I am always fascinated with the shapes and journeys of stories. Especially the ways that people can take the same beginning and then travel into the unknown armed only with some sketchy back story and a vivid imagination. I wondered whether the creature in the cave would have a sympathetic reception or be the horror unleashed on the world. Of course I got both. But how the writers got to the end was interesting. Some writers switched from the creatures point of view to the explorers and continued on. Some writers stayed with the creature and descended into horror. The creature became a dragon, a toad, an alien, a dinosaur, a monster, a child caught up in an enchantment. I was waiting to see how the questions would be used. They were mostly about food and how to get it by fair means and foul.
Dialogue is great to use to drive a story forward but don’t hang everything on it. There were some stories that had so much dialogue I got lost trying to figure out who was saying what.
Point of view is also really tricky. Who is telling the story? You can help the reader out by adding some description from the owner of the point of view and making a line break eg; The creature knew that her best chance was to pretend to be dead so she lay still.
Bobbi clambered into the cave and stopped. Before her was a creature lying dead on the slimy floor of the cave.
While everybody wrote imaginative stories the best stories were ones that reflected some aspect of the beginning and drove the story on. The need for water… the reason for banishment… the question… all became important and so the story hung together well. Some stories didn’t really end which was annoying because I wanted to know what happened next… (Hunter… I was just getting into the story with the paladin’s and the grimoire and then he woke up? Arrgh! Much gnashing of teeth here!)
I was struck by some beautiful sentence writing, description and the care each writer took to bring in elements from the story starter.
Noah- He sang a beautiful song that lured children to where he was and then like leaves on a windy day they disappeared.
Rebecca- “Normally, I would ask you a question, but…” the creature trailed off as she looked at her victims…
“I can’t miss my first proper meal in a million years!”
Lela- ‘I’m teary-eyed but never cry. Silver-tongued, but never lie. Double-winged, but never fly. Air-cooled, but never dry. What am I?’ The husky voice replied slowly and steadily.
Ivan- “Arrhh!!” screamed the two approaching miners getting the biggest fright they had had since their canary George died last year in a fight with a man-eating cat.
Haley- Then suddenly Mark slipped on a dead mouse and fell down with a big bang.
Carly- When they got there Leonoptrix whispered “heart of eye, hair of newt, reveal to me, all the loot.”
Helena- A young girl, about seven, played in the splashing waves. She opened her mouth to catch a drop of the silver rain that was pattering away. Her tongue was long and green…
Carly, Lela and Helena had wonderful complete stories… great ideas and paced their stories well. So if those three could send me their address in an email I have some weird and chocolately things for your prize. Also Lela I really really want to know the answer to that riddle!
(The three winning stories are all below).
Maureen’s Story Starter
A drop of water formed at the end of the stalactite. It swelled. A long tongue snaked out and gathered it up. The creature waited in the gloom of the cave. Her eyes fixed on the stalactite waiting for another drop of precious water to form. A faint echo of a whisper floated into the cave.
“How far in does the cave go?”
The creature stirred. Images rose up through dark pools of memory of a time when the world was younger. She had played in the warmth of the sun beside a sparkling sea – but that was long ago before she was banished to live out her days in this deep cave.
“Ouch. How far in are we going? I haven’t seen any glow worms yet.”
“It’s not that far in. Why can’t you just concentrate on what you can see?”
“Well I would, but you’ve got the torch.”
“Do you think I’d let you have it after what you did with the other one?”
The voices stirred the air inside the cave. The creature licked her lips tasting motes of sandwich and wool and skin and mud. She flexed her fingers and waited patiently. Soon. They would come into her dwelling, soon. It had been such a long time since she had used her voice. She pondered the question she would ask them…
Carly’s Winning Story
“Welcome to my dwelling” She spoke in a croaky voice.
“What was that?”
“You know, that weird voice!”
‘You’re just imagining it”
“No, seriously, I’m scared. I don’t want to go any farther.”
“Oh, stop being a wuss.”
Footsteps approached the creatures dwelling. One more step…
“Take a seat” She said
The torch pointed toward her.
The creature emerged from its dwelling. It had the body of a enormous lizard, the head of a phoenix, and the tail of a Ankylosaurus.
“I have three questions for you. Firstly, who are you?”
“My name is Ezra.”
“And my name is Florance”
“One thing though. Who are you?” Ezra asked.
“I am a Leonoptrix. I am the last of my kind. We all got driven into the caves after… after what my Grandfather did.” She gulped and tears formed in her eyes. “There was no food to speak of in most of the caves. Most of us died of starvation, but I got lucky, with a nest of rats I have been feeding off. Whoever lived through the starvation died of either lack of water or old age. We only live 20 million years you know. Ah, short life, short life…” she trailed off, gazing warily into the distance. She snapped back to focus.
“ Second question. How old are you?”
“I’m fourteen” Florance answered.
“ Fifteen” Ezra said.
“How old are you?” asked Florance.
“Fourteen million years today” Leonoptrix said .
“Well, happy birthday.” Ezra said.
“Thank you, thank you. Now, my final question. Will you help me find the Gods to bring peace to Leonoptrixes? Take your time, I want a direct answer.
