Part 20

Montrose Bay High School student GRACE ADAMS introduces newcomer Harry to the rest of the characters in Part 20 of the never-ending story.

AFTER a long night of restlessness and flashbacks Andre gave his muscles a long-awaited stretch and discovered the pain in his joints wasn’t completely healed, but greatly improved from the adrenaline-rushed day before.
He smelt the dampness in the air that would soon dry up due to the relentless scorching sun. But his attention was soon focussed on the uninvited muddy figure asleep on the ground, contentedly snoring.
Andre squinted, trying to decipher who he was. It sure wasn’t Johnny, who appeared from a pathway in the bushes nursing the first aid kit, some chocolate bars and other supplies in his arms.
“Snickers bar?” he chirped. Andre nodded and caught the bar that Johnny tossed to him. Andre then pointed to Harry who was covered in the warmth of Eliza’s jacket, draped over him.
Johnny’s cheeky smile transformed into a bitter frown. He darted over to the boy and carelessly kicked him in the shin. Harry shot awake, groaning and clutching his leg.
“Who are you?!” Johnny yelled, waking Rourke, Alice and Eliza. Harry was gazing at Johnny with a face lost of all expression.
He blurted out the first thing that came to mind: “Well good morning to you too.” Johnny was going to put his alpha male role into full-drive by punching him, but Eliza prevented this by explaining his presence. “Johnny, this is.” Her mind trailed back to last night to try to recover some memory.
“It’s Harry,” he answered, stroking his leg failing to heal the impact. Eliza continued, “He had a bad fall last night while you were asleep. So he just made himself at home.” “Yeah, the plane I was on crashed as well. I was the only survivor and I’ve been trying to look for some signs of civilisation for days,” Harry explained.
Eliza looked at him with a somewhat sympathetic smile. Nevertheless, Johnny didn’t take his eyes off Harry, not even to blink. Rourke’s husky lilt penetrated the silence. “So, we got another one huh? Too bad I’ve only got limited supplies.”
Alice then sprung to life, eagerly making her way towards Rourke. “How come you were yelling my name in your sleep?” Rourke looked at her with fl ickering eyes that were trying to fight off tears.
“I’ll probably never get to see my daughter again,” he answered. “The isolation and survival against the crows has changed me. I don’t think she’ll accept me for what I’ve become.”
“But you … Alice …. you’re the second chance I need.” His words trailed off in the gentle morning breeze as Alice wrapped her juvenile arms around his cold ageing body.
“Well, how come nobody’s come and tried to rescue us?” Andre helplessly asked, not really desiring an answer. “That’s the million dollar question, boy,” Rourke replied.
No one observed Harry edging away and slipping into the bushes. He quickly trekked around the back of the hill where two mangy crows stood waiting for him.
“Were they gullible enough to believe you?” one croaked, picking at the ground with its deadly talons. “Aw yeah, they bought it straight away …. the wool’s pulled way over their eyes.” Harry shook with diminished confidence.
“You don’t sound so sure boy. Remember you’re one of our elites. Just lead them down to Grimly Point like you always do. Wait until the night sky bares not even a speck of light and hand them over to us to take care of. Remember if you betray us we will take your life away just as quickly as you gave it to us.”
But Harry’s attention was fi xed on something else. In his mind he could see Eliza, her fl owing chestnut hair about her shoulders and her sweet intelligent smile.
But his daydream was cut short by the crows’ gravelly voices. “Do you understand Harry?” “Huh? Oh yeah, I’ll …. I’ll lead them there,” he said with dread and apprehension.
To be continued

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

STUDENTS at Montrose Bay High School took a co-operative approach to writing Part 20 of the never-ending story. While most participating schools have dedicated one solid week to the project, Grade 8 students under English teacher Anne Wilson spent two months on a thorough investigation.
They met twice weekly to deconstruct the published chapters, making notes on plot, theme, character, setting and style. Ms Wilson was impressed with the level of critical inquiry taking place during these sessions.
“There were intense discussions and the students constantly revisited earlier chapters to ensure their chapter would be consistent with earlier events,” Ms Wilson said. “The group set and kept to a tight schedule, including putting in some hours after school,” she said.
A vote was taken to select a shortlist and this was followed by a final editing session with everyone contributing suggestions. The version selected by the Mercury was written by Grace Adams, who acknowledges that her writing very much reflects the whole group’s efforts. The students are interested in continuing to meet to discuss ensuing chapters.

