Page 1

2008 WRITING COMPETITION Creative Writing by act School Students in Yrs 10–12


Litlinks

Writing Competition 2008 creative writing by act school students in yrs

10 –12


First published in 2009 in Australia by actate (The act Branch of the Association for the Teaching of English) through funding provided by Paperchain Bookstore, Manuka www.paperchainbookstore.com.au This book is copyright. No part of this book may be reproduced by any process without the written permission of actate. All student work in this collection was supplied by their English teachers who have gained permission for their inclusion in this competition. Each student retains copyright of their individual work as per the current copyright legislation in force in Australia under the Copyright Act (1968) www.copyright.com.au Enquiries about this project or any of the entries within this publication may be directed to info@actate.org.au Current contact details are available on the Association’s web site www.actate.org.au/litlinks isbn

978-1-876047-06-1

Cover design and layout by Estelle IhĂĄsz www.estelleihasz.com Printed in Australia by Instant Colour Press, act Compiled and edited by Suzanne Kiraly, Litlinks Coordinator 2008-9 Vice President, actate suzanne@creativeknowhow.com.au


Contents Acknowledgements Introduction

actate

Suzanne Kiraly

7 9

Junior High School Entries Students in Year 10 alfred deakin high school

Teacher submitting entries: Kate Fox

Stian Av Perfektionen *

Garry Cheng

11

belconnen high school

Teachers submitting entries: Cara Shipp & Viv Gerardu

Symphony in Green *

Amelia Heffernan

16

The Cupboard

Louise Klee

24

The Cupboard

Isabella Morowitz

38

The Cupboard

Jordan Bulley

40

Kade’s Reprisal

Madeline Collins

46

Sleep

Kelsey Horvath

57

The Case of the Lunchbox Jewel

Wil Francis

64

Colourblind

Lucy Bek

71

campbell high school

Teacher submitting entries:: Natalie Christian

Up In the Skies *

Georgia de Salis

78

The Closet

Jess Sharp

80

Dreaming

Jarrad Fragnito

81

Outside the Classroom

Jack Sandeman

83

Flagpole *

Heather Bateman

84

I Glance Out the Window

Tess Pennell

85

lanyon high school

Teacher submitting entries: Prue Gill


lyneham high school

Teacher submitting entries: Leanne Jorgensen

Of Cats & Catwalks *

Divya Packianathan

87

merici college

Teacher submitting entries: Brendan Sullivan

Mornings *

Neisa Harper

95

st francis xavier college

Teachers submitting entries: Suzanne Kiraly & Kathy Griffiths

The Catch of The Day *

Mary O’Kane

99

I Am Blue

Lauren Cawthron

101

Sound of Silence

Alana Dougherty

106

Something That Happened

Alex McDermid

108

Karma

Lauren Cawthron

111

Yellow

Hannah Bryant

114

The Sunset Run *

Elise Ryan

117

stromlo high school

Teacher submitting entries: Anna Irving

* 2008 Litlinks competition finalist

* Senior High School Entries Students in Years 11 & 12 canberra college

Teacher submitting entries: Helen Uren-Randall

The Endlessness of Days *

Kael McCormack-Skewes

118


dickson college

Teacher submitting entries: Debbie Dwyer

I Am

Geordie Lucas

122

Cheer Up Emo Kid

Geordie Lucas

124

Crazy

Jack Ennis Butler

128

Sunset

Alexei Dettman

133

Torn In Places *

Laura McGuffog

141

The Marriage Institute and the Great Museum

Zelda Riddell

148

erindale college

Teacher submitting entries: Jennifer Smith

Dark Pink Rouge

Victoria Blakeley

152

I Fear the Sun

Victoria Blakeley

153

The Pianist

Dillon Sayasane

154

Eyes Down *

Ashley Orr

159

lake tuggeranong college

Teacher submitting entries: Dannelle Gannon

Tips For A Great MySpace *

Emily McKay

164

Best of Two Worlds

Gayathri Ganeshananthan

167

Look At Me I’m All Grown Up

Laura Turner

171

Dashing Through The Shadows

Michael Sharrock

175

Look Closer She’s Not Your Standard Lioness

Rhianna Nolan

179

st francis xavier college

Teachers submitting entries: Suzanne Kiraly & Kathy Griffiths

Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree

Natalia Harvey

183

Could Your Home Be A Breeding Ground For Terrorists?

Chris Elliott

189

Man & Beast – The Cat & The Killer *

Chris Elliott

191

The Boy

Alicia Gall

195

Laura Brown

Martin Rustam

199


Acknowledgements actate would like to warmly thank Roger and Maxeme Tall, from the Paperchain Bookstore, Manuka, for their excellent support of this innovative project. They support many worthwhile educational initiatives, including the Minister’s Reading Challenge, and as booksellers, they are passionate about nourishing new writing talent in our schools, as are we. The act Writer’s Centre and the National Library of Australia have also been most supportive and we thank them for their contributions also. Finally, it is the classroom English teachers who are so dedicated and passionate about teaching their students to write well, and who deserve many accolades. Rarely are they recognised for their achievements. We would like to thank them here, for taking the time and effort to submit their students’ writing and we encourage them to keep doing what they obviously do so well.


Introduction Litlinks is an actate initiative; generously funded by the Paperchain Bookstore in Manuka, act. It is a writing competition for act high school students in years 10, 11 & 12. This book is a compilation of the entries received in the inaugural competition in 2008. The stories in this collection represent exemplary work completed by students whilst studying English, in our local high schools and colleges. The aim of this competition is twofold. Firstly, it is a celebration of the outstanding work teachers of English do in their classrooms to inspire their students to write. Secondly, it is hoped that this competition will go a long way in providing a springboard for new writing talent to emerge, and just maybe, it will launch new writing careers for some of our budding writers. In 2008, high schools and colleges submitted entries, which represented work completed in their students’ coursework. Teachers who entered initially judged these entries. The teachers judged one another’s entries in order to determine the first round finalists. These finalists were then judged outside of the school system by a panel of expert judges. They selected the overall winner. We hope that this competition will grow in the future with many more schools submitting entries and exposing their students to some worthwhile opportunities for recognition of their emerging writing talents. Suzanne Kiraly Vice President actate 2008 Litlinks Coordinator


alfred deakin high school

11

Stian Av Perfektionen garry cheng

“I’ve just sent the final reports over. I think this old man’s earned his rest now, don’t you?” “Yeah, and I’ll just be slaving away in the meantime. Soon enough you can teach me all you’ve learnt about passing time as well.” “Don’t be optimistic, boy. You’ve got some years left in you yet. The world still needs you. The System still needs you.” “I’ve heard that one more than once…Make sure you don’t forget about poor little me in my little office.” “Hey, it’s not like I’m going on the 6th Expedition here. I’m just retiring.” “Thanks for everything, Fader. I’ll always owe you one.” “Then repay it to our world, boy. Well I’ve got a magnet to catch. Keep in touch, Lance.” Fader pressed his finger lightly against the little eye, and a small blue light went out. Carefully extracting a black stick from the side of the monitor, he watched for the last time as the monitor folded itself seamlessly into the surface of the desk. The little sticks were Universal Identities, and they were every citizen’s most important possession. Being exactly what their name suggested, they allowed or disallowed access to certain places, enabled the System to track everyone, and had a range of other important functions. They could be bent and worn around the wrist for convenience, and on one side, a miniature screen displaying the date and time explained why the sticks were also known as Watches. It took only a minute to pack his few personal items into his briefcase, and then Fader was locking the door with a wave of his Watch


12

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

and walking down the narrow corridor to the stairs. There were two lifts in the 27-storey building, but excepting Emergencies, using a lift was considered an unnecessary use of electricity. The world had learned the lessons of affluence well, back in the 15 year long period of deadly temperatures now known as the Promethean. Fortunately for Fader, he had the privilege of working on the first floor. At 94, he wasn’t exactly a young man, and his limited mobility provided qualification for an Easy-Access office under Section 3.11 of the Needs Laws. Fader emerged from the stairwell into an expansive tiled room. The foyer was the size of a football field, taking up most of the ground floor of the building. One side of the room housed the entrances to the stairwells. On the opposite side, the words Southern Region International System Administration Building were engraved in large black letters on the whitewashed wall, above a stately silver arch which served as the main entrance of the building. System Administration was a privilege assigned to a million elite workers from each of the five Regions of the world, and a total of 100,000 people – each for a maximum of 10 years – formed International System Administration. The System was the welloiled engine behind the mechanism of civilisation in this world of 2087ad, now officially known as 67u – the 67th Utopian year. * Ninety-five years ago, on a vastly different Earth, the war of all wars had started, only seven months after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Acknowledged today as the peak of military brilliance, Operation Mole succeeded on the morning of the 22nd of July, 1992. Washington D.C. was swallowed in a nuclear explosion originating half a kilometre under the city. No records could be found with the details of the operation, except a single file discovered in the Kremlin dated 1962, containing vague plans of a city resembling Washington D.C., covered with nondescript markings.


alfred deakin high school

13

For the United States, however, the worst was yet to come. In the two days after the first detonation, 120 different cities and every major military and weapons base were hit by 254 nuclear missiles, launched from Cuba, the West Indies and Arctic icebergs. The attacks were believed to have been started by forgotten Soviet task forces carrying orders to conceal the weapons until they were needed, or if they should judge that it was necessary for the continuation of the Soviet Union. Although the USSR had already dissolved, the Communists rose up in the chaos, taking advantage of the resultant fear, and soon enough the entire world but the United States was Communist, through democracy or other means. The war which came to be known as the Great Uniting War was set aside in 2001, unfinished, in favour of strengthening Communism’s hold on the world, but by that time, the USA had been reduced to a token resistance, with no hope of redemption. However, Communism had its own flaws, and before a decade had passed from the end of the Great Uniting War, an unseen threat was born, in the mind of Sven Kylaström, a tall and rangy Swedish student just past his 18th birthday. His book – Utopism: A Perfect World – sold half a billion copies worldwide in its first six months, filling the minds of the people with dreams of Utopia, the perfect society. Millions of people banded together in support of the responsible author, and Kylaström soon found himself at the helm of a sweeping worldwide revolutionary movement. In the autumn of 2021, Kylaström’s Utopian System was officially set in motion worldwide, and the first System Administration workers were appointed. Kylaström remained in a position to implement any changes necessary to perfect the System, but apart from that, all decisions were made by System Administration. Considered by many to be Kylaström and Utopism’s greatest achievement, the abolishment of the concept of currency broke


14

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

the long-standing stranglehold of money on humanity, bringing a decline in affluence and greed, a decline in class divides, and most significantly, equality to all. Sven Kylaström’s world was good. * Fader made his way across the open space of the foyer, and approached the lone guard at the front desk. “Won’t be seeing you in my domain again, eh, Fader?” Frank had been Guard at this building for most of forty years, and he was well respected for his work ethic. Like every other citizen, he had been assigned his career when he was 24, because the System had needed a Guard, and he had been judged suitable. Every citizen did their share of work, and every citizen was provided exactly what they needed – physically and mentally. Through strict organisation and an emphasis on the importance of morale, Utopism had brought about a level of working efficiency surpassing anything ever seen before. “No, I guess not. But I’ll have plenty of time and nothing to do from now on. I’ll drop in here for a chat if I ever visit Spire again.” “I’ll hold you to your word on that then.” Fader waved his Watch over a red light on Frank’s desk. The light turned green for a moment, affirming that Fader was free to go. “Farewell, Frank.” “And the same to you, Fader.” * Spire was a busy city. As the administrative capital of the Southern Region, its skyline was filled with the rectangular outlines of tall office buildings. Fifteen minutes later, Fader was heading into the brightly-lit Spire Inter-Regional Portal Station. If he was a younger man, Fader would have travelled by satellite, but as it was, his body wouldn’t be able to handle the disorientation of being turned into a massless substance through the removal of almost every Higgs boson (beh) particle from his body, then being shot out into space at


alfred deakin high school

15

the speed of light, reflected by a satellite towards his destination, and finally being turned back into himself by new beh particles. Instead, Fader would be travelling by the less physically demanding and completely environmentally friendly magnet trains, which ran purely on magnetic forces. As the train arrived, Fader could see the rapidly spinning turbines on the front of the train, which produced enough wind power for the electrical appliances on board. A pleasant nondescript voice announced: “This magnet will be travelling from Spire – Southern Region, to Stockholm – Northern Region. Please come to the front desk for an authorisation check. The magnet will be leaving in five minutes.” At the front desk, a wave of his Watch confirmed that he had permission to leave the Southern Region, and then Fader stepped into the magnet which would take him home. His work was done. Half a world away, in the Western Region International System Administration building in Berlin, the responsibility of carrying the world forward was sinking in for Lance Pienaar. It would still be many years before Sven Kylaström’s System was perfect, and it was now up to Pienaar, his apprentice, to guide the world down the never-ending road to perfection. This is some task you’ve left me to finish, Fader…


16

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Symphony in Green amelia heffernan

Of all the terrible things that happened to me in the time of my existence, the worst was missing my ride to the afterlife, because I was tying my shoe. The thing is, when you’re dead, you don’t realise you’re dead. Nobody holds up a bright neon sign saying, ‘Welcome to the afterlife’, and there certainly wasn’t any chorus of angels that I could see. All I knew was that I was standing on some sort of sidewalk, and the shoelace of my green converse was untied. So of course, when Death showed up, I knew it had to be a dream. First of all, I didn’t believe in the scythe wielding, skull and bones, Death personified. I believed in heaven, the pearly gates, and all those nice things. But when Death removed his black hood and looked straight at me, I knew I had to reassess my situation. There was no way I could dream about a human skeleton that accurately. I ran my hand through my brown curls with a sigh. “Are you Death?” I asked. “Yes.” “So I’m dead?” “Yes.” “Oh bugger.” This had to be a dream. Death didn’t exist! And since when was I dead? I sure didn’t remember dying, or being anywhere close to death! Last I remembered…well actually, that was the problem, I couldn’t remember! I remembered the important things, like my name; Dani, and my age; 19, but I couldn’t remember what I’d been doing before turning up here and tying my shoe! “What is your name?”


belconnen high school

17

The deep, booming voice startled me from my thoughts. “I…uh…Danielle. Dani for short.” What was I doing, telling Death my name? “So I’m really dead?” “Yes.” “Damn.” I frowned. “But I don’t remember dying!” Death sighed, and placed his scythe against the park bench behind us, which I hadn’t noticed before. “It usually takes a little time to remember these things,” he told me. “Oh.” I watched him sceptically, “If I’m so dead, why aren’t you shuffling me off to the afterlife?” “You seem to have missed your ride.” “My ride?” I spluttered in disbelief. “There are rides to heaven?!” Death nodded. I slumped down onto the bench in shock. Death sat down next to me. Then I saw something else I hadn’t noticed before. The bench that we were sitting on was at the edge of a park. It looked just like a playground from a school, with a swing set and a slide. “Things keep appearing,” I muttered. “Just…keep appearing.” “Very perceptive.” Death commented. “Things tend to do that in this place.” When I had regained the magical talent of speech, I turned to him. “Well, when does the next ride come?” Death made a face that seemed to be annoyed. It was hard to tell what his expressions were, considering his face was just a skull. “Heaven is not just a shuttle bus away Dani.” “What do you mean?” I questioned him, not fully apprehending what he was saying. “Do you mean I can’t go to heaven or whatever?” “Don’t be absurd.” That was all it took to shut me up. I slipped my hands into the pockets of my jacket, seeking some sort of comfort. I was surprised when my fingers came into contact with something in my pocket. “What is in your pocket Dani?”


18

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

My head snapped around to look at Death. “You’re kinda creepy, you know that, right?” He almost smiled. I think. When he didn’t say anything, I pulled the object out of my pocket. I recognised it instantly. It was a bow tie, the kind that people usually wear with a suit. Only, this bow tie wasn’t any respectable colour; it was bright green. It was made from velvet-like material, and caught the light in a way that made you want to screw your eyes tight and will it to go away. That and it smelled of old closet. “Your last earthly possession,” Death commented. “Go figure,” I laughed in disbelief. “What is so amusing?” He asked me. “It just figures,” I explained, beginning to scowl, “That my last earthly possession would be this stupid old thing.” “You do not like it?” I stuck out my tongue, “My mum wanted me to wear it at my violin performance. It was my dad’s.” It was so ironic that I remembered that. My mother had been bugging me to wear it for my violin performance for months. I, of course, had said no. Why on Earth would I want to wear it? It was old, ugly, way too green, smelly and oh yes, very ugly. I didn’t want to wear it just because it was my dad’s! “Well that makes things very easy then,” Death pulled me out of my thoughts. “Why is that?” I asked in confusion. “It makes getting to Heaven easy for you.” “Oh really?” I grinned. “Tell me how then!” “All you must do is throw away your last earthly possession,” Death explained, “As a symbol of letting go of your life on Earth.” I raised an eyebrow, “That’s all? Throw away this thing?” I waved the bow tie in the air. Death nodded.


belconnen high school

19

I watched him for a moment, before shrugging my shoulders. “Okay then, if you say so.” I stood up, pulling my arm back, ready to throw the bow tie as far away as I could manage. I knew I was ready to go to heaven, or the afterlife, or whatever came after this. I’d died, and I was ready to go. If throwing this stupid green thing was what was going to get me there, I had no problem at all. “Afterlife, here I come!” My arm refused to move. I paused in mid throw, my hand still closed tight around the bow tie. In a movie worthy flashback, I remembered how I’d died. * “Oh please honey!” my mother pleaded. I shook my head, fixing my hair in the bathroom mirror. “Mum! I don’t get why you keep trying to make me wear that thing!” My mother sighed. It wasn’t a normal sigh that people tend to do unconsciously. It was a sigh that my mother had created, which made you feel the worst possible guilt, even without the puppy dog eyes. Thankfully, I had experience with this sigh, and I did my best to stay strong by remembering just why I did not want to wear that ridiculous thing. “Darling, I know that this concert is very important to you.” “The most important!” I corrected her, applying some gloss to my lips. “I understand that,” she patted down my shirt. “And I think that you should wear the bow tie, because this concert is so important.” I shook my head furiously, walking out of the bathroom and out to the front room of our house. “Mum, I will be on stage in front of hundreds of people.” “All the more reason to wear it!” she exclaimed, handing me my black jacket, as it was raining outside. “Show those hundreds of people how proud you are to be your father’s daughter.” She handed me a bright green bow tie, which I looked at in disgust. I scowled in anger. “Well what if I’m not?! What if I’m not proud


20

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

to be the daughter of some saxophone player who left his family to hit the jackpot?” My mother opened her mouth to speak, but I didn’t stop. “This stupid thing is ugly! It’s old, it’s gross and it’s so green! I would never dream of wearing this in decent company, and I would never consider wearing it just because it was my father’s!” I grabbed my keys, thankful my instrument was already in the car, and walked out the door, slamming it after me. I was so angry as I reversed the car, I almost hit the mailbox. I thought that I would feel better when I’d left my street, but I didn’t. There was a weight pressing down on my chest which I couldn’t identify, and I just drove faster. The rain splattered down on the windscreen, while I tried not to think of my mother’s hurt face, or the bow tie in the pocket of my jacket. I came to some lights, saw they were green, and continued to drive forward. I heard a loud beep somewhere from my right. I turned my head, saw the high beams of a large truck, and then…nothing. Then, I was back, with Death sitting behind me, and the bow tie still in my hand. It took me a moment to register what I had just remembered, but once I had, that same weight settled over my chest again. I gulped, and lowered my arm, turning to look at Death. “You are not ready.” He said. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. “I was so awful to my mum…” I mumbled, looking down at the ground, ashamed. “She must hate me.” “Because you would not wear the bow tie.” I nodded my head, not even bothering to wonder how he knew that. “I do not believe that your mother hates you Dani,” Death said, attempting to sound comforting. “Why is that?” I asked curiously. “I have watched humans for thousands of years, and I have found that it is near impossible for a mother to hate her child,” he explained, in a tone that sounded old and wise. “Your mother may have been upset, hurt and disappointed, but I do not believe she could hate you.”


belconnen high school

21

I looked across at him. Maybe he was right. Maybe my mum didn’t hate me, but that didn’t make me feel any better about the situation. The last memory she would have of me, would be me slamming the door in her face. I looked down at the green menace in my palm, why hadn’t I just worn the stupid thing? Would it really have been that hard to wear it for one performance? “Yes it would have been,” I voiced my thoughts. Death nodded his head, but didn’t say anything. It was truly scary how much he seemed to clue in on my thoughts. “I detest my father,” I explained, “that’s nothing new. But to stand on that stage, applauding his memory or whatever, I couldn’t do that. I don’t even know why mum would want to honour him.” “Perhaps because you are so like him.” “I am not like him!” I shouted. “I wouldn’t leave my family behind to chase some stupid dream, and then only call when I feel like it!” “I did not mean that Dani,” Death sighed. “I mean, perhaps she sees some of your father’s good qualities in you. He was talented,was he not?” “Yeah, I guess.” “And your mother loved him very much?” “Yeah she did.” He laid a bony hand on my shoulder. “Then perhaps you two are not so different after all.” Although I hated to admit it, he was right. As much as I resented my father leaving, and only calling every few months, I was a lot like him, or at least what I knew of him. I loved music, just like he did, and valued my violin like it was an extra limb. I was proud of my talent, and I wanted to go far. I knew from my mum’s old pictures that I looked a lot like him, and that I had the same goofy smile. “So by rejecting him, I’m really rejecting a part of myself,” I finally said after some thought. I looked down at the bow tie. “And by not wearing this, I’m rejecting him.” Death gave a hollow sort of chuckle. “It does not have to be as


22

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

deep as that, but I think you are onto something Dani.” I gave a little smile. “Yeah, I guess that did sound a little dorky, but I think it’s true.” “Then you know what you must do?” He asked. “Yes.” I nodded my head firmly, “I’m going to need a –” I was cut off by a quiet tinker coming from my side. I looked down at the ground, and lying next to my feet was a violin case. I turned to Death with a grin. “Things just appear in this place huh?” He nodded his head, with what I thought was a smile. “Yes they do, usually just when you need them.” I stood up, looking at the green object in my hands. I brought my hands up, and attached the bow tie around my neck. Bending down, I opened the violin case, and took out the beautiful instrument. “It looks just like mine,” I muttered. “It is yours, in one way or another,” Death commented. I smiled, and moved the violin under my chin, holding up my bow. It took me a moment to gather up the courage, but once I had, I began to perform the song I was supposed to play at my big performance. I was amazed at how smoothly my bow moved across the strings, and how delicately my fingers seemed to move also. I thought it must be the effect of whatever this place was, but I didn’t mind. I sounded wonderful. Death seemed to nod his head with the beat of the music, and I was reminded of my mother. She was always sitting in the front row, her eyes closed, tapping her foot along to whatever I was playing. That was when I realised; this wasn’t so I could have a go at playing violin, and it wasn’t so I could honour my father, it was so I had a chance to do the performance the way my mother wanted. I could almost imagine the crowds of people packed into the aisles, all come to see me perform. I could see the ladies all done up in their make-up and their fancy dresses, with the men in their suits. I closed my eyes, and I could feel the lights shining down on me, hear the symphony orchestra playing along to my song, and


belconnen high school

23

the cheering crowds as we played our big finish. Opening my eyes, I finished the song with bow, and Death applauded me. “You play so well Dani,” he commented. I placed the violin back in its case, which slowly disappeared, then stood in front of Death. “I’m ready.” He nodded his head. “You know what to do.” I took one last look around the place I had found myself in. The place where things just appeared and you realised so much. I thought of my mother, and hoped she would be okay, and that someday I would see her again. I thought about where I was going to go after this, and what it would be like. Who knew? Maybe it would be fun. That made me grin. I took the object off my neck and threw it to Death, who caught it with what I knew was a smile. I’d earned a smile. “Keep the bow tie.” And really, that was it. * Not too long after that, a boy named Billy was helped into the afterlife by Death. He was so excited to tell me his story, I couldn’t help but listen. He told me how it was so funny, that the skull and bones character that had helped him into the afterlife had the silliest of accessories. He had been wearing an ugly, green bow tie.


24

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

The Cupboard louise klee

Mityat 1 and Pyotr stumbled down the moonlit steps that led to the drinking house. They were a strange pair, virtually inseparable. Both were still infatuated with the rebellious fire of youth, but numbed by the intoxicating evenings at the drinking house. Tonight their ravaged attire and clumsy gait made them barely distinguishable from the drunken muzhiks 2 who lurked in the slums of St Petersburg 3. This particular evening a thick fog had enveloped the city and it was hard to see more than a metre ahead. As the pair began to make their way to whatever gambling den or cabaret house that they may chance upon, Mitya stopped to observe the landlord’s mare, which lived outside the drinking house. Although old and probably senile the jade was a pompous creature. Mitya passed it every night and had often wondered why the landlord kept such a vile animal. Pyotr watched with disinterest as his friend approached the mare. “What is he doing?” he thought. The mare slowly backed away until it could go no further and then let out a challenging jeer. Two students steeped in the aggressive aftertaste of alcohol needed no further encouragement. Mitya seized a knout 4 and Pyotr downed his vodka,5 before smashing the bottle. They slowly closed in on the cowering jade. Mitya lunged forward, bringing the shaft down with a thud. “Hit him again!” Pyotr laughed. Watching the mare buckle under Mitya’s lashes. Mitya’s endless blows drew the mare’s blood and broke its mu– zzle. The weary creature flared up and lurched forward on its hind legs. Its failing legs made contact with Mitya’s face and the boy was tossed like a rag doll into the gutter.


belconnen high school

25

Suddenly, a ray of light from the open doors of the drinking house illuminated the passage. The sounds of laughter and hoarse singing could be heard as the landlord emerged from the drinking house to observe the commotion. “Ah! Stop!” the landlord screamed, as he watched the jade cower before the vengeful Pyotr. Pyotr, noticing the presence of the growing crowd, abandoned his assault and sprinted like a madman into the fog. The disappointed crowd dissipated, returning to their drinks. The landlord, however, ran headlong down the porch cursing after Pyotr. Pyotr was now nowhere to be seen. The landlord rushed to the side of his mare; but suddenly noticed the crumpled form of Mitya lying in the dust. He recognized Mitya straightaway, always an accomplice of Pyotr. The landlord had known Mitya since he was a boy. Mitya’s father, welling with pride, had boasted of the boy’s potential but the old man had passed away before he had come to know the Mitya who drank away his mental tortures. The landlord had always felt the guilt when he filled Mitya’s glass, as he himself was responsible for Mitya’s wasted talent. The boy had changed; he lived for the moment and was always on the verge of ruin. That poor boy once had a future, he thought. His rage cooled into sympathy as the destitute student stirred in the gutter. Mitya opened his eyes and his hands went to the wound on his head. “Are you alright boy?” the landlord asked. “Ye…yes sir. I’m fine.” Mitya gazed about as if stunned. The landlord noticed that Mitya was watching him, perhaps anticipating his anger. “Mitya,” the landlord sighed, “If I give you some money can you promise me that I won’t see you in my house again? You know as well as I that a student should be studying, not indulging at the drinking house.” Mitya nodded. The landlord fished a reasonable sum of roubles 6 from his pocket and put it into the boy’s hand. Mitya got to his feet and humbly thanked the landlord, promising he would attend his next lecture. The landlord watched from the


26

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

steps of the drinking house as the disillusioned youth disappeared into the frosty night. Mitya wandered, clutching the money tightly in his hand. He felt overwhelmed by power; having always been short of money, he wasn’t sure how he would spend it. The most voluptuous debaucheries filled his head. Suddenly he felt a wave of excitement as an idea crossed his head. I will invest it, he thought, and soon I will possess a small fortune! No sooner had he thought this, than he realised that his feat had carried him to his favourite choice of investment, the equestrian track. How he loved the racetrack, its overpowering scent of stables and the crowds of dressed artisan’s wives. He spent every extra rouble he could scrape up, for he had worked out, using his mathematics, that he would eventually have to win. Every rouble was just an investment towards that inevitable day. The racetrack looked as though it had closed for the night. Its windows were boarded shut and there was no one to be seen. Mitya’s heart sank, he refused to be kept waiting. He rushed to the building and hammered his fist on a boarded window. The thud echoed inside the building and the determined Mitya continued to slam his fist harder and harder. He heard footsteps from inside the building and at once ceased knocking. One of the boards lifted and behind it stood an aged muzhik, with light brown curls, dressed in a cotton shirt and a long black waistcoat. Mitya at once, in a kind of hysteria, rushed to the window. He pulled the wad of notes from his pocket and thrust it forward to the man. “We’re closed,” said the man, in the most irritated of voices. He had been pulled from a game of billiards by the loud thumping and intended on a quick return. “But.…I want to place a bet…I must do so right away,” cried Mitya. His speech had become slurred and incoherent. The man hesitated to decline as he observed the frenzied student. Mitya appeared as an eccentric thug. He had blood smeared on his fore-


belconnen high school

27

head and an uncompromising gaze. He’s not going to give up, I’ll leave and he will start hitting the window again, flashed through the man’s head. “Alright,” the man sighed. They made a hurried transaction, exchanging roubles for some kind of receipt. “Good night,” Mitya cried, seizing the receipt and forcing it into his pocket. The man slammed the window shut, not watching Mitya disappear into the fog. Mitya trudged through the streets, not recognising or caring where he went. The streets were emptied by now so his aimless wanderings were undisturbed. Although he enjoyed the solitude, he had become increasingly aware of the absence of a drinking house in this district. He craved a drink to the point that he would have wrestled the bottle from a muzhik’s arms, had the opportunity arisen. He began to grow anxious, hoping that if he ran through the fog his luck might just prevail. Suddenly, he emerged into a large boulevard, one lined with the skeletons of trees. The road was obscured by mist. Through the pale gloom a figure appeared. As he neared he saw it was that of a young woman emerging from an apartment. He suddenly felt a rush of excitement and his fatigue was forgotten altogether. In a kind of frenzied ecstasy he made his pursuit. He hung back just out of sight and slowly followed the woman as she made her progress down the boulevard. He was enchanted by the way that she walked; it was such a purposeful stride. She wore a green dress, close fitting at the rear, which was an arshin 710ng. She suddenly made a turn into another street and when Mitya had caught up she had become hidden by the thick fog. “She’s gone,” he sighed, and disappointed he sat down on the porch of some civil servants property. He was conquered by exhaustion, slumped into a recline and in no more than a minute he had fallen asleep. * When he awoke it was morning. Light filtered through the fog


