Sunday, November 20, 2011

Judge's Report - The Deathly Mallows

Tupeni's character Jacob said “Let’s go to adventure!” and that's what you all did this week. In one way or another, you went into battle.

There were many individual moments of brilliance, and times that you made me smile and gasp. The beginnings of your stories inspired me so much this week that I want to share some of the different styles and the effects of each:

He was standing in the rain with an axe in his hand (Ali Abbaspour Mojdehi)

It was a lonely day for clones. All humans had left the region, packing smart little suitcases and driving off over the dusty plains in newly washed Fords or Toyotas. The move was sudden, without any warning. The cat’s food bowl left half empty, the sprinklers still spraying water over mowed lawns. (Caroline Moratti)

... a great warrior rose from the planet FaBo 2 ancient ruins from when the mighty picaro fought off the invaders from before bread was discovered and even before guns were created ...(Levi Simiona)

We stood there. Our heads bowed. The Secretary and Treasurer lowered the oak coffin into the ground. The church bells rang and we silently walked away. King Bartholomew III had died. The last of the Royal Fabo family. Now no one ruled Planet Fabo2. (Matthew Illing)

This one by Imogen Wiseman has a completely different, almost lyrical style:
Deep in the darkest parts of planet FABO the cloud of wonders lived. That cloud could blow the roofs of houses when it was angry and sent gentle breezes through the forest when he was happy and then when he was sad he would split up into a million little balls of fluff rolling through the sky. This cloud had power but only a sliver of it and that tiny bit of power didn’t help him when it came to his life. He was tired of not being able to live peacefully among the villagers; he was tired of being forced into eating spiders and cockroaches. His life was a messed up one.

And this fabulous one by Izaak Glynn. The blood stained blade shone from the dim glow of the moonlight. Madras looked down at the corpses of the centaurs his troops have just slain. The evil cringe on his face crept to a chuckle. The thunderous sky above was booming. “What will you do Jupiter?” madras screamed to the sky, “there is no force on Olympus that will stop me!”.

I also liked the way you told me about your characters:
I opened my eyes and there stood the bony man I had first met when I had come here. He was grouchy but he was small. I could beat him up blind folded! He was one of the many people I was not afraid of in this dump. (Issy Meikle)

Your dialogue had tension, hints at drama to come, and even humour, as was the case in William Taber's conversation between Sam Spader and Benji, just before the evil Dr Manwell strikes.
"Why do you have a kitchen knife?" said sam.
"I was making you cucumber salad," replied Benji.

Actually, I think Matthew Illing should write for Star Trek. Look at this:
We clambered through the pipes towards the echo of BB’s voice talking to his executive assistant P.L.E.X. “When will we have enough Pixie dust to power the UIP’s?” BB asked.
“At about twenty-two hundred hours, sir,” replied P.L.E.X.
“Good P.L.E.X. Send in those annoying trespassers”, he commanded.
“Yes, sir.” responded P.L.E.X. as he pushed a button on the remote control in his hand.

Food was commonly mentioned but it didn't always sound good. Lunch at fabo2 east school was like barf on a plastic platter (Izaak Glynn), they ate goat for the main course and for desert oranges (Benjamin Ziegler). I particularly liked the sound of Lucy Spence's chocolate demise cake.

Your endings also made me realise how much you've learned about rounding off a good story, and leaving your reader with something to think about, as was the case with Raghav Parekh and Caroline Moratti in these examples.

Daniel put the Anubis stone on the fountain and the lair illuminated. Al Zalam was free, Zarok… killed. And Daniel died as the great hero of Gallomere. (Raghav)

Peace was formed in the palm of friendship, as life moved on. (Caroline)

Caroline's ending was beautiful, and thought-provoking. So was her beginning. The rest of her story was full of intricate detail around the setting and characters and the story developed logically, but with the occasional unexpected reversal in it, so that it was never predictable. Caroline has consistently written well in a variety of styles throughout the Planet FaBo competitions, so we're awarding her the GRAND PRIZE today. We expect to see her name on a book one day.

I'd also like to congratulate Izaak Glynn for a brilliant, dynamic full-powered piece of writing that seriously challenged Caroline's winning entry, and Matthew Illing, who has also consistently written so well in this competition.

