Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fear and loathing in the lost forest - Judge's report by Kathy White

I was quite horrified when I was given the job of writing a horror story. Blimey – horror. Horror stories are about fear, revenge and death. They often involve something evil, and they can involve folklore and supernatural creatures like vampires and zombies, but they don’t have to. The only thing they have to do is scare you. Particularly clever authors like Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dahl do that through unexpected twists and turns. How many of you have read those spooky 'Tales of the Unexpected'?

Writing a horror story was quite a challenge for me. And I loved it. I might even do it again.

As for you, you had a heap of fun with this genre. You invented golden spiders that bite grizzlies, creatures called blood-carvers and billyongs, gossbind flowers, and burglar berries.

You also created great settings with spine-tingling imagery. Bryn wrote about the sound of something swaying above him. The image of thousands of limp bodies hanging in the trees will stay with me for a long time. Mikayla described trees that were so tall there wasn’t a dash of daylight to be seen. Matilda wrote about “mossy trunks swooping like an elephant’s tail.” Absolutely beautiful.

The funniest line came from Matilda Clack (who also wrote a lot of gory things in her story): "...he was killing another female creature who you could say was quite pretty and by the way they were married. He was dicing up her head and choking it down his gob like it was a very normal thing to do.”

Tim had a great ending featuring razor-sharp antlers; Matthew’s featured boiling caramel blood melting Um Bongo’s skin and insides; Arabella’s character woke up to find a moose brain on the bedside table.

I think Room 20 of Maungawhau School must have been working on writing dialogue, because there were great examples of it in lots of stories. Jamie Eglinton and Seth Schultz combined action, sounds, and dialogue with some nice pacing and lovely detail.

There was certainly no shortage of horrible things happening in your stories. Just remember that sometimes you’re better to have fewer things and more build-up of tension in your story. Then when you get to the most exciting bit, it has greater impact.

With horror, people don’t get to live happily ever after. Terrible things happen, and just when you think it can’t get any worse, the worst thing imaginable happens. But of course, the great thing about any genre is that there are always new twists on a theme.

Annabelle Ritchie (Balmacewen Intermediate) wrote an unusual story with an almost comical feeling to it. Finding a fridge in the middle of nowhere was the first clue that this story was going to be a 'tale of the unexpected.' It made the murderous events near the end seem extraordinary. Annabelle, I'm awarding you the prize this week because you have a spectacular imagination. Well done.

Read on for my horror story and listen to the audio recording of Wolf Tracker. Click the WINNERS button at the top of the page to read Annabelle’s story.

Wolf Tracker

By Kathy White

Wolf lifted the bottle to his lips and gulped the purple liquid.

‘You’re sure this will help?’ He looked down at the shantaram creature.

Monduro nodded. His hair shimmered in the sunlight, like the leaves of the fluorescent pukaheke tree.

Wolf wiped his mouth on his sleeve, leaving a purple stain on his shiny camo shirt. The berry juice had a strange cinnamon smell.

‘How long will it give me?’

The shantaram slurred his words as if speaking was painful. ‘From sssuunnnriiiiisse … to … ssssset.’

The sun had already risen through the fog, making the rim of the canyon glow like hot metal. Wolf slung his camera bag around his neck and under one arm, and secured it using a bandalayer stud.

Monduro dropped over the edge, his short legs dancing on the scree all the way to the canyon floor. Wolf’s descent was less graceful. He’d trekked Moratti Mountains during the Roar of hairy moonstock. He’d even probed Thompson’s Swamp to find giant koura fossils, but he’d never been into the canyon and The Lost Forest. It was like another planet.

‘I wouldn’t be doing this damn fool thing now if it wasn’t for the bounty,’ he thought. He lost focus for a second as the scree moved like marbles under his feet and he tumbled the last 50 metres, landing with a crunch.

‘Get upppp!’ Monduro snapped. ‘Plenty of time to sssssleeeeeep when you deaddddd.’

Wolf’s eyes opened wide in alarm. ‘Get a grip, Wolf,’ he thought. ‘The creature’s joking.’ He shook his head. The Over Council’s experiments on these creatures had never uncovered a sense of humour.

