Chapter 5 of H. G. Wells’s classic Country of the Blind

Nunez greeted the men and watched them closely.

`Where does he come from?’ one man asked another.

`Down from the rocks…’ the second man replied.

`I came from over the mountain,’ Nunez told them. ‘In my country, all men can see. My city is near Bogota. There are thousands of people there. The city stretches far out of sight…’

`Sight?’ said the first man. `What is sight?’

`He came,’ said the third man, `out of the rocks.’

They moved towards Nunez, their arms out stretched. Nunez stepped away.

`Come here,’ said the third man and held Nunez. The blind men felt Nunez all over.

`Careful!’ cried Nunez when one of their fingers found his eye. This organ was strange to them. They felt it again and again.

‘A strange creature,’ said the second man. `Feel his hair! It is like llama hair!’

‘He feels hard and rough, just like the rocks he came from,’ said the first man and felt Nunez’s chin. Nunez tried to get free, but they held him firm.

`Careful,’ said Nunez again.

`He speaks, so he is certainly a man. Tell me again. Where did you come from?’ the second man asked.

‘I came from a place over there,’ said Nunez, and he pointed to the mountains. But the three blind men did not look. `I walked over the glacier, about twelve days journey from here.’

The men seemed not to hear him. `This is a marvellous occasion,’ said the second man. `The old men told us stories about men from the rocks…’

`Let us take him to the elders,’ said the third man and the three men tried to take Nunez’s hand. Nunez pulled his hand away. `I can see,’ he said, but then he stumbled into one of the men’s pails.

`His senses are not good,’ said the second man. `He stumbles and uses strange words. We must lead him by the hand.’ The men took Nunez’s hand, and Nunez let them.

‘They know nothing about sight,’ thought Nunez. ‘But in time, I will teach them.’

Our adaptation of H. G. Wells’s Country of the Blind (Ch4)

Along a path in the valley below, Nunez saw three men. The men walked slowly in line, one next to the other. Their clothes were made of llama wool. On their heads, they wore black hats; and in their hands, they had pails. Nunez was happy to see the men. He stood on a rock and shouted. His voice echoed around the valley.

The three men stopped and looked around. They looked left and right. ‘Up here!’ Nunez shouted and waved, but the men did not see him. The men walked this way and that, but they still did not see Nunez. `The fools must be blind,’ Nunez said angrily. ‘What’s the matter with them?’

Finally, Nunez decided to go to the three men. He climbed down and came towards the small group.

The three men stood side by side; their ears directed at him, not looking at him, listening to his steps. They looked a little afraid. Nunez could not see their eyes; they were closed and sunk deep in their heads.

‘There is a man,’ one of the men said. ‘It is a man, and he is coming down from the mountain.’

Nunez walked towards them confidently. Now he understood: the men were blind. Nunez remembered all the old stories about The Country of the Blind, and he thought about an old proverb from long ago.

`In the Country of the Blind – the one-eyed man is king.’

Chapter 3 of H.G.Wells’s classic story The Country of the Blind

Nunez was a mountaineer. He was also a sailor, but he liked to climb the most. He was a good climber, and he was in Ecuador to climb Parascotopetl, the ‘Matterhorn of the Andes’. On the way to the top of Parascotopetl, Nunez had an accident and fell. He fell down the east of Parascotopetl and landed in deep snow. His companions searched hard but could not find him. After some time, they gave up: they believed Nunez was dead. But Nunez survived.

Nunez fell over a thousand feet down an icy slope. He did not break a single bone. But when he landed, he lay unconscious for a while. When Nunez eventually opened his eyes, he saw a valley far below. There were many trees, and he saw small, stone houses too. He did not know it, but it was the Country of the Blind. He stood up. His bones and muscles ached from the fall, but slowly he started to climb down towards the valley. On the way, he saw many beautiful flowers and crops in the valley’s fields. He also saw llamas and huts to keep them in. After a long climb, he reached the houses. They were small with no windows. The houses were covered with a brown, muddy plaster. It was thick and untidy.

‘The man who put on that plaster,’ Nunez thought, ‘must be blind.’

He kept on walking; and soon, he saw some woman and children.

At last, he felt safe.

Adaptation of H.G. Wells’s classic short story: The Country of the Blind (Ch2)

After some time, the world forgot about the people in the valley.

But the valley people did not worry. Life there was easy: the valley had no dangerous insects or dangerous animals. Instead, it was full of useful plants, clean water, and gentle llamas.

