Here is eight year old Maria Laurie’s winning story.
The object at his feet glittered, even in the dim light beneath the trees. Jason held his breath as he leaned down and brushed the covering of soggy leaf-litter away. It was the eyes that sparkled, the greens, blues and pinks of inlaid paua shell looking alive, as if they were watching him. Yet the rest of it was a muted green. No wonder nobody had seen it. It mostly blended in with the vegetation. How long had it lain there? Where had it come from? Jason reached out to pick the patu up. His fingers grazed the hard stone, cool to the touch, but somehow alive, as if charged with an ancient energy. As his hand closed round the object, he felt a surge of power and images flashed through his mind…
…Jason closed his eyes as his hands tingled. Images of a little girl about 8 years old entered his mind. Barefoot and wearing a blue, old fashioned dress. She was Maori, and three brown feathers were plaited into her hair.
“Whoa, am I dreaming?” Jason said to himself. He opened his eyes. The images disappeared. Jason blinked. A quick image of a tall Maori man dressed for war flashed in his mind. When his eyes opened the images disappeared again.
Jason wondered whether he should take the patu or leave it. It somehow felt like he should take it. Jason stuffed the patu into his jacket pocket. He ran all the way home wondering who the man and small girl could be.
When he arrived home he went straight upstairs to his bedroom and placed the patu under his pillow.
“Jason! Dinner’s ready!” called Jason’s mum. He quickly straightened out his pillow and raced downstairs, wondering if he should tell his mum about the patu and the images.
When he reached the table, it was chaos. His little brother, George, was crying, his mother looked cross, there was a smashed glass on the floor and a puddle of blackcurrant juice on the white table cloth.
“Uh oh. Maybe later,” thought Jason.
When Jason climbed into his bed later that evening with his favourite book, he had completely forgotten about the patu that lay under his pillow. His dream that night made him remember everything.
In his dream, the small girl appeared again. She was crying and saying to the man, “don’t go! I don’t want you to go to war.”
“I have to go, Mere. It is decided,” said the man. Mere’s father then said, “I will give you my patu, then a part of me will get to stay. My father gave it to me and his father gave it to him. He was a chief, just like me. You must look after it very well like I have.”
“I will,” replied Mere tearfully.
The next day when Mere went to school, she cut through the forest and found her favourite tree. It was an enormous kauri with a hollow part at the foot of the tree. A perfect and safe place to hide a precious patu.
Every day she checked the patu and thought of her father at war. Sadly, Mere’s father did die at war. The patu helped her to remember the nice times she had had with her father. Mere continued to visit the patu every day until she was an old woman. Eventually Mere passed away with no one to pass the patu on to. She had no children of her own. The patu stayed by the kauri tree, all alone.
“Beep, beep beep, beep!!!” Jason woke up with a start. He suddenly remembered the patu under his pillow.
The door creaked open. George stood in the doorway.
“Gueth what?” he said.
“What?” asked Jason.
“We going to vithit gwamma,” replied George.
Jason wondered what to do with the patu. He eventually decided to take the patu with him and an idea might come. It was a long drive to grandma’s.
Jason’s family piled into the car and drove off. It was a long and hot drive, and Jason found himself drifting off to sleep.
Mere was there again in his mind, but this time she was an old woman. She told him that he had to place the patu on her grave at Matangi Cemetry.
Suddenly, Jason was woken by a disturbing whinging noise. George wanted to go to the toilet and he wanted to go NOW!
Mum sighed and pulled the car over at a public toilet which happened to be by a cemetery. Jason gasped when he saw the sign: MATANGI CEMETERY.
As soon as the car stopped Jason threw open the door and bounded out. “I’m just going to have a look at these gravestones,” Jason said to his mum.
He noticed Mere’s gravestone immediately. In big letters on a block of stone was carved the name Mere. The letters were made of paua, just like on the patu. Jason rushed over to the grave and closed his eyes as he held the patu for the last time.
Mere appeared again. She smiled at him and said, “ka pai.”
Jason placed the patu by the headstone. He felt his fingers tingle as he let go of the patu.
“Come on Jason,” he heard his mum call. “It’s time to go.”