Short Story Competition - Perceptions Zahra Bandukwala 16 years old



Embarrassed. Ashamed. Humiliated. That’s how they felt when they were around me. Ugly. Hideous. Disfigured. That’s what they thought of me.

A monster. A beast. A demon. That’s what I was.

They didn’t want me around. They could never live with someone who was so grotesque. So they ignored me. To them I didn’t exist. I never did and I never would.

And I understood. It was better for everyone that I was treated like I was invisible. That I was shunned into the back corner away from everyone else; that I shrunk into a ball and blended into the dark where no amount of light or hope or joy could ever exist.

It was just better that way and everyone knew that.

But still there was a part of me that was hurt and jealous and furious. How could you not be? How could you not want to scream and yell and shriek when you knew that no one would ever want to be friends with you? Happily ever afters only existed in fairytales and I knew there would be no Belle to ever befriend this vile Beast.

In many ways I envied the Beast. Yes, he was turned into a monster because of his cruelty and inhumanity, but still he found friendship and love. And, he did not remain a beast forever; he was turned back into a human - he became normal.

No matter what I did, I would stay like this forever; no amount of surgeries could ever change that. That was the truth and the truth was inescapable. I pretended like I didn’t care, but of course I did. I wanted to fit in and to find some sort of place. And I knew that no one would accept me unless I accepted myself. But I couldn’t. I was ashamed. I was afraid.

Shriveling up into a ball, I concealed myself within the darkness. I put on a mask, an illusion, a veil every single day. Staring at my reflection in the mirror every morning, I tugged at my hair, pleading with it to obscure my squashed cheek and the side of my lopsided mouth.

Dread would wash over me, my thoughts usually drifting to the pitiful eyes and loud whispers that would soon follow me through the chaotic corridors. It had been years but still they felt sorrow for me, for the unfortunate girl.

Sympathetic smiles, pity washed faces - I believed they would always haunt me. Tracking me down, stalking me until there was nowhere else for me to go. But then she came. She didn’t cower. Masks did not veil her pallid, slightly twisted face.

“It happened in an accident,” she would simply say, answering the unasked question that hung awkwardly through the air between us all.

Hair hanging loosely, she never bothered to move it to purposefully obscure her face from the gaping faces and sympathetic eyes. While I had recoiled and buried myself, she had done the exact opposite. She had been hopeful.

Evading my disfigurement was something I had tried so hard to do but I soon realised that it was impossible to control something that was physically uncontrollable.

She helped me see that our looks should not define her, that our image was only a small part of who we truly were. She had not shoved herself into an indestructible box; she had stood up and had shown the world that it was okay to be unique. She had shown me that being different was alright. That it was okay. For that I was eternally grateful.

“Thank you,” I told her.

A smile was her only reply.

  • Writefully Yours   6/2/2021 12:52:15 PM

    Beautiful story! It teaches us to embrace our imperfections especially because we never know who is watching us and who we may inspire.


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