2019 Winners and Honourable Mentions

CATEGORY B : 16 - 17 YEARS
Day 4: Water
13 June 2019

WINNER

Welcome To The Ocean
Alyssa Yap Xin Yi


I never thought I would be this ecstatic to find a dead fish.

It stared up at me with one shrunken eye, glazed over as all dead things have. The body of the fish was beyond dried; I almost mistook it for just another plastic bag. But it was long and somewhat thicker around the middle—a promising prospect. Clacking my tongs, I clipped it up delicately, careful not to squeeze it in the slightest. Every micrometre counts.

Placing it in my SeaWorld plastic bag, I continued my expedition. The ground felt rocky beneath my feet, a canvas of cracks and grainy sand. A curious mosaic of miscellaneous items littered the landscape, ranging from the remains of a plastic chair to a bruised rubber duck. Pockets of trash stood in mounds across the horizon, almost resembling mountains.

Welcome to the ocean floor.
 

Besides the fish, nothing else so far seemed particularly inviting. A tin can. A laminated sheet. A piece of string. I picked up something that vaguely resembles a leaf, though it probably would not bear much results. Living things were best—plants, animals, if you can call them ‘living’ that is. None of them survived the heat when the ocean dried up. Lifeforms that had never seen sunlight now basked in it all day, assuming they haven’t disintegrated to dust. I ignored all the plastics, abundant as they were. Plastics were no good.

If only we realized that sooner.

Was that a branch of coral? Or another PVC pipe? Guess I’ll try my luck. The sun seared my skin with an agonizing heat, no matter how many layers of protection I wore. The coverings served only to block the radioactive rays; nothing deterred the heat. As the day stretched on and I dumped a few more potential extraction materials into SeaWorld, I saw a station sitting up ahead. I looked into my bag and shook the contents around a bit—probably enough for a decent harvest.

The bell dinged as I entered the extraction station, the familiar machine standing at the end of the unimpressive space. A sallow man with bony cheeks sat behind a desk beside the machine, staring off into nothing. He only seemed to acknowledge my existence when I stood two feet away from him. As I unloaded my finds into the machine, he glanced at my bag.

“SeaWorld. Loved that place.” A pale smirk. “Ironic, isn’t it?”

I offered a small smile. “Indeed.” 

I pressed the red button and watched the machine swallow my items whole. A couple of whirs and beeps later, the button turned green.

Six drops of water.
 

The man raised his eyebrows, “Not too bad,” and returned to his innocuous daydream. To some, six drops are a miracle. But I remember the days where water was a symbol of eternity, a constant in our lives. We believed it would never run out—until it was too late.

SeaWorld billows as I revisit the ocean floor, hunting for more dead fish.
 


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

The Source
Alison Lee Yeuh Chii


“Death! What have you done?”

Death heard the door slamming open and grimaced at the sound of the familiar voice, “Good to see you too, Life,” he said without looking up from the latest list of souls, his voice heavy with sarcasm, “It has been aeons, my love.”

“I have no time for your games,” Life snapped.

Death glanced up and saw Life storming towards him, her flowing white dress whipping out behind her. “What did you do?” she demanded, slamming her hands onto his worktable and sending his reports scattering.

“I have done nothing,” Death said calmly.

“Really? Why don’t you take a closer look at Earth?”

Death scowled, but he got up, taking his time to straighten his black vest and the cuffs of his collared shirt. He crossed his arms and peered down at Earth. Everything appeared to be in order. Life’s favourite children, the humans, were doing just fine ruling over the Earth. The planet was green, though not as green as it was before Life had Created her humans, and most of her other children seemed fine.

“I don’t see what the problem is,” Death said finally.

Life let out a sound of frustration, “Look at the Source, you dolt,” she snapped.

Death frowned and turned his gaze towards the Source of Life. Only then did he notice that there was indeed something wrong with the Earth. The waters, the Source, wasn’t its usual brilliant blue shade. There were inky black patches here and there, toxins poisoned a few lakes and discarded objects from the humans were floating about its surface.

