by Ele Nash. Awarded a Special Mention in the Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults competition 2023

Tucked within the fluorescent bulb, I get a great view of the classroom. The light casts everything in a yellowish haze, turning fair hair to straw, dark hair to sludge.

The mercury vapour in the tube light would make anyone’s head spin−if they had a head. Which I don’t. No eyeballs, no ears. Yet I see the discarded glove under a chair. I hear the hum of radiators and staccato sniffs.

I’m more aware of the world than those seated below. And less in it.

The light flickers. The girl directly below slumps lower in her seat, blows on her hands. Uncomfortable. My presence has that spooky effect. When I end up in Old Maeve’s pink tasselled lamp in Lilyfield Care Home, she complains loudly at the room to bleedin’ well stop haunting her.

I can’t be a ghost. No see-through body with hovering off the floor feet. I’m electrical impulses, a flash of thoughts.

Flickering again. The teacher grimaces, and then harks on about exams.

‘Practice, practice, practice,’ he drones. ‘Remember the key facts.’

The key facts are simple: existing within the lightbulbs of this small town, I’m freer than any of those wretched souls below me.

The girl’s attention is on the window. A figure emerges from the misty field and enters the building.

Minutes pass. Eyeless, watching the clock. Tick. Tick. Tick.

He enters the classroom as a howling wind. Papers on the desks rustle. Everyone looks up.

‘Ah,’ the teacher says, squinting through the gale. ‘You’re late.’

While the storm swirls his floppy fringe, the boy is contained. He offers no apology or explanation for the tardiness. Simply shrugs. The teacher seems to expect nothing less.

‘At this rate, Night,’−he chews on the name like it’s gristle–‘you’ll amount to less than nothing.’

Wrinkling his nose, the boy called Night bows then strides toward his seat bedside the girl. ‘Thank you for your optimism, Mr Collins, sir.’