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Winning Write Path Story from Harrow International School Beijing

March, 2011
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Zoe Strachan

On the top of the pile of papers was a postcard. Lucy removed it from the drawer and held it under the desk lamp. It depicted the globe, tilted so that the former USSR sat red and prominent in the centre. Several satellites, Sputniks perhaps, were in orbit and a jolly crimson rocket shot towards distant galaxies. She remembered asking her father what the German words meant. Visit the USSR, home of the world’s first cosmonauts.
‘Have you been there?’ she’d asked.
‘Oh yes,’ he said. ‘But that was aeons ago when you were just a twinkle in the night sky.’
She’d long given up pressing him for stories of the past, knowing his answers would be joking and absurd. One of her earliest memories - or had it been a dream? -  was of being muffled under a blanket in the back of a car, her father exhorting her to stay still as the vehicle slowed and stopped. Questions followed in a language she didn’t understand, and later that night came her first flight on an aeroplane. Now Lucy was searching for a clue, something that might tell her where her father had gone, and why.

Jackie Fung and Jacky Zhu year 9

Sighing, she turned over the post card. The message read simply “I am always looking at you in the sky”. She felt suddenly as though she’d been filled with cold water. 

It hadn’t been there when she’d talked to her father about it.She felt suddenly very happy; only people who were alive could send a post card to their own daughters. She knew this was the beginning of a journey, a trip to find her father, but she didn’t know how to and where to begin. She couldn’t describe her feelings - she was happy and disappointed. She read and read through the letter again and again. But she couldn’t find anything about where her father was on the post card.

Grace Luo and Annie Wang year 8

She could only remember, too clearly, the night that her father had disappeared. It had been a chilly December evening, with big flakes of snow drifting across the window covering the damp earth in a snow white blanket.
Lucy had been lying in her bed while her father sat on the edge of her bed. “Dad, tell me about mom.” said Lucy. The timeless look that he always had when they came on to the subject of her mother came into his eyes. “It’s late my dear. We’ll talk about it in the morning.” “Goodnight, Dad.” She said.
He kissed her goodnight and was about to walk out the door when his phone had rung, “Hello?” There was a pause. Her father left the room but Lucy could still hear his voice. “What? … Great!.. 5 minutes!”
Her father had entered the room again, this time with a fanatical gleam in his eyes. “Lucy,” he said, “Something’s come up. I have to go but I promise I will be back in the morning. Love you.” With that, he had left the room in a hurry, before Lucy could say anything.
But he had not come back as he had promised.
Lucy stared at the ceiling, tears leaking out of her eyes, lost in old memories. He was never coming back. How foolish it was for her to even hope.

Edward Ren and Remy Shea year 10

Staring into the endless abyss, the polluted night sky tainted with a sickly blue hue, she could not fall asleep. She looked for the smallest hint of light, just wishing, hoping that it would somehow…somehow, lead her to her father. A persistent voice from inside her mind, the one that would not let go of her beloved father, whispered on, desperate to venture into the streets, to go to the place she had never dare gone herself before: father’s workplace.

Despite knowing that this was a spontaneous, stupid idea it was still somehow better than not trying, not knowing, leaving the end loose.
Wiping the tears from her eyes, she draped her father’s fur coat over her flimsy silk nightgown. Again, painful memories throbbed at her, the fine silk clothes were a gift her father saved up for, they were beautiful but yet it burned her to wear them. She crept out the door. A cold breeze gushed in, and she shivered, pondering going back in for a brief moment. But this was not a time for comfort; she had to go find her father.

On the streets outside their house, there was not a soul in sight. A storm was brewing miles above her head as her nervous footsteps hurried across the empty sidewalk, echoing off the large brick building to either side. The usually lively streets seemed abandoned and desolate. She came near to the corner store where she and her father shopped for groceries. The rusty red telephone booth in the corner, which was usually just scenery, was now irresistible. It seemed like the only source of colour, everything else became a damp grey-green as she fixed her gaze on the empty booth. It was now vibrant with colour, and as she stepped into the tall glass box, examining it, wondering why it stood out today, of all days, why today?
Because the phone inside it was ringing.
Clambering inside the box, she picked it up.
“Hello” she whimpered nervously into the phone piece
a crackled, distorted voice came through.
“Lucy?”

