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Scripsi


Scripsi Ruyton Literary Publication

Volume 12: 2018 ’

Cover image

by Mia Michael (Yr 7)


Contents ' Year

Author

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Mia Andrewes

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Zoe Barnett

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Juliet Bland

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Juliet Lipchin

7 7 7

Gali Marek Mia Michael Louisa Timms

8

Charlotte Dalton

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Charlotte Jones

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Esther Juebner

8

Minduli Weeraman

8

Minduli Weeraman

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Roisin Brennan

9

Sascha Gillam

9

Emma Haberfield

9

Chloe Huang

9

Ruby Jovanovski

9

Ivy Luo

9

Zoe O’Sullivan

9

Annie Timm

9

Annie Timm

9

Alessia Zervos

Title Long Live The Republic The Package From Back In Time Wood, Fire And Ashes Generous People Enrich Themselves By Giving; Misers Hoard Themselves Poor Someone To Live For Homeland If I Could Turn Time Forward Milky Ways Carmody Essay Man’s Best Friend Mental Health A Wrinkle In Destiny Out Inside The Gap Pig Tales (A Modern-Day Fable) On A Summer Day Spritz Whatever Remaons Of Us Synonymous Face In The Crowd The Right To Body Autonomy One Moment

Page 6 9 12 15 17 20 23 25 28 31 33 35 38 41 43 45 48 50 53 56 58 61


Contents ‘ Year

Author

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Bella Eames

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Susan Fang

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Nicola Iser

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Izzy Hale

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Guwanya Kodithuwakku

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Nancy Lu

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Annabel Maher

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Maddy Truong

10

Maya Wilmshurst

10

Maya Wilmshurst

10

Tara Zhang

11

Jacqueline Du

11

Florence Edwards

11

Annabel Hsu

11

Molly Janes

11

Isabella Li

11

Angela Lin

11

Lily Tarry-Smith

11

Sidonie McRae

11

Alice Wallis

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Ciara Brennan

12

EllA Crosby

12

Laura Flood

12

Amy Hale

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Emma Lee

12

Adeline Trieu

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Laura Tinney

Title Storm In A Teacup Them Liar Liar The Capsule Cordelia’s Ordeal The Old Man The Man In The House I’m Fine One Girl’s Life The Bird Cage The King And The Traitor Penelope The ‘F’ Word The Scientist The Cottage In The Woods Dice All In A Day’s Work Stolen Memories I Am Hope Rain Dance

Page 64 67 70 73 76 80 84 87 90 93 97 101 105 108 111 115 119 123 126 129

The Anchoress Pastiche The Anchoress Pastiche

132

The Private Lives Of Public Figures The Anchoress Pastiche The Anchoress Pastiche The Anchoress Pastiche The Anchoress Pastiche

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135 142 146 150 153


“I am a writer. I am a writer.” These are the words finally proclaimed by the protagonist in the Year 12 English novel, I for Isobel, studied this year on the VCE English text list. While it takes Isobel much of her adolescence and young adulthood to come to accept herself as a writer, the student writing in this year’s Scripsi, is reflective of the talented writers at Ruyton who understand how to write. These students have written stories and speeches which demonstrate their deep thinking and capability as writers and authors. In an era of increased dependence on technology and the impact of such reliance on student reading and writing habits, the quality of writing in this anthology will allay any concerns about the possible demise of imagination and the art of storytelling. This year’s stories reveal young adults who care and think deeply about: others, the environment, what it means to be human, how to be the best version of ourselves, social issues, injustice and justice, kindness and equality. The students whose work features in the 2019 Scripsi are to be commended for their bold writing and imaginative ideas. The quality of writing is exceptional. Not only do these pieces include beautiful language and descriptions; but complex elements such as setting, narrative voice, characterisation and original storylines. Such writing will move you and challenge your own thinking, and that is what the best stories should evoke. I want to thank the equally talented and passionate English teachers who have encouraged their students to unearth the writer within. Thank you to: Mrs Allen, Mr Colnan, Ms Hughes, Miss Kitt, Ms Paisley, Mrs Phillips, Mr Upperton and Mr Zavattiero, whose English classes have discussed texts and issues which have inspired this year’s writing. A special thank you to Ms Purcell whose unwavering support of the English Department and the Literature program is invaluable and greatly appreciated by the staff and students. I trust that you will enjoy this stunning collection of student writing and I encourage the continued creative efforts of the Ruyton students in 2019. ‘

Editorial Danielle Cooper English Learning Leader

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Long Live The Republic Mia Andrewes Isobelle Carmody Award For Creative Writing Competition

Giovanni

“Long live the Republic! Death to the monarchy!” The man drew a knife, pouncing upon the king. His face was lit up, alive with the belief in his cause. Within seconds, this swagger and bravado was showing cracks of fear. The weight of his actions had finally reached him. Had he really done that? Had he really tried to kill the king?

Highly Commended

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“Death to the King! Long live the Republic!” The anarchist could hardly believe what he had become. He had become dehumanised beyond the point of being human, languid, with an unhinged look in his eyes. The years of being in a small cell after his trial, always alone except for the people who came in to abuse and torture him, had drained him, and reduced him to nothing. There was no hope for him ever returning to his former glory. He would be stuck in that cell until the end of his days; a gritty future he was only just coming to accept. The king was alone. The incident had shaken him, and he slept with a guard outside the door, but still he felt alone. He was angry. That man had tried to take away his power, tried to make him look like a fool. What a fool: to attempt such a thing against a king, let alone the king of Italy. Death wasn’t something which had been high on the king’s list of priorities. He had other things which concerned him, and besides, he wasn’t a deeply philosophical man. Now it plagued his every waking moment. What would it feel like to die? How would he die? Would he be remembered? When would he die? These thoughts had cast him into a morbid mood. And so he went to bed with the thoughts of death, and a single name on his plump lips: Giovanni. Off the coast of Elba, families told stories of the man who was held at the edge of the island. The man, who had once committed a great travesty against their king. The little children who grew up fearing and hearing of him spun stories of their own but every story ended the same way: that he was banished to their island for the rest of his life, that he avoided the death sentence but got it in a different form, extended. His existence as it was, in no way living. The king had watched the trial with a look of increasing bemusement upon his face as Giovanni tried to explain how, partially because of the influences of Mazzini, Garibaldi, Orsini,


and his descent into republican circles, but also because of the price of flour, flour, he had attempted to murder the king. This last statement surprised the king. ‘How trivial’, he thought, ‘all this over the price of flour?’ ‘Flour’, thought Giovanni, ‘flour. How could they not see it? Flour was food, it was life. By raising the price of flour, they were making it harder for people with the lowest income to survive on the little means they had’. This made him upset and he tried, in vain, to justify why, because they were suffering, that the king should suffer too. He hadn’t, however, thought of the people he was appealing to these were people who were brought up on the tastes of caviar, and grouse, who sat down to steaming meals three times a day without fail. He didn’t stand a chance. The prisoner held captive on the island was occasionally ‘visited’ by different guards. Those days held screams even louder than usual, and the villagers became used to blood curdling cries piercing through their conversations. The king’s death, 13 years after he had sat on his bed contemplating his mortality in 1878, was not how he imagined it. He had envisioned an illness at a fine old age, maybe 70 or even 80, treated by the best physicians for a few weeks before his tragic passing. His actual death, in contrast, was relatively quick. Shot four times in yet another assassination, he came to a violent end, as so many whom he had ordered to be killed had done before him. The villagers came to hear the screams less and less often. Giovanni died not knowing his past from his present, and his head from his elbow. Wracked with illness, his incarceration for high treason in Elba killed him with more pain and suffering than an execution. His mind wandered to two little boys and encroaching fate. In a castle off the coast of Italy, one boy was born. His father held a role of great importance in the nation, but his mother held a great role of importance to him. He grew up, sheltered from the world, and died only knowing what he had been brought up in. Power and might could control his place as a monarch, but never could teach him anything other than that. In a tiny village in southern Italy, the other little boy was born. Nine children had come before him, and he was born to take his place at the end of the line. His father did not have the means to

Long Live The Republic

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Long Live The Republic

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provide for him, and his mother, having ten children did not have the time to know him. He grew up, painfully aware of the world around him, until the world came to bite him. His name was Giovanni. ‘


Meet Wallace. You could say he’s a regular kid, but you’d be mistaken. Wallace has a passion, a strange passion, a passion that drives his mum insane: he is absolutely obsessed with making time capsules. Every day Wallace comes home from school with his backpack full to the brim with almost everything you can think of. He’ll have magazines, old phones and even origami crammed into every space of his bag. The problem with Wallace’s time capsules was that he never buried them, and his bedroom walls were lined with white packages. But that was before the incident. One day when Wallace came home from school he found his room empty and knowing there wasn’t any other space in the house that could hold all the packages, he ran straight out to the backyard. There he found his mum with a man in a fluorescent orange vest that sported the slogan, ‘Doug Digs. No hole too small.’ This puzzled Wallace. Why was his mum talking to this Doug guy? Then in a fit of anger and pain Wallace realised and ran straight past his mum and Doug, to the uneven, patchy earth where his beloved parcels were buried. Dropping to his knees he started digging with his bare hands in the hope of unearthing his prized possessions. After twenty minutes of tiresome digging, Wallace had only found one package. At this point he realised there was no point digging. He would never be able to find all his packages let alone be able to carry them all. It was hopeless. Slowly Wallace trudged back inside, keeping the parcel he had uncovered hidden under his jacket. His mum was standing in the kitchen waiting for him, probably wanting to ‘talk’. “I got rid of those ‘time parcels’ because your grades haven’t improved at all this year. You never try to do anything except make those pieces of junk. You always have been and always will be a nuisance and a waste of my space. Get out of this room! Now!” This was Wallace’s mum’s idea of a brief chat. Once he was in the safety of his bedroom, Wallace looked what was written on the package in his loopy black writing. It read, ‘July 9–2018’ Wallace had prepared this parcel only a few weeks before. He knew his mother would go berserk if she knew he still had a capsule or as she would call it, ‘a useless piece of junk.’ He knew that he had to come up with a way to make sure that his parcel was safe

The Package From Back In Time Zoe Barnett

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The Package From Back In Time

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and wouldn’t be destroyed and after twenty minutes of thinking Wallace had come up with the perfect solution. The next day he put his plan into action. The following morning Wallace went to school as per usual apart from the fact that he had a certain package in his school bag. When 3:30 finally came, Wallace raced out the door, grabbing his bag on the way and ran straight to the school garden. It was here that Wallace planned to bury his beloved time capsule in the hope that it wouldn’t be dug up for a very long time. Wallace found a spot in the garden where there was lots of bushy vegetation. He started to dig in the soft rich soil making a parcel shaped hole in which he placed the parcel and buried it without hesitation. There was no time to relive the memories of the dearly precious contents of the capsule for if he were to return home late his mother would get suspicious. Wallace sprinted. 140 years later…

Molly and Peter Farwell, who forty years ago had bought a small school from the retiring headmaster, had finally decided to renovate. Samuel, their fourteen-year-old son, aspired to become a builder so he was more excited than either of his parents at this prospect. The family had agreed to start by digging up the garden and the Farwells believed that the best way to do the garden would be the oldfashioned way, which meant everyone was either digging or lifting. Samuel’s five younger siblings were given the job of lifting all the plants and dirt into the family’s ginormous trailer. This left Samuel and his parents to do the digging. Samuel made his way over to a patch of the garden where there was lots of thick bushes and vegetation. It was here that he set to work. As Samuel was digging he found a patch of earth that was not as compacted where it was obvious someone had dug a hole and filled it back in. Samuel felt his shovel go straight through something that was definitely not soil. He bent down and started uncovering an old decaying package which he had split with his shovel. Samuel grabbed an empty bucket and carefully placed all the old items in it to carry inside. He carried it inside. After close inspection of all the objects, Samuel determined that there was only one object left fully intact, a sporting medal that


read, 100m freestyle Wallace 2018. There was also a torn, yet mostly legible, piece of paper that read, “I am who I am and I’m proud. I wish you saw my potential, mum, but you made me scared to prove you wrong so I kept this to myself. Wallace”. ‘

The Package From Back In Time

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Wood, Fire And Ashes Juliet Bland Isobelle Carmody Award For Creative Writing Competition Winner

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I’m dead, I’m nothing, I’ve never been so alone in this place of ignorance and darkness. Do they know? Do they care I’m fourteen and have held seven people as life left their bodies? “But my dear, the dark brings beauties too, the darkest nights make the most beautiful sunrises, and the coldest nights bring the brightest stars. So with fear comes courage, and sadness makes joy even more beautiful.” Her voice is soft, her smile, warm, but grief chokes me and I fear the tears beginning to form. I’ve just told her that her child has died and yet she’s comforting me. My life’s been spent running, hiding, from shadows of strangers, from myself; alone in a world of desperation, my only shield of safety is myself. I’ve always achieved escape. I’ve never lost control. I’ve been hurting for years, but have never let the world know how afraid I was. I don’t know why, I mean, who’d notice, who’d care, if I broke, if I disappeared. People die every day where I come from, I’m part of the last generation, meaning I have the same likelihood of a future as a ninety-year-old. The government has tried to excuse the devastations on earth as accidents, but we know it was our fault, a culmination of war, climate change and other environmental damage, it’s our fault and we’ve no solution. I live in a time where the world is a wasteland, but it doesn’t feel like it, I’ve never seen the earth a rich brown, or lush, green grass, cracked dirt and bare trees are all I’ve ever seen, so I don’t long for anything other, why would I? We’re facing a seventeen-year drought, the seas have risen and every lake and river has dried up. There’s never enough water. The reason tears stream down my face is because moments ago I watched, powerless, as life left a young girl’s eyes, she died of dehydration, a common fate. My father died when I was five, I went to school, until I was six, then they all shut down. When I was seven my mother and I got sick, they had run out of medicine a month earlier. I got better. She didn’t. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t painless. We couldn’t afford to go to the hospital, so I don’t even know what she died from, I just know that she did. She is gone, dead. I had no relatives, and all child service centers had been shut down years ago, so I found a home on the streets.


Back to the moment, my past can hardly count as an escape but I must face the situation at hand. One word comes into my head, run, I rise slowly from this woman’s arms, warm, trying to comfort me, promising sleep, freedom. I fight the urge, stand and run, run to the horizon, over the dry cracked dirt, finally falling in a heap amongst a cluster of dead bushes. I should go back, but I just sit here and cry. When life had just begun the world was a song that would never end, and I, I was a different, new, special verse, a beautiful melody. Now I see the truth, we’re all just wood, we burn bright for a moment and the world is beautiful, but then we fall, into the flames, to become ashes. We’re insignificant beings, soon to be wiped out by ourselves, with no hope of salvation. My tears are the first water to touch this ground in decades, it softens the dirt, creating a hole in the cracked dry earth. I dig, not knowing why, it hurts my hand, but I continue, I feel the hot first layer of dirt fade into the cool, lower layers, untouched by the sun, soon my fingers feel dampened earth that is not from my tears. Water comes rushing from the bottom of the hole, filling it. I lean in, grief forgotten, and drink from the ground, as water gushes in. “Water, once we get that back we can rebuild”, that’s what they’ve always said. I run, just as I did moments ago, but this time in the opposite direction. I have just one thought in my head now, to tell them, anyone and everyone about the water. “We can rebuild, with the knowledge of how and why we fell, we can rebuild so we never fall again.”

Wood, Fire And Ashes

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Thirty years later

I still remember the day I found water, and the following months where we found more, when hope returned. We’re still known as the last generation, but for a different reason, we’re the last generation to make our predecessors mistakes. We’ll start appreciating, caring for our world, it’s 2158, it’s the end, we can begin again, wiser than before. And so can I. Now I see, maybe we are wood turned to ashes, but we’re also much more. Ashes sink into the earth, and from the earth a seed is planted, which becomes a tree, which is chopped down for wood

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and burned in a fire, which becomes ashes, which starts the process again. So we’ll fall and rise forever, like the sun. Though life seems hard while we are fallen, we must remember that we will stand again, taller than before. Even in ashes, we are never ended. ‘


Anne Frank once said, ‘No one has has ever become poor by giving.’ If you are a generous person and enhance your life by giving to other people, you will never be poor. If you spend your life a miser, you will end up so alone and companionless that you will hoard yourself until you are empty inside. Generosity spreads generosity. For example, Bill Gates and his wife started The Bill and Melinda Foundation targeting major global humanitarian challenges such as poverty, discrimination and gender equality. Gates has donated $28 billion US dollars to this foundation to help global health, development, growth and combat poverty. Even though Bill Gates is a multi-billionaire, he still takes the time to be generous and help other people who are living in terrible health conditions, in countries which discriminate. But being generous doesn’t always have to involve money. Money does not necessarily buy happiness on its own. As Zimbabwean scholar, Mufti Ismail Menk, once said: ‘Being generous is not confined to material wealth. Be generous with your good character and expressions too. It costs nothing and makes a world of difference’. When someone is generous with who they are, they are willing to share their stories, their time, and their friendship. In doing so, they generate connections with those around them, and attract people with their genuineness and kindness. By giving, people invite others to give back, and this generates more meaningful interactions between members in society, enriching everyone’s lives. For example, when Malala Yousafzai first stood up for women’s rights in Pakistan she had nothing. No money and no education. All she had was the determination to help other girls be treated fairly and equally. By giving up her time, her skills and her safety for others, she displayed generosity. On the other hand, being miserly and selfish, starves a person from meaningful interaction, and ultimately makes them poor. We see this today in many political leaders and celebrities; people who are supposed to be our role models. The President of the United States of America is a man stingy with his time, stingy with access to power, and stingy with his willingness to help others. Trump bans Muslims from entering the country, rather than helping asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution. He builds walls, rather

Generous People Enrich Themselves By Giving; Misers Hoard Themselves Poor Juliet Lipchin Orator Of The Year Winner

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Generous People Enrich Themselves By Giving; Misers Hoard Themselves Poor

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than generously welcoming in new people. He blames problems on Mexicans, African Americans, women and the free media, rather than fixing his community and owning up to the mistakes of political leaders. Rather than being generous with his power and influence, he blames his community… He isolates them… He makes them feel small and powerless; the very opposite of Malala’s selfless fight for women’s education and equality. She fought to elevate the women around her. Trump fights to elevate himself. Such examples show the real impact of selflessness versus selfishness; of a miser, compared with a charitable giver. “Generous people enrich themselves by giving; misers hoard themselves poor.” If we all live by this, we create a more integrated and loving international community. We make this a world we can be proud to call home. ‘


The other eleven are all trembling, beads of sweat trickling down their foreheads. Like me, they are broken. Unlike me, they are scared. Scared of losing their loved ones, scared of losing their home. You see, I don’t have anything, nor anyone left to lose. That life ended a long time ago, back when I cared what people saw when they looked at me; when I had something to live for. Now I’m here, about to start on a journey only the most broken would be willing to embark on. There is over a fifty percent chance that none of us will survive. This is the first time a spacecraft will be attempting to fly at 120,000km/h. The record of 58,000km/h still holds, but that was in place 140 years ago, in 2018, and no-one has attempted to break it since. It would seem impossible to any outsider that someone would freely nominate themselves for something like this, but when you have lost as much as I have, it’s not too hard to imagine. Nine Years Earlier, June 2149

“I think you should have a seat.” The woman sounds sympathetic; I’m almost swayed by her tone. Almost. I know what’s about to come, it had already happened to a few of the kids at my school. Same procedure; no doubt she has said that line innumerous times. Parents have been going missing more and more often and I guess whoever’s monstrous plan this is, has decided it is my parents’ turn. She finally tells me what’s happened, though in no detail, and keeps saying that it will be okay. She’s probably expecting me to cry or thrash about like the other eight year olds undeniably did. I don’t. Instead I thank her and calmly and confidently walk out of the room, before shifting into a run once I’m out of the building. I run and I run, eventually arriving at my empty house, a place I can no longer call home.

Someone To Live For Gali Marek

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I learnt how to take care of myself and had been contemplating what to do with my shattered life since, making no contact with the outside world. So when the opportunity arose to be on board this spacecraft heading to Saturn at an unprecedented speed, I took it without thinking twice. ‘

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The space craft lurches forward, breaking me out of my reverie. I instantly become aware of my surroundings, as a dizzy sensation weaves its way around my body, I push it away. Now isn’t the time. To my left is a boy around my age but the rest of the volunteers are in their 50s with the exception of a few other teenagers. The boy next to me offers me a hesitant smile. “I’m Noah.” Blood rushes to my cheeks. “Aria,” I nod and turn away as to hide the smile tugging at my lips. Not long after the brief but surprisingly welcomed interaction, I feel my chair jolt forward and all sense of time leaves me. Something has changed; I’m feeling a little dazed. I try to reassure myself it’s just from a change of atmosphere and surrounding, but I can’t manage to suppress the feeling of dread. “Hey, do you feel that?” Noah has turned his attention to me. I know exactly what he’s talking about. “Yeah,” I sigh, “I do.” I close my eyes, concentrating on my breathing, which is becoming increasingly unstable by the minute. I turn to see Noah using the system to contact the officers; his face drops as he meets my eyes. “Connections lost.” His voice is thick with worry; he looks around nervously and grasps his hands to stop them from shaking. “It’ll be okay.” I choke a reply. Though I have a feeling I’m reassuring myself more than him. The spacecraft drops for less than a second, but it’s enough to make everyone panic. I’m becoming light-headed and I’m nearly certain from the faint look on everyone’s faces that I’m not the only one. This isn’t good, I think to myself. We’ve lost connection and I’m positive that this isn’t meant to happen. Noah must have noticed the look on my face because he comes over to whisper reassurance. There’s no point though because only one thought is filling my head, We are going to die. It suddenly dawns on me that this might not have been worth the cost of my life and so many others, what if I had done something with my life instead of accepting this deadly mission? There’s nothing I can do about it now though. The oxygen is running out. There’s a terrible throbbing pain coursing around my head and down my body. Without warning, the craft thrusts forward, leaving our stomachs behind. I try the emergency button. No response. There’s nothing left to do. I take one last look at each person, all about to lose their lives. My eyes


close as I feel Noah, the boy I met only today, slide his hand into mine. I don’t resist. I let myself relax and feel a last, final push as we plummet down into nothing. ‘

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Homeland Mia Michael Isobelle Carmody Award For Creative Writing Competition Highly Commended

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A lurid green light hovered above the desolate land, a neglected city which had, centuries ago bustled with life and energy. The pulsating light descended through the grey blue sky, slowing as it fell but growing larger as it did so. Upon touchdown, a diminishing hum sounded; the first evidence of any living thing for years, that rebounded the eerie silence into a mystical confusion. There was a discreet hiss and the spacecraft emitted a hushed drone. The stillness of the atmosphere around suggested that it would be impossible for Mission 140 to inhabit the land. The crew of Mission 140 emerged from the spacecraft with tentative steps, protective boots brushing the solid, grey ground. Captain Maple Vivet regarded her surroundings and stood vigilant in case of an alien ambush. Mounds of debris and rubble shrouded much of the view of the ground and an overall grey shade was perceived from the colour schemes created. The area as a whole, was a tedious, dreary terrain and did not look as if it would contain any helpful resources to survive. Gradually, grey slabs of rock were replaced by dusty dirt. The air was still, stirred only by the breaths of the mission. The sky, however, remained an unvaried grey. The assembly trudged on, as if afraid to step too heavily and wake the slumbering landscape. A sudden gust of wind blew, as if to urge the party to return. A light, crumpled bottle with a ragged label blew against the Commander’s shoes. Maple picked it up, flinching a little as a crackling sound was released when she grasped the empty object. Her breathing quickened and her eyes widened. There was writing on the label, shockingly similar to the symbols used on Mars. An M, an O which was distinct, a faded U, an N and a T. Then another word, ‘FR ANKLIN’. The words stirred up memories and thoughts. What was that story grandma told her? “They used to import ‘Mount Franklin’ from The Time Before. Drops of the freshest water came in those tiny plastic bottles with blue labels. There weren’t many left by the time my grandmother consumed her last one. It was when the last humans on that planet perished that they stopped importing them.” Grandma had liked retelling her own grandmother’s experiences. Maple felt her ears buzz and she tapped a thin headband which produced a quiet beep to signal an incoming call. She spoke


confidently: “Professor Orbis, how can I help you?” Orbis was the head commissioner of the Astronomical Study of Planets Beyond (the ASPB), and a sophisticated man with ambitious goals. A concerned voice responded, “Captain Vivet, we are receiving images right across Planet Mars which are suggesting that our position here is rapidly deteriorating. Finding a new homeland is now vital for our species’ survival. I have sent a mind-video to you now. It should highlight the urgency of our predicament.” A series of images depicting mountainous rubbish dumps trapping residents projected into Maple’s mind. A reporter’s voice echoed and crackled: “Protests have been held around central glass mall this weekend, with crowds demanding a better future. Accusations were made that the government is not doing enough to search for other planetary havens. The ASPB has responded by saying, ‘a mission is currently underway to locate habitable alternatives’. Despite this reassurance, however, rumours passed down from previous generations continue to circulate of life from The Time Before. These claim that past generations were healthier and happier. Internal sources allege that the ASPB itself now worries what will become of the human race.” The image faded. Conscious of the desperate conditions and now feeling a sense of futility and defeat, Maple’s mind wandered. She paced towards a ridge in the dirt but came to an unexpected halt. The ridge abruptly curved downwards into the ground creating a shallow gully. With a cautious step, Maple stumbled past dead roots protruding from the concave walls. Here, the wind seemed to embrace Maple, rather than buffet her away. It sprinkled sandy dirt behind, beckoning her forwards. A blur of dark coloured sand swirled around Maple, then subsided, revealing a dimly gleaming object. Maple bent down and with her gloved hand she brushed away the dust, touching a compact, slippery surface. A glass globe, predominantly see through was lined with rusted edges. It rested on a rotted, wooden base. An intricate, metal structure stood inside the glass, surrounded by white flakes which made up a speckled ground. Another memory of grandma was pushed to the front of my mind. “Your great, great grandma once travelled to a far place in The Time Before – that must have been around 140 years ago. She fondly recalled a famous tower; a network of interlacing metal beams with

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Homeland

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a tricolour of red, white and blue gracing its peak.” As she reached for the globe, the wind blew viciously. A single crack appeared on the glass surface. With the realisation of the globe’s fragility, Maple felt the obligation to grasp it to protect the globe’s vulnerability but further cracks extended from the first after she did so. Grandma had always been reassuring and supportive but no advice she had given had explained what to do in such a situation. Thoughts of helplessness flooded her mind as she became cognisant of the globe’s impending fate. ‘


“Click click, beep beep,” the noise surrounds me. I look around as everyone continues to look down at their hologram screens, tapping buttons. Mrs Coder sits in her electric chair, pressing keys. I stare at the clock, it is 20 past three. Only 5 more minutes left. I watch the second hand as it ticks slowly around the clock. As the school bell finally rings, everyone stands up. “I will send you all your homework students,” Mrs Coder says in her monotone voice. She scans her ID card on the wall, the sleek door slides open to let us all out. I walk down the skyway and look across the city at all the bright lights in the distance. They look like tiny torches. The border of the city is covered in deserted buildings. When everyone left for Mars, they also left all their apartments behind. Everyone that was left on Earth then moved into the centre of the city, this is where I live. As I continue to walk down the path, I find myself wondering what the city would’ve been like before I was born. What would Australia have been like?... I am nearly home, when I catch sight of a weirdly shaped object sitting in the middle of the hyper way. I cautiously walk up to it. It seems to be made of a metal like substance and is covered in buttons. I look around. I don’t notice anyone. I feel the sudden urge to touch it. As I reach my hand out, the strange machine starts whirring and lighting up. “Hello operator, my name is Zag and I am a time machine. To open me, press the green button on my side.” I jump back, startled. How in the world did this get here? A time machine? Even though I am really scared, I have a feeling in my guts telling me to open it. As I press down on the green button, the top of the machine opens up and a ladder folds down. “Please get in, my friend,” Zag the machine instructs. I place one foot on the bottom rung, then all of a sudden, I am lifted up. I am now at the top of the machine, looking down inside it. It is around the size of a football field inside it. All of a sudden, I feel like something is tugging me down inside it. I fall down into the machine. Then all of a sudden, I feel like I am being lifted off the ground. Like I am tumbling through the air, spinning around, a weightless feeling, then thud! I feel myself crashing to the ground. I look around, I am still inside the machine. Numbers appear on the screens surrounding me. What do these numbers mean?

