Congratulations to the winners of our teen writing competition
With sincere thanks to our judges, Bridget Schaumann and David Eggleton.
This competition was presented by Dunedin Public Art Gallery in association with the Francis Upritchard Jealous Saboteurs exhibition, and in collaboration with Dunedin Public Libraries and Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature.
First Place: Rachel Pitts
" One in a War"
War broke out between our two tribes. Screaming,crying and yelling was all I could hear. I glanced around and saw everyone and their white knuckles, holding onto any branch or twig they could. We were stuck up this tree because we had nowhere to go, no one to see, nothing.
We had been warned about our neighbouring tribe, warned that they could snap. One day they would be the quiet neighbours respecting you and your tribe, the next, your worst nightmare. We had always heard the stories about the weapons that had a life of their own, known of the many tribes that had stayed on this very ground before us and had suffered. Yet for some reason we still thought we would somehow be immune from this other tribe. Other, is what they were, they weren't like us, not like anything we had ever seen. They were the types of creatures one had only read about. The monsters under the bed or in the closet, the shadows that danced along the walls at night just as you were trying to sleep. As I looked down on the commotion I started to see them as something I hadn't before. The midnight blue of their skin somehow had an illuminating glow as they froliked around destroying everything in their way. The legs and feet five times the size of ours carelessly stomping in an almost soft and delicate way. Their eyes that once looked calm and full of wonder now seemed dead and frozen and I somehow knew that this is how they had always been.
They moved with such swiftness and grace as they massacred my people it could've been a dance. Crash, Bang! One more set of screams were set off as yet another underground bunker was torn up with ease. I realised that it was only a matter of time before they ripped up this tree and tossed it around like a child's toy. But just as I was about to tell the others and come up with a heroic plan it all came crashing down.
Deafening screams once again broke out but this time not from far away, from near, my own mouth. I screamed without realizing, like it was a natural instinct, like I was calling out for help even though deep down I knew no one could, and even if they could, would they? Would they risk their lives in an attempt to save mine? Unlikely.So I stopped. Stopped screaming, stopped trying, stopped caring because why should I? To them I was useless, only another piece of meat that they could pulverise for their enjoyment. I had no one left to care for , so what was the point?
I plummeted down towards the creature who had just uprooted the tree as if it were nothing
more than a weed. I could still hear the screams from the world around me and yet for some reason they didn't bother me anymore. All I could think about was how it felt to be in between the two sides of the horrendous weapons. My body being hacked to pieces from the bottom up until I didn't feel or hear anything anymore; all I could do was smile to myself as I knew that I wouldn't have to suffer anymore.
Second Place: Zillah Conder
Time Will Tell
I watched my first mummification today. It was some ‘important’ noble that they made sound like some all knowing god. Everyone made the mummification process sound like some prestigious event. Some great honour that only the most honourable and most important people deserve.
I honestly thought that mummification would be some huge life-altering event. In some ways, it was. Although, not in a very good way. To be completely honest, I struggled to watch the whole process. In my head, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stomach any food for at least a week.
As I was escorted back to my house, my stomach had settled considerably. It hadn’t settled enough because as the smell of the food that was cooking for dinner wafted through the front door, I found myself behind a tree being sick. When it subsided, I wondered how mother and father could go to one every time someone of the higher class died. I knew for certain that it was going to be the first tradition I would abolish when I became the Pharaoh.
I refused to answer any of father’s questions at dinner and mother looked generally concerned at my lack of interest in eating. I knew that if I said anything about how horrible I thought it was, I would find myself sent to my room where father would yell at me once mother had gone to bed. I also knew that I couldn’t afford to get on father's bad side because he was far too stressed about things that only Amun-Ra knows about.
Father thinks that mother babies me too much while mother fears that father is too harsh on me. While I feel father is correct, I do not mind as I enjoy the attention that I get from her. As for the matter of father being too harsh on me, I know that he just wants the best for me. Yes he pushes me to my limits, but that is so I won’t cave under the pressure or massive workload that comes with being the Pharaoh.
Being the only heir to the Pharaoh is hard. I cannot go anywhere without a guard as my parents cannot and will not risk my safety. I rarely had time for the childish games I used to see other kids playing in the streets from my house. I would spend my time learning about the duties I would take over, what father would deem a suitable bride, and how to choose one. Although, I highly doubt father will let me choose one myself. Most likely he will have already chosen one for me.
A few years ago, father took me to the tomb where our ancestors were laid to rest in their golden sarcophagus’. When I entered, I was awestruck at the beauty of the tomb. Standing tall and proud, as the protector of the tomb, were huge statues of Anubis, the god of the afterlife. They would protect the tomb for as long as the Pharaoh’s ruled over Egypt and long after the reign had ended. I used to beg my father to take me back there just so I could stare at Anubis in awe. He told me that the tomb is a sacred place and that I would only be able to go back when I put him down to rest alongside our ancestors. After that day, I made it my goal to witness a mummification.
I begged father for months to let me go to a mummification. I was slowly wearing him down everytime I asked and I knew it wouldn’t be long before he gave in and said yes. When he finally
said yes, it was arranged that I would go to one when the next nobleman died. I haven’t regretted my decision to go. I feel like I would have remained a naive little child trying to make it in an adults world.
That mummification changed me. Whether it was for the better or worse, only time would tell.