The valley people also did not worry much about becoming blind. It happened slowly. At first, the old people lost their eyesight; then the not so old. Soon, every newborn child was born blind. And when sight finally died out, the valley people lived on. They did not need their eyes to make a fire, to cook, or to move around. The valley was their home, and they knew every part of it. Generation after generation lived without the use of their eyes. They forgot many things but learned many others. Decades passed. The valley people were happy. Then a stranger came to the valley – a man from the outside world, a mountaineer.

His arrival changed everything.

New adaptation: H. G. Wells’s classic short story The Country of the Blind (Ch1)

Three hundred miles from Chimborazo and one hundred miles from the snow of Cotopaxi – deep in Ecuador’s Andes Mountains – there is a green valley. Most men do not know about it – it is a mystery. But the valley has a name, and its name is The Country of the Blind. Many years ago, the valley was open and many people went there: the sad, the hungry, and the poor. They went there because they wanted to escape difficult lives in their own countries. So they climbed over the steep slopes and icy glaciers of the Andes and settled in that beautiful place. Then, years later, an earthquake caused a landslide. Mud and rocks came down the side of a mountain and cut off the path to The Country of The Blind forever.

But one man knew about The Country of the Blind because he lived there. When the landslide happened, he was on one side and his family and The Country of the Blind was on the other. After the mud and rocks tumbled down and blocked the path, he never saw his family or the valley again.

He had a story and told everyone. And everyone who heard his tale never forgot it.

The valley, he said, had everything: sweet water, green grass and a warm climate. It had healthy brown soil and trees with fruit; rivers fed the valley from the glacier and helped grow the crops. People and their animals prospered. But one thing happened to mar their happiness. A strange disease hit them – an illness no one understood or could explain.

All the children in the valley were born blind…

Adapted by

You can find the original story here.

Our adaptation of The Blind Man (FInal chapter)

The people continued with their lives.

The blind man – cold, hungry and close to death – got up from the road and started to walk. He was lost and covered with ice. He stumbled and fell again and again, but he never made a sound. He only wanted to find a house. He only wanted to find a warm, safe place.

It started to snow. His tired legs could walk no further. He stopped and sat down in an open field. He did not get up again. Large, white snowflakes fell all night. By morning, his body was under a smooth, white *blanket.

His sister and brother-in-law did not miss him, but they *pretended to care. They asked about him and looked for him, but only for a week.


It was a long hard winter and the snow was slow to *melt. One Sunday, on his way to church, a young farmer saw some *crows above a field. They dropped down to a spot on the ground and then flew up into the air, over and over again. The next week there were more of them. Their calls were loud and excited. ‘What are they doing? Why are they there?’ the young farmer asked himself.

The young farmer went into the field. There, he found the blind man’s body in the melted snow. The farmer looked at the body’s face. It had no eyes.

In life, the blind man’s eyes were useless; and in death, they were food for the crows.

This is the blind man’s story, and I think about it every time I see the sun and feel its warmth on my face.



*blanket – cover

*pretended – behaved to make it appear that it was true when it was not

*melt – to turn from ice to water

*crows – a large, black bird


This is the blind man’s story, and I think about it every time I see the sun and feel its warmth on my face.

Our adaptation of The Blind Man (Ch 2)

His sister and brother-in-law starved* him; and slowly, the blind boy’s face got thinner and thinner. He sat beside the fire like stone. Only his eyelids* above his two big eyes moved. They trembled* sometimes, afraid. When he did move, he often fell down. Then, when he was on the ground, people liked to laugh at him. But they did not stop to help.

This continued for many years. The blind boy could not work, and this made his brother-in-law very angry. So the torture* got worse. His brother-in-law and sister often gave him wood, leaves and even dirt to eat. They also banged their feet on the floor to frighten* him. Then this brother-in-law started to hit him. He did this at home and in the street. When people saw him do it, they hit the blind boy too and laughed. The blind boy tried to hit them back, but he couldn’t. He missed and fell over. To keep people away, the blind boy started to walk with his arms out. But people still hit him.

In the end, to get food, the blind boy started to beg*. He sat in the road with his hand out and said, `Help me, please. I am a poor, blind boy.’ But most days, he got nothing.

Then, one winter’s day, when there was snow on the ground, the brother-in-law took the blind boy far, far away. Then he left him. The poor blind boy did not know the road home. When the blind boy did not return that night, the brother-in-law lied to the blind boy’s sister. ‘He is not lost,’ he told her. ‘He cannot go a day without eating our food: he is going to come back soon!’

