Part 8

Six students from St Mary’s College took on the task of writing part eight of our never-ending story. Our characters are afloat in the wreckage of their plane and wondering what twists of fate lie ahead as a boat appears on the horizon.

THROUGH the thick glass of the oval-shaped windows, Eliza, Johnny and Alice watched as the boat drifted closer to the fl oating wreck of their plane. Salty water licked at the sides of the boat and the words “Lovesong of the Crow” could be made out on its faded wooden exterior.
Alice pressed her nose against the glass, fogging up the window with every hopeful breath. But Eliza and Johnny knew better than to give in to childish naivety. Over Alice’s shoulder, they shared a look of suspicion.
Johnny cleared his throat the way his Dad always did when he had something important to say. “You two stay here. I’ll go check it out.” “You can’t,,” Eliza said, her eyes fi xed on his bandaged arm. Surprised by her own reckless determination, she heard herself speak. “I’ll do it.” “You’re kidding right? I’m not going to let you do that.” Johnny attempted to appear amused by the thought.
But Eliza could tell that this was an attempt to feign typical male bravery. Thoughts of Johnny’s protective gesture and the mysterious boat competed for room in her already crowded mind. But now wasn’t the time for teenage hyperanalysis, nor was it the time to panic.
She was going to do this – she had no choice. “Watch Alice for me.” Eliza placed her jacket around the little girl’s shoulders and Johnny shuffl ed uncomfortably around the cabin as Eliza stripped down, making her way towards the exit sign.
As she plunged into the water, the cold wrapped around her body; it was like a shot of adrenaline going through her veins.
Meanwhile, Johnny and Alice waited impatiently for a sign that Eliza had made it, feeling quite hopeless. They prayed she would return with some sort of good news.
By now, Alice was quite worried, and Johnny too. He comforted Alice and whispered to her: “It’s OK, Alice. Eliza is a big girl, she can look after herself.” From where they stood, they watched Eliza hoist herself onto the boat.
Eliza’s chest heaved with exertion. She hesitated, faced with the unknown. But she wasn’t going to stop. She knew the others were watching and her curiosity wouldn’t let go.
Light-headed and dizzy, she licked her lips. The salty taste made her realise how thirsty she was.
Her stomach growled. She was surprised Alice hadn’t complained about this earlier. Eliza glanced around the boat, looking for signs of life. She called out in an unsteady voice, “Hello, anyone there?” wishing it conveyed more confidence.
There was nothing, no one. As a last resort, she made her way down the staircase to the room beneath. Reaching the bottom, she felt the sunlight warm her neck as it stretched to touch the back of the hull.
Her eyes scanned the dimly lit space before she ventured any further. The light was momentarily blocked out, something like an eclipse. She whipped her body around to get a glimpse of what caused the shift.
Eliza’s pulse began to quicken. She tried to remain unnoticed but felt as though every sound she made was amplifi ed. Each breath seemed to cut through the silence.

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on April 24, 2012

A group of English Writing students from St Mary’s College wrote part eight of Lovesong of the Crow. Teacher Jane McGennisken said the project provided an excellent opportunity for students to experiment with collaborative writing. Here is what the students had to say about the experience.

Maggie Casey: It gave me the chance to see how other people formulate ideas for their writing. Sometimes it was hard to agree.

Wegen Gebresilasi: It was hard to write as part of a group, but I enjoyed it because people had different ideas for different parts of the story.”

Hannah Gordon: I enjoyed working as part of a group because each word could be discussed and debated. It gave me a new insight into writing.

Isabella Klug: I enjoyed the writing of it and having input into the finished piece. We gave the story our own direction, but tried to leave it open for the next writer.

Larissa Hill-Moore: I found it hard to connect the dots with the previous stories. I wanted to bring back the camera but it didn’t really work.”

Tess McPhail: I learnt that it’s  important to get other people’s feedback on your writing. It is interesting how different people interpret ideas.”

Part 7

Tasmanian eSchool student ERIN FRANCOIS takes us back to the remote south-west coast, where we left Eliza, Johnny and Alice drifting off to sleep after a dramatic day as their temporary haven floated out to sea.

