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Malaysia Young Author Award 2021

Category: Senior Group

1st Prize (RM1,500): CELISTE LIM YAN MEI from SMK (P) Temenggong Ibrahim, Batu Pahat
2nd Prize (RM1,000): GOH LI LIAN from Kuen Cheng High School, KL
3rd Prize (RM500): FARAH NURYN BINTI RASLAN HANIFF from Sri KDU Secondary School
10 Consolation Prizes
1) ANIS FARHANA SHAMINA BINTI ABDULLAH from SMK Taman Klang Utama, Klang
2) AMBER DANG EN TUNG from The Sequoia International School, KL
3) DHARYAASRI KARTHIGESAN from Bukit Mertajam High School, Penang
4) EDRIA DAYYINAH BINTI SYAHRUN NIZAM from Kolej Yayasan Saad, Melaka
5) LAU HAN NING from Chung Ling Private High School, Penang
6) ARISSA SAHIRA BINTI ABDUL RAHMAN KAMIL from Sekolah Seri Puteri, Cyberjaya
7) AMRUTHA RAMADAS from Seri Omega Private & International School, Johor Bahru
8) AYRA KHAIRIN BINTI RASLAN HANIFF from Sri KDU Secondary School, Petaling Jaya
9) ADRINA ELILARASI THAMAS from SMK Infant Jesus Convent, Johor Bahru
10) TAN LEE ANN from SMK Seafield, Subang

Category: Junior Group

1st Prize (RM1,500): NGEOW LI YUE from Kuen Cheng High School, KL
2nd Prize (RM1,000): ABRIAN WU JUN XIANG from Axcel International School, Puchong
3rd Prize (RM500): KANCHANAA A/P PULANTHRAN from SMK Taman Desa, KL
20 Consolation Prizes
1) AERYN YUSRA BINTI ADLIN from Asia Pacific Smart School, Subang
2) ELYZA QAISARA BT MOHD SHAHRUL AZMI from SK Jalan Empat, Bangi
3) NUR ARIANA SYAFFA BINTI NORAZEMAN from SK Agama MIS, Miri
4) EE SZE QIN from SJK(C) Shin Cheng (Harcroft), Puchong
5) WOO GIN LYNN from SJK(C) Kuen Cheng 2, KL
6) JOSHUA CHEAH from SJK(C) Kuen Cheng 2, KL
7) KATELYNN AMELIA GEE from SJK(C) Puay Chai 2, Petaling Jaya
8) RAJA ASMA HANIS BT RAJA AZMI from SK Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam
9) LIM YU JING from SJK(C) Perempuan China, Penang
10) NUR ARIANA QISTINA BINTI SHAMSUR IMRAN from SMK Seri Bintang Utara, KL
11) SOON CARLSON from SMK TTDI Jaya, Shan Alam
12) CHEAH HOE YEEN from SJK(C) Yuk Choy, Ipoh
13) LAI YU XUAN from Puchong
14) JANICE WONG PEI JIN from St Joseph Private School, Kuching
15) SHARIFAH NUHA BINTI SYED MOHD HAFIZ from Asia Pacific Smart School, Subang
16) WONG VOEI TON from SJKC Foon Yew 4, Johor Bahru
17) SIM REN YU from Sekolah Rendah Seri Presbyterian, Batu Pahat
18) NA HYEON KWON from REAL International School, Shah Alam
19) WAN NURLANA WAN SHAHARUDDIN from International Islamic School Malaysia, Gombak
20) CHLOE TAN YI ROU from SJK(C) Union, Cyberjaya

MYAA 2021 (Senior) 1st prize: CELISTE LIM YAN MEI from SMK (P) Temenggong Ibrahim, Batu Pahat
Title: Between the Lines of Black and White
 (unedited version)

Dressed in a pure white coat, expertly wielding a scalpel, and giving out orders while maintaining 150% of focus on removing a thin embedded piece of metal splinter, or an area of cancer tissue from the patient on an operating table – that is who I hope to become one day. I had always wanted to follow in the footsteps of my father, a well-respected heart surgeon. The deepest impression my father left me when I was young was when he returned from the hospital with a hint of a smile etched on his face. That was the start of my journey in medicine.

“That was a long day, I can’t wait for my shift to end so I can finally get a good night’s sleep,” I sighed, relieved that there were only 10 more minutes before my shift ended.

Clearing my desk, I suddenly caught sight of the two little paper figures – a girl and a little butterfly – that I made a few hours ago while waiting for the coffee machine to start. Alone and a little bored, I picked up a piece of paper and started cutting away. The low hum of the machine and the sound of clipping scissors made me feel at ease. That’s right, I was on night shift.

Picking up the two toothpicks that the figure was attached to, I carefully inserted them into a small lump of plasticine in front of my desk lamp. The dark silhouettes of a girl chasing after a butterfly appeared on the white-washed wall.

Just then, someone barged into my office at a speed that could put Usain Bolt to shame, sending my newly organized papers flying into my face.

“Apologies for barging in like that, but I must inform you that- Oh, that’s really beautiful. Are those shadow puppets?” said the breathless young nurse while pointing at the shadows.

“Well, sort of. It’s more like the simplified version really.”

“That’s really cool. By any chance, do you know how traditional shadow puppetry works?” she asked with a gleam in her eyes.

“I suppose I know a little.” The memories of a scary Tok Dalang flashed before my eyes. My younger self didn’t know what he signed up for when he chose to learn the art of shadow puppetry from the old man.

“You know, a little girl was recently admitted to the children’s ward. She kept crying for her parents who left her here in our care as they needed to go back to work, but no matter what we did, we just couldn’t calm her down. She is asleep now, but I don’t know what we’re going to do when she wakes up,” she sighed. “Could you, perhaps, help us out?”

Man, I don’t know. “I’ll…… try my best.”

“Really? Thank you so much! I’m-we’re really grateful,” she blurted and almost gave a 90 degree bow.

“Hey, no worries. I will help.”
                                                                  ~~~~~~~~

Twelve hours later, I made my way through the busy hallways to the children’s ward.

Red, blue, green, yellow; dolphins, turtles, fishes swimming in the warm ocean with Mr Sun smiling down on them – the onslaught of colours tells me I’m here. Knocking on the door, I slowly pushed it open and stepped into the room.

At the far-right corner, I saw the little girl with light brown hair tied in pigtails. Holding a few small figurines I prepared, I tentatively made my way towards the little girl.

“Hello, what’s your name?” I tried to put on the warmest and brightest smile I could muster.

No reply. She looked wary of this big guy who suddenly approached her out of nowhere.

“You can call me Dr. James.” I tried. “I heard you’re new here. So, I thought I should give you a little welcome gift.” She definitely perked up hearing that. That’s a good start.