If I Could Turn Time Forward Louisa Tymms

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If I Could Turn Time Forward

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I find myself standing on the ground. I look around. The machine has disappeared. I reach out to it, I can still feel it, but can’t see it. I am standing on what seems to be a rocky, hard surface. I suddenly remember our history teacher telling us about this substance. It is called ‘concrete’ and was a widely used material in the 21st century. Hang on, the 21st century! What year is it? I tap my watch and repeat the question over and over in my head. The numbers 2018 flash up on the screen. I’m 140 years in the past! I need to get back! I am about to climb back into the machine when a person suddenly jumps out of the shadows. “Hello fellow, future friend. Is your name Elizabeth Zeber?” the strange figure continues to stare at me. I ask him how he knows my name. “We believe that you have stolen our time machine.” “Your time machine?” The strange man nods. His gleaming white teeth shining in the light. His eyes seem to be glowing and his skin looks like it’s made of rubber. “Give it back to me now, before it’s too late,” the man commands. He stares at me, his computer like eyes looking at me. He grips my wrist so tightly, I feel like it’s going to fall off. “It’s right…,” I point behind me. He lets go of me and sprints up to the machine... How can he see it? I stare in disbelief. If he leaves in this time machine, I will be stranded here, wherever I am, forever. I reach out towards him, but he has already jumped inside. I suddenly feel a rush of air sweep past me. I sprint up the road, trying to find the nearest person. I pass strange buildings, made of what I think are bricks and concrete. They are surrounded in luscious, green … plants I have never seen before. I keep on running, until I find myself next to a large area crowded with… girls. People! I sprint through the nearest door I can find. “Help, I am stuck here in the past!” Everyone stares at me strangely. “Do you go to Ruyton?” they ask. I stare at them. “What is Ruyton?” They all start laughing at me. I run through all the people, but I don’t know what I am looking for. “Hold it there,” a lady holds her hand up in front of me. “You are coming with me!” ‘


The Siren before me is immense, her milky eyes reflecting the ocean of stars that surround us. Her face is caked in salt, melancholy patterns etched into her skin with the arrival of tears, and what seems like a river of hair floats and drifts around her head. One might call her beautiful. I wouldn’t. She fills the void before me, her soft vocals creating waves of sound that threaten to tip my boat. Behind her she leaves a trail of black holes, the remnants of her destruction. I should be feeling something, like a slight pull towards her; after all, Sirens have been described as magnetic; but I don’t. I feel terror. She can smell my fear, barely hidden under a perfume of bravery and she stops singing, turns her unseeing eyes on me, fishhook teeth glinting in glee. “Well, well, well”, the Siren mutters slowly, voice nothing like her song. It’s cold and sharp, like shark teeth. Rows of it. “What do we have here? A scared one, I see.” I can’t breathe. She laughs, creating a whirlpool, more spinning black holes, disturbing the calm stretch of space around us. Her tail flicks; a beautiful scaled mess, decorated delicately with flowers one could only find in the depths of the imagination; and a storm of stars begins to brew. Bubbles seep out of her nose. Her objective is obvious. “You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?”, I whisper, hating that my voice quivers with each syllable. She laughs again. “Yes.” Ice floods my body in the form of a monosyllabic threat, confirmation of doubt. “And you want something from me, don’t you?” “Of course, I do” “What is it then? I’ve no time to try to imagine the plans of a Siren” She giggles again. “Cocky, aren’t we? There’s no such thing as time in space, so where could you possibly need to be?” she drawls, her voice changing from sharp to soft, a knife spreading honey. “Err… not here? I don’t really want to die today…” “And what would you prefer to do?” “…live?” “I take you would rather be exploring then? Seeing space?” I can’t tell whether she’s being sarcastic or not. “Yes, that,” I say slowly, cautiously.

Milky Ways Charlotte Dalton Boroondara Literary Award Competition Winner

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Milky Ways

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“Oh no! I wouldn’t want to keep you then; with the realms of space calling you. How tempting it must be.” She giggles again, and I shudder. “Yes… so impatient. Anyway. So, I would like to know, why exactly, you were– are– not enthralled by my presence” she pauses, a whole halt in time. “Why aren’t you swooning over me? Do you find me unattractive? No one else has thought that yet…” “I guess you could say that, yeah.” Her expression hardens, from water to ice. “Okay… I see. I see, I really do. I guess murderous space mermaids aren’t for everyone. You just think you’re so brave, don’t you? Us Sirens are too powerful for the ways of the cocky, the arrogant. But the brave?” the Siren’s voice rises with her temper, and her rivers turn to rapids. “Not the brave! Their powers overshine ours, the brave!” her teeth begin to glint as she drops her tone again, her pitch sinking all the way back to earth. “Don’t think that I can’t smell your façade, sense your thinly veiled cowardice. You are nothing if not a meal for me to snack on. Pre-dinner nibbles. At least the others had the dignity to fess up to what they were before settling into the familiarities of ignorance.” I can tell she’s mad now, and somehow, I don’t think that eating me is her top priority anymore. Instead of attacking directly, as I thought she would, she closes her ocean eyes, a great, rusty dust floating calmly and drifting around her head before settling back onto her lashes. Before me the sky rips in two, and even the moon seems to cower. A black hole, bigger then the Siren herself, opens up, and my screams mingle and morph with the sound of her wicked hysterics, not even the milky way equating to her mirth. It’s a whole new universe, a whole new place. A portal. She opens her eyes, and her hazy glow covers mine like water over film, dew over grass. My vision goes milky, and I begin to rake at my now useless eyes, my nails permitting more damage than I anticipated. I howl in pain while she howls with laughter. The black hole tugs me towards it, its presence amplified and pounding in my ears. I turn my back on the Sirens glare, and towards the rip in the seams of the stars, my silent determination echoing throughout the galaxy. It welcomes me with open arms, the gleeful shrieks of the Siren getting lost in the vacant space. The only sound is that of her scales rippling as she blindly glides and weaves through the stars, searching for her next


victim. Black holes still lie in her wake. A vacuum of calm encompasses me as I escape through the void, and my little boat rocks gently, the Pacific Ocean instantly caking it in a placid calm. The sun looks down at me, and I look up at it. I run my blood-stained fingers through the silken water beside me, and begin blindly steering my boat over the waves, following the sun, purpose free. How naĂŻve. ‘

Milky Ways

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Untitled Charlotte Jones

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As the banging on the door grew incessantly longer and louder, my father held me in his arms, tears threatening to spill from his usually assertive and intelligent eyes. He clutched me in an almost snakelike manner, his arms wrapping around me, almost. “Izzy, I love you, please forgive me.” He kept repeating these words like a mantra, as if to drill it into my head, as if this was the last time he would see me. It wasn’t, it couldn’t be. There were more people at the door now, I could tell by the voices shouting and jeering at each other. My father continued; “Izzy, you have to hide now, in the laundry, and when you can’t hear anything anymore, go through the laundry door.” His voice was quivering, and his face was a mess, his eyes ringed by dark circles and his skin looked unnaturally pale in the darkness; my father had turned off all the lights in an attempt of an illusion that the house was vacant. “No you have to hide too.” I pleaded, my voice filled with desperation. “No, darling, I need to talk to these people.” He almost had to choke out the last word. He looked at me with eyes filled with sorrowful resignation. The pounding on the door grew louder. “You have to be brave for me now Izzy, I need you to be brave for me.” The shouting was becoming impossibly louder, and I was honestly surprised not one of the maniacs outside our house had tried a window yet. “Isabel, you have to hide, now!” His voice was barely a whisper. I stood up, taking one last look at him before running to the safety of the darkness surrounding the hallway and laundry. Leaving the door slightly open I could still visibly see the silhouette of my father. BANG! The door flew inwards. The noise pierced the sombre silence that shrouded our house. A figure, tall and imposing walked casually through the door as if he did this every day, but judging by the sheer amount of time and effort it took just to break down one door, at least they weren’t very smart. Then another figure walked in, and then another after that. The moonlight shining through the windows caught the first man’s facial features, his face twisted into a grin, as if he were enjoying this. “Eric Harper, we’re quite sorry we had to do this,” The man who had appeared first, and who seemed to be the leader said, feigning sympathy. “But we simply had no other choice. Agreste’s orders.” “Do you have the money?” A different man growled out. “No… I told you, I still have to get a loan from the bank first, can


you please just wait?” My father managed to say, his voice quivering. “We’ve been waiting 2 bloody years.” Was the reply, hatred and venom oozing out of the words. I realised what this was about. My father was a scientist, a brilliant one at that, but no institute, university, or lab would listen to his ideas, and he hadn’t had enough money to fund his own research. So, he had borrowed money, a lot of money, obviously from dodgy people. I knew this because at one point this was all he would talk about, over and over, about he would prove everyone wrong, and how it would be worth it. It hadn’t been. The research had led to nowhere. So, now the people wanted their money back, but Dad didn’t have it, and they knew it. “Wait!” My father’s voice rang out, whatever illusion of a calm facade he had, it had been completely taken over by fear. “We’re listening.” A man said, his voice sounding interested. “You said Agreste wanted the money, but he died two years ago.” The closest of the 3 people laughed, mirth completely devoid of her tone. “Now we really have to kill you, but I guess this way we’ll get insurance to cover our losses.” Her eyes gleamed with a nameless emotion. My heart felt like it had completely stopped working, yet it was going at two hundred miles per hour at the same time. He was going to die, Dad was going to die. I was going to watch it, and do absolutely nothing. The monsters surrounding my father were laughing, at the expense of him, who was slumped to the ground in complete defeat. He slowly looked in my direction, down the hallway, but it was so pitch black he couldn’t see that far, and I could only make out shapes from the moonlight filtering in through the windows surrounding the lounge room; for some reason the thugs hadn’t turned the lights on, but then again, they had spent minutes trying to push the door in instead of smashing a window. I couldn’t watch any longer, and I could feel bile coming up my throat. I stayed crouched on the ground, but a glint of silver caught my eye. A pocket knife. I carefully got up and reached for it. The laughter had started to die down. I had to do something to save Dad. I flicked it open, it wasn’t a very menacing knife, but I was probably going to drop it anyway, my hand was shaking too violently. One of the figures had reached for my father’s collar,

Untitled

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Untitled

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dragging him up to eye level. I had to do something, anything, it was the only way. I felt something wet and hot run down my face. I was crying. The figures still hadn’t noticed me, so I would have the element of surprise on my side, but they obviously had weapons. Suddenly, my father head butted the man, and in surprise, he was dropped to the ground. “Go!” He shouted, and they must have thought he was talking to them, but he was staring in my direction. The woman’s eyes rabid with anger, she pulled out something from her pockets, a gun. I only had two options, to run, or to possibly get both of us killed. I wasn’t stupid, I knew I couldn’t possibly go up against three armed criminals, especially with just a pocket knife, but I couldn’t leave him, not like this. Still, I knew what he wanted, and that it wasn’t for me to tackle three sadistic, gun wielding criminals. I shakily crawled towards the laundry door and pulled the handle, and was immediately met with the freezing night air. I soundlessly closed the door, feeling like a robot, or a plane on autopilot, and opened the back gate, and was met with the alleyway behind my house. I kept on running, tears streaming down my face, my house barely out of sight. Dad had told me to be brave, but I couldn’t be, not even for him. A single shot rang out, echoing against the silence of the night. ‘


The ground is dry and scaled like a snake. The wind whispers the word ‘flames’ into my ear. I work hard, drenching my shack in lastyears-rainfall, clutching the hose like a sword. Bess sits at my feet panting with the heat of the sun on our backs, guarding the everupdating radio. She follows me like a duckling as I wet each crevice and crease. The sky is darkening in distance like night come early. Bushfire; is my only thought. With the wood soaking up the water, I run inside to pack any supplies we’ll need if we decide to evacuate. Picking up the nearest box and laying it down on the floor, I grab every can, drink and piece of clothing I can reach. Bess brings over her favourite, mauled up toy, dropping it in. I pat her thin, motley neck gently. She’s not the prettiest dog, but she’s all I’ve got and I love her even if she portrays an old mop. I heave the packed bag outside laying it in the back of my ute and then moving back to the tap. Turning it on, I fill buckets, one-byone, laying them in an army formation. Bess licks the water that drips from the tap like a desert animal. She looks up at me before falling at my feet. I smile, letting my feet feel the weight of her belly and my nose smell ‘wet dog’, before moving onto the strong scent of smoke. The gum tree at the back of our yard collapses to the flames licking at its sides, surrendering with a ‘thud’. My eyes flash to the already growing flames as they devour the tree’s body in a matter of minutes and I rush forward, grasping a bucket in one hand, the other hand grabbing Bess by her collar. I move like a hunter catching an animal, throwing water onto the fire and letting it hiss like a snake. Bess growls. The dark clouds rain ash and ember onto my garden beds, setting some of the small leaves on fire. My cherry trees, my income, tremble as the hot embers fall like feathers onto their tender branches and setting them alight. They burn. I reach for a bucket and throw it onto the fire, trying to save my yearly money. I rush back to the tap where Bess is waiting to arm myself with another bucket. Turing around to face the flames I see that my cherry trees are no more than ash. The embers twinkle like stars. Bess barks from behind me. I pivot to find multiple, small embers resting on the roof of my shack now alight. My roof is ablaze. “Go Bess go!” I order her away from the flames. She sprints. I reach

Man’s Best Friend Esther Juebner Isobelle Carmody Award For Creative Writing Competition Winner

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Man’s Best Friend

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for another bucket, letting its metal handle burn my hands in the desperate struggle to stop the fire. My throat is too parched to talk, my hands are black with ash and my arms are sore from the constant lifting of buckets. I thrust more water onto my shack as the wall on one side collapses. The flames have already eaten the bathroom. I wipe tears away as my life’s work tumble to the blanketed ash ground. The next interior wall falls helplessly to the ground exposing my bedroom. I can see my bed, inhabited by an orange force, wanting no more than to kill. My closet with all my clothes is no more. My bed is gone and the tatty old armchair has a hole burnt through it like a doughnut. I watch as my picture frames are eaten, all my happiest memories now no more than piles of forgotten ash to be trampled on by kangaroos. The dining table, where meals was once eaten is the snack for a monster. I thrust my last bucket forward and the shack collapses, falling to the ground. My heart drops with it. I run into my yard, it is still snowing ash and ember. No crop, no tree or bush has been left behind for another fire. Everything has been greedily destroyed just leaving Bess, the ute and me. Bess. My mind flickers on. I told her to run when our shack caught on fire but now I can’t see her. “Bess,” I call, my voice returning. The fire is still burning the house but will burn through the driveway soon enough and I’ll lose my ute too it I don’t go. My mind thinks the worst as I rush to the car and panic washes over me. Praying for her safety, I open the door and turn the ignition. It’s too dangerous to wait for her any longer, I have to leave. The is radio on so I can hear the updates on the fire. Taking one last look at my home and the flames still lick at its sides. I turn my body around to pull out of the driveway when I notice a grey shape in the backseat. Bess sits like a brave warrior back from war. I reach and hug her, tears of joy rush down my cheeks and into her fur where they create rivers. With one hand still massaging her ash covered-fur neck, I turn into our street and drive. Even if I had lost everything else, I still had my best friend, Bess. ‘


Imagine you are floating in the ocean. The sun is bright. Your friends and family are floating close by. Everyone is having a great time. Then you feel the tug underneath. It’s gentle at first, but firm. And suddenly, you’re below the surface. No one sees you go under. Instead, they talk to you as though you’re still floating next to them. As the current drags you further and further below, you watch the light from the surface dimming. You want to get back up there but the current is simply stronger than you. As the air begins to run out, you realise you have no idea how long you’ve been underwater. You begin to question if you were ever really up there at all. Your friends are still there talking to you. Some notice that you’re underwater. They tell you to just kick your legs and swim back to the surface. You can’t explain to them about the current. How hard you’ve tried to swim back up. All you can do now is hold your breath. And it aches. Nonstop. It radiates outward from you through your limbs into your bones until it’s all you are. Ache. Suddenly, you start thinking about just letting your breath go. Maybe it’s worth trading a few moments of pain for an eternity without it. You’ll never again feel unnoticed, never feel alone. You’ll be free. But you don’t. Because that held breath is your buoyancy and keeping it in is the only way to return to the surface. This is what a mental disorder feels like, and if we do not spread awareness, we can only expect the worst. Mental health is important, but what is more important is spreading awareness. You’re probably thinking, we already do that, we have heard people say this a thousand times. Well, explain this. Why are there still so many mental illness sufferers afraid to reach out to others? Why do people still commit suicide? Why do a lot of people feel alone in battling mental illnesses? Mental health awareness is important because mental illnesses affects anyone, it affects millions and people are still afraid to reach out. What is depression? What is a mental health disorder? Each person has their own definition. My definition? The inability to live life to the fullest. Mental health is a growing concern and the number of people suffering from mental disorders is on the rise. The thing that many do not understand is that anyone can suffer. It

Mental Health Minduli Weeraman Orator Of The Year Winner

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Mental Health

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is not a body malfunction. What are the ingredients of depression? Mix together a handful of bad experiences and loss, sprinkle some tangled emotions and periods of feeling worthless, leave to bake for a few months and voila! A fresh batch of depression served cold! People struggling with their mental health may be in your family, your group of friends or live next door. Anyone can be taken over by a mental disorder. There are many causes of a mental illness. Bullying, loss and relationships are some of the many trigger points of mental health disorders. The most common forms of mental illnesses are anxiety disorders and mood disorders, such as depression. In 2007, 45% of Australians aged 16–85 years, had at some point in their lifetime experienced a mental disorder. This is equivalent to 7.3 million Australians. If that doesn’t surprise you enough, 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives. What is even worse is that every year, approximately one million people die from suicide. These people died because no one reached out to them in time or did not do enough to save them. Imagine, if we educate others, we could save those one million people. In the past, people suffering from mental illnesses were alienated and ridiculed into believing that they were outcasts. People were burned at the stake or called “witches”. Now, as a society, we are beginning to understand mental health as a whole, and how important it is. Yet sufferers are still afraid to reach out to others. People still believe that mental disorders can go away with the click of a finger. If you still believe this, I will confidently tell you that this is completely untrue. It can last for months, or even years. If you or anyone you know are suffering from a mental illness, please talk to someone about it. Your friends, family or even a psychiatrist. Don’t let it take over and don’t expect it to go away just as quickly as it came. Mental disorders are like infections that never go away. So please, reach out to others who you think are having a hard time and spread awareness. When you finally break through the surface of the ocean of depression, know that there’s light up there, brighter than you remember. And you’ll appreciate it in a way that no one else can. Many have never resurfaced, but you can be the one that pulls them up before it is too late. ‘


I have always believed in death with virtue and meaning, haven’t you? Well, in simplicity. Grace. Nobility. Bravery. Even beauty. As simple as that. As simple as other people. As simple as characters in fiction. “All anyone wants is a good death,” I read. This is in a novel about a young girl who is slowly succumbing to cancer. She is graceful, noble, brave, even beautiful. I hate the story. Stories about cancer, no matter how graceful, noble, brave or beautiful, leave me with a pit of despair that digs down further the more I read. They write that the character dies a “brave” death. That they are fearless. Living with cancer spreading through your bones is certainly not ideal, but are they really being brave, or doing what they have to do to survive? Do they really have a choice in whether they should forget about the pain chemotherapy injects and claws into them? When I read the author’s note, I learn that she works in the cancer centre where I am in palliative care and have received the news that I am going to die soon. This is what I say to her book: I do not want your good death. This is what I say to her biography: You make a living off other people’s deaths. This is what I vow: I am not your story. What if I were to write a story, with me as the protagonist? Another young girl, who reached the ripe age of sixteen with chestnut, brown hair and porcelain skin? Whose light freckles could only be seen in the sun, a secret too noticeable to be noticed? Notice the change in tense? Guess the ending. There are patterns in stories like these. Untimely deaths and even unlikely romance. Pressured time and the monotonous tick of the looming grandfather clock until the heart… stops… beating. What others do not notice, however, is the message under all of these words, pages upon pages of a tale that pulls heartstrings. The message that we take for granted but never fully accept. Our destiny is already written. We cannot change our fate, it is written in the stars. Of course, this does not make sense. How can our whole life story be written in flaming balls of gas that exist in the empty depths of the universe? Why is it that so many people say that we can change our fate? We cannot change our past, but we can

A Wrinkle in Destiny Minduli Weeraman Boroondara Literary Award Competition 3rd place

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A Wrinkle in Destiny

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supposedly change our future? This statement is true. Our future can be manipulated, but our destiny was written before we were born. It can never be changed. Picture this: dark, pale clouds crawling across a watermelon sky, the sun like a bubbling, gold fountain. Swans dance gracefully like ballerinas in their feathery tutus, their slender necks bobbing in synchronised formation. Imagine not being able to see that in the same way. If that is too hard, imagine not being able to see that ever again. The way the sun’s rays bounce on the water and hang from the sky like spun gold. The way the clouds sweep across the sky, not in haste. Now, imagine not being able to describe it to anyone in words. Never being able to make those words come out of your mouth. Going too fast for you? Well, keep up! Imagine never being able to walk towards the glittering, jewel water, or never being able to swim in its mysterious, shimmering blue. Welcome to the world of brain cancer! Where most of your senses are impaired and nothing can be done about it except to wait. Waiting, wanting and hoping for something miraculous to happen, and whilst you wait, a tumour grows larger in your head. As I wait for my oncologist, I ponder about life, mine in particular. My life has been cut short by a looming deadline that has been placed upon me. My cancer has inhabited me for a year and now I am thinking about weeks, possibly days of survival. It has torn down my life, my family, even my friends. Skyscrapers I had once built in my make-believe land are crashing down, cold, grey debris everywhere, unable to be fixed. I am a ticking bomb, waiting to explode and leaving my loved ones to pick up the pieces. So, what do I do? I try to be the person I was not before. Fifteen-year-old me would walk past beggars and paupers, kneeling on the dirty, cobble-stone streets, not even casting an eye upon them and feeling the jiggling of the silver coins that weigh down her pockets. Fifteen-year-old me would slam the door out on her desperate friend with faint, white scars on her wrists. Fifteenyear-old me would be ignorant of the troubles of the world, and would never even think about helping others. Now, whenever I see a shivering beggar kneel on the streets, I empty out my pockets and give away my coat and scarf. When my


friend is on my doorstep with tears streaming down her blotched cheeks, I open the door wider. I try to help when I can and perhaps, these blessings that I get from my deeds might do the impossible. Change my destiny. ‘

A Wrinkle in Destiny

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Out Roisin Brennan

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The harsh sun beat down on the famished land below it. During the months of summer, the sun was brutal and unforgiving, drying out and sucking the life from everything it touched. Beneath, lay the stale thirsty fields desperate for nourishment. Many workers could be seen nearby, all toiling away, stretching out their bony arms and digging into the dirt in unison; all workers were men, and amongst them the youngest, a boy named Andy. He was a gawky little boy (like most who lived on the land were) but the fact that he was merely eleven, magnified the effect. His brown hair, straw-like and dirty, was matted with sweat, and stuck to his angular head. Dark eyes occupied his face. They were blank and hazy but managed to contain that naïve glint of hope that could only ever be found in children. Despite this, though, Andy was silent and never spoke – not to anyone, he just nodded or shook his head when questioned, and if a response required more than a shake or a nod, his answers were short, succinct, spoken softly and with a hung head. With his stubborn shovel in hand, Andy let his gaze drift upwards to the glaring sun. Noticing that the sun had climbed to the highest point in the summer sky, a discreet smile crept onto his face. Noon meant the afternoon meal. The thought of food caused the feeling of his empty stomach to become apparent, and soon after, as suspected, the metallic clang of the bell rang, as if it detected Andy’s desperation. The workers swarmed into the Commune Building. Andy recognised the long eating tables that lined the grimy floors and the few windows on the walls which were decorated with the marks of handprints left by fellow despondent workers. At the furthest end of the room there was a ledge, more like a stage Andy mused. Yes, a stage, similar to one where someone could voice an opinion or point of view. Yes, a stage, a stage that was not allowed on, except for a select few people of serious significance. The whirr of people vying to be first in line, around him, caused Andy to snap back and join in. And with that, the standard, monotonous routine began. Being first meant that you received the cream of the crop. And not just in the way of food. Andy snatched his food before sitting back down only to be instructed to stand upright again, as it was announced through static loudspeakers that the Master was entering the building.


The workers, weary-faced and lethargic, rose together while the Master delivered his customary speech. The Master; short and slick, yet extremely intimidating nonetheless. How couldn’t you be with a hooked, beak-like nose and those malicious beady eyes? He was a hawk in Andy’s mind. A hawk that was eyeing his options of prey, torturously contemplating who to strike next. His wings were swung to his back, so as to appear somewhat respectable to the lowstatus people below him. It didn’t take much to look better than them. The Master was daunting, yet somehow, regardless, he was powerful. Powerful and admirable to anyone who was in his presence, he possessed that awing glow about him. The Master began his usual speech about how magnificent the society he had created was and how it catered for everyone, ‘sure it does’ Andy mentally scoffed. The Master’s voice, however proud, was spoken to the people with a hint of abhorrence, even if it was only as subtle as a ray of sun on a dreary day. And always, an unmistakable sound could be heard, of some kind of patronising ring in his words. The Master lectured to the group standing, they were empty vessels, motionless and void of any intention, motivation or purpose. The way Master spoke, the way they were standing – it overwhelmed Andy with an ineffable force of anger. The building was divided into four living chambers that were located underground and therefore dismally dark and unwelcoming. Many nights were spent scared in those chambers. And as a result of being underground, any form of life of the outside world was practically non-existent, possibly for a reason. Regardless, over the years, Andy had managed to relentlessly hack at a piece in the wall and finally form a small split in the wall, where he could poke his eye out and subject himself to the confined world. Andy stared out and, with the ability of his one eye, peered out upon the earth before him. The blackness of the sky shadowed and limited the scene. But with the gaps missing he filled them in. The grounds were arid and barren, fruitless and bare. Andy let out a hushed and oppressed sigh. Could there be something beyond, something to live for? He needed a way out. Too many years were spent living here. Too many years of struggle and unjust. Living with hardly any possessions had surprisingly showed its advantage. Andy gathered himself and when the time was right, slipped out of the Commune Building dodging anyone who would think him suspicious and

Out

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Out

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remained in the shadows. There was a bright light, a roaring engine, a sudden halt and an opportunity. Andy took a leap and didn’t bother looking back. ‘


Auntie Elsta taught me that when you’re fishing on rocky coast lines, you walk on the sand where you can, because the rocks are slippery. I started to apply this in real life. I know Auntie Elsta is very wise, because she’s actually my great, great, Auntie, but that’s too long of a name to say when I need to ask her questions. An indigenous Australian, who looks white. Many people tell me I am white and I often go along with this, because it’s easier to conform to pressure and walk on the sand, than to choose to identify with who I am and risk slipping on the rocks. “You’re only like a tiny bit Aboriginal, right?” “Oh, it’s a long way back though isn’t it? So, you’re not actually Aboriginal.” “Yeah, but you’re actually white, aren’t you?” Words like these hurt. Maz, an Indigenous woman and a current warrior in the fight for Indigenous equality, came to my house one night. She told me that people who tell me things like that, simply don’t understand. She said identifying as an Indigenous Australian, was a simple choice that concerned nobody but myself. She said, that if I’m proud of where I come from, I should identify. And so, it played on my mind from then on, that I needed to choose. Identifying is more than ticking a box on a form, it’s a recognition of what I represent. “You’re not, like, disadvantaged though, so why do you tick the box? Doesn’t that take away opportunities from people who actually are Aboriginal?” As Maz would say, people who think or say things like that, have no idea what they’re talking about and I should always answer questions like those by telling them that. It’s an empowering thing to be able to tell a grown-up that they’re wrong. It makes me laugh sometimes. Choosing how to identify, however, was never going to be easy, Maz told me that from the start. She told me that there would be people I would come across in life that wouldn’t like that I was Aboriginal. Some people wouldn’t like that I looked white and they would claim I’m pretending to be something I’m not. There would be people who would poke their nose too far into something that simply isn’t their business. I told her I could handle that.

Inside The Gap Sascha Gillam Isobelle Carmody Award For Creative Writing Competition Winner

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Inside The Gap

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She told me that if more people like me, who grew up not knowing if they were allowed to call themselves indigenous, made the choice to identify, it would help close ‘the gap’. The gap between Indigenous Australians and Non-Indigenous Australians. It’s a gap that not many people talk about because sadly, so many Non-Indigenous Australians know nothing about it. They don’t realise how much of a gap there is. They don’t realise that there’s constantly work being done to attempt to shorten the gap. They don’t realise that Aboriginals are the ones that suffer the consequences of the gap. A small few don’t even know there is a gap. Rocks can be slippery and they can also cut your feet. Especially if it’s your first time walking on them. If you walk on the sand your whole life, you’ll never develop a thick skin. A thick skin is necessary because sometimes you have no choice but to walk on the rocks. Auntie Elsta knows this too. So next time I’m walking the same paths as my ancestors and taking in the land and sea of the Yawuru people, I will know where I stand. I will stand with my people. Choosing to identify, makes the gap the tiniest bit smaller. It may seem insignificant to some, but it still makes a difference. It’s the people inside the gap that have the greatest power to close it. ‘


“SVANA!” her father yelled from the downstairs sitting room as he lounged around just like he did every other day of the week. His porky belly jiggling as he sat himself up straighter in his tattered armchair. “Bring me my tea! It is almost 10 and I’m famished. All of the vile food that you have been bringing me has been slop. Pick up your game!” he yelled ferociously. Svana could almost imagine the redness of his face growing by the second from his beady eyes to the tip of his snouty nose. She hurriedly made the tea, flustered feathers fluttering, and glided into the sitting room to hand it to her father. He snatched it off her with his sausage like fingers, no please or thank you just a, “you are just like your mother, useless. Who would want a girl who can’t even make a man a decent cup of tea!” Spit flew from the folds at the corner of his mouth as he spoke. This was his usual substitute for manners. Svana angled her swan like neck decidedly. She had accepted that as her fate. For now, at least. Svana had left school when she was 10 when her mother died. Her ignorant father had deemed that she didn’t need an education past that level, she just needed to look after him. You see, Svana wanted a better life, away from the pigsty of the house she lived in, and away from her swine of a father. A life where she was respected not abused, where she was loved and not loathed, and where she could reach her full potential. Julie didn’t hate her slob of a father, she felt sorry for the sad, lonely and directionless existence he had created for himself. And that she had been dragged into the mud with him, where she existed in his dirty world. Bogged down and captive to his slovenly desires. Svana dutifully complied with her oversized fathers demands and fed him all the corn, grain, carrots and Coke that he could swallow. Gradually, he blew up in size just like a Peppa Pig balloon a 4 year olds birthday party. He spent his days alternating between sleeping and eating in his armchair. On many occasions Svana dreamed not only of a better life, but to punish her swine of a father for his lack of tenderness towards her. There was one particular dream which was a favorite, for it always brought a peace upon her. In this dream, a large truck rumbled up to the front of Svana’s house. Two people got out and went to the door. They didn’t bother knocking but just barged in.

