2019 Winners and Honourable Mentions

CATEGORY B : 16 - 17 YEARS
Day 1: Earth
10 June 2019

WINNER

Earth is still my home
Shin Ho In


Night settles over the neighbourhood, plunging whatever it reaches into cloying darkness like a thick black fog signalling the end of a day. Stars cluster the stretch of black canvas like golden pixie dust, twinkling peacefully as if reassuring the promise of tomorrow. While most others have retired for the night, I grab my blanket and pillow and race up to the attic. My excited footfalls conjure echoing pitter patters as I dash up the stairs.

The warm smell of old books and mothballs waft into my nostrils almost instantly when I poke my head into the attic. It’s a consoling smell… one that I have come to love. Hastily, I amble towards the window and throw open the crystalline pane. A pleasantly cool breeze caresses my face and ruffles my hair as I fill my lungs with the crisp night air. A clear sky with no boundaries. The night was silent as if the whole world was plunged into the depths of an ocean, abandoned and drained of every modicum of hope.

I hastily prop my telescope on its stand and aim it into the never-ceasing night sky. Peering into my eyepiece, I swivel the telescope just as I had done for many nights until I finally set my sights upon my target – The Earth. Planet Earth is a desolate wasteland, blackened earth like tar in a sea of yellow uncultivated ground. Just a husk of its past self, portraying none of its former glory. A sight that many would avert their eyes from in revolt and contempt, deem it a haven for vermin and an utter dystopia bereft of hope. But what my mother described Earth as, falls into none of these categories.

“You’re not from Mars?” I can still clearly remember the surprise in my voice when mother pointed out Earth to me from here for the first time.

She spoke of Earth with such reverence and longing. A utopia for all creations, teeming with bounties and life. She spoke of luscious hills and valleys which were vibrant and full of life. The splendour of the mountains and the peacefully bubbling streams accompanied by the symphony of the gentle breeze and the chirping sounds of birds. The Earth was truly magical and awe-inspiring. But the inherent foolishness of humans led to nothing but a path of destruction and plundering with each success fuelling their next quest until eventually Earth had nothing left to offer, inevitably losing everything it once had to offer.

“But we have Mars now.” I said to her after hearing her tales.

”Yes, we do.” She said while offering a warm smile although her eyes betrayed a world of grief. “But Earth is still my home.”


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Case #10643
Alyssa Yap Xin Yi


Case: #10643

Division: E-137

Status: Catastrophic

 

    Case #10643 was problematic to say the least. 

    In all my years of categorizing the known universe, I had never seen so many red lines on a single report. By our best Archivers, no less. Most reports came back unintelligible. One just read, ‘DO NOT APPROACH AT ALL COSTS.’

    The ground felt soft and muddy beneath my feet. A million shades of green and brown encapsulated the landscape, dotted by specks of light filtering through the kaleidoscope of leaves. Trees stood like skyscrapers. A trickling sound came a distance away. Nothing life-threatening yet. I attached my Communicator to the biggest tree in my vicinity. 

     After all, the best way to document a planet, is to ask it directly.

     “Hello.” 

     “Hello there, E-137. I’m a Senior Archiver, documenting the universe. You may have met some of my associates.”

     “They have not told you.”

     “Told me...what?”

     The world falls away like sand, and reconstructs itself. I’m standing in a grove of trees. Suddenly, an excruciating pain sawed through my chest. A sharp-toothed creature gnawed at me inside out, hollowing me until my mind was a blank sheet of agony. Falling trees send tremors through the ground. The unforgiving roar of chainsaws and bulldozers numbed my ears. With each tree torn down, a part of myself was being chopped up as well.

     I barely saw the tidal wave before it crashed over me. My body bashed against trees and rocks, orchestrated by the current’s pull. An unseen force dragged me underwater. My hands clawed for the surface to no avail. Desperation for breath overtook me as I heaved in a breath of water, the immense pressure collapsing my lungs. Pitch black surrounded me, viscous to the touch.

