Winner

CATEGORY B : 16-17 YEARS
Day 4: Ocean
29 December 2017

WINNER

And the Foam Fizzles
Adriana Aida binti Che Ismail

They don’t have any mirrors aboard our ship. Glass shatters, injuries use resources we cannot afford. This is the first thing I think when I stare at the plate of polished steel on the wall of the bathroom. A man I don’t recognise stares back. Light eyes, dark eye bags. I entered this ship as a boy, terrified of the things I had witnessed. Now I am older. Less timid. I understand what happened better. At least, that’s what I convince myself.

“Sebastian?” A timid voice calls, opening the door. It’s Enya, my colleague. She wants to show me something. She leads me down a few corridors until she opens the door to a large, pitch black room. Enya holds a remote control in her hand, and I watch the sliver of outside light close in on itself as the door clicks shut behind us. Darkness. And then, light.

My eyes squint to adjust to the sudden brightness. Enya fiddles with the remote in her hand. Suddenly I recognise what I’m seeing.

It’s the ocean. It surrounds me. Laurel green waves crash and fizzle to shore, fragile in all their ferocity. Seafoam laps onto the sand. The horizon undulates with the movement of the tide. Though I wear boots, I can feel the sand beneath my toes. Though I have not experienced it for years, I can smell the salty air. But when I move closer, I see the squares that make up the elaborate simulation. I feel the static electricity from the screen snap against my finger as I prod the pixels.

Years ago, before the Great Wave had swallowed Earth whole, before the remaining survivors were herded onto this starship, I had lived in a house near the ocean. I had swum in its depths. So this, this feels unnatural. Inhumane. I feel cheated and angry.

“What is this?” I whisper under my breath, a hint of vitriol in my voice.

“There are screens and speakers lining all four walls of this room. From a very certain perspective, it feels real.” She explains quietly, the blue of the sea reflected on her face.

“Why?”

“Work performance is decreasing. People are getting restless, prone to bursts of anger. They miss home. They miss being able to step on real land. We think this will help them work better.”

Work better. They don’t want us to forget why we’re here- to find Earth Version 2.0.Our work centres around finding habitable planets for human life. Finding a replacement for the Earth we had destroyed. Finding a new planet we could kill.

The once beautiful ocean, untameable and free, reduced to a tool to be utilised so that we can work harder to find a new sea to kill.

I entered this ship as a fearful child. I thought I understood the cruelty of man when I saw the Great Wave eat Earth alive.

Now, as I gaze into the cool blue, I realise I never really understood at all.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

The Slow Death
Chloe Yeo Lok Yee

When I first hatched, I couldn't wait to leave the warm sand and sink into the embrace of the ocean water. Since then, the ocean became the place I called home. The ocean was always our pride. It held the world’s greatest mysteries of all, and still left many with contemplation to this day. Some living things in the ocean are yet to be identified. Humans could never reach the bottom of the sea because they would be crushed to pieces before they do. The ocean never failed to leave people in awe. It could produce waves so gentle that will only give you a tickling sensation. It could also produce tsunami that is capable of gobbling up lives and wiping out cities in a matter of minutes.

Jamie was the first friend I had in my life. We became friends we were washed up to the shores in attempts to get our way the beautiful ocean. We were inseparable since then. Together, we hunted for food, hid ourselves for survival and played together. He was always the daredevil type of sea turtle while I was the complete opposite of him. I didn't dare to eat jellyfishes and would only eat seaweeds. He always taught me ways to do things. Ways to hunt down jellyfishes. Ways to protect myself from getting caught in a net. Our lives remained calm and smooth until something odd began happening to the part of the ocean we live in.

Weird smell began erupting from the water. Unknown debris was seen floating on the water surface. The next thing we noticed was an island-like structure above us, except it was not as pleasant as one. It seemed like a patch that is formed by numerous, countless unknown debris we saw lately. Rumours had it that the debris was called plastic bags and would endanger our lives. I never believed in those and wanted to become a daredevil for once.

I thought of exploring the “contaminated area” because nobody else dared to. Jamie was reluctant at first, but decided he would go with me just to keep me company. I thought the area was interesting. We saw things that we had never seen before. Suddenly, something caught my attention and I fixed my eye on it. A transparent structure was floating around. “A jellyfish!” I thought. I swam towards the jellyfish immediately. I was chewing and swallowing it before I realized that it was not a jellyfish. Before I could spit it all out, I was already fading in and out of consciousness. I could vaguely hear Jamie calling for help when he realized I was choking on a plastic bag.

But nobody was there because no one dared go near the area. Jamie gave me a piggyback ride to get me out as soon as he could. It was the moment I felt most helpless in my life.

I am now alive, but the plastic debris in me will slowly send me to my deathbed.

All My Firsts
Choo Ai Linn

She was my first love.

Beautiful, ebullient and powerful. Occasionally, she would lose her temper and God help us when she did. When angered, she could wreck havoc on everything that dared to invoke her wrath. Admittedly, she had a few anger issues, but who doesn’t? After all, when people start taking away what you love, the rational response is to do the same thing back to them; to hurt them just as much as they hurt you.

But most of the time, she was soothing and calm. I never got tired of looking at her. Most people would stare at the way the sun slowly disappears behind the horizon, painting the sky a beautiful shade of pomegranate. But I wouldn’t even spare the view a glance, because for me, she was so much more captivating.

The way she captured the sun’s dying light and reflected it off herself; the way the first light of dawn caused diamonds to dance off her skin…it didn’t matter what time of the day it was, she would always remain the most breath-taking sight I’ve ever seen.

She had a depth to her that no one could imagine. No one - not even today’s best and brightest scientists – could uncover all her secrets, as mysterious as she was. She made it her life’s duty to protect all that was good, to provide shelter and sanctuary to those who needed it.

It mattered little to her whether it was the Leatherback Turtles of the Islands of Borneo that needed a home or the Stellar Sea Lions of the North Pacific coastal waters that needed saving.

She gave everything she had to preserve them, especially when efforts by nature conservation organizations so often ended in vain.

That was probably why she was also my first heartbreak.

No, that’s not right. It was what people did to her that truly shattered me. They corrupted her, blemished her crystal clear skin and completely, utterly and mercilessly ravaged her beauty. They pilfered everything she held dear and stole what they could from her. Those coral reefs she loved so much, ruined; the estuaries she swore to preserve, destroyed; the lives of the Vaquitas, the Blue Whales, the Hammerhead Sharks that she protected, stolen. And now, all that’s left of her is merely a fraction of what she used to be.

The people who have already taken so much had much to give back as well. They did not give her back the parts of her they stole, no; they gave her the muck from the bottom of their boats; they gave her the vile oil that leaked from their ships; they gave her tokens of appreciation in the form of chemicals and toxic wastes, and turned away when she cried for help.

Like many others, I loved the ocean.

Like many others, I tried to save her.

Like many others, I failed.

But unlike many others, I will continue trying to save her.

Love is strange like that.