Inkster of the Week - Eli Gepte

Thursday 2nd November 2023

Eli won the Senior Prize for Creative Writing this year. This story shows you just what an interesting and creative voice he has.


Tramping along the track, the orange leaves cracked and splintered under the weight of their steps. Juno usually would pride themselves on being light on their feet but today was different. They felt sluggish; they didn't get much sleep the night before. Turning over in their bed had become Juno’s favorite activity as of late. Getting to sleep was hard after all, considering what would be happening toda-

No, don't think about it. Don't think about it. They thought to themselves. Pulling over their violet hood, they continued to walk along the pass. Juno was flanked by trees on either side, dressed in colorful leaves. The reds of Autumn were Juno’s favorite part of the season. They could hear the whistling of a light breeze meet their ears, gently breathing against their face and entering their nostrils. The freshness of the air was wonderful. It stung like hell. They weren't used to being outside anymore. Their previous job demanded that they work indoors most of the night whilst their boss demanded they ‘work’ indoors during the day. Their old workplace was musty, so much so that thinking about it now made their stomach churn.

God. Don’t think about that either. Juno struggled to keep their mind off of anything that would make them throw up in the middle of the path. Where is he? They took a deep breath, filling their lungs with that painfully crisp air, now acutely taking note of their environment as they walked. The Autumn leaves were so warm in color, so vibrant. They couldn't help but be reminded of the bright, flashing neon lights of their old work. The saturated nature of the different hues was all too familiar for them to ignore.

The breeze from before suddenly turned into a gust as it began to sweep away large quantities of leaf. They danced around Juno before flushing further down the track, disappearing beyond the treeline. Despite the warm colors of the season, there were still a handful of leaves yet to realize the maturing climate. The sparse spokes of green drew out Juno’s eye. They leaned against a tree, taking in their surroundings. Fiddling with the sharp protrusion in their hoodie pocket, they began to subconsciously count the amount of leaves that had fallen behind the season. A weak attempt to prevent them from having a panic.

One, two, four. Juno tapped their finger against their thigh.

Five, seven, eight. They cracked their knuckles to break the silence.

Eleven, twelve, thirteen… This isn't working.

A set of footsteps suddenly greeted Juno’s ears, breaking their focus. Juno’s heart raced as they turned away from the direction of the noise. Fuck, he’s here! A lump quickly formed in their throat. This was it. They readied themselves, planting their feet firmly on the ground. You can do this. You can do this. You can do this. A woman passed by them, jogging along the path, dressed in activewear. A man passed soon after wearing the same. Juno stuttered out a relieved sigh. It wasn't him, although Juno’s sweating pores would beg to differ. The man had a much broader build than who Juno was expecting, that much was obvious. They’d been stalking him for weeks now, his frail figure was unmistakable to Juno at this point; a deliberate trait they’d been looking for. Being of a feeble build as well, there was a lower chance that there’d be a struggle when the time would come. Juno wiped the sweat from their forehead and crept further into the shadows of the woods.

Not long after their encounter with the couple, Juno found it nigh impossible to keep their attention away from the task at hand, as much as they didn't want to dwell on it. They envisioned how it would all go down. How his face would look when they... Juno knew their name, it was just easier not to think about it. It’s not your fault. They thought. You need this.

Their stomach growled. Ever since their boss laid them off, Juno found it increasingly harder to ration out the rest of their remaining cash. Their boss suggested that instead of work, he could possibly offer Juno to stay with him in his home but…

Just as soon as Juno felt hungry they found themselves feeling sick again. Without a source of income they only saw one other option. Without even thinking, they drew the knife that they had kept hidden for hours now. Tucked away in their hoodie pocket, it patiently waited to be held by Juno again. It gleamed back at them. Juno could feel the knife’s purpose ache through their arm, their chest and down their spine before snaking back up to their wrist. The feeling pulsed over and over again. Juno’s hand shook. How did they end up here? What went wrong? Juno gazed at the knife for minutes on end only concealing it and continuing to walk a short few steps when they heard more trekkers approaching before taking it out the knife again. Juno didn’t recognize any of them.