So no one worried and went on with their lives.



starved* – not given any food

eyelids* – the skin that covers our eyes

trembled* – shook

torture* – cause extreme physical and/or mental harm

frighten* – scare

beg* – plead

Our adaptation of Maupassant’s The Blind Man (Ch1)

Why does the sunlight make us feel so happy? The whole sky is blue, the fields are green, and the houses are white. Our eyes enjoy those bright colours, and they bring us happiness. When we see the sun, we want to dance, run, sing, and think happy thoughts.

But the blind, as they sit at their doorways, unmoving in their darkness, always stay calm*. Life is lived all around them, but they never know.

Once, there lived a blind boy. He was the son of a poor French farmer. He lived with his mother and father all his life, and they looked after him. But his mother and father died, and he was left alone. This was a hard start to life, and it made him unhappy. He went to live with an older sister and her husband. They did not want him, and his brother-in-law treated* him badly. At dinner time they gave him little or no food, and he went hungry. They called him names and fed him like a dog with scraps* off the table. He never said anything or showed anger. People called him bad names. Did he ever hear the names? No one knew. His face never showed any emotion*. He did not know love of any kind. When he finished his dinner in summer, he would sit outside. When he finished his dinner in winter, he would sit by the fire and not move.

For years it went on this way. He could not work, and his family began to resent* him more and more. They called him more names and played jokes on him. They brought cats and dogs in to eat with him, and all the neighbours came to watch and laugh.

But still the blind boy did not say anything.



calm* – not upset, relaxed

treated* – acted towards, deal with

scraps* – a small amount of uneaten food

emotion* – strong feeling

resent* – feel bitter about, have a grudge about

New short story starts tomorrow: Guy de Maupassant’s The Blind Man

Tomorrow, we begin a new short story adaptation for intermediate learners. The original story is by Guy de Maupassant and its title is The Blind Man. We hope you enjoy it.


Fish and Chips (Ch15) – the final chapter

We have a baby girl. She was born on Christmas Day. We called her Angela, our little angel. Like the sun, everything revolves around her. Once, I used to put my head down on my pillow at night and not wake up again until morning. Not now. Nowadays, I’m lucky if I get three hours uninterrupted* sleep. But I don’t mind. I’m a father; I’m an incredibly proud, incredibly lucky father. Sometimes when Angela wakes me up at night, I don’t get back to sleep again. Usually, I take a spare duvet* and go downstairs into the living room. Then I sit and think about that night in the Fish and Chip shop. I haven’t told Helen anything about it. As far as she knows, the car broke down and I had to walk part of the way home.

I know it’s better to lie, but I wish I could tell her.

I look at my watch and take a sip of my tea. I’ve been awake since four, when Angela woke me up. It is nearly six now and still dark outside. There is also snow on the ground. Even if I couldn’t see it lying on the top of cars, I would know: snow and neon streetlights create an unmistakeable orange glow. I shiver at the thought of stepping out, but there is no alternative: I used the last remaining nappy* last night. I’ll get some more – no big deal*. There is a 24hr supermarket a mile away. I’ll take the car and be back in twenty minutes.

After I clear the snow off the car and get the car started, I put the heater on full and wait for the car to warm up. The warm air blowing on my legs feels good. I think of little Angela sleeping in her cot* all cosy and wrapped up in blankets. I smile. She is safe and warm and in my life. I drive off and head for the supermarket. Everything around me is deserted. I am in a snow desert. But up ahead is a junction. It is the turn that takes me onto the main road. The road I am on has been salted and covered in grit, but I slow almost to a crawl nonetheless. Next to the turn, there is bus shelter. I apply the brakes gently, getting ready to turn. I check to my left. All clear. As begin to turn right, I see that there is someone in the shelter. The person is huddled on the ground, covered with a light blanket. I feel suddenly sorry for this poor soul. Maybe I should stop and give the person some money or help in some way. As I move onto the main road, the person in the shelter suddenly sits up. I only get a glimpse, but I am sure. I am sure it is George. I am on the main road now. It has been cleared of snow. There are other cars, behind and in front. I pick up speed. I look in the mirror. George is still sitting up. He is watching me drive away. I can feel his eyes. They are locked onto my car. I press the accelerator harder. I watch in the mirror until George and the shelter have disappeared.

