Part 13

Calvin Christian School students CLAUDIA ZOMERDYK and ELISE JURASOVIC teamed up to write part 13 of the never-ending story. A second plane has crashed in the South West and two survivors were rescued before the aircraft sank.

BUBBLES emerged from the deep blue of the ocean as the plane sank. Rourke, being the strongest, swam with the unconscious mass of Andre to the side of the boat.
Despite being clipped by the plane as it crashed, the Lovesong of the Crow was still afloat. Holly too was swimming with powerful strokes toward the only logical destination.
Alice was heaved aboard by Johnny and Eliza. The six isolated travellers lay – chests heaving – on the upper deck. One by one, each sat up and carefully observed the others. Holly was clearly a rebellious sort; long black hair, torn jeans, an air of depression lingering around her, and dark make-up that was streaked down her face from her recent dip in the drink.
Andre was dressed in a simple shirt and pants with a look of peace upon his silent form. “Andre! What are you doing here? I wish I could have warned you not to come – it isn’t safe,” Eliza said in desperation, water dripping from her jacket.
She soon realised that Andre wasn’t in a state to reply. She then moved on to Holly. “Um… so I’m Eliza, this is Johnny, Alice and Rourke,” Eliza said as she gestured towards her three companions.
This statement and invitation for a response was undeniably aimed at Holly, yet Eliza received no answer. “We were in a plane crash, too. There have been heaps more than you’d think,” Johnny said, attempting to crack Holly’s hard exterior.
“Holly gave them a passing glance and looked around the boat, surveying the area that surrounded her.
Eliza and Johnny exchanged bewildered expressions. Andre rolled over and let out a barely audible groan, bringing Eliza immediately to his side. “Don’t get up too fast, boy,” said Rourke. “Let your mind and body adjust a little bit first.” Andre tilted his head ever so slightly in Rourke’s direction to show his appreciation.
Eliza helped him sit up as Holly scrutinised the scene before her. “What are you doing here Andre?” The tone in which Eliza’s question was asked had become more urgent than before.
“I… knew that you… needed help,” Andre’s voice was scarcely more than a whisper. “The twin connection,” Holly observed. This was the first time they had heard Holly speak. Her voice didn’t quite match up with her appearance; it was too soft to have come from the mouth of a gothic rebel, but it also had a dangerously intimidating cawing aspect to it.
“What is the twin connection?” Johnny asked, intrigued. Andre answered the question. “We’re linked together … we can feel each other’s hurts and triumphs.” Alice emerged from the lower deck after having slipped away without anyone noticing.
She carried the news that changed everything. “The plane made a hole in the boat. There’s water coming in!” Rourke dashed around, collecting supplies that would aid them in the future.
Holly took the “each man for himself approach” to the situation, whereas Johnny and Eliza worked to transfer Andre to safety – the small rubber dinghy that was stowed in the far corner of the upper deck, precisely for evacuation in an emergency.
Just like in a cartoon, trouble arose at the worst possible time. A mob of crows on the horizon was advancing, almost exactly like earlier, when they had taken down Holly and Andre’s plane.
The six stranded travellers loaded up the boat with the gathered bags of supplies. As the crows landed on the deck and railings of the gradually sinking boat, Andre and Alice took their seats in the yellow dinghy.
The main focus was now upon the new visitors. “We have come to collect one of our murder,” cawed a particularly ruffled-looking crow. All attention suddenly turned to Holly as she began to jerk violently. Her shadowy appearance darkened more so, and her body seemed to be retreating within itself.
As she was pulled inward, feathers forced their way out of her skin and a hooked beak emerged from her nose. She had transformed into a crow. “Beware, stranded humans. We now possess the power of your appearances, having had an imposter study your movements.
“Transformation is but the simplest aspect of our supremacy,” the crows spoke as one; high and low pitched voices, husky yet alert. Neither voice matched another.
“The ravens won’t protect you. Your lives are already lost.” Wings started flapping in unison.
“We will return in the dark of the night when the sky holds no moon and when the stars retreat in fear of our wake.” The crows moved swiftly and fl ew back in the direction from where they came, leaving five confused and worried souls behind.

