Girl at the Lights- Bella Trobe, Y13

Every day on my way to school I drive down this road, and even at 7:30 in the morning I see you. And every day you’re here on my way home. I don’t know you; I never will, nor ever want to. Yet I see you, tiny, in rags with long dark hair matted around your face.You limp on crutches, and as you come to tap on my window, we make eye contact again. The sticky heat settles on your dark skin, tiny beads of perspiration on your forehead.

 

Early in the morning you sit on the edge of the road, and sometimes you are sleeping. As my car rushes past the traffic lights where you lie, I can see the flies around your fragile figure, your protruded ribs diminished in comparison to your swollen belly. Nevertheless, as soon as we pass you, the horrific scene which is your forever, is one I immediately forget. 

 

Even when I drive past on weekends, you still sit on the faded yellow and black painted curb. You are the foreground to a Mandal landscape. Capacious Bombay dwarfs you and whilst you live in silence amongst the decaying chalky brown grass, sound and light surround you: crying babies, honking cars, barking stray dogs, and despite the dominance of dusty grey there are green palm trees and pallid pink painted walls.  

 

You wouldn’t ever recognise me, and I don’t ever spend any time thinking about you.

We are the same age. We live in the same city. Yet our lives will never be the same. 

Whenever you see me I am encased in my world of affluence, and as you peer through the tinted windows of my new air conditioned car, you may hear the serene silence settle on the leather seats. I go from the marble clad floors of my apartment, to a school with bodyguards and billionaires. But you, you live on the street. You are forced to beg. You are owned. Whilst I live in a world where I can have a plan for my future, your future holds no certainty, no choice. You are trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, and are only one in the countless before you and countless after you. 

 

And I know this, as do so many others who shake their heads at you when you gaze up with your big eyes and flushed dark diaphoretic skin. You urge people on, willing them to just give you something, even though just ‘something’ won’t make him happy. Yet people refuse to match your stare, as they know where their money would be going, and they get a choice whether to be a part of it. But you didn’t. You’re one of the beggar girls, and will always be. 

 

I see you every day. I never question why you’re there, or whether you can leave. But today you aren’t here. And I’m wondering where you are as I wait at the traffic lights, and a man without any legs looks up at me. I’m realising that this may not be the first time you’re not here this week, but I hadn’t noticed when you were last there, because you always were. I suppose I know what will have happened to you. I know you’re never going to be by the traffic lights again. The thing is, I won’t spend any time thinking about it, because you’re just one of the beggars on the street by the traffic lights. You’re just one the nameless thousands who are forgotten by almost everyone as soon as you gaze up into their eyes.

 

As We Walk- Sophia Baker, Y13

(For Megan…)

 

Fountains of feelings flow 

Between our broken and cut lips,

As we walk where the weeping willows grow,

Beneath our secret solar eclipse 

 

Both bitter from the pain we know

And finding it hard to come to grips,

As we walk where the weeping willows grow,

Beneath our secret solar eclipse 

 

Knowing we must let it all go 

Our anguish sails away on ships,

As we walk where the weeping willows grow,

Beneath our visible lunar eclipse

The Serpent’s Song- Anna Hull, Y12

Slyly sloping, slinking slither

Squirming creatures screech in fear 

Slipping through the slats unseen

Slash and splatter, slice and smear

 

Slit their throats and slurp the blood

Seeping out like stinking sap

Slope away when sight recurs

Slide serenely, sudden snap

 

Scabbed with sulfur, sweating pus

Smoke secreted, searing fumes

Soaking into sodden sands

Sacrificed, so stand their tombs

 

Silver tongues, salacious lust

Sadists sated to seduce 

Simpletons so swift untrussed

Scintillate, constrict the noose

 

Soulless swine in stupored seats

Sacred sanctums soon defiled

Sundry saviours shall cease

Sightless seers now beguiled

 

Someplace shall sustain the strain

Sibilance seeks to prolong

Shaken souls supporting sin

Singing soft the serpent’s song

Daniel – Louie Judd, Y13

 

ONCE UPON A TIME there lived a witch, she was powerful and kind. She protected the village from all of the bad things and protected them all under her spell of goodness. In the autumn, the witch had fallen in love and married a warlock from the neighbouring village. This warlock was as handsome as any Prince and the most courteous of all the men in his village. The sorceress and her husband soon found out that they were expecting a child, and on the day they found out the sky was filled with clouds for the first time and nothing the sorceress could do would make them go away.  On the day of its birth a storm raged in the sky for the first time in a century and the witch’s spell fell and the villagers were suddenly exposed to evil, in all of its forms. During the birth the witch had died, leaving her husband a widower and her newborn son alone. In fear of his son the father ran from the village and left the child on the doorstep of the happiest family in the village in hopes that he would be safe. 

