The stems of tussock grass danced around me like fairies
around their forest ring.
Dragon logs lifted their lazy heads from Neptune's kingdom,
rolling through the rippling current like seal pups.
The fingers of willow trees that hugged the bank in a
desperate embrace, beckoned me into the leaping shadows, the
flickering light reflected on a witch's glass mirror that the
tangled roots disappeared into.
Creeping through the undergrowth, skeleton fingers tugging at
my fiery hair and seeping into denim went unnoticed as I
stalked my prey.
Giant, stoic and strong, fist-balled and warrior-like, gaze
sweeping the fierce undertow, a hint of a storm brewing below
the harmless surface.
Stumbling to my feet, racing past the goblins and ghouls of
the growing shadows, I raced towards the mighty and god-like
figure of my father and his startled grin, a grin that filled
my heart with a glowing warmth and unbroken pride.
It filled my body with a blinding light; in the fading day I
could almost see myself shine.
Water twinkled around my feet as the river teased me with
lost childhood memories.
A cold, unyielding stone clenched in one fist, my steady gaze
swept the sun's playful reflection upon the glassy mirror of
In a sudden movement, hand drawn back, the stone left my
palm, spinning, twirling, skimming the skin of the river,
ripples of impact fighting with those of the lazy current,
only to be sucked up into the belly of the hidden storm.
The hunched and skeletal figure next to me seemed to search
the depths of the hidden monster sorrowfully, eyes old and
pain-filled, like the artistry of a painter they led me away,
away to another world.
As talons clawed at my heart and at my eyes, drawing out
tears that had lain dormant from not only the darkened sky
but from my own eyes, I pulled myself to my feet.
Ignoring the pleading reach of the arms of the willow and the
water's lonely cry, I walked slowly and purposefully away
from the clown on the riverbank, from the baggy clothes
clinging to a fragile form, from the red nose and watery
eyes, from just another shadow clinging desperately to the
riverbank in a last attempt to hold back from the water's
cold and powerful embrace.
That shine that had once fought the dark on these banks had
now all but gone.
Heart as cold as the stone I had watched sink so many years
ago, my thoughts as twisted and fierce as the flow of water.
My inspiration, my hero, the man that had stood so tall, his
shadow hung over me now like the creeping willows that rose
from the water and the sand of the river.
The spidery fingers of the sun tried to penetrate the
darkness that surrounded my hunched form.
Falling to my knees, the current of the water pulled at my
clothes, at my skin, tearing at the only part of me that was
Fingers curled around the rich, polished wood of the lid.
It came free of the box and fell into the waiting palms of
the river's current.
A twist of wind flickered across the river's screaming
current, lifted the ashes from their bed and whistled them
away into the threatening clouds.
At that moment the water stilled, the sun's fingers tore open
the clouds and began to play once again on the banks of the
As a single tear made its salty track down my face, I smiled.
This really was a place of magic.
- Eliza Budd-Prujean, Year 13, Waitaki Girls' High