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on May 29, 2012

STUDENTS in Calvin Christian School’s Grade 9/10 writers workshop course were given the task of continuing the Mercury’s never-ending story, which is now in its third month.
Teacher and head of humanities, Stelle Carmichael, said the Lovesong of the Crow activity was an incredibly valuable exercise, allowing the students to work together and get excited by all the possible paths the story could take.
“It was fantastic to see that moment in the classroom where, after brainstorming and discussion, students generated a large amount of new ideas and directions for the characters,” Ms Carmichael said. “It was great to see the creative process in action,” she said.
The students wrote in small groups and selected five possible versions of Part 13 for consideration by the Mercury.
Elise Jurasovic and Claudia Zomerdyk were the writers of the version selected. “We really enjoyed writing our chapter,” the girls said. “We came up with our ideas by brainstorming and pulling apart the ideas that were hinted at in the rest of the story,” they said. “We wanted to develop the air of mystery around the crows and reveal more to the reader.”
Claudia and Elise said they had been intrigued by the newly introduced character of Holly. “It was great fun to be able to play with a brand new aspect of the story,” they said.


Part 12

Parklands High School student MELISSA DURANT continues the never-ending story with a plane on the horizon and another character set to re-appear.

THEY all stared in horror as the crows closed in on the plane. “I feel so helpless. What could we do?” Eliza asked in a small voice. “There is nothing we can do from down here,” answered Rourke. “All we can do is wait for it to crash and help any survivors.”
Eliza picked up Alice and held her close as she watched the crows form themselves into a horrific black mass, attacking the wings of the plane from all angles. The aircraft began to erratically descend as the pilot struggled to steady the plane, but the crows were clearly winning the battle.
The wing of the plane made a loud cracking sound and snapped off. “It’s coming straight for us!” Johnny yelled. Rourke starred at the plane spiralling towards them. “Everyone jump into the water!”
Johnny grabbed Eliza’s hand and dragged her to the side of the boat and leapt into the water just as the plane hit the edge of the vessel, ripping a hole in the bottom of the aircraft. The plane flipped over as it collided with the water.
Pleased with their work, the crows flew off to the horizon. “Quick, we have to save any survivors before the crows decide to come back,” Rourke said to the others before swimming to the wreckage.
The group swam to the side of the wreckage and climbed up to where the hole had been made, and dropped down onto what used to be the roof of the plane. “We have to be quick before any more water gets in,” Johnny said.
There was about 30cm of water in the bottom of the plane and more was leaking in from where the wing had broken away. Eliza sat Alice in a dry spot at the front of the plane before checking for signs of life among the passengers.
“Have you found anyone yet Johnny?” Eliza asked while checking the pulse of a young woman. Johnny replied in a frustrated tone, “No, not yet.” Eliza walked over to Johnny and placed her hand on his shoulder, “Don’t worry, we’ll find someone.”
“Hey, Eliza, do you know this guy?” Rourke called out as he inspected a young man who had a striking resemblance to Eliza. Eliza ran as quickly as she could to Rourke. She gasped in horror.
Johnny walked up to the young man hanging from his seat. “Who is he?” he asked.
“He – he’s my brother, Andre.” Eliza tried to contain herself, but she couldn’t help but sob at the sight of her brother. “Is he alive?”
Rourke checked Andre’s pulse again, “Yes, but he is very weak. Johnny, help me cut him down. Eliza, search for some food and supplies.” Eliza took a few moments to gather herself before searching the plane.
Working quickly, Rourke and Johnny were able to cut down two survivors, Andre and a young woman by the name of Holly. Meanwhile, Eliza was able to collect two bags of supplies to take with them. “Okay. Let’s get out of here,” Rourke said in a determined voice.

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on May 22, 2012

ADVANCED English students at Parklands High School in Burnie took on the task of writing this week’s instalment of Lovesong of the Crow.
Teacher Karen Slade said advanced English was an optional subject at Parklands, available to students wanting to extend their knowledge and skills in this area.

“Fifteen out of the 28-strong Grade 9/10 class participated in drafting and writing their own version of part 12, which presented quite a challenge,'” Ms Slade said. “Our students needed to complete the entire writing process within a three-hour time limit,” she said.
All students were supportive of each other and helped with the development of ideas. Students also provided constructive criticism leading to a very high standard of writing, making it difficult to choose which version would be published.

