Page 1

“An inventive and imaginative collection from a group of talented young writers.” Simon Haynes - Author Hal Spacejock Series

J D Frodsham MA PhD FAHA CM Foundation Professor of English and Comparative Literature Murdoch University

“8 Kids stories written by 8 Kids…Totally Awesome!” Kid down the street

from the BORN STORYTELLERS Cream of the Crop

from the

“These eight stories by BORN STORYTELLERS young writers reveal not only Cream of the Crop a surprising range of style and theme, but also display a gratifying level of talent. As acorns become oaks, so brilliant young short story writers may well become great novelists.”

from the BORN STORYTELLERS Cream of the Crop


“An inventive and imaginative collection from a group of talented young writers.” Simon Haynes - Author Hal Spacejock Series

J D Frodsham MA PhD FAHA CM Foundation Professor of English and Comparative Literature Murdoch University

“8 Kids stories written by 8 Kids…Totally Awesome!” Kid down the street

from the BORN STORYTELLERS Cream of the Crop

from the

“These eight stories by BORN STORYTELLERS young writers reveal not only Cream of the Crop a surprising range of style and theme, but also display a gratifying level of talent. As acorns become oaks, so brilliant young short story writers may well become great novelists.”

from the BORN STORYTELLERS Cream of the Crop


from the BORN STORYTELLERS Cream of the Crop


www.bornstorytellers.net

Individual stories copyright Š the respective Author. Collection, introductory materials and arrangement copyright Š Crotchet Quaver 2010 The right of the individual authors to be identified as the moral rights owners of their respective stories has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000 (Cth). This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission. Inquiries should be addressed to the publishers. Crotchet Quaver 119 Ridgewood Loop Bullsbrook Western Australia 6084

Edited by Kevin Price Cover and internal design by Logorythm Printed by Lightning Source, UK

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication data: Price, Kevin, 19538 Kids Stories: from The Born Storytellers Cream of the Crop ISBN 9780646527826 For juveniles 823.01089283


CONTENTS

DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey 1

THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale 25

CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal 45

KRISTINA WAS SEEING | Megan Lee 65

WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshall Norton 75

UNTOLD SECRETS | Louise Ritter 99

THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter 113

I REMEMBER | Sarah Simmons 131


Lucca Carey Lucca Carey is twelve years old and was first published in the Born Storytellers St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls Volume 1 in 2007, and again in St Hilda’s Volume 2, 2008. Lucca now lives with her family in Sydney but remains a Born Storyteller.


Dear God LUCCA CAREY

Loud, alarming church bells rang throughout the sleeping town of Leura in the Blue Mountains. Birds, startled by the noise, beat their wings into the air amid a chorus of raucous squawks while the catholics inside the church put their palms together in prayer before bowing to the altar. Bonny Avarus was among them. At nine years of age, she was small and fairhaired with big round eyes and wide-rimmed glasses, which she constantly had to push up to perch on her nose. She bowed her head to the priest on the way out of the church, although she did not really understand why, and closed her eyes to the bright sunlight and inhaled several deep breaths of the crisp morning air. The smell of bacon, egg rolls and hot coffee was in the air, and she smiled as the Australian flag rose above the Chocolate Munch, her favourite patisserie. She skipped alongside her mother and father who both shushed at her, for her boots clanged against the pavement with each step. Bonny’s mother, Gwendoline, was orthodox Catholic from a very devout Irish family. Tall and dour, Bonny often felt her beady little eyes telling her that she shouldn’t speak lest 


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

she bring the wrath of God down upon her, and be struck dead, or worse, turned to stone and set among the statues decorating the church walls. Gwendoline’s grandfather, Connor McKinley, originally came to Australia during the gold rush. Bonny’s Father, Peter, was also devoted. He was tall, and although his nose stuck out an inch too far, he had a gentle, crinkled face with big shadows around his eyes. But who is to say when a nose should stop growing? They reached their house and Peter silently thanked God for their congenial little home and the snake-like green creepers that wound gracefully up the delicate off-white pillars that held neat rows of ivory tiles in place, and the red door that greeted them warmly. He slipped the key in to the lock and held it open for his wife and daughter, but as soon as they were inside Gwendoline took Bonny to the living room, where she was to sit and work. It was a homely room. A large fire crackled in the hearth, spreading warmth and joy through the room. A cosy brown couch sat before the fire, and a collection of straight-backed wooden chairs with old Kilkenny rugs hanging over their backs surrounded a chipped table. Light filtered through a double sash window, keeping the cold mountain air at bay. Gwendoline marched to a dark polished-wood cabinet and pulled out a bible and some paper. She ordered Bonny to sit and recite ten biblical stories, and explain the moral in each. Bonny’s mind was naturally inquiring, and it paid no heed to having a Sunday off, so as she read through the Bible verses, it occurred to her that much was written about God, 


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

but little was observed. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life…” she stopped reading and asked, “Mother, has anyone actually seen Go—” “Don’t ask questions,” her mother snapped. “Now read the story from the beginning.”

The next day was Bonny’s birthday. Waking up early, Peter stumbled to Bonny’s bedroom and laid a package down on her bed. It was usual that she received only one present. When Bonny woke, she found the parcel and fingered the wrapping curiously. She read the piece of paper that her father had clumsily attached to it. Bonny, Happy 10th Birthday. This is a very generous present, use it wisely. She flipped the package over and tore through the paper. It was badly wrapped and tore easily. A brown book fell into her hand. She read the title aloud. “The Illustrated Bible.” Her heart sank. She already owned six bibles and was hoping for something different—perhaps a book with magical forests or enchanted witches. But no, it had to be a bible. Bonny started reading the contents page but then slammed the book shut. Hot tears burst from her eyes and poured down her face. She hated her life; her parents wouldn’t answer her questions, she wasn’t allowed to go anywhere, and she hated going to church every day. She sniffed loudly and buried her face in her pillow and thought, how silly to be sitting here crying 


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

about her life when she couldn’t change anything anyway. Why bother crying about it? A sudden gust of wind rattled the window, and jolted Bonny’s mind, as the usual questions came flooding in: Who is God? Where does God live? Can he really perform miracles? Later that day Bonny and her parents returned to church for a six-hour service—three hours of being preached at and three more of praying. By five o’clock, the service had ended and the congregation was filing out. Bonny, exhausted, sighed deeply. She spotted her grandma and ran into her outstretched arms. “Bonny, how dare you?” her mother whispered at her. “Sorry Mother,” Bonny replied, looking down at the pavement. Bonny’s grandma, Belinda, was a small, kind old woman with big eyes and a crinkled nose. “Good afternoon, Belinda,” Bonny’s mother said through pursed lips and gritted teeth. “Hi Gwendoline, honey,” Belinda said. “Happy birthday, Bonny. Ten, is it? Wow.” “Yes, Granny, ten. And thanks.” Bonny beamed at her. “I got you something,” Belinda said, rummaging in her bag and pulling out a small brown package. “Thank you very much,” Bonny said, receiving the package gleefully. She felt it all round before tearing through the paper, careful to restrain herself. A box slightly bigger than a tennis ball bearing the label Chocco Chocco Choccies, fell into her palm. Gwendoline snatched the chocolates and popped them into her own bag. 


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

“Thank you Belinda, but I’ll take those,” Gwendoline said, taking the chocolates out of Bonny’s hand. “Have a good day.” And she turned on her heel and walked down the path. “Well, actually,” Belinda called after her, “I was wondering if I could have Bonny for the night?” Gwendoline stopped in her tracks and turned around to face her mother-in-law. “Bonny has to recite biblical stories tonight. You cannot have her.” “But—come on, it’s her birthday.” “So? We are wasting time, and unless Bonny wants to recite twenty stories tomorrow, she can come now.” Belinda’s joyful smile faded and she looked down at her shoes. Bonny, looking quickly between the two women, said, “I’ll do twenty tomorrow then.” Gwendoline scowled, flipped the hair out of her face, and said, “Take her. She’ll do twenty-five tomorrow. Good night.” She slipped her hand through Peter’s arm and they left, walking down the path. Bonny looked up at her granny. “Thanks Granny,” she said, and jumped into her arms. “Ooh, it was nothing my dear. We’re going to have so much fun together.”

“Bonny dear, you there?” Belinda carried two frothy, delicious, hot chocolates. It was always a tradition for Bonny and her grandma to chat in bed with hot chocolate. “Yes, Granny. I’ve just finished changing; I hope you don’t mind me using your old night gown.” “No, no, Bonny dear, go ahead,” Belinda said, as she 


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

opened the door and entered the bedroom. She put the mugs carefully on each bedside table before hopping into bed beside Bonny. “The hot chocolate is very hot, sweetie.” “Yes Grandma. I was wondering…Mother won’t answer my questions you see—can I ask you a question?” “Of course you can,” Belinda said enthusiastically. And then added, in a quieter voice, “Not answering questions… tut-tut.” “Well, I know that no-one knows the answer but…where does God live?” “My dear—such an inquisitive mind.” Belinda raised her arms and spread them before her. “God lives in a garden of happiness in heaven. Way up beyond space and time. At least, that’s where we Catholics believe God lives.” Bonny was thoughtful as she sipped her hot chocolate. The sweet, warm liquid soothed her whole body. “Yummy hot chocolate,” she said, still thinking. “Thank you.” “Oh-ho-ho—my pleasure.” “Gran, do you really believe that God and Jesus performed those wonderful miracles?” “Well of course I do. Jesus was God’s beloved son—he had power to do such things.” “Have you ever seen God, or Jesus?” “No, they live in your heart, and my heart. You can be forever with them—they always know where you are.” “But how can they live in everyone’s heart? They’re only two!” Bonny exclaimed. “When we are born, my love, we are all born with a bit of 


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

God in us. Life, we call it.” “Mmmm.” “Good night, Bonny.” “Night Grandma.”

The willy wagtail’s shrill cry echoed through the bedroom. The sun shone brightly through the clamour, waking Bonny abruptly. She glanced at the clock: seven o’clock already. Belinda was not in the bed. Surprised, Bonny scanned the room from corner to corner, and then turned to get up and take her empty cup to the kitchen. She reached out to grab her cup but was astounded to find that instead, there, on a wooden tray, was the biggest breakfast Bonny had ever seen. Crispy bacon, warm poached eggs with wilted spinach and thick hollandaise sauce, freshly fried tomatoes, butter-glazed mushrooms and golden-brown pancakes drizzled with hot maple syrup lay in front of her. A note was beside the tray. Dear Bonny, I’ve gone to the markets and I won’t be back until ten. I’m sorry I didn’t say good-bye, you looked so peaceful. I made you breakfast, eat up. Your mother is coming at nine. There’s also a surprise birthday present in the living room…I knew your mother wouldn’t allow those chocolates I gave you in front of her. Love Grandma Bonny laid the letter back down and, taking the breakfast tray, skipped down to the living room. A huge box wrapped in brightly coloured paper stood in the middle of the room. Nine balloons were tied beautifully around it—urging her, it seemed, to fly upwards toward the 


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

freedom of the sky. Bonny gasped and ran to the present, carefully untying the spotty red ribbon and tearing the paper away. She opened the box beneath impatiently and a number of things tumbled out onto the floor: a doll with black plaited hair and red rosy cheeks, a twenty dollar note, a feather pen, a box of chocolates and a purple pad of paper. Bonny was overwhelmed. Then suddenly she remembered the time and her nearly-cold breakfast. She quickly polished off the scrumptious meal, and decided she would pack first and then play with her presents. She skipped upstairs, changed, gathered her few belongings and put them neatly beside the door. She rinsed her breakfast dishes and packed them away. Then, at last, she sat down and stared at her presents. How could one person be so generous? Bonny gleefully opened her chocolates. Popping the twenty dollars and her feather pen into her pocket, she closed the lid of the chocolates and examined the doll closely. What would she name it? Felicity? Lucy? Susan? Alice? “I’ve got it,” she cried out, “Annie.” And after kissing the doll’s forehead she pushed it into her bag. She fingered the purple writing paper and in the same instance heard a car pull up in the driveway. Quickly, she stumbled for her feather pen and scrawled in untidy and messy writing: Thanks Gran, I’m in a rush but thanks for everything. Love Bonny Bonny tried to stuff the nine balloons into her bag—which was already about to burst—but was unsuccessful so she removed four, and then picked up her bag and rushed to the door. Before she reached it, the door-knob turned and the 


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

door swung open. Peter, in a grey-brown coat with polished shoes and his brown hair neatly combed back, stood in the doorway, glared at Bonny, and then nodded his head stiffly towards the car, indicating that she should put her belongings in the back. She slipped past him, opened the boot of the car, stuffed her items in and hopped into the front, hoping her parents were in a good mood.

Good mood? Hardly. They made her recite thirty stories. She didn’t finish until five o’clock and then Gwendoline took her to an hour service at church. She was exhausted when she arrived home. After a quick dinner, she dashed up the stairs into her room and collapsed on the bed and thought about some of the answers Belinda gave her last night. God lived up in heaven, she’d said. God and Jesus did perform all the miracles. But Belinda had never seen God or Jesus. Thousands more questions streamed into her spinning mind. Could God write and read? Could he speak? Did he speak a different language? Was he a boy, or a girl? Did he like food? Was he like a ghost? Did he have any other daughters or sons? Bonny was a very bright child, able to understand concepts far more complicated than most ten-year-olds could imagine. So it wasn’t surprising when she came up with her plan to communicate to God. She took out her purple pad and feather pen, and started to write. 


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

Dear God, I am Bonny. I live in Australia in the Blue Mountains in a small village called Leura and I am ten years old. Who are you? Do you actually live in the sky? And I know that this letter will never reach you because you are within us but…I just wondered. Who lives with you, what do you look like, what’s your favourite food? Do you have a wife? Oh, I know this will never reach you. Oh well. Bonny She pulled a balloon from her bag, tied the letter to the end of its string, opened the window, kissed the balloon three times, and let it go outside the window. The black night was cold against her pale skin and she watched as the balloon took flight, rose into the night, and gradually became smaller and smaller. She waited until it was a tiny dot, and then closed the window and went to bed.

The next morning Bonny jumped out of bed as soon as she woke and rushed to the window to see if there was a reply to her letter. But there was none. Perhaps it had been a dream. Had she really sent a note to God? She counted the balloons she had left, and…yes, it hadn’t been a dream—only four balloons remained. Of course she’d sent it, but there was no reply. Feeling a little foolish, she dressed and went downstairs. She made tea and toast for her parents and sat down and ate a banana. Then she went back to her bedroom and sat on the bed, and ate the rest of her chocolates. Then a loud noise from the street below startled Bonny. It was only the postman. She took a moment to compose 10


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

herself before going downstairs to fetch the post. After politely greeting the postman, she hurried back upstairs with four letters, sat down and examined them. One was for her father, the next for her mother, then another for her mother, and the last‌for the neighbours. There was no letter from God.

Later, after returning from her morning church service and reciting her biblical stories, Bonny lay on her bed thinking about the next day, which was the first day back at school. She had much to do before then: pack her school bag, tidy and air her room, label all her books, wash and iron her school uniform, cook her lunch for the next day, recite her times tables and practise her handwriting. Reluctantly, she embarked on her overwhelming list of duties, starting with sorting out her room. She opened her window. There was no breeze and the sun shone radiantly. She smiled and breathed in the air. It left her feeling fresh and exhilarated. Dust had gathered on her school uniform, so she decided to wash it. She went to the bathroom and ran a big bowl of steaming water. When she returned to her bedroom, she sensed something different. The window was tightly closed; her blinds were down and a piece of parchment sat on her bed. The parchment was brown and tattered. The word, Bonny, was delicately placed in beautiful writing. She suddenly felt faint and collapsed to the floor, gazing at the parchment. A million thoughts took shape in her mind all at once, and a 11


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

voice whispered faintly in her head as she scanned the page. Myself, an immortal being. My home, the atmosphere. Bonny dropped the parchment. Who had it been? Could it, no…maybe…no…was it?…God? Her trembling hand could hardly hold a pen as she got a fresh sheet of paper and wrote another message. I received a thought today. Was it…you? And if it was, did you perform those miracles, thousands and thousands of years ago? She folded the piece of paper and tied it to another balloon, opened the window, and let it soar into the bright sunlight. She watched it disappear into the blue, and then sat on her bed, thinking. She could tell nobody—not even Belinda—it had to be her little secret. Although she would have to dispose of the letter from God in case her mother found it. Better if she hid it, because then she could get it when she needed comfort. So she chose to keep it under her wardrobe. The wardrobe was heavy to lift but, with a few loud grunts and lots of puffing, she finally succeeded. For the rest of the day, Bonny couldn’t stop thinking about God. She worked industriously through her chores, and arranged a bunch of flowers she had picked from the garden for her mother. The steely cold look in Gwendoline’s eyes as she received them however, made Bonny feel that pleasing her mother was impossible. But it didn’t dampen her mood. After dinner, when she was about to go to bed, Bonny decided to check on the parchment. She lifted up the wardrobe, careful not to make a noise that might attract her mother, and reached for the paper. As soon as she touched 12


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

it a strange feeling rushed over her and, once again, a faint voice whispered in her head, filling her mind with thoughts and images. I. A race determined my power to rule earth. I came first. I won. I then rule earth, the only planet with life. Miracles I did. Bonny felt dizzy. Falling onto her bed, she grabbed for another piece of paper, and scrawled: God, Thank you very much for your answer. What do you mean, ‘you have power to rule earth’? Does it mean that you can do anything you wish? And, for instance, can you grant me an ice-cream, right now? Bonny She tied the letter to a balloon and let it soar into the night. She watched it disappear from sight, and was about to close her window when something fell into her palm. She looked down at it, completely awestruck. Sitting on her hand was a cone filled with creamy white ice-cream, and with chocolate sprinkles and swirls of strawberry sauce on top. A napkin was wrapped neatly around the cone with eight words: Ice-cream is the least I can grant. And Bonny lay on her bed gleefully eating her scrumptious ice-cream, totally satisfied.

