The train had come in late that night. The moon shone up high in the clouds by the time he reached the door. It was unlocked. Taking in deep breaths at a very slow pace he tried to breathe out the sudden smoke of worry inside him.
There is nothing to worry about, he tells himself. He manages to convince himself that he forgot to lock it that morning, and steps inside the room. He had left the curtains open when he exited the room several hours ago, and it was still like that, just as he had left it. But the room wasn’t. Everything, from the kitchen cabinet to his desk drawers, were turned inside out. Paper covered the floor like dead flowers, its petals torn off by the soles of people’s shoes. Pens and cutlery reflected cold light from the moon. Nothing moved.
In contrast to the deafening silence, his whole body was suddenly swallowed by panic. He couldn’t move. Vines of fear shot out from the floor and caught his legs, and for extra security his feet were stuck to the ground with thorns of terror. His mind flew all over the place like a group of butterflies, trying to escape a child’s net. An instant later his mind ceased to flee and instead fell limp inside his head, just like the mess of papers in front of his eyes. In time, the thick fog that clouded his eyes drifted away. Panic had finally let go of its long talons around his neck. Breathing became more slow, more deep.
He tried to turn around to a corner of the ceiling, where he had set up a video camera the week before, as the whole town was in fear of a burglar. His mind settled down enough for him to think it was that burglar on the loose, that came in to his room.
He heard glass shatter from the kitchen. He tries to cheat himself into thinking that the glass – probably a wine glass – fell of natural causes. An accident. But he fails, and in return he feels something spread inside him like black ink staining a piece of paper – long, black arms reaching to every corner of his body, a disease sinking deep inside and multiplying itself. He feels as if his heart, though he could feel its pounding noise echoing in his head is failing to circulate the blood around. His hands are frozen in its shape and is cold as ice, but his head is rushing with blood. He doesn’t want to move. But he knows he has to act, or nothing will be done.
Dragging his limp legs towards the corner of the room, he reaches up, and with stiff trembling hands, takes the video camera off the top of the closet. His mind is drowning deep inside a whirlpool of anxiety, but something forces himself to turn on the power as the tape starts to rewind. Ice cold finger lingers above the start button. He takes one last deep breath to get the last drift of smoke out of his head. Even if the burglar was still here, he can’t do anything about it.
He lowers his finger.
The little screen shows his room, around midday, with everything in its right position. There is a little noise of the door being unlocked. A figure steps in, and starts to terrorise the room. Watching the video, he is unnaturally calm, as if his panic awhile ago was a dream. The figure in the screen stops in the middle of the room. He sees the intruder turning its head towards the camera inside the square of the screen.
He sees himself.
The candidate’s composition writing in section 2 was excellent. It was a very well managed story of suspense, a context neatly created and tension built from the opening lines through near-absolute control of sentence structure. The use of the simple sentence was central to the tension, but there was rather more to admire too, with astutely judged imagery and more complex internal monologue adding to the strength of the climax and the thought-provoking resolution. The changes of tense might have been avoided (or handled better), but overall this piece was outstanding.