‘If I could live anywhere in the world…’
Year 7-9 Winner: Timothy Fellows (Year 9)
Anywhere In The World
If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be in Paris, I told myself. Paris, the grand and golden city rich with romance. Unfortunately in this age, Paris no longer stands. Wars overtook the golden city, as it does to all things eventually. The buildings reduced to rubble, and the streets mere paths of rock amongst the hazy cacophony of weaponry. A saunter through Paris used to be a walk through joy itself, with birds chirping, the sky a grand hue of blue and with people. Not necessarily happy or joyful people, but humans all the same. The only people there now are the shadows left behind by the towering wrecks of buildings and frames, abandoned and forgotten.
If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be Neon City, I advised myself. The city without darkness, named so for its omnipresent lights. The lights that dominated the city may not be healthy for the decaying ecosystem, but always shine the grandest colours, illuminating even the darkest corners of the world. The colours could come in any shade and allowed the city to glow forever. Only, staring at the signs for too long could ruin your eyes and the uncongenial nature of the signs caused a never-ending downpour. The lights may enlighten the city, but they cast a darkness just as powerful.
If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be the Isle of the Astute, I uttered to myself. It was a paradise for all. Citizens present are as joyful and grandiose as their infrastructure. Their buildings stood the tallest in the world, beautiful constructions of glass and steel, reflective giants, colossal and grand. The technology possessed is more sophisticated than any other part of the world. However, in order to preserve this paradisiac utopia of grand harmony, they must lose themselves. Their personalities become lost in machines. No humans remain in the Isle of the Astute, only mechanic interpretations.
If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be right here at home, I now tell myself. It is not Paris, but it has people. It is not Neon City, but it has balance. It is not the Isle of the Astute, but it has soul. It is not grandiose or imposing and yet after all its flaws, what remains intact is life, balance, family and joy.
Year 10-12 Winner: Abraxus Lichty (Year 11)
The Garden World of Verith
The past of Verith’s landscape was luxurious, golden grass waved in the vigorous winds, flowers with indescribable details bloomed when their season was here. The mountains looked as if they pierced the atmosphere; falling snow was a rarity down on the ground, but up there it was plentiful. Alien structures were commonplace; however, they were not cities nor settlements but tall, floating obelisks, where the settlers of this planet lived peacefully.
Every night they would investigate the skies, seeing their three beautiful moons shine upon them. Eserki, the biggest one, would glow bright in midnight blue, providing the world light for the long and cold nights. Abiru was destined to create the most spectacular solar eclipses, with its blood red aura and charming rings. And Tsurion, the smallest of the three, would shine blindingly green, lighting up the skies to enhance the viewing experience for those who want to see the stars.
Age has not been so kind to Verith, however. What was once a garden world for the settlers to prosper has now become a harsh frozen wasteland. Those who roam Verith must deal with continuous snowstorms, ravaging everything. Ice spikes now stick out of the ground with razor sharp tips, with a magical aura inside of them. The skies are covered in grey clouds all day long, making the three moons almost non-existent and the sunlight barely able to make it to the surface. The obelisks ended up becoming little surveyors created from a state changing material that are given the task to roam the frozen ground of Verith.
Those who once lived here have ventured onto other celestial bodies in the galaxy. Ones that have flowing rivers, sustainable atmospheres, unbelievably large continents; and a world where they could live without fear of extinction.
But no matter how long they live in a world that they deem is perfect, there will always come a time where death comes knocking. Jumping to planets to set up base and to live out their lives will end; you cannot outlive death.
Staff Winner: Laura Benney
The key turned in the lock of Room 605 and chapped lips called out, “housekeeping?” The silence was met with a smile.
Usually, Gertrude never came to Mrs. Astor’s apartment on Fridays, but she had been planning this for weeks. She knew when Mrs. Astor left for tennis and that she had forty minutes, max. Gertrude left her sponges and sprays on the kitchen counter. She wasn’t here to clean.
From the wine rack Gertrude selected a bottle. She wouldn’t taste a drop, but it was nice to balance a glass between her fingers. She sat on the couch, enjoying the rose-coloured satin on her skin and gazed out of the enormous window overlooking the bay. From her purse, Gertrude took a photograph of her son. He was a good boy, better than good. To each of her shortcomings, he would smile and say “It’s alright, Mum”. To sixty-hour work-weeks, months of microwave meals and worn-out sneakers. “It’s alright.” “It’s alright.” “It’s alright.” But it wasn’t alright.
Gertrude balanced the photograph against the glass of a golden picture frame, covering a photograph of Mrs. Astor beneath. “Isn’t this better?” She ran a guilty palm down her cheek. He deserved better.
Gertrude pressed her eyes shut then and wished so forcefully that her face turned red. She wished that the photograph was within the glass of the frame and that Room 605 belonged to her and her boy.
