‘The Playground’ by Labib Miah, year 11, Westcliff High School for Boys

“The wall has been there forever, they aren’t gonna knock it down for some kid who wants a nicer playground. Besides, this town is broke as it is, the council would quicker fix potholes than knock down a harmless wall, and there were three potholes on the way here!” Lola was a conflicting older sister. She cared for Alec like there was no tomorrow, but she loved destroying his ideas just a little more. Talking to her was like a raging fire, once it started, it was near impossible to stop. Alec on the other hand had been going to speech therapy for two years up to that point. It would take days for him to muster the confidence to suggest an idea to his sister, and her swift beheading of them all did not help him come out of his shell.

Nonetheless, Alec was a bright young boy. He would regularly impress his teachers with his spelling skills and recite his seven times tables. While all the other kids played, he would be working on his studies. Despite his success, his heart was never really in it. He would love to run around and play all day, but his crippling social anxiety left him unable to. Other than looks, no-one would guess he was related to Lola, and she did not make being an introvert easy for him. Luckily for him, she was attending university, so she would at least leave him to hide in his shell a couple of days a week. When she was home, Alec exploited her for her ability to drive, and every Saturday, he would have her drive him to his favourite park.

This park was on a secluded little cul-de-sac, found at the other side of town. Driving through the place had some lights on in the houses, but the lack of any decoration, and the deafening silence made Lola uneasy, but it was comforting to Alec, so she endured. Despite the ground being brown and barren, with dull shrubbery and no trees, the swings, the roundabout, the seesaw and all the rides were pristine. Not a speck of dust. And in the back of all this, lie a wall, no more than half a meter tall, supporting its own ecosystem. From a distance, it was nothing special, but as Alec was about to discover, that was a façade.

This was his third time in the park, and up to this point, he had given the wall no thought, but on this day, something was very wrong. Alec had run into the middle of the park, leaving behind his sister, who seemed hesitant to step foot in its borders. The first thing Alec did was jump onto a swing. A big mistake. The force that he put jumping into the swing flung him back the other way, and he ended up buried in front of the wall. This was his first time seeing it up close…