26 August 2015
Winners of Write Across Victoria 2015
Presented by Express Media in partnership with Melbourne Writers’ Festival, Write Across Victoria is a creative writing competition for Victorian students in years 7, 8 and 9.
Congratulations to Year 7 winner, Amelia Geiss of Melbourne Girls Grammar for her winning entry ‘Asylum’.
I wake to the sound of a man’s voice pleading, high pitched and urgent. I listen with my whole body. The voice is from the apartment above. Or is it below? I can’t be sure. I sit up and the springs of the sofa bed squeak. It’s pitch black, no light now escapes the newly boarded up and barred glass windows. Cautiously I kick of the stained bed-sheets and throw my legs over the side. To my annoyance I’m replied with another loud squeak, courtesy of the rusted springs. As my toes come into contact with the faded, ratty carpet I become overwhelmed. A wave of icy air chills me deep into my bones.
Then, a cry much louder than the last pierces my ears. My eyes simultaneously water; a lone tear rolling down my cheek, as I stumble and fall to the ground. All I feel is pain, so much pain depicted in one last cry. An onslaught of fresh tears dampens my cheeks. Then as suddenly as it came the sound diminishes meaning only one thing. With new found urgency I crawl, crying towards the door. The steel slab is cool to touch.
I know it is locked from the outside, yet still I grab for the handle. I scream in frustration, urgent and pleading with my whole body. I pass out, the sound echoing down the vast hallways. With a click the door silently opens.
Groggily I open my eyes. The only light comes from a dim bulb, flickering at the end of the hallway. It still must be night; the lights are only turned on during the day. I take a step outside, onto the cold tile. The door has never opened before. In confusion I look around, expecting to see steel doors lining the walls. As my vision focuses I see that the walls are bare, except for the peeling yellow paint. Unaware of where else to go I slowly walk towards the suspended bulb.
The bulb is suspended by a thread of fishing line. After closely examining the bulb I find alarmingly that within the glass, encased is a single firefly. I scream yet no sound escapes my lungs.
At the end of the hallway a mirror takes form. What I see confuses me the most. I can’t explain what I see instead of me. A single firefly, glowing within a lush rainforest. I breathe in and hold my breath and count to ten, suppressing my urge to shatter the glass. I breathe out and look at the mirror, yet I can’t find it. Instead a light breeze tousles my hair. A young girl giggles in the distance. At this point I know that I am hallucinating. The young girl is me, chasing fireflies at night in my home country.
I open my eyes breathing heavily, still lying next to the closed door. It’s impossible to escape this door physically, yet every night my mind does. Back to the one memory they left me with. I have been here for so long, isolated that I have almost forgotten everything. I thought nothing was worse than the war that tore my home country apart, I was wrong.
Congratulations to Year 8 winner, Verity Pascarl of Melbourne Girls Grammar for her winning entry ‘The Second Hand’. Verity is also the Overall Winner of Write Across Victoria and will be published in the upcoming issue of Voiceworks #101 ‘Defiance’.
I can’t think. I can’t breathe. There is nothing but the bitter tang of fear in my throat and the ruthless ticking of the clock. Five seconds to go. Four. Three. Two…
The image of four bleak white walls fades and the comfort of the sterility is gone. Yet somehow the ticking remains. Even here in this silent expanse.
It’s dark. Damp. Something pokes at my exposed flesh. I force myself to sit up so quickly that the large emptiness before me blurs. A sharp pain blazes in my forehead. Pressure builds as blood thumps franticly through the veins in my head. I try to think. I attempt to make some sense of what is going on and fail miserably.
I dig around in the recesses of my memory but something stops me, a blockage. An incessant hammering of noise in my ears like the relentless ticking of a clock. When I cannot recollect anything other than this place and that sound I stop trying. Something about this scenario… there’s a ghost of familiarity?
My naked body stings as the needles below me dig in even further as I shift. I rack my brain searching for the correct word to describe what I’m sitting on top of. It comes, and I look down at the blades. Grass, I’m on top of grass!
