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The Original Crime (3rd Prize Winner - Group II)

March, 2011
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“How many of you have heard of the LittleStar magazine?” beamed Mr. Norton as he spoke into the microphone. It was a chilly December morning. The whole secondary section was gathered in the school auditorium for the daily assembly. Johnny, who had only been awake for twenty minutes, had rushed to school. So, like most mornings, he wasn’t really paying attention.

“LittleStar has opened up a competition, for all the International Schools students in Beijing. All you have to do is write a short story, and it must be related to a decision…” droned Mr. Norton’s dull voice, with hardly any of the students listening. However, once he started to list the prizes, now that’s when the heads started to raise. He slowly rolled his tongue around the words of what could be won, from a couple of cash prizes, or an iPad, to an internship at the magazine. It all sounded very good to Johnny. His childish mind was already racing ahead, he was starting to think of everything he could buy with that much money. How excited he was about this competition, for he stood a good chance of winning.

The first lesson of the day, which started right after the assembly, was English. As it turned out, Mondays weren’t Johnny’s favourite days at all. They were crammed with double periods of all the nasty subjects: double English, Chinese, break- sadly, always too short, followed by double history, lunch- food was never good on mondays, followed by double science. Altogether, take all the classes Johnny loathed, except English of course, put them together into a series of double classes, and you have yourself a Monday, or what Johnny thought to be the most awful way to start the week, any week! Johnny loved English for his teacher was the charismatic type. Not only that, he also recognized the potential in Johnny, spurring him on whenever possible to pursue his passion- creative writing. Writing stories was his passion, and he was also rather talented. This was why he stood a fair chance of getting something out of the competition, he was hoping for the grand prize, the internship. This was where he would have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop his writing. And get a feel for the world of journalism and magazines of course.

In history, however, he never really listened. He didn’t see the point of it. Who cares about what already happened? Same with science. He didn’t bother trying to understand it, for the complexity of Chemistry exceeded his artistic mind. He much preferred art, and his doodle-packed notebooks bore the mark of his talent. He also enjoyed computers. That is true! Heavidlyread online forums, always searching for the next best product that was to come out.

The problem was that Johnny had spent the whole school day coming up with different ideas for a short story; each more creative, or more original, but whenever he started writing it, he could never quite make a decision. What was wrong?

Peter Jenkins was a computer whiz, what you would call a geek. He had landed this job at LittleStar Magazine and he was the one who had come up with the idea of a writing competition. As a technician, his days were filled with fixing up the studios laptops and computers. One day, whilst working on a particularly difficult job, one he had had a heck of a time figuring out, he had sought help on the internet. It was simply some silly fan problem. Whilst fixing the problem, though, he had had the idea for the competition and it had planted its seed into his brain insidiously. He thought it would be fun to see what some of the youth out there would come up with. And so, after a short, straight to the point discussion with the not-so friendly editor, Matt, the Short Story competition was approved, and an email was sent out to all the International Schools in China.

Now, he decided to take a look at the forums from which he had received such useful help.

Johnny was pretty much in his own bubble for the rest of the week. He would focus in art, and in English, but try as he might, he simply couldn’t come up with anything. After googling short story ideas, which consisted of some weird fortune cookie plot or a babysitter that spies on her client, or something to do with the Vietnamese war. He looked at the plots and tried to fill them in himself. But as soon as he’d start to write, it wouldn’t work. The poor boy was not having the time of his life.

Then, on a rather uneventful Saturday morning, he had one of the greatest ideas. He jumped straight for the laptop, went on the internet, and opened all the forums he would normally visit for help. He proceeded to log into each one, and wrote the same thing every time.

 

Hello, fellow forum members,

I’ve really been trying to come up with a short story about a decision.

Maybe if any of you had any ideas for a sweet story, or maybe if you could post a decision you’ve had to make?

Anything decision-related would be amazing.

Thank you for any help,

Johnny Boy.

Little did he know that within the next few hours, when he would click on the refresh button, there would be some of the most creative plots for short stories. There would be ones about superheroes, about relationships, wars, yes, babysitters even, though not all of them were great, for some were utter rubbish.

For Peter, on the other hand, it had been another one of those boring Tuesdays. As usual, everybody was still writing up the articles, so he had nothing to design- for he was also the designer- until the writing was finished. The previous day, he had snooped around the forums, and seen an interesting topic, about some decision. Now, bearing in mind that he hadn’t proposed the idea of having the short story competition based around a decision, he had only come up with the idea for a competition, he thought it would be fun to post his own thoughts. So he created an account: “theITguy” was his name, and he typed in his password, which I cannot tell you, for the content is rather explicit. He found the thread named “Help with coming up with a decision story,” and within five minutes, he had thought of a rather funny plot, had typed it up, and clicked on the Post button.

Following his little adventure of sharing his life story on the internet, Peter had gone back to work, and did what designers do best: he created some templates, did some doodles, and came up with layout designs. All in all, he filled his day trying to do something productive.

 

The same day at school, Johnny was in English with his teacher, Mr. Green, a kind, middle-aged, Filipino man with a bizarre sense of humour. He had been generous enough to give the students the class to start writing their stories. And Johnny whipped up a first draft for his story. Within half an hour, he was done. Mr. Green read it, made some slight corrections, sorted out the apostrophes, and some capitalization issue, and it was ready to be typed up. A proud smile lit Mr. Green’s lovely face.

One week later, when the stories were due, the school emailed them all to the LittleStar Magazine email address. The results were announced the following week. It was another chilly Monday morning. Johnny, like at the start of our story, had woken up barely twenty minutes beforehand, and was half asleep in the auditorium when his name was called. He thought it was Mrs. Clarkson telling him to wake up, or perhaps he was dreaming. But when he lifted his head, he saw that every student in the school had their head turned toward him and they were clapping. He didn’t understand. Somebody was telling him to come down. Others were staring at him. He had won! He had won the competition! What a great start to the week! Finally, a good start!

That evening, the first thing he did when he got home was to log into his forums. He wanted to thank “theITguy” for after all, he was the one who had given him such a creative and original idea. He sent him a personal message to explain how he had altered the idea, created his own characters, and in the end, won the competition. None of this was true, however, since he had copied from the forum word for word what he had read. Who would know? Who would find out?

After several days of palpable tension in the office, Peter had eventually overcome his nerve, and entered Matt’s office. To his delight and relief, he had found smiling. After a short and polite conversation, Peter was told the winner of the competition had been announced. Some young kid had won it. Peter asked for a copy of the story, excited to read it. He sat down at his desk, with a nice cup of coffee in anticipation for a good read. He was also keen to have a feel for the person who had won an internship at his very studio.

But as he read each word, a sense of stupidity overcame him. He realized his story had been written, and it was what had won his competition. In a week, he would be welcoming and looking after the very child who stole his idea, lied to him about using it as a basis only, and who had won his competition, unlawfully. He would be touring that boy around his studio.

And so it was. Johnny had committed a crime. A crime of academic honesty.

 

By Augustin Gougeon,

Y10, Yew Chung International School of Beijing

 

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  1. Wisegirl
    March 3rd, 2012 at 11:48 | #1

    You know, I kind of feel bad for Peter.

    –H.Girl Percy Jackson series fan

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