This was my entry for the April Writing Contest, in which the theme was Nature. I've decided I'll post all my Writing Contest Entries here from now on, obviously after voting has closed. (The story is approximately 1500 words.)
It was a gorgeous spring afternoon. After all the rain of February which had terrorised the school for weeks, it was a relief that March brought rare sunshine and an escape from being trapped within the classroom.
It was just after noon, and the pupils in the art classroom were staring longingly out of the windows to the lush green fields beyond. Even Alice, the school's most talented artist, was staring dreamily through the glass, sitting in front of a blank canvas. She dreamt of bird singing, and insects humming to the sound of spring, while she sat beneath a tree listening intently. However, her dreams were shattered when a voice spoke beside her.
"What's this, Alice?" her art teacher asked as she approached her work. Alice pretended to ignore her as she lifted the canvas. "Blank? After all this time?"
Miss Vermont waited for Alice's response, but she just looked blankly at the space.
"What's wrong with you today? You're usually full of inspiration! Do you not understand the topic?"
"No Miss, I understand the topic...Nature." Her voice faltered as her eyes returned to the window again. Miss Vermont placed the canvas back on the table and sighed.
"You do realise that there are only 5 days until your piece needs to be submitted." she reminded her.
Alice nodded vaguely as the teacher walked away. Finally, the bell rang and the class was dismissed. Alice returned her equipment to her shelf without glancing at the canvas, then took her bag and left the classroom.
Skipping through the corridors, she ignored the occasional s♣♣♣♣♣♣s from the younger girls. She passed Edward and Gary, two other boys in her year at the doors to the grounds, and cheerfully waved hello. But she was blanked completely as the boys dashed out with a football under their arms. Sighing, Alice proceeded outside where she was met with a crowd of people chattering on the yard, all gathered in anticipation beneath the burning sun.
"Hi there," she smiled as she approached Alex and Kevin, a girl and a boy who didn't laugh at her like the rest, and were sometimes happy to talk to her. "What's going on?"
"They're opening the field, what else?" Alex sighed, and gestured to Kevin, who had already removed his sweater and was sporting a cap which he wore sideways.
Suddenly, the crowd fell silent as a moustached man in overalls marched towards the gates, holding a bunch of keys and sweating. There was a short click, and the gates creaking open, before the crowd broke into a wild frenzy of cheering and roaring before stampeding onto the grass. It was Alice and Alex who were left behind, and Alex marched off with her arms folded to follow Kevin, leaving Alice to wander alone into the field.
The field was alive with the pupils which filled it. There were boys running around with their shirts untucked, chasing a ball, while girls lay on the grass with their mobile phones and sunglasses as though they were on a beach. Alice wandered through them all with her satchel around her shoulder. The noise was terrible, and not the sanctuary of silence which she had imagined. In order to escape the madness, she had to stroll to the far edge of the field, where a neglected woodland was hidden from view by a steel fence. Nobody came here because it was too far away from the school, and teachers would often be angry if pupils arrived late to registration. But for Alice, it was perfect.
She dropped her bag carelessly on the grass and retrieved her journal which she occasionally drew sketches in as a hobby, usually of places she had been. Alice flicked through the pages until she found a vacant space, and began to draw the scene before her; a distant field of people, all enjoying the sun with the school building far behind them. As she began to sketch the horizon, a shape suddenly appeared beside her.
It was a bundle of soft brown fur the colour of gingerbread, with bright eyes and long ears. The rabbit watched Alice happily. She reached out her hand to stroke it but it flinched and sped off. It was then that she realised the opportunity she had missed. Without thinking, she snatched her journal and chased it, only to find it had vanished into the fence. No wait: the fence was broken. There was a gap just large enough for a child to enter which led to the unknown beyond. Alice didn’t think twice before crouching down and disappearing through the gap.
The smell of wild flowers, the cool breeze which curled around each tree, the variety and intensity of colours which could never be found in a palette: all this caused Alice’s senses to tingle with excitement. The woods were quiet, yet at the same time, lively. There were insects, birds and plants which all gathered in harmony. This was the world she had dreamt of. And best of all, the rabbit was sat in the shrubbery, waiting for her. Alice walked towards it, but it began to run. Alice ran after it and soon they were playing chase.
Through the trees and the bushes, she followed the rabbit until it stopped near a pond with leaves floating on the surface. Cautiously, Alice crept towards it gently, before seating herself beneath a tree where the sunlight pierced through the treetops and bounced across the page of her journal. At the speed of sound, her pencil scribbled over the paper and formed the furry face and twinkling eyes, then the bushy tail and the delicate paws.
Beneath the shade, Alice spent the entire hour drawing trees, flowers and bushes. The rabbit stayed in the shrubbery, twitching and washing itself contently.
Time passed, and the sunlight over the treetops moved. The air became cooler and more insects revealed themselves from their hiding spots in the barks of trees or the nectar of flowers. Alice paused to listen to the humming of the bees and the chirping of the birds. It was so serene, so calm, that she felt her eyes close and her imagination took over.
When Alice opened her eyes, the forest was much darker. The water in the pond was still and black. It was as though the sun had vanished and all that remained was the silence of the wilderness. Even the rabbit which had stayed so still for her to draw had retreated deeper into the woods. Suddenly, she heard the rustling of leaves. A voice called out her name, but their was nobody to be seen.
Alice rose immediately from her spot and spun round in search of the sound’s source. The forest was empty and dark. It didn’t seem the friendly place it was earlier that day. But what time was it now? Had lunch break finished? Was she late for registration? Or had everybody gone home already? She had no watch and no sense of time. It was just Alice, alone in the woods. Nobody knew she was there. Nobody cared.
She was scared. She grabbed her journal and ran, faster and faster through the forest. This time, there was no rabbit to guide her and she strained to remember the path. Her footsteps crunched loudly on every leaf. Still, the voice was calling, getting louder and louder until she was sure it was following her. Finally, she saw the bars of the steel fence, and almost leapt straight through the gap, landing on the grass. When she opened her eyes, she saw a pair of jet black shoes and tights. Alex stood with her hands on her hips glaring down at her.
“There you are.” she sighed. “I’ve been calling your name for ages. Your form tutor told me to come and find you, and all I found was your bag.”
Alice’s bag was still lying on the grass, half open, with her textbooks falling out.
“We need to get you back to school. Your clothes are covered in grass stains. Where have been anyway?”
“I...I don’t know...” Alice murmured as she stood up and threw her satchel over her shoulder. Alex rolled her eyes and began to stroll back across the field. Alice’s eyes glanced back at the fence. She thought she glimpsed a bushy tail, but she continued walking, clutching her journal in her hands, which was now full of sufficient sketches in preparation for her art exam.