Third Place: Sheldon Cotter
"Ace Up My Sleeve"
The Apocalypse, Doomsday, the end of the world, whatever you want to call it. It is happening and you and I… we aren’t gonna be around for much longer. You must be thinking though, “No, this can’t be happening? I just put my cookies in the oven. The in-laws will be over in half an hour.”
But I’m sorry. I really am. The world is going to end in a matter of hours just because a stupid poker game my Great, Great, Great… well let's just say my old, very old Grandmother had agreed to play.
My Grandmother is actually the moon spirit, Cresselia. Cresselia has been around for a long time, doing her thing. Constantly gazing at everyone below her. Her eyes deep blue just like the ocean that sways beneath her. Skin drained of her crimson blood making her as white as the Doves that fly past her every morning. Yet she somehow keeps a lively look to herself, as if she has that one secret that these beauty products companies claim to have. But just like everyone else, she has a darkside.
Cresselia is what many, including you, would call an extremely risky person. She was dependant on the game poker to make her life just that tad-bit more interesting and fulfilling. She was often invited to high-stakes games which is exactly what caused the beginning of the end. These high stakes games aren’t exactly what you are thinking though. Sure they are games of risk and reward, but on a whole new level. Not thousands of dollars in cash or family heirlooms passed down for generations. No. It was much more than that. It was a way to cheat Death.
Grandma has always had a lot of time on her hands, guess that is just an upside of being an immortal deity. The people she gambled against were thought to have had maybe eighty years under their belt. Most who did bet their lives away were older, more withered people. Just trying to win more time with loved ones. A long time ago though, surely a couple thousand years back, a young woman, beautiful beyond description, challenged Cresselia to a game of poker. The most noticeable thing about this woman though, was the size of her belly.
With haste, the pregnant lady began betting her precious life away as if it was nothing. At each bet, she would push forward a handful of colourful chips, prussian blue, creamy yellow, flaming red. Each chip was a different and more extravagant colour than the other, as if it was representing memories she would never experience. Sixty years of her life was taken from her just like that. Gone. One year after the other, after the other and yet she still had not won anything. But finally her time had come. She thrust forward a sprinkling of chips, believing it may be her final bet, knowing all too well what would happen if she lost. It seemed though that the odds were in fact, in her favor. She won five days, only five days. But that was all she needed. These five days were added on to the years cycles and is the reason we have 365 days of a year. The more you know! Not only that but on these five days a child was born each day. These children were demons, monsters conceived from a witch loyal to her master…
Abaddon, Destruction reincarnated as a deity...
So, fast forward a few thousand years to now. The end of the world to be exact. Yes, now come in closer. Closer. That’s close enough. Now let me tell you a secret… I am the Granddaughter of Cresselia, the moon spirit. And I? Well I have one last trick up my sleeve. One that might just save us all.
Highly Commended: Neve Walsh
Celia stop mid-stride. Was it true what she was seeing? Was it real? It couldn’t be. She peered at it, examining the rush of peacock colours and the watercolour human figures that danced inside the rectangular frame.
She remembered; this had belonged to her father. She had been but a little girl. The memories came flooding back, clear as ice. The broom she was holding fell from her limp hands onto the floors. She did not notice. The painting seized her attention and blocked out all surrounding things. Fighting back tears, she raised her trembling hand to her lips, and then to touch the painting, to feel what had been stolen from her. Her eyes spilled with fresh tears as memories flooded back.
The painting had been hung up in her father’s study, where he used to sit her on his lap and tell her the most fascinating stories. One time, in the late evening, she’d came into his study while he was at his desk scribbling away. “What is that painting of?” she’d asked.
Celia’s father had smiled at her, then beckoned her forward. As he’d taken her on his lap, and described to her what it was about, she’d peered curiously at it, and at the same time a feeling of nostalgia and wonder had washed over her.
But that feeling hadn’t lasted long. Her father had stopped in mid speech when he was side-tracked by a noise through the window, from something outside. “Oh…” his voice trailed off. “What is it, Papa?”
He faced her again, his eyes wide and desperate looking. He’d ordered, “Celia, I want you to hide under the desk, stay as silent as you can, don’t move, just don’t….” his voice trailed off uncertainly. “I love you. Remember that… I love you. Stay safe.”
Before she’d had time to respond, she was shoved under the desk, and her father had not even stood up from his seat when strange men wearing swastika arm bands had seized him by the arms and hauled him out of sight. There was a huge commotion as footsteps and shouting thundered around the study.
After a while, the noise simmered down and the footsteps trailed away. Celia had stayed hunched up under the desk for a few more minutes, until she felt safe enough to step out.
She gasped when she came out. The room was no longer the clean, safe study she had known a couple minutes ago. Piles of books and papers lay all over the room. The bookshelf had been knocked over and there was no spot in the room not covered by utter mess.
But the painting… it was gone. “No” she whispered.
Her legs suddenly buckled, and as she fell, she burst into fresh tears and crumpled into a sobbing heap. Where was the painting? Where was Papa?
Celia snapped back to the present, realising she had collapsed on the ground. Fresh tears streaked down her face and onto her lap. As she looked up at the painting, she felt a cold rush of air from her left. A door had been left fully open, bumping against the wall rhythmically.
As she stood up slowly, she reached for the painting, and impulse had her wrapping her fingers around the bright gold frame, and lifting it off the wall. Straightaway she headed for the door, and stepped outside, the painting clutched tightly to her chest, without looking back.