2018 Winners and Honourable Mentions

Day 1: Alive
12 November 2018


Angeline Lu Mee Gin

My grandpa once told me a story. A tale of a world filled with all the colours of the rainbow. A world where animals with wings fly freely instead of being locked up in cages. A place where flowers grow in the wild and green grass is soft under the soles of feet.


            I’ve always wanted to go there—the world my grandpa often talk about with so much fondness. His eyes always glazed over when he tells stories of his world, as if lost in memory.


            The constant beeping of the heart rate monitor beside my bed was starting to irritate me. I looked to the clock on the wall.


5:30 p.m.


            Time for dinner. The sounds footsteps neared, and a familiar smiling face walked in through the opened sliding doors. She looked the same as she did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. Grandpa used to call them ‘fakes’. He never liked humanoids.


“They are going to take over the world one day, and we will all be slaves to these machines !” Grandpa would shout every time he sees one.


            A tray with a bowl of brown mush, a glass of water and some pills were placed on the tiny bed-table before me. No changes today, except for an additional blue pill. Her hand was cold when it brushed against my skin as she adjusted the tubes on my body. Her smile did not falter as she left my room.


            I turned the blue pill over in my fingers. Ever since grandpa died, I couldn’t seem to function. It was as if something was wrong with me. My hands sweat every time someone talked to me, and my head hurts every time I looked at the sky and see grey instead of the blue grandpa told in his story. Admitting myself to the hospital was my last resort.


            I begrudgingly finished off the bowl of brown mush and downed the glass of water, along with my pills.


            Drowsiness soon seeped in and all I could see as I closed my eyelids was patches of colour. Red. Blue. Green. The colours started to blend in with each other, swirling together to form more colours. It was so tiring to fight against falling into unconsciousness, so I gave in.


            I felt like as if I was falling off from the tallest building in the world. Everything was a blur. When the nauseousness finally left me, I opened my eyes. I was laying in a green field. Brightly coloured flowers surround me, and above me, was a bright blue sky. A blue sky with birds flying in flocks. I moved through the green field, when, in the distance, I saw the familiar hunched over shadow of an old man. Overwhelmed by a strange emotion I’ve never felt before, I sprinted in the direction of the old man.


I have never felt so alive.

I have never felt so real.

I have never felt so …. me.


The Cost of Living
Alyssa Yap Xin Yi


This is wrong.


Nature binds body to soul. The forest was a chorus of trills, dampened by the thundering of a nearby waterfall. Blue skies lined overheard, clear as the eye can see. Sunlight filtered through the canopy of leaves, a kaleidoscope of bright specks and grey shadows. My toes scrunched the soil beneath my feet, but something felt...off. Cold. Wrong.


This forest had no pulse.


“Turn it off.”


“But sir-”


“I said, turn it off.”


A push of a button, and the initial bare white room faded back into view. My hands found their way back to my wheelchair, and my legs gave way. A sigh escaped my lips.


“Sir-” I held a hand up and he fell silent. He was just trying to help, but nothing he said could have bettered the situation. How could I have let myself believe they actually succeeded? Slowly, I turned my chair around towards the exit. The lab assistant was barely a teenager, born before The Evacuation. He never even had a chance to see the real thing.


A chance I helped destroy.


I put my hand on his shoulder. “Thank you for trying.”


A small smile, with blank eyes. Just like the rest of the young. I felt a pang in my chest, and continued out the room. I wanted to say something else, but my lips wouldn't move. As I closed the door behind me, the words came out in a whisper.


“I'm sorry.”




The constant burr of the ship's engine felt like a drill through my skull. Starlight shone overhead, collected from the most recent harvest.


There was a time where we planted seeds, climbed mountains, sailed the oceans.


Now we harvest suns and classify stardust on a journey to nowhere.


A fluorescent lamp flicked overhead. How long have I been here? Age gets blurry when you have no sun to keep track of. We are explorers with no compass. Voyagers without a home. Bodies without souls.


It was survival, they said.


There is one fundamental flaw within the human psyche: we don't know when to stop. When to stop cutting, mining, killing. By the time we realize we've gone too far-


The walls shuddered. Something behind me fell on the floor. I turned to see a plastic globe on the metal panels, laying on its side. Picking it up, the continents felt familiar beneath my fingertips, but the children here memorize their names for the sake of it.


We saved them, they preached.


From a planet we killed.


There is a difference between being alive and feeling alive. If only we realized that sooner, maybe we could have done more. Thought further, tried harder, stayed longer. Been more human. But not anymore. The elderly are losing themselves, and the young are born lost - yearning for something that no longer was.


We're alive, they tell us. At what cost?


Our bodies may outlive the stars, but our souls have long gone.


Eden on Earth
Fiona Anak Ringkai

I pulled on the edges of my jacket, trying desperately to get the last bits of warmth I could from the faux fur lining. The stars scattered across the night sky reminded me of the way the sun reflected off of the sea, glinting like diamonds. That was, of course, when the sea was still oil-free and clean of rubbish. Nowadays, a sight like that would cost you your entire life’s savings.

  Why was I, a 21st century youth, out in the wild, you ask? I had to get away from it all. The city had polluted air and disgusting rivers. As soon as I had graduated, I headed back to where my roots run deep—a small tribe hidden within the forest.

  So rarely could you see a sight as pristine as a sunrise from the depths of an untouched forest. As the sky changed from the colour of the deepest oceans to shades of sparkling rubies, the rich smell of the damp earth welcomed me into a world of deep greens and dark browns. The sunlight that filtered through the trees that towered above me was like the ichor of the mythical Greek gods.

  Grandmother had likened the forest to Eden. It was a safe haven for animals and plants alike, unharmed by the growing modernization of civilization a hundred miles away. The wildlife that flourished here was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was almost like a secret I wasn’t meant to see. I’ve never felt so alive- surrounded by fresh air and creatures so beautiful they almost seemed fantastical.

Who would’ve thought it could all be gone with a single touch of pen on paper?

Yesterday, I woke up to the lively chirping of birds. Today, I woke up to the rumble of machinery.

  “What are you doing?!” I shrieked, grabbing my uncle by his sleeve. I had a sinking suspicion of what he had done— it would be no exaggeration to consider it the greatest insult to grandmother’s memories.

  He tried to hide the cheque, but I caught a glimpse of how many zeroes were written on it. “I’m just doing what’s best for us. We can start fresh in the city! Imagine all the clean water we could buy with this—it’ll last us a few years!”

  All I could see were his eyes, scared of what I thought of him as my uncle, a traitor of his mother’s dying wish.

  When we returned a few months later, my heart broke at the sight that greeted me. A barren wasteland. Gone were the chirping of birds, gone was the once-great forest. The river that was so well-maintained had a thick layer of oil. Fish carcasses littered the surface of the river as far as the eyes could see. I felt sick.

  Though my uncle kept his family alive with the money he made from selling off the land, the forest was no longer full of life. Eden on earth; it was no longer.