After setting up a simple small booth with a screen near her bed, I turned on the mini LED lamp.

“Once upon a time, there was a huge fire-breathing dragon who lived on top of a mountain. This mighty dragon was said to be the guardian of a secret treasure, only someone who passed his test may obtain it. One day…….” A few curious kids also came over to watch. Luckily, my skills didn’t get rusty even after all these years.

The children were captivated by the movement of shadows on the screen. Seeing their faces light up with excitement when the hero bravely fought the mighty dragon and earned its recognition, made me happy and satisfied knowing I could put a smile on their faces with my storytelling. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the little girl smiling and eagerly watching the show.

I guess the skills I persevered to learn were worth the effort.
                                                            ~~~~~~~~

Over the next few days, I started putting on more small-scaled shadow puppet shows for the children. Before I knew it, I became one of the most popular doctors in the children’s ward.

I must admit, juggling between the shows and my daily responsibilities was draining. But the satisfaction at the end of the day was encouraging.

One afternoon, the head of the department called me into his office. “Sit down, I have something to say regarding your recent activities in the children’s ward.”

I tensed up as I quietly took my seat.

“Stop putting on those shows and focus on your work as a doctor. You know how physically and mentally taxing it can be for you to handle the increasing amount of workload and long hours at the hospital.” The silence was suffocating. “Put some distance between you and your patients. You’re overstepping your boundaries.”

I couldn’t understand. “Why?”

A big sigh. “I understand that you want to help. But getting too close to the children goes against the boundaries of our profession. I hope you understand, young man. Heed my advice and stop that nonsense immediately, or you will be punished.”

I couldn’t understand, but I kept quiet. I left with a heavy heart. What should I tell those children who are eagerly waiting for my next show?

Over the next few days, I avoided the children’s ward although I heard whispers that the children were asking for me.

There was nothing I could do.
                                                ~~~~~~~~

Three days later, the head of the department called me into his office again. He sighed heavily when he saw me. “Did you know that the pediatricians are having a hard time handling the children after your little stunt?”

“I understand your desire to help others, but you must toe the line.”

He looked at me squarely in the eyes. “I made the same mistake of not knowing my boundaries. I have lived in guilt ever since. I don’t want you to experience the same, young man.”

“At that time, I had just become a certified oncologist. The very first patient I took care of was a terminally ill young girl. I tried my best to give her the best care possible. But it was no use, she was diagnosed too late. She only had a few months left.” He said sullenly.

“Over the months, she came to trust me and I came to regard her as a little sister.

Over time, her condition deteriorated and the cancer cells began to spread to her lungs.

One evening, she asked ‘Am I going to die?’ I hesitated to answer. Perhaps she already saw through my lies as silence engulfed us. She stopped talking to me the next few days.

One day as I was examining her, she suddenly smiled and said, ‘Thank you for taking care of me all these months.’

She passed away not long after.

I was very affected by her passing. For a long time after she was gone, I struggled to stay focused at work. From that experience, I learnt to maintain a professional distance from the patients,” he said with a tinge of sadness. At that moment, he didn’t look like the stern senior I feared.

“Do you understand now?”
                                                  ~~~~~~~~

Two years passed in a flash. I completed my housemanship at the hospital and continued with my studies.

Sometimes, life doesn’t present itself in black and white, but in various shades of gray.

I pursued my love for surgery, but I realized I have a deep affinity with children. Hence, here I am today, walking along the corridors of the hospital as a pediatric surgeon.

“Good morning, how are you doing today?”

The little boy refused to look up. He’s my patient who was brought after an accident which left his parents seriously injured, and he’s pining for them.

“I’m going to show you a magical performance, where shadows of heroes come to life to save the captured princess. Would you like to be my first audience?”

His eyes lit up, “Yes!”

(This story is unedited)

Comment from Judges

Zhe Jing: This story tells a strong, heartwarming, and tragic tale of a surgeon as he navigates moral and ethical dilemmas in the hospital. A mature and deep story that tackles heavy issues pertaining to mortality, compassion and professionalism that is relatable to the masses. Very well-written story with a strong message, definitely worth reading!

Gwendolyn: This story is a touching exploration about the relationship between professionalism and personal. It is well paced and the moments are well-separated to provoke emotion and sentimentality in the reader. It is a nice touch that shadow puppetry, a traditional art, is included in the story itself.

2nd Prize: GOH LI LIAN from Kuen Cheng High School, KL
Title: A Desert Ballad 
(unedited version)

Soggy sweat and heavy fumes of smoke; the air reeked of despondent dregs. Flaming tongues of sunrays licked the Gobi Desert bare and dry, merciless to the reddish-brown, Mongolian skins and eyes. Mountainous hills of golden sand rolled endlessly into the distance—in its midst, there was a lush, green oasis.

“Sarantuya…you’ll be on your way?” Nomin asked, shutting the wooden door gently behind her. Jarringly, rusted hinges creaked like arthritic joints of a decrepit Bactrian camel, concocting the littlest screeches of feeble protests.

Sarantuya nodded.

She clutched the hem of her deel robes anxiously, not daring to meet Nomin’s eyes. Her heart was a burdensome boulder ensnared within her chest, dragging her body downwards with the onerous pull of gravity. Slowly, she lifted her long arms, wiping away the beads of sweat decorating her forehead like opulent Gobi agates.

“I’m…I’m off to meet Ganzorig, now,” Nomin spoke louder. She eyed Sarantuya’s face cautiously, gauging her hollow expression.

Sarantuya nodded again, lifting her head slowly to meet Nomin’s eyes. Determined. Determined to not betray the emotions welling up within her tight chest.

For a split second, a mad glint flashed across Sarantuya’s eyes, dying down the instant Nomin turned away. The most alluring eyes—eyes the shade of rare Mongolian turquoise—breath-takingly bright even in the still voidness of dark, melancholic nights. Sarantuya, the name of “moonlight”.

From afar, she watched as Ganzorig strode towards them. Strong, assertive footsteps. Oh, Ganzorig! The name so beautiful on her silent tongue.

She watched as Nomin flung herself brazenly into Ganzorig’s arms; burying her face into the curve of his broad chest. A soft chuckle. A gentle dip of his head; Ganzorig kissed Nomin’s forehead with a tender caress of her brown cheeks.

Sarantuya turned away instantly, mortified.

Her face reddened and she ran away. White deel robes flew carelessly by her sides as she sprinted through the rows and rows of tattered tents, through the luscious greenery of the oasis, past the shimmering lake reflecting the tangerine sunlight.