The next morning, Bonny woke especially early so she could write a letter. She prepared herself for the school day and quickly took out her feather pen. God, Thank you for the ice-cream. I am writing this letter and have 13


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

realised that I only have one balloon left. How am I ever going to write to you again? I also…just wondered…if maybe…well you see, I’ve never eaten chocolate mousse before and I wondered if you could grant me some. Thank you, Bonny She released the balloon only seconds before her mother entered the room and turned the lights on. “Bonny, get ready,” she snapped. “You are walking today and—” she looked up sharply. “Close that window, now.” And with that, she turned on her heel and left the room. Bonny sighed and looked towards the sky expectantly, but no chocolate mousse fell out. Disappointed, she turned back to collect her books from her desk and then broke out laughing. Sitting in the middle of her desk was a glass full of chocolate mousse. She fingered the parchment in her pocket as she reached for the mousse, and the mental voice spoke again. “Greed is stronger than anything. Balloons.” Bonny ignored the greed part of the message, she had God now and no-one was going to spoil her glory, but the ‘balloons’ part of the message stumped her. As she pondered the meaning of it, she looked at the window and there, hovering right outside, were ten balloons. She escorted them to a safe spot in her wardrobe and then left the house for Greenaway Public school.

Bonny was unpopular at school. She was disliked for her Catholicism by some and her neatness by others. She sat alone 14


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

at lunch times and older students picked on her, which she hated. But today she quite liked sitting by herself—she had much to think about. She ate the sandwich she’d made the previous night. Ham and cheese. She hated ham and cheese, but there was nothing else at home. She was about to take a bite, when an idea popped into her mind. She threw her sandwich into the bin, and then walked to the toilets where she locked herself in a cubicle and wrote on the parchment. God, Please will you grant me my wish? I would like a Greek salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a sweet cupcake frosted over with pink icing and an edible flower on it. Thank you, Bonny She stopped. How was she going to walk home and get a balloon? She couldn’t. Suddenly, as if by pure force, the letter lifted out of her hands and drifted up through the window. She ran out of the toilet block and looked above as the piece of her purple pad paper rose into the blue. Yes! She punched the air with her left fist and then, noticing the strange looks from people around her, she sat down and waited for the beautiful salad and perfect cupcake to magically appear. Presently, the dizzy feeling gushed over her and she lapsed into the dream-like state. This time, however, she realised what was happening and she listened intently for the faint voice. Greed is dangerous. Bonny was heartsick at being unpopular and, as she walked home, she decided she would change it. Naturally, God had a 15


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

part to play in the plan. She reached home and dashed to her bedroom, grabbed a piece of paper and wrote: Hello. Okay—I need the following items: a popularity book, sunglasses (black and glossy), an old but cool school uniform, one hundred more dollars, and I need you to keep my parents away from me for the next hour. Do it now, please. Bonny Reaching for a balloon for the fourth time, she opened her window and released her message. She waited impatiently, drumming her nails on the desk. Suddenly, she heard a little sound at the window. Everything she’d asked for was there, with a note attached. She scanned the note and threw it carelessly into the waste paper basket, put on her coat and left the house. On her way, God’s most recent message popped into her head. She’d hardly taken any notice, but first it was something about being too greedy, and then another thing about being careful. She dismissed the thought, pushing it right to the back of her mind. There were other more pressing things to deal with. Her first stop was the hairdressers for a new haircut—to make her look beautiful like the other girls. She waited at the counter and handed over her money, insisting on an elegantly layered style, which the hairdresser was only too happy to do. Later, she skipped home feeling as free as a lark and crept to her bedroom, avoiding her mother’s eye. She’d had enough of ‘cute’ and wanted to be pretty like the other girls at school. Little droplets of water pattered down on to the bathroom 16


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

floor’s cold hard tiles as Bonny showered. To her utter delight she was completely transformed. Where her pony-tail once was, there were now wavy tufts of flowing, glossy hair. She smiled as a picture of Sally Moron, the most popular girl in school, popped into her head. Of course. How could she miss the most important thing—make-up? She grabbed her pen and furiously scribbled another letter. Need mascara and eye-shadow. Now! Bonny She opened the window and let it go. The letter began rising immediately but she looked down at the street below and saw someone pointing to the rising letter. She snatched it back before it was out of reach and waited for the person to walk on and was out of sight before she let the letter glide gracefully away. This time, the strange sensation arrived almost immediately, and the faint voice popped into her head. No need for artifice. Sally Moron is not important. She ignored the first part (what is artifice, anyway?) and simply tut-tutted at the Sally Moron part. Mascara and eyeshadow were in her hands. She’d seen her mother apply mascara thousands of times and knew exactly what to do. Holding her hair out of the way, she applied the make-up with great care, and when she was finished, she stared at herself in the mirror. She gasped. She looked like an angel. The black sunglasses were the finishing touch to her new look.

Gwendoline’s fuchsia chiffon dress floated airily behind 17


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

her and a dainty French chignon rested prettily on the nape of her neck. With a strangely sad smile, she stroked the face of her graduating daughter lovingly. Then with a dreamy and pensive expression, she waved Bonny on to receive her graduation scroll. Bonny stood as proud as a peacock and closed her eyes as the whole grandstand before her exploded into applause. When she opened them, she looked into the tear-filled eyes of her mother as she mouthed, ‘Bonny’. Bonny shook her head at her mother. Gwendoline tried to speak again but no sound came out. Bonny looked around, something was terribly wrong…. Bonny woke with a start. Beads of sweat dripped onto her nightgown. She panted violently. She turned to her bedside table and picked up a glass of water in trembling hands. Did the dream mean something? Was it a warning? All of a sudden, Bonny was scared.

A golden ray spilt into the gloom of the room. Bonny woke. It was her fifteenth birthday. Groaning, she turned over in her warm bed and thought about her birthday present. Of course it was going to be a bible, even though she was fifteen and already owned fourteen of them. Then a stream of hope entered her mind. What if her parents decided to give her a poem book, full of the many wonders of Shakespeare? Or maybe even an iPod so she could listen to Mozart? She leapt out of bed and examined the parcel sitting on her desk. The wrapping was golden paper, tied with red ribbon in the shape of a cross. As she tore the paper away, Bonny’s 18


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

heart flipped with joy when she saw the last two letters of the title: ‘le.’ It could be a book she was hoping for—Dr Doolittle, perhaps. But alas it was not to be: all she’d seen was the last two letters of ‘Bible’. Her heart sank as she fingered the words. Why? Why did it have to be the Bible? At fifteen years of age, couldn’t it be something else? Why should she be treated this way, when the other girls at school received cool stuff like iPods, make-up, perfume and money? A sickening feeling rose inside her, hot and bubbling, burning from the many years she had suffered. Fury. Something snapped right then. Bonny got out of her seat and let out a primitive howl from the depths of her being. Gwendoline burst through the door and was about to shout at Bonny when she saw the look on her face. Bonny’s lips stretched into a thin line of white hot anger. Her eyes black with hatred. Gwendoline backed out without making a sound and slammed the door. Bonny yanked a piece of paper from her essay book and scribbled furiously. Make my mother silent forever. Then she shoved the window up and threw the paper out. It rose into the air and drifted out of sight. Peter’s shout shook the floor and Bonny stomped down the stairs, an air of innocence about her. Gwendoline stood still as a statue in front of Peter, a dreadful frightened look on her face. Her cheeks trembled as she looked at her husband. “I’m taking your mother to the hospital,” Peter said in a loud voice. “She can’t talk or make any sound. You stay here.” 19


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

Bonny smiled slyly. Her mother’s voice had gone; she could do anything. The hospital found nothing physically wrong with Gwendoline and could do nothing to help. Bonny loved it. She felt as free as a feather in the wind—free to do anything she wanted. Over the next few days, she spent most of her time dressing up and going to the mall with her new best friend, Sally Moron. When a week had passed, Bonny decided to give her mother her voice back. Hoping that it had taught her something, Bonny scribbled another letter. Okay, give Mum’s voice back now. She opened the window and threw the note to the sky, but it dropped like a stone to the street below. Her face turned bleach white with shock. She tried again, but again the paper plummeted to the street below. No matter how many times she tried, the same thing happened each time. What had she done? She went to the wardrobe and reached for the parchment God had given her all those years ago. A powerful gust of wind washed through her body, lifting her hair up. The voice spoke, but this was no faint whisper. Bonny shuddered at the deafening tone. Greed has transformed you. Make right what you have done wrong. Tears streamed down Bonny’s face and her body shook with despair at what she’d done. How could she make it right? Was there possibly a way?

The phone rang and Bonny answered it. “Hey, Bonny, it’s 20


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

Sally.” Sally’s voice was low and ugly on the phone; it was obvious she was chewing gum. “Hi, Sally, you called?” Bonny’s voice was tremulous, she was still shaking with emotion, but she tried to steady it. “Yeah. Wanna go to the mall?” “S-Sure. Bye.” Bonny put the phone down and left the house. Sally was wearing a mini-skirt, waiting for Bonny with fifty dollars in her hand, and her iPod earphones jammed in her ears. They started at the clothes shop. Sally was so engrossed in the new fashion, Bonny was sure she wouldn’t leave this shop for hours. She was bored, so they agreed to meet up at a small cafe for lunch later. Bonny left the shop and studied the announcements on a small community notice board. Pinned tightly in one corner, was a tiny notice with the caption, ‘Can you hear this?’ Interested, Bonny read on. It was a poster advertising jobs for work with deaf people. Forgetting about Sally completely, she took down the phone number, went home and called it. She started working with the deaf the following day. Helping people with hearing disability was a big task, but Bonny took to it enthusiastically, enjoying the work and the great pleasure she got from helping others. It gave her time to think and analyse life from a different perspective. Amanda, the manager, also had deaf relatives so she could understand Bonny very well when she decided to leave and study in America. On her last day, Felicity, a student Bonny had taught to sign, made her a card in appreciation. It meant a lot to Bonny, knowing that she had changed a person’s life 21


DEAR GOD | Lucca Carey

for the better. “You’ve worked well, Bonny Avarus,” Amanda said, and smiled warmly. “Good luck in America, study hard and congratulations on your scholarship there. I hope one day we’ll meet again.” “Thank you, Amanda, for providing me with this opportunity,” Bonny said, also smiling. She turned to Felicity and made a number of hand movements. Felicity smiled and answered back in the same fashion. Bonny handed Felicity a package and again made some hand movements, telling her to: open this at home. With tears of joy welling in her eyes, Bonny left, smiling. She let herself in the front door. All was quiet, as it usually was, and had been for so long now. She sighed. Then, suddenly from the living room came a sound she hadn’t heard in years. “Bonny? Bonny? It’s me, your mother. I can talk, Bonny. The doctors said it was a miracle.” Gwendoline rushed from the room and hugged Bonny hard. “Oh Bonny,” she cried. Bonny, at first taken aback, soon realised what had happened. And she smiled. A miracle: her miracle. There must be a God after all.

22


Edward Hollingdale Edward Hollingdale is thirteen years old and lives in Cottesloe, Western Australia. He was first published in the Born Storytellers Beehive Montessori School Volume 1 in 2008. He still attends Beehive Montessori School.


The Prisoners Of The Pigeon EDWARD HOLLINGDALE

THE ABROLHOS ISLANDS, ABOUT 80 KM OFF THE COAST OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA

It was early Sunday morning when Connor woke. The sun streamed through the window of his room and lit his bedroom wall like a stage floodlight. His father had promised him a day of snorkelling instead of fishing, which is what they’d been doing for the last five days. Twenty minutes later, he was out of the shower and ready for breakfast. At thirteen, Connor was tall for his age. A shock of blond hair fell easily across his forehead and into deep sea-green eyes. This was the second year he’d spent his Easter school holidays on the islands with his father, Aidan, who was a very keen fisherman. Aidan was a manager with a huge iron ore mining company based in Port Hedland, but through friends in the fishing industry out of Geraldton, he rented a shack on the Abrolhos for a couple of weeks every April so he could fish and dive. Connor loved being on the islands and his golden freckled skin showed how much he loved the sun. So much 25


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

so that he was considering marine biology as a future career. His father had taken him to several of the islands in the three groups that make up the Abrolhos. They are flat and windy and surrounded by hundreds of reefs abounding in beautiful sea creatures. Fishermen and divers flock there every year. “What do you feel like for breakfast, Connor?” Aidan called from the tiny kitchen. “I’m gonna have some WeetBix—you want some?” “Yeah, thanks,” Connor said, coming into the room. “I want to go to West Wallabi today.” Connor had been thinking about where to go snorkelling all night. West Wallabi Island was his choice. “Okay little man,” his father said, ruffling the boy’s hair as he got up from the table. Connor rolled his eyes. His dad meant well, but he hated when he spoke to him as if he was still seven years old. Maybe that’s what divorce does when it happens while children are still babies.

Five minutes later they headed for the jetty—a few metres from the shack—and the aluminium dinghy they used to get around the reefs. For fishing they usually took the larger boat moored next to it, but the smaller boat was perfect for getting in close to the reef. The ocean sparkled—it was crystal clear and calm—perfect for snorkelling. Connor’s father came out of the shack holding two water bottles. “I figured I would just pop back here and grab lunch,” 26


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

he said. “The fish ‘n’ chip shop will have fresh stuff this morning and we don’t really have space to bring food.” He plonked the water bottles down in the bottom of the boat and prepared to start the little outboard motor. Connor rolled his eyes again; his dad was too lazy to make sandwiches—the boat had plenty of room. The motor came to life after a couple of rope-pulls, and Aidan guided the dinghy from the jetty and headed south. Their shack was on the north-western point of Pigeon Island and their course would take them past Alcatraz Island, around the southern point of Oystercatcher Island to a sheltered cove on West Wallabi Island near Tatter Island—all in all about ten kilometres, and half an hour or so in the dinghy. West Wallabi is shaped a bit like a battle axe; a little under five kilometres from blade to spike, and two kilometres across at its widest point. They spent the morning exploring the coves and diving on the reefs looking at the rich and abundant marine life. They came across no sign of human life at all—only fish, sea dragons, rays and other creatures moving among the coral. Connor was completely lost in the mysteries of the shallow reefs.

Meanwhile, back on the seaward side of Pigeon Island, a fisherman sat in a comfortable chair on the veranda of his shack. Nathan was as true blue an Aussie as they come. He had brown hair, hazel eyes and skin like leather. The sea 27


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

was his life and he had been fishing the Abrolhos for over a decade. He did not work on Sundays, so he was having a relaxing day off, nursing a strong black coffee and watching the sea. A ship appeared on the horizon and appeared to be on course for Pigeon Island. Strange, he thought, no-one fishes on a Sunday, except maybe Bob, and Bob was back in Geraldton with the flu . . . He looked more closely at the approaching vessel. It was not only bigger than most of the fishing craft at the island, but it looked strangely like a battleship, although it had no markings. The flag it flew was black with a skull and crossbones on it—a pirate’s flag. By the time the ship drew up to the main jetty, a small crowd had gathered and the onlookers chuckled among themselves, thinking it was probably owned by some crazy billionaire who was having a bit of a joke by flying a pirate flag. It moored at the end of the jetty and a gangplank was lowered. A team of men in military gear came off the boat. They held guns, ready to shoot anyone. Not expecting such a narrow jetty, one of them fell off as he was swivelling around while walking backwards. There was a loud splash and lots of barked orders and shouting as they scrambled to help the guy out of the water and organise themselves. The gathered crowd burst out laughing. After more fancy footwork and pointing guns and looking for threats, the newcomers finally organised into their desired formation. Then one of them put a megaphone to his lips 28


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

and shouted. “Come out of your houses immediately. Those who do not come to this jetty in the next five minutes will be killed. Anyone trying to escape the island will be killed.” The people on the island thought it was all some sort of joke, and carried on laughing. Then one of the pirates shouldered his rifle in a squat firing position, took careful aim and fired at the fuel tank of a moored boat. It burst into flames, and the laughter died. Confused, the islanders gathered at the jetty as they had been ordered. None of them thought of warning authorities that pirates had taken over the Abrolhos. WEST WALLABI ISLAND—WESTERN COAST

Connor and his father emerged from their second dive. “I think I’ll go back and get us some lunch,” Aidan announced. “You can stay here and build a sand castle or something.” “Okay then Dad, if you really want me to build one.” He rolled his eyes, and then said, “How long will you be?” “About an hour, see you soon.” Aidan jumped into the dinghy, started the engine, gave a quick wave to Connor and was soon a mere speck in the ocean’s heaving swell.

Later, when his father had not returned with lunch and the sun’s steady descent towards the horizon announced the approach of evening, Connor was scared, cold and hungry. A 29


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

savage wind had gathered throughout the afternoon and was now hammering him with incredible force. He climbed a low sand dune and hunkered behind some limestone boulders, to think about what to do. He was still cold, but the wind no longer tormented him. He wondered what had happened to his father. How was he going to find him? Something must have gone wrong; his father was not the kind of man to abandon someone on a remote island. Night fell and the moon rose, round and full, splashing a glimmering path across the ocean to the distant mainland. Visibility, although ghostly, was good. He knew the basic geography of the island, and that a two-kilometre walk away, directly west of him, was a dozen or so shacks. He left the shelter of the rocks, turned his face into the wind and began to make way his through the low scrub, keeping his shadow from the moon in front of him to make sure he was going the right way. When he reached the small settlement, the moon was high in the sky, and there, another surprise lay in store. The shacks were deserted. Strange, he thought—this is the time of year visitors clambered to rent them, but not a single person was here. This made no sense. A day or two ago he’d run into a group who had come for a week. He began searching the huts. Stuff was here—clothes strewn over the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, uneaten food on the table—it was as if the occupants had suddenly vanished into thin air. Although Connor needed to find an answer to this mystery, he was suddenly overwhelmed by the need for sleep. He 30


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

found an empty bed and was soon fast asleep.

