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Short Story Competition: Searching for the Sunrise

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Dawn was my favourite time of day. It had something to do with the variety of colours in the sky. Reds, oranges, blues and purples: simultaneously caressing each other to create such a vivid landscape.

Every morning since my eighteenth birthday, I woke up without fail to catch the sunrise. In the winter nights the sun stayed hidden until 7:44am. It felt like such a long time to wait until I could see my one and only comfort again. It was my friend, the only thing that I could truly rely on to be there. The only thing I could make sense of in a world that seemed doomed to destitution. Everything around me was so dull and grey. Nothing was natural anymore; therefore I often wondered what would become of us in the future. How many excuses would have to be made for another war, how many corrupt politicians would go into power before we said no. How long would it be before I could stop thinking for a change?

An irrational thinker, that’s what I was told. Firstly by my mum, who worried when I slowly began to detach myself from society. Secondly, by my A Level English Lit teacher, who said if I wanted to get anywhere in life I would need to adjust my attitude and learn to accept that I could never change the world. I was constantly told to become a forward thinker. But I was stuck, how was it possible to look to the future when I had no idea what I wanted to be, or who I was in the present. They say that being an adult is tough; if I could barely handle being a teenager what hope did I have in the real world? My confusion compared to a parallel universe, it played on my mind and emotions, and the line between reality and fantasy was blurred. You could say that it was like a toxic substance waiting to consume me, leaving nothing but an inanimate figure behind.

Many of my family members knew I was an abnormal child; I collected random objects that no one cared for. Pieces of thread, buttons that were accidentally left behind and scrunched up pieces of paper. Most of the time these were just food receipts, a waste of paper, but I used them to make collages. I had been doing this for five years. Most people that came by the house found my pieces interesting. Others questioned my mothers’ judgement and found them too morbid. When I was little other girls’ my age would play with Sylvanian Families and beanie bears, whereas I built a vast collection of living dead dolls. I looked past their grotesque and naturally scary appearance because there was something within my basic human nature that encouraged me to vie for the underdog. This is what I slowly became. Except, I didn’t support myself, I only came to accept all of my flaws rather than embrace what I believed to be my non-existent talents.

Invisibility had become my inescapable super power. I often imagined myself as a ghost, people would only see me if they wanted to and the want was as rare as white lions.

School was over, well, for a month at least. The deadline for university applications loomed over me like a grim reaper. It was something that I wasn’t ready to deal with. I had trouble deciding what to wear on a daily basis, so you can imagine my frustration trying to come to a conclusion on this. Rather than sitting down at my soul-sucking computer screen to further plunge myself into a pit of depression, I decided that I was going to go out and walk until inspiration for my future came to me. Surely, it would just hit me in the face. I hoped.

The sky looked pale and washed out. I loved nature; everything about the outdoors captivated me.

I had been walking for almost an hour and yet nothing came to me, other than dispiriting epiphanies about the inevitable fate of society. I had passed old, almost pre-historic street lamps, tattered signs and the odd homeless person. A part of me was tempted to turn around and go home but I wanted an excuse to avoid filling out my application, so I kept walking. Another hour passed before I came to a closed off pathway. The gate that sealed the entrance was rusty, connected by a limp chain, which looked like it would crumble at the slightest touch.

Curiosity got the best of me. I pushed the gate apart as far as I could before the thread like chain restricted me; it was stronger than it looked. I managed to wriggle my way through; the waist up was easy but somehow my bottom half provided a slight problem. Looking around, I saw gravestone upon gravestone. A cemetery. Great. I was hoping to find myself in wonderland or Oz. I guess that was certainly too much to ask for. The creepy concrete slabs were covered in moss. Thus, reinforcing the feeling that this place had been forgotten a long time ago. I wondered if any one visited at all. As I walked around each concrete hump, I cautiously avoided walking over the soft patches of grass just in case the earth tried to swallow me up. There must have been over two hundred or so and I realised that this was a place that I probably shouldn’t be alone.

I was about three quarters along the stretched out crack ridden path, when a small gravestone further downhill caught my eye. It was isolated, alone, separated from the others. I was about to approach it although a voice from behind startled me “Hello.” It said. I swiftly turned around eager to see whom the voice belonged to. A little girl, with brunette locks and rosy cheeks was stood there smiling at me. She wore a bright yellow dress that had flowers featuring many colours. The dress almost mimicked the sunrise that I waited anxiously to see every morning. She had white frilly socks on and wore black T-bar dolly shoes.

“Hi,” I responded nervously, looking around to see if I was going to get into trouble.

