Winner

CATEGORY A : 13- 15 YEARS
Day 3: Orang-utan
28 December 2017

WINNER

Tikku and the Orang-utan
Ashley Jong Yi Ying

Legend has it that if you walk into the forbidden Forest of Okko, you can see a species of great apes. But there is a catch-22: you cannot hurt these creatures or else, be forever trapped in the forest.

Tikku was part of the hunting team of the Tribe of Naraghi. He had never liked hunting but being the next appointed tribal leader, he had not much choice. His father was the best of the best. Every single shot fired was a bull’s eye. When Tikku was young, he always had a thing for nature and animals and that was why he stayed a vegan. As his father’s son, he had inherited his shooting skill. After his father had passed away, Tikku was anointed their leader.

Dawn came as the eastern sky was filled with a blended tone of rosy pink and sandy yellow. It was a subtle way to welcome another day of Tikku’s life.

It was the day for Tikku and his team to enter the forbidden forest to forage for food. His people’s bellies were crying out in hunger for food was scarce as forests far and wide were pillaged and plundered of life. None had dared to enter Okko and Tikku could not bear to hear his people’s cries anymore.

Inside Okko, the atmosphere was different. It was tensed with the bare branches of trees spiking into the air. There was surprisingly no sign of life yet. Rather unexpectedly, the colour of the sky turned dark. It was so dark that one could barely see two footsteps away. In the ensuing silence, sounds of rustling bushes and the howls of the wind could be heard. Tikku could not sense what was laid in the dark but he knew it was not going to be a pleasant one.

Something rustled and the sky cleared abruptly. A majestic man-like creature covered in a coat of distinctive red fur with two prominent cheek pads stood in front of them. An orang-utan, his team ululated with pleasure. The hunters raised their guns, waiting for Tikku to fire his first shot. Tikku trembled with fear. My people or this orang-utan? There was no other option. Without further ado, Tikku fired off a clean shot and the orang-utan dropped to the ground.

“Grandma, what happened next?” I begged.

“Well, legend has it that there is a man wondering the forbidden Forest of Okko to this day,” grandma replied.

I wonder if this is true.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Catch and Release
Joshua Jong Qian Rong

Bang.

It was an unmistakable sound of a gunshot, ringing through the forest. The sound of flapping wings, trees leaves rustling as the birds flew away from the branches they had perched on. A thump followed; an orang-utan had fallen to the ground.

“Yes! Finally got that monkey!” exclaimed John.

I walked over to it. I could see the fear in its eyes as its life was ebbing away. It was grunting in a deep-throated manner, so eerily humanlike. I could do nothing but watched as it flung its limbs in obvious agony. It could be a show of a final struggle against its assailant or a display of hope for a savoir.

I squatted beside it and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

John, ignoring me, sneered, “Out of my way! Time to put this thing out of its misery.”

John stood brazenly and cocked his gun.

Bang.

There was a deafening silence. The orang-utan had finally entered into its eternal slumber. Its blood seeped through the forest floor, tainting the fallen leaves crimson.

I felt helpless. I was just a researcher. All I wanted was to examine the diverse species of flora and fauna in the forest. I was elated when I chanced upon this lone orang-utan. What a majestic creature! I had never thought I would stumble across these two poachers as well.

They threatened and sworn me to secrecy to their dastardly act. An overwhelming wave of guilt and disgust set in on me as they dragged the lifeless body of the orang-utan back to their camp. I was a disgrace to my fellow researchers. I was a coward.

That evening, John and Ah Hing celebrated around a campfire. I sat on a stump of a tree, quietly sipping from my canister, wondering if I would make it out alive. And could I ever look at myself in the mirror in the same way again?

That night, the sight of the dead orang-utan plagued me, my heart ached for it and my conscience tormented me. I consoled myself. It is not my fault. I cannot save you.

I had a restless night.

The next day, I tagged along on their hunting trip, not that I had a choice.

“Hey John, there’s one,” Ah Hing pointed out.

This orang-utan was partially obscured by the undergrowth, unaware that its final hour was upon it.

John aligned his iron sight, steadied his arm, readying himself to pull the trigger. Maybe it was the spur of the moment but I would not take another death of such a magnificent creature. Something in my mind snapped. I threw a stone at John.

Bang.

He missed. The shot ricocheted off a branch. The orang-utan was alerted and sped away to safety.

I ran. Maybe it was the adrenaline rush; maybe my survival instinct had kicked in. I soared through the forest, my feet carried me to civilisation and my chest never felt lighter.