A COLD and icy wind played and danced through the plane. It smelled strongly of sea salt, reminding Eliza of the days when her parents took her to the beach. She smiled at the memory, bringing her knees up to her chest and hugging herself.
Through the floor of the plane she could feel herself rocking back and forth. It was like the gentle sway of the ocean or the careful rock of her mother”s arms holding her as a baby.
Her eyes snapped open. What? That couldn”t be right.
Eliza sat up and looked around, blinking. Johnny and little Alice were asleep next to her, their tired eyes shut tight against the morning sun. Alice’s sandy blonde hair fell around her face, making her look peaceful and angelic.
Her little head rested on Johnny’s shoulder as she hugged his right bicep in a death grip a clear “don”t leave me gesture” that made her heart lament with pity and sorrow.
Even in his sleep Johnny looked sad. His face was creased with concern and worry, no doubt living once again the nightmare of yesterday. His black short hair was dishevelled, making him look like he’d slept through a rough night.
Given the circumstances, Eliza didn’t blame him.
Eliza moved slowly around the sleeping pair. While being careful not to wake them, she stumbled over Johnny’s outstretched leg. He groaned in his sleep but did not wake and thankful for that, Eliza moved quietly into the main cabin.
The salt smell in the air increased and a harsh breeze hit her like a cold slap in the face. A bright stream of light shone through a crack in the ceiling and Eliza had to shield her eyes, cowering from it.
Walking slowly and uncertainly down the aisle of the plane, she slowly approached the exit. Shock wasn’t enough to describe the horror Eliza felt.
Her knees threatened to give way and her stomach felt like it had dropped through the plane itself. “How?” Eliza whispered aloud, not bothering to hide the dismay she heard in her voice.
The plane was afloat. Not on the air like most aircraft, but on the sea. Eliza’s knees buckled as she looked out over the vast blue sea.
The horizon cut harshly through the sea and the sky separated them much as a fence would a field. She told herself it wasn”t possible, but her brain and reality said otherwise.
“Eliza?” someone called from within the plane. The voice sounded weak, boyish and tired.
She turned her head slightly and looked down the aisle to see Johnny standing looking right back at her. “Eliza, are you…”
“Johnny,” she interrupted and he frowned. “You”d better take a look at this.” Johnny was too far away for Eliza to completely read his expression but she could make out the concerned creases in his forehead.
He started to walk towards Eliza, shielding his eyes from the harsh sun. And when Johnny gasped, it wasn”t just because the plane was adrift in the sea, it was because he saw something else.
It was a boat.

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on April 17, 2012

CREATIVE writing students enrolled with the Tasmanian eSchool were invited to write part seven of Lovesong of the Crow. Three submissions were short-listed and the work of Year 9 student Erin Francois was selected for publication.
Erin attends Deloraine High and studies creative writing via an online course through the Tasmanian eSchool. She loves art and writing, and spends most of her spare time reading.
“About a year ago, I started writing a 300-page novel with my best friend; it’s a survival story about two enemies who are lost in Canada,” she said. “I’ve always loved telling stories. When I was little, I would follow my parents around, narrating my never-ending stories,” she said.
Erin dreams of seeing her name on the cover of a book and another ambition is to trace her family heritage in France.
Teacher Rachel Page said students from the eSchool creative writing class worked online at different times, from places as far apart as Hobart, Winnaleah and King Island. Most attend regular schools, but some work from home.
“An advantage for students working in this manner is that they can work at their own pace,” Ms Page said. “It was pleasing to see the enthusiastic way students threw themselves into this exciting project. The manner in which they operated to meet deadlines was also impressive.”

Part 6

New Norfolk High School student ZARA BENDER takes the never-ending story in a new direction, introducing the twin brother of Eliza Chan. While Eliza celebrated their 15th birthday with a fateful scenic flight, Andre chose to see a concert with his mates.

