2021

Competition Winners

Congratulations to all our winners and runners up in the 2021 short story and poetry competition on the theme: This is Me - Hear My Voice.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a piece.

Snake School

Winner, 5-7 short story category, Aïden Mamode Allee

Deep in the Amazon Jungle, all the snakes were in Snake School. Sonny Snake is in Year 1. Sonny Snake is trying to talk to his friends but no one is listening. It is Sonny Snake's birthday, and he wants to invite everybody. He is upset that his friends are ignoring him so he tells his teacher. His teacher is called Mr. Puma.

Mr. Puma said to everybody "Are you listening?" and the whole class shouted back, "Yes, we're listening!"

Then Sonny invited everybody to his birthday party. All the snakes hissed and jumped and shouted "YESSSSSSSS!" At the party everyone danced and slithered around and ate lots of cake! All the snakes from Snake School were so happy that they listened to Sonny Snake because they all had the best fun. They will never ignore Sonny Snake ever again!



Zim

Winner, 8-11 short story category, Oscar Gilles

Once upon a time there was a boy called Zim who lived with his family in India. One day his mum told him about racism, pollution and animals dying. When Zim heard about this he said, “I want to save those people and animals” but his mum said, “No,”.

In the middle of the night, Zim packed for his adventure. As he walked through the dump to find his go-kart, he saw some bin bags move! He froze. Then he went a little closer and closer and then closer until he was next to it.

Then he lifted up the bin bag and to his surprise he saw a cute little puppy. He picked it up and said, “I will call you Zac.” Then he mumbled to himself, “Zim and Zac, Zac and Zim!”. “Where will I put you?”, whispered Zim as he put Zac down.

In the corner of Zim’s eye he saw a baby seat and some bolts, he picked it all up and brought it to the go-kart. He attached the seat to the go-kart with the bolts, put his bag at the back and off they went.

They travelled for hours on end in the desert until they saw a little house. They stopped outside and peered in the window. They saw an empty room so they jumped in and looked around. Just then they heard a person coming down the stairs. ‘Trud, trud, trud’ came the sound from the stairs.

They hid behind a chair so they wouldn’t get caught. Zim peered around the chair and to his surprise he saw an old man. The man sat on the carpet and started to meditate. Zim was scared that the man would hear him.

Zim waited for about half an hour, he thought the man would never move so he dashed for it and Plonk! He fell out of the window. The man heard and ran out of the house as well. Luckily, Zim got to his go-kart in time and drove off.

He drove until the crack of dawn. Then he stopped, opened his bag got two apples, a bowl, a marker and some water. First, he got the marker and wrote ‘Zac’ on the bowl. Then he poured water in the bowl and gave it to Zac. He also gave one of the apples to Zac and ate the other apple himself.

Together they set up the camp and parked their go-kart. In the morning, they packed up the tent and drove off until they saw a big jungle. Zac jumped off and ran into the jungle, Zim got off the go-kart after he’d parked it in some bushes, “That should keep it safe,” he whispered into Zac’s ear.

Zim got the bag of things he had packed and went into the jungle. As they walked along enjoying the birds tweeting, Zac seemed uncomfortable as he walked. Something was off. And it wasn’t that his pants were too tight. Also, Zac doesn’t wear pants, he’s a dog. What are you like, dear reader? So anyway, as I said, something was off. Zac beared his fangs.

Suddenly he heard something and ran behind a bush. Zac followed. Zim peaked through the bush and saw some animals being caged and some trees being chopped down. Zim knew he had to stop that so he got some mud, some leaves, rocks, some rope and some new pairs of pants for Zac. Just joking! He didn’t get any pair of pants for Zac, but he did get the rest of the stuff.

He smeared the mud on him and then stuck the leaves to the mud that was on him. His disguise was finished. With the rope, the rest of the leaves and the rocks at the ready, he waited until the people were gone for their lunch break. Then he set to work. He tied the rope around the rocks where the people were chopping, threw the rope around a branch above them and made a net at the other end, then he covered it with leaves.

He waited behind the tree for a few minutes. Finally, they came back. They all picked up their chainsaws and headed for the tree. Zip! Fweee! Thud! Zip! Chuh! Thud! He had captured them. Now he had to do the creepy act. Zim strode to the middle of the trees, looked around and headed for a tree-cutter.

