This short story is written by one of my grade 10 students, whose pen name is Vagus Truman. His short story reveals the ambivalent feelings in teenagers, who at times may question the purpose and meaning in all their experiences, hoping to create an original meaning in their lives. He has vividly portrayed the dilemma that the main character is faced with. The imagery and descriptiveness bring the whole story to life.
Glowing Red Lights
By Vagus Truman
The cold weather was nonexistent to the photographers and news reporters at the Bund of Shanghai, who had come to witness the New Year fireworks. For others, though, who were not as bundled up, it was a very, very cold hell. While they were holding their phones out in the air, straining their arms to get a good view of the iconic Shanghai skyline, the pros with their tripods only needed to aim their cameras and click a button to take their ideal image. Everyone was cascaded in the scarlet and gold lights from both sides of the river. Despite all the excitement, the young man in black clothing was unhappy. For childish reasons, he felt lonely, despite all the love that he received from his family. These reasons had stemmed from his discovering the dark side of humanity. With all the hormones in his mind, he became uncertain if the love he felt for his family or his crushes in school was genuine or not. All of it took the joy out of everything. He thought that coming to the bridge would lift his spirits or that somehow, the ending of December would take his troubles away with the past.
The cold air kept his nerves on a tight wire, but not his composure. With arms supporting his weight against the rail, his scarf blowing in his face, and the music playing in his ears, he felt composed, but uncertainty still lingered within him. “2019, another year we so desperately try to make the most of. I wonder what doesn’t change,” he muttered to himself with his triangular dark chocolate coloured eyes staring at the water and with his plastic black watch showing 11:53 pm. The jet black hair blew in the wind, but he didn’t mind nor care. “Almost 15 years, and I still haven’t done anything beneficial. Wonder how come!” he asked himself, chuckling into his scarf at the irony. The people coming by showed him a smiley face and moved on, getting to their places to witness the fireworks. It was coming in 4 minutes, which was soon.
“Guess I’m too paranoid. Hell, the answer was clear before, but now…” his voice trailed off into the wind, while the song Pompeii by Bastille played in his ears. The musical trends now were just bass and dirty words, while before, it was just acoustics, drums, and authentic vocals. The thoughts of everything swelling in his mind was overwhelming enough to bring tears to his eyes, but he tried aimlessly to prevent it from falling to no avail. He tried desperately to pull himself out of this loop of self-pity, to clear his mind. All with no avail. He wiped the tear away quickly with his hand, but it kept on forming in his eyes.
At the 11:59 pm mark, he heard the launch of a rocket, its fuse squealing like a pig in the air. As the star exploded in the sky at its apex, the world was coloured in bright red and gold. Cheers were everywhere from where he was standing. The big digital displays on the towers showed Happy New Year in traditional golden Chinese characters, and the bell was ringing in a powerful tone. Slowly, a smile started to form on his face. For what reason, he never knew. He let the tears fall and forgot about his issues for just this hour, wanting to be genuinely happy with the rest of the crowd. The cold felt nonexistent, the world was quiet. For him, it was only the fireworks, the railing, the ground, and himself. He felt what people may describe as ‘wanting to be in this moment forever,’ and he couldn’t blame them. Still, despite all this whirlwind of emotion in him, two things were for certain: Joy and Loneliness. The sparks spoke to him in a language he couldn’t understand, but the emotions behind it were clear as day: Motivation, Encouragement, and Comfort.
His phone started to ring. He picked up, asking who it was through his earbuds.
“Happy New Year, Sheng” an old voice replied through the phone, and he felt more comforted, knowing that his father had called him.
“Happy New Year, Dad. Did you save some sweet dumplings for me?” he asked through soft sobs, hoping his father wouldn’t hear.
“Of course I did. You didn’t spend too much at the food shacks, did you?”
“No. I couldn’t eat. I’ll bring some braised sausages back with me if that’s alright. Pictures, too,” he said, picking up his phone from the little stand he set up on the rail, and pressed stop recording.
“Sure. See you soon, son,” his father said before ending the call.
He put the phone away in his coat pocket and turned to the nearest food shack that sold braised sausages, and ordered 3, one for each family member. With 3 sticks in hand, he started his walk back home, knowing something changed within him. He didn’t know what it was, but something drastic had changed. He shoved it off and continued to let the tears of mixed emotions fall, with the chant echoing in his head, “New Year, new me,” and for once in his life, he truly believed it.