He flicked his moose-tracker out of his pocket to check that the liquid crystal display screen hadn’t broken. The hairs on his arms were glittering. The pukaheke berry juice was working.

The hours passed. Eyes watched them from the trees. Birds swooped for a closer look, but he was shimmering now. There was nothing to tell them he was an intruder.

Wolf stopped and touched the deep antler rubbings on a brodirusa tree. They were higher than him. And they weren’t old.

His pocket vibrated.

Wolf nearly dropped the device in his excitement.

The moose-tracker had activated.

‘We’ve got one!’ Wolf said to Monduro.

The shantaram squatted and pointed to hundreds of silver fluorescent pellets, shiny and rounded at one end like stumpy bullets.

‘Hang on,’ said Wolf. ‘The moose poo that I saw in the museum was brown. This looks like candy.’

Monduro stared at him. ‘Carrrr … rots.’

‘What?’ Wolf said.

Monduro pointed into the sky. ‘Big birds … drop carrr …rots.’

Wolf frowned. The language barrier was bigger than he’d expected. He wiped the sweat off his forehead.

A screech made him turn but there wasn’t enough time to duck. Sharp claws slashed at his head. He covered his face with his arms and screamed as a beak tore out a chunk of flesh.

Monduro called out a warning and the bird retreated.

Wolf’s hands shook as he wrapped his bandanna around the arm wound. ‘YOU SAID the juice would PROTECT ME.’ He spat the words out as if they were venom. ‘If this is protection, I might as well be on my own!’

Monduro tapped his head. ‘Inside betrrrraaaayys you.’

‘Yeah, right.’ Wolf growled. He knew exactly what he was doing.

The last six chocolate moose had been chased over the canyon edge 50 years ago by exterminators. The moose were untouchables - introduced animals that had no place on Planet FaBo. But that was before scientists discovered that the chocolate moose carried a rare and valuable gene and FaBo2 Geographic slapped a million dollar bounty on its rediscovery. That money had Wolf’s name on it. No doubt.

Wolf touched his scalp. It was sticky but it wasn’t gushing blood. He just felt woozy. He waved a hand to show Monduro he wanted to carry on.

‘We have to find this thing and get out of here,’ said Wolf. ‘I have a date with a robocopter.’

‘Ro .. bo ..’

‘It doesn’t matter what it is. Just find me the moose.’

Monduro lifted a horn to his lips and blew. The noise was a mixture of grunts and moans that echoed through the forest. It gave Wolf the creeps, but it worked. The screen on the moose-tracker showed the moose had stopped. Suddenly the flashing light began to move towards them.

‘That’s more like it!’ Wolf grinned and slapped Monduro on the back.

Monduro snarled.

Wolf didn’t care. He’d have his hands on a million smackeroos soon, and he’d never have to see this glow-in-the dark, bow-legged mutant ever again.

As they walked, he unclicked the bag on his chest and turned the camera on. Nothing happened. He tried again and again, and then swore.

‘Damn. So much for getting photos,’ he muttered. He fingered the blade on his pocket knife, wondering how close they could get to the moose.

Monduro stopped and glared at him.

‘You’re reading my thoughts, aren’t you?’ Wolf growled. ‘Look, all I need is an ear or the end of its tail. I won’t kill it.’

The shantaram’s eyes glowed and then went black.

‘I’m not going home without evidence.’ Wolf looked around the clearing. ‘I’ve never seen foam around pukaheke trees before. Is it a seasonal thing?’

Monduro started to explain but Wolf stopped him. The moose-tracker was flashing rapidly. ‘We need to hide.’

Wolf stumbled over some roots and fell face-first into the foam. He grabbed a handful of something slimy as he pushed himself up and pressed his back against the tree.

His hands were shaking as he pressed his phone’s speed dial.

‘Yo,’ a voice said.

‘Jono? It’s me, Wolf,’ he whispered. ‘How fast can you pick me up? Have you got me on GPS?’

‘Man, am I glad to hear from you,’ Jono said. ‘My boss forgot to warn you about the poison in the canyon and he couldn’t find your phone number.’