Zoe Carder Year 11

“Yes… Who is this?”
There was no reply. She fidgeted uncomfortably on her feet, the suspense grating on her nerves. Her fingers twitched on the phone’s handset and sweat pooled in her palms.  What was she doing? She was about to hang up when the voice spoke once more.
“Do you still want to find your father?”
She question shocked her. Who were these people? How did they know her name? What did they know about her father? She hadn’t told anyone about her search. She found herself unable to speak, her throat closing up, and refusing to allow a sound to come out. Then, from the silence, the voice continued.
“We can help you if you do as we say. We can see you now, and we are waiting for you. Nod if you are ready to cooperate.”
Her eyes darted to the rain-sodden streets outside the phone box.
“Who are you?!”
“We are here to help. There are … people trying to find you. You’ve seen them before. They are waiting for you to be completely alone…like you are now.”
She whipped her head around, suddenly terrified.  The voice was right. She was alone. Her heart thumping, she nodded her head.
“Good choice. Hang up and get out of the phone booth. Walk down the street. Turn left at the alley. Do it now. You have 3 minutes before they get here.”
“Who are they?! Please, tell me what is going on!”
“There is no time to explain now.  In fact, your time is running out.”
“How am I supposed to find you? What should I call you?”
“We are Oblivion. You will meet us soon. Go NOW.”
She slammed the phone down on the receiver and threw herself out of the phone booth. She heard a car behind her and began to walk faster. To her horror, she heard the car speed up as well. She started to run, her legs pounding the pavement. The world became a blur around her. Her mind had only one concern now. Getting to that alley.
Her breath was coming out in short gasps as she veered left. Her feet scraped on the ground nearly causing her to lose her balance. But she didn’t fall. The tyres on the car were screeching on the pavement behind her. She saw the alley, and pushed herself to get there before the car caught up with her completely. The strain on her legs was becoming unbearable. She could feel her muscles using up all of her energy. She knew she didn’t have much left in her but she was determined not to give up. She needed to work out what these people knew about her father. She placed the thought firmly in her mind, forcing herself to focus on it.  She was almost there. Seven yards away. Four yards away. One yard away. Two steps away! She launched herself into the alley, and into an uncertain fate. Hands appeared from the darkness and pulled her into a doorway. The odour floating around the area was repulsive. She thought she had been caught by ‘them’, and that she had lost her chance to find her father. She was about to scream out for help when a hand clamped down over her mouth blocking the scream bubbling on her lips.
“We are Oblivion. Hurry.”
She nodded in acknowledgment, and allowed herself to be tugged along the hallway.

Eleanor Morgan and Saikiran Adapa 6th form

She was being dragged through empty corridors bereft of sound or light. She had no idea where she was or where she was headed but she felt she was getting closer.There was an odd gleam to her captor’s eyes which she just couldn’t make out. Just when she thought she could go along no further they arrived at a dark room. And then, after so long, after all this uncertainty, with a flick of the lights she saw him, the man who she hadn’t seen in so long. He looked older and slightly thinner but just the way she had remembered. He was leaning towards the wall, tired, his face etched with wrinkles.Their grip on her was tightening, the tension unmistakable. ‘We’ve done as you’ve asked now give it to us!’, one of the men in Oblivion demanded from her father.‘Not until you hand her to me’ her father’s voice boomed, still that deep throaty voice that would read her to sleep for so many years. She was thrust two feet forwards to her father who was there waiting and grabbed her into his arms. ‘You have followed with your half of the deal I shall comply with mine’ he replied to the group. He reached into his pocket and pulled out something. It was small pink and furry, resembling a pig but with wings. It was a flying pig! The pig started to fly towards the group who called themselves Oblivion.

