Primary School Category (ages 10 – 12)
Judge's comments: Extra-Terrestrial Manuscript made me laugh, was intriguing, and kept the plot hurtling along like a juggernaut! I love that the protagonist gets a chance to prove that aliens may exist … or at least there is HOPE to prove it, if they aren’t eaten by meat-seeking aliens first!
Junior School Category (ages 13 – 15)
Judge's comments: The egg is the ultimate symbol of hope, especially in a post-apocalyptic world. I loved it.
Senior School Category (ages 16 – 18)
When you read the Voynich manuscript you think of one thing…aliens.
Not ordinary aliens, no. Vegetarians. Vegetarian aliens looking for meat.
I’ve dreamt about them, every night. They’re white, no eyes, no face at all, really. They don’t have legs either. They drive around in a silver contraption covered in blinking lights. “Why are they looking for meat if they’re vegetarians?” I hear you asking. On their planet they have only vegetables. Things that look like mutated variations of carrots, beetroot and parsnips. They don’t have animals to eat, or even fruit.
At first those big marshmallows couldn’t care less - there were thousands of ways to cook and prepare the produce. Baked, boiled, fried, pickled. Then it began to get repetitive. For decades the only thing they could do was plant, farm and eat the same vegetables.
Believe me, I’ve tried to tell people about my discovery, but they don’t believe me! They just say, “Seriously, Bruno? That kind of thing doesn’t exist!”
I promise someday soon I’ll prove all those nit wits wrong but, for now, I’m drowning in my own thoughts! While these aliens are studying our every move from afar we (or rather, I) can’t even get a vague idea on which solar system they’re in!
I sigh. I’m glad the aliens are vegetarians.
The words bounce around inside my skull, thrash helplessly in my mind. Then it dawns on me. At the moment they are vegetarians because they don’t have a choice. If they invaded Earth they’d probably eat us first chance they got!
I leap onto my feet and run out the door as fast as my thin legs will allow. My anger has been swiftly replaced with the flickering flame of hope. Would I get there in time? And so I ran towards NASA’s lab, needing to warn them.
“They’re invading!” I cry, frantically waving my arms. “We’re each a slab of meat waiting to be cooked!” I glare at the crowd that has gathered around me. A man in a white lab coat pushes in.
“Calm down, sir,” he says soothingly. He rests a hand on my shoulder. “Who is invading?”
I realise I must look insane. “The aliens!” I reply, slightly calmer. Momentarily the man looks overjoyed. “Where are they?”
“I don’t know but if…”
He grimaces. “Sir, if you have no evidence they exist, I’ll need you to leave.”
Again, I hear the mocking voices laughing. “I do have evidence: the Voynich manuscript! Just let me get off Earth and I’ll prove it!”
The man smiles a pitying smile. “Sir, you cannot go into space. You need proper training.”
I meet his eyes, never flinching. “Then train me. I’ll do anything to prove they’re real.”
He considers it for a moment. “Come with me - we need more astronauts anyway.”
Suddenly, I am filled with hope. Maybe this is it – my chance to prove the existence of the extra-terrestrials described in the pages of the mysterious Voynich manuscript.
The sun didn’t rise the same. When those vibrant hues peaked over the horizon it never felt right. As Iris sat on the roof, shivering in the morning breeze despite her coat, she realised this. When the city was alive and bustling, each skyscraper had nothing to hide. The sunlight peaked through their defined shapes and cast lines of gold across the pavement. There was a beauty to their concrete solitude; close, but never touching. The corners of her lips barely curved into a grin as she pondered the past. She scanned the skyline, muddled and unrecognisable shapes. Building after building had been abolished, crumbling concrete desperately clung to their shapes. Who knew what lurked inside? The streets were swimming with debris. Lately, days blended into weeks and weeks into months. Without her city, she wasn’t the same; neither were her sunrises.
Four flights of stairs later, Iris had made it to the ground floor. Breathless, she hung her coat on the railing. It was time for her to go outside. It had been weeks since she had ventured outside and Iris needed a breath of fresh, radioactive air. So, out the back door and down the cobbled path she wandered. Greenery was sparse, but weeds and invasive shrubbery had nestled in nicely around anywhere they pleased.