Narrowed, calculating eyes. Vehement whispers. The Khoid tribe members watched as Sarantuya ran past them in a flurry of white and irresistibly exotic charm.

“27! And still not married!”

“Not a single proposal!”

“Can’t blame her, though.”

“If only she could talk.”

Raucous laughter, again; boisterous voices fleeting unforgivingly into Sarantuya’s ears. Her lips began to tremble.

“Sarantuya?”

The portly woman emerged from her tent, a plaid of ragged yak hair wrapped around her wide waist, throwing her flat curves into greater conspicuousness. She dabbed the sweat off her forehead roughly, smoking a pipe in Sarantuya’s fair face. She huffed, “How was rehearsal?”

Sarantuya skidded abruptly to a halt, coughing. A hasty bow to her mother and she dashed into the tent.

The Biyelgee dance ritual would take place tomorrow. The familiar sense of anticipation crept slowly into her heart, mingled with the slightest twinge of foreboding. She heaved a deep, silent sigh, praying to the Tngri ancestral spirits for the very least of fortune.

Listlessly, she gazed around at the tent’s interior: two mattresses made of grey wool felts, a small, makeshift table, an erratic assortment of what-nots—but the glittering headdress, with its sparkling rubies and red corals, forehead hoop made from pearl greenstones, fabric as deeply coloured as a Scabiosa Butterfly Blue—it shone lustrously under the sunlight, lighting up the tiny tent, like a luminescent full moon on a dark, night sky. Sarantuya’s eyes brimmed with pride.

But what could make her happier? What could possibly lift her from such desolate solitude? Ganzorig and Nomin’s baby, Selenge. A sudden spasm of jealousy shot up her spine, electrifying her nerves. The other tribal women—every single one of them was married off to the men, starting their own families. Every single one—yet she was all alone. Not a single proposal.

The seconds ticked silently away. Cruel, unrelenting. Soon she would be too “old” to marry; no man would desire her. Humiliation. Eternal loneliness. She would never escape.

Another silent sigh. Sarantuya’s carnelian red lips parted gently as if they were soft, rose buds; blooming... If only I could speak…
       *

Hips swayed to the slow rhythm of the tovshuur lutes; chins bobbing to the morin khuur fiddles. Sumptuous, enamel earrings dripped by her cheeks, shimmering under the sunlight streaming into the circular yurt tent, setting her fair skin into emphatically captivating radiance. Nomin and the other women twirled behind her, accentuating Sarantuya’s role as the principal dancer of grace.

Her turquoise eyes travelled around the sea of Khoid tribal members, settling on the newly arrived guests sitting amongst them—guests from the neighbouring Torghut tribe. Then she noticed him; one guest gazing intently at her—his handsome, firmly set face. Strong, muscular arms.

Sarantuya blushed the shade of pink Mongolian quartz.

Up, down. Up and down. She lifted her long arms to the rhythm of the tovshuur lutes, charging every fibre of her soul into her gentle movements, where words of the mouth could never surpass.

The music slowly diminished, quietening to a whisper as slight as a dry, desert zephyr. A blithe pirouette into the final dance posture; Sarantuya lifted her fair face, basking in the brilliant sunshine. The audience erupted into thunderous applause. Gracious bows and iridescent smiles.

“May we have a walk?”

He approached Sarantuya, his firmly set face softening into a polite smile. A slight jolt of surprise. She nodded at the guest, seized by a sudden shyness previously unknown.

“You danced very well.”

His voice, like rolling storms and rumbling thunder; when rain splattered sniper-like needles across the land, devastating the Kharmag berries and Red Goyos. Sarantuya nodded again, her smile drooping a little. Discomfort crept in, stealthily—how was she to respond?

“I have never seen such graceful movements by a dancer—you truly are a rare talent, you know that?” An amiable nod and he continued, navigating their path past the onlooking Khoid tribal members. Delightedly they craned their necks, eavesdropping on a conversation deemed impossible. Plain-looking tribal girls eyed Sarantuya with narrowed eyes, spitting, whispering, shooting her threatening looks of disdain.

Sarantuya averted her gaze.

Suddenly, the guest halted in his tracks, and moved his face close to Sarantuya’s. Her pulse quickened. The blood rushed furiously through her veins, charging waves of burning heat across her body. She immediately hitched on a dazzling smile; but her morose expression, he had caught it.

“Are you feeling alright?” he asked in a sudden, concerned tone.

Sarantuya nodded vigorously. They were giggling—the tribal girls. Relishing in her embarrassment.

“Can’t you…can’t you talk?”

Lost. He was lost in Sarantuya’s gaze, lost in her rare, alluring eyes.

Sarantuya gazed back at him uncertainly—she shook her head. Then she saw it; the agonizingly familiar conflict playing out within those handsome eyes; a sudden, mad glint of desire—vanishing in a split second.

“But…but you are so beautiful…,” he muttered abruptly, breaking the silent conversation of delicate sight.

He turned and strode away. With every sound of his footsteps, Sarantuya’s heart wilted shred by shred into an abyss of darkness. High-pitched giggles escalated to a heart-wrenching crescendo, laced with the aconite poison smeared onto Mongolian arrows, infiltrating the fragile façade of Sarantuya’s crumbling face.

“Sarantuya?”

Nomin emerged from behind her, resting her palm gently upon Sarantuya’s shoulder; baby Selenge in her other arm. Ganzorig strode towards them, wrapping his arms around Nomin in a passionate circle; he turned to Sarantuya.

She whipped away in a heartbeat. Ganzorig must never see the redness in her eyes. Never! The olgoi-khorkhoi death worm was snaking through her heart, suffocating her. She lifted her arms hastily to rub away the tears—the weakest shield from the prying eyes.

Suddenly, she broke into a run and ran and ran…out from the yurt tent, out from the luscious oasis, out into the rolling hills of golden Mongolian sand. She cried silent tears, choking and gasping, distorting her beautiful features.

Just because I’m a mute—doesn’t mean I don’t need love! Just because I can’t speak—doesn’t mean I don’t long to be accepted!

A sandstorm was brewing. Winds howled as deliriously deafening as a million deranged almasty man-beasts, piercing, shattering Sarantuya’s eardrums. Her vision fogged; thick dust rose in heavy clouds; she sensed Father Sky, Qormusta Tengri, blinking down upon her.

Gales whipped up the shimmering deel robes around her. Eyes squeezed shut. Long arms lifted into the howling air—she started to dance.

Sarantuya slammed her body forcefully against the bellowing sandstorm, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards; swirling herself into the bleak bareness.

Nomin’s distant cries of “Sarantuya!” vanished into the roaring winds; all she heard was the music of her soul rising within her. She opened her mouth to scream out those years of rage and humiliation, those years of silent, aggravating fury. Not a wisp of air escaped from those beautiful, carnelian red lips.