When Connor woke a few hours later, he was still exhausted but determined to find out what had happened to his father and the people from the shacks. He found a sea kayak beached near a small jetty, launched it, hopped in and set out for Pigeon Island. The moon cast a long shadow as it sunk toward the western horizon. Keeping it to his left, he paddled north along the coast until he reached West Wallabi’s northern tip. In the pre-dawn light a scattering of lights were visible from shacks on Pigeon Island three kilometres away. Good, he thought, somewhat relieved, life is found. Now I can find out what happened to my dad and maybe go back to bed. The eastern sky glowed faintly with a new dawn when Connor reached Pigeon Island. He beached the kayak and crept towards his shack on the other side of the island, surprised at the lack of activity. Dawn on a Monday morning should have been alive with fishing activity as the professionals prepared for their day at sea. But it was quiet—too quiet. Then he spotted the warship. He hadn’t seen it at first because not a single light burned on it—it was a dark shape, hidden in the pre-dawn grey—but he saw it now at the end of a jetty, docked right where the reef ended. Strange, he thought, but he didn’t take much notice. His priority at the moment was to get to their shack and find out what had gone wrong. 31


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

When he reached the shack he peered through the window. He could see the occupants quite clearly: two men, neither of them his father, talking. Connor put his ear to the window. A man of oriental appearance—both Chinese and Japanese, Connor thought— with piercings in both ears, left eyebrow and chin, and tattoos covering his face, including a pirate flag on his right cheek, was talking. “Captain, we could hold the prisoners up for ransom. That four year old kid would fetch a handsome price. And that mine manager as well, we could make thousands from him.” Connor guessed that the mine manager had to be his father. The other man was shorter, but looked more powerful. He was of South-East Asian appearance with black hair, brown eyes and dark skin and was wearing a crumpled blazer with one of its brass buttons missing. Some sort of admiral’s cap, with gold braid around the edges, perched on his head, half falling off. The combination was sinister at the same time as being rather ridiculous. “We mustn’t forget why we came here,” he said. “The ore shipment we plan to hijack leaves Geraldton in three days, and if we pursue this kidnap line, people will know of our presence—although they are bound to find out about us eventually—so ransom is a possibility, but it would have to be done later.” Connor did not fully understand all that he was hearing. All he knew is that he had no idea who these people were, and why they were in his home. 32


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

“Captain,” the ugly one who had spoken first said, “we could always light a fire and kill them that way. It’s the end of summer, and accidents do happen. All we have to do is—” The man stopped short. He had seen the look in the Captain’s eyes. It had occurred as soon as he’d uttered the word ‘fire’. “No, that will not happen—you know I don’t like fire. Not since Singapore…” his voice trailed off and Connor wondered what had happened in Singapore. There was a note of real fear in the captain’s voice. “Well then, we will have to think about it some more. Until then I think we should keep these Islanders imprisoned, the way we have them—mostly in the main hall with the special ones in the hut on the south side of the island. That way we ca—” Connor pulled his head away. His mind was racing. Were these people who he thought they were? Pirates? If they were pirates, and there was no reason for them not to be, and all the people on the island were imprisoned, he had to do something. But what? He stood up and walked silently towards the main hall not far away. He’d go there and let all the prisoners free and hopefully find his father. It wasn’t much of a plan and he had no idea how he would accomplish it.

He was about five metres from the door when a torch light lit him up like a rabbit in a spotlight. He froze. 33


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

“Whaddya doin’ out?” a man shouted, with a thick accent. “I’ve just come back from West Wallabi Island,” said Connor. “Hmph…howdja get over there? Ran away from the boat? Well, we’ll ’ave to throw ya in there, aye. And talk to ya tumorra. We’re ‘n charge now, ‘n’ they say yer go’in inside.” The man grabbed Connor roughly by the arm. He was heavyset and looked barely human in the dark of the dawn, his face a mass of shadow beneath long straggly hair tied back in a ponytail. Connor tried to resist but the pirate managed to unlock a large padlock securing the bolt on the door with one hand and shove him into the hall with the other. It was totally dark. Connor found a place to sit on the cold floor of the hall. He leaned back against the wall and immediately fell asleep, exhausted. When he woke, the sun was up and fighting its way through cracks in the sea-wall shutters, which had been bolted closed from the outside. He opened his eyes and looked about him. He counted about twenty-five male captives. When he asked those nearest him, none knew that much about what had happened—other than that they were now being held prisoner by a gang of evil pirates. A little while later a man came in and gave everyone a cup of water. The men gulped thirstily, but no one asked for more. Connor looked around. A number of things were going on in the hall: a group of men had started an arm wrestling competition; others sat 34


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

talking about escape, and still others were dreamers—sitting and staring out of the window. Nothing much happened until lunchtime. Lunch was two bits of stale white bread, a leaf of lettuce, a quarter of a tomato and some ham. Connor wolfed it down, but decided against asking for more. The pirate who came with the food wore the same expression on his face as the water guy—no seconds. A fisherman in a corner motioned for Connor to join him. He introduced himself as Nathan, and asked Connor how he was doing. Then he introduced him to the men around him. Some were also fishermen. “We’re trying to figure out how we can get out of here,” Nathan told Connor. “From what I know about the tour companies,” said a man who worked for a tour group, “a plane will be coming in to East Wallabi Island this afternoon. Maybe we can escape then.” He was on the island with a scuba diving tour. “What will the pirates do about that?” Nathan wondered. “Are they going to take a group of their people over to East Wallabi to get that plane and the people on it?” Nathan seemed to be in charge of the group. He was quite smart and his hazel eyes gleamed with intelligence. “That might be a good time to escape.” “Escape? How?”Connor asked. Nathan lifted his eyes to a small window in the kitchen at the back of the hall. “Through there,” he said. 35


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

“You’d have to be to be pretty small to fit through that window,” another man said. “But yeah, I agree, we should give it a go. I don’t see any guards around that side of the hall.” “A very valid point, John,” Nathan said. “A couple of people could slip through the window and then find a way to let everyone else out.” He turned to Connor. “You’re pretty small son—you and I could probably go. Apart from you, I’m the shortest guy here.” ‘I guess…” Connor was sceptical. “Good then Connor, welcome aboard.” Nathan turned to the man who worked for the tour company. “Now, this entire plan is relying on that plane. Are you sure there is a plane landing?” “I’m pretty sure—it’s a pretty regular thing.” Connor raised his hand. “I think I have some information that might be useful…” he said, haltingly. The men all looked at him, their expressions saying, ‘well let’s hear it then.’ So Connor told them about the conversation he’d overheard about the special prisoners, the plan to demand a ransom, and the plan to hijack an iron ore shipment. When the plane flew over the island in the middle of the afternoon, the captives heard a mad scramble as the pirates jumped into a boat and sped off to meet it at the airstrip on East Wallabi Island. The prisoners strained to look through the gaps around the window shutters. Only two pirates remained on guard; they were playing cards outside the hall’s 36


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

front door. Nathan and Connor were the only ones not peering out of the window. They opened the kitchen window at the back of the hall, crawled through it, and crept out onto the streets of enemy territory. As they got to the front of the hall, they heard the pirate guards talking. The game of cards had finished. “I win,” one of them said. “That makes it your turn to go and check on the scum—see if any have escaped.” Connor elbowed Nathan and pointed toward the back of the hall, realising that they were about to be discovered. They ran to Connor’s hut, which appeared to be deserted, and went inside. “So this is where the Captain is staying.” Nathan was trying to sound brave and in control, but there was an undeniable tremor of fear in his voice. “It’s pretty flash. I bet he’ll never think of looking for us under his own big bed, why don’t we hide in there?” The two then went to their new hiding place under the bed.

The Captain walked in some time later. Nathan and Connor were barely breathing as he flung his shabby blazer and threadbare hat onto a hook behind the door and broke into song. “La-di-da-di-da…we got those people off the plane. Now all is good and I am happy. And I am going to start staging 37


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

all my attacks on ships and make lots and lots of money. And then, maybe in a few years, I’ll retire and live out the rest of my life in a lovely villa in the south of France—how nice.” Connor heard him get into the bed and the mattress sank over his head. A few minutes later, loud snores erupted. Nathan shifted his body slightly—he had been stock still ever since he went under the bed— moved his head up next to Connor’s ear and whispered, “What now?” “I’m not sure,” Connor replied. “I think we wait another half an hour or so, maybe the pirates will have all gone to sleep by then, and we can sneak out and try to free the prisoners.” He shifted his mouth closer to Nathan’s ear. “And find my dad…” They were about to leave when the Captain screamed in his sleep. “No, no, not the fire, not the fire. It kills; we’re all going to die. Run. Run. Run. Get away, get away, the fire, it burns. No-o-o.” Then he resumed snoring. “I have an idea,” Connor whispered, “but we need to find my dad before we can make it work. And we need to hurry.” They crept out from under the bed, and were about to leave when Connor noticed a map of Pigeon Island on the coffee table. A label marked each hut—one was labelled ‘special’. Connor pointed to it out to Nathan. “Best be off then,” Nathan whispered before he tip-toed to the door. He opened it a crack, checked that the coast was clear and gestured for Connor to follow. They raced across the island to the northern tip where the 38


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

special hut was. It was among a group of five others. The sounds of drunken pirates came from one. The fifth hut was the one they were looking for. As quietly as possible, Connor slid back the three bolts on the door and opened it. There were two people inside. A young boy, who Connor thought must be the one he’d heard the pirates talking about, was asleep on the couch, and a man in his forties with a short beard and dark hair, greying slightly at the temples—Connor’s father. “What are you doing here?” he whispered, glancing around nervously. “Oh God I’m so glad to see you. Are you all right? I’ve been so worried about you.” “I’m fine—tired—but fine. We need to blow up that pirate ship—you’re an explosives expert, right?” “Yes, but that was a long time ago…” Aidan pointed at the boy. “What about him?” Nathan said, “I’m guessing he’ll be all right if we leave him here—he’s valuable to the pirates. They’re hoping to get a good ransom for him.” They left the hut and five minutes later were aboard a commercial crayfishing boat searching for anything that could be used to set off an explosion. Connor kept watch while Nathan stood staring dumbly at the radio, which had been smashed beyond repair. Aidan grabbed a handful of emergency flares. “Any one of these could be seen from the mainland…and given the state of that, we’re going to need them to attract attention.” “The problem is, we’ll attract the pirate’s attention at the 39


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

same time,” Nathan said. “Yes,” Aidan agreed, “timing is going to be everything.” “What about blowing up the ship?” Connor asked. “I think we can do that,” Aidan said. “We’ll use the ignition devices from these flares—but we’re going to have to get pretty close to the fuel tanks.” “So is there anything I can do to help you mate?” asked Nathan. “A knife would be useful,” Aidan said. And a knowing smile appeared on his face.

“Are you sure about this?” asked Aidan. “Yeah, I’m the smallest and I can swim pretty fast,” Connor replied. He took a few deep breaths then said, “Let’s go.” Keeping in the shadows, he ran along the jetty to the ship and clambered up the gangway onto the deck. He stopped and stood silently against a dark bulkhead, carefully checking every direction for signs of life. There were none. The ship was deserted. Connor headed for the stairs at the stern and descended to the ship’s bowels. Following his father’s instructions, he went to the middle of the ship and placed the device Aidan had constructed around the pipe where the fuel tanks feed the engines and held a match to the fuse. The highly flammable material caught immediately and sputtered as it burned—a little too quickly to Connor’s eye—toward the tightly bound package. 40


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

Connor had two minutes to clear the ship. He kept his cool and raced back to the stairs at the end of the ship. He dropped down into the water and struck out, swimming as fast as he could to put as much distance as he could between him and the ship. When the explosion came, it sent massive shockwaves through the water and pieces of metal and debris high into the air. The force of the explosion tore a gaping hole in the middle of the ship. The two ends shuddered, pointed suddenly skyward, and then caved in towards each other with an awful groan as it started to sink. The pirates were all woken by the explosion and ran to their fast disappearing ship, leaving no one guarding the hall. Connor swam to a jetty some distance away and hauled his tired body out of the water. He headed for the hall to meet Aidan and Nathan. Five minutes later the fireworks show began. Aidan directed everyone who had been held captive to get all the flares from the fishing boats and set them off. The effect was spectacular. The Pirate Captain ran towards the jetty when he stumbled into Nathan. Nathan was ready with a lit flare, which he set off right under the Captain’s nose. “I bet Singapore wasn’t a patch on this,” he said. “No…No…No!” the pirate Captain screamed as he fell to the ground. Nathan looked for some rope to tie him up, but could only find an old cray pot—so he rammed that on to the 41


THE PRISONERS OF THE PIGEON | Edward Hollingdale

Captain’s head to immobilise him. The Pirates had no idea what was going on. Several of them tried to escape in one of the boats, but were rounded up by angry fishermen using the guns they had taken from their captors. When the RAAF finally arrived, the officers did not have much to do. A group of twenty or so pirates sat blearyeyed and confused, surrounded by angry fishermen pointing guns at them. Connor and Aidan sat a little way from where the pirates were being handcuffed, questioned and led away. Connor had never felt more exhausted in his life. “I need to get to bed,” he said to his dad. “Me too,” Aidan said. “Because you know what son? Tomorrow we have some serious snorkelling to catch up on.”

42


Sagarika Kaushal Sagarika Kaushal is thirteen years old and was first published in Born Storytellers St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls Volume 4 in 2009. She lives in Attadale, Western Australia, and still attends St Hilda’s.


Capture My Heart SAGARIKA KAUSHAL

Catherine always took a very long time to get used to things. Another bitter wind tried to catch my bonnet and skirt unguarded by my hand. It was, once again, the rainy season in England. “But you could stay with us here, and your parents could go to the Great South Land.” She tried once again to change my parents’ mind, but she had already tried several times and my parents’ decision did not seem to thaw. “No, Catherine, I can’t change their mind now,” I said, wondering if she had noticed that she was standing at the docks, and the ship I was about to board was docked behind me. “I have to go. I promise I will send a letter with the next ship back.” I reached into my purse. “Here, a gift so that you remember me—it’s one of my most precious and fragile feather fans. Do not open it now or the wind will take it away or break it.” “Oh, Rosalina, here I have a gift for you as well.” With that she handed me a gold satin scarf, which she pulled from her purse with such an extreme flourish that it surprised me. 45


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

Usually, Catherine was very clumsy. “Thank you Catherine,” I said, and hugged her. Little butterflies were embroidered in silver thread and I fingered the scarf’s delicate finish, its soft and luscious texture silken to my touch. Then it was snatched from my hand. I turned to see where it was going—my lungs welling up for a scream in the event that a street urchin had stolen it—but no, I was surrounded only by ladies and gentlemen. Then I saw the thief. The wind had snatched the scarf and tossed it high. As I watched the scrap of gold fold and unfold like a kite against the grey-black of the clouds, and flutter towards the deck of the ship, a man set a black booted foot on the rail of the three-master and swung up effortlessly to stand, balanced, on the narrow rail. He took hold of a rope with one hand, and then, leaning out over the crowded wharf, he plucked the scarf from its happy flight with the other, all while the ship bobbed dangerously on white-capped wind-driven waves. He was tall and tanned, with striking features. A shock of wavy hair framed his face, which tapered to an angular jaw. As I stared, his deep set eyes searched the crowd below him looking for the scarf’s owner. Our eyes met while I was staring open-mouthed at him, and he scandalously winked at me before tucking my scarf into his belt and tilted himself back onto the deck and disappeared into the crowd on board. I felt my cheeks grow hot and, despite the cold harsh wind, my ears were burning. I was sure that people around me must 46


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

have seen what had happened. Although I hoped my parents had not, as the man was handsome, and if my parents saw, then I might never get to talk to him or get my scarf back for that matter. Of course Catherine had seen it. “Oh my goodness Rose, you have barely left England and you’ve already got suitors.” I shook my head at her disapprovingly. It seemed like a ladylike thing to do but, in truth, I liked the fact that I already had admirers. My mother was shouldering people out of the way to get to where Catherine and I stood. She pressed Catherine to her bosom. “Catherine dearest, it has been great knowing you and I am sure Rosalina will miss you, but you have to say goodbye now, we really should be on board the ship at this very moment—” Then she saw me: red like a tomato. “Rosalina? Are you quite all right? What ails you? Have you a fever?” “Oh,” Catherine said, snapping out of her reverie and saving me from needing to say anything, of which I was incapable at that moment. My throat had gone strangely dry while my heart thudded loudly at a breakneck speed. “Well, I will write to you then. Bye Rosalina, and Lady Elizabeth—I will miss you.” With that she hugged me and stood waving as I walked arm-in-arm with my mother to join my father and sister in boarding the ship.

47


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

My younger sister, Daralis, was shouting at me for the third time that day. We were nine weeks into the voyage and although I had spent many long shipboard days with William, he still hadn’t returned my scarf, although my heart had gone to the same place. But Daralis was convinced I was making a mistake. “Rose I told you,” she screamed, “I saw William with someone else. They are at the bow of the ship right now. Forget him.” My anger rose at her. “It’s not your business whom I like or not. Not your business whom I should think about. Just because you don’t have someone doesn’t mean you should ruin the life of others.” My arrow found its mark. Her face looked stung. I turned away and examined myself in the looking glass, whereupon I straightened a wrong fold in my dress, grabbed my fan, flicked it open to hide my smile, and made my departure from our large cabin, leaving Daralis stranded in the middle of it. An uncomfortable feeling rose up into my chest, but I pushed it away. What did my sister know? William had already asked Father if he could marry me. If only my father hadn’t said no. Who cared about my ignorant sister anyway? She didn’t know anything about love. I walked up a carpeted hallway and up a small set of stairs that led to the deck. As I turned toward the bow, I stopped in my tracks. The thin shawl hanging from my shoulders fell to the ground. She was right. There he was. With her. At the bow. That was the 48


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

only thing went through my mind. I saw my gold scarf poking from his pocket, but it no longer mattered. I was just another toy. He had used it as a winder—to play with me, but, in the end, I meant nothing. He turned and saw me. I stood with my fists clenched and found my voice. But it shook. “I want my scarf back.” I was the toy asking to have its winder back. This toy did not want to be wound up. But he refused.

“Rosalina. Rosalina…?” A familiar voice echoed in my head. “You were thinking of the Captain’s son again, weren’t you? I told you about him. He’s not good. You admitted it yourself.” Coming back to the physical world I realised that it was my sister, Daralis. I continued attacking the knot in my hands as if nothing had happened, pretending to not listen to her. “Why are you here?” I snapped, trying to calm my nerves. “We’re going to Almack’s tonight.” I nearly stood up, suppressed my anger and danced a jig. But I stopped myself just in time, thinking about the main flaw in Daralis’s announcement. Almack’s was one of the first social clubs to admit both men and women, but it was in London. “There isn’t an Almack’s here.” “I know but one of father’s friends is turning his house into a place resembling Almack’s for the night. He said people around here should not forget dancing and gambling. His 49


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

house is two blocks away from us. Who do you think will be there? Do you think we can wear the new gowns we bought before we left? I do love your butterfly gown…” Before I could stop myself, I was off the stool and twirling Daralis into a quick made-up dance—completely forgetting about a certain someone. I raced down the stairs and stopped at the landing. “Where’s Mother?” “I think she’s in the parlour,” Daralis called, following me to the landing. “Can we ask her if we can wear our new gowns? Do you think my crimson one would be proper?…” But I zoned her out, and thought only of the night awaiting us. Daralis talked a lot for her age, never expecting answers or remarks—she just kept on talking. We found Mother in the parlour and I gushed as soon as I saw her. “Oh mother, is it true? Are we really going tonight? Who’s going to be there? Can we wear our new gowns? Can we leave our hair flow freely? Oh I haven’t washed my hair of late—only last week. Oh no, what am I going to do? I suppose I am just going to have to go with my hair unwashed, but that won’t do…is my hair greasy Daralis? Oh, I hope not. I simply can’t go with greasy hair—it would be utterly disgraceful….” “Hold your tongue Rosalina,” my mother commanded “Now, I will start from the beginning. Yes, we are going to Almack’s tonight. As for who’s going to be there, I’m not entirely sure. Definitely the captain’s family—” My heart filled with happiness and anger, but I was careful not to let it 50


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

show—I’d do anything to not have my mother on my back. “—and Mrs Armstrong, next door. Yes, you can wear your new gowns—although, Daralis, your crimson one might be a bit improper…but then again you are seventeen and ought to be married soon—unlike your sister who doesn’t want to marry anyone she doesn’t like. “Rosalina, you should seriously consider some of the men tonight—” I smiled secretly to myself, I certainly would be considering one in particular. I hurriedly pushed the thought out of my head. I was supposed to hate him for what he did, not like him even more. “—they are all going to be eligible. And about your hair, yes I suppose you can let it out. Did you not wash it yesterday? We will be leaving at six o’clock, so if you girls are going to make a fuss getting ready, then you’d better start now.”

