Young Writers in the City: From Where I Stood #4: William Chapman, by Jane Beeke

Since January 2017 we’ve been featuring the creative essays and stories written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Jane Beeke
Residency: Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Jane Beeke spent her residency at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, writing a continuous story inspired by the history she researched. This is the second entry in this story, which we will roll out as a fortnightly series for you to explore.

Read entry #1. Harry Wood
Read entry #2. Mary Ann Sayers
Read entry #3. William Holyman

From Where I Stood

4. William Chapman

William waded into the sea.
The sky and the sea were one rip of darkness, and from his residence in the town of Formby he had no chance of sighting ships as they came into the port. Instead William splashed and clambered to the middle of the river, stood ankle-deep on the sandbar, and lifted his telescope to watch the horizon.

His own boat was anchored close by, ready to sail to any ship that signalled a need for his help. William knew this river better than any man alive.
William could feel the tide flowing around his ankles, and brown kelp tied itself around his legs, as though he were a rock or a buoy. He had worked this river for twenty-five years. He had seen towns appear, wharves and storehouses sprout along the water, and the shipbuilding yards in their slow creep along every patch of riverbank. He had seen it all.

And so William stood in the river, now as the harbourmaster and pilot, and was in control.
Already a dozen sails rose and fell in the Strait. Fishing ketches ran out and in. There was his brother-in-law’s smart ketch, Colleen Bawn, making her twice-weekly rush into the Strait. The big trading cutters lifted their sails into the cold wind – three masts, four – in their endless race to Melbourne and back. There were whaling boats and sealers, too, though not as many as in those early days.

William was cold to his core. He looked down into the brown water.
Where have you gone?
Where have you all gone?
Every year, a dozen men were pulled, grey and frozen, from the dark tide.
And every year, dozens more sank into the waves – like old ballast stones – far from William’s searching telescope, and far from the safety of his old hands at the wheel.

Young Writers in the City: From Where I Stood #3: William Holyman, by Jane Beeke

Since January 2017 we’ve been featuring the creative essays and stories written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Jane Beeke
Residency: Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Jane Beeke spent her residency at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, writing a continuous story inspired by the history she researched. This is the second entry in this story, which we will roll out as a fortnightly series for you to explore.

Read entry #1. Harry Wood
Read entry #2. Mary Ann Sayers

From Where I Stood

3. William Holyman

William heaved on the rope, leaning as a weight against it, until the mainsail rose and caught the wind. At once William was on the other side of the deck, pulling the rope tight into a stanchion. For twenty or more years he had sailed the Strait, and he still had the energy for it.
There were four more crew on deck, and Young William took the wheel. The Colleen Bawn flew into the Strait, bound due North for Melbourne. Both mainsails were up, pushed taught in the ferocious wind.
“How does she feel, William?” roared the old man.
His son didn’t hear, but smiled at the helm.
Old William walked down the deck, ignoring the wash that covered the deck, ignoring the endless pitch and the roll as they headed the waves. William stood behind his son.
“So how does she feel?” he shouted again.
“She’s keeping well in this breeze, Dad.”
“Good. You’ll be running her from now on.”
“Good.”

They nodded at one another, and that was all that needed to be said.
The boat climbed a perilously high wave, her bow piercing up into the sky, a silhouette against grey cloud. They hung a moment; then the crash of water and the sting of salt spray overtook them all. Young William had already lashed himself to the helm; the other men all scrambled for a place to cling – to masts, to ropes, to hatches – as the sea rolled in and over the deck.
Father and son both laughed with the exhilaration of familiar danger.
“We’ll make good time to Melbourne in this.”
William held firm as the boat heaved under another wave. There would be no stillness, no calm sailing. For now, they were in a world of endless movement, of rise and fall without end.