Pig Tales (A Modern-Day Fable) Emma Haberfield Boroondara Literary Award Competition Winner

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Pig Tales (A Modern-Day Fable)

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Svana looked on in wonder. She vaguely made out one of them say “gee he’s nice and fat, isn’t he? He will get a good price”. The other replied, “Yeah he will, but he might get his rind stuck in the ramp.” “Gee, I’m craving a pulled pork roll with slaw just by looking at him.” Svana watched as her meaty father, almost too fat to move, waddled his way up the ramp into the truck. The door was closed and she vaguely read as it drove away ‘The Slaughterhouse’. Svana was always disappointed to wake in the morning to find him still asleep in his chair, unmoved from the night before. Svana was both graceful and a forgiving soul. For whilst she dreamed of a better life, she wished her father no harm. She saw her father’s gluttony as the perfect opportunity for her to start thinking about how she could break free from her virtual prison and finally lead the life that she had always wanted. One afternoon as he sat squealing in his armchair and oinking for food she saw her perfect opportunity. She stood up, waddled gracefully toward the door and left. She didn’t stop and didn’t look back. Her father could do nothing to stop her. She glided out the door and into a lake of new possibilities a few kilos lighter and many times happier. She was proud to have finally stood up to her father and written her own ending. Svana never did discover what became of her father but it was something that she thought about for the rest of her life. She lived happily ever after with her husband and twelve ‘cygnets’. ‘


The hazy summer wind drifted through the window, and along with it the fresh smell of eucalyptus. She sat there, listening to the trees shuffle like nature’s tambourine, and the birds sing in chorus, their different tones harmonising together to make a melody. Since summer had just begun to rear its head, many people sat on the oval outside, laughing and talking as they let the sun envelop them in her arms. Sighing, she turned back to the piano and closed her eyes, savouring the sweet taste of summer alone. The shrill sound of the bell sliced open the dreamy veil of summer, a trumpet blowing away all the mist. She reluctantly packed up and headed to class, trekking a long, silent walk through the endless hallways. Strangely, instead of the maths teacher standing in front of the whiteboard, it was the music teacher. “Good Afternoon students. I hope you enjoyed your lunch. I am here to announce an event that we are very excited to do for the first time.” He took a piece of chalk and started writing, a squeaky noise piercing through the hazy afternoon. In neat block letters, the text said: “Music talent competition, Wednesday 5th of December.” The classroom became a chaotic symphony of sounds, all the students hustling as they thought of all the possibilities that had just come awash. She felt nothing at all, just the indifference that came with being subject to the act of unwanted isolation. She knew that even if she performed, the memory of her performance would be quickly overwritten in people’s minds, as if it was just a passing summer breeze. The wind caressed her hair gently, the warm breeze breathing life into her room. “April, your cousin is here!” Her mother called from downstairs, snapping her into action. She hurried downstairs to welcome him. The door creaked open, welcoming not only a swirling sonata of heat, but also her cousin, his hair a hurricane of wispy gold. She greeted him meekly, reminded of the stark contrast of their dispositions. The conversation, as usual, was between April’s mother and her cousin. She felt like she served no purpose but as accompaniment, a pleasant melody melting into the background. “April, I heard about the Music Talent competition! You should play since you’re amazing at piano.” Her cousin turned towards her. Shaking her head, she looked down at her lap. “Why not! I’ll come and watch you.” A surprise. Armed with the knowledge that someone cared enough as well as her mother’s

On a Summer Day Chloe Huang

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On a Summer Day

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pointed glare, she reluctantly agreed. She did not know what to play. The black notes glared at her as if accusing her of being so unimaginative. Frustrated, she stood up and went outside, hoping to clear her head. The silver moon cast its light onto the earth, transforming the world into one of grayscale. She was reminded suddenly of Debussy’s Clair De Lune, the melody winding its way through her head like a midnight stroll on a moonlit beach. The waves lapped gently in time with the music, the gentle chords fading away like water draining through the sand. In the noise of the moonlight, April decided. She felt as if she was being inspected bit by bit as her heart pounded and her hands shook. Taking a deep breath, she carefully placed her hands on the black and white keys, and closed her eyes, imagining her fingers dance across the keyboard. Breathing out slowly, she played the first chord, the sweet sound ringing out through the darkness, a tranquil wave of ripples spreading steadily outward. The tender melody softly wafted around the auditorium like the pleasant scent of freshly brewed chamomile tea, it’s warmth drifting through the crowd. The last chord rung through the air, and she breathed a sigh of relief. There was thunderous applause, and the mood changed, a knife slicing through the musical illusion of moonlight. She slipped off the stage, her blood racing. Quietly, she joined the rest of the audience to watch the rest of the performances. “We will now announce the winners.” April listened idly. She hoped her cousin enjoyed the performance, and although she was nervous, she couldn’t help but be glad she could perform in front of so many people. Despite the fact that people would probably forget about it in a matter of minutes, she still felt honoured to be able to share the finesse and beauty of romantic music. “.... and the overall winner is April Kaori, with her performance of Clair De Lune by Debussy.” She sat up in surprise. “I’m sure we all loved this unforgettable performance of one of the most famous pieces of the twentieth century.” Surrounded by the polite applause of the audience, she realised that she didn’t have to connect with people through words. She could communicate with them through music. Even though sometimes she felt alone in the world, she wasn’t. Music was a lifeline that connected every single person on earth, and her strong


bond with the piano made it much easier for her to share her thoughts and feelings with others when she couldn’t with speech. With a confident smile, she walked onto the stage, the warm air embracing her like an old friend. ‘

On a Summer Day

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Spritz Ruby Jovanovski

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The chemical compound of sulphuric acid is H2SO4 . Sulphuric acid is a corrosive liquid and is used in the production of dyes, fertilisers, drugs, explosives, batteries, pigments and detergents. You can imagine that in highly concentrated amounts, it would be detrimental to the human body, and when it comes into contact with the skin, it would burn like hell. I think the part I hate the most is when people look away. That’s not to say I like it when people stare though. I mean, I hate that too. But if you’re gonna do it you might as well commit, you know what I mean? Because it cuts me to think that my face is really that disturbing to look at that they have to look away immediately. But that’s the part I hate the most. The part that really hurts is when it’s people from my own family. When they look away. You can see it written all over their face. The look of pity and sadness that my face has undergone such a grotesque transformation. I know what they’re thinking. “She used to be so beautiful.” Used to. My Mum used to say that my skin was like marble, chiseled perfectly. A smooth cream surface. She doesn’t comment on my skin now, but I think she’d say it’s like the gnarled bark of an ancient tree, like chewed up gum, like knotted rope. Why me? Why nobody else? Sometimes I wonder if I’m on the outside looking in or on the inside looking out – looking at all the people who get to live their normal lives. They don’t grimace at the dimpled texture of their face or grow their hair long to hide behind its curtain. I feel like a zoo animal, an exhibition, a scientific wonder to be probed. They still don’t know who did this to me. No leads. No suspects. No nothing. You’d think that it would be pretty easy to narrow down the list to a few students or teachers. After all, it was caught on security footage during the break between periods 4 and 5 on campus. There had to have been another “late” student, another teacher without a class, a janitor who wasn’t cleaning the bathrooms. Somebody had to have been missing. I still replay those awful moments leading up to the spray. The last time I saw my face in a reflection, unscarred. Closing my locker


and rushing to get to physics before the second bell. I didn’t want to be late again, I’d get a detention, and who wants to stay an extra hour at school? Turning the corner and blocked by a figure in a ski mask, the orange nozzle forced before my face and the agonising pain, my skin melting to expose the flesh beneath. The hissing sound and deep squeak as the bottle released that god awful liquid. The only things the police concluded in my investigation is a) it was calculated and premeditated and b) it could be anybody as I was “relatively well liked within the school community”. Which clearly, is zero help whatsoever. After thinking about this long and hard (which, when something like this happens in your life that’s the only thing you can do about it), I’ve come to the conclusion that whoever did this wasn’t looking to just cause me pain or blind my left eye. They knew that this would put me under scrutiny, would know my name would be circling the school and the wider community for weeks, would know that I couldn’t stand to have myself in such a public spotlight. They knew that I wouldn’t be able to stand the “what was” and “what has been” and the “used to”. The reality is that for the rest of my life I will never look the same. I have been stripped of those physical attributes that made me accepted in today’s society, where physicality and physique is regarded much higher than moral substance or wealth of knowledge. That’s the reality – people will always be valued more for how they look rather than how they can change the world through their smarts. Whoever did this to me, whoever sent me flying out of the “normal, average person” category knew this, in a world where appearance is what really matters, I would never be given anything other than pity. I guess I would’ve liked to stand out, but not like this. Never like this. Because all the special treatment is nothing like I’d imagined. It’s empty compliments, given solely to help me feel better when it does nothing but then opposite. I don’t want to live the rest of my life like that, faces snapping away from mine, eyes sorry that they even were laid upon me. Like the way I looked was an insult. Living life like that is no life at all. Life like that? I might as well not be alive at all. ‘

Spritz

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Whatever Remains Of Us Ivy Luo

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“Look at you children! Ain’t do’n no work, just ruin’n the sight of me porch.” That was me old gran, smoke’n whilst sit’n on a rock’n chair; she had a look of a permanent glunch on her face, like a conglomerate of wet crinkled paper. She’s been a grump lately, I dunno what’s gotten into her. Few days ago I heard her drunk talk’n, like the men in the local bar; I hear ‘em when I walk home after school with me little sis Lizzy. Gran was say’n all this balderdash; I ain’t smart enough to know what she was go’n on about but it was someth’n like, “Arg!... it ain’t fair!... bills!” When she told us off for play’n on the porch, I wanted to say, “It ain’t our fault it ain’t fair!” But the sentence only came halfway outta me mouth before gran cut me off, say’n, “Don’t talk back to me, young lad. Yer only thirteen, not old enough… not…” An’ she kept talk’n, but she got quiter an’ quieter, so I suppose she was talk’n to herself. She looked like she had gone into a world of her own; doze’n off into some dream. See’n that, me and Lizzy, we stopped play’n, an’ tip-toed into the house, make’n sure we don’t wake gran. Just as I was about to close the front door, I heard a car groan an’ when I turned around to get a good look, it drove right in me empty driveway! For a moment I was utterly confused; there weren’t no possible explanations for this outrageous circumstance. As I was try’n to wrap my head around it, a man got outta the car briskly, then a woman, who said, “Horan and Hannah, get out of the car!” There was a long pause before I saw the back car doors open, an’ two children got out lazily an’ slammed the door behind ‘em. When I said children, they weren’t really children. The girl, Hannah, looked my age, maybe a year younger. Her brown eyebrows pointed stiffly to the ground; they were so stiff they weren’t much different from rocks. An’ her mouth curled into such a distinct distaste; me cows could’ve seen ‘em from miles away. Then there was Horan, who was no boy. He was at least a head taller than me, an’ a foot wider. He looked at me like the look a bully gives their prey; I ain’t have much brains, but I knew Horan would beat the hell outta me, with or without an excuse. The woman walked to me front door, an’ said to me, “The luggage is in the car, you wouldn’t mind grabbing it, would you?” An’


she smiled the smile I’ve seen on posters, the kind that convinces you potato chips are the healthiest things in the world. That night, I went into gran’s room and whispered to her. “Who are they?” “Yer cousin’s cousin’s uncle’s brother’s family.” She spat, not deliberately, gran couldn’t help it. I think it’s the old age gett’n her. “Why are they here?” “Cos I need someone to look after you an’ Lizzy, that’s why.” “But we ain’t need anyone, we’ve got you.” My voice rising. “Sooner or later, I’ll be gone.” “Whatta you mean, gran?” She didn’t say anythin’ no more. Just as I was about to walk out, my eyes caught a glimpse of strange looking bottles on her bedside table. I couldn’t see much clearly but for sure they were some sort of pills. When I got outta gran’s room, Lizzy was stand’n right out the door. “Eavesdropp’n?” I asked. “Why’s gran act’n weird?” Lizzy sounded curious, as always. “It’s just a temporary thing, you’ll see.” Lizzy didn’t look convinced. When I opened my eyes the next morning I screamed; it was a high-pitched ‘Lizzy’ scream. Horan’s face was an inch from mine, and his black beady eyes stared at me so sinisterly I thought the devil had come for me. See’n my reaction, Horan laughed hysterically. He sounded like he was chok’n on someth’n… beef, I thought. Cos he looks like he eats quite a lotta it. I was ready to give him a punch before I remembered how much bigger he was; he could squeeze me to death if he sat on me. He probably saw right through me, cos the next thing he spat was, “Don’t even try, you little rat.” For once I was glad to make my way to school, cos I would have not survived a second longer at that house. As I made me way out, I went to gran’s room to check on her. She was not in the kitchen, or the living room, and that’s weird, cos she’s usually up early, smoke’n. It’s the only thing that motivates her these days. When I walked into her room she was lie’n on her bed, look’n pale an’ frail. “Come here, me boy,” gran motioned me over; that alone looked like a whole lot of effort. I walked to the side of her bed an’ she reached her hands up to try an’ touch my hair but I was too tall. So

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Whatever Remains Of Us

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I bent down to let her touch it. “You’ve grown so fast, little Cal, but not fast enough.” I felt like she was talk’n to herself again. I looked away an’ saw Lizzy outside the door, cry’n. ‘


378. I etch these figures into the dirt surface beneath me. The number of days I’ve spent in this camp. Each day is as long as the next, the segments never ending, reminding me of my failures. Never knowing if I’ll pass the Restoration Test, not expecting to see my family again. Waiting, waiting and more waiting. I wake up each day in my confined sleeping quarter with only a bed and the Gadget. The Gadget which controls my life now, alerting me of a new day and the end of one too. I have been removed from the outside world, separated from civilisation and punished for being an outcast. By an outcast, I mean a person who didn’t pass the Refinement Test, a test created to determine an individual’s fate. The entire population must undertake this 160 mark test at 20 years old. If one doesn’t get 130 marks out of 160, you are transported to Synonymous. Where I am right now, in the year 2108, reconstructing myself and abandoning the former me. At exactly 06:00 every morning, the Gadget sends out a blaring tone, awakening me from my slumber. A wave of realisation and dread crashes into me every single morning as I realise what the day will bring. The same feeling had hit me today, but worse, because in exactly one week my Restoration Test will take place. Since the last test I took, which I failed by 6 marks, the Advisors have been increasing my segment load, forcing me to work an extra half an hour in each segment. The segments are created to increase our knowledge in each section – Academic, Social and Economical. This morning, my first segment is Social, a section designed to increase ‘normal’ social interaction between humans. Standing up from the crouched position I was in, I gaze down at the numbers now engraved in the dirt. Over a year in Synonymous and it seems as though I’ll never leave. Dusting off my hands while walking to the door, I turn the knob and step outside, awaiting instructions. An Advisor briskly hands me my clothes, a dull look on his face, before walking past down the hall. After pulling on my uniform, a full length black bodysuit with a large red ‘S’ logo on the back, I follow the path the Advisor took down the hall. It is so rare in Synonymous to see another human being who is not an Advisor, therefore when I catch sight of a middle-aged man as I arrive in the Social quarter, my breath hitches slightly. Oddly, he seems to be resisting his Advisor. The man stares at the Advisor straight in his eyes, smiling, talking quietly and calmly. It is… so strange… to see

Synonymous Zoe O’Sullivan

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Synonymous

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someone doing this, an action Synonymous reprograms us not to do. This social interaction is said to be the downfall of society, one of the main causes of World War 3. Communication from opposing sides often results in conflicts and negative behaviour, which is punishable. The Social Segment of the Refinement Test is taken to prove if one is able to resist the desire for interaction. The man is pushing invisible boundaries, continuing to disobey the rules and communicate freely with his Advisor. Cautiously, I sit down facing my Advisor, and begin the day’s work. Avoid eye contact. Speak little. Keep a straight face. Stick to these rules and you will pass the test, simple as that. Halfway through my session, the man stands up and waves goodbye to his Advisor, an action I haven’t seen since I was young. Uncertainty instantly hits me, but then another feeling appears. Joy. I freeze as I encounter this emotion, realising it’s been over 8 years since I’ve felt this. When the news broke of the Refinement Test, it seemed as though a vacuum swept over my country and sucked away all traces of happiness. Everyone went into a trance; the word ‘test’ taking over our minds. Long gone were the days of freedom, being able to enjoy ourselves and appreciate one another. Small interactions like waving, smiling and talking are distant memories, but ones that bring back such powerful feelings. Imagine if these emotions were present nowadays, my life would be so… different. More engaging, exciting, captivating. These thoughts I’m having are dangerous, ones that could possibly destroy any chance of passing the Restoration Test. For now, I push them to the back of my head, and focus on getting through the day. Awaking the next morning is a struggle, as my mind was swirling with fatal thoughts the entire night, resulting in a lack of sleep. The Gadget once again notifies me of my first segment, this time the dreaded Academic. Following an Advisor through the hallway again, I pass the same room I was in yesterday, astonished to see the same man as yesterday. What surprises me even more is that the man stares right into my eyes, and smiles. He smiles. I’m frozen, my body in a state of shock. The last time someone smiled at me was over 6 years ago. Then, the icy feeling is replaced by an unusual warmth. I shiver, then continue walking, as to not alert the Advisors in the room of the man’s actions. Synonymous has trained me to


not be influenced by others actions, so that’s what I shall do. Over the next four days, my brain is stacked with knowledge in order to help me pass the test. I am stressed by the amount of information I must know, but also because of what I’ve encountered. The man has been near me every day, a new interaction each time I see him. A small smile, an unnoticeable wave, just a look. Seeing how such slight actions impact me so greatly alters my viewpoint of Synonymous. If humans are able to inflict happiness on one another then why should we be restricted from it? The amount of misery in this world would surely be trampled by the amount of happiness one can have. We shouldn’t be hiding our true selves away in order to meet someone else’s requirements, in order to pass a test. Slowly, due to the man, there has been a strong change in my thoughts, a change that could define my life. Proving myself worthy to the Advisors and passing the test seems so unimportant now. If I choose to purposely fail the Restoration Test, I may be able to make a difference, show people that being an ‘outcast’ It’s a life-changing decision, one that I must make tomorrow. Day 385 arrives. The day of the Restoration Test. I pace around my sleeping quarter, contemplating what I’m going to do. The Gadget notifies me of an Advisor waiting outside. Straightening up, I pull open the door and follow the Advisor. Passing through the Social segment space sends shivers down my spine, as I spot the man. For the first time in a week, I smile at him. He returns the gesture, and in this moment I know what I’m going to do. I continue towards the Restoration Room, weight lifting off my shoulders with each step. Sitting down in my isolated cubicle, I gaze up at the screen, waiting for the Gadget’s voice. “Begin section 1” Breathing in, I read Question 1. Releasing, I select the wrong answer. ‘

Synonymous

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Face In The Crowd Annie Timm Isobelle Carmody Award For Creative Writing Competition Highly Commended

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I was special. When I was five years old, I was signing my own name long before the other kids could form the letters of the alphabet. Words just made sense to me. I could string them together into winding sentences and flowing paragraphs that made adults around me stop and stare. I could conjugate verbs, and identify pronouns, and write cursive in black pen. Numbers were easy. They were patterns and pieces of puzzles that slotted neatly into my jigsaw puzzle of a brain. I could add, subtract, and multiply, and my division skills were passable. My teachers couldn’t believe their eyes. I got gold star stickers, and certificates in assembly. My parents saved every sticker, and every certificate, and stored them in a little green box on the very top shelf of my wardrobe. I was a smart kid, and I got used to the staring after a while. I was unusual. When I was nine years old, I would spend my lunch time sitting inside, alone with a book. The other kids played tag outside and swung on the monkey bars, but I was never really interested in that kind of thing. I didn’t mind being on my own, though. I preferred the quiet. There, I could lose myself in the words; the way they danced from the page into my mind and painted me pictures of the unbelievable and the unimaginable. The teachers never minded that I spent hours at a time indoors. They never told me to take a break, or enjoy the fresh air. My report card would come back every summer filled with gushing compliments and glowing praise. My parents were proud. That was all I could ask for, I guess. I was different. When I was thirteen years old, I sat down for a meeting with my school principal, and she told me I was to be moved up a year. If I was lonely before, then in my new class I was completely isolated. I kept my head down, and my mouth shut. I poured my waking hours into my classwork. Every perfect score, every flawless essay, every award earned me a pat on the back from my teachers and nothing more. There were no more stickers, and no more certificates. In a strange way, I kind of missed them. My teachers were pleased with me, but not surprised. I didn’t feel any pride anymore. I didn’t feel any sense of accomplishment.


This was my job now. I am sixteen years old, and I am desperately trying to stay afloat. Every question, every sentence, every letter is like dragging my feet through thick mud, trying not to lose my balance. To everyone else, this workload seems to come easy. But right now, every single breath I take is just an effort to stay above water. I am not special. I am not unusual. I am not different. I am just another face in the crowd. Another name on a paper. Another score in an average. My stickers, certificates and reports still sit in the little green box on the very top shelf at the back of my wardrobe. They gather dust. ‘

Face In The Crowd

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The Right To Body Autonomy Annie Timm Orator Of The Year Winner

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Imagine this. I have just been in a serious car crash, and I’m in an ambulance on my way to hospital. I’m losing a lot of blood, and the paramedics decide I’m going to need a blood transfusion. Now imagine that you, for whatever reason, are the only person in the entire world who can donate the blood to save my life. Only a tiny bit of blood. My entire life is in your hands. However, it doesn’t matter whose life is on the line. It doesn’t matter if a hundred peoples’ lives were on the line. Legally, no one can force you to give blood, which means you always have a choice. Now imagine that you no longer have the right of choice. The laws of bodily autonomy are laid out in Article 3 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The concept is that every single person has control over their own body, free from external influence or coercion. Basically, your body is yours, and you can do what you want with it. And your bodily autonomy is something no one should be able to take away. So why is it illegal for a woman to get an abortion in over 126 countries? An abortion, by definition, is when a pregnant woman ends her pregnancy because of either medical or personal reasons. It might be because continuing the pregnancy would put her health or the baby’s health at risk, or the mother doesn’t have the means to care for a baby, or maybe it was an unwanted pregnancy caused by rape. Whatever the reason may be, the fact remains that women do not have safe access to abortion services in 126 countries. And every year, 25 million desperate women turn to their only remaining option – an illegal and unsafe abortion. This means the procedure is carried out by someone without medical qualification, and in an environment that doesn’t even meet basic health and safety codes. And these kinds of abortions account for HALF of all abortions performed in the world. Every year, 68 thousand women die from these operations and seven MILLION suffer long-term damage. This is what happens when we lose the right to choose. You might have heard that just under a week ago, Argentinian citizens voted on whether or not abortion should become legal. They were – and, unfortunately, still are – one of the ten out of twelve countries in South America where abortion is still illegal. The lawmakers deliberated for fifteen hours before making their


decision. And the people of Argentina were devastated by the result. Argentina, and all the countries in South America, were among the hardest-hit by Trump’s ‘Gag Rule’, implemented in early 2017. This law states that any overseas organisation that performs abortions, or even gives women information about reproductive health services, gets its funding cut by the US. Health clinics that give women Information about their right to choose stop receiving money from the US. And in Argentina, a country where every year roughly 500,000 women receive unsafe abortions and almost 60,000 women are hospitalised by the ensuing health complications, this lack of medical care is quite literally the difference between life and death. This is what happens to women who lose the right to choose. Unfortunately, because of how deeply government and religion are intertwined in South America, it is very difficult for any external organisations, like the UN, to intervene. And there is little women themselves can do, or even doctors, without getting slapped with prison time just for speaking their minds. But organisations like the ‘Colectivo Feminista Sexualidade Saude’ work closely with Amnesty International to educate women about contraceptives, pregnancy and abortion. They train doctors to perform medical procedures safely, and offer constant counselling for women and mothers. CFSS made up a large number of the protestors at Argentina’s proabortion-law rally, and they helped to introduce the initial bill to the Argentinian government. And even though the law was dismissed, the movement gained worldwide attention and cannot be swept under the rug again. Organisations like CFSS are working quietly, working slowly, but they’re working and they won’t be deterred by a setback. There is still hope yet. As humans, we have a tendency to dissociate ourselves from these realities. It’s sad, we think, but it would never happen to me. What if I told you that abortion is illegal in Queensland? This is not a problem that exists solely in far away, third world countries. It is not a distant, irrelevant problem. It is personal and it affects us. Women living in Queensland are lucky in the sense that many of them have the money and resources to simply have the operation in a different state. But most women living in developing cities and countries don’t have this kind of money. They don’t have these

The Right To Body Autonomy

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The Right To Body Autonomy

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resources. They don’t have the freedom, (or choice,) to travel like we do. And in the end, it doesn’t matter how you feel about abortion. It doesn’t matter whether you think it’s criminal or justifiable. What matters is that while abortion remains illegal in 126 countries, women lose control over their own bodies.This is the issue at the heart of bodily autonomy – there comes a point when a woman’s life stops being her own and starts belonging to those around her. She stops being human and starts being a statistic. She becomes one of the 68 thousand women who are victims of this situation every year. (The right to body autonomy is part of the United Nations for a reason). (so here is the danger in this kind of legislation–) This is what will happen to you if you lose your right to choose. ‘


3 September, 1983

One Moment

School. Students learn there, play there, but most of all make memories there. School for me is an environment I have always looked forward to because I have never been given the chance to experience it properly. My old school, in my homeland of Iraq, was hard, dull and miserable. I was so excited about going to school for the first time in my new homeland, America. I reached the oversized black metal school gates for the very first time and could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Beating, pulsing, thumping. It only drove me to be even more excited about the day ahead! I moved like the wind straight to my third-grade classroom where I met my teacher for the first time as she welcomed all of her new students. I had a smile from ear to ear, but she looked at me strangely. Was it because I wore a hijab? She was trying not to stare at me. Her head tilted trying to grasp the way I wore it. Her stares were making me look away in shame so I shifted my body weight and hid in the shadow in the room. The time felt like it ticked away so slowly. I wanted the day to go rapidly, but it felt like time was standing still. The bell rang. Everyone was trying to fit through the door at the same time, students were “mad as hatters� to get out of the classroom for recess. The yard was filled with laughter and excitement. I could see smiles plastered on their faces as they hung from the monkey bars and played all different types of ball games. I walked at a steady pace trying to keep to myself, but three boys near me had other intentions. They looked like they were in the fifth grade and ruled the schoolyard. They all had charcoal hair, dark eyes and their crushed shirts hung loosely from their pants. They stood towering over me, with beady eyes and clenched fists holding large thick branches from a tree. I kept my head down trying not to make eye contact and slowly began to step away. They came after me with their branches. I shifted my head and could see them in a blur behind me. I tried to run and hide, but found myself disorientated in the yard and was bumping into

Alessia Zervos Isobelle Carmody Award For Creative Writing Competition Highly Commended

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One Moment

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unfamiliar things and people. I felt lost. I always knew I was going to be the victim for being different, but I didn’t think it was going to happen to me on my very first day of year three. My heart thumped harder than it did that morning. My hands were sweaty and trembled. I was shaking all over. Suddenly I fell to the ground. Their long sticks were pointing towards me. My eyes blurred with tears. The emotional walls that I had mentally built around me and made feel safe and strong had collapsed. My salty heavy tears fell to my chin and dripped down to my new white school shirt. I turned my head away from the boys and closed my eyes. I remembered the horrid life where my mother and I were constantly running from people who wanted us dead. I was shaking with fear. My hands started to become numb and my teeth were chattering rapidly. I pulled my grey woollen scarf closer to my neck but, it was no use. My mother tried to keep up with me but I ran like a cheetah. We did not know whether they were going to catch up with us with their black sticks, machine guns pointing at us ready to fire. My mother was running so hard and fast. Her hijab fell off due to the wind against her face. It didn’t matter that she had lost her sense of privacy and faith. She was running for our lives. As we ran knowing we could end up dying, she shouted out ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but you haven’t seen the last of me’. I knew in that one moment, I had so much more to live for. My chilly hand slipped slowly into my mother’s. Together we ran into the dark and starry night with hope. ‘

I felt their branches scrape onto my face, with one stick scratching my cheek. I knew I could not let them get to me or I would have to run again, in this case to another school. I lifted my face up towards them with angry eyes. I shouted, “Stop!”. They looked at me and began to laugh. I said, “So what, I am different and wear a hijab. Look at you. You have a filthy skirt and two different socks on. You don’t scare me. I don’t want to fight you. I don’t want trouble.”

