The Raven

2017

Autumn

The Larcenist Brigade

Finn Joyner, Year 12

And in that moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came. Dark storm clouds invade the sky like white blood cells fighting a virus. The dim lit lane came to a dead end. As I hop off the horse, I begin to wonder whether he’d given me the right address. The thunder and lightning sending shivers down my spine, reminds me of being back in Gallipoli fighting off the Turks. Through the thick rain I can make out a small candle, maybe a lantern. Is it him? I ponder to myself, knowing full well the answer. Nobody else would dare be out in the roughest neighbourhood of South London at this time of night, particularly with all the drunken war veterans trying to drink away their sins. The harsh sounds of the beast’s hooves mould the wet dirt into place. As I approach, my lips begin to quiver; is it nerves or just the brisk rain? The horse stops in its tracks.

“Thomas? Is it really you?” he shouts above the rain.

“Aye it is; good to see you Henry!” I reply anxiously.

He suggests we move inside the pub to escape the rain and leads the way without me answering. The door creaks open, as if it had been left untouched for years. I move ready to catch it as if the hinges would pop, but it lasts another day. We remove our top hats and trench coats and place them on the hook ourselves. The Knights Inn was certainly not a classy joint, with just a single bartender behind the bar. He barely looks up through his fogged-up glasses as we approach. Henry goes to order while I glance around. Barrels of wine off to one side, with polished oak tables on the other.

The last time I communicated with Henry was in the nurse’s office back in 1918. We served in the 119th platoon together, until a surprise ambush put us out of action. I still remember that day so vividly. It was the first time all twelve members of our squad was singing together as we marched the Germans out of France; however this probably gave our position away. Similar to this day, the rain unforgivingly poured down, having no mercy. Suddenly, grenades and bullets came from every direction. Many were injured, few survived. As Henry and I lay in our hospital beds, he handed me the address for this pub. We both made it safely, and it was now time to trade.

“So did you bring it?” I ask pedantically.

“That was the agreement. And you?” he answers.

“Of course.” We both reach into our satchels and reveal a small, but heavy bag. I place mine on the table and take a long sip of my bitter drink. A small fireplace burns in the corner, sending embers of heat in every direction. I close my eyes and feel the inferno blast against my face, just like that day. I snatch the bag which Henry presented and he does similarly. I swear the room turned a shade of gold as I open the bag, the flash blinding me. An array of jewellery, coins and other priceless gems beam, like the sun on any day but today. Henry looks over his shoulder to make sure the owner isn’t watching before emptying his loot on the table. I quickly follow. “Imagine if the others knew. What if we get caught?” he asks, a slight tremble in his voice as his question echoes around the empty room.

“Everyone was doing it. Better in our pockets than those Germans behind us! It’s barely stealing, we did them a favour,” I answer. Henry calms down.

We both start rummaging through the belongings of dead or injured soldiers. Their lives were now nothing but a broken watch or expensive cigarette can. Under the thick stack I notice a folded-up canvas painting of a medieval castle. Knights, Kings and Queens stand proud upon their tower behemoth. As we’re both fixated on our riches, the bartender makes his way over to our corner booth, eyes locked. He’s holding a rusty .44 magnum pistol in his hand, but I see the fear in his eyes and know that he’s never fired a shot. But he’s armed and we’re not.

“Leave now!” he yells, mistaking us for some sort of criminal. As we quickly pack up our winnings, he follows with, “Leave it behind…..” All our hard work and hiding for nothing.

We make our way for the door, rain still thumping down. The brisk winds and heavy rain force me to conceal my body, tucking my pale hands deep into my pockets, like bread into an oven. I feel a sharp piece of paper, pulling it out while making sure the rain doesn’t ruin it. It’s the painting of the castle! I turn it over and notice that it is signed by an artist, A. Hitler. Never heard of him, I think as I toss it in the gutter.

The Travesty of the Modern World

Nick Price, Year 11

The sun will rise in the morrow
Highlighting my everlasting sorrow
Illuminating a bleak and dreary land
Without beauty, nor fertile sand

The skyscrapers will rise up before me
Obliterating the very notion of the tree
A stink will pervade my nostril
Like the stench of some awful brothel

Lambasting, loud noises will liquidate my ears
Helping me to realise my greatest fears
A life stuck in perpetual dreariness
The epitome of my everlasting unhappiness

The days have long since turned sour
My life becoming everlastingly dour
But still the skyscrapers gloat over me
Reminding thou of what could have been

Oh! How I yearn for the glorious past
Which, sadly did not last
A life full of prosperity
Which ended in great brevity

Flowing fountains and luscious lawns
Rivers full of beautiful swans
Marvellous meadows, magnificent flowers
Blooming like great superpowers

Oh why did Adam have to tempt fate
Why exactly could he not just wait?
To gain God’s divine approval
Before consuming the tree of renewal?

Now we’re stuck in great travesty
Lacking in all things majesty
The putrid smoke making a haze
That is contributing to my everlasting daze

The skyscrapers are rising over me
Blocking my view of mountain and tree
The world has become a great eyesore
Is there any point in life anymore?

Adrift

Jack Logan, Year 12

Adrift, alone, a ruined sailor,
Beset by ocean, consumed with regret,
A mind filled with questions, endless ‘what ifs?’,
To point the finger, or reserve his loathing for himself.

Reflecting on the mutiny that cast him out,
Emboldened by the toxic apathy of cowards.
No better unity,
Than unity against another.

Briefly entertaining thoughts of vengeance
Masked as retribution in his distorted head
Thinking, hoping, wishing for the chance,
To string them up and hang them all,
Revel in the bloody justice,
Before reason takes hold.

Anger to bitterness, bitterness to sorrow,
The mind’s closed loop as it crumbles
and
crumbles.

Twisted malice’s blackened hand,
Gasps and grasps, the low road’s alluring arms,
Yet in the ever-present storm,
The all-consuming maelstrom,
Adrift, alone, a ruined sailor,
Lifts his head to the vacant heavens,
And weeps amidst his innumerous losses.

Yet seldom were there enough tears,
To make the infinite ocean,
More infinite than it already is.
His emotions a mess, his mind unravelled,
The sailor eyes his broken reflection in the big blue,
And begins to reassemble.

Hard Rains

Matt Simich, Year 12

The icy and echoing gale cuts my pale and frail skin like a hot knife, as we gaze purposefully into the arena. A long wide-berthed plain of grass separates the winners from the losers, neither of us knowing who is who. The grey, morbid sky shading out any glimpse of sunlight, only showering fear and fatality, and at that moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came. It battered the hard soil until it transformed into thick mud. The colossal forestry of pine trees that signified the boundaries danced in the wind, eerily posing an image of beauty before the inevitable blood bath.

