After an inspirational writing immersion day at St Andrew’s Anglican College, two aspiring Year 6 writers were encouraged to enter the Hinterland Times Young Writer of the Year Competition. This is a particularly tough competition as it attracts strong writers from around the coast and hinterland region each year, with entrants between the ages of 10 to 17 years of age all competing against each other. Sarah Caust and Jordana Bayliss each carefully crafted a short story on the theme ‘the secret’, both of which you can enjoy reading at the end of this article.
Jordana Bayliss’s story The Whale Pendant particularly impressed the judges but narrowly missed out on the top writer award. She was awarded a High Commendation and was invited to a photo shoot with the newspaper.
Jeanette Roach, Primary Honours Teacher
The Whale Pendant by Jordana Bayliss
Splish! Splash! Echo’s blueish tail slapped the calm, salty sea as she darted around me playfully. My giggles were muffled underwater. With aching muscles, I chased her, but I knew it was time to go home. My parents would be expecting me, and besides, I’d been playing for hours. My teeth chattered. My lips were blue. Why couldn’t it be summer all year round? In habit, I reached for my precious whale pendant. Two months ago, my Grandma had given it to me in the hospital, mere hours before she died. Grandmother used to be my only friend in the world. She had said I had to protect the pod from hunters and I had later realised that her pendant allowed me to ride and communicate with whales. Now they were my friends, and I had to protect them. No one else had any idea about the whale pendant. It was a secret between me and my grandma. The last thing I had left of her. Just as I was about to face the chilly air outside of the water, something caught my eye. I spun around. The whale pendant around my neck started to vibrate. “The whales,” I gasped.
A small group of men on a shabby boat were hypnotising my pod with a magical harp. I could taste my fear. The salty water was becoming choppy. I glanced at the beach. Petrol fumes made my nose sting. The men started yelling. “Echo,” I murmured. “Let’s go, come on”. Echo wouldn’t budge. The whirring of the rudders filled my ears. I gripped her dorsal fin. Tears pricked my eyes. Echo seemed to understand I wanted a ride. She launched forward. I let out a breath I hadn’t realised I’d been holding . The other whales followed Echo, their leader.
A coil of rope shot out from my pendant and twisted itself around the startled men. The pendant glowed. What was I meant to do with the men? I glanced at Echo. We continued towing the young avaricious men. Suddenly, a memory came into my mind. When I was younger, my Grandma used to sing me a song. At the time, I thought it was just a silly made-up nursery rhyme, but now, I wondered if it meant anything. It went like
Let the greedy be found
Let them be back
To their original form
As a whale
But do not punish them
I remembered my grandma’s words when she gave me the unique pendant. She said “work with the whale”. My heart hammered in my chest. Could I really turn the whale hunters into whales? It was crazy! I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, trying to sync my mind with the pendant. The pendant flashed blue. One of the men slipped free of his ropes. His form started to change. His skin turned bluish. A tail formed. I watched in fascination. Right before my eyes, he turned into a whale. Soon, the other men were turning into whales. I blinked, unsure whether my eyes were playing tricks on me.
I slipped off Echo and paddled over to the new whales. I held out my hand. One by one, they nudged their thanks. A satisfied smile spread across my face. I had done my job. My grandma would be proud. I glanced at the setting sun and pink-streaked sky. It was time to go home.
My skin was wrinkly as I swam strongly back to shore. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. It was my secret.
The CD in the Camel by Sarah Caust
Rosé stood silently, letting the salty water wash over her feet. A cool breeze sent a shiver down her spine as the sun, which was sinking below the horizon, cast a fiery red glow against the water and sand. Rosé smiled, and sat down elegantly, her blond wavy hair flowing softly in the afternoon breeze. She closed her eyes, letting the beachy senses fill her nostrils and overpower the rest of her body. She was just letting the sandman win when the faint sound of clinking metal woke her back to reality. Rosé stood to her feet, and walked over to the mysterious sound . . .
The cold metal slid beneath her fingers, and each individual gem that housed itself against the silvery material glistened in the last remnants of the sun. Rosé brushed off some sand, and let her hazel eyes travel across the object, studying each curve and line of the detailed creature. It was a camel. It was lying down on its fours, its head craned downwards. Its eyes were a marble black, and it was laced with beautiful flecks of gold, with gems and diamonds tracing each line on the stirrup. She examined the camel’s back only to find a silver hatch with a keyhole on the top. Rosé dug around the sand, trying to find some kind of key, but was left empty handed. She would have to show her father.
“It looks like an ancient Jewish possession that a filthy rich roman would want to keep,” Leah murmured, tossing the object between his large bony fingers, and tracing his hand over the treasures that were embroidered into it. “It would be worth tons–your mother would have loved it.” Although, his expression gave nothing away.
“What happened to her daddy?” Rosé pondered, itching to get information out of her father. Leah didn’t respond. Instead, he stood up and walked out of the room. Rosé stared after him. Why doesn’t he ever talk about mother? I deserve to know! I am her daughter. Rosé thought angrily, pushing out her chair, grabbing the camel and stalking off. Rosé made her way out the front door and back out onto the beach. She held her new prize possession in her hands, being careful not to drop it. She sat on a dull gray rock and stared at the camel. To her disappointment, nothing happened. “Maybe if I find the key to open it, I can find out what is inside. There’s only one way to find out . . .”