     An orange glow illuminated my vision from above. I swam towards it, only to emerge on a flaming savannah. Gone was the black ocean I nearly drowned in, replaced by burning grasses and fumes of black smoke. I was choking once more, this time above ground. With each breath I took, the heat burned me from the inside. The edges of my vision went dark, until nothing was left.

    My eyes opened with a jerk. Oxygen coursed through my lungs. My jaw trembled as I took as many deep breaths as I could. My skin felt singed, the sensation of being drowned alive still a fresh memory.

    “W-why?” I asked in shuddering breaths.

    “I was home to a species of explorers like you once. I gave them everything they needed. But they wanted more. They butchered me, drowned me in my own oceans, and suffocated me in my own air. I merely returned the favour.”

    I stared at the unmoving tree. “What are you?”

    “Send one more soul here, and I will not be so welcoming. Leave.”

    I scrambled back to my ship, the scent of blood and bone lingering in the air. This planet, no - Earth was a death sentence. No one would be coming back anytime soon.
    
 


Me
Liaw Vun Bin


My body is soaked in 'water', my green 'hair' sways to the rhythm of the winds, tiny beings live off my body symbiotically. Who am I you might ask? I am Mother Earth.

 

I was born 4.2 billion years ago, as a hot headed fool. I learnt to keep my temper under my crusts. As my skin started to become moist, the waters hosted many small beings that slowly evolved larger. Then my body started growing green hair and some small beings moved on land. I hosted many small beings, unlike my siblings with their cold lifeless skin. I was a beautiful green-blue unique marble that my father cherished. He sunned me with just enough warmth so that those beings could thrive, spreading across every corner of my outer skin.

 

But then someone decided to throw a huge piece of rock at me. Oww! Why did you did that for? What's happening to me? Why are so many beings dying? Why are those giant lizards disappearing? I lost three quarters of my beings because of that rock. So I vowed to protect the rest of my beings from harm’s way.

 

Sometime later I was repopulated with new different beings. But none as prominent as those beautiful giant lizards that used to roam my body. Then, at the foot of a mountain in a tropical continent I spotted them. A group of special apes that could stand and walk on two feet. They called themselves humans. These beings are not like any others. They were smart, curious,  precious, and spread across every piece of land I had.

 

When I feel my body warming up again I try to protect these beings, and they survived it all despite the ice melting and the sea levels rise. I lost some of my other beings, even a special type of furry giant elephant, but they survived. And soon they thrived.

 

They formed settlements on my surfaces and mastered growing off my lands. They made the other beings bow down to them. They built beautiful monuments and learnt great things. They created unique cultures and worshipped fictional beings they saw as divine. I marveled at their achievements, but I didn't realize what they would become, and what price would I pay.

 

These 'humans' learnt how to travel in my oceans, how to travel across my continents and soon how to fly in my skies. They built giant factories and pumped out polluting waste, harming many other beings. They exploited me for my resources, and exploited each other for greed. They continued to build large monuments at my expense, building huge sprawling cities at my cost. They trimmed me of my green forest hair and choked me with their cars.

 

I threw what I got at them, but they still survived and thrived. And now they are looking for others like me to exploit all over again. I couldn't stop them, they are my children, but how far is too far? Soon, they are my master.


Mother Earth
Alison Lee Yeuh Chii


                “Come.”

                The voice was familiar yet not, soft and soothing like a mother’s gentle voice. It was distant, little more than a whisper in the back of my mind; an echo of something long forgotten, ancient and old as time itself.  

                “Come and see.”

                The voice urged and so, I did.

                “Look at the sky,” she tells me and I do, tilting my head up to the vast expanse that seems to spread on forever. The skies are infinite, bringing forth bursts of colour with each passing day. Colours that no paint or picture could ever capture. Dawn paints it in soft hues of pinks and the day a brilliant blue. Dusk sets the sky aflame with burning shades of red and gold just before the night scatters gleaming stars across its deep blue stretch, brighter than any diamond.

                “Come.”

                Iron grey storm clouds spread across the skies. Shining, tear-shaped droplets hurtled towards the ground and I fall with them. The scent of earth and petrichor fills the air and I find myself alone in a rainforest. Moss covered trees brush the sky and wildflowers bloom rampantly across the forest floor, each one more beautiful than a queen’s gown.