Father’s friend, Anthony, welcomed us at the door. As we entered, an amazing sight met my eyes. The interior of the room had been modelled to look exactly like Almack’s. It was full of people, girls and ladies in beautiful dresses, and what surprised me most of all, were all the musicians. How did they manage to get so many musicians? Mother ushered us deep into the crowd, where several people complimented Daralis and me, and our dresses. Daralis’s gown was crimson—almost the colour of blood—with a hooped skirt. It had a plunging neckline with sleeves that were narrow to her elbows and 51


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

then slashed and hanging loosely, beneath which was the pale white wintry skin of her forearms—a stark contrast to the red. Her hair was swept up into two braids that encircled her head like a crown. I wore the butterfly gown. It was a shade of white, slightly yellower than snow, with butterflies embroidered into it in pale silver and white pearls, and a skirt that flared out a hand’s length from my thighs. Its sleeves were narrow at the wrists and encrusted with small pearls. My hair tumbled down my back save for two short locks that I had lightly braided and pinned to the sides of my head to keep it neat and out of my way. “Oh look Rosalina,” Daralis whispered into my ear, “isn’t he something?” I followed her gaze to the person she was talking about. I was shocked that my sister had such bad taste. He stood with a pronounced stoop, and appeared to be drooling for some reason—spit was dribbling onto the already worn-out waistcoat he wore. He certainly wasn’t good for her. How was an awful man like him allowed in Almack’s? I looked around the room with my practised eye, and saw an eligible man standing close by. Only…how do I get him to talk to Daralis? I looked at the fan in my hand. My fan. I casually tossed it towards him, pretending that I was busy fixing Daralis’s hair with my other hand. Then I looked at my open hand and gasped. “My fan! Oh no, Daralis, where’s my fan? What will I do? 52


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

It was my most precious. Oh no, what if it is trodden on. I will be so sad if it was trodden on.” Daralis looked at me with a worried expression. “Oh, I am sure you will find it—I’m positive you had it with you on the way here. And a second ago too. Don’t worry, I’m sure it won’t be trodden on.” “Is this what you’re looking for?” The man came up to us, my white fan in his hand. His voice voice was deep and well modulated. “Oh thank you sir,” I gushed, dipping my head slightly in an effort to achieve just the right amount of grace, “I don’t know what I would have done were it trodden upon.” He bowed and handed me the fan. I took it gracefully from his hands and pulled my sister by the shoulder to face him. “Please forgive me. My name is Lady Rosalina Heartstopper and this is my sister, Daralis.” I waited while he appraised her, and then, smiling quietly to myself, said, “Now if you would excuse me I think I see someone I know over there.” I walked slowly past him, slow enough to find out that the man was our neighbour. In truth, no one was calling me, but it was the only way I could think of to give those two some space and time. I looked around. The place was full. And yet there was space enough to walk and a big clearing in the middle of the room for dancing. Then I saw a flash of gold against black: the exact same gold of the scarf that blew away from me on the wharf all 53


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

those months ago; the scarf I had never touched since that day. My heart was pounding like horses’ hooves at a gallop— I was sure everyone could hear it thudding against my chest, pounding for an escape. I smiled—something that seemed impossible given the numb state I was in—and my cheeks flamed, drawing a stark contrast against my dress, as I balled my hands into fists by my side. I stood, wide eyed, with my feet frozen in the middle of the dance floor. You are not supposed to like him, I reminded myself. Remember what he did. I slowly unfroze and scanned the crowd from my exposed position on the dance floor, searching eagerly for the familiar face and its crop of tousled dark brown hair. I shivered with excitement and kept at it, oblivious to the pair of dancers who suddenly had to swerve from their glide path to avoid me, leaving me with looks that would happily see me buried. I twirled gracefully, turning in my own solitary dance and left the dance floor, and, from within a wall of shoulders, redoubled my efforts. Gold flashed right next to me and just as quickly, disappeared again. I turned, doubtlessly chasing a will-o’-the-wisp, and tensed ready to fight him for what belonged to me. But I saw nothing. And then a hand fell lightly on mine, and, another snaked around my waist from behind; a whisper sounded in my hair and the bridge of a nose brushed against my neck, then soft lips sent a shiver through me as his breath tickled. I knew I should have pulled away. 54


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

“It’s the Waltz next and neither of us have a partner.” I forced myself away and turned around to face him. “No.” “Why not?” He looked truly perplexed. “Not after what you did to me.” I knew from the lump forming in my throat that I would not be able say any more. He looked momentarily surprised. Then frustration fell like a brick across his face. He ran his hand through his hair. “Look, can we just dance? I’ll explain everything. Please?…” “Fine.” It shouldn’t have thrilled me but it did. He took my hand and pulled me onto the dance floor. I looked up into his eyes. “Tell me, William, what is it you wanted to explain?” “That there isn’t anyone else. It’s just you.” “Then who was on the bow of the ship with you?” He had the grace to colour slightly at that. “A distraction.” My legs stopped, and my right hand dug fiercely into his shoulder. “A distraction,” I hissed through my teeth, “then what am I?” I shoved him hard, breaking the vice like grip he held me with, and stalked off, leaving him stranded in the middle of the floor without a partner. I was angry and felt many eyes boring into the back of my head.

55


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

“I hope you girls got to know many people tonight,” my mother said, looking directly at me as we walked back to our house. I didn’t meet her gaze, but I guessed her eyes were twinkling. “Did you have fun tonight? Don’t you think the place looked exactly like Almack’s?” I ‘hrrmphed’ but Daralis started rambling like a mad bull and there was no stopping her. I nodded to myself in triumph when I heard her talking mostly about Mister Charles Armstrong, the man who had ‘found’ my fan. Presently I zoned out and lagged behind, completely lost in my thoughts about the evening. I couldn’t believe William. How could he? I quickly forced the thought from my mind before I started crying. I’d danced with many other young men following my encounter with William, putting on a face that belied my true feelings. I could feel blisters beginning to sprout on my feet from the dancing. I was going to have a hard time walking tomorrow. Suddenly a hand went over my nose and mouth and the all the breath left my lungs, leaving me unable to scream—which I assume was their purpose. Other hands grabbed me and I felt myself being slung over a shoulder. Oh, good lord, why am I so light? I tried making noise but nothing seemed to work, my eyelids drooped and my arms fell limp. All I could do was hear what was happening and, other than rasping breath and footsteps, there was not much to hear. I wondered when mother and Daralis would realise what had happened. I wondered who was actually kidnapping me. 56


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

Maybe it was William.

Early the following morning, people were around and about on the dusty streets, as William guided his horse to the stables and left it with the stable-hands to untack and water. He entered the already full and buzzing inn, spied his mate at the bar, walked over, got a beer, and sat down next to him. Henry Cutting, known to his friends as Teddy Cutting, was an exuberant, over-excited young man. “You hear the news?” he asked William. William took a swig from his tankard and raised his right eyebrow. “What news?” “You haven’t heard? It’s all over town. The Heartstoppers’ eldest daughter has been kidnapped.” Teddy took a long draught. “They’re taking it badly. Her mother’s been crying throughout the night—poor lady. The kidnapped daughter— what’s her name?…” “Rosalina,” William said through clenched teeth as he cursed himself. “Yeah, Rosalina, that’s it. They got a ransom note this morning—the kidnappers want a thousand quid for her return.” William’s fist shot up and slammed back down hard on the wooden bar. Teddy’s hand shot out to stop William’s other hand. “Take it easy man,” he said, looking around with a smile. 57


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

“The beer’s got to him,” he said to the crowd. Teddy dragged William to his feet and pulled him outside. “It’s true then?” he asked. “You are trying to court her.” “Well, yes.” William ran his hands through his hair. “What’s the family doing about it?” “Nothing, apparently. They’re going to wait for them to release her. The missus is trying to persuade the mister otherwise. People are out looking for her already, but the search has been fruitless so far. The authorities say there aren’t any clues.” “Forget about the authorities,” William said. “I’ll find her.”

William tried to concentrate above the thundering sound of his horse’s hooves. He had searched most of the day for clues. Less than an hour ago he’d found signs of struggle in a small alleyway close to the house that had been Almack’s the night before. The kidnappers were not very clever—they hadn’t covered up their footprints very well—and two sets of footprints led to two sets of hoof prints. William had mounted his horse and, with his heart racing, followed the trail at a brisk pace west towards the setting sun, all the while trying to think of a way to get his darling Rosalina back without paying the ransom. The best he had come up with so far was that he could sneak in and steal her back, but he needed a backup plan. If there were people in 58


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

the place he was headed for, he might be caught—but, then again, he was probably richer, healthier, cleverer, and more superior than most of them. The hoof prints came to an end in front of a badly built house. He walked around the perimeter of the building, looking for an alternative entrance to the front door. He looked cautiously, through a big window at the rear. It was dark inside, but he could make out an unmoving shape lying on the floor. He feared the worst as his eyes adjusted to the dark and he could see the figure’s hands bound by a thick sailor’s rope. He was struck by a sudden happy memory, somewhere on a ship, capturing a certain lady’s heart and scarf. He reached for the scarf that was tucked in the pocket of his breeches. The white narrow sleeves of the gown that she had worn to the dance confirmed that it was Rosalina in the house. William looked about him to check that no one was around and then gingerly climbed through the window. The room was small and dusty. He moved quickly to where Rosalina lay, and took a dagger from his waistcoat pocket and cut the ropes binding her. Rosalina didn’t move. In the murky light, he could see that her face was deathly white. He put a finger under her nose to feel for her breath. She was still breathing. He swept a strand of hair from her face and smiled. She looked so beautiful even when unconscious. He leaned down and his lips brushed gently against hers. He felt her hand move in 59


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

his, and he smiled wider as he straightened up and saw colour return to her cheeks. Harsh throaty voices floated in from beyond the front door. William reacted instantly, grabbing Rosalina and quickly but gently lowering her out of the window. The voices were very close. The door opened a crack and he moved to a corner where it was unlikely they would look twice. He watched and listened. “Wonder whose ’orse that is out there,” a scruffy man said, jerking his thumb backwards. William wanted to strangle the man to death but stopped himself, instead taking note of what he looked like. Their description would help catch them. “Dunno, but whosever it is—’e’s still ’ere,” the second man said, his voice rising in alarm. “An’ the rich girl’s gone! Where’s the money?” William turned his attention fully to this one. He had talked about Rosalina as if she were a thing not a person. He lunged forward before he could stop himself and slammed his fist into the first man’s nose while hooking his leg around the second man’s ankles. They both fell to the ground. He moved quickly, grabbing the rope that he had cut from Rosalina’s wrists and tied them up. “Now, not a sound from you two or your punishment will be worse than it already is,” he said, nearly bursting into laughter as they nodded like schoolboys. By the time he jumped out of the window he was wheezing with laughter. He laughed even more with delight when he saw Rosalina stirring. 60


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

Her eyelids flickered open; her cheeks blushed a shade of light rose; her lips parted in rose red, and her black hair, now a dishevelled mess, made her blue violet eyes stand out like a full moon. She looked up at him. “William…you saved me,” she said, and he helped her up. He stopped laughing and brushed a strand of hair from her face as her hands went around his neck, and his arm around her waist. Their lips met in a tender kiss. Shivers ran down Rosalina’s spine. Sounds of shuffling and hisses reached William ears, and they broke apart. He led Rosalina to the horse. The two bandits, still tied together, were trying to get onto the horse. He let go of her hand and landed a punch behind one man’s ear. He instantly fell to the ground unconscious, dragging the other man down with him. William turned to Rosalina and lifted her by the waist onto the horse. Then he pushed the villains into the cart they’d arrived in and, tying the reins of their horses to his, he swung himself onto his horse. Keeping one arm around Rosalina in front of him, he kicked his heels into his horse and they set off away from the sunset.

Everyone stood in our parlour. I was in an armchair with a blanket wrapped around me and a hot cup of broth in my hands. Daralis was perched on the right arm of the chair. My mother was gushing over me and crying. Beyond her I 61


CAPTURE MY HEART | Sagarika Kaushal

watched William trying to have a quiet word with my father, but his mother made it impossible. My gold scarf protruded tauntingly from his breeches’ pocket. My father cleared his throat loudly. “William has something to say.” I started to feel nervous, and my anxiety only increased when he came and knelt down in front of me. He looked into my eyes and said, “Rosalina, will you marry me?” Heat rushed to my face. I looked at my mother. She was smiling and wiping her eyes, and then she gave the smallest of nods. I looked back at William. “Yes.” He stood up and grabbed my hand, and pulled me up for a hug. “Can I have my scarf back, now?” I said, pulling away from him. Laughter broke out around us. “Maybe.”

62


Megan Lee Megan lee was first published in Born Storytellers Perth Montessori School Volume 1 in 2007, and again in Volume 2 in 2008. She is thirteen years old, lives in Gooseberry Hill, Western Australia, and now attends Perth College.


Kristina Was seeing MEGAN LEE

Kristina came to a realisation the moment the washedout winter sun streamed through the window into the small, uninviting room, interrupting the dark and beautiful abyss behind her eyelids. Her neck was sore and her shoulders tense. She exhaled. Dust particles and spare bits of paper fluttered on her breath like dry leaves in the autumn wind. A sharp pang shot down her spine like a bullet train as she lifted her heavy head from the plastic computer keyboard and looked around the room through bleary eyes. She sighed and pushed all the empty coke bottles and chocolate wrappers off the desk. They fell to the floor and scattered. A bottle rolled under the desk. Look at this disgusting room, she thought. I’ve been in here for almost a week now, living in filth. I can’t write in this crap—it’s depressing. I have to get out. Kristina’s irritation had been building for days—not only driven by inadequate ideas of what to write about, but also the state in which she was living. Her job—her entire future no less—rode on this article and, unless she came up with a 65


KRISTINA WAS SEEING | Megan Lee

brilliant idea, it was surely doomed. For years she’d dreamed of setting herself up in a nice home where she could write to her heart’s content. But until then she had to settle for this crappy little house in the middle of the concrete jungle. The house was nothing like what she saw online when she had bid for it. Since the day she turned up to take possession, its drab atmosphere clung to her like wet clothes on a washing line. She couldn’t shake its depressing feelings—she wanted to crawl into bed and wake up free of all the emotional hang ups. But at this rate, she would soon be down-grading to another hell hole. She needed a solution to the writer’s block that had put her job on the line. So she decided to leave the dull and dry confines of her study and get out into the fresh new world brimming with ideas. She grabbed her notebook and pen, shoved them in the battered leather satchel hanging on the back of her chair, stumbled over bottles and coffee cups and trudged out of the study and crossed the hall to her small bedroom, where she opened a chest of drawers and pulled out a woollen sweater. The wool’s musky scent sent tingles down the left side of her body as she pulled it over her head. In stark contrast, the flat and fetid smell of the floorboards rushed from the loose cracks and followed her down the hall. When she reached the end of the hall, she lunged at the brass doorknob, a tarnished relic clinging to the front door with screws that were worse for wear and long overdue for replacement. But the cool, polished feel of the brass made her smile to herself. With both hands on the knob, she pushed on the stubborn 66


KRISTINA WAS SEEING | Megan Lee

door and fought to free the latch. It wasn’t until the fifth attempt—with the full weight of her body jammed up against its surface—that the door yielded. It opened to a chilly winter breeze that licked at her face, and tugged like a school of fish in a net at her billowing brown hair. Her pallid skin, long deprived of sunlight, welcomed the sun’s gentle rays as they kissed her fragile hands when she pulled up the collar of her woollen sweater. The wool scratched at the bare skin on her neck, but its tickling gave her comfort. For the first time in weeks, she felt alive. She walked out onto her street—tripping over the same pothole she tripped over almost every time she went out— and made it up to Beaufort Street, where she looked into the windows of every cafe she passed, wishing she could afford coffee and toasted panini every day like the other hip young adults she saw. She waited at the bus stop near Sixth Avenue, her hands so cold she had to sit on them to warm them. A woman passing by stopped and offered her a pair of gloves. Kristina smiled and said no thanks but, had they a voice, her hands would have said otherwise. The bus pulled up, she clambered aboard, swiped her card and sat down. She stared at the gooey texture of chewing gum under the seat in front of her. Out the window, she looked at the grumpy people passing by in their cars, tooting their horns compulsively. A group of school girls running along the footpath in the rain, hurrying to school before the bell rang, brought a smile to her lips. It suddenly dawned on her that every little action—every little feature—appeared crisp and new. Things that she—or any other person—might normally 67


KRISTINA WAS SEEING | Megan Lee

take for granted smacked her in the face, begging for their own stories to be given voice. How beautiful the simple and ordinary were. Ideas from her observations on the journey flooded into her mind, and she scribbled madly to capture them before each one vanished in a puff. She was still scribbling when it came time for her to get off the bus. She made her way down the steps onto the footpath and was putting the pen and notebook back into her bag when a massive grey clump of trees caught her eye. Even though the city was also a mass of grey, the grey of the trees in the park seemed more alive. She darted across the road—narrowly missing an ugly death by squashing from a car trying to parallel park—ran past the Hyde Park Deli and found herself strolling into Hyde Park. She came upon a faded wooden park bench, varnish peeling from its gritty surface, and sat allowing her mind to wander blissfully. She jotted as she watched the passing parade, wondering what may be hidden beneath the folds of the long brown overcoat walking on the other side of the pond; what caused the frail old man’s limp—his wizened face screwed up against pain or the cold; what passed between the two young lovers hand in hand by the oak trees—new interactions waiting to be moulded into gripping scenarios of emotion and misunderstanding. She followed an old lady feeding the ducks with the idea of exploring the struggles of a caring old woman, which suddenly morphed into an old woman as a mass murderer, the ducks her allies. She tore the page from her notebook, scrunched it into a tight ball and stuffed it into her pocket, 68


KRISTINA WAS SEEING | Megan Lee

angry that plausible, sensible ideas should so easily become ridiculous. It was then that Kristina noticed a fair skinned lady with fine features and dark brown hair. She watched as short glossy strands of brown hair caught sparkles of scarce sunlight. The soft click-clack of her black satin shoes on the flagstone path offered up a different rhythm to everything else that moved in the park. The people around seemed to disappear like smoke into the background as she embraced an approaching young man. He took her in his arms in such a way that Kristina imagined her to be like the missing part of his soul. She buried her face in his shoulder and inhaled deeply, her nose brushing the side of his neck as though she were trying to capture his scent exactly as it was at this moment, and store it for the rest of her life. Kristina looked up into the bare branches of the oak trees to give the couple some privacy—which she later thought was quite odd because she was in a public a place and had the right to look at anything she wanted, because nothing was private in a public setting. She imagined the branches with a full canopy of lush emerald leaves covering their rough brown skins. After a respectable interval, Kristina once again looked at the couple, who now were walking hand in hand farther along the path; she kissing him softly on the cheek in time with her steps. Suddenly, he stopped and spun her around, drew her close and kissed her romantically on the lips. When they parted, the lady beamed a smile so bright that it seemed as if it could outshine the city’s lights. The young man, sturdy and handsome, looked at his lady as if she was the 69


KRISTINA WAS SEEING | Megan Lee

sun itself—the only light he needed. A light no life, particularly his, should live without, Katrina wrote. She smiled to herself. The expression on the young man’s face reminded her of the past two weeks she’d spent cooped up in her dingy little study. She was lightheaded—like she had awoken from a glorious dream—and the intimacy between the two young people before her kept her fascinated, even when she wanted to look away and blush like a young school girl who had been kissed for the first time. Kristina remained sitting on the old bench long after the young lovers had moved out of sight. She was certain she’d witnessed the most beautiful thing—watching a young couple so in love embrace had sparked a fire in her chest that started a new passion burning. She’d studied the girl’s beautiful grace, watched the way her hair swished in the winter wind, yet held its shape. The young man’s self confidence, so comfortable was he that he’d still be confident walking down the street starkers. She stood up faster than would an unsuspecting teacher fallen victim to the classic ‘drawing pin on the stool’ gag, and dashed from the park, tripping over her feet in excitement as she went. When she reached her house, she wrenched the stubborn door open with a single yank, went inside and set to work.