Wolf wiped the foam off his face. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘You know the Over Council puts animals they don’t want in the Lost Forest?’ the voice crackled. ‘Every year, we take the copters out and dump poison on them. We did it a month ago, but it hangs around for six months, and it’s nasty. Of course, the Over Council wants us to stop now that their precious golden goose is in there.’

Wolf swallowed. ‘You mean the chocolate moose?’

‘Yeah, just jiving,’ Jono chuckled. ‘Hey, I wouldn’t worry about the poison, unless you’ve spent the last few hours eating moose flesh and a few handfuls of poisoned carrots. Or pukaheke berries, of course,’ he said. ‘That tree sucks up poison like a sponge, but I’m sure famous explorers know more about that than I do.’

Jono slurped on his coffee. ‘Hey, Wolf, I can see your signal. I’m leaving now. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes or so.’

Wolf opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out. He could see two of Monduro coming towards him. He rubbed his eyes.

‘Just keep away from foam and anything fluorescent,’ Jono said. ‘It’s like a signpost to the poison .…’

The line disconnected.

Monduro pushed Wolf backwards into the froth, on top of the carcass of a decomposing shantaram. Wolf screamed.

Monduro turned his face to the sky and started chanting.

The crawks screeched and circled above them.

The DUB-DUB-DUB of the robocopter was faint, like a distant drumbeat.

‘Help’s coming,’ Wolf’s mind chattered. ‘Hold on.’

Poison burnt through his body, but he felt icy-cold. He started to shake.

Monduro leaned in close. He held Wolf’s pocket knife near Wolf’s cheek and licked the blade. Blood trickled out of his mouth.

‘Jusssst an ear for now …. ’ Monduro whispered, as he moved the blade through Wolf’s hair. ‘Then I take your heart.’


Listen to Wolf Tracker

Wolf Tracker written by Kathy White. Read by Kathy White.
A Voice in the Caves written by Tania Hutley. Read by Kathy White.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Science Fiction - Volcanoes, Craters and Melting Eyelids with Elena

"Science Fiction is the improbable made possible." Rod Serling

What a great lot of imaginative stories this week! Hot topics included, volcanoes, Neil Armstrong and twins. Most of you included all the setting and character elements set for the challenge, but keeping to the science fiction genre proved to be harder. Magical elements appeared in nearly all the stories, which meant they were more fantasy than science fiction.

There were lots of tasty beginnings, quite a few crunchy endings, but many of the plots went a little bit soggy in the middle and lost their way. It can help to have a brief outline of the plot in mind before you start writing.

Best beginnings: Callum's, "It was another ordinary day at school in the crater," Kendra Smith's attention grabbing, "Gulp! I Zeeblebarf just ate the mighty, monstrous, massive, monumental, mammoth sized super supreme ... bbbbuuuurrrrpppp ... ham ... buuuuurrrrpppp ... burger," with its great use of alliteration, and Claudia Weston's lovely "I can't get to sleep, it is utterly impossible with "the lights" flashing purple and orange against my window pane."

Best ending goes to Imogen Wiseman "My name is Zeeblebarf but my friends call me Zeebie. I am only 8 years old and my powers are so bizarre that I could turn you into a frog if I wanted to. If you don't mind I have to go now."

Best single image to Thomas Beckett, "The Professor's eyelids melted off like icecream on a cone on a hot day."

There were also some horribly (in a good way) inventive characters created. For instance, Thomas Coulter's flesh eating strawberry called Derrick, with his razor sharp teeth called cuttles, made a debut appearance, as did Zeeblebarf's friend, Potato, invented by William Laughton.

Dylan Rush and Felix Cameron's stories both made great use of the first person and were full of energy.

Jamie and Harriet, whose iced tea tasted like "squashed cheese with salt and boiling water poured over it," and Hannah Berry (who also had great character development) used the senses and detail to bring their stories to life.

But there can only be one winner ... or maybe two.

The winner of the intermediate category is Caroline Moratti. As a writer, one sure way of getting the audience on your side is to make them laugh. Caroline made great use of humour with her wonderfully funny parodies of Doctor Who, Star Wars and Star Trek characters.

