*Gasps for air*. Wow, Moontrug was sent some seriously impressive stories for her two writing competitions: Adventures on Narrowboats and Arctic Story. After much debating, here are the winning entries, and below that, the runners up (in some cases more than one runner up for each competition – you guys are just toooooo good at writing). WELL DONE everyone! Book prizes will be sent out to the winners very shortly. And if you felt inspired by writing adventure stories, come join me and The Exploration Society for a Dreamsnatcher adventure this May (sleeping in gypsy wagons, carving catapults and cooking round the camp fire): more details here.
WINNER OF ADVENTURES ON NARROWBOATS…
Jessica Mason, aged 11
Sebastian lay sprawled across the warm timber of his canal boat and was snoring quietly to himself. The inaudible waves were silently colliding with the boat and it gently bobbed up and down. As his face was beamed upon by the golden streaks of sun, his heart pulsed rhythmically around his limp and lazy body. It was a perfect day.
All of a sudden, the engine choked, hissed and spat and the boat whirred into life! Unaware of this, Sebastian dozed on. It began to clunk mechanically through the water; like a blunt knife though a block of ice. The engine hummed to itself as it churned away the smooth glassy effect on the water. Unaware of the oozing fumes and inky,oily petrol that was seeping out of the rusted exhaust pipe, Sebastian inhaled and exhaled the pungent fumes that were staining the silvery canal water. A boat moving of it’s own accord! Something was wrong. But was it moving of it’s own accord? As the stern of the moist timber slid into the shadows, a serpentine neck could be seen submerging itself beneath the murky depths. Its eyes glimmered emerald under the moss and mud. Moreover its expression was startlingly mischievous. With a flick of its scaly tail, the boat stopped abruptly and jolted painfully! Sebastian awoke with a start!
“Wuzzgoinon?” he muttered, barely awake as he tugged the tiller. But it was too late; the mysterious creature had bumped the boat so hard that Sebastian soared through the air, choking in the fumes. SPLASH! He was sinking,sinking,sinking…
JOINT WINNERS OF THE ARCTIC STORY…
Charvi Jain, aged 12
Isis’ story: The penetrating bitterness was turning my fingers mauve. I puffed up my cheeks but they remained ashy. I would rub my hands together but they were hauling along the firewood for my family. Like they’d appreciate it… No, it’s just part of living. I’d been walking for miles, trudging through waxen heaps of life. The ubiquitous snow was largely spread on the vast landscape; the only things that weren’t snow were dead, leafless trees that were starving to death. And the snow devils kept feeding them poison. Once upon a time I felt the cold but now it has slinked inside me and taken over. It is eating away at all of us; soon we’ll turn into the snow devils or… evaporate into breath. It is your choice, they said: disappear or give in to the snow devils. In the distance I see a small hut, almost destroyed by the treacherous wind. Almost there, almost there. And as I approach I see my family, alike bears, pouncing on animals and cutting them open to eat. I stop. Am I the only one who disagrees with this? Am I the last good? Suddenly I realize that everyone else is already snow devils. But I would not give in. And I evaporate to breath…
Charvi’s story: I can’t feel my thoughts think. I can’t hear myself speak. I can’t feel my bones under my flesh.
I can’t feel my pulse.
I’m overpowered by a wave of numbness.
This isn’t ordinary numbness caused by severe cold, though that is one of the main reasons.
It’s a numbness caused by grief. Grief that is caused by the death of a loved one.
She was going to die regardless, but so soon, we’d had no idea.
My two little sisters are named Kalsie and Kara. I am named Kelly. I am immune to cold, but not to grief this overpowering. She died a few hours ago. The cold strangled her and took her to heaven.
My father sends me to get firewood. My boots sink deep into the thick snow, and my wariness is making the walk even longer. I make it back to the tent and walk in.
I stop. I see my father. I see my mother. I scream.
My scream makes me collapse. My knees crack and break under my weight. I enter the luscious world of pure darkness as my skull comes in contact with the ground.
I awake to a blinding light. My head is throbbing. All I see is my mother. Her lying on the ground, head tipped to one side, eyes half open, a trickle of blood frozen to her cheek.
I imagine her cradling me in her arms. Then, I imagine her freezing from head to toe and falling to the ground like ice. I imagine her cold, maroon coloured blood, solidified inside her flesh. I imagine gory things that make me want to vomit.
My father comes in. His face is as white as blank page. He’s holding something steaming hot in his hands. Gratefully, I accept the hot broth and spoon it down. I feel the hot liquid slip down my throat and make my tummy warm. It’s a nice feeling, but not nice enough to ridden the images I have of my mother.
“I’m sorry,” is all that my father can say.
There is nothing more to be said. Even I understand that. Kalsie comes running in.