 “What have your children done?” Life demanded, “You promised to keep them in check and now you’re taking away my children in the sea and rivers.”

Death inspected the Source for a long moment, “This isn’t the work of my children,” he said shrewdly, “Your favourites sent their siblings right to me,” he said.   

“Lies!”

“You’re the one lying to yourself, my dear. Take a good look at what they have done. At this rate, all your other children will be sent to my doorsteps.”

Life was silent. She gazed down at Earth, “Then what should I do?” she asked after a long moment.

Death paused, thinking. “I could send my sons,” he suggested, “Flood and Storm would know what to do. It was about time we gave the earth a good clean anyway.”

“What?” Life stared at him in outrage, “No! All my children are good. They will realize their mistake soon enough,” she said confidently.

Death chuckled softly, “Sadly, I don’t think so.”

Life raised her chin, “What makes you so sure?” she asked.

“Because I am always the end of all you Create,” Death answered.

Life scoffed, “You forget, you cannot exist without me, my love.”

“And neither can you without me,” Death replied, “But remember, my dear,” he gazed down at the little humans, “You are only temporary.” He spread his hand across the dying seas.

“While I am eternal.”


Neverending Thirst
Fiona Anak Ringkai


They say you can survive a week without water.

Day 2

“Jason, no!”

I snatched his arm, harshly tugging him away from the murky bay. My breathing sounded ragged to my ears. My son looked up at me, startled. “Mummy, what’s wrong?”

I froze. How could I possibly tell him that the single drop of the bay’s water could kill him the second he swilled it down his throat, when he could barely add 2 plus 2?

Sometimes, I forgot that he was too young to understand what happened to our once-magnificent Earth; to comprehend how dire the situation truly was in 2070. I couldn’t bring myself to explain that humans were fools being puppeteered by their own greed.

I mustered a smile. “Honey, that water is too dirty. You saw what happened to that songbird when she fell into it. She got oil on her wings and died.”

Day 5

We had gone out in search for an oasis, yet all I could see was the cracked earth and not a cacti in sight. Going on these trips was a suicide mission, but I had the fate of my people resting on my shoulders.

I gritted my teeth.

I can’t give up now.

I faintly recalled mother telling me about the sea—a mesmerizing azure desert, glittering brightly underneath the sun. I chuckled bitterly to myself. Her beloved sea was barely visible under thick oil and islands of trash; her pristine beaches polluted by washed-up plastic containers and torn styrofoam. I could barely remember a time when turtles didn’t suffocate in nets, when corals weren’t withered, when whales weren’t beached daily.

Day 8

The sign beneath my feet read: SAVE OUR OCEAN. Flashes of memories came to me; riots boycotting conglomerates, weekly beach clean-ups, fundraisers for 4ocean. But it was far too late— the conservation efforts failed, and humans were left to rot with the rest of Earth. With less than 3% of water on Earth deemed safe for drinking, clean water was scarce. Bottled water can cost up to $100 per unit, and some were willing to sell their kidneys for a month’s worth of supplies.

During the Great Migration of 2063, humanity’s elites had fled to Mars the moment NASA deemed their trial colony safe. The remainder of mankind was left to fend for themselves on an irreparable planet—the poor stuck in slums, forced to drink urine and eat rotting carcasses. Those who could afford to perform large-scale saltwater distillation had moved to the only place on Earth that wasn’t contaminated—Antarctica. The once-frozen wasteland barely had any ice left, anyway.

Day 10

Still no water. My thighs burned and my tongue felt like sandpaper.

Jason collapsed to his knees, clawing at his throat hard enough to draw blood. The terror reflected in his eyes only pained my aching heart even more. My son stared at me blankly, his hand going limp in mine.

Tears pricked my eyes. “It’s going to be okay, honey.”

“Mummy, I’m thirsty.”