2019 Winners and Honourable Mentions

CATEGORY B : 16 - 17 YEARS
Day 3: Flora
12 June 2019

WINNER

Petals of the Past
Alison Lee Yeuh Chii


“What is it?” I asked curiously.

I glanced up at my grandfather quizzically. When he promised a special surprise for my eleventh birthday, I had expected him to bring home a new holopad, perhaps even a hoverboard, but certainly not the almost alien-like thing that currently sat on our coffee table.

It was green, greener than the lights that lined our highways. It did not glow in fluorescent green or flash vibrantly, but somehow it looked greener than anything I have ever seen before. It sat utterly still in a small grey pot; its centre stalk standing tall and rigid while its green teardrop-shaped panels drooped from its sides.

I prodded it gingerly with a finger. It felt smooth and softer than I had expected. I frowned, feeling mildly disappointed when nothing happened. “Is it supposed to move?” I asked.    

“No,” Grandfather said patiently, “It’s a flower,” he explained, hobbling closer to the table, “It’s called a jasmine,” he said, smiling down at me, “Just like you.”

A flower?

The term sounded vaguely familiar, like something out of the history classes I dozed off in. I recalled that they had something to do with the home planet of our ancestors but could remember nothing more. In any case, the little green thing must have cost Grandfather a small fortune.

“I thought flowers were… not green?” I said, frowning a little.

“Those are leaves,” Grandfather said, looking amused, “What are they teaching you in school?” he muttered under his breath. “See that?” he asked pointing at the strange bulbous protrusions that poked from the said leaves, “Those are flower buds. They might bloom today if you’re lucky.”

I nudged one of the soft buds, “Where did you get it from?” I questioned.

“An old friend of mine works in the research centre,” Grandfather explained, “He gave me one of their imperfect products.”

“Were there more?” I asked, tearing my gaze from the flower, “Plants I mean, back on Earth.”

Grandfather smiled, but his smile looked sad, “Yes.”

“What were they like?”

Grandfather chuckled softly, “I don’t know child, I’ve never seen one before today.” He walked over towards the shelf in the corner, pulling out a dusty old book, “But my grandfather did.”

We spent hours poring over the ancient book. It was old but between its crumbling pages were a multitude of drawings, hand-drawn illustrations of plants, flowers and trees of every kind. They were beautiful. There was such a wild, untamed beauty about them, so jarringly different from the perfect geometrical structures that made up our world.

“They’re so pretty,” I said, gazing down at the pictures in awe, “Why aren’t there plants anymore?”

Grandfather sighed, turning to look at the jasmine on the table. I followed his gaze and realized with a jolt that a few of the flowers had already bloomed. Grandfather got up and inspected one of the flowers as its delicate, pure white petals unfurled slowly.

He shook his head, “It’s because of us, child.”


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Sunsets and Nature
Asyiqin Zailani


“You see, one loves the sunset when one is so sad.” – The Little Prince

 

It was the year 2119 when Flora was born, into the modern world in a country known as Naturae. Contrary to her country’s name, her land was filled with high-tech and arguably high-class citizens, who mainly consists of robots and androids. Since only a small portion of humans exist, she was born as a product between a humanoid and a human father, as females can no longer reproduce.

 

Unfortunately, as global warming reached its peak mid-21st century, the Sun became more toxic and cancerous which caused millions of tragic deaths, females losing their ability to produce offspring, and most animals and plants have gone extinct as they could not handle the extreme temperature rise, leaving scientists to create robots and androids which will allow the Earth to still be populated by the remains of humankind.

 

Flora’s icy blue eyes would have reminded one of the ocean– if the ocean was not pitch black due to the muck which came from the very factories which create the citizens and their needs. Her pale white skin would have contrasted perfectly with a cerulean peacock’s feathers– if they have not gone extinct a few decades prior. Her luscious red lips could have brought an image of an apple– if apples were as red and lustrous as they once were.

 

As an avid reader, Flora loves to read possibly any stories that her frail hands could reach, but The Little Prince would still be the book that she cherishes the most. The vivid images of flowers, which she eventually discovered that they are also known as flora, bring her a nostalgic feel to it, one that metallic flowers could not compare with. The image of ‘a snake eating an elephant’ also amuses her greatly, for she acknowledges that she would be among those who argue that the image is undoubtedly a fedora. The novel fills her with so much joy and contentment until one could not possibly imagine seeing Flora without her beloved book at least once a week.

 

Though her world is no doubt, more modern and peaceful compared to previous decades, she often finds herself wishing to live just like how the characters in her books do. She yearns to enjoy walks at the beach, with real human parents instead of humanoids, and watch the so-called ‘majestic’ sunset with them. Naturae – no, the 22nd century might be modern, but she longs to have a humane life as she desperately wishes to bond and be with humans.

 

Occasionally, Flora would catch herself staring forlornly at the manic red sunset, wondering how it was like to live back in the times where nature was still alive. Do flowers really smell as enchanting as their looks? Do dogs really have soft fur and can be a loyal companion? Flora can only wonder and may never know the answer. For it is too late to change the past.


Second Chance
Shin Ho In


Forests were once revered as miraculous life-givers for their bountiful resources but how times have changed. Before me looms a pit of scorched earth riddled with nothing but the burnt remnants of trees and the blackened skeletons of the victims. I adjust my mask so that it rests more securely on my face, frustrated at my inability to acclimatize to the stench of fear and decay that chokes the Earth’s atmosphere.

“Another lost cause?” My partner, Doctor Romani’s voice booms through the transmitter.

“It’s still too early to make such inferences.” I reply as I venture towards the mouth of the blighted land. “You stay put in the research van.”

I scour the area with my torch only to be hit by waves of disappointment. Charred remnants of what I can only assume to have been a flourishing forest stretch further than the eye can see. The very essence of life leeched away from the earth. Grotesque swaths of fungi and algae cling to surfaces, draining every last morsel of vitality remaining in the already lifeless forest besieged by the merciless grasps of impending doom. The prospect of finding surviving flora seemed slim to none.

Humans, while boasting superior intellect compared to other lifeforms on Earth, can also be painfully dim-witted. Any possibility of feeding their pride with wealth or fame is enough to send them into a frenzy of plundering and destruction. Always taking more than necessary and quick to point fingers. Laying waste upon the lands and cultivating more greed, shaking the Earth to its very core.

My sides begin to heave with pain as each breath takes a herculean effort. My mask can only keep out so much of the surrounding air laced with toxic gases. Venturing the outside without proper equipment for even a short amount of time would surely be suicide. Turning back would probably be the wiser choice but the sight of a trough gives me a trickle of hope. Amidst the mass of blackened ash protrudes a solitary sprout defying all odds with just its existence. Vulnerable and ephemeral, just like a flickering candle flame, even the tiniest breath of wind threatening to snuff it out. With trembling fingers, I uncork a glass vial and bottle the tiny plant while exercising utmost caution. Even the discovery of something so minute and insignificant fills me with much hope for a second chance.

“Situation as grim as always?” Doctor Romani asks once he sees me amble out of what I can only call a living hell.

I don’t know when I last uttered those words but triumph floods my heart as I reply “There is still hope.”

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, which is why we call it the present. My efforts may be for naught but I’ll let tomorrow worry about tomorrow. What I can do now is struggle as hard as I can to reclaim our Earth.