The winner of the primary category is James Kerr. James' story was fast paced and energetic, with great sound effects. I also liked the clever use of time travel (and super powers) and the open ending.

Special mention also goes to Joshua Thompson and Matthew Illing for their superb stories.

The Great Blue Void

by Elena de Roo

Zeeblebarf took his last measurement - finally, his map was complete. As far back as he could remember, he knew he was destined to be a map maker. He had made it his life-long task, to complete a survey of the world, but in the end, it hadn't taken as long as he had thought. Here he was, still young, with his survey all but finished. Now what?

Next to him, the wall of the world sloped steeply upward, as far as he could see. How far it extended above the tangled canopy of the rain forest, was impossible to tell. But he did know, from his survey, that the jungle stretched unbroken in all directions. He also knew that the world was an almost perfect circle - if you followed the wall for long enough in one direction, eventually you would end up where you started from.

Once, he'd asked Beeblebarf, one of the elders of the tribe, what was beyond the wall? The great blue void, was his answer. He wouldn't say any more. After that, Zeeblebarf would occasionally catch a tiny glimpse of blue, through the leaves above. He had a hundred questions he wanted to ask, but it seemed he was the only one who was curious.

The others in his tribe thought he was odd, bizarre even. 'You have to understand, Zeeblebarf,' they'd say, 'that you're a new generation. You see things differently to us. You can put two and two together and make five hundred, but we only ever get four.'

They were twenty six, in total. The others carried out their assigned tasks - collecting rock samples, mining the earth for radioactive materials, maintaining the power packs. They never asked Why? or What if?

As he looked up at the steep wall, Zeeblebarf knew what his next task would be. The others were right - he was different. He couldn't live out his days not knowing what what lay beyond. But how to start?

He thought back to his years surveying the circumference. Had there been any part that looked climbable? As far as he recalled, it was equally steep all around. Then it came to him. The crevice ... that was it. That would be his way out.

It took him two weeks to find his way through the undergrowth, but this was something he was used to. The crevice was just as he remembered it - a jagged crack in the rocks about a metre wide, forcing its way upwards, like a bolt of lightning, towards the great blue void. He had no idea how far up it went, but there was only one way to find out.

He wedged himself between the two rock faces, and slowly and carefully, using opposing forces, see-sawed his way upwards, towards the unknown.

How long had he been climbing? He'd lost track of time. The view from the crevice was limited to a tiny slice outwards, upwards and below. The tree canopy must be far below him by now, but he didn't think about that. His vision was trained on the crack of blue far above, that was growing, ever so slowly, larger and closer.

It was many hours later, but at last Zeeblebarf crawled out of the crevice. The light was so bright here. The featureless earth looked faded, the space above glaring, over-exposed. He supposed it would take a while for his vision to adjust. Nearby, some large hairy creatures ate the tender green shoots which grew everywhere underfoot. Judging from their anatomy they would be very slow moving compared to the creatures in his world. So this was the great blue void. How flat and empty it looked.

A strange sound made the air around him vibrate. What did it mean? He couldn't understand. He tried signalling, but the sound just got louder and more shrill ...


The boy and his father were moving their herd of hairy moonstock out of danger. Usually the cattle wouldn't venture this close to the crater, but an unusually dry year had driven them to eat the long grasses which grew near the edges.

'Dad, look!' shouted the boy, 'some kind of metally, stick insect thing's crawling out of the crater. It's got purple eyes. No, wait ... maybe they're not eyes ... they're flashing orange now.'

'What the ...? said his Dad. 'By golly ... I wonder ... I say, I never expected to see anything like this in real life. It looks just like the picture in The Classic Robots Manual. If I'm not mistaken, this one was the last of the Eebelbarf series. If you'd have come along to the Classic Robots Club with me last month like I asked, you'd know all this. Doctor Eebelbarf? Ring any bells? No?

'But Dad, it's getting away.' The boy sighed, he knew his father was unlikely to listen to him, once he'd got started on one of his long winded explanations, and he was right.