In his creepiest voice, he said, “Give me your keys.” The man was so scared he gave him the keys immediately. As Zim strode to the middle of the cutters, again he stopped and said, “You must not capture animals again or destroy their homes or the dark spirit will arise on you and open the black hole!”.

After saying that he slowly walked over to the cages of animals. There were monkeys, spiders, panthers, frogs, bears, dragonflies and gorillas. He slowly turned the key and ‘Zip!’, in the blink of an eye they were all freed and gone.

Then he set off. When he was far enough he took off his disguise and went back to the go-kart. When he went to get it, it wasn’t there! He was devastated. He looked in every bush just in case he had put it in a different bush, but no, nothing. Then he remembered the old man before, so he sighed and walked on. It took him about nine hours to get them to the house but he did it.

He thought about talking to the man so that’s exactly what he did. He knocked on the door and waited, finally the door opened. There was the man. Zim said in his most polite voice, “Hello, I think you have my go-kart.” The man said, “Yes, I have it. Why?”. “Just asking if I could have it back.”, said Zim. “Hmmm, OK.”, said the man. “Er, thanks.” Zim replied. “Here you go,” said the old man. “Thanks, bye,” said Zim.

As Zim, drove home he saw some fumes coming from a factory. He drove towards it. He parked his go-kart behind some boxes and creeped up to the door but sadly it was locked. Then he spotted an open window and climbed through. He landed with a thud on the floor. He picked himself up and dusted himself down. Suddenly, he heard a person coming his way so he dived into a pile of boxes. He waited for a minute then peaked out. The person was gone so he looked around and saw the machine that was making the fumes. He sneaked out of it and got a splinter of wood from a smashed box and shoved it into the engine. There was a long whining noise and then silence. Everybody stared at him. Someone shouted, “Get him!”.

Suddenly everyone ran towards him, he ran for the window but he wouldn’t make it so he ran straight for the door and Crash! He got through, he jumped into his go-kart and drove home.

He drove for a day and when he got to the dump, he parked his go-kart. As he opened the door to his house, his mum jumped up and gave him a big hug. “You’re on the news, son!” “Really?” said Zim. “Yeah, look!”, said his little Brother. The TV screen had the headlines: “Boy stops biggest polluting factory in the World!” and “Nature devil stops tree cutters!”.

The end!

Oh, just before that, I have to introduce Zac to my family…

This is Zac, Mum and Dad, I found him on my adventure. He’s adorable.


This Is Me - Hear My Voice

Joint winner, 12-14 short story category, Kyra Nelson


Culture day. The dreaded day that comes around once a year during black history month. And going to school in the middle of Sunny Side while black history month is in full swing is hard in itself, and with the Black Lives Matter protests and all everyone is looking to me to guide the way. What with my flawless brown skin and my perfect grades all the school sees when they look at me is a perfect poster girl to show how “diverse” the school is. But for as many years as I can remember I have boycotted culture day like it was the Moscow 1980 Olympics. One nasty experience ruined that day for me and ever since I have conveniently had a doctor’s appointment on that day every year since.

We are supposed to bring in a dish for our country of origin and in year 3 I brought in curried goat and this was the best you could get your hands on, made by my mother, I was so proud of it and wanted everyone to try it, one of my classmates, Amelia took one look at my dish and went around telling everyone that I was trying to poison them all with my nasty food. I didn’t have the heart to tell my mum when I got home, I lied and told her that it went down a treat. I know it was wrong, but I didn’t want to hurt mum. It seemed unfair that just because one person lied and spoke badly on something, doesn’t mean that it should ruin a good thing.

But this year, things will change, the cold-blooded murder that goes on in the middle of streets across the world just because of the colour of your skin is killing me. It's the same story each time, just a different name. The videos that get posted on the internet make me sick to my stomach. But there are so many out there that tell us that the colour of our skin shouldn’t make us scared to walk around our neighbourhood with our hoods up, like Trayvon Martin. Or be worried that we will be falsely accused of something that we didn’t do like Emmet Till. But we should embrace the melanin that is set deep in our blood and know that we can do great things with it like Barack Obama. We should be confident to sway our curvy hips from side to side; put as much lip gloss as we want on our full lips and embrace our culture, our melanin and our voices, and show all of the people that we can be great and one day they may be looking to us for guidance and look to us a leaders and role models.