I stare sharply into the eye of the battlefield, sharpening my blade and readying my horse. Their army is large, but we are stronger, I can feel it in my bones. It’s been so long without a strong horse or a fine lover; four years and 17 days to be exact, but the end is near, and this rebellion has ensured that tyranny will never go unpunished.

Our leader rises on to his horse; Lord Arthur Billsborough, the toughest, yet most intricate swordsman I have ever had the grand pleasure of meeting, let alone following into battle. Look at that handsome smile, those trusting eyes; I latched onto him early and made myself vital. Instilled in him are the values of the finest leader: honour, duty and respect but, above all else, hard courage. He would never let a man die, without risking his own life first. He turns to me. I can see his whole figure now, jet black slicked back hair and polished armour shining like so many stars and suns. He grabs my arm. “Blow the horns,” he whispers.

I blow into a horn with all my might, “VOOOOOOM!” The rain comes again, harder now, blinding our vision entirely.

Lord Billsborough sits upright on his horse. “All you folk have followed me here today, young and old, all of you worthy,” he cries. “You all know what you’re fighting for, you don’t need me to tell you that, but today, at this moment, on our land, in our rain, we will fight until we win, or until we die!”

The army exhales a monstrous cry of belief. The rain is creating pools now. I take a final breath of solitude. The rain stops. My leg twitches over and over like it’s a broken record. I’m so nervous I can almost wet myself right here. But the anger and determination won’t let me. After one last moment of still silence, Lord Billsborough smiles and cries with a booming voice, “CHARGE!”

The host of rebel horses charge onto the brown waste of mud and drowned grass. The rain shoots back into action, battering the faces of all our soldiers, but we don’t care. We can smell the liberty, as though it’s the scent of chicken stew. I follow Lord Billsborough into the crux of the battle. There in the faint distance, through the rain and the fog, we make out an army three times our size galloping towards us. The rebels and I stand there stunned; we didn’t realise our odds were this low. All hope seems obliterated, but not for Lord Billsborough. With an almighty yelp, “AHHHH!” he dashes into the fight, and we follow him with grit, determination and strength, but above all else, with courage.

Lord Billsborough claims the first kill with a swift slash at two young soldiers, slitting their throats with one succinct movement. I follow behind him, trying desperately to fend off attackers whilst launching my own attacks. Blood flies all around. It stinks of death and turmoil, but we soldier on, trudging through the pouring rain, and falling into the pools of liquid beneath us, comprised of mud, blood and sweat.

We continue to fight and make solid ground, killing and killing until there is no one else we could stab our swords into. After about fifeteen minutes of true battle, we had conquered, but only the Crown’s first line of attack. We’d lost almost half our troops, but nevertheless, Lord Billsborough grins effortlessly at me, as though we had won the war already. I smile back, enjoying the rain shooting onto my forehead as I look to the sky for stamina. I can see the sun uncover itself through the dark, angry clouds. Belief is restored in us and we are ready to advance until I faintly hear the fatal “Nock,” there was a long pause, “and loose.”

Like an eagle, an arrow shoots into Lord Billsborough’s throat, piercing the jugular, and ending the life of the purest leader alive. He stares at me, eyes so wide open you can see his brains. He croaks, “Never surrender”.

I feel lost, so weak I’m pushed over by the breeze and sit in defeat. All the rebels are dead now. It’s just me alone on Glasterson Fields. The monarch’s charge over to capture me. Reciting Lord Billsborough’s last words I lift my sword and charge on my own, gripping it with all the weak power I still have in me, but then another eagle swoops in, punctures my chest. I fall with grace; the rain stops.

* * *

I awaken in fear and discomfort, scampering to my feet and clutching my chest where my skin used to be. I’m in a cell surrounded by rusty iron bars on one side, and a towering wall of slimy bricks containing me. I overhear Prince Teolon conversing with Commander Firth, leaders with the royal army.

“Sir Tiller will be executed at one hour past noon,” says Prince Teolon. I clench my fists in anger and lower my head in sorrow. “What is the news from the east coast?” he asks.

“Well,” the Commander stutters, “It seems as though the Beta Rebel Forces have rendered an upset win over our army,” he says as he shakes his head.

My eyes light up with pure happiness. Hope is still alive. My life is one of many that have been lost in this war, but the very idea of freedom makes it all worthwhile.

* * *

They grapple my arms, already bruised and wounded, and escort me to the executioner’s office. I see the noose; it frightens me, but forever I will remember the words of my hero: “Never surrender”. I walk over to the noose, bow my head, and then, in that moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came.

The Last Stand

James Hills, Year 12

And in that moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came. It poured down from the ominous black clouds like thousands of needles being thrown from the heavens.

Atop the Great Imperial Citadel, at the heart of the Imperial Capital Oluhtah, Imperator Giarcus Anacostro stood on one of the white marble balconies, squinting through the rain to peer at the mass of enemies laying siege to the high walls of the outer city. He took one last glance at the rows of houses, forums, plazas, and parks, many made from the marble which had led Oluhtah to be known as the “White City” and turned inside to the war room.

Within the war room of the Citadel Giarcus’ Generals were gathered, awaiting orders, their faces hidden behind their steel visors that were in the shape of a wolf’s head. The room was well lit from braziers placed around the room, revealing the plain marble flooring and walls. To the side, near the exit to the stairwell was the Empress Elocin, and Prince Samajus, waiting patiently to see what was to be done.

“I would like a status update on the remaining legions, and cities’ defences please Legutus Valyssua”, commanded Giarcus pacing towards the table the Generals clustered around. Upon it was a map of the City, with round numbered checkers placed all over representing the cities and enemies’ armies. At her Emperor’s request, Legutus Valyssua snapped a salute and reshuffled the checkers on the map.

“18th and 5th Legions have been routed, Legions 10 to 17 are manning the walls whilst the 19th and 20th are being held in reserve as you requested Imperator,” informed Valyssua. “The rest of our legions are overseeing the evacuation of the other cities.”

“Very well,” said Giarcus, rubbing his chin in thought. “Do the Duavues of Khrom Mor still hold against the tide of evil that is at the gates?”

“Aye, they are holding, and no doubt will continue to do so. A mountain is very easy to defend,” said Legutus Malithus, who was in charge of the 20th Legion.

“How long do we have before the barbarians breach the outer wall?” asked Giarcus, beginning to formulate a plan. Siege and defence engineer Lauri, a Dwarf of Khrom Mor, looked up to respond.

“These walls were built to last, but they’re old, and I wager they will have fallen by tomorrow, Imperator.” Giarcus nodded, accepting the city’s fate, as the prophet had foretold. He looked towards his wife and child, and he knew what he must do, for the future of the Anacoan people and Empire.