And she danced and danced…lost. Lost to the wailing winds of golden sand.

(This story is unedited)

Comment from Judges

Zhe Jing: Very strong, compelling and vivid imagery, this story goes deep into painting the Gobi Desert in all its harshness and beauty. Although brutal and tragic, this story highlights issues caused by culture, tradition, and society just by being different.

Gwendolyn: A captivating story, filled with rich detail and a certain heartache that is hard to capture. The characters each have their own personality, which is highly refreshing. It will be interesting to see how this story is further developed, and how the village will be fleshed out in terms of detail.

3rd Prize: FARAH NURYN BINTI RASLAN HANIFF from Sri KDU Secondary School
Title: Close Your Eyes
(unedited version)

The white window veil covered the mess behind it.

Dinah made sure of this as she paced restlessly around her bedroom. Her lips slightly parted as she blew out hot breaths to release the tension. The room perfectly mirrored her state.

She left the room to dutifully check on Aulia in the nursery. Sound asleep in her crib. Good.

Returning to her bedroom, she stole a glance at her mirror. Purplish crescents under her eyes and bird's nest hair. Dinah collapsed onto the bed and drifted off with a single person on her mind:

Satria.

Across her house, a young man swung a bag of milo ikat tepi as he trudged down the side of a ditch. Walkman in hand. Brooding eyes trained on the gravel. He emanated a darkly quiet demeanour.

He had been hearing whispers in the back of his head, ones he had been trying to get rid off for the past week. Intrusive thoughts which came down to one name.

Dinah.
……

Back in the crib, Aulia let out a distressed cry. The toddler was born blind and deaf thus, was hypersensitive. She felt a disturbance. Her tiny arms flailed at the crib’s railings, begging to be noticed.

Over the television static-

“Researchers report…. seismic waves… approaching.. -stay cautious… Bogor..”

Plink….plink..plink. Dinah sat up from her nap to find a sodden spot on her shoulder sleeve. The air-conditioner was leaking right above, soaking her shirt as she slept.

Huff.

Swinging her legs over to change, she stood up. Her knees wobbled and shook. The vibrations ran up her spine and knocked her down.

“Arrhhh” Dinah groaned, rubbing her throbbing hip.
That shook off her grogginess.
Everything appeared fuzzy and she realised it wasn’t just her.

The ground was shaking.

Books tumbled from the shelves and a water jug crashed to the ground, spilling a dangerous glass-water mix everywhere. The water rippled and spat immediately as it pooled over.

An earthquake! Oh no no!!!!

She pulled herself up with the help of a nearby coat stand and dashed out the door. The frame collapsed behind her. Taking the stairs down two at a time, Dinah rushed over to the crib.

The poor child’s face was dusted with powdery cement. The cracked ceiling grinded against itself.

She snatched the toddler up, bringing Aulia into earshot,

Adek! Kakak is here. We’re getting out.”

Spinning on her heels, she dodged past settees and-

“HIISSSSS”
A broken piece of glass had lodged itself in Dinah’s heel.

A bullet seemed to rocket up her leg. Eyes welling with tears, she ran for her life, out the front door. Tightening her grip on Aulia.

And leaving bloody marks behind.
........

“Isn’t she beautiful, she took after your face Dee.” Ma half-whispered as she cradled my newborn sister.

It was the 21st of August 1986 and we were in the hospital. I peered over mama’s shoulder and saw my sister for the first time. It was love at first sight.

“Ma, I swear to protect her at all costs.” I gave a soldier-salute.

Ma passed Aulia over to me. I gently held her to my chest. I stroked her pudgy arm.

“She’s soft like a marshmallow.”

Ma’s eyes only twinkled at my antics. Then it disappeared.
Eyebrows knitted together and eyes pleading;


“She’s not going to have a regular childhood like you, her senses are going to deteriorate. You have responsibility now. You need to be more than a sister, okay? Help mama.”

My sister began drooling on the hand I had over her tiny chest.

“Don’t worry ma, I’m big now, I got her.”

“Thank you Dee.”

“Love you mama.”

......

“DINAH!! Come to auntie, we need to get to a secure place. Quick!”

A hysterical woman in her fifties came scrambling towards them. Her floral batik smock flapped in the wind and her hair was covered in debris. Mak Anya was a good friend of their mother.

Dinah could feel the ash and dust coating the back of her throat so she coughed and hacked it out. The glass piece had fallen out of her heel as she ran. She wiped off her wet cheeks. One survey at the neighbourhood told her to shut her eyes.

Still, shutting your eyes wouldn’t block out the shrieks and calls.

It was a daylight nightmare.
She could see everything whether she wanted to or not.

To her left, shop roofs caved in and people haphazardly ran.
To her right, a massive rupture in the road the size of the Kapuas River.

But directly in her line of sight, there was a Walkman. Wrapped in pale yellow tape with an S.K. initial, in the mud at the lip of the man-sized sewer. Satria’s precious Walkman.

He wouldn’t- no..

He would.

“Auntie, take Aulia with you. I need to go somewhere- to do something.”

Mak Anya shot her a bewildered expression, “What could you possibly have to do now?!”

“I need to fetch something. I promise I’ll be okay, I’ll be careful. Take Aulia.”, Dinah insisted.

She pushed the baby into Mak Anya’s arms.

“Just because you’re 15 now doesn’t mean the earthquake will spare you. Whatever you’re fetching is worthless compared to your own life, stop!”

Dinah fled through the overgrown weeds down the riverbank. The sewer hole gaped back at her.

He had run in and she knew it, that dummy.

He made her cry so much…

Yet, she ran into the black of the sewer hole.
…..

Satria crouched, rocking back and forth. His jean bottoms sucked up the grey water. His bag of iced milo spilled pale-brown clouds into the black sewage.

“Sa, what were you thinking? Again with the reckless decisions huh?”

A light flickered and echoes boomed from all directions.

“No, no. Go back in, go in. It’ll pass.” he muttered comfortingly.

Squeezing his eyes tight. Who in their right mind would come down here to find him?
No one.

“Get outta your head Sa, it doesn’t do you any good to lock yourself in there.”

With that, he hugged his knees closer and calmed down. Two shaky breaths in, one long breath out.

And he locked himself in.
……

The ghost crept closer, but I stood my ground.

“Dinaaahh o’.. wHOOoo.. The pontianak is coming to get ya….
If you don’t hand over the chocs!”


He was draped in a blanket, staggering towards me. I couldn’t hold my laughter in. I rarely saw him acting out in this manner.

We were nine then. Mama never allowed visitors over to the house. But after meeting Satria, she gave in.