“Um, can Ezra and I please talk?” asked Florance.
“Of course” Leonoptrix replied.
Florance and Ezra walked over to the other side of the cave.
“Well, what do you think? I want to help her.” Ezra said.
“She is growing on me” Florance confessed.
“So? Shall we help her?” Ezra asked.
“Yes. Let’s help her.” Florance said.
They walked back to Leonoptrix.
“So? Will you help me?” Leonoptrix asked.
“Yes, we will help you” Ezra announced.
“Are you sure? You will help me?” Leonoptrix emphasized.
“Yes, we are 100% certain” Florance confirmed.
Then Leonoptrix started to cry. Vast tears that made puddles on the uneven surface of the cave.
“Thank you so mutch” She chocked. “Ok so fir-“
“Who there, stop, stop. Arn’t you hungry?” Florance interrupted.
“A bit, yeah” Ezra Claimed.
“Not you! Leonoptrix!”
“Yes I am quite hungry. Do you have any food?”
“Three ham sandwidges, two chocolate bars, a apple, a banana, and some smoked salmon.”
“I’ll take the salmon” Leonoptrix requested.
They sat there eating and making the plan. When they had finished, Leonoptrix got up.
“Follow me” She said.
They walked in silence to the end of the cave. When they came to the end, Leonoptrix took a deep breath of sea air. They walked over to a large boulder.
When they got there Leonoptrix whispered “heart of eye, hair of newt, reveal to me, all the loot.”
The boulder cracked open to reveal a echoing, still room that was filled with Gold, Diamonds, Sapphires, Moonstones, Opals, Amber, Obsidian, Bloodstone, Ruby’s, and many other preshious jewls.
“What we need is an old, battered watch-clock with the word ‘Zeus’ on it.” Leonoptrix said.
They searched hard, high and low, all day, all night with no luck.
Then early next morning,Ezra called,
“I’ve got it!”
They all trampled out of the cave. Leonoptrix sealed the boulder by saying,
“Heart of eye, hair of newt, close up now, all the loot”
“Now we must climb that hill” Leonoptrix encouraged.
They climbed to the top of the hill.
“I have brought your watch Zeus!” Leonoptrix cried.
A pearly white staircase appeared, leading up, up into the clouds.
They climbed and climbed and climbed. Finaly they reached the top.
“Zeus, restore peace to Leonoptrixes, bring them back and I will give you time” Leonoptrix shrieked.
“Very well” a thundering voice boomed.
Leonoptrix laid the watch on the smooth, marble floor.
Now Leonoptrix sunbathes on the beach like she did when the world was young.
Helena’s Winning Story
She pondered asking: “How much do you value your lives” or “I wonder if you believe in heaven… or hell?!” She decided on the latter, and imagined herself cackling away after their slender limbs had slid down her slimy throat.
Abruptly dark memories clouded her mind. She was still a young girl at the beach, playing gleefully in the sand, but suddenly a figure in a dark cloak with a high, severe collar approached her. She felt the fear spark at the back of her neck, and shivered. The stranger tried to laugh, but it sounded more like a growl. Then he stated in a voice with a very thick, heavy accent: ‘Well, naw ah have found you ma darest gal,’ …
The sound of his voice faded and other voices became clearer.
‘Come on Daniel, I’m sure you can move your feet slightly faster than a snail’
‘No actually, I can’t, because these are expensive trainers and my mum will kill me if they get wet, and so I have to look where I’m going, which is very hard because you are walking in front of me and you have the torch, remember!’
‘If I walked behind you that would be stupid because to anybody or anything lurking in this cave we would be fast food’
The creature decided it was her turn to speak up.
‘Yes, you are exactly right, young human child’ She hissed.
‘Charlie, what was that??’
‘How should I know, my brother only said there were tons of glow worms after a cave in’
Ah, yes, the perfect moment to tell them her story.
‘There used to be glow w-’
But she fainted, like she mostly did when she was revisiting her memories.
She heard deafening screams. Then she realized they were her screams, which surprised her, so she stopped. Until she saw where and with whom she was with. Then she screamed so loud that her attackers glasses smashed. Where his skin touched hers it burned, scalded, boiled, hurt a whole lot. She tried to pull away, but it stuck like hot glue. The man was telling her something, but she couldn’t hear because the pain, oh, the pain. Then there was black.
‘Do you think she was going to say glow worms?’
‘What else would she say, glow wands, or glow walls?!’
‘Don’t be stu-’
‘I’m back, boys.
‘Did you hear that?’
‘The voice came back…’
‘Boys, come over here…NOW!’
‘Why did you do that? We don’t have a choice!’
‘Do you even know where here is?’
‘Fine then, I will come to you!’
She flicked her tongue, tasting their intense fear. They huddled close together, two metres from her, staring at her in awe and horror. Then she was gone again, back in her minds eye.