“Evacuate the city’s populace through the rear gate. Malithus, take the 20th and Gorsh’s 19th, and escort the people to the mountain clans, they’ll be looked after there. Valyssua, muster the cavalry and send a runner to the Legates of the Legions manning the walls to head to the main gate,” ordered Giarcus. His Legates snapped off salutes and left to complete their duties. “Lauvi, you’ll accompany the refugees, and help in the case that the barbarians attempt to attack the mountain clans. Elocin and Samajus will go with you. Look after them old friend.” Lauvi nodded grimly, frustrated at not joining the battle, but determined to serve his Emperor and friend.

After Giarcus had farewelled his wife and son, he walked to the stables at the base of the citadel, where the Imperial Cavalry had been made ready. Legatus Valyssua waited atop her own horse, holding the reins of Giarcus’ black stallion.

Giarcus nodded in thanks to Valyssua, mounted, and began to trot down the cobbled avenue that led to the main gate, the cavalry following behind.

They reached the gate to see the legions Giarcus had requested waiting in determined silence, armoured ranks of men and women standing tall in the rain. Giarcus halted before the troops assembled to address them.

“Brothers and sisters of the Empire, today is of vital importance to the future of our people. What we do here today will either doom our people to an eternity of enslavement, or secure them the time they need to flee. Today, we ride to crush those who besiege our city, or we die trying. At best, we slay their leader, and break them like the animals they are, or at worst, we buy enough time to see our loved ones to safety.” Giarcus signalled for the gates to be opened as he spoke.

As the large gates began to swing outward, Giarcus raised his sword in the air. “For God, family and our empire; charge. Death or glory awaits!” yelled Giarcus, as he pointed his sword to the gate, spurring his horse to a gallop. Behind, he heard the rest of the cavalry follow him, until as they rode past, the infantry began clanging their swords into their shields, letting their Emperor know they would fight to the last man or woman.

Giarcus and his cavalry wing charged through the gate, and into the surprised horde of barbarians who waited outside, slashing to his left and right, blood spurting, and men screaming. Giarcus allowed his years of soldiering to take control, almost mechanising his actions. The cavalry drove a wedge into the enemy lines and Anacoan infantry moved in behind to take up the ground that had been won. A spear took Giarcus’ horse, and he jumped out of the saddle, only to be speared in the stomach.

One in a Million

Chris McKay, Year 12

Life in a chawl is all I had ever known. I had no mother or father, brothers or sisters. I was alone. Yet in my troubles I was accompanied by millions; the whole chawl was filled with us. Insects under the boot of the wealthy, the powerful and the police. Life in the slums is all I have ever known; it was where I was born and for all of us it is where we will die.

It was hot; I remember the heat as if it was yesterday. We Indians are stereotyped as being used to the heat but I can guarantee you that those rumours are spread by those with air-conditioning. At fourteen years of age I stood no taller than four feet. Yet I had seen brutality at its harshest; whips, canes and guns were common in my part of town. They were the tools of the policeman.

The sun shone through the window high above the floor. Dust and sand danced in its beams yet to me the sun was the devil, it only hurt and burned. I laid on my bed, if that is what you would call it; it was more of an ancient mattress on the floor. It was a day like any other. There was only one priority to me. Survival. The peeling walls and rusted pipes of my room was all I owned and even that belonged to someone else, for dogs don’t get property. They get what is given without hesitation as every aspect of their lives belongs to their master.

As I strode out onto the street I watched the swarms of people around me. I understood the pain; each was rushing to get to a place they don’t belong but have to be.

It must have been three days since I had eaten last. My stomach churned and growled. It was a pain with which I was familiar. This was not simply like the pain of missing a meal or skipping breakfast. It burned at you until eventually it was all you think about. As I went about my day I noticed the little things. The construction worker eating a samosa or the cleaner consuming a Baji. These things burned white hot in my vision; everywhere I looked I could see food. I knew that if I didn’t eat soon I would starve.

Before long I had arrived at the giant market in central Mumbai. The smells of the spices, herbs and flavours assaulted my nose, teasing me. It was as if the wind knew my pain and directed every scent towards me. I tried to stop myself but by now my mind had lost control of my limbs. I strode towards the stalls glancing at the colours of blue and green, red and white, yellow and orange. People yelled out desperately trying to make a sale, every sale a source of survival. I dipped into my pocket to pull out my five rupees. This was all I had left. I had been saving it for such an occasion of desperation. I stared at it longingly. It was worth over three years of underpaid and exploitative work and this was all I had to show in a few measly coins. I quickly put it back in my pocket away from prying eyes and swift hands.

I strode up to a small stall selling naan, pushing my way through the web of people.

“One naan, please,” I exclaimed barely able to supress a smile. The old man manning the stall looked me up and down, but didn’t care as long as I paid. “You’ve got cash?” he fired at me.

“Of course,” I said, undeterred by his rudeness. I can’t blame him. I reached into my pocket to get my money.

It was gone.

I frantically searched my pocket turning both sides out. I looked to the crowd behind me that I had pushed my way through. It had to be one of them. But only Allah knew which one. The seriousness of my situation dawned on me. I was not going to eat today.

Seeing my lack of funds the old man simply turned me aside and moved on to his next customer. Sympathy was not a trait commonly seen around here.

Without thinking I reached out and snatched some of the bread and bolted. My legs pumped as I heard the shouts of the police behind me. I was not surprised; they commonly patrolled the markets. I ran and ran through alleyways and bypasses yet still they followed.

I eventually arrived back at my chawl, lungs burning as I took the stairs up three at a time. The place was deserted, not surprising at the sound of the police sirens. Eventually I made it back to my room locking the door behind me. It wouldn’t hold them for long, if at all. The hinges were rusted and the door only a few centimetres thick.

The door flew from its hinges as two officers charged in, batons lashing down over my back as the pain shot up through my body. Yet I knew how this was going to end. To them it was illogical to bother to put me in jail. I was an animal and when they misbehave it only ends one way. With that he levelled his revolver at me. I shut my eyes. Then nothing.

Harrowing Remembrance

Callum Purvis, Year 12

“And in that moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came.”

“Yeah, alright, we get it Gramps, you were a part of the D-Day landings in Normandy,” said Kyle. “You’ve already told this story like a thousand times.”

Disheartened, crushed, feeling like he had been tossed to the side as a fragment of history, Michael replied, “Ok, but it’s a good story; you always love my war stories, Kyle,” his voice withering away, frail like his old bones. Michael was dressed in his military uniform, khaki pants, beige short sleeve shirt, medals on display above his left breast pocket. He was ready for the Remembrance Service for those that gave their lives to protecting freedom.

The ramp lowered, and all hell broke loose. “Chaaaarge!” yelled the commandant. Dashing for cover all the boys disembarked from the landing craft; some were unlucky and met the unfateful – end of being shot. Like wild dogs let unleashed, the war boys bounded up the beach desperate for some cover. Bullets cracked and zipped overhead, explosions ensuing. The sky was solemnly jet black, reflecting sorrowful souls of the soldiers.

