Part 17

Triabunna District High School student JOBELLE ROSCAS continues the never-ending story, following on from the sudden reappearance of the murderous crows and leading to a most surprising cliff-hanger.

THE crows fluttered above them, circling them and looming closer and closer. Eliza frantically scanned the bushes as the crows closed in on them. Their cawing filled the air as feathers danced down and landed on the ground.
Eliza’s eyes fell on Andre, a crumpled heap on the ground, fear reflecting in his eyes. He could barely walk without assistance there was no way he could run on his own, and for such a long distance.
“Rourke!” Eliza yelled, straining to be heard above the birds’ chaos. “Rourke!” “What is it, girl?” Rourke yelled back as he swiped madly at a daring bird that broke off from the murder of crows and flew right above his head.
“Andre! How is he?” Eliza’s voice trailed off as Andre lifted himself to his feet, the pain showing on his face. “Don’t worry,” he said through gritted teeth. “I can run. Just go. Go, Eliza!” The crows had flown closer and were now just metres from their heads. Their cawing had grown louder and more anxious.
Rourke grabbed Alice and put her on his back, disappearing into the bushes, throwing a cautious glance behind him. His mouth moved frantically, mumbling an inaudible prayer.
Johnny stood at the edge of the clearing, a handful of birds circling above him. Andre hobbled off in the direction Rourke had disappeared, and now it was just Eliza in the clearing with the birds above her, thirsting for her flesh and blood.
She pushed fear aside and took off, passing Johnny and running beside Andre, who was puffing heavily. The birds didn’t seem to follow, but the group left a wake of destruction behind as they sought safety in the forest.
The sun had long set, and now they were guided by patches of light from the moon. It seemed like hours passed as they ran endlessly before Rourke came to an abrupt stop and held up a hand to silence the group.
They all paused in their steps and held their breath, willing their ears to hear. The crows’ distinctive cawing had faded to a stop, and all that could be heard was the wind riffling through treetops, and somewhere in the distance, the ocean’s sighing.
Rourke slid Alice off his back and placed her gently on the ground. He slumped up against a tree, head down and hands on his knees. All around him, Eliza, Johnny, Alice and Andre dropped to the ground, exhausted.
“I think… ” Rourke panted, “…I think we’re safe here.” Eliza pushed herself up and looked around. They were deep in the forest, the trees forming a canopy above them. They were on an upward slope, halfway up a hill. Patches of moonlight miraculously made it through the trees.
In the moonlight, she eyed Alice, whose tears glistened on her cheeks; Rourke, a tired and broken man; Andre, face stricken with pain; and Johnny. The first signs of defeat showed in his eyes.
“We’re safe here,” she agreed. “But we do need to get some sleep. You all rest up. I’ll keep an eye on things.” Before they could disagree, Alice’s little voice piped up. “My leg… it’s bleeding,” she whispered. “And I’m thirsty. And hungry. And I want to go home!” Alice sobbed as tears dripped down her face and she swiped madly at them with the back of her hand.
Her little body shook as her sobs grew louder. Johnny draped an arm around her and inspected her wounds.
“In the morning, one of us has to go back. Grab some food, water and supplies from the campsite,” Rourke said in a determined voice. “The crows won’t know you’re coming.
They won’t bother you, so long as the sun is up.” Johnny got up. “I’ll do it,” he said. Eliza nodded.
“Okay. Get some rest. I’ll stay up,” she said. They nodded reluctantly, and closed their eyes. Eliza hugged her knees to her chest and waited for the sun to burn a hole in the horizon.
Her eyes grew heavy, but she willed herself to stay awake. Every little noise the forest made frightened her and almost made her jump out of her skin.
Every now and then, she’d catch shadows fleeting from tree to tree. She could feel eyes watching her.
Suddenly in the distance, a branch snapped and a body fell to the ground.
To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on June 26, 2012

CREATIVE writing students at Triabunna District High School were asked to write chapter 17 of Lovesong of the Crow. “The class started by reading previous chapters, which is getting to be a lengthy process, and brainstorming possible options for the next chapter,” teacher Michelle Luck said. “The introduction of fantasy elements in the previous few chapters has introduced a challenge,” Ms Luck said.
From a shortlist provided by the school, the work of Grade 10 student Jobelle Roscas was selected for publishing. While she is an avid reader and writer, poetry is usually her preferred format.
“My favourite authors are Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Charles Bukowski, John Green and Nicole Krauss,” Jobelle said. What I read influences how I write,” she said.
Jobelle said participating in the Lovesong of the Crow project was interesting to write because she got to experiment with suspense and dialogue, which don’t usually feature prominently in her writing.
Jobelle also loves music. She plays guitar and piano and listens to the Beatles, Bon Iver, Noah and the Whale and Sia. In the future she hopes to travel all through Europe and see Anne Frank’s annex in Amsterdam.

