'The Lantern' Writing Competition Winner
Alexandra Burgar | 27 March 2017

They sit enveloped by its hazy glow, smiling and laughing.  How can they?  Can't they see how desperate I am?  I beat my papery wings against the lantern's glass panels and engage in utterly futile fluttering, try to break away from the light.  It's too bright; disorientating, and I am in a daze. Dust from my wings, left on the lantern's surface, is iridescent and shimmers like early morning dew.  The candle has transferred its heat to the glass and I can hear it searing my body, and draw my wings back and forth in a frenzy, trying to draw cool air towards the burns, panicking.  It hurts.  This lantern, like all the others, has gambled with me, and my life is the stake.  But the light is beautiful.  Beautiful light radiates from the lantern, illuminating everything, and yet it's so deadly.  



This is not my first encounter with a lantern.  No, you get rather accustomed to their lethal yet oh-so-attractive brightness, but never quite learn to outwit it.  You just become wrapped in a smothering blanket of comfort, lulled into a dreamy false sense of security, and then suddenly, you can't draw yourself away.  Lanterns have long been our ultimate nemesis, but at the same time, we are catapulted into a beautiful world, where the burning hurts but the light is enchanting.  Is it worth the sacrifice?  I can't decide for myself.  All I know is that I'm dancing round the lantern, a dance of death.  Wings slapping the glass and eyes full of the brightness, a brightness which penetrates the retinas and burns.  



Why are they not scared?  They don't seem to flinch and shy away from the beauty they can't help but adore; the beauty they know can damage and scald.  They have no idea how much it hurts when you are mocked for something you can't help, for fluttering around aimlessly in a hopeless dance of self-distrust.  And they laugh, oh, how they laugh, as I frantically try to wriggle free from the beams of light which enchant me.  Why don't they extinguish the lantern? 


Weariness soon chokes me, and I fold my wings around me as I drop to the ground, trying to draw breath.  Every time I encounter a lantern, I must forfeit a victory as exhaustion overcomes me, and I am left to wallow in a blur of pain.  The heat slowly leaves my wings, the evening air sucking away the burning warmth, and I swear to myself that I will avoid lanterns from now on.  It's a pleasant charade, I suppose, but I can never leave the light alone.  


And still they smile and laugh, oblivious to my torment, and I try to appreciate the comfort the lantern brings them.


I hate being a moth.


- Alexandra Burgar

James Routledge 2016