“Sir! We need to get off this beach,” yelled Michael. The sea ran red as continuously more and more men perished as soon as they landed. Surrounding Michael, destruction and devastation ran rampant.

In response to Michael’s request his commandant returned, “Whilst I do appreciate a pragmatic mind, we’re also busy fending for ourselves Corporal.” Across the beach soldiers from both sides groaned in agony, others screamed in horror.

The conflict lasted for hours, and yet only a stalemate could be achieved thus far. Bodies lay across the beach, destitute of being retrieved.

“It saddens me to say this, Michael, but we have no option but to force our hand and commence an all out push,” said the commandant, grim with despair.

Agitated at the thought Michael shouted, “What? That’s suicide sir! You can’t do this!”

“I’m the commandant and you will obey my order to the very letter! Is that understood, Corpora?!”

“…..Yes Sir.”

“Good, now fall in and prepare yourself for the charge,” ordered the commandant.

Approximately fifteen minutes had passed, which instead felt like an hour of procrastination, delaying the inevitable dance with the devil. An ominous, eerie silence descended onto the beach as guns ceased their fire. The boys, the war boys were bleak in their expression as their grasp of hope and salvation lingered. Without any warning, the harrowing, dreadful sound of the charge whistle came. Over the mound, the soldiers stormed the batteries, and once again bullets whipped overhead.

Climbing up the embankment, the war boys pressed on with victory almost graspable. The numbers were now in their favour.

After conquering the batteries and driving the Nazis’ forces back, the reprieve experienced amongst the men was palpable. Palpable until Michael noticed the battle was far from over.

“Uh Sir, you might want to look at this,” Michael said trembling.

“We may have won the battle, but we haven’t won the war yet,” replied the Commandant.

And in that moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came.

Great Swan

Adam Brenz-Verca, Year 11

Here on these sacred waters,
Where once the Malefactors sailed,
Litter dropped in this Great Swan,
Desecrating the Elder’s hunting ground,
Pilfering their assets and future,
Settlers, slaves like citizens of present,
Circumscribed by policy from an outdated book,
Suits turn a blind eye,
To the decimation of our Great Swan,
Perishing before our eyes,
Teeming populous like flood waters,
Losing currency that aureate our state,

The beautiful Swan flows soon and late,
Elegant, elongated, the watercourse of time.

The Golden State

Tom Krantz, Year 12

A leaf rested gently on the ground before him, twirling feebly, dancing across the scorched earth. Green; somehow unaffected by the seething sun. Innocent, intimate, yet puzzling. Out of place. Veins stretched out from its spindly centre, seemingly pulsing as it drifted towards him.

Cross-legged, gazing intently at this foreign object, he felt the weary calm of the sun blanketing him, wrapping him in her embrace. A giggle of appreciation escaped his mouth, the giggle of a child’s true wonder. The sound drifted up, out above the canopy of gums shading his young face, over the towering jarrahs and the inflamed bottlebrush, over his whole world. Excitedly, he reached out his clammy hand to grab it, his stubby fingers grasping its rough skin. He enveloped it gently in his hand, feeling its coolness in the hot day around him.

He spun, lurching onto his feet, and waddled triumphantly back in the direction he had come. The tiny footprints, darker in the earth, provided the marker for his journey, beckoning him back the way he had already eagerly raced from. Away from.

Quick, persistent steps began to slow. A dash became a faltering stumble.

It was the bright light that caught him, out of place in the shadowed terrain. It glinted at him, glinted an oddly terrifying message. Away.

XD-3258: W.A. The Golden State. It was bent horribly to its right-hand side, merging with the front bumper into a twisting and curling mess around the base of the thick trunk which it had impacted. The bonnet behind it lay even more damaged. It was contorted horribly into itself, the right blinkers all but evaporated into a cloud of glass, the impact sending a wave of demolition up the hood, ending in a ripple of destruction across the shattered windscreen. The sun bore down onto it, catching the spider-webbed glass and reflecting it into an angry beam towards his eyes. Fluid wept from the engine block, dripping down onto the hard, red earth, staining it a darker, bloody hue. Away.

Determined, he continued forward, moving towards the hulking, twisted mass. The driver’s door lay ajar, its hinges warped by the sudden collision, wrenching them from their place. Quietly, he climbed up onto the running board, peering inside. Mum. Dad.

Both asleep. Dad at the wheel. Mum with her head pinned against dash, red tears rolling gently down her young cheeks.

Behind them, a child seat sat firmly secured, pressed against the driver’s seat. A bottle of ‘Super Squash: Tropical Burst’ dripped, unfinished, yellowing the soft, white fabric. Knitted into the head, an inscription: Charlie.

Charlie looked back. Looked at his whole world before him. Gently, as to not wake them, he opened his tiny palm, delicately dropping the green leaf, his green leaf, onto the ledge in front of them.

He felt a warmth then. A hotter hot. A burning one. Much stronger than that of the summer day. Then a sound. A crackle. Dry, dead leaves dislodged from the tree by the car’s impact had fluttered their way down the cracks into the car’s engine, soaked by oil and petrol. All it took was a spark.

Flames gushed from the crumpled hood. They crept up the dash, eagerly knocking at the cracked windscreen. Letting out a puzzled exclamation, Charlie scampered back out of the car. He moved back until he couldn’t feel that hot any more. But he could still see. The flames continued, licking through the cracks at the green leaf on the dash. Gradually, it began to smoke reluctantly, unwilling to succumb to the heat. But it couldn’t be stopped. A faint trail of grey smoke became a flame. It engulfed the car, evolving into a brilliant, bright red-orange flicker, before curling, fading into all but a dry and ashen husk.

A pang of real loss hit him.

Wary, gripped by an ineffable wretchedness, Charlie sat and bawled, his cries soaring out of the clearing. They moved up the dirt hill, bruised by vicious tyre-tracks. Up onto the smooth, dark tarmac above. Up and over what the car had swerved to miss, forcing it to spin, out of control, into the bush below. Over the carcass of a half-bloated, half-rotted kangaroo.

The flames grew more furious, stampeding over the rest of the wreckage, claiming it as its own. Embers flicked up into the canopy of dry leaves above. One caught, and then another, and then another. A blazing surge began to spread, darting and dancing in the treetops above. Then they began to rain, pelting the underbrush below with flickering darts, enveloping the land in a state of immense torridity.

Warning cries sounded. First small cries of shock, developing into a cascading torrent of squawks and screeches. Birds and creatures shook the canopies above, clambering for some sort of escape.

But there was none.

The reds and yellows and oranges mixed and evolved; spread into a state of eternal heat and flame.