Thank you to all of you for all those moments throughout our writing adventures on Planet FaBo. And thank you to your teachers who have helped to inspire you to write them down.

Don't stop now that you're on a roll. Get writing that novel. Read the winning entry called Revenge and Cleaning Sprays by Caroline Moratti, and check out the latest geographical location on Planet FaBo.

Kathy White : )

Monday, October 24, 2011

School On Fabo2 - Judge's Report By Tania Hutley

Well, there has been plenty of distractions during the last week or two! I think there was some kind of rugby game on, wasn't there... did we win?

With all that excitement going on, extra congratulations are due to those that found the time to send in a story.

There were some wonderful entries, and I did have a good laugh reading them.
Some stories made me want to go to school on Fabo2 - and some made me very glad I don't!

The following stories deserve a special mention this week:

I enjoyed Nikhila Leelaratna's story about overcoming bullying on Fabo2 and I was very glad Hinky was able to enjoy the rest of his school life after being treated so badly!

Caroline Moratti's story was beautifully written, and I loved the way her main character Matilda went from total fear to jubilation... well done Caroline!

Dionne Avis wrote a story in diary form, which was great fun to read - especially when her horse ran away to live a lifelong dream of owning a shoe warehouse. That made me chuckle!

And Matthew Illing wrote an excellent story about a boy called Bob having a very bad day at Rock Star school.

But this time I am giving the prize to Vibhava Leelaratna from Maungawhau School. Vibhava's story is also about someone not enjoying school, but it doesn't sound so bad to me... I'd like to have a teacher called Lizard Pimple!

Well done for having such a great imagination, Vibhava. I found myself trying to work out just how you might go about turning a Flat Screen TV into banana peels.

- Tania.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Non-Fiction Challenge: Judge's Report by Guest Judge Maria Gill

Thanks for everyone’s stories – I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and loved the humour that was coming through in some of the descriptions. I might add the inhabitants on FABO are quite scary so I’ve decided to delay my trip there.

Scientist Vibhava Leelaratna was meticulous in her description of the Vorakom; saying how it got its name, how it defends itself, what it eats and how it reproduces. I sure wouldn’t like to meet a Vorakom in the dark – at least I’d be able to recognise it with its beady red laser eyes.
Dr Manwell Pratchetti gave a brilliant scientific explanation of the Citoxe’s habitat, call, behaviour and intelligence. I liked his explanation of Citoxe’s brutal solution of getting rid of intruders. The Citoxe’s method of communicating with humans was inspired.
As for the Skraosk with its 58 legs, 21 arms, 65 ears and 82 ears – yikes, I’m going to have nightmares for years after visualising that monster.
The reporter Dionne Avis wrote an excellent article about the Tickerflies. I’m still trying to imagine Justin Bieber wearing a bright orange fur outfit with purple spots – and as for the pink love hearts – I’m all in a flutter. As for their flatulence – I hope I never meet a Tickerfly. Liked the nice touch of adding a website and email address.
Reporter Mathew’s article on the true identity of the Silver Arrows was like it was straight out of The Times. The Monkeyologists on earth will be very impressed with the detail about the Silver Metallicus.
I liked the way the author spoke directly to the reader to describe the Kings of the Shadow – the Shadosia. Another animal I wouldn’t like to meet…
Anne’s method of crossing a crocodile with a gorilla was creative and she really gave some great descriptions.
I really enjoyed Levi’s comparison of the Zizzard with the other animals – very clever.
Rebecca’s description of the Zelpifreda was very inventive. Speaking of inventions can I buy one of your 5D televisions – I’d patent that!
I want to take a green Mantinor home – they’re so cute but I wouldn’t like it puking up its egg sacks, though.

And the winner is: The David Attenborough impersonator Caroline Moratti for her excellent script about the filming of the Quadropus. She manages to show while talking to the camera close-up details of the Quadropus behaviour, how it looks, and how it operates when in battle. Just beautiful, as the impersonator would say. I quote: “Slowly, drifting from the whirling water, the camera can see a silhouette race away, the disappearing of the Quadropus after finishing his dinner.” You have to say/read it in a David Attenborough voice, though.