This simple word surfaces along with a throbbing pain that makes my hands reach up instinctively to my head. I stand shakily. Turning in wobbly circles, looking for help. Civilisation.
Scatters of light beam above, glowing down on me alongside a silver crescent. It’s luminous and so beautiful my eyes begin to drip. With my only memories being made moments ago, entwined with the white noise of a clock, this alight sky is so new. My eyes can’t get enough. I drink in the view. Something slips down my face, leaving a cold trail that the soft breeze freezes. I reach my hand upwards, touch the droplets dripping down my face; my skin’s silky under my fingertips.
Stars… Moon… Tears… Sky.
The string of words nestle their way into my mind, coming forwards on their own and repeating like the monotonous loop of the ticking clock. I look up and murmur the four words. Speaking feels odd. My tongue is leaden and it takes three attempts before my speech is anything more than a garbled mess. My lips twitch upwards at the success.
I touch my cheeks again. Frigid air and a wind have dried the salty tears, but it’s not the long-gone liquid I’m looking for. I touch my whole face. My eyes, eyelashes, nose, lips, ears, cheekbones, even the raised scar at the base of my skull. It does not hurt, but the indelible recall of pain surfaces and I drop my hands. Similar marks cover my bare body. Up my arms, legs, my stomach. Bits of skin fused together after something, or someone, caused them to be pulled apart.
The hair on my body rises. My body shivers.
With new determination I begin forcing my legs to move, one foot in front of another. I walk for a long time. The pace feels too slow.
So I run.
I am fast, I can run.
I can run.
I wonder what I am running from.
Congratulations to Year 9 winner, Sophia Zikic from Kilvington Grammar School for her winning entry ‘Danny and The Dark’.
I wake to the sound of a man’s voice pleading, high-pitched and urgent. I listen with my whole body. The voice is from the apartment above. Or is it below? I can’t be sure. I sit up and the springs on the sofa bed squeak. I don’t dare to move, for the longest time. I wonder what Danny would do, but of course, Danny is in Las Vegas. He called me when he arrived, and that was 8 hours after he left. He’d try to come home, of course, but he’d be too late. Las-Goddamn-Vegas. Of all places.
The man – upstairs, I work out after some careful listening – has started crying. I get to my feet, trying to keep the sofa silent. It doesn’t really work, but I can’t do anything about it but grab my hockey stick from the wall, along with my boots from where I tossed them across the room. I’m wondering if I should put on a shirt, when the man screams. He sounds like an animal, everything that was reasonable drained out with his voice. It’s awful. I’m listening to him die. I flinch when he abruptly cuts off, coupled with a heavy thud on my ceiling.
My grip chokes on the handle of my stick, and I swallow, loudly. Danny would ask me if I was gonna piss on his carpet, and we’d both feel better because he joked about it. Danny is not here now, though, and I just have to go upstairs. The police don’t come to this part of town, never have. It’s just me, and the elderly Mexican woman across the landing, who can’t speak much English, but loves Spanish soap operas. I wonder what she’s doing, as I creep out onto the landing.
“No shirt it is.” I whisper to the suddenly silent shadows. God I’ve always hated the dark. It was exposure and suffocation. There was nothing like it.
I make my way upstairs, the grit on my feet pricking like tiny needles. I’m too tense, too scared to feel the pain. The apartment just above ours is number 32a. Danny was the one that drilled that into my skull.
“We gotta work on your thinking, little man. That’s what the shrink said.” I make my way up the stairs blind, but it’s not regular blind. Danny knew I didn’t like the night. There was too much potential for terror in the places I couldn’t see. But this dark?
It wrapped everything in a cool blanket, and let nothing in or out.
Except for a single crack of light, that comes from the doorway. The stair groans under my weight, but there is nobody moving inside. Nothing makes a noise as I approach the silent room. I put my eye to the opening, and for a millisecond relish the brightness.
Then I see what’s inside, and it’s as if there was no golden bulb in the ceiling.
“Danny?” I whisper, when I see the dead mans’ face.