2nd place || 2020
5th through 6th grade


by Curtis Bender


The commander in John’s regiment cried, “We have won the battle!”

“Take all prisoners to Camp Blang,” Commander Bleak ordered.

John, though worn out from the battle, obeyed, knowing severe punishment would come if he did not listen. Once at Camp Blang, John stood against a wall and started to doze off. Then a sudden screech from one of the prisoners woke John and he opened his eyes to see many soldiers loading ammo into their guns.

“What’s going on?” John inquired of one of the soldiers.

“Commander Bleak ordered us to fire on every prisoner of the battle. Oh, and since you’re here, you can help with this dirty job.”

The soldier handed John a gun. Before John could do anything, Commander Bleak’s booming voice shouted, “Ready your guns!”

John aimed his gun at a prisoner. At that moment, a voice in his head whispered, no, don’t fire, this is wrong, don’t stand here, do something! Without thinking, John blurted out, “No, I will not fire on these innocent people. The battle is over, and no more blood should be shed. Besides, weren’t we fighting for freedom so that we could praise God freely? Do you believe that God would want us to destroy innocent men?”

Right when John thought he had changed Commander Bleak’s mind, Commander Bleak shouted, “No! They are our enemies and they deserve to die! But we must deal with something else first. Do you remember what I told you about disobeying orders, John?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good, then you must know that you will suffer much until you accept to fire on the prisoners. You three.”

Commander Bleak pointed to three men standing beside John.

“Take John to the holding cell. The rest of you, lock up the prisoners.”

As John was taken to the holding cell, the soldier to his left scowled.

“Nice going, and I thought you were a loyal soldier.”

Don’t mind him, you did the right thing, the voice inside him announced, whatever is thrown at you, know that if you resist to fire on the prisoners, you will save their lives.

“Get in,” the soldier to his left growled. He shoved John forward.

Inside the cell, John began to shake and soon, he couldn’t feel his toes. Luckily, there was a little bed and some light blankets. He lay down and was fast asleep.

John opened his eyes to see dim light shining through the little window in his holding cell. Where am I? This room is cold and it’s not home.

A loud BANG made John flinch. Oh, holding cell…oh no, that must mean they’re shooting the prisoners! He rushed to the window and peered out. Another shot was fired, and a man fell to the ground. He woke and realized he had been dreaming. He rushed to the window and saw no man on the ground. It was morning. Just then there was a knock on the cell door.

“Hello, who is it?”

The cell door opened and in stepped Commander Bleak.

“I hope you have the right mind to put an end to your suffering?”

“Yes, I do.”

Commander Bleak’s eyes twinkled.

“So, you will…”

John cut him off. “I will not do that dirty job.”

The twinkle in Commander Bleak’s eyes faded and blazed with anger.


Commander Bleak slammed John’s cell door shut.

“Make sure he gets barely any food or water for today,” he ordered a guard, loud enough for John to hear.

After Commander Bleak’s visit, the hours seemed to pass slowly for John. Would Commander Bleak decide to go ahead and kill the prisoners if he kept on refusing? Or what if…

Another loud knock on John’s holding cell door made him jerk from his thoughts.

“Come in.”

The door didn’t open, but a strong, clear voice came from the other side of the door.

“Commander Bleak would like to see you in his quarters.”

The key to the door clicked, some footsteps scampered away from the door, and the door opened slightly. John stood up and to his surprise, no one was waiting at the door. A man stepped out of the shadows, grumbling.

“Why does he have to have an escort? Can’t we just trust him? I could leave before he gets out of the door.”

Then the man noticed John, and gasped.

“You didn’t hear that did you? Well it doesn’t matter; I’ll take you to Commander Bleak. Follow me.”

After a moment John’s escort announced, “We’re here. Good luck.”

“Thanks.” Yeah, good luck. I’m going to need all I can get. “May I come in?”

“Yes,” Commander Bleak gruffed.

John opened the door of Commander Bleak’s cabin and stepped in.

“Sit down and we will begin. Do you recall the man who went to tell you I wanted you?”


“He did not want to see your face because you have become a disgrace. You should do what…”

A loud knock on the door interrupted him.

“Wells, I told you not to interrupt this meeting!” an angry Commander Bleak shouted.

“What if it’s not Sargent Wells?” came the reply.

“Well, who is it then?”

The door opened and in stepped General Crisp.

“I heard that there was a problem here. John has disobeyed orders.”

“Yes, he has sir.”

“But they were terrible orders. He was told to kill innocent men after a battle was over and he did not obey. If he had, then more lives would have been lost.”

“Yes, but they are our enemies and deserve to die,” Commander Bleak said.

“True, they are our enemies, but they don’t deserve to die. Since you gave orders to kill men out of a battle, then I believe that we should send you, Commander Bleak, back to be dealt with at a training camp. And as for you,” he turned to John, “you saved many lives and should be treated very well. I think you deserve a visit to your home.”

Curtis loves to play sports. He has nine family members and a dog named Leia. He also has many cats.