“Care to pass me the milo?” he pleaded.

“Haven’t you had enough already? You don’t want to get fat now.” I teased, sliding the can behind me from where I sat.

Satria dramatically gasped at my retort. An empty cup with little traces of chocolate in hand.

“Anyways, my ma would never, ever let me bring the whole milo tub upstairs. We can’t return an empty can to the pantry right?” I chided.

“You’re too good Dee. And besides, you ate more-“

“Bumbum.” I smirked- that was it. Satria jumped from the bed and tackled me.

Minutes later, we cooled down. He prompted me to sit criss-crossed beside him.

This was how we played.

We were going on a trip.
I was so used to his carefully laid-out process- that I wasn’t quite listening. But one familiar line brought me back-

“-now, close your eyes...”


…….

Dinah’s wound bled continuously as she travelled bare-footed through the tunnel, pinching her nose till it bruised. She had managed to find an old sock to tie the gash on her heel with, to staunch the bleeding. But it turned out, she was no good at first-aid.

She turned the corner, her filthy hands tracing the sewer wall.
And there he was.

“SATRIA KULON!!” she cried. That name tasted like bitter coffee grounds coming from her, but she had to say it.

He didn’t react, he couldn’t hear her. It was pointless over the noises.

Around them pipes screeched and bent, tiles chipped, the water levels rose in enclosed spaces. Hobbling through it, she wrapped her arms around his and hauled him up to his feet.

“Come. on. Sa.” She gritted.

No reaction. His eyes drooped but was capable of moving on his own.

She sighed and tugged him along.
…..

The two emerged from the sewer, injured but alive. Satria trailed behind her. The first quake had stopped and Dinah located one of the safe places at the local school compound. Inside, they found the survivors, the injured and the covered dead. Dinah’s eyes fell on something.

Lying in a corner was a small white body bag.


The temperature dropped to 0 degrees. Dinah’s eyes bulged, her mouth pulled back in abysmal horror. She wanted to scream but the screams were too big to come out.

That's when she felt those warm fingers wrap around hers from behind.

(This story is unedited)

Comment from Judges

Zhe Jing: The horrors of a natural disaster made humane. A touching relationship between the characters, as they focus on surviving and navigating the disaster zone. Very good use of flashbacks to bring more depth to the characters and provide more insight into the Malaysian aspect this story is set in.

Gwendolyn: It depicts relationships between people well. The descriptions of Dinah’s emotions are very unique and resonates with the reader. The use of the earthquake as a way to bring people together is a clever one. It will be interesting to see how it can be further fleshed out.

MYAA 2021 (Junior) 1st prize: NGEOW LI YUE from Kuen Cheng High School, KL
Title: To Live For
 (unedited version)

I lick the rough scar that runs down the centre of my bottom lip, feel my tongue brush against the fabric of my blood-red mask.

This is it, Ember, today’s the day.

As my stomach twists into a heavy knot and my palms start sweating even if my throat is drying and the restlessness is slamming back into me tenfold, I lick the scar on my lips one more time, reminding myself what I came here for, what I’m doing this for, what these past four years of scalding sharp hell is for.
For my parents. To take revenge on that bastard who took their lives.

To be precise, it’s a group of bastards, but they’ve all been killed in the crossfire even if I wish I were to be the one to kill them again and again and again, except for one. A guy about my age, actually. Revenge is the only reason I found a job as a hitman, to earn me a legal license for killing people. Revenge is the only reason I’ve endured years of pain and self-hate. Revenge is the only reason I found the determination to drive the dagger into the chest of my first kill.

Revenge is the only reason I didn’t give up.

And yet here I am, nervous about doing my job. Since when have I ever been nervous about killing a person?

Another ten more minutes, and I’m in.

Jonas Smith, I’m coming for you.

He passes through the door, then closer, then finally close enough for me to slice both his Achilles tendons. I savour the surprised yelp as I emerge from under the table, and his expression of both pain and fear as he falls to the wooden floor and clumsily tries to scramble away.

I step on his long coattails (rich little bastard), cornering him against a wall. I’m aware my combat boots are heavy, so I kick, and I kick hard.

“Who are you—help!” he yelps as I tackle him to the floor. My dagger digs into his neck.

“Apologise.”

I watch as he gathers up all his courage to ask, “What for?”

I don’t like it, not one bit, “Own up to it, you bastard.”

He freaking manages to look confused, “What?”

“The Reticence!” I growl, digging the knife deeper as a warning – but not too hard – I don’t want him dead yet, I want him to listen, “That blasted blimp your goons hijacked! You killed my mom and dad, scoundrel. Right in front of me!

I can hardly stop the tears brimming in my eyes, the lump forming in my throat.

“No, stop! I’m not that person, I never participated in—”

“Never participated in?!” I grab a fistful of his collar, haul him up slightly, “Look around you! Your clan emblem! It’s even tattooed on you!”

“Listen to me, there were twenty in total in that operation, and they were all done for once the ship exploded, the one who was getting the money was my dad and not—” he pleads, but all I can see and feel is red hot rage and I can’t process what he’s saying and all logic in me has shut down completely, he’s probably telling the truth I can tell but I don’t care anymore just

“Die already!”

At this point, the tears have actually spilled out of my eyes, running thin tracks down my cheeks, the faces of my parents appearing before me, and suddenly I’m back with my mom and dad in the middle of my bedroom—

“Sweet dreams, Ems.”

and I’m back inside The Reticence and the gun fires with a bang—

“Nighty night, Daddy.”

“I don’t care!” I scream, “Shut up already! I don’t care and I don’t know and I don’t want to know!”

“But I did nothing wrong! Please, I’m innocent.

That word rings loud in my ears. I was innocent too. Not anymore, but I was. My dagger digs into his flesh and draws blood, red spilling out of the wound like how my tears spill out of my eyes.

I can’t bear this anymore.

“Time’s up.”

I’ll be free.

But I can’t bring myself to drive my dagger in.

I can’t, because there’s something in his eyes holding me back, forbidding me, an invisible barrier between my dagger and his chest. It says that he’s innocent and I’m not.

The dagger clatters to the ground.

“The operation was meant to benefit my father. He framed me so he could get away with it. That’s why the investigation was so easy,” he says, pauses and gulps, continues, “The twenty goons were practically a suicide squad, and that’s why the police could only find his ring finger amidst the debris, because he faked his death.”

My hands drop to my sides.

“If you want proof, there’s…”

His voice is drowned out by the chaos of my mind. My hands are shaking, I can taste my tears in my mask, my heart suddenly feels too tired to keep beating. Why didn’t I kill him? Why can’t I?