Until they have become nothing but a memory.



uninterrupted* – not broken or disturbed

duvet* – a warm blanket

nappy* – a diaper, a piece of material wrapped around a baby’s bottom

no big deal* – not a big problem

cot* – a baby’s bed

Fish and Chips (Ch14)

The car slowed down and stopped. Angela put the car into neutral and I sighed. I was home. After all that had happened, I had made it back to my wife. I looked at my house and then turned to Angela, the woman who had been brave enough to help me. ‘I can’t thank you enough,’ I said. ‘If it hadn’t been for you…’

‘I’m only glad I could help,’ she replied, giving me a broad* smile. ‘Now off you go and don’t keep your wife waiting any longer.’

I nodded. Stepping out, the icy air stung my face. ‘Merry Christmas,’ I said, my breath surrounding me in white clouds.

‘Merry Christmas,’ she replied.

I closed the door and a moment later, the car moved away, its tires crunching through the ice on a puddle. But its red tail lights receded* quickly, and when I raised a hand and waved, it was too late: Angela’s car swung right at the bottom of the street and was gone.

Wary of slipping, I trod carefully up my driveway and was suddenly aware of snowflakes tumbling* past me. I stopped and stared into the looming* sky. The delicate flakes tumbled out of it and met with my skin. Sunrise was hours away, but to the east, a paler darkness was forming. I looked at my watch, and looked at it again. At some point during the night it had stopped. I guessed the time might be around five – early, but I knew Helen would be up. She must be frantic*. What was I going to tell her?

I stopped and looked in my front window. It was bow-shaped and its centre sat our Christmas tree, its lights glowing amongst the baubles* and pine needles*. I stared at it. I couldn’t see them, but I knew that at the base of the tree, there were gifts wrapped in bows, waiting to be opened. The life I had – a loving wife, a comfortable home, an unborn child – was now just a turn of the key away. I had come so close to losing it all, but I hadn’t.

Standing on that step and listening to my wife coming down the stairs, I began to cry.

I was grateful beyond words.


broad* – wide

receded* – grew more distant, became further away

tumbling*– falling

looming* – overhanging, threatening

frantic*– very distressed, upset

baubles*- spherical decorations

pine needles* – the leaves of a pine tree

An interview with Helbling Languages about The Right Thing

Recently, Walter and Scott did an interview for Helbling Languages. They spoke about their new story, The Right Thing, which will be published in March 2015, and the way that they write. Here is the link:

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 18.04.38

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Fish and Chips (Ch13)

I ran until I could run no further. When I eventually stopped, I could barely stand. Gasping*, I looked back towards the village. Was it the same night or the next? I wasn’t sure and didn’t even care. An orange glow lit the sky above where I presumed* the shop was. For a moment, a vision of the shopkeeper, dead on the floor with flames tearing at him, filled my head.

Suddenly, out of the dark, a car’s headlights flashed, disappeared and re-appeared again, weaving* along the bending road towards me. I ran into the middle of the road, waving my arms and shouting. There was a screech of brakes, and the car slowed down. It tried to go past me, but I launched myself onto its bonnet and made it stop. Inches from my face, a frightened young woman stared back at me through the front windscreen glass.

`Please,’ I yelled, ‘my car’s broken down. I need a lift.’

The woman shook her head. She looked terrified*. I couldn’t blame her.

‘I need to get home to my wife. She’s pregnant. I ran out of petrol. You’ve got to help me. Please. Please.’ I looked at the woman’s face. ‘I’m begging you.’

I could see that she didn’t know what to do. I was a stranger in the night; I could be a madman, but I could also be telling the truth. `Please,’ I said again, `It’s Christmas and I don’t want to miss the birth of my child.’ The woman bit her lip and looked around herself as though she were looking for someone who could make the decision for her.

Slowly, the fear drained* from her eyes and the car stopped completely. I climbed off the bonnet and began apologizing for what I had done, hoping that I was sounding like a normal person might.

A few moments after that, she unlocked the doors.



Gasping* – breathing very heavily

presumed* – assumed, guessed

weaving* – moving from side to side

terrified* – very, very frightened

drained* – emptied

Fish and Chips (Ch12)

‘Is he dead?’ I asked.

George didn’t answer. It was a stupid question. I had stood and watched while the shopkeeper’s limbs had thrashed*, while his face had contorted*, while George’s grip had tightened, while the shopkeeper had breathed his last breath and become still…

‘Of course he’s dead,’ said George, standing over the shopkeeper, his legs either side of the body.