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Their eyes widened with surprise. I felt two gentle hands reach for mine to help me up. As I rose to my feet two branches were thrust into my hands. I felt powerful. In control. Accepted? However, the most important thing I learnt was that I could stand up to anyone. ‘

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Storm In A Teacup Bella Eames Isobelle Carmody Award For Creative Writing Competition Winner

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The day had a slight air of suspicion about it; the brooding charcoal clouds progressing with the help of slight breeze and locking the typical Benalla heat into the wearied town. The heated dampness that lingered through the wind swirled through Jane’s hair and rattled the leaves of the town’s iconic and rigid gum trees. On her way home from school she walked her usual route passing the houses and their owners she knew all too well. She hated where she lived; its people and its sickening and suppressing environment. Her neighbours lived in seemingly impossible harmony. In fact, Jane preferred to look at it as a vicious and inescapable cycle. She saw the unfaithful men of this town abuse their wives, and the pathetic partners of these drunkards accept them out of sheer fear. The products of these conflicting pairs that she attended school with matched their parents in misogynistic sons and shamelessly slutty and daft daughters. The children could not avoid being like their parents and their parents could not avoid passing their mutated genes down to their doomed children. Ashamed and embarrassed of the life she was forced to live, she pushed open the security screen door to her house, one that her and her mother no longer locked. Jane dragged her feet to the kitchen where she let her school bag drop to the ground and transferred her own weight to the support of her hands stretched out over the laminate kitchen bench. She exhaled, aiming to release the weight from her shoulders. She poured herself a glass of water from the tap and swirled it around making a little storm ripple from the centre and crash at the walls, splashing to outside of the rim. Jane felt like she had power when she did this, taking control into her hands and disturbing the settled water. She didn’t know why she did this, she supposed it was to create some kind of way to break up her dreadful days. Nothing was congruent in Jane’s life, everything that occurred in that small town was in great discordance with everything Jane could possibly want. It wasn’t her fault she needed to feel this way. After all, her mother did afflict this cursed life upon her. She already suffered a single parent lifestyle, an unfortunate fate too inevitable with most families in this town. Her instance was different. Jane’s mother never talked much about her father, all she knew was that he was just like her, devoted to his own cause. All she knew was that one day he was found flung through the front of the windshield of his Holden five-seater, the bonnet of his car scrunched up against a


thick, indomitable gum tree. Her mother had always told her it took a certain type to last living out here, and her father, a city man couldn’t bear it. Jane stared out the window to the bleak sky. The clouds were rimmed with a shadowing black as if forcibly outlined with a dark grey pencil, curtaining all remains of light behind it. Following the persistent patter of rain on the kitchen window, she decided to draw the blinds on the menacing storm that was brewing in Benalla, and continue to swirl the tempest building in her own cup.

Storm In A Teacup

It was late into the night when Jane’s mother began to drive home from her lengthy shift at the pub in her rusty and rickety Astra. The rain began pelting the windshield as the windscreen wipers flicked furiously from left to right in hope of swatting away the bullets of rain. Jane’s mother in her small car was completely consumed by the storm that hit Benalla that night. An eerie, buzzing silence haunted her as the car’s radio could not find a signal in the erratic weather. Contained by the glass windows and metal frames of her car, Jane’s mother was protected from the relentless and wuthering horror. The widow was reminded of the unfortunate fate of her husband in ominous conditions such as these. That day, too, was cursed with torrential downpour whose rain could shatter the panes of any glass. Jane’s mother often felt as though the weather would furiously stir the town, almost as Jane would with her cup. It would look upon us, she thought, with such godly power and influence and exercise its power just to wreak complete havoc amongst a town of innocent victims. Benalla was almost indestructible; no one could escape its grasp, and its people were left to suffocate and mutate under its toxic air. How she sounded like Jane! How she sounded like her husband! She shook her head in complete dissent. Her thoughts were plagued by what would happen if the two, so alike, had met for even a second! “Terrible fate!” she murmured to herself never wishing for the two to forces join in using their negative powers to guilt those around them. Jane’s mother couldn’t help but feeling terrible for tying both down to such an unbearable lifestyle. Both made her feel as though she now couldn’t escape the town she grew up in and tolerated. The Benalla that she loved so much even for its hostile inhabitants and supressing social norms. Consumed in thoughts of her daughter’s wretched life that was imposed upon her, the car

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drifted lanes as her thoughts no longer tended to the road. Her hands did not resume its grip on the steering wheel this time as she hallucinated under her controlling thoughts. The slippery road guided her vehicle into the thick foliage of gums and wattles found commonly in her beloved town. In a similar fate to that of her husband, Jane’s mother was hurled through the windshield. She was released from the containment of the thought that her daughter could never be satisfied and into the wild and warm weather of the town she truly loved. ‘


She loved him. Oh, how she loved him so. Why? His charming smile, that exuberated confidence, his cool manner of speaking that won over everyone, his kind eyes that crinkled when he laughed. He was just too perfect. And here she sat admiring the beauty of the room, the diamond chandeliers, the iridescent wine glasses—it was simply perfect. Her arm nestled against his, her body leaning entirely towards his rigid form, almost as if she were a dog—wagging her tail to get the attention of her dismissive master. “And what wine would you ladies and gentlemen prefer this evening?” She quickly scanned the menu, eyes flickering from one wine to the next, eagerly trying to pick her husband’s favourite. “I’ll—” “We’ll take the Chardonnay, thank you.” She looked on, clinging on to him as he swatted her hands away; a mere swarm of flies, clustering to him in sweltering heat. “So…I heard you were promoted last week! What a big achievement!” A woman piped up at the table. A chorus of “Oh! Congratulations!” was heard echoing around the room as he smirked knowingly. She watched—she made no effort to contribute to this futile conversation—as they swooned over him with their measured glances and lipstick smiles; their partners glaring territorially, attempting to assert their power through irritated coughs and angered sighs. Oh! how frustrating it was, seeing these desperate women flaunting themselves for her man, it really was quite laughable. The lights reflected off the wine glasses and glared into her eyes, the brightness making her squint. Those goddam chandeliers, how infuriatingly impractical! She attempted to grasp at her lover’s hands but he dusted them off, continuing his conversation with the other men at the table unwilling to acknowledge her existence. “And here, we have the roast pork. Enjoy.” The waiter’s arms trembled as he lay the exposed beast on the table. She looked on nervously, gazing at the lifeless hog, its mouth forced open with a gleaming apple, and its eyes now dull, sewn up to hide the cavity lurking behind. It lay on a bed of leaves and fruit,

Them Susan Fang

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its little trotters bent at an odd angle, propped by its side. She waited for him to carve a piece before she timidly carved herself a piece, reluctant to start eating before he seemed satisfied. He ate in a such an enthusiastic manner, cutting up the chunks of flesh into smaller pieces with his knife and fork as he chewed profusely, making sure to grind the meat to a pulp before swallowing in satisfaction. Liquid poured from the pig, its body now devoured and torn up to an unrecognisable state, with the only intact features of the beast being its suffocated face, still in the same position as it was served. ‘

The putrid smell of perfume lingered in the air. She clutched the shirt tightly in her hands, crumpling the fabric as her teeth clenched. She was melting into the park bench, her limbs, tired and weak, her neck, barely managing to keep that heavy head stationed in place, her hands, trembling as she took out her make-up mirror. The lipstick stained her lips a crimson red, and she smiled, her classic mannequin smile, taking care to show off her new, bright veneers. After all, she needed to look her best for him. But that despicable woman! That witch! That good for nothing prostitute! That woman took him away from her; she manipulated him…she used him. She ought to… well she ought to…she ought to just kill that slut! A child tugged at her skirt. “Mummy? Mummy! I want to go get ice cream!” No. It was not worth it. A face with rosy cheeks and a button nose looked up at her pleadingly. The nose and mouth: a spitting image of her father. But her brown puppy eyes, well, she liked to think they were like her own brown eyes, glistening in anticipation and ambition. “Alright. Let’s go.” She said, ruffling her daughter’s hair affectionately. Carefully folding the reeking shirt and placing it in her handbag, she took off with another warm hand in hers, leaving the image of the other woman behind. ‘

“Turn right here… please. Let’s go home.” He continued driving on the freeway, his hands gripping the wheel tightly, eyes glazed over in anger.

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“Look I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to accuse you of anything. Honey, I’m so sorry.” At this, he accelerated. “So, you just think you can come into my house… talk shit about me… and then a sorry will make everything better? You’re so f**king delusional.” “I just thought the heels in the living room weren’t mine. I must have been mistaken. I really am sorry. I’ll do anything to make it up to you. C-can we please just go home? Zoe’s sleeping in the back, and she still has kinder tomorrow.” Silence filled the car. She could taste what was going to come. And as she saw the freeway merge into a climbing bridge – the lights zooming past behind the car... for a moment, she felt okay… good, even. “Oh, so you’re acting like the good parent now! And again, I’m the bad one. I’m the one who everyone says took you in, like a f**king stray dog in a box. The one who pities your pathetic life. So, who’s the bad one now huh? Me or you?” He was yelling at this point. Spitting his words of hatred at her. The car came to an abrupt halt as he pulled over, and the door was swung open. “If you care about her so much then come! Come save her!” A sleeping, exhausted child was bundled out of the vehicle. Her legs dangled over the edge. “F**king save her!” “No—” Her last desperate attempt came to a halt at the sound of her Zoe’s scream. She had loved him. No, she had loved them. ‘

Them

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Liar Liar Nicola Iser

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“A good morning to ya sir. Darrell Cooper’s the name”, The interviewer removed his right hand from his stiff blazer and stretched it out. He had a solid shake – not aggressive by any means – firm, but warm. “Jump. Jump from Liarmarsden”. I grinned before removing my gangly emerald arm from the greeting. “Gee. I gotta say sir, you sure do exceed any description I’ve ever heard. Not even the pictures do you any justice! That emerald is just phenomenal and the hair… magnificent” He gaped. I nodded down at my green arms and legs and smiled whilst running my fingers through my violet locks. “Why… thanks very much Mr Cooper. You speak far too kindly”, I beamed. “Naw not at all, not at all. And must I say, it is an absolute privilege to be here, with yourself an’all, and be doing this interview. Absolute privilege to hear what you have to say, you know, after everything that everyone else has been saying, and your abrupt disappearance. Well then. Shall we make a start?” The interviewer asked whilst pulling out a pad and pen. “Of course. And thank you.” “Well first things first. I guess we start at the very beginning. Day 1.” “Ahhh Numero one,” I sighed and smiled fondly. “Well I arrived here, Planet Earth, 19 August 2060. I was aboard Starship Orbit Jet and what a strange response I received. Quite overwhelming if I do say so. First ‘Alien’ ever… Of course, I had been learning English on my journey, but never the less, it was quite shabby, so communication was a struggle. I was quarantined for, what was it…” I counted upon my fluorescent fingers, “6 months? And they kept running all sorts of tests and interrogating me all the time.” I put my hands on my hips and grunted my best impersonation of all the men in black coats, bowler hats, and shiny lace ups. “Now, why did you come? How did you come? What are your plans? Where are the rest of your people?”, The interviewer gave a hearty laugh. “And I bet that was tedious.” “Very” I nodded. “And just for clarification, why and how did you come?” “Well, my planet, Liarmarsden, was eventually destroyed by its very own inhabitants. A lack of respect I think for their environment,


and subsequently for each other. By nature we were so open, completely unfiltered – much adverse to your inhabitants who seem to live life with a wall up around themselves. But with that came its cons – many arguments – so people began to lie, and lie they did, lie about all sorts of things. You see, they wanted to agree with the person of whom they were currently dealing with, at that very moment of occupation. Problem is, they couldn’t agree with everyone. And the lies became bigger, so big that when they were discovered, the fall out was catastrophic,” I slouched into the cold back of my chair. “Tragic” I murmured. “Anyway, during the midst of all of the catastrophe in Liarmarsden, we had made contact with yourself, Earth I mean. Both planets were quite keen to establish a relationship, so, I was sent here, but never to return…” My voice trailed off. I coughed. “Sorry.” He nodded me on, so I continued. “Because my inhabitants turned upon each other, destroying their own cities, their own forests, their own oceans. Their own homes.” “And so my next question, Jump, is why did you then end up here”. The Interviewer broke the reticence that had suffused every corner of the room. We both stared around the bleak space in which we were sitting. Iron table with corrugated chairs so cold that they made the hairs on your back stand upright. A single bed frame with pale sheets lurked in the corner of the room. Harsh lights hung droopily from the ceiling, which was an aggressive grey and would make anyone with trypophobia squirm. And a window, a single window the size of a small picture frame that held the treasure of my little world. The horizon. Bare, orange and dusty that stretched endlessly. “Well that is a simple question, with a,” I paused, “A less simple answer.” The Interviewer was frozen with his pen held mid way through the air whilst his pad awaited his anxious scribble. “When I arrived here, I was surprised by how warmly I was integrated into society. It was very odd, I thought, how many people were so terrified of diversity within each other and yet embraced such an outsider like myself. Maybe I was just that abstract so as to

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Liar Liar

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not be a threat to their views.” I pondered for a split second. “Anyway. Having lost my entire world, purpose – my identity – I threw myself into this unaccustomed way of life. Education, medicine, community projects, the performing arts, every aspect of society imaginable. And I suppose people were rather taken by my open nature and unguarded approach because as I began to grow older I was basically thrown into the political world. I worked my way up, until I got the most prized position of all. President.” I reminisced. “My issue here was that I was too similar to my own people. I wanted so badly to just be harmonious, to agree – I now wanted to please every person in every room. But I couldn’t. I tried so hard but I just, couldn’t. So I thought, well, what’s the benefit of a few teensy white lies if no one ever knew? And so I started with a few. After all, a yes… a no… whats the real difference? But once I started I couldn’t stop. I remember so vividly the bitter morning that I received that fateful phone call from my lawyer, which of course was surely followed the relentless surge of media. Front page headlines globally seemed to scream ‘President Jump impeached for deception’, then ‘President Charged’, and finally ‘President Convicted… 50 years’. And here I am”, My arms swung like heavy rocks to droop off the sides of my metal seat. I sighed. The Interviewer removed his hand from his vigorous scribbles and glanced tentatively. “And so I guess the next question is, what now?” “I will die as I lived, a liar who was confined by the walls of a guarded society. There is no longer the promise of a life for me beyond these walls. I now live through my dreams, where I can dream sweetly…gently. No arguments, no silly facades. Just the truth of my own lies.” ‘


The small clear dish sat quietly perched in the center of the white, crisp bench, yet it seemed to take up the whole room. In the dish there was a small powdery capsule, one half pristine white, the other sunshine yellow. A thin line separated the two colours deeming them unable to mix, two separate colours for two separate purposes. This one tiny capsule was the product of hours of solitary labour, you see, researching, mixing and testing. Testing. Yet no trialing. Under circumstances once common in society this pill would have been trailed by now. It has an unrivaled potential, if it performs the way I believe it will it will change lives. But like an animal out for show, how is one to know how it will perform on the day? How is one to trust a beast? Even if trained. I remembered my pointed heels gliding across the smooth concrete, each step echoing down the halls, unafraid to be heard, unafraid of success. I used to work alongside brilliant minds, who combined couldn’t dream of the creation I had mothered. We all wanted to find a cure, and we thought little about the consequences of this illusive cure. Cancer. A word that needs no introduction and no explanation. It is a stand alone advocator for fear, causing the bravest men to freeze and the weakest children to sob. It had been the dream of a generation to cure this piranha, yet when the cure stared right at me, when it rolled under my gentle touch, it no longer seemed to be a yellow beacon of hope. It seemed to be a trap. You see working on your lonesome means decision are made on your lonesome, call it selfishness, call it cruel practicality, but my logical mind whirled and spun, weaving different ideas into grotesque tapestries. Tens of thousands die of cancer every year, that’s tens of thousands less mouths to feed, and tens of thousands of bodies not in need of shelter, or warmth. I’m thinking ahead. I am. I’m thinking of the future. I’m thinking of ten years time when people can live forever and the overcrowding can only get worse. If everyone lives, and everyone can live forever than what will happen? That’s what I’m thinking of. But my problem is, you see, like the little pill rolling between my thumb and index finger, my mind is split in two, my practical mind counterbalanced with a sympathetic, human side. The two split and unable to mix.

The Capsule Izzy Hale

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The Capsule

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A side that sees the suffering. Sees the burden of a tumor, and the distraught faces of family members who plaster on a smile like it’s a mechanical task. Move mouth upwards. Show teeth. Believe it. When I first started researching cancer I met this child. She was only the size of a 7 year-old but she was going on 12. The disease had inhibited her growth. I remember her face, small, round, hopeful. She was diagnosed with leukemia at age 10, it was aggressive. Aggressive like nothing I’d ever seen, it seemed to attack every part of this child. This innocent child who had lived not even a fraction of her life. She was smart too. She asked me, every time without a doubt, to explain to me her cancer. Her ‘type’. How did it start? Why won’t it go away? What’s it doing to me? And I couldn’t answer. You see telling a child that their body was attacking them from the inside is a difficult thing to do. Telling a child with hope beaming from their eyes that they will die in less than a year is a task I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Yet when faced with the ability to take away this disease I can only think of the negatives. The overcrowding. The price. The trials. You see without a trial, I can’t be sure it works or what it does to people. It cured the rats, it improved them. The rats had a longer life span, greater recovery times and more energy. What if this capsule improved the patients, not only curing them? It can’t be taken by those not affected, it would destroy the cells and them build them back up, making patients excruciatingly sick before improvements start. The rats would sit cowering in a furry ball, quivering at the slightest movement, unable to eat, drink or move. And once on the brink of death looking deep into its cruel eyes, they would uncoil, and seemingly forgetting about the previous days. That’s what worries me, you see, it’s the overcrowding and the improvements. It’s selfish, I know that. But humans are selfish animals, that’s how I justify it, anyway. The chipped wooden floor seems to make a mockery of my makeshift ‘lab’, the basement of my house, once a storage space now an illegal testing ground. You see, I may have forgotten to mention this but the hospitals are closed now. It was the overcrowding that did it. Too many people produce too many sick people. And, well, the practical solution seemed to be not treating anyone. They didn’t


want us to know they needed us to die, but we all do. We all know they sit in their offices hooked up to IV tubes, and pump morphine into their bodies like it’s a water. A freezing water that numbs them right to the bone. They’re numb and I’m left. Numbed only by reality. Feeling only by possibility. It seems so selfish and ludicrous that I’m even considering crushing this little capsule, feeling its powdery flesh crumble under my thumb. I still known how to make it, how to cure cancer. ‘

The Capsule

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Cordelia’s Ordeal Guwanya Kodithuwakku

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A burly shadow blocked her path as Cordelia was hurrying home. “What do you want most in the world?” he hissed, his dark robe revealing a bearded face. Vexed, she gazed up to meet the dark eyes of the stranger. He began muttering something under his breath. The words- if you could call them that– were grating noises. Suddenly, the figure was rippling, all texture and colour were disturbed. She watched, gasping as his skin stretched and deformed. In the place of the bizarre man stood a grotesque elderly woman. Her black eyes bore into Cordelia’s. She had sunken, empty cheeks and a permanent frown engraved onto her sorry face. Her figure was bone-thin, concealed in an austere gown which gave her a sick pallor. “Do you not know me, Cordelia?” Cordelia hesitated. Something was startlingly familiar about the crone. Was it the shape of her face? Or the familiar manner in which she spoke? “You are a dim-witted girl, surely, you must at least recognise yourself?” Her tone was venomous, as was her cruel expression. Terror finally seized Cordelia and she screamed. “You’re wrong, you atrocious witch!” This only widened the smile on the hag’s face. “I am what’s left of your shrivelled, cold soul,” Cordelia felt as if she had been dunked in icy water. “But I don’t ever want to look like you!” “Well, let’s see… do you seek immortality?” The crone asked. Cordelia considered this. She would be forever young with men at her disposal and endless wealth – and if anything, the horrid witch would let her be. “Is that really what you want, girl?” she taunted. Cordelia’s eyes swept to the darkening sky; she had to return home soon or her family would notice her absence. Anything to release her from this nightmare. Reluctantly, she nodded, her eyes finally meeting the witch’s. Again, the chanting resumed, the same, shrill pronunciation as before. Repulsed, Cordelia scampered off, and this time, the hag did not stop her. ‘

Alarmed, Cordelia bolted upright in her seat. Even after centuries, to fully recover an experience unleashed the complete turmoil of her past. Her eyes drew their shutters open, finding herself on the rocking chair at her front porch. The sky was a painting of pasty yellow, dotted with soft pink clouds on the horizon; reaching dusk. That was when she noticed a wide-eyed little girl quizzically staring at her. She was a slight figure with wild auburn curls dressed in slacks.

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“Excuse me, ma’am. I am Aubrey, and I’m new to this neighbourhood. And my parents wanted me to meet my neighbours,” Aubrey was fidgety, studiously staring at the floor below her. Cordelia continued to gaze ahead with her steely grey eyes, ignoring Aubrey. Of course, her family would not have heard of the rumours and gossip. She could see that the lass was getting annoyed, huffing in the way that children did when they did not get their way. “What do you want, child?” Cordelia snapped. Aubrey was startled, but with smiling eyes, she said, “For an old lady, you have a very nice voice!” “For a little girl, you have a lot of nerve.” She muttered under her breath. Between the unusual pair, a conversation ignited, and Aubrey was chattering away about herself. Her father was always working and her mother was busy with twin siblings. Cordelia listened intently to Aubrey’s story, there was nothing particularly misfortunate about it, everything about her life seemed bland and ordinary. “Ma’am, since you know my story, it is only fair if I know yours” Cordelia felt her insides freeze. A stifling kind of tension that hadn’t been there before enveloped the veranda. Aubrey hastened to speak, mumbling something about her mother expecting her. “I’ll return tomorrow morning, ma’am” and she swiftly left leaving Cordelia puzzled.

Cordelia’s Ordeal

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Submerged in a dark fog was the world. Under the warm glow of a light post, Cordelia could see that her hands weren’t as taut as they used to be. The same cloaked figure was standing at a distance. The unforgotten ordeal from her past gripped at her; he was now in her dreams. Do not interfere. It was as if the wind was whispering to her. He continued to motionlessly face her or was he nearing her? The hood seemed empty, but Cordelia could imagine the same bearded man she had seen before. Time stretched on, becoming meaningless. Cordelia was subjected to what felt like an infinity of nothingness. Her eyes rolled open. The faceless hood was now kneeling over her body, one hand brandishing a blade.

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Your time is up. A voice thundered. Cordelia gasped. A searing sensation erupted; a silver sword was stabbed into her chest. The blade dug deeper and deeper, piercing through the flesh before it was wrenched out with a tug. Intense tingling followed. She could feel her consciousness receding as her vision blurred. Before her eyelids drooped shut, she heard heavy footsteps exit the room. ‘

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As soon as the sun rose, Aubrey was making her way to the secluded manor. Cordelia wasn’t sitting in her usual place. The huge doors of the manor slit open. “Who are you?” A pair of beady eyes glared at her. They talked just yesterday. Was this woman truly as senile like everyone says? “How are you this morning, ma’am?” Aubrey was ignored. “No, what do you truly want? What is your greatest desire, child?” The woman’s voice was as melodic as it was slippery. Silence followed. “What a bothersome child,” she chided. Cordelia chuckled, her voice was unnaturally wavering pitch. Among other things, transfiguration was something that Aubrey had never witnessed before. The figure of the old woman was changing, her skin was rejuvenating itself and her hair changing from a grey bun to blonde waves which stopped at her shoulders. She was gaining youth. Only Cordelia’s expression of scorn remained. “W-wha-what are you?” Aubrey trembled, backing away. She had to admit, there was a striking similarity between this Cordelia and the one she knew. Her smile was both sickly and sweet. “Your fairy Godmother.” Again, Cordelia-or whoever she was, asked for her greatest desire. Aubrey began having second thoughts, what if the enchantress meant to grant her wish just like in Cinderella? “There is nothing that I want so badly ma’am,” her answer was barely audible. “Nonsense. We all want something, you are just too young to realise what that is yet,”. The only wish which crossed her mind was to escape this situation. Aubrey was about to skip down the stairs and make a speedy flight when the shapeshifter grabbed her by the collar.


She froze. “Let me go!” She yelled, fighting back tears. “You aren’t like the others who summon me through their own desires, but you already know too much. I shall erase your memory of this whole encounter. But, I need you to agree, first.” Aubrey had very little idea of what would happen to her. Would she remember the way home? The possibilities were endless. “Fine, take my memories, but before you do that, can you at least tell me what you really are? Only then, I can promise you my consent.” She was in no position to negotiate, she knew. “I grant your poisonous wishes, and I take the form of my last victim.” Aubrey took a sharp breath. Last victim? Aubrey realised then that Cordelia was already gone. ‘

The gentle pulse of her chest was drifting Cordelia in and out of sleep. The beat was inconsistent like the ticking of a broken metronome. Eventually, a metronome would lose its momentum and come to a halt. Each ragged breath was forced, growing more and more difficult than the last. Her mind suddenly crossed to Aubrey. She had said that she would come in the morning… If her murderer was still in her house, was she not putting Aubrey’s life at risk? Perhaps, she could have interfered. Insurmountable pain rattled her frail body. In her last moments, she knew that Aubrey would be her greatest regret. ‘

Cordelia’s Ordeal

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The Old Man Nancy Lu Isobelle Carmody Award For Creative Writing Competition Highly Commended

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“Your Mother Would Be Ashamed! ” The old man yelled. His voice transitioned into a calmer, but deadlier tone, with an undercurrent of anger and disappointment punctuating every syllable. “This goes against everything your mother stood for. We raised you to be a young lady, not a sword brandishing buffoon.” The young lady in question bowed her head, and did not speak, as the onslaught of words continued. “Alena, you have a multitude of suitors. You are not without merit, but instead you choose to become the ruination of your mother and I.” Alena’s quiet, but defiantly cutting voice pierced the air. “I’m only joining the army father.” “ONLY joining the army? Is your brain even capable of comprehending the vastness of the world out there? You are a girl, barely a woman. We cannot have a child who dishonours us. One step on that battlefield, and you’ll be dead quicker than your mother was.” The old man began mumbling under his breath, seemingly speaking to thin air. “I told you not to go. Two months, that’s all you had to wait to see your cousin, and you’d still be alive. It’s easy, to lose your way in the deserts. I’d know, I planted those explosives. But for the Albanians, not you, never you…Two months. I could’ve shown you the safe route. Left, straight, right, jump, walk…” The old man’s face showed no sign of any change in expression, but his mind travelled some forty years back, and became unresponsive to his daughter’s heated words. His youthful determination to fight for his country and his family, combined with pride and an almost unnatural talent on the simulated battlefield, enabled him to rapidly climb the ranks. Numerous fellow soldiers stumbled and were more likely to stab themselves than to make a dent in the opposing force. He had wielded the swords with a prowess equivalent almost to his superiors. He had felt ready to conquer the world. Yet, no training in the world could ever provide sufficient preparation for the war-ravaged plains of Albania. Complete and utter suffering had permeated the suffocating air. The ground stained with red, reflecting the horrors that had transpired throughout the never-ending days. They were no longer


killing people, they were fighting beasts. This thought made wielding the sword or planting explosives easier, until the conclusion of each day, when he remembered all the lives he had taken, lives of people, not animals, and sleep would elude him. “Left, straight, right, jump, walk…” His skill meant that he was never severely injured, but he could not say the same for many of his fellow soldiers. Despite all that he had experienced, he still felt invincible. That is, until his lower leg was prematurely, and violently severed from the knee down. He could still envision with startling clarity, the once fully functioning limb lying separated, detached. He remembered his pain at the realisation that he would never be able to walk properly again, let alone fight with a semblance of the mastery he had previously possessed. He became a resentful, old man, still holding onto the pride of his youthful days, imposing his bitterness onto his daughter. Alena simply could not tolerate the disapproving silence anymore. The slam of the door interrupted the old man’s thoughts, signalling Alena’s abrupt departure, so abrupt that she remained barefoot, with her boots in hand. And those same boots never did enter those doors again, for a very long time.

The Old Man

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Alena left for the army, and came back a changed person. Her smile wasn’t as bright, and her face had matured, beyond her years. The old man wanted to give words of consolation, or even just to be able to rest his arm on her shoulder in a moment of peaceful solidarity. Yet, he couldn’t bring himself to. He didn’t know if she would welcome or even appreciate such actions. He either couldn’t or wouldn’t lower his pride, and open himself up to the vulnerability of being rejected. Everyday, Alena would walk past her old home on the way to the market. And everyday, he would watch her life go by. It was like watching part of a silent film, invested, but detached all the same. Alena was right in front of him, but so distant and unattainable. He was a spectator, unable to be a part of her life, and unable to influence it. His dreams became plagued with thoughts of what ifs, so much

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The Old Man

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so that he began sleepwalking. The village children believed there was a ghost haunting their midst and rumours of a malevolent spirit began circulating the grapevine. His sleepwalking often led him to awaken in front of the fair he used to bring Alena to, the bookstore she would spend countless hours in, and then finally in front of her new home. Half delirious, he knocked on the door. “It’s 2am. What are you doing?” The old man began sobbing, heart wrenching sounds that tugged at the daughter’s heartstrings and begged for forgiveness. Alena stared at her boots, tentatively taking a step forward, and slowly, as if afraid her father would disappear, wrapping her arms around him. “It’s alright, father. I understand. I understand why.” From there, they slowly built back their relationship to what it once was. After a particularly terrifying nightmare, they would embrace each other. They understood each other, having both experienced the sorrow of the battlefield. They would cry. They would talk. Life moved on and everything seemed to be normal. Yet, there remained a lingering fear within the old man, that Alena would leave him, much the same as his late wife had. Alena would be visiting the market, and as he’d watch her boots leave, he’d feel as though his whole world was waiting at a standstill. The birds would grow quiet, the sun would shine less brightly. One day, the world seemed especially devoid of sound. The old man knew this sound well. It was the silence before the arrow struck its mark. It was the eeriness of nature, as though they sensed the imminent explosion. The explosion? Two pairs of boots came back from the market, two pairs, not one. “Father, I’d like you to meet Flynn.” The old man grimaced, but greeted the farmer’s son. From that moment in time, nothing remained the same. Alena would accidentally cut herself cutting vegetables, and her eyes would become transfixed on the spot of blood, her mind transported to another time. The old man would stand up to console her, but already Flynn would be at her side. He would then turn away, remembering it was no longer his place. “It’s alright,” he would tell himself. “Flynn is a phase. I will always


be needed as a father.” And he would follow the motions of life. “Left, straight, right, jump, walk…”

The Old Man

“I love your daughter. I love her brightness, her charm, her wit. Even the birds sing in her presence. May I have the honour, to have your blessing in marrying your daughter? “No.” ‘

“Father, why?” Alena’s hands balled up into fists. She did not understand. She had believed her father had changed, that he had become more accepting. But no. She finally recognised her father for who he was. “You’re a coward. You won’t even tell me why. You won’t face your fears.” “My fears? I allowed him to court you, believing this was a phase. He is the farmer’s son.” Both Alena and the old man began waving their arms in their anger. “Yes, and I love this farmer’s son. I will marry him, father. You are a coward, a prideful old man who won’t even admit he’s wrong.” “Your mother would be ashamed!” ‘

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The Man In The House Annabel Maher Isobelle Carmody Award For Creative Writing

Pop. The round cap tinkles to the ground. You reach for it, but it is too low to the ground, besides, you have a wife for cleaning. The sound of the golden liquid pouring into the glass fills the room, a happy sound. A sound of worries fading, confidence growing and a life of trouble disappearing. The bubbles reach your lips.