28

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

and the wind was icy cold. He stirred to the sounds of carts on the boulevard. A terrible pain throbbed in his head and he gazed around at his foreign surroundings as if in a delirium. Slowly, he recollected the happenings of the previous night. His hand shot straight to his pocket. “It’s here,” he sighed, as he admired the crumpled receipt. He checked the time of the race and then seized his old watch to compare. He would have long ago pawned the watch but he had found that no moneylender would take it. The time on the watch showed that he would have to wait many hours before the race. For a moment he just sat there, discontented, as boredom seemed to take hold. Then suddenly a thought of the landlord’s plea came to mind. The old man bid him so desperately to attend his lectures to the point that he had thrown away his money. Mitya felt an uncharacteristic flush of guilt. Perhaps I should attend a lecture today, he thought. Pushing himself up from the porch, ignoring his aching back (most certainly due to a night of sleeping upon stone). He made his way through the unknown streets, until he chanced upon a familiar path. For his whole walk to the university he was in a kind of thoughtless delirium. He unconsciously observed his path, his head aching and his vision blurred. For a time he even became sidetracked and spent an idle hour watching from a bridge, the gentle flow of the stream. By the time he arrived at the university the pain in his head had subsided and the slow stream of thoughts had again begun to flow. It had been a month since he had last attended a lecture. He studied theology and philosophy and intended on becoming a hieromonach,8 or something of the orthodox tradition. He made his way gradually through the university grounds, heading toward the lecture theatre. He hoped that he would not be noticed by some past acquaintance, for he thoroughly resented their questions about his recent absence and they always succeeded in reviving


belconnen high school

29

bitter memories. ‘Already in session’, read the sign at the lecture theatre. He pulled open the door with a screech and entered. His entrance was the sort of drama Mitya detested. Everybody turned and peered to the doorway and their gazes followed him to his seat. As it happened the lecture had not yet begun, but the students had filed into the lecture hall and been kept waiting. Luzhin, the philosophy teacher, was often late. To Mitya he was an enigma. He had been able to comprehend Luzhin as eccentric and fiercely passionate about what he taught, but other than that Mitya knew nothing. Luzhin was fortified by his own obscurity. He had never been one to stick to the curriculum. His topics were in no logical sequence, sometimes on totally unrelated matters and often just the old man speaking his incoherent stream of thought. The old man’s speech was a perpetual analogy or metaphor that Mitya had long ago given up trying to decipher. The thing that he found most fascinating about the old man was the strange interest he seemed to take in Mitya. Mitya sometimes felt that Luzhin’s lectures were directed solely to him, as if the old man was trying to tell him something, although he dismissed this as his own egotism. Luzhin came marching into the room and placed several books on his desk. He wore a grey waistcoat buttoned up all the way. From the desk the old man surveyed the room. Mitya could almost see a glint of enthusiasm in the old man’s eye as he spotted him. Luzhin immediately leapt from his seat, picked up his chalk and scrawled the words ‘The Cupboard’ on the board. Mitya could tell by the disgruntled sighs of the surrounding students that this cupboard was something new, unrelated to what they had been learning. Some of the students raised their arms in protest, but Luzhin paid them no attention, He turned to the class and with his eyes fixed on Mitya, begun the lecture. “What is a cupboard?” (For Luzhin always began with a question). “Some would assert that it is a type of cabinet, often made


30

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

from wood, used to store household objects. The cupboard is an area of storage enclosed from the world by doors.” (At this stage some students had collected their belongings and left, but Mitya stayed glued to his seat by Luzhin’s piercing gaze). “Outside this cupboard is a world of inconsistence and contingence. A world where accident is the essence, the very essence of a self contradictory existence. A cupboard whose doors are open, who lets the cool air circulate, becomes dependant on the outside, on what exists beyond its control. It becomes host to brutish craving for sensual pleasure. It loses its certainty, its stability and the very thing that makes it a cupboard. For when its doors are opened, that enclosed space is no more. It merges with the world beyond and is forgotten. It becomes a being that exists in itself. But what if that cupboard chooses to enclose its space, to shut those wooden doors from the external world? Well then the cupboard chooses the world within. For within every cupboard there are ordered shelves, adorned with purposeful items for domestic use. The world within the cupboard is one entirely different. It is one where creation by choice becomes purpose. The cupboard needs not to know the world beyond, but it chooses to know itself, and through this knowledge it chooses to create itself. It liberates itself and its being is no longer in-itself but for itself.” * Mitya sat transfixed and gradually came to the realisation that the lecture had ended. He was sitting alone in the lecture theatre and had been for some time. The other students had left, the radiance of the day had softened and Luzhin stood at his desk fiddling with notes. Mitya got up from his chair and as he did Luzhin caught his gaze. Mitya desperately wanted to say something, but didn’t know where to begin. ”I haven’t seen you in awhile.” Luzhin said, looking away. “No…I…l’ve been busy,” Mitya replied. “I’m sure a boy like you has been. Hmmm, well, I’d best be off,


belconnen high school

31

Any questions on the lecture my boy?” “Well…the cupboard…, if it’s left open…for a long time…can it still be closed?” Luzhin stared at him for a long time. “Of course my boy, it comes down to choice.” “How does a cupboard have choice?” Mitya retorted. Luzhin nodded. “How can a cupboard have choice,” the old man repeated to himself. “Mitya, my boy, perhaps you should think about that yourself.” With that Luzhin scooped up his papers and left. Mitya stood for a moment and then chuckled to himself, “How absurd this all is,” he said. He glanced toward the window and noticed that there was not long for day. He suddenly grew anxious, but the time on his watch reassured him, he had another hour at least. He left the university and hurried on his way. His thoughts were still an incoherent mess. He would begin one train of thought, but not be able to reach a conclusion or remember where he had started. All his thoughts seemed to lead to the cupboard. Why such a peculiar lecture had provoked his thoughts, he did not know. Despite his conscious dismissal of the absurd notion of a cupboard having any relevancy to anything, he could not remove the image or the thought. It was always there, at the back of his mind. Suddenly, he was stirred from his thoughts by the cries of Pyotr, who had seen him pass by. Mitya was not sure how his journey had taken this route, but never the less he was glad to see his friend. “Are you alright, Mitya?” said Pyotr, seizing him in a tight embrace. “Quite alright my friend.” “Well, where did you end up last night, ey ey?” “Oh, I chanced upon a sum of roubles,” Mitya said, tearing the receipt from his pocket and waving it before Pyotr. Pyotr snatched the receipt and flushed with excitement. “Splendid!” he cried, “And it’s not long before the race either.” Pyotr glanced at his watch. “Perhaps we’d best head there now…don’t want to be late…anyway I have


32

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

an interesting story to tell you. Last night when we parted, I too chanced upon a sum of roubles, don’t matter how…well, anyway, no sooner had I made it than I blew the whole lot. You see, I wound up in an inn of some sort…a nice establishment…and, well, threw around my money…a dozen bottles of champagne here…” Pyotr stopped as he noticed Mitya wasn’t following. The latter was staring at the ground. “Are you alright? Not looking his friend in the eye he replied “I’m fine…just tired.” “Oh…well.…I’d say, why me too, You do look rather pale. You see I dropped by your landlady’s this morning, she said you hadn’t been in all night. Why, it gave me a right shock…I thought maybe that Jade had put you in hospital. Well, you know what I say…we should take on the little brute, not let him get away with it, huh?” Mitya nodded, although he had not heard a word. Pyotr became increasingly aware of Mitya’s despondency and for the rest of the trip the pair walked in silence. When they arrived at the track a crowd had already gathered and was slowly making its way into the stadium. Pyotr weaselled his way through the crowd and Mitya followed. Despite the sea of bodies that brushed against him and shoved him from side to side, Mitya felt utterly alone. The crowd moved in a deranged manner into the stadium. Mitya mechanically followed Pyotr to his seat and sank into a troubled meditation. His thoughts drowned each other out, all awash of words, resonating in his head. They twisted and danced and their grotesque song grew in intensity. They were violent, turbulent and their wrath uncontainable. Mitya shook as if weeping. Despair gripped his body. Pyotr ignored Mitya’s melancholy disposition. In vain he tried to get Mitya enthused in the impending race, making remarks about the horses and inventing elaborate uses for the money that they might win. Mitya seemed not to notice. He was lost to the world. He felt a strange sensation drowning him, and trapped in his void of thought, he was oblivious to the race that had begun. Mitya


belconnen high school

33

glanced around him and the world seemed to take a new shape. He was gripped by ecstasy. He no longer despaired at his consciousness. The angst of his liberty had passed. He cherished his condemnation of responsibility. It granted him new hope; a hope for retribution. He rose from his seat and without seeing anything he began to make his way through the crowd. He did not hear Pyotr’s ecstatic cries. “Mitya, we won, come back, we won. “ Mitya disappeared into the crowd. He trudged through the streets, not recognising or caring where he went, but somehow he had purpose. Purpose was something new to him, something wonderful, something beautiful, something he had chosen.

notes 1

Mitya is a shortened, informal form of the Russian name Dimitri.

2

A muzhik is a type of Russian peasant, who would have most likely been a serf before the 1861 agricultural reforms.

3

St. Petersburg, informally Pifer, is a Russian city located on the Neva River at the east end of the Gulf of Finland. The City is the capital (1732–1918) of the Russian Empire at the time when the story is set.

4

A knout is a type of whip introduced into Russia in the 15th century, which came to common usage by the time of the 18th century.

5

Vodka is a distilled beverage made from potato, which originates from Russia.

6

The Rouble is a unit of currency, which was in use in the Russian Empire at the time of the 18th century.

7

An arshin is an old Russian system of measurement. One arshin equates to approximately 0.7 metres.

8

A hieromonach is a Russian Orthodox monk who is also a priest.


34

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

The Cupboard isabella morawetz

The room looked dark and uninviting. Her eyes scraped over the old wooden cupboard that stood proudly in the corner. The top of its body was hidden under a thick sheet of cobwebs and dust and the rusted hinges down the sides held tightly onto the strong doors, keeping the secrets hidden inside. Brass knobs with delicate little patterns protruded through the front, and, as though they were calling and beckoning her to come hold them, the girl felt drawn toward its presence. Turning quickly, her eyes searched frantically for any sign of movement in the dim, candle lit hallway. She reached out and touched the wall for support as she crept forward. The light of the flames licked at the walls and bounced off her skin as she moved gingerly ahead. Within seconds she reached the end of the corridor, just as reality finally started to seep into her. If he was here, she needed to hide. Her heart suddenly gave a radical jump. The main door down the stairs had been flung open, and slammed against the wall, causing the dusty floorboards to shudder. The hair on the back of her neck prickled and she choked back a scream. Her dress stuck to her legs with perspiration. She heard constant clatters and bangs from the room downstairs‌He was looking for her. Her breath was caught in her throat She stepped back, her heel catching the hem of her dress. She had no time to regain her balance before she found herself falling backwards. She reached out, hoping to catch something to save her collapsing. Her back found the hard wall of the hallway and a small twinge of pain shot up her spine as she dropped blatantly to the ground. The floorboards gave


belconnen high school

35

a small creak and she bit her lip at once, hoping the man hadn’t heard the thud. Sweat trickled down her temple as she tried to silently heave herself up. She found her knees just as her worst fears were confirmed. The protrusive scuffling of his feet could now be heard climbing the rickety staircase. Her breaths came in searing gasps as she tried to find her footing. His grunting and ragged breaths were echoing through the top landing and they drummed in her ears. Struggling to her feet, she lifted her dress roughly above her ankles and clambered toward the room that waited behind her. She ran fast, not caring about the noise her feet was making now. She knew he would be upstairs soon and a fresh wave of panic consumed her body as she skidded over the threshold of the little room. She could not turn around now. Her eyes again locked onto the same cupboard in the corner. The handles winked eerily at her. She closed her eyes and glided over to what was her last resort. She grabbed hold of one of the knobs that seemed to be calling her and pulled. The door didn’t open. Her heart was beating so fast now that it stabbed at her chest She pulled again. The old door of the cupboard inched slightly away from its frame but did not open enough for her to squeeze in. She let out a silent cry and scrunched up her face, tightened her grip, and pulled harder. The door bumped again but still did not give in. Her vision was now blurred with sweat and tears of frustration. She could hear footsteps in the room opposite the hallway already. He was getting closer. Hysteria jabbed at her again as she began to pull at the handle over and over, the cupboard shaking and the door inching in and out of its frame. It seemed like an age until finally there was a dull click and it sprang out. The girl’s breath became caught in her throat as she squatted, hitched up her dress once more, and crawled inside. A strong dank smell of rotting wood filled her nostrils and swam in her head as she hurriedly pushed


36

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

her back up against the board, blinking back tears. The bottom of the cupboard groaned and she sat immediately still. There was a sudden thump against the wall of the corridor that caused the cupboard to tremble. She realised the door was wide open. She took a sharp intake of breath through her nose and lunged forward, grabbing the rough corner and yanked it back towards her. The hinges gave a little sigh as she shut it as well as she could without crushing her fingers. Thump thump thump. She had no idea where in the house the man was now. She had lost track of time, but she could now hear him frightfully well. She now sat trembling with fear and exhaustion. Apart from the prominent beating of her heart, the blood that pounded in her ears was nauseating. Her body was now prickling with a layer of sweat and her hands that once again grasped her dress tightly were clammy and hot. Her breaths were painful and when she swallowed, it was as if a knife was piercing her neck. Her throat was scorched and felt like sandpaper. Her hair was plastered to her face and neck in a matted, tangled mess. The little air she could breathe had a great musty smell about it. The dust clawed at her lungs. Her knees, cramped up to her heaving chest were throbbing with a rhythmic pain and she now longed to stretch them out. Thump thump thump. He was now in the hallway, she was certain. She breathed in sharply, detecting a stark bitter taste on her tongue that gave her the urge to retch. The noise of him dragging himself towards the room punctured her eardrums repeatedly. Thump thump thump. The thin sliver of light that crept in through the crack between the doors hurt her eyes. She knew he was just mere seconds away from her now. She whimpered silently. Dear God, don’t let him find me‌her mind yelled continuously in her ear. Without warning there came a deafening crash within


belconnen high school

37

the room. The girl jumped fiercely and the cupboard shook for a moment. Tears sprang to her eyes as she realised what had just occurred. Great rumbling breaths could be heard right near where she sat. The little gap of light wasn’t as bright now and there was a large shadow moving about. She could hear him right next to the cupboard. She could hear every sniff and rustle that he made. She glanced down the gap in the door… There was something lying on the dirty rug that was not there before. The shape of the unknown object did not look as if it belonged to a human. It looked heavy and dangerous. The girl almost forgot the man was still there as her mind buzzed, trying to work out what the foreign object was. It wasn’t long before the man grunted again, his shadow moving about sluggishly and the sounds of his feet were muffled on the rug as he pulled himself up. His shadow shot out of the way and a thick stream of light hit the thing on the ground, bouncing off at awkward angles. Suddenly she realised. Her eyes grew wide in fear and shock as it finally dawned on her. It was a gun. She clapped a hand to her mouth to stop herself screaming as his large dirty hand fell upon the weapon, dragging it out of her view. She felt dizzy and weak from shock. Her knees screeched at her to be stretched out but she wouldn’t listen. “I know you’re ‘ere” croaked the voice. Her ears rang. The words echoed through her head as she tried not to cry out in alarm. Her hand squeezed against her mouth so hard she found it hard to breathe. She closed her eyes for a moment. He had found her. She had lost. When she opened them again she couldn’t see. The sliver of light had disappeared. Her body went cold with fear. Heavy breathing racked the air above her. Her ears still rang with the spoken words. Her heart was about to explode from her chest.


38

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

All she could do was stare ahead. Suddenly the doors were ripped open, blinding light flooded her shivering body and she finally saw him up close. His pants were muddy and torn. He wore thick boots that were falling apart and as she glanced up, sheer terror spreading through her body like wildfire, she saw that his shirt was almost completely tattered. He wore a triumphant grin on his dirty, bearded face and in his hand, he held the gun. “You should ‘a known I was gunna find ya” came his deep rumbling voice from above her. He knelt down and reached out with his free hand, grabbing her throat firmly. Her breath was hitched in her lungs. He yanked her up to her feet. Her body felt suddenly weak and frail. He sniggered into the side of her face as he sniffed her hair. The strong smell of alcohol radiated off him and she could smell it immediately. “You can’t run away now…” he breathed into her face and the girl now felt so much hatred rippling through her chest and head that she knew that death would not serve as the best possible way of winning against this man. Adrenaline now coursed through her veins. Beads of sweat slid down the sides of her body and she clenched her jaw until it quaked. The man drew an eager breath in, locking his cold grey eyes with hers. The grip of his hand was now numbing her forearm. “I win.” drawled his voice once more into her pallid skin. White-hot anger shot through every part of her body and she finally lunged out, her legs kicking and striking his shins. He let out a yell of astonishment and pain as he flung back, losing his grip on her. She shrieked as she threw herself at him again, her fists now reaching his cheek and collarbone, scratching and clawing. He attempted to push her away but her attacks were now too powerful. He yelled and swore, covering his face with his free hand. She took this as her one and only chance.


belconnen high school

39

Her feet continued to pummel his kneecaps as her fingers clasped cold metal, prying the weapon eagerly from his weakening grasp. A shrill cry escaped his lips as he realized his best chance to win was now gone. “No!� came his raspy voice as he tried to snatch the gun, but he was now too late. The girl licked her lips as she held the gun fiercely, hands shaking and eyes not looking away from her target. She did not waste time. She closed her finger over the small trigger and flicked it victoriously towards her. An ear-piercing crack rang out and swept out across the room, and the body fell back, dead. The smell of hot metal filled her sinuses. A small grin crept upon her pale face for the first time. She stared mercilessly at the limp figure at her feet, now bending and taking a handful of the brown unkempt shirt of the man. She hauled the body upright, and, after moving behind him, pushed him onto his front. She now stood, and dragged the body along the floor. The door of the cupboard lay open, waiting. She slumped his chest down onto the board, took hold of his grubby ankles, and stuffed his legs in also. His body almost folded, rolling into the small confines of his dingy new home. She cast the gun in also, laying it under his placid arm. Closing the door, she buried it in its frame once again. The cupboard stood almost valiantly, its brass knobs seemed to smile at the girl, and she smiled back. Breathing heavily, she walked back towards the door. At first, the room seemed intimidating and dead, but now it filled her stomach with a great pride. Brushing away the dust on her dress, she waltzed down the hallway, the smirk never once faltering on her gleaming face. She had won.


40

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

The Cupboard jordan bulley

With every nervous breath we took, I was sure that we would be caught. Closer and closer the footsteps became. I could hear the long creaks of the mature floorboards beneath their feet. Daniel and I would soon be discovered if we didn’t think of something soon. It was all Daniel’s fault really. If he hadn’t been so eager to break the rules, to be an outlaw we might not have been in this situation. If only we had done what good kids do, what we usually did in the summer holidays, rather than having explored forbidden rooms in our holiday house. It wasn’t his entire fault I suppose, I could’ve said no, but being the good friend I am, I went along with his dodgy scheme. In the cupboard we edged ever so slowly to the rear. As we reached its limits there was a soft, yet heavy bang on the wood and I prayed that whoever was out there hadn’t heard it.“What are we going to do?” I whispered with urgency. I glanced to my right where Daniel was hiding but he was nowhere to be seen. Confused as to where Daniel could have gone, I caught a glimpse of light. As I bent down to the source of the light, I realized it was coming from a small opening, a door. I quickly darted through the door and into a small room, closing the door behind me. “Daniel?” I asked, apparently to no one. He wasn’t in here. I began an investigation of my new surroundings in his absence. I walked to the far corner of the room where there was an old, but elegant piano. I paced to the front of the piano and traced the keys with my fingers, slowly. Too anxious to make a sound, 1 left the piano and began an investigation of the rest of the room. “Where am I?” I whispered to the room. I glanced around. There was an old book


belconnen high school

41

case filled with English literature, as well as a vibrant, red reading chair, however, there were no windows and no doors and the purpose of the room was a mystery to me. All of the objects in the room were covered in a thick coating of dust and appeared not to have been used in years. I reached for a pale blue book on the bookcase. I brushed the dust away, to see that with age the title had disappeared. On opening the cover I noticed that the majority of the text was missing. I flicked through the pages hoping to find something remotely substantial, without success. I extended my arm to replace the book, when something fell from within it. I looked towards the floor where there was a neatly folded, piece of paper. I opened it slowly to prevent any damage. Inside was what seemed to be a note. It read: I see you have discovered my ‘lair’, My treasured books and reading chair. If you look to the right You will find something in sight Inside will be some things to use, More and more small clues for you! Empowered with the excitement of my new discovery, I quickly forgot about Daniel. “To the right, to the right,” I whispered to myself, thinking aloud. I looked to the right of the room. The only thing in sight was the piano, so with caution I proceeded towards it once again. I opened the lid to reveal a chaos of spider webs and dust, as well as a strong, damp smell. Overcome with excitement, I ignored my instincts telling me to run as far away as possible. My curiosity led me to rummage through the network of spider web, in hope of finding whatever it was that the mysterious writer had hinted was there. As the web began to clear I noticed a small, auburn box, intricately carved with dainty swirls and other capturing patterns.


42

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

I grasped the box and pried it from the piano. I set it down on the floor but, to my disappointment, it was locked. I looked back inside the piano to see if I’d missed anything. Fortunately there was a small key, hidden to the unobservant eye beneath the spider web. I pushed the key into the keyhole and turned it to hear a sound similar to nails on a chalk board. I hinged the lid back. Inside was a well preserved piece of neatly folded paper, similar to the note I found in the book. As well as this there was another key. I was struck with its antiquity. It appeared to be at least one hundred years old, covered with red rust. I dusted away the top layer of tarnish to reveal delicate, swirling carvings at the top that appeared to correspond with the decoration on the box. As well as this, there was something else. Something that made my skin crawl. A pitcher of red liquid that looked remarkably similar to blood. I peered long and hard into the container with disgust. What was going on? Who would collect a container full of blood? If it was blood at all, that is. Let alone put it in a box for someone else to find! This was getting weirder and weirder. “Hey, what are you doing?” Daniel asked, startling me. “Don’t do that!” I replied in all seriousness despite the smirk that crossed his face. “Where have you been?” I asked sternly. “I went through the door behind the book case, duh!” he said smiling. “I swear you were right behind me but I looked back, and sure enough, you weren’t. I came back as soon as I could.” Daniel explained, somewhat uneasily. ‘This is getting serious. Look at this,” I said showing him the container. “What do you think it is?” His face suddenly lost its humour. “It’s blood. Definitely blood.” Daniel told me. I hadn’t expected his answer at all. It was just too certain. “Yeah, that’s what I thought,” I said quite slowly, uncertain about what he was thinking. “Well,” I started, trying to lighten the mood, “While you’ve had a grand old time exploring, look what I’ve found.” I lifted the box, to provide a better view.


belconnen high school

43

“Wow that is truly amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a box before.” Daniel said sarcastically, the seriousness of the situation drifting away. “Very funny. Look what’s inside.” I said impatiently. “It’s an old key and I think it’s another note.” I told him. “Another note?” Daniel asked, confused. “Yeah, I found this riddle earlier in a book. See?” I showed him the riddle. “This is getting really creepy,” Daniel stated, becoming paler and paler in the face. “Do you think we should open it?” I asked with expectancy. “Open what?” Daniel asked, distracted. “The paper, the new note.” I explained, getting more and more frustrated with his apparent detachment from the situation. “We need to get out of here.” Daniel said with a sense of determination, ignoring my question. BANG!! Suddenly, from behind the wall where the cupboard was situated, a loud noise began to make the room vibrate. “Someone’s trying to get in!” I exclaimed, becoming flustered. “Quick! Follow me!” Daniel instructed as he grabbed the box and its contents and tore across the room towards the bookcase. Uncertain as to whom we were running from, I followed Daniel, trusting he would get us away safely. He pushed the bookcase to the right, and to my astonishment, revealed a small doorway, hidden to the unsuspecting eye. The door was concealed, covered with the same wall paper as the wall itself. Daniel wasn’t acting like his usual self. Despite this strange change in his character, I continued to follow him. Daniel entered the doorway, and I closely followed behind him. Unlike entering the other room, we were forced to travel down what I would describe as a tunnel, a kind of test to see if we could make it out the other side. Neither of us spoke a word. Neither Daniel nor I felt inclined to converse, which, for our usual chatter-box selves,


44

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

was quite abnormal. Finally, after crawling for what seemed like at least three excruciating hours, we arrived in the next room. I clambered out quite awkwardly, to fall onto a moth-eaten mattress. “Ewww!!” I exclaimed as I struggled, not able to get off the bed quickly enough. I looked around at my new surroundings, feeling stranger with every new situation. This room was a lot plainer than the one before. There was only the bed and another cupboard, similar to the one we encountered at the beginning of our expedition. “Where do you think we are?” I asked, in hope that Daniel would answer with an encouraging response. “All I know is that this is getting weird now.” Daniel replied, more serious than I’d ever seen him. “Look at this,” Daniel said as he showed me the note 1 found in the box. It read: You’re almost done, but not yet free, So far, so far you’ve failed to see The reason for your little quest, Finding lots of little chests. Hope you’ve had a splendid time That’s all from me and ends my rhyme. “See, we’ve been taken on a quest!” I exclaimed. “We should use the key to open the cupboard.” Daniel suggested as he took the key out of the box. Ignoring my statement, he shoved it roughly into the keyhole on the cupboard. Just as we both expected it would, the cupboard door swung open invitingly. He stepped inside and I followed. Using our knowledge, learnt previously, we moved as far back as possible and tried to locate a door. Feeling like a bug wedged between two rocks, I believed that if I didn’t get out soon I would suffocate. Just as I was about to give up, my hand brushed a small, hardly visible, door handle. I pulled it open slowly and Daniel and I stepped out of the cupboard. I realised at once that this room was much less welcoming than the previous ones.


belconnen high school

45

Pitch black with darkness, I squinted my eyes in the hope that they would adjust to the lack of light. “Daniel?” I whispered shakily through sheer fright to hear no reply. Carefully I felt my way along the wall, as in I was blind, until I came to a light switch. Tentatively, I switched on the light and gazed around the room which I could now see. It was larger than any room I had seen in my life. The room was filled with large rectangular boxes. Confused, I approached the brown one nearest to me. The box, I could now see, was made of wood and had a message engraved on the top. I peered down, looming over the box and read: caroline saunders She got what she deserved with an axe to the head Filled with nothing but horror, astonishment and disbelief, I forced myself not to flee. I felt my heart race as small balls of sweat began to collect on my forehead. With difficulty, I forced myself to turn back towards the box. Underneath the message, I noticed, was a cross, etched into the wood. It was a long slender cross. Suddenly I realized the purpose of the many rectangular boxes. They were crypts, coffins; a room filled with them. Nothing crossed my mind that could truly describe the feeling inside me with this realization. Flooded with a wave of shock 1 edged, slowly, back to the door. Only when I felt it was safe did I turn to reach for the handle in order to escape. I found Daniel blocking the only exit. “We have to get out of here Daniel! They’re coffins! Dead people, murdered people!” I said exasperated, eager to leave. His expression didn’t change, as he looked upon the room with disinterest. “I know,” he said with an ice-cold stare.


46

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Kade’s Reprisal madeline collins

a new position He looked upon her with controlled hatred. Always from the regulation distance away, in the same place. Sitting on her throne, she was the cause of all of his anguish. The reason he had no family, no last name and no culture. He had watched her for so many years now, that her every feature had been burned into his memory. He refused to forget what she had done. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw her. She would be dressed in the deepest shade of green, her long black hair, immaculately styled with silver pins. Her pale face was the moon at the centre of a cold, dark night sky so many years ago. Kade was drawn out of his loathing by the ceremonial phrase uttered by his long time master, the inner guard trainer and general of the Supreme Ruler’s armies, Rafe. “The day has drawn to a close! You have served your empire well!” The day guards began filing out of their defensive bow formation and exited the lavishly furnished throne room. All were dressed in suits that were a shade of green darker than that of their ruler, whom all their lives were tied to. As always, Kade was the last to exit. He received a jolt of excitement as he passed his ruler. His long awaited vengeance was drawing close. “A moment Kade” stated Rafe quietly in the corridor. He never asked anything. Kade looked at this huge and muscular bald man, trying not to look expectant. A wave of fear passed over him, his mentor hadn’t spoken to him since his training had ceased, many, many years ago.


belconnen high school

47

Rafe looked up and down the corridor inconspicuously before continuing. “You are the longest serving member of the Green Bow Guard in our history,” he said this simply, even though it was a great accomplishment. Many guards never survived their first year, let alone their eighth. This was due to the fact that if you killed an existing member, your place in the inner guard was guaranteed. Kade had gone through his service with barely a scar, and Rafe knew it. “That is why,” Rafe continued, “you have been chosen for this…task.” He paused for a moment and appeared as if he was trying to come to terms with what he was about to say. “There is a…traitor in our midst.” Kade was relieved then his look of horror mixed with disbelief was registered as concern. It was also pleasing for him to know that no one suspected him, though a whisper of his plan had been heard. “What is it that you wish of me?” Kade asked calmly. Rafe smiled, he genuinely believed the ruse. “I want you to find this person and bring them before your Supreme Ruler to be destroyed!” He spoke with overwhelming venom. He truly cared about what happened to Moonflower. Kade bowed. This new position would make it considerably easier to frame his accomplice for the murder. Bekkus would never see it coming, and no one would believe her if she dared to say otherwise. This new plan was appealing. Bekkus had dared to let something slip in the kitchen, and she was going to pay for it. “I live to serve the empire.” Kade said with his back exposed, a great sign of trust and respect in this new culture. Rafe nodded in acknowledgement. “Starting tomorrow I want you to watch the night guards.” He then walked away in the same direction as the Green Bow Guards had. Kade groaned and peered back into the throne room. Moonflower was still on her throne. Her curly haired Footrest was grovelling at her feet. He was an acquisition she had made from a royal family. A prince and their loyalty traded for their lives.


48

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Kade swallowed. Standing next to her was Flora. He had admired her from the first moment he had laid eyes on her. She was slim with incredibly attractive short brown hair. “The one person I have ever had feelings for,” he whispered, his gaze transfixed, “and I will never be able to speak with her…” Flora loved Moonflower above all else. If he killed her, she would never speak to him. He watched her for a moment longer. She fixed a strand of hair that had come loose from Moonflower’s flawless hair arrangement. Resigned, he turned his attention to the person who was conversing with his ruler. She was someone whom Kade had seen for only a marginal amount of time compared to the rest of the important staff. Second in command, it was she who carried out all of the dirty jobs that could besmirch their ruler’s name. Beautiful & blonde and she sat now on a chair in front of her ruler wearing trousers and a tunic, practical but unusual. She went by the name of Ell. The Green Bow Guards held her in high regard, and never dared to look upon her, they valued their lives far too much.

poison Midnight was too late a time to convene with someone when you had to be rested enough to stand perfectly still through the whole day, thought Kade as he stood concealed in the shadows of a pillar of an unfrequented garden, his presence further disguised by the dark black clothing he wore. He patiently waited for the person who was going to bring the tool of his revenge. She too was someone who wanted the death of Moonflower almost as much as Kade did himself, her family had been slaughtered by their ruler’s army, as had Kade’s. A low whistle signalled her arrival and he stepped out. She was petite and well dressed for her situation. She never saw the need for looking indistinct. She skipped towards him, wearing a blood red


belconnen high school

49

dress. It was her idea of what a mourning colour should be and she wore it every day for her lost family. “Greetings Kade.” Her low voice always surprised him. It was highly uncharacteristic for her stature. “Well met, Clarice. Let’s make this meeting brief, it would not be good for prying eyes to see us together.” She smiled wickedly. “I can see that is the way you feel from your attire. Black does not suit your complexion, nor your hair my friend.” She reached down the front of her dress into a secret pocket she kept. An action which made Kade look away from her, a slight redness in his cheeks. She held out her hand elegantly, the vial of liquid resting in her palm. “I expect to see you again you know. If this turns out right, you will be the next ruler and I expect there to be a place waiting for me. If not, I want a part in the next plan.” She transferred the vial into his outstretched hand, winking once before she left the way she had come. Kade shook his head, he didn’t know how she had managed to sneak into the palace. Or, if she didn’t, how she acquired a position working here. bekkus After acquiring the poison, Kade had no time to deliver it to Bekkus. He needed to sleep before his Green Bow Guard duty, knife points had the habit of being closer when he was tired. The day stretched longer than any other Kade had experienced. When it was over, he made his way as fast as it was seemly to do so, towards the kitchens where Bekkus was waiting for him. There was only a small window of time for the poison to be added to Moonflower’s tea. After that, he had to wait one more agonizing day. The rush for serving dinner had just begun when he arrived. He was not an unusual sight for the kitchen staff as he had been taking


50

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

his meals there since he started. The threats of death towards him had seemed too authentic to be ignored. Bekkus was not difficult to find. Her hair colour, which defined her being, stood out from any other person in the world. She was the first person in recorded history to take a clothing dye to her hair and was now considered by most, very eccentric. Her hair was coloured purple. Kade had also found out during his time in the kitchen that she had an amazing artistic talent that could make her a lot of money, raising her standing in the palace hierarchy. However both her modesty, and her hate for Moonflower had kept her confined in the kitchen. When Kade found her, he was pondering whether to confront her about her slip. He delayed and watched her for a minute. She could never be considered conventionally beautiful, however she had that spark of personality that made Kade forget about appearance. Her large dark eyes always captured his gaze and held it until it was time for his duty. She finally noticed him watching her. “Hello Kade.” She had the most unusual way of speaking, emphasizing some words as if they mattered more than the rest. “I have it.” he whispered, still not sure whether he should confront her. She rolled her eyes at him. “You should have given it to me sooner. The tea is almost ready to be sent out.” He smiled apologetically, “I know, I’m sorry.” She looked fidgety for a moment, “I don’t know how I did it, but in a fit of anger I planted the thought of a conspiracy into the wash boy’s head. He has aspirations of climbing his way into a spot in the army and will do anything to curry favour.” Her face showed how disappointed with herself she was. Kade looked sideways and saw what she was talking about. The wash boy listened astutely to everything said around him. “Right,” he said, trying to implicate her further, while distancing


belconnen high school

51

himself from blame. “I’m not sure how that will help me, but I’m sure it’s valuable information. Do talk to me if any other problems occur.” He reached out to shake her hand, giving her the vial in the process. Walking over to the counter where his meal was waiting, he then ate what he could in the few spare moments he had before his new position demanded his presence. He almost had to run to the dining room. the wait At night in the palace there were two sets of night shift Green Bow Guards. One was situated in the throne room where Moonflower controlled her empire and made plans to expand it. There was a giant map on the floor complete with a set of wooden figures which represented both her and her enemies’ armies. The remaining guards defended her chambers, some remaining inside whilst she slept , the others situated in defensive positions outside the room. Around the large dining room the Green Guards stood watching vigilantly. Kade stood to the side, alone and unwatched, allowing his own eyes to wander. At the round table, there were three additions that Kade had seen take an audience with his ruler previously. He had taken note of their names at the time because they were obviously important: Moonflower had allowed them to sit on chairs rather than stand through their meeting. “He screamed like a stuck pig!” came the husky voice of Lemrak, Moonflower’s Chief Torturer. Kade knew that it was a female, though outwardly she looked male. Many had made that mistake and reportedly, had suffered for it greatly. Even from a distance Kade could see her dangerously pointed nails. Just one of her many instruments of torture. “I can’t believe that you don’t find that funny!” Lemrak chided, shaking her head at Hectra.


