opening the bunker.  It had been constructed during the first Cold War period and had never been used.  It had begun to decay and details of the operation of the life support systems had been lost.   He remembered that he had escorted a physicist through the system and that this scientist had taken copious notes before, some months later, presenting a paper on the consequences of a nuclear war and the chances of survival in a bunker.

In conversation the scientist had asked who would be chosen to survive the holocaust and he had listed some of the people who, by virtue of nothing more than the temporary positions they held, would be given the “life ticket”.  Jokingly he added that if he had his way he would auction places to the highest bidders.  He expected that the physicist would have reacted to this but the only response was some comment about hoping that the air purification system would continue to function.

Over the years he had developed links with people of influence.

When “those in the know” realised that nuclear conflict was inevitable he had thought long and hard about those wealthy enough to be given the chance of survival.

To begin with he had been comfortable underground and had felt smug at the gratitude heaped upon him by those whose lives he had saved.  Some names had been drawn by ballot as decreed in the policy document.  Others were there by virtue of their skills, such as the maintenance technicians, as the lives of all depended upon a constant supply of electricity, heat, fresh water and non-contaminated air.

Recently relations between the inmates had become strained.  Those who had bought their way to safety tended to think that they deserved more.

The air was becoming stale. The technicians were unable to provide an explanation for this.

He put through a call to the physics team. The girl with the old laboratory note books impressed him.  She had been contributed more than the others to the successful re-activation programme.  It was as though she had been there before.

She presented her findings clearly and without emotion.  The news was bad. The air purification system was failing.

He asked for her opinion.

She said they would all be dead within a month.  She taunted him by asking if he would give the money back to those who had bought their place in the bunker.

He asked how she had so much knowledge of the systems supporting their lives.

Kathryn put the note books onto the table and opened one of them. He read the name on the title page. The initial differed.  As he realised the significance of this she spoke slowly and carefully.

“My father told me that you might auction places and he wrote down what I should do. I have done as he suggested. Are you going to tell them what will happen or should I?”


Silverlink Writing Group Competition March 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The door opened ... The door slammed shut.

Word Count = 553

The Door

The door opened…………

He had been surprised to see the door; quite taken aback as it swung open and confounded by what lay beyond. He realised he was being afforded a privilege offered to few. Subsequently he found it difficult to describe. The words awesome, incredible and infinite were inadequate to describe the vision.

The journey had taken twenty six years and had exacted much effort and application. There had been pleasant diversions along the way. Experiences to die for and people who had left a lasting impression upon him because of their qualities, abilities and fine characters.

He did not know why he was interested in why things were as they seemed and how they worked. Perhaps books describing adventure and heroes had something to do with it. He enjoyed imaginative thinking. He thought that making discoveries must be immensely satisfying but for many years had considered this to be part of a different world to his own.

When he realised that the opportunity to participate in research as a career was something to strive for he had worked towards it. To begin with he had applied, in novel situations, what was already known. Although this was called research it was more realistically described as being development because it did not add to the fund of human knowledge although it often made ideas accessible to more people. At this time he realised many things about research. How to plan and to analyse. How to work in a methodical manner, carefully recording every observation and measurement, and, importantly, how to recognise a “blind ally” before journeying too far along it.

Discussing issues with others working on the same or similar topics was particularly valuable although the scrutiny and questioning could be daunting. Several groups from his own country and others around the world were striving to solve the problem. There was an intense desire to make the first measurement. The competition was fierce yet he was convinced that the highly motivated individuals wanted to succeed so that others could benefit from their success. Sooner or later someone would see a way forward to the solution.

One group was using a sophisticated mathematical technique which, ultimately, would show if the concept was feasible. Their work was elegant and exploited computers and programmers to their limits.

Quite how he came to realise that he could reach a similar conclusion using published data, all be it not widely available, and simple mathematics involving nothing more complex than “addition” defied explanation. Being widely read, holding information in his memory and understanding mathematics must have contributed to formulating a successful strategy.

He was elated when they completed the first measurement. Preparation of the target, calibrating the detectors and working with the accelerator team had been exciting and the day of the “run” had been long.

They had done it!

They were first!

They had beaten the others!

He suddenly felt ashamed of his arrogance. It was as he realised with humility that he had measured something that had never been assayed before that he saw the door swing open. The colour beyond the door, if there was a colour, was that of burnished gold. Beyond the door he saw, for an instant, the solutions to problems yet to be realised.