I stared. I couldn’t think. The nightmare had taken yet another turn. I was numb. What were we going to do? This man had tried to kill us, and now he was dead, murdered in front of me. It was self-defence. The shopkeeper was a maniac*. Who knows how many other people he had killed. But George had committed a crime. He had made us criminals. There would have to be an investigation. We would have to defend our actions…

I was aware of George moving around the storeroom, looking for something.

‘What are you doing?’ I shouted, rage* suddenly erupting* from me.

George didn’t reply. Head down, he continued to rummage, mumbling to himself.

‘Answer me! What are you doing?’

George stopped and stared at me. ‘It was him or us,’ he said.

‘We should call the police. We can explain. There was a fight; we had to protect ourselves.’

George had a bundle of newspapers in his hands. He dropped them next to the body and began collecting more. He looked at me over his shoulder. I was in shock. I had no idea what he was doing. It was only when he returned with more papers, reached into his pocket and pulled out a lighter that I understood. ‘I’m not explaining anything,’ he said.

The fire was already blazing when I barged* out of the shop.



*thrashed – moved violently

*contorted – moved to form strange shapes

*maniac – madman, lunatic

*rage – anger

*erupting – coming out suddenly

*canister – container

*barging – pushing

Fish and Chips (Ch11)

The knife was trapped under my feet. I began to nudge it towards George. `Can you reach it?’ I asked.

George stretched out his fingers and his nails touched the knife’s handle. By the tips* of his nails, millimetre-by-millimetre, he dragged the knife closer to him. The shopkeeper on the floor groaned again. ‘Hurry!’ I hissed. George had a good hold of the knife’s handle now. I slipped my hands down the pipe to the knife’s blade and together we began to cut through the rope that held us. I don’t know how long it took, but suddenly our hands were free.

We sat there for a moment, neither of us moving. I picked up the knife and stood. The room was eerily* silent. `I’m going to call the police,’ I said.

‘We should tie him first,’ said George. I nodded. With the rope that he had used on us, we bound* the shopkeeper’s hands behind his back.

When we finished, I stepped over the shopkeeper and went into the other room. The mobile phone was on a table. I walked over to it and picked it up. The screen was blank. I tried to switch it on, but nothing happened. I removed the back. No battery. It was a ruse* to get me back here. I wondered how many times he had done this. How many people had he tricked and killed? I put the phone down on the table and turned. I froze when I saw the scene in the storeroom next door.

George was sitting on top of the shopkeeper with his hands around the shopkeeper’s neck. The shopkeeper was awake. Eyes bulging*, his face tortured, he was kicking and thrashing his legs, trying to break free of George’s grip.

But the more he struggled, the tighter George’s grip became.



*tips – ends of

*eerily – strangely, frighteningly

*bound – tied

*ruse – trick

*bulging – sticking out

Fish and Chips (Ch10)

With an unblinking* stare, the man walked forward with the knife pointing at me.

‘No, please,’ I pleaded. `I have a wife and a family….’ I thrashed* my legs, aiming kicks towards him, trying to stop him from coming closer.

`Don’t struggle*,’ he said. `I can make it hurt – or not.’

I was desperate. It was a life and death situation. Afterwards, I felt ashamed*, but at the time I meant every word. ‘Kill him! Kill him!’ I shouted and looked at George. ‘He’s got nothing to live for. Don’t kill me. Kill him! I won’t tell. Just let me go!’

The man took one step more then stopped. My heart jumped. ‘He’s got no one,’ I said, almost whispering, ‘No one will miss him. Kill him but not me. Just let me go. You’ll never see me again.’ As I spoke, I glanced at George. His face said that he had heard my betrayal* but was struggling to believe it.

`You should get better friends,’ said the shopkeeper, changing his angle of attack and moving towards George. The knife rose up. I closed my eyes.

Then there was a small cry, the clatter* of steel and a dull* thump.

What had happened? I opened my eyes. The shopkeeper had slipped – or had George tripped him? I didn’t know and it didn’t matter: the shopkeeper had fallen and the knife, unbelievably, had bounced out of his hand was now lying inches from my foot. I curled my left leg, trapped the knife under my shoe and dragged it towards me. As I did so, I glanced at the shopkeeper. He groaned slightly and rolled over in our direction. His eyes, unfocused and blinking, looked around.

I had seconds: get the knife or die.



unblinking* – not opening and closing

thrashed* – moved violently

struggle* – fight against

ashamed*– embarrassed

betrayal* – disloyalty, bad faith, treachery

clatter* – loud noise, especially because hard objects smash together

dull* – not sharp, not distinct

Fish and Chips (Ch9)

‘There was another one,’ said George.