After much deliberation among English teachers, it was impossible for us to make a decision, so we left that to the Mercury’s Damian Bester,” Ms Slade said. His decision reflected our thoughts and it was decided that Melissa Durant’s version of part 12 provided the intrigue and character manipulation we thought provided the perfect open ending for next week’s instalment.”

Melissa confessed it had taken Ms Slade more than a year to convince her to take Advanced English. “I have really enjoyed this subject and am looking to continuing to improve my skills in English,” Melissa said. “I have never considered myself a good writer, so having my part picked was an honour. The support from my fellow classmates was truly inspiring during the writing and editing process.”

Some of Ms Slade’s students will continue to write weekly follow-ups to the never-ending story for use within the school. Hopefully we will produce our own class publication, Ms Slade said.

Part 11

Tarremah Steiner School student ROSALIA LONGERGAN provides some interesting facts about crows in Part II of the never-ending story.

“WELL, you look like a right murder of crows!” said Rourke with an odd, strained chuckle. The crows were standing around them, not quite human, yet not quite bird. Each seemed to have a disfigurement; some still had a wing, others were human-shaped, but still clad in silken black feathers.
Rourke and Eliza were helpless to escape, yet the creatures made no move to hurt them; they just stood, studying them with a regal air, their pointed faces still holding some semblance of beaks.
Eliza’s heart was beating out of control and she felt sick to the stomach. Breathe, she told herself, breathe like dad taught you to: in, out, in, out. She glanced at Rourke, but he was staring at the creatures with a kind of awe. Like her, he was impressed by the dignity they could muster, even with their tattered clothes and dirty faces.
Then a stir went through them, and a woman with a mane of black feathers for hair stepped forward. “A murder? I think not,” her voice was harsh and cawing. “You are more ignorant than I thought, Rourke,” she said, making his name sound like the call of the bird she had been. “We are not even crows; there are no crows in Van Diemens Land. We are ravens, an unkindness of ravens is the correct term.”
“I think that a murder suits you just fine,” Eliza said, louder than she had meant. “We saw you eating the remains of that woman on our plane. We saw you change yourselves into one of us and then back into a crow; it was one of you, I know it was!” She bit her lip, trying to hold back a sudden surge of anger.
An ominous silence stretched on. Finally another of their number began to speak, a man this time, with two sweeping black wings protruding somewhat grotesquely from his shoulder blades.
“That wasn’t us, that was the crows. My sister was incorrect when she said there are no crows. She meant that there weren’t any.” “But there are now,” another picked up the tale. “They came across the strait and invaded, they have spied on us and learnt our secret, but though they can shape-shift they do not have their own human identity, they can only imitate one which they have seen.
“They are mad, and crazed with a thirst for destruction. They’ve been bringing down planes for the past three years and feasting on the wrecks.” “Crows brought down the plane?” came a disbelieving voice from behind them.
Johnny stood in the low doorway to the hold of the ship. Alice lurked behind him, peering out at the creatures with a delighted look on her face, as if she had just landed in a fairytale.
Eliza couldn’t blame her, it was as though they were living in some twisted fantasy.
The woman who had first spoken nodded. “Yes, the crows brought down your plane and many others. They let them drift until the meat is to their liking then they come and devour it.
“Most of those who survive, they take, and change into odd, pitiful imitations of themselves.
Then they use them as spies.” “What about my wife?” said Rourke, surprising them all into silence.
He continued in a low rasping voice, “Did they take her as well? Did they change her?” His face, previously so blank, now showed a strong mixture of horror, desperation and hope. “I’ve been searching for her since our plane sank. I thought she must be dead.” Tears formed in his eyes and he turned his face away, gazing blankly out over the sea.
“Don’t cry,” said a soft voice. It was Alice, walking across the deck towards Rourke. “Don’t cry,” she said again, sending a shiver of suppressed memory down Eliza’s spine.
The small figure reached Rourke and tugged on his hand so he would turn around and look at her. “Rourke,” she began, but the woman with feather hair made a sharp gesture with her hand, cutting the girl off. She cocked her head on one side and pressed a finger to her lips.
A few moments later they all heard it, the excited cawing of crows, and as one they turned towards the sea where a black, flapping cloud was appearing on the horizon. A murder of crows was approaching fast, the cacophony of harsh caws swelling to an unbearable volume.
Eliza grabbed Alice’s hand and dragged her towards the hold and they fled into the darkness of the ship. A few tense moments passed and then they heard Rourke’s voice, “They’ve passed.” The three of them emerged, only to see the cause of the crows’ excitement appearing on the opposite horizon.
It was a plane.