Mum could see that I couldn’t understand my culture on the level that I would like to so she took me to this amazing museum all about black history and the beauty of it. I learn so much that I wouldn’t have ever known if I didn’t have any interest in it. For instance, the braids that are so tight they are pulling my thoughts out, my ancestors, who were enslaved, would have used braids as maps to escape the hell that they were living in. The beauty all around me was overwhelming. I could see beautiful black faces all smiling around me showing me that all would be well. There were so many stories on the walls that made me so proud to be black:

Katherine Johnson. Overcame all obstacles that she faced to make her way to the top and show NASA that they needed her just as much as they needed the white men around her, her calculations helped so much to get men safely to the moon in Apollo 11, she persisted and never left until the work ahead of her was done to the best standard that it could be at. A role model that should be honoured to this day. Katherine Johnson. Hear her voice.

Usain Bolt. Came from Jamaica and trained harder than all his peers and even when he was put down by others and told that he couldn’t achieve his dream. To make it to the olympics. He faced such large setbacks, such as being told that his scoliosis would stop him from competing at a large-scale level, he still defied all odds and became the fastest man on the planet. Usain Bolt. Hear his voice.

Harriet Tubman. Risked her life so many times for the sake of others, wanted others to have a free life even if that meant that by the end of her efforts she would still be enslaved, she led men, women and children to safety through the underground railroad and ensured that they would lead a much better life that the one that they were previously trapped in. She also served as a scout, spy and guerrilla soldier from the civil war. Harriet Tubman. Hear her voice.

Michelle Obama. Became a lawyer and graduated top of her class, she then became a mother to two children and cared for them all while her husband was becoming the first black president. And she became the first black first lady. Both Barack and Michelle Obama have given so much to change both during and after they accommodated the white house. Michelle Obama. Hear her voice.

Rosa Parks. She stood, well rather sat, her ground and although she lived during a time when black people were seen as vermin and were made to use separate bathrooms, drink from separate water fountains, and sit at different ends of the bus, Rosa made sure to make a small difference to the world she was born into. Rosa Parks. Hear her voice.

Martin Luther King Jr. Told us that one day he dreamt that we would live in harmony and as one. And although we haven’t achieved his dream fully, we all know that even if it is many generations down from us it will happen. Although Martin gained his wings in the horrifying way that he did, his dream still lives within us. Martin Luther King Jr. Hear his voice.

It was the experience of a lifetime, I walked out of that building a different person, it opened my eyes to so many more things, I could see the world in a completely different way. My mother wasn’t surprised, she told me that 30 years ago her mother took her to the same gallery, and that although many more people had been added it still had an exhilarating effect on her. I understood, she knew that all it took was to see people that look like me celebrated rather than suppressed. She was right. I feel overwhelmed seeing all of those people, so many that I didn’t know about. It showed me that even when people try to put obstacles in my way, all I have to do is break them down and show them that they will have to try a lot harder to break my melanin armour.

As soon as I got home that evening I put all of my feelings onto the page:

Sometimes it’s hard to find yourself,

When you’re searching in a lost world.

This noise is often so blinding,

And bright lights so deafening.

It’s easy to confuse you senses from scents,

They remind you of times past…

Times better left in sweet amnesia,

But you remember to breathe.

You live to learn from the pain,

And find that which brings you to the present.

For it is only in those silent moments,

Where you ever truly find yourself.

The silence inside the gallery was so still that I could almost hear the voices of the black kings and queens on the walls whisper in my ear telling me that all the effort they went through will help me to leave the world in a better condition that I found it. I found myself in the silence and I unlocked the black beauty from within. It was always there. I just didn’t know how to harness it and use it to my advantage. To see it as a blessing, and not as a curse. I realise that although all people will see when they look at me may be the colour of my skin, if I use my voice people will see beneath that to who I am, but if they say colour doesn’t matter to them, then they do not see me, because if they don’t see my blackness then they don’t truly see me.