The rest of the Montrose Bay High writing team

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Part 19

With all the characters fast asleep after fleeing the crows, MacKillop Catholic College student RACHEL HAY digs into the background of the mysterious and aloof Rourke in Part 19 of the never-ending story.

ROURKE’S world slowly melted into blackness as the tide of sleep lapped upon him. In his dreams he painfully relived memories that he had suppressed long ago.
Asleep, Rourke was happy. He lived a normal life that was peaceful and stable. He grew old with his wife beside him as they raised their daughter. But dreams only last a short time, if they occur at all.
His dream began to dissolve at the edges. His sleeping body twitched and tugged on the earth beneath him. When the picture in his mind reformed he was sitting in a small aircraft, clutching at his vinyl arm rests as the plane jostled and plunged towards the sea.
A few hurried words were uttered by the pilot as the passengers around him tried to tighten their seat belts with shaking hands.
Rourke tried to resign himself to the obvious: the plane was going down; they were going to die. He thought of his young daughter and a wave of sadness washed over him.
His job involved spending more days of the year travelling than at home, leaving him feeling like he hardly knew her.
He was relieved knowing he had assigned her guardianship to his father in the event that anything should go wrong. Rourke turned to the figure beside him, her long, golden hair billowing over her shoulders in a frenzied way. Their eyes locked as his wife mouthed the word “goodbye”.
Rourke’s sleeping body thrashed about, growing sweaty despite the cold, as he willed his mind not to replay the terrible memory. Despite the horrific scene the briny water gently lapped upon the shore in a calming way.
Bleeding bodies, doors thrown from their hinges and dismantled ceiling panels all formed the scene of carnage that Rourke witnessed as his senses slowly returned to him.
He was suddenly aware of heaving breaths next to him. His cuts and aching muscles, which he’d never known he possessed before that day, became immaterial and were replaced by a growing sense of dread.
Next to him his wife lay sprawled across the seat, fuselage debris protruding from her chest. A raven flew through a smashed window and perched itself upon a seat.
Rourke began willing his wife to hold on, cradling her in his arms. He moved his eyes around the cabin searching for something, anything that might be of help.
His eyes had completed one full circle when they rested on the raven, his face lined with concern and anguish. The raven cawed loudly and rustled its feathers as its body began convulsing.
Rourke watched, entranced, as the raven slowly took the shape of a human. It spoke in a soft voice, rolling the ends of each word. “My name is Musta. Do not dwell on my transformation,” it said. “Your wife will soon pass from this world to the next. I can save her but she will never be yours again. Make your decision quickly.”
Rourke stared blankly at the commanding creature then looked to the delicate body in his arms, the older image of their three year old daughter,nte who only minutes ago was so full of life.
“Save her,” he begged in a gravelly voice. His wife was no longer the woman he had known. Part human, part raven, her hair had been replaced with black feathers and her nose and chin had a beak-like aspect.
Musta nudged her and the two morphed into their full raven form. Musta flew from the cabin, his wings outstretched. The newly formed raven gave Rourke a parting glance and soared away, clutching a piece of tattered paper in her beak, leaving Rourke speechless.
Rourke cried out into the night air as tears rolled down his face, washing away the accumulated dirt. A montage of his favourite memories with his bubbly wife and their sandy-haired child ensued.
Each memory opened his wound further, leaving him breathless. For a moment, he was happy, in this dream world with them, but soon the picture of his wife faded to greyness. His daughter followed, skipping away.
In a state of half dreaming, half waking he begged his daughter to return, calling her name. “Alice!”
To be continued

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

MACKILLOP Catholic College student Rachel Hay is the author of part 19 of Lovesong of the Crow. As part of a short story unit, Rachel’s Grade 9 class had already been asked to write a suspenseful, gothic horror story this year. English teacher Sharyn Wilson said the Mercury’s never-ending story project provided the perfect opportunity for an extension challenge.
“Rachel is an entirely independent writer, with both personal discipline and well developed skills,” Ms Wilson said. “Her contribution to the story has been almost word perfect from its inception,” she said.
Rachel said she liked to have a good idea of what she is going to write before she starts. “It’s never ‘stream of consciousness’ writing. I’m a planner, but once the essential points are fixed, then the words flow freely,” she said.
After analysing the previous chapters, detailing the characters and settings and looking for unanswered questions, Rachel set to work on her instalment with the aim of filling in background information and providing a hook for future chapters.
“In the future I’d love to go to university and also see more of the world. I’d like a career that includes writing, but also, as a sideline I’d like to write books,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed reading anything I could get my hands on.”