Competition Highly Commended

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Slurp. As you reach the bottom of the pint for the fifth time that slow afternoon, words start to slur, vision blurs, and the euphoria has set in. Everything is perfect. Your partner has not returned yet, although it is far too early for Millie to have finished school. The clock on the mantlepiece ticks, and the minute of cuckooing ends. Each minute rapidly flies by, and you watch the bold red numbers on the oven slowly change, 3:01, 3:04, 3:22, 3:30. You are slumped in the armchair which contains more dust than vinyl, and the frayed rattan legs are poking at your feet when you hear the sound of keys meeting the front door. The sound which fills children with delight and giggles as their parents return home, but you aren’t a child. You are a grown man. The leader of this house hold. The warrior. The one who protects and prepares his family for everything and anything. 4:03 The red digits are infuriating. They were meant to return three minutes ago, and they are therefore late. The euphoria has faded into the chair and you wobble as you stand up to greet the incompetent beings who are in your hallway. The smiling happy family photos are a façade from the real world. This household isn’t happy, it never has been. The wedding photos show fake love, hardships and power. As more photos come into sight, your eyes are glued onto the image before everything fell to pieces, before she became ill, before you lost your son without ever meeting him. His small, cold fingers meeting yours, and tear after tear landing on his porcelain skin. Millie doesn’t understand, and she never will. No one understands why this family isn’t a real one, why the man in this house is not like every other. Not even your wife understands that her daughter is not yours. The night your son was born changed everything, even

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the way the clouds loom over the mountains on a sleety winter’s day. No one from either family came to the funeral, no one wanted to. You were not meant to marry your wife. No one was. Plates smash, mugs are thrown and the signed cricket bat is swung against the side of her face. Millie hides in the corner of the room as you beat her mother, the same corner that her brother’s cot awaited a baby which never came home. Three minutes, the time it takes for the rusty kettle to boil on the smallest burner of the gas cooktop. The time it takes to order and collect food at your local Billy’s Fries. The time it takes for someone to deserve being beaten for being late. She whimpers each time it hits her, and each time another bone cracks, another part of her body breaks, but your love for her disappears. Millie cries, and you threaten to do the same to her. She runs for the door, but you clutch her wrists as she reaches for the golden door knob. No one leaves your house without permission. No one is ever going to leave your house again, and no one else is ever going to enter it. The people outside, the passers-by, they don’t know what is happening, they think the screams are of happiness from the family home. They convince themselves that the sound of crockery breaking is Millie bumping the cabinet as you chase the fragile child around the house. People see you, the man in the house, and are impressed by the love and care that you have for your family. As the night blankets the sky, your silhouette hides facial expressions, hides anger, fear and sadness. The oven now flashes 6:54, you are still drunk, too drunk to see straight, too drunk to feel pain. The winter breeze touches every inch of your body, and the rain falls ever so lightly to the ground. You reach for the steel handle of the car, although you miss, and meet the wet glass window. It takes you three attempts to finally open the car door, and you slump into the driver’s seat. The car grumbles as you turn the key. Your house looks so incredibly peaceful, the flowers on guard, the plum tree standing proud above the roses, and they look so unsuspecting. As your eyes meet the window for the last time, you spy Millie through the lace curtains holding a phone, whilst looking down. As regret encompasses you, you reverse out of the driveway, scraping the letterbox as you leave. The lines on the road blur, and street lights turn into lines as you accelerate. 60km, 78km, 84km, 92km, 117km, the speedometer

The Man In The House

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The Man In The House

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struggles to cope with the speed, and yet it ever so slowly creeps up. You don’t see the speed limit signs as you drive, anger does things like that. You reach a roundabout, although you don’t stop. You charge through intersection after intersection, over roundabouts and between more ruby traffic lights than green. You are now outside of the town. The “Thank You for Visiting Adaminaby” sign fades in the rear-view mirror, and you wonder how long it will be before police arrive. How long it will take for a family violence charge to be placed. How long before you never have to love her again. ‘


‘Hey honey… honey… can you hear me?’ Dad’s falsely concerned voice yanked me back to the kitchen with the sincerity of a bucket of icy water. I dropped the slippery plate into the sink with a crash, soaking us both with foamy suds. ‘Huh? Oh, I’m fine’, I said. My dry, thin lips spilled lies I did not mean to tell. ‘Good,’ he laughed airily, drying the chipped, plastic bowls with a manky tea-towel. He looked old. His wiry grey stubble lumped apologetically on his chin like grime swept into piles, but never cleaned up. Of course, I have to be. ‘Ya just looked a little off,’ he grunted, ‘somewhere else eh?’ Something like that. My muscles automatically twitched, forcing my lips into a practiced crescent, like a puppet tugging at the corners of my mouth. Dad beamed back at me, hopelessly swayed by my smile. Who could blame him? I thought. Macey plodded in and giggled at the soap bubbles on the grimy tiles. It made me wonder why little kids liked it all so much. ‘Yep, all good. Fine.’ I am.

I’m Fine Maddy Truong

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I blacked out. The ringing sound of alarms and the monotonous voice of a crackling PA pounded in my ears. The exhausted sighs and creaks of machines seemed like extensions of a futile attempt at life – artificial life. Senseless chatter and the odd cry steadily bounced its way down the sterile halls to my pounding ears. The acidic disinfectant stung my sinuses as I drew a shaky breath making my eyes stream. Only then did the throbbing ache in my arm make me aware of the cannulas and tubes sticking out of me like plastic drinking-straws. I looked at the heart monitor persistently spiking a fluorescent green line. Painstakingly continuous and mockingly ironic. If it just – stopped, would you miss me? It was too simple. Just to stop… Stop it, don’t be stupid. You’re fine. I ripped my IV out and tore the stiff canvas cuff off my upper arm. Pulling cords from my fingers and chest, the flashing monitors squealed in protest. I quickly kicked the power outlet off and they died, silent. Standing up the world spun all too quickly. The door

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I’m Fine

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way framed the blurry cumbersome shape of Dad. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. ‘Ya al’ right,’ he coughed. ‘I’m sorry, I – I didn’t mean for this… yeah I’m fine… overreacted,’ I mumbled. But he was already striding down the corridor out of the ward. I scrambled after him, my legs buckling like a willow’s branches in a storm. ‘Sir you can’t just leave… Miss…’ a young nurse grabbed my cold sweat-soaked shirt in vain. ‘‘course we can, free bloody country ain’t it?’ Dad growled. ‘Sir –’ Dad kept walking. ‘Just needs tuh go home…’, he grunted. Defeated, the nurse shoved a clip-board under Dad’s nose and he scribbled a hasty signature. By the time we reached the parking lot I never knew silence could be so loud. Never knew how heavy empty words could be. Never knew how the air could sag with emotion. ‘Ya fine.’ He shoved the words in front of me. ‘Ye–ah,’ and for once I couldn’t keep my voice from betraying me, but he didn’t seem to notice. I wish you would catch out the lies. I wish you would say ‘don’t fib,’ and toss me into the naughty corner like a little kid. I would cry and scream and stomp my tiny legs in pitiful protest. My chubby cheeks would flush red and wobble like cups of raspberry jelly. Tears would come like a rush of flooding after a storm – and it wouldn’t matter. Because I would feel something. Anything. And the truth would come. Because raw emotion was OK. And no-one would be hurt. ‘

‘I’ll make Macey tea.’ I rasped as his slumping shoulders disappeared around the corner. You’re not good enough, never good enough. Look what you’ve done. Hospital – you didn’t deserve that help. The white light of the kitchen felt like it was searing right through my skull. The cheap box of instant pasta never felt so heavy. Failure, burden. The kettle and never looked so ludicrous. Worthless. Pathetic. Weak. The ceiling had never felt so low… Really. Not. Fine. My head screamed. I ran.

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Somehow, my feet carried me out the back door, up the worn garden path and atop the wind-swept hill. I stood, quivering, breathless and gasping for air. Hot tears streamed down my face and my face stung from the cold. Shaking, I felt the whole sky crack open and thunder announced the birth of an angry tempest. My legs gave way and I fell onto the unforgiving earth. I curled into a foetal ball and let the howling gale lull me to comfort – repetitive, bleak and brutally honest. At school we’re taught that being sad is just feeling down for a little while, and depression is just feeling sad for a long time. But the truth is, depression is the void of any feeling. And then suddenly feeling a whole lot. Usually the dump of everything you’ve bottled up. Sometimes years-worth. Small, soft arms wrapped around me. Macey buried her face in the crook of my neck and her delicate cherry nose nuzzled in perfectly. As if by miracle, my tiny toddler sister hadn’t been swept away by the deluge. She was there for me. ‘Hey pumpkin.’ I breathed. ‘Jess– you ‘kay?’ How could someone so young and innocent could know what to say baffled me. That’s how I knew that if the green line stopped rising and falling, someone would miss me. And I couldn’t let that happen. I inhaled deeply, and the crisp air filled the sails of the ship carrying the words I needed to say so desperately. It wouldn’t fix everything – it wouldn’t be a magical cure, but I knew it was a start. ‘I’m not fine.’ It was so simple. So simple. ‘Really. Not. Fine.’ She hugged me tight. ‘

I’m Fine

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One Girl’s Life

This piece may contain confronting content and may be unsuitable for younger readers.

Maya Wilmshurst Orator Of The Year Winner

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1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11…. It only takes 11 seconds for one girl’s life to be changed forever. It’s in those 11 seconds that her scream tears through the bush. It’s in those 11 seconds that she struggles against the women holding her arms and legs, holding her legs apart. It’s in those 11 seconds that a woman gets a razor blade and cuts her apart. Aisha was 6 years old when she and her 3 year-old sister were mutilated. They were grabbed and tied to bushes, their arms and legs held down and their mouths covered. She could see the children crying around her and the sharp knife held by the woman at her feet. A sharp knife dripping with the blood of the girls around her. She fought as the woman used the knife cut off her clitoris and part of her labia. Bleeding, confused, these girls were left in holes in the dirt for hours. Aisha was 6 years old. Those girls left bleeding in The Gambia are only a few of the 200 million women worldwide to have undergone the horrific procedure known as Female Genital Mutilation or FGM. It occurs in countries across Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America and involves the partial or full removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is likely that Aisha underwent the most severe form of FGM, in which following the cutting, a scar would have formed to narrow the vaginal opening to the size of a matchstick, although sometimes this narrowing occurs by stitching up the vagina. Of the girls who were mutilated with Aisha two of them later died during childbirth due to FGM. This process is child abuse and a human rights violation. In my opinion, there are three main reasons why this practice is not and should never be viewed as being, acceptable. 1: Female Genital Mutilation has no known health benefits and its physical and psychological effects stay with victims for the rest of their lives. Not only do these girls face risks in childbirth, but also suffer pain when they urinate, menstruate or have sex. They may also have infections, urinary issues, and emotional problems. Many victims of this horrific practice die, both after the procedure and later during childbirth. 2: This pain, these issues, this risk of death is not a choice. While everyone apparently has freedom of choice in the 21st century, girls


around the world are being mutilated against their will. 3: FGM is completely founded in sexism. Gift Egbe was mutilated at the age of 13 and was told by her mother that “after she was circumcised, she would change into a woman”. What kind of world do we live in where a 13 year old girl is told by her mother, the woman she trusts most, that the only way she is to become a woman is to have a part of her own body, brutally cut from her? A world where this is seen as a rite of passage and is used as a way to control women’s sexuality, ensuring their virginity before marriage and fidelity during it. Female Genital Mutilation is seen as a necessary prerequisite in many countries for a girl to find a husband and is perpetuated as making women ‘clean’ by removing the clitoris. In Gujarati the term for clitoris’ literally translates to “sinful flesh”. This is a practise founded in society’s desire to control women, to constrain them. Health effects. No consent. Sexism. This mutilation of women and their rights needs to be put to an end. When I first decided to do this topic, many of my friends asked me: well how does this relate to us”? Well, I soon found out that this process of mutilating young girls happens here, happens to Australians, often overseas but sometimes on our own golden soil. In March 2016, three Australians were convicted for practising FGM on two young girls. This happened in their home in Sydney. FGM is a practise that’s been ingrained in the culture of many countries, creating negative stigma surrounding those who aren’t cut. Although it isn’t grounded in any religious texts, FGM is often performed in the name of religion. In fact, in 4 out of the 14 countries surveyed by the UN, 50% of females viewed it as a religious requirement, including Egypt where 27.2 million women have been subjected to FGM. So what can be done to end this? Firstly, we need to raise awareness. Secondly, there needs to be more data collected about the issue. Australia has very little information about the prevalence of FGM in this country and this needs to change so that the government can do more about it. This could include stopping families from travelling overseas to mutilate their children and implementing annual check-ups on at risk girls, as has been proposed in the UK . Finally, programs need to be put into place to support victims of

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this horrific practise and to train doctors about the issue. Aisha is now 37 years old and has promised that her children will never return to her home country, will never see her family, because she doesn’t want what happened to her, to happen to them, to happen to any other innocent, defenceless girl, and neither should we. ‘


It was such a brilliantly fine afternoon for a ball. The sun was slowly lowering itself from the sky: rays catching on the leaves of the karaka-trees behind the house. The beautiful roses lining the paths were beginning to bloom, with their soft pink petals like splashes on a painter’s pallet and their leaves resting on the path. Laura could not help but feel excited. The ball was to be held at her own home after all. Oh, what a joy it would be to see the guests arriving at her home. Their softly shining shoes gliding over the wood of her gleaming floors. She could hardly wait for the moment the guests would arrive. Lunchtime had ended with a flourish as Mother had risen to organise the final delicate touches. “Laura dear, go along to the kitchen and ensure the food is almost ready,” she waited impatiently as Laura stood and smoothed down her skirt. “Jose, come and along to your father and help press his coat. Are you listening, children? I’m feeling rather impatient with you today and I couldn’t bear if the guests were to arrive to this: the current state our home seems to be in. Laurie, I do wish you would quit that and accompany your sister to see cook. Go along.” Cook had managed to prepare the plates for the evening and Laura was sure that mother would be satisfied. It was great fun, she decided, hosting a ball. Even as much as attending the Bells’ the past month – perhaps even more. “Would you care for a sandwich, Master Laurie?” Cook help the plate out to him: delicate sandwiches neatly stacked on top, flags poking out of the bread like small tulips in the summer time, brilliant colours reflecting in her brother’s eyes. It almost made on shudder to imagine eating so soon after mealtime, however, soon after, Laurie was licking his lips, eyes sparkling in a way only known to boys of his age. Laura knew that Laurie was far older than she. All the same, she thought as they pushed the sandy doors open, “I would have enjoyed a pastry.” Laura’s longing was soon swept from her mind with the excitement and busyness of the evening. The band were setting up their instruments in the corner – oh what lovely instruments they were too! – with their coat jackets lounging lazily off the backs of their chairs, servants dragging the chairs from the main room, and Mother rushing into and out of the room, frantically ushering decorations to their positions. Not a hair out of place mind you.

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“Excuse me sir, madame,” the words slipped out of John’s mouth, his apron eschew. “Where would you like this?” He procured a large bird from the box in his hands. “Oh what a darling bird” Laura exclaimed, her eyes immediately drawn to its beautiful golden body, covered in feathers – and what lovely feathers they were! It seemed as though a metallic gold ray was shining on its torso, long feathers reflecting the rays across the room. Laurie looked bemusedly at the servant, “Perhaps you’d better ask mother, old boy. I’ve never seen the thing in my life.” Mrs Sheridan’s shrill voice pierced through Laurie’s warm, boyish one as she rushed into the room. “Where is that bird? Laurie darling, have you seen the centrepiece? It was expected to arrive this morning.” “Yes mother,” said Laurie. “John approached us about it only moments ago.” “Perfect. Place it on the table. No, not there. In the centre of the flowers. Oh the lilies do look lovely this time of year.” So the bird was placed on the small oak table in the centre of the room. Its feathers really were brilliant, Laura marvelled as she watched it from across the room. The front door bell rang and father entered. Laura rushed over. “Father do look at the bird, it’s gorgeous isn’t it?” Father paused for a moment. The kind of pause that made one wonder if he would answer at all. Of course Laura wouldn’t be upset if he didn’t think the bird glorious, it was stuffed after all. “John, put the bird in a cage if possible, we don’t want its feathers flying everywhere.” “But father,” Laura murmured. “Her wings will be crushed.” Her arms swayed silently. “You heard him, my dear Laura. Why are you being so extravagant? We can’t have the bird ruining the party. And no one would expect us to just let it be free there.” Laurie put his arms around her, squeezing slightly. Perhaps he was right. She was being rather extravagant. It was stuffed after all and one could hardly expect guests to be covered in feathers, regardless of their beauty. The bird would just have to be put in the cage. The guests were soon to arrive – oh how exciting it was! She had better get ready, she thought, questioning if her brooch would match her red dress. She would have to ask Jose.


Laura was ready by quarter to five. By five o’clock the guests had begun to glide in; brilliant ball gowns floating into the room, voices gossiping at the partners across the room, perfumed hands slipping under men’s lips. Oh what fun it was! “Oh darling, you do look gorgeous…” “Splendid party…” “And do look at that beautiful bird over there…” “Delightful…” Soon, the band struck their first note and the dark suits moved across the room as if they had suddenly decided it was the right time. Laura felt herself swept up in the sea of dresses, swung around by a young man who seemed to have much more experience than herself; leading her around the room and not once stepping on her toes. “May I have the pleasure?” He smiled. The flowers decorating the room swept past, becoming colourful flags surrounding her. Laura could no longer see the windows or the doors; just the brilliant streams of colour. “Were you at Bell’s last month?” The voice came to her as if carried on the wave of music. “Yes, most certainly,” Laura said softly, “it really was a most wonderful ball.” “Yes, indeed,” he drawled, pink flags streaming past his figure. Laura’s red dress was no longer flat and straight; it was a red flower, gently opening its petals. The dresses around her formed a garden of hundreds of flowers – yes, literally hundreds – as they rose on the soft notes of the piano. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, Laura glimpsed the delicate oak table in the centre of the room; two eyes staring at her from the sea of dresses. “Would you excuse me,” Laura said breathlessly. Her partner graciously steered her to the table. “I should like to rest for just a moment.” He bowed his head, removing his dress suit clad arm, before turning and disappearing into the crowd. Laura did feel quite out of breath as she sat by the table, and unruffled her dress. Oh to be hosting this! A sigh escaped her lips as she looked over the room. Her eyes once again landed on the table behind her. The flowers were arranged most beautifully she thought. Looking at the bird she felt something stir in her chest. Something sad – no, not sad exactly – perhaps…oh she didn’t know. How curious it was that she was so different from them all. Laurie didn’t seem to mind that the bird would be crushed in the cage. To be

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placed in a cage. Would the bird really like that? She certainly wouldn’t – to be contained in such a way! Laura’s eyes glanced over the bird, meeting its eyes which were slightly obscured by the metal. Her eyes reflected back at her from its soft glass ones. Laurie approached her. “Is something the matter, Laura dear?” His face was flush. “It’s just that..,” Laura murmured. She felt lost for words. “Nothing.” As Laurie turned his back and slid into the sea of people, Laura softly slipped her finger under the lock; the door opening slightly, allowing a tiny golden feather to peak out. ‘


The King’s paramour was his kingdom. She was a temptress. Verdant plains dappled with livestock rolled over her legs, colourfully tiled rooftops clustered together atop hills and grooves marking the torso, valleys lined a sloping neck, and an ancient canyon formed her chin. There were rivers flowing through her veins and sun-lit oceans flashing in her eyes, the twilight depths humming haunting harmonies that whispered of the great unknown, extending beseeching fingers towards the land after every fleeting caress. The King dearly loved his kingdom. He loved her more than anything else in the world. He certainly loved her more than the slovenly traitor kneeling before him. An elderly man. He was pale and painfully haggard, only a phantom faintly reminiscent of the former life he led. The man’s weak, trembling fingers were clasped around each other in a sign of repentance, his white-feathered head bowed. The King watched placidly as he gave a sudden yelp and recoiled upon registering the fresh scarlet stain on the plush carpet he was gazing at. Finally realising the enormity of the situation he was in, fountains of watery words began spewing out of his mouth. “Your Majesty, please! He– King MacDonald, h-he said I had to do it or… o-or my family would burn– you have to understand! If I die here, then my grandchildren… t-they…” “Enough!” General Houndbow snarled, whirling around to face his King with gleaming eyes of fire. “Your Majesty, we caught him trying to burn down Ludstone Library. Your orders?” At this, the man was a sobbing and shaking puddle of limbs drowning alive on the floor. “Any last words?” The King asked, rising from his throne and beckoning his attendants over with only an imperious glance. “P-p-please let me liv–” The King gestured a signal over his shoulder as he had a hundred times before. There was a wet thud on the floor behind him. As his servants escorted him back to his quarters, the King willed his eyes forward and shut his ears to the whispers of death unfurling themselves in the polluted air behind him.

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Black gnarls of blood-tipped barbs and thorns clawed at his ornate robes, their jagged spines tearing free the golden strands so that they parted like the yellowed jaws of a beast. Patterning his clothes now were dozens of little cavernous mouths gaping up at him, hissing discordant melodies of a single word over and over again. “Why? Why? Why?” “I was justified!” He roared down at them. “I am The King.” At this, the barbs grew frenzied, ripping at his clothes with a vehement rage and spawning more miniature maws from the tattered fabric. “How many?” Their disturbed voices grated at his soul. “How many?” “How many more?” The King started awake, his heart tapping out a rapid, hummingbird’s rhythm against his chest. Then came another irregular beat to join it. “Who is it?” he demanded fiercely, and the knocking ceased. General Houndbow stuck his wolfish face between the doorframe and saluted. “Your Majesty, sir! We require your verdict yet again.” “Right. I will be ready shortly,” The King responded sharply. “Yes, sir!” the General barked. He saluted once again and then marched away, heels clipping briskly against the floor. The King turned his head to face the window. His mistress lay there, serene and beautiful in her rest. He loved her more than anything else in the world. To protect her, he would do anything. “I am the King,” he said to himself. The servants came in and aided him in donning his robes. He gazed down at the resplendent fabric – unmarred and perfectly pristine. “I am the King,” he repeated to himself, and strode purposefully out of his quarters towards the court of death. ‘

“Another one?” The King asked irritably. His position atop the maroon cushioning of the throne had grown uncomfortable. “Was that not the last?” “Apologies, Your Majesty. Do not worry – this one will be quick also,” the General reassured. The King frowned but did not say anything further. Instead, he gazed down at the crimson-dyed carpet thoughtfully. It would have to be replaced soon. Small, scabbed knees suddenly obstructed his vision of the incriminating mark.

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“Your Majesty. This–” the General’s voice shook with a righteous anger. “This is yet another one of MacDonald’s spies. He had managed to procure important military documents before we apprehended him. Orders?” The child did not speak, nor did he struggle. Hardly more than ten, he kneeled obediently in front of the King, staring openly at him with no trace of hostility or desperation in his clear, oceancoloured eyes. He had hair that reminded the King of flaxen and ripe wheat fields. “Last words?” The King asked, regarding him curiously. The boy blinked blankly for a few moments. Then, he said in a high voice which held the essence of childhood purity, “M-my father owns an orchard.” “… and?” he asked, slightly taken aback. “He grows fruit in the orchard. We can give you some.” The boy hesitated for a moment, mulling over his next few words. At last, they left him with a dissonant squeak. “If… if you let me go?” The King was silent in disbelief for a few seconds before he burst out laughing. An enraged inferno blitzed in the pit of his stomach like a beast devouring him from the inside out, threatening to erupt from his mouth. “You cannot possibly be attempting to bribe the king?” The boy ducked his head in shame, cheeks reddening and thereby confirming the King’s suspicions. His own countenance flared a darker shade of scarlet. The General gripped the hilt of his sword in anticipation, awaiting his King’s instruction. “Send this insolent boy to the dungeon!” The molten words spurted from him as a torrent of scalding lava. “The dungeon...?” Houndbow asked uncertainly, his impatient blade retreating back into its scabbard. “Do not worry,” The King replied assuredly, glaring down upon the cowering child with the heat of a thousand suns. “There are worse things to suffer than death.” “… Understood.” Houndbow nodded to the guards. They immediately grabbed hold of the boy’s marionette arms and dragged him like a broken puppet to the exit. All the while, the boy’s pale eyes were transfixed on the King. They held not the fiery hostility he had grown so accustomed to seeing in the face of his victims; rather, the tranquil blue pools were

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brimming with awe and fascination. Why? The word reverberated in his very soul, infiltrating even the darkest and most shadowed recesses. As the poison of the mind flooded through his veins and festered in his heart, the King could only find solace in the dead silence of the throne room. ‘

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Weeks later, the King again sat upon his cursed throne. He closed his eyes as ravenous tongues of scarlet and vermillion lapped at the corpses of his beloved subjects scattered precariously across the room, littering the plush carpet as did the fragments of debris, falling from the roof like dirtied snowflakes. He loved his kingdom more than anything else in the world. He loved her more than the seams of constellations ripping through the black, fabric-like sky he gazed at every night, more than the ochre-coloured leaves waltzing around the castle battlements in the autumn breeze, more than his Queen, his life, and love itself. He loved her more than anything else in the world. But as the King’s fingers traced the horizon-coloured skin of a fresh, orchard-grown orange, he realised he had ultimately killed her. With his final breath, The Traitor blinked open tear-filled eyes and watched his lover burn alive. ‘


“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” Mignon McLaughlin

“I’m going out.” “What time will you be home?” “I don’t know – late!” “Well then what am I supposed to do with your dinner?” “I didn’t ask you to make it for me!” Penny scowled and shoved the plate of steamed vegetables and mash to the ground. It broke with a tinkle that was barely heard over the slamming of the front door. She ran into the hall just in time to see their car back out of the driveway and screech down the usually quiet road, leaving a faint cloud of dust in its wake. Then, she was left with only the sound of the picture frames rattling on the walls and her own heavy breathing. She stared through the glass panes of the front door until her vision blurred and she realised she was crying. She turned and walked back into the kitchen, kneeling to pick up the shards of white ceramic and globs of cold food. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. They’d had the fairy tale love story. On the first day of Grade 4, new girl Penelope walked into class on her first day and looked around for a seat. Dillon, sitting near the far right corner, shuffled over to make room for her. He opened his mouth to introduce himself, but what came out instead was “Woah, you’re pretty!”. And so began their relationship – childish pranks turned to platonic friendship and then something a little more. It wasn’t always smooth-sailing (once, Penny dumped a bucket of snails on Dillon in a fit of jealousy and he never let her forget it) but by the end of high school, they were inseparable. “I want a house with a big backyard,” he used to say. “Ooh, and a wrap-around verandah,” she would add, snuggled against him in a tucked away corner of the university library. “We could get some of those pretty deck-chairs and watch the kids play.” “Yeah? How many kids were you thinking?” he’d smile, even though he knew the answer. She’d look up and grin back, always willing to indulge in their fantasy of married life. “Maybe two girls and a boy? I want a big family. Full of love and laughter.” He’d laugh then, and squeeze

