He was staring down at the blade of the knife, showing no real expression and fearing nothing. It was a situation where any normal person would have fallen apart, but he still stood strong, staring death in the face. The sun’s glare was blocked out by his baseball cap, as it provided shade across his face; his school uniform was pressed against him by the light breeze. It was as if time itself had stopped. With the breeze traveled the slight scent of coffee, a reminder of how little time had passed since he had first awoken.

That morning, he had only been awake for five minutes before he made his way to the coffee – a single cup made as strong as always to counteract the sleep deprivation and stress. After staying up until the early hours of the mourning doing homework, all he wanted to do was just get to school and survive the day. It was just like every other day for the past few months, but as each day passed, life became harder. Within a short space of time he had lost the one he loved, his friends, his trust, his pride, and his self-respect. Each day was a fight to keep himself together, a fight he was losing.

Like every other day, he walked to school alone and in silence, thinking about past events, and how much he hated himself and his life. Time seemed to pass quickly and his thoughts were cut short as he stood at the gates to the school, a place he had began to fear. With a grim expression on his face and taking a deep breath, he took a step inside the school, as if he was walking into hell itself.

It didn’t take long to find a place to try and relax; at the back of the school where no one could find him. With the same grim expression on his face, he removed his walkman from his bag. Putting on his headphones and closing his eyes, he let his thoughts fade away as the music flowed through him. He had begun to isolate himself from the outside world, closing himself in and submerged in his own thought.

The moment of peace and solitude was broken by the sound of the school bell screaming across the school ground as if it was the dogs of hell themselves barking. He slowly opened his eyes, and started towards the amphitheater where his year level had a morning parade. The grim expression on his face disappeared, to be replaced by no expression at all. A blank mask designed to hide his feelings from the world. He had to face the demons themselves.

As the amphitheater came into view, so did his classmates. They turned to look at him, opening their mouths, but he could not hear the words that came out. With a short fake smile in response, he sat down. The teacher had already started to call the role. Barely recognizing his own name he turned to the teacher, who simply acknowledged his presence and continued.

Looking around at the people surrounding him, the isolated teenager could see they were all happy and cheerful – feelings he had forgotten long ago. His eyes stopped on a single person; the one he loved. In her hand was another, the hand of someone who had once been a friend. The boy knew he was completely invisible to her, and nothing could change that. He had cared for her for so long, only to be tossed aside like an unwanted rag doll. As the feelings of betrayal swept over him he turned away and closed his eyes. Deep in thought, he wondered if he would ever be happy again; the answer seemed obvious. Time and time again he had been hurt by the people around him, and by the person closest to him. It seemed destined to happen periodically, and each time the hurt grew more painful, and his isolation deepened.

Only five minutes had passed and every minute seemed like hours. Glancing back towards his former friends, watching them talk and laugh, he was forced to fight back the tears. Ever since he had moved away from the group, not once had anyone invited him anywhere or acknowledged his existence. It was as if he had never been there in the first place. He had become such a loner, simply because no one accepted him for who he is. Unable to take the pain any longer, and unable to fight the tears, he stood and left. Not a single head turned as he walked away. He broke into a dead sprint once he was out of sight, heading towards the back of the school; nothing was going to stop him.

It was the first time the teenager had ever left the school grounds without permission, but that didn’t concern him. He found a small clearing on the outskirts of the fence line. Withdrawing a cloth from his bag, he laid it on the grass. Removing the cloth exposed a brilliant reflection from the blade of the hunting knife he had stolen from a survival store. He had never looked upon the knife since the day he stolen it. All it would take was one quick movement and it would be ended. No more pain, no more suffering. For too long it had been hurting.

Kneeling over the sinister weapon, contemplating what he was going to do next, he reached for the knife, raising it above the ground. At that moment he noticed something he had never seen before. Carved with precision on the blade of the knife was an inscription:

Now is the time to choose
Die and be Free of Pain
Or Live and Fight Your Sorrow

Time itself had stopped, as he stared down at the words thinking about the pain and sorrow that seemed to be a part of his life. His eyes turned towards the school. He stood up, feeling taller than ever before. Raising the knife above his shoulders, he turned sharply and threw it, lodging it in the nearest tree. He turned to face the school, with the most determined expression on his face.

He walked back into the school grounds an entirely different person. One that was not going to let anything get in the way of his own happiness.