She spent the next few weeks writing and planning and writing some more. She wanted to capture the moment between the lovers precisely. She wrote with a new fury, 70


KRISTINA WAS SEEING | Megan Lee

letting the words pile upon each other, rushing through them with little care to the finer points of English and grammar. All that mattered was to spill the emotions onto the page. When she looked back on the work, she cursed her carelessness. She set to work editing printed copies of the article, but all her pencils seemed to be broken, and every biro ran dry after only a few words. She spent hours rearranging her words, moulding them to complement the splendour of the moment on that day, only to rearrange it all again later because she wasn’t satisfied. Finally, after a mammoth effort, she felt she had written something that gave the moment its place in history for the world to read—a story that shared the magic with all her readers. She sat back in her office chair and smiled. She knew that love was an elusive thing, an especially evasive emotion that could not be written exactly on paper. But she knew that what she held in her hands was far better than what she had ever expected she could do. Katrina’s column was printed the following week. She tucked a copy of the paper under her arm and headed out to one of the trendy Beaufort Street cafes and spoiled herself with a coffee and panini surrounded by hip youngsters doing exactly the same thing. After her second latte, she left the cafe and went once again to the faded wooden bench with the peeling varnish in Hyde Park, where she sat and read her article as though it was the first time. The article brought the vivid images of that day alive once again, and as she finished reading she looked up and faced the heavens. She laughed out loud at what she saw, her chuckles echoing 71


KRISTINA WAS SEEING | Megan Lee

into the trees. Kristina was staring at the emerald canopies of the great oak trees. The lush and glossy tear-shaped leaves quivered in the gentle spring breeze and, as she watched, every leaf seemed to come alive. And then they whispered in a joyful chorus. She listened closely to what they were telling her. Look now, here love flourishes before one’s seeing eyes. The leaves were talking to her. She looked along the flagstone path to her right, and there before her stood the same lady as the last time, radiant like never before, and the young man, handsome as could be. They stood in the same place Kristina had first seen them. The young man’s large tanned hands tenderly held both of hers. He reached into his shirt pocket and extracted something so small that Kristina was unable to define it, although whatever it was, it captured the bright spring sunlight and held it like a child clinging to its favourite teddy bear. Kristina watched as he placed it in her delicate palm; his lips moving, but Kristina hearing no words. The lady’s face suddenly lit as brightly as the sun above, and her eyes sparkled like morning dew on a freshly manicured lawn. She nodded, her hair falling like a curtain between Kristina and the two lovers. Kristina smiled and looked at the paper in her hand. She whispered the first line of her article. “We all look, but not all of us see; we all care for something, but do we love that? When you look, and really see, you find some of the most beautiful things.”

72


Marshall Norton Marshall Norton is sixteen years old and was first published in Born Storytellers Murdoch College Volume 1 in 2009. He has a contribution in Murdoch College Volume 2 to be published in 2010. Marshall lives in Lesmurdie, Western Australia and still attends Murdoch College.


Water down-under MARSHALL NORTON

Dan took a swig of the milky brown drink in front of him and wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Crikey, how can you drink this flood-water?” He was sitting with his high-profile, commercial lawyer friend, Charles, who was now somewhat taken aback as he watched Dan shovel another spoonful of sugar into his coffee. “Flood water? Last time I checked this café only serves the best coffee in this city.” Charles sipped his own expensive caffeine infused beverage. “You just don’t appreciate good quality.” Dan grinned and pushed his coffee aside. “And what would you know about good quality?” Charles accepted his challenge silently and pulled a cylindrical object from his shirt pocket. “This is what I know about quality.” He held a pen between a thumb and forefinger. It was mostly black with elegantly laid silver bands along its surface. “Isn’t it beautiful? It’s a Mont Blanc Classique fountain pen. I bought it from David Jones yesterday.” Charles turned it so that Dan could see the ebony six75


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshall Norton

pointed star that was inlaid into the cap. “How many limbs did you fork out for this thing?” Dan asked. “Only six-hundred dollars—not bad for such an elegant pen,” Charles said, admiring it as he spoke. Dan gave Charles a funny look. His jaw dropped. “Six hundred for that! I could buy myself a new outboard motor for my tinnie with that sort of money.” Charles rolled his eyes. Whenever they met, Dan brought up the boat. “An outboard motor?” He re-holstered his expensive and prized pen into his shirt pocket. “What possible use could you get from an outboard motor now? Your adventuring days have ended.” “Maybe I could ride down the Lesmurdie falls,” Dan said. “Those falls are so overrated, I think. And who in their right mind would live up in the hills with all the dangers of bitey things, and bushfires and storms?” Charles moved to get up from the table. “You get those kinds of problems anywhere.” “Hardly,” Charles scoffed. “The city knows no disasters, only action and progress my dear friend…action and progress.”

Later that night, Dan was in front of his laptop resting his chin on his hand in the ‘thinker’ pose, hoping that it would help his brain flow. His eyes flicked to the blinking cursor that marked his typing position. He’d been writing smoothly 76


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshal Norton

for four hours, but he’d stopped all of a sudden. He’d reached the point in his story where his hero was coming to terms with life in the city, but every time he thought he had an idea of where it should go next, it didn’t seem to fit. He looked at his wall clock. Midnight. Clearly he’d run out of creative mojo—time to wrap it for the night. He got off his backside and walked out onto his veranda. The Lesmurdie hills escarpment had its advantages—one of them being that going outside was always a pleasing experience— the lush green wilderness backed by the vast cityscape was real eye candy. His dog, an old blue-heeler named Tess, was curled up on the wicker chair. She opened one eye at him, no doubt critical of having her sleep interrupted, Dan thought. He patted her on the head and looked out toward Perth’s city lights. Odd, he thought, there aren’t as many lights as there should be. Dan blinked a few times to reassure himself that he wasn’t simply seeing things. The entire lower part of the city was eerily dark; only sparse lights from the upper buildings were visible, and that included none of the bright coloured neons of the city’s most familiar corporate brands. “This isn’t possible…” he said under his breath, subconsciously checking that his own power was uninterrupted.

Charles was sitting hunched at his desk on an upper floor of 37 St Georges Terrace, trying to complete a report before midnight struck. He was the only one in the building, but he didn’t mind. As he was typing the last few sentences however, 77


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshall Norton

his screen suddenly turned off with a loud click. He cursed loudly and smacked the desk. “Dammit! ah dammit!” For a moment he sat still, realising that he hadn’t saved the last page. Then it dawned on him that it wasn’t just his computer that was dead. All the lights in the building had gone out. A few seconds later, a loud humming emanated from the roof and a dull light returned to the office. For a moment, Charles wondered what the noise was: a speeding car, an overhead plane, a UFO? Eventually he realised that it was the backup generator on the roof. Panic rose in him like a hunting shark. Why’s the generator on? What’s happening outside? He stumbled toward the window of his floor. He looked out the window, and a chill ran up his spine as he saw the answer to his questions. A dark, murky body of water had collected outside and engulfed all of the streets of the city. Charles stepped back from the window and took a few deep breaths. He’d never seen anything like it. He grabbed the phone in his cubicle and dialled 000. When he put the receiver to his ear, it was simply dead. He swore and hung up. With shaking hands, he searched for his mobile, eventually finding it his jacket pocket. He had Dan’s number pinned to his message board with a silly invitation to the play, ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’. Charles kept it as a humorous reminder of Dan’s odd taste in social events. Struggling with his shaking fingers, Charles dialled Dan’s number and waited for a response.

Dan was still standing on his veranda when the phone rang, 78


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshal Norton

snapping him out of his trance. He hit the talk button, half expecting the call to be from Jesus telling him to run as fast as he could. It was something of a letdown to find it was only his friend, Charles. Dan quickly sussed that something was very wrong indeed. “Dan, you’re not going to believe what’s going on in the city,” Charles said, his voice at a higher pitch than usual. “It’s all been engulfed in a dark liquid.” “What do you mean, ‘Dark Liquid’?” At the sound of Dan’s raised voice, old Tess padded inside to see what the panic was. Charles looked out his window again, but it was too dark to see exactly what the liquid was. “I think it might be water,” he said, “but I’m not sure.” Dan was a bit sceptical. As pragmatic as Charles was, there were certain points where one had to draw the line. “Water? Are you sure, mate?” Dan paced back and forth along the veranda, trying to make sense of it. Charles pushed the window open so he could put his head through the opening for a better view, but, as he pushed, the phone slipped out of his hand. He screamed and tried to grab it, almost falling through opening. He watched in despair as it fell to a cold, lonely end in the swirling darkness. Dan hung up when he realised the phone had gone dead in his ear. He knelt down and scratched Tess between the ears. “What do you think I should do?” he asked, dropping onto his old, damp couch. Tess simply looked at him for a moment and then barked. Dan grinned and looked out to the city again. Charles may be an annoying prick sometimes, but they’d had a love79


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshall Norton

hate relationship since high school and Dan didn’t see that changing any time soon. “All right Tessie, we’d better go fish the boat out of the shed then.” Dan received an excited bark from his furry friend.

Dan’s raincoat was still in shreds after he’d used it on his trip up the Swan River and gotten tangled in the scrub along the banks where the water levels were so low he had to walk the boat. Instead, he took his brown greatcoat from the hall cupboard. He smiled as he looked at the heavy woollen fabric; he’d gotten a lot of use out of it when he went trekking in the wilds of Siberia in 2001 with Zimlenski and Perrov—he sure did miss those exciting days. He opened the door and a blast of freezing cold air pushed through the warm coat, chilling his spine. Odd, he thought, why so cold? He stood, shivering, for a moment, and then continued into the dark veil of night. The wind was strong, which was very unusual for the Lesmurdie area, and the sky carried omens of heavy rain. Dan’s coat flapped about in the wind as he headed directly into it across his back yard to the large shed. Tess scampered inside as Dan pulled up the roller door and ducked through the small gap into a great treasure trove of junk. Lumps of indiscernible shapes, many covered by white drop sheets, stood before him. His boat was hidden beneath a sheet near the back of the shed. He knew exactly where it was. He picked his way through the minefield of objects, reached his target and pulled off the concealing drape. His precious tinnie was a three metre long 80


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshal Norton

dull grey boat, made mostly from tin, but over the years, he had fitted a few wooden compartments into its hull for his various journeys. He grabbed the ball-socket of the trailer hitch and pulled it through the shed. Tess was waiting for him as he pushed the door up to allow the boat through. The weather outside had become wilder, with the wind severely hampering his efforts to get the tinnie hitched to his ute. Finally, he locked the trailer to the ute’s towbar and ran to the driver’s seat. Tess jumped and settled herself in the passenger seat. Dan followed and pulled the door shut with a loud bang, thankful to be out of the wind. Traffic on Welshpool East was unusually heavy, a virtual river of cars heading bumper-to-bumper up the hill. Dan fought his way onto the road leading down the hill, but he quickly became fed up with the lack of progress so he drove his ute onto the footpath and went down the slope that way, watching for signs of the police. As he came onto leveller ground, and drew closer to Tonkin highway along the base of the hills, the source of the problem became apparent. A great mass of cars appeared to be parked erratically along what looked like the bank of a lake. The bitumen of Welshpool Road disappeared into it. Dull yellow lights broken by the blue and red of the police vehicles positioned along the lakeside, which was once the Tonkin highway, lit the scene like a science fiction movie. Dan parked on the edge of the Wattle Grove oval, now turned into an ad-hock car park, got out and walked to the edge of the new lake. Tess followed behind him. The bank swarmed with people; some wearing blankets, others 81


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshall Norton

shouting for lost relatives. From the bonnet of a parked car Dan could see past the flock of people to the edge of the lake where police cars were posted. Boats of all sizes jammed with people—ferried no doubt from Perth city—arrived at the shore, their disgorged human cargo swelling the crowds further. Dan’s mind computed that something really bad had happened, and the whole of Perth and its surrounds were engulfed with water. He raced back to his ute and jumped in; he needed to find Charles. He tooted his horn loudly at a mass of survivors standing between him and the shore to clear a path, but they ignored his insistent request, choosing instead to swear at him, saying that they had children and elderly to look after, and other such things. The authorities, trying to control the situation noticed the commotion, and, within a moment he had a short, stocky female police officer at his window. “Sir, will you kindly back your vehicle away from these people?” the officer barked through his window. “You’re making a scene where one isn’t needed.” “Listen here,” Dan snapped, “I need to get my boat into the water, my friend is out there.” He leant on his horn again, blasting the mob before him. “I’m sorry sir,” the officer rejoined, looking as though she would blow at any minute, “but I can’t let you do that. Now, would you kindly park your car and wait in the crowd like the rest of us?” “Would you just shut up and listen to what you’re saying,” Dan said, his voice rising in angry protest. “Do you even give a rat’s arse about any of these people here, or are you more 82


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshal Norton

interested in keeping that fancy badge of yours?” The officer had just about had it with Dan’s talky attitude. “All right sir, if it’s got to be like that, I’m going to have to ask you to come with me.” She pulled at the ute’s door handle, but it was locked. Dan slammed the vehicle into reverse and backed up. The officer tried to follow him, but her foot caught on a tangle of weeds and she was pulled to her knees. He sped off along the edge of the water, watching the officer in his rear vision mirror as she clambered back to her feet and gave him a flip-off. Although it wasn’t his usual cool and rational style of dealing with tense moments, Dan kept his mind on the task. Within minutes, he’d cleared the chaos, and, seeing an opening to the shore, he backed the trailer into the lake. As he unhooked the boat he wondered for a moment how far up the bank he should park his ute, but he had no idea if the water was rising, or how fast. He figured it had to be about a hundred metres above normal sea level at the moment, but that could change. There was an embankment about fifty metres away, and he cut across some low scrub as he raced the ute to the top, leaving it several metres above the current water level. He and Tess clambered aboard the small dinghy. Although he hadn’t used it for some time, he had kept the fuel tank full, but he wasn’t sure how well tuned the engine was. He was glad to hear it start after two or three pulls of the starter cord. He picked his way slowly forward, a large torch propped on a bracket at the helm illuminating his path through the new seas. What appeared in the headlight was surreal to say the 83


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshall Norton

least. The tops of trees stuck out of the water, along with television aerials and power line pylons, but what really had him worried was the amount and variation of things floating on the surface. He also had to consider that there may be dangerous snags just below the surface. Dan tried to get bearings from his surroundings, but little made sense in the darkness. His only guiding light was the faint glow of the few city buildings lit by their emergency generators. After an arduous hour of slow progress, feeling as if he had entered the end of the world, Dan’s spirit was subdued as he reflected on the tragedy that surrounded him. Tess was curled up in a ball under his legs. Every now and then, hazy car lights glowed eerily under the water; powered by their batteries and good weatherproof wiring—yet another striking example of how far the world had come in the age of technology. He shook his head, wondering what could have happened. Why had the sea level risen so suddenly? He tried to think rationally. There had to be a logical explanation— perhaps a massive tidal wave, or the unthinkable: a sudden spike in the sun’s activity causing a tidal surge in the South Pole. He wracked his brain, mentally filtering through thousands of articles he’d read and stored in the back of his mind from Science Weekly and other august publications. There had been many ‘tut-tut’ threats about global warming and the consequences, including rising sea levels along with its dire warnings, and ‘it’s gonna happen one day’—but those predictions seemed nothing compared to this sudden engulfing. His thinking helped focus his mind on the practical job of steering the rudder through the eerie waters. He 84


