2019 Winners and Honourable Mentions

CATEGORY C : 18 - 24 YEARS
Day 4: Water
13 June 2019

WINNER

The Choice
Nadia Mikail


Said the eagle to the brook, “They are coming.”

They both listened to the telltale crunch, ever closer, of boots on leaves.

The eagle’s name was Sollicit. The brook’s was Traien. She suggested, “Why don’t you run into the river for a bit?”

Why? Traien rippled. I’ll be okay.

“Look, I’m not saying you won’t,” Sollicit said, exasperated. “I’m just— you know how they are!” 

These ones could be different. Traien’s hope burbled through Sollicit, spraying her playfully with a cooling, reconciling mist. Sollicit spread her wings and shook them out, glaring. “Well. I refuse to be around to see it.” 

She took off into the sun, highly aggrieved, to Medens.

“I heard a ruckus the way of the trail,” Medens said, munching thoughtfully on a fig. A sun bear, Medens seemed to have an endless supply.

“They’re coming Traien’s way,” said Sollicit.

“Ah.” Medens settled back on his haunches. “I suppose you told him to run, and he didn’t listen in the slightest.”

Sollicit felt suddenly like she did not want to talk at all. She couldn’t stop thinking about Traien, and how, one time, after the humans had poured their excretions, both human and plastic, down his throat, he’d barely been able to speak. She couldn’t stop thinking about Traien’s gasps.

“We should go,” Medens said eventually, after a long while had passed.

“I don’t want to.”

They travelled back anyway. 

Traien was clogged up with various plastic bags, but he spluttered a weak hello. it could have been worse. Sollicit sighed in relief. Medens scooped the waste out of Traien’s waters, and Sollicit flew it to the bins provided along the trail.

They heard a sudden, panicked thumping, and what sounded like leaves being trampled underfoot. Sollicit flew to the nearest tree that provided cover. Medens lumbered away to hide.

But the human that returned did not seem to pose any threat to them. He seemed dizzy and disoriented, stumbling and lost. He had probably been separated from his group. It was then Sollicit noticed a deep gash on his calf from which blood was spilling.

He sank onto the ground, closing his eyes. Sollicit and Medens came slowly out.

We have to help him, Traien burbled softly.

Sollicit said, “So he can get better and do this to you again?”

If we don’t we’re no better.

“Ohhhh, you are the worst body of water ever,” Sollicit groaned, but Medens was already carefully nudging the injured leg closer to Traien, applying pressure with his paws where Traien told him to.

Traien trickled, Use my water, here, it’s cleaner.

They irrigated his wound, then plastered on pine sap, an antiseptic.

When he woke up, the first thing he did was drink thirstily from Traien: pure, life-giving water that had saved him. He stared in bewilderment at his cleaned injury, looking around wonderingly. 

His group found him soon after.

They’ll be better next time, Traien rippled quietly.

“Oh, please,” Sollicit scoffed. 

Medens said nothing. They watched the humans leave.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

A Transient Peace
Lancelan Pegan anak Roland Sagah


Stars twinkled gently upon the surface of the midnight-black ocean. The sea was calm, almost frozen in place. A gentle sea breeze blew in-land, spreading a wispy, light mist of salty air into town. From my boat, the lights of the town cast a gentle glow on the sand. The light wind brought a subtle swaying rhythm to my floorboards. The light rocking of the sea below it felt almost like the rocking of a cot, buoying me to sleep.

Even after doing this for years, it daunted me. Diving out here at such a late hour was bound to be risky, but it was the time of day when it would be most quiet.  Not a single boat was out except mine. The ocean grew still. I leaned over the side of my boat, and when the wind settled down, with my eyes closed, I took the plunge.

As I opened my eyes, a hidden world beneath the surface revealed itself to me.

An inky blue shined through from the moonlight and stars, illuminating everything with a tender glow. Schools of fish swam around me, like silver clouds. Deeper still, clownfish frolicked in between fronds of pillowy pink anemone. On the ocean floor, I could see hermit crabs and tiny red octopi scampering on the sandy ground, as a rainbow of rocky, clay-like coral surrounded them.

All of this without the sounds of motorised rudders. Without the juddering noises of diesel engines. Without the shrill, piercing clanging and clatters of the city.

Instead, around me was a different ambience. The gentle swaying of the water’s surface translated into a drawn-out, enveloping pulse.  As smaller animals scurried around in the water, a subtle rushing sound echoed out throughout the ocean.

Then, further still, I heard an echo. The whales had come around once again, their loud calls, reverberating throughout the small cape.  Their gigantic fins and body gently wafted through the water, giving off ripples in their wake.

In their wake as well, were phytoplankton. I found a gentle cove to rest as I waited for the show to start. As the whales slowly returned to the wide, open sea, the plankton slowly, but steadily, started to release their ghostly blue light. Their luminescence spread slowly as the ocean settled down, with their glow adding a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere to everything.

In the serene ambience of the bay, I began to relax. I knew it wouldn’t be long until everything picked up once again, until the fishermen would go back out to sea, until the peace would be broken once again.

But in this transience, I found solace. In this sea, I found art unlike anything human. In this water, I felt at ease.


Tears
Christabel Anfield Sim Wanwen


71% and 60%. Do you know what these figures mean to you? I span the Earth, filling the deepest oceans. I am the seven seas that host more lives than what roams the lands.

I am the very essence of life.

You need me. You ARE me. 60% of you is water. You use me daily, to bathe, clean and cook, and when you thirst, you ingest me into your system. Your lives revolve around me.

I remember a time when we used to live peacefully. That meal you ate would not have been possible had it not been for my rain that nurtured your crops, and for my rivers that you caught your fish in. And you respected that. We took care of each other, being careful not to overstep our boundaries.  

But slowly you grew ignorant. Greed overtook you when you started building your “new world”. You were advancing too fast for your own good, faster than even you could keep up with. The rubbish you produced, you struggled to get rid off. And so you threw them to me, thinking that my body could hide your irresponsibility. The toxic wastes you created, leaked through the soil and seeped into my rivers, and eventually carried into my seas and oceans. It made my body feel nauseas, and I could feel my marine animals dying, dying INSIDE of me. The innocent animals that drank from me became ill, and eventually they too, were gone. I had poisoned them. You had made me into a murderer, me, who had once been deemed the source of all life. It made me cry, but my tears felt like acid and it made my eyes sting with pain, and when my tears fell to the ground it corroded your precious buildings. And that made you angry. Not for the lives you stole, but for your creations that were destroyed. That was the last straw. I was done being taken for granted.

All the animals and marine life were gone. But at least their sufferings had ended. The only ones left were the humans. They filtered and cleaned me just for their own benefit, but it was hurting me, it felt like I was being scrubbed with a coal-hot iron gauze.

No. I would clean myself.

And so the sun blazed and the waters dried up, but there was no rain. I would not shed a single tear for them. Weeks turned into months, and all my rivers dried up. Oceans and seas left enormous hollow craters in the earth. The humans perished. A sense of loneliness welled up inside of me, and tears formed in my eyes. Trickling down, drop by drop, I let it fall at last. But this time, my eyes didn’t hurt, and my tears were clear. The rain hit the earth once more, filling the rivers, ocean and seas. I shed my final tear, indicating the end of my mourning, and looked forward to new life. I was purified.