The brilliant sunset scorches the clouds across the sky, making them glow bright orange. Trees rustle and the leaves of autumn drift and settle delicately on the dull tufts of grass.

I walk heavily, slouched and head downcast.

Slowly I drag my shell of a body through the gates of the park and shuffle to the hill overlooking my surroundings. I lie my back despondently to the ground and stare up in sadness at the flaming sky.

A great unhappiness wells up inside of me, threatening to burst my ribcage and make me suffocate. Thinking about what has happened to me over the past few months makes me shut my eyes tightly and wish for a better life. Thoughts materialise in my mind and I ponder them one by one.

I've come to realise that my perspective of life is different from reality. I have been wasting my time all these years. Everything that I have known is wrong or non-existent. Confusion clouds my judgement and there is disappointment in my beliefs. It feels as though I hardly know myself anymore, it has been a while since I have been in control of my own life.

Looking around me at the surreal shades of autumn, I am unsure what to think. I shift my body and the leaves beneath me crunch and crumble. My life is just like a leaf. Unique and beautiful but come autumn will become dull and crushed.

I have made many mistakes and have gone through the pain and suffering that it brings. Each fault is like a blow that takes more life out of me and drains my confidence. I find myself constantly faltering. It is difficult to regain my balance and composure. I feel like a tightrope walker slowly tipping over the edge, who no longer has enough trust in her own abilities to right herself. So much misery surrounds me, I'm not sure that I can make it through.

I sigh as I catch sight of the magnificent golden orb setting in the sky. The icy vapour from my exhaled breath dissipates into nothingness and the void of emptiness widens. I wonder if there will be a light for me at the end of the dark tunnel that I am traveling though.

As time passes, the sun disappears behind the gleaming horizon and the fiery orange shades vanish with it. The world around me darkens into the sleepy blue hours of twilight and as I take one last glance at the sun, I develop a sense of insignificance.

I am merely a grain of sand among the infinite shores of existence. By no means am I of any value and at the slightest suggestion of the waves I am swept away. If only I could be as powerful and remarkable as the sun… then I would not feel so worthless.

If only it were true. Oh, how I wish it were true.

Having been lost and trapped for so long, I absolutely ache for freedom. The intense sensation of hunger and thirst is something that I cannot express. It occupies all my thoughts. This yearning is all I think about. It is all I can think about. I want to be set free from my constraints and damn it, I want direction in my life!

I clench my fists as the beginnings of a strong desire wells up within me from the deepest and darkest confines of my psyche. I feel it flourishing and spreading to every limb and fingertip of my body, filling me with its thrill of electricity. In a matter of a split second I am overcome with a sudden fierce determination.

Why am I letting myself succumb to grief?

Why am I running away?

Why am I simply doing… nothing?

I finally comprehend that change is inevitable and that I must also change.

Black, ominous clouds gather in the sky above me. The atmosphere becomes thick and heavy and the winds pick up at once, whipping and lashing at my fragile frame.

But as threatening as the winds are, I don't move a muscle.

As if to challenge me, the gale intensifies. The leaves whirl around me as they become caught in the madness of the squall, but I stay firmly rooted to the ground while the clouds churn angrily.

A vicious flash of lightening blinds my eyes and a brutal clap of thunder shortly follows that resounds in my ears.

Even then, I do not flinch.

Seconds later the downpour begins. Sharp, piercing bullets of rain pelt down without mercy upon my shoulders, beating them raw with the sting of their venom.

I stand up in defiance.

Never again will I hide and never again will I cower. Right there and then, I make the decision to become tougher. I will strive to become stronger.

Young, strong and perfect am I... in the cold hysteria of the ravenous maelstrom.


Author's Note:
I wrote this as part of an imaginative English task assessment at my school in response to the prompt "Journeys emerge spontaneously out of the demands of our natures." This is my take on how human nature results in our growth as individuals. This short story is written to convey how people naturally become stronger by experiencing hardships and it is set during the season of autumn, which is a time for reflection and knowledge.
Each short segment relates to the one previous with an element of progressive change. Everyone has moments like these, I hope the ending moves you in some way :)