“…because he failed, because someone else got to him,” he finishes. I look into his eyes, sense his sudden surge of courage, “Please don’t kill me. I’m sorry for your family, but the person you’re searching for is dead now.”

He presses further, as if trying to guilt trip me – and maybe he is. But even so, we both still know he’s right.

“Please, I deserve to live. I didn’t do anything wrong, don’t kill me because my father killed yours.”

“I’m sorry,” The tears are making their way down my face again, because I feel empty, not getting my revenge, because it hurts worse, now that I’m the one in the wrong.

“It’s fine, because I’m not dead,” He smiles, so quick to forgive that it surprises me.

“You’re right,” I wipe my eyes, stand up and brush myself off, aware that I’m now covered in his blood. Extend a hand out towards him, “Thanks, Jonas.”

“Heh. I’ll assume you know everything about me. And you are?” He takes it.

“Ember. Ember Dawn.”

And together, with his arm over my shoulders and half his weight on me, maybe it’s time to let go of the past.

Standing in the halls on the luxurious red carpet, surrounded by black and red and golden ornate walls, spotlighted by sunlight beaming through colourful mosaic windows, looking into the bewildered eyes of my boss, smiling inanely underneath the same blood-red mask I’m wearing from yesterday that smells just like the colour it is, my life has never felt so right.

“So, what are you here for, Ms. Dawn?”

I can’t help the smile that breaks across my face, the first ray of sunlight after four years of darkness. It’s been so long, so long since I haven’t been weighed down with burdens, haunted by kills and screams, so long since I’ve felt like a child, so long since I’ve felt peace.

“I resign.”

(This story is unedited)

Comment from Judges

Zhe Jing: Suspenseful and thrilling dramatization of a to-be serial killer bent on taking revenge to right a wrong. The rage the main character emanates was raw and brutal, which breathes life to and establishes the main character. The switch to confusion and doubt towards the end of the story was handled and transitioned properly. Although, the sudden realization that the main character has that he was in the wrong all along could have had a better buildup and a stronger trigger, it still works within this context.

Gwendolyn: The emotions created through this story is intense and heartfelt, which makes the ending all the more pleasing to read. It makes me want to find out more about the backstory of both main characters and the reason behind the parents’ death. 

2nd Prize: ABRIAN WU JUN XIANG from Axcel International School, Puchong
Title: The Kill Snapp’d from Side to Side 
(unedited version)

History

U.S.M.S. Royal Albatross was a fictional 30,000 ton 750 foot ocean liner ordered in 1913 by the fictional Greyhound line as part of the Albatross class, along with the Grand Albatross, Wandering Albatross and Anchorage. Royal Albatross would depart the Mersey on December 6th 1915 and be torpedoed on December 7th, sinking in 3 minutes, with only 25 people surviving. Along with the Jacksonville, Royal Albatross would bankrupt Greyhound Line and result in its rebooting.

Sources:
- Westbourne
- Anchorage
- Royal Albatross

I

Detective John’s Journal – December 6th
It was a cold December afternoon in the UK. I, John, had a meeting set up by the Cunard Line to attend to in New York. It was currently WWI and many shipping lines were put on hold at the moment. As such I chose the only ship available, Greyhound’s U.S.M.S. Royal Albatross.

Taking a train ride from London, I soon got to the Mersey and boarded the tender S.S. Westbourne, which took me to the Royal Albatross, We set sail on December 6th 1915. Nothing could go wrong here.

II

Officer Lewis’s Journal – December 6th
Royal Albatross was a wonderful ship. I’ve done the inspections with Captain Edward Zimmerman and the ship was in tip-top shape, with a maximum speed of 20 knots. The ship was due to arrive at New York on December 12th, which was great timing. Before that, we would call at Cherbourg and Queenstown.

Mr. Wels’s Journal – December 6th
All our money had not been to waste, the ship was a work of art, I and my wife, Mrs. Stoker were having a jolly good time.

Detective John’s Journal – December 6th
I am enjoying my stay on-board and I can say the ship is like no other, she was like Titanic before her sinking, a work of art.

Captain Edward’s Logbook – December 6th
12:00 hours – Cast off from Mersey
14:00 hours – Near Mersey mouth, continue to Cherbourg.

III

Detective John’s Journal – December 6th
It’s now 3pm and something off has happened. I was walking down the promenade when I heard a gunshot and a spurt. It came from one of the tourist class cabins.

Captain Edward’s Journal – December 6th
It’s now 3.15 PM and the ship is near Cherbourg, I have received word from Officer Lewis that Detective John wants to meet me. I headed into the A-deck promenade and found him.

‘Good day sir,’ I say.

‘Good day, I heard someone has been murdered in the cabin behind me,’ replied Detective John.

I gave him the thumbs up and he kicked the cabin door open, I ran inside. There was blood everywhere, and a top hat. On one corner, there sat a Luger with a bunch of stained bullets…

IV

Detective John’s Journal – December 6th
I have investigated the murder while we were in Cherbourg and examined the body. The person murdered was Mr. Wels and the top hat was his, not the murderer’s. The Luger pointed to a German and there was also a dress and female undergarments on the body. It had to be a female German, or else they would have been no Luger, or clothes.

Mrs. Stoker’s Journal – December 6th
I cried like crazy after I heard that my husband was dead. It was too much.

Officer Lewis’s Journal – December 6th
I had never anticipated that this would happen. I just hope Greyhound’s reputation won’t be tarnished.

V

Detective John’s Journal – December 6th
I’ve gotten to the dining room for dinner, the thought of a German on-board disturbed me. Who would she kill next? Why is she here? Is she trying to hijack or sink the ship? It was making me feel queasy.

After dinner, I gave a thought. It all happened so quickly, the murderer had to have been near Mr. Wels cabin. It also interests me, wasn’t Mrs. Stoker staying with Mr. Wels and at the cabin at the time? Why did she act like she knew nothing? Was she the one? It was a really serious thought.

Captain Edward’s Journal – December 6th
At 8pm, when the ship was at Queenstown, I gave Detective John the approval to interview all the female passengers near Mr. Wels’s and Mrs. Stoker’s cabin. They had no knowledge of the incident and never knew that Mr. Wels was murdered in the first place. This is starting to get strange.

Mrs. Stoker’s Journal – December 6th
I have a feeling that they are suspecting me of killing my husband. I have to put my plan into action before it’s too late.

VI

Detective John’s Journal – December 6th
Its 9pm and I’m still discussing the details with the captain. This is weird. How could none of the female passengers near Mr. Wels cabin not know about the murder?

Captain Edward told me that Mrs. Stoker could have been the murderer. But if it was true, why would she kill her husband? The clothes on Mr. Wels body could have been hers, but again might be a red herring.

