Creative Response to Gattaca

"One stroke. Two strokes. Three strokes. Breathe." An excerpt from Isabelle Schenck's Year 11 English Creative Response to the film Gattaca directed by Andrew Niccol. Read on below. The artwork is by Amy Savenake, Dreams and Nightmares Acrylic on Canvas.

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One stroke. Two strokes. Three strokes. Breathe.
I went over the race in my head at least 15 times.
One stroke. Two strokes. Three strokes. Breathe.

I quietly murmured to myself as the doors to the stadium remained pursed shut. I felt the unsteady fear of failure wash over me as coach lay his hand on my shoulder. I yanked myself from the thoughts.

“Jerome, swims as steady as a metronome”. Coach chuckled and forcefully patted my back. I grimaced back, not letting him see my internal struggle on the surface. When I was younger, I never knew what coach meant when he compared me to the metronome, but my parents face always seemed to light up, so I assumed it was good.

“Coach, I’ve got nothing to worry about, that gold medal has my name on it, I was literally made for it.” Coach liked when I was confident. I glanced at his deep green eyes and then darted my eyes back to the stadium doors, nodding obediently. I wondered if he could see through my pathetic lies. I had never felt so uneasy in my life. I couldn’t wait any longer, I needed the doors to open. I need this race to hurry up.

As I asked, the signs answered, and the great doors swung open with brilliance. The crowd roared and I stepped forward, away from coach. The lights of the stadium stung my eyes and the crisp, white flooring spread out in front of me. I think the clean, modern architecture was meant to calm me, but it did the opposite. I glanced at the pool. It was as still as ever, not a single ripple, but immersed with a muted green hue that caught my interest.

Focus Jerome.

One stroke. Two strokes. Three strokes. Breathe.

The civilians stared at me in the crowd, desperate for my attention. I wondered what it felt like to not have millions of people knowing everything about you. There was no point of wondering, I would never experience that.

The crowd roared louder, as we lined up at our blocks, they clapped and cheered in unison. I glanced at the Spanish swimmer next to me, who I had confidently beat before, and shifted my gaze to his fidgeting hands. Although I related, and was stopping myself from fidgeting, I was told to be intimidating in these situations. So, I chuckled at the Spanish swimmer. His face glowed red. The more I gazed at the water, the more my fears started to consume me. sometimes I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to wake up and not have to meet such high expectations. I let out a heavy breath.

We loaded onto the blocks and my stomach plummeted to the bottom of the pool. This was the biggest race of my life and might as well had been my only race.

One stroke. Two strokes. Three strokes. Breathe.

How I swam in this race was ultimately a reflection of how well I could up to my genetic expectation. Of course, although the pressure was consuming me, I could always rely on who I was.

I needed to stop this. I was thinking too much.

One stroke. Two strokes. Three strokes.

I mounted my block, exciting the crowd. God, they really did love me. if only they knew how scared I was, they wouldn’t view me as half the man they think I am.

The metal gun blew, and I dove into the water, the cool water-consuming me for a faint few seconds until I rose to the surface. Quickly Jerome, quick strokes.

One stroke. Two strokes.

The race had started yet I felt like it would take years to finish. I knew I was expected to come first, so where else should I come?

Hurry Jerome. Hurry.

I knew my parents were in the stands, their eyes following my submerged body.

I was in the lead. This was good. I swam harder.

I thought about how Mum and Dad had always been so proud of me, even though I was barely anything like them. They were both short, brown haired and mediocre minded people, while I was their tall, blonde and award-winning son. People always told them I was ‘perfection on paper’. Maybe that’s why I was their only child, they didn’t need anyone else but me.

Focus Jerome.

I thrust my hand in the water, taking another stroke. I gazed to my side at the Spanish swimmer next to me, he was comfortably behind me, nothing out of the ordinary.

One stroke.

I took another stroke, still in the lead, still unbothered.

In all my years growing up, people had turned to me for success. My parents and coach practically had me swimming before I was walking, although, of course I was walking before anyone else was.

I was told at birth I would succeed. I was told I would win this race. So, it’s my utter most meaning in life to do so.

I glanced at the Spanish swimmer again, he had not gained on me, not that I had expected him to. I still swam harder.

My whole life was a constant power imbalance between my aggravating anxious tendencies and my heavy reliance on my genetic profile. It was hard to drive yourself to succeed when people had told you you would succeed before you could even talk. But it was even harder to escape the propelling thought that I might fall short, that I might not reach my very own expectations.

One stroke.

It angered me really, that I was held on such a pedal stool to do well, but if I did live up to my predicted greatness, I had simply supplied the bare minimum. If I didn’t however, if I lost this race, if I didn’t tick all my genetic boxes, I was supposed to live out the rest of my life as the failed and miserable alternative of myself, exposed to society’s harsh exclusion for anything but perfection?

Was that what I was supposed to do? Live the rest of my existence as one of them? Be treated as one of them?

I didn’t even want to imagine.

Focus Jerome.

I quickly gazed at the Spanish swimmer again, but this time….

He was gone.

I panicked. I internally screamed. Where was he?

Suddenly my worst nightmare come true. I tried to swim harder, but my hand hit the wall and my head escaped the surface.

It was over. The race was over. But there was something, something not right.

The medal supplier slid my award over my neck, almost suffocating me. he didn’t even look at me. I grasped the cool medallion in my hand and my eyes unwillingly fell to it.

It was silver.

My medal was silver.

I hadn’t won.

My heart stopped beating and I desperately searched for my parents. I spotted them.

They stood in the crowd, their faces darker than as ever, looking at me like I wasn’t their son.

Written by Isabelle Schenck, Year 11