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Phoenix Rising This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

A pile of ash lies on the floor, small and seemingly insignificant. A slight breeze picks up, swirling the mound and gently lifting the fine powder into the air. Upon further inspection, a minute egg appears amongst soot, golden and captivating.
***
My world seemed to have gone up in flames. My life was falling to pieces all around me. The death of my sister struck my family like a lightning bolt, unexpected and unwarranted, leaving us stunned and disoriented. The flickering candle light that illuminated and brightened our lives for so long had been snuffed out, leaving us floundering in utter darkness, an eternally constricting cage from which escape would never come. Six days after my sixth birth on the way to school was when my world was irreversibly torn asunder. From then on, I was always under the watchful eye of those around me, ready to catch me if I should stumble or falter.
***
Passersby constantly scrutinize the egg. At first, it just sits there, appearing inanimate and lifeless. However, a curious thing begins to happen. A faint tap is heard, then another and another. Whatever dwells inside this enigma struggles to break free. It craves to be released from its confinement ready to face the world with newborn eyes and newfound strength. Slowly but surely tiny fissures begin to spider across the egg's surface. The confining chamber was weakening. Soon, a tiny beak can be seen breaking through the shell which held it for so long.
***
After what seemed a lifetime, I emerged from within myself. It took all the strength I possessed to bore through the thick barriers that separated me from the rest of humanity, barriers of caution, reserve, and emotional detachment. As with all physical tasks, this laborious exertion increased my endurance, my individuality, and my sense of purpose. The walls I erected fell, tumbling around me.
***
The infant bird discards the remnants of its shell. Nevertheless, it is unprepared to face the world, its weakness and insecurity prominent in its mind. It cannot discern what the future holds in store. As it surveys its surroundings, it clumsily gathers the remaining embers around itself, creating a protective shield against the harsh environment. Slowly, painstakingly, it starts to absorb strength from the surrounding area, drawing its identity from the encircling flame. Its eyes glint with fierce determination as energy revitalizes it, flooding into every fiber of its being.
***
The loss of a loved one at a young age causes a rapid advancement in maturity. I could no longer simply be the baby of the family. I had to become the physician to my family's ever present pain, the support for a crumbling foundation. I tackled every task set before me with fiery passion, eager to achieve a high level of excellence. I wished to leave no trace of doubt that I could overcome whatever trial or difficulty was placed in my path. I was a new person, reborn from the ashes of hardship and persecution; one filled with single minded determination and a resilience rarely found in one so young. I was forever changed.
***
Unfurling its wings, color starts to ebb into its plumage, filling the once monochromatic canvas with waves of fervor and passion. The feathers take on rich reds, vibrant oranges, gleaming golds, brilliant blues, gaudy greens, and a myriad of other colors. Finally, the phoenix lifts its head and lets out a triumphant call, unique and melodious. It has overcome the tragedy of death. Victorious, it spreads its wings and soars.





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