… This is your fault. You did this to yourself. No one made you come out here but you. Juno’s balance slid from underneath them, collapsing to the ground. They felt numb.

I hate you.They traced their thumb against the blade of the knife. The sharp edge welcomed them by opening a new entrance for the fresh air to invite itself into Juno’s system. A feeling they were all too familiar with. They sat there, contemplating for what felt like hours. The man they were supposed to meet would usually take a stroll through this track, Juno’s unnervingly adept ability to stalk him proved that, but he never showed up. Maybe Juno got his schedule wrong, maybe it was just dumb luck. Juno didn’t care anymore. Life had thrown so many curveballs at them that it was obvious that no amount of struggling would pull them out of this sickly rut they found themselves in.

It was turning dark. Fewer and fewer people passed them by until it’d been hours since Juno had seen anyone. They could leave but there was nowhere to go. Not for them. There wasn’t any point. The whistling of the leaves continued to flutter. Only the sounds of nature were left to give them company. Juno couldn’t relax yet still found themselves lost in this serene soundscape they found themselves in. The whistling continued to fold over the trees before they heard even more whistling. Whistling that didn’t belong to Mother Nature. Whistling that finally broke the silence of the forest.

Juno immediately looked up in the direction of the sound. They sat there for a moment before inexplicably getting up and approaching the noise. The wind pushed against their back as if encouraging them to investigate. Juno didn’t even know why they were bothering. Maybe despite everything doing something… anything, was better than just idly waiting for the universe to push them back down.

They continued walking, trailing off the beaten path as they guided themselves past trees and into a clearing where the sun still somehow shone. The field was covered in bright, glistening grass that swayed and danced with the breeze. Light reflected off the dew of dandelions as the wind carried the flowers’ fluff up into the air. They waltzed with the orange and yellow leaves; the seeds were sent flying even further into the air, disappearing from view. Juno gazed longingly, sheltered by the shadows of the treeline.

And there he was. Alex. Submerged in the greens and yellows and reds of the season. Whistling in tandem with the air currents. Harmonizing with it and performing a song that only Juno just now could hear. They lifted their hand, the warm sun bathed their skin as life flushed back into their body. The wound on their thumb, that refused to clot, let out a single drop of brilliant red, onto the earth beneath them. Juno didn’t move, but their body continued forward. The sound of footsteps initially startled the boy; he looked back at Juno. His hair was cocoa; it brushed against his peach skin. His familiar dark eyes greeted Juno’s hazel. They stared at each other for a moment before Alex gave them a small, near unnoticeable grin and turned their back once more.

Juno slowly approached him, breathing in the fresh air that no longer stung to inhale. They felt light on their feet as they looked up into the darkening yet still bright sky. They stopped at Alex’s side, still looking up, now gazing at the sheep that grazed along that great, wide blue. The two of them enjoyed the scene for a few more moments before Alex turned to look up at the sickly pale Juno.

“Hello.” He smiled. Juno looked down at him. They stared in silence. The muscles in their fingers twitched. The muscles along their throat swallowed. Their arm ached. Then their chest. Down their spine. And then back into their wrist. The feeling snaked its way into every crevice of Juno’s body. They drew out their knife, gripping it with both hands and extended out to point at Alex.

“Give me your fucking wallet!” Alex froze for a moment, his eyes narrowed. He said something but all became muffled under the adrenaline that now surged through Juno’s veins. Alex calmly stood up and attempted to talk Juno down. A tear fell along their cheek. It was obvious to Alex that this stranger didn’t want to do this.

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry”

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”

I’m sorry.

The reds of Autumn were truly Juno’s favorite part of the season.

Juno vomited all over the grass patch that surrounded them. The walk home that evening was sluggish. They didn’t get much sleep the night before.