Xelha Taylor, Grade 9, East Sydney Community High School
The room is small and silent. As he wakes, he sighs, an empty, hollow echo of his lifeless sleep. When he heads down stairs and passes his family, he greets them. They are faceless and static, his mirror in the early morning.
He leaves his house as the clock strikes eight, beginning his long walk from home. He stares at the ground as he walks. Glancing up, he freezes, a figure, waving at him, their clothes unfamiliar, their hair a bright blonde. The boy panics and steels himself for a conversation filled with lies.
The figure gets closer, and the boy recognises his quick gait. As the figure says hello, the boy confirms who it is. They are a friend, a close friend, who had dyed their hair and bought new clothes and whose face was as blank as all the others.
They walk to school, and eventually, they are at the large gates of a towering building. Someone pushes past the boy and his friend comments on how beautiful that person was. The boy thinks about the person’s rough, clenched hand, the angry, forceful push and determines that the person was not beautiful at all.
“Beauty”, was a concept he could not comprehend the same as others. Someone was pretty, yes, if they had the right posture or speech or emotion, but no one was really beautiful in every aspect. When explaining this to many different people, they would always stay quiet for a long time, before replying “you’re weird” or “you’re over thinking it”, or, sometimes, rarely, “you might be right”.
Classes pass in a swirling blur, movement and sound all becoming a soup of knowledge quickly swallowed down. He stands from his seat, slightly dizzy for an unknown reason. He’s tired and confused; art class is difficult, straining. Lying can fake only so much, he cannot create an image of something he has never seen.
He heads home, rejecting the invitation to spend time with others, stumbling slightly as he is overwhelmed by the presence of a child who seems to be radiating joy as if there was no trouble in the world. The sky is cloudy again; threatening to spill its somehow endless torrent of water.
He arrives at his door just as the rain breaks through the thick confines of their dark grey prison, littering the ground with dark patches that eventually stitch together to create a thin, ice-cold blanket. Unlocking the door with the only key that he has ever had, the boy heads inside to the warmth of a small house, squeezed between a crispy, little bakery and a welcoming, unpopular cafe. His family are not home, as one parent works late and the other is always out late.
The boy takes a can of tinned tuna from the bottom shelves in the kitchen, before heading towards the back window. He opens the window, leans outside as far as he can go, ignoring the pelting rain and calls gently for a mass of dirty hair. The creature he calls emerges from the shadow of the clouded setting sun, it’s tail curling in an imitation of ferocious predator, but drops the act as it catches the smell of fish and a dry place to sleep.
The creature stops in front of the boy, making a sound that is like nothing he has heard from any other living thing. He loves this creature, for many reasons, endless to count, but there is one that always lingers down at the back alley of his mind.
This creature’s face is the only one he can see.