‘Case #2644’ by Toby Brown, year 11, Westcliff High School for Boys

What it came down to was who was willing to do it. Who was filled with enough vigour and decorated with enough trauma to venture the purple night. The short answer is, in a city of twenty-six million captives, that’s not a particularly difficult list to tick off. We started a small crew, close, personal, quiet. It did what we wanted, it was only later that others too joined, acting on their inspiration, creativity, and instinct for freedom. But for where we were, the three of us, it was golden.

I recall just days before the cities’ fiftieth anniversary all those years ago, the latest swathe of imperious measures was levied on us in Hautu, drinking in public spaces -banned-, chewing gum -banned-, and possibly the most dogmatic of all, a curfew for the whole city, 21:00 to 06:00, ‘To be enforced until further notice’. It wasn’t uncommon for festivals influential for the leading company -that’s what the leaders were called- to act as pretext for draconian, freedom restricting measures to be implemented.

In an enraged episode of hysterical screaming, something Hautu citizens found themselves doing every so often, just to keep ourselves going, the idea sprang to me. The chance to capture such undivided attention from my people presented itself at a no better time than every day 21:00 to 06:00. And no better place would be found than such a beautifully imploring wall facing onto the square.

Naturally it wasn’t long until the compulsively fractious side of my brain teased me into action. At first it was just me, creeping out of a secret, not so secret, fire escape that clung to the east side of my building. Rather inadvertently making my way through the streets, illuminated with the distinctive purple glow of the perennial streetlamps alternately lacing the pavement. Up to this teasingly bare wall I strode and all to easily the paint flew from the can, my freedom expressed in fluorescent ink. Hidden by day, unavoidable at night.

I’ll spare you the walk back, much the same as there, down the streets, up the fire escape, through the hallway, and back into my apartment. Standing tall in front of the wide glass window I gazed at the once bare wall, now glowing with the leading company’s nightmares. My creation glowing through the windows of hundreds of thousands of people, illuminating their desire. Naturally this became a daily desire, a highlight of my day. Obviously, you’re aware by now that it didn’t take long for others to also feel this desire. Within four days or so the square was unrecognisable, and as expected this lead merely to further restrictions on our lives. Hautu’s fiftieth birthday was marked by an unprecedentedly low level of personal autonomy, you’d think a low point for us living there but no. The daily scrubbing teams, like this was a radioactive waste site, failed day on day to wipe clean the evidence of our desires.

Your honour.