Winner: Lia Doyle, age 17, Two Seconds Was All It Took
As a young girl who was from Iran, my middle eastern parents would never have accepted the fact that I was gay. But I had big dreams, I wanted to love with no judgement.
I met her when we were at school. She had just moved down from Birmingham and was pretty scared standing in a North London canteen. Whilst my friends were fantasising over the new love interest in the latest romantic comedy movie, I was looking at the girl. She was standing there with her beautiful black hair running down her back, her smooth brown skin and her hands tied in a knot. That was when I knew I was gay. So, I walked over, said Hi and then we were friends.
As the years went on we grew closer. We went through exams together, spending every lunch barely revising, through relatives deaths and divorces. She thought we were just very close. My parents loved the fact that I had someone this close to me. It meant I didnt have to be looked after by them.
One day I told her was gay, when we were 17. I just couldnt take it anymore. She, of course, accepted me, and relished in my new found confidence and freedom. But the weight wasnt lifted off my shoulders. I had a bigger secret. She never talked about boys so I thought there was hope.
Yet, she met a guy.
And I met a girl.
And as I stand here as her maid of honour with a smile on my face, and even though Im happily in love, I cant help but think that my big dreams failed. Because she was my big dream.
Kea Allen, age 18, Werk in Process
Painting her face was hard when the lighting was so dull. The bulbs bordering her crooked mirror were half-dead, merely flickering occasionally. The dressing room smelt rank and sweaty, the lone window that was cracked open made little difference. A wall of stink hit her as she walked in each evening, it was not the sort of smell she could get used to. But then again, she did not want to be there long enough to get comfortable.
Although pretending was essentially her job, she found it very difficult. Each night she pretended that she relished performing to a deserted crowd, pretended that the isolated heckles -from the few audience members there were- didnt bruise her ego. The only pretending that she enjoyed was pretending to be a woman- and she was an expert. But she knew that. Her wig cap was always hidden, her lashes were never crooked, her tuck was always tight. She would look at herself in the mirror and trace her fingers down the outline of her voluptuously padded hips. She was powerful. The illiberal old men she would entertain each evening were not her intended audience, her work was for the blaring outsiders; those who needed to find other peculiar people, and her heart was set on giving them something more extravagant. A queen needed her empire, but she knew it took time and patience to achieve her dream.
She dreamt of her first night in a glamorous drag club as the headline performer. The lights would beam brightly onto the stage, the walkway stretching out through a packed audience. The palpable energy from the crowd could be heard in the bright and unsoiled dressing room. She would strut elegantly in her 6-inch heels to the stage. Next up! The fierce, the brave, Big Dreams!
Freddie Houlahan, age 16, In Perpetuum
It was eight minutes after stealing bread for the first time that my ambitions blinded me. The day remains distinct in my head for its extraordinary normality: no film moguls or red-faced, puffing businessmen had driven through the suburbs in pursuit of whatever they sought in the decidedly more agreeable parts of Lagos. Nor, for that matter, did the rattle of guns bore holes through the dusty murmur of the marketplace though, in retrospect, it occurs to me that they had likely just taken up residence elsewhere for the day. Someone else had shouldered that burden and I was given reprieve in return. Not that it matters to me. Its how the world works.
You will recall you were there, after all that I was, on this most insignificant of days, lying broken under the hammering of the sun. I recognised that the single loaf would prove impotent in the grand scheme of things; I have felt for some time that my days have grown increasingly finite. Perhaps it was something in the water, perhaps in an insects gut. Regardless, I was hungry and so I took. I hoped, briefly, that I might continue just a little longer. I am only human, after all. Ah. I suppose you mightnt subscribe to that belief.
It was and remains unsurprising that my actions elicited a loud and thundery response from the emblazoned man watching waiting across the street. The drugs and guns are not of his concern, as long as the money makes it to him somehow.
I had only hoped to delay him, perhaps take a little from his pocket, that I might have a little more time.
And yet my wish, my dream to live has come at the cost of your own.
That, Officer, is how the world works.
Jessica Robinson-Jones, age 15, The Dream Catcher
A shadow. There, by the wall. A monster. He reached for the lamp.
There, standing in the pale beams of light stood a figure; tall and scary. A monster.
The monster shifted and he could see it clearly now. The monster was a girl. A strange girl, with locks as dark as the midnight sky and two eyes, each as bright as moons. Staring straight at him.
The boy peeked from under his blankets.
Who are you?" he whispered. "What do you want?".
As the girl stepped further into the light, he could see the cloak shimmer. A cloak of stars.
Im not here to hurt you. Im a catcher. Her warm smile was soothing and reassuring.
What do you mean a catcher?
My job, she said is to empty all the dreamcatchers. They fill up with nightmares, and I empty them.
You mean you get rid of them?
The bed dipped a little as the girl sat down.
The little boy made his way towards the dreamcatcher hung on his wall and fingered the tufts of feathers hanging from the strings.
What do you do with them? The nightmares?
I take them away to a place where they can never hurt you again.
That sounds nice.
The boy wrapped his small arms around her.
Thank you. For keeping me safe from the nightmares.
The catcher girl smiled back.
She retrieved her bag of nightmares and climbed up onto the windowsill.
And remember - your monsters may feel real, but they are just another thing to conquer.
With that she vanished into the night, her cloak of stars trailing behind her, shimmering in the moonlight.
- Ellen McKeag, age 16, Betelgeuse
- Patrick Heyes, age 17, Moonlight Dreams
- Leanne Painter, age 15, Let's Make Them True
- Rhian Kille, age 16, The Sandman
- Yulia Wolcuzk, age 15, When I Grow Up…
- Mollie Bruce, age 18, Some People Dream
- Ffion Godwin, age 18 The Lost Library
- Grace Chambers, age 16, I Used to Be a Size 12
- Emily Campbell, age 17, Nightmares of Past and Present
- Saffron Leaves, age 16, Under the Bed
- Anya Johnstone, age 17, Concealing the Truth
- Emilia Brooks, age 18, Blackberry, Blackbird?
- Ellie Beckett, age 15, Dream for Equality. It’s 1963.
- Ava Datta, age 17, What is the point in dreaming?
- Josie Bloom, age 17, Untitled