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her shoulder fondly. “I love you.” “Love you too.” It happened one Saturday during their last year of university, whilst Penny was busy regaling him about her latest family drama as they walked through the shopping centre, hand in hand. Her cousin had had a baby last week that looked nothing like the supposed father, and – was he even paying attention? She tugged at his hand, drawing his eyes away from the window display of Pandora, the jewellery store. “You could at least pretend to care about what I’m saying!” “I do, I do,” he assured her, but she was no longer listening because she was thinking with a slight smirk about another scenario in which he might say “I do”. It was tempting, so tempting, to ask if he’d bought her a ring yet, but she satisfied herself with gossiping with her girlfriends and sitting on her hands to curb the urge to rummage through his bedside drawer for that telltale lily-white box, embossed with rosegold lettering. In the end, she waited five long months for him to finally get down on that damn knee. Any longer, she thought, and I would’ve popped the question myself. Though five months was, apparently, not so long after all. It took five more months to plan their wedding and soon after that, they decided to get started on bringing those “two girls and a boy” into existence. They’d had enough time as a couple – thirteen years, really – and they were ready for a baby. What they weren’t ready for however, was their doctor reading out their grave fertility statistics. A 1% chance of conceiving naturally, he’d said. We could try assisted pregnancy, but there’s no guarantee. I’m sorry. Five years and four failed rounds of IVF later, they were no longer the same couple. His dream of a big house had turned out to be a cramped, two-bedroom unit, and her dreams of pretty deckchairs had amounted to a few pieces of do-it-yourself IKEA furniture. Fertility treatments were expensive, compromises were never easy and marriage was tough. Tougher than they’d expected. They’d reached breaking point. And that’s how Penny found herself, numbly picking up the pieces of collateral damage from yet another volatile argument. She stood up and a wave of nausea suddenly overcame her, forcing her to put the broken plate down and rush to the bathroom. When she had finished throwing up, she leaned against the cold toilet bowl and stared blankly. In her peripheral vision, she caught sight of the


bathroom cupboard and, on a strange impulse perhaps spurred on by her recent reminiscing, she hauled herself off the ground and gingerly pulled out one of many pregnancy tests she had kept in there over the years. Call it mother’s intuition. He came home around midnight and crawled into bed next to her, running his hand over her hair in silent apology as she lay facing away from him. She cradled her abdomen with one hand and pretended she was asleep. In the morning, he woke to the sound of her dry retching. He climbed out from under the covers and padded to the bathroom, leaning against the doorframe to watch her with bleary eyes. “What’s wrong?” His voice felt like cotton in his mouth. She ignored him. “Penny?” She had finished now, but still refused to reply. He moved to crouch next to her, and as he did, she interrupted him flatly. “One percent.” “Sorry?” She closed her eyes and rasped, “They said we had a one percent chance of conceiving naturally.” He froze. “What are you saying?” She wordlessly gestured towards the bench by the sink. He rushed over to find an array of pregnancy tests, all of different brands, sizes and colours, laid out neatly like a bizarre rainbow. He picked up the nearest one – a slender pink-and-white strip – and stared at it until both lines blurred into one. Then he placed it down and picked up the next one to see one word written baldly on a little rectangular screen: Pregnant. He looked back to find her watching him, expressionless, waiting to see how he’d react. He swallowed, throat constricting with the emotion of five long years of anguish and repeated disappointment and could only give her a wobbly smile. “I guess there’s hope for us after all.” “Sweetie, could you grab that box for me?” “Yes Mama.” “Hope! I need a big, strong girl to help me take this out. The movers will be here this afternoon.” Hope beamed and gave a delighted shout. “I’m coming, Dad!” Penny watched her five-year-old daughter race out of the room

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with amusement before turning her attention back to the cardboard box dumped hastily at her feet. She sifted through its contents halfheartedly and was just about to close the flaps and stack it on top of the others when her fingers brushed against a satiny cube in the far right corner. She drew it out to take a closer look at the rose-gold lettering and suddenly all the breath whooshed out of her as she was flooded with memories of shopping and pretty deck-chairs from a much simpler time. But just as what was let out of this little box could never quite be put back in, what they’d gone through had changed them forever. Penny looked to the doorway her daughter had just disappeared through. She wouldn’t have changed this for the world. ‘


There is tremendous debate today around the ‘F’ word, and let me be clear, the ‘F’ word I’m referring to here is feminism. In a 2015 poll, a research firm found that although 85 percent of Americans believe in “equality for women,” only 18 percent of respondents identified as a “feminist”. So, why do a lot of women wholeheartedly believe in equality and empowerment for womenkind; yet surprisingly refuse to identify with the word “feminist”? Somehow they find “feminism” a movement that doesn’t align with their personal beliefs or values, and for this reason many men and women will not identify with it. So what is feminism, and why do so many people hate it? If you look up “feminism” in the dictionary, you’ll see a definition like this: Feminism is… the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. So, if this is what feminism signifies at its core, why is it so fiercely resisted? Well, recently it has been portrayed as a campaign and a movement that… – encourages strong, forceful and angry women, – hates on men, – detests “girly” things, such as dresses and heels, – and, looks down on stay-at-home mums. Many people believe that feminists want to control the world and do so by taking all the power out of men’s hands. This then results in people perceiving feminism as being not needed, too extreme or even a crusade against men. Now, let’s understand what feminism is meant to be. I personally like the definition which states that feminism aims “to create a society in which individuals’ gender doesn’t restrict them from an equitable shot at success and happiness.” Feminism at its core is about equality of men and women, not “sameness.” Many people argue that women are not the “same” as men, and so therefore equality can never be achieved. However, if there were two young boys, for example, in a classroom and one was physically weaker and smaller than the other, would we believe it’s right to keep the weaker, smaller boy from having the same access – to the teacher, to learning, to the computers, to the books and

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class resources, and even to other children in the class – just because he didn’t have the same physical strength as the other boy? Of course the answer is no. This analogy can be applied to women today, who are commonly not considered because of their physical differences, however these differences don’t mean that equality can not be achieved. It’s critical to understand that “same” does not mean “equal.” The issue here is about equal rights and equal access to opportunity. Men and women don’t have the “same” physical capacities and true feminists recognise this, and understand that men and women have their differences and were made to compliment each other. Another argument against feminism is that it is a campaign that aims to put men down. However, feminism targets a multitude of global problems endangering gender equality. It does not target men as evil, but rather it encompasses men in its efforts. So man-hating, power-hungry, totalitarian nastiness is not what feminism is about. Perhaps animosity toward the word extends from a limited understanding of the movement. The claims that feminism is not needed anymore are just not true. The equality of genders is necessary but still not a reality. Things such as… – the gender pay gap, – the rape culture, – and gender role conflict, … are all reasons why feminism is still needed for both genders. Not to mention the fact that many girls, especially in developing countries, can’t go to school at all. Only 66 percent of countries have reached gender parity in access to elementary education, and education is key to ending poverty. Educated women are more likely to earn higher wages to support healthy and flourishing families. However, many young girls still face social, cultural and economic demands that limit their access to education. Some of these global issues include child marriage and labor, gender-specific violence, limited resources, and insufficient legislation that discriminates against girls’ education. So, although in Australia it seems as if gender equality has been achieved, the need for feminism is clear because there is still so much more to be done. That’s why it is so important that feminism is reclaimed by


young women like us. Too many people are discouraged from fighting for their rights because this campaign has strayed from its original core values and has now become a movement that is misunderstood. Both men and women do not want to be seen as “man haters” and “angry”, so it is important that we reinstate the original aims and values of the campaign. Feminism’s fight for gender equality is clear. It is not exclusive but rather inclusive. It is not radical but rather fundamental. It is not unnecessary but rather needed. ‘

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The Scientist Annabel Hsu

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The universe had turned its back on the Earth. The harsh beams of the sun had ravaged the rivers and creeks, leaving vast cracks; graceful and streamlined against the parched terra firma until someone slipped and fell into the neverending darkness below. The citizens of the planet were lacking resources and inexplical events were happening every minute. With the poles of the Earth beginning to melt, relocation to a safer and more habitable place was not the choice of the inhabitants of the Far North and Far South to make. Thus, the people of the world were forced to unify as the United Federation of Earthlings. Deaths, however random, were not unusual. But the tally on the news was increasing, and people refused to depart the safety of their homes. The security of their desk jobs was unquestioned; they could still partake in these from their residences. Food and water? Rations from the government were guaranteed daily, dropped in the supplies safe of each house by one of a million flying machines. Nobody left unless it was necessary, and even then, not without being armed with full-body suit and a face mask. Then one day, an intern at the local morgue noticed a pattern of symptoms imprinted on the victims’ bodies even after their souls were long gone. The veins on each cadaver were raised, winding like vines all over milky white, and otherwise untouched, skin. Lines pigmented with a green vitality as if thriving from within the cold, pale bodies. The scientist’s findings were miraculous. He had led a team of world-reknowned scientists, working around the clock, to find the identification of a new class of disease and the cure of this unique plague; a visionary in the new era of globalisation. The media proclaimed it as the greatest breakthrough in the 22nd century (never mind that it was only Year 2101). He had transcended this period of despair, where people suffered and lives diminished as the moon continually rounded to its full form and disappeared into the inky darkness, and brought them back to the warm light of life. Now, ten years later, he was ready to make another miracle happen. The scientist was awoken in the early morning by the beeping of the state-provided news device in his bedroom, red light ominously


blinking, as a projection appeared on the previously stark wall. A hologram of a news reporter spoke with an urgent voice as footage of the ongoing sickness went on in the background. Tired friends and family members hunched over in hospital waiting rooms, unsure whether or not their loved ones would live to see the next day. People queing in front of the hospital door being refused entry due to the fullness of the capacity because of the nature of a new infection that had spread. The prim and proper woman, perfect face and proportions, against the rotten carnage of the real world. Measured steps thundered throughout the empty halls, sharp clicks echoing on the walls of white, He gingerly opened the door of the cleaning room and stepped inside. Carefully removing his shoes first, and then his outergarments. He then disinfected himself and cautiously pulled an uncontaminated scrub suit over his head with delicate fingers. He fliceds his gloves on with a flourish and called with confidence, “Open Sesame.” Glass doors slid open, slowly but surely, and without a sound, for the scientist had just oiled them the day before. His legs automatically brought him over to a spacious bench, the width was about the same as the scientist’s height, with the length three times as long. “Roberta wake up.” he tapped on the metal twice.
 “Welcome.” A clear but monotone voice rang from a speaker as the interactive laboratory was activated. He clapped once. The table unfolded to uncover rows of test tubes. He clapped twice. To his left, a drawer full of test tubes emerged, while another equally large drawer revealed clear grids storing boxes of chemicals in every single colour of the rainbow, or none at all. “Roberta, bring up the details of the latest outbreak.” No matter how far technology had advanced, the scientist preferred the “old-fashioned” style of annotating equations. With the robot’s metal claws doing the work, as he simply dictated the concoctions and mixtures of solids, liquids and gases that he desired, the scientist’s hands were left free to write all the notes and explanations as he pleased.

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After a few hours of what his children liked to call “mucking around”, but he called “finding a solution”, the scientist felt as if he was getting closer to a specific strain in his area in the Midwest. However, when he digitally scanned his notations, the device would not stop emitting loud wails as it processed the information. “Roberta! Control yourself!” This was out of line for her usual behaviour. He reviewed what he had written again. Asphyxon, tick. Chelaryx, tick. But there was nothing wrong with these particular chemicals. Phosrilon, tick. Texgon… Texgon? While, Phosrilon and Texgon were elements that he had used in his previous cure ten years ago… He had heard recently that there was evidence that suggested otherwise. Due to the strange death of the young scientist, there were whispers that masters of medicine had discovered that the mixture of Phosrilon and Texgon could release an incredibly dangerous and fatal gas. A colorless and odourless gas. The cogs that had been rusted over years of having a mind blinded by glory clicked. Ten years ago, there was a colorless and odourless gas that he had released to the world hoping for a cure. Now, there was still a colorless and odourless gas that he himself had been surrounded by for who knows how long. The lights in the laboratory sent him nothing but blinding glares; a cruel spotlight which emphasised his shortcomings. A shortsighted visionary, gasping for air in the poison he had created alongside the antidote, each breath more laboured than the last. An imminent end to a shameful lie. Measured footsteps made their way towards the sink. The scientist’s hands twisted the cool metal with purpose. While drying his hands for the last time in the now soulless institution, his body heaved with resignation. It was time to go, he had preparations to make. ‘


Walking home from school, through the woods, was Eleanor’s favourite part of the day. She enjoyed hearing the gentle rustle of the wind in the trees, the happy chatter of the bubbling stream and the lively chirping of the many-coloured birds. There was something about the crystal clear water, the crunch of the leaves underfoot, and the fresh, sweet scent of pine and recent rain that made her feel calm and content. She and her sister Olive had walked home this way since they were little. Eleanor looked fondly behind at her sister who was throwing a tennis ball up and down. Sensing Eleanor’s gaze, Olive looked up, her hazel eyes sparkling with mischief, and threw the ball at her. “Catch!” she yelled. Eleanor tried to catch it but Olive had thrown it too high for her to reach. The ball sailed over her head and disappeared into the bushes. “Now look what you’ve done!” whined Olive. “Go get it!” “You threw it, you go get it”, laughed Eleanor. “Fine.” Eleanor watched Olive’s small brown head disappear into the bushes and then heard her exclaim in surprise. She hurried after her sister to see what the matter was. A small stone cottage stood neatly tucked away in a small clearing of trees. The white stones of the cottage were turning a greeny-grey colour due to moss and prolonged exposure to the elements, the thatched roof needed attending to and the ivy creeping its way up the walls was wild and overgrown. Pink, purple and blue flowers flourished around the base of the cottage, either side of the doorstep. It was pretty but looked sadly neglected. To Olive it seemed mysterious and inviting, but Eleanor thought it had a cold, dark aura. “Let’s get a closer look,” whispered Olive. As the girls crept forward, they noticed someone had carved a message into the wooden door. It looked as if it had been done in a hurry as it was messy and the letters were hard to decipher. “K-E-E-P O-U-T ” said Eleanor slowly, glancing at her sister apprehensively. “I think we should go.” “But don’t you want to know what is inside?” asked Olive. She felt drawn to the house, as if it was luring her, calling to her. She needed to know what was inside, it was as if a fire had been lit inside her and would consume her until she gave in.

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“No, I want to leave. I’m the eldest and I say we go home now”. Olive bit her lip, torn between her sister and her longing to find out what was in the cottage. She could tell her sister felt uneasy but her curiosity was eating her alive. In the end, her burning desire got the better of her and she placed her hand on the handle. “Olive!” Eleanor hissed, “No! Don’t do it!” Olive hesitated, took a deep breath and twisted the handle. The door creaked open slightly and then all of a sudden gust of hot, stale air rushed out, blowing Olive’s long brown hair back, followed by dark shadows. The shadows transformed into grotesque animal-like forms, shifting shape like black sand. They snarled and snapped around Olive’s ankles, parting around them like running water around a rock and vanished into the woods. Startled, Olive slammed the door shut and both girls bolted in the direction of their home without looking back. ‘

Eleanor had never been so glad that it was Friday in her entire life. Finally this week was over and she could go home. “Watch it!”, laughed a boy as he came flying down the school corridor, purposely knocking his shoulder into Eleanor’s. The books she was carrying tumbled out of her arms onto the floor. “Oi!” she challenged. She knew his actions were childish and petty and normally it would not have bothered her, but today it angered her to no end. “What was that for, eh?” Everyone hurrying past suddenly stopped to inspect the scene unfolding before them. The boy shrugged, a superior expression on his face. “I dunno”, he shrugged. At that comment, the rage that had been boiling inside Eleanor all week suddenly burst and before she knew what she was doing, she had punched him hard in the nose, collected her books and stormed off. It had only been a week since she and Olive had discovered the cottage in the woods, but it had been the longest week of Eleanor’s life. She had lost her favourite necklace that her late grandmother had given her, their mother had fallen very ill and she had had an argument with her best friend Maisie. She and Maisie had been friends since they were four and they had never once had an argument. Now they weren’t talking to each other at all. Eleanor met Olive at the school gate so they could walk home


together. From the look on her face, Eleanor could tell that her sister hadn’t had a good day either. Olive’s usually twinkling eyes had become dull and there were dark rings under them. She had not been sleeping properly as the dark shadows from the cottage had been giving her nightmares. The two began to walk home in silence, until Olive spoke abruptly. “I’ve been thinking; we have to go back to that cottage!” “What! No! Are you mad?” exclaimed Eleanor. “Do you realise the number of bad things that have happened since we found that house? I’ll be glad to never see it again for as long as I live!” “But that’s just it!” argued Olive. “I think the bad stuff has been happening because of the house, because I opened the door.” Eleanor glared at her sister, but agreed to go back anyway. How much worse could things get? The cottage looked exactly the same as when Olive and Eleanor had first found it. Olive opened the door again and when nothing came out, the girls crept inside. The outside of the house was nothing like the inside. It was dark and musty with rotting floorboards and moth-eaten furniture. Olive and Eleanor clung to each other as they looked around. “Olive? There is nothing here. Can we go now? Please?” begged Eleanor, tugging on her sister’s arm. Olive agreed, feeling slightly crestfallen. As the girls turned, they caught sight of a small human figure standing in the doorway. They both screamed in fright and were even more shocked when the figure screamed too. Once the screaming had died down, the figure stepped closer to the girls and in the dim light Eleanor and Olive could see that it was a girl around their age. She she wore a long white night gown and had watery blue eyes, ghostly pale skin and white-blonde hair. “P-p-please don’t hurt me”, she mumbled. “My name is Hope.”

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Taking Hope home with them was the best decision Eleanor and Olive had ever made. Once she had eaten and showered, Hope was really happy and talkative. She told the girls that she had been trapped in that cottage for years, unable to escape. Eleanor and Olive’s parents had agreed to adopt Hope and send her to school with their own children. Hope had made a herbal remedy that had cured their mother’s illness within a week. She also helped to resolve Eleanor’s fight with Maisie and she found her lost necklace in the

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school bathrooms. Hope and Olive had become great friends too and she was always there to help Olive when the shadows came back to haunt her. “It’s funny, don’t you think?” Olive asked her sister as they watched Hope splash in the stream on their way home from school one day. “We would have never found Hope if we hadn’t let those dark shadows out of the cottage first.” ‘


“A young Melbourne woman, had her life cut short by a 19-year-old man…” *click* “she was raped and murdered….” *click* “her body was left in an empty oval in the early hours of the morning…” The door shut as the pale skinned woman sauntered into the room, “I’ll have a root beer, thanks.” She positioned herself in-front of the dim lit screen. Today was busier than usual, thirty or so people had gathered at the bar to watch the news. Behind her was a table, seating four to five. Although she had become accustomed to seeing the cadaverous faces of the old women and men, young families still startled her. The man behind spoke in a sonorous tone, “Two weeks have passed since her death, and yet this is all the news has to talk about.?” In his hand he held the remote, switching between channels, and clicking his tongue every time the same woman’s face appeared. A small chuckle erupted from the edge of her lips. She turned around, facing the audience. Once again, she parted her petite lips and spoke, “Isn’t it funny how one can be more popular in death than life?” She was used to hearing the roaring laughter of many, after all she was once a comedian, but her audience today were not the usual kind. Instead, the room was silent. She felt it, the eyes of many upon her, these were not the eyes of an audience at her usual bars, these eyes were those of pity, curiosity, manipulation and hope. Somehow this reminded her of those moments when she was alive. Reminder to myself to smile

Dice Isabella Li Isobelle Carmody Award For Creative Writing Competition Winner

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Pity – 6

She was no stranger to pity, for years on end, countless teachers, guidance counsellors, parents looked at her with those eyes. They heard the stories of her mother, a heroin addict. Today was no different, the two men dressed in black and white loomed over her, their eyes full of sorrow and misery. Blinded by fantasy, Dice ignored them. “When is my Mum coming back?” the petite figure pondered, letting the thought drift through her mind. Her eyes wander, suddenly becoming fixated on two pink skirts outside the window They appear to be floating, as if influenced by the power of some unexplained force, magic perhaps? It reminded her of a movie her mother had shown her, “One day, you can be a princess too, my darling.” Her voice still lingered in Dice’s head. Dice tugged at her father’s pants, “Daddy, can I get a pink skirt

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when mum gets home?” His eyes focused on hers, but it seemed as if she was invisible. It was then Dice realised, this fantasy did not have a happy ending, the princess did not get a prince, instead she lost both her mother and father. Curiosity – 18

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Hope is a four letter word He asked her, “What do you do?” “I’m a comedian I work at pubs, festivals, mainly small—” “No. Not what you do to pay the bills, what drives you crazy, what keeps you up at night?” She gazed into his eyes, in them, she saw something peculiar, something precious. Curiosity. His eyes did not prey upon her or label her as “pitiful”. Instead, they reminded her of a child, in awe and full of wonder. Inside them was a flame, a small fire, hope. That made her stay. “I’ll see you this Thursday for coffee, Tony. Thursday coffee dates turned into Friday dinners, then into family reunions and before long a year had already passed. But one thing remained the same, every-time she saw his face, her words came pouring out like a rainfall after a drought. She told him of the pink pretty skirts she longed to wear, but just like her, they didn’t seem to fit in. She told him of the endless nights of glass breaking upon the hard surface, how the devil’s cries resonated in her father and mother’s words. He put all her insecurities at ease as he whispered, “Dice, you amaze me.” In that moment, a thought crossed her mind, but she let the word fade away thinking nothing much of it. After all she never knew the meaning of it. The four letter word so sacred yet so empty and tainted by society. Curiosity had now become Hope. Power – 22

I’ll keep this one short just like the events of that night. Her fingers tapped nervously as she sent a text to her boyfriend, “I’m almost home safe” – 12:03, location – Princes Park, Carlton North, 600 metres away. Making her way from the southern end of the CBD, she noticed a young man in a hoodie, he seemed young, around 20. She took all the precautions that night, keys in hand, phone in the other. It was simply a blink, a single flicker of a light bulb in the corner of her eye,

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that flame that once lit her curiosity so intensely now diminishing. She saw his eyes, the ugly truth that society had been trying to hide, was now revealed in all its sinister glory. He reminded her of what she feared the most, what kept her up at night, the fear of unbridled emotional power. In her last moments, she closed her eyes, afraid. She cried one last time barely able to imagine what would come next.

Dice

Hope – deceased

Dice had always imagined death to be different. She expected a wave of harmonious tunes to fill the air, as the soft ringing of bells resonated in the background. And as she looked around, her disappointment welled as the image of angels dressed in pure white and gold, floating in between the layers of clouds did not greet her. “Age, 22, cause of death, rape and murder, location, Princes Park, Carlton North, 600 metres from home.” The woman dressed in a cream blouse read out the information in a monotone voice as if dismissing any emotional relevance to the words. There were no angels dressed in white and gold, or tunes of love and hope, instead it looked exactly the same as life. It had already been several weeks since she had arrived here, but to her the idea that everyone who entered the doors of that bar were no longer alive still did not seem real.

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Melbourne Vigil June 17th 2018

It was so quiet. Thousands of people rugged up against the damp and the cold, standing around a circle of flowers. A lone figure would break from the crowd and place more flowers, then return to their position and another person would take their place. One after another, young women, old men, a pre-teenage girl with a single carnation would make their way into the middle. There was barely a sound – just a rustle of a puffer jacket, a distant car engine, a baby crying. Behind them, the grey Melbourne sky faded black. But in the midst of the darkness, shone 10,000 candles, each and every face, stranger or family was lit. It was at that specific moment that the memory of the murder and rape of this woman was replaced by the love and strength in solidarity, as thousands stood reclaiming Princes Park. Those tiny candles became more than just a glimmer, more than

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a spark, they burned. That four letter word that she had kept locked away was begging to be released from its cage. Hope. Dice never longed for the pink skirt, she longed for the chance that came with it. The opportunity to become herself. Now in death, she had realised there was something more powerful, something that she had forgotten along the way. It was not the pity, curiosity or power that she wanted people to remembered her by, it was the hope. The hope that one day, another young woman walking home at night would not have to worry about having her keys in one hand as she texted her family she was nearly home safe. The hope that her death could be the reason that thousands of other women lived. Her thoughts were interrupted as the man on stage exclaimed, “Please welcome, Eurydice Dixon everyone!” ‘


It is just before seven o’clock in the morning. He bustles along, filling the register, wiping dust off screens, double checking displays. As a final touch he presses a button to speak into the intercom, deactivating it with a satisfied nod as his voice echoes back, loud and clear. Seven on the dot, right on time, he flicks a switch to unlock the door from his place behind the counter and stands, smiling, eager to complete yet another day of work. ‘

His first genuine customer of the day arrives right at noon, after a scattering of patrons who come for some advice. It is a woman, dressed nicely in a simple shirt, skirt and ballet flat combination, with an exciting touch in the form of a plain sunhat sitting on top of her straight brown hair. He enjoys meeting exciting people. “Hello miss, are you well today?” he says, as always. The woman smiles a perfect smile that does not disrupt her symmetrical face. “I am well, thank you for asking,” she replies, as customers do. “Are you well today?” “I am well, thank you for asking,” he says. He continues smiling. “How may I help you today?” The woman uses her hand to tuck a piece of hair that had escaped her ponytail behind her ear. My, how unusual! Today is just full of surprises. “I am looking for my first model,” she replies. “First model!” he says. “How exciting. Do you have any in mind?” “Yes, I do,” she replies, face still fixed in her nice smile. “My family always chooses the HF4138, and it has never failed them.” “My, how wonderful!” he says. A customer who knows what they want is the best kind. “Do you embody this tradition as well, then?” “Yes, I do,” she replies. She diverts her gaze from his to survey the shop. “I have fond memories of this store in particular.” This is really quite interesting! It has been quite a while since his last customer was a legacy. People tend to diverge from the choices of their ancestors, if only because they are not happy enough with how they themselves ended up. This woman must have been raised very well. “I must say,” he says, as he brings up the profiles on the display in front of her, “HF4138 is a rather complex model. The development process is very detailed. For someone as young as yourself, perhaps an HF257 could satisfy.”

A ll In A Day ’s Work Isobelle Carmody Award For Creative Writing Competition Highly Commended Boroondara Literary Award Highly Commended

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“My, how kind of you to say that,” she replies, as she uses her index finger to scroll through the options. “However, a personal opinion is that 257s are simply too unpredictable. Their development period is much too short for them to be perfected in time.” She scans the profile for HF4138-A before moving to the next. “Besides, my partner and I both agree that 4138s are a wise investment, if I may say so myself. They really do pay off in the end, since they can be put to work immediately, whereas the 257s take years to get ready. No one has the time for that these days.” He truly is delighted. Customers that educate themselves on the models make his job that much more enjoyable. “I do agree,” he says, following her scrolling with his own display on the counter. “Actually, HF models in general are becoming more popular than HM models. What do you think about that?” “My, how interesting,” she replies, as she scrolls past HF4138-B. “From what I’ve heard from others, HMs tend to be less reliable. Some of them do not even present capabilities implemented in their development periods! I’ve heard many horror stories of how they rejected orders and got corrupted. With all this stigma I must say I am not surprised. Those who do purchase one these days tend to do it for their aesthetic, I suppose.” How introspective! He hums an agreement and continues observing the woman’s process on his screen. She scrolls past C and D, skipping E as the grey wash over the screen indicates that it had been sold already, yet to be replaced. As her eyes scan the profile of F, she continues talking. “You would never believe what my neighbour did, though!” She makes eye contact with him again and cups her hand around her mouth, leaning in discreetly. “She and her partner made their own.” He could not believe his ears. “Their own? From scratch?” Truly an unusual decision with all the privilege of this day and age. The woman nods sagely. “Yes,” she replies, lowering her hand. “Gosh, it really is quite uncontrollable. The ruckus it causes keeps my partner and I up all night.” “I’d imagine,” he says. “Untrained people must have difficulty in trying to replicate the development process. And it must drag on much longer than what would be necessary had they purchased one. Why would she choose to do so?”