National Youth Week 2017

This year Devonport Regional Gallery extended its National Youth Week programming after receiving funding from the Tasmanian Community Fund. This allowed the Gallery to offer a paid mentorship opportunity for a young person to develop event and project management skills.

ks170407114
Reclaim in full swing. Photographer: Kelly Slater

The Sketchbook Project Exhibition, 31 March – 8 April

Across six weeks from the end of February, young people across the North West collected a handmade sketchbook to fill with their drawings, ideas and writing using pencil, ink, paint, charcoal, collage, pastel and more as part of the Devonport Sketchbook Project.

The Devonport Regional Gallery and their young members committee, The Droogs presented The Sketchbook Project Exhibition at Devonport LINC. A total of 88 sketchbooks featured in this public exhibition from 31 March – 8 April.

The Sketchbook Project celebrates and promotes young people and their talents in the North West, and provides a space for public viewing of their work.

Youth Rewind, 1 – 2 April

Free activities and workshops took place across the two days of Youth Rewind, including live music performances by young musicians and a community jam, meditation, yoga and dance workshops and sand art activities.

The focus of Youth Rewind was to promote positive wellbeing and for young people to socialise, exercise and learn coping mechanisms with their peers in a fun and relaxed setting.

Reclaim the Lane, 7 April

For its sixth consecutive year, Reclaim the Lane returned to Rooke Lane, Devonport, on Friday 7 April, 3.30–5.30 pm to an audience of approximately 700 people. The free event transformed Rooke Lane into a vibrant celebration of youth arts and music for all ages to enjoy.

ks170407016.jpg

KT Hollywood with her work. Photographer: Kelly Slater

Burnie artist, KT Hollywood was this year’s resident artist and she created a new work in the lane. Reclaim the Lane also featured various art-making areas this year; a collaborative ‘Massive Mandala’ led by young, local artist Rachel Kumar, and a Zentangle class led by Launceston CZT, Michele Beauchamp. The popular event also featured the Red Turtle photo booth, a henna tattoo artist, face painting by the Droogs, performances by Mr Inferno and Jayden Mineur, and interactive stalls by youth service providers.

Outside Laneway Café there were also two musical workshops; a percussion workshop run by local musician Brad Von Rock, and a ukulele workshop, facilitated by young talent, Grace Maher. The space was popular with all ages.

A small Youth Market was established this year, focusing on giving young emerging makers and artisans a chance to sell their work.

Live music by young local performers entertained audiences throughout the event with performances by students at Geneva Christian College, Melinda Powell, Tia and Siobhan, Henry Rippon and Molly O’Brien.

ks170407402.jpg
Photographer: Kelly Slater

For the second consecutive year, windows of local Rooke Lane businesses were also transformed by young people as they expressed their views and goals for the future, responding to ‘What I would like to change about myself”, ‘What I would like to change about Devonport’ and ‘What I would like to change about the world’.

ks170407227.jpg
The Droogs at their stall at Reclaim the Lane. Photographer: Kelly Slater

Reclaim the Lane is organised by Devonport Regional Gallery and its young members, the Droogs, in partnership with Devonport City Council and Youth, Family and Community Connections. The event was jointly funded by the Department of Premier and Cabinet National Youth Week funding program, YFCC and Devonport City Council.

Highlights from the DCC Permanent Collection – Barbie Kjar

Kjar - Falling Cups
Barbie KJAR, Falling Cups 1993, pastel on drypoint

Tasmanian artist Barbie Kjar is widely known for her portraiture, her distinctive style and use of colour, and the whimsical quality that is characteristic of her figurative works.

Kjar was born in Burnie, Tasmania in 1957 and completed a Bachelor of Fine Art at the University of Tasmania, as well as a Master of Fine Art at RMIT, Melbourne. Prior to her visual arts studies, Kjar studied English and Education, and literature has been a persistent influence on her practice. The artist has cited a range of writers including Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson as influences, while the work Come to me, oh green glass buoy 1996, from the DCC Permanent Collection, is based on a poem of the same title by Tasmanian author Sue Moss. Furthermore, the sea and dance have also been discussed by Kjar as being personal influences reflected in her practice. The DCC Permanent Collection holds three of Kjar’s works, spanning a period from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s. Though Kjar’s practice has broadened since this period, with sculpture now increasingly a focus of the artist, her work continues to be imbued with the distinct style for which she is known, and of which the DCC works are examples.

