City stirs from slumber

In the hours before sunrise, the city is still, suspended in time between night and morning.

The fading moonlight casts a grey light over empty streets where the shards of broken bottles lie like fallen stars.

The street stretches out between towering facades, whose darkened windows watch the world, like shiny black eyes.

Discarded chip packets lie listlessly in gutters where spongy moss creeps into the crevices.

From the south of the city, the stink of factories wafts through the still air, and mingles with the stench of smokers' breath.

The street lights flicker uncertainly, casting a pallid glow on the tarseal.

The feeble light trips over cracks and crevices, casting as many shadows as it banishes.

In the corner huddles an empty hood with its wide, staring eyes, oblivious to the rhythmic drip of water which echoes in the empty cavern of the street and forms a puddle at its feet.

In the hours before sunrise, the writer sits in the empty attic, head resting on ink-stained hands.

The overflowing bin spews its contents on to the floor beside him.

The teachers, accountants and bankers lie askew in beds and dream of chasing, and of falling.

The teenage insomniac peruses the cracked-paint ceiling of her lonely room and despairs, not of death, but of life.

No-one hears the mewing of a forgotten cat as it echoes into the night.

In the empty hours before sunrise, there is nothing to do but wait until morning.

Then, in one moment, a tiny sliver of light peeks over the horizon, and the world begins to move again.

The first rays of sunlight reach down and leak colour back into the city, brushing the sky with pale pastel colours.

Rose-pink clouds form graceful pirouettes against a turquoise backdrop.

The sun alights gently on orange roofs and climbs into the cracks, revealing small green fronds, uncurling in the new warmth.

The street lights flicker out and there is a low rumble as the morning travellers begin their journeys.

First a lone bicycle whizzes by, red tail-light still flashing as the sun creeps ever quicker over the horizon, then the grumble of cars and the street fades into the background, merely a solid tapestry for the busy drivers.

Recognition creeps back into the eyes of the huddled figure in the corner.

He picks himself up, revealing shaggy, unkempt hair peeking out under a worn jacket, and shuffles off, the backs of his trousers scuffing the footpath.

A fresh morning wind picks up the chip packets and dances away with them, taking the stench of the night with it.

As the morning rays reach past her faded curtains, the writer lifts her head, and goes to wash her hands.

The doctors, lawyers and hairdressers wipe the sleep from their eyes, smell the coffee and forget the troubled dreams of the night before.

Weary feet of yesterday step fresh upon today's ground.

Even the teenage insomniac sees the sun through cloudy windows and remembers the way the sun floats on the ocean waves in the morning, and the taste of salt which sticks to your lips.

The cat forgets his desperate plight and instead, hungrily eyes the blackbird on the power line as it watches the city awake, and forgets the black hours before the sunrise.


• By Britta Hamill, Year 12, Bayfield High School

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