Captain Edward’s Journal – December 6th
Detective John told me that the undergarments could be a red herring. I told him that he should go to supper, it was time for it.

Tomorrow, hopefully things don’t get worse

VII

Detective John’s Journal – Midnight, December 6th
I got big news. I received news from an Irish immigrant at midnight who witnessed the murder that he saw Mrs. Stoker taking her clothes off in the cabin 5 seconds before the curtains closed, and another 5 seconds later, gunshot and the curtains were stained in blood. I immediately rushed to find the captain.

Captain Edward’s Journal – December 7th
I was in my cabin, wondering whether Detective John managed to solve the dilemma when suddenly, I heard 4 explosions on the side of the ship.

Detective John’s Journal – December 7th
As I was running to the stairs, I felt the vessel shake as 4 explosions went off below the waterline. The Royal Albatross had been torpedoed, there was no doubt of it. I tried to get to the lifeboats but it was too late. When I stepped onto the deck, the whole vessel split into two and sank. I was in the water with the other passengers.

VIII

Detective John’s Journal – December 7th
I was struggling to try and keep my head above the surface when the Grand Albatross nearby stopped to assist, I got pulled on-board as another torpedo hit the Grand Albatross on the side. The vessel had to abandon those still in the water. I wasn’t the only person saved though, Captain Edward, Officer Lewis and Mrs. Stoker was there.

Officer Lewis’s Journal – December 7th
I was saved from the doomed vessel and brought on-board the Grand Albatross. Now the crew and passengers are fussing over us.

IX
Detective John’s Journal – December 12th
Mrs. Stoker was actually not a German, but a traitor. It worked out well in the end though. Grand Albatross didn’t sink, I got to New York on time on a convoy and Mrs. Stoker was arrested for murder and manslaughter. I can laugh at my memories but the horrors will haunt me forever.

(This story is unedited)

Comment from Judges

Zhe Jing: A seemingly researched and historical piece that uses the unique style of journal storytelling. Although it initially reads like a history textbook, it does have interesting story elements like humour, dialogue and imagery sprinkled in. The murder mystery hidden within the journal entries was a cool touch and does well by introducing a climax.

Gwendolyn: I am impressed at how he manages to create suspense through the use of one person’s perspective, especially through a journal. It is reminiscent of styles like that of Frankenstein, which utilises the same medium of journals and newspapers to generate credibility in the story and in the reader.

3rd Prize: KANCHANAA A/P PULANTHRAN from SMK Taman Desa, KL
Title: Forgotten Reflections
 

Prologue

Just like any other story, this story started with a ‘Once Upon a Time’ too...........

“Do you, Prince Chase Charming, take Queen Snow White as your lawfully wedded wife?” asked a woman in a sparkly white dress, holding a majestic wand. “I do,” said the man, known as the third Prince Charming.

“And do you, Queen Snow White, take Prince Chase Charming as your lawfully wedded husband?” she continued to the woman with skin as white as snow. “I do,” she said. “Well, then what are we waiting for? You may now kiss the bride!” said the woman, who was none other than the Fairy Godmother.

Just as the prince was about to kiss his beautiful wife, the palace doors flung open. Outside stood an old hag with gleaming green eyes. “How could you not invite your own mother to your wedding Snowy?” asked the hag. Upon hearing those words, Snow White’s happiness was replaced by a wave of anger and hatred.

“Yo-u... will never be my mother!” she said, her voice filled with hatred. “Oh? And why is that?” asked the woman. “A mother wouldn’t try to harm; let alone kill her daughter!” spat Snow White, tears forming in her eyes.

“Guards, cease this woman!” ordered the prince. “Already? But I just got here,” said the old woman.
“Evelynn, what are you even doing here? Don’t you think you’ve already done enough damage?” asked the Fairy Godmother. “Why call me using a name no one knows, my dear Fairy Godmother? Call me the Evil Queen, so all may know me!” cackled the Evil Queen.

“Evelynn, leave while you can or else!” threatened the Fairy Godmother, raising her wand. “Or else? You gonna go all bibbidi-bobbidi-boo on me?" mocked the Evil Queen. Without talking any further, the Evil Queen swiftly walked past the guards, and snatched the Fairy Godmother’s wand. “What...what are you going to do with that?” asked Snow White, her voice trembling. “Don’t worry your pretty head about it dear. You’ll get to see what I’m about to do,” said the Evil Queen, as she pointed the wand at Snow White.

“I want nothing more than to be the winner;

now trap this soul in a mirror!”

chanted the Evil Queen, her eyes lighting up with glee. To everyone’s surprise, a purple smoke started swirling around Snow White, as her entire body disappeared. “Where have you hidden my bride you sinful witch!” shouted the prince.

“Relax, she’s been sucked into my magic mirror and if you want her to live, I kindly ask you to return my throne,” said the Evil Queen. “You can’t harm her Evelynn!” said the Fairy Godmother. “I wouldn’t keep my hopes high, if I were you. You see, if I break the mirror, there won’t be any way to save your precious queen- oops, I meant ex queen,” said the cruel queen, smiling widely. “Do as I say, or Snow White becomes nothing more than a lost reflection!”

“Give us a day to discuss with the Happily Ever After council. We’ll answer you by dawn,” said the Fairy Godmother, her voice barely a whisper. “Very well then. Dawn, do bear in mind,” said the Evil Queen, before vanishing through the palace gates.

Well...I guess it didn’t end with a ‘Happily Ever After’ like usual stories, but this is just the beginning, of an epic new story..........

ONCE UPON A TIME

“Students! Are you even listening to me?” asked Mrs Dior, a high school teacher. She is the literature teacher of the form one’s first class, at Coral Coast High, and might I say the most chaotic class in the entire school.

“Okay, I won’t be giving any work for you today, but I need you to listen to me,” sighed Mrs Dior. Almost immediately, all the pupils turned their heads to face their teacher. “I’ve decided to tell you the original version of Snow White,” she said.

“Mrs, you mean before they changed all the fairy tales at ending of 2021?” asked a blond girl, who was sitting in the back row. “Yes Violet. I’m not sure who’s idea it was, but I’m sure you’ll like the original version better,” answered the teacher.

“Being the kids of 2057, I’m sure you’d be interested in the original version, where good wins over the bad,” said their teacher smiling. “So... Snow White gets a happily ever after?” asked a brunette, who was sitting beside Violet. “She does Sky. Isn’t that nice?”

“I guess,” she mumbled slightly. “Oh come on Sky. Can’t you find it in your dark soul to be happy for her?” asked Violet, nudging Sky on the shoulder. “Not everyone has a happily ever after, but I guess I kinda feel happy for her,” said Sky, slouching in her chair.