 

It was only when the father opened the front door to travel to work that they saw the child, in fright the father picked up the babe and walked through his house to his wife. “Dear. Look.” the wife gasped when she saw the sleeping child and rushed to take him out of her husband’s arms. “You must rush to work dear,” she muttered as she rocked the boy in her arms. The father left in a rush and smiled the whole way to work, he had always wanted a fourth child but his wife was too weak after their third to have another. 

 

When the father arrived home he heard nothing but quiet, he walked through the house and smiled when he saw his family playing in the field behind their house with their dog and the new baby in his wife’s arms. For the next sixteen years the family lived in peace, with their new son Daniel growing up alongside their other children. The family had also managed to have another child three years after Daniel was brought to them. The family lived in peace and as the children grew up they developed into sensible and affectionate adults that cared for the village. The two sons of the mother and father, and Daniel, became strong blacksmiths like their father and the eldest and youngest children of the family, sweet and pretty girls, grew up to be kinder and sweeter than their mother and ran the village school with the eldest girl’s husband.  

 

On the day of Daniel’s sixteenth birthday the family celebrated by taking a day off of work and throwing a party in the field behind their house. The family ran and played in the field all day until the eldest daughter called them in to eat their supper. “Come on all of you, supper’s ready,” she shouted. The younger daughter ran inside to help her mother and sister prepare the table for the men, who followed after her. Before Daniel could make it inside the house a thunderclap was heard and the sky became filled with black clouds as dark as smoke, and sheets of rain fell down, drenching the boy in seconds. Daniel ran to the door with his father and elder brothers but the door was locked. 

 

They called out for the women to open the door but they didn’t hear them. The mother looked outside of the window and saw the sun gleaming down on her husband’s face as he chased after Daniel in the field. She smiled and replied to her youngest daughter’s question. Meanwhile the boys were shivering in the cold, wet weather. All of them huddled together for warmth, and protection. 

 

“Daniel” a voice spoke.

 

The clouds had gained a swirling motion above their heads and in the epicentre a dark shape could be seen flying above their heads. “Daniel!” it shouted. The boy looked upwards but was blinded by the rain that had turned to acid. His brothers and father disappeared from his reach and he waved his hands out blindly. The mother greeted her husband as he and their two sons walked inside the kitchen door, they were happy and laughing at something one of them had said. “And Daniel?” the mother asked. 

 

The father smiled, “he’s found a rabbit with a broken leg, he’s mending it with his powers,” the mother nodded and looked out of the window and saw her son crouching and talking over the rabbit’s small body. “We’ll wait for him then,” she said. Daniel screamed in agony as he clawed at his face, trying to see where is family had gone, he tried to run away from the voice that was still screaming “DANIEL!”, but he tripped over and fell into a pond that he’d never seen before. Daniel gasped as he was plunged into the icy  water but his lungs filled with the cold fire and he coughed to save his own life. 

 

He was being lifted, Daniel felt as he was raised out of the water, not be hands but by what felt like vines. When he reached to pull them off of him he could only feel his clothes and the feeling remained as he clawed at his chest. The mother looked out of the window to see Daniel stroking the rabbit’s back and feeding it with grass, “Daniel, honey? Can we start eating supper?”. She watched as he raised his head, smiled, and replied, “yes mother! I am just feeding him”. She smiled and nodded her head, returning to the table where the family started their meal.  Daniel cried out for help and whipped his head around blindly whenever he heard a noise, the storm raged on above his head and he could only concentrate on the vines that were constraining his chest so tightly that he could barely breathe. “Please stop!” he cried out, his voice sounded hurt and scared and Daniel winced at how vulnerable he felt. At once the vines released their hold on him and he fell to the floor, THUD, Daniel gasped to get his breath back and hugged himself in his arms to protect himself from the omnipotent threat that flew above his head. 