My ancestors have fought so hard and overcome so many battles just so that I can live the life that I live, and no one can tell me that the culture set deep within me is beautiful and if people don’t understand, we can educate them through stories, pictures, songs and food.

The dishes and recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation, altered slightly here and there, my family providing the way for me to teach my children about culture and who we are through the spices and tastes that they experience.

So, I have decided to make the best curry goat ever in the history of the world with the best mentor, my mother. Because people just need to deal with it. This is me. Here’s my voice.


I Know Your Secret

Joint winner, 12-14 short story category, Roxy Lang

Everyone has a secret. Or maybe even a few. Maybe you don't even know it yet though. Maybe someone else has guarded it with every inch of their heart. Maybe it just disappeared over a long period of time, or it was eventually forgotten. But whatever it is, it's locked up in someone's brain, sometimes in an iron fort guards with guns marching around the perimeter, or maybe it's in a shabby little shack with only a rope on the door handle as a lock. However, all secrets eventually tumble out. They're spat on the ground, smashed in like pavement jam until that secret is out, and I, of all people, know that once the secret is out, it never goes back in again. Never. Well then, you must be wondering about me. Don't I have any secrets? The answer is yes, I do, it's just that very few of them are mine.

In fact, I'd say that my secrets are my pride and joy. Every single one of them like a plate of the finest cuisine, coming from a famous five-star chef. Each dish handcrafted with so much emotion, ready to be served piping hot on the finest crockery for me to devour. Other people in the same situation would say not to get too roped in, but I'm already well past that stage. Every juicy secret is another flavoursome burst of satisfaction. People say that I'll return someday but it's not as simple as that. The thing is, it takes guts to do what I do, and a lot of people don't have those sorts of guts. I definitely didn't when I started. Preserving secrets isn't easy, you know. But don't worry, i got used to it. It slowly chewed everything out of me and then gulped me down, and I’ve just kind of been part of it ever since.

You could call me a good guy or a bad guy, I guess. All I do is preserve secrets. But there's a lot more to it than that. Every single day I find out secrets that could destroy the world, put countries into war, and you don't want to know the rest, I assure you. I'm burdened with the task of keeping these secrets until my dying days. So now I'm sure you understand my torment. Every single day, I sit in the bone chilling iron chair, with my eyes glued on the monitors. The icy slabs of stone that make the desk remind me that I'm not here because I want to be. The colossal iron door. The thundering lights that clank on as I walk past them. The lock with no key. They all remind me that I’m trapped, and just like a secret, once the government has captured a Picot (a species with an incredible long-term memory that feeds off secrets, aka me), there's no going back. Now you've met me. But the problem wasn't that I didn’t have a voice, it was that I had no one to speak to until I met you.

Secret can be scrumptious, sometimes like taking a fresh bite of tender beef that has been fermenting in its juices for hours, but others are more, shall i say, deadly . . . Like a poisoned frog for me to endeavour that menacingly makes its way through my system, pouring every ounce of its terror into me. It surges through my veins like a bullet. But it doesn't stop there. Oh no. Next, comes the storm. Dismal, dreary clouds of depression loom over me until it rains, and I’m drowned in my own sorrow. Secrets are food to me. Like how there might be some food you don't like, there are secrets that I don't want to hear. But once I've heard them, there's no going back. I'll remember them forever.

It's cold in here. Not the sort of cold that makes you want to put on a hat, though. It's the kind of cold that pierces your skin with jagged daggers. The kind of bittersweet cold that makes you wish you were never born. I know what I have to do: I have to get out. I think I've tried everything though I've searched every nook and cranny like a hungry wolf searching for the last piece of meat. No use. I need an opportunity. A chance. And when I meet that opportunity, I'll clasp it in my hands. I'll hold on to it for dear life. I'll make sure it never slips away. When that joyous day comes, the sun will sing its precious symphony, and everything will be right again. I thought hoping might help but hoping keeps me longing. And longing keeps me waiting. And if you wait too long, you lose hope.