Kjar - Come to me...
Barbie KJAR, Come to me, oh green glass buoy 1996, pastel on paper

While Kjar’s work is visually distinct, her unique personal perspective on portraiture and its processes contributes to the distinctness of her work. Kjar views portraiture as a deeply personal process that evolves and develops over time, rather than entertaining the belief that a work can be planned in detail from the outset. She has referred to the process as a conversation, wherein it is essential that both the artist and the subject are open to a degree of exposure. This conversation takes time; time which Kjar is willing to devote in order for those sitting for her portraits to become comfortable, and in turn open to being truly observed.

This sensitivity allows Kjar to extract and convey the narratives revealed within her sitters, exploring the story of a person, rather than simply capturing their likeness. Rather than attempting to present a biographical narrative, Kjar pursues the essence of the person, derived both from conversation and an acute observation of their facial features and expressions. This process reflects Kjar’s assertion of the fundamental importance of the eyes and the gaze in portraiture.

The time Kjar spends with the subjects of her portraits extends further to her process. She begins drawing from life, using charcoal or watercolour, before determining her point of focus. Kjar has been drawing since school, and although working across a variety of mediums, she has expressed a particular affinity for printmaking. Having studied etching, lithography and screen printing at the University of Tasmania, Kjar discovered her likening to the feeling of peeling off the paper after running the plate through the press.

Known for her drypoints, having been referred to as one of the great masters of the medium by art critic Sasha Grishin, Kjar uses an electric engraver to achieve lines that appear hand drawn, and have been praised recurrently for their velvety quality. Works such as Falling Cups 1993 from the DCC Permanent Collection evidence this skill, while reflecting Kjar’s goal; ‘to draw people well, really well… and to seek symbols and layers which investigate the meaning of life’ (Barbie Kjar, ABC Radio interview with Barbara Pongratz, Artist’s facial fascination, 29th August 2003).

-Erin Wilson, Curator of Collections

You can view more of Barbie Kjar’s works on her website, or through Bett Gallery

View more works from the DCC Permanent Collection here

Highlights from the DCC Permanent Collection – David Keeling

 

DRG 1-1a 2001.009 David Keeling_Headland 1995_Painting
David KEELING, Headland 1995, oil on board

David Keeling was born in Launceston in 1951, and now lives and works in Hobart. He studied a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Tasmanian School of Art, Hobart and a Master of Fine Art at RMIT, Melbourne. Keeling is widely recognised for his landscape paintings, through which he considers the ongoing flux of our presence in, and impact upon, the natural environment.

Throughout his practice, Keeling has explored the conflicting priorities of nature and culture; a significant consideration of life in Tasmania. As a body of work, Keeling’s paintings give insight into the Tasmanian landscape, tracing some of the social, cultural and ecological circumstances it has seen unfold. The perspectives of the landscape Keeling has considered have been both contemporary and historic, from elements of the sublime, the romantic and the nostalgic, to the familiar banality of our everyday urban surroundings. His practice is encompassed by the belief that we must move beyond these ‘comfortable’ views of our surrounds if we are to have a meaningful impact on the preservation of our environment in an increasingly industrialised world.

Keeling has stated that for him the process of painting is contemplative, this spirit of contemplation being extended to the viewer, as the impact of each work is heightened by its imbued ambiguity. Earlier in his practice, Keeling encouraged audiences to consider the way they view their natural surroundings, discouraging an overly romanticised perspective of the landscape, without denying its compelling beauty and awe. More recently, Keeling has presented the landscape bounded by the practical necessities of the man-made, striking the balance between an appreciation of beauty and an awareness of the impacts of our everyday lives on the environment. In these more recent works, Keeling has moved away from depicting more generic, sweeping vistas, to portrayals of places we encounter every day. Throughout his practice however, the artist has consistently incorporated into the landscape, elements that literally or symbolically connote a human presence.