And then the door slammed shut.



Silverlink Writing Group Competition March 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The crystal glowed...

Word Count = 402

The Equation


The crystal glowed and it was only then that he knew all the effort had been worthwhile. His own effort. The many hours of calculation, checking and still more calculation and cross referencing. The realisation that he was following a logical course of action gave reason for optimism. Later there was self doubt when he faced up to the enormity of the task ahead of him.

Others too had worked tirelessly for this moment. The fund raisers who had persuaded governments to part with huge amounts of money in order to build the accelerator which gave no promise of producing results which had the potential to be sold for profit.

The engineers who had designed and built the machine which, although based on sound practice, was more powerful, more complex and more exacting than anything previously constructed,

There were people who had objected at every stage of the development of the Large Hadron Accelerator. Some said that technically it could not be done. Others decreed that the huge amount of electrical power it would consume every time an experiment was underway was wasteful and unjustified.

Yet others had worked openly and enthusiastically for the project. Some had talked up the “theatre” and had made “big science” headline news again.

He realised he was fortunate to be given time on the machine to attempt his experiment. There had been many delays, some foreseen but others had been almost catastrophic surprises. Many experiments had been removed from the schedule.

These were his thoughts as the particles began to loop around the metal tubes, one set travelling clockwise, the other anticlockwise. Huge magnets focussed the beams tightly holding the particles together. There was some noise from the electrical equipment and from the huge cooling fans but the particles, now reaching velocities close to that of light, travelled silently and without colour or smell.

Then at precisely the predicted moment the beams collided. There was no audible explosion, no earth shattering vibration, nothing but a release of energy detected by the crystal which emitted a minute glow, just sufficient to be turned into a small electric current which was recorded electronically for the first time since the beginning of time, when, at the beginning of time, hadrons had collided but no life was in the universe to witness the event.

He initially felt elated, proud, defiant and even arrogant but these emotions were quickly replaced by humility as he realised that, for the first time, it had been shown that


Silverlink Writing Group Competition January 2009:- 500 words starting with:- The clock struck midnight, a new year was born.

Word Count  = 460

Certificate of Merit for the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition January 2009

Happy New Year?


The clock struck midnight, a new year was born.

It had not always been like this.

In ancient times it was different. People celebrated the return of the sun. Then they knew that the dreadful cold of winter would soon be gone. Survival would be easier and for some magical reason plants would begin to grow again and food would be assured.

Later, celebrations were held in the depths of winter when squads re-enacted the tradition of sending a dead king or queen to the after-life in a blazing ship. Others dressed in strange costumes and processed around the village carrying burning tar in barrels on their heads. Indeed, this tradition continued well into the Second Millennium in the northern reaches of the country.

Old books, written before the Electronic Age, told of New Year festivities of eating, drinking and merriment. People held open-house for strangers as well as neighbours. Friendship abounded as the New Year was rung in. Ancient customs were still in evidence and the man with dark hair, carrying a lump of freshly hewn coal, was welcomed into the home as the ?first foot?-the first to cross the threshold in the New Year, bringing ?good luck? to the household.

From the time of the Industrial Revolution until the dawn of the Electronic Age the factories of the nation signalled in the New Year by sounding sirens. After industry declined and there were no longer sirens to sound fireworks became popular and people gathered, not in their homes, but in establishments of mass celebration. The Electronic Age brought to an end many long held traditions as society took on a cloak of the trivial, shallowness and huge self-centredness,

The Electronic Age did not endure as long as other periods in the history of human kind. It flared brightly at the beginning of the Second Millennium but as the demands for energy escalated along with consumerism and greed it was not warfare by sword and the gun which brought disease but fraudulent economic activities. People lost the desire to take responsibility for themselves, for their families for their country and for the world at large and so it was that she heard her clock, an old mechanical clock, strike twelve. Then there was silence as there was silence every night now. She had become used to being alone but tonight shortly after the clock struck midnight and a new year was born there were sounds outside and a tap on the door.

She opened her home to fresh hope and she felt as the ancients had felt at the sight of the new sun when the man with dark hair, carrying a lump of freshly hewn coal gently asked if he could be her ?first foot?


Silverlink Writing Group September Competition: 500 words starting with Oh what a day it's been...

Word Count 499

Strain – Take the Train.

“Oh what a day it’s been……” conjures up negative thoughts and I don’t like writing in a negative way but I shall write about a journey which does not cast our rail travel system in a favourable light despite the slogan “Let the Train Take the Strain.”

