StoryBreak: “Just Breathe”

Thanks to Ivan Aleksic @ivalex for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁

Hi friends, hope we’re all keeping well.

I was recently reading through some of my completed homework that I had handed up in the past 2 years of school, when I came across this short story that I wrote a year back. I had a lot of fun writing it, and got a good mark for it as well.

The theme of the story we had to write was “A Race Against Time”. While others were probably thinking about bomb disposals and some kind of daring bank heist, I’d like to believe that I took a more creative approach to the theme, and came up with a more unusual idea for it.

I think it would be cool to include this short story on my blog, as I definitely want to get into creative writing a bit more.

Alright, well, here it is then.

“Just Breathe”- by Billy Ly.

‘Sterben’ to….die.


‘Öffnen’ to….open.


‘Atmen’ to…..wait,shoot,what was that again?

My blood froze as my bewildered eyes stared blankly at the new word. The hard thumping in my chest started to accelerate as my brain frantically searched for the translation.


In an act of absolute desperation, I looked up at Aoife, who was sitting next to me. She turned her head, looked into my helpless, panicking face, before returning an evil grin and going back to her work. My heart sank.

That demoness! I’ll make sure to get back at her later.

I looked around the silent classroom, at my classmates fearfully concentrating on their work, then at evil incarnate herself, Ms.Sylvia, sitting pensively at the teacher’s desk, correcting tests. Her abyss black hair, which was coincidentally the same colour as her soul, rested messily on her wide, gorilla-like shoulders, hiding a large portion of her hideous, demonic face.

I grimaced before looking up at the antique clock sitting at the top of the classroom. Its merciless face displayed the time ’15:51′. It was then that my face scrunched up in a mixture of pain and agony. 

This time, I really may have royally screwed up.

If I remember correctly, the assignment was given to us at roughly this exact time yesterday. The towering Ms. Sylvia had bellowed before the entire class that if even one of the 100 German verbs weren’t translated, it would be 2 weeks detention. The room had practically swallowed a collective gulp,shivering at the thought of missing out on two weeks lunch time over a piece of incomplete homework.

But then again, this was Ms.Sylvia we were talking about; the great, immovable mammoth of Dartry High School. Whichever class she went to teach, disaster would soon follow for the pupils. She had earned her infamous reputation for being the strictest, meanest, cruelest teacher by giving a steady stream of detentions within her first year. Last month, she had given 2 weeks detention to a girl whose hair was 0.02mm over the permitted length. The poor girl had stood in front of the entire class while the teacher brandished the smallest ruler we had ever seen. She had even suspended a boy for 3 days because he had written his exam out in his own blue biro, instead of a BIC biro that Ms. Sylvia had demanded we use. The fearsome woman had taken out a magnifying glass to inspect the colour!

You’d think by now there would be hordes of furious parents, angrily complaining about the outrageous actions of the woman. But no, there hadn’t been a single one, as, unsurprisingly, even the parents were terrified of Ms. Sylvia. Class grades have soared, however, since she got here. No student of hers had ever failed a test she had given. This was to be expected of course, since no one dared to fail one her tests and face the disastrous consequences.


My heart continued to beat abnormally fast as my forehead started to glisten with tiny beads of sweat. I stared down at the foreign word that was currently causing me so much anguish. I clenched my teeth in self-hatred and frustration. How could I have forgotten to do the homework? It was so simple, even a fool could just use Google Translate to complete it. But somehow, my pitiful excuse for a brain managed to transcend all laws of logic and forgotten to do the most terryifying teacher’s homework.

I looked up at the clock again. 


Two more minutes before she gets up and goes around the classroom to collect the homework. I glanced at which number verb I was on.


Okay, okay. This was doable. I just needed to do this one and 6 more. I then scanned the page for the verbs that still needed to be translated.

Können, sollen ,mögen, müssen, dürfen, wollen. 

My face lit up, realising there was still hope. They were the 6 modal verbs, the easiest verbs to translate, as we had learned them off just a few days ago.

Without skipping another beat, my hand raced across the page to fill them in while it also fought off the excruciating pain, writing so fast the words were just barely legible. 

I calmly let out a sigh of relief, before returning my eyes to my current nemesis standing before me-‘atmen’.

Okay, just relax. Breathe. You still have another minute before she starts her rounds. If we tackle this calmly, we can still-

“Alright, pens down, stop whatever it is you brats are doing. I’m going around now to collect last night’s homework. Have it ready by your miserable desk before I get there!” boomed the mighty behemoth of a woman.

I paused. What?!? An icy chill ran down my spine. Impossible. 

I looked up at the clock as if I’d been betrayed.


Shoot! I must have spent too long dwelling in my thoughts, I realised while silently cursing. I bit down hard against my lip with sheer determination, realising this was now going to be a race against time.

By now, the merciless teacher was already marching down the rows of desks, snatching sheets of completed work from a field of trembling hands.

Atmen, atmen, atmen.

I kept repeating the word to myself in hopes that it would just magically reveal its meaning. My heart was pounding even faster now as I tightened my grip around the BIC pen. My right arm was trembling in both pain and panic. 

Atmen, atmen, at-

“Just breathe,”. 

My eyes shot at Aoife sneering beside me, clearly relishing my suffering in all its glory.

“Just breathe,” she whispered again, with clear sarcasm. Her eyes were observing me carefully, as if they belonged to a curious scientist watching the results of an experiment unfold. 

Just breathe? What was she on about? Couldn’t she see the situation that I was in right now!?! 

The thundering sound of Ms.Sylvia’s marching grew closer. She was just two desks away now.

Just breathe? Just breathe. Just breathe? Just-



A rush of adrenaline swept through my body as the answer finally swam up to the surface of my brain. The surge was incredible. Could this have been what Alan Turing felt when he cracked the Enigma Code? I’ll ponder it later. But as of now….

With one final push, my aching hand wrote down the answer onto the now complete homework sheet, before handing it up to the passing, grunting Ms.Sylvia.

With my final bits of strength, I mustered up a weak smile at the teacher marching by, before collapsing onto my desk in exhaustion.

And yeah, cool. That’ll probably be it for this StoryBreak. Can you guys guess what the verb meant?

Anyway, stay safe everyone and I hope to see you again👋🏼

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