DRG 1-2 1994.006 David Leeling_Frame 1992_Painting
David KEELING, Frame 1992, oil on linen

The Devonport City Council Permanent Collection holds several of Keeling’s works, including Frame 1992 and Headland 1995, which was completed in the mid-1990s, following the artist’s residency at the Australia Council London studio. Headland is dominated by a pair of wrought iron gates, slightly ajar, framing a nonspecific golden hillside. Keeling often featured gates in his work during this period, ‘in reference to our rich heritage of wrought iron work’. This painting also connotes the imposition of people into the pristine environment, while referring to issues of land ownership.

Like Headland, Frame also depicts a nonspecific landscape, with a luminous yellow shape seemingly floating in the centre of the hillside scene. This narrow shape recalls the simplified outline of a house in a child’s drawing, and while in some ways unobtrusive, connotes man-made structures. Despite its small ‘footprint’, this form dramatically alters and disrupts the outlook. In Frame, Keeling has depicted the landscape from an aerial perspective, ‘as if the viewer were floating over the vista’. These elements of the surreal in early works, such as those in the DCC Permanent Collection, conjure the feeling of an unnerving intrusion into the landscape, which reflects Keeling’s aim to unsettle our ‘comfortable’ views of the environment we continue to impact upon.

-Erin Wilson, Curator of Collections

You can view more of David Keeling’s works here

View more works from the DCC Permanent Collection here

Young Writers in the City: From Where I Stood #2: Mary Ann Sayers, by Jane Beeke

Since January 2017 we’ve been featuring the creative essays and stories written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Jane Beeke
Residency: Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Jane Beeke spent her residency at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, writing a continuous story inspired by the history she researched. This is the second entry in this story, which we will roll out as a fortnightly series for you to explore.

Read the first entry: 1. Harry Wood

From Where I Stood

     2. Mary Ann Sayers

Mary Ann stood over the boiling water. Using all of her weight on her laundry stick, she pushed the clothes down into the copper tub. Clouds of steam and black smoke filled the little laundry room. Mary Ann breathed deeply. She caught the linen on the end of her stick and heaved it onto the edge of the copper, like landing a fish.
The door of the laundry opened and cold air rushed in. William was here. He stood close to the copper, warming his wet hands and his wet feet. His face was red from cold.
“Morning,” said Mary Ann. “Have we heard anything?”
“About the J.L. Griffiths?”
William didn’t reply at first, but waited until his wife had hauled another load of linen out of the copper, and the sound of dripping water had subsided.
“No sighting,” he said. “They’ve sent a search vessel from Melbourne, word is.”
“It’s been two weeks.”
“Nearly three.”
They stood together in silence. No ship would ever take three weeks across Bass Strait. She was lost.
“Shame for the old man Griffiths, then.”
Mary put down her stick and stood with William, her back to the warm, wet wall.
“Are you going to tell Bill today?”
“Tell what?”
“Tell him your plan for the Colleen Bawn?”
William nodded. Today, he would gift his son his first ship, and now two William Holymen would sail Bass Strait.

Today was a good day, even from the view of the dark, stinging morning.

Read the first entry: 1. Harry Wood

Next fortnight, we’ll hear Jane’s story as told from the perspective of William Holyman.

Young Writers in the City: Sonder, and the Lucid Dream by Skye Cusack

Over the next week we’ll be featuring the creative essays and stories written by young writers who completed residencies in Devonport as part of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre‘s  Young Writers in the City program, December 2016 – January 2017.

Writer: Skye Cusack
Residency: Rooke Street Mall, Devonport

Skye Cusack - residency image.png

Sonder, and the Lucid Dream

Preface

I am going to be honest with you. Sitting in the Rooke Street Mall, watching people I have never met and will never see again float by me, I had an existential realisation.