 

Daniel listened out for the threat and wondered if it had gone away, carefully he stood up and wobbled, as he couldn’t see where he was. He gingerly took a step forward and breathed in deeply when nothing attacked him, “Father? Mother?” he called out. “They won’t protect you Daniel” the voice spoke, it felt as if it was behind his left ear and the boy spun around in shock so quickly that he tripped and fell. He heard the voice laugh and Daniel recognised it as a male’s voice. He cried out for help and suddenly the winds and storm grew even louder, just as a harsh hand came down on his cheek. Daniel cried out and felt a tear slide down his cheek from his blinded eyes in fear. “P-please,” he whimpered. The man muttered something and Daniel strained to hear him but he only heard a foreign language, Daniel felt the winds pick up and shivered as he got even colder. 

 

“It’s all your fault!” the man cried. Daniel furrowed his brows in confusion, “what is my fault?”. The man laughed and more foreign words were heard, Daniel blinked in the wind that went howling above his head and he gasped as he saw who was sat in front of him. “You’re my real father? Why did you and mother disappear?” he asked, his adopted mother and father had shown him a drawing of his real parents when he was younger but had never told him why they were not here now. His real father nodded and Daniel saw a tear escape and run down his father’s cheek. “I thought you did it on purpose…” the man sobbed and clutched onto Daniel’s chest. Daniel was even more confused now, “did what father?”. His father whispered, “kill her,” his father’s voice cracked with pain and he sobbed loudly, with that the storm stopped and the sky became blue again. The mother looked out of the window as they finished their meal and saw that Daniel was laying down on the floor with blood covering his face and a man leaning over his chest. “Daniel!” she cried.

 

She ran out of the kitchen quickly and towards the two men, “you get away from him! You murderer!” for she thought that her son was dead. Her husband followed behind her along with their children, they cried out when they saw their brother on the floor and the father began running towards his son and the man. Daniel smiled as he hugged his father and they spoke quietly about Daniel’s birth and what had happened to his mother. His father had calmed down now and was just happy to see his son again. “I learnt how to do your mother’s spells,” he told Daniel, “I could teach you too if you wished?” Daniel nodded happily. By the time that the mother and father had reached them, Daniel was sitting upright in an embrace with his father and his blood had been cleaned away with his father’s magic. The family saw that it was Daniel’s birth father and slowed down to walkover to them all calmly one they saw that Daniel was alive and well. They opened their heart to the man and as the father had taught Daniel many life skills, Daniel’s birth father taught him many spells and how to become a strong warlock just like his mother was. 

 

 

By Louie Judd

‘I Officially Published My Own Book’- Louie Judd, Y12

 

I officially published my first book: ‘Happy Collisions’, on Amazon the other week and the experience of doing this was utterly terrifying but at the same time, exhilarating.

When I was learning how to publish the book, I learnt a lot about the world and how much stupidity (or bravery – the words are interchangeable) a creator has to have to put them-self out there, ready for the world to judge. The experience has been invaluable, and I have learnt so much from the past couple of months.

My experience started during my GCSEs last year, as I was very stressed and needed a creative release.

I had written a couple short stories and posted them on an online website for free and they were slowly gaining attention from a wide audience. By looking at the statistics I could see that I had readers from Scotland to Bangladesh and all the way to Australia. It was completely overwhelming, and I was getting around 500 reads on each chapter as I posted them. My audience slowly started asking for an actual story, with a plot and character development.

So I came up with the idea and plot for Happy Collisions, for the duration of my GCSEs I worked on the story and eventually finished it; by the end of the experience it had received a lot of love from around the world and had racked up a total of 5 thousand reads for the whole book (in the span of 2 months).

Now, my 22 short stories book has gathered over 130,000 reads in total from around the globe (from over 100 countries) and the rest of my books have, on average, 10K reads. The extent to how far the internet reaches shocks me every day.

The response to Happy Collisions was incredible, and many readers began asking for a sequel. During the summer holiday of 2018 I finished ‘The Collisions Series’ (a trilogy) and eventually my book-writing journey was complete. I left it on the free website until the Easter holiday of this year, when I decided to publish it ‘properly’. I had found a publishing company that my mum had found earlier in the year and I was fully intending on publishing with them until half-way through the process when I realized I wasn’t totally comfortable with working with them. Instead of giving up or just signing with the contracts that I wasn’t sure with, I found an alternative direct publisher and chose to work with them instead, this was Kindle Direct Publishing; they enabled me to publish my ebook and paperback separately (which the previous company didn’t do) for free (also something the previous company didn’t do).  