I'm trapped. The howling winds of realisation shoved me down that midnight black tunnel years ago. I feel like it's endless, but I push through it. I drag myself through winding tunnels, twisted caves and deathly rivers. Nothing is simple. Ever. I can either be fed but trapped and imprisoned in a never-ending circle of grief, or free and starved of my precious secrets. I can't win. I can't do this anymore. I'm sorry. I tried so hard to hope. To be free. My heart shatters into a million pieces. The fragments stare up at me with solemn eyes. I pick up one of the pieces. I'll be leaving soon. Thanks for listening to me. The fragment hovers over my stomach. I take my final breath as I plunge it into me. Dead of a broken heart. I hope the cracks fix in my next life.

Goodbye.

The Long Haul

Winner, adults category (short story and poetry), by Deborah Bell


My hair upsets you

My music upsets you

My dark melaninated skin upsets you

My stylish style upsets you

My civilisations predating yours upsets you My questioning challenges upsets you

My cut eye and kissing of teeth upsets you My confidence upsets you

My articulateness upsets you

My love for my own upsets you

My pride in my enslaved heritage upsets you What do you do?

You scream, “nigger, go home!

You will never be British

You’ve taken our jobs, homes and buses”

You spit on Stephen’s memorial You ignore our cries of “foul play” You deny your past in our present You scorn all of our s/heroes

You denounce You deny

You dismiss You deny

You laugh You deny You rejoice You deny You sigh You deny

What more do you do?

You assail, assault, beat, belittle, blind, chase, cheat, claim, cuss, cut, drive to madness, drown, drug, embarrass, experiment, frame, hound, humiliate, infer, ignore, inject, isolate, invade, kidnap, jail, jeer, kill, lie, loot, lynch, mock, overlook, plot, prosecute, push, scar, shoot, shove, shout, slap, stab, steal, rape, maim, murder, poison, scalp, separate, shoot, slander, spread rumour and rebellion, strangle, starve, tar and feather, threaten, torture and whip.

You revel, loll and roll around in your denials... But

you are less free than me

For your ropes of denial blinds and ties you down to everlasting orbs of violence

Failing to acknowledge

Fates and relationships long entwined and a humanity denied.

Through history,

Through bondage,

Through colonialism,

Through neo-colonialism

Through so called Fair Trade and World Trade, Through so called developmental theories, Through so called equality laws,

Through deliberately ingrained, historically systematic, institutional racism and discrimination, micro-aggressions, Jim Crown and Windrush scandal.

We are exhausted... but not defeated. Not even by the Sewell Report.

Only momentarily stunned and stupified at the sheer audacity of testimony, video and stats ignored,

Because of our right to exist, soar, swoop and dive

As free as the air we breath

As the water we drink

At the justice we will get

When common sense and truth comes to light - bursting through slush with beauty, warmth, comfort and benediction.

We may be weary but we are equally as furious As steadfast as our blood pressures...

Driven to remain unapologetic about our African ness Of the curls in our hair

Of our wrinkle free visage

Of our ability to keep stepping

Of our ability to remain creative

Of our ability to stand firm and to remain standing

The Universe will make you bow to the inevitable -

We will make you submit to the inevitable

When Race is recognised as a European contrived concept When world history is taught properly

When British history is contextualized

When Eurocentricity reveals global events for what they are When acknowledgement Trumps denial

When you say “I get it” and act right and accordingly - economically and politically.

When My Life and those of my children, Matters.

Then and only then, can we all breath and live the life Lucy should always have led

And the whole world can be less tense

And the whole of humanity can be allowed to be

Until then,

My hair will continue to upset you

(even though you burn to touch it)

My music will continue to upset you

(even though you try to copy it)

My seasoned food upsets you

(even though you love Curry, Jerk & KFC)

Seeing my dark melinated skin will continue to upset you (even though you compete to tan)

There is no more that I can do but to do what I can do As

My defiance upsets you

My call for diaspora independence upsets you

My protective respect for the ancestors upsets you Our collective memories upset you

at what you did, say and continue to do.

The onus is once again, on you...


Lost

Runner up, 8-11 short story category, Aqidah Akhtar

Hi, my name is Aqidah, and I am going to tell you my story. One day I wanted to go fishing at the beach with my boat, but my friend advised me not to go into the sea because the water was going to get high, and the wind would be much stronger; I didn’t listen to her because I was so excited to fish for the first time. I was even more excited to see all the amazing creatures in the sea.

