Shadow

2013 Years 9&10 Winning Short story:
Finlay MacKenzie, Balmain Secondary College

I pick up my book, feeling the smooth, worn leather beneath my fingers. Slowly, cautiously, I open it to a fresh page. The empty space is tantalising, and I cast my mind into my imagination. It flows through my hand, wanting to crash onto the page like waves onto a beach.

I pick up my pen and write…

A black pegasus stood proudly upon a rocky crag. His midnight coat shone like obsidian, and his raven feathers rustled, constantly in motion. Far below, a herd of white pegasi grazed peacefully, their pelts flawlessly white, in infinite juxtaposition against the black pegasus. The world opened out beneath him, a crater filled by a lake of grass and trees, broken only by the ripples of a river. The wind barely stirred the grasses, and the scene was majestic, resplendent, unchanging.

Gazing out over the sweeping landscape, Shadow listened for the sound of the river carried on the breeze, felt the cool air on his face. Down below, the herd of pegasi looked tranquil, almost angelic with their white coats. Once, he had wished that he could be like them, almost invisible amongst the herd, with a white coat blending in rather than his black coat standing out. At one time, the rocky outcrop Shadow stood upon had been nothing more than a place from which he could reflect upon his sadness and pretend that he was not different. Now, it was the window to his world, the haven from which he could revel, not deny, his individuality.

Shadow had come to realise that without his differences from the herd, he was nothing. For a long time he had lost sight of who he was, forgotten his very identity in his effort to fit in. But that only made his life worse – the herd still did not accept him, and without his individuality, who was he? What was he worth to the world? So his black coat had become his pride, his badge of courage and confidence in himself.

I pause – my pen hovering just above the paper. I wish I could have Shadow’s bravery. My  imagination, my writing and my love of books makes me different. My classmates teased me, taunted me, hurt me, so in my loneliness, I had turned to my books, inadvertently isolating myself further. Sometimes, I wish I had Shadow’s confidence in being different, to be proud of my individuality; it does not help that I am shy and lack the self-confidence of many of my peers.

There was a solace in being different, Shadow discovered. A serenity that brought a new depth to the world, watching over it and intrinsically linked to it at the same time. In rediscovering himself, Shadow had found that the herd admired him for his differences. Where he perceived their white coats as idealistic, they envied his bold black coat and the iridescent feathers of his wings. But despite finding friends amongst the herd, he still preferred to be alone, overlooking the world from his imagined stronghold, enjoying his own company to that of his herd. It was the perfection he had always looked for, to be accepted in his herd – but for his differences, not for the fact that he was the same as everyone else. What did a black coat or a white coat matter? There was nothing special about the colour of a pegasus’ coat, or so Shadow believed. He had fought an inner battle against his desire to fit in, and his individuality had prevailed.

I admire Shadow  – he is comfortable being different. His confidence comes naturally to him, whereas I struggle to find the courage to accept that I am different at all. He would never admit it, but he knows the herd look up to him and admire him for being different. That is because of his pride in himself. I want to learn from Shadow, to find his strength within myself. My pen returns to the page almost unbidden, and I delve back into my words.

Being different required a strength, Shadow thought, that very few were gifted with. But to accept one’s differences needed not just strength, but courage and confidence as well. He had found courage in himself to find who he was, and a confidence in his own identity. Although the battle between fitting in and being different had been long and hard, and several times he became lost in its clutches, barely aware of life going on around him, he was immeasurably grateful for the outcome. Now, finding happiness in being different, he would not trade his difference, his black coat, for anything in the world. Barely a month ago, he would have been happy to remove his differences. Now, he had found a new bravery and inner strength arising from the black coat. To lose it would be to lose his spirit, never to be found again.

My hand shakes as I write, and the letters trail away. I drop the pen. A new determination enters my mind. I will be strong, courageous and confident, just like Shadow. I will refuse to conceal who I am. I will stop hiding in the shadows and begin believing in my differences; in my imagination; in myself.

I feel the smooth, worn leather beneath my fingers. Slowly, cautiously, I close my book.

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