52

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Red-blonde curls bounced upon Hectra’s shoulders as she shook her head at the sadistic torturer. “I have better things to do with my time than marvel at the effects of pain on living creatures” she snapped. She was diminutive in size, though she made up for it greatly in intelligence. All of the night guards now, appeared to be the same person, as did most of the army. Hectra had derived a way to create a multitude of humans who all looked exactly alike. Kade was the only one who was different. No one had been good enough to best him in battle, yet. “Yes, the scientist.” Kade looked up and down the table. Their banter was irritating him. Grae was missing. The intelligence officer was most likely working on the identity of the person who threatened Moonflower’s life. She had an extensive network of spies that stretched across the whole empire. Kade spied a person unknown to him, standing on the left hand side of Moonflower. “Ursula? Where is my tea?!” demanded Moonflower. “I have been waiting for ages!” The buxom, foreign looking woman scurried off and returned quickly followed by the kitchen staff. Mayer, whom Kade knew, winked at him. Moonflower’s temperament was a long running jest between them. Through the chatter, Kade watched Ursula drink the tea then nibble at the rest of the meal. She was only halfway through when she started to convulse and shudder. The room went silent. She foamed at the mouth. As she screamed she sprayed spit across the table, before slumping heavily to the floor. Kade pursed his lips in rage. Bekkus had added far too much poison to the tea! He knew that Ursula would be testing the food, she would have died as well, but now his chance for revenge was ruined!


belconnen high school

53

He would have to work fast to save himself and implicate Bekkus before he was suspected. He stepped forward to take control of the situation. To the Green Guards in the loops of the formation he said, “Take that food away to be destroyed!” He turned to the Green Guards on the left side of the room. “Now is your moment to prove yourself! Go to the kitchens, apprehend the staff and keep them in individual cells. Stand outside to make sure that they don’t communicate to each other!” He twisted to the Green Guards on the right side of the room. “Secure the room, no one else is to be allowed in! We will find the offender before the night is out!” blame The gaol of the palace is where you know your life is going to come to an end. Kade hated to think that most of the kitchen staff were going to be tortured that night, though that couldn’t be helped if he was going to live through this ordeal as well. Bekkus wouldn’t break in torture. She had lived through considerably more than that already. Kade also knew that she wouldn’t implicate him. She had taken the risk and was doomed to die for her failure. She also knew that after her death, Kade was the only chance she had for her family and herself to be avenged. He was starting to feel guilty, it had only just dawned on him that she was going to die. Kade shed a tear at her bravery when she cried into the corridor, “I did it! I tried to poison the evil whore!” * Much later Kade sought out a private moment with her before she was taken to the block. As soon as she spied him, she whispered “I’m so sorry Kade, I got the dosage wrong! It was a lot more potent than I expected. I have used that poison before, from the same supplier as well, but it has never been that concentrated.” Kade made a promise then that Clarice had a lot of explaining to do.


54

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

He knew that she admired him and that she was jealous of the time he spent with Bekkus. “Thank you Bekkus, for trying. I will avenge your death. Next time it will work and she will suffer a long and painful death.” A tear rolled down her cheek. She was terrified of dying, yet she remained stoic. “I look forward to seeing her in hell…” She smiled half-heartedly. “I’ll be waiting for you as well.” Kade heard footsteps approaching. The time was here for her to be executed. He quickly reached through the bars and wiped away her tear. “It will be quick” he promised. “You won’t feel a thing.” She rolled her eyes at him. “I’ve been through worse.” Kade didn’t doubt her words. punishment The death of Bekkus came with one stroke of finality. Kade showed the proper façade until the moment where the axe was swinging down and Bekkus was holding his gaze. Before he could control himself, a single tear was released and it slid its way down his cheek. From where Bekkus was, it glistened in the sunlight. It was the last thing she ever saw. There was a sudden sense of relief, that in her life, she had found someone who had cared for her. the second conspirator The death of Bekkus, and the end of the threat against the supreme ruler had sent Kade back to his old position in the Green Bow Guard formation. Days trickled into weeks before Kade even contemplated finding someone else to help him. Before he began listening to the snatches of conversation that indicated traitorous thoughts, he was contacted by an anonymous letter. Help me rise in power,


belconnen high school

55

And revenge will be yours, And Bekkus’s. Meet me in your secret garden. Tonight. Against his better judgment Kade followed the instruction on the letter. He felt like he owed the chance to Bekkus. After his duty and his meal he stole up to the garden where he had met Clarice and waited in the same place, hidden deep in shadow. He wondered briefly how someone had found out. After a few moments he could hear someone trying to steal up behind him. He turned sharply and caught him by the collar, raising him to his toes. “You would have to do one thousand times better than that before you could ever catch me off guard.” The shadowed features winced apologetically. “I won’t ever try that again, I swear it.” Kade gently released his grip and the man stepped away. “I came here tonight,” he said after he had regained his composure, “to offer you an alliance. If you bring me to a standing of power in the empire, I will help you destroy Moonflower. This time she will die.” Kade raised his eyebrows skeptically, he was beginning to get an idea of who this could possibly be. “How?” “I have more connections with the outside world, than you do fingers and toes. I can acquire anything you need for her demise,” he ventured, trying to sound brave. Kade knew now that this was no man he was being confronted by, it was the wash boy who had tipped off the palace intelligence to Bekkus’s intentions. “Deal, wash boy. We will discuss this further, though not tonight.” Kade turned and left the wash boy standing there gaping after his own apparent accomplishment. He would play this boy’s game,


56

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

but when the time of Moonflower’s demise came, he would die for Bekkus’s death as well.From behind him he heard the tentative call of the wash boy. “My name is Tylor…”


belconnen high school

57

Sleep kelsey horvath

There is a single crack across the surface of the mirror. It doesn’t go up very far. It doesn’t spider web in the usual way glass does when it cracks. You reach out a hand to touch it. Your fingers leave slight, misty imprints on the glass, like a ghost of you. The cupboard smells old and dusty, making you want to sneeze, even though you know it is reasonably new like the rest of the house. The door creaks a little wider. It is made of some sort of dark wood, darker than the rest of the structure. The wood at the back of the cupboard is rough, unvarnished. It scratches your fingertips as you move your hand across it, splintering your fingertips slightly. For some reason, you don’t want to leave your hand near the mirror for too long. It’s unusual for the mirror to be in the back of the cupboard. Mirrors in cupboards are normally fastened to the back of the door. It feels odd, and you nearly laugh at yourself for thinking it in the morning light, but this cupboard seems to be more than a cupboard. It feels…malevolent, somehow. * The girl slipped the headphones over her ears. She had three assignments and an essay to do, all due the day after tomorrow. She should have been working. She should have slipped down to the study to get at the computer by now. Everyone in the house would be asleep by now. But something held her back. She pressed the silver Play button on the portable cd player. Portable. That was a joke. She couldn’t carry it around with her. Nobody could. There were no pockets in the world big enough.


58

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

But she couldn’t afford an iPod. She couldn’t see the cd spinning, although she knew which one it was. She had to turn the lights off. She wasn’t supposed to be up late, not now she was sharing a room with her little sister. Her little sister’s face was blue in the half-darkness of early morning. Her little sister could sleep through just about anything. Including the whirring of portable cd players. The girl ignored the nagging voice that kept telling her about all the work she had to do. She didn’t want to do homework, not now, not in the few stolen hours she had to herself. And she couldn’t do it in daytime, like a normal person, either. That would mean her parents would find out how long she’d left it. And then she’d get it. Like she really needed them to remind her how stupid she was. The girl flicked the volume wheel higher with her thumb. Right now, she needed to forget. In private, where there was no-one to see. The way she’d always done. * She’d had to pretend it was hay fever. Even though she’d never had hay fever, and probably never would. Her eyes stung, and she felt ashamed. She’d never been the type to be self-pitying. She’d never been the type to wallow. Wallowing was a stupid thing to do. It only gave other people the chance to kick you while you were down. And she hated crying. It made her face swell up, her nose red and inflamed, her eyes pink and three times smaller than they normally were. Crying was supposed to suit people who were thin and pale and fair. But maybe that was only the princess girls, the ones who had long, thick gold hair and looked like Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella It always looked romantic when people who looked like that were crying.


belconnen high school

59

But not her, not with her pale, stringy hair and features that always seemed to fit together wrongly every time she saw them in the mirror. The girl knew her tears didn’t look romantic. Tears only made her face look ill, like she had flu, or pink and blotched and swollen, like a picture she’d once seen of cancer. Why was she crying, anyway? It was a stupid thing, really. Who cared if she’d only gotten sixty-eight percent on her Maths test? It didn’t really matter. No, it wasn’t the worst thing. The worst thing was having no friends to tell her it didn’t matter. If someone had laughed with her, told her that her parents would never have to find out and lecture her, it would have been all right. But no. She’d sat in the library for half of lunch, hunched over a bedraggled copy of Harry Potter, trying not to notice that she had no friends. Trying not to cry. Until, eventually, she’d had enough and gone home. The first time she’d ever wagged school. Her parents would kill her. They’d find out, they’d get an email from the school. ‘We are writing to inform you that your daughter was not marked present at school on the afternoon of Wednesday the nineteenth of August…’ Or something like that. The girl crawled over to the corner of her room. She had always thought the cupboard was ugly. Its door was a different colour to the rest of it, a darker wood. It sat there, oblong and glowering at her, like a tall dwarf taken up residence in her room. But now its appearance didn’t matter to her. The girl opened the door and crawled inside. It was dark in there. Almost friendly.

*


60

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

The girl tried to pull the darkness to her, tried to use it like a blanket to huddle against the panic. But she couldn’t. They’d find out, they’d find out, and they wouldn’t listen to her, they wouldn’t care that the loneliness had nearly killed her. All that would matter to her parents would be the fact that she’d wagged school, and nearly failed a Maths test. She looked around, her mind still giving its commentary, and saw the mirror, high up above her head. She was curled up in the bottom, so it probably wasn’t all that far away. It was a square of silver, distorted because of the angle at which she was looking at it. It was whole, unbroken. Not like her. Not for the first time, the girl began to wonder if there was something wrong with her. Why would no-one ever talk to her? Why did she have to try so hard? Why did she have to be the smart kid? It wasn’t fair. Why was she crying so much? Was some vital part of her broken, rattling around inside unattached with no-one seeing or hearing? Her face felt warm and hot and wet. Her fingers brushed something angular and uncomfortable. She felt the shape of the handle, a pair of scissors. She pushed them away angrily. What were they doing in here? She wanted to be alone. Her fingers caught in the loops. Almost as if they were trying to tell her something. Straight away she rejected the idea, but somehow it managed to creep back in again. Maybe it could work. Maybe if they came home, and they saw proof, and they saw that she needed help. Maybe if they saw how lonely she was. It didn’t take much more than that to decide her. The girl picked up the scissors, opening them, and heard the clink of metal in the dimness.


belconnen high school

61

At first, she was tentative, hardly daring to press too hard. She’d never done it before. The skin of her left wrist became sore in one long scrape from the heel of her hand to her elbow. Then she became impatient, no longer miserable. She pressed the blade of it down and moved swiftly, not caring how much it hurt any more. There was a long, sharp rip of pain. She was surprised by how much it bled. Of course, she’d known about the way it worked, that you went from the wrist to the elbow because that was the way the veins in your arm ran, and then it made you bleed more. But seeing it, actually experiencing it outside her mind, knowing it was more than an abstract piece of information… The dark glistening on the paleness of her wrist, in the light coming from the crack where the door met the cupboard’s frame, was somehow obscene. She looked away, and then despised herself for it. It was just blood.She wondered how long it would take for them to realise where she was. * Why were they so late? They normally came back from work earlier than this. Of course, she had no concept of time, no idea what was happening from inside the cupboard. She had no watch on, but surely they had to be back by now. The chink of light that was her only connection with the outside world had turned bluish. It was turning to night. Crouched in the bottom of the cupboard, she felt a little like a child playing hide-and-seek, a child nobody has bothered to come look for. She felt lonely. More lonely than ever. Gazing down at the blood coming from her wrist, she felt like an attention-seeker. She didn’t feel worried about wagging school now, but she did feel like an idiot. Why had she cried, why had she run away? Being friendless


62

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

had never bothered her before. Why had she overreacted so much? The girl shifted her legs, trying to get up. A wave of dizziness overwhelmed her, and her vision briefly turned black as though it had been bruised. The girl shook her head, trying to ignore the sensation that it was a helium balloon and she had no control over it. She tried to get up again, but collapsed. There was a click above her, and suddenly there was no light. The cupboard door was shut. She raised her elbows, thinking a gentle push would be all it needed to swing back open again. Her arms seemed to have no strength in them, like a very small child’s. The girl felt vaguely nauseous as she glanced again at where she knew her torn wrist had to be, even though she couldn’t see it in the dark. How much blood had she lost? Irrationally, the dark seemed to inspire a strange terror in her, a childlike fear of things under the bed that are best not seen. What had she done? She tried again to push the door open, but couldn’t get enough power. She was lying on her back. She felt horribly like a prematurely birthed baby, a half-formed foetus, too small and weak to survive. The dizzying faintness came again. It was more persistent this time. She raised her legs and began to kick the back wall of the cupboard. Her heels felt slippery, almost as if they had blood on them too. And maybe they did. She felt them skid across the glass of the mirror, and kicked harder. She heard a thin crack, but couldn’t summon the strength to try again. Her legs fell back against the wood, limp and useless. Nobody had heard. Nobody had come home to find her. Why did they have to be late home from work?


belconnen high school

63

‘Help!’ she tried to shout. But what was the point in yelling? Noone could hear. She couldn’t struggle any more. But she didn’t want to lie in the bottom of a cupboard to die. She hadn’t wanted death. She hadn’t been that miserable. She could feel her limbs jerking, twitching, trying to move but failing… Then, it was as though a giant had hit her on the head with a mallet. She knew nothing, and she fell into sleep. * You can hear them bringing in the furniture downstairs. You don’t go down, even though you know you’ll have to soon. To unpack, to do all those mundane things that are part of another world. This room is like any other. Grey carpet, blank walls. Like a spare room in a stranger’s house. Not even really your house. And yet it has left you something. You wonder why this cupboard is here, why the previous owners haven’t taken it with them. You can still see the mirror in the back, the pale roughness of the wood. There is a strange, dark, brownish stain near the crack in the glass. Almost as if the mirror is bleeding.


64

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

The Case of the Lunchbox Jewel wil francis

Mr. Blake was a lonely man, a quiet man and a forgettable man. He was also a dead man – he just didn’t know it yet. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves; after all we haven’t even met our hero. *

Dark rain clouds had ushered the masses of Birmingham Elementary under the great canopy of oak trees, all I should say, except for one: Brucie Yellow sat on his favourite park bench, as he always did, and slowly began his exacting ceremony of eating lunch. He withdrew his fat green lunch box and balanced it carefully on his knees. Brucie licked his lips in anticipation and unlatched the lid revealing a treasure trove of culinary delights. Cheese, crackers, dips and fruits beckoned him but his piece de résistance was the lone sandwich that lay amongst the array of foods. He placed the lunchbox down, the contents now arranged in eating order, and extracted a pedantically folded handkerchief from his left pocket and laid it carefully over his lunchbox. Breaking the tranquility of the scene, Brucie suddenly plunged himself into his bag, submerging himself in its depths. Moments later the boy lifted himself out of the bag producing a green covered book, he placed this next to him and carefully spread his handkerchief across his lap, folding it up around the edges to keep it in place. If anyone had been watching our hero the day before they would have noticed no deviation from that meticulous ritual this lunchtime, that is, until the events soon to follow. Brucie usually left the sandwich until last but he couldn’t quell that tantalizing thought of juicy tuna and he violently snatched it up. Feverishly he picked at the sandwich’s wrapping, desperate to get at the contents within.


belconnen high school

65

He couldn’t get a grip on the wrapper and his mouth screamed for the tuna sandwich. At last he caught an edge and his calm, precise demeanor returned. Slowly he unpeeled the grease proof paper and knowing heaven was just seconds away, he closed his eyes, peeled away the rest of the paper and took a bite. The tuna was not at all what he had expected nor was the bread; in fact the entire thing tasted of cotton. Brucie opened his eyes and found himself eating a green bow tie. He had thought the sandwich oddly shaped. The boy extracted the now soggy bow tie from his mouth and stared at it for a while deep in thought. He looked to his book and then to the tie again. “This is just like the green detective’s tie,” he said at last. Without another thought he took off his egregious school tie and replaced it with the emerald green bow tie. He sat perfectly still for a whole minute, a monumental task for an average fourth grader, his mind slowly considering the meager evidence at hand. * A colossal lump of a boy, Thomas Jenkins was the obvious suspect for a sandwich thief. But a veteran of the ‘Green Detective’ series, Brucie knew that the most obvious suspect was almost never the culprit. Still our hero needed a lead and following what a more learned person may know as ‘Occam’s Razor’ was the best option he had. Brucie strutted over to the congregation of students under the trees. Spotting Thomas wasn’t hard; he stood out from the crowd like a plump Christmas ham. “Thomas, can I have a few words,” Brucie’s composure had completely changed; the green bow tie brought suavity unseen in a ten-year-old. Imitating the ‘Green Detective’, he didn’t wait for a response, and sent the mammoth boy a barrage of questions. “Where were you just before lunch? What were you really doing when you went to the toilet? Eat anything interesting, or notice anything fishy? Mind takin’ a breath test, for me?” Evidently Thomas’ brain was not in proportion to the rest of his


66

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

body, and our hero was suddenly furious. “Look tubby, I’ve got a missing sandwich and I don’t care whose toes I step on to get it! Now, let me smell your breath.” Even though Brucie was only one eighth the size of the other boy, Thomas submitted to his demands. The boy’s lungs wheezed like the bellows of a huge iron furnace and he sent a hot moist gust toward Brucie. It was almost impossible to distinguish the smell of Thomas’ breath from his regular odour of melted chocolate and dried sweat. This was probably due to his grotesque habit of storing half-eaten chocolate bars within the folds of his fat. “Is that all?” drawled the boy. “Yes, thanks Tommy,” Brucie couldn’t determine what the boy had for lunch, but there would be no mistaking the smell of tuna. “Tommy?” The boy queried the shortening of his name; truncated names are usually reserved for close friends and subsequently no one had ever called Thomas, Tommy. “Yeah, that’s what I said. What are you a tape recorder?” quipped Brucie. Tommy’s face inflated with anger, “No Brucie…” “Detective Yellow, call me Detective Yellow.” “No Detective Yellow I am not a tape recorder, but I am bigger than you!” The words dragged themselves out of him at an infinitely slow pace. He was right about this, and even though the boy had obviously never had an original thought in his life, Brucie could use the extra muscle. “Let’s go,” the detective said, “we need to find a teacher.” * Brucie rapped on the staff room door. “Come in,” was the muffled reply. Brucie swung the door open dramatically, adjusted his bow tie and took two purposefully steps inside. “Yes?” asked a strained voice from behind a floating newspaper. “Excuse me sir, I am in need of some help, you see I lost…” “Lost and Found down the hall, on your left.” The man behind the newspaper was too absorbed in its contents to even look at Brucie. “No,” he said forcefully. “There’s been a theft.”


belconnen high school

67

“A theft? Well that’s quite more interesting than something lost,” the sarcasm was lost on the boy. Thomas lumbered into the room puffing. “Bru…” the Detective looked at him sternly, “I mean, Detective Yellow, what have I missed?” The sentence seemed to take five minutes as it was interspersed by several bouts of wheezing. “Did you hear? There’s been a theft, yep, real exciting stuff has been happening around our school.” “It’s his sandwich sir, it’s been stolen!’ “Oh no! A stolen sandwich, we’d better get right on it!” The teacher placed his feet very deliberately on the table as he spoke the last words. “I’m running this investigation and I need your cooperation,” Brucie had had enough of the newspaper-covered-man’s mockery. “Alright,” grumbled the man, “I’ll help you, I’ll look around the classrooms and make sure it’s not in any of the student’s desks.” “Tommy head to the library found out everything and anything to do with sandwiches, I’ll go back to the scene of the crime,” Brucie walked to the door resting his hand on the knob, he paused, pivoted and delivered his line “maybe I’ll pick up on a trail of breadcrumbs.” * Our hero manoeuvred through the school corridors quickly and out into the rain-drenched courtyard. He pulled his coat closer in, as a large gust of wind sent rain hard into his face, walking swiftly over to the park bench. It was obvious that any evidence would have been washed away. But our hero was not thinking! This was, after all, not the scene of the crime, rather the discovery that a crime had been committed. The young detective sought shelter in the nearest building; the deluge of rain crowded his mind and he needed a quiet place to contemplate his next move. He found himself in the fourth grade hallway, by chance the very place he needed to be, he smiled and muttered, “perfect” to himself. He made his way along the hall and to the front of his class room, the place all bags are kept


68

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

when it wasn’t break time. His bag hook stood out from the rest, while the other children had painted and decorated, he had been reading the second Green Detective book and his was the only grey in a sea of colour. Directly below this was a recorder case, Susan Roberts’ recorder case to be exact. Susan shouldn’t have been here, she was in the other class and Detective Yellow found his trail of breadcrumbs. He hurried to the music room; Susan Roberts never missed a practice. His pace slowed, as he got closer to his destination, his quick stride became a stealthy sidle along the passage wall. He took him forever moving like this to reach Susan’s bag but he couldn’t risk being caught, he couldn’t risk getting detention. He unhooked the bag, upturned and sent the contents plummeting onto the floor. He dropped onto his knees and ordered all of her possessions into neat, categorised piles; he felt unnaturally easy about going through his schoolmate’s belongings. He prised the lid of the stiff plastic lunchbox and revealed a buffet of exotic, uneaten sandwiches, each covered in soft green fuzz. Footsteps, echoing from down the hall, he put his ear to the ground, two sets, and they were coming this way! He hurriedly shoved Susan’s things back into her bag and carefully placed it on the hook in the exact position it had been. He still had his hands placed incriminatingly on her bag when the teachers rounded the corner, He was in plain sight, but being teachers, they were much too absent minded to even notice a fourth grade boy with a frilly pink bag. Susan Roberts was a dead end. No one desperate enough to steal a sandwich would ever leave such delicacies untouched. The investigation had lost all steam and Brucie needed good news from his anonymous contact. * The newspaper-covered-man was evidently immovable, still sitting on a crisp leather chair, his legs resting on a rickety coffee table and still invisible behind a now thinner sheet of newspaper; he had seemingly not moved an inch since their first encounter. The only thing that had changed in the entire staff room was the bright


belconnen high school

69

orange yo-yo dangling from his bony right index finger. Brucie cleared his throat. “Yes, I know you’re there,” the man sneered. “And no, I didn’t find…” he paused, and thrust the vibrant yo-yo into his pocket, “…anything,” he finished, holding his right hand open like a magician does to show you the coin has disappeared. “I hit a brick wall, a detective just can’t make it in these mean streets…” He trailed off dismayed by his failure. “Maybe it’s time to hang up the notepad; apparently you don’t have what it takes,” the suggestion came with no candy covering and Brucie disheartened by the lack of praise, ambled slowly out of the chilled staff room. Brucie meandered slowly back down the long corridor. Brucie could not focus on his steps or the direction his feet were leading him and found the boy himself in a room, a dark room he had by no means met before. There was a large, inviting chair sitting by the entrance just waiting for Brucie to curl up in and he did not want to keep it waiting. After a solid few minutes of brooding, Brucie sprung up into a rigid standing position. He then grabbed the brilliant-green bow tie, “you’re not a detective,” his mind told him. “This bow tie doesn’t make you witty or clever! It doesn’t make you ANYTHING!” Tears in his eyes, he flung the bow tie across the room into darkness. Such bursts of emotions were rare for Brucie Yellow and although he was completely alone in that room he became embarrassed by anger. He could see the emerald-green glinting in the corner. He took short tentative steps towards it; he was not afraid, just apprehensive about the possibility of furniture in his path. He reached the back wall and picked his green bow tie from the litter of a smashed photo frame. Had he done that? No, it looked quite established in its ruin and Brucie grabbed the photo and brought it into the light. A plump man and skeletal man crowded the frame. The first had on a garish purple suit and wore thick-


70

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

rimmed glasses; this was the principal Mr. Haze. The second man had a plainer appearance; had it not been for his boney, gaunt face, he might have been passed without a glance. He wore a long sleeved shirt, grey vest and sitting around his neck was a brilliant emerald-green bow tie. Brucie’s bow tie. The plaque gave the thin man his name: Mr. Blake. Brucie dashed again to the staff room and entered exhausted. “Sir, sir!” He looked around and could see no sign of the man, “Sir?” “Over here,” the muffled growl came from behind an even bigger newspaper to Brucie’s left. The man was now standing and had tremendous height; Brucie wondered how such spindly legs could support all of this. “Where’s Mr. Blake? I need to see him. I know he stole my sandwich.” “Are you sure? An accusation against a teacher is not to be…” Brucie didn’t have time for a lecture. “No problem, I have proof! You see this green bow tie around my neck? Well I have photographic evidence that shows it belongs to Mr. Blake and where did I find it you ask? In my lunchbox accidentally wrapped in the sandwich paper.” Detective Yellow paced the room as he outlined this revelation. “I’m sorry sonny, school time’s over, I guess we’ll never find that tuna sandwich.” Brucie froze, “I never said anything about a tuna sandwich.” The man lowered the newspaper from his face, there was no mistaking it; the hollow, skeletal man in front of him was Mr. Blake. “No one will ever believe you,” the man’s voice had changed from mocking to trepidation and he broke out in a cool sweat. “No, I suppose not, not even with this rock solid evidence.” Brucie paced the last words out slowly and strutted deliberately toward the door, he stopped just before it. He spun around, ‘Mr Blake,’ Brucie said brightly; his eyes narrowed‘ you’re dead!’


belconnen high school

71

Colourblind lucy bek

“It says here your mother and father were in show business”. Dr Newman smiled warmly as he flicked through the stapled documents. “Yes…yes, I suppose they were’” I replied, rubbing my head as I peered at Dr Newman, my eyes tired from crying. “Can you recall your parents’ names, Harry?” Dr Newman asked softly, and he dragged his chair closer to the bars, making my eyes twitch anxiously at the squealing of the iron legs on the cold, hard floor. “No’” I said coldly, staring at the concrete floor of the bare, dim-lit room where I sat hunched in a corner. “Can you recall anything about the last time you saw them? Like, what they were doing that day? Can you remember their outfits?” Though Dr Newman made these enquiries as gently as he knew how, I had already begun to rock slightly back and forth, still staring at the concrete floor. “I…I remember…” I was interrupted as Dr Newman noticed my body tensing up. Although he could not see my face he knew these behaviours well enough. “Remember, what we’ve worked on, Harry. When you start to feel stressed take three deep breaths; one, two, three”, Dr Newman moved his palm up and down as he changed the subject, “and think of Ali if you wish”. * There was not a time when Harry did not think of her. She was the only thing in his life, since his mother, that he had ever truly cared for; what she had given him, no one else could ever give. He


72

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

remembered every detail of the glorious day when they met as if it were a film he’d seen over and over. His heart had nearly leapt out onto her white cotton dress; she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her luscious red locks fell around her perfect face and covered her bare round shoulders. Her soft pale skin was scattered with tiny red freckles, her big green eyes twinkled under the shop’s dim light… “I know you don’t remember everything you do, but can you tell me anything, Harry?” Dr Newman crashed into my daydream, destroying my smile, as my face grew paler. Would Dr Newman ever stop prodding me with his questions? I was a grieving man, after all. “I can’t talk about it”, I croaked. “I know, Harry, I know, but we have to work it through or we’ll never get to the bottom of this. You don’t want that, do you? Now, can you tell me in detail what happened the night of your parents’ show? Start at the beginning.” “I think it was their last show”, I stammered. I think. Or maybe what I said was “It happened four hours after the show’” or “It was called The Miracles of Jane and Alec.” I meant to say all that, but I wasn’t listening to myself. My thoughts kept turning to the image of a green bow tie branded on my mind, its intensity unabated over twenty years. * “Mum, mum, have you seen my juggling balls?” the little boy shouted as he ran through the aisles of the auditorium, army-rolled onto the stage, and sprinted past the big glass tank his mother and father had used to perform their signature trick earlier that night. He had been unable to find her for half an hour now, a long time for an excited boy desperate to try out his new juggling balls. He darted in and out of the big black curtains, still calling out for his mother – she could not hear him. The dressing room, of course, that’s where they would be. Without thinking to knock, he burst through the big green door and the smile was ripped from his


belconnen high school

73

small, pale face. Hanging from the ceiling, held only by the green bow tie, was his mother. The boy let out a small squeal, and, as his body began to slump into unconsciousness on the icy cold floor, he saw his father, sitting in an armchair looking as content and calm as his son had ever seen him. When the little boy woke, his father was gone. His father never gave any explanation to Harry – in fact, he never spoke again. Harry had to testify at the trial, but everyone said the case was ‘open-andshut’. Though Harry thought often about that green bow tie, he never saw it again. Why had he never seen it before? * Dr Newman could see Harry’s mouth tightening with fury, his fists beginning to clench. He quickly changed subjects. “Can we talk about Ali? How long had you known her?” “Eight months, I think.” I glanced down at my feet as I said this. I was lying. I had known Ali for just three months and thirteen days, but it sounded so much nicer to have known her for eight months. I mean, eight sounds really nice with her name don’t you think? Eight, Ali. See? It does. “Did you see her the day of the accident?” Asked Dr Newman. “I told you; I had nothing to do with it! I know because I saw it all with my own eyes.” Tears boiled up in my eyes, behind my eyes. “I know you didn’t do it Harry, but we need to know who did. And if you were there, the law says that you are automatically a suspect.” Harry looks so easily angered, so vulnerable, he thought to himself. I was so furious that anyone could suggest something so unthinkable; that I could kill my beloved Ali. I saw that monster and what he did to her, and there is not a day when I don’t regret that I didn’t kill him when I had the chance. Why would I? How could I? I loved her more than anything! I’ll kill that bastard any chance I get! We were going to see a play that evening, we were shopping for a suit for me to wear. *