My only criteria for the new publishing house was that they had a ‘print-on demand’ service. This means that when a buyer clicks the ‘buy’ button they get it from a ‘local’ print-house rather than one where the author is, (or in some cases, the author them-self). This was a major necessity to me as I didn’t want to have to pre-order 500 versions of my own book, only for them to never get sold.

I also wanted the publishing house to have no upfront fees. As a first-time author, I have no audience who are going to purchase my book from day 1, and therefore if I spend £25 on upfront fees, it would take me (if my royalties were £0.25) 101 copies to be sold before I get a profit. Of 25p.  

I then got to work editing and improving the original document until I thought it was ready; I eventually uploaded this to KDP and ordered a proof paperback version. The initial experience of holding my book for the first time was surreal. Finally, my book was finished, and I published it live as a paperback as well as an ebook. This feeling was the most interesting, I’d finally published my work as a legitimate ‘thing’ that someone could buy; and, in a narcissistic sense, I expected to be the new JK Rowling within a day… that didn’t happen, obviously, but the support I’ve got so far from family and friends has been amazing.

That feeling hasn’t gone away and I feel as though it never will, I can proudly say that I am a published author at the age of 17, which still is mind-blowing; but, at the same time, I’m still a child, I haven’t had much ‘life-experience’ and yet my work is out there for the world to read…

Throughout my publishing journey I was acutely aware of the lessons I’d be learning, not only to reflect on in my personal statement for Universities, but on my CV and in general conversations with actual adults. It is a weird feeling, when you’re going through an experience, to be thinking so clearly about how that present moment might affect your future.

But I can truly and proudly say that I am a different person since I started writing my books online, and then publishing one. Firstly, I learnt how to be patient throughout this experience, as I’ve had to realise that things don’t tend to happen overnight. Some aspects of the experience were mind-numbing: editing out meaningless spelling errors, changing character names over and over again and correcting my shockingly bad grammar… it took a lot of patience, but it was completely worth it as I now have a complete book that I am so proud to call mine.

I also had to learn how to be confident in myself and my own work, as I am having to have to promote myself and my book in hopes of convincing somebody to spend their actual money on my product. I am genuinely so grateful to anyone who spends any money or time looking over my stuff, whether it is my free chapters online or my book on Amazon; I have now got a sense of pride in myself and my book that I have to use as confidence when talking about my book. I have learnt so many lessons throughout this experience and to any shy author who wants to do as I have done, I give this one piece of advice: go for it, the experience is amazing and the lessons and rewards you get, (even if nobody buys your book) will last you forever. Or at least they did with me.

My new book, Happy Collisions is available on Amazon.co.uk right now and I would be so grateful if you checked it out.

 

Growing Pains, By Lourdes Muthiah Yr 12

I am a sufferer of Gerascophobia (minus all actual symptoms which include heart palpitations and nausea). According to Wikipedia, I have an abnormal fear of growing old and yet this fear is far from unusual. A study of 2,000 women conducted by Age UK in 2012 found 50% of women in their 20s were afraid of old age. Whilst, I am slightly younger than 20, I find myself fearing the natural aging process. The paradoxical element of my problem is that I yearn for the freedoms that come with age, learning to drive, moving out, living independently. What drives this fear of aging if it gifts me with so many privileges?

70 years from now, my generation will become the world’s elderly, inevitably falling into that part of life we never thought we would reach. The stereotype of the elderly being unable to work or do the things their youth permitted them and burdening their offspring with their existence seems to badly advertise the latter part of our life. In all honesty, I feed into this poor publicity and transform ageing into my own personal anxiety. I envisage my body slowly degenerating and my world slowly closing in on me as I retire to everyday monotony. But where does this seemingly irrational fear for an adolescent come from and how can one overcome it?

It’s possible that I am so concerned with my looks that my first wrinkle or grey hair will trigger a streamline of botox and dye to combat the natural ageing process. And, to an extent, it’s true. Our media-captivated society plants a huge importance on physical beauty and, in particular youthful beauty so it’s natural that my generation may place looks before intellect. The fact that my body will change without my permission leaves me feeling hopeless and seems to make my morning makeup routine redundant. I symbolise the culmination of media bombardment as I instinctively carry out anti-age beauty rituals unsure of whether I started because I wanted to or because I felt I had to. Whilst I have no plan for future botox appointments, I can imagine the nostalgia I will feel for my younger self a few decades from now.

