Over the Easter holidays we wanted students to have the opportunity to keep in touch with their creativity so we set them an Art & Writing Competition. Genuinely blown away by the standard of entries and these were not easy competitions to judge!
For the writing competition students were given the title ‘Too Much Information’ and asked to create a piece based around this.
Excited to share their incredible work beginning with the entry that took 1st Prize in the Over 16 category-a short story by Alannah Hynes:
Too Much Information
I can’t sleep, yet I try so hard. I toss and turn, my eyes burn, the thought of being outside terrifies me; I can feel my skin bubbling and evaporating away. What would I do without skin? I can’t go outside and I can’t sleep, how useless. My bed is so cold and my thoughts are filled with such vile images. I climb out of bed and head down to my sanctuary, the library. The stairs creak and the house moans in the depth of the night, all the lights in the house are out bar the dim, orange light in the library that is in desperate need of a change. I pass the hall window, something outside makes a loud rustle in the trees, if it’s one of them, they won’t see me in the library. I hear a loud thud on the door that makes me jump. They know where I’m going; if they can’t see me, they can’t hear my thoughts.
When you live in a nightmare there’s no peace besides the peace within reading, the distraction of knowledge. Father always encouraged me to read to distract from the hell outside our doors, sometimes I can feel him behind me while I sit at the desk in the library. He sits in his chair, like he never left. He’s gone, and he’s been for many years now. I believe they killed him to make me leave the house. He was there outside the front door the day he died, he had only gone out to take out the bins. I sat in the library and I heard the bang. His head had hit the door when he collapsed to the floor. I got up from the desk. Minerva had been in the kitchen making lunch, she was only living with us for a short time before this happened. She went to open the door and I slowly followed after her, there they were, outside. They stared at my fathers’ dead body as they walked up and down the street. I ran to my room and I stayed there for the rest of the day. They’d been coming in and out of the house all day, corrupting my air and attempting to lure me down to say goodbye to my father so they could drag me outside. When they had gone, Minerva came to tell me his heart had stopped working. They had made his heart stop.
I didn’t leave my room for two weeks.
The air is lighter and warmer in the library. I walk down and to my surprise, Minerva is asleep on the floor, of all places. She’s always been so strange, she sleeps all the time and when she’s awake she talks of her ‘nights out’ and how ‘fun’ they are. She tries to tell me I’d enjoy mingling with them, how irrational. I try not to wake her but the second my foot hits the floor, her eyes open and when she looks at me I’m slightly terrified. She groans loudly, says nothing and gets up to go to bed. Now I’m alone. I reach for my latest read, it’s quite boring actually. Minerva had gone out to fetch me some new books and she handed me this one, she thought I’d really like it; she’s insane. I try so hard to get invested into the dull book but I can hear them outside. It is my belief that these evil things take on the appearance of people (like Minerva and I), to make us go outside. Outside they speak in tongues and listen to horrid sounds at loud volumes. When Minerva goes outside to get food and books for me, she wears headphones. They block out the sounds of people so she doesn’t get brainwashed. This confuses me sometimes because she talks and mingles with them so therefore she should be brainwashed but father trusted her, so I do too.
Despite the distractions from the noises outside I finish the book before the sunrise. When the sun comes out my eyes grow heavy; now it’s time to sleep. I begin to trek up the stairs when I hear something flowing through the window facing the back garden, it’s light, enchanting and sounds familiar, yet I can’t place where in my memories it lies. There’re big, heavy curtains that cover the back window, they haven’t been opened in at least twelve years. My heart races; I shake vigorously. They know too much, they’ve tempted me to open the curtains, if I look outside they’ll get into my brain and maybe then my heart will stop. I’ll fall down the stairs and hit the door like father. My knees grow weak. I feel a terrible dreamlike state coming over me. I scream; I need to drown it out. I need to drown it out! Minerva runs to me. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe, I can’t sleep, I can’t go outside. The noises are in my home. Too much noise in my home. Too much.
I wake up with Minerva looming over me, my head feels heavy and my body numb. ‘You scared me, idiot!’ I don’t understand why Minerva felt like she needed to shout at me, it’s stupid. I choose to ignore her completely and run up the remaining stairs. She wouldn’t understand, she never has. I reach my bedroom door and lock myself inside, I slide myself against the door and onto the floor. Nothing feels real, my mind feels violated. The peace that had been there was now total chaos. Tears flood down my face as I crawl to my bed. I climb into bed, cover my head and after about fifteen minutes of non-stop tears, I drift into a sorrowful slumber.