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on May 15, 2012

THE writer of part 11 of Lovesong of the Crow is Tarremah Steiner School Grade 9 student Rosalia Lonergan. Rosalia has loved books ever since she learned to read and now spends most of her spare time reading.
“I wrote my first short story about six months ago and have written three more since,” she said. Rosalia loves writing and says she really enjoyed being part of the Lovesong of the Crow. “It’s been such a good opportunity,” she said.
Her Grade 9/10 English class started by discussing ideas for the next chapter. “We found so many things to pick up on that my biggest challenge was to keep below the word limit,” Rosalia said. “It was a great challenge as we didn’t know what the people who wrote the former chapters had in mind, nor where the next people would take it.”
Rosalia said the writing was very much a group effort. “We all discussed so many ideas and used each other’s ideas. I can’t wait to see where the story goes,” she said.
Thanks to English teacher Helen Sinclair and librarian Judy Moss for their support of the Tarremah students taking part in the never-ending story.

Part 10

St Virgil’s College student JONTY KILLICK continues the never-ending story, following on from the surprise reappearance of the mysterious Rourke aboard the Lovesong of the Crow.

ELIZA collapsed onto the deck of the boat as Johnny, carrying Alice, hastily pulled himself up onto the deck.
Eliza ran to the pair, passing them some towels she had found in the cabin of the boat.
“What happened back there?” Eliza asked anyone who had enough energy to listen.
“They my girl, were shape-shifters,” replied Rourke who stood proudly around the tired and injured trio of Eliza, Johnny and Alice.
“Shape-shifters, but how?” asked Johnny. “I’ll explain later,” Rourke said as he turned away from the group and briskly walked to the controls of the vessel and put it on full speed. Eliza noticed the urgency of his actions as if he was in a hurry to get away from something.
The group spilt up and Johnny snuck off to look around the vessel while Eliza was determined to keep Alice calm as she also tried to keep her own emotions under control.
After being gone for 20 minutes Johnny returned and stumbled over to Eliza, who was sitting next to Alice and comforting her, whispering into her ear.
“Everything is going to be all right,” Eliza muttered over and over again, almost as if she was saying it more to herself than Alice, who was staring intensely into the distance visibly shocked by what she had just seen.
Eliza turned to speak to Johnny when he quickly put a finger to his lips instantly silencing her. Johnny had a hand around his back and Eliza stretched to see what he was holding.
Johnny slowly and silently revealed a rusty pipe with jagged edges and signalled to what Eliza first thought was the cabin but then she noticed he was pointing to Rourke who was still in the cabin driving the boat.
Johnny made a swinging action with the pipe and Eliza”s eyes widened with a mixture of shock, surprise and fear.
As the boat raced towards the shore Johnny silently snuck up behind Rourke. He was holding tight the piece of pipe he had found in the dark, musty engine room that looked like it hadn”t seen maintenance for at least 30 years.
Johnny came within arm”s reach of Rourke. “What are you doing with that, boy?” Rourke said in his dusty, weathered voice.
Johnny jumped back so far that he hit himself in the face with the piece of pipe and his injured nose began bleeding again.
“I know you”re scared but there is no need for that, boy,” Rourke turned around and helped Johnny up to his feet. “Why can”t we take this boat back to Hobart?” Johnny asked.
“Because they”ll get us and you don”t want to mess with them,” Rourke said as he peered out into the distance using a pair of binoculars.
“Who”s them? Do you mean the crows or should I say shape-shifters?” Johnny questioned.
There was a long pause before Rourke turned to look at Johnny. “What”s your name boy? You never told me,” asked Rourke completely out of the blue and choosing to ignore Johnny”s question.
Johnny stared at his feet in frustration. “Johnny, Johnny Dance,” he said in a quiet but forceful voice as he walked out the door leaving Rourke to bask in his own silence.
Rourke anchored the boat just off the shore and decided that the group should stop for a rest and stay safe from the crows.
The four of them travelled into the dark, gloomy, creaking hull of the boat while Eliza was giving glances to Johnny trying to ask what happened earlier with her eyes.
With every tired groan from the boat Alice would curl up even tighter into Eliza”s arms as the two tried to sleep.
When morning came Rourke stood up from his rest and walked away from the group.
He opened the door that led onto the deck of the boat and the light shone in through the door and Eliza woke from her sleep.
Eliza carefully pried Alice off herself and brushed the hair out of the little girl”s eyes as she stood up and wearily walked out onto the deck to find Rourke leaning against a guard rail.
“Can I ask you a question?” asked Eliza as she came up to Rourke and leaned on the same rail. “Sure,” Rourke said, not turning to look at Eliza.
“What was that camera for, back on the tree at the campsite?” said Eliza as she tried to get eye contact with Rourke who seemed nervous.
Rourke took his time to reply. “That camera was to keep an eye out for the shape-shifters,” said Rourke as he looked to the sky.
“Why?” Eliza asked, while furrowing her brow.
“You”re going to find out soon girly,” spat out Rourke as he pointed to the sky and Eliza looked up to see what seemed like hundreds of crows land around her and transform into rugged men and women.

