Leather feathered Moas with beady eyes and yellow talons from Anu, clever mimicking Mockingbirds from Emma, and all kinds of horrible hairy monsters made an appearance in the stories you sent in over the last couple of weeks. The writing was full of energy and I really enjoyed reading them all. In total, there were twenty five entries from nine schools around NZ (from Warkworth Primary in the north, across to Waikirikiri School in the East down to Lee Stream School, Warrington School and Balmacewen Intermediate in Otago) and Australia (Tighes Hill School).
Quite a few stories made it to my long shortlist, which made it difficult to choose a winner. So difficult I had to pick two.
First some honourable mentions:
Most inventive character names to Sareen from Holy Cross Catholic School. “It is said that whoever hears or sees the Botswain runs away quickly and cannot hide as this animal is vicious when it comes to tricks and mischief …” I loved the way you turned your story into an epic quest.
To Emma for using all five senses to make her writing come to life. “As I enter, the smell wafts up my nostrils, burning the back of my eyes … I stumble around the cold, dark room, groping desperately for the toilet. My hands touch cold, smooth porcelain.”
Best similes to Tallulah and Anu from St Martins School: “A simple minute stretches out like elastic.” (Tallulah) “ … smashing through the fence like it was a wall of tissues” (Anu)
Also lovely use of personification from Holly from St Martins School: “The glowing moon stares at me, pulls me into light …”
Best paragraph (with a wonderfully evocative description) goes to Isabella from St Martins school. “… his grey hair was matted to his skull and his fingers were clawing against the fence, but what would haunt my dreams for years to come were his eyes.”
Great collaboration, Rebekah Hill and Emma Burnside from Balmacewen Intermediate, with an unexpected ‘it was all a dream’ twist in the ending.
Best and funniest ending goes to Oliver from Tighes Hill School. “ … standing just behind the fence, (was) a gigantic bird, twice as tall as my father and covered in brown feathers. It made another call.
“Oh,” my dad said, “just another bloody Moa.”
And the winners are!
Peyton Morete from Te Horo School and Libby Cassie from Lee Stream School.
Peyton took elements from my story starter to create a classic scary ghost story, while Libby really found her way inside her characters head, adding just the right amount of humour.
Congratulations! A copy of The Name at the End of the Ladder will be on its way to you soon.
The Story Starter
The car tyres crunched on gravel as we pulled into the rest area.“Toilet stop,” said Dad. “Make it quick, please. I must have taken a wrong turn and I’d rather not end up driving to the lake in the dark.”
The sign at the turn off had said, To Lake, Post Office, Toilets, Graveyard Walk and Moa Bones. But when the metal road came to a dead end, there was no lake to be seen. And judging by the number of boarded up windows in the old wooden building next to the car park it had been a long time since anyone had posted a letter there.
I headed across the field towards a dark green, concrete toilet block. Yuck! You could already smell them. The time on my mobile read 4.15pm, but down here between the dark bush covered slopes, it seemed like night might arrive any minute. No cell phone signal either. This place gave me the creeps.
When I reached the toilet block, I could see that a tall, wire fence stretched along the far edge of the field, stopping access to the bush behind. Why was it there? Was it to keep something out … or in? Then, just as I was about to brave the smelly toilets, I heard it — a long, low, eerie booming, like the call of some strange animal … coming from the bush behind the fence.
At first I didn’t notice it, but as the sound got louder it became deafening. I raised my hands to my ears to block the noise, it just got louder and it seemed to infiltrate itself into my head. I shook my head, side to side, but it didn’t help. I tried to call for help, but couldn’t produce any sound of words. The air suddenly got colder and the trees swayed harshly, even the sun began to disappear. I wanted to get rid of that animal but it just kept coming closer. I gulped in big breaths of air and entered the small toilet. It smelt bad but at least the noise stopped. I closed the lid of the seat and sat down trying to catch my breath. I sat like that for hours, at least that was what I thought.
I thought about leaving and running back to the car but resisted the thought. I was thinking until the room started to move, it felt as if someone was pushing it side to side. I could hear the water slosh from underneath me. I wanted to gag. It abruptly stopped and I was left to shake with terror. I drew my legs up onto the toilet and held my knees together. Frightened, I stared at the lock of the toilet block. It started to move and a quiet moan bellowed into the small chamber of this toilet. It finally reached green and the door clicked, a creak and the door was opening. It finally opened and there stood a creature. Something I had never seen before.
It had slick, black fur. Paws that were too big for its slinky arms and skinny legs. Its chest was broad and had bark twisted into its locks of hair. Its face was the shape of a triangle and it had very green eyes.
It moaned again and I snapped out of my trance. I peered at it and saw it was pointing towards the car. I was in shock, it must have hurt my family. It turned again and I dashed out. The animal moaned again and pointed, it finally saw I was gone and breathed out an enormous breath. I opened the car door and clicked the lock down. I turned and saw my family looking at me.
“Keagan, are you alright. You were in there for at least a few minutes.”
“What, I was in there at least for hours.” I say back.
“No,” my little sister, Bobby says, as she pokes my chest, “You were in there for precisely 3 minutes. The average for a 13 year old boy is at least 1-2 minutes. and..”
I nod, “Okay, okay. Can we go now, I am super tired.”
Dad turns on the engine and we began to slowly make our way back onto the gravel path. I squint out into the darkness and see the animal still there.
“Dad, did you see the animal over by the toilet?” I ask.
“What animal, Keagan?”
“Oh, nothing.” I say.
Suddenly it waves as it disappears back into the forest.
You can call me dumb but if it was you I am sure you would have done the same. I decided to check it out. Yes I know this always happens in books, but this is different. This is embarrassing. I walked along the fence. Every now and again the booming growl could be heard. Was it getting closer or was that my mind playing tricks. The toilet block was now an ugly smudge in the distance. In front of me was a tall gate. As I reached it I realised that it was padlocked. Might as well turn around now. But being me I looked again. I could probably climb that. No troubles.
I started climbing. It was harder than I anticipated. I powered on and reached the top. From up there I could just see dad at the car. He was pacing around. Just the usual. He would last a bit longer. I jumped to the ground on the other side of the gate with a ‘thud’. The growling had stopped. I must have just imagined it. I decided that since I was here I might as well use it to my advantage. I’ll scare dad. That will fix him for making me come camping at some lake. I started walking back along the fence. I would pull myself on top of the toilet block. By then dad would have gone in to check on me. Then I would jump down and scare him. Perfect. Nothing could go wrong.
But of course something went wrong. All of a sudden I was on my back pinned down by something. Something that was growling and I could feel claws digging into my arms. I opened my eyes and looked straight into red angry eyes. It felt like those eyes were shrinking me into nothingness. Taking away my soul. I blinked and suddenly the eyes were gone. The pain in my arms was gone and I was alone. I ran back to the gate and quickly clambered over. I rushed back to the car, hopped in and buckled up my seatbelt. Why weren’t we going anywhere? I looked up at dad. He was laughing at me. “I knew you were going to the toilet boy, but not in your pants.” I looked at my pants. Great. I had wet myself.