Part 18

Tasmanian eSchool student CLODAGH SIMMS introduces a new character and a whole new aspect to the story in Part 18 of the never-ending story. Where will it lead?

THE cold air had stung Harry’s skin as his eyes analysed the dim mangle of overgrown grass and vegetation. His hands tightly gripped the branch that barely held his weight.
The prominent sound of footsteps below signified the beginning of a new capture, one he inevitably had to make.
Harry detested the crows and was regrettably on their side. There were more captives like him, although he had only ever seen them briefly before they were imprisoned.
An older lady, with a thick Irish accent was the most memorable. Harry clearly recalled her frightened eyes peering into his as she swiftly moved towards him.
He noticed a note concealed beneath her shaking hands as she gently placed it in his pocket. Harry could barely read and he had never trusted anyone to ask what was written on it.
Harry found it hard to concentrate as his imagination increased and the constant memories of his family invaded his mind. Sitting silently above the world, reminiscing about life before the crows, gave him a sense of freedom.
Consumed with thoughts, Harry was oblivious to the branch that was gradually breaking, until his body hit the ground.
Winded by the impact, his eyes opened wide as he urgently gasped for air. The moist air soothed his throat as his eyes located the branch he fell from.
Beyond the forest, a mass of stars was revealed before his eyes quickly moved towards the opposite tree.
Eliza stared; a gentle and comforting smile steadily appeared on her slightly dazed face.
Harry’s eyes closed for an instant before springing back to life. Her hand touched his as she attempted to lift him to his feet.
From a distance, Harry’s facial features did not resemble a teenager, as frown lines were evident and his face was covered in scratches and mud. But when Eliza could see him clearly, it was evident he was her age if not younger.
Eliza had no reason to trust him; if she wasn’t so tired she probably wouldn’t have, but he didn’t seem like a threat.
“Are you ok? That was quite a fall,” Eliza asked as her eyes examined the figure.
“Yep… fine.” His brief words cut the air like a knife. Eliza stood, not completely aware that she was staring. His facial features gradually relaxed.
“What am I doing? It’s my job. I want to live like everyone else… you take them and everything is alright,” Harry muttered, completely unaware Eliza could hear him as clear as day.
“What’s your job?” she asked sternly. Harry looked into her eyes; he didn’t want to capture these people. The crows were monstrous creatures with nothing but self-interest and cruelty in mind.
He walked briskly over to the tree and lay back. The sky was beautiful; if only he could have enjoyed the spectacle. It was quiet for some time before Eliza spoke. “You can talk to me; I trust you,” she said with a defiant nod.
“I am supposed to capture you all and return you to the crows. It’s not the first time.
Usually, I befriend them and earn their trust… then turn them in.” This is what Harry’s mind wanted to admit, but his mouth refused.
“My plane crashed just like yours; they were about to take me. I pleaded, told them I would help them if they would leave me be. What sort of a person sacrifices the lives of others to keep his own?” Harry asked himself silently, unable to reach a conclusion.
Unable to answer Eliza’s questions, Harry closed his eyes and slowly drifted off to sleep, wondering whether he should take them to the crows or save their lives.
Was it a sacrifice he was willing to make?
To be continued

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

THE author of part 18 of Lovesong of the Crow is Clodagh Simms. She is in Grade 10 at Sheffield School and studies creative writing via an online course through the Tasmanian eSchool.
Clodagh is passionate about the environment and her favourite subjects are biology and mathematics. She would like to incorporate her love of nature and writing into a novel or picture book.
“Writing a chapter of Lovesong of the Crow was an incredible opportunity and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment,” Clodagh said. “I love writing and like the concept of creating characters and emotions that evoke people’s imagination and gives them an opportunity to put their own interpretation on a story.”
Clodagh is an avid reader; her favourite authors are Jackie French, Michael Leunig and Tim Winton. Her greatest ambition is to become an environmental scientist and eventually teach the subject.
Rachel Page from the Tasmanian eSchool teaches Clodagh online, and communication occurs via email which can be more challenging than working face to face. “I was impressed with Clodagh’s ability to take on advice and respond quickly in a short time frame,” Ms Page said. “The process of workshopping the episode online was an excellent learning opportunity, emulating what many professional writers and editors do,” she said. “This inspiring project provides strong motivation and a real purpose for the students.”