2019 Winners and Honourable Mentions

Day 5: Urban
14 June 2019


The Story of Humans
Alison Lee Yeuh Chii

You could always find strange things for sale in the market.

I stared down at the wooden toy in my hands. It was beautifully made, carved from pale wood, with joints that moved with the help of springs. I didn’t think anyone sold such toys anymore.

The old lion with greying blond hair, who had been dozing off at the corner of the stall abruptly snapped awake and stood up at the sight of a potential customer. “What do you think, little buck?” he asked, walking over with a kind smile, his canines gleaming, “Do you like it? It only cost five pennies.” 

“What is it supposed to be?” I asked, moving the arm of the toy with a slight frown. It had two arms, a face quite similar to our own and seemed to walk on two legs like everyone did. But it lacked any other distinct features. It did not have antlers like I did or a golden mane like the lions. It might have passed off as a monkey if it wasn’t missing their trademark tails.

“It’s a human,” the lion explained, “One of my finest works in fact. Have you ever heard their story?” he asked.

I shook my head. The lion smiled, “Would you like to hear it?” he asked with a twinkle in his golden eyes.

Curious, I cocked my ears and nodded eagerly. He grinned and began, “Long ago when the Earth was young, one species dominated its lands, seas and skies.” He nodded at the wooden toy, “They were called humans, and they were incredibly intelligent, far more intelligent and more advanced than our distant ancestors were.”

“But they were a greedy kind, taking over more than it was necessary, and soon the entire Earth and every living thing began to suffer from their rapid urbanization of the planet. They choked the skies with smoke, filled the seas with rubbish and destroyed nature on land. Humans realized this too late, and were eventually wiped out along with most the creatures of Earth.”

“But a few of our ancestors survived the catastrophe, and without humans, the Earth began to heal, slowly but surely over millions of years. The other species’ that remained soon advanced to the point where they were as intelligent as those humans once were. They learned from humanity’s mistakes and finally built Earth’s utopia.”

I glanced down at the toy human in my hands, “Humans sound scary,” I said with a shiver. To be greedy enough to cause their own destruction seemed almost impossible, and yet they had somehow managed to achieve it.

“Yes,” the old lion agreed, “Keep the toy,” he said abruptly, “Let it be a reminder of what the humans have done, and make sure that you youngsters never repeat it.

I gripped the wooden human, looking down at the face that looked familiar and yet foreign at the same time. We were not like them.  We would not repeat their mistakes.

I was sure of it.


Wages of Greed
Shin Ho In

The momentary peace is ripped asunder as the mechanical beasts roar to life. The terrible cranes tear ravenously into the earth, causing the towering trees to topple as a result. The humans behind the controls show no signs of remorse at the carnage, destroying Mother Nature’s precious gifts of their own volition. Trampling over the once flourishing forest floor, the monsters channel their insatiable hunger for devastation on the shattered remnants of the forest. The victims pile up as more and more of the foliage is quelled.

I stare with cold indifference as the humans progress with the obliteration of their own planet. Wherever they tread, they always leave behind more than just their footprints, a trail reeking of suffering and death. I don’t even have to strain my eyes to see signs of human urbanisation. Just a stone’s throw away are concrete jungles with skyscrapers and high-rise buildings that dominate the skies as well as the land, labyrinths of tarmac roads and settlements sustaining a constantly blooming population. The intrinsic selfishness of humans constantly scream in dissatisfaction; skulking over what they don’t possess and completely glossing over whatever they do. I can feel a mixture of exasperation yet amusement at their foolishness begin to rise within me.

The sound of rustling vegetation behind me catches my attention. A young doe sporting a severely injured hindleg stained with blood limps into view. Most of the forest dwellers had been forced to abandoned their homes and evacuated deeper into the forest upon the arrival of the humans, leaving the weak and injured to succumb to their inevitable doom. The doe stares at me momentarily with eyes that howls in agony before disappearing into the underbrush. Without a second thought, I follow after it into the dense thicket of trees, tracing its trail of blood until the path eventually opens up into a clearing.

The clearing is bathed in a pale, translucent glow that betrays tranquillity. The lush green foliage boasts vitality as if the earlier cruelty I had witnessed was nothing but a nightmare that I was yet to wake up from. The doe lays in a feeble patch of sunlight with its head nestled comfortably in the lap of a beautiful young girl dressed in a white gown. I can feel my lips curl into an unpleasant sneer as I watch her run a hand comfortingly across the doe’s face.

“Fancy seeing you here, Life.” My voice drips with sarcasm as I prowl towards her.

“I see you’ve been busy, Death.” She replies in a deadly calm voice.

I scoff loudly. “Those arrogant humans are nothing but harbingers of misfortune. In the name of expanding their pathetic empire, they ravage the lands and wreak havoc on anything that displays even a hint of opposition.

“They haven’t changed one bit.” She sighs defeatedly as she releases her hold on the creature. “It’s time.”

I place my hands over its face and with one final shuddering breath, it’s put to peace.

Glass Walls; Amazonia
Fiona Anak Ringkai

   In the year 2050, when all hope was lost and humanity was guaranteed an early extinction, a brilliant group of scientists had coined the idea of isolated domed cities, to ensure humanity’s survival. Across the globe, 50 of these state-of-the-art domed cities were constructed.

Beneath the glitz and glam, lurks a secret never to be seen in the light of day.

A hundred years later, that statement held more truth than ever before.

   Underneath the starless night sky, a man weaved through the horde of people leaving their late-night jobs. Jason was a cynic in the eyes of society. He questioned the ethics of having nuclear power plants a mere hundred metres away from the factories; the possibility of urban heat islands occurring from building tall structures so close to one another.

   Just knowing that the city was built on top of the destroyed Amazon Forest left a bad taste in his mouth. The loss of the last inch of wildlife signalled the start of the new world—bleak, empty, meaningless plastic. It wasn’t a stretch to call Amazonia the physical manifestation of humanity’s pride and greed; a symbol of how far mankind was willing to go to satisfy their worldly desires for quick cash, even if it meant the destruction of Earth as we knew it.

   After a mere 60 years, pollution became rampant in the supposed ‘save havens’, as it had in the past. Humans had a second chance at life, yet history was repeating itself. The glittering lights, the picturesque skyline, the roar of non-stop traffic, the towering skyscrapers—it was all a façade; a distraction designed to shield mankind’s eyes from the monster growing bigger under their very noses.

   The term ‘urban’ was a useless attempt at making distinctions between the cities and the slums, considering there weren’t any part of Earth left that wasn’t industrialised and ‘adapted to modern circumstances’, as politicians had called it. The Second Industrial Revolution came, and in an instant, the rate of wildlife extinction sky-rocketed, along with the rapid disappearance of plants. Jason swore he hadn’t seen the bark of a pine tree in approximately twenty years.

   With the loss of natural habitat came the barrage of ‘zoo conservation centres’, a thinly-veiled money-hungry scheme to exploit animals for entertainment-- seals stared listlessly through the grimy partition, birds slammed their winged bodies against their cages, longing for the sky. If only Jason could tell them that the air was so polluted with methane, sulphur and carbon monoxide, even humans couldn’t live without their oxygen tanks.

   In theory, Amazonia was a model city; free public transportation, intricately designed monuments, better education. But the world that Jason saw—a dull monochrome of edifices, mankind strapped to metal tanks, animals confined in glass cages, metal tubes pumping dust and toxins; what was beautiful about that?

Jason heard a click behind him.

“You’re not supposed to be able to think.”

Rogue AI detected.

Launching DDOS attack in 3… 2… 1…

Jason fell to the ground.