The evening was cold, wet and windy. The platform was damp and desolate as I awaited the late running 20.30 from Glasgow.

At 21.30 the train was retimed to be the 21.45. At least I could expect a good cup of hot coffee and perhaps an overpriced item from the buffet.

The train was late because the train crew had failed to arrive for their shift – the Conductor told passengers this as the train eventually pulled out of Edinburgh and I awaited an announcement that the buffet was open.

The sound system clicked on and the Conductor was sorry to have to inform us, in the crackling way sound systems work, that the Buffet Staff had also failed to board the train and he regretted the lack of catering facilities. He hoped there might be a crew at Doncaster. Perhaps that was where he finished his shift.

I stared out of the window and became fascinated with a pattern of street lamps. There was nothing special about them. I was simply tired, bored, thirsty and irritable. Rain streaked the carriage windows.

Time passed slowly.

The train moved slowly – too slowly. In fact it was not moving. The lights still illuminated the same patch of rain soaked pavement.

The Conductor regretted that a signal failure was causing the retimed 20.30 from Glasgow to now be the late running 21.45, and he was unable to give any estimate of when the journey would re-commence.

I began thinking that this sort of thing never happened in the ordered world of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories.

Father arrived home from the office – did all fathers actually work in an office? – Immaculately dressed without a hair out of place under his trilby and his Burberry coat never needed to be hung out to dry. Mother always had his meal ready, timed and cooked to perfection. She never had cause to describe how Timmy had disgraced himself in the lounge or had chewed the antique antimacassar. The children played tennis but Mother never had to cope with the blood after Georgina had split Dick’s head during a tense doubles match with Anne and Julian.

The children swam in the sea but were never swept away and they never arrived home soaking wet so that yet more clothes had to be dried in the laundry and then ironed.

After the meal, while the children amused themselves quietly, in ways not described, Father lit up his pipe by the roaring fire comfortably ensconced in his favourite armchair and neither he nor his beloved wife ever had cause to say “Oh what a day it’s been.”

They must never have travelled on the late running 21.45 from Glasgow!



Silverlink Writing Group Competition August 2008:-  500 words starting with The lights went out?

word count = 460

WINNER of the Silverlink Writing Group

Competition August 2008

The Lights Went Out.

The lights went out.

Not suddenly, not all at once.

Sometimes a cluster of lights went out together.

Sometimes only a single light ceased to shine.

There was no pattern and no rule.

It was all variable and uncertain.

The only certainty was that as the hours passed fewer lights would be visible and the colder he would become.  He knew this because it had happened that way the previous night.  He did not know if all the lights had eventually gone out because he had slept a short disturbed sleep.  Discomfort surrounded him and anxiety crowded into his mind.  Yet he had slept a little and had woken at dawn when the village could be seen without the need of lights.

He had been drawn towards the pinpricks of light.  They had provided comfort and a link, perhaps, to other human beings and to life.  He had speculated about this.  Perhaps his ancestors had been comforted when, in the darkness, they had seen other fire lights close to their own.

Light equated to life.  Darkness often signalled death.  Yet harsh, bright, uncontrolled light could also sell disaster ? if a village or crops were put to the torch: if lightning struck a tree, a building or a mountain ridge.  He was cold now.  He stopped thinking such thoughts.  Was he too cold to think?

He could feel the cold cutting through his clothes.  His body seemed to shrink as though it was trying to avoid the onset of frostbite.  The previous night had been an ordeal but tonight would be much worse.  He had made progress during the day but not as much as on the previous day when he had left the village whose lights he gazed upon.  He forced himself to concentrate on surviving the night.  He knew that seeing the lights was important.  If the remaining lights suddenly ceased to be visible he would be doomed because if all the lights ?went out? he would, within minutes, be enveloped by a storm.  A storm, which in his fatigued state, he would not survive.  Thankfully he could still see the lights, not as many as an hour ago, but they still shone giving him hope.

Perhaps he dozed.  Perhaps he had drifted towards unconsciousness.  Something brought him back to look at the lights again.  Fewer lights shone and the cold was more intense.  The lights were gradually going out.  There was still no pattern and no rule, just fewer lights the longer the night lasted.  Would he die if the last light went out?

There was no movement on the rock face next morning.  Perhaps all the lights had gone out as he froze at the place they called "the Death Bivouac".



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