74

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

“How’s this?” Harry shuffled to the door of the change rooms in a shiny black suit, trying to move as little out of the room as he could to avoid being seen. He did not like attention. ‘Brings out the colour in your eyes’, giggled Ali sarcastically, showing the gleam of her white teeth that Harry so admired. “I’ll pick out a tie. It’ll be a surprise, you can wear it tonight.” Harry watched as Ali turned and caught the eye of someone in the corner of the shop. “That one, that one looks great Harry. Let’s go or we’ll be late.” She quickly grabbed a blue bow tie off the shelf, paid for it, and waited for Harry outside. There was something different about Ali that day. She seemed anxious and reserved. After the play she walked briskly home, unlike her characteristic slow and steady strides to which Harry was accustomed. They walked in silence. When they reached the door of her apartment building, Harry went to kiss Ali good night as he usually would, but tonight she shied away. “What’s wrong Ali?” Harry asked. She turned and faced him, “Nothing, nothing, I’m fine. I just think maybe we’re taking things too fast. I mean, we’ve only known each other for a few weeks, and I have friends I need to see…I just think, maybe we shouldn’t see each other so much.” * He slid between the buildings like a ghost, moving with caution and efficiency. The night sky was bright as he ran through the deserted streets. Rain pricked his skin like thousands of tiny needles; he felt nothing. He knew nothing but sheer determination, never before had he seen more clearly. The man slowed to a stealthy creep as he drew closer and closer to his destination. A bright light was shining from the window upstairs. Ali’s window. The window he had been running toward ever since he could remember. Cold drops of sweat trickled down his forehead as he slid down the wall of the apartment building, scraping his back over the rough sign ‘Thompson & Son Brick Layers’, until he crouched in the mud. How to get in? The building was locked at this time of


belconnen high school

75

night. A drainpipe ran up the side of the building and the murderer calculated that he could just make the climb up to the level of her window, and reach around to her sill. Push up the wooden frame, and he would be inside. * It was 3.30 in the morning when the telephone rang. Ali woke instantly. Her body was rigid and her eyes wide open before the phone had completed one ring. It was him. She had tried to reason with him. She had tried to tell him they could be friends, but he would not leave her alone. As she lay in bed she thought about answering the phone, she thought so hard but her body would not let her move. He would only be calling for one reason at this time of the morning. He was a nice man, that was undeniable, but they could never be. Not only was he too old, he was married. “Ali, Ali, is that you? I know you’re there’” the loud masculine voice called from the answering machine. “I know I may have been harsh with you before, and I’m sorry, but could you please let me in so we can talk about it?” No reply. “Please Ali, you know how I am, I just get jealous of that dweeb and you know how much I love you.” Ali could not take it any longer. She had been as nice to him as she could, because she was kind-hearted and felt sorry for him, but he still scared her. She switched on her bedroom light and stomped over to the phone, “Look, I like you, as a friend, and you have been really good to me, but if you don’t leave me alone…” she hesitated. She had been so intent on not hesitating that she did. “I will have to tell your wife about this.” She slammed the phone down hard. Although she sounded brave on the phone, she was more scared than ever. Shaking with fear, she returned to her bed and continued not to sleep. * Harry was standing over her bed. He was too late. The man had been and gone. Ali lay twisted, her glassy lifeless eyes staring. Harry picked her up in his arms, choking on the lump in his throat, his skin prickling. He stood there, motionless for hours until the police


76

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

came and he was taken away. “Can you describe the murderer for me, Harry?’ Dr Newman was looking concerned – probably by my accelerated rocking in the corner. “He, he…it was dark in her room, I could hardly see anything’.” Dr Newman couldn’t understand that I had watched the man approach the building, seen the man enter Ali’s room, and seen him hurt her – yet I only saw a figure. “Had you argued earlier that day? Perhaps she had made you angry?” Harry hesitated. “No”, he said, staring at the dark laces of his worn shoes. “It says here that Ali’s death was caused by asphyxiation. When you found her, did you see any weapon which might have been used to kill her?” “I don’t know, okay? I didn’t care, couldn’t care about anything. I just held her tight until the police arrived.” “I want to help you Harry; I know you loved her and indeed she was a very beautiful woman.” He paused, “I gather she loved you as well. But this doesn’t look good to the police. After all, you were the only person there at the time of her death and you cannot even describe the murderer. Can you tell me exactly what you bought in the shop?” “Just a black suit, and Ali bought me a bow-tie to wear”. Dr Newman was silent. “Harry, you know your mother was killed with a green bow tie.” What is he getting at? I thought. “The forensics found the murder weapon used to strangle Ali. It was a bow tie. Harry, you are ill. Seeing a bow tie makes you angry, don’t you understand? You were the only one there.” Dr Newman was trying to explain to Harry in the nicest way he could. “You say you were there, Harry, you say you saw the man who killed her, then why can’t you describe him, and why didn’t you do anything?’” “You were wearing a green bow tie with your suit.”


belconnen high school

77

“No…no Dr Newman, it was a blue bow tie.” “Come on Harry, you’re colour blind, how could you tell?” “I’m not colour blind!” I shouted. “It’s here in your file, Harry.” Dr Newman pressed the stop button on his voice recorder. “I’m so sorry, Harry. I have to go, but I will be back and we will get through this. Trust me when I say this, you are a good person, and I still believe that you didn’t mean to hurt Ali.” “Dr Newman, Dr Newman!” I screamed after him, “I didn’t do it!” But I was beginning to understand. The hair stood up on the back of my neck, and goose bumps were tingling all over my body. Dr Newman was right. This looked bad to the police. It looked bad to Dr Newman. It even looked bad to me. After all, I was the only person there when the police came. At the thought of what happened to Ali, what I might have done, I broke down completely. * Dr Newman picked up his stapled documents, and proceeded down the corridor. As he passed the police who were heading toward Harry’s room, he noted one carrying a small plastic sleeve containing a bow tie. A green bow tie. Dr Newman smiled to himself. Just as Dr Newman entered his office, a nurse who had just been talking to the police passed him quickly. Suddenly she stopped and turned to face him. The look on her face was as if she had seen a ghost. “How are yy-ou?” she stammered. “I’m so sorry to hear about your divorce.” “Oh I’m fine, thank you. It was for the best.” He was just entering his office when she called after him. “Dr Newman, I haven’t seen you without that green bow tie of yours for years, before you were even in show business.” Dr Newman, rummaging in his desk draw, laughed and said, “I over-heated!” and pulled out a crisply starched emerald green bow tie. Dr Richard Newman, Professor of Psychotic Illness.


78

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Up in the Skies georgia de salis

First there was nothing but the black emptiness of the sky. Then the Earth was born and it was soon joined by the Moon and the Sun. Time would’ve passed, had it existed, and these three entities were happy. Then one day the Moon became jealous of the beautiful Sun because she made everything bright and good and all he seemed to do was darken the world. So the Moon withered away with bitterness and became a sharp sliver of light, a spear in the darkness. One night as he wandered along his well worn path, he accidentally cut a hole in the sky and all the stars fell out. The stars kept pouring out of the tear in nothing, millions of them, and they started forming shapes in the heavens. The Moon basked in the soft glow, though soon the Sun became jealous, for the Moon suddenly had many friends with him in the night sky and she only had herself. The Sun decided that she would try to convince some of the stars to join her in her sky but she lied to them and didn’t tell them they would be outshone by her. The foolish stars didn’t question the Sun nor realise that her intentions were to burn them with her light. They decided to venture from the night sky into the daylight. When they were received by the Sun, some were blinded by her brilliance and they began to fall from the sky. The Moon, seeing this happen, saved as many as he could and released them back into the sanctuary of his night. The stars that had already fallen to the ground could not be carried back into the sky. To stop their suffering the Moon moulded each


campbell high school

79

of them into a creature of the Earth. These beings were content with their Earth and have been since their creation. To this day the Sun still holds some stars but you can’t see them in the daylight. Those daytime stars are still trapped in the light, still wishing and hoping to be rescued by the Moon. The night sky remains dark, but now has many specks of light keeping the Moon company on those no longer lonely nights.


80

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

The Closet jess sharp

The closet opens like a door to a brand new world, clothes spread throughout it like a pile of rubbish just dumped. There may be less but it’s all one big mess. The vibrant colours shone out through the tiny cracks between the clothing like they have just been made. Crinkled like an old hanky, which hasn’t been opened in years. Staring into the vivid closet, there are a million things to be chosen yet, I stand there like I am frozen. Clothes sit gently upon the shelf, soft as the rolling mountains in a night sky.


lanyon high school

Dreaming jarrad fragnito

Darkness blankets the grieving widow As tears draw paths down her cheeks And a sob of pure anguish Escapes from her pallid lips. She wonders why her husband must go To leave her wandering to and fro From the home to the cemetery, to the gin. Meanwhile, within the depths of the departed mind Where it is assumed nothing can exist. Resided a world of magnificence and wonderment A world doused in mist The confused man, unbeknownst to his death, Wanders. Footsteps echoed by bells. Through a place of tantalizing objects, As if there is something to sell. Unwillingly drawn towards a light, As if some deity’s toy. But, for the first time ever Experiencing pure joy. Reflecting upon his life on earth He remembers only great misery. Although this may only be The mighty merchant’s trickery.

81


82

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Alas, he thanks the lord on high Whom he now knows quite well. For banishing him from that ship of fools, And he blesses the day that he fell.


lanyon high school

83

Outside the Classroom jack sandeman

Clouds appear over the breaking hills, like they are being set free. People stumble across the uneven ground as they chase the ball as fast as a cheater can. Birds fly high into the afternoon sky whilst we look and wonder. Blissfully glancing into the sky, I think to myself how can these birds fly so high? Majestically they fly, without a care in the world. The sound of laughter is like a bugging noise that you know you can’t get rid of, it’s ear piercing. The concrete is as cold as ice as we write about all the things nice. It makes you wonder what’s beyond, voices descending as they make their way down the other side of the court. Now able to hear the sweet chirping noises which make the air so crisp. The sound of footsteps hit the pavement like a pin dropping in silence, the afternoon brings many wonders.


84

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Flagpole heather bateman

A lone soldier stands out on the front line of battle, never moving, never speaking. A low, dull clinking can be heard over the dead, cold ground, as the lone soldier waits for its partner. A flag, a symbol of belonging, a symbol of hope to those who thought the battle was lost. As the night sets in, the lone soldier looks out over the ground, as protective as a mother eagle over her fledglings. The feeling of absolute solitude does not weaken the cold heart of the lone soldier. The lone soldier stands strong and mighty, never moving, never speaking just as a flag pole does; with every rise and fall of the sun.


lanyon high school

85

I Glance Out The Window tess pennell

I glance out the window for my eyes to meet buildings and traffic. 2000 feet. The buckle connected on my waist glistens as the sun hits it. Am I interested or is my mind distracting me from the disappearing world I have come from? 5000 feet. A second glance out the window shows me merging colours of smeared paint on the earth’s paint palette. 9000 feet. My hands are becoming sweaty and my voice seems to be shaking. Almost there. I follow instructions and move to the side.There is no turning back. I’m as ready as I could ever be. 10,000 feet. Words are circling my head Important or not I cannot remember. The doors open like a welcoming hug. People could be screaming at me and I wouldn’t have heard them. I’m out on the wing of an eagle soaring smoothly For the situation I’m surprisingly relaxed. Go.


86

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

I lean forward and suddenly I am falling. 0 feet. I am surrounded by family and friends I have skydived I knew I could do it I glance out the window for my eyes to meet buildings and traffic Everything as it was.


lyneham high school

87

Of Cats and Catwalks divya packianathan

Monday night, the Trump Hotel… Cassie flicked on the tv with her remote control. Entertainment Tonight was on. “In just two days time, the Miss Universe Contest will be held right here, in Salt Lake City, Utah,” gushed Caroline Berkeley, the et presenter. Today, she was wearing a green Gucci suit, her hair pulled back in a tight bun and wearing her trademark bright purple lipstick. “Preparations are well underway for the grand opening of the six billion-dollar Hansell Multi-Complex building, and right here ladies and gentlemen, on this very stage behind me, is where the pageant will take place. Models from all over the globe will be competing for the grand title of Miss Universe 2011.” Models from previous Miss Universe contests strutted onstage, their bleached smiles piercing through the television screen. Cassie was sick of seeing all those perfect bodies on-screen, those pretentious bleached smiles and false eyelashes. Moreover, she was hungry, which always put her in a bad mood. She had already had dinner, which consisted of just two carrots and thirty grams of raw ling fish. She hated sashimi, but it was the trendy thing to eat these days. Right now, she wanted to eat something more substantial, like lasagne, but carbs were strictly off the menu after 6 pm. Caroline Berkeley from et droned on. “Who will win the grand title of Miss Universe on Thursday? It could be any of the top twelve really. Miss Germany, Magda Strügder is reputed to be one of the judges’ favourites, as is our very own Miss usa, Cassandra Schinnibich.” Cassie stared at her face on tv. It looked terrible. She really needed


88

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

that facial that her pa, Holter, had arranged for her later that evening. Her face had better look good, better than that stupid Magda AppleStrudel from Germany. If only there was some way of eliminating her, then Cassie knew that she would undoubtedly win the title of Miss Universe 2011… The doorbell rang. Cassie opened the door. Holter waltzed in wearing a garish purple ensemble. “Helloooo darling! Oh, my God, look at this place! It looks like a herd of zebra stampeded through this place. No style at all!” He stared at the life-sized head of a lion on the wall, its fierce orange mane was like burning fire, its razor sharp teeth protruding menacingly from its silent roar. Cassie was in the Zambezi suite of the six-star Trump Hotel, in the swanky suburb of Bel Vista, in Salt Lake City. The Zambezi suite’s interior was decorated safari-style: with carved wooden safari animals and leopard print upholstery. It was reputed that Miss Venezuela lived in the rainforest-themed Amazon suite on the floor below. Holter’s comment about zebras was very true, but just the way that he said it, with a wave of his hand was just so…so gay! thought Cassie. “Oh, is that Chanel No. 5 you’re wearing darling?” enquired Holter. How does he know? thought Cassie. But before she could reply, Holter went on. “Now darling, I’ve booked an appointment for your facial tomorrow for 5 am sharp at Knoxley’s. Oh God! Is that Caroline Berkeley on tv? That lipstick she’s wearing is sooo mother-of-the-bride. I wouldn’t be caught dead in that shade!” “Forget the reporter Holter, it’s Magda I’m worried about,” said Cassie, annoyed now. “Well well, once you get that facial, Magda will be taken care of, won’t she,” chimed Holter. Of course, thought Cassie. *


lyneham high school

89

Wednesday morning, at the Police Station, Inspector Max and Constable Kurt were in their office, chatting about the Miss Universe Pageant that was to take place the next day. “Wouldn’t it be funny, if one of the contestants died just before the pageant?” said Kurt. Before Max could answer, the phone rang. Putting down the receiver, he said “Kurt, you must be psychic”. And with that, they left for the Hansell Multicomplex. Half an hour later, they were staring down at the angelic face of Magda Strüdger, Miss Germany. The body had no scratches, no bruises or odd marks. The ladies dressing room, where the corpse had been found held no signs of a struggle. “Well, there’s no point thinking about it on an empty stomach,” said the donut-fed and rotund Kurt. Max agreed, so they roped off the area as a crime scene and walked outside the building and across the road to Krispy Kreme. When they returned, they were horrified to find that Magda Strüdger’s face was deeply scratched, with mauled and torn lips, as if viciously attacked by a wild animal. Inspector Max crouched down to the body and picked up one orange piece of fur. “Well, this is all the more reason to start interviewing the suspects then,” Kurt said. * Dr Lipschitz, the forensic scientist was walking briskly towards the yet-to-be-opened Hansell Multicomplex, shaking her head. The slc Police were a ‘highly trained and ruthlessly efficient’ bunch, which meant that it had taken twenty-seven doughnut fuelled rotund policemen an entire day to locate the body of Magda Strüdger! thought Dr Lipschitz angrily. And when the corpse was eventually found, it was not in some remote and obscure location, but in the most obvious of places: the ladies dressing room. Suddenly she stopped walking and backtracked a few steps. She peered around the corner. That’s odd…


90

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

As it turned out, there were only two people who Magda had been talking to in the few hours before her death: the et presenter Caroline Berkley, whom she had been interviewed by, and Miss Venezuela, Marina Halbadrez, who appeared to be Strüdger’s only real friend. While Max went down to Krispy Kreme’s for yet another snack, Kurt got down to interviewing Miss Venezuela. “Miss Halbadrez, is it true that you were with Miss Strügder on the day of her death?” barked Kurt the policeman. Marina fluttered her lashes innocently before replying “Eeet ees true.” Kurt was obviously intoxicated by Marina’s beauty, in much the same way he would be with a particularly sugary doughnut. He asked more gently this time, “What happened?” “Well eet was verrry obvious to me, what happened. Magda was verry dehydrrrated. You know, in thees industry, models have to be verry theen. She didn’t eat, Magda. I went to the dressing room to get her a drink, she was verry thirsty. Oh, oh it was terrible…” At this point, Marina cried a vale of tears, which made her mascara smudge. “There, there,” said Kurt, only too happy to put his hefty arm around the sobbing Marina of Venezuela. “But please, who else was in the dressing room that morning?” “Oh, I do not remember…it’s all too horrible! Oh but I do remember that Cassandra Schinnibich’s pa was wearing an absolutely dreadful purple suit. You simply don’t forget horrible costumes like that.” She lowered her voice conspiratorially. “Also….I think he is gay! Of course, I don’t think he would have killed Magda but…. oh!” Once again she broke down into a fit of tears. * Meanwhile, Inspector Max was peacefully enjoying his doughnuts, when Dr Lipschitz, the forensic scientist walked in carrying a dead kitten in her hands.


lyneham high school

91

“Look at this,” she said. “Tell me, was the window of the ladies dressing room open when the corpse was found?” Of course, thought Max. The window had been open the whole time – any animal could have jumped in. And the fur – the fur on the body matched the colour of the kitten exactly! Well that’s one mystery solved. At this point, Inspector Kurt walked into the room. “I don’t think Marina is guilty,” announced Kurt to Inspector Max. “It is obvious that Magda died of anorexia, the pageant rehearsals were too strenuous for her.” “I agree,” said Inspector Max, much to Kurt’s surprise. “I agree that Marina is innocent. But Magda died because of homicide”. By careful analytical deduction, Inspector Max had correctly figured out Magda’s mode of death. “Magda, Miss Germany, was poisoned. Dr Lipschitz here was on her way here when she spotted this dead kitten outside the building. Sure enough, it was the same colour fur as found on Strügder’s body. It seems that when the cat mauled Strügder’s face, it died of the same poison as Strügder.” * d.e.t.h or di-ethyl tetra-hydralaxidine was the poison identified in both Magda’s and the kitten’s bodies. The tedious work of locating the source of the poison began. They had to test every single type of food that Magda had consumed in the twelve hours prior to her death, which could take hours to process. There was no traceable d.e.t.h identified in the water, carrots or cucumber which was all that Magda had eaten in the twelve hours. “Test everything else. Her clothes, laxatives, absolutely everything,” commanded Inspector Max. In the meantime, the police questioned Caroline Berkeley, the et presenter. “Ms Berkeley, isn’t it true that you wanted Miss usa to win?” said


92

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Kurt. “In fact, you said on et you were ‘hoping that OUR very own Miss usa stood a high chance of winning?” Kurt loved watching et. In fact, he loved watching anything on tv, especially when it was combined with his other favourite pastime of eating donuts. “What has this got to do with the murder?” asked Caroline Berkeley, flustered. “Well, it’s obvious that you killed Miss Germany so Miss usa could win!” cried Inspector Max. At this heinous accusation, Ms Berkeley was too gob smacked to answer. She was saved from having to reply because at that precise moment in walked Dr Lipshitz, with some lipstick in a plastic bag. “Kurt, I’m afraid we have the source of the d.e.t.h. here.” Dr Lipschitz held out the bag of lipstick. “Aha!” exclaimed Inspector Max.“That makes sense! Miss Germany had d.e.t.h smeared on her lips. Lipstick, now why didn’t I think of that before?” “Because the kitten had eaten her lips,” replied Kurt, wondering how on earth he’d enjoy eating his favourite foods if he didn’t have any lips. “Hmm, that shade of lipstick looks exactly like yours Ms Berkeley,” said Inspector Max. Ms Berkeley had been flabbergasted when she was accused of murder, but now she was truly insulted. “fyi, I began wearing Moschino’s Autumn Mocha Plum before anyone else did. Are you suggesting that I copied my trademark look from some anorexic model?!” “Err…no…” stammered Inspector Max. “Then what ARE you suggesting?” Inspector Max wasn’t exactly sure. Ms Berkeley had not been in contact with any of the models before interviewing them. At the time of the murder, she was on et Live, in front of millions of viewers, introducing Galliamo’s Spring Collection. In fact, thought


lyneham high school

93

Max, questioning Mrs Berkeley had not been his idea at all in the first place. “Kurt, this was all your idea!” he yelled. Kurt, shifting uncomfortably in his chair, desperately wanted to shift the blame onto someone else. “It’s Ms. Berkeley’s fault,” he said, pointing the finger at her both literally and figuratively. Ms. Berkeley replied, “No, it’s probably Cassandra Schinnibich who is guilty. After all, she was Schinnibich’s main competitor” Ah, of course, thought Inspector Max. She would have wanted to kill Magda because that would almost guarantee her spot as Miss Universe 2011. * Cassie was brought to the police station for questioning, accompanied by her pa, Holter. Holter was once again wearing his outrageous suit. “Hmm, seen this purple lipstick before, Miss Schinnibich?” asked Kurt. “Why of course she hasn’t,” interrupted Holter before Cassie could reply. “She’s never seen that shade before.” “Actually Holter, that shade of lipstick exactly matches the suit you’re wearing,” said Cassie. “AHA!” exclaimed Kurt. “In fact, you were wearing that same suit on the day you murdered Magda Strügder! Is that right?” He was desperately hoping he would be third time lucky and accuse the right person of murder this time. “You wore that suit so that the lipstick smudges would be camouflaged by that colour.” “But why would Holter want to kill Magda?” asked Cassie, bewildered. “No, you must have made some mistake!” “It’s true, it’s true!” cried Holter. “I killed Magda for you, my love. You wanted to win, and I thought by helping you win Miss Universe, I would win over your affection.” “But I thought you were gay!” chorused everybody. Holter broke down crying, while Kurt slipped some handcuffs on


94

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

him. “There there, have a doughnut,” he offered, holding the donut just out of reach of Holter’s shackled hands. “Well if you don’t want the donut, I’ll have it,” said Kurt before popping it into his mouth. A job well done, he thought. “Well, don’t you want to hear how I figured out how Holter intricately planned his murder?” Constable Kurt was indignant. “No, not really.” said Dr Lipshitz. “It’s pretty obvious, though. Holter had already concocted the poisoned lipstick, so it was simply a matter of walking into the dressing room and discreetly swapping the lipsticks”. Kurt was annoyed. His carefully planned deduction had been already figured out. When he found out that Holter’s suit had been purple, he’d had a hunch that thankfully, turned out to be right. “Well then, who wants to go play mdk2?” suggested Kurt, knowing that playing a computer will make him forget all about it. So Max, Doc and Kurt all went to play mdk2 on the computer.


merici college

95

Mornings neisa harper

I really don’t like mornings. Midday is hard. Afternoon is alright and night gets peaceful. But mornings are the worst part of my day. It’s probably the realisation that I have to go through another whole day. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m still alive and the sun is up bright and early ready to tease my eyes. I always cry in the morning. I want to punch my dad for waking me, I want to scream and tell him to f@#k off. As soon as I’m awake my mind starts to tick. I’m not sure if the word ‘tick’ explains it well enough so I’ll use a whole sentence; my head turns on and goes over every little thing possible. My mum walks into my room because she knows I won’t be up. She tells me to get up and to stop being a lazy spoilt bitch. I want to be able to explain to mum the feeling that I have but the problem is I don’t understand it myself. I feel like someone has died but no one has, I feel like my house has burnt down but it’s still standing, I feel like I have some terminal illness but I’m healthy. Maybe I’m not health. I spend hours wondering whether I’m healthy inside my head. Mum walks back into my room and tells me that I really need to grow up; everyone else in the normal world is getting up to start their day. I want to slap her. It makes me feel better when I imagine hurting people in my family or friendship group. I start to think about my friends. I always tell them lies about how I spend my morning. I tell them I get up really early, take my champion dog for a walk and then I return home and drink orange juice


96

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

while I read the newspaper discussing important articles with my father. Some days it’s hard to hide the truth from them but when I’m on a roll it gets easier. I have two sides; my friends only know the bulls@#t side. My mornings aren’t the only thing I hide. I’ve developed a routine that works; I go to school and show to everyone my fantastic personality and have confidence shining out my butt and then I come home and collapse while I drink bourbon and cry my eyes out. I’m a professional mental case. Sometimes in the afternoon when I’m really drunk I laugh; for some reason I find it hilarious how a private catholic all girls’ school could let a complete mess like me get a captain position. Other times I get up off the floor and put rap music on and pretend I’m Eminem. I eventually drag myself out of bed. I walk into the bathroom and look at my sour face. I try to smile at myself in the mirror but I stop because it hurts. That must sound insane that by smiling I hurt myself, but it’s true. Maybe it makes me feel uncomfortable because I’m trying to smile rather than smiling naturally. I think I’ve lost my natural smile. While I put my make-up on my face, I listen to my little sister singing in the shower. She has such a sweet voice. I remember her last school concert when she performed in front of the massive audience. I pointed out to heaps of people that that was my little sister in the spotlight. After her concert when I was back home sitting in my room, I realised that throughout her concert I stopped thinking about myself and instead was thinking about how beautiful and cool my little sister was; that was about six months ago and I haven’t had one of those shock waves since. I really need another one. My dad leaves the house for work and I immediately feel a little bit of relief. I have escaped a lecture about how pathetic I am. He likes to tell me that I have no right to feel the way I feel and that I should look around me and see what I have; during these lectures I glare at him.


merici college

97

I need to pack my school stuff and get dressed so I walk slowly back to my room. Mum tells me not to stomp like an elephant. My books are all over my floor. I threw everything everywhere yesterday afternoon so now my room looks like a bombsite which suits me fine, I honestly couldn’t give a s@#t. I put my books and other crap into my school bag which has rotten fruit at the bottom of it, I find this amusing but I don’t bother to clean it. I sit on my bed for a minute trying to think where my shoes are, I look under my bed and there they are; stupid f@#king shoes. I don’t understand why everything is so difficult, something simple like finding shoes is a major catastrophe for me. I panic when I can’t find something, I think that’s why I’m on the edge of my seat all the time; because I can’t find myself. I want to eat, I feel like burnt toast. I put some bread into the toaster and turn it up. I enjoy the smell of burnt toast. I grab the butter out of the fridge and a knife so I’m ready for when the bread pops up. I stare at the toaster. Mum walks past and gives me a weird look; she asks why I feel the need to make the house smell like burnt toast. After I eat I start to feel sick because it’s nearly time to go. I’m ready to go to school but I don’t think I’ve wasted enough time yet. I should’ve walked slower, spent more time doing my hair or just stayed in bed. If I had stayed in my bed I wouldn’t be having these problems right now. I run back to my room, take my shoes off and crawl back into bed. I sit the pillows over my head and close my eyes. I can’t stop the tears. I really don’t want to leave the house and go to school. I don’t want to see my selfish friends or sit in classes learning useless information. I can hear mum talking to herself. She’s pissed off because she knows that I’m back in bed. I can hear her heavy footsteps coming up the hallway. She screams and screams and screams at me until I get up. I find myself sitting in the car.


98

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

I watch the side of the road as we drive along. Mum pulls up next to the school and waits for me to get out. I look into the visor mirror and fix up my makeup. I practise my smile a few times. I choose one that will be appropriate for when I see my friends in a few seconds. I pull up my socks. Grab my bag and hop out of the car. I hear the girls calling my name. I look up wave and put on my chosen smile; it’s now time for the bulls@#t.


st francis xavier college

99

The Catch of the Day mary o’kane

Brett inhaled the salty air as he looked over the crashing waves of Hyam’s beach. As he lowered his net into the shallow water that swirled around his ankles he said to himself, This is my favourite place in the world. And what place could be better? The whole family was enjoying their day at the beach. His parents were perched on the dunes behind him, his dad, intently gazing at the sports page on the back of the newspaper and his mum engrossed in a romance novel. There were a few clouds looming overhead that cast a shadow over Tim, Brett’s little brother, as he was gliding through the waves, practising on his surfboard that he had got for Christmas the week before. Brett gathered up his net and walked back to the shore and collapsed into the sand, sighing contentedly, as he closed his eyes and began soaking up the rays of the summer sunshine. A high-pitched shriek pierced through the familiar sound of the waves. Brett jerked his head around, following the shrill noise and found that it was coming from the dunes. Brett adjusted his eyes and saw that it was his mum who was screaming. Brett sprinted towards her, showering grains of sand through the air and onto the towels dotted around him. “Mum, what is it?” he inquired, panting as he came to a stop beside her. A bubble of panic was rising in his stomach. His mum wouldn’t answer. She continued to shriek and gestured out to the water where Tim was surfing. That was when Brett noticed it, a dark fin circulating in the water near his little brother. People all around him went into a state of panic. Parents were summoning their kids back to the shore with exaggerated movements.