It dawned on me that all of these people were not split seconds of my life, but in fact real people with lives of their own. I learnt afterwards that John Koenig, creator of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, created a word for this: sonder.

Whilst not a legitimately credited word, the concept of ‘sonder’ led me to remember a theory I studied in school. The theory suggests that your brain cannot create new data whilst unconscious, so the people in your dreams are people you have seen in real life and subsequently forgotten after the moment subsided. This, in turn, inspired me to play around with the idea of dreaming about people I saw at the mall.

Now, whilst it is frowned upon by many to play the ‘it was all a dream’ card when explaining story inconsistencies, I was very excited about the prospect of using literary techniques to create a piece that seemed genuinely like a dream. The possibilities seemed endless. Of course, I did have some limitations – I wanted all the characters present in my ‘dream’ to be influenced by people I seen during my time in the mall.

I strongly encourage you to reflect on the fact that every single person in the piece below is influenced by a real, living, breathing person.

 

The Characters

The first thing the Girl senses is that she is late. She can’t figure out what she is late for, but the feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach is a special feeling reserved for missing an important appointment. It is only after this feeling simmers down slightly that she becomes aware of her surroundings, her place in the world.

She is in a familiar place – a mall of some kind, she can’t recall the exact area. There is a large Christmas tree up ahead.

“Christmas already…” she mumbles.  “But if this is Christmas, then why am I so cold?”

Light, fluffy snow falls to the earth around her, decorating the roofs of stores and outdoor café tables. The Christmas tree looks like something from a bakery – the crisp, clean fir of the tree sprinkled in powdered sugar. She stands, mesmerised… her first White Christmas.

“I’m so glad you’re here!”

She instinctively closes her eyes as she reacts to the sudden voice. When she opens them the snow is gone. A bead of sweat drips down her face from the sweltering heat.

“I’m sorry?” she replies to a lady in a ringmaster’s outfit. Her makeup is reminiscent of the ‘60s, with a clean wing drawn on both eyelids. Her orange hair is teased and decorated to be glittering shrubbery on which her top hat sits.

“Please, don’t apologise,” says the Ringmaster, kindly. “We just really need you in position next to the other contestants over there.”

The Girl looks to where the Ringmaster is pointing and sees two people standing on a small stage in place of where the Christmas tree just was. One is an extremely beautiful lady in a wedding dress, her hair and nails styled perfectly. The other is a child, around the age of twelve or thirteen, with almond-shaped eyes and a mullet.

“Contestants?” she repeats. “Oh, no, you must have me mixed up with someone else. I’m actually late for-”

“Please!” the Ringmaster cries. “I’m begging you.”

“But I’m late for… I’m, um…”

“Are you alright?” inquires the Ringmaster, concerned. “This game is really fun. Maybe you could let off some steam. Please?”

Looking into the Ringmaster’s pleading eyes, the Girl knows she can’t say no. This lady seems so gentle and sincere. Plus, she is right – the Girl did feel quite distressed. She follows the Ringmaster to her spot on stage.

Beside the other contestants, the Girl notices things about them that she couldn’t have from a distance. The Bride, is beautiful, yes, but there is a haunting sadness in her eyes that gives the Girl an immediate drive to look away. The Child is quivering, whispering random words under his breath in intervals. The Girl looks at her feet. What has she gotten herself into?

A sudden burst of commotion stops the Girl’s rapidly beating heart. Out of nowhere, there is an entire crowd of people on the upstairs balcony of the building parallel to the stage, the Tapas Bar. They are laughing and flirting with one another as if they have been there the entire time. The Girl even spots a few people holding half-smoked cigarettes.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the Ringmaster booms in a voice entirely different to the polite, timid one from earlier. In fact, the Ringmaster’s entire demeanor is different. She is now holding herself tall, chest out, like a male peacock putting on a show for a field of peahens.

The people on the balcony settle down in response.

