Shared Stories is a state Catholic schools production that publishes creative writing and artistic interpretations by primary and secondary school students from around Victoria. In 2016, students were asked to engage with the theme ‘Connection and Renewal’. This year, De La Salle submitted 14 entries. This week we continue to showcase exemplar entries for your enjoyment and reflection.
Under the Blackberry Thicket
As the gentle autumn wind blew across the lichen covered terracotta tiled roof of 16 Wattletree Drive a quiet girl with a loud mind lay on her unmade bed waiting impatiently for her phone to ring. She was startled by the sudden vibration that caught her off-guard but with the speed of a hare running for its life she answered. “Hi! How are you?” She excitedly asked the boy on the other side of the phone. Leo couldn’t be any more different to her. He loved the feel of the searing summer sun on his skin while the piercing winter chills brought her joy, he loved to shout and she loved to think, thrill and adventure was what Leo lived for and the complete opposite for her but they were the best of friends. “Evelyn! I’m great thank you! Now listen up. You gotta come to my house straight away, I have to show you something stupendously spectacular!” he babbled with great delight. Evelyn agreed and leaving without her favourite jacket and hat she began to trudge the short distance to Leo’s house under the shining sun.
Upon arrival before she could even reach the stairs leading up to the porch of Leo’s house he burst out through the front door careless of breaking it with a huge smile full of joy. Startled by this much more than the phone she was left speechless. Leo broke out into a light jog and Evelyn was very confused. The last time he was this excited was when he won his hockey grand finale against the long reigning champions last year. “Hurry up!” he shouted back at Evelyn as she began to slowly pace behind. The last time she ran was when she saw a ‘huge’ hairy brown spider sitting on a web in the corner of her room. Leo led Evelyn to the maple tree filled park two blocks away from his house. Standing side by side one of them much more out of breath than the other they stood in front of an unusually large blackberry thicket. “A bush?” Evelyn said in a dull and unimpressed tone. “Not just a bush” replied Leo to Evelyn’s question as he climbed into the thicket narrowly avoiding all the thorns. Evelyn lost sight of Leo. He had vanished into a manhole. Evelyn was in a maelstrom of mixed emotions about this. She only followed for the sake of not being left alone. Into this man made abyss she slowly descended the whole time thinking “my new clothes, all ruined”.
Stepping down onto the slimy floor she barely managed to keep herself from slipping. “Leo?” her voice echoed through the darkness. Like lighting a flash appeared and the whole room was illuminated. Leo’s torch shone brightly into Evelyn’s eyes. “Found you!” he said jokingly. “That wasn’t funny” mumbled Evelyn, “where even are we?” With a smirk on his face he answered the question “This my friend, this is our place and what it is? It’s simply empty space”. Evelyn wasn’t one bit impressed. “Empty space huh? So what’s so stupendously spectacular about this?” “Potential Evelyn! Potential! Don’t you see it? I have plans to make us the coolest cats in the neighbourhood, we’re going to throw a party that’ll never be forgotten!”
The community started to feel a tad bit concerned. “What on earth are they doing?” a mother whispered to her friend while sitting on a weathered park bench. Back and forth, in and out they were carrying buckets, mops, brooms and rags. The clouds became darker and the weather became cooler as they worked. Evelyn still had no idea why she agreed to this but she oddly felt compelled to do so. Leo couldn’t have done it without her and without him she never would have thought that she would be standing in a polished top to bottom concrete room loaded with party supplies. Streamers and balloons gave the ceiling life and lanterns on the walls glowed with phosphorescence. A disco ball spun from a thread high above as Leo handed out Invitations to all of his many friends. ‘Maple Tree Park, the blackberry thicket, be there 9 PM’. Evelyn did the same and almost invited just as many people. This is going to be radical they both thought.