I thought my friend would come along but she told me she wanted to be back at home. So, I said my goodbyes and I left, everything was going great until… I noticed that everything my friend had said was happening. The waves were getting higher, the wind was getting stronger and now I was anxious for what was to come.

As I tried to hold the boat together, I noticed that it had a hole and was filling up rapidly. It started to feel as deep as a pool. I noticed that my hands were getting moist, and the boat was sinking. Eventually I lost hope and felt there was nothing that I could do that would help me. I sat there in the boat that was half broken, sitting there in the shivering cold and trying not to think of what would happen to me. If only I had one wish; it would be to go home.

Suddenly the most amazing thing happened, I found my way to an island. The island was gargantuan and there would be somewhere I could find shelter. So, I crouched down and began to edge closer and closer to the middle of the island. When I got to the middle I saw the most unusual thing on the island, it was an abandoned house. I could not see very well but I could feel the pollution in the air.

As I came close, I was able to see a chair and a fire that looked as if it had just been blown out by the wind that I could hear howling as it surrounded me. As I was so tired and had been walking for what felt like forever, had not eaten anything for the past 48 hours I could just take a seat down for only a short period of time. One hour had passed and I had just woken up, looked around and it seemed different, something didn’t feel right. I knew I had only been in there for roughly 2 hours but I was able to tell that there was something missing that was there before but what could it be?

I was beginning to feel very worried but there was nothing I could possibly say when I am the one stuck in the middle of an unknown island and there is nothing, I could possibly do about it. As I told this all to myself, I couldn't help but think of my friend Evie. Now what....

There wasn’t anything I could possibly do about it. I didn't want to cry because then that would make me feel very guilty about coming to fish in the first place but there was no hope what was done and there is nothing I could do about it.

I began to search the room to figure out what was happening or what I could bring back as proof of what I had been through if I even got out of this trauma.

Then suddenly out of nowhere the door slammed shut and my stomach began to get butterflies. I slowly walked to the door hoping that is had not locked me inside, but it was for sure going to be shut. My mum used to tell me that I should never lose hope, she said it because I always found a way to lose my things that i was desperate to find but I thought that it was just because she didn’t want things hidden in her house so that people could just find it and be weirded out.

I grabbed the door after counting to three and it wouldn’t open. I felt like I was going to faint, sweat going down my forehead. I tried and tried but it was no use. I didn't try for too long because there was no water there and I would have needed it if I got tired.

I felt hopeless I always believed my mum that I would find the things I lost which I did but this time there was no hope in my world and the only thing I had was guilt and hunger. My throat was dry my lips where crust and I felt as if I was going to choke my way to defeat. I had to beat it all.

There was nothing I could do about this incident, and I never believed in magic but my grandma did before she died, she would tell me” Aqidah there is hope and magic in the world so get yourself up and listen to the music in the sky”.

I tried to listen closely to the chair I fell asleep in, but it wasn’t anything happy, it was screams. Loudly, I began to scream with it, but it just made me cry and soon washed myself up in the horrible feeling around me.

There was no way anyone would find me because I was always the best at geography in my family and year group but if I could not figure out where I was then there was not a high chance anyone else would know where I was.

The wind was getting loud, and the rain was hitting the rusty windows like someone angry would knock on your door. I was shivering in the freezing cold weather, if only I had listened to my friend’s words, then I would be at home enjoying a nice cup of tea and sitting by the fire.

***

Thinking of that made me think that not knowing what my friends, family and others are feeling could have made them terrified and now they must be worried sick, and others might even think I was dead. If only I could let them know somehow that I was still alive.

I began to start my search again since there was no point in listening to horrible screams anymore. Was I ever going to get out of that house? I looked at the back of the fireplace and figured there was going to be something there, and in fact there was. It was a piece of paper that looked like it had been there for many years or so. I found it near the edge of the paper there was nothing on the side I looked on but when I flipped it over, I was petrified. It was a message from someone named Shadow...

It read “Dear whoever finds this message. My name is Shadow if you find this you need to know you are in grave danger. I don't have a lot of time to tell you this, but I will be quick, I went exploring in this island looking to find something valuable that I could use to help pay for my mother’s surgery. This is Lost Island a place where no one has dared to come or if someone went, they never returned. They didn’t even put it on the map.