The room is bright. When I open my eyes, I see my old bedroom wallpaper, light green. I can hear them speaking outside. ‘Will he ever recover from this?’ My fathers voice sounds broken. Mumbling spoken in an unfamiliar tone seeps through the door; it opens. The strange man stares at me and I scream for my mother. Mother. I see red and wake up screaming.
Dark blue are my walls and there’s knocking coming from the hall. It’s Minerva. It’s slightly darker outside now, I most have slept for a few hours. I get up to open the door and collapse into her arms for a hug. Despite our differences, she has always been my only close friend. The warmth from her embrace is enough to cure any illness, physical or mental. She takes my hand and leads me downstairs to the library. I sit in my fathers’ seat and Minerva heads into the kitchen. She opens the fridge and grabs the milk, pours it into the pot on the stove and adds chocolate chips. Hot chocolate to soothe my mind, body and soul. I hear the sound of the chocolate cascading into the mugs and in comes Minerva.
‘What happened Oskar?’ I don’t want to answer.
‘Oskar just let me help you, please.’ She speaks in a tone that pains me to hear, I can’t let my reluctance upset her.
‘I don’t need you to help me, I need you to realise that I’m fine and I always have been.’ This, I know is a lie. The second the words leave my mouth I can feel my body shrink into the chair. Anger sets over Minerva’s face.
‘Now you listen to me!’ Oh god here we go; I shrink further into the chair.
‘Do you know how tiring it is to have to deal with someone who is terrified of everything?! Every. Single. Day!’ Minerva speaks with venom spitting from her mouth and an insane look in her eyes. For a moment I forget about all my other fears. Only for a moment.
‘Minerva… I-I’m sorry.’ The shakiness in my voice is utterly pathetic. I can’t weasel my way out of this with a measly apology.
‘No! I GAVE UP MY LIFE TO TAKE CARE OF YOU! I cook for you, I go to every bookstore in town to keep you occupied. I carry you to bed after you’ve crashed on the floor from not sleeping for five days, or more! I can’t live a normal life because if I did, you’d have a mental breakdown on an hourly basis. I can’t stay over in someone else’s house because I know that if I was to walk in that door, you’d either be locked in your room hyperventilating or unconscious. Oskar, I know what you go through, I’ve lived here for eight years. Let me help you get over your paranoia. The world is a beautiful place filled with beautiful people like you.’ She’s kneels down before me and grabs both my hands in hers.
‘Please.’ Her eyes are pleading me to give in. I move my hands.
‘You can’t help me. The outside is filled with monsters. They are not people. They killed my parents and they’re trying to gather enough information to kill me too! We live a normal, protected life here and that’s all we need.’ How dare she. She wants to leave me. I push her out of the way and thunder up the stairs. She shouts my name but the slam of my bedroom door drowns it out.
It’s been a week since Minerva and I had that fight. We haven’t spoken much since; just chatter over dinner for a minute or so. I’ve thought quite a bit about what Minerva had to say, I’ve played the conversation over a million times in my head. Maybe they aren’t all monsters. No. They are. Maybe there’s people out there like my father and Minerva, people who don’t laugh when I’m in pain. People who’ll listen to me ramble on about a book they’ve never read, nor had the desire to. No, I mustn’t let them get into my mind. We all know that they’re nothing but evil, rotten monsters who want to do nothing but murder and then laugh. Laughing; at a child whose mother will never see him smile again. Never see anything again; but what if there is beauty in the unknown? What if there’s beauty outside my home?
I’ve sat awake in the library, staring at the walls for nearly four hours. I don’t want to feel the pain anymore, I don’t want to be afraid of looking out my window. I want Minerva to have a normal life. Maybe even I want a normal life. The noises outside haven’t been so terrible and the knocking on the door has stopped, yet a faint sound is coming from outside. I can see the rays of sunlight coming through the front door; time to sleep.
I walk up the stairs to the curtains,
A sound’s flowing through.
A sound so enchanting and familiar too.
My hands start shaking,
Yet my mind is calm.
I reach for the curtains,
I open them.
A symphony of wonder,
As I open the latch.
Smooth jazz and sunlight,
Flow through the window,