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshal Norton

functioned best when his mind was in full analytical flight, regardless of what his hands were doing—it gave him a sense of being home no matter where he was. The sound of someone yelling brought him about. He grabbed his torch and scanned an outcrop of partially submerged roofs. One had a figure standing on it. “Hey mate, could ya help a bloke out here?” the figure asked, staggering near the edge of his roof. Dan navigated his way to the roof and let the man climb aboard. “Am I glad to see someone out here,” he said, a thick slur in his voice. “What the bloody ’ell is goin’ on cobber? What the blazes happened?” The man stepped on Tess’s tail as he stumbled when Dan turned the boat back towards the city skyscrapers, which were now rising out of the water like monolithic reefs under an overcast moon. Tess let out a sharp yelp and snapped her jaws. Dan smelt the grog on the man. “Just sit down and shut up,” he said, eyeing the scruffy, bearded, pot-bellied, Aussie archetype as he calmed the dog. “Mate, me wife ’as been telling me all week to get up ’ere and pain…p…paint the roof.” He man leant forward to scratch Tess’s ear. “Well, I’d been out with me mates today and when I got home I thought righto’, I’d better get this roof painted or me wifey’ll skin me and hang me on the wall…so I got me paint and brush and set to gettin’ the job done.” Dan nodded, his eyes and forehead creasing. “Where’s your wife now?” The man shrugged. “Dunno mate; I tried ringin’ her and tellin’ her about all this water but I got nothin’—not even the message machine. Just nothin’.” 85


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshall Norton

Dan gripped him on the shoulder. “Well, hang in there fella’, I’m sure she’s fine.” “I hope so, mate.” They travelled in silence for some time as they drew closer to the city. Dan was surprised that the man didn’t ask why they were heading for the city rather than away from it, but he didn’t really intend to bring up the subject. Eventually, the man told Dan that he was a fuel station worker named Fred, but their conversation about career paths was abruptly halted by a woman shrieking somewhere in the dark. “What is making that god-awful screech?” Dan exclaimed, retrieving his torch and making another sweep. “It sounds like a cockatoo going through the wringer.” His beam caught sight of a plastic wheelie bin floating upright in the water. The lid was open and a wild-looking pair of eyes stared at them. Dan changed course pulled the bin alongside. In the fashion of a bilge rat, a thin dark haired woman darted out of the bin and sprawled into the boat, long strands of hair, once very likely neatly coiffed, hung around her face like seaweed. Her makeup had run, the streaks giving her a zombie Goth-like appearance. Dan reached out to help her up, but she slapped his hand away and looked at him the way a little child might. “I’ll have you know I’m the secretary of a very affluent business official.” Dan swept his arm across the wide expanse of featureless water. “You really think having a rich and powerful boss is going to help you now?” “Shut up and take me to the shore, now!” she yelled. 86


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshal Norton

Dan stared at her a moment, and then turned the boat once again toward the city. “I have a job to do and I intend doing it,” he said firmly. She gave Dan a cold look, and then broke into sobs. “But look, my five-hundred dollar dress is ruined.” The woman stretched out the fabric of her dress for Dan to see. “Well, that’s terrible to hear,” he said, “but I need to keep going toward Perth. I came out here to rescue my friend.” He flicked the throttle to a higher setting. The woman sighed and put her head in her hands. Fred patted her on the shoulder and let her cry on his until she’d regained her composure. Tess gave her soggy stockinged leg a big rough lick, laddering the fine denier in one go but the young woman took little notice. As more minutes passed, the subdued city lights grew closer. The path of the journey was almost as the crow flies, Dan thought, but he never thought it would be as the fish swims. He had often joked with Charles about having a flying fox from his house on the escarpment directly to Charles’s— the ultimate public transport solution. Fred had sat himself next to Dan while the woman, whose name-tag read Martha, curled up on the other seat and stared out at the new sea. As they passed over what used to be Burswood, and somewhere deep beneath them, the Swan River, the landscape began to resemble a water city like Venice, with streets of water and buildings rising in between. Many more objects floated on the surface, making travel much more dangerous. Dan slowed to a crawl, took hold of an oar, and said, “Fred, take this forward and shovel anything floating out of the way 87


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshall Norton

so we don’t sink.” “Righto mate.” Within minutes, Fred was retching explosively over the side as he prodded a lump that was the unthinkable. Near the corner of a building, Dan saw the shivering figure of a man clutching desperately to an old barrel. He turned the boat towards him, but before they reached the desperate soul, a dark shape leapt out of the water and fixed a wide mouth of razor sharp teeth on the man’s leg. He shrieked, but was pulled beneath the surface, out of sight. Fred panicked and pulled his oar in so quickly, he nearly toppled Martha off the opposite side. Dan shuddered involuntarily and took a deep breath to quell his own horror. Some minutes later they reached Central Park—Charles’s building and Perth’s tallest. The huge neon St George dragon on the roof would normally be lit, but was now lifeless. Low light levels filtered from some windows in the remaining floors above the water line. Dan knew Charles worked on the thirty-seventh floor, but he had no way of knowing which floors remained visible. How was he going to find his friend? He called Charles’s mobile, but it went straight to message bank. Of course, it was the mobile he’d used earlier. He began trawling slowly around the building shining his torch into the windows as he passed.

After he’d talked to Dan on the phone, Charles had wandered the building. First, he went down the fire escape stairs to determine the water level. He found it lapping at the 88


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshal Norton

top step of floor twenty-eight. He’d yelled up and down the stairs for any other signs of life, but there was no response. He must be alone, he decided. He went to the roof thinking that perhaps there were helicopter rescue flights, but the roof access door was locked with an electrically operated deadbolt and he didn’t have the code. He wondered if there was even electricity for it, although the emergency lights in the fire escape were lit, so there must be some power at least. How long would the generator remain running? The doors to other floors were all locked, so he went back to his floor to look for ways he might be able to signal any rescuers. He needed a phone or a torch of some kind. He put his head through the window he’d opened earlier and studied the scene. He was sure he could hear the faint putting of an outboard motor, but he couldn’t see the boat it belonged to, and in any case, it was still nine or so floors below. He had to get to the floor at the water level and find a way to signal from there. Near the lifts was a fire control station. He broke the glass with his shoe and took the axe from the cabinet. Almost as an afterthought, he punched the alarm button, half expecting nothing to happen, but all of a sudden the floor was awash with a piercing bell-ringing. The water level was now washing over the twenty-ninth floor. That meant it had risen maybe three metres since he was here an hour ago—was it still rising? He had no way of knowing, but he knew that the street was now close to a hundred metres beneath the surface. How in the world had this happened? He stood before the fire escape door of the thirtieth 89


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshall Norton

floor and attacked it vigorously with the axe. After several heavy blows, the door splintered and the latch came away. He did the same with the door to an office that faced out to St Georges Terrace and made his way to the windows. Unlike those on his floor, these were not able to be opened. He delivered several heavy blows with the axe to a floor-toceiling window before it cracked and a large sheet of glass dangled precariously over the water below. He heard the outboard motor close by and swung his axe at the dangling piece of glass. Like a slow motion action scene from a Hollywood movie, the glass gradually gave up its grip on the frame and dropped away out of site.

Dan turned the boat away from the building wall to avoid snagging a flagpole jutting out from the side. The bow of the boat moved out of the path of the falling window with only millimetres to spare. The glass sliced into the water like a shark fin. “What the hell was that?” Martha shouted, leaping out of her seat and rocking the little boat dangerously. “Hey!” Dan commanded. “Sit still. You’ll have us capsized.” “Get us out of here,” Martha shouted. “The building’s coming apart…we’ll be crushed.” Fred was studying the building above them, and pointed. “It was a window,” he said. “Look there, there’s someone up there.” Dan cut the motor and looked up. “I see him, it looks like 90


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshal Norton

my friend.” He called out, “Hey Charles, it’s me, Dan, is that you?” “Ya’ gonna look bloody silly if it ain’t,” Fred said. Then a voice called out from above. “Dan, oh my God, it’s you, oh God, it’s good to see you. For God’s sake, get me out of here.” “I can see you,” Dan yelled. He estimated Charles was about three metres above him. “The question is—how do we get you out of there? I can’t get right in close to the building because there’s a whole row of flag poles right underneath you, and right at the water level.” “We could wait until the water rises,” Fred suggested. “No,” Charles yelled, “no waiting.” “Besides, we don’t know if the water is still rising,” Dan said. “For all we know, it might suddenly fall.” “Be a man,” Martha said, “Jump.” “No way,” Charles said. “I could land on a flag pole and that would be most uncomfortable.” Dan scrabbled around in a compartment under his seat, and drew out a knotted rope ladder. “This ought to work,” he said. He then took a light nylon line with a small grapnel anchor attached, and attached the other end to the ladder. “Hook this on to something heavy at your end, Charles,” he called and pitched the rope up. The hook sailed up in a wide arc, banged loudly against a neighbouring window and fell, landing with a loud plop near the boat. Martha recoiled. Dan reeled it in and threw again, this time it sailed straight through the opening. “Got it,” Charles called. 91


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshall Norton

“Okay, hold it there, I’m going to find something on the other side of the street to anchor to,” Dan said. He started the motor and moved slowly away from the building. Fred paid out the line attached to the rope ladder. Dan stopped when he saw a narrow tower structure emerging from the water. “This ought to do,” he said. He attached a reef anchor to the anchor rope and dropped it over the side, paying it out and testing for a solid snag. Eventually it caught. He wound the rope around the anchor post and slipped the engine into reverse. “Right, Martha,” he said, “I need you to pay this line out as we head back to the building. Fred, you need to keep your line clear of the rudder.” Then he called across the water to Charles. “Charles, as we come back, you need to reel the line in until you get the ladder, got it?” “Got it,” Charles called. “You’re nuts,” Martha said sourly. “This could rip my hand off—or worse, crack my nail polish.” Dan pulled a pair of light leather gloves from the compartment beneath his seat and handed to them to her. “Martha, I need you to do this. Just let it out as the boat moves along.” “Fine, if it’ll get us out of here faster.” They crawled slowly back towards the building until Fred had let the top of the ladder out and watched it disappear over the window sill. Dan killed the engine, and called up to his friend. “Charles, secure the loop end over something that won’t move.” 92


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshal Norton

Charles hitched it around a fully loaded filing cabinet next to the wall and pushed it over, hoping like hell it would hold his weight. The ladder was about ten metres in length and was suspended between the window sill and the boat below, like a low slung arch on a suspension bridge. While the boat was held firmly by is anchor rope at the bow, the challenge was to anchor the ladder to the boat so Charles could climb down. Dan tied it around the middle seat, then said, “Fred, Martha, you’ll need to hold this tight at the base while Charles climbs down.” Martha reeled backwards with a look of disgust. Dan gave her a nasty glare and snatched the rope ladder from her hands. “Fine, I’ll do it. You hold the ladder steady up here.” When Dan gave the signal, Charles hesitated for a moment, but after a short pause he began his descent. It was awkward, because he had to climb down the underside, like a monkey on a vine. At first, everything seemed to be going well, but somewhere up the street something under the water exploded violently. A shaft of fire erupted through the water and the shock wave rocked the boat violently, swaying the ladder dangerously. Charles clung tight, but lost his footing. He looked down at his feet, realising that his Vein designer shoes were not made for abseiling. He lost focus, and balance. Dan’s stomach churned as he watched his friend plummet like a ton of bricks from the ladder. Dan dived into the murk without a second thought. Fred and Martha stared at the spot where Dan had disappeared, then looked at each other, the 93


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshall Norton

shock clear on both of their faces. It took a few seconds for either of them to react. Fred hunted around frantically, finding a lifejacket and a length of rope in a compartment at the bow of the boat. He tied the jacket to the rope and handed the loose end to Martha. “Tie this to the anchor post,” he commanded. Before Martha could object, he threw the life jacket to where he saw Dan’s head go under. “B-but I don’t know how to tie a knot, it’ll damage my fingernails,” she wailed, pulling a glove off and looking at them. Fred grimaced and slapped his forehead with his palm. “Would you forget your friggin’ manicure for five minutes while we rescue a human being?” Martha didn’t need any further encouragement. She wrapped the rope around the anchor post and held the end tight.

Through the gloom, Dan saw Charles’s limp body being dragged along by a fast moving current heading for the wall of the building. He reached out and his fingers snagged his friend’s wrist, catching on his Rolex watch band. He pulled hard and kicked upward, yanking on the arm to propel him to the surface. The watch band snapped and the watch dropped like a stone. The yellow life jacket was right in front of Dan’s face when he broke the surface. He snatched it with both hands and 94


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshal Norton

pulled it over Charles’s head to keep him afloat. Martha and Fred hauled on the line, battling with an increasing current; it was a tug-of-war reeling them in. Eventually, they were hauled back on-board the little boat, Martha hearing the dreaded sound of a breaking nail as she wrenched Charles’s body onto the vessel. Charles was wracked with despair, sobbing and shaking violently. When Dan asked him what had happened, he looked up with his teary eyes and said, “I’ve lost my Mont Blanc.” Dan stared open mouthed, but Charles had switched off, lost in his own world of sorrow. The boat bucked against the waves as the group sat in an uncomfortable silence. Presently, Dan started the motor; they cut the anchors loose and headed back towards the hills. The eastern sky was lightening as they found a shore on Welshpool Road. The water level had risen above where Dan had parked his ute; it was lost somewhere in the new Atlantian landscape. Dan looked back toward the city they’d escaped. Apart from a few remaining scattered towers of skyscrapers, it was completely submerged. They left the tinnie tied to a power pylon and began the long trek up the hill to Dan’s house.

A small Lesmurdie café bustled with activity—the best business it had seen in some time. The repositioned shoreline meant that people came for the sea access. At a table in one corner of the café, a group of old friends were sitting down 95


WATER DOWN-UNDER | Marshall Norton

having a coffee. “You know, it’s taken nearly five years, but I think things are finally getting back to normal,” Charles said, sipping his coffee. Dan sighed. There are some things you can change, and others—like Charles’s bad taste in coffee—you couldn’t. Dan sat back and pondered for a moment. He’d seen his friend change quite a bit since he’d lived in the city. For one, he’d loosened his attitude about perfection. And he now sported a rather toned stomach—good living was bound to do that. He looked at the young couple opposite—Fred and Martha—they’d certainly made do with the situation. Martha wore a pair of old jeans and Fred had recently released his new book—something he would have never seen in either of them before the flood. He watched as Charles examined his two dollar biro in a shaft of sunlight. “You know what I think Dan,” he said, admiring his new obsession. Dan grinned and looked up from his coffee. “What do you think Charles?” “I think quality is overrated.”

96


Louise Ritter Louise Ritter is eleven years old and was first published in Born Storytellers Perth Montessori School Volume 2 in 2008, and again in Volume 3 in 2009. She lives in Como, Western Australia and now attends Penrhos College.


Untold Secrets LOUISE RITTER

1. Memories

Megan lay down on the grass by the DNA Tower. The hot autumn sun and the breeze brought back memories of her childhood. One particular memory from eight years ago, when Megan was seven, kept popping up. On that day, she had raced her father, John, up the tower, her long black hair blowing in her face. She didn’t know then that one day her father would be blown up in a bus, in Egypt. That happened earlier this year. So Megan and her mother, Jane, burnt all of John’s belongings (not taking into account Megan’s complaints), and moved from Melbourne to Perth, where Jane’s parents lived. But Megan had better things to worry about, like unpacking, and going to a new school. Megan packed up her things, and took the bus home.

99


UNTOLD SECRETS | Louise Ritter

“Megan, come and have some dinner,” Jane shouted from the end of the hall. “No. I don’t feel like it,” Megan replied, more quietly than her mother. “You haven’t felt like anything since we moved to Perth.” “Yeah, and you got really close to Cody from work,” Megan muttered under her breath. Megan looked exactly like her mother. They were both tall and thin, had tanned skin, black eyes, and long black hair. On the other hand, Cody was tall, with brown hair, brown eyes, and hardly tanned. According to Megan, they didn’t look good together. But then again, opposites attract. Megan started to unpack some of the boxes. A small box labelled ‘John’s Stuff’ caught her eye. That was weird. Megan thought Jane had burnt all of her father’s stuff. There was something fishy about this box, so she opened it. Inside, she found a very old book made from what appeared to be papyrus, with hieroglyphics on the cover. The symbols spelt, Diary. Megan was intrigued. She opened the cover. The Pharaoh, my father, is—Megan couldn’t work out what the next word was—mummified tomorrow but still alive. I not agree with our Egyptian—another word Megan couldn’t translate—I will save him from the Embalmers. There’s something weird about this diary—I should talk to Mum about it, Megan thought, as she walked down the hall to do her homework. Then again, maybe I won’t—she’s busy. 100


UNTOLD SECRETS | Louise Ritter

Megan walked into the school office. It had a couch to sit on and a desk where the receptionist sat. The receptionist, Judy—according to the sign on her desk, was talking to someone so Megan sat down. Her mind began to wander back to the diary she’d found. Why did she have a diary from ancient Egypt? Was she related to the people in the diary? How old was the diary? Megan had so many questions to ask. Before she knew it Judy was waiting for her. 2. Shopping

There was a note on the counter when Megan walked into her house. It read: Had to go back to work, emergency. Dinner is in the oven. Love Mum, xox “Probably with Cody,” she muttered as she walked to the oven. The dinner was macaroni cheese. Megan decided to read the diary while she ate. A piece of papyrus fell out before she’d opened it. PLAN Storm into Embalmer’s room and say that Mother is dying or something, and . . . Megan couldn’t translate the rest.

The next day was a pupil free day at school, so she decided to visit her grandmother, Gloria, and ask her about the diary. 101


UNTOLD SECRETS | Louise Ritter

Megan rang the doorbell. The door opened with the usual, “Hi Megan, to what do I owe pleasure of seeing you today?” “Hi Grandma, it’s a pupil free day and I got lonely at home, so I decided to come here.” “Well then, come on in.” She opened the door wide to let Megan into the old house. “I found a diary,” Megan said, after she’d settled on the soft couch. “An Egyptian one—when we were unpacking—and I guessed it was ours.” “I really don’t know what you’re talking about,” Gloria replied quickly. “But, I’m sorry to cut your visit short dear, you really must be going—I have guests over.” Megan walked out the door.

Later that night, as she was about to go to bed, Megan said, “Mum, I need to tell you that I’m going shopping tomorrow.” It was a perfect night, but Megan couldn’t sleep. Too many thoughts were in her head. Was the diary her family’s? Is it real? Why didn’t Mum burn it with Dad’s other stuff? She tried to soothe herself by thinking of things that she’d done with her dad, like watching Essendon, their favourite Aussie rules team, play footy at the MCG or the Telstra Dome. They would sing the team song with pride if they won; and they would be disappointed if they lost. But Megan couldn’t do any of that now, without her father. Plus, she was 102


UNTOLD SECRETS | Louise Ritter

in Perth—Essendon only came to Perth twice a season. Megan woke up to early morning sunlight streaming through her curtains. A perfect day for shopping, she thought as she got out of bed and walked to the kitchen to have breakfast. She saw the note on the counter when she walked in. Megs, Gone to work. Here is some money for your day of shopping. Have fun at Garden City. Love, Mum

Megan caught the bus to Garden City. There was a small traffic jam, so she was a bit late meeting her best friend, Kiara. “You’re late!” Kiara exclaimed. “Well, there was a big traffic jam,” she said, as they trounced up the steps by the movie theatres. “So…where do you want to go?” Kiara asked. “Well, Jay Jays is right there…” Megan pointed across the food court to the small shop. “Okay, we can go there.” 3. Discoveries

Megan walked through the door to her house with an armful of shopping bags. “Mum. Are you here?” she called. 103


UNTOLD SECRETS | Louise Ritter

Silence was her answer. Probably ‘working’, she thought, pulling out her phone and texting her mum. where r u? She walked into her room to look at the clothes she’d bought: some dresses, a t-shirt with the cookie monster on it, and much more.