100

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Others ran into the water and carried them out, kissing their foreheads with relief. Brett could only watch on, with baited breath, as Tim struggled to get out of the deeper water. The shark was getting closer and closer, eyeing up Tim’s little limbs as they scrabbled at either side of the board, trying to get back to the shore. Brett felt so helpless, as he saw the shark move closer and closer. Each silent second felt like an hour as the shark edged ever closer, centimetre by centimetre. People all around him were staring at the small figure in the vast blue water. As the shark snapped at the end of the board Tim slid off, holding onto the edge of the board, struggling to keep afloat. Brett couldn’t stand it any longer, he felt so helpless. He ran off into the water, unsure of what he was going to do next. Brett ran until the water was knee-deep. People were shouting behind him, trying to get him to come back. He stopped dead, not because of the people shouting, but because of another sound. A gentle purring was coming from somewhere close. Brett clutched his head, trying to register what the sound was amongst his other buzzing thoughts. It was then that the helicopter came into sight. He shouted for glee as he remembered, shark patrol. With careful precision the helicopter turned until it was directly above Tim. A cable was lowered through the base of the helicopter and at the end of it hung a ring. He struggled to breathe, the air thick with anxiety. Tim’s hand clutched the air, as the ring swayed just millimetres from his reach. He extended his arm just a little bit more and grasped the ring, just as the shark swallowed the last of the surfboard. Tim was hauled up into the helicopter and whisked away. A feeling of relief swept over him as his legs turned to jelly. Brett managed to get himself out of the water and onto the safety of the shore. He ran to his mum and dad and they all held each other in a warm embrace. Thank goodness that Tim was safe. Through tears of relief his dad said to them, “I think I might buy him a cricket set next year!”


st francis xavier college

101

I am Blue lauren cawthron

I am blue. Literally. I have blue food dye through my hair, all over my face, and down my arm. Well, on the plus side, it matches my uniform, the one that has earned our school its nickname: “Smurfs”. And I’ve always wanted to dye my hair, so I guess it’s not so bad. How did I get blue dye all over me, you ask? Simple. We were studying transpiration in plants and we did this experiment where you put white flowers in dye and the petals turn the colour of the dye you left it in, demonstrating how water moves through plants. Anyway, we were packing up after the experiment and Ellen tripped over and spilt her beaker of dye all over me. You could tell she felt really bad about it, she kept apologizing over and over again, but it wasn’t her fault. I can understand completely. Ellen and I are probably the two most uncoordinated people on the face of the planet. If anyone was going to trip over and drench someone with dye, it would either be Ellen or me. I decided to stay at school. I changed into a spare shirt from the schools clothing pool. We had a choir practise, as it was Tuesday, and I didn’t want to miss anything. It also meant I could hide in the music room at lunch. So I walked in quietly and started to practice “Masquerade” on the piano at the back of the room, because Elaine, our choir instructor, wasn’t there yet, so everyone was just eating and mucking around with the instruments instead. “Hey Amber!” Robert called across the room to me. I looked up. He was climbing the tiers towards me. “Are you OK?” he sounded genuinely concerned.


102

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

“Yeah,” I replied cautiously. “Why?” He had reached the piano by now. “I dunno…you look kinda…blue.” I felt my face turn red. Or more likely purple. “Funny” I replied sarcastically. Robert grinned at me and I couldn’t help but smile back at him. He’s just one of those people who makes everyone around them happy, makes them laugh with him and momentarily forget trivial worries. All the guys in the choir are like that. I managed to make it through the rest of choir with a minimum of wisecracks from the peanut gallery, which was surprising since it’s the two things you expect from choir every week, singing and joking around. It’s almost more important to have a sense of humour than a good voice if you want to join choir. By the time school was over most of my grade had heard what happened to me and I only had to put up with a few strange looks from kids in lower grades. I didn’t feel like walking home so I got a lift home with Naomi. She thought it was hilarious to sing “Blue” all the way to my house. Clearly I wouldn’t live this down for a while. When I got home, after some interrogation from Mum, I immediately got in the shower and started maniacally washing my face, arm and hair. Half an hour later – with my skin rubbed raw, yet still tinged blue – I emerged feeling a little better. Hopefully by tomorrow, with the help of another shower, the blue dye will have worn off. Mum came into the lounge room, trying to look nonchalant, but betraying worry when she spoke. “Shouldn’t Tom be home by now?” Tom, my younger brother, often hung out with his friends in the floodway between our house and the school. Normally he gets home before 3:30, and our parents turn a blind eye, even though he’s supposed to come straight home. But after 3:30 they would go looking for him and then there’d be hell to pay.


st francis xavier college

103

I squinted at the clock on the other side of the room. It was hard to read because the clever person who had designed it had made the hands and numbers silver and the face gray. It was also an hour slow, because we never bothered to change it for daylight savings. According to this dodgy clock, it was 2.45. “No,” I replied, trying to lighten Mum’s mood. “School doesn’t end for another ten minutes.” It worked: Mum smiled. “Oh, ha ha.” She said, by way of a witty repartee. Then suddenly she was serious again. “I’m going to go and look for him.” As if on cue, the phone rang. Mum dropped her keys on the floor with a clatter in her haste to answer it. “Hello?” I heard her reply from the kitchen. “Yes…Well, is he OK?…Alright, I’ll come right away.” The phone clicked and Mum came back into the room, looking more flustered than before. “Where are my keys?” I pointed at the ground. “Oh.” She picked them up and rushed out of the door. “Mum!” I ran out after. “What’s the matter?” She whipped around as if she had only just realised I was there and hurriedly said “Tom’s in hospital. Dad’s working late, so you’ll have to sort out your own dinner.” Then she abruptly got in the car and drove off. Dad’s an anaesthetic nurse, working at Canberra Hospital. I’m assuming Tom would go to Canberra Hospital, because it’s the closest hospital to us that has a paediatric unit. So Dad would probably stay with Mum and Tom when he finished work. I went back inside, did my homework, heated up some soup, ate it and went to bed early, acting like a zombie the whole time, I was so worried about Tom. I was in bed reading when the phone rang. I jumped out of bed and tore down the hall. I snatched up the phone and breathlessly answered.


104

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

“Hello?” “Hey, Amber.” It was Dad. “How’s Tom?” I cried. “What happened?” “He ate some peanut butter for a dare. We don’t know how he’s gonna be, he’s throwing up all over the place, but he’s getting it out of his system at least.” Well. At least Dad was straightforward. It really sucks when people try to avoid giving you bad news. It just drags it out and makes it worse. I don’t remember anything I said in the rest of the conversation, or anything I did before I fell asleep. I only remember being worried for Tom. A kid died from eating a teaspoon of peanut butter when he had a severe allergy, like Tom does. All I could think about was him and worry for Tom. The next morning I woke up to an empty house. That wasn’t really unusual; normally I’m the first one up anyway. But I didn’t remember why everything was so quiet until after my shower at 7.00, when Mum normally gets up. Then everything came flooding back to me. I checked the phone for messages, but the only one was from Mabel, wondering why Mum didn’t show up to some meeting for Scouts, as Mum’s a Cub leader. I switched my phone to vibrate and put it in my pocket instead of leaving it in my bag like I normally do for school, in case Mum or Dad called, and made my lunch, packed my bag and headed off to school. I spent most of the day at school worried and jumpy. Every time a messenger from the student office came to one of my classes with a reminder for someone that they had a dentists appointment or something, my stomach dropped. I was sure that any moment I would be pulled out of class and told that Tom was dead. When a message for the other Amber in our grade came to our classroom, I almost had a heart attack. What idiot put the only two Ambers in


st francis xavier college

105

our grade in the same class? At lunch, Robert approached me again. “Hey Amber.” “Hi.” I said shortly. I didn’t really feel like talking to anyone. “You look kinda down. Are you alright?” I looked up in shock. How did he know I was worried? I was normally pretty good at hiding emotions. “You know…down…blue…yesterday, remember?” Right. Blue. The whole thing with the dye. Was that only yesterday? So much had happened since then, it seemed like ages ago. “Wow, you really are out of it, huh?” I looked up again. I’d forgotten Robert was there. “Look, Robert, I don’t really feel like talking right now, could you just leave me alone?” I finally heard about Tom just after school, in the form of a text from Dad. It read: Tom’s OK, he fell out of his hospital bed and broke his arm this morning. See you soon. I breathed a sigh of relief so big it felt like I had been holding my breath all day. “Well,” I said quietly to myself. “At least he was in the right place to break a bone.”


106

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

The Sound of Silence alana dougherty

Do you hear the sound of silence? Or the drip, drip, drip of the tap? You may say silence has no sound, But that’s all I’ll ever hear. I remember the first time I heard a nail file, And how it scratched and rasped away. I can only imagine what birds must sound like, Singing their hearts out to welcome another day. My mother comforts me with the sounds of the ocean As I walk beside the blue-green sea. I would give anything to hear those sounds, But that’s not the world for me. My ears strain to hear the leaves rustle As they flutter in the wind. Or the wind howling into the night, Shrieking with pain and grief. And I never know when it is raining, The gentle low thrumming is too low for me. Or the harsh pounding against the roof – Well, it’s something I can only see


st francis xavier college

The world that you belong in Is not for my father or I, We struggle to hear our best friends whisper, Whisper secrets of friendship and love. So remember when you next shut me out, That I’m too embarrassed to ask you to repeat. Try to imagine walking around in a bubble, Because, that’s what it’s like for me. Enjoy your world of colour – Mine is of black and white. And the sounds that you take for granted Are those that I’ll never hear. So when you next hear the sounds around you – And the drip, drip, drip of the tap, And the hip, hop, hap of the clap And the sounds of the ocean blue, And the whisper of best friends true, And the gentle thrumming of rain, And the birds singing welcome to another day – Remember that some of us can’t hear those sounds, So listen, and appreciate today. Do you hear the sound of silence? Or the drip, drip, drip of the tap? You may say silence has no sound, But that’s all I’ll ever hear.

107


108

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Something That Happened alex mcdermid

I start by telling them how they will die. Sometimes I think that’s my entire job really, selling death. It’s always good to start with death. That’s all the customer really came for anyway. I mean, sure, they want to hear about their future, will they be rich? Famous? Beautiful? Will they marry Brad Pitt? Will they finally get that pair of Gucci pumps they’ve been eyeing for the past month? But for some reason, it’s the death that really catches them. So, I use it as an opening. This is what separates me from the other psychics. Most of them leave it till later or don’t mention it at all. For me, it’s a tool to get them fascinated. Grab their attention and before you know it, they’re hanging onto every word you say. And if you get this effect, hopefully you can push them to pay for another hour. Hook, line and sinker. This is why I make the big bucks. This is why I’m not stuck in a tent at some carnival wearing a headscarf. $15 for a tarot card read? Give me a break! My first customer for the day – or evening, I should say – is a thirty-year-old woman, one Big Mac away from being officially obese and with mud brown hair that sticks to the sides of her face. Her eyes are desperate. The moment she walks in, I’ve assessed her before she’s even looked up. Piece of cake. I make a loud groaning noise in the back of my throat and she jumps, pupils darting to my direction. I’ve rolled my eyes up, so only white shows and I’m slumped slightly. This is to give the idea that I’m in pain over having some kind of traumatising vision.


st francis xavier college

109

“I see a crash,” I mutter, voice breathless. “It’s….a car wreck. Oh, God, it’s a terrible tragedy. I see… I see…I see…a black ’96 Jeep Cherokee…” The woman makes an odd whimper. “That’s my car,” she whispers. I know this. It’s parked outside. The place where I do my “readings” is in this dark, haunting cottage in the middle of nowhere. The place is falling apart and looks like it too. But there’s all this felt fabric draped over everything to give it a classier look. Purples, blacks, blues. A dream-catcher or two. Makes the scene seem….witchy. After promising this woman that her accident doesn’t seem to be in the near future, I give her something she wants to hear. She has no wedding ring, so I give her a love story. She’s clearly self-conscious, (you can tell by her looks), so I say that a handsome older man leaves his stunning blonde wife for her. I drag this on for a whole hour. She pays for a second hour, like I knew she would. In the second part, I tell her that after discovering a love of kayaking, she halves her weight and three years later, she gets her own Aerobics show. Once the session is finally over, this girl’s had a real ego boost. She leaves and I’m just that little bit richer. My next booking is due in 10 minutes, so I go into the little corner of a kitchen and help myself to a gin & tonic, before returning to my post. I almost drop my drink in surprise because there’s a young girl sitting in my chair. I hadn’t even heard the door open. She’s pale and is wearing a white dress with matching ballet shoes. Her eyes are transparent-blue and her hair is lighter than blonde. I figure that she’s my next customer and let herself in, rather impolitely, in my opinion. Trying to do damage control for my absent-mindedness, I mutter something about ‘sensing a disturbance.’ She just stares.


110

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Outside, there’s a storm brewing. I walk over to her and murmur, “Oh, my God.” I lean close to her ear. “I have a message to give you.” No response. “I see a man…he says he knows you….he wants you to…find John…and…and…” Right now, I’m winging it. This girl hasn’t moved and I’m not getting anything from her. It’s going to be a tough hour. I go to keep talking but she just starts laughing, eerily. At me! This is downright insulting! So I swing the chair around to face me directly. I look her right in the eyes and suddenly, I don’t know why, but my blood turns cold and I get goose bumps. Suddenly, she screams and it’s like murder in my ears. Windows are thrown open, gusts of wind enter to destroy the room. I swear I hear thunder, mixed with her shrill cries and then the power dies. And suddenly everything falls silent. It all goes still. And before I know it, I’ve opened my eyes to sunlight pouring in through the window of my bedroom, my apartment. I’ve just woken up. I’m lying in bed. I don’t know what happened so there’s no ending to this mystery. No moral to the story. I know I didn’t learn anything. I’m still a psychic too. It’s just something that happened.


st francis xavier college

111

Karma lauren cawthron

Leo showed his customers into the dark, shadowy room, with an air of mystery. He noticed that all of them suddenly lowered their voices when they entered. Perfect. He showed them all to their seats around a circular, oak table, with a crystal glass resting upside-down in the centre, then took his own seat. He started by telling them how they would die. Sometimes, he thought that selling deaths was all his job really was. It was always good to start with the death. That’s what the customer was invariably looking for. That’s what really sold them. Leo was a con-man. He brought a group of people into this little den, and gave them psychic readings. He would tell them how they would die, give them each a tarot reading, then connect with the dead through the crystal glass which was rigged to rattle when he pushed a button under the table. All for the measley sum of $200 each. He finished his contact with one man’s dead grandfather, by kicking a leg off the table, causing it to shake violently. This brought a very satisfying scream forth, from a young mousey-haired woman. He showed his guests out and turned back to prepare for the next group. “Excuse me.” Leo turned. One of the customers had returned. He frowned. He didn’t like interruptions. “What?” he said rudely. She stepped forward. “I know what you’re doing.” “What?” This time his tone is one of surprise. “You’re conning them. You’re pretending you can see their futures and reaping the profits.”


112

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Instantly, Leo’s stomach dropped, through his body, past the floor and all the way to China. “What do you want from me?” He somehow managed to keep his voice even. The woman stepped forward again, and now Leo could see her clearly. She was a small woman, with short, red hair, and a look in her eyes, as if she could see through Leo, the wall behind him and the rest of the building to something more interesting beyond. “I want you to steal something for me.” * Which was how Leo found himself standing in the middle of some rich old lady’s house, searching for a diamond necklace. The redhead had given him all the details on where to go, and how to get in. Now, all he had to do was to find the necklace and leave. He scanned the lounge room for likely hiding places. There was a huge TV in the corner, a large display cabinet containing intricate, little china figures, a spotless desk, on which sat a computer in the corner, and four squashy-looking armchairs. His immediate thought was to look in the vases lined up on the top shelf of the china display, but that was too obvious. He stood still for a moment, trying to think of other likely hiding places. Then it hit him. What did a sixty something year old lady want with a computer? Even if she did want one, wouldn’t she want something better than that one? He inspected the desk. The computer was dusty, clearly rarely used. And even better, there was a small screwdriver lying behind the monitor. He used it to remove the screen on the monitor and smiled. All the wiring had been removed, and in its place, was an ornate wooden jewellery box. He took a moment to savour this small victory, then took the necklace, replaced the jewellery box and monitor screen and exited. With any luck, the theft would not be discovered for days, perhaps weeks. He returned to his den and waited for the redhead to turn up. Half an hour later, she did.


st francis xavier college

113

“Did you get it?” She demanded eagerly. “Yes,” he replied. “You will keep quiet?” “As we agreed. Now where is it?” Leo extracted the necklace form his jacket and handed it to the mysterious redhead. “A pleasure doing business with you,” he said, ironically. “Perhaps we can do so again?” The woman quickly pulled a gun from the back of her jeans and shoved it at his chest. “I doubt it,” she said, and pulled the trigger. Funny, Leo thought, as he sank into darkness. I’ve spent my whole life predicting people would be brutally murdered, and it turned out to be my own fate. It must be Karma… Then Leo thought no more.


114

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Yellow hannah bryant

The bruised sky settled over me as I slipped between the creaking wrought iron gates of what was once Mr. Henry’s well-kept home. Deep purple clouds and midnight blue velvet swirled overhead as the black forms of crows circled above. I held onto the hem of my skirt tighter as the eerie dark began to eat away at my imaginings of what could be lurking in the surrounding hedges of the huge, castle-like mansion. I tip-toed over the cobbled stones and let my gaze dart around Mr. Henry’s unrecognizable garden. It used to be vibrant, with bright yellow daffodils littering the chestnut window boxes which lined the huge glass panes. Rich red and creamy white roses would be mixed and matched throughout the various garden beds which formed intricate shapes; swirling and confusing one’s mind as to where they would begin and end. Intense purple irises had stood tall; dark stalks of green holding them up against a back drop of small emerald leaves, intertwining to form a strong hedge, encasing the whole garden in an enchanted atmosphere. Now, the garden was laden with mosquitoes hovering overhead; a dank musty smell swirling and attracting other various winged insects. But Mr. Henry couldn’t be blamed for this. His wife had maintained the garden, and after her death it had become riddled with vermin. Spiders were the worst; spinning silken webs, the moonlight striking them with an intensity that made them glisten and sway when whispers of wind whipped through the usually still garden. The irises withered, the roses shrunk; their petals fell away, covering the ground in a mush of flowery death. The daffodils came back the year after Mrs. Henry’s death but didn’t return the following. There disappeared the spirit of a once warming house;


stromlo high school

115

which now stood old and rickety, the shutters on the upper floor windows flaking and coming away at the hinges. A few lay broken on the ground from past storms while several windows were hammered closed with planks of old wood; shimmering glass scattered across the dirt and grass. The entire property was overgrown. The hedge had taken charge; it had moved across the yard, snaking its way between the stone path and various small trees which had taken up residence. It had attacked the front gate; the strong iron nearly hidden completely by the ragged plant. It had eaten up the dead twigs over the roses and whatever remained of irises. The wooden window boxes had been left untouched, and what looked like bony fingers poked out of the ground where the daffodils had been; remained to look like just that, the weeds only willing to fester around them. As I crept closer to the house I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck prickling as weedy strands brushed my ankles. I wished horribly hard that the council had not elected me to check on Mr. Henry, but to my utter disappointment it was without prevail. I thought of the last time I saw Mrs. Henry as I made my way to the huge oak door, the smell of rotting wood and mothballs filling my senses. It was fused also with the unmistakable smell of a possibly dead rat somewhere nearby. She had been in town one morning buying bread for her husband. She seemed healthy for someone who had passed away due to a horrid heart attack during the middle of the night. Although she was middle-aged she did not look it. Her skin had been glowing and her hair was a light blonde; hiding any possible grey from the naked eye. After her death, Mr. Henry had refused to have a public funeral and burial, telling all the town folk he would bury his wife in their garden because that was her most prized work. I stood in front of the door, shivering the moment my knuckles brushed the wood. I stayed for a moment, my stomach clenching in anticipation, awaiting an answer to the sick feeling build-


116

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

ing within. A deep rumble of British arrogance came from inside. “You may enter”. I pushed the heavy door open, the oak creaking and groaning as it shifted; moaning like it hadn’t been opened for years. The cobwebs came away from the splinters along the edges where they had met the wall, long silver strands streaking across my face and in my hair as I stepped inside. I held my tongue, not willing to startle the screaming silence with my fear as I swiped at the tangled silk. “Where are you Mr. Henry?” I called into the emptiness. Silence greeted me as I held my breath, waiting for his booming voice to call me in the direction he sat. He didn’t take too long but his voice came in a rasp, echoing through the dusty house. “The drawing room,” he murmured, making my hair prickle once again. I followed his voice to a large room, darkened by the mauve velvet curtains falling heavily across the large window. I padded quietly across the hardwood floors as I made my way further into the room, spotting Mr. Henry sitting in a high wing-backed chair. As my eyes began to adjust to the dim lighting I spotted a small plate sitting on the arm of the chair. I made my way closer, slowly crossing the room in silence. I quickly spotted a bone on the plate as well as something metallic. Getting closer still, as I moved, a small flickering caught the metal, making it shine. It was a ring, a plain gold band, matching the one on Mr. Henry’s left ring finger. The bone was almost clean, a small amount of flesh still colouring the stark white. That’s when I realised the rough round shapes connecting each piece was a knuckle, creating a long slender finger. I looked up at Mr. Henry, my face horror stricken as he smirked with a knowing smile. “You’re just in time for dinner.” His eyes darkened as he murmured, British arrogance tingeing his voice.


stromlo high school

The Sunset Run elise ryan

Orange Horizons Beneath dark red skies Across which A haunting silhouette flies With Grace it soars On ebony wings And with it Velvet night it brings Pulling a black curtain Across the sky With a soft Crowing cry It races time It races night To reach its nest Before last light

117


118

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

The Endlessness of Days kael mccormack-skewes

The endlessness of days Rest upon the cold shoulders Of some lonely shoreline With arms out-stretched to the sea, Transient tides And starry skies Have left their mark eternally The endlessness of ways Pool beside a brook Collecting crystal clear Tears from weeping willows, Wallowing louder Whispering tales in windy gales Through sweetest dew Beading on leafy fingers, leading to Chaste water washes Gushing onto green The endlessness of days Seep in sugary sap From scored sycamores Swaying along corrugated pathways Smooth and ebbing, always Moving as weeds beneath the sea Dancing with grassy spires Endlessly


canberra college

We too, Live the endlessness of days In our disconnected intimacy Leaving its mark eternally As the loneliness Of sunless cliffs Worn by greyest waters Intimacy found in fleecy clouds Watching from behind its shoulders The endlessness of ways Seep as sweet nostalgia From fractured light-rays In dusty, apricot days Cast in a screen of cluttered angles The endlessness of silvery sky Reflects in pools Of Starry climbs That we finger in fascination Sending ripples over Quivering constellations This nameless sadness This nameless want Resides in recesses beside our brains Eternally, these things will stay Fuelled by the endlessness of ways In the endlessness of days The endlessness of days Rest upon the cold shoulders Of some lonely shoreline

119


120

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

With arms out-stretched to the sea, Transient tides and starry skies Have left their mark eternally The endlessness of ways Pool beside a brook Collecting crystal clear Tears from weeping willows, Wallowing louder Whispering tales in windy gales Through sweetest dew Beading on leafy fingers, leading to Chaste water washes Gushing onto green The endlessness of days Seep in sugary sap From scored sycamores Swaying along corrugated pathways Smooth and ebbing, always Moving as weeds beneath the sea Dancing with grassy spires Endlessly We too, Live the endlessness of days In our disconnected intimacy Leaving its mark eternally As the loneliness of sunless cliffs Worn by greyest waters Intimacy found in fleecy clouds Watching from behind its shoulders


canberra college

The endlessness of ways Seep as sweet nostalgia From fractured light-rays in sunny days Faking charming and funny With all the things we’d wish to say The endlessness of days Pools, reflecting stars We finger in fascination Sending ripples over Quivering constellations This nameless sadness This nameless want Resides in recesses beside our brains In stagnant settling, it entertains What trickles through our ways Into imaginary lives we cast away As we yield to The endlessness of days

121


122

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

I Am geordie lucas

Who am I? I am a tear in the rain Indistinguishable from the rest Brought down by the weight of the world I am‌powerless My mind has broken its banks I watch as it spills out across this dry land Am I Australian? I am a thousand thoughts in the wind Tossed and tumbled senseless Whizzing, whirring, colliding Truth strip me down‌defenceless Trying to find my way back To the home I never had So I stand here in the middle of the crowd I am alone I am a flame in the fire Hissing and spitting rage These people, this place All crammed in a cage


dickson college

I’ve lost myself again But had I ever really found Me? No, farewell identity I am a flower in the earth Reborn from fire Dancing in daylight At last I’ve stemmed my desire For now I know I am the Earth, the trees, the wind and water I am the sun I am the daughter And I am you

123


124

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Cheer Up Emo Kid geordie lucas

Thoughts that clouded mind in everlasting emotional storm Subside Not so subtle expectations to conform Divide Liberated at last from the norm ride Has come before my fall I understand why this has come to be Senseless destruction now clear to me With surgical precision media masses make the incision Fagot, freak, emo This is not sorrow, a carefully thought out decision I thought this was a free country Lol just kiddin I call myself a realist (but hey who doesn’t?) If this is reality… I can’t wait to get out of school So I can get a job I don’t like So I can buy the shit I don’t need The future blinds us all, bright or bleak


dickson college

Mankind serves the sentence of Sisyphus in delicious denial But I can’t bear the taste Indifferent to any action, no matter Fashionable convictions are just restrictions that torture and torment ‘It is only after we have lost everything that we are free to do anything’ Embrace the wind, for it is the only thing that will free you Come and let’s lose ourselves in the beautiful decay Authority, assertions, dependence and purpose all illusion You’ll find no real answers there Just an apathetic aberration Opium of the people Cork for your mouth and anaesthetic for your mind Too afraid to face the facts It’s hip to be a hypocrite And in the end I think you’re taking the easy way out I pity you Pathetic peasants Transcend this history, the mystery of hope Meaninglessness makes more sense Snap out of identity and all assumption Escape the cycle of self-consumption What will you do in heaven? Think about that

125


126

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

The heavenly bodies burning night I don’t believe in wrong or right Even in space there is no room for good or bad It just is You think the universe cares whether you live or die? Gimme a fucking break Close your eyes Look away, push it all away You think I’m the one in need When you’re the ones, can’t think for yourselves Need something, someone else to tell you what to do Bound by consequence Now that’s depressing But is this freedom any better? A cursed blessing The silent witness of absurdity Humored by the tumor of existence The cosmic comedy of life, my stomach aches Blackened by satisfying satirical sarcasm I don’t know Why always wins Why Am I Writing this?!?! Am I the only one who sees the order in chaos?


dickson college

I wish I could get a little closer… I wish I could hit bottom Futility dilemma We are not unique, we are not special, we are compost I’m waiting for Armageddon I’m waiting for time, to wash it all away Take me away The drama of everyday is inevitable When these words fade from memory Will I go back to being ok? I hope not We are god’s unwanted children Such a silly game, you can’t win It didn’t even come with a rulebook! No nothing! I grow weary I don’t want to play anymore

127


128

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Crazy jack ennis butler

I heard the wailing of the siren coming from the street, pitiful, heart wrenching, like a child crying over a broken toy. The siren suddenly stopped, as if the child’s mouth had been covered over. Moments later I heard footsteps on the stairs, the rhythmic clanging on the metal steps building to a crescendo outside my door. They stopped. I waited for the inevitable knock on the door. I tried to compose myself, smoothing the wrinkles out of my clothes; they were filthy, wet with sweat and they stank. I could taste the bile rising in my mouth. I was as ready as I would ever be. But what about Emily? She wasn’t ready, she was crazy, what would happen to her? I didn’t know what was wrong with her and I worried that she might never recover after what had happened today. I went over the events again in my mind; I needed to be clear about what had happened. I had collected her from work at lunchtime. She wasn’t waiting out the front so I had to go inside and find her myself. She was always working. Wherever I saw her she was writing; at home, in the mall, she always had pen and paper with her. It couldn’t be healthy to do so much work. It left her exhausted but I knew it was her way of taking her mind off what had happened in her family. If she wasn’t always distracting herself she was in danger of letting grief overwhelm her. It would break my heart if she had to go to a sanatorium or something. There was a sign on the front desk that said “be back in five”. I knew where her office was so I didn’t bother waiting and headed up the stairs myself. The offices were almost completely empty. It was lunchtime on a Sunday after all. A man came out of the office up ahead. He was fiddling with his laptop and didn’t


dickson college

133

Sunset alexei dettman

The sun sat high within the sky, its boiling rays beating down on the city. Cars were driving up and down the street, with the people on the side of the road moving in time with them. It was almost hypnotic: no matter how long you stared, the rhythm of the street would continue. The constant heat of the land made you feel almost in a dream as you wandered around, the ground in front of you would waver and blur, your vision would distort, and your eyes would lose focus, always making your journey seem so much longer. Every single night the boy tried to sleep, but all he would see as he slept was that blood red sun blazing in the sky. The boy wandered these very streets alone, his eyes fixed upon the ground. He kept his hands clenched angrily in his jacket pockets, his arms becoming sore from keeping them there for so long. He was trying not to draw attention to himself, but even he knew how guilty he must have looked, like an average street thug, he even had the hooded jacket to complement his look. A normal person wandering amongst so many other normal people, a façade and clever deception that caused the boy to meld into the street and fall in with the rhythm of the people walking beside him. It’s not that he wanted to look like the stereotype he was now, but if he tried wandering around in anything else he knew that the very people he was trying to punish would end up noticing him, and his valiant cause would disappear like a piece of sand in the desert wind. Every so often, the boy would glance up, occasionally catching glimpses of the faces he hated so much, men, women and children, all of them blurring into one great mass for him. He found it was easier not to memorise anyone he saw, it humanised these


dickson college

129

see me. I ducked into an office and waited until he was out of sight. I didn’t want to be seen. I wasn’t supposed to be there after all. I eventually found my way to her office, “Emily Warwick: Editor. Knock before entering.” I opened the door without knocking, and she looked up startled, surprised to see me. “It’s time to go,” I said and offered her her medication. She hadn’t taken it today so I had brought it along for her. She didn’t want to take it at first but I made her see reason and administered it to her. I collected her stuff as she sat there and watched me, then we were ready. I practically had to carry her out of the building, she could barely walk and didn’t want to leave for some reason or other. Most people walk out the front of the building, but I knew a back way out and we got to the car park without seeing a soul. I helped her into the car and stepped in myself. It was a beautiful day, the sky a thick, deep blue as if paint had been poured over a canvas in a layer and left to dry untouched. White blushes of clouds were floating behind and around the city skyscrapers, enveloping them in a powdery embrace. From here it looked as if they were part of the buildings themselves. I noticed the faintest hint of rain on the horizon but the dark clouds were eons away. There was no way this day would be spoilt. I started the car and remarked to Emily on the unusual beauty of the day. She didn’t reply, she was already asleep. Her long hair drifting down across her face, completely relaxed in her seat, she hadn’t even done up her belt. I didn’t want to wake her so I carefully reached over and did it for her. She didn’t even stir. I pulled out into the traffic. There weren’t many cars on the road, so each car was isolated by a wide gulf of road before the next; each driver the sole occupant of their personal island. I couldn’t help but notice that the colour red had gone out of fashion. My car was the only such coloured one in the entire road. I smirked to myself and wondered if that meant something about me. I looked over at Emily. She was fidgeting a bit as we rounded the corners. I picked up some speed through the city, looking again to see if Emily no-


130

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

ticed. I didn’t see the orange light up ahead until late. I had plenty of time. I knew I could make it. I sped up. The light flashed red. A man talking on the phone stepped out. I swerved hard into the other lane, tyres screaming. I didn’t see the cyclist. He tried to get off the road but it was too late. The bike hit and he was hurled into the car. I saw, felt and heard his head crash into the windscreen, before his momentum carried him over. The impact rocked the car. The sound was horrendous, a sickening squelch of breaking bone and bending metal that reverberated through the vehicle. I hit the accelerator. I had to get away. Emily was screaming. I could taste vomit. People were shouting and staring. It was too much, I couldn’t cope. I had to put as much distance as I could between what had happened and where I was. I had to get home, I couldn’t think. Emily was screaming, “Let me out! Let me go!” Her banshee wails were too much, “Shut the f@#k up,” I yelled back, “We’re going home.” She punched me in the face. “What the f@#k!” I swore and slammed on the brakes. The car screeched and skidded to a stop. She pulled her hand out of her bag. There was a gun in it. She aimed it straight at me and I knew then, she had lost it. This had pushed her over the edge and now she was going to kill me. I lunged at her. The gun fired. The shot missed and hit the roof. I had her arms now. I threw the gun away but she was still attacking me. She gouged my eye with her thumb. I was in agony, the pain was all I could think about. I had to do something. She wouldn’t stop, she was an animal. I swung blindly with my fists, once, twice and then I made contact. I looked with my good eye, her nose was bleeding and she was completely unconscious. I would get her home and then I would take her to a hospital. But how would I get her home, what if she woke up? I found her pistol and placed it in my pocket, and then I took off my belt and used it to tie her arms around the car seat. I couldn’t risk her attacking me again.


dickson college

131

I started the car. My hands were shaking on the wheel. My mouth hurt, the taste of blood inescapable. My eyes were watering with blood or tears, I wasn’t sure, and was too afraid to look. Luckily we were almost home, I could make it. Finally we were there. I parked the car, Emily was still unconscious, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I kept the belt around her arms as I looked down at her face. I cleaned the blood off her and noticed her eye was just starting to go black. Even now she was beautiful, my perfect woman. I reached down and picked her up, her perfume teasing my nose as her limp body fell into my arms. I carried her up the stairs to the apartment, my footsteps echoing with the extra weight. I opened the door to our home and wondered where to put her. I decided on the bedroom, I would lock her in there until I was ready to take her to the hospital. I put her down gingerly on the bed, taking care she would be comfortable when she woke up. I moved to the living room, then locked the door, then poured myself some brandy. I felt sick, I had killed a man. Did anyone see my numberplate? I needed to have a plan for what I would do. That was when I had heard the sirens, steadily getting louder, drawing towards me like the bullets from a firing squad. I wrenched my mind back to the present; the police must have tracked my car here. I was surely going to be arrested. A knock sounded on the door, four times in quick succession. I opened the door immediately. It was a police officer, overweight, bald, ill-fitting clothes; the terrifying image of the law come to arrest me. He was taken aback by how quickly I’d opened the door. He took in my appearance, stared at the photos of Emily adorning the walls. Who did he think he was? He opened his mouth to speak but before he could, Emily screamed. A blood curdling yell, a shriek of unadulterated terror, an entreaty for help to anyone within earshot, “Help me!” she screamed again. The police man pulled his gun. “Who the hell is that?” he demanded as she bellowed again. Before I could answer, he ran over and smashed the door to the ground.