Mr Greaves

Lucy could no longer contain the adrenaline coursing through her body and wasn’t sure if she was shaking through fear or intense excitement. She sensed her father next to her but couldn’t draw her eyes away from the sight of the small pink pig hovering silently before them. 

Suddenly it all seemed too strange. Pigs after all cannot fly and seeing her father now after so long seemed unreal. She tried to think back, had she fallen asleep? She was still wearing her nightclothes, was this just a dream? She tried to look away and back towards her father as if breaking her stare would wake her up, but her eyes were locked on the impossibly floating piglet.“If this is a dream then wake up now…. If this is a dream then wake up now… IF THIS IS A DREAM THEN WAKE UP NOW!!!” She found herself shouting it over and over but the more she said it the more real everything became. Finally, she wrenched her gaze away from the pig, the effort seemed to tear at her eyes but she finally fixed her gaze on her father. She could see in his eyes that he was nervous; something was about to happen but she couldn’t hold her fathers gaze and had to look back at the pig. The flying farmyard animal was now changing shape and shimmering, as if an intense light was being flashed though it. Lucy was suddenly aware of a humming noise in the darkened room as if some electrical device was overheating. Then a cry rang out from one of the members of Oblivion.“NO!!! HE’S FINISHED IT!! LOOK AWAY YOU FOOLS… LOOK AWAY!!!!”The last thing Lucy saw were pink shards of light coming out of the pig which seemed to stab into the back of her eyes, then the sound of a large explosion, then darkness.



“You haven’t changed, I knew you’d study that postcard over and over again” Her father’s voice woke her from a deep sleep, “You always loved maps and globes and why not? They hold so many secrets, ‘the keys to the world’ you might say!” Lucy thought they were travelling in a coach but couldn’t tell. She raised her hand to her head.“Don’t worry, you need more rest but your head will clear”, he continued with a chuckle “Always the curious one. Tell me, how many satellites were on that card?”


“Eight” confirmed Lucy in a moment of clarity.


“Yep, thought you’d say that, how many now?” Lucy’s father pulled out an exact copy of the postcard and placed his thumb over the red blob of the USSR.


“Seven? There’s…. only seven, but I…”


“You were sure there were eight? Well, that’s what you were trained to think. The paint here on the USSR draws in your eyes and through your peripheral vision you think you can see eight, but it’s a trick of the light, an optical illusion – just like the pig. Your eyes were trained so that your vision was pulled away from the pig, that’s why you weren’t blinded back in that room when we escaped”


“I don’t… I don’t understand” croaked Lucy.
Her father continued, 

“When you were young, before we were separated I was working on something, something amazing. I wanted to change the way we see things. The world is in three dimensions but humans have spent over 50 years staring at screens that show life in just two. I created something that changed that, I created a device that could create holographic images. But it could only be made within a vacuum and there was a problem… a side effect?” Lucy quizzed.

“Yes, without special glasses or an ability to divert your focus everyone who looked at the holograms became kind of… well… hypnotized in some way. Various… agencies found out and wanted me to develop it to be used as a weapon. I refused and that’s… that’s when your mother disappeared”


“Mum?”


“Yes, ever since I’ve been running from people who wanted to use my invention to harm or control people and not entertain them as I had originally planned”


“Oblivion?” 


“Yes, and others. There’s more I need to tell you but maybe when you’re fully recovered. The main thing is that we’re back together and we’re travelling somewhere safe. Soon you’ll see your mother and I promise you, she is no optical illusion”Lucy was tired, confused and unable to take in everything that had happened. She opened her eyes for the first time and saw that they were on a train, then saw her father. There were so many questions she needed to ask but she was too tired to keep her eyes open and started drifting back into sleep. The questions could wait, she was finally back with her father and felt safe. She didn’t know where they were going but she new then that everything would be alright when they arrived. As her eyes began to close again she saw one more image through the window in the distance, a farm full of pigs. On the ground, where they should be.

 

 

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