We were terrified. She was muttering:
“He thought I was unconscious so he told me everything. He told me how he was part of a race of immortal beasts, but how he was at the very bottom of the lowest ranks. He had always wanted to be big, someone to be proud of, but at every attempt to do something he slipped lower and lower down in the hierarchy of his world. This was his last chance. I started to feel sorry for him, but then he started growling. It was a bloodcurdling sound that made me want to knash my teeth. He needed our planet as his ride to the top. He and his clan were in desperate need of their favourite food: humans. He planned to conquer the planet until humans were no more than scraps in the kitchen. And he needed one guardian for each continent. Because none of his species would speak to him, he needed humans, to betray their own kind. She had been chosen for Australasia. He would perform an ancient spell on her to turn her into a creature like him. The spell would only be broken when a person of youth looked deep into her soul and felt sorrow for her. As soon as that happened to all the guardians of the continents, the world was rescued…”
We looked at her in pity. Poor kid. Ok, 1,000,000 year old kid. What could we do? Then I saw stars.
When I woke up, we were at the mouth of the cave, but it had been transformed into a paradise beach. The sand was gold. The trees were azure. The sky was violet. A young girl, about seven, played in the splashing waves. She opened her mouth to catch a drop of the silver rain that was pattering away. Her tongue was long and green…
Lela’s Winning Story
The ‘eek!’ of Holly tripping up almost gave Spencer a heart attack but he chose to remain silent for that fact. ‘Are you alright?’ Spencer called to his twin sister, who had stumbled across some rubble.
‘Yeah, just fine.’ She replied, sounding a bit aggravated. ‘See, that’s what happens when you don’t share the torch!’
Spencer shone the light to where Holly was sprawled.
‘Hey what’s this?’ Spencer said to himself, and picked up the timber. It was some sort of sign, but covered in a silvery goo. Bleh; he thought, and after he rapidly swiped away the substance he wiped his hand onto his jacket.
YOU HAVE TRAVELED INTO THE SURI’S LAIR
ANSWER HER RIDDLE IF YOU DARE
DO NOT FAIL AND DO NOT CAUSE PAIN
OR ELSE A PRISONER YOU REMAIN.
Woah, creepy; Spencer thought out loud by accident.
‘What is?’ Holly got up and carefully made her way to her brother.
‘Creepy.’ Holly confirmed. ‘Whos Suri?’
‘I am…’ a husky voice murmured.
Spencer dropped the torch in fright. Another moment of this day where he ALMOST got a heart attack.
Holly frowned in the dim light. ‘What was that?’
‘…I AM THE MIGHTY SURI, PROTECTOR OF THE CAVERN OF JEWELS!’
This time Spencer squeaked.
Holly bent to pick up the torch, and shone it into the distance. ‘Hang on a minute “Suri”, I’m coming.’
And with that Holly started to walk forward.
Spencer didn’t say a word. Cautiously he followed.
Holly reached an opening, where glow worms studded the roof of the cave.
Underneath the light a large creature sat. It was a cross between a toad and a snake. The beast was brown, slimy, and had fluro pink spots here and there. It’s eyes were large and black, and even though it seemed young, the breaths of the beast were rough. It spluttered some of the goo Spencer had seen before.
‘If you children answer my riddle correctly then you may pass. You can take whatever you like from my hoard of jewels, then you can leave without harm. If you answer my riddle incorrectly, then you must stay and become my slave. You must fetch me water for eternity. Are you ready, children?’
Spencer just swallowed. ‘Holly… we should go.’ He whispered.
But Holly shrugged and turned to the toad-like thing. ‘I’m good at puzzles and riddles. I will give it a try. If I get it wrong, well, this thing doesn’t seem like it will run very fast.’
‘Ask away!’ Holly said before Spencer could stop her.
‘Very well.’ The beast spat.
‘I’m teary-eyed but never cry. Silver-tongued, but never lie. Double-winged, but never fly. Air-cooled, but never dry. What am I?’ The husky voice replied slowly and steadily.
A few minutes passed before Holly answered.
‘Um, I don’t know that one. Do you have another?’
The toad-thing croaked. ‘That is the only question. That is your first attempt. Two attempts remaining.’
‘Okay…the sea? But that doesn’t have wings does it?’ Holly tried.
‘Wrong! Last attempt.’
The toad-thing croaked once more. ‘All tries incorrect. You cannot leave.’ The creature swelled to twice it’s size almost instantly. But before Holly and Spencer got a chance to run, the creature shrank again. It coughed and spluttered repeatedly.
‘Water…’ it spat.
Spencer pulled onto Holly’s hand. ‘Come quick! Let’s go! Zut zut!’ The last part he said in french.
‘Wait’ Holly said.
She ran to a glimmer she saw before- a small pond of freshwater. She cupped her hands and got some, then ran back over to the toad-thing. She splashed it’s head. She did that five more times.
‘Thank you…’ the beast whispered, then it was silent.
‘Is it dead?’ Spencer asked Holly.
‘No, I can see it breathing. But come on let’s get out of here before the toad changes it’s mind!’
Spencer and Holly were eating lunch with their family later that day.
‘That was interesting.’ Holly said to Spencer quietly.
‘Interesting!? It was terrifying!’ Spencer exclaimed.
‘At least we saw the glow worms.’