But is this fear that superficial? Maybe it is the loneliness we so often affiliate with the elderly that could be the root. Two fifths of all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company whilst over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone. We have created a human use-by date, a time when we are useful and worthy of human interaction and a time beyond when we become sitting ducks. I may try to fight it but inevitably the loneliness of day-to-day life for the old will take me as its latest prisoner.

Surely, the way to alter this evidently destructive and bleak way of thinking is to pinpoint the moment I started seeing the elderly in this light. The media’s portrayal of the old as behind-the-times and unable to comprehend modern advances such as the latest technology has left an imprint of uselessness. Similarly, the beauty industry’s booming anti-aging market has made the assumption that age is something to prevent. The solution would be to consciously ignore the media and reject the beauty standards of today, both difficult but not impossible tasks.

Nevertheless how do I control a fear over getting old when it comes to the inevitable deterioration of health. To think that I may be a perfectly functioning person with a great social network and an enriching life and suddenly be hit with a life-altering turn for the worse seems terrifying. Then the doctors appointments will start. The many ailments that will plague me on a day to day basis will be answered by a reel of medications to be taken orally 3 times a day. A year ago, I met a retired consultant anaesthetist who had recently had a stroke which stole his voice. He was unable to speak intelligibly so used an electronic sketch pad to speak. Whilst it was a miracle he survived, I could not help but wonder about this quality of life for such an intelligent person. To have so much experience and intellect but be unable to show this or share your inner thoughts is deplorable.  

Worse still, I imagine my most real and hair-raising nightmare to be losing my mind, that gradual robbery of everything that I use to recognise myself – my personality, my intellect, my memories. Dementia, you’re a smooth criminal.  Dementia has one deceivingly honourable trait: it does not discriminate. It does not analyse and evaluate before going in for the kill. It simply chooses its next victim by the roll of a dice. That’s what scares me the most. The helplessness of growing old and the inability to prevent reckless killers like dementia.

Despite this seemingly despair account of the elderly, I know that being old can’t be terrible. The senior population have the experience and wisdom that I am yet to acquire. I look forward to all the knowledge I will possess when I am 80 years old. The aged can be described with adjectives such as venerable and distinguished(I’ve never heard of a venerable 16 year old). I imagine the countless stories I’ll have in a memory bank to pull out at the dinner table, for example, how I ended up in Kiev playing the flute on a street corner or how I single-handedly wrestled a crocodile on the Nile in order to rescue an infant caught in the infested waters.

It may not be possible to fully overcome my Gerascophobia but living in the present may be a good way to start. I’m evidently far too existential for my own good and my pessimistic view of the world may be a key influencer. In the words of an optimist, I can change. I can change the livelihoods of the elderly now and build up a new outlook on the later part of our lives.

In true Gandhi style, I can be the change I wish to see in the world.

 

The Ghost Story, By Noor Jameel Yr 8

I woke up to a loud banging noise. Each time the noise became louder
my heart was pounding even faster . I tentatively krept towards the front
door where I could see a monsterous silhouette, which looked as though
it was looking right at me .

Before I could seize the phone to call the police, I heard the sound of
glass smashing; I looked to my right and saw a brick covered in a pile
of shattered glass. Without even looking at the fragmented window, I
bolted back into my room and hid under the bed .

Minutes, that felt like hours, had went by and I could hear nothing . Just
as I decided to get out from under the bed, I heard a piercing creek and I
saw the door open. I tried to hold my breath, trying not to scream, as I
could see his big, black boots right in front of me.

After a few minutes, I could hear the man leave the room and without
hesitating, I climbed out of the window. But it was a trap. Just as I
managed to jump out of the window, I realised that I was face to face
with another prodigious person who was wearing a daunting white mask.

I tried to escape, but it was too late. By now his hands were already
grasped onto my arms which were being taped together. I looked away
for a split second and, everything was the same except for the fact that
the man had disappeared I made my way back into the house but the
window was no longer broken and the brick had disappeared too; but
the tape on my arms was still there.

I looked outside the window and the sun was already beginning to rise .
This was not just a dream.