Instead, when she opened her eyes, life was the same. Or it was, mostly. The photograph, she thought, looked different. How strange. Was that a stiffness in her son’s usually spirited posture? Why did his smile seem ill at ease? Perhaps, she thought, it was the light. Perhaps… Gertrude froze.
If Mrs. Astor was surprised to find her cleaner in the living room when she’d returned to collect her forgotten racquet, she didn’t show it. Instead, she stood in the doorway with an expression of cool detachment and inclined her head as if to say, “Explain, please, if you dare.”
Gertrude’s throat quivered. “I was…..” she waited for the words to materialise but nothing came. After all, she’d never been expected to muster more words for Mrs. Astor than “Yes, ma’am” and “sorry”. She half expected to feel the quick sting of a palm across her cheek but when she looked up, Mrs. Astor’s eyes danced with a sour bemusement. Her cheeks twitched with a smirk.
Wordlessly, Gertrude rose from the couch. She collected her cleaning equipment and was just about to leave when a curt ‘eh-hem’ cut the air. Gertrude turned slowly then, as if she’d heard the click of a gun being cocked. Mrs. Astor had plucked the photograph from where it was resting in the frame. She curled her lip as she held it out. “Yours?”
The photograph clutched in Gertrude’s fist was the only thing that stopped her shaking as she escaped to the safety of the cleaner’s closet in the lobby. The chemical fumes there seemed harmless compared to the poisonous sting she’d received upstairs.
Gertrude shuddered, picturing her son’s eyes filled with disappointment, or worse, pity. But when she finally looked at the photograph, her lips parted in surprise. It was back to normal. Her son’s bright, curious eyes shone out at her and his body was once again lively with mischief.
Gertrude’s heart fluttered. Perhaps, she smiled as she tucked the photo away, he didn’t mind living within the worn folds of her purse after all. At least it meant he could be tucked snugly into her top pocket, against her heart where he belonged.
Staff Winner: Fiona Ludbrook
If I could live anywhere in the world it would be in the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya.
I would hike up the steep rocky sides of the Rift Valley again where, at altitude, every single step requires greater effort. I would gaze down upon the Mara River, getting ever smaller in the distance, as it snakes in tree lined bounty across an otherwise parched landscape.
I am a stranger in this place. I should not feel so at home. Buffalo, lions, cheetahs, leopards and crocodiles, hippos, rhinos or nasty venomous snakes could all do me serious damage, if I encounter them on my hikes. Perhaps they too sense I am at one with this place and unafraid. The wildlife is happy posing for my camera. The elephants relax, presenting a newborn calf. Poachers shoot with guns not cameras.
I taste the plants that minimise thirst in this dry landscape as I walk, accompanied by a shaven headed Masai warrior dressed in a red and blue tartan cape and carrying a stick, lest we meet a lion or buffalo. He offers me an array of fruits and roots to sample and reveals each plants’ uses. The plant that keeps thirst at bay seems to work. It is tangy, sweet and sour, like a Fruit Tingle.
Richard Ole Karaunga, my Masai guide, introduces me to a herd of Masai cows. He teaches me to whistle softly to put the cattle at ease. It is a moment of great honour. I am a woman, whose gender and skin colour pose an unfamiliar experience to these gentle beasts. They are exclusively tended by Masai men, who believe they own all the cows in the world. One cow responds to me, submitting to my gentle chatter and strokes over her golden, thin body. Her horns could send me flying. Is she as curious about this strange creature greeting her so tenderly, as I am about her?
I learn that Masai do not live on the blood and milk of their cows alone but, contrary to popular belief, eat a rich and abundant selection of plants, such as I have been sampling to keep them healthy and well nourished.
As we descend back down the steep, volcanic hillside to the valley below, I can see the luxurious lodge on the banks of the Mara River that is my accommodation. I know at night I will be kept safe by our Masai hosts from the notoriously cantankerous hippos and buffaloes roaming about the grounds, grazing after dark. Unlike me, a privileged adventurer, my Masai hosts sleep on earthen floors, in truly tiny huts, made of mud and cow dung. Our lives contrast sharply in so many ways.
Following lunch I will watch the hippos wallowing and yawning in the river. I make friends with a wild, but gentle, blue vervet monkey. Later another guide takes us out in a Land Rover to witness the migration of the herds, where zebras and wildebeest, often with vulnerable young, brave a perilous, crocodile filled, river crossing of the Mara on the border between Kenya and Tanzania. Later still rain drenches the plains as the setting sun paints ominous colours across dramatic storm clouds.
Will the acacia I planted in the grounds of Olonana Lodge still be there to greet me when I return? Grown big and strong; it will feed a giraffe and hide a leopard and its kill, or provide shade to a lion or cheetah in the heat of the day!
Ah the Mara; my heart still lives there!
Congratulations winners, what a fabulous read!