THE music was loud, thumping out of the giant speakers positioned on either side of the stage, making the ground pulse with a sense of life.
People were crammed in everywhere. Some sat on others’ shoulders. Little lights glinted off people’s faces making obscene piercings look even harsher.
The band on stage had sweat dripping from their faces. A drumstick flew into the air; Andre’s eyes followed its progress up and down just to crash into a cymbal in perfect timing.
“Andre, this is awesome! I’m so glad your birthday was today, otherwise you never would’ve got the ticket in time to come with us!” Andre nodded, his stomach feeling queasy. “Hey Jace, can I have a sip of your water?” “Sure, no problem. You feel weird without Eliza here don’t you?” At the mention of Eliza, his three-minutes-younger twin sister, Andre’s stomach contracted.
Being an older brother Andre was always protective of Liz. More so than other brothers and sisters, he and Liz had a connection even before they were born. He hadn’t had this feeling since the time Liz was hospitalised in Grade 5 after breaking her arm in a martial arts final.
“Yeah, just a bit. It’s strange being separated on our birthday. I’m so used to sharing our presents I guess.” “I can understand that Dre, but seriously, be wild! Your birthday is at an awesome concert, with all of your mates and no twin sister!” Andre agreed, his head spinning.
“Jace I have to go to the toilet, I’ll be right back.” “‘K, don’t get lost.” Andre only just heard Jace’s parting words over the roar of the crowd. Pushing his way through sweaty bodies Andre started trembling; his eyes losing focus and the ground seemed to purposefully evade his feet.
Just as he was blacking out, Andre saw a perfect image in his mind of Eliza, lying unconscious, a plane in the background.
Andre woke in a white tent, a medic looking down at him. “Good. You’re awake. About time too, your friends have been worried sick.” She moved out of the way and Andre saw his mates gathered behind her.
All looking slightly worse for wear, Mitch’s skin was pale and Rob was missing his trademark know-it-all grin. “Andre are you okay? You still look a bit pale.” Jace’s spiked black hair was looking a bit out of place as if he had run his hands through it multiple times.
“I’m fine. Wait, wait is Liz okay?” “Umm Dre, Eliza’s not at the concert with us remember?” “Sure. Okay. I just need to talk to her – can I use your phone?” “Yeah of course you can.” “Thanks.” Andre was already punching in his parents’ number.
While Andre listened to the dialling tone he got a split second warning in the tightening of his muscles before another mental image assaulted him: this one of three people running through the woods.
One of the people was his sister; the other two were a young girl and a boy roughly his own age. All Andre could hear was the screeching of crows.
The call connected, breaking the image. “Hey Mum, have you heard anything about Liz’s flight?” Silence.
“Mum, are you there?” “Of course I am, Andre” her voice sounded high-pitched, frightened maybe? “Mum have you heard anything?” “No, not really, but I did get a strange text message from your sister though.” Tension ran through Andre’s body, his muscles clenching up and his mind running through all kinds of things his sister could have said. “What did it say Mum?” “Nothing. It said nothing.” Andre’s mother’s voice choked on the last syllable.
Due to his mother’s likelihood to think everything was some kind of “sign” Andre’s mind went back to the image of his sister lying unconscious.
“What do you mean the text said nothing?” “I mean it was blank.” “Why?” the sound signalling that Andre’s reception had died stole the rest of his sentence.
Andre stared at the phone, first in shock and then in determination.

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on April 11, 2012

THE writer of part six of Lovesong of the Crow is New Norfolk High School student Zara Bender. Zara’s passion for writing was inspired by reading The Hunger Games in Grade 7. She became a fan of the trilogy and started writing her own short stories both for English studies and for fun.
The Grade 9 student always has a book with her and says she feels strange without something to read. Zara collects e-books and stores them on her mobile phone. Her latest passion is reading Australian author Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles on her phone.
Zara said her contribution to Lovesong of the Crow had been influenced by her attendance at the recent Breath of Life music festival in Launceston. Her interest in music is also demonstrated through her membership in the New Norfolk High School senior concert band, which could be another possible career path.
Teacher Megan Hoult said Zara’s enthusiasm for writing and her dream career as a published author made her a standout choice for contributing to Lovesong of the Crow when New Norfolk High joined the project.

Part 5

Taroona High School’s NOAH CASEY brings day one of the never-ending story to a surprising close. In the story so far, a plane has crashed in remote South-West Tasmania, leaving two teenagers and a young girl to fend for themselves. They encountered the mysterious Rourke who quickly disappeared into the bush, and they returned to the plane in search of supplies.