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on May 8, 2012

ADVANCED English students at St Virgil’s College tackled the writing of part 10 of  Lovesong of the Crow. Teacher Cameron Alexander said the class was an elective subject for students with a keen interest in English.
“The class has been studying narrative writing and were keen to utilise their skills in a collaborative writing task,” Mr Alexander said. “All members of the class took part in the writing process by brainstorming possible directions in which the story could be taken. Each then wrote a draft,” he said. “The whole class also supported each other by editing and proof reading each other’s versions.”
The group of Grade 9-10 boys selected the version written by aspiring author Jonty Killick. “When I’m older I want to write books about all sorts of different things. Writing and reading will always be a major part of my life,” Jonty said.
“When I’m reading a good book I can’t take my mind off it and it is all I can think about. I love it when I sit down to read one chapter of a book and end up reading 20.”
Jonty said his class had tried to bring together various threads of the never-ending story. “I tried to include the camera from part two because that was something that could lead off into a new part of the story,” he said.
Jonty said he loved reading and often read a good book multiple times to find hidden secrets, themes and messages. “This is something that I have tried to put into my story by increasing the hidden suspicion behind Rourke and his hidden secret.”

Part 9

Campania District High School students CHLOE BAILEY, JULIE XIONG and LILI NICHOLS teamed up to write part nine of the never-ending story. We find Eliza alone aboard the Lovesong of the Crow … or is she?