‘Another what? What do you mean?’ I asked.

George twisted his head and stared at me. `There was another man here before you. When I woke up, he was next to me – tied to the pipe – just like we are.’ George swallowed hard. `Then the shopkeeper came in with his knife and…’ He shook his head and swallowed again. `After the shopkeeper killed him, he dragged* his body through to the next room…and I could hear him chopping… it went on forever. Then it stopped and he walked past the door. He had a bucket in his hand…He put the contents into a mixer. He was making something. It was food…’

I shook my head. I didn’t want to hear any more. I thought about the sausages I had eaten and their hot, fatty insides. My stomach lurched*. Desperately, I pulled and twisted at the rope, but it was useless. It bit into my skin and I could feel my own hot blood run down my fingers.

Just then, the shopkeeper appeared at the door.

‘Why are you doing this?’ I screamed.

The man just stood and stared.

‘Don’t do it. Don’t do it, please!’ I was wailing now. ‘Don’t kill me. Please, don’t do it!’

‘Shut up!’ the shopkeeper snapped.

I stopped talking, but tears continued to run down my face. I glanced at George. He was shaking his head and mumbling*. I looked at the shopkeeper. His eyebrows rose up; and, like a bad magician, he brought out a knife from behind his back. As he waved it slowly in front of his face, light from the other room danced on its bright blade. He smiled.

‘So,’ he said, ‘who’s first?’

© EFLshorts


dragged* – pulled in order to move something heavy

lurched* – moved suddenly and unsteadily

mumbling* – talking indistinctly

Fish and Chips (Ch8)

I kept my voice low.

‘How did you get here?’ I asked George quietly.

‘I was going to Leicester…I was thumbing a lift*.’ George started to cough. `It was late. A car came and stopped. It was him. I got in and that’s the last I remember. I woke up here.’

`Do you know me?’ I asked.

‘Yes, you work for that homeless place…’ George started to cough again. He turned his head as he did so. I felt spittle land on my face, and I jerked* away, repulsed*. This time George couldn’t stop coughing.

The door opened across the room and the man appeared in the doorway. George kept on coughing. The man said nothing as he approached. His eyes were in deep shadow, but his narrow mouth was as thin and tight as a paper cut.

‘He’s not well,’ I said, ‘he needs a doctor.’

The man turned his head and stared at me.

George was struggling to breathe. The man leaned forward, grabbed George by the hair and stared into his face. George coughed and spit* covered the man’s face. He staggered backwards and stumbled into a metal shelf. A big plastic bottle fell and bounced on the stone floor.

The man was furious. He wiped his face and stared at his hand. His chest heaved and I could see him grind his teeth. He stood abruptly*, ran across the room and flung open the door. I could hear his heavy footsteps as he climbed the stairs to his rooms above; then the sound of running water.

George finally stopped coughing. I turned and looked at him. He stared back at me, his beard covered in spit, his eyes full of tears. I didn’t know which one I hated more: George or the man who had kidnapped us.



thumbing a lift* – signalling to a driver that you want them to take you somewhere

jerked* – moved, pulled suddenly

repulsed* – disgusted

spit* – the water in one’s mouth

abruptly* – suddenly

Fish and Chips (Ch7)

What was that noise? It was a roaring sound like a motorboat and it filled my head…I tried to open my eyes. Everything was blurred*. My head hurt. Where was I? What happened? And what was that smell? It was something familiar, something unpleasant. I wrinkled my nose and tried to shake the pain from my head. The room spun around. I stopped moving my head. I wanted to hold it in my hands, but I couldn’t. My hands were tied behind my back! Slowly, I remembered: the Christmas party, my car, the shop, the man behind the counter…

A cold, metal drainpipe dug into my spine*. I was tightly tied to it. The smell? He sat beside me, also tied to the drainpipe. I could feel him and smell him. His breathing was heavy and ragged*. I twisted my neck and leaned forwards as far as I could so that I could see his face. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew this man. His name was George. He often came into town and was a regular at the soup kitchen* on Hayek Street.

‘George?’ I whispered, ‘are you okay?’

There was silence for a while and then, `Yes.’

`What’s happening? What’s going on?’

`Talk quietly,’ warned George. `He’s in the next room.’



blurred* – not sharp

spine* – backbone

ragged* – not regular

soup kitchen* – a place that offers free food


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