“Is mummy asleep? She’s very naughty. You’re not allowed to sleep in the day,” she says.
“I wish she were asleep, my angel,” my father replies. The hurt and pain is as clear as crystal on his face. He is unable to cry.
“Kalsie, Kara, come here,” I whisper, holding out my hands. They wrap their mittened fingers around my hand. All I feel is love. Pure, golden, perfect love. If it weren’t for them, my life wouldn’t be worth living. Every battle I fight wouldn’t be worth fighting for. When I am scared, they give me hope, and that is more than I can ask from them. They are both turning five soon. They’re at such a tender age, they don’t need this kind of aggravation in their lives. It’s ten times difficult for a girl to grow up without a mother.
I’ll be their mother now. I’ll guide them when times get rough, and when they need someone who understands. I’ll always be there for them because I love them from the bottom of my heart. I offer them the last of my broth, but they refuse to take it.
“You’re hurt,” Kara whispers. “You should have it.”
“I love you, my girls,” I tell them.
I’ve recovered by late afternoon, so I wrap up and take the girls outside for a walk.
“Shall we make a snowman?” I suggest. I need something to lighten the mood because every now and then, one of those grotesque images flash in front of me and make me feel faint. Kalsie offers her broken scarf to wrap around the snowman. We drape it over his shoulders and then stand back and admire our masterpiece. They’re both reasonably numb by this time, so I drag them back to our tent and warm them up by the fire. They look so cute, as they unwrap themselves from their wet garments and roll around by the fire. My heart throbs with joy and love. My father appears, smiling. It’s the first time I’ve seen him smiling since our mother died. I smile back. It’s a smile that says a thousand words.
It’s a smile that says, we won’t give up, not now, not ever.
I get sent out to fetch more firewood. I have to go exceedingly far to find it, but I keep my happy face on. I need to do it for my father. I need to do it for the girls. I need to do it for myself.
I’m humming on my way back, a tune that my mother used to sing to me. This time, I force myself to only remember the good memories.
As soon as I enter the tent, I know something is wrong.
Kara is ill, severely ill. Kalsie is wailing and my father is looking crushed. I have to take charge but my blood is turning to ice water.
Is it pneumonia? What is it? There’re no doctors. When you get an illness, the chances of surviving are almost none. My heart falls to the ground and smashes into a million tiny pieces. I am shattered. Kara looks desolate. She is in pain. I can sense it. I can feel it.
“We can’t leave her like this,” I whisper.
“What can we do?” My father replies.
“Put her out of her misery,” I tell him, with a look of bravery in my eye. I want him to look back at me the same way. I want him to reassure me that I’m doing the right thing, but instead, he just crumples away in the corner of the tent.
It’s up to me now. I pick Kara up and slowly, carry her outside. I give her one last kiss on her cheek and then lower her into the snow. Deeper… deeper… deeper and then slowly, I fill the snow back in on top of her.
My heart bleeds. My hands are shaking uncontrollably. It’s nothing to do with the cold. I’m scared, and my hope has vanished down a drain.
I’ve lost so much in so little time.
RUNNER UP: ADVENTURES ON NARROWBOATS…
Avinandan Sengupta, aged 10
The lightning lit up the small cabin, showing the terror written all over Henry’s face. The narrowboat, which they had hired for the week was bound to be hit by lightning. He watched, awestruck, as one of the trees next to the river was hit. The paralysing effect that the weather had on him wore off when he thought of his parents dozing through the storm.
Henry rolled off his bunk and scrambled to his feet. He raced down the corridor and burst into his parents’ room. “Mum, dad, wake up!” he shouted over the rumble of thunder, as he shook the prone bodies of his parents. “What is it, Henry?” murmured his father groggily.
“Dad, there’s a storm outside!” replied Henry. His father had been injected with new purpose. The joint efforts of father and son awakened Henry’s mother, who took in the whole scene with bewilderment.
The wind howled like a lost child crying for his mother and the rain lashed out at Henry’s exposed cheeks. He saw the boat’s flag fluttering in the wind and laughed. It was a piece of normality in a maelstrom of chaos. He moved towards it but before he got there, he saw a jagged fork of lightning hit the metal pole. He heard the creak of the boat as it settled lower in the water before the massive boom of the thunder. Panic ran rife as water slowly but surely, crept into the interior of the narrowboat…..