A golden state.

It breathed, it grew and it waned, clambered through the canopy of gums, over the towering jarrahs and the inflamed bottlebrush, consuming his whole world.

Epaphroditos on the Wire

Lewis Orr, Year 10

“Barbed, Doc. Two wires interlocked, rusted into each other, utterly… impervious. Every night I see them, running my hands and feet over them, letting the blood pour… but I never make it over.”

“And what’s on the other side of this… this barrier?”

Long pause, pregnant in the air.

“Justice.”

I sighed, heavily. Too many times we had come to this.

“And you think you’ll achieve anything by this… this innocence-act? People out there want you dead, and with hard evidence to testify. Maybe your sentence-”

“Paranoia, huh?” He snorted suddenly. “You really think it’s that simple, don’t you?”

I looked up sharply. I hadn’t realized his soulless eyes were crawling over my notes. A hot flush singed my cheeks.

“Past trauma? Remorselessness?” he snarled, voice now wrung with venom. “Do you think you know shit, shrink? What do you really know, sheethead? Just what do you know?”

He spat out exclamations as if cadence seared his bloodied tongue. Perhaps he did deserve more than just this write-off.

“Well,” I said carefully. “Do you feel remorse?”

He couldn’t meet my gaze, eyes downturned and breath shallow. After some time he inhaled deeply, beginning to mutter under his breath, words taking a frosted edge.

“I never did none of those things, Doc. I ain’t no child-fucker. Maybe one of these days, your kind’s gonna realize that, for that no sin of mine. Just ‘cos I’m black doesn’t mean shit and you know it, God’s honest truth. Doesn’t mean I committed those crimes. Doesn’t mean I had my way with some fucking 12-year old. Just what do you take me for?”

I rose. Eyeing him I couldn’t help but feel the conversation with this sullen, swarthy man was to go nowhere. He leveled his own glare. Cold fury tinged with an undeniable, callous sadness bored into me.

“In that case, thanks for your time. I have all I need, thank you, Mr….”

His eyes grew wilder now, pleading. I knew what he was in for tonight. Those of his conviction weren’t treated well at the state penitentiaries. They would beat him this night, guards and all, like they had without fail for a myriad of sleepless dusks. Every minute I spared him was a lifetime of solace.

“Nero.”

I refocused. The name didn’t feel quite right for some reason and I seemed to recall it being something different. All the same I couldn’t remember, not for the very life of me. I scrawled it down hastily.

“Thanks… Nero. I’ll give this assessment to Inmate Welfare.”

They took him away.

I was in my car when it hit me, hit me like a freight train.

Bile rose as I swerved back into my lot, lurched out of the Datsun and ran to the holding cells. I staggered past Admin, wooden limbs falling, flailing one after the other as I entered the jail.

I stumbled past peeling halls and rusted grates. Orange-suited shadows leered, jeered, salivated behind bars, shrieking at the psych. High security wards. I pushed on.

Ducking into what I remembered as Nero’s wing, a blockish face rose in my path, “S-I-M-O-N” pressured in dirty lettering across its breast. Unsettling, what one remembers.

“Hold it right there, buddy. Visiting hours –“

I rammed my pass into his chest, pinning him up against the wall. Searching his face, I took in the blunted eyelids, the reek of month-old cologne, that look of betrayal. “Shrink,” I panted. “Nero?”

His eyes widened in confusion, yet some wicked smugness soon seemed to dawn. “You mean Jalen?” I kicked myself at his smirk, his knowing tone, those beaded eyes. “Third on the left.”

I pushed past down the corridor, knowing all too well the futility – heart sinking, hands streaming. Staggering through there hung Nero, creaking from the roof in hand-tied knots, blood-dry froth at downturned lips. Lifeless eyes pinned themselves to the ground, a twisted mannequin of maudlin and doleful butchery.

My head reeled. I felt my knees on the ground, throat retching, chest heaving, temples pounding. The snigger of the guard behind me, toothy grin surveying his heinous tableau, thumped impossibly in my ears.

It was some amount of time before I rose. The smell of strange fruit in the dark.

****

“Fearing that his demise was imminent, Nero fled. He ultimately received word… he was condemned to death by beating so he decided to commit suicide. Unable to carry out the deed himself… nearby Epaphroditos assisted him.”

Political Demise and Death of Roman Emperor Nero (54 – 68) (Biography.com, 2015)

The 2050 Plan

Alistair Murray, Year 12

I stepped outside my wrecked house to see tumbleweeds slowly roll down the main street. It was like déjà vu; the same beastly aliens had disrupted our vibrant lives again and inflicted this immeasurable pain on us. We called it ‘The Heatwave,’ what they were doing to us. It was the final straw this time, however. What used to be a thriving community, full of prosperity, had been suddenly torn apart, so easily, like our town was a doll’s house.

Each day used to be full of an abundance of colour, the housing market was booming, families existed in harmony, harmony seeped throughout the community; it seemed as though this blissful life would be neverending. ‘The Heatwave’ had other thoughts, however. They consciously perpetrated this infinite hurt but were too lazy, too comfortable in their seemingly superior lives to even cast an insignificant thought about us and our needs. Our lives were destroyed, homes were in tatters, whole streets, street after street abandoned. There used to be buildings every colour of the rainbow but they have now been reduced to a dismal grey as our community lost the will to live. The trees were stripped of their leaves, as we had been stripped of our dignity. ‘The Heatwave’ seemed terminal; it starved flourishing communities of hope and life. As people were expelled from their homes in anguish, they could no longer continue to live. I can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel; I, we need help. “Someone, anyone!!” I exclaimed, but my plea was muffled under the weight of hopelessness. Who would listen to me anyway, I’m just a fish.

Peter re-adjusted himself on the edge of his 30-foot trawler, readying to launch himself into the depths of the Great Barrier Reef and all of its fruitful beauties. “Get on with it then, off you go,” urged his fiancée, Bec. He toppled backwards as the tranquillity of the salt water swept over him.

He turned himself around and there it faced him, the reef. It was pristine, picturesque, perfect. Everywhere he looked were all the colours of the rainbow; the vivid, vibrant rich greens and reds of the coral, all intertwined by the thriving aquatic life that combined to create this natural wonder of the world. The communities of this colossal ecosystem provided the most spectacular sensation imaginable. Well, it should have.

What should have been the biggest explosion of infinite life was overshadowed by a virus that rid the reef of the spectacle that it was. As he swam closer, immersing himself into the reef, Peter started to see how coral had been bleached in abundance as grey swept from left to right. Fish appeared only occasionally, as though they had lost the usual hope as their houses, the coral, had been damaged and was suffering under the stress. It was clear all of the fish had escaped while they still could as their lives were in ruin; the colour taken out of the rainbow. It was as though the coral was emitting a shrill shriek, muffled under this unwanted façade that attached itself, forcing any light at the end of the tunnel to subside.