She giggled. “Who are you looking for?”

“Well, I’m not allowed to be here, I’m kind of trespassing.” Still looking around me.

“Oh, you shouldn’t do that, you could get into big trouble.” She crossed her arms behind her back and in a childlike manner shuffled her feet around. I didn’t know how old she was but I guessed around the age of eleven. Then I realised that similarly to me she was also alone. I looked around but I couldn’t catch a glimpse of any adults.

“Where are your parents? You’re not alone are you?”

“They are here somewhere, I always lose them.” Proceeding to hold out her hand “I’m Lily.”

Ignoring her attempt. “Well, Lily, you shouldn’t be wondering around on your own, especially here.”

“So, why do you? Where are your friends?” She eagerly questioned.

It came as no surprise she was one of those irritating kids that always asked questions.

“I don’t have any.” I went to walk away and she grabbed my hand.

“You’re freezing.” I said pulling it away. “Don’t you have a coat to put on?”

“Can we be friends?” she replied, innocently ignoring my previous question.

“Thanks but no thanks. Me and people just don’t mix.”

“That’s silly, everyone should have friends.”

Its stupid to think that a little girl I had spoken to for less than a minute was actually making me question why I was a loner. In all honesty I couldn’t answer her; she was far too young to understand. Why should I be the one to tell her that at the rate the world is going it would be a surprise if her generation had a future at all? Wow. What was wrong with me? For once, I hated the thoughts that were emerging in my head; it wasn’t like me to ever question my opinions. Was I the reason behind not having any friends? Maybe I had been shutting myself away for too long. No, I wasn’t, it was the world that was the problem. Not me. Right?

“Hello! Why are you staring like that?” She shouted abruptly waking me up from my daydream.

“Sorry, I was just thinking. Look, I need to leave, where are your parents?”

“I’m not going to tell you yet. Not until you promise to tell me about you,” she said adamantly. I wondered how an eleven-year-old could be so demanding and why she was so interested in me. No one ever was.

“Honestly, there isn’t much to say. So, you will just be wasting my time and your parents time.”

Then she did something so unexpected, so devious by playing the pretty please card. It didn’t stop there she incorporated the puppy dog eyes into her routine, which even a cold-hearted person like me couldn’t resist. I agreed to tell her, but I said that I would shorten it as much as possible because it wasn’t like she would be able to understand. I told her why I had no friends, how I found it hard to connect to people who did nothing but big up their egos and make selfish remarks. How, there comes a time when you can’t take any more and being around fake people becomes draining. Another hour or so had passed and darkness began to close in on us. Regardless, I continued to talk and she listened; it was the first time I had a chance to vent to someone other than myself. No matter of her age I was willing to get everything out. When I finally finished she said nothing for five minutes or so, staring off into the distance.

“You want to know what I think?” she said.

“What?” I replied, now intrigued.

“I think that you shouldn’t worry about other people, maybe do something you like then you can be happier, sometimes sad things happen and you will find it hard to have fun anymore but the sadness can’t last forever, especially when there is still sunshine.”

Lily wiped a tear that was building up in the corner of her eye. Afraid that I had upset her, I went to put my arm around her, but miraculously she had disappeared. I was comforting nothing but thin air. This couldn’t have been a hallucination, how could I dream this entire conversation up? Clueless, freaked out and confused. The only thing I could think to do next was visit the isolated gravestone. I forced myself to sit down after reading the now worn out lettering on the concrete slab:

“A darling daughter, the sunshine of my life, even though you fell into a deep sleep too soon, enjoy running through meadows filled with flowers like the ones embellished on your favourite yellow dress, Lily Elizabeth we love you.”

I couldn’t fathom the idea that the little girl I had just met was gone. In a way I knew everything happened for a reason and I tried not to question it too much. I believe her spirit was left behind destined to help lost souls like me. Lily was my unconventional spirit guide. And now, I knew what I had to do. No more putting off making plans for the future out of fear. I did have talents, dreams and aspirations; it was time I started to pursue them. Before, I led a boring life, isolating myself from the world because I couldn’t stand to immerse myself within a corrupt society. Now, rather than focusing on everybody else, I’m taking time to get to know myself and for once I can honestly say that I am truly becoming the person that I have always wanted to be.

Well, almost.

The End.

 

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This is an entry to The National Student's short story competition: Searching for the Sunrise, by Charlotte Frampton. The text has been edited for grammar and punctuation only. 

The National Student's short story competition is in association with the Home Entertainment release of Mistress America. Mistress America is available on Digital HD in the UK on 7th December, courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Watch the trailer below: 




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