Day 1: Forest
26 December 2017


The Language Of Trees (2nd Place)
Alyssa Yap Xin Yi

Humans speak in many tongues, but trees only have one. Imagine a fog settling over a sleeping city, golden light filtering through dewy leaves, maybe even the muted babbling of a brook making its humble way through the forest. You have heard the trees speak before. Alas, not many have the gift of understanding their subtle words.

The Girl had this particular gift.

When she was young, they called her many things: The Girl Who Could Talk To Trees, The Forest Child, The Whispering Girl. No one really knows which came first, be it her strange talent, or her missing voice. There are speculations, of course.

A magpie stole her voice, said the hunter.

Her mother fell in love with a forest sprite, buzzed the woodcutters’ wives

The one without a sound must find her true love by sixteen, or she will die, whispered the oracle.

The Girl paid no heed to these words. The only sentences that mattered rang crystal clear, for each night she would hear the forest cry. It mourned its fallen inhabitants, claimed as prizes by the hunter. It wept over the loss of its beautiful, century-old trunks, chopped down recklessly by the woodcutters. It couldn't do anything to save its beloved river, poisoned and tormented.

The Girl would hear these woes every twilight till dawn, until she could take it no longer.

As she aged, she gained less than friendly names: The Woman Who Only Meddles, The One Who Lets Children Starve, The Girl Who Was More Tree Than Human. She lived in the forest now, planting saplings and tending to wounded creatures. People couldn’t dispose of anything into the river anymore, for she threw darts of poison ivy at anyone that did. Those who cut more than enough trees met harrowing deaths. Outraged, they took to the forest, only to be met by The Girl. Rain pounded down on the ground. The wind howled with screams.

Soon enough people learned to leave The Girl and her forest alone.

But the forest was not so cruel. As its trees healed, so did its heart. When a deadly plague struck, the tree sap cured the people of all woe. As the sun brought a drought that leveled the country, their crops were watered by a river that never ran dry. Animals became friends instead of foe, providing companionship and awe. Her hair turned grey and she collected more names: The Keeper Of The Forest, The Lady Of The Woods, The Savior Of Us All.

Maybe her voice was stolen by a magpie, but she had no need for it anyway. Perhaps her father had been a forest sprite, a heritage she would have been proud of.

She was supposed to die at sixteen, but instead lived to be a century old, a necklace of leaves by her heart.


Don't Shoot the Messenger
Joshua Jong Qian Rong

My name is Ori. I am an adventurous and curious person. One day, I ventured to the edge of the forest. It was a place rarely visited. There were many creatures that roamed there, creatures from the old days, creatures believed to only exist in fairytales.

I stood on the stone pathway, too tough to be eroded by nature so it was left unscathed. I was cautious, as it bordered the forest, the depths of the wilderness, the heart of nature. Maybe I had let my guard slipped for a moment but I was suddenly struck on the back of my head by an unseen force.

I got up slowly, slightly dazed from the strong whack. I could feel the beginning of a small lump developing where I was struck. I could see what I would most likely describe as treants surrounding me but wearily keeping their distance.

“He’s up already, what should we do?” said one of the treants.

“I say we be rid of him,” instigated another.

“Now, now, let us offer some hospitality to the boy, I sensed he has yet to stain his hands with blood of our kind,” said two voices in unison.

I looked over to the source of the voice to see two figures appearing from a downtrodden path formed by the treants. Both appeared very humanlike. One was in the form of a woman with a radiant face and a long streaming mane, a lithe long body swirled in mist. The other took the form of a man with wooden horns, vines as hair, a very human face and a body of stone covered by moss with some saplings growing out of it.

I was immobilised with fear, yet I was strangely not affected nor was I afraid.

The woman said, “My name is Titania, Watcher of the Forest.” Her voice was soothing and reassuring.

The man said, “I am Oberon, Guardian of the Forest.” His voice was powerful yet not intimidating.

“Come, walk with us,” invited Titania. I complied.

“What brings you here, boy? Your name?” asked Oberon.

“I’m Ori. I like exploring places and I ended up here.”

They brought me to a beautiful waterfall in the midst of the forest, a place so serene and breathtakingly peaceful. The sky was so wide, so blue and so vast that the spirit could rise and soar freely. The rains had brought a new growth of grass sprouting between the crevices of the rocks and in between the trees bringing a lushness which was comforting.

Titania noticed my stunned expression. “Ori, this is the raw beauty of nature, yet to be tainted by the exploits of men.”

I closed my eyes to digest the beauty, contented with where I was. We sat on a patch of soft mass, saying nothing, yet feeling everything.

It was dusk when I left them. I knew where I was going now … as a messenger.

The Orangutan Life
Nurul Asyiqin Zailani

I opened my eyes as I woke up feeling confused, because I’m bigger than usual, and my whole body was covered in brown hair. Even though it felt completely wrong, because humans are never covered with hair, somewhere in my dazed mind, I felt right, as if this is how I should be.

After weeks of living as an orangutan, I have adapted myself to live how they live. Hunting for food was a very challenging task, yet I still managed to survive. My brain was packed with millions of questions. How long have I been stuck as an orangutan? Why am I an orangutan? Yet every time I tried answering those questions, my mind would blank out, and I would continue trudging my way, despite the questions that were left unanswered.

Contrary to people’s belief, orangutans actually have a harder life than humans. The more I explore the forest, I realized how the trees are slowly dwindling. It had become difficult for me to find food and shelter, as everything seemed to become even more scarce than when I had first started hunting. Nevertheless, I still trudged on, my naive mind believing that I should not give up on my journey to find the way out of this forest.

One blazing Sunday, I was hunting as usual, until suddenly, I heard people shouting near the tree that I was climbing. I hesitated whether I should continue climbing or not, before I made my way down without hesitation, where I saw a group of humans making their way to the forest. I felt over the moon as I finally found my kind -or what used to be my kind- and let out a very loud call, causing the humans to jump in fright and aim their weapons at me. I felt hurt. Can’t they see that I’m just like them? Why were they threatening me, even though I didn’t even do anything?

As I panicked, I sucked in air through my pursed lips, which made the humans tense up as they thought I was going to attack. Before I could even move a step, a loud shot was suddenly heard and I felt blood oozing through the bullet wound from my chest. I slowly slumped forward and fell to the ground, as I feel my life slowly draining out of me. All the while, I heard the humans cheering and high-fiving each other, as if my death represents some sort of accomplishment to them, my existence merely a game for them.

If I knew that life as an orangutan was this cruel, I would have stayed as a human, even if it meant being oppressed by society, being forced to act according to the norm. I would have stayed as a human, even if I have to become as cruel as everyone else to survive. Because I have learnt my lesson. In life, we either kill, or be killed.