RUNNER UP: ADVENTURES ON NARROWBOATS…
Cassie Shine, aged 10
I sat on the flat roof, leaning on the chimney. There were rats everywhere but, I was too far away to reach them. I shook my head and listened. The wind howled like a wolf and the rain came down like a herd of stampeding elephants. The trees danced in the wind, bending and twisting. I steadied my paws as the narrow boat rocked from side to side. It was midnight and I had sensed something very peculiar…another narrow boat lingering in the shadows, gliding towards ours. I leaned forward slightly, my ears-forward, my tail-horizontal and marginally moving. I began to snarl and yelp. I dived around the roof and then plummeted onto the ledge and pawed at my alpha’s bedroom window. I turned around and lowered my front end, I bent my ears back, my tail tucked between my legs and wrinkled my nose. Then I howled loud, louder than the wind, louder than the rain.
My Alpha’s head shot up, eyes wide and rushed to the door and unlatched the bolt. She grabbed the rope and untied it, we started drifting down the canal. Picking up speed, the wind carried us through the storm. Neither of us dared to look behind. I took a peek and, I saw them. I barked in panic and my helpless owner fiddled about with the controls. Then the boat tipped backwards slightly. My neck was stiff but when I gained the courage, I turned around and saw Dodger – a pitbull. I began to reminisce back to when we were in the same pack…
He was my previous Alpha. I had challenged him but I had to submit. I ran away and was taken to an RSPCA centre. They cared for me and I was eventually collected by my current Alpha. As they attached my lead, I looked at some of the other dogs…the whole pack had ended up there. I padded along and they called out to me “Watch out! Dodger’s still on the run and has killed…”
That’s all I heard, but it still didn’t sound good.
Ever since that day I hadn’t seen any of the ‘Pack’. But fate had lead me to meet Dodger. I knew that this time I couldn’t submit. I bent down and snarled. We both leaped onto the roof and pounced on each other. The battle had begun…
RUNNER UP: ADVENTURES ON NARROWBOATS…
Josephine Chesher, aged 10
RUNNER UP: ARCTIC STORY…
Ebony Kitchen, Year 7
The wintery, cold breeze swept past her little fingers. Crunching snow from underneath her feet. Dragging behind her a sturdy tree branch, returning home from a long hunt for a suitable piece of wood. Thinking of her family makes her worry, who would help them she was gone? Answer: nobody. Everybody else only look after the people they know and love. Even though people know her and her family they think it is a waste of their time. There is only her and her mother, who is really sick, slowly dying in her death bed. Her father died earlier, that makes her want to fight harder between the sickness and her only one left she truly cares for. Eventually she arrives at her tribe, hopefully still enough time before her mother slips away from the world. Her prayer has been answered, as she walks through the door, the doctor is there holding her mother’s hand. She coughs in agony. She starts to say something. The doctor tells her to rest but she refuses. More clearly she says her daughter’s name. Slowly, she walks forward seeing the nearly dead corpse that she calls mother. She worries about her mother that everything she has done is not good enough. Her mother tries to tell her something but it is no use, it just sounds like slush. A few minutes pass and at that moment her mother slips away from life. She weeps over her mother’s body. Everything she knew disappeared. Not only did she lose everything that day but she always had what she needed. It was eternal love. From her mother and father.
RUNNER UP: ARCTIC STORY…
My name is Angela. I am five years old, yet forced to live the life of an older girl. I live with my mother, my father, my brother and my granddad, so there’s not much room in the tent. This morning, my mother told me to go and get firewood for the family, so I did.
The snow is thick as I trudge to the nearby forest. The wind is bitterly cold as it eats at my face, but I am used to it. The snow creates a blinding sea of white, bright as the sun, dangerous as a pack of wolves.
I don’t know why I have to walk this far, just to get a small branch of firewood that will only make a fire for less than half an hour. But I always do as mother says, because otherwise there are consequences. Like being forced to sleep outside the tent with the fear of the wolves coming and eating you. Or being forced to go huting with father and my brother Sammy, which is just about exactly the same as announcing your death sentence. Or told to climb a tree that you can’t get down from, always the tallest one, and being forced to spend the night there. All I can say is don’t mess with my mother.
She has been very uptight lately, after Grandma died of frostbite, and my little sister Daniella died of pneumonia. I mean, you can’t blame her, but she could consider that we are suffering as well.
The light is fading, and I know that I need to speed up, or the wolves will catch me. I raise my speed to a run, but I can hear the wolves’ footsteps and yelps of hunger closer behind me. I can see the camp, and I know that I’ll be safe there.
The final ten metres.
I’m not going to make it.
My life’s slipping away.
Two and a half.
I say goodbye to everything.
I could make it.
Half a metre.
The wolves are getting closer, so close I can hear their breaths, feel their breaths on my back.
I hear Father cry for me to hurry up, but it’s too late. The wolves are already growling, their way of saying who gets the head and who gets the leg. I close my eyes, bracing myself for the worst. They get closer. I take my last breath as a sharp jolt of pain reaches me. I feel for my leg but it’s not there.