'He was famous back in his day. Because of the dangerous levels of radiation in the crater, he designed a series of robots to explore it instead. Twenty six, the good doctor made in total - one a year. A different model for every letter of the alphabet, from A-eeblebarf to Z-eeblebarf. But none of them ever returned. The Z model was the doctor's last hope - a new generation nanotech robot, with advanced, artificial intelligence, that could adapt to any terrain. Of course he's long dead now, but if only he could see what we're seeing now, son ... Hey, where's it gone?'


Zeeblebarf rotated swiftly along the flat ground of the vast blue void, leaving the shrill noises far behind him. He had a survey to complete.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thrilling Words On Writing Thrillers...

BB the Clone and the terrible secret – Judge's Report by Michele Powles

With clone tanks, Mentos and coke bombs, the ghost of Captain Blackbrain, a dog who is in love with clones, water dynamite and a lot of blood, guts and even brain-eating, there was a great range of stories this week. Awesome work! There were certainly plenty to choose from and it made picking a winner very hard.

A quick tip is to make sure you read instructions carefully – just like when you’re doing a test at school! A few of you missed that 67XY3BB (BB for short) was a clone rather than a human resident of Paradise Island. Remember too that this week’s genre (type of story) was thriller. Unfortunately that meant stories that were fantastic but missed these ingredients didn’t take top prize.

Best opening goes to Caroline Moratti – “ Mr Tim Cruise frowned over his morning glass of sparkling water and his freshly delivered newspaper. "Mercurium prices are dropping," he darkly mumbled to his wife, who was standing very still in the corner, with a blank look on her face.

Honourable mention has to go to Mikayla Carter and Chloe Hicken for their idea of projecting a fake castle, what a cool concept. Miriam Leonhardt for her clone’s extra long ears, Alex Dougan's United Nations dish-washing traps, Erica’s sparkly Tinkerbell eyes, Rebecca Skelton’s ghost of Susie Smith-Williams, and Hannah Berry’s wonderful descriptions of the baby clone incubator. But this week’s winner is ten year old Matthew Illing. Well done! Good job on getting inside BB’s head in first person and keeping the tension up for the Thriller genre.

For next week remember to check that your punctuation and tense are consistent (that you use the same time period all the way through your story) and that you don’t rush the ending. And of course remember to use the character, setting and genre set out by the FABO2 writers. Great job everyone who entered and we look forward to reading your entries next week.

BB the Burger Clone and the Dream Virus

by Michele Powles

The vibrating was new. So was the humming sound. For fifteen years, clone 67XY3BB had looked at the smooth walls of his station and noticed nothing except their blank white sheen. That they now moved and hummed should be noted and passed on to his supervisor. He didn’t move. Not for the first time he wished someone else shared his station so he could check this was real.

“Whatchu waiting for BB?" The voice came from nowhere and everywhere. “They’re gunna catch you if we don’t do this thing soon.”

BB held his breath but no one burst through the door.

The voice gave a little chuckle. “That’s the way, good to be on alert. It won’t be long now. I hope you’re ready.” Then there was silence.

The walls stilled and the quiet grew till BB was sure he could hear the rapid thurrrrump of his heart beat. He let his breath sigh out. “Just dreaming,” he muttered. Turning back to his workbook he checked again that the ingredients were in the right order and ready for assembly.

“Burger buns, check. Salad, cheese and beetroot, check. Tofu peanut patties, check.” His muttering was against the rules; he’d lose merit points and they might even put him on report if the Incubator Supervisor clone caught him at it, but with everything that had been happening lately he needed reassurance that things were normal. Or at least normal-ish.

It had all begun innocently enough. A word had appeared in his brain. Dreams. He’d looked through his workbook to be told what to do about it.


He’d gone to his supervisor for advice. But when he’d opened his mouth to speak a voice had whispered through his mind. “No. Say nothing.”

Eyes bulging BB had snapped his mouth shut, laid his daily report on the white counter and shuffled out of the room in the correct manner.

Back at his station he whizzed through his burger building tasks, all the time expecting a pair of Incubator Enforcers to break down his door and drag him off for reprogramming.