132

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Emily was struggling on the bed, trying to free her arms. “He abducted me,“ she shrieked hysterically. The policeman turned to me. “Is that the truth?” he asked. “She’s my girl,” I shouted, “We love each other. I want to help but she’s gone mental.” “You’re my stalker,” she screamed. “You’re a freak, you stole my photos, my clothes, my hair. Look at the walls, he’s sick. He won’t leave me alone”. The policeman aimed his gun and started to say something. “It’s not true. You love me. You always have, you always will. We will be happy together. Forever!” “I hate you,” she shouted and the policeman was shouting too. “I wish you were dead,” she screamed again. I pulled out her gun. “You will love me. You will.” The bang of the gun broke through the noise like an explosion in a morgue. A blanket of silence descended on the three of us. They were both looking at me. I dropped to my knees. It was hard to breathe. The floor hurt my face, as I fell. I looked up, tried to point the gun, but it was too late. My body lay limp on the ground, no longer under my dominion. My vision clouded and I was pulled into oblivion.


134

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

people and brought them to his level, made him feel like they were real. The adrenalin in him seemed to be building with every single step,. He could barely stop from having his knees buckle beneath himself, and he was afraid the shaking of his body would draw the attention of the pedestrians beside him. The great heat of this place did not help him. This whole journey almost felt surreal to him as everything he saw was nothing more than a hazy blur, the heat causing his mind to play tricks on him. The ground he walked on seemed to be nothing more than a blurred red path, the sun of the land almost making it seem like a street of blood. As he walked, his mind kept wandering, and his thoughts kept skimming through so many things, and he couldn’t help but feel that he was desperately clinging to the memories of the past that brought him here, much like a crying child being taken away from their parents for the first time. He tried to suppress the thoughts that seemed to want to speak to him, but he eventually gave up, and decided to use them to strengthen his resolve. * He could hear the sounds now as if they were occurring right beside him, at that moment. He could hear the first few blasts in the distance, almost sounding like some kids letting off fireworks in the streets. He could then hear the noises becoming louder and the sounds coming closer. He could remember the malaise he was in being broken sharply by one of the noises, the once serene and beautiful silence of the town he was in tune with intently replaced by these horrible sounds, ones he had never heard but still never hoped to hear. One of these earth rending noises, these explosions, came so close he could feel the floor of his room move, the once carefully placed objects and all the possessions he had valued so much being thrown from side to side like a rag doll in the hands of god. Throwing his body from the bed, the boy pushed his sheets off and began to hurriedly run towards his bedroom window. He could see the outline of the whole city lit up by flames,


dickson college

135

with what seemed like the whole area ablaze. The once proud houses that lined the streets now looked like nothing more than dark shadows against the roaring flames that seemed to greedily envelop the city, the darkness of the night drowned out by an all consuming red. By this time his heart was beating so fast he was afraid it was going to burst, the blood flowing so fast in his body it was like a beat. He had to clutch his chest to try and calm himself down. He felt frozen in place, and only after several moments of breathing deeply was he able to move himself towards his bedroom door, as he only then realised that they could be in harm too. He threw the door open and began to rush towards the stairs that would lead to the other rooms that contained his family. His ears were ringing so much from the initial explosions he hadn’t heard anything happening in the house, and he didn’t know if they had tried calling to him already or not. The boy managed to reach the first step of the staircase, before that one blast threw him to the ground. He fell face first down several steps, before managing to put his hands out to stop himself. Shakily, the boy tried to regain his footing, but as he began to stand he could feel a sharp pain in his legs and he fell to the ground. Struggling to drag himself down the remaining stairs, the boy could feel tears welling in his eyes as the pain became almost too much to bear. For what felt like hours, the boy pushed his body down those stairs, desperate to see his family and to leave that house with them. All the while, he could hear explosions all around the town, sometimes close, sometimes far. Every so often the house would shake from an explosion coming so close and the boy would close his eyes and clench his hands, expecting the house to fall in on him at any moment. It was surreal feeling the house shake, the place he once looked to as a place of security and stability now shifting and moving like a tower of playing cards teetering on the edge of falling. Finally, the boy reached the last few stairs and using the last of his


136

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

strength grabbed the railings of the stairs and pulled himself up. As he staggered down the stairs, he fell to his knees as he reached the ground floor of his house. Looking around the house, the boy could see that the doors that led to his parents’ room were open and that no one was inside. The boy then changed his gaze to his sister’s room, and he saw what he had wanted. Both the boys parents were helping his sister walk towards the door that led into the room. His sister’s once beautiful blue eyes looked bloodied and damaged, and the boy could see that her room had fallen apart in the explosions, and now knew why his parents hadn’t raced up the stairs to help him. The boy yelled towards his family, saddened at what he saw but yet relieved at the fact that they were alive, he could see them glance up towards him. Both his parents looked at him for a moment, then smiled and he saw his mother breathe a sigh of relief, he knew that she wanted to run up the stairs to him the second they had finished helping his sister. His father closed his eyes silently, and the boy watched as his father muttered a prayer. His sister looked around blindly, her damaged eyes causing the room to become nothing more than a dark blur. The boy tried once again to get to his feet, and just as he was able to stand, his life changed, and he saw the thing that would never allow him another night’s rest. An ear piercing noise ripped through the house, and the boy watched his sister look around blindly before the flames embraced his whole family, and everything went black. That image of his family standing darkened against the flames all around them, their serene smiles and the fleeting happiness they seemed to feel but moments before, would remain with the boy forever. * Without realizing it, the boy looked up and only just realized how far he had come down the street he was walking on. He had been so lost in his thoughts that he had not even been looking where he was going. Looking up the street, the boy could see that his destination was not long off. The boy stopped for a moment, breathing


dickson college

137

heavily, the city around him seemed to have a sense of foreboding, like the very air he inhaled was filled with anxiety he couldn’t stop taking in. He looked up at that blazing sky, and quietly whispered a prayer, and then began moving down the street once again, realising that by stopping and contemplating he would only create fear and doubt within himself, he had to keep moving and get it done. Despite this however, the boy began to move more slowly than he had previously done. As he walked down the street, his body slowly moving out of sync with the street, people and places moved past him in a hasty blur. Something inside him was telling him not to rush to what he was doing, telling him to remind himself why he was doing this. * The dull and bland sounds of the street were soon drowned out again. The boy could hear the door being kicked in, and the shouts of the men as they rushed into the house. Sitting on the couch with his uncle, the initial shock stopped the boy from moving an inch, that feeling of fear he had experienced so intensely not long ago once again gripping him. The men moved quickly, their bodies clad in dark clothing and their faces covered by their pitch-black facemasks, their cold eyes looking straight into his, almost inhuman but human enough at the same time to make the boy afraid. The guns they held in their hands were quickly pointed at the boy and his uncle, and after kicking over a table swiftly, the men had formed a close circle around the couch where they sat. Shouting unintelligibly, the boy’s uncle slowly raised his hands, when all of a sudden a loud crack was heard, and the uncle slumped to the ground. The boy turned around to see the butt of one of the soldier’s guns held in the spot where his uncle’s head once was, a blood red patch standing out against the dark black of the weapon. The men then continued to shout, the boy only catching a few words of their shouts. After several moments, the men realized the boy was too scared and too unaware of what to do, and threw


138

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

him to the ground and then begun to move through the house. Upturning chairs, and throwing pictures and books around, the men moved with disregard through the house, causing havoc as they went. The boy sat there quietly, watching as his house was ruined, and then turned his head to look at his uncle’s crumpled form on the ground beside him. The boy sat there quietly, fear and a sense of helplessness overwhelming him, causing his body to simply lay there, watching his new home be torn apart like the old one by these people once again. Finally one of the men began talking to another, shook his head, and then yelled something to the rest of his men. They then moved towards the entrance of the house, and filed out one at a time, not even taking a second look at the damage they had caused. The noise that had filled the house moments before as the men tore apart the house inch by inch had suddenly disappeared, and all that could be heard was the wind blowing in through the now broken door. Silently, the boy moved towards his uncle, tore off a piece of his shirt and began padding his wound. The silence was deafening. * The restless noise of the city once again filled the boy’s ears as a car went roaring past him, its engine drawing everyone’s attention as it went by. The sheer amount of money that the owner of the car must have pumped into that thing made the boy want to spit at it, but it had since passed and faded into the city. More people brushed passed him and the boy made sure to avoid even looking at them, continuing along the street brooding and hating. He was enjoying reflecting, and tried to immerse himself once again. * The boy could see his friend now, bringing him into that building. He walked in nervously with his friend, he knew that deep down he wanted to do this, but he still had a flicker of doubt within himself. Upon entering, he saw many boys like himself sitting quietly in a room covered with posters of young men, with words such


dickson college

139

as ‘Hero’ and ‘Legend’ inscribed under their names. There was a much older man standing in front of all these young boys, talking to them with an aura of sage-like wisdom. The boy sat down at the back of the room with his friend, everyone so entranced by this man that not one of them turned around. Rays of light were shining in through the windows of the room, and the boy watched pieces of dust slowly fall down in these beams of light, the gentle quiet of this room undisturbed despite all these people, the teacher’s wisdom alone keeping them completely still. After hours of listening to this ‘sermon’ of sorts, the boy, too, already knew that he had to return the next day to listen to more of what the man had to say. He did return, and listened to the man preach some more. This pattern continued for months and months, with the boy returning to that building whenever he could. That one older man was not always there, but there was always someone there to help guide him and teach him. Everyone in that organization understood the boy, and understood his pain, all of them having lost someone much like he had. Everyone there knew what it was like to hate something they couldn’t fight back against, a whole race of people that you just want to wipe out, a war you’re powerless to wage. They taught him how to fight back against the oppressors, how to punish those that would kill their families and destroy their homes. Every so often, one of the boy’s friends from the organization would disappear, and he would never see them again, and then their face too would be plastered along with all the others on the walls, with those titles under their name. The boy knew he wanted to join them, and that he had to rise up with them to a better tomorrow. * Suddenly, the boy shook his head and looked up from the ground and realized he had stopped moving. He was standing across the road from the restaurant, crowds of people were inside laughing and eating together, their voices muffled by the glass window


140

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

panes that allowed people passing by to see what a great time they were having. The boy breathed slowly, and stared at the restaurant and could see many more people entering, some of them were as young as he was and some were even younger. The boy could feel his heart beat getting faster and faster, and he struggled to stand as his legs felt weak. He couldn’t hesitate much longer as the boy knew if he did pause he would simply be unable to will himself forward. Without thinking, the boy broke into a sprint towards the restaurant, and barged past several people waiting at the entrance. He stood at the entrance, and pulled something from his pocket and looked up into the sky. The boy held the trigger in his hand, and pressed it. He could see the sun was setting in the sky, and then there was nothing.


dickson college

141

Torn in Places laura mcguffog

My mother was a princess. Not in blood, but in spirit and soul. She had the face of an angel, all ivory skin and high cheekbones. Michelangelo would have given all he had possessed to have had her for a muse. Her limbs, long and smooth, ensured that she never had to look up in order to meet another’s eyes. Her hair resembled spun gold, falling in waves to caress her lower back. When she spoke, the birds would stop their song to listen. What really made my mother stand out however, what really set her apart, was the light she cast from within. She glowed with goodness and girlish naivety and emitted a warmth and innocence that spread to envelope all who encountered her. My mother barely had two coins to rub together when she met my father. She was singing on a cracked and gum-splattered sidewalk, strumming her guitar, her beauty all the more poignant against the crumbling backdrop. There are those who would think my father a prince, claim that he rescued my mother from the jaws of poverty and then polished her until she shone. My mother needed no such polishing. My father is no such prince. My mother fell under my father’s spell. She’d spent her entire life waiting for him, her knight in shining armor…He carried her off to his castle, his kingdom, his palace on the hill. He gave her a ring that spewed forth diamonds and wrapped her in a gown of white velvet. Two glass slippers and the spell was complete. All that glitters is not always gold however, and before long the veil began to part. My mother saw through the haze and the cobwebs, through the lights that danced upon my father’s form. She saw him for what he really was. Not an ogre, nor a sorcerer, but a void, a shell of a man who had nothing of himself to share, nothing to give. Instead he took, absorbed and


142

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

reflected the goodness and light of those around him. It was all an illusion, a lie, a trick of the light. She tried to teach him, show him how to shine, but my father didn’t want to learn. The longer she was with him, the more her soul, her spirit, weakened. Then I came along, and for a few years I was enough to make her shine. I was her strength, her internal sun. She grew tired however, and I was too young. “I just want to feel again,” she said once, “look elsewhere for my happily ever after.” * When I was a little girl, my mother gave me a book of fairytales. The pages were torn in places and there was a yellowish tinge to them. I’d looked up at my mother accusingly. This was not a new present; this was old and used. “I know it’s seen better days Evie, but it is very special to me and I want you to have it,” she’d said, a slight smile on her face. “My father gave it to me when I was a little girl, and it helped me through some bad times. That’s what’s so special about books Evie, they can take you to far away places where your problems don’t matter and things are so much better.” A distant look had come across her face then, and whilst I knew she was sad, I wasn’t sure why. Then she looked back at me and smiled once more. “Fairytales are the best kind of story Evie, because in the end everyone always lives happily ever after, no matter how bad the beginning is.” My mother’s family had never had much of anything, besides what they could draw from within themselves. Her father would work from dawn till dusk before walking the many streets that took him home. He would then sit and tell the family of his day, always making it seem more interesting, brighter, than it actually was. Then he would turn to his wife and children and ask them about their days. When this was done, and their meal was had, her father would settle himself into his favourite chair and read aloud a story.


dickson college

143

“His voice was very deep,” she told me, “and very smooth. When he spoke aloud, when he read to us, the words would flow effortlessly to surround us and paint images within our heads, taking us worlds away.” When her father finished his nightly tale, it was time for bed. My mother and all her siblings would go to their rooms and settle down for the night. Sometimes, if she wasn’t too tired and if she could manage to keep her eyes open, my mother would tiptoe out of the bed she shared with her sisters, into the living room where her father would be waiting, a smile on his face. At first he would chide her, for it was past her bedtime, but then he would open his arms wide and she would sit on his lap whilst he read to her another story, quietly, so as not to wake the others. I asked her once, why father didn’t read me stories. She said that it was because he didn’t know any. There are many moments in my life that stand out for some reason or another, many memories that will never leave me. It was my first play-date. My mother dropped me off at my friend Ashley’s house and with a reluctant hug goodbye, drove away, promising to pick me up bright and early the next morning. I missed her at first, and I wanted her to come back, but my eyes soon lit up when I saw Ashley’s dolls. When Ashley’s father had come home from work that night, he had dropped his briefcase, gathered her up in his arms, and swung her around and around until she squealed with delight. He then said hello to me and ruffled my hair, causing me to forget my shyness and join their laughter. The next morning, as promised, my mother picked me up bright and early. We spent the day together, watching Disney movies while she painted a butterfly on my face. When I heard my father arrive home that night I ran down the stairs. When I reached him I wrapped my arms around his legs and looked up at him expectantly. He looked down at me in surprise and then up at my mother who was watching from the doorway.


144

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

He lowered his briefcase and then reached behind to gently, but firmly, unclasp my arms. “Evie, you’ll dirty my suit, you have paint on your face,” he said. His voice was deep but not smooth. “But it’s dry,” I protested. He had once again looked up at my mother, and the message he conveyed was clear. “Evie darling come on, it’s time for your bath,” she said, her hand reaching out to me. So I allowed her to lead me back upstairs and run my bath. “Did your father ever swing you around?” I asked. She hesitated before answering. “Sometimes,” she said. “Oh.” He was broken then, my father. He didn’t know how to read me stories and he didn’t know how to make me spin. I decided then, that it didn’t really matter because she did. I would always ask her to tell the story of how she and my father met. She made it seem magical, like something out of a book or a movie. She turned him into someone very special when she told her story, spoke of how he had taken a wrong turn and came across her singing to an old guitar. It was not her voice alone that captured the audience and my father; it was her beauty, beckoning to be noticed. “It was my father’s guitar that I played,” she said with a smile, “it always brought me luck.” My father had waited in a small café until she had packed away her guitar and gathered her coins. Then he appeared like something out of a dream, tall, dark and handsome. He has a way about him, my father, a secretiveness that draws people in. The years that followed were not kind, my mother and father grew apart. They no longer slept in the same room. She hated sleeping alone, she had always shared a bed with her siblings growing up, always felt the warmth of another in her sleep. My mother rarely heard from her brothers and sisters, my father felt any relations with the past would not be favourable.


dickson college

145

Her mother and father had long since left this world. “Do you miss him much?” I had asked her once. “Yes,” she had replied. “I think of him everyday, and when I get sad sometimes, I just remember that I will see him again one day and he will spin me another tale.” A smile was ever present when my mother spoke of her father. I remember coming home one afternoon from school to find her crying at the kitchen table. There were pills from my mother’s doctor on the table to help her feel better. I never saw her cry again. The tears were tucked away for my sake, but the sadness grew stronger each day. I hid them from her once, the pills. I wanted her to cry, to let that bone-deep sadness drip down her cheeks. I wanted her back; the woman who had taught me so many things, who enjoyed the grass beneath her feet and the wind in her hair. She was growing colder; her warmth, her light, was flickering and growing fainter. I was losing her, she was slipping away from me and I didn’t know how to help her. I didn’t know how to be what she needed. I couldn’t. It was I who found her. I had slept badly the night before and in the morning I had awakened with a desperate need to see her face. To be held by her. I was hesitant however, to enter the room. Something wasn’t right. The birds outside were silent, their morning serenade absent. Stillness, a great hush seemed to have descended over the house, and I was unsure as to whether I should disturb it. The morning light was dimmer than usual, the sun hidden behind clouds. I needed to see her, and so I gently pushed open her door and tiptoed to her bed. She wasn’t there and the sheets were unrumpled, still smooth from the day before. My heartbeat increased as I moved slowly towards her bathroom. The door was slightly ajar and swung wide when I placed my hand against it. Then it all made sense; why the birds had stopped their song, why the world was holding its breath, why the sun had not bothered to make an appearance.


146

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

I slid my hand into the tub in order to hold onto hers. The water had lost its heat during the night. I shivered, causing ripples to emerge and making her hair dance ever so slightly. My heart stopped at the sight of it. I held my breath and waited for the rest of her to follow, to move. She wouldn’t though, she would never move again. With my other hand I stroked her face, which lay just above the water’s surface. Her skin was smoother than it had ever been before and twice as pale. I sat there on the chilled tiles, and gazed at her face, committing it to memory. Outside it rained, and I knew it was for her. Her eyes were open but she didn’t see me. That night I prayed for the first time, to a God I was too young to even comprehend. I asked him to deliver my mother, to another time and to another place. To the world where her prince waited, to wake her from the spell and end her sleep. I prayed that there, she would finally find her happily ever after. I turned my face into the pillow and cried until morning, when the sun once again failed to show its face. * My mother was a princess. She had brought a light to the world, a joy which seeped from her very being. She taught me how to enjoy the simple things in life, such as the wind in my hair and the grass beneath my feet. She is my conscience; it is her voice that guides me when I am lost. She was beautiful and she was mine. She taught me all she knew about the world, this story in which we find ourselves. She showed me how to shine, and, most importantly, how to give. One thing my mother never taught me, but from her I learnt nonetheless, was when to say no. There comes a time when we must deny those who ask, say no to those who will never be satisfied; there is a piece inside us that we should never share, should always keep hidden, in order to stay strong, in order to survive. I have come to accept my loss and the sorrow that has secured a place in my heart. It is a part of who I am. She left behind a torn and yellow stained book, a love of stories and a belief in happy endings. So when


dickson college

147

I feel as though my world has unravelled, when I awake to discover that I cannot recall her voice or the colour of her eyes, I need only turn the pages and I remember. She is gone now, returned to the fairytale from which she was spun. I am here, in this place and in this time, where my own fairytale has yet to unfold.


148

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

The Marriage Institute and the Great Museum zelda riddell

There is no space and no time in this world for this story. The one place, too, that would hold us, welcome us in, a womb of knowledge and information, is barred shut. And we wouldn’t have fitted anyway. Gustav and I weren’t born into a world like that. So I write this now, no fantasy, no author’s craft, merely for its own sake. You might read it as fiction, then maybe you’ll do something, quit your phoney fantasy tales and plug into what’s happening around you. Or maybe you’ll just smile about it and tune out when I get off my soap-box. But I have you now, and I’ll make it quick. Just listen… When I was eight the sky was filled with helium balloons. Fill them, carry them around, then let them go. Millions of balloons filled the sky, clouds of coloured plastic ebbed in the blue, choked in the atmosphere and fell to earth. After a while it stopped, but people never forgot that immediate joy of having, something letting it make you happy, then letting it go. That day my mother told me the war was over. I didn’t know what it was, but an immense sense of loss filled me. And then we moved house. When I stopped sleeping, I took up trawling the city. It goes click, click, click as I walk, the echo of making and remaking the world around us, moment by moment. They say that the paving stone you stand on is gone the moment you lift your foot. It’s only an expression, but it’s so close to true. You walk on unstable ground. Everyone was awake at different hours, and most stores never closed. I just walked until I reached new places. It took a long time, everything looks the same for miles. The city’s wire mesh skeleton collapses in on itself. Skin and bone crystals form


dickson college

149

like stalactites of acid rain fallen from the violet sky. Only to be broken down and rebuilt anew. This made the city an anemone of metal and plastic tentacles stretched, out to satellites abandoned in space. We have everything we could possibly need and yet we reach out into oblivion. And so I walked further, and further still and I was in a place unfamiliar, older. At that point the odd part would have been profusion of artists, writers, hobbyists. Everyone who had little to do, too much time on their hands, took up landscape painting or crochet. Housewives all over the world spewed out contrived Emily Bronte, writing down their imaginary friends’ sordid lives. Pathetic attempts to re-live past renaissances. Neither resolution nor revolution could shake us from our slumber. But this wasn’t a problem. For the most part we had what we needed and lay dormant in our apartments, waking to recycle societies once fresh produce-turned-garbage on a grand scale. You could see it, too, every bookstore, clothing boutique and café turned into a display case for someone, anyone’s diy junk. I kept walking, a vain attempt to separate myself from the blind creation explosion. I walked a small street into a cave of fire escapes and service entries. A musky smoke held under a streetlight, waiting to be swept away. The most impressive structure by far was a factory-type building, which was rare, with a bundle of disjointed steps and ladders that trailed onto the second floor landing, straight into a thick metal door. The building flaked the last of its robin’s egg, blue paint. But the white cursive letters written four feet high still read ‘Papa Michigan’s Bridal Institute’. I climbed those steps and the door was ajar. Obviously I leaned close and listened to the voices inside. Their accents fell heavily onto the unpolished hardwood and scuffed at the floor like patent leather shoes and I waited and waited. Accents were so rare, everyone spoke standard Amglish, but these voices loomed and arched and scratched. As I held my breath, waiting for a moment to try and join them, two of the men disappeared. I entered in their place.


150

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

He had begun even before I sat down, perhaps even before I entered the room, but his words and mine string along together from here, like fighting dogs, or courting birds. We said: There was a time when marriage was a sacred thing, like art…There was the institution of marriage in just the same way as we would have an institute of technology. Now none of these things exist. Now war is over we have only things. All the things we could ever possibly need. We have ceased to create in any way that we could before. What are these machines that build our lives for us? He meant makers. Makers took unwanted scrap, in a process I’ve never understood, which was never explained to us, and turned it into objects. Each maker had a list, with a literally uncountable number of entries about the colour, texture, dimensions of an object, and could recreate it using whatever you fed into it. Everything was slowly being scrapped to make newer items. That was what we wanted. Do you remember the last original thing? He said. And I had to admit I never saw the last original thing. I knew there was a time when we abandoned trying to cultivate the earth to produce items and places. We could build anything on earth. All the animals were dead. We didn’t need or want them. We had machines to pump out oxygen and the ozone layer was an amalgamation of loose fibreglass and reflective plastic panels. We had all long forgotten the time when the earth knew how to sustain itself. Now it was a dead rock supporting tens of billions of people, in every conceivable stage of decay. These are all things Gustav told me, in time. Parts of our history we didn’t need to know. In fact, there was nothing in the world we didn’t need any more, all of it put in the Makers, scrapped to build new phone implant-chips and reconstructed whiskey tablets. And he said, Can you conceive the intentional push to change something, to improve? Could your brain, now, think of such things? Are you dulled by comfort? Are you sick, boy? They knew, they knew


dickson college

151

they were castrating us, that this would atrophy our creativity, choke our souls. But they did it. They gave us Makers, 6-hour jobs, they bought our minds for comfort and security and we now do nothing. It’s inhuman. So one year, said Gus…a group, a secret organisation took all the originals of things, sent them to France. They’re stored in the Louvre, now, where no one can touch them, scrap them…So before we could junk every last 1988 Honda Civic they stored all the originals away. The Great Museum, they called it. And it is locked up, nothing was ever expected to be added again. This was so long ago, so long boy, he said. We were sick of war, we wanted comfort and objects and warmth. We hid discovery and change from you. You have no idea what it even is you are missing… He went on and on, for days he spoke and I listened, and I never went back home. He said, I don’t know why they left The Marriage Institute alone for so long. Why haven’t we been scrapped? I don’t know what we did? But we’ve been here forty years now. And no one has ever noticed us. The institution is no longer sacred. But it’s still standing. What will you do? From there we knew: no more words. We took our thoughts and spoke through action. And we never faltered. We knew what we needed to do.


152

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Dark Pink Rouge victoria blakeley

Behind these eyes, dark as lace, I hide a mask, my once innocent face, Sorrow builds like a continuous tear, Ice-cold sunlight breaks through the fear. Surround myself with glitter and pearls, Comb my hair, slowly set my curls. Coveted by dirty hands and unwashed skin, Dark pink rouge, blackened with sin.


erindale college

I Fear the Sun victoria blakeley

I fear the sun and moon, for setting everyday. I fear the loss and emptiness that follows. I fear failure, and the disappointment it holds. I fear darkness, and those who wear its mask. I fear trust, and its ability to break. I wish for stars, and the power to hold them. I wish for perfection and the bravery to have flaws. I wish for courage and the reasoning not to use it. I wish for love and the heart to embrace it. I am fragile, but pretend to be strong. I am confident, but hide my insecurities. I am trapped, but long to be free.

153


154

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

The Pianist dillon sayasane

The silence is broken. Clanking noises echo throughout the dark and dusty house. By the fireplace, a man stands as he fiddles with a large tin can. His hands, covered in grime, stroke his long bushy beard as he gazes at the dented and disfigured tin can. The man slowly bends down. His long, dry hair covers his face as he observes the extinguished fireplace. He notices a long fireplace poker and a small coal shovel lying within the fireplace’s walls. The man rests his tin can onto the mantelpiece and slowly picks up the large metal rod and shovel. As he lifts them, his arms shakes as if gravity had somehow strengthened. He pulls back his torn sleeves and reveals his thin wrists. The man lunges back and stabs the tin can with the fireplace poker then hammers it in with the shovel. He continues to do this around the circumference of the can. After his fifth strike, the can falls off the mantelpiece and rolls around the dusty floor. The can is leaking water out onto the old timber floorboards. The man watches the can roll behind him. Standing on a step above the can, is a German man. His hands are in the pockets of his clean, soldier uniform. He is cleanly shaven and has short blonde hair. His high military position is apparent in his stance and badges. “What are you doing, Jew?” The Jewish man stares at the German, terrified. “Come on Jew! Tell me what are you doing!” The German man has a large grin on his face as he examines the Jew, who is lost for words. After contemplating what answer he would give, the Jewish man speaks. “I was opening that can.” He points towards the tin can, which has now stopped leaking.


erindale college

155

The German looks at the can and suddenly bursts into laughter. The Jewish man looks towards the ground, his eyes start to well up with tears. Another soldier walks into the room. “All the rooms are clear, commander.” The soldier then turns his head and sees the Jewish man. He quickly raises his gun and points it towards the Jew. The commander talks to the soldier quietly, then they both laugh loudly together. The soldier lowers his gun and stands in a relaxed position against the wall. “What is your name?” demanded the Commander, as he walked across the room. “Szpilman. Wladislaw Szpilman.” replied the Jew, in a soft, frightened voice. “So Szpilman, what did you do before the war?” asked the Commander, still smiling. The Jewish man takes a deep breath then answers. “I was a pianist.” “Oh, a pianist” laughed the commander. He then pretends to play the piano with exaggerated movements. The Jewish man looks at the ground again as his love for the piano is being mocked. The soldier by the wall laughs at the commander’s impression of playing the piano. “Ah, come, follow us to the kitchen and bring your can with you.” The two Germans start walking. The Jewish man bends down and picks up the can. He then follows the soldier and commander slowly through the old, ravaged household. Dust clouds appear with every step they take. Once they arrive at the kitchen, the commander tries to turn the light on. “Oh, that’s right, no power. Come Jew, take a seat.” The Jewish man looks down at the wooden chair and sits on it. He then places the can carefully on the table.


