They both chatted away as usual, nudging me for advice on one of their many naive dilemmas. Mumbles of sarcastic approval streamed in bundles from my lips as I focused on rolling the label of each pencil towards me. My world gently went apricot, and then a landscape began to take shape. Sinewy boulders, grey and deformed. A greyscale sky, tonal but bleak. Almost the infamous rotten egg smell of these bogs. Nauseating.

Wandering aimlessly around the rocks and over the endless mounds of dirt, the violent electric guitar blended back into balance with the other instrument: an arrogant drum, hammering louder and louder. Then all I saw was that apricot gradient. Glimpses of the pencils spread over my drawing, an organised mess.

My friends gave up trying to get me to listen after that.

Greeting them the next morning was a new atmosphere. They'd changed. What was wrong with them? So reserved. So...detached. Keeping me at arm's length. Why, on a day that I crave just a minuscule amount of reassurance, are they doing this to me? Stomping on the chances of me being the problem, I began reciting my speculation as to what had traumatised me last night.

One shared, corrupt glance. This was wrong. I continued anyway, apricot integrating into a deep brown. I couldn't look at anyone. Blinking. Interminable. The stop-motion of what happened next.

The backs of their shoes.

The empty concrete path.

A crowd of other kids.

Numbing, graffitied stairs.

The zipper on my bag.

No longer even brown but a sleet of black.

Then white.

No other life around.

Too much isolation to be clarity.


The piano strengthened to its peak.

Fingertips brush my shoulder blade. He was next to me. A tickle in my ear. He took an earphone from me.

And he listened. With me.