Calvert City’s Youth Voice is a monthly writing contest developed for young authors between the age of 5 and 18. October 1 was the deadline for October and the winner is Nayelli McDowell of Paducah, Kentucky.

Calvert Area Development Association used a rubric judging system to choose the October winner. “We received 27 submissions this month and they were all wonderful,” said Blair Travis, Director of Marketing, Communications, and Business Development for Calvert City. Judges received the submissions with just the writings. They did not know how old the author was or where they were located.

McDowell is from Paducah, Kentucky, and is a junior at St Mary High School. She enjoys reading, painting, playing the violin, and playing volleyball and softball. Her favorite class in school is a toss-up between chemistry, art, or literature. Her favorite teacher is Ms. Wright, who teaches literature.

The next deadline for the monthly writing contest is November 1. Young writers are encouraged to submit original work in any style of creative writing. One winner will be awarded monthly.

Monthly winners will receive $50 and an ad in the Lake News with their published work. The deadline to submit work will be on the 1st of each month. This contest is not limited to Calvert City residents. We encourage writers from across the region to submit their original work.

For more information on Calvert City’s Youth Voice, please call City Hall at 270-395-7138 or by email at info@calvertcity.com.


PUNCHING BAG

By: Nayelli McDowell

My mind feels slow, my body barely moving, as if sending signals for movement is too much work for it to bear. But then…it all comes alive.

They strike out from the stillness stinging my hands, neck, and face, seeking to wind up my heart so tight that I expect it to start ticking at any moment. The fog seems to liquify and cascades upon me. Harmless at first, but it begins to cling and burn as it stretches across my skin until finally, I feel nothing. I’ve been encased, not able to move, not able to feel, just still, as voices wrap themselves around me like a cocoon. I don’t know how long I am like this, and I don’t care because everything is quiet again.

Everything is sharp but becomes blunt as it strikes me, their voices silenced in the cavern of my shell. But one voice gets through, somehow it resonates louder than the others. All the other voices are swallowed, but this one chips through my rock. My eyes flick downwards and watch a pool of blood bloom from the rock’s surface. The blood drips and creates rivulets across my hardened skin burning as it goes, lighting up my skin below until I begin to know what a volcano feels like as it’s about to erupt.

Pieces of rocks begin to drop from my skin. More follow as I attempt to stand up. My mouth opens and closes like a gaping fish attempting to lure in prey. But what I want is so much more important. I need words.
I need a symphony to bring forth what my heart is feeling and my mind is thinking. Voices scream and shout in me, but I can’t voice them. The darkness rushes in, binding me until millions of shackles are attached to me and I’m dripping in chains. My mind is waking up, screaming, “No!” I feel as if someone is at the gates of my heart pounding on the doors to be released. If I can’t speak…then maybe I can demonstrate what I feel inside.

I begin to jump up and down, making sure my feet strike the ground hard. Over and over I pound my feet until I’m jumping higher and higher. I open my mouth and I scream, no words come out but I imagine that they crack and shatter the world around me. The chains clink and beat against one another so hard that they begin to fall, one by one as I pound the floor. If the voices were people I imagine them covering their ears and screaming at my loud rhythm.

Then I stop. There, right there. I see a sliver of white in the dark cavern. I walk towards it. Very few chains remain on me, but they feel like feathers compared to before. I look and realize that it’s not light, rather a tear in the wall. I lift my hand up, a chain clinking against my forearm as I slip my fingers into the tear and pull. Something akin to wallpaper comes off and my breath catches as I see what it reveals. Words, sentences, thoughts, it was all printed like a book upon the wall. I rip and I tear at the thick wallpaper until nothing but me was left.
Her laugh echoes across the halls, pulling me from my discovery. My voice for the first time could be heard in my mind rather than hers and I now knew what to say.
“Stop using me as a punching bag!”

Her grin faltered and her eyes narrowed as she replied, “I haven’t touched you.”

“No, but you have verbally beaten me over and over again until I feel as if I no longer want to exist.” She wasn’t grinning anymore.

“Do you know how hard those voices inside of me are to ignore? Especially when my life is not my own?”
“What are you blathering on about now?” her voice sounded low and small.

“My life belongs to my family, my friends. The teachers that will read about me and wonder if one of their students will be another name in the paper. Their name smeared in ink that will drip heavy with death. I’ll be another number among thousands and thousands of students who take their life. I’ll be the kid that another kid hears about and wonders if they should do the same. People who read about me will wonder if they ever crossed me in the street.”

I stared back at her and saw that her eyes mirrored the pain inside of me. We were two punching bags looking at one another. Begging for the world to see our tears haphazardly patched but leaking grains that would soon empty and leave nothing but a shell. But what if we let them leak-free. Show the world our tears and let someone help us sew them up.

I now realized her punches were empty. They were only there to release the pain she felt.

“Come on,” I said as I reached out my hand to her. “Let’s find someone to help us.” The darkness appeared again. Filling my lungs so much so that it felt as if needles were poking through my stomach. Voices whispered, like nails on a chalkboard.

“Why try?”

“How can you forgive her?”

“She doesn’t deserve your paltry offer of friendship!”

My hand hung limp at my side. Doubts burst like weeds in my garden, eating the hope and light that were barely even blossoms.

As they began to strangle the tiny buds; warmth bloomed from my hand and shot through my body like a pump. The shadows disappeared and were replaced once again by the school hallway. I looked down and a hand held mine farther down were shoes that stood parallel from my own. My eyes worked their way upwards and they locked onto what I saw in her eyes.

Hope.

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