156

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

“Go on, you must be starving.” The commander points to the can and leans back against the kitchen sink. He then whispers something to the soldier who grins. The soldier then approaches the table and pulls out a knife. Szpilman slides back into his chair and tries to create some distance between himself and the knife. The soldier stares at the Jew and stabs the top of the can. He then cuts open the lid and slowly steps back from the table. “Go on, eat!” Szpilman looks at both the commander and the soldier. After hesitating, he quickly moves up to the table and puts both hands into the large can. He then quickly shovels the preserved cucumbers into his mouth. He looks up as he eats to see the commander and soldier watching him. “So a pianist, huh?” said the commander. “I wanted to be a pianist, however my teacher said I would never be successful because my fingers are too short.” The commander lifts up his hands in front of his face and examines them. “How long have you been playing the piano?” asked the commander. Szpilman, breathing heavily answers. “All my life.” “Hmm. So you must be very passionate about playing the piano?” “Yes, playing the piano is my life” replies Szpilman. The commander gazes at the pianist, then stands up. “Come, follow.” The soldier and commander then leave the kitchen. Szpilman sits there perplexed. “Come! Hurry!” The pianist stands up and follows the Germans once again. They enter a room close to the entrance. A grand piano is in the middle of the room. The commander gestures Spzilman to sit at the piano. The pianist does as he is instructed and sits at the dusty


erindale college

157

piano. He lifts the lid of the keys and immediately his eyes light up. He lightly runs his fingers over the keys but does not strike them. “Play Chopin’s Ballade in G minor,” instructed the commander. Spzilman nods and places his hands in the starting position. He then strikes the keys and proceeds to play the song. With his eyes closed, he gracefully tinkles the keys of the grand piano. His withered fingers suddenly coming alive, the pianist has a small smile on his face. Halfway through the song, the commander shouts. “Stop! Brilliant, beautiful.” The commander exclaims as he applauds the pianist’s efforts. “Stand up, let me see your fingers.” Spzilman stands up and places his right hand onto the top of the piano. “Oh yes, you have long elegant fingers.” The commander places his left hand next to the pianist’s and compares them. “My favourite song is Chopin’s Ballade. My teacher said I would never be able to play it due to my short fingers!” proclaims the commander as he continues to compare their fingers. “Do you think someone with short fingers like mine can play Chopin’s Ballade?” Spzilman looks up at the commander and with the intention of pleasing him he replies. “Yes, of course. The greatness of a pianist is not measured against his fingers.” “Oh. That’s pleasing to hear” said the commander as he slowly reaches toward his belt. “Let’s see if that is true.” The commander then swiftly grabs the pianist’s wrist with his left arm and pulls out a knife with the other. Then, without any hesitation, the German commander hacks off the tops of the pianists fingers. The Jewish man lets out a yelp of pain. Both the soldier and commander smile as they watch the


158

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

blood gush out of the pianist’s fingers. Spzilman stares at his fingers and almost faints from pain. Then the commander slaps the dazed pianist across the face and drags him down onto the piano’s seat. He then stands behind the pianist and whispers into his ear. “If you can play Chopin’s Ballade without a single error, I will let you go.” Spzilman takes heavy breaths as he watches his blood pour over the keys. He is hunched over the piano and his tears fall onto the keys. With blood still pouring out of his right hand, Spzilman postures up and places his hands in the starting position. After taking a deep breath, he strikes the keys. The commander’s eyes widen. “Wrong note” The gunshot echoes throughout the house.


erindale college

159

Eyes Down ashley orr

“Oh, Ashie, I wish you’d let me do your hair.” “But Nan, I like it this way.” “It looks so much tidier when you’ve got it up and out of your face.” I’m not quite yet into the rebellious teenager phase, so, venturing to the bathroom, my hair waits to be fixed. The unruly strands are pulled into pigtails, bound with two metres of shiny, green ribbon. Mirroring the four year old in the mismatched photo frames strewn around the unit, I glance fretfully at the clock. Mustn’t be late. Do you know the kinds of things they say if you’re late for the first session of family bingo? Well, let’s just say they aren’t very nice. Old ladies can be devastatingly nasty given the provocation. One day they’re saving you a place, the next you’re ousted from the table. My eighty year old great-grandmother and her similarly aged friends reserve tables on a rotation system. Each day, one of them goes in early to place dabbers, empty glasses-cases and all manner of pens on the table. While strictly a forbidden practice, the rebel grannies live to break the rules. Those who take their bingo seriously know that table placement is crucial. Far enough away from the caller so that she cannot hear the jibes about whether she is too slow or fast or not giving the kids a fair go. Not too far back though, or the hearing aids will have to be turned up. Close to the board, but not on an angle where the sun obscures one’s view of the numbers. Eyes down is at 11. Latecomers be damned. This is the Mulwala Services Club. No riff-raff, no thongs after 8, this is serious bingo territory. It requires skill, rapid reflexes, a booming voice and an average age of seventy-five. The only exception is family bingo: the


160

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

holiday-season equivalent of playgroup for aspiring gamblers and grannies alike. A chance for each geriatric to parade their grandchildren in the hope of winning the coveted title of best grandchild. Competition is fierce. Every child is a threat. Although being a great grandchild definitely gives me an edge, the prevalence of sabotage necessitates constant monitoring. The popularity contest is a blood-sport. I have been a faithful attendee at family bingo since my induction at age seven. It’s a rigorous process – referees are required, a compulsory I.Q. test, examination of bloodlines, are you a bingo purebred or has cross-breeding taken place somewhere down the family tree? A loyalty agreement must be signed. In the event that you reach a grand old age like eighty, your allegiance to the Mulwala Services Club must be upheld. The right choice needs to be made in the beginning, because the moment you are branded, like cattle, there exists a lifelong commitment to the fraternity. “Eyes down. First number. Eighty-one. 8-1. Seventy-five. 7-5. Fifty. Blind fifty. Legs eleven. On its own, number one…” The winning combination is a ticket with all fifteen numbers crossed off. BINGO! That’s what you want. Don’t forget to sing out loud. The caller has to hear you, don’t they? Of course. Imagine the glory, the satisfaction, of making the journey up to the caller, presenting your ‘golden ticket’ and claiming your prize. There is no sweeter feeling on earth. However, nerves are a must. You have to be able to survive the gut-wrenching one-number-to-go scenarios without collapsing on the floor. As I get within three numbers, my heartbeat quickens and my mouth becomes dry. The fear of not being able to cry ‘BINGO’ consumes me. Panic rises in my throat as I get down to one number. Seventy-seven. Seventy-seven. Seventyseven. The pen wavers in my shaking hand. The smell of the ink wafts up my nose, intoxicating, like taking a giant whiff of petrol, my head begins to spin. The caller’s voice comes to me as though I am submerged under water. My eyes are focused on the bingo


erindale college

161

board, mentally cross-checking my numbers. Just as a win brings with it unparalleled elation, a false call evokes an equally intense embarrassment. I wait. An intake of breath from the caller. The next number hangs in the air. “All the sevens, seventy-seven.” “BINGO!” Beaming, my eleven-year-old self skips to the stage. The adoration of my Nan’s friends fills me with an unequivocal sense of approval. I am the spectacle. That was years ago. At sixteen, the excitement of bingo has worn off. The 351 family bingo-free days of the year are spent thinking of an excuse to withdraw my presence. I’ve been struck down by malaria, plagued by a mysterious virus, crippled by a migraine and even faced a bird flu scare. I express my regret at being unable to attend the ritualistic bingo sessions. I pretend to share in my Nan’s wonderment at the coincidental timing of my varied illnesses. The preteen grandmapleaser has ceased to exist. Now I’m the teenager with the ScrewYou-All-This-Is-My-Life-And-I’ll-Do-What-I-Like attitude. Yeah, right. The fifty dollars in my bank account every second Thursday is the guilt-money that ensures my continued attendance. I’ve graduated to a big book now – all ninety numbers present. The eternal bingo rite of passage. Can you handle it? Yes. The rickety table threatens to collapse as I draw on coasters to pass the time between numbers. Glancing around the realisation comes to me that I don’t fit in here. Surrounded by geriatrics with perms and combovers, wrinkled, sagging faces framed by reading glasses squinting at the page, walking sticks settled beside their chairs. It’s either that or five-year-olds just in it for the milkshake prizes, because we can’t have kids winning Keno vouchers. Every game seems to add five years to my age. They want you to feel like you belong. It had been a particularly gruelling three-session day of bingo. My arthritic fingers ached as I turned on the tap. The ‘Lotto’ had come


162

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

on the television and I ran away screaming, collapsing on the cold tiles, which was in fact rather soothing on my throbbing fingers. Easing myself up, holding onto the towel rail, the reflection from the bathroom mirror startled me. There was a line, like a horizon, stretching across my forehead, where there had been none before. Seizing the tap with my right hand I prodded my forehead with my left. I splashed water over my face determined to remove the blemish. I looked up, it was still there. Pumping out liquid soap and lathering it between my palms, I scrubbed my head with the skin-stripping chemicals. The line would not go away. Puzzled, I frowned. The line deepened. It was now a full-blown crease. I came to a horrifying realisation: it was a wrinkle. Bingo was aging me. Having, for the most part, successfully repressed the discovery of my wrinkle, I ventured to bingo the next morning with only slight trepidation. However, as soon as eyes were down the panic hit me with the force of a six-foot wave pulling me under. I couldn’t see the numbers. They were blurry, shapeless entities, and the more I squinted, the more obscure they became. My vision was going! Soon I too would be saying “just wait until I get my glasses” and losing them with ever-increasing frequency, only to find they rest atop my head. “Ok. Don’t panic.” Slow down the breathing. It’s eye strain. That’s all. Nothing major. Then my hearing went and the solace from my own reassurances vanished. What was that last number? I don’t know. I’m going deaf. I’ll have a hearing aid before I’m twenty. My hands began to shake. I struggled to keep my grip on the pen. Arthritis? I’ll bet it’s arthritis. Time to mark off ‘two’, or was it ‘twenty-two’? I wasn’t sure. The box remained unmarked. My pen had run out. My eyes darted around the table for my spare. Where was it? At home. Never before had I forgotten my spare. Oh, God! You know what this means? Dementia! Senility is finally setting in. I’ve become one of them. I’m old. Rage seethed from the pores of my skin. How dare these eightyyear-olds infect me with their age? The transformation from young


erindale college

163

and free to old and trapped was complete. Revenge would be mine. It was break. The grannies had gravitated to the pokies. Spend the inheritance. Evil old hags. The plastic cups filled with chattering coins were absent from the tables, but they’d their precious bingo books. About five minutes remained before the caller would order everyone back into the auditorium. It took me no more than two minutes to gather up every bingo book in the room. I searched for a way out. Trapped. The door on my right led into the room where all the other best grandchild contenders were, and they’d be sure to dob me in for extra points. The door on my left led into the pokie room, but only old people are permitted inside. Where could I go? Then a childish thought occurred to me: the window. Running toward it my escape was in sight. The books were secured under one arm as I wrenched the window open with the other. The cool breeze assaulted my face sending a stinging sensation through my body. A distant ringing reached my ears. An alarm. They’d had the windows armed, they must have been suspecting a coup all along. The five-minute call hadn’t sounded, yet footsteps echoed on the floor behind me. I turned. Fifty geriatrics were running – or what passes for running when you’re eighty – toward me. Brandishing walking sticks and glasses of ice water they lunged at me. Turning to face the window, I jumped. It was a ground-floor room and I recovered quickly. The oldies, however, stopped once they reached the window, unable to match my youthful display of athleticism. There was sixty years between us. Speeding off through the car park, bingo books in tow, I headed for the cover of the scrub nearby. Out of best grandchild contention, undoubtedly, but at least I wasn’t old.


164

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Tips For a Great MySpace emily mckay

Before I begin, there are a few things you should know. If you’re a skank, MySpace is not for you. Head to Bebo to find your peers. If you’re in University, MySpace is much too juvenile for you. Facebook is your appropriate domain. If you like alternative indie music, and pushing social boundaries, MySpace is for you. With a great MySpace, you’ll make thousands of new friends and you’ll be able to launch a moderately successful once-hit-wonder music career (think Sandi Thom of ‘I wish I was a punk rocker’ fame). To find out all the perks of having a great MySpace, follow this step-by-step guide and make your own. 1. Display Name One might think that your first name would be sufficient for a Display Name. How wrong that is. Simply a first name just won’t do. You want to show everyone how much of a social deviant you are! There is a very simple way of doing this. After your first name, place a word with unpleasant connotations. Alliteration is a must. For example: BethBrutality, MyleneMassacre, NigelNecrophilia. For extra scene points add © or ™. Another popular way to look edgy is to add the end of a band name to the end of your name, for example: Josh! At The Disco. 2. Profile Picture. There are so many things you need for a great Profile Picture. This is what all your future friends will look at, and use to decide between clicking the ‘accept’ or ‘decline’ button. Make sure you have three cans of hairspray, a camera that can over-expose your


lake tuggeranong college

165

face, a mirror, a band shirt, and Photoshop. There are three popular poses: a) The old take-a-photo-of-yourself-in-front-of-amirror pose; b) Hold camera as high above your head as possible pose; and my personal favorite: c) Lean forward with either: a weird necklace, a look of agony, black square glasses, or piercings pose. Occasionally a smile is acceptable, it makes you look like you have a sense of humour. Humour is hot. 3. Sexuality. Being straight is boring, and being gay is a little creepy for the average social networker. Bisexuality is perfect. You will look like an edgy social deviant, but you won’t creep out would be nudesenders (girls and boys with too much time on their hands, eager to display their intimates with the social networking world) with overly camp behavior. Having your status as ‘Bi-Sexual’ displays your stick-it-to-the-man attitude and makes you look adventurous. Androgynous pre-teens will be falling over each other to leave a comment on your profile. 4. Hobbies. Photography, gigs, modeling, clubbing, raving, daily coffees at Starbucks. This elegant mix of hobbies shows the networking world how deep you are, yet how you still love to let your (perfectly styled, of course) hair down on the weekends and pop some pills, namely ecstasy, as is popular at raves. Don’t go into too much detail about your life of course. A truly talented networker leaves a little to the mystery. 5. ‘About Me’ section. For a truly great MySpace you need a truly great ‘About Me’ section. You don’t want too many “I’s” or “Me’s”. This makes you sound too overtly arrogant. Arrogance on MySpace is best done subtly. Have as many opinions as possible. As long as they are heav-


166

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

ily enforced with multi-syllabic words, people will respect you. Having a distaste for organized religion is a must. It makes you look like a real deep thinker. Everyone knows how interesting you are if you have a nihilistic approach to life. Take inspiration from www.MySpace.com/mysteryofiniquity ‘Not only do I not believe in a god, I am glad that the god of monotheism doesn’t exist. Imagine living in a world where the god of religion existed. It would be like living in a theocratic police state, where you can be convicted for the crime of thought; virtually the very definition of totalitarian.’ Inspirational. Truly, truly inspirational. Multi-syllabic words and anti-religious sentiments at its finest. 6. ‘Who I’d like to meet’ section. Jessica Alba. Jesus. Follow these six tips religiously, and you could be the next Tila Tequila or Jeffree Star. As a last note, I have a handy piece of advice. Never meet them in real life. Your edgy look will come crashing down and the situation will be as awkward as asking a woman when her baby is due, then being informed she is not actually pregnant.


lake tuggeranong college

167

The Best of Two Worlds gayathri ganeshananthan

We Are Moving! Moving away from my home!! I am sure my four year old mind would have been shrieking something like this; had I really understood what was going on around me. Family, Sri Lanka, Tamil – my world was about to be pushed off its comfortable orbit by my parents’ decision to move to Australia, an alien place where people spoke English and many were totally unfamiliar with the war in Sri Lanka. Many still aren’t aware of the situation. Melbourne was a good transition time. Dad retrained - he had no choice despite his previous qualification - and my brother and I excelled in the work set in Tamil school. I even won my first speech competition! I can still remember practising; it wasn’t two or three days to memorise the speech, it was weeks and weeks to learn it well. I was so happy! After the practice I definitely deserved to win, and my parents were so proud, but the other students were not so thrilled. Even though I was young I knew how they felt and I was hurt; some things can never be forgotten. American Chithapa (Uncle) is coming! My uncle came to visit us in Melbourne. I had never seen him before, although, of course I had seen photos of him and I had spoken to him over the phone. He was fun to be around because he was more like a young adult rather than a father figure. My whole family went on a trip, driving down the big roads in our big blue van, music on loud and enjoying each and every moment. We went to the 12 Apostles at Port Campbell in Victoria and the gold mining in Ballarat and many other places for the first time. When we


168

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

stayed at the hotels my brother, cousin and I would climb up the door jambs and see who would get to the top first, and my cousin, she would always have to dress like me and always wanted to do anything I did. It was a family trip that I always look back on with fond memories; I love to watch the videos which make me laugh. Being Sri Lankan and living in another country is like having two lives. I speak Tamil with Sri Lankans then English with the Aussies. Torn between two worlds, off go my Churithas and Ghagras and then on come the jeans and the dresses! Even food has to change. Mc Donald’s replaces Kothurotti or rice with curry for dinner. Same with music. Tamil and Hindi change to Hip Hop and R&B music. But I love it - two different cultures in one life. How lucky can one person be! I appreciate being able to take the best from both worlds; there is no need to choose one or the other. Both enrich my life and help define the person I am. BUT Canberra was a change that at first I did not embrace. Give me the big city and the million people and roar of the cars. Canberra? Canberra? What? Where? Capital? No! But if I stayed in Melbourne I don’t think I would be as cultured. It was Canberra where I developed my passion for dancing and music. Sydney! Yep we all know Sydney and the iconic, Opera House. It’s been more of my home than Canberra. Family, friends, and the atmosphere, I love them all. Travelling there every month was always fun. YAY! Sri Lanka here we come! I couldn’t wait – especially for – yep, believe it or not, the plane food! When we arrived there my aunts and cousins were waiting. “WOW she’s so tall!” Yep. That’s me. Not the usual dainty, diminutive Sri Lankan girl. For me there were many other contrasts. I loved going shopping and buying so many different Churithas and going to all the different temples, going up north and travelling by boat to get to temples. Having my twelfth Birthday in Sri Lanka was a birthday that is truly unforgettable. Everyone


lake tuggeranong college

169

stayed over that night; we had a movie night, and had a bit of a laugh when the older boys played pranks on the others that were falling asleep. However, seeing so many homeless people, so many without limbs, was the saddest part. Our donations seemed so pitiful. As a twelve year old, I felt a little scared but the positive outcome was that I decided then, and am still determined, to make a difference to those people’s lives when I can. Sponsoring a child will be my first step. It was not long until we went overseas again. Where would I be without family? – Probably stuck in Canberra! Germany, England, Switzerland, France, and America – I’m there! Aunties, uncles, cousins and my grandmother. What a time we had! A Sri Lankan Hindu wedding is something to behold! “Hmm and what should I wear? How should I do my hair?” Getting ready for the big day, going out getting flowers and organising everything was such a fun time. Bling everywhere except the Bling was REAL gold. So many places to see - Eiffel tower, The Snowy Mountains in Switzerland, Universal Studio, Disneyland, Golden Gate Bridge and Ulmer Church in Germany, where we had to climb up 701 steps – Who got to the top first? Me and my brother! BUT most of all seeing all my dad and mum’s brothers and sisters and meeting my cousins for the first time was the best thing. As soon as we settled in Germany we went off to the restaurant, which we had to ourselves. It was such a great moment. Being around family and the traditional culture helped me to become the girl I am. Having the whole family together is something I’ll always treasure. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Music’s on, let’s go! DANCE! DANCE! DANCE! That’s my passion! And always has been! I just love it! Both performing and choreographing. When I dance, I forget everything; I become totally involved and absorbed


170

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

in the dance. When I say dance I mean Bollywood and traditional dance - Bharathanatiyam – ‘Bhara’ for the facial expressions and body language, ‘tha’ for the beat, and ‘natiyam’ for the actual dance! Brings out the Sri Lankan in me – I can be whoever I like. I just love teaching and watching the other kids dance. Singing isn’t quite the same though. I did really like singing Indian classical songs, but I was treated like the ghost of the group. Learning the violin was another cultural asset I became involved in; learning songs in my language, has lead to my identifying more with Sri Lanka than Australia. I guess it’s as the saying goes - You can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. I can’t change the fact that I was born in Sri Lanka but that doesn’t mean I don’t love Australia. After all, a mother can love many children equally!


lake tuggeranong college

171

Look at Me, I’m All Grown Up laura turner

prologue When I turned eighteen everyone kept saying how grown up I am, that I’m now an adult, but I’m not sure I feel that way. How is it that I can go from being seventeen one day then eighteen the next and say that I’m now an adult? Growing up for me is more of a long term journey; maybe feeling grown up is the same. As I continue to learn and develop I realise that what I thought made me grown up was in fact not. I’m not sure I completely understand why my eighteenth birthday was so much more special than previous birthdays, but what girl, or anyone for that matter, doesn’t like being spoilt every so often? Of all the memories and presents I have, the most special is the ring I got from my Grandmother. As a child, I chose it as the gift that would be passed onto me on my eighteenth birthday. It was my Great Grandmother’s engagement ring which my poor Great Grandfather was able to buy through a family member who was a diamond dealer. This ring epitomizes how special my birthday was, the indication of a new period of my life, the journey into adulthood whether I feel grown up or not. My Mum was always certain she would have kids, she was so happy when she found out she was pregnant with me. She says there was never a single moment when she regretted falling pregnant at nineteen. I was due to be born on the 24th September, which inconveniently enough was the weekend of the football Grand Final. So my Dad had decided he would rather watch that than attend my birth. So instead, I came four and a half weeks early, so as not to interfere, but really I tell my Mum I came early for her sake not his.


172

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

My Mum hated her obstetrician because he always pushed too hard on her stomach. At her last check up he ordered her to see him every week until my birth as she had high blood pressure. To save her from the pain I made sure she didn’t have to see him at all. Despite this, my Mum still reminds me every so often that I made her go to work before I was born on Monday 20th August 1990 at 10.12 pm. When my parents arrived at the hospital the doctor’s were dubious that my Mum was having labour pains until a later examination when it was discovered she was 8 cm dilated, whereupon they rushed her to the delivery room. My Mum only remembers pushing once and shaking all over until one warm little foot pushed up against her thigh. I was then put into a humidicrib where I would stay for three weeks in the Neonatal Unit, but not before my Mum held me for the first time. She couldn’t believe it, she says I had these knobbly knees, big feet and what she calls the eyes of an old soul. I came home on the 10th September continuing to grow and develop. I was my Mum’s little girl and I looked up to her, my youngest memories of feeling grown up was when my Mum was pregnant with my brother. My sister, Jessica and I used to stick our stomachs out as far as they would go pretending we were just like Mum. As a young girl the feeling of being grown up was associated with being the stereotypical woman, wife and mother. I loved my baby dolls, dressing them up and feeding them, but I will always remember the big white dress I wore to my Grandmother’s Lib and Jill’s commitment ceremony when I was eight. That was a very special day for them but for the whole family too, my brother, sister and I were all involved in the celebrations. I got to stand out the front of the family and read a poem in my dress and the bracelet, necklace and red lipstick I had borrowed from my Grandmother. I thought I was so grown up because only adults got to wear fancy dresses, jewellery and makeup. That dress continued to live on long after the celebrations; I used to wear it all the time with a toy ring on my finger


lake tuggeranong college

173

pretending I was getting married, I thought that was what being grown up was all about. As I got older I began to want to hang out with my friends more and I looked up to my older peers rather than my Mum, as the image that I wanted to become. I started dancing at the Lisa Clark School of Ballet at the age of seven but it was at the age of twelve that I got my first pair of Pointe shoes. It was an exciting time for all of my class because it was an indication that we were now like the ‘seniors’ of the school that we idolised. Getting Pointe shoes made us feel like ‘real’ ballerinas, like the ones we watched and admired, as dancers we were now grown up. It was what we had been striving for, though as a young dancer I mostly strove for co-ordination as I had these lanky legs which would never listen to a thing I said. I used to tell everyone all about my blisters and bleeding toes like they were battle scars, I felt so grown up and cool that everyone had to know about it. It wasn’t all hard work though, and although I felt grown up it didn’t mean I always acted that way. As a ‘senior’ of the school we were invited to the ballet sleepover after the end of year concert and I will never forget the year we surprised the teachers by throwing ice-cream at them. What a funny sight that must have been, the once graceful ballet dancers and their teachers running around the hall having a food fight. At eighteen there are moments when I feel grown up, in particular when I wear my work shirt because it identifies me as the person the kids (at Taylor Primary After School Care) can talk to if they have a problem. I feel very responsible when I help them out if they fight with friends or hurt themselves, but I also love the fact that I get paid to do something fun, I get to play games and once again, I bring home craft to decorate the fridge with. It’s funny that my job, which I now associate with being grown up, is also reminding me of the way I acted as a child. Even though the kids I look after are growing up in a different time to me they still remind me of myself at their age. Just like I did they love dressing up and wearing high heels


174

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

two sizes too big and they try and act older than they are, by talking to you like they know everything. They feel grown up just like I did because they feel like they are appearing older to everyone else than they are, (even though inside I’m laughing at some of the ridiculous things they say), just like I probably did, which is slightly ironic. As a young girl feeling grown up was about appearances, if I wore make up or Pointe shoes like the people I looked up too, then that would somehow make me like them; it would mean that I was grown up. Even though over the years the definition of being grown up has changed for me, at eighteen I still feel the most grown up when I put on my work shirt because it symbolises one of the characteristics I now associate with being grown up, responsibility. When I put on my work shirt I feel like I embody the qualities I associate with being grown up just like when I was younger and I put on make up or whatever it was I thought made adults or my older peers more grown up than me.


lake tuggeranong college

175

Dashing Through the Shadows michael sharrock

16/8/2000 From our drab, gray and nearly identical automobile windows, my brother and I look towards the horizon with what I might say longing. Our holiday which had taken us to the main streets of Sydney, lined with theatres, zoos, museums, shops and theme parks, was to be cut short for that ‘barren wasteland’, my uncle referred to as a winery. Neither I, nor my brother had ever liked our uncle, and we both loathed our occasional family trips to that god awful place. However, it was ‘our obligation as part of the family to take care of Uncle Mitch’s property while he recovers from his operation”’ Lucky me, I thought, as I pressed my face against the bitterly cool glass window. It was in our best interests to complain and moan irrationally during the entire four and a half hour drive from Sydney to Cooma. My brother and I believed it was within our duty as ‘part of the family’ to express our displeasures and opinions on what was to become our new holiday location and living arrangement. After listening to our long and often flawed arguments for little over an hour, my mother slowly turned her head towards us with a big smile. Motioning for us to look at her ears, we noticed that she was wearing head phones, and had been the whole time. Heavy with defeat, I reached below the seat for my trusted Game Boy that had served to keep me sane throughout the years…And many other ‘family vacations’. The next three weeks turned out to be a monotonous mixture of early nights, earlier mornings, cold showers, putrid smells, filthy living conditions, hungry animals and farm related chores.


176

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Each day began with my forced awakening due to the sound of several thousand ravenously honking geese. After a quick stretch, I began to put on the same blue and white, semi-dirty, flannelette shirt and hooked my uncle’s old multi purpose pocket knife to my belt before proceeding with my ‘family’ (more like ‘farmly’) duties. With so much spare time on our hands and nothing to do other than chores, my brother and I discovered many interesting ways to entertain ourselves. Chasing venomous brown snakes and trying to shoot them with air rifles (my parents soon put a stop to that one), ‘hunting’ chickens and geese through the grape vines with slingshots, letting the dogs into the chicken shed, throwing rocks at the pigs in an attempt to make them squeal and seeing who could hold onto the electric fence the longest were some of our most notorious forms of entertainment. My father eventually grew weary of our mischievous behaviour and decided to exhaust our energy by agreeing to take us on a fox hunt. As the sun receded beyond the distant mountains, darkness fell upon the rocky and relatively treeless paddocks of our uncle’s property. My father bestowed upon me a .22 Magnum bold action rifle and explained the rules of the hunt. I was to ride in the back of our specially modified Toyota ute and aim wherever my brother shone our mounted spotlight. Once we were all in our positions, my father began to drive along a battered dirt road towards the far end of the property. As we progressed along this road, I looked towards the sky and noticed that the moon was full, and bright enough to project our shadows across the metallic ute surface. Approximately half an hour later, we had reached the far end of the property. My excitement began to grow as I felt a light breeze swirl the brisk night air around me. In response to the powerful spotlight’s ignition, I loaded my rifle, removed the safety trigger and positioned its butt just below my shoulder. Slowly and steadily, my brother scanned our surrounding terrain with the spotlight’s beam of light, as I watched closely through the scope of my rifle.


lake tuggeranong college

177

Almost immediately, and to my great surprise, the beam of light paused abruptly, revealing the reddened light blue eyes of a nearby fox. The sudden surge of light temporarily stunned the fox, giving me an ample amount of time to take aim and carefully position the rifle’s crosshair. My heart was beating rapidly and without any hesitation I pulled down against the rifle’s trigger. With the unified belief that I had scored a direct hit, all three of us exited the ute and began to search for the fox’s dead or severely injured body. My brother and father carefully walked around the solid earth, carefully stepping over the protruding, jagged rocks. I myself, however, foolishly began to dash around the area with great enthusiasm and did not pay attention to what was in front of me. All of a sudden, my foot made contact with a heavy stone and I was flung forwards, landing with my cheek against the dirt. As I stood up to assess any injury I may have sustained, my brother who had come to see if I was alright, warned me not to make a move. Looking around the area, my eyes widened with disbelief. My face had made contact with the ground only centimeters away from an armed, steel, rabbit trap. Had I not tripped on the smooth, yet surprisingly heavy stone, I would have undoubtedly triggered the hidden trap. Having potentially saved me from serious harm, I decided to keep the stone and take it home with me. My father decided that it was too dangerous to search for the fox’s body, so we returned to the ute and began to head back. Jumping down from the back of the ute, I walked towards the final gate that would lead us to the small villa, built upon our uncle’s property. Only moments after I had left the ute, I began to hear a distinct chirping and beeping sound. The sound appeared to be coming from an old wine barrel and I decided to investigate. Within the barrel I found a small gosling that had most likely been abandoned by its mother. Quickly removing my shirt, I wrapped the gosling up in order to keep it warm and returned to the gate so I could unlock it and let my father drive through. After returning to


178

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

the villa, I placed the gosling on a small towel near the heater and gave it some water to drink. For the next few hours, I watched the gosling stumble around and peck at random objects; I was growing attached to her. Two weeks later, our uncle was released from hospital and we were finally able to return home. It would not be for many years that I was to finally acknowledge the significance of the time I spent living on my Uncle’s property. I had arrived with nothing, yet left with many memories, life experiences and a new pet.


lake tuggeranong college

179

Look Closer. She’s Not Your Standard Lioness. rhianna nolan

A pretty, curly haired, mysterious brown eyed girl comes to life in my mother’s eyes as she re-enters the world of her childhood. The little girl within her is awoken from stories she holds close to her heart. A girl who grew into the amazing, compassionate, caring woman I call my mum today. Her eyes begin to light up with sparks of happiness as she remembers a day she got to spend with her Dad. She got to visit his Royal Navy ship, the H.M.S Bulwark. It was a rare occasion spending time with her dad, as he was always away at sea, meaning every moment they did get to spend together was precious. This day was a predominantly special day, she was going to be christened in a unique ceremony upon the ship, with ‘right proper sailors witnessing the event. I can almost see the magical little girl in my mother’s eyes, being carried up the rickety wooden plank, held in the arms of a sturdy sailor. She was carried to the bow, her beaming mum and dad not far behind, along with her screaming baby sister, held closely in her mother’s arms. An appreciative smile begins to play on my mum’s rosy lips as she tells me how lucky I was to have my dad there all the time during my younger years. She never cared for money or toys, because even as a naïve young girl, she knew time with her dad was more important. How could I be so lucky? Yes, my dad was there in the sense he never took long trips away from home, but he was always at work. His attention however, was never enough to suppress my constant need to be recognized every waking hour of the day. I would always retreat into a sour mood when dad came home from work, too tired to play. This must have made him realize I was furtively demanding something to take the time off my hands while he was away from me. My mum could