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Part 16

Hilliard Christian School students SARAH PERRY, LUCY De VRIES and CATHERINE LAMONT present Part 16 of the never-ending story. They take us back to the south-west, finding Johnny, Alice, Eliza, Andre and Rourke in a dinghy following the sinking of the Lovesong of the Crow.

IN a desperate rush, Eliza left Andre’s side to help man the oars. Alice curled up against Johnny. “Are we going to die?” she whimpered. Johnny quelled her fears in a heartbeat, and held her close.
Rourke briskly pushed Eliza aside, taking the oars himself. Eliza, after seeing to Andre’s comfort, confronted the burly Irishman. “What do we do know?” she demanded, “The crows said they were coming back for us. Are we going to die?”
Rourke began mumbling under his breath. “Before you lot came along I was fine,” he muttered to himself, “but I can’t just leave ’em behind.” His sentence trailed off.
The yellow dinghy came safely to shore. Alice was carried off gently by Rourke, while Johnny helped Andre disembark and Eliza carried off supplies. Everyone was tired hungry and baffled. Rourke led the way to his campsite, and laid the peacefully sleeping Alice inside the tent.
Outside, there was a crow cawing, and a black feathery mass landed on Rourke’s shoulder. He crooned softly to the bird and stoked its pitch breast. Eliza exchanged a quick glance with her brother and Johnny.
“So what are we going to do?” Johnny asked nervously. “You heard the crow, they’ll be back by nightfall, and we haven’t got long. We have to do something, or we will die.” He choked out the last word.
“There”s nothing we can do,” Rourke said forcefully. “The crows will pick us off one by one, and there ain’t a damn thing we can do about it.”
“But there must be something,” Andre whined desperately. “Don’t you have weapons?”
Rourke barked out a harsh laugh, startling the bird on his shoulder. “Boy, don’t you think that if I had weapons I would have used them by now? Besides in the months I’ve been here I ain’t seen anything that has killed a crow.
“And I’ve tried. Rocks, drowning, mutilation, strangling. Nothin’, there”s nothin’ you can do. We’re finished.” A depressed silence hung in the air. The sun was sinking faster than they would have liked.
Rourke was about to get a fire started when Eliza”s scarily calm voice came forth. “There is something we can do,” she said softly. All eyes were immediately on her. “I’ve figured it out!” A tense moment passed.
“Tell us Eliza!” Johnny said, twisting his hands anxiously in his lap. “The only thing that can kill a crow is a crow,” she whispered, barely audible. “We need the ravens.”
“How on earth do you suppose we can just get the ravens?” Johnny asked in serious tone. Eliza shrugged and replied: “I was thinking, we could just ask.”
“But how?”
“Rourke”s raven of course!” Rourke looked up to the dark figure on his shoulder. “Go get the rest of ’em, me lassie,” he burred in a gentle tone and with that the bird flew off. The group looked at the bird as it swiftly flew away.
All of a sudden, the stars began to fade and disappear entirely and Rourke’s bird returned to the safety of his shoulder. “Its the ravens!” Andre cried ecstatically, pointing to the shimmering mass.
“They”ve come to help!” Alice added. Rourke shook his head sadly. “That ain’t the ravens, kids. RUN!”
To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on June 19, 2012

THREE students in the Hilliard Christian School Grade 10 English class were chosen by their teacher and principal, Susan Matthews, to participate in the writing of the Lovesong of the Crow. Students Catherine Lamont, Lucy de Vries and Sarah Perry were given time in class to work together to produce something that was able to be used in this never ending story.
They were chosen because of their love for novels and their enthusiasm for writing compelling stories in their creative writing classes.
They were given the option to either work as individuals or as a group. “We decided to be a group because we could put all our ideas together and come up with a great story,” Lucy said. Sarah said this hadn’t been easy, as the girls had such different ideas and it was hard keeping everyone happy. “But we did it in the end and we are really happy with the outcome,” Catherine said.
“All the girls love a challenge, so this project was great for the three of them,” Mrs Matthews said. “They enjoyed working together to create part 16 of this story and are looking forward to seeing where the story will lead,” she said.