The Mexican Hat Dance tune filled Jane’s ears. It was her ringtone. “Hello?” she asked. “Hello Jane. I need to tell you something about the diary,” Gloria said through the phone. “Hi Mum. You mean the Egyptian one?” Jane sounded frightened. “Yeah. Megan found it and asked about it on Friday.” “What did you say?” “I said that she had to go, because I had people over.” “Well, that’s okay.” “Gotta go.” “Bye.” Jane hit the end button and got back to work.

Megan heard her mum walk through the door. “I’m going out to dinner with your grandmother—stay here,” she said as she put her work stuff down, and turned 104


UNTOLD SECRETS | Louise Ritter

and walked back out the door. Megan turned the TV off and went to her room. When she walked in, everything was a mess: clothes taken out of drawers, things pulled out of cupboards, but one thing was missing—the diary.

“So, why did the diary just go?” Kiara asked before school on Monday “Well, there has to be an explanation for all of this,” Megan replied, “my family acting all weird, the diary missing, and that new guy James acting really nice around me.” “The James thing has nothing to do with the rest of the stuff.” “I know that. It’s just something that has been weird lately.” “Ooh look. There’s James over there,” Kiara said, her voice rising in excitement. “I’ll go and talk to him.” “Hey Megan,” James called, as she approached, “I need to talk to you.” “So—what do you wanna talk to me about?” “Well…I was—wondering if you would go to the movies with me tonight.” “Sure.” Megan wrote her mobile number on his hand.

105


UNTOLD SECRETS | Louise Ritter

“Can I come out now?” Megan asked. She’d finished getting dressed for her date with James. “Sure,” Kiara replied. Megan walked out of her bedroom wearing a cherry red halter-neck top, black skinny jeans, and black wedges. Her long black hair was pulled up tightly into a high ponytail. “Wow.” There was a knock on the door. Megan opened the door to James. He wore a blue shirt, jeans and sneakers. “Wow!” he said, amazed. “Shall we go?” she asked. “Sure.” 4. An International Trip

“Wow…I didn’t know that Wolverine would be good,” Megan said after the movie. “Yeah, I know,” James said. “I have one question—why did you ask me out? I mean you’ve only been at our school for two weeks.” “Yeah…well, as soon as I saw you I knew that we would end up together. Plus, I really like you.” “Aw…I really like you too.” She held his hand. Before they knew it they were at Megan’s house. James walked her up to the door. “I had a really good time,” he said. Before she had time to reply, his lips brushed hers. The front door opened and they broke off their embrace. Kiara 106


UNTOLD SECRETS | Louise Ritter

stood in the door. “Thanks,” Megan said. And she went inside to tell her best friend all about her first date. “Was I interrupting something?” Kiara asked. “Only my first kiss.” “Tell me everything.”

On the bus to school next morning, Megan pulled her purple phone out of her pocket and sent a text message to her uncle, Fred. Plz can u look 4 tickets 2 Egypt? Need 2 know more about family history. M. James was waiting for her at the school entrance. “Hey,” he said. “Hey,” she replied. And then, sounding serious, she said, “I need to talk to you about something.” “What’s wrong?” “Nothing. I’m going to Egypt for a while.” “Oh…is that all? You really scared me.” They walked to their first class together.

Megan’s phone rang during lunch. “Hello?” she said. “Guess what?” It was her Uncle Fred. “You got the plane tickets?” 107


UNTOLD SECRETS | Louise Ritter

“Yep this Friday. Nine a.m.” “Wow—I didn’t know that it would be that soon.” “I’ll pick you up at seven. Plus, you have to tell your mother, okay? Bye.” “Bye.” 5. The Plane

Wednesday and Thursday passed in a blur, with only one thought—she was going to Egypt to learn more about her family. But the dreadful ordeal of telling her mother about the trip was still before her. She decided to text her because she was at work, and she could get very cranky if Megan Called her. Mum, going 2 Egypt to learn more about family history. M. On Friday morning, Fred and Megan drove to Perth international Airport. As they were checking in, Jane stormed through the doors and up to them. “Fred!” she bellowed. “What are you thinking, taking Megan on an international trip?” “Well, I just wanted to—” Jane cut him off. “Yeah, yeah I know—you want to take Megan to Egypt so she could find out more about family history—” “Mum,” Megan interjected, “I really want to go… please…?” “All right, I guess you can go.” “Thanks Mum.” 108


UNTOLD SECRETS | Louise Ritter

Megan and Fred walked through the gate, boarded the plane and got to their seats in a timely fashion.

“Please fasten your seat belts and get ready for landing,” the captain said over the loudspeaker. Megan and Fred were thinking through ideas of what to do when they arrived. “We could visit my father’s grave,” she suggested. “Yeah…” he replied awkwardly. After landing in Cairo, they collected their suitcases and caught a taxi to their hotel. The next day Megan and Fred took a taxi to the house that she’d lived in when she was a baby. They soon realised that someone lived there, so they decided that Megan would go up to the house and ask about it. Megan knocked on the front door. It was opened by a tanned muscled man. “Hello. My name is Megan. I lived here as a baby and I would like to have a look around, if that’s okay.” The man smiled. “Sure. My name is John Chatlthoum. Come in.” “Wait—before I go in—my last name is Chatlthoum. My dad’s name is John…this is the house I lived in as a baby. You’re my dad!” “Is Jane here?” “No. But Uncle Fred is.” 109


UNTOLD SECRETS | Louise Ritter

“Bring him in.” Megan gestured to Fred and they went inside. Megan was more than happy—she couldn’t explain how she felt. Epilogue

Megan and John walked into Subiaco Oval. They had decided to stay in Perth because Megan had settled into her new school, and Jane had found a great job teaching primary school. Today, Essendon played Fremantle. They found their seats just as the siren blared. “Come on Bombers,” Megan shouted. Essendon won—one hundred and one points to fifty eight. The father and daughter sang the team song with pride. See the Bombers fly up, up. To win the premiership flag. Our boys who play this grand old game, Are always striving for glory and fame. See the Bombers fly up, up, The other teams they don’t fear, They all try their best, But they can’t get near, As the Bombers fly up.

110


Michael Ritter Michael Ritter was first published in Born Storytellers Perth Montessori School Volume 1 in 2007, and again in Volume 2 in 2008. He is twelve years old, lives in Como, Western Australia, and now attends Wesley College.


The Adventures of Aidan MICHAEL RITTER

Anger Doesn’t Solve Anything

Prologue

“No you will not take him,” a husky voice said. Then suddenly an idea popped into his head—no he couldn’t, he could hardly remember the words—but it was his only hope. Tergum in vicis ut meus prosapia in nine sixty-four. The man suddenly toppled as he was knocked out by a man with a pale face and blood red eyes… A moment later, in 964 AD, Bergan was woken from his sleep by a loud crack! and a brilliant flash of white-blue light. Then silence. After a while a young child screamed. He went to his front door—the bottom half of which had been singed off—opened what was left of it, and there on the doorstep, a child, roughly the age of two, sat in a basket with a note attached. It read: Dear whoever reads this, Someone has just tried to take my child. I do not know who this 113


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

person is but he is very dangerous. He has a pale face and blood red eyes. If there is anyone in your village or someone who comes looking for him matching that description please send him away as fast as you can. That man is dangerous. Don’t try and fight him because you will lose. Please look after my son until there is a time I can come and get him. Please treat him as if he was your own son. His name is Aidan. Thank you kind sir or madam. 13 years later . . .

1. Drop Off

“How’s Bergan?” Moran asked. Moran was the blacksmith of Recona—a village of three hundred people surrounded by mountains. Its buildings were single storied and had thatched roofs. The blacksmith had strong muscled arms, dark brown hair and hazel eyes. “He’s…well, not fine, I would say—but he’s okay,” Aidan replied, his black eyes boring out from his dark brown skin at the other. “The harvesting has been hard on him.” “Aye, I know that feeling. I hear people complain about the harvest almost every day. Although it doesn’t help that half your tools’re broke.” “Yes I know. When can I pick them up?” “They’ll be ready in a fortnight. Ah…but before you leave—there is the matter of payment…” “Joseph can bring it when he comes to pick them up. I haven’t got any money with me.” 114


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

“Aye, all right.” Deep down, Moran did not trust Aidan. No one did. Not when he arrived in those circumstances. “All right.” Aidan left the forge and was on his way out of Recona when he saw his cousin Joseph standing by the road that led to their farm. Briskly, he walked up to him and said: “What are you doing in town? I thought you were helping Uncle.” “Bergan was worried that you were taking so long to drop off the tools so he sent me to get you.” “I’m glad you came,” Aidan said, slapping his cousin on the shoulder. “I could use your company on the way back.” They lived on a small farm five miles out of town, farming mainly grain and fruit, but this year, also corn. After walking a short distance, Aidan spotted a deer up stream. He signalled his intention to Joseph, quickly strung his bow, picked up his quiver, and walked up the road as the deer bent to drink from the stream. He nocked an arrow, aimed, and released it all in one easy motion. His aim was true and he struck the deer between the ribs. Later, they ate his catch for dinner. The meal was excellent. After the meal he went to his room, which was furnished with a wooden set of drawers, a bed, a nightstand, and a set of shelves on which he set down his bow and quiver. He hung his pack on a hook on the back of his door, and then climbed into his bed and went to sleep. 2. The Accident

The next two weeks were spent harvesting, preserving the leftover fruit, baking the flour and gathering excess produce 115


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

for Joseph to take into town to sell the day he went to collect the tools. On the morning Joseph was to leave, they packed his saddle bags full of excess produce. Aidan and Bergan watched him ride up the hill and disappear down the other side into Recona. Aidan and Bergan spent their day cutting off all the dead corn stalks. While Bergan was in the house preparing lunch, Aidan heard an explosion come from the house. He ran to the kitchen. The entire floor was singed. His uncle lay in the middle of the floor twitching. He started crying. “No! This is not how it’s meant to be.” Suddenly he remembered something that Joseph had said when they were younger. “I woke up one morning,” he’d said, “and half the door was singed off. Father said that you arrived in a basket, by magic.” Joseph might remember that morning and make similar connections, Aidan thought. He might blame me for Bergan’s death. The only logical action would be to run. But to where? He had always wanted to travel the land, but had never had the opportunity. Now was his chance. He would take his horse and ride to the Elves’ in the west of Lenonia. He spent the next hour readying his horse and finding useful things to take, such as rope, his tinderbox, and food. He gathered up his bow and quiver, his hunting knife and a pot for cooking, and left. 3. A New Companion

Aidan rode hard until dawn the following morning. He 116


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

only stopped because he thought he would fall off his horse otherwise. He found a suitable place to rest, and then went to get some water from a nearby stream. “Stop where you are and turn to face me,” a deep masculine voice shouted. Could it be Joseph, or another man from Recona? He might resort to violence if I don’t turn around. Aidan slowly turned around. A man, about his own age, with a sword at his belt held a drawn yew bow. “What’s your name?” “Aidan, Son of None.” “Why are you in this part of the land?” “Riding to the Elves. And you?” “I’m Morath, Son of Kergan. Also riding to the Elves. May I join you in this quest?” “I suppose I could use some company.” “Now, let’s start a fire and cook us some food.” While the food cooked, Aidan tried to find out more about Morath. He learnt that he was also fleeing family, but for a different reason. Morath’s father had wanted him to join the dark forces of Menio, a country to the south of Lenonia where all the dark and evil forces congregate. Morath also questioned him about his own life. “Why are you fleeing your home?” Morath asked. Aidan recounted the story of how he arrived in Lenonia and the events of the day past. “But why the Elves? I mean, you could have gone to the dwarves, or across the sea…” “Because, if I get skilled enough with magic, I might be able to bring my uncle back from the dead.” 117


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

“Ah.” The food was ready to eat by then so they stopped talking and ate. When they finished, by silent agreement, they went to sleep. The next morning, Morath was awake early, and cooking breakfast when Aidan woke. “Good morning,” he said. “Morning. When should we set off?” “I don’t suppose there is any point in delaying?” “None I know of.” After breakfast they rode hard westward until midday when they stopped for lunch. Morath studied his companion. “In the next town we pass, we’ll have to buy you a sword.” “I don’t know about you,” Aidan said, “but I don’t have any money to by a sword. The only reason I have a bow is because Bergan made me one.” “I have enough money to buy you a sword.” “Well, perhaps you can by me a cheap one. I’m sure the elves will forge me a proper blade.” “Don’t be so sure,” the big man said. “Nothing’s certain.” “Hmm…I know.” They mounted and continued riding until dusk. When they stopped, they set up camp for the night, ate dinner and then went to bed. 4. Hartet

The days drew on and melded one into the other as they travelled. The only unusual thing that occurred was the rumour of a powerful spell-caster training in the country of 118


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

Menio reaching their ears. Other than that, Aidan was happy with their progress towards the west of Lenonia. He learnt that he and Morath shared many of the same interests, such as hunting, archery and fletching. In one of the towns they passed through, Aidan got a sword. A single handed blade—forged masterfully by the smith, Jacob of the town Huther—with a wire-wrapped hilt and a dragon wrapped around the cross piece. It felt more of an extension of his arm than any farm tool ever had. On the first day of the second week after Aidan had left Recona, Morath told him that the Elf city, Hartet, was only an easy day’s ride further. “From there we can find a guide to take you to the Elf capital, Cerity, in the heart of Interminable Silva, the forest where most of the elves practise and learn magic.” They planned to enter Hartet, find an inn to stay in, and then search the city for a guide. The next day they rose early to go into the city. They passed through the gates with other travellers and walked towards the city centre to find an inn. “Ah, I see one up ahead,” Morath said. “The Green Dragon. That should be adequate for a couple of days.” “You go on ahead,” Aidan said, looking further along the street. “I want to check this notice board for any guides that might take us into Interminable Silva.” When Aidan arrived at the notice board, he took one look and gasped. There was a poster with a portrait of Morath, offering a large reward for his capture. What should I do? he wondered, confused about his travelling companion. Should I leave him or continue 119


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

travelling with him? He seems trustworthy enough for now. I’ll question him tonight. He headed directly to the Green Dragon where he met Morath in the front room, which also doubled as the dining room. He joined him at a table. “Ah, Aidan, I’ve paid for a room and organized a meal for us.” He decided not to question Morath during the meal, the meat of which was undercooked and the vegetables soggy, but the beer was excellent. Aidan was careful not to drink too much. After their meal, they went back to their room—a single-room suite furnished with two beds and a sink. Aidan locked the door. “Why did you do that?” Morath asked. “Why is there a poster of you on the notice board offering a reward for your capture?” Aidan countered. Morath swore loudly. “I was hoping this wouldn’t come up during our journey, but I suppose you have a right to know whom you’re travelling with. You’ve no doubt heard of the great warrior, the White Knight of the southern country of Menio?” Aidan nodded. “Well—I’m his son.” 5. Loia

“Wh-what?” Aidan spluttered, through his shock. “I’m his son. My father wanted me to lead the people of Menio to war against the Elves. That’s why I need to get to the Elves, to warn them that they are going to be under attack.” “I’m convinced that you aren’t your father’s son. But I’ll 120


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

have to wait to see how you act in Interminable Silva.” “Fine.” Then after a while, Morath added, “I’m going to bed, tomorrow we can start to look for a guide.”