Peter turned in disgust, propelling himself back to the surface; he was ropable. He clambered back onto his boat throwing his head gear onto the ground. “What’s wrong?” asked Bec.

“What’s wrong? That is what’s wrong!” he exclaimed as he pointed sternly to the reef below, glaring firmly into Bec’s eyes. “It’s dead. The entire ecosystem is suffering, fading from existence because of us, humans!” he continued.

“Okay just calm down a minute, Pete, let’s think this through,” replied Bec.

“There is nothing to think through Bec; something has to be done,” Pete protested. “We have to do something.” He ended the conversation there and began to strip out of his wetsuit, squeezing the guilt-ridden water from the fabric. He felt obliged to stop this catastrophe in the making. Pete pulled up the anchor and they turned towards shore, leaving the reef and its unfortunate circumstance.

Pete barged through the front door and went straight to his laptop. He searched up ‘coral bleaching’ and it came up with exactly what he saw at the reef. The usually vibrant coral, full of life, would turn grey and eventually white, with the potential of surrendering to death. The Great Barrier Reef, in all its magnificence, was also prone to terrible spin-offs of human selfishness like over-fishing. It was suffering and he knew immediately he had to stop this. Pete charged out to the kitchen, distressed about what was happening to this natural beauty and lamented to Bec, “We have to do something about this, Honey. We are putting an end to this atrocity of human ignorance.”

“Okay, if that’s what you want,” she replied in a non-believing manner.

Pete spun around, straight back to his desk, determined that the environment should not have to be the victim of a human by-product as contagious and consequential as this. He grabbed his diary from his desk; the front cover was shredded and pages were torn out, disregarded like the reef, and began taking down notes:

4th of January 2013 – extreme coral bleaching destroying marine life, symptoms of over-fishing, reef cannot be sustained in current conditions, conservation HAS to be undertaken. I feel infuriated by human society but determined to make a difference, to be the change.

(Two years later)

3rd of February 2015 – The 2050 long-term reef sustainability plan was terrific. The government loved it and I have been told it will be implemented as of next month!

Pete lay back in his arm chair as a sense of relaxation swept over his body, cleansing his bleached mind. He had done it, the reef a tranquil sanctuary once more.

A Fair Go

Arun Tibballs, Year 9

The value of “a fair go” means that all Australians are to be treated equally, no matter their race, religion and/or beliefs. The September Eleven attacks in America, that completely shook the world, have resulted in Australia becoming increasingly Islamophobic, contradicting the Australian value of “a fair go.” After these attacks, people of Muslim background have not been treated equally, therefore repudiating the value. I believe that this consequence of the attacks has had a strong negative impact on Australians, and Muslims in this country are having the value “a fair go” grabbed out of their innocent hands. There are multiple ways in which Muslims have and are being discriminated against in Australia since 9/11, including the rise of Pauline Hanson in Australian politics, politicians believing they are self-made experts on other religions and the attempted banning of Muslims living under Islamic Sharia Law.

Firstly, the rise of Pauline Hanson alone, as a politician, has increased the level of Islamophobia in Australia over the last few years, following the September Eleven attacks. Her inappropriate views and messages gives discombobulated Australians the wrong view of Muslims. This relates to the September Eleven attacks as everyone knows about the terrible, devastating consequences that resulted, and she uses them as ‘evidence’ in many comments, to back up her outrageous proposals about Muslims. She says that all Muslims are terrorists like the ones in 9/11, when the educated Australian obviously knows that they were only very rare extremists. By using the 9/11 attacks as an example, it generates the view that all Muslims are dangerous and shouldn’t be allowed in this country. “Muslims are dangerous. They will always be planning another 9/11 like attack. We can’t let them into our country,” she answered to a press conference question. This is obviously an uneducated, outrageous, prejudiced view that directly contradicts the value of “a fair go.” This is contradictory because not only is it a religious and racial discrimination, but it implies she doesn’t even want Muslims in Australia in the first place. Studies show that almost 7% of Australians would not feel comfortable talking to a Muslim, and a further 17% of respondents agreed with this statement – “Just to be safe, I would stay away from any places Muslims could be”. These statements made by Pauline Hanson are placing the wrong views in the minds of Australians, and these statistics back that statement. They are completely contradictory of the “fair go” value and are increasing the level of Islamophobia in Australia.

Secondly, Australia is a country where its politicians become self-made experts on other religions, more specifically Islam, and this is an early warning of further division and inequality within the religion of Islam, within Australia. It looks like we’re trying to repeat the mistakes made by other Muslim populated countries, who are now struggling to find the escape key after allowing the state to make religious decisions on behalf of the public. History has taught us that mixing politics and religion is similar to mixing vinegar and bi-carb, and it implants the prejudiced views that Islam is terrible. Former PM Tony Abbott and other politicians, such as Mr Hastie, have called for Islam to reform and for the religion to “cohere with the Australian way of life,” adding that a “massive problem” exists with Islam. These statements were then later linked to a backlash of the previous 9/11 attack made on the US. These comments also completely contradicted the “fair go” value embedded in loyal Aussies, as they weren’t generalised amongst all Aussies, but rather just discriminatory against Muslims. There was also a study released soon after these statements saying “One in 10 Australians is Islamophobic” and “14% of Aussies would avoid going places where Muslims could be.” This unearths a connection between the discriminatory comments made by politicians and the beliefs of the Australian public. Also, one in eight Australians admitted he/she held prejudiced views against Muslims. This proves that Australian politicians’ prejudiced views of Islam are increasing the level of Islamophobia amongst Australians and are completely and utterly invalidating the “fair go” value.

Finally, as a result of the 9/11 attacks, the Australian government is rejecting Muslims from getting into the country. John Howard spoke out, to back his anti-Islamic Sharia Law campaign in 2006 saying, “If there are any Muslims in Australia living under Islamic Sharia Law, they need to get out.” This comment was later speculated about in the media, being named an attempt to stop any terrorist attacks, similar to the 9/11 ones. It also lit a fuse amongst the government with many ideas put forward to stop Muslims from getting into the country. This was clearly a discriminatory comment, and therefore is contradicting the “a fair go” value.

On the other hand, some people believe Australians should be Islamophobic because of terrorism. These comments, however, are clearly not true because only the rare minority are terrorists, and for every one extremist, there are thousands of innocent, peace-seeking Muslims who don’t deserve to have the right “a fair go” stripped off their bare chests.

