Inbetween by Kaden Johnon (Grade Ten Writing Competition Winner)

Shadows of deep crimson enveloped the landscape, like a blanket of thin fog. All was mostly visible, but the only thing that one could truly see was the neon and faint aura of a single lonely building. A sign flickered just off of the russet-coloured road on which he stood, which simply read “DINER” in glowing yellow-orange letters. How he had gotten here, he did not remember, but off in the distance on each end of the road rested a low mountain, in which a dark tunnel’s mouth opened, leading to places unknown. There was no traffic. No vehicles of any kind. There was no parking lot around the diner either, merely an empty road, not newly paved, but there was no wear either–simply in an awkward state of inbetween. The sky around grows ever darker as he looks towards its mahogany peak directly above, starting at a faint glowing red on the horizon. The diner seemed increasingly more alluring each second, and gradually he began to amble nearer, the drone of the lights growing ever louder.

The moment he touched the door handle the entire atmosphere changed. A low jazzy tune emanated from the 1940’s jukebox, and there were small sounds of somebody unseen behind the counter at work. The clatter of the occasional coffee cup against the square wooden tables, shining with an even coat of varnish, echoed in the background. There were solid black shadowy figures sprinkled around the room, some occupying barstools, others holding a booth next to the windows. Occasionally one of the figures would get up and wander towards the back of the room, around the corner of the counter that of which he could not see past owing to a bland, yellow, vertical support beam, and would not return. Nobody seemed to be remotely fazed about possibly appearing out of nowhere, and he assumed that maybe they had come on their own accord. Peculiarly, he didn’t find himself remotely shocked either. He was filled with a comfortable indifference and felt as though he could remain here forever. He took a seat in the low, red leather booth beside him and gazed out the window at the lonely claret void.

Time seemed obsolete, as nothing noticeably changed. Occasionally a figure would disappear down the hall behind him, but another would always arrive and take their place. He had not bothered to investigate further into where these ‘people’ were going, as he felt no need to. They captured little ongoing curiosity from him, aside from that each new figure moved differently, their bodies seemed to tell stories. One would jerk onwards silently, as though something else had taken control, and others would totter fluidly, unnaturally relaxed and unfocused. Few would stop and show any recognition, most would amble determinedly to the back, never to be seen again, but their stories were enough for his mild curiosity to be sated. For the most part, the figures would be clearly “human”, but occasionally there would be exceptions. Abnormally large or small figures were not exempt from the trickle of shadows, and on occasion there would be a figure barely describable as humanoid. The figures ranged greatly, some likely to never have been able to exist anywhere else without panic, but here they were all met with equal indifference. These figures had somewhere to go. Somewhere that they needed to be so much that seldom would one stop and exist within the diner, so it was mildly intriguing to find that one of them had made their way into his booth.

They sat in silent companionship, as by merely occupying a table together they already shared more of a bond than any of the other passersby. While no eyes could be seen on the void-figure in front of him, he could sense their fleeting attention. The figure periodically shifted its focus to the back of the room, of which they faced. It was as though they were a moth being silently coerced from the comforts of the night towards whatever beacon lay in the back of the sleepy diner.  This “person’s” demeanor told a story of aggression. Wide shoulders, but a hunched yet forward facing head, which would have been intimidating in any other pit-stop diner outside of wherever this somnolent place rested. The two sat in uninterested silence for some time before the figure finally succumbed to the call of the unknown. Afterwards he retrogressed back to the window gazing, a slight glow emanating from the back reflecting on the glass. The aura stealing his focus from time to time.

The glow of the back wall was becoming more prevalent, and an ebbing curiosity was just beginning to get a foothold on his subconscious. The quiet drowsy atmosphere of the diner was gradually receding like a tide towards the sunset, revealing new sands of curiosity. He could feel his body anticipating the motion of turning, and his focus began to shift abvect. Head turning, his vision glided across the sunset yellow walls and the white glossy countertops towards the fluid orange light. The checkerboard flooring and cardinal coloured leather benches framed an open doorway, its depth seemed endless, yet a swirling inferno filled the space like how water fills a glass, occupied, but maintaining visible depth. It was as though he had been grappled by the limbs of heatless fire, pulling his form towards the peculiar threshold. He arose precipitously and joined the trickle towards the gateway. The closer he got, the more he remembered, and the more he realised this was a mistake. Memories of unjust acts and the people he would sacrifice flooded into his head. Funny how he could face the raging flames with courage, but could never look somebody in the face. He pondered this, and regretted his life of cowardice. He tried to resist, but alas, the call of the unknown was far too endearing to resist, and he ambled onwards behind a large figure. Curious, he finally thought as he hit the threshold, he never expected the one he would follow into hell would be a centaur.

Kaden is currently an active high school student in Nelson, B.C. Having, since early childhood, been fascinated by the imaginative power of text, Kaden began to read avidly right from the time he could first decipher written word. With such a passion, came an interest in the art of creating short stories, or narratives, that found themselves ranging from tales of great adventures, to simple descriptions of bits of life. Having shown a fervent curiosity towards literature since, Kaden has continued to write throughout his life, and he continues to do so to this day, whether it be in his favourite English classes, or as a personal hobby. Kaden plans to carry this passion into the future, and to continue creating pieces as a hobby, or one day, a career.

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