The woman, having passed G and H, replies as she analyses the profile of I. “She said something ridiculous about not trusting the industry. Brainwashing or something!” She covers her mouth with an open hand and laughs in perfectly timed syllables. “What’s more, she isn’t even following any of the model guidelines! Says she wants to create something with a mind of its own.” He is astounded. Such old-fashioned thinking is truly unheard of nowadays. He hopes the woman comes to her senses if she decides to own another. “She didn’t even decide on an HM or HF before she got it?” “She didn’t,” she confirms. “She truly is something else. Gosh, you would think the government would have outlawed such acts by now!” They share a laugh, the deeper tenor of the man slotting perfectly with her tittering soprano. The conversation ends as the woman seems to have found a profile that she approves of. She hovers her finger above the display as she checks the profile once more, then selects the button at the bottom of the page. She taps once more to enter pre-prepared details and subsequently submit all the required documents that allow the admission to be accepted into the registry. Another tap and the transaction is complete. On another screen that displays available models, the profile of HF4138-I fades to grey, matching that of E. Delighted, he presses the button and activates the intercom. This is his favourite part. “HF4138-I, please make your way to the counter,” he says, his voice echoing through the store. Not a minute later, the door behind him slides open and a young woman emerges. Her hair is straight and brown, cut to a midlength that sits nicely on her chest. Her skin is fair and clear and her eyes are a pure sort of grey. Her body, distributed in a flawless 1:1.618 ratio, is covered in a simple shirt, skirt and ballet flat combination. She closes the door behind her quietly and nods to the shopkeeper in acknowledgement. Then, just as she was trained during the development period, she takes one step after the other, seventy centimetres apart, at a speed of five kilometres per hour, smoothly making her way to the customer. She makes eye contact and smiles a perfect smile that does not disrupt her symmetrical face. The woman directs her own identical smile at the model,

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joining their hands. “Thank you, sir,” she says, as customers do. “I do hope we meet again.” He smiles as well. “All in a day’s work, Miss! Please enjoy your new HF4138. Any queries are welcome anytime,” he says, as always. The woman nods as a reply and together the pair turn and leave the store, mother and daughter hand in hand. ‘


Tiny prickles of energy blindly grasped inside my head like hands, creeping their way out to the corners of my mind. Tickling tremors trickled like water down my spine leaving me morbidly unsettled. I could feel the plasticy stick of the sheet I was lying on through every pore of my skin as I lay there, unable to lift myself from the discomfort. Convulsing uncontrollably, I silently wailed out in pain. But only the night air could hear my noiseless screams… “Hello,” a robotic voice filled my ears. Light surged through my closed eyes, turning my vision red. My eyes fluttered open to an infinity of white that seemed to extend past the corner of my eyes. White walls, white floors, white sheets. I gazed around the room, taking everything in. My sheets were sprawled out across the floor, twisted in knots around my legs, “Hmm, I wonder how that happened,” I thought curiously as I struggled to remember the events of the night before. A sharp beeping note reverberated through my skull, down to the tips of my toes – pulling me out of my own mind. Colours began to surface on the monitor screen on the otherwise bleak wall in front of me. A digitalised face appeared on the monitor and spoke, “Would you like to hear your schedule for the day?” I nodded, “6am: rise, 6:30am: travel, 7am–8pm: work”. I struggled to sit up, grappling the edges of the bed with my finger nails. My muscles were tense and there was a light, airy-ness that clogged my mind – as though my head entrapped a cloud that strained against its limits. I lowered my bare feet to the ground and jolts shot up my legs as they made contact with the cold tiles, “It’s perfectly normal to feel queasy at this point in time,” the voice continued, “the feeling should pass within the next few minutes”. I’d thought there was something perilously wrong with me – that if I’d made any more movement, I might drop-dead on the spot. But the digitalised projection assured me that how I was feeling was ‘perfectly normal’. I wasn’t convinced but my muscles urged me to stand up. Once I was standing, swaying slightly and still lightheaded, it was as though my body knew where to go – even if my brain didn’t. I let it take me out of the endlessly white room into a metal corridor and as I was led through it, I noticed scratches in the surface that left dull trails along its shiny finish. All my instincts told me to bolt, to find a way out – even if it meant ripping up the metal walls with my hands. But instead, I cleared my nerves from my mind, closed my eyes and allowed my body to steer me to

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wherever it was headed. With my eyes still squeezed shut, I slammed against the frigid metal of the narrow passageway and realised I must have reached a dead-end. I slowly squinted my eyes open as I clenched my fists shut in pain and found that I had come to a corner where the corridor ceased to go on. An iridescent crimson lever rested smackbang in the middle of the wall, looking extremely out of place. There was no other passage ahead of me and only the unnerving, white room behind, so it seemed that my only option was to pull the lever and see what happened. I grasped the handle, wrapping my fingers around the helve and eased it down. There was a series of clicks and suddenly I was no longer stationary. I watched towering grey buildings hurtle past me in blurs as the ground shook beneath me. “Oh, I must be on a train,” I thought to myself, although I had no memory of what a train actually was or any recollection of ever having been on one. There were I few others on the train and they stood with blank faces staring out the windows. I glanced down at my hands which were still clenched and saw my knuckles were turning white. I was about to go back to observing the others in the carriage when I noticed faint blue lines etched into the skin of my hands. I held them close to my face, squinting to make out what the intricate patterns were. The lines joined in some places and separated in others like a broken thread and I realised the faint wrinkles of blue were arranged into letters that spelt out words. I could only make out a few legible words amongst all the swirling lines, but the ones I was able to read unsettled me. “They steal your memories,” The words replayed over and over in my head as the train eased to a halt and I followed the rest of the people out of the train. Once again, I let myself be led by my body which still seemed to know where it was going – as if it had followed this path a thousand times before. It took me through multiple passage ways and up an escalator. As I climbed higher and higher into the sky, I surveyed my surroundings. Looking down, I saw hundreds of escalators all circulating in time with each other. Each huge metal machine led to a different floor, but that was the only feature that differentiated it from the next. They all moved at the same pace, each with the same dull, silver sheen that looked worn out by millions of uses and each person being carried bore the exact


same empty expression as though they had no purpose, no drive to be going wherever their escalator was taking them. Shortly after reaching my floor, I found myself slumped over a desk, my fingers tapping metronomically. A series of numbers and letters flashed across the computer screen in front of me as I typed swiftly. After what seemed like hours of punching out raw code, my fingers began to numb and my body was stiffening. I had been observing the people around my cubicle and wondering if they had experienced the same morning I had. Were they just as clueless as to how their hands were typing out line after line of code from nothing? I suddenly remembered the ink on my hands. “They steal your memories,” What had that meant? My hands had continued typing as I was thinking about the words when they abruptly halted. I brought my face closer to the screen, blinked and widen my eyes to make sure I had seen it right. It was like someone had hit a button on a remote and I was suddenly moving in slow-motion. On the screen, in between the rows of insignificant lettering and numbers, were the words, “Think…. What happened to you yesterday?” Followed by, “Careful, they’re watching you.” I rapidly began typing again as my mind raced. Questions sped around my head as though someone had now pressed fast forward on the remote. What had happened yesterday? I couldn’t remember anything from yesterday… or anything the day before that now that I thought about it. Why couldn’t I remember anything from any time before today? My eyes rolled back into my head and tiny prickles of energy blindly grasped inside my head like hands, creeping their way out to the corners of my mind. Tickling tremors trickled like water down my spine leaving me morbidly unsettled. I could feel the plasticy stick of the sheet I was lying on through every pore of my skin as I lay there, unable to lift myself from the discomfort. Convulsing uncontrollably, I silently wailed out in pain. But only the night air could hear my noiseless screams… “Hello,” ‘

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I am Hope Sidonie McRae

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Turning twelve isn’t a celebration. Turning twelve isn’t a milestone. Turning twelve is a time where one’s fate is decided for them. We call it, “The Eye”. It’s always watching us. It’s watching me, it’s watching my family, it’s watching my friends, it’s probably even watching you. It sees everything you do, and it decides your fate. Here, no one gets to choose their fate. Space is 100 kilometres away from where I am now. That’s where I want to be. I want to move and survive on a different planet, like the “lucky ones”, where there is no eye watching every move I make. It won’t happen though, you have to be lucky for that to happen. Freedom is something only the “lucky ones” get to experience. I’m trapped, one could say. I’m trapped on an Earth where every move I make determines my future. If I’m bad, my twelfth birthday will punish me. If I’m good, it will also punish me. Here, there is no winning. Turning twelve ruins everything. I turn twelve tomorrow. I’ve been dreading this day since I turned eleven. Each day that passes reminds me that freedom is slipping between my fingers… that freedom is an opportunity that disappears as quickly as the sand in an hour glass. I don’t have a family. No one does, it’d be silly to think anyone needs one. Once “The Eye” decides your fate, you don’t have anyone, so why would you want something that you would have to leave behind anyway. That’s just silly. Birthdays aren’t fun- that’s what I’ve always been told. Those three words have been drilled into me each and every day for 16 hours whilst I’ve been at school. The Government here has that sort of control now, you know, they can make us do 16 hours of school every day from the age of 3. It’s because we need all the knowledge that a person needs in their lifetime by the age of 12, so we’re ready and prepared for our future. The Government controls “The Eye”, in case you were wondering. It’s like a big camera. I’ve been told that if you do something wrong, like speak when you’re told not to, or leave rubbish on the ground, a strike appears next to your body on the screen. I’ve been told that a cross covers your body on the camera if you perform a terrible act, like stealing. No one wants that. If someone does that, then they know their fate is going to be bad. The Government tells us that they do this to improve society. If


they want the Earth to continue to survive until 5050, they need to protect the Earth. No one can litter, because that could harm our world. No one can speak their mind, because that would not be showing etiquette towards the people of whom we should all respect. That’s why they invented “The Eye”. They got sick of punishing only those who got caught, so they decided to put them everywhere… the cameras. They’re on street lamps, on rubbish bins, on fences, in parks…all just so that everyone can be seen, always. Naturally, I don’t know how many strikes are across my figure on the camera. No one does. It keeps people guessing. I’ve never done anything wrong– I’m a model student, I’ve been told. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any strikes. I could have done something without even knowing, that’s what most of my friends think will happen to them. To those who’ve already turned twelve, if they had a single strike next to their name, they were sent straight to the military academy. We have to be prepared for an invasion from another planet at any one time, so the Government needs a stable, disciplined army. No one wants to be in it; it’s cruel and unjust. No one knows until they are isolated and arrive there, but the Government tells us they spend their whole time training, and get only three hours of sleep each day. If people have a cross next to their name, we never see them again. No one knows what happens to them, except for those in the Government. We can only guess. I don’t tend to guess positively. For those who have a clean record, one that is empty and one that “The Eye” approves of, they are also never seen again. But we think we know what happens to them. It’s all only guesses, of course, but we think that they get to choose whether they want to work for the Government, or leave Earth. That’s why we call them the “lucky ones”, because freedom remains in their firm grasp. I know what I’d choose. I want to escape this authoritarian society, where one grows up to learn and to live in fear. It’s such a detrimental life that it makes me want to scream and shout and stand up and demand basic respect for others. But I can’t. That would mean I would be straight into the military, no questions asked.

I am Hope

11

If there was one word to describe how I feel, it wouldn’t be a positive one. I can feel butterflies sprinting around my stomach, making me anxious for the hours ahead of me.

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I am Hope

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I am twelve. Being twelve means that my future is about to become the present. We all stand in a line in a room in alphabetical order, and wait for our names to be called out loud. Every single child who’s turned twelve today has to nervously stand united as one. Then, we proceed to a different room with glass walls and stand in front of two people in white suits. They’re from the Government, and they tell us our future. You can’t hear the person in front of you when they’re in the room, as it’s pretty soundproof, so you’re just left listening to the voices inside your head, telling you to turn around and run away and keep running. But deep down, you know “The Eye” would catch you. It would see you trying to escape and then the Government would bring you back. No one wants to be caught on the wrong side of the law. Not here, anyway. “Hope, 1874531,” a large, booming cry echoed down the wooden building walls. That was me – my name, followed by my identity number. No one has a surname because no one belongs to a family. I gulped, breathed in heavily, and followed the man. Standing in the room made me feel weak at the knees. The time had come. Every move I’d made in the last twelve years was about to be recounted and analysed in front of my own eyes. They do that so we can see our faults we’ve made in our lives. They like to do that nowadays; pick on every single imperfection a human can possibly make. A robotic voice escaped from a speaker above all of our heads. This must’ve been the voice belonging to “The Eye”. “Hope, you’re a rare one. You’ve never faulted. Not once. It would be easy to ask you to join us to be a part of the Government, but perhaps that request would be too easy. Perhaps you would want to make your first mistake and decide to leave Earth and travel to a different planet. Perhaps you would want that choice. The choice is yours…” The sound paused, before continuing, “The freedom is also yours.” For someone who’s never faulted, I knew I was ready to make my first mistake. I am one of the lucky ones. I am Hope. ‘


The rain buckets down like silver bullets in the icy air, I dance around in circles, my arms outstretched as if to salute the dark clouds overhead. Poppy is laughing as she twirls in the soft, cold grass; the mist and the raindrops seep into our every breath. The threat of an imminent storm looms over the blanketed world as the dark clouds cover more and more of the sky. Many might call it sombre, but Poppy and I have never had such fun in our lives. We are just children—caught up in the rhythm of the dance; not yet burdened with worries about whether or not we will catch a cold or soak our clothes. In this moment, we are free. Of course, it’s all gone now. The rain, the storm, the clouds, Poppy. But I think I’ve already told you about that, haven’t I, Miss Stacy? I told you last year, didn’t I? We sit in an empty classroom together. The rain is pouring down on the schoolyard below—from the window of the classroom, we can see puddles forming, slowly turning into floodplains. We sit on the tables, giggling and chatting. “Do you remember,” she began, “all those years ago, when we danced in that storm.” My eyes lit up.“Of course!” She chuckled. “That was fun. I’d never do that now, though.” I cocked my head to the side. “Too much to lose,” she replied to my unspoken question. “You miss half a day of school for a head cold, and Kildare comes chasing after you with an axe.” I laughed. “Last week, he gave me a detention for being two minutes late to assembly.” That was only a year ago, yet those days were long gone—days of giggling and chatting and gossiping and laughing. They were taken from me—snatched, stolen, without any warning. Everything was gone in the work of a moment. A bloodcurdling alarm rings out across the schoolyard. We all know what to do. We have seen this happening on the news, but we had never believed that it would happen to us. We hide under the tables. My heart beats so fast I can hear it in my ears. Where’s Poppy? I ask myself frantically. She had just left the classroom to go the bathroom. I hear footsteps coming towards us. I peek out from under the table and see Poppy running towards the room—she doesn’t know that it is already locked. Miss Cole, selfless as she is, runs over to the door—putting herself in the line of fire—to let Poppy in. But it is too late. There is a bang.

Rain Dance Alice Wallis

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Rain Dance

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The fright in Poppy’s eyes turns into nothingness. Her body falls against the door and slides down to the floor—her blood leaving an enormous red streak on the glass. I see a man with a greedy, hungry grin on his face come out from around the corner—a gun bigger than my arm clutched in his malevolent hands. I want to scream, but I cannot let out any words. The pure shock has stolen them right from my mouth. We press ourselves against the back wall, silently hoping for mercy. I cannot help but wonder how many others are gone—how many of my friends, my teachers. They come before he can get to us—with their shining badges and blinding torches. They throw him to the ground, handcuff him. But all the while I cannot stop looking at Poppy. Her chest is ever-so-slightly rising and falling—she is slowly fading. When the police go to pick Poppy up, I scream.“No! Let me see her, please!” No one hears me. I run over to the door, pull the handle so hard that it almost falls off in my hands. I go and stand by Poppy’s side. “Never let me go,” she mutters. “Please.” I whisper. “Please, don’t.” But there is no reply—just the stillness of the air. You see, I’ve changed a lot, Miss Stacy. I really have. Did I tell you about what happened to me yesterday? No? Oh, I’m awfully sorry, I meant to tell you. The lunch bell rings out across the school grounds. Most of the students throw their books carelessly back into their lockers and run off to wherever they go. And, normally, I would be sitting out in the fresh air—alone, but not lonely—with a good book. But today is different. For just minutes ago, I had been sitting in a classroom; short of breath, losing my grip on reality. We were watching a movie about the First World War. The sounds of the gunshots burst out of the speakers and reverberated across every shuddering air particle in the room. Each imaginary bullet seemed to lodge itself in my heart. “Poppy!” I had shouted, unaware of the many eyes turning my way. “Poppy! Please, no.” Tears had been gushing out of my eyes like waterfalls, an aching pain in my chest had made me incredibly dizzy. I had managed to contain my uncontrollable shaking to the palms of my hands and the lower half of my legs. Now it is lunchtime. After all of that, I ought to go and enjoy myself. But I


cannot do it. I simply cannot. The rain is torrential. Students run from building to building, screaming and holding their books over their heads as they try to dodge the showering bullets. The air is gathering, swirling tempestuously; innocent leaves are sent flying across the empty courtyards. A place once teeming with excited children and their joyous games, now abandoned—ghostly. I wander alone through the grounds. I have been here since I was twelve. This place has watched me grow. But I feel lost. I have no idea where I am. For this was the place that killed her. It has betrayed me. I reach the glass doors at the end of the corridor. Outside lies the storm, but inside lies the darkness. I take a cautious step into the rainfall—instantly becoming drenched from head to toe. I laugh. I take another step into the cold, torrential downpour and laugh again. I throw out my arms and spin on the spot. I haven’t felt this free for a long time. The water has seeped into every inch of my clothing, engulfed every iota of uncovered skin. I feel as though this is where I belong. I stood out there for a very long time, just admiring the sheer beauty of it all; the rain, the wind, the swaying of the trees; feeling alive again. Oh, Miss Stacy, it was phenomenal. It brought me back to Poppy again, it really did. I closed my eyes, and for a moment, I forgot where I was—I forgot when I was—it was just me and the rain. Then a faint whisper of Poppy had flown in on the breeze. When I opened my eyes again, she had appeared before me. She looked so very real, I tell you. And then she started to dance. Oh, we danced for ages. It was just like old times. I closed my eyes again as I spun around in circles. When I opened them again, she was gone. Like a puff of smoke on the wind. But, for a moment, she had given me immense hope. I was not a girl caged by a cycle of grief—trapped between the east wind and the west. I was the air, the mist, the rain, the breeze. I was everywhere in time and space, yet I was nowhere. I just existed. Oh, Miss Stacy, I don’t know if I shall ever find such a feeling again. ‘

Rain Dance

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The Anchoress – Pastiche

Ciara Brennan

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Statement of Intent

The trigger scene for my pastiche was Sir Thomas’ first visit to the Anchorage. This occurs during Yuletide (that is, in December), only a couple of months after Sarah becomes an Anchoress. Yet, by this stage, her psychological state has shifted considerably: she denies herself food and “earthly pleasures”; she engages in selfharm and flagellation; and her understanding and application of religious principles becomes even more rigid. When Sir Thomas visits Sarah, she feels intimidated – but, more importantly, she feels as though her safety is being threatened, in both a physical and metaphorical sense. I chose to write from Sarah’s perspective because I thought there was scope to consider how Sarah’s desires conflict with her views and values – particularly on the subjects of sex and religion. I wanted to explore how Sarah’s experiences with assault and childbirth, as well as her repressed desires contribute to her decision to become an Anchoress. I also wanted to explore how the Anchorage, and religion itself, is a source of both protection and entrapment for Sarah. To emphasise her psychological fragility and explore her subconscious, I wrote in a ‘stream of consciousness’ style, incorporating a dream sequence. ‘

Sarah

The day slipped through my fingers, and soon it was night. I had spent hours with my back against the wall, sewing to calm my fluttering belly and shaking hands – but it was fruitless, and now my body was stiff and sore. In the dark, I could no longer see the stitches, nor the sore from the needle I had plunged into my fingertip. The blood which had welled, like a glossy red apple, seemed to have gone, taking the pain with it. Without pain, my mind felt drained. It was like this most nights, and I would curl up fearfully, willing myself asleep. I shifted my body some; my limbs were sore, and I realised that I could not feel my feet. I did not know whether this was from being still so long, or from the cold. Perhaps both. The cold was relentless this night: icy gusts of air laid clammy hands on my skin, leaving my body hollow. For once, the wall of my cell provided little relief – jutting stones pressed into my back, cold and sharp.

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The sounds and smells of Yuletide had faded some time ago. The tart scent of cooked apples, the salty aroma of meat, were no longer here to make my mouth water. No more singing, chanting, drunken brawls; everyone had gone inside now, families huddled around a fire, bodies touching, spreading warmth. But I did not want this. I had asked for the cold and the pain; it would make me pure and clean, bring me closer to God. He used you like a whore. I can still hear Thomas’ words, imagine how his lips curled as he said them, eyes alight. My heart almost stopped beating. I could feel tears prickling in the backs of my eyes. Those words had seemed to penetrate the walls of my cell; I could feel them inside me, making blood rise to my cheeks. No matter how I tried to turn my thoughts, the words would come back. Wanted you. I stood up, shakily. Used you. Picked up the Rule, my hands weak. Like a whore. I flipped the pages fitfully – I could not see the words but I hoped their presence would bring some comfort. Words of prayer began to flow from within me, drowning Thomas’ ugly accusations. But I knew I could never truly escape him; this one thought would not be drowned. The walls of my cell began to soften and ripple, but my body – heavy and yearning for sleep – could do nothing to stop this. I let my eyelids fall… Emma was lying on my bed. She turned to face me, smiling, fire in her eyes. “Our Godric thinks it’ll be a boy. But he’s wrong, you know, Sarah. It’s going to be a girl – I just know it – a strong and healthy and beautiful girl.” She giggled and let her hands fall gently onto her round belly. Suddenly, the stone walls rippled again and Emma cried out. Her confused face contorted in pain, her legs splayed out, her head thrust back. “Help! It’s coming! Help me!” The earth rocked beneath my feet. A hand on my waist – it was Thomas, breathing down my neck. “I wanted you, Sarah. Not Cecilia. You.” Emma was writhing in agony. Another scream. “Help! Help me!” Blood on her legs, blood on the bed, blood on my ankles. She lay, limp and white, as Thomas pulled me towards him. I hit and kicked,

The Anchoress –

Pastiche

Ciara Brennan

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The Anchoress – Pastiche

Ciara Brennan

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anything to keep him away from me. Everything swayed, nothing was fixed, I felt so impotent and helpless. Then the walls hardened and closed in on me. I looked around: Emma had disappeared, Thomas had disappeared. I was alone. Now there was something solid behind me – not stone this time, but the wooden door. It pressed against the surface of my back, and I spread out my arms. Nails in my foot, nails in my hands. But this pain would protect me. Christ would smile and kiss me on the cheek, I could feel him now… My eyelids peeled back. Something was touching my cheek: it was Scat, another dead bird in mouth, right beside my face. I flinched, and pushed myself away. Soft, timid light crept in through the squint. It had all been a dream; I was here now, safer within these walls than in the world beyond. But the dull, dead eyes of the bird peered up at me. No matter where I went in my cell, I felt I could not escape its persistent gaze. After some deliberation I picked it up, tentatively, and moved it out of sight. The heady smell of incense drifted into my cell. Through the squint I could see lighted candles, sitting reverently atop the altar, and the crucifix on the wall behind. I opened my Rule and began to pray. I could feel shifting bones underneath my feet. Agnes whispered in my ear. Sarah, you are holy. God loves us most when we suffer. I was weak with hunger, there was fresh blood on my ankles, my belly ached from going so long without a piss. And for the first time in a long time, I smiled. ‘


Statement of Intent

For my pastiche, I adopted the persona of Sarah, which Robyn Cadwallader most often assumes throughout her novel, The Anchoress. In keeping with Cadwallader’s tradition, I used a first person restricted point of view. Although we are frequently exposed to Sarah’s inner monologue in the original text, I thought that there was scope for deeper exploration of her psyche during her phases of starvation and hence chose to write from her point of view. Through the use of imagery, archaisms and recurring motifs, I emulated Cadwallader in order to further explore Sarah’s mental decline and the repression of women and their sexuality, and how this has been internalised, in the Medieval Church. In particular, I focused on the author’s use of recurring motifs to develop concerns, adding that of “the scorpion” to further the discussion of lust. The Anchoress Pastiche and Oral Explanation Swallow opened his silent mouth. ‘ The Church of St Juliana Hartham, Midlands Yuletide,

The Anchoress –

Pastiche

Ella Crosby

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25 December 1255

Sarah

I had once nursed a fledgling, dropping crumb after crumb into its raw red mouth, until it was ready to brave the world. I found its broken body a few days later, crushed under the boot a village boy. I wished now that I had wings, but I suppose not all birds are meant to fly. An angel, Sarah, is that what you think you are? Oh, but God can see the truth. See through your pious pretence to the gluttonous sinner beneath; he can see the sin in your belly. I wanted to claw the food out of me, wanted to stretch down into the warm wetness until the sin came rushing out. But I was weak. The arms by my side were mine no longer, would not move although I glared until my eyes blurred with tears. Frail, tethered to Earth with sinew and sweat, as though that was enough. I could see the pale rivers of blue beneath. The faces in the walls shifted with each breath I took. The air

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The Anchoress – Pastiche

Ella Crosby

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caught in my throat. I dared them to laugh at me with their cavernous mouths; I had already been swallowed whole by the Earth, and they frightened me not. I raised my wrist to my lips, caught the pale skin between my teeth and felt the flesh give way to bone. The metallic tang filled my mouth, the only warmth in the room. Why is the blood is warm, yet the body so cold? Emma was so terribly, terribly cold that last night. I could see it now: Emma’s hair, once her pride and joy, now matted and tangled; the sweat glistening on her forehead, the salty tang of it in the air; and that smell, that ancient smell of blood and hay and new life, that the shepherds seemed to carry in their clothes during lambing. There is something inside me, something waiting to get out. It gnaws at my belly, twisting my intestines with its clawed feet. I press my hand to my stomach harder, harder, trying to push it out. On All Hallow’s Eve, I used to listen to the men swap stories of demons and the Devil around the bonfire. They spoke of Hell and of eternal torment, but also of the demons that walk among us: envy, pride, sloth. Fireflight and flame twisted wrinkled, sun-dark faces into hellish skulls, hazy through air thick with the stench of woodsmoke and charred meat. My body spasmed, lurching on my pallet as I retched. Thin, bitter bile dribbled through the straw, its acidic tang smelling of victory; of less sin in my stomach. But it was still there, that hard, writhing lump, the scorpion, as my Rule called it, with the tail of stinging lechery: lust. Corrupted by your sinful organs so easily. A weak, ungodly girl. Agnes’ voice rang in my ears. I flung out my arm, fingers searching, scrabbling with the rasping crackle of brittle nails on stone. Scritch scritch. My heartbeat flooded my ears, but it could not drown out the sound of their laughter. The stone shifted, almost liquid, faces morphing and twisting: Ma, eyes dull as she stared through me; Father Ranulf, a changeable face, but always frowning; Ranulf becomes Thomas, lips curled into a sneer as he dangles his gilded crucifix mockingly. But I could not touch them, they would not hold my hand. Where was Emma? She should be here, she had been at every birth in the village since her twelfth Winter, yet she had forsaken me. Well, how could Emma ever love a lustful, temptress sinner? You are unworthy of her. The air is damp with the grassy smell of rain. Emma’s palm is


sticky in mine as she pulls me down the hill, too fast. Splish splosh. I pull my hand from hers, pause for a moment to assess the damage. Rich, sheep-scented muck has splattered my legs. I wipe my hand through it, smearing the slick mud deeper into my skin. I stare into the puddle at my face. It ripples, stills; and a skeleton stares back. The reflection is so pale, so thin that I can see the faint pitter patter on the vein in her temple. She looks as though she will waft away at any moment, like woodsmoke in an Autumn breeze. Shaking, I dash my foot through the cursèd water. The woman that stares back now is dressed in a deep purple, the colour of ripe plums in spring. It brings out the deep mauve stain around her eye, a bruise that has spread like spilt wine. Her belly swells, grotesque, and as I watch the purple spreads further and further, like rot in a ripe apple. The cloying stench of decay follows me as I stumble away in my shitstained shoes. I jostle through the press of bodies in Friaston Market, feet damp and brow moist with sweat that stings my eyes. The fresh, grassy smell of new milk mixes with the bitter tang of herbs and poultices. I take a deep breath as I pass the baker, who smells of yeast and woodsmoke. On the ground, old rushes are covered by gristle and rotten fruit, a stench not even the delicate perfume of fresh lilies can disguise. Beneath it all, there is the bitter tang of iron on my tongue. A scorpion scuttles across the dappled cobblestone wall in front of me, oily stinger poised like a warning. Ahead of me, there is a crash, like a rumble of thunder that blackens an already dark night. Around me, everyone is still. The metallic smell is overpowering now and all I can see is red. It laps at my shoes, this crimson puddle, and its centre lies Emma. I run to her, feet slipping the blood, but it is useless; the bloodstained circle grows and grows, drawing the life from her, as she turns white and silent. Sinners like you must be punished. Don’t ask God to keep you safe. I want to scream, want to rage against all those people who watched it happen. Useless. I kneel on hard, wet Earth. It is my time to join Emma, I think, and they come. My belly ripples and from they emerge, scores of plum-dark scorpions, stingers hovering. They are my children. They cover me, bulbous bodies on my shift, in my shoes, until they reach my face. Then there is only darkness.

