Third Place – Hannah B. (11-12th grade category)

Third Place – Hannah B. (11-12th grade category)

Visiting Hours – Hannah B.

Really, when you looked at him, he was a harmless sort of man. The soft lines of a body unkempt,

the too bright smile of simple thoughts and simpler ambitions, the kind of laugh that made you smile but that you instantly forgot.

Which is why, I suppose, it was so strange to find him here. He welcomed me in with the gentle courtesy reserved for honest men, and ushered me to a chair across from his own.

Each question I raised was answered with a modest smile and folded hands, the way we all dreamed he would answer. Of course, there was only one question that mattered to me, and he sensed my pull to it straight away.

“Most people usually are surprised,” he admitted, with his bashful grin. “They expect someone grander or extraordinary.”

I relinquished a smile of my own, caught off by his shrewdness. “Well, what you did…who you are… it defies belief.”

For the first time, I noticed a flicker of pain, deep in his eyes. The smile slipped, revealing a more aged face underneath. Before I could study it, however, he recovered and the smile was restored.

“Those were different times,” he said. “I’m just a simple man now. All that I have is what you see here.”

I looked around his apartment. He had forgone the typical Prism Projection system for a bookshelf. His bed pushed out from one of the walls, the silk sheets neatly tucked in. There had been rumors he had a desk, made of old oak wood, but I saw no sign of it in his small quarters. Really, there wasn’t much of anything.

The man leaned back and rubbed his wrist. For the first time, I noticed the lines in his hand. The faint blue trails traced up his arms like wires trailing to a computer. I had seen projections of him before, as had most of the citizenship. But you lost the minute details. The way his chest rose and fell, the way his eyes drifted and unfocused. How the corner of his eyes would wrinkle as he smiled, that modest smile, that had enraptured so much mystery and intrigue.

Towards the end of our meeting, a restlessness seemed to ignite within him.

“When you go back,” he said, an uncharacteristic urgency creeping into his voice, “what will you tell them?”

“The truth.”

He smiled again, although it was more fleeting. “I was afraid of that. There are so many truths these days.”

I shifted in my seat, trying to understand the meaning behind his cryptic words. “Is there something you want me to tell them?”

“Tell them,” the man hesitated, his fingers rising to his cheek. There I noticed the infamous scar, the worst of impurities. “Tell them it was beautiful.”

“What was?”
The last human smiled, his eyes full of a past I would never know. “Life.”