“Wake, Aidan,” Morath commanded. “Five more minutes,” Aidan groaned. “No, Aidan. We have to find a guide, or else we’ll never get to Cerity.” “All right.” Aidan rose from the bed and rubbed his eyes. They dressed, and then made their way into the city. “How shall we go about finding a guide?” Aidan asked. “Seeing as we shouldn’t spend too much time around the notice boards…” Morath looked at him. “I think we should split up and see if we can find anyone heading into Interminable Silva soon. But don’t say anything about me or we’ll have to leave and not return for a long time. Meet me at the Green Dragon two hours before sunset.” “Understood.” Aidan spent the day talking to all the Elves he could see; it may have been an Elf city but humans dominated the population. He was charming and pleasant, but asking questions all the while. He returned to the inn an hour before he was supposed to meet Morath and saw an Elf woman in the bar. She had hair as black as a raven’s feathers and pointed ears. He went to her table. “Now what’s a nice woman like you doing staying in a place 121


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

like this?” he said, hoping his joke would be taken in the sprit in which he meant it. “I’m only staying here for a few days,” the woman replied. “I’m leaving for Cerity in two days.” “Really? Can you take me and my friend to Cerity?—I’d like to learn the ancient art of magic.” “I would be glad to. What’s your name?” “Aidan. You?” “Loia.” Aidan looked around the room and watched Morath enter from the street. “Ah. There’s my friend now. I’ll go get him.” He intercepted Morath before he reached the table. “I’ve found us a guide,” he said quietly. “Follow me.” He took Morath to where Loia sat and introduced them to each other. “Nice to meet you Loia,” Morath said, extending his hand. “You as well. Your name is?” “Morath.” “Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow, then?” “Yep.” Aidan replied. And then to Morath he said, “Now let’s go get a meal and go to bed.” The meal was better than the previous night’s but still not up to the standard at the tavern in Recona. When they finished, they went to their room and went to bed. The next day was spent buying supplies for the trip into Interminable Silva. The following day they left. Five weeks later they arrived at Interminable Silva. 122


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

6. Interminable Silva

When they arrived at the great forest Aidan felt small by comparison. “There is my homeland,” Loia said, pointing to the great green mass. “I feel so small,” Morath said, scratching the beard he had grown. “It’s so large. How long will it take to get to Cerity?” “About two weeks, if our horses stay strong and we stay on the path,” Loia said. She paused and then added, “If anything goes astray, you, as well as I, can use magic.” Loia had taught Aidan and Morath rudimentary magic. He now knew how to light a fire, draw water and other basic skills needed to survive in the wilderness. The fact that he could now survive in the wilderness pleased him immensely. As they entered Interminable Silva, Aidan felt claustrophobic. The trees had little room between them, and hardly any sunlight made it through the massive canopy. Loia must have seen the look on his face, because she said, “I understand completely. It gets better further in.” They continued west, riding until dusk. When they stopped Loia asked, “Would you like to spar?” Aidan was measured in his reply. “I’ve never sparred with a blade before.” “We can guard our sword edges with magic.” “Sure.” “Macero de mucro,” she said, and ran her hand along the edge of the sword. “Here,” she said passing Aidan her sword. He ran his finger along the sword and found that he couldn’t 123


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

get his hand any closer than half an inch from the edge. He did the same thing with his after she’d cast the spell a second time. They fought for a long time. Aidan had been practising with Morath while they travelled, but neither of them had the grace of swordplay that Loia possessed. It took her less than fifteen minutes to beat him. He was not disappointed. The swordsman who had taught him as a boy had told him that he should never expect to beat an Elf. “You’re the greatest swordsman—er, woman—I’ve ever seen,” he panted. “You’re good as well,” she said. “How did you learn to fight like that?” “I was taught by an elder in our village who’d served in the army as a swordsman for a number of years.” “I think I need to fill my tummy after that fight.” They made dinner and went to sleep. It became a tradition to spar every night. It worked like a round robin kind of thing. All three of them would spar with each other in turn. As they got further into Interminable Silva Aidan became more comfortable. The trees were further apart, and they’d come across clearings with Elves playing a pipe or harp, and there were streams and water trickling around the place. Cerity was not at all like Aidan had imagined it. He thought it would be more like Hatret, made from stone and rock. But it was actually like his village, just bigger. Much bigger. The houses were made of wood, with thatched roofs. Some of the buildings were two stories high. The first thing that struck 124


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

him was the colour. Everything was green, there was hardly any blue, but there was some red. He followed Loia towards a small house. When they arrived she said, “This is where you’ll be staying for your time here.” “Thank you for your generosity,” Aidan said. The house was a four-room suite with a bedroom, a living room, a bathroom and a room with a writing desk. Once he had seen his surroundings, he fell asleep. When he woke up the following morning, Loia was in the living room. “Good morning Aidan, for the remainder of your stay I will be your magic teacher. First today we’ll start off with…” For the rest of the morning she tutored him in his house. After lunch, she took him to see the mighty dragon, Oz. He bowed in front of him and said, “It is an honour to meet you, Oz.” “You too, you bloody ripper,” the dragon said, with an accent that seemed both strange and oddly familiar. “What’s your name again?” “Aidan.” “Well, g’day Aidan.” And the dragon then turned to Loia. “Loia, why have you brought him to me?” “I want you to teach him about dragon lore.” “Ah, well it all started when…” He listened to Oz for what seemed to be hours. When he had finished he went home to wash. But before he left, Oz said something to him. “When you are in great need, return to me.” 125


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

7. Invasion

The same pattern continued in the following days. Aidan was tutored by Loia in the mornings and Oz in the afternoons, and his days in Interminable Silva blended together with what seemed to be no separation because of the limited sunlight entering the never-ending forest. His knowledge of magic grew by the day. One day he was woken by Loia shaking his bed. “Wake, Aidan. The people of Menio are invading.” Even though he was a heavy sleeper he shot straight up at those words. “And that’s not the worst of it. The evil spell-caster is your cousin, Joseph.” “Ah, so he did blame me for the death of Bergan. I’ll have to teach him a lesson about respect.” She took him to the armoury and outfitted him with armour and a shield bearing the motif of a blue dragon breathing a golden flame. Then he joined the Elven troops on the plains, south of Interminable Silva. It took him half an hour to reach the location. Almost as soon as he got there, the horns sounded. It had begun. The two forces collided with an almighty crash. Aidan rode his horse into the battle front and fought at Morath’s side. No one could stop them as they cut through the troops with blows from their swords and magic. The battle raged and within six hours the Elves had cut down the army of Menio to half its original size without loss of many of their own troops. Near the end of a battle, Aidan saw a black dragon rise from the edge of the Menio’s camp. “Orior oriri ortus mihi in aer,” he shouted, rising in the air. 126


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

When he got to close enough, he saw that the rider was in fact his cousin, Joseph—but not the cousin he knew; he had a pale face and blood-red eyes. “So we meet again, Joseph, my cousin.” “You are no cousin of mine,” he said coldly. Aidan faced the blood-red eyes. “You have a right to know. I am partly responsible for Bergan’s death. I left him alone, cooking and there was an explosion and I wasn’t there to save him. But know this: I came here to the Elves to learn magic so I could bring him back to life. I have since learnt that this is impossible.” “Lies!” Joseph screamed and propelled his dragon forward, his sword in his outstretched hand. Aidan barely had time to draw his sword to block the blow. They fought furiously in the air for half an hour when, suddenly, Joseph knocked Aidan’s sword out of his hand. Joseph raised his sword over his head and prepared to deliver a final blow. “You are mine!” he screamed, and his sword flashed in a downward arc. “Claudo!” Aidan yelled. Joseph’s sword stopped in mid-air. “Intereo!” Aidan continued. And both Joseph and his dragon crumpled, dead. Upon seeing this, the Menio army turned and fled, screaming. 8. Promises Fulfilled

When the battle was over Aidan was summoned to King Heardat. “We thank you for saving Interminable Silva,” the king 127


THE ADVENTURES OF AIDAN | Michael Ritter

said. “If that dragon hadn’t died we would never have defeated them. We have discovered from Joseph’s memories that you aren’t from this time. Your father sent you back in time from the year two-thousand. And, while we have the skill to send you back, we lack the strength. Do you have any ideas?” “Follow.” Aidan walked with Heardat and his spell-casters to Oz. They all bowed before the great dragon. Aidan addressed him. “Oz, you said that when I was in great need I should return. I have returned and I am in need…” He explained his plight to him. “That’s a bit of a noodle scratcher, isn’t it? I can give you the energy you need. But you must tell your father one thing for me when you get there.” “What?” “That Oz thanks him for his service.” “But…?” “No buts—just do it.” “Okay.” “Now stand back—no not you, Aidan, everyone else. Reverto ut vestri abbas in two thousand.” An instant later a father and son were reunited. “Aidan. How come you are here?” “I was sent back by Oz.” “Where did you go?” “Into nine sixty-four, where you sent me.” “What have you been doing? Tell me.” “Oh, I’ve had too many adventures to tell you tonight.”

128


Sarah Simmons Sarah Simmons is sixteen years old and lives in South Lake, Western Australia. She was first published in Born Storytellers Murdoch College in 2009. Sarah now attends Armadale Senior High School.


I Remember SARAH SIMMONS

Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself. Sometimes you have to let go. I walked up the long and dusty road. It was old and deserted, and overgrown with weeds and scrub—on the edge of being reclaimed by the bush—its dirt staining my old brown boots bright red. An old wood and barbed wire fence lined both sides, its posts weathered and wire rusty, and broken down in places that were heavily trafficked by kangaroos, emus, and other wild and feral animals. A rickety wooden bridge lay before me. Smooth with age, with many planks missing, it crossed nothing but a dry sand bank—the river that once flowed beneath had long dried up. As I crossed it, I steadied myself on the handrail, careful to avoid a splinter, and listened to the reluctant and grudging creak as my feet strained the wooden planks. It was so long since the bridge needed to support more than the odd kangaroo; it would surely collapse if a car ever braved the road. 131


I REMEMBER | Sarah Simmons

I don’t think it will last much longer the way it is. So much has changed since I was last here. If this bridge could talk, I wonder what stories it would tell. Would it remember the countless horses, cows, sheep, cars, buggies, and tractors it carried during shearing, or seeding, or harvesting? Would it remember the children who jumped off it into the river on a hot summer day? Would it remember the wet season, when the water rose so high and flowed so fast that it was completely submerged, making any who’d dared to cross it appear like a strange and rain-soaked Jesus? Would it remember the day when people no longer came, and was left dry and abandoned to wither into the red dust? Maybe not. But I do. I continued and presently reached the intersection—the Horseman’s Choice, we used to call it—where the track divided four ways. The left led off into the bush, where people frequently took nature walks; the right led to Mr Watson’s General store a few kilometres away—torn down almost ten years ago. The Watsons moved away long before that, though. Both pathways were more overgrown than the road, looking like no more than faint animal tracks that would pass un-noticed before a casual eye. People don’t go down them anymore. I heaved a sigh and started out along the final road—the one that led straight through the rusty old archway that was once a dark green, but now faded to a dull grey. The road looked much longer than it ever was, guarded by the eucalypts—so much taller now than how I remembered them—forming a 132


I REMEMBER | Sarah Simmons

tunnel that seemed bent on blocking out the sun; like they had something they wanted to hide away, out of sight. Although my destination was only a few minute’s walk, it seemed like an eternity. I reached the rusty gate, still white from the sun’s bleaching, although the paint had peeled away in great angry patches. It cried out mournfully as I pushed it open, a keen wailing echoing in the quietness of the early morning. A scream of pain, perhaps. Or a call of welcome. The house was rundown. Plants overran it. Domestic shrubs grew wild through broken windows and sections of collapsed walls; creepers snaked towards gaping holes in the corrugated iron roof, and weeds sprouted through split and rotting floorboards. I felt relieved that it was still standing, as I absently ran a hand over the crooked drain pipe near the front porch. Seasons have come and gone. The animals are long dead or turned feral. No one has set foot in here in too many years to count. Perhaps I had hoped for better, but I should have known: it has been such a very long time since I had been there. Much too long. I know. I remember. As a child, I ran, laughing, as fast as I could out of the house my father built with his own two hands, through the paddocks where the cows chewed lazily on the few remaining tufts of feed, into the bush, my big brother hot on my heels. In the distance, the mountain range stood like guarding giants, and the bush stretched on forever like a vast green 133


I REMEMBER | Sarah Simmons

ocean. I paused, breathing in the beautiful sight that was my home—that would always be my home—or so I thought. I glanced over my shoulder. He was gaining on me, a grin splitting his face wide. So I bolted off again. He always won when we played chasey; he had the advantage of longer legs and stronger muscles. But this time it would be different. Somehow, I knew that. We entered the bush, ducking and dodging low branches, ignoring the grass trees and tall grass that whipped our legs and the blackberry bushes tugging at our clothes. I remember thinking how annoyed our mother would be when she saw the state of us, but, as always, she would shake her head and sigh in the end. This was rough bush country and as long as we watched out for snakes and didn’t stay out past dark, she didn’t really mind. With a burst of speed, I rounded the corner and left my big brother behind. Ten minutes later I burst, laughing and out of breath, into a small clearing about two hundred metres from the dirt road we used for taking the cattle to town for market. The sharp, cold, clear, early morning air seemed to slice through my chest as I breathed deeply. It smelled of eucalyptus and rich earthy soil, and the wildness of the bush. It was my favourite place in the world. A small clearing, where an old jarrah tree stood alone and proud, guarding over a trickling creek that ran through two of the protruding roots and created a hollow as the tree grew over time. It was always dark and cool there, even in the 134


I REMEMBER | Sarah Simmons

middle of summer when the air was hot and dry and dusky smelling and the hard red dirt scorched my feet. On days like that I sometimes sat by the edge of the creek and let the cold water wash over my hands and feet, and listened to the laughter of the kookaburras and the caw of the galahs. I would often see kangaroos having their morning drink. On this particular morning, I leaned back slightly and looked through the gaps in the branches and saw that it would be another clear day. The crunching of leaves brought me back to the game and I ducked behind the old jarrah tree, stifling a giggle as I hid. The approaching footsteps were joined by much louder and faster ones. My brother was no longer alone. I thought that maybe Mum and Dad were coming for a picnic or something. The footsteps grew closer and were soon accompanied by men shouting in loud voices. They were different from the working men’s voices: gruffer, more hurried. There were more shouts followed by a woman’s scream and the crunching of leaves. The woman sounded familiar, but for some reason my brain refused to recognise her. Suddenly a gunshot cracked through the bush, and the acrid smell of smoke polluted the air. Loud cries and shouts followed; then more shots. Then silence. An eerie silence, unnatural for the bush, sent a lone shiver trickling down my spine. Before I knew it, I felt it. Big brother was gone. I was alone. I sat in a police car, the uncomfortable synthetic leather sticking to my back, dried blood and tears smudging the dirt 135


I REMEMBER | Sarah Simmons

on my face, and watched a flock of pink and grey galahs glide across the dark grey sky. My mind was numb, and I remember wanting to join the birds up there, flying free with their families, instead of being left alone and frightened. A loud and unintelligible blabber of policemen and investigators cut through the serenity of the bush, and surrounded me like the weavings of the blanket on my shoulders. They had questions, so many questions, but I couldn’t understand. Couldn’t answer. I just stared at them blankly and wished the noise would stop. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched a large and important-looking man talking to my aunt—my mother’s maiden sister. His name was Sergeant Marshall. He and his wife used to come round to our place for tea every now and then. She once gave me a ribbon, and my big brother tied it in my hair for me when we went into town. I moved my head slightly and heard their muffled voices through the glass, my interrogators forgotten for the moment. He said something about a group of men attacking an outback farm and killing everyone but her. She, who he referred to as her, was the only survivor. I wondered who. I pitied her. I never saw the faces of the men who came to our farm that cold clear morning, intent on raiding it for food or money. They were mere shadows. They’d left a trail of destruction, and a small, orphaned girl behind them. With the blood of my family still staining my face, I was taken from my home and sent to live with my aunt. Those shadows took away 136


I REMEMBER | Sarah Simmons

everything from me. My family. My home. My life. I walked along a busy London street, tears streaming down my face, and my hand clasped tightly in my aunt’s as she wove her way through the masses, pulling me along with her. Auntie said I shouldn’t be crying any more, but the tears wouldn’t stop. She’d said I would love it in England—the mother country—but, not being the sort of person who took other people’s views into account, it was a lie. I hated it. Hundreds of people packed the streets. The air was dirty and thick with smoke and soot. Smothering. Choking. Impossible to breathe or see through. It was cold and bitter and it chilled me to the bone, with its grey skies that bleached away all positive emotions. The crowds yelled and pushed and stole and glared. Their skins were sallow, their faces bleak. Although I had only been in the country for a day or so, I already felt like I hadn’t seen the sun in weeks. I felt so lost, so far from home—the place where I truly belonged. I wished, I prayed, I begged; I shut my eyes tightly for a whole minute before opening them again, but it didn’t change anything. I couldn’t see the gum trees, the roos, the ranges or the red dirt—just England, with its clods of emotionless concrete, and people of grim stone. I didn’t belong in this world of loud noise, where everything was hard and fast. I belonged in the outback. The bush. Auntie wouldn’t have it though. The outback was no place for a young lady, she said, and she was taking me to a place that was. I didn’t want to be a lady. I wanted to be free. 137


I REMEMBER | Sarah Simmons

My aunt dragged me up a long stretch of concrete steps into what looked like a cross between a church and a prison—Bridgington Ladies College. My prison. My new home. The walls and floor were colourless, fashioned from an ancient crumbling stone that was hard and unforgiving on my reluctantly shod feet. The other students were similarly colourless. I wondered if the whole country and its inhabitants were designed to reflect the weather and the sky. At Bridgington, or Purgatory as it was affectionately called by a few older girls, there was no kindness, no love—just professional detachment and a barely concealed disdain. It was so different from the home that I’d known where there was always someone to talk to, and a smiling face. This was unlike any place I’d ever been and I knew right from the moment I saw it, surrounded by its intimidating wrought iron fence and impenetrable grounds, that I could never call it home. In all the years I spent there, I never did fit in or make a single friend. The teachers and the nuns looked down on me with either pity or disgust. The other girls teased me for my accent, my tanned skin, my sun-bleached hair. I was called names like Goanna Girl or Koala Kid. Once they said I was a bush rat and my family was exterminated. I was almost expelled for breaking that girl’s nose. They called me a savage. There were no letters from my aunt. All I had were my dreams, in which I was home with my big brother, running and laughing through the paddocks. In my dreams I was happy. I swore to myself that one day, somehow, I would be happy again. 138


I REMEMBER | Sarah Simmons

I would go home. It was years later, when I was working at the Merry Mage Inn, saving every pound I could for a trip back to Australia, that an article in a paper—an old one left behind by a traveller maybe a week or so earlier—caught my eye. The moment I glanced at it, my heart stopped. The shadows had been caught. I sat at the table and read the article repeatedly, forcing my addled mind to take in the information and make sense of it. Four men in their early forties had been caught carrying out an armed robbery of a small rural townhouse. Their DNA matched that found on bodies left behind in farm raids that had occurred in a pattern over several years. One of the raids was on my family. I was stunned. All I could think was, how? How could these four ordinary men have done it? They were no wraiths of the night, creatures of death who watch and take away souls with the cruelty of pure evil. These were humans. They had no extra powers, no ability to kill with a mere thought—just four everyday men and two Mossberg shotguns. Now they would be in jail, left forever to rot for their crimes. I knew how it felt to be locked up, away from the blue sky and the golden sun. There is no punishment I saw more fitting. I tore the article from the paper and kept it with me. I smiled for the first time since that day in the bush all those years ago. The shadows were gone. I was free at last. I can go home. It took much longer than I expected to reach this place— 139


I REMEMBER | Sarah Simmons

the home I grew up in. Though I returned to Australia a week after finding that fateful newspaper article, I chose to live in the city—perhaps England grew on me in that respect, although the Australian air is clean and the streets less crowded. They buried my family in a neighbouring town, and I have visited their graves every summer since my return. But the journey up that dusty old road remained untravelled. It was such a long way to go.

I left my son in the car on the highway; my grandchildren with him. They would follow soon, but I went ahead. I wanted to see it first. As I walked slowly through the paddocks, I felt the rust of the old barbed wire on the posts, and looked out across the property, trying to take in the sight all at once. The bush hadn’t changed. The green velvet ranges still flowed in a river to the surrounding forests ahead. The sun still beat down on the hard-packed red dirt. I closed my eyes and the wind flowed through my hair, and I listened to the laughter of a small eight year-old girl being chased by her older brother through the grass trees and flowers planted by their mother. I was so sure they would be long dead, but the golden daffodils shone from their perch beneath the western wall. I longed to go to the clearing to see the cool creek and the lone Jarrah tree, but decided it could wait. For the present, I was content with the old paddocks, soon to be fixed up, and the house that is days from renovation. I am home at last. 140

8 Kids Stories  

8 short stories from the Born Storytellers Cream of the crop

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you