For our first week, we’re featuring entries from a recent competition we hosted online. Readers were challenged to write a short story, or a poem on the theme “A fresh start”. It was VERY hard to pick the top three, but somebody has to do these things. Here is the winner, and the two runners-up.
Call-out details at bottom of the page.
Luna had never been one with the crowd. Strange. Weirdo. Creep. That was what they called her, even when they were just children. You’ll never be one of us, you don’t belong here, they jeered, poison filling their words. She remembered the first time her teacher confessed to her parents that he was worried about her. There’s something wrong with your daughter, he said, concerned. Don’t be a fool, said her mother, dismissing the topic completely, my baby Luna’s just shy. They didn’t know. They didn’t understand. After all, how could they?
It was hard for her to connect with others – it was like she lived in her safe little bubble, where socialising was unnecessary. All the other children at the kindergarten were playing together, sharing their things, while she was struggling to simply approach another child. She shied away from her teacher’s touch, instead of leaning towards it like any other child. They spoke to her in slow, dramatic words, but she couldn’t understand anything they said; she thought it was too loud, too close for comfort. So they ignored her.
At the beginning, being ignored was nice. Over time, it grew lonely. Her bubble of safety became a cage, closing in around her. Time passed by, as all the other kids developed friendships and hierarchy between themselves.
Everything changed when the new primary teacher arrived. She was gentle and thoughtful, everything all the other teachers hadn’t been. The best thing? Luna felt like the new teacher understood her. She took the time to speak to her one on one, not singling her out, but trying to help her fit in. It was strange, and new, and she wasn’t used to it. But over time, she grew fond of it. For the first time in her life, she was growing.
Over time, the cage around her felt like it was loosening, growing, allowing her to wander.
Maybe she’d never be truly free of the cage, but now she knew that as long as she was confident, she could change, and so could her mind.
Karina Chan, Sha Tin College
Claire sat on her warm bed with her blanket wrapped loosely around her body. The anxiety of missing her bus on the first day of school kept jolting her awake throughout the night and the thought of stepping back into the building was eating her alive.
How will I make it through another year? she thought as she stared into the abyss of the night. She had waited for hours for her mother to swing open the door and yell how late she was for school. But tonight, it felt like time had stopped and, instead of the silence of the night, the sound of her rapid heartbeat filled her ears.
She looked into the darkness with a hope that something would grab her and take her away from the reality of living with a disorder that medication can’t even cure. But even she knew, she was hoping for the impossible.
She leaned back on her pillow as her head began to fill with all possible outcomes of the day:
Did I forget to pack my biology textbook? Denise will definitely be annoyed if I ask whether she can share hers. I ironed my shirt, right? What if I missed some wrinkles and end up the joke of the school –
Oh wait, I am.
Her thoughts swirled from topic to topic without rest as her eyes drifted from corner to corner of her window.
Suddenly, she noticed thick grey clouds in the sky. The screaming in her mind finally stopped as she shifted her concentration to the changing sky. The sky changed colour slowly as the dark void of the night disappeared and surrendered to the light of tomorrow.
The sky was a metallic grey colour as the warmth of a new beginning enveloped her bones. The voice that had been screaming at her went silent when it noticed that Claire was no longer paying attention to it.
With a quick intake of breath, she moved closer to the window to observe the wonders of the world. And just then, she wished for nothing more but for time itself to halt.
The first soft, orange-hued rays of sunrise kissed her building and the land below, bringing the warmth of another day and another goal. She knew that she couldn’t fight or argue with the sun for dragging her into the day she’s been dreading for a month. But she knew that the sun brought a gift to comfort her, a fresh start.
Maybe, it won’t be that bad as I thought it would be.
Azkka Noor, 16, Sha Tin College
We gazed upon the lights beyond the Wall; the dazzling colours snuffing out the night sky.
“Dad, why aren’t there any lights here? Why are they all over there?”
He punched me, and a tooth came flying out.
“You know how long it took for us to settle down here? Huh? And you still want more?”
The second punch brought me back to reality, five years later; to the Wall separating me and the city, where the lights shine brightest.
I continued to struggle upwards. A little more and I could tip over. Leave this place. Start afresh.
It was midnight. The moon was dancing with the stars, and the nightly winds did their talking. They sounded awfully familiar.
“Why wouldn’t you be like your parents? Like us? We just wanted to live a peaceful life in the woods; and you’ve ruined all of it.”
“Dad, you realise the world isn’t just your hovel, right?
“Hmmph! At least it’s better than dying on the wall!” I set my hands on the top of the wall, and peeked over it. Behind the thick mesh were flashes of brilliance from the city within: orange, teal, and everything in between. It was mesmerising.
I looked behind me, and saw nothing.
Did I have anything to lose?
I tried my hand against the mesh; and pain came gushing like jets of flame. Trying to ignore the pain, I put my arm into the mesh to lever myself on top, then jumped. It felt like my chest was ripped apart.
I thought I was done, when my natural reflexes saved me.
They whispered in my ear like an annoying bee. “You ought to be careful when playing with fire, see? You’re burned now. You let go, you lose everything. You go back, you get a stable life with all your possessions intact.”
Maybe they would be right – if I actually had anything to lose from jumping. I had nothing, except my hopes and dreams. And they’re a bit hard to lose, aren’t they?
I let go of the mesh, and tumbled over the wall into the abyss below.
It felt great to start over.
Cyrus Cheung Chu-kin, 16, St Louis School
Write here, right now
Every week, we publish readers’ creative writing, poetry, photographs and artwork. For the chance to see your work published, email it to email@example.com. (Remember to have "Write Here" in your email's subject line, and include your full name, age, and school; and if you have photos or artwork that goes with it, it needs to be at least 1MB.)