2019 Winners and Honourable Mentions

CATEGORY C : 18 - 24 YEARS
Day 1: Earth
10 June 2019

WINNER

The Cleaner
Nadia Mikail


Earth’s first Clean was billions of years ago, when she had just been Made.

The Cleaner stood there with his mop and his bucket, a small, hunched man wearing a dark grey jumpsuit. He had a little bag strapped around his waist; it contained a few sponges and washcloths of bright, confusing colours. Certainly not colours with any human names.

"How are you doing, Earth?" The Cleaner said. "Are you ready?"

"I suppose I am," said Earth.

He set to work.

He wrung out all the clouds and scrubbed deep into the valleys. He vacuumed up the impurities in the deserts and flossed in between the mountains. Wherever he walked he left blue rippling and green blooming.

"All done," he said, when he was finished. He wrung out his mop and put it back in his bucket of indeterminate colour.

"Oh,” Earth said. "I feel—"

"Like a new planet,” The Cleaner said. "And you are one. Take care of yourself." He checked his watch. "I’ll be back in a couple billion years: routine maintenance. Unless you need it, then I'll be along sooner."

***

Life began to flap about, helplessly, in her waters and shores, and she watched in fascination. She once asked Jupiter about it, as she watched a newly formed creature blindly navigate a current.

"Yeah, most of them get Cleaned," said Jupiter. "Poor things. It’s all for the best, though. They wouldn’t be able to survive anyway, if the planet’s too dirty."

"Oh, but," Earth said.

"Best not to get too attached," Jupiter advised, kind about it.

***

"How are you, Earth?" The Cleaner asked, a couple of billion years later.

"Can't complain," said Earth.

The Cleaner set to work.

***

Jupiter had been right, but Earth still watched as the creatures grew wings and eyes and legs. It was hard to look away. When The Cleaner came for the third time, as he had said he would, they had grown teeth and claws.

The Cleaner said, "How are you, Earth?"

"I'm doing good," said Earth, watching a scansoriopterygid glide from branch to branch.

The Cleaner set to work.

*** 

Being Clean again felt sorely empty. There was still life, but her bones did not resound with it. The creatures she had loved never came back.

***

But the creatures that were left grew and multiplied, loud and joyful. Fingers and ears and human souls. Earth heard babies laugh and felt human tears. She watched airplanes soar and delighted in every single birthday.

And The Cleaner came again.

"It's only been a few million years," Earth said, surprised.

"Earth," The Cleaner said, very gently, "you need a Clean."

Earth, embarrassed, shook herself out. Oil and dust got everywhere, some of it landing on The Cleaner's grey jumpsuit. She took a deep breath, and said, "Not yet. Give them time to clean."

The Cleaner sighed, looking very hunched and extremely old. "If you leave it too late, I will not be able to—"

"I understand," Earth said. 


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Prologue
Eden Voon Wu Qian


1: What is this? What are you showing me? I've got other worlds to evaluate.

2: Look! I've harnessed the power of creation. I can create anything with just my mind. Look at what I've created.

1: I don't understand, it's blank. It's just a sphere.

2: A sphere it is for now. Soon, we'll furnish it with colours of the universe and life beyond imagination.

1: What kind of life? Smart? Hostile? Does it have legs?

2: I'm not sure yet, but as we've seen on other worlds, adapting to the saying "Survival of the Fittest" is a must. World #20519 did not achieve this and look what happened. Chaos, poverty, war, famine and ultimately, their own destruction. And yes, it will have legs.

1: Be it as it may, what makes you so sure this will be unique? One of a kind throughout the cosmos?

2: There shall be one alpha species guiding the rest and they will have no knowledge of the other worlds nor will they be able to comprehend our existence.

1: Now that's just absurd, they need this to advance in their life. Without this, they will not advance fast enough to survive the sphere's lifetime.

2: This one's special, the sphere's lifetime depends on their action. Whether they live to see it grow or to see the other worlds will be reflected by their actions. This, we must not interfere. This, is what makes it so unique.

1: Alright, which physical law would you provide them with?

2: Physics of world #24601. However, they will not understand this fully as well. Exploration will be their strongest trait and in time, I'm certain that everything we've implemented will be known to the alpha.

1: What will you call this ... Alpha Species? Might I suggest "Spherelings"?

2: You were never good with names, are you? They shall be known throughout the cosmos as "Humans". Though weaker, their bond together will strengthen them through difficult times and carry them as they advance. Only together will they survive my trials, otherwise, they are not worthy to live as my creations.

1: That's harsh, will you be providing them with any materials or are they expected to make do with this blank space?

2: There shall be lush greens and colourful beings roaming the sphere. I shall call them "Plants" and "Animals". They shall feed on each other and help the "Humans" advance. I shall help only in this aspect by providing the "Plants" with the energy to grow.

1: I understand now, you're allowing them to grow slowly? What's the point in this?

2: To learn about life or to one day live with them, we must study them. Only by doing this shall we fully grasp the true meaning of life and why we exists.

1: What shall we call this sphere? "Humanland"?

2: Leave the naming to me, please. It shall be known and respected among the worlds as ... "Earth".


An Old Legend
Lancelan Pegan anak Roland Sagah


Night had fallen. The sun finally set. Everyone went home to rest. And that was where Sam laid, in his cosy cot, ready for a good night’s sleep.

“Dad, can I hear a bedtime story?” Sam murmured, his mouth pulled into a mellow smile.

His father, not being one to pass up a chance to regale his son with old tales, quickly obliged.

“Let me tell you an old story, passed down from generation to generation,” he told his eager son. And so, he began to softly whisper.

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There was once a world, hued with verdant greens, azure seas and iridescent dawns. The colours were not the only beauties to be found here. This land was surrounded with the quiet din of nature. The tranquil hush of rivers and the gentle hum of the forest filled the air in the day. Come nightfall, the soft chirping of cicadas and fireflies became the soundscape of this world. In this world, there was balance. There was harmony. There was peace.

However, as they say, utopia is no place. The world began to shift. The people who lived in this land started changing it. The lush, green land slowly faded. Grey began to pervade the land. Soon, great dark monoliths erupted from the ground, spewing clouds of thick smog into the air. The once vibrant world turned into a soot-covered ball. The people here paid these changes no mind. ‘It was for the better!’ some of them said. The others enjoyed the fruits of these monoliths, unbothered by the decay happening around them.

Soon, the soothing hum of nature’s soundscapes gave way to the shrill sounds of man. The air, once refreshing, became acrid. All of nature’s towers had been felled. In their places, monuments of man were erected. All the while, nature had fallen by the wayside.

But nothing in life is ever free. As readily as nature gave, it could, just as easily, take away.

The first uprising came from the ground. It awoke, ablaze and in fury.  The monoliths, once loud and strong, crumbled down upon the land over which they once claimed rule. Then, the sea swept in. With graceful fury, the coast returned to sand and shores.

Some still brushed it off. ‘If we’ve lasted this long, we’ll outlast this!’. The others were shaken, having experienced incredible loss. They built ships to find a new, safer land. The naysayers stayed put, saying that it would all come to pass. With heavy hearts, the others said goodbye. After eons of searching, the people found a new land upon which to start anew.

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‘And that, is the end of the tale,’ said Sam’s father. As he got up to retire to his room, Sam asked him a question.

‘Dad, what did they call the old land?’ little Sam asked.

 ‘I think they called it…’ His voice trailed off.

His father gazed off into the distance, searching for the answer in his head.

‘I think they called it Earth.’