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Short Story Competition 2022 School Years 8 to 10 Highly Commended Sophie Lines ‘The Night’s Sharp Eye’

1PM:
A plethora of noise and colour surrounds me. It is the busiest time of the day. Main Street is overflowing with life; brimming with a bright, buzzing energy. The crowd is thick. Focused office workers are rushing through town with their heads down and phones in hand. A dog is barking, frustrated at being tied to the lamppost.

Smiling people shake their tins, collecting money for charity. Generous passers-by are adorned with stickers in return for their kind donations. A screaming child is demanding lunch, trying to wrestle out of his pram. Shop vendors are handing out free scented samples to passers-by. A delivery van is hooting. It's impatient driver is trying to carefully cut through the hustle and bustle.

The herd of tourists are following their shouting guide, oblivious to the vehicle behind them. A street performer is dancing to the music blaring and thumping out of a huge speaker .. Shoppers are pushing past one another desperately trying to avoid the long queue for the cash machine snaking up the street.

I can smell churros frying in the nearby cafe. A cacophony of voices, languages and generations fill the street. Friends embrace and chat with animated warmth and cheer. The church bells chime in the distance, drowned out by everything else.

1AM:
A breathless calm hangs over the still night. The sky is black and inky, filled with a smattering of stars. A row of lampposts line each side of the cobblestone street. They stand upright like silent, solemn soldiers; wearing their hanging baskets like epaulettes. Their beacon of warm, yellow light illuminates the deserted street. I can hear the quiet hum of the street cleaner in the distance. A lone cyclist passes by, her wheels making a slight squeaking noise on the uneven pavement.

I stop to sit down on the bench. Darkness oozes out from behind the buildings which tower above me. I look up. My vision is sharpened. The colourful, wooden shutters and ornate twisted black metal on the balconies stand out; things I had never taken the time to notice during the day. My attention is focused on my surroundings and the playful details which seem to dance out of the shadows.

The street names and shop signs seem brand new, I have never properly looked at them before now. Eye-catching window displays frame frozen mannequins clothed in expensive labels. The uniform, geometric patterns of the colonial tiles on the same building are beautiful and unique.

Modern and historical features stand side by side in juxtaposition. Without the noise and cheerful laughter of the busy and hectic shoppers it feels like I am in a completely different place. I stand up and slowly begin to walk home. I hear the church bells ring again cutting through the silver silence of the night.

JUDGES COMMENTS
Years 8/10
Highly Commended: Sophie Lines with The Night’s Sharp Eye. The Night’s Sharp Eye reads like two prose poems. Main Street is described as a very busy, crowded and bustling thoroughfare at one o’clock in the afternoon. All the sights and sounds we associate with a thriving city centre are mentioned: rushing office workers, a child screaming, a barking dog, street vendors, tourists being chivvied along, the babbling of exotic languages and cacophonous voices.
Then, in the second section, the same street is described but now it is one o’clock in the morning and the street has been emptied of its throbbing life. What you had either ignored or only superficially noticed during the day now acquires a special significance: lamp posts are beautifully rendered as ‘silent soldiers’ with the hanging baskets transformed into ‘epaulettes;’ street names and signs glow in the dark (our street names in black and white have a very special appeal); the frozen mannequins sporting their haute couture clothes, seemingly taking the place of the absent crowds.
Sophie has drawn two very contrasting pictures of Main Street. They are resonant with the circadian rhythm of life in Gibraltar and the poetic prose makes the pictures particularly memorable.

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