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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 water.
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 left.
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 river.
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 School