You may be wondering, What’s up with this girl? She’s all sad and broken. Well, you’ve got to wait and find out. Anyway, once Mrs Dior finished her story, a girl with red hair started tearing up. “That was so beautiful!” she said, wiping her eyes.

“Cut the crap Rachel. It wasn’t even that beautiful,” said a boy with ash blond hair. “Ashton Woods, how many times have I told you to be nice to your classmates?” asked Mrs Dior, rubbing her temples.

“I apologise for my crappy behaviour Mrs,” said Ashton....sarcastically. You see, this boy never takes anything seriously, so as you can see, he’s that one student in class, that the teachers can’t handle.

“I’m just gonna ignore your unapologetic apology, and continue where I stopped,” said Mrs Dior, clearly annoyed. “Anyway, I have a group project for you kids. You need to write a short story, by next week Monday,”

“What story Mrs?” asked Luke, one of the best writers in class. “A fairy tale twist. You must recreate a fairy tale, as how it would be based on your perspective,” said Mrs Dior. “Oh, and you’ll be doing it in groups. One by one come up, and pick a name from the box on my table. Since it’s a group of 2, once you get your partner, you may start planning your story,”

Luke walked up first, and picked out a scroll of paper. “I got Xandre,” said Luke as he looked at his best friend. “Okay, Violet, you’re up next,” said their teacher.

“I got......Denki!” she said smiling widely. “So... how does it fell like working with your crush?” asked Sky as Violet came back. “Amazing, to be honest. He’s the best partner, other than you,” she said as she gave a toothy grin.

“He’s also the best friend of the annoying scumbag in our class,” said Sky, rolling her eyes. “It’s not my fault you and Ashton can’t get along. If both of you didn’t have ego big as an elephant, I think you might get along you know,” said Violet. “I doubt that, and speaking of the devil, it’s his turn,” Sky said facing forward. “I feel bad for whomever he gets teamed up with,”

“Well, let’s see which loser I get teamed up with,” muttered Ashton, as he took out a paper. “......SKY VALENTIN?!” shrieked Ashton. “WHAT?!” cried Sky, while standing up.

“You heard him, you’re both a team, now start planning,” said Mrs Dior. “But, I hate Sky. She’s so expressionless, and creepy!” protested Ashton. “Well, at least I’m not an overgrown monkey, with the brain of a green crayon!” snapped Sky.

“What can I say; it is what it is, now start working,” said Mrs Dior, completely ignoring the fuming teenagers. It wasn’t a surprise that at of the day, they were the only team with no idea on what to write because they were too busy sulking in the corner.

As everyone was getting ready to leave, Sky decided to take the effort, to talk to Ashton. “Yo scumbag, me at 5:10 at the park to discuss our story,” said Sky reluctantly. “Why would you care?” asked Ashton, while packing his stuff.

“In case you didn’t already now, we are being graded for this and if we don’t put in any initiative, we’re both getting a big fat zero,” said Sky. “Fine, I’ll be there. Don’t be late,” Ashton said before walking out of class.

Sky let out a sigh, before walking back home. “Hey Charlotte, where’s mom?” asked Sky once she arrived home. “In her room, but if I were you, I’d give her space,” said Charlotte, her younger sister. “Did Eric come over?” she asked, afraid of the answer.

“.... Y-yeah. He did, and he shouted at mom because she didn’t give him money,” said Charlotte, hesitantly. “Wait here, I’ll go talk to her,” said Sky, before dashing up the flight of stairs. “Mom? You in there? Mom?” questioned Sky as she turned the door knob, of her mother’s room. As she opened the door, the sight that welcomed her, made her well up with tears.

“M-mom! What happened?” she cried as she rushed to her mother. Mrs Valentin’s head was bleeding heavily, and she lay weakly on the floor. “Did Eric do this? Mom, answer me!” Sky said while shaking her mother. “Charlotte! Call 999....NOW!”

“She’ll be fine, but can you tell me what happened?” asked doctor Judith, one of Mrs Valentin’s friend who’s a doctor there. “Eric was home, but we don’t know what really happened,” said Charlotte, crying into Sky’s hands. “Your elder brother? Well don’t worry, I’ll take care of the fee and I’ll talk to her once the operation’s over,” said Judith.

“Umm...Judith, could you please take care of Charlotte? I have to meet a classmate in the park to discuss on our project,” Sky said. “Sure sweetie. Be careful,” she said before bringing Charlotte away.

Sky quickly ran to the park, and scanned for a certain blond. “You’re late,” said Ashton rolling his eyes. “Sorry, my.... dog was sick,” she lied. “Whatever, now are doing this or what?” asked Ashton.

“Yeah, hold on,” Sky said, as she reached into her bag and pulled out a blue book with a mirror on the cover. “Where did you get that? Wait, don’t tell me; you stole it didn’t you?” asked Ashton. “It’s my mom’s. These are the original stories. I thought we can get some ideas,” said Sky, totally ignoring his rude critic.

The teens spent 30 minutes reading all the stories. The found them very intriguing, and joyful to read. “Who knew the originals could be very entertaining?” questioned Ashton. “Can’t believe I’m saying this but, you’re right,” said Sky, while closing the book. “Tell, me something I don’t know,” said Ashton, while admiring himself in the mirror. “Hey...do you ever wonder if happily ever after can actually be true?” Sky asked, looking across the horizon.

“I guess.... But, I also wonder, where the word fairy tale came from,” said Ashton, looking up from the mirror. “You know; they say if we say Once Upon a Time something magical might happen,” said Sky.

“That sounds silly, Sky. You’re an even bigger weirdo than I thought!” said Ashton while chuckling a bit.
Suddenly, the mirror started glowing. “Eh? Sky, is there some sort of LED light in the mirror?” asked Ashton. “No, why?” asked Sky, who hadn’t noticed the glow. “Then, you might wanna see this,” said Ashton. “Sky’s eyes widened, as she saw words forming in the mirror.

"Once upon a time;

Of you sail to the Land of Tales....”

read Sky. “What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Ashton, but before he got his answer, a blue smoke started swirling the two teens, and they disappeared into the mirror.

TO BE CONTINUED

Comment from Judges

Zhe Jing: A promising fairy tale / 'once upon a time' what-if story. Reads like an opening to a potential novel, with good flow of writing, smooth dialogue and interesting characters. Good use of humour and dialogue to bring out the nuances and details in story-telling. Very well-written and definitely looking forward to more…

Gwendolyn: This story is an imaginative twist on fairy tales and the dialogue really move things along. I personally like how she brings the fantasy into present day and make it believable. It is particularly wonderful to see various fairy tale characters brought together in their unique dispositions.

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