“Thank you all for coming,” the Ringmaster continues. “Let’s welcome our contestants. Give a round of applause for…” The Ringmaster turns towards the contestants and smiles. “Actually, I don’t feel like introducing them. It would spoil the surprise. Besides-” she turns to the audience. “You already know who they are.”

If the audience knows who we are, then who would it spoil the surprise for? the Girl thinks to herself. Maybe I should just leave. I really am running very late by now.

“Before you consider leaving, you must at least want to know about the prizes.”

The Girl jolts back to reality. How did she know I wanted to leave?

“I see the word ‘prizes’ has your attention. Unfortunately, I cannot disclose what your prizes will be, as they are all something very personal to each of you.”

The Girl looks at the other two contestants, thankful to see that they also seem confused.

“You each want – no, you each need something. We can provide that for you…given you play along.” The Ringmaster looks pointedly at the Girl, who jumps to attention at the wordless accusation. Suddenly, the Ringmaster’s expression brightens. “Well, now that that’s out of the way – let the show begin!”

Promptly, three men approach the stage to escort the contestants to their first challenge.

“But, I didn’t even agree -”

“Hush,” says the Child, and the Girl quietens down. “Think about what you want. It’s not worth backing out.”

“But I don’t know what I want-”

“Me either,” sniffles the Bride.

The Child looks exasperated. “You two are ridiculous! Haven’t you been saying this entire time that you’re late for something?”

He points at the Bride: “and you’re obviously in a wedding dress and not at a wedding, so I’m guessing you want a rich husband or something.”

“No,” cries the Bride. “It’s the complete opposite! I left my fiancé at the altar. I just couldn’t go through with it. I don’t think I’m ready…I’m too young.”

“Well there you go,” sighs the Child. “You probably want a trip to Schoolies or something.”

They reach their destination. They have only walked a few steps, but it feels like miles.

“Chin up,” the Ringmaster booms to the Bride. “You can’t aim far staring at the ground.”

The Girl’s blood goes cold. Aim? Anything involving weaponry is surely illegal…

“It seems you have quite the imagination,” says The Ringmaster. The Girl looks at her reluctantly, calming when she sees a football in The Ringmaster’s hand. “The only thing we kill here is boredom. Anyway, we’ll do a few warm-up challenges before we give the big reveal. Just to get everyone in right state of mind.” She winks at the contestants and throws the Child the football.

“It’s simple,” she continues. “Whoever throws the ball the farthest wins.”

The Ringmaster steps back and lets the Child have the spotlight. He takes a deep breath and steps forward. Everyone waits in dead silence as he holds the ball in his hands. He lifts his arm, pulls his elbow back and…

Places the ball on the ground.

“What?” the Bride mutters. The Girl looks over to the Ringmaster, shocked to see the Ringmaster giddy at the sight of the Child’s rebellion. The Girl looks back at the Child and sees that he is muttering frantically again.

“Throw,” she hears him say firmly. “Toss. Hover. Throw!” He is getting embarrassed now. The Girl can see a pink flush in his cheeks. He drops his voice to a whisper. “Fly.”

As soon as he utters this word, the Bride shoots up into the air. The Girl, bewildered, looks up and sees a white ball of fabric wildly flailing in the air. “What’s happening?” The Girl asks the Ringmaster. “We have to get her down!”

The Ringmaster just smiles.

“How did this happen?” The Girl feels faint. Is this a rouse? The sound of the Bride’s screams makes it seem otherwise. But then…what on Earth is happening?

“Down,” says the Child, and down the Bride comes. She floats softly to the ground and lands on her feet. The Bride calmly fixes her appearance. She looks astoundingly poised considering the situation. She turns to the Child and smiles. “What was that about?” Her eye twitches. “Seriously, tell me. What was that all about, you little-”

Suddenly the Girl finds the football in her hands. She looks up, bewildered. There are so many people watching her. Their stares feel invasive and unclean. She suddenly feels claustrophobic, even in such an open space.

The Girl, completely fed up with this entire situation, turns 180 degrees and throws the ball in the opposite direction.