Iris had planned on trudging all the way to a clearing she often journaled at, when the rustling of a bush encapsulated her. She flinched, skidding backwards as she searched for the source. But after she located the cause, she had to look further. Poking her nose into the dense leaves, she gasped,
“Oh my...” a hand met her mouth as she spoke. Gently nestled in the grass, she saw an egg. It tossed back and forth, it’s shade of grey not unlike the desolate buildings looming over Iris. It had been seasons since she had seen another living creature, she hesitated. She shook as she reached out to verify it was real, but sure enough, her fingertips felt something small writhing beneath the shell. Tears gently cascaded down Iris’ face as she scooped the egg into her hand and held it close to her body. Turning on her heel she made a sharp 180 degree turn to retreat. This life was far too precious to risk anything.
Moving cautiously, Iris returned. In an instant she swept up her coat. Delicately bundling the egg in the fabric, she placed it on a cushion. Her jaw hung open, what could this mean? Life still exists beyond her walls? There’s the potential for reproduction in this environment? It was almost dark, it was a wonder the egg survived. Iris watched the sunset through the window.
A crack rippled across the egg, Iris smiled. A whole smile. She smiled so hard her cheeks hurt, because tomorrow morning when the sun rises, she can start again. This time with something to hope for, and maybe that sky will look just a little prettier.
Horrific waves crash upon jagged rocks, skies greyed by loss. Splatters of water dot your face, wind battering your creaking bones inside ghostly white skin. Red and purple rim your eyes from lack of sleep and grieving the fallen. They ache when you close your eyes, but they are too dry when open, it reminds you that you still walk this earth.
No matter how hard you try, images swirl your mind. Everyday statistics flood your mind of how many people’s hearts have stopped, all the loved ones we have lost.
Oblivious to reality, time moves both too slow and far too quick to comprehend. Minutes feel like both hours and seconds. Day resembles weeks and over in the blink of an eye. Time is simply nowhere to be found.
Wandering, finding something else to do so that your mind stays out of the dark, distracted by something “more important”. Sadly, reality always catches up, how quickly is dictated by how deep down we are. How much we are willing to ignore what is happening right in front of our coloured eyes and fragile souls. How willing we are able to stop saying, maybe this didn’t happen? Or, why did this happen to me?
Everyone is riding the same wave in this terrible storm. Praying for miracles, this never truly happened. Everything was some sick joke that the gods decided to play to see how we would cope. People we loved will come through that door, any week, any day. Any minute. Hearts leaping to our throats when a knock comes at the door, it's them! It's them, we cry. To find out it is only flowers resting at our door. All we want is to throw our arms around them, wish they never left.
Politics echo from every television across the world. Fears of war and more lives lost as people cannot seem to get along. Screaming and yelling, no one knowing what this world will look like when it all ends. Statistics, phone calls, noise noise noise. Flowers arriving at our door. Can’t we all be quiet for five minutes? A minute? Even just a second? I cannot do this anymore. All the flowers arriving at our door. Everything ends eventually.
Static fills our ears as the world, our lives come to peace. Time haunts us every day, sometime, this will end. Light will once again pierce the darkest of seas, waves will calm until the next storm. Unification of families as they mourn for the lost, try to find their new ‘normal’. At first it will seem impossible, yet you have survived a horrendous storm. Together we can mourn the ones we lost, admire their strengths, achievements and values. Tell stories of them, talk about them as if they still walked beside you. Losing a loved one is never for eternity. One day we will be reunited. H.O.P.E, the word we use to find light in the dark, our lighthouse to the seas.
Our judge, Samone, is part of our children’s team at Beaumaris Library. When Samone is not at the library, she freelances as an editor and writer for book publishers all across Australia. Samone has worked for many years in children’s publishing and was overwhelmed with the quality of this year’s Short Story competition entries. She loves all sorts of books, but her favourites are picture books, junior fiction and memoir.