As the seconds on Leo’s watch ticked by he got more and more nervous. “What if they can’t find the entrance? What if no one decides to come?” he said as he paced back and forth in a straight line. With a thud Kenny landed and greeted Leo, next was Lola, Lucy, Rick and so on. In under ten minutes the room had at least sixty people. Packets of chips were handed around and drinks were distributed. Leo and Evelyn didn’t even plan on accommodating for light refreshments. After the boom box started pumping there was no turning back. Like a pack of wild wolves the teens howled and barked into the night until the thunder started. A slow trickle of water ran down the ladder and that slow trickle became a fast trickle and before you could say ‘This is the best party ever’ the trickle became a waterfall. Boy after girl everyone evacuated the flooding room and huddled around each other next to the black berry bush as their party venue flooded. Standing in the wet disappointed but still wanting to party they all, even Evelyn and Leo, danced in the rain.
Editor’s note: Congratulations to Romolo, whose piece above was selected as one of the top 20 finalists. A great achievement!
In space, death is always perched on your shoulder, his cold fingers wrapped around you, waiting for you to slip up. I guess he finally caught me. I can feel his laughter, sending cold chills up my spine as I slowly drift away. Communications down, tether snapped, and here I am, alone. Adrift.
Part of me wonders how I didn’t notice, why I didn’t check before leaping out into the unknown. I wonder how I could have a lapse of judgement so simple that it would cost me my life. In a world with no sounds, tastes or smells, why didn’t I look or feel for the fraying cable. After all I have done, all that I’ve seen, how could I be so complacent, so careless.
The station is slowly shrinking in the distance, becoming smaller and smaller as we drift further and further apart. I’m sure Justin will be looking for me, alarmed by my sudden loss of communications. He will try, but he won’t find me. We both know. Even if he does spot my slim figure in the eternal darkness that is space, what good will it do? We have no shuttles, no probes. Even if he could find me, all he would be able to do is watch as I drift away.
I wonder how long it will be until I die? Minutes? Hours? Without computer systems there is no way to tell. No way to know until I am suffocating in the hypoxic environment of my own exhalations. I’ve heard asphyxiation isn’t that bad a way to die. You start panting, your lungs begin to burn, your vision begins to blur as your cells become starved of oxygen. Then you become drowsy, tired, before unconsciousness… Death.
I’m going to die. It’s strangely comforting saying that. Knowing, with certainty, what is to come. Do many people think that when they die? Is that a common thought? How am I to know, I can’t ask anybody now. Alone.
The Earth looks so small here, so far away. It’s like looking at a marble, strangely squashed, bulging in the middle. I wonder how many people are down there now, feeling death breathing down their neck. I wonder how many of them feel alone, as I do. How many are afraid?
I’m crying now. The tears blur my vision, but I cannot brush them away as I would without a helmet. I feel them stick to my skin before floating away, watch through blurry eyes as they drift into the glass of my helmet.
I’m going to die here. I’ll never get to see my family again. I’ll never get to see my wife, her face, her eyes. They are brown, like chocolate, and they are beautiful. I wish I could see them one more time. And then there’s my son, with his blonde hair, his eyes, blue like my own. He’s probably at home now, just finished school. Waiting until he can call me on the station. I’ll never be able to see him again either.
Has Justin given up yet? Has he begun to contact the agency, my family, my friends? How will I ever know? How could I?
I wonder what my wife will say? Will she cry? Scream? Pound at the door? Fall to her knees?
How will she tell our son? Nobody should have to explain death to a 7‑year-old, much less the death of his mother.
I’m panting. I know what that means. Life support must have failed. I look at the station, so small now, drifting away. I feel a burning in my lungs. The world, the earth, it looks darker now, it all looks darker.
I focus on her eyes, my wife’s eyes. I want them to be the last thing I see. And as the world, the universe, slowly fades, her eyes fill my vision until it’s all that I can see. I can hear my gasping breaths within the helmet; I can’t breathe anymore. My lungs burn, the stars fade out, but still her eyes stare at me, kind, loving, mine. I suppose there are worse things to…
I roll over in my bed, freeing my mouth and nose from the pillow that was suffocating me. I gasp in breath after breath, filling my lungs with the oxygen that they craved.
“Are you ok?” She asks, her voice tired, just having drifted from sleep, but she’s concerned.
“I’m fine,” I say, looking at her eyes, those lovely brown eyes.
Tanis Van Laake