by Bethan Jakeman
My fingers close on the rough fabric, tentatively pulling the folds of the hood over my face. It is dark in the alley, nothing but a set of carelessly hewn brick walls and shadows. Once the hood is down over my eyes, the cloak obscuring my pale skin and hair, the darkness consumes me and that is what I become – another shade in a gathering of shadows.
Just one bold step away is New Street, teeming with life, calls of traders, snatched laughter, the fumblings for dropped goods, the chink of coins. I feel the pull of company, safety in numbers. One hesitant boot breaks the protective line of shadow and, suddenly, I’m stumbling, frightened but curious, over the threshold, into the light and the Inside.
Immediately I’m plunged into a whirlpool of sound and colour, no order or direction. I try to shrink back into the comforting darkness – I’m too exposed, too vulnerable – but I’m being buffeted aside by dark haired Insiders, too intent on making the best bargain to notice my small frame. Even their shouts of laughter sound like cries of accusation in my ears. More call from behind rickety tables laden with unknown objects; curious vials, wooden pendants, strange tools.
Small children dart into the seething crowds, their dark heads bobbing in and out of sight, expert fingers slipping into pockets and whipping away unseen, despite their brilliantly coloured garments. I’m reminded, dimly, of the tales of multi-coloured birds in the Old Forest near our village, their luminous feathers exposed in the dark foliage. Here, however, there is colour everywhere – on clothes, faces, the sides of the grand houses that line New Street – even the sweet smelling food is bright and alien. A world of sound and colour. A world I do not belong to.
Then there is a sliver of darkness, puncturing the rainbow around me. A tall figure in deep black leather, high cheekbones set into his chiselled face, the swift, menacing eyes skimming the sea before him – an Insider warden.
My hands under the long sleeves begin to shake. I search for an exit, a way out, a hiding place, but the ever surging force of the crowd does nothing to reassure my fluttering heart. As ever, I’m painfully aware of my too pale hair, my over bright eyes. Desperation courses adrenaline in my veins.
Then I feel the gaze of the warden on me. Piercing me. I look up. The deep black of his eyes sweep the crowd. As if in slow motion, I drag my feet forward, my last spark of hope clinging on.
A hand clamps down on my shoulder.
The force of it almost throws me forward. I’m pulled roughly around. Once again, I’m staring up into the blank eyes of the Insider warden. His hand reaches up. Carelessly knocks back my hood. His eyes drink in my distinctive, unnatural features. His hand recoils. He spits at my feet.
- A number of talented Huntington School year 10 students took part in a one-day writing workshop – and YorkMix is delighted to be the first to publish their work
- To find out more about the creative writing workshop, and to read the other students’ work, click here