180

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

have been the reason; he came home from work on this particular day with a strange, big, tomato, cardboard box. My confused expression, and demanding frustrated cries of “what’s in the box?”, would have been what made my mum and dad chuckle with anticipation that afternoon. When I was finally allowed to be let in on the secret, my eyes grew wide as I was stunned by the small white puppy hidden within the box. My mum constantly reminds me of the ecstatic cries I let out that afternoon, as I played and bonded with my new puppy, Buster. Even though the memory is a happy one, looking back now I can’t help but feel remorse at this selfish part of my personality that I encompassed when I was younger. The thought that I could not appreciate the more important things in life, makes me wish I could have grown up in a world like my mother’s simplistic childhood. I try to brush that thought aside, as magic fills the room again. My mum, almost sparkling with excitement, is evoking another precious memory. Money was not that common to families like hers, in the suburban streets of Manchester, England. Any little trip out, or small reward she was given, she cherished. One of these particular rewards was given to her during her education at Varna Street Primary School. She was hand picked out of the students to be a library monitor, a title that gave her great pleasure. A bout of laughter erupts from my mum as she tells me she even got to wear a special badge. The chuckle threatens to erupt again as she informs me, in her days it was the bees knees. Her happiness is infectious and although I am too critical to understand the meaning of this role to her, I feel myself smiling back. When I was in primary school, in year six to be exact, I was chosen to play ‘Miss Outback’ in our school’s wakakirri. Our story was a twist on the old tale of Cinderella. I can’t help but try to compare the proud aurora that must have surrounded me when I was told I had that role. I wonder if it was anything like what my mum felt, when she was given the library monitor’s shoes to fill. Deep in thought with my memory, I begin to remember how much of a clucky mother hen


lake tuggeranong college

181

my mum was when I came home positively beaming from school, and told her the good news. I never allowed myself to have a big head when I worked this role, and this pleased my mum. I stop there and diverge myself from the memory. Why did it please her so? It’s easy for me to answer now. I had inherited a quality she herself had. To know that the materialistic society we live in had not changed me, stirs the love and warmth in my mum’s eyes as she realises she taught me well. Continuing on with her helpful nature as always, she resurfaces one last memory. True happiness is etched into the wise lines of her face like a perfected piece of art. A Christmas when she was twelve, my mum along with her younger sister and brother, never expected much. My mum’s face is touched ever so slightly by such elation, I must have stared. She looks me dead in the eye, and tells me exactly why this memory, and Christmas was so important. Mum was given a present, a special something that signified the closing of her childhood. She was given a pair of nail clippers, and silly as it sounds she reminds me with a dignified shake of her now graying hair, it meant a lot. I feel the waves of confusion wash over me; how can something that I would call insignificant hold such meaning for her? Her face itself answers that. It was the end of her childhood, and she was given something important. These nail clippers marked the love that her mum and dad held for her, and they indicated the closing of an episode of her life; childhood. A childhood that was not tainted by society. She begins to tear up at that point, clutching the nail clippers in her smooth, child like hands delicately. But the smile I love, lights up her face again as she leaves the room, giving me space to write this piece. My mum was fortunate enough to grow up in a loving family environment. She was taught good morals and values that she has passed on to me and my family. She was blessed enough to be given gifts in her childhood; gifts that cannot be bought with money, or made from selfishness. Her memories are heavily protected with the force of love. They aren’t tainted by society’s stereotypical, ma-


182

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

terialistic, money-driven forces, which just help to make them all the more amazing. She was given such a gift; a childhood which gave her great happiness from memories made by a family and friend atmosphere. These memories and feelings were not created by money, toys and objects; those things could never have such a warm lasting effect. To be told about these special memories and view the reason she holds them so dear, gives me great pleasure in knowing mum. To you, she may be your ordinary, typical mother; but she is nothing like what you think. She is the archangel god created for me and my family, a long time ago. She is the inspiration that makes me want to be all I can be. She is the beautiful arms that catch me when I’m weak, strong enough to hold me, but soft enough to care. Her stories go way beyond their words. This is not just the childhood of my mum, it’s everything she is, hear her roar.


st francis xavier college

183

Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree natalia harvey

“Could yer pour another, Hal,” Thomas asked the bar tender, pushing his glass to the side. Hal slid the glass to the sink and filled it with the oily brandy. “A lotta fellas ‘ave been comin’ in fer a drink,” he chuckled, “hot today, ain’t it?” He was a robust and jolly old man who had been, it seemed, serving drinks longer than the oak trees shaded the sparrows. “Can’t’ve ‘ad a hotter summer.” Thomas replied. “Winters are cold, summers are hot – an there ain’t nothin’ any of us can do about it, me old man used to say.” “Ain’t that a bummer, ay?” “Well, I always says to me dad, I says, it’s the only thing that doesn’t change round ‘ere, an’ me dad, he says, there’re some things yer can change, and some things yer can’t.” Thomas took the glass from the table and sipped his brandy. On the cobbled stone path out the window a wandering minstrel was placidly humming an airy tune to the trudging townsfolk, skin stained and hair squalid with lice. The minstrel sang: Under the spreading chestnut tree I sold you and you sold me There lie they, and here lie we Under the spreading chestnut tree It was a tune that flowed softly, disconnectedly, and yet the minstrel’s song seemed to inundate the sounds of scavenging children, thundering bombs and shuffling peasants. Seasons were irrevocable, and


184

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

so were the scrounging and deficit struggles of proletariat existence that were endured for the sole purpose of living to breathe the air of every new day. It was a constant and continuous struggle, like a rich, droning foghorn. Still, the day was bright, the bombs had not been falling copiously as of late, and he was sure that Martha would have a reasonably fresh slab of meat cooking for when he returned. He looked forward to the days when meat was accessible and more importantly, almost fresh. “Be seein’ yer soon.” Thomas smiled at Hal, taking a final gulp of his brandy before placing it down on the bench top again. As Thomas stepped on to the muddy, rugged stone path and began to slog south, he took a glance at the minstrel, whose gaze was fixed on the dirt-ridden crevices of his hands, and frowned with disgruntlement. He looked ahead, scratched his forehead roughly and continued up the road. On the right hand corner of the path was the antique shop – a place where he had never been but was not interested in going anyway. He did not know what the word ‘antique’ meant, but he considered it an odd and awkward word. Moving down the street from the gravel path up ahead was a skinny, hunched, middle-aged man. When the man reached the corner near the antique shop, Thomas could see his expression was bleak, drained and exhausted, but there was something about the look in his eyes that seemed to glimmer. Looking at the dull-coloured uniform that the man was wearing, Thomas knew immediately that he was a member of the Party, or the Outer Party, to be precise. As Thomas approached the corner, the man opened the door of the antique shop and went inside, which was odd, because one rarely saw members of the Party venturing into the provinces of the proles. * “I ain’t tellin’ yer fibs.” Thomas said, turning the half-finished glass of brandy around on the bench. The bar was almost empty.


st francis xavier college

185

“Oh, I believe yer,” replied Hal, “but yer sound curious. There ain’t nothin’ to be curious about.” “He looked kinda sad, yer know. Tired.” “Yeah? Well he ain’t one of us.” “Sure looks the same as us, only cleaner.” Hal grunted dismissively, and a frown curled over his forehead. Thomas had never thought of the Party members before. He simply kept his head down, drank brandy, talked to Hal occasionally and stayed with Martha. The minstrel’s song suddenly came back to him: Under the spreading chestnut tree I sold you and you sold me There lie they, and here lie we Under the spreading chestnut tree “They’re the same as us.” Thomas wondered aloud. “They ain’t.” Hal said emphatically. “But why?” “’Cause they just ain’t, yer see? We belong here, and they belong there.” But Thomas could see that there were tears in the old man’s faded eyes. Certainly, there was something about all this that stirred him. Thomas did not know what to say. “Under the spreading chestnut tree,” began Hal, a single tear sliding to his chin, “I sold you and you sold me. There lie they and here lie we; under the spreading chestnut tree.” “Under the spreading chestnut tree,” Thomas sang slowly. A man sitting aside the wall in a dark corner of the bar stood and walked toward them. “I sold you and you sold me.” He sang. The two men near the window also rose from their seats. “There lie they and here lie we,” they responded. “Under the spreading chestnut tree.”


186

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Thomas and Hal sang louder. The remaining men in the bar all stood to sing. Abandoning their brandy glasses and cold chairs, they gathered speechlessly, their faces full of deep expression. At first, their voices were very low and eerily subdued, but as they repeated the words again and again, it gained volume and passion and density so rich that it seemed to engulf the entire world outside them, their hearts drumming and souls screaming. At the windowpane left of the door, the wandering minstrel stood staring through, his lonely eyes flooding with tears. And up the road near the antique shop, Thomas thought he saw the hunched middle-aged man turn around to face him, and even from the bar, he could see the glimmer in his eyes brighten even more. * “Yer ‘ave to come,” Thomas urged Martha, “I’ve got somethin’ to show yer.” “I ain’t stayin’ long.” She grumbled, as they stepped inside the bar. “Where yer been?” Hal exclaimed, “Been waitin’ for yer all mornin’.” Hal walked to the opposite side of the bench to greet them. “What’ve yer got?” he said. “Well, it’s taken weeks fer me to work this out,” Thomas began, “but all yer have to do is listen. Then I’ll teach yer. The first part yer already know.” He cleared his throat loudly and adjusted his feet so they were shoulder width apart. “Under the spreading chestnut tree I sold you and you sold me There lie they, and here lie we Under the spreading chestnut tree Under the spreading chestnut tree, Dwelling in the dark,’ says he, ’Tis not a fashion fit for me.’ Under the spreading chestnut tree.


st francis xavier college

187

Under the spreading chestnut tree, ‘Tis not e’er safe to flee. Ne’er to sail a gentle sea, Under the spreading chestnut tree. Under the spreading chestnut tree, Hearts are breaking steadily. We’ll drink the brandy forlornly, Under the spreading chestnut tree. Under the spreading chestnut tree, Was this always meant to be? Was there a time when men were free? Under the spreading chestnut tree.” As Thomas sang, the ethereal tune rang in Hal and Martha’s ears, and as the verses went on, its resonance grew more intense. When he finished, Hal and Martha stood immobile, their minds swimming. “There ain’t nothin’ like it,” Martha said. “Now I’ve got to teach yer. Listen and repeat,” Thomas said. “Under the spreading chestnut tree…” They sang every verse together sonorously, over and over, and it was as if the whole world rang. “Yer remember the man yer saw a few months ago?” said Hal after they had finished, “At the antique shop? Well, there he is.” He pointed to the corner of the street. Thomas gazed out the window and up ahead at the grimy road. Thought police surrounded the antique shop and the same skinny, hunched man that he saw months ago was being hauled out through the front door along with a younger dark-haired girl, hands chained together, guns jabbed into their backs. The thought police shoved them onto a caged trailer at the back of a van, and an oversized prole woman shouted, “We didn’t ought to ‘ave trusted the buggers! We never ought to ‘ave trusted ‘em!”


188

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

A peculiar feeling suddenly overcame Thomas. As he watched the commotion fixedly while the music reverberated and repeated in his head, and the hunched man standing in the cage in the trailer turned his head toward Thomas. The same glimmer that he had always noticed in the man’s eyes now appeared faintly in Thomas’ eyes. It was then that Thomas realised what he must do. He flung open the door and stepped onto the road. “Under the spreading chestnut tree,” he began. Martha and Hal followed him outside. “I sold you and you sold me; there lie they and here lie we.” They joined in. Townspeople gathered and began to sing. They stood with their chests high and their fists tight towards the arrested, their voices growing intense and vivid. At that moment, somehow, the town did not seem poor and shabby – it became vibrant, clear and full of hope.


st francis xavier college

189

Could Your Home Be a Breeding Ground for the Next Generation of Extremists? chris elliot

As the ‘stars and stripes’ – sorry – as the ‘blue ensign’ of the Australian flag begins to lower over the streets of Baghdad, signalling the start of our Diggers’ journey home it seems only fitting to look back on the events of the last few years and wonder how we made the transition from the Oprah-idolising, Dawson’s Creek-loving citizens of the 1990s to the wmd-fearing, oil-scrabbling nobodies we may or may not have become. One might be a bit bemused by the juxtaposition of a bad teen romance television show like Dawson’s Creek and an important political issue like weapons of mass destruction in the same sentence but at some point one must wonder how the ‘dream’ became the ‘stream’…of sewerage trickling into the Pit of Despair. Indeed, it seems quite ironic that on September 11th, 1990, exactly eleven years prior to the slightly more famous 9/11, Bush Snr was delivering an idealistic speech about the ‘new world order’ which was supposed to define the post-Cold War era. Certainly, on September 11th, 2001, the honeymoon was over. As I put on paper the meanderings of a late night spent by the computer screen, I’m not trying to impress on anyone a particular ideology or political view (although, it must be said, Communism only works in theory and not in practice) but it seems fair to say that the opening years of the 21st century have been characterised by a remarkable increase of fear, among other pollutants, in the atmosphere. Perhaps most of us are unwilling to admit it, but the idea of a suicide bombing at Florey shops, an anthrax scare at Calvary Hospital,


190

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

an outbreak of weaponised flesh-eating bacteria in the waters of Lake Ginninderra or the pervasion of military-grade vx nerve gas into the ac system at Saint Francis Xavier College has crossed our minds at some stage. Or what if, some of the more Apocalypse-minded romantics might wonder, the terrorists have invaded our country, have systematically and surreptitiously destroyed our individual liberties and are now posing as the doppelgangers of our deposed leaders? As we drive past the faceless armies of trade unions exhorting their ‘Kevin ‘07’ battle cry or as we are vicariously amused but strangely hypnotized by Brendan Nelson’s desperate attempts to revive his dignity and his February approval ratings, should we not be weary of the idea that, perhaps everything is not as it seems? Would it not be rational, in this age of fear and terror to wonder if underneath all those neat hairdos and smug smiles our national leaders are in fact the personification of international pariahs? What if Kevin Rudd as he retired to the Lodge for the night, ripped off his face mask, (similarities with Mission Impossible intended), to reveal the maniacally-laughing visage of Osama bin Laden? What if young Marcus Rudd, a Year 10 at Canberra Grammar School, was being coached by his diabolical father in ways to take over and enslave our society? What if the city of sleepy Canberra had become a breeding ground for extremism, for terrorism, for unadulterated, unspeakable evil, which never tires in its perpetual war on the forces of freedom? “Perish the thought!” one might say. “That happens only in the Middle-East!…And perhaps in New York.” But, as one of the screaming extras from the original ‘Godzilla’, remarked in Japanese, just before she was crushed by a gargantuan, reptilian foot, 私達は死ぬことを行っているすべてである (This is probably an awful translation), which translates as, ‘We are all going to die!’ Just a few optimistic thoughts for a future-minded audience.


st francis xavier college

191

Man & Beast – The Cat & the Killer chris elliott

The cheetah moved through the savannah with seamless grace. It was swift and elegant as it ran, its lean hind legs arching through the air as the bulk of its torso raced purposefully westward. Its mouth was propped open against a draught of oncoming headwinds, revealing a row of pearly teeth. At the zenith of each stride, its jaw would clamp shut, the teeth would gnash together, like opposing swords, sending sparks of sputum flying forth from its maw. And then again, as its front paws struck the ground, the jaw would drop, revealing the tongue lolling out from the gums and the black darkness of its throat. It was the perfect predator, lean yet burly, the slight depression of its back inclining upwards in a faultless example of aerodynamics. The wind rushed across the contours of its body, a draught of fresh air blasting along a carpet of spotted, flaxen fur. Its chest jutted downwards, the navel of the beast caressing the tops of the long grass as it moved swiftly across the savannah. It moved with grace, with precision, with direction, fuelled by the thrill of the hunt, invigorated into action by the sight and smell of the springbok. Even as it ran, the thought of taking down its prey seemed to excite it. Amazed and captivated, intoxicated by the need to kill, to pounce, to sink its claws deep into the belly of the springbok, splashing the victim’s blood hither and thither between the cracks in the scorched earth. The beast continued at great haste across the savannah, the arc and decline of its gait more like a dance than a run. The beast ran, the mass of its high-sloping shoulders, rippling with every impact of its forelimbs, highlighting the pure musculature of nature’s most potent hunter.


192

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Without warning, and with great agility, the beast dug its right paw deep into the ground, spinning on a pivot as its left leg swooped around, twisting its entire body in the single, faultless movement. When it had previously been running westwards across the plain, in a matter of seconds, it was moving northwards, ever driven by the scent of prey. Its speed did not let up, even as it had changed direction, for it was skilled, puerile, lithe, the range of its motion across an open plain similar to that of a shark through water. But the cheetah was faster, stronger…better than the shark. Suddenly, it slowed, first to about the speed of a horse’s gallop, then to a slight canter, until finally, nought was seen or heard of the beast as it stalked through the expanse of long grass. Its back arched upwards, a telling sign of suspense, as the cheetah moved closer to its prey. As it stalked through the field, its wet nose would poke through a tuft of grass, followed by its eyes – its cold, calculating eyes, black as night, as deep as the space which lay beyond the night, a sign of the vacuum within its soul – its every thought focused on the hunt, the sheer ecstasy that it was to kill a beast. Its designated purpose, its primitive maxim was concerned only with the quenching of its hunger, its voracious hunger. It had only one thing in its mind – fulfilling its desire, its yearning for the taste of springbok flesh. There was no thought in that thoughtless mind, only an animal instinct…to hunt…to kill… And there it was…just a few yards ahead by the river, leaning over to drink. The springbok…the prey. The cheetah prepared to strike… * The killer moved through the dark alleyway like a wisp of smoke. He was tall and strong, clad in a sweeping trench coat, which hung tightly against the burly curves of his legs. He walked with a purpose, an ‘end-goal’ objective, with an air of unwavering focus, the creeping sensation of desire pervading his mind. His mouth was slightly ajar, a small incision parting the rows of


st francis xavier college

193

his pearly teeth, a deep throat drawing in the hankered air in guttural rasping breaths, telling a most sickening story… the story of a sociopath coveting the thrill to quench his appetite. The story of his insatiable, ravenous appetite. As he moved his cloak trailed behind him, slithering and weaving through the dust he left in his wake, flapping and hissing softly in the midst of a hauntingly mournful breeze. His posture was rigid, vigilant, alert and calculating, waiting on some sign to tell him his prey was near. He sniffed the air, drawing in the smell of cooking grease through his nose, the remnant stench of some deep-fryer in one of the tall, looming buildings. He cocked his head to one side, listening for some sub-sonic frequency, the lightest impress of nearby life. His eyes scanned the nearby vicinity, red and turgid from out of the creeping shadows, hovering over a hopper bin and a piece of discarded furniture, then over a mangy rat scurrying into a drain. His shoulders and arms twitched warily, innervated by some neural reflex to reach for his weapon…the sharpened knife within his coat. He gnashed his teeth together, anticipating the emergence of his prey before him. His canines rubbed across the surface of his molars as he jutted his lower jaw forward, teeth gleaming like freshly shined ivory. He began to shudder, shaking and rocking on the balls of his feet, unable to bear the suspense of waiting, willing the moment of attack to come. But his prey was not in sight. He had to wait. He smiled maniacally, the crest of his lip curling upwards into a menacing leer and he jittered with impatience and excitement… and eagerness…eager to kill, keen to cull. He couldn’t wait any longer. But he had to. And then, all of a sudden there she was…the prey. A young woman. Barely of age. Small, but not too small, a tuft of brown hair complementing fine, kempt features.


194

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

He smiled with malice. The time had come. He crept forward hugging the wall with his slim, yet muscular body, not one fold of his overbearing trench coat catching the light from the street lantern up ahead. He moved silently, stealthily, but quickly and efficiently like he was a professional. He was a professional. He had done this before. And after tonight he would keep doing it. He had to keep doing it. It was his life force, like blood to the vampire, like heroin to the addict, like television to the vegetative mind. He paced quietly forwards, lurking in the shadows until he was only a few feet away from the woman. He paused, now within an arm’s reach of the young woman standing silently as she waited near the street kerb. The killer reached for the hilt of his dagger, smiling maliciously. He looked his prey up and down. A young woman, no older than twenty-five. He spied her out from the darkness. She was so young…too young? He hesitated as he unsheathed his knife, suddenly aware of what he was doing, of the life he was about to take. In his moment of realisation, he understood that men are nothing more than animals… But he did not care. He enjoyed his work too much. He enjoyed being an animal. It was what he was born to be. What is life if it is not fulfilled in the way it was supposed to be? He thought. He was a killer. He would always be a killer…men were killers, born killers…animals. He raised his knife…


st francis xavier college

195

The Boy alicia gall

One by one they rolled the dice. Faceless, without identities, they took the tickets that would determine who they would become. They walked their respective paths, until they reached their dressing rooms. In each room there was a mask and costume, along with a sheet of paper outlining their motives. They commenced warmup. Now that they knew who they were supposed to be, they could practise their lines with conviction. Many of the characters were bright and quirky, with marvellous costumes and bold personalities. There were also those of a dark, mysterious disposition, who seemed more animal than human, but they all had a place. They assumed various positions behind the doors of the stage and with that; it was time to begin the act. All of the actors received either attractive or malevolent parts, except for one. Behind one of the doors stood a boy no older than fourteen, it seemed he had not received a costume or mask and he had not been given a sheet of paper to distinguish his personality. Unlike the other actors, he did not need to be given a script or costume to define who he was. Although he was not given a costume, he used an old mesh potato sack that was lying on the floor to cover himself. He was not ashamed of being naked, but he considered it to be disrespectful to others. Hesitantly, he opened his door, he was quite brave but he did not want to disturb anyone. He looked around with curiosity; he had not seen a place such as this before. Great big hedges imposed around him so that he felt his very small worth, nevertheless, he began walking. After a little while, the boy came to a divided path. There was a sign that read:


196

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

Turn Left and you’ll find fortune and fame Turn right and you’ll see suffering and pain Know that choice is not an easy Game Choose carefully and you will reign The boy thought for a moment, he did not want fame or fortune; he wanted to help people, so without another thought he turned down the right path. The sky was scattered with grey cloud and the boy’s body began to shiver. He was longing for someone to talk to when out jumped a frog. “Good day, little boy”, the frog croaked, and the boy forgot his draughtiness, “Sir, I was wondering if you could tell me where I am.” “Certainly, you are in a maze” “How do I find my way out?” “Life is a maze” “Then how do I get out of it?” “That’s up to you”, and with a quick jump, he was gone. The boy was puzzled, but he kept walking. He reached another separation in the road, where a poor beggar was sitting. “I have not eaten for three days” he begged, but the boy did not have any food. “Come”, said the boy, “and you will never be hungry”. The beggar showed the boy his legs and it was clear that he had leprosy. “Walk”, said the boy, and lo! The beggar got off the ground and walked. The beggar promised the boy that he would stay with him always and the boy said to him “No longer shall you be called ‘beggar’, but you shall be ‘brother’ ”. Once again, the boy took the path to the right, in higher spirits, for now he had made a friend. As the pair turned the corner, they came across a woman in a red dress. The lady asked the boy and his brother if they would like to be shown a good time, asking forgiveness, they said that they had very little money and had to be on their way. “But my master will beat me to death if I don’t make


st francis xavier college

197

enough money” she cried erratically, blocking the brothers’ path. “Walk with me and set yourself free” responded the boy. “If my master finds me, I will be executed!” sobbed the woman, but the boy reassured her, “Have faith in me and never again will you worry”. The woman threw down the mask she was wearing and followed the boy. “You are now my sister”, exclaimed the boy with exaltation, but the woman gave him a strange look and replied, “ I have always been your sister and I will be forever more”. The trio continued the journey, sharing their stories and singing as they went. They came to another two forks in the road, both times choosing the path on the right. After a while, they met a man. The man was wearing a mask of bold colours, but it had been ripped and torn. Speaking to the trio, he asked for help, “I was a business man and I earned a handsome amount of money, but I cheated people out of their homes”. The boy spoke to him, “Throw down your mask and I promise you will be forgiven”. The man did not falter, throwing down not only his mask, but his briefcase and money. “You are no longer ‘betrayer’; you will now be called ‘Matthew’ ” whispered the boy and Matthew replied “I remember”. The expanding group kept going, growing in awe of the boy who had helped them all in numerous ways. Three more men joined the party, taking on new names and throwing down their masks. ‘Adulterer’ became ‘Mark’, ‘Selfish’ became ‘Luke’ and ‘Greed’ became ‘John’. They had all been outcasts, but put their trust in the boy to show them the way and this made them no longer exiled, but part of a family. The group walked for many years, but they never became hungry, thirsty or tired. No one else joined their party because rumours spread of the boy telling actors to take off their masks. The actors were selfish and did not want to give up money and unnecessary possessions. There came a time when the party could not go on anymore. The boy was now an old man and there was not one person in the


198

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

group without greying hair. A lovely cherry blossom tree sat at the end of the road, so the group decided to rest underneath it. In the morning, the boy’s body lay underneath the tree, without a sign of ageing. Around his head was a crown of thorns and on the feet and hands there were wounds. When the rest of the group awoke, they began to scream and cry, for they did not understand how someone so charismatic could leave them. After mourning their loss for a while, they saw something they had not noticed in the moonlight. It was an open gate and in it stood the boy with open arms, beside him stood a figure that they had known all their lives. They had found their way out of the maze.


st francis xavier college

199

Laura Brown martin rustam

As yet another day dawned, the yellow tide creeping through the blinds, Laura Brown knew she had to leave. Ignoring the creased peach linen on her freshly made bed, she wandered down the stairs, suitcase in hand, with a strange sense of purpose. She remembered that day, almost six months ago, when everything was so peculiar. Her kiss with Kitty, her failure to make Dan’s birthday something remarkable, the dog barking in the distance. Of course, all that had changed now. It had almost been three months since Kitty had passed away and Laura had presented many respectable meals following her abysmal job with Dan’s cake. And that dog, that damned dog, had escaped. Escape. Laura was jealous (of course secretly) when Dan told her that Mr and Mrs Williams’ jack terrier had run away. How easy it seemed: one moment he was there and the next he was gone, never to be seen again. In the kitchen, the pink lilies lying unarranged in their white ceramic vase, she resists the temptation to rearrange them. They are fine the way they are, she tells herself. And she would be too, after she has her coffee. Yes, today is the day that Laura Brown will leave. Dan is in Sacramento until the afternoon. The children are still asleep upstairs. She will make her coffee, Folgers of course, wash the cup and return it to the white faux-wood cabinet. Then she will write her note. She sips from the steaming mug and writes in her impeccable cursive script. Dearest, I cannot do this any longer. I have tried Dan, I have tried my hardest


200

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

but now I must do what feels right to me. I cannot fight it any longer. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. But I cannot go on spoiling your life, or the children’s, any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. Yours always, Laura. She lies, of course. Dan has been content in this marriage, Laura has not. But none of that matters now. Laura places the envelope on the kitchen bench. She looks around her home for the last time. Her life is here, yet nothing urges her to stay. Nothing calls out for her. Not even the sleeping bodies upstairs. She puts on her sunglasses, picks up her bag, takes a deep breath, and determinedly pushes open the door and steps into the crisp daylight. The door closes with a thud behind her. Inside the refrigerator hums and a bee thumps heavily against a windowpane. The Chevrolet rumbles down the highway, light reflecting off its immaculate beige fuselage. Laura has little idea where she is going, yet somehow her mind is on autopilot, as if it knows where to take her. Los Angeles is two hours behind her. Fresno is just over an hour away. She will stop there, she decides, and check into a motel. From there she will continue to Oakland and then up the coast towards Vancouver. She can hardly contain her excitement, her relief. It’s so unlike her, she thinks. But now that Dan isn’t here, isn’t here to hold her back, she doesn’t know what to do nor how to feel. If only there was someone here to share her excitement. But no one could understand how she feels. She pulls in beside a red Cadillac, a convertible. A well dressed man and woman are sitting in front. They look happy, content. He whispers something into her ear and they both look at Laura and laugh. Laura acts as if she didn’t notice. What would they think of her? A woman of her age, going into a motel alone. Without a man by her side. She puts her hands in her lap as salty tears begin


st francis xavier college

201

to run down her cheeks. What has she done? She can’t do this. The Normandy was different to this. She knew she couldn’t stay there, it was merely an escape for a while, a trance. But she did do it, didn’t she. She managed to tell the clerk that her husband was coming, but he never did. No one noticed. And even if they did, they didn’t say anything. She left The Normandy with as much dignity as she entered with. She could do this. Sometime later, Laura Brown is asleep on the bed in Room 17. The room is small, cramped, dimly lit, with shocking lime coloured walls. Outside, dark menacing clouds are rolling in over the mountains to the east. It is just past five in the evening. Somewhere in Laura’s thoughts, she is swimming in a pool. The sun is beating down on the vibrant blue water. At one end, Dan is standing, calling her name. Laura feels distressed, confused, anxious. She moves her gaze to the other end of the pool. There stands Richie, with that blank, emotionless expression on his face, his eyes bright and dry, unblinking. She doesn’t know where to go: she doesn’t want to go to either of them. She takes a deep breath and sinks her head under the water. Her lungs are burning, her vision is fading, everything is black… She awakes startled. She rolls onto her side, her brown hair delicately framing her white, fragile features. Drowning. Of course, Virginia is in her thoughts again. In fact, she has never left. After finishing Mrs. Dalloway she went on to read To the Lighthouse and Orlando. Now she is halfway through A Room of One’s Own. With every page her eyes dart over she thinks more of Virginia’s final moments. Wading into the river, feeling the current pull her off her feet, the cold water taking over. Virginia Woolf had the right idea, she thinks. As appalling as it seems to those of sound mind, to those who are happy (to those in the red Cadillac?), leaving is the best way. ‘Not death,” Laura says softly to herself as she gazes out the window into the night, ‘just leaving.’


202

Litlinks 2008 Creative Writing Competition

By running away she is being a coward, but she can go back. No one can come back from death. No, Laura Brown is not dead. Far from it. She is only beginning to live. She rolls over, thinking of Dan, of Richie, of her daughter. Maybe she will get back in the car, and drive home. With flowers for Dan. That is what he must be hoping for, that is what he would be telling Richie she is doing. But no, she will not return. Not this time. Laura Brown has left that life; she has closed that door, that chapter of her life. She does not know what lies ahead of her, yet she cannot help but feel excited about what may come, the great possibility that she could achieve. Right now, at this moment, as Laura stares up at the cracked plastered ceiling, she can do whatever she wishes, she can be whatever she wants. A librarian, perhaps? She has time to contemplate this, of course, with the hours of driving ahead of her. But in this moment of time, in this very second, Laura Brown is free.


Litlinks is a creative writing competition, open to all act school students in Years 10–12. There are many categories, as all genres are acceptable. Teachers are encouraged to send in work which has already been completed for assessment in their classrooms. This book contains all submissions for the inaugural competition, held in 2008. The competition is all about the celebration of writing and inspiring emerging writers of the future. It is obvious to the teachers of English in the act that there are many budding, talented young writers out there just waiting to be discovered. We hope this competition will grow and one day be responsible for launching the writing careers of our youth.

isbn

978-1-876047-06-1

Litlinks is an actate initiative and is made possible through the generous support of the Paperchain Bookstore, Manuka, who provides all the funding for the competition. actate also acknowledges the support given by the University of Canberra, the act Writers’ Centre and the National Library of Australia.


Llitlinks Writing Competition 2008  

Litlinks is a creative writing competition, open to all act school students in Years 10–12. There are many categories, as all genres are acc...

Advertisement
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you