JOHNNY Dance put his arm around Alice and turned his face to the towering bush. The crows sat like gargoyles, still and unmoving, watching them like vultures waiting to feed. But they wouldn”t come any closer. They had scared off their prey and they were content just to sit, stare and watch.
From beneath Johnny”s arm the little blonde-haired girl gave another small whimper, then shrugged his arm off. Fire shot up his wrist, but he silenced a yelp as he flinched back. Alice was sobbing now; curled up in her own little world, she was inconsolable. So Johnny turned his attention to Eliza.
All Eliza wanted to do was to lie down and cry. She could feel her hands shaking, even as she clasped them together. The stress was getting to her. She”d just been in a plane crash.
It was a surprise she hadn”t become a shivering, crying wreck the minute the plane started plummeting towards the beach. But, no, Eliza Chan was stronger than that. Her father, Andy Chan, was a martial arts expert, and had taught her countless methods of focus and self control.
She began breathing in, counting to five, and then breathing out. Breathe in new clean air; breathe out all your worries and fears.
Eliza could hear Johnny coming over and quickly looked up, putting on a brave face. Then she noticed his arm and gave a gasp of surprise. His wrist had swollen up and had begun to turn a strange shade of purple.
Instantly her first-aid training kicked in and she rushed to his side, all thoughts of home and the crash evaporating. Wordlessly she dragged him into the wrecked plane and began searching for a first aid kit.
“Eliza, what are you doing?” Johnny exclaimed, reeling as she took him into the memory.
“You need bandages for your arm,” she replied, rushing around, trying to find the red and white pack.
“This is crazy, Eliza; the bodies.”
“Just focus,” she said, grabbing his good arm. “Look straight ahead and breathe. It”s as if they”re not even there.”
Johnny took a deep breath, looked straight ahead, and followed her to the back of the plane. Near the tail end there was a separate cabin. Being the part of the plane that took the least damage, it was relatively unharmed; and sitting at the back, strapped to the wall, was the first aid kit.
Eliza quickly located the bandages and wrapped one around Johnny”s arm before sticking the remaining roll in her jeans” pocket. She told Johnny to lie down and rest, then collapsed herself, the events of the day proving just too exhausting for her to continue. She put her arms around Johnny, hoping he would protect her from the cold of the night and the touch of her nightmares.
Alice needed to be a big girl. She wiped her tears, stood up and walked towards the plane.
She wasn”t going to spend the night out in the cold with the nasty scary crows. No. Instead, she faced her fear and hurried through the plane. She passed her seemingly sleeping grandfather; his skin was pale and he hadn”t moved an inch since she last saw him. But she so dreadfully hoped that he would wake up in the morning.
She moved through to the back of the plane where she found Johnny and Eliza curled up together on the floor. She shut the door to the cabin behind her with a satisfying “click”; then, not one to be excluded, Alice joined them in their exhausted slumber.
As the night wore on, the tide rose to greet the bush, and the plane slipped towards the call of the ocean, taking the three sleeping children with it.

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on April 3, 2012

TAROONA High is the fourth school to have taken up the challenge of continuing the never-ending story Lovesong of the Crow. From a first-class shortlist of six, Grade 10 student Noah Casey’s work was selected as this week’s chapter.
Noah has loved reading since he was little. He used to devour Andy Griffiths as well as Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants novels. Without them, he doubts that he would have the same good natured sense of humour he has now.
Now Noah loves writing almost as much as reading. He is influenced by action/mystery writers like Matthew Reilly and Lee Child, but will read almost anything that catches his eye. Noah says his dream job would be in the film industry as a performer, script writer, director or a combination of those.
The Mercury’s never-ending story project was taken up by Taroona High’s head of English, Sandra Renshaw, for her English writing class. “We had a fascinating week, discussing the previous chapters in detail, as well as various possibilities for the direction the story should take,” Ms Renshaw said. “Each student wrote a version of Chapter Five individually and then we voted, with some difficulty, for those we thought were the best,” she said. “Six were submitted and I was very glad I didn’t have to make the final decision.”