Chosen by an angel


Beneath the blue sky she watches the palm trees sway in the warm breeze. Sunlight and shadows dance across the white facade of the mosque opposite her home. The air is heavy with the scent of jasmine. The lilting voice of the Imam calls the faithful to prayers. Her mother sings in the kitchen, her younger brothers bicker in the yard. She waves to her father who is walking across the road towards her…….Then…..she hears someone screaming……….


Rahel slowly realised it was she who was screaming. Then, the crash of breaking glass brought her back to the moment as burning debris fell past the window. She was sat on the floor in the corner of the lounge, terrified, struggling to breathe and holding her son close, covering his face with her scarf. Through the dense choking smoke she could discern the ghostly shapes of others crouched or curled up in resignation around the edge of the room.

As Rahel began to slip back into semiconsciousness she felt an unexpected cool hand on her forehead. She looked up dreamily to see a man looking into her eyes. When asked later, she would be unable to describe him, such were the ordinary features of his face and the style of his clothing.

The man bent down and gently lifted her to her feet. She felt a surge of energy pulse through her body.
“Walk.” Said the man. “Leave this place. You must live.”
Before she passed through the doorway she looked back over her shoulder. Despite the flames rolling across the ceiling the unremarkable man was moving around the room stooping over each huddled figure.
Yasser Qabanni too felt the cool hand and looked up with pleading eyes but the man shook his head and moved on to the next. On the other side of the room he helped Musa, a young teenager to his feet, told him he would live and gestured towards the doorway before continuing his circuit of the room deciding who would live and who would die.


Two months later an undamaged USB stick would be discovered during a search of the ash and debris of flat 801. It contained the plans for a terrorist attack on a large shopping mall in London. The attack was to be led by Yasser Qabbani. Then, later in November the analysis of DNA samples from the flat would identify the remains of a known people trafficker and child abuser.

Many decades into the future Rahel’s son, now a renowned neurosurgeon, would sit indulgently listening to his mother and Musa Badawi, the prominent civil rights activist, recall how they all survived the terrible fire in London.
“He must have been an angel” she said of the unremarkable man who saved their lives. “What other explanation is there? We were chosen by an angel.”


The prompt for this story was to write a piece about ‘meeting an angel’. The recent tragic fire at Grenfell Towers in London is the setting for my story.








Journey to freedom

His head hitting the window with a dull thud woke Jim Evans as a pothole caused the truck to sway alarmingly. The tension in the air and the unique aroma of a French cigarette brought him back to the moment. He rubbed his forehead and exchanged a nervous smile with Eric while the driver stared intently ahead. Jim swept away the condensation that coated the side window with his sleeve to reveal a landscape cloaked in the early morning mist. In the far distance the snow capped peaks of the mountains seemed suspended in the cloudless blue sky like white sheets carelessly hung on an invisible clothesline. Crossing this mountain range was the final leg of their journey to freedom.

Eventually, the truck turned off the road onto a track that disappeared into a gloomy tunnel of pine trees to emerge in a clearing brightly lit by shafts of sunlight. The driver swung the truck in a circle and stopped. As the noise of the rattling Diesel engine died the utter silence reminded Jim of the moment when the bomber engines were switched off at the end of a sortie, but not he thought ruefully, of the rush of immense relief that followed. This was the not the end of a mission but the beginning.

Jim and Eric walked around to the back of the truck where the driver passed down their rucksacks. In turn they embraced the Frenchman who had risked so much, before starting the treacherous trek across the Pyrenees to Spain.


We were given the challenge of writing a piece about mountain climbing: to impart tension without resorting to cliches ………..My story is about the WWII escape route from Belgium to Spain created to help bomber crews return to Britain. The flyers were passed along a line of astonishingly brave civilians to eventually make the perilous trek across the Pyrenees to Spain. Jim Evans is the Lancaster skipper who appeared in my screen play ‘Worlds Apart’.