To conclude, Islamophobia is becoming an increasing issue in Australia, and it’s extinguishing the “a fair go” value. Aussies are becoming increasingly Islamophobic because we are afraid that something similar to 9/11 will happen here in Australia. The increase of Islamophobia is due to the rise of Pauline Hanson in politics, the prejudiced views held by Australian politicians and ideas proposed about banning Muslims from the country and from living under Islamic Sharia Law. If we are to stop these false opinions held by vocal politicians, we need to rally together and educate Australians not to listen to them and to instead learn that the majority of Muslims are peace-seeking and only the rare minority are extremists.

Into the Night

Harry O'Donnell, Year 12

And in that moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came.

Jon quickly ran for cover under one the moonlit oak trees, grabbing his backpack, hurrying to find his windbreaker. His face began to go red. Owls fluttered away from the oak, frightened by Jon’s loud wheezing. The bitter cold of a stormy night was nothing short of a cruel nightmare for his asthma. By the time Jon reached the oak, scrambling for cover, his trembling hands had pulled the dark windbreaker over his shivering chest. His face was pale, devoid of any happiness. Fear and desire were drenching him as much as the torrential downpour that had just arrived.

Jon’s attention quickly turned back to his task. There was a loud squeak every time he lifted his gumboots out of the enveloping mud. He gazed up at the enormous cathedral, the fear in his face growing stronger every step he took. The eerie silence of the December night sent a shiver down his spine. Why on earth was a place of worship, of happiness, so awfully daunting? Jon’s thoughts seemed to echo throughout the woods behind him as he heard the calls of a lonely isolated owl.

Jon couldn’t see the owl. Not for the life of him, as he rapidly turned. The owl may have deceived his eyes, but he could feel its haunting gaze penetrating his trembling soul.

“Who’s there?” Jon’s voice cracked. Beads of sweat began to surface on his furrowed brow. He could feel his heart pumping at an almighty pace. It was as though it wanted to shatter his own breastbone and lunge out of his body. The already forceful rain suddenly began to beat down harder and faster.

Gazing back into the haunting woods, Jon stood petrified. The wet English mud his feet were pitted in was soon to be an enormous lake, a lake filled with every inhumane creature Jon could imagine, fighting for a taste of his flesh, human flesh. He was struck out of his fear-induced coma at this thought and rapidly turned back to the dwarfing cathedral.

Its enormous spires dominated the cloud filled sky. A rush of adrenaline filled Jon from head to toe. His previously widened eyes narrowed and his lips pursed. At god speed, he began trudging through the drenched dirt towards the gigantic gargoyles of the daunting cathedral before him.

At great pace, Jon reached a gate. As he drew nearer, he noticed the rusty hinges, the dishevelled iron and, worst of all, noticed what was beyond the gate. Like an enormous chess set, crumbling headstones haunted the ground before him. The sheer size of the graveyard returned the quiver to Jon’s hand. His face again turned pale. Gargoyles and spires did not bother him in comparison to the haunting graveyard ahead. Ever since Jon was five years old, attending his parents’ burial he had shuddered at the sight of the final resting place of the souls of thousands. Something just didn’t seem right about it.

With an overwhelming queasiness drowning any glimmer of hope or determination in his shuddering body, he trudged on. Jon could hear the sound of the bullets of rain crashing against the hard mud, as though they were filled with lead. He reached out his shaking hand to the ancient gate and gave it a weak tug. Nothing happened. His eyes were quickly diverted off the rusty hinges of the gate to look for some sort of lock. There was nothing. “How the hell do I get in here?” Jon pondered in a rising panic.

After what seemed like minutes of consultation with himself, Jon reared his nimble, skinny body over the crumbling gate. Without any trouble, much to his surprise, Jon, with a new sense of power, turned to the cathedral, only for this sense of power to be crushed. He instantly recalled that he was in a graveyard. Beads of sweat began to form on Jon’ brow as he trudged through the graveyard at the pace of a snail trying not to waken the dead.

His small, 22 year-old body was trembling. Each squelching step took place only after about five or six beats of his pounding heart. He kept his head down, consciously trying not to peer at any tombstones. He knew if he saw the name Bill or Sarah he would be stopped dead in his path. Bill and Sarah were Jon’s parents. Jon had never met anyone as loving as his mother, and he had never looked up to anyone as much as he did his father.

The thought of his late parents forced Jon to speed up. Nearing the end of the graveyard, Jon felt a weight lifted off his skinny, weak shoulders. He approached another rusty gate at the end of the graveyard, also looking like it could collapse any day; however, this gate was half open. Jon hit a light jog and in a matter of seconds he had reached the gate. He roughly pushed it open and it squeaked as though it was in agony. He slipped out of the haunting graveyard, like he was stepping into a field of daisies in the Spring time. Now Jon peered up at the gigantic cathedral and soon realised that he had only reached the beginning of his challenges.

The Rain

Ethan Cassidy, Year 12

And in that moment, like a swift intake of breath, the rain came. The spectacle was overwhelming to the senses. Monstrous jolts of lightning split the sky, sending ripples of light through the swarm of menacing clouds that plagued the sky. A delayed crack followed shortly after, creating a deafening boom that combined with the constant onslaught of noise the raindrops provided. The overall noise was an assault to any poor creature that wandered the sparse but bare African desert. There was nowhere to hide, nowhere to take shelter and most definitely nowhere to run to. There was no escaping the rare symphony presented by the storm; it was to be endured.

“Help!” Ernest cried desperately, only having the energy to form one word. He still gave it all he had. He had come too far to give up now. As soon as the words escaped his mouth they were drowned out by the environmental cacophony that enveloped his surroundings. He knew he could not be heard, every unanswered sentence he uttered a constant argument with Mother Nature. Every step he took was a constant battle; his legs shattered not only from the pushing and shoving from the harsh wind but also the pure distance he had travelled. His vision started to blur. He gazed into the distance, searching for a sign, a glimmer of hope. Nothing presented itself. His eyes became heavy, his blinking beginning to be more erratic. Ernest clenched onto his torn blue work shirt as he swayed, almost drunk with the fatigue. Black started to encapsulate his sight, his train of thought fading. He collapsed.

“Hey, turn it up!” James yelled as he recognised the Elton John classic blasted through the already close to full volume car stereo. His companion ignored him, quietly staring out of the open window of the four-wheel drive, watching the barren landscape drift by. James became disgruntled, looking away from the steering wheel to realise the volume remained unchanged.

“Come on, don’t you like this song?” James inquired, a condescending tone carried through every word and Brad picked up on it.

“I’m just not in the mood, alright?” Brad retaliated. “What we’re meant to be doing is serious.” James’ high flying mood instantly sank as he realised his friend was right. There was an awkward momentary silence as they both stared ahead, not daring to make eye contact. The lyrics of ‘Rocket Man’ continued to pierce the air, now borderline mocking them as a conflict had arisen.