It falls inches away from her feet. In her anger she had forgotten to calculate her aim and sent it nosediving into the ground. Hot tears appear, rapidly affecting her vision. She stays with her back turned to everybody, ashamed.

“You’re lucky I specified that you could throw the ball in any direction.”

“What?” The Girl turns to confront the Ringmaster. “You never mentioned anything like that.”

The Ringmaster grins. “Now, now, don’t try to take all the credit. You still only tied for first place. You threw it farthest this way and she threw it farthest the opposite way.” The Ringmaster gestures to the Bride before turning to the Child. “I guess that makes you second. Chin up, it’s much better than third. Anyway, onto the next challenge!”

The contestants are escorted back to the stage, where the Ringmaster is waiting to deliver the instructions for the next challenge. “This challenge is simple,” she informs them. “It’s a classic case of ‘First In, Best Dressed’. Kind of. Basically, whoever puts together the nicest outfit wins. You can go to any store and get anything, no matter the price. You have ten minutes. Go.”

The Girl feels the sudden urge to co-operate. Potentially losing the last challenge has brought something out in her. She doesn’t feel like herself as she races through store, grabbing bits and pieces to wear. She feels like a warped, lucid version of herself. Like something from a dream.

She runs into the fitting rooms. As she frantically undresses, the Girl can hear the Bride crying in the neighbouring cubicle.

“I can’t take it off,” she is sobbing. “If I take this off, surely a part of me will die. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t…”

The Girl forces herself to ignore her compassion and continue getting dressed. Once she is done, she kicks open the door and runs back to the podium. She notices with a shock that the Bride is already there, her face in her dainty, pale hands.

“Welcome back,” the Ringmaster says to the contestants. “You all look quite nice.”

The Girl tries to look at what the other two are wearing, but the Ringmaster speaks before she has the chance.

“And the winner of this round is…” The Ringmaster looks at the Bride. “You.”

When she does not react, the Girl gives the Bride a small tap on the arm. The Bride looks up from her hands, astounded. “Me? But I didn’t even change.”

“Oh, but dear… You didn’t need to. Every girl wants to be a princess.”

The Girl looks over at the Bride, noticing a tiara atop her blonde curls. “Was that always there?”

The Bride reaches up to touch the head piece. “It must have been.”

They look back at the Ringmaster, waiting expectantly to hear the next challenge. The Ringmaster doesn’t speak. She is barely even moving, her head turning slightly as she looks between the competitors.

The silence becomes too much. “What’s the next challenge?” the Child cries.

“Change of plans.”

“What?” The contestants exclaim in unison.

“Show’s over. It’s come to a nice, clean ending and everybody is bored.” She gestures to the audience, who aren’t even paying attention anymore. They are back to chatting amongst themselves.

“But we haven’t even gotten to the main event!” The Girl is furious.

“And what about my prize? Didn’t I win?” The Bride looks as if she may cry.

“I think you’ll find you all received your prizes. Don’t you all just feel like winners?”

The Child seems to understand before anyone else. He shares a knowing smile with the Ringmaster. “Thank you,” he says, putting his hands in his pockets.

The girls watch as he walks off the stage. They watch as he walks the length of the mall and disappears into the distance. They share a look of confusion.

“It would appear someone is waiting for you.”

The Girl looks to where the Ringmaster is pointing and sees only empty space, but the Bride suddenly cries out: “Thank you!”.

The Girl watches as she walks off the stage. She watches as she holds her hand out to thin air and begins walking the length of the mall, disappearing into the distance.

“But… what about me?”

“You shouldn’t be wasting your time with pointless questions like that. Aren’t you running late?”

A flash fires through the Girl, sharp and silky, like a ribbon made of metal. It ties all the jumbled bits inside her together and suddenly her face lights up with joy. “Yes, I am. I really should get going now. Thank you.”

Everybody watches as she walks off the stage. They watch as she walks the length of the mall and disappears into the distance. They watch, and then they all go home.