Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Write Across Ontario: The Blue Light by Alana Dunlop

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Write Across Ontario: The Blue Light by Alana Dunlop

Every Tuesday in January, the Open Book Magazine will feature one of the four winning stories in Open Book: Ontario and IFOA Ontario's Write Across Ontario contest. Ontario elementary and high school students were asked to compose a story of 500 words or less in response to a "story-starter," which was written by a well-known author.

Congratulations to Erin District High School student Alana Dunlop! Her short story was selected by the judges as the winner for the grades 9-10 category of the Write Across Ontario contest. The story starter was provided by Lesley Livingston (Descendant, HarperCollins Canada).

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"The Blue Light"

By Alana Dunlop

I’ve walked past the alleyway every single day for the last seven years, ever since we moved to the East Side. But I don’t look, I never look. It’s just an alley, right? Trash bins, fire escapes, shadows... nothing special. Tonight, the game went late and it’s dusk as I walk. But in the alley, it’s dark. I stop and look. A thready fog creeps up out of the cracks around the manhole covers. And a low door at the end of the alley swings open. Pale blue light spills out. Music, laughter....

And someone calls my name.

As soon as I hear the voice, the alleyway and the trash bins fade away, and I’m back in the bedroom I’ve been in for five hours, just trying to make sense of my life. It happens in memories that aren’t mine. In images that aren’t what I’ve seen. It’s like I’m staring at a door with x-ray glasses on and that’s how I see the world. On the other side, but looking into a disaster that seems a lot like my own. But those disasters are so typical “life” and life is the farthest thing from real that I’ve ever experienced.

The voice keeps shouting out to me, and I finally open my goddamn portal to the world and yell back. The footsteps coming towards me are a war in my mind. But they’re just footsteps and I have to step back and realize not everything is exaggerated and dramatic. A lot is... but not everything.

“Sweetheart, you still have to unpack all these boxes.” My mother kicks at a cardboard box in the corner of my bedroom. Years and I still haven’t unpacked my life.

“I will... the blue light is blinding,” I answer, watching a little ant crawl across my floorboards.

“Honey, take your pills,okay?” And she leaves, closing the door behind her.

I go to my bathroom and take those rotten things that are supposed to make me normal. As I stare at my reflection in the fogged-up mirror I think of all the people I could’ve been and wonder why I had to be a kaleidoscope-eyed freak with a glass brain. The soundtrack to my life is whispers across a hollow room. So I go back to my bed, where I know blankets will greet me and not talk about me to the pillows in the dead of night.

I remember the days when I used to go to school. I don’t anymore. Periodic tables, the Pythagorean Theorem and world maps were never understanding. No one was. And that’s why I count the flies on windowsills and reinvent every aspect of my life by the day. Why I dream in six different shades of black and stare into the reflection of the sun on my metal trashcan. Not because school is so hard and tough but because people are, and life is, and whoever thought it was easy lived inside a diamond house and went to school in a bubble every day. Mental disorders are real and that’s why I stopped going to school. Depression is real and that’s why I stopped believing that wounds heal and the sky is tie-dyed and flowers grow on windowsills. And that’s why I became friends with blankets and pillows and things that could never have a heartbeat. And that’s why I metaphorically died. Because light is the bluest of blues and laughter is only heard in my mind and music is whispers in the dead of night.

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