TIME slowed, it grew cold and for a moment Eliza’s world was frozen, without feeling.
The only indication of time passing was her heart beating. Eliza felt the presence of someone sneaking up behind her.
A chill ran up her spine. Her instincts kicked in and she turned and swung her fist into a cheekbone. Eliza saw the person only vaguely before she struck them in the groin.
They almost keeled over, but before they could, Eliza shot out a snap kick forcing their chin up. They let out a groan of pain and fell to the ground. Eliza nodded in approval and backed away.
Then she saw the familiar black hair and broad shoulders. Johnny.
“Johnny!” Eliza shouted as she ran to his side. Johnny was a mess! His nose was bleeding, his left cheek was bruised and his hair ruffled; sticking up every which way.
“Johnny, I’m really sorry. I thought you were someone else. You left Alice behind!
“Ah … I’m sorry, but you were taking ages!” he replied.
Eliza helped Johnny to his feet, waiting a few seconds for him to stabilise. They rushed onto the deck, dived into the water and swam back to the plane.
Meanwhile, Johnny peered out a window and saw Eliza with someone. With a shock he realised it was himself. “What the hell?” he muttered, mentally screaming it.
“Alice, go hide in the cockpit. I’ll be there soon.” She nodded and skipped up the aisle, unaware of how serious the situation was.
Johnny took hold of a fire extinguisher and concealed himself by the door. As soon as Eliza and the fake-Johnny climbed up, the real Johnny swung the extinguisher right into the other Johnny’s head.
“Johnny!” Eliza screamed, clapping her hands to her mouth. Johnny grabbed Eliza by the wrist and pulled her away.
Eliza turned and looked up at the Johnny holding her wrist. “Johnny? But then … how …” Eliza turned her attention back to the Johnny lying on the ground. “What’s going on?” “I don’t know, except that’s not me! Eliza, look at his wrist!” Johnny shouted and pointed.
Eliza looked and realised the imposter’s left wrist wasn’t bandaged.
What happened next was odd. The fake-Johnny’s arms transformed into wings, his skin became feathers and bones crunched. He became a crow!
“Shape-shifter,” Johnny whispered. They ran up the aisle of the plane, the crow pursuing them. It cawed, making Eliza and Johnny turn.
They kept retreating, stumbling backwards. The crow was advancing on them when Alice reappeared, hiding her face in Johnny’s legs. He picked the little girl up, holding her to him.
The crow turned away, towards the bodies of those who did not survive the crash. It bent towards a woman’s body.
Johnny tucked Alice’s head into his neck and held Eliza close but forced himself to watch the crow pick at the flesh.
Eliza sobbed against Johnny’s chest. “We’re not getting out of here, are we?” She looked up; he could see the tears on her face.
“We are getting out of here Eliza. I swear.” Looking into his chocolate brown eyes, Eliza believed him.
Eliza twisted her head and looked at Alice, safe in Johnny’s arms. “We need to get you both life jackets,” Eliza spoke softly.
Eliza grabbed two from under the seats closest to them. She passed them to Johnny and Alice, helping the little girl to fasten it.
“Johnny, look after Alice. I’ll swim over to the boat. Once I’m there you guys come and I’ll throw you a rope so that I can pull you in,” Eliza said, sounding fearless.
Johnny nodded and Eliza left. She dove into the freezing water. Shock raced through her body as she looked ahead.
Eliza hauled herself up onto the deck of the boat and forced her frozen muscles to work.
Eliza looked around. Rope! Adrenaline pumped through her body.
She took hold of the rope and threw it out towards Johnny and Alice. Johnny, clasping Alice to his side, grabbed the rope and Eliza began to pull them in. Her strength was fading when a pair of strong hands took the rope, lightening her load.
Eliza turned to find Rourke hauling her friends in.

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on May 1, 2012

CREATIVE writing students at Campania District High School decided to work together on the writing of part nine of  Lovesong of the Crow.

Teacher James Trainer said his class included students from Grades 7 to 10 and he was really impressed with how the group worked on this task. “They discussed a variety of ways in which they felt the story could develop and agreed on a couple of basic things,” Mr Trainer said. “The first was that they thought it was a shame that Rourke was introduced and then disappeared so quickly, that he had a somewhat mysterious appearance that would be interesting to explore further. The second was that they liked the idea of a shapeshifter and as the crows were already a little bit supernatural, this wouldn’t stretch the situation too far.”

The three writers were Grade 9 students Chloe Bailey and Julie Xiong, and Grade 7 student Lili Nichols. Chloe said the tone of the previous chapters had been the biggest influence on her writing. This had been a challenge, as had the combining of various ideas and writing styles. “I feel we have done Lian Tanner and the rest of the Lovesong of the Crow authors proud,” Chloe said.

Julie said she gained inspiration from her own feelings and the events around her, as well as reading and meeting young writers from around the world on In Lovesong of the Crow, she was touched by the bravery of a boy and girl forced to accept responsibilities and problems no-one else their age would have to deal with. “The story is passionate, inspiring and for every word we wrote, we wanted to know how their story ends,” Julie said.

Lili said books played a big part in her life and she enjoyed reading for fun as well as to improve her literacy and English. She enjoyed reading the previous chapters written by students from other schools. “By reading someone else’s story you can see how your writing passion is like theirs,” Lili said.