The Anchoress –

Pastiche

Ella Crosby

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The Anchoress – Pastiche

Ella Crosby

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“Sister Sarah. Sister Sarah. Are you all right, Sister? Can you get up? I’m to come in and tend to you if you’re too ill to move. Sister.” I had thought this cell secure, but stone walls could not protect me from this. The door had not be nailed shut fast or firm enough: Emma had blown through the cracks in the brittle wooden shutters, cold and pale; slithering under the door, Thomas had wrapped himself around my legs; while my own sin did not so much as stir my curtain as it slipped inside, stinger glistening in the dim light. ‘


“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity”. This was once said by the Dalai Lama, and though it can be used to look at many aspects of life, it is especially applicable to those employed in public services. Honesty with your beliefs, transparency in your actions, this is what we ask of our leaders. It is my belief that the media should report on the private lives of public figures, but only when this is in direct conflict with their public stance or position. In the world we live in today, one that is fraught with corruption and misuse of power, it is not just naive to argue for absolute privacy, it is dangerous. How can it not be, when the actions of public figures affect millions of people. The need for the media to report on the private lives of public figures is only increasing over time. Just last year, it was discovered that Australia had slipped eight points in the global corruption index. This means that there is the perception that Australia’s public sector is becoming more and more corrupt, and it’s not hard to see why. From one of Australia’s most senior tax officials divulging confidential information that led to the fraud of 165 million dollars, to Sam Dastyari resigning due to his ties with a Chinese political donor, we haven’t actually had much cause to trust the government in recent years. This has reached the point where Australia’s government is considered among the least trusted in the world, with only 35% of Australians trusting it. It is clear that we, as a country, cannot afford to lose any more faith in our government. If you accept then that there is a need for public figures to be more closely scrutinised, you need to consider the politicians themselves. The term political integrity refers to politicians who are honest and have strong moral principles. When a politician is elected, they often have an explicit point that they center their campaign around – Barnaby Joyce’s was as a social conservative. If you somehow missed this happening, Barnaby Joyce was married with four daughters, and chose to cheat on his wife with a member of his staff, in the process he got her pregnant. He was also at the time, the vice deputy prime minister of Australia. Barnaby Joyce used the sacred vow between a man and a woman as his platform to oppose gay marriage. That affected millions of Australians, not just him. And by not living by the very standards that he wished to impose on Australians, Barnaby Joyce revealed himself as deceitful, as hypocritical, and not fit to serve. Political integrity in a politicians

The Private Lives Of Public Figures Laura Flood Allan Patterson Public Speaking Award Winner

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The Private Lives Of Public Figures

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private life is staggeringly important, because we are meant to hold these people to a higher moral standard, they make our laws and they are meant to be our leaders. Despite all of this, there was a public outcry that by publishing the affair, the rights of politicians to privacy were infringed upon. But to say this is to ignore the simple logic behind why publishing the affair was necessary in the first place – not as entertainment – but as a safeguard against falsehoods. When a politicians public stance is in direct contradiction to what is occurring ‘behind closed doors,’ it is vital that this hypocrisy is exposed, so that political integrity can be maintained. This is why the existence of a media that is free to expose details of politician’s private lives is crucial in ensuring the prevention of corruption and duplicity in our public figures. Look if you will, at Brett Guerin, Victoria Police’s former ethical standards body. Guerin was discovered to have a fake YouTube alias that he was using to make racist and sexist comments. Let the irony of that sink in for a moment. Guerin’s very job was to deal with complaints of racism and unethical conduct, whilst he himself was a frequent perpetrator of racial abuse. The discovery of this prompted an investigation into every decision he’d overseen concerning racist complaints. How is this meant to increase faith in the police when the very person who was meant to deal with racism was, himself, a racist? Yes, it was part of his private life, but the public did have a right to know, because it undermines everything this man was meant to stand for. To be a member of parliament, or the vice commissioner of police means that you have considerable influence over the rest of society and we must ensure that these people remain faithful to the values that got them elected in the first place. If the media are discouraged from investigating the private lives of public figures, dishonesty and exploitation will be easier to hide, thus allowing people like Brett Guerin to hold and exploit positions of power. Even though it may be a minority of public figures whose private lives are in such opposition to their jobs, it is still staggeringly important. If the private lives of public figures are not open to a degree of public scrutiny, more instances of hypocrisy and corruption will become prevalent in our society. By allowing the media to publish on these things, we establish a watchdog approach


in ensuring that these leaders are indeed faithful to their values and accountable for their actions, which is necessary because corruption of a public figure, is the first step to corruption of a country. ‘

The Private Lives Of Public Figures

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The Anchoress – Pastiche

Amy Hale

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142

Statement of Intent

The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader is a historical text exploring the life of a small village in Middle Age England, steeped in religion and governed by the wealthy. The protagonist of the novel is Sarah, a young girl who has committed her life to serving God, however the protagonist of this particular piece is Thomas, the man who owns her anchorhold. This scene takes place a short while after he has been burnt, and he is now reflecting on both his relationship with Sarah and the choices he has made. Indeed, Thomas is a character that is seldom explored, he is fairly one dimensional. Although we are made aware of his motives, we were never exposed to his candid thoughts, his internal monologue. I wanted to illustrate the motives. ‘ Three Days After the burning

Thomas

Three days after, I am still burning. Long tendrils of transparent fire continue to lick at my skin, bite it, puncture it. It teases my brain with its flame, draws out whisperings of the devil “It is your fate, Sir Thomas,” Lucifer leers, stroking my face with a clawed finger. I lunge at him but he disappears, like laughing children amongst their mothers’ skirts. It has been three days since I ran from a burning barn, but red boils and scabs stick to me as a painful memory. It stings, I scream. I can hardly bear the pain. The cunning woman tried a soothing rosemary salve, she slathered it on my skin softly, her breath sweet and her hair tucked behind her ears, a teasing incentive to get better. Even the female form did not aid me in my fragile state, and still I burn. Was it sacred Sarah, sinful Sarah who brought this upon me? My temptress with grey halfmoons under her eyes? My red thoughts rage, they tumble around one another, overlapping until I cannot tell fiction from reality. Her blood-red bitten lips. I cough, holding a silk handkerchief imbued with pomander to my mouth. But when I pull it back, crimson clots dance through the patterns, stare at me, smile at me. I faint. I walk into her parlour, the authoritative click of my heeled boots on the stone floor punctuating the slow, predictable ambience of her Anchorhold. I could almost hear her sharp intake of breath, her frantic scramble towards the wall, an inquisitive eye peering


through the squint. She would have her back against the cold stone, shoulder blades jutting against hard rock. I began quietly, dripping honeyed apologies on her windowsill. “Sarah, I want to apologise…” She was silent, sullen. Rage began to fill me once more. How dare she not reply to her patron? Hot bile rose in my throat. I snapped, “This was what you wanted above all else? Above a man’s love, decent food, children!” At that remark, I stopped, bit my tongue. A sigh. I was not here to argue. Feeling a thin smile stretch across my cheek, I took out the book, and demanded her hand. I wanted to feel it as I gave her the gift. She denied, as she always does, in this funny little game we play. She presents the pretence of purity, a veneer of virginity but I know she longs to sin, as all women inherently do. I demanded once more, feeding her the lines that she needed to hear. “I want to give you something that will help you endure this life.” I almost believed it, her suffering, me, a Good Samaritan. I tried to imagine her chosen life of solitude, the pleasures of the flesh mere notions, the only people to talk to being bored women with their petty problems. I scoffed. Who would choose this? She reluctantly pushed her hands through the curtains, keeping her eyes to her feet. Through the small opening she had made, I could see her. Her feathery hair was unruly, matted in a nest above her head. Her once flushed cheeks, which had beckoned me so fervently, had faded to an unnatural grey, a grey that had spread to her entire complexion. She was a shadow, a person with her back to an illuminated candle. I smiled. Oh, but her hands were still the same. They shivered with longing, her dainty, white fingers softly scratching for the book. I touched them, so smooth, so warm, and felt her pull back, the curtain hastily closed. Once again she pleaded, I insisted. “Leave it on the ledge. Please.” I spoke once more, my tongue between my teeth. Unsurprising, my demands were irresistible. I put my hands on top of hers. Trapped, like a fox with a bird between his teeth. My arms hardened, muscles bulged, desire ignited. Her eyes darted, never truly seeing, her mouth slightly ajar. I let her go. “A frightened bird you are.” I said, the thin smile stretching, creaking, seeking. “But why be afraid of me?” I thrust the parlour door open sloppily, tripping over uneven stone as I stumble onto the stool. “Sarah, are you well?” My head is

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Pastiche Amy Hale

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The Anchoress – Pastiche Amy Hale

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hazy. Thoughts cumbersomely combine, plodding slowly out of my mouth like dreams. My tongue is swollen. I imagine her, all alone in her cell. Only thoughts to entertain her. Sinful thoughts. Romans 13:13 squirms its way into my soaked brain: “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.” Let us not, I muse, and sit firmly on the stool. Sarah’s shutters are open. An invitation, perhaps? I can smell her, the faint perfume of lavender mixed with a spiced, earthy scent. The scent of seeds and manure, of straw, of rancid rawness. Skin on skin. Undertones of slight sweetness. Sex and purity. Religion and promiscuity. I drink in the scent of her, and I push forward, hearing her scamper to the edge of her cell. I raise my voice, a voice of leather and gold, of ale and sweat. I could make her do whatever I wanted, I think, moving closer to her curtains. They shiver at my touch. A small cat hums towards me. His hair stands on end, and he looks at me maniacally, the bald spots on his mangy coat prickling with gooseflesh. I pat him gently, part the curtain. She is in the altar, her knees buckled underneath her. I imagine dark purple bruises swelling under her flesh, as her knees press deep onto the ground. I part the curtain further, feeling the soft material underneath my fingers. So soft. I look along the stones, their worn curves, their bumps and indentations. Discoloured in parts, cold but so inviting. My mind wanders, dizzy. Sarah looks at me, her gaze penetrating, challenging. “Is that the best you can manage, Thomas?” My palm itches. I touch her cheek, tenderly. She obeys, arching her neck so that I can kiss her. We leap into sin, but only for a second, I pull away at the sound of a clatter of wood. She has her eyes closed, as if she is dreaming, her cheeks and neck blushing, flushed with lust. She pulls away, ashamed, babbles on about her anchorage, about bridles and stables and saddles. I tire of her avoidance, of her inability to succumb to that sweet dream that passed behind her eyes. I step towards her, too fast, she’s frightened. Not of me, of course. Of her desire. I hold her shoulders and force her towards the wall, my knuckles grazing stone. Sticks crack underneath my feet. I thrust against her, and her head bangs hard on the wall. I touch the softness of her cheek, dig at it with my nails. And then it’s over.


Gwylim, the intolerable stable boy, who is always where he is seldom wanted, calls to me with his idiot questions. I look at her hard. “Holy Sarah. I will make you.” I am cold now. And so I eat, because food no longer burns my tongue. First, pottage, bread. Then sugared fruit, mutton, aged cheese. Apples. I looked over to my desk. An apple, once ruby red and now rotting, glints in the pale moonlight. A bite has been taken from the side. ‘

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The Anchoress – Pastiche

Emma Lee

Statement Of Intent

This story occurs from the perspective of a minor character from Robin Cadwallader’s novel The Anchoress. Jocelyn’s husband is abusive, and so she turns to the town’s Anchoress for guidance and advice. At the time it wasn’t possible to divorce your spouse and as Jocelyn is a woman she would have been blamed for his abhorrent treatment of her. The focus of the piece it to explore her thoughts on the injustice of the patriarchal system and the frustration of being so incredibly disadvantaged and helpless.’ ‘

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Hartham, English Midlands, Late Autumn, 1255

Jocelyn

It’s a beautiful day, the sunlight falls dappled through the trees, and in clearings it splinters into shards, raining down like beads that alight on my face and hair, providing the illusion of shine. The warmth fails to penetrate my broken skin, the light throwing into sharp relief the bruises ringing my wrists, discolouring my neck and shadowing my jaw. It isn’t an uncommon sight in the village, a wife displaying the signs of her husband’s rage. You can read a man’s temperament by the bruises on his wife’s skin. A familiar brittle warmth rises in my chest and fills me, though I try to ward against the frustration billowing inside. It burns my eyes and I press my palms against them to stifle the tears, murmuring a prayer for God’s understanding, but my breath flickers through my cracked lips. The prayers sound hollow even to my ears, for I know that God won’t hear me through my anger. I hold my breath to stifle the flame until I deflate and murmur a plea for forgiveness. I know well that these thoughts invading my mind, these insistent thoughts of revenge are a sin, but with each blow Hugh lands on my body, with each agonising breath and pain filled step, I find it more and more difficult to remember. I know I must obey my husband, that I swore to do so in front of the entire village, in front of God, but sometimes all of that seems so unimportant. I remind myself that no suffering is without purpose, and that I must place my trust in God’s plan. This is one of various phrases


memorised from Father Simon’s sermons that I use to convince myself this torment must have a purpose beyond my comprehension. I know it is not for me to question God’s will, however, over time these sentiments have worn thin, a blanket that used to be warm and protect me from the biting, cold bitterness but now offers little more than the illusion of protection. I can see the inconsistencies in Father Simon’s sermons, my indignation fuelled by the persistent questions: why me? What did I do to deserve this? Haven’t I been a good wife? I used to think I was. I have done everything Hugh has asked of me and expected of me. Why then, is it justified that I submit to his fury? The bible says the Lord loves righteousness and justice, but how can it follow that this torment be considered just? Helplessness weighs me down, pressing against my throat in the shadow of his grip and I gulp down air, desperately trying to maintain a pretence of control. This relentless emotional tirade constantly batters me, leaving me feeling exhausted and hollow. I am suddenly reminded of the marionettes in the circus that visits every May Day, frail and limply mirroring the actions expected of me, concealing the mayhem inside, the pain that is as constant and dependable as the changing seasons. It begins at my mouth with each breath in. My cracked lips peel apart, begin to bleed and my jaw throbs to a tandem beat. My throat is tender from his suffocating grip and each inhalation scrapes like hot irons. When my lungs inflate, pain radiates from each tender rib and then it begins again, as relentless as his fists. My next steps take me out of the cover of the woods, and the bustle of the town envelops me. These are the moments that I love most; the moments that help me forget. Enveloped by the bustle of my home town, the streets overrun with children shouting and squealing their merriment, the smell of various meals being prepared; salty beef and sugared apples dancing on the crisp breeze. Everything is so familiar and predictable, the bustle alone makes me feel protected, and sharing a smile between the people I have known since infancy reminds me of the person I used to be. At the end of the road looms the church, and as I draw nearer a weak glimmer of anticipation settles over me. With the arrival of the Anchoress three Sundays before came the tantalising hope that she will be able to solidify my faith, for this uncertainty has left me unsteady, made every day unbearable. She is holy, Christ’s bride,

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Pastiche Emma Lee

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The Anchoress – Pastiche

Emma Lee

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and will be able to explain the complexities of the bible that I have no hope of understanding alone. These thoughts flit desperately through my mind, as swift as a sparrow and just as fleeting, for my recent experiences have taught me not to rely on anything that can let you down. Still, despite all I have endured, a flame of hope flickers defiantly deep in my belly, refusing to extinguish though sometimes I think it would be simpler to give in. Approaching the door with the church ascending high above me, I press my hands against my tunic and hair before I remember that the Anchoress won’t be able to see me, nor I her. Strange, when she will be privy to truths I am yet to reveal to anyone. The door opens before I reach it and out bustles Louise, who stops short when she sees me and beams her typical warm smile. ‘Jocelyn!’ She reaches out to me and I resist the urge to flinch, though even the slightest brush on my arm sends a ripple of pain through my body. I mask it with a weak smile but immediately concern replaces the warmth on her face. ‘Good morning Louise.’ My feeble voice flutters like a chill on a breeze. ‘I’ll let Sister Sarah know you’re here,’ she flashes a troubled smile before disappearing through the door. I follow slowly into the maids quarters off the anchor hold. There is a curtain on the adjoining wall through which I will be able to speak with Sister Sarah. Louise gestures towards the chair before it and I sit slowly, suddenly timid now that the opportunity for enlightenment is at last before me. Louise shuts the door softly behind me and I place my hands on the ledge, the cold stone counteracting the sharp stab of panic. I breathe softly to centre myself and when she first speaks I almost forget to listen. ‘My name is Sister Sarah, as you know.’ It takes my mind a moment to interpret her words, preoccupied with keeping the memories at bay. This room, like most in the town, has been built in the same practical manner and all I can see is a different room, in a different house and his body closing in behind me. ‘Louise tells me your name is Jocelyn. God bless you, Jocelyn.’ Her voice is musky and stale from a lack of frequent use. I grip the ledge and manage to ask ‘Will you pray for me sister? Will you


pray that I find a way to please God?’ It wasn’t what I meant to say, or how I meant to say it. I wanted my voice to be stronger, I wanted to ask about God’s view of justice, but the words died in my mouth and she was already speaking, assuring me that my prayers pleased God. She asks me if there is anything else and I look up at the curtain. I imagine her face, I imagine what it must be like for her, being stuck in one room with only memories to haunt her and suddenly I can’t stop talking. I tell her everything. The whole story pours out and I notice I’m crying. I tell her about the pain, the constant fear and the exhausting emotional turmoil and finally I ask her why. ‘I just don’t understand. Help me understand Sister,’ I plead ‘I want to please God, I do, but I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.’ There is silence on the other side of the curtain and I wipe my hands carefully across my face. ‘I will pray for you, Jocelyn.’ It takes me a moment to realise that is all she can offer. I want to shout and scream, feel it building inside me but instead I thank her graciously, the strings above my head commanding me out of the servants quarters without another word. Compelled down the street with a strange silence surrounding me, the embers deep inside smoulder quietly. ‘

The Anchoress –

Pastiche Emma Lee

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The Anchoress – Pastiche

Adeline Trieu

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Statement Of Intent

In The Anchoress, Ranaulf is the Anchoress’ confessor, a man characterised by his conservative attitude and religious piety. Throughout the novel, he grapples with the demonic perception of women generally held by his community at the time, and the reality of Sarah – the Anchoress – a woman who challenges this image. When the Anchoress’s maid, Anna, is raped and forced to bear a child, she is shunned by her community. The following pastiche and emulation of Robyn Cadwallader’s writing explores how morality and religious values influence Ranaulf ’s character, and his actions following the events of the rape. ‘ St Christopher’s Priory Cramford, English Midlands St Adam of Caithness’ Day, 15 September 1256

Ranaulf

“Father, I spoke to her. I–” “Father, your sleeve.” Cuthbert’s pointed gesture at the mouth of Ranaulf ’s robe, slowly drowning in pottage, brought his attention back to the present. He jerked his arm backwards, specks of brown spotting his face, before returning the jug of mead he was currently holding to its place beside Cuthbert. Ranaulf ’s cup, which might have been full had a creature not climbed into his thoughts and ravaged all in sight, sat untouched, although a puddle had formed beside it. He wiped at it with his handkerchief, however, the amber liquid had already soaked deep into the wood. “Something on your mind, Father Ranaulf?” He looked up. Cuthbert was grinning at him, cup in hand. “Can’t get your mind off the holy woman?” Ranaulf shook his head, tips of his ears warming despite his jumbled thoughts. Pottage was still dripping from his robe onto the floor. ‘

“Anna, she has...she is with child.” He could still hear Sarah’s voice, tainted like the stained glass of the abbey. Solid, yet almost fragile at the same time. At the time he had blocked it out, that unspeakable quality to her

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words, and ignored the shuffling of her robes behind the curtain. His measured phrases, paraphrases of Fathers’ words, had aimed to pierce the glass of her composure, yet when her choked breath had disclosed her upset – and she had thrown his words back at him – he could do nothing but look away. He had let his anger take hold when his own mistakes, inadequacies, the wlessness, had been hauled to light by a few words from behind a curtain. Faces, of boys he hadn’t seen since he left his old village came to mind. To him, they had seemed so uncouth and aggressive. Insecure, as he mockingly diagnosed them, picking a fight every time someone else would so much as squint in their direction. He had done his best to avoid them, avoid becoming like them, and his time in the monastery had given him some form of amnesty from their treatment as he grew older. Anger is a sin, an unruly passion that blinds the heart. He had heard that from somewhere – the Anchoress’s Rule, was it? But anger at sin was not condemned, as Augustine had said, it was only anger at a brother that was sinful. He thought of the young maid, the glimpse of her he had seen through the door: her long braid of hair trailing the curve of her back, as she crushed herbs, he supposed, for the anchoress. He thought of her coming up from the river with a basket full of flowers and breads. She had tempted a man. Yet it was not this that Ranaulf had felt the dull throb of ire at. It was Sarah who had failed in her responsibility to guide her, was it not? If it was only anger at a brother that was sinful, then was anger at a woman – even at a holy woman – justified? The image of a faceless girl on the other side of a curtain appeared in his mind: a girl thinner and paler than Sarah; splotches of purple, blue and red blooming on her neck, wrists, forehead – no. He worked his jaw. That was certainly not the way of God. He thought of Sarah, with her clear voice that flowed through the gaps of the curtain, and the curious lilt that gave evidence to her youth and intelligence. He thought of her excitement when speaking of virgins, women, possibly being able to debate against pagan kings and philosophers; her implication that she possibly had experienced the same pleasure at the flow of ideas as he himself did. Father Peter did state that a woman could almost become a man, quoting Augustine on the manliness of their souls. That women could

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Adeline Trieu

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The Anchoress – Pastiche

Adeline Trieu

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possibly be treated as men, regarding intellect, and had perhaps a greater commitment to God than men... Ranaulf ’s temples itched a little at the thought. Thinking of women as men. The jumble of words had formed together in his mind. Thinking of women as men. Thinking of women as men. What it entailed, what it could look like, how impossible it seemed, all these questions flitted past Ranaulf ’s consciousness, but he could not seem to grasp any sense of it. The only thing that came to mind was the anchoress – though even with that, he was reminded of Tertullian’s teachings on virgins. He had recited them to her, described the third kind of monstrosity women would become if they were not treated as the separate beings they were. Yet Augustine’s words railed against this. But what of Eve, the original sinner, of whom they had descended from? The Fathers of his school had deemed women “creatures of foul flesh,” “deformed males”, yet he could not help but compare these labels to the flesh and blood he had traded words with almost every other day. The true nature of women was inherently that of a sinner. Yet, he wondered, as he stumbled through his thoughts. Was that truly the nature of the anchoress? ‘

The dull scratch of sharpened quill on dried wood pulp, echoed about the scriptorium, the familiar scritch scritch of his work soaking into his bones and joints like ink onto paper. The pottage stain from before however, had not completely dried, and the dampened cloth itched. He rubbed it against the bottom edge of his desk, before continuing his replication of the newest corrody. ‘

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Statement Of Intent

For my pastiche of Robyn Cadwallader’s The Anchoress I chose to do a short story in first person from the perspective of Anna. I believe Anna is a salient character to The Anchoress , and she has a significant impact on Sarah, as the girls form a strong connection throughout the novel, Sarah even commenting “I loved her, as I’d loved Emma”. Sarah enters the anchorhold to escape from the outside world and her past, yet Anna is a reminder of both of these, strongly resembling Sarah’s younger sister Emma, something Cadwallader refers to frequently throughout the novel. Cadwallader does explore elements of Anna’s character but I wanted to flesh out her perspective more, because her plot line in the novel is truly moving, and encapsulates many of the key concerns of the novel, which I will touch on later. I chose to employ a first person perspective to echo what Robyn Cadwallader uses throughout her novel with Sarah as it aids to tap into the characters deepest thoughts and reflections. The “trigger scene” for my creative piece is the scene in which Sarah and Anna share the apple into which Sarah has carved ‘St M mercy amen’ to call on Saint Margaret’s help for a safe labour for Anna. The scene takes place towards the denouement of the novel and it is the last interaction between Sarah and Anna. I chose to explore Anna’s reflections on her experiences as she lies in bed after this poignant scene preparing to bring a new life into the world. Whilst my scene physically takes place in the maid’s quarters near the anchorhold, I utilised flashbacks and references to previous interactions Anna has had, for example the rape scene, May Day and her time in Friaston Manor as these reflections on the past are something Cadwallader frequently uses throughout her novel to build on Sarah’s own characterisation. For stylistic devices, one of my motifs was Saint Margaret, whose story is read by Sarah throughout the novel. Saint Margaret is a religious figure that Cadwallader presents as symbolising strength, as well as the hope and power that can be found in religion. Saint Margaret provides Anna with a sense of solace throughout her pregnancy depicted through Sarah calling on “St Margaret to give determination to Anna”. I also tried to employ imagery of the seasons, for example I juxtaposed winter and spring in Anna’s reflection of the days

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Laura Tinney

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The Anchoress – Pastiche

Laura Tinney

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approaching May Day as Cadwallader utilises imagery of seasons and pathetic fallacy often. Sarah’s most depressed period occurs throughout winter, and Cadwallader illustrates her health beginning to ameliorate as the “weather warmed”. I also tried to mimic Cadwallader’s use of animalistic imagery, Sarah refers to herself feeling “like one of the mice Scat had brought” into her cell when she is in the presence of Thomas. I tried to capture this illustration of Thomas’ predatory, primitive, animalistic characteristics through referring to him grabbing Anna’s arm, like “a claw on a tail” as her prepares to rape her. One of Cadwallader’s most defining stylistic devices throughout this novel is sensory descriptions and so in an attempt to mimic this I also wrote a passage with a slew of sensory descriptions from Anna’s perspective. Furthermore Cadwallader constructs senses as a pathway to sin from both Sarah’s perspective and the church’s perspective in the novel something that Sarah believes Anna has given into when Anna’s pregnancy was initially revealed believing she had acted indulging in her desires. I also tried to utilise archaisms and religious references as religion was such an important part of everyday life in medieval England, especially for Anna as an Anchoress’ maid. I utilised references to prayers, medieval treatments for pregnancy, Saint Margaret as well as words such as flower, Sabbath, all utilised by Cadwallader to incorporate the Middle Ages’ lexicon and religion into her novel. In my pastiche I only employed dialogue once which was with the latin prayer to Saint Margaret, similar to Sarah’s latin prayers in The Anchoress . My piece was reflective and when Cadwallader writes from a reflective mindset in Sarah’s perspective there is vivid imagery and flashbacks yet minimal dialogue, so I tried to replicate this. One of the chief concerns of my piece was life and death, as Anna is about to give birth to a new generation of life whilst reflecting on her own parents’ death, and she too is about to die, not that she knows it, but we do. This is an attempt to replicate how closely Cadwallader places these two concepts together throughout her novel, as Sarah continuously borders the line between life and death, caught in grief for Emma, afraid of experiencing, and suppressing desire to live.


Furthermore, I tried to capture the futility of religion in my piece as it is a crucial thread throughout ‘The Anchoress’ as Cadwallader continuously reinforces the corruption and oppression of religion on medieval society. I tried to demonstrate this concept as Anna prays for someone to rescue her as she is being raped, yet “nobody came”. Sarah’s prayers in the novel for Anna and Emma’s safe pregnancies are ultimately futile as both die, and I wanted to capture this concept Cadwallader explores. Finally, I utilised Anna’s rape scene in my pastiche as a parallel to Sarah’s almost-rape in The Anchoress as both explore the idea of the power of men and upper class in medieval England. Thomas, represents this power, and is able to get away with his abuse purely because of his gender and class. He would not be held accountable for Anna’s rape, a convention of medieval times Cadwallader condemns throughout her novel. ‘ The Anchoress Pastiche Hartham, English Midlands Winter, 1257

The Anchoress –

Pastiche

Laura Tinney

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Anna

I could still taste the sweet, tart flavour of the apple, merged with the salty tang of tears on my tongue. We had shared it, Sister Sarah and I, Anchoress and maid. She’d whittled into the crimson surface a prayer to St Margaret of Antioch, for me. For me. Her knife had broken through the skin, carving out fragments of moon. And then I had clung to her slender hand, as she reached through the window squeezing warmth into my frozen fingers. I had once tried to coax her back to life, starting with pear dripping with honey, adding herbs from the forest to her meals, trying desperately to cajole her into eating, living, again. Here she was, less than a year later, blessing the life in my belly. I moved uncomfortably in bed, wisps of unruly hair tickling my cheek as I pulled the charcoal blankets closer, a shield from the night’s icy air. The baby shifted as I stroked the strained skin. I was close now. Lizzie had announced the baby would arrive soon, and then I would be a mother. I tried the word out, quietly so as not to wake Louise. Mother.

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I thought of my own parents, Ma and Pa, of holding their limp hands as they slipped away. It was strange to think that was only three summers past. So much had changed. From days in the sunny bustling kitchen at Friaston Manor learning to cook with Joan, to the quiet days here as an Anchoress’ maid. Rising with the sun’s vibrant orange glow, in time with the resonating chime of the church’s bell, and then the steady rhythm of Prime, Sarah’s smooth, clear voice leading us through prayer. The same voice that would guide us through the Rule, Terce and Compline too. Yet despite all this, I’d failed her, sullied her name and holiness with my pregnancy. A shudder ran through me as I tried to quash the memories of the person responsible for my missing flowers, bile rising up in the back of my throat. But then I was there. The weather had improved after the difficult winter, dewy grass had replaced snow, the thudding sound of rain had turned to whistling breezes rustling fresh leaves, as life began anew again. I had begun to linger outside a little longer, cultivating what had become a small garden just outside our parlour, bringing Sarah armfuls of rue and wormwood, as to keep moths away. I made an effort to extend my chores when they brought me into the village, hoping by chance Fulke might also be there. Sabbath after Sabbath passed, days filled with prayers, cooking, the engulfing smell of incense floating in from the church, sewing in the afternoon with Sarah. Then, May Day arrived. Floral perfumes permeated the air, crowns of daisies, periwinkle, cowslip wound through flowing hair, mixing with the smell of sweat and woodsmoke as villagers met on the green for celebrations. Sister Sarah had eventually agreed to let me join in the merriment, the echoes of shouts, laughter and music drew me in, Louise in tow as my chaperone. I weaved throughout the festivities, listening to friends chatter animatedly about who had kissed who under the maypole, indulging in pastries, their sweet smell drifting lazily through the air. As late afternoon crept in, bolstered by the consumption of ale, the singing grew louder, more brassy, notes sweeping throughout the fields. I moved away from the celebrations for a short while, leaning against a nearby oak to catch my breath, face flushed. Muted steps against soft grass approached and I turned, expecting Louise to


have followed me. Instead I met the yellow-speckled brown eyes I had so carefully avoided throughout my days at Friaston Manor. I tried to keep my eyes down, my voice steady. He stepped towards me, cornering me, Scat playing with a mouse before the kill. And then he was there grabbing my arm, a claw on a tail, pushing me roughly, my head thudding against the tree. My blurred gaze met his determined eyes, glassy with intoxication. His hand moved to press against my mouth, catching my pleads for help. His breath smelled of mead, harsh and sour against my face. One last struggle, a strike against my cheek, fingernails cutting into skin, blood dripping slowly down my face. Then his muddy leather boots pinned my feet, and all I could do was pray. For help, for anybody to make it stop. Nobody came. I tried to pull myself out of the memory, fastening my eyes on the small room that I had come to call home. It had seen me change so much in the past few months. My face had paled, grown drawn and pinched, my eyes bruised by dark rings, as the baby began to consume every ounce of my energy. I’d been going through days as motions, drowning in a sea of cold numbness, yet, I had gotten better. Succoured by Lizzie’s herbs and teas, crushed flax and spurge laurel – and aided by time. Now here I was, close to giving birth and even with so much uncertainty in my life ahead, I loved this child. I felt wonder at every kick, or shift, in my belly, pointing out the small bumps to Louise. I had disappointed Sister Sarah, yet she had carved this prayer for me. Knowing that it was Saint Margaret, who had burst from the dragon’s back, blessed those who prayed to her with safety through childbirth. “Ora pro nobis beata Margareta,” Sister Sarah’s words had held power tonight, each syllable deliberate in step, a beating of wings, as she prayed to Saint Margaret who promised forgiveness, and hope. Above all, hope. And so I repeated Sarah’s soothing reading of the story in my mind, hearing again her changing tempos and tone, crescendos and decrescendos. A tale from a holy woman about not only a Saint but a kempe. And I let it bring me comfort. ‘

The Anchoress –

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Laura Tinney

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Scribo, Scribere, Scripsi, Scriptus: Verb – To Write

Profile for Ruyton Girls' School

Scripsi  

Scripsi is a collection of the best poems and short stories written by our Senior School girls, many of which received commendations and pri...

Scripsi  

Scripsi is a collection of the best poems and short stories written by our Senior School girls, many of which received commendations and pri...