“They can’t hear me. Just don’t react and you’ll be fine.” The voice was low, silky and smooth like the tofu BB blended in his vegetarian burger pattie mix.

“Who are you?” BB hissed at the quiet empty walls of his station.

“I’m a figment of your imagination,” said the voice.

“A what?”

“Damn, that’s right, you lot got stripped of imagination. Must be awful.” The voice sighed. “Have a look at this.”

A picture of a tall building sprang into BB’s mind. Its surface sparkled and glinted, reflecting some wondrous warm light that BB had never seen before. Inside its windows he could see people walking about, talking to each other, their faces twisted into strange shapes. “What’s wrong with their faces,” he asked.

“Wrong?” The voice paused a moment, then burst into a strange sound, something joyful and light. “Bahahahaha,” went the voice. “They’re smiling, that’s all. Their faces aren’t wrong, they’re how yours should be.”

“Smiling.” BB tried out the word but it sat strangely on his tongue. “And what was that noise you made just now?”

“Oh dear, we have a long way to go with you don’t we. I was laughing. Laughing!” And the voice made the strange sound again.

BB tried to make the laughing sound. “Bohohohoheheha.”

“Hmmm. Well you can’t really expect to get it right first time. But don’t worry, you’ll get it. You’ll get everything. The sun on your face, a share of the Mercurium mine, it’s all going to be yours. Better go, someone’s coming. Laters.”

After the chatter in his head, the silence felt big and heavy to BB. Worse, he hadn’t been able to ask what he was supposed to do next. Or what Dreams were made of. But he didn’t have a chance to think about it too much as the Incubator Inspector walked into his station and held out his hand to test BB’s burgers, all twenty five different flavours.

Since that first meeting the voice had put hundreds of new words into BB’s brain. Some of them had been long and curly, words that twisted BB’s tongue when he tried to get them out but which sounded bright and round and beautiful when the voice spoke them. Other words had been short and spiky and BB knew even without it being explained that these were words that meant bad news.

Over weeks and months the voice filled BB with new knowledge and BB began to be able to paint his own pictures in his mind, to imagine, and to dream.

“So you understand the importance of all this?”

A chill crept over BB’s skin. The voice wouldn’t let him forget it. “What if I can’t do it?” he said. “What if you’ve got the wrong clone?”

“Impossible. I wouldn’t be here if you weren’t the one. The virus would have created me in someone else instead.”

“But I’ve only got a week to go until I graduate. Soon I’ll be Outside on FABO2. They’re making me chief burger boy for Mr. Presley.”


The chill grew till BB was sure there was a living thing crawling over his skin. Something that crept up his back, coiled its fingers through his hair and wouldn’t let go. “How will you tell me when it’s the right time?”

“You will know.” As usual the voice disappeared before BB could ask it anything else.

And now the walls had started vibrating and there was a humming that hadn’t been there before.

The sunshine was just as the voice had promised it would be. After all these years cooped up in the Incubator, BB couldn’t quite believe that just beyond his workstation the world of FABO2 had been waiting. “Oh my.” The ocean surrounding Paradise Island hushed in and out, its surface flecked with glitter.

“Everyone report to their new supervisors. You know your roles. Do not soil the good name of The Incubator.” BB’s old supervisor turned away and was swallowed by the smooth white walls of the Incubator Pod.

Five other graduates stood with BB but their faces were blank. None of them showed that they even noticed the sun or the ocean or the clean unfiltered and salty air.

BB opened his mouth to say something but realised that just talking to the other clones was pointless.

The word formed as if it had been painted in front of him. Dream. Of course. Now that he was out here it was obvious what he was supposed to do. BB shut his eyes and let the thought of dreaming flood him. He undid the lock that had been placed around his imagination at birth and let the unrealised hopes and ideas and wishes of a million billion Incubator clones fill him up to bursting. They twinkled there a moment, ready. Then he set them free.

Across Paradise Island the fat lazy Residents looked up from their dinners and tennis games and televisions. Their world seemed suddenly empty. No one came when they called.

Across Paradise Island the clones began to smile.