By Elizabeth Urban

All at once, the world went quiet for Daniel. He just stood there frozen, bathing in the bright, yellow lights.

And then color began to rain down around him. Pulling his eyes away from the lights, Daniel turned his attention to the thousands of rainbow dancers spinning around him. Strips of blue, yellow, red, pink, and purple pieces of paper fluttered from the sky, twisting and twirling until they gently hit the wooden floor.

Daniel dragged his eyes across the floor, watching the lines in the floor slowly be covered by the never-ending streamers. Despite the blazing lights burning a hole in his scalp, his face felt cool. The floor seemed to give off a breeze similar to one on the ocean. Perhaps the multitude of colors across the floorboards was similar to what a coral reef looked like.

His eyes widen as his hearing began to return. It was just his breathing. In and out. The bursts of air were shaky and almost raspy. Daniel wondered if he always breathed this loud. While his eyes continued to follow the rainbow paper strips, Daniel could hear soft voices behind him. High pitched screams, but not those of pain. They were happy screams. Daniel closed his eyes and pictured people hugging and crying tears of joy. He hoped he was right.

“Daniel! Daniel open your eyes!” A real voice at last, loud and clear. Daniel opened his eyes to find a girl staring at him, her hands on his shoulders now shaking him. Her eyes were the color of trees, not the leaves but the trunks. A strong, sturdy brown that Daniel didn’t expect to make him feel safe as they did. Even though her back was to the harsh lights, her eyes still gleamed as they looked up at him.

“You did it Daniel! You won! You’re the winner!” If it was even possible, the girl’s smile shone brighter than her eyes. She shook Daniel one last time before pulling him into a hug, her arms wrapped tightly, but comfortably around his shoulders. He slowly moved his hands to her back, trying his best to return the embrace while also attempting to make a mental image of everything happening to him. The embrace, the setting, the sounds, all of it. Somehow, he couldn’t help but feel that he would remember this moment more than the real competition.

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