James took his left hand off the wheel to reach clumsily for the volume knob. When his eyes reconnected with the desert track in front of him he couldn’t help noticing a flock of what seemed to be vultures huddled around a central object. His foot instantly collided with the brake as a hint of blue emerged beneath the flock of feathers, contrasting with the shades of deep browns the two young men had so far encountered. James’ boot left the car and connected with the ground, squelching slightly from the rain and stormy weather over the past few days. As the vultures dispersed upon his exiting of the car, he realised that they were swarming around a young boy, unconsciously splayed out across the road. Brad’s solemn and concerned gaze locked with James’ as they both realised the significance of their discovery. They appeared to be too late, this boy could be dead. James’ heart sank.

A Joyous Quartet

Sidharth Bhargavan, Year 12

It was a warm day that day. Under the blistering sun stood two beings who could feel no effect from it. A “male” called Felix and “female” known as Dolores, both of whom looked to be in their early twenties.

“Are we sure this is supposed to work?” stated Felix.

“What do you mean?” responded Dolores.

“Well…. It’s just. It’s been an awfully long time. Do you really think it’s going to work eventually?”

Dolores sighed before answering, “Felix. Listen. Trust in master. There’s no way he built us like this, intending for us to be alone with just the four of us forever.”

“Yeah… I guess. Sorry. I don’t mean to rag on you, Selig or Sachiko. It’s just. It’s amazing how lonely it gets with everybody around.”

“It’s fine. Look. How about we forget about this and go water the garden again. On a day like this they probably wouldn’t complain.”

It was a curious answer Felix gave that day. Felix appeared to believe that he was, in fact, lonely. How? He has a world available to him and his friends. He was surrounded by people. His own kind of people. Those four were strange ones. Smiling, laughing and playing music. They desired to “give emotion” to the others. A child’s dream exists in which they attempt to gift that which cannot be reasoned with. However, like children, they continue to display hope. This band of robots.

The incident occurred a week afterwards. They had just finished performing in another street. A few hours, in which they played vigorously, hoping to garner an audience. Today, again, they failed. Selig sat down on the floor exhausted, however not to the point that he failed to carefully place his instrument, a saxophone, to the side. The other members glanced at him; after all, if one does not give instructions, instead one will be built to listen to them. Selig saw their expectant gazes and chose instead to quench his thirst. After the last gulp he returned the bottle to the floor and finally spoke.

“This is it for today me thinks. Still’s lookin’ like nobody wants to be listenin’ to us yet. You lot go entertain yourself for a bit,” instructed Selig jokingly. He then yawned before saying, “I think I’m gonna get me a nap.”

“Selig. I need to talk to you,” asserted Felix.

“No prob. What’s up?”

“Alone preferably.”

“Intriguing. What does young Felix want with someone like me? You finally realized I could pleasure you a bit more? Well regardless, Sachiko and Dolores, leave us be for a bit.”

And with that Sachiko and Dolores left in an easterly direction, perhaps to get something to eat, leaving behind Selig alongside a blushing and visibly irritated Felix.

“So what’s wrong? So, we giving your hard drive a spin or what?” he said with a smirk.

“Selig!” snapped Felix. “Listen. Don’t you think it’s time… we stopped this?”

“What’re you talking about?” asked Selig, no longer smiling.

“Look. This band was fun and all. But it was a pipe dream. It’s not working. You have to realise this. You need to face it. We four are and always will be the only ones.”

“Felix. Come on. We can’t give up now. Just today. I think one of them turned their head as they walked past. And you know we’ve had that lady at the bus stop tapping her foot for weeks. It has to be a sign. We’re on the right path.”

“We have no idea. It’s been so long. All this is doing is dangling a false hope in front of our eyes every day. This is painful. We need to direct ourselves to something else. And I don’t just mean another way to try and give them emotions; we should work instead, on something actually accomplishable.”

“Felix. We have the gift of free will. We have to try and give it to the others.”

“Selig. Have you ever thought, ever wondered that maybe, just maybe, that free will we have is all just a lie? Have you? Maybe all of this, up to this sentence has been pre-programmed. And we’ve just been designed to think what he said was true. His own plaything. Maybe I do actually really like gardening and discovered it myself, or maybe I was told to. Even you, with your attempt to change the way you talk, have you ever wondered if that was of free will? Stop being so careless!”

“Felix, of course I’ve thought about that, it’s just—,” Selig voiced before being cut off by a panicked Felix.

“Wait! One of them is in the garden!”

Felix, panicked for his precious garden, ran towards it, leaving Selig to catch up after him. When he arrived he saw the damage that had taken place. Not irreplaceably ruined. Yet it was undeniable that its resident had damaged the garden, destroying all sentiment of his hard work. Selig was agape. Shocked. Trying to process the information. Felix, however, was what one could describe as angry. He moved with purpose towards the intruder and gripped his shirt with pure anger.

“Felix, don’t do anything rash.”

“Don’t worry about me. Now. You! What’re you even doing here?”

“I… I do not know”

“Huh? What do you mean you don’t know. You always know! You always have a reason! You’re nothing but reason! So for what reason did you hurt my garden!” Felix yelled into the intruder’s face.

“Felix! Calm down!”

“I’m sorry but I do not know.”

“What? So you came here because you wanted to? Impossible! You don’t want!”

“Please stop holding me like this”

“Maybe you should’ve thought of that, before you decided that whatever you needed was worth less than my garden!”

“Felix! Stand down now! That’s an order!”

“What? Why?”

“Felix. Look at yourself. And stand down,” Selig ordered tersely.

Felix stepped back, realization becoming apparent. His face now, rather than anger, contained regret. Selig then turned to the trespasser.

“Look. Can you say for example, what was your thought process as you were coming in here?” he asked.

“I… I saw the flowers,” I pointed towards the flower bed which had caught my interest. “And I didn’t see anything else. I just… needed to look at them more closely.”

I saw my answer puzzled him. I don’t know why. But then he became more excited.

“Wait. So. When you say ‘need’. What do you mean need? Did you want to?”

“I am not sure. I don’t know how to describe my reaction.”

“You don’t know…”

He seemed lost for words. Before looking up and grasping his companion, Felix.

“This has to count for something!” Selig yelled, before they both giddily started jumping up and down.

“I can’t believe it! He actually doesn’t know.”

Their utter joy caused another strange reaction in me. Cautious of these changes I ran. I heard them looking for me long into the day. Calling out hoping for me to reveal myself. Yet more odd reactions occur. I… again do not know what they are. However, I should know. So why do I not know? If it is to do with my construction, I am aware of everything. Yet, this does not make sense, what I am feeling. I have so far been replaying these related memories, hoping for understanding. To analyze what happened. However, the more I view them, the more my ability to analyse deteriorates. Instead it is replaced with… what I am hesitant to call confusion. And perhaps other things. Then, I did the strangest of things.

I sighed.