You might be stuck here. The person who locked you in is a man who isn't afraid to kill anyone that crosses his path.BE AWARE!!I will be killed when the man comes, if you read this know that there is one way to get out of this island; first get the key, it is hidden in the kettle, the man hid it horribly. I hope you escape. After you get out of the house go somewhere where the water falls and flows to the sea, but it isn’t the sea.”

I knew that whoever sent that had died because there was dried out blood on the bottom of the page. I wish that Shadow didn’t die but I had a plan I would kill the man before he did to anyone else.

It was strange, I didn’t normally feel bad for anyone except myself, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how Shadow had died. I didn’t think there was anything else there near the fire, so I crept quietly to the kettle and opened it, but it wasn’t a key nor lock or pin, but it was a small note. And I could not believe what I had seen, I did not feel sorry for Shadow at all anymore. The note said in capital letters,” ha ha ha you fell for it”.

I was astonished Shadow wasn’t trying to help me at all! In fact, he was doing the complete opposite! It shocked me to even think that he was the one who had me. I was also curious and questioning one other thing; whose blood was on the paper…?

My stomach felt like it was going you crawl up my throat and out of my mouth. I was petrified and knew that I had to find the key, or I would have some severe issues. I was gobsmacked, there was nothing I could possibly do other than search for more notes and hints. In the corner of my eye, I saw something that I thought was quite unusual (I thought that the whole house was unusual really) but this was more unusual than I had thought at the time.

There was a worn down and dusty wardrobe in the back of the room but this wardrobe had a tiny hole in the door which wasn’t very in it but I could slightly see something red dripping out of the wardrobe from the bottom and a huge puddle of red liquid on the floor. What could it be? Was it blood? I slowly approached the wardrobe whilst reaching out my hand and grabbed the doorknob and pulled it slowly. I felt like my heart was not in my chest, I could barely describe the feeling I had…

It was a body. The body of a little girl, blood dripping from her hand that had been sliced. Her eyes were wide open with one tear coming from her eye. I now knew why I had to get the key but I was too impatient. I grabbed the kettle and threw it into the window as hard as I could. I climbed out and ran as fast as I could and I didn’t let anyone stop me, not once did I turn my head back.

I had no idea what Lost Island had in store for me or what creatures laid beneath the forest trees but I ran in anyway. I hid under a branch for shade and looked at the plants eager to eat anything since it felt like days since food was around. I collected a lot of big sticks and laid them down on the ground, using another stick to smoothen out the branches. Then I collected 50 giant leaves and put them on the sticks. I had no cover but there was no need for it since the sun looked like it was not going to come down anytime soon.

The next morning was rough, I had found a giant slice on my back and it looked as if it needed to be covered. So I ripped off a part of my top and wrapped it around my cut. It felt like I was never going to be able to move my back again.

Now, you are probably wondering how this story is getting to you but you will just have to find out in my next story ok. Think about something, who is Shadow. What is he like? I must keep cover and not make a single sound otherwise he will come for me…

Crown

Runner up, adults category, by Anujit Kaur

This is me with my brown hair. It is not afro or silky smooth. It is coarse and split – ACG hair. Dead straight in my teenage years, thinner by the day. Now I let it fall, waify, wavy. It moults. I shed like an animal.

It is all about hair these days: moisturise, thicken, greyed out. I have loved my hair and hated it. I have chopped it all off and grown it to unbelievable lengths. But the one thing I never did was wear it tied and hidden high atop my head.

I never considered my Sikh brothers and sisters who wear their hair like this as a symbol of their faith. It was just hair; something to frame my face and make me look pretty – more feminine – detracting from my thick boyish eyebrows, dark hair and Roman nose.

But today I will take those long waves that have learned to fall so perfectly and pull them together round and round. My crown. Tie and wrap them in lengths of fabric. No so tight, but tight enough that it keeps everything in.

Today, I see my hair for what it is. Like Samson whose strength was in his locks, so is mine. But mine comes in covering it. It says more this way. It tells the world that I am proud of who I am.

My hair, and how I keep it, is me.