Part 15

Huonville High School student FRANCES VELNAAR continues the exploration of the backstory of Johnny, one of the lead characters of the never-ending story. Johnny’s mother awaits his return at the airport, unaware that his plane has crashed, but fearing the worst.

AN hour later, the uniformed man walked back into the airport waiting room and Fiona Dance knew something was terribly wrong.
“We have lost all contact with the flight. We we will inform you when more information comes to hand,” he said before abruptly turning away, leaving no time for questions.
Fiona felt a twist in her stomach, as a cold fear set in. She sat down at the small cafe and ordered a coffee; coffee always helped her with shock.
Around her the airport faded into the background as her mind drifted over Johnny’s life.
It was a cold winter”s night; snow was packed in massive drifts along the walls of their small cottage in the suburbs of London.
The ivy that covered the red brick walls sparkled in the faint moonlight, for now the moon could be seen high above the slate roofs and the stars twinkled with untold stories of far off galaxies.
The snow that had been falling steadily for the past three days had stopped and Fiona had decided that despite the late hour, a walk in the park would be nice nothing but her and the moon.
The baby in her stomach kicked softly as if to remind her that he was there too. A soft smile danced on her lips as she pulled on her red woollen beanie and buttoned up her coat over her large stomach.
Stepping out into the icy evening air, Fiona snuggled down into her coat and walked along the side walk to St John’s Park. The wrought iron gates stood ajar and she slipped in, walking among the snow covered willows and pines.
Up ahead by the fountain, she sat on the small bench. Fiona breathed deeply, savouring the sweet clear air that filled her lungs. Everything was perfect then her water broke. It took five minutes for Michael to arrive and once they got to the hospital another 12 hours for baby Johnny to be born.
When she first held him, Fiona looked into his eyes and felt immense love. Something she could never forget. On Johnny’s fourth birthday they sat around the kitchen table. Johnny was drawing with his set of crayons.
His brow was furrowed with intense concentration, humming a made-up song as he worked, looking so much like Michael. She ruffled his already messy hair and Johnny looked up at her, an exasperated frown spread across his face.
“Mummy, you can’t do that! Remember? I”m all grown up now!” he sighed.
She felt a warm feeling of happiness swell inside her. The doorbell rang, Fiona walked down the dimly lit hallway. She opened the door to find Michael standing outside, travel bag in hand, crooked smile, and a glint in his bright eyes.
A small cry escaped her lips and she flew into his arms, he held her tightly, stroking her curly hair. “I’ve missed you,” he whispered. She snuggled closer.
Johnny ran down the hall, delight on his sweet little face. He flung himself into his father”s open arms and Michael twirled him around.
In that moment her life was perfect, her family was together, and Johnny was smiling.
The next few years were a blur of arriving, packing, and leaving. At first she didn”t notice Johnny”s withdrawal.
He gave up football, and then he didn’t have friends over. When finally aware of his plight, he was too far removed from her and Michael to access.
She hated herself for not noticing Johnny was struggling. She was not the only one who missed Michael. She should have paid attention to Johnny. All those little arguments paled in comparison to the fear of losing him.
She wished, with every fibre of her being that she had made Michael stay home; made him love his son. Her sweet Johnny, always so quiet and charming, now she feared he was lost to her, gone forever.
She sobbed, burying her head in her hands as sorrow over took her. The pain in her chest was so great that when her phone rang she barely managed to pick it up. It was Michael.

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on June 12, 2012

WRITING part 15 of the Lovesong of the Crow has renewed Huonville High School student Frances Velnaar’s enthusiasm for learning.
Frances is a Grade 10 student and a keen horse rider who has represented the school successfully as part of the equestrian team.
She also enjoys singing and dancing, loves story writing and is an avid reader.
Frances says her initial high school experience was somewhat dispiriting until she moved to Huonville High.
“Since coming to Huonville High School I’ve been given so much encouragement and enthusiasm for my work,” Frances said.
As a result, she now writes more than ever and took on the never-ending story challenge at the suggestion of Huonville High’s head of literacy and English, Monicka Lee.
Frances found it fun and exciting to be part of a great team of student authors.