                “Listen,” she tells me and music fills my ears. Raindrops fall on the leaves of towering trees that shield the earth from the storm above. Somewhere frogs are croaking while cicadas and birds sing, forming an unearthly symphony no orchestra could ever replicate. I close my eyes and drown in the music of the forest.

                “Come.”

                 She takes me to the sea. The smell the salt in the wind hits my nostrils and I hear the sound of crashing waves and the cawing of sea birds. When I open my eyes seven oceans lay before me, the glittering cyan and white waves spreading out as far as the eye can see.

                 “Look closer.” She whispers and I am beneath the waves. Pale gold sunlight filters through from far above, illuminating a hidden world that lies beneath the surface of the crystal waters. Branching corals of every colour spread across the seabed while sea creatures dart through its waters, everything from vibrant clouds of bright-coloured fish to whales that sing the earth’s ancient songs.

               “Beautiful isn’t it?”

                The entire world lays before me. I see every creature that crawls on the ground, every bird that flies across the sky. Everything from the smallest ant to the largest elephant. I see mountains capped with snow and deep valleys that twist across the earth, azure seas and endless deserts with dunes of golden sand. It was beautiful, everything existing in perfect harmony, perfect balance.

                “This is what it was,” the Earth murmurs, “What it could be.”

                 The illusion fades and I stand in the wasteland that was our world. The seas are dead and there are no more forests. The animals that once prowled the earth are long gone, lost forever and the sky is always grey with smoke.

                 “What it could have been.”

      


Mother Earth
Alison Lee Yeuh Chii


               “Come.”

                The voice was familiar yet not, soft and soothing like a mother’s gentle voice. It was distant, little more than a whisper in the back of my mind; an echo of something long forgotten, ancient and old as time itself.  

                “Come and see.”

                The voice urged and so, I did.

                “Look at the sky,” she tells me and I do, tilting my head up to the vast expanse that seems to spread on forever. The skies are infinite, bringing forth bursts of colour with each passing day. Colours that no paint or picture could ever capture. Dawn paints it in soft hues of pinks and the day a brilliant blue. Dusk sets the sky aflame with burning shades of red and gold just before the night scatters gleaming stars across its deep blue stretch, brighter than any diamond.

                “Come.”

                Iron grey storm clouds spread across the skies. Shining, tear-shaped droplets hurtled towards the ground and I fall with them. The scent of earth and petrichor fills the air and I find myself alone in a rainforest. Moss covered trees brush the sky and wildflowers bloom rampantly across the forest floor, each one more beautiful than a queen’s gown.

                “Listen,” she tells me and music fills my ears. Raindrops fall on the leaves of towering trees that shield the earth from the storm above. Somewhere frogs are croaking while cicadas and birds sing, forming an unearthly symphony no orchestra could ever replicate. I close my eyes and drown in the music of the forest.

                “Come.”

                 She takes me to the sea. The smell the salt in the wind hits my nostrils and I hear the sound of crashing waves and the cawing of sea birds. When I open my eyes seven oceans lay before me, the glittering cyan and white waves spreading out as far as the eye can see.

                 “Look closer.” She whispers and I am beneath the waves. Pale gold sunlight filters through from far above, illuminating a hidden world that lies beneath the surface of the crystal waters. Branching corals of every colour spread across the seabed while sea creatures dart through its waters, everything from vibrant clouds of bright-coloured fish to whales that sing the earth’s ancient songs.

               “Beautiful isn’t it?”

                The entire world lays before me. I see every creature that crawls on the ground, every bird that flies across the sky. Everything from the smallest ant to the largest elephant. I see mountains capped with snow and deep valleys that twist across the earth, azure seas and endless deserts with dunes of golden sand. It was beautiful, everything existing in perfect harmony, perfect balance.

                “This is what it was,” the Earth murmurs, “What it could be.”

                 The illusion fades and I stand in the wasteland that was our world. The seas are dead and there are no more forests. The animals that once prowled the earth are long gone, lost forever and the sky is always grey with smoke.

                 “What it could have been.”