Ray leaned out of the window, jacket flapping to the wind, and stared open mouthed, transfixed at the landscape as the truck zipped by. Slowly at first, the towering dark skyscrapers of the city centre gave way to suburban homes with well kept little gardens to rolling hills and magnificent trees and finally, to a beach of white sand. Ray shook away memories of the dangerous dimly lit back alleys, the guns and the knives, the drugs that exchanged hands under tables and heavily tattooed and sharp talking felons of the urban underground that he called home. He turned his eyes to the picturesque scene in front of him.

In the horizon, the setting sun hung over a low line of trees. The lush canopies of the tropical rainforest threw shadows over the quiet beach. Ray turned his eyes to the sky, painted in striking vermilion. Birds of paradise drifted among the greens lazily, an occasional cry that broke the rhythmic lapping of the waves.

He took in a deep breath. The fresh air lingered of seawater and Ray could almost taste it in on his lips. This beach, this paradise was one of serenity. Its adagio, idle atmosphere softened his heavy heart, the bearer of hardship, pain and suffering. A gentle hand landed on his shoulders. It was his guardian, his big brother, his paladin. It was he who had brought Ray to this utopia. "Take it all in, Ray. You've deserved it all."

In a flash, Ray recounted his memories of his urban home. Both fond and bad memories returned. He remembered his mother leaving him when he was just a kid. He remembered his father leaving him to fend for himself in the underground, where an adult had trouble staying alive, much less an innocent child. He remembered meeting his gang, his circle of friends that would eventually become his family. He remembered the many vices of his unwanted, undesirable home. Firearms of every calibre and of every make found their way onto the black market and into the hands of gangsters. Drugs were devoured like food and water. Taunts, insults were thrown around, fists were clenched, punches and kicks were exchanged, triggers were pulled, blood was splattered. Fear. Anger. Desperation. Confusion. Rage. And at the end of it all?

Did he want that life? Did he even deserved that life? Did he?

Did he?

Like a giant tsunami, paroxysm hit Ray in the chest. He choked on tears as they streamed down his dirty and gritty face. His frail body shook with uncontrollable spasms of emotion released in a giant climax. His fingers cut into flesh as Ray slumped onto the ground. Another hand gently touched Ray on the other shoulder, and as the sun set beneath the trees, he closed his eyes and cried.

I wrote this story for a school assignment last year. To me, this is my breakthrough piece, for before this one, I never had the slighest notion that I could actually write stories. Well, it's my first! Enjoy. ~Shinoda