Part 14

Clarence High School student CLAIRE BOOTHROYD takes the never-ending story back to day one, finding Johnny’s mother waiting to collect him from
the airport after his scenic flight.

FIONA Dance had timed her day almost perfectly. She had left her hectic Hobart office with just enough time to arrive at the airfield a few minutes before her son Johnny”s flight was scheduled to land.
Her mind was buzzing with all the usual thoughts her hassles at work, the lasagne she had forgotten to remove from the freezer that morning, plus the added problem of what she could find to keep Johnny occupied for the rest of the school holidays.
She was pleased with herself for arranging the scenic flight. It was a struggle to find something that interested Johnny and even harder to book him a seat at such short notice.
Fiona arrived at the airport and took a seat inside the reception area overlooking the tarmac. Like many aspects of Tasmania, it was small. They had been living in the state for almost a year and although she was settled, Fiona still missed the familiarity and excitement of Sydney.
The upbeat vibe of the harbour city fuelled her personality and she enjoyed the company of a wide circle of friends.
Fiona relaxed against the back of her chair and tried to unwind. Looking around, she noticed there were few others in the building, but presumed they were waiting in their cars with the heaters turned on full.
She briefly glanced at her watch. The plane must be late, she thought.
Thinking back to that morning, she remembered the pilot, Pete, reassuring the passengers and families that if the weather was bad they would take the safer, but longer, coastal route. Fiona resigned herself to a longer wait and flicked through a travel brochure to pass the time.
A picture of a smiling couple overlooking Freycinet National Park reminded her of her husband, Michael. When they first met, Michael”s plans were few and carefree, and he and Fiona had spent more than a year travelling through Europe together. That was up until Michael was offered a “fantastic opportunity”” and they moved to Perth so he could start his new job.
Since then, there had been countless new houses in just as many new cities but the nature of Michael”s job meant he was always flying interstate and across the globe.
Fiona understood how much Michael valued such a high profile occupation but he had spent so little time with Johnny they barely knew each other.
Fiona worried that his father”s absences and the regular changes of home was having a negative effect on Johnny. With each move, Johnny became more isolated at school and seemed to make less of an effort to make friends.
Unlike his father, Johnny showed no interest in football and preferred individual hobbies such as photography and sketching. He loved building models, especially aircraft, and Fiona suspected this was partly the reason he had chosen to take the flight.
Fiona checked her watch again. The time was 5.05pm. The plane was more than half an hour late. Fiona sensed that the other people waiting were also puzzled by the delay. She stood up and walked over to one of the large windows.
In the darkening sky, clouds were changing and forming wild shapes and a large black raven soared in the wind currents.
Outside, two uniformed men were in what looked like a tense discussion. Judging by the body language and distance between the two, Fiona could tell they were almost shouting at one another.
Feeling intrusive, Fiona looked away. Only a few seconds later, one of the two men burst into the reception area and seeing the perplexed expressions on the faces of those waiting, quickly composed himself and attempted to flatten his wind-ruffled hair.
“Excuse me ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “I am here to inform you about the delay of plane 416. Unfortunately we are having problems contacting the pilot via radio and the aircraft is out of mobile phone range. We are doing all that we can to establish contact. We apologise for the wait and we will keep you informed.”
The man, whose badge read “manager” kept talking. He sounded as if he had memorised the whole book of Flight Incident Procedures.
But Fiona Dance had already turned away. The pinched look of worry on the man”s face and the slight tremble in his voice, as he recited the last sentence had sown a seed of fear in her mind.
A feeling of dread washed over her.

To be continued

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on June 5, 2012

THE author of part 14 of Lovesong of the Crow hopes one day to be the writer and illustrator of children’s books. Clarence High School student Claire Boothroyd worked on her chapter of the never-ending story as part of an individualised learning program in her Grade 9 English class.
“I have always loved reading and I am often looking for new novels in the library and bookstores,” Claire said. Her favourite authors are Melina Marchetta, Randa Abdel-Fattah, Jackie French, and when she was younger, Roald Dahl.
“I love bush walking so the setting of  Lovesong of the Crow really appealed to me,” Claire said. “I also love drawing and would one day like to write and illustrate a children’s book.”
Claire said.
Grade 9 English teacher Denise Bryant said Claire had excellent writing skills and used a range of vocabulary in her writing to create imagery for her audience. Claire and her teacher had the added challenge of completing this week’s chapter during the very busy period of NAPLAN testing.