Special mentions to Matthew Illing for his account of the Mettallicus and William Taber for the Citoxe.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

FaBo World Cup Challenge Judge’s Report by Kyle Mewburn

What exciting games everyone invented this week! I thought watching the All Blacks beat France last night was exciting, but I imagine the people of FaBo2 would think rugby was very, very DULL if they had games like Filich, Elivm or Coliseum-O-Creeper on TV.

It was very hard to pick a winner because all the entries had some interesting bits.
Matilda had very precise instructions for her game of Filich. She invented lots of technical terms too - “To play the fun and exciting game of filich each team elects ten players to skim a stone into the centre of the small lake in the middle of the playing field. The first player to touch the middle with the stone will start with the blibit, while the other thirty nine players hide and spread out in the trees and field. As the players do that the leader (called the chefie in the game of filich) will chant a famous fabo2 spell on the blibit while the others discuss their tactics on the opposite team. The chant will let the blibit adapt a mind of its own and the blibit will race around in the field, trees and even some times water! Then all the players will chase after it.” Matilda even added a website link in case you wanted to play!

Arabella had the craziest setting for her game of Elivm - “The game takes place in ARABELLIALIS galaxy where each custard and banana stars has kfc on it (bribing ha ha ha) first the monkey teams are on earth and the have to make a monkey chain.”
If you wanted to play Emma’s game of Octana , you needed some interesting equipment – “You will need: A bottle of swim-a-swim; A uniform for everyone in your team; And last but not least you need the skill, courage and guts.” She also invented swirly swirlnadoes.

Dionne’s game of Beauty and the Beast had a long list of weird stuff you needed to play – “A horse, A math’s book, Foam/slime, Makeup e.g. Lipstick, A rugby ball, A cricket set, Uniform, A set of beauty and the beast questions, a cream pie, Some earing and necklaces, Station [ table 6], A camera, Nail polish, Work clothes.”
Rebecca and Emma wrote a story with their game in it. And Arabella even sent us a lovely poem. Thanks! (Arabella is moving schools soon, too. It’s never much fun leaving all your friends and starting a new school. The FaBo team wish you the bestest of luck Arabella! Keep on writing and don’t forget to tell your new school about FaBo!!)

But in the end, there can only be one winner … or, actually, in this case, TWO winners. My favourite two games this week were Spartonin by Izaak Glynn and Matthew Sansome, and Floatamot by Rebekah Gooderham. I thought Izaak and Matthew gave their game a lot of thought – they even drew a uniform and shield. I also loved the first rule – NO MERCY. While Floatamot just has to be the weirdest game EVER invented.

Both our winners this week go to Maungawhau school. Izaak and Matthew win a copy of Dinosaur Rescue each, and Rebekah gets a copy of DO NOT PUSH! If any of you already have these books, let me know and I’ll send you something else!

Otherwise, get ready to RUUUUUUUUUUMBLE!!!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Ballad of Dew Moon by Elena de Roo/ Judge's Report

Judges Report - Elena de Roo

There were lots of wonderful lines in the poems this week. Some of my favourites were Caroline Moratti's, "Ripe with Nights gaze, the air is filled with plum ferment ..." and Allie Hawksworth's, "The shadows flitter, under the buzzing lamp."

It's really interesting how the character's name - Dew Moon - had such a big influence on the atmosphere and tone of the poems (mine included). I loved the sense of mystery in Liv Coulter and Livy Maher's poem with the four fingered soldier, and their lovely line, "city lights glitter while candle lights flicker," and the quiet mood of Joshua Chote's last lines, " Dew Moon sees an owl flying past. / He silently falls to sleep." In contrast it was also good to find a bit of grittiness in Matthew Illing's poem, where the lane was "Pitch black and evil / and full of garbage and graffiti," and the shadows were the focus rather than Dew Moon.

Most of you forgot that we were on Planet Fabo2 this week, so well done Kendra for including Moratti Mountains and Illing Lake in your poem, and I love your last line "MO HA HA HA the shadow replies."

Another common mistake was to put in something unrelated to the poem just because it rhymed. Rhyming can be fun to write and even more fun to read aloud, but if you decide to use it, don't let the rhyme lead the poem.

Poems don't have to rhyme; rhythm, alliteration and repetition can be just as effective. In Maddy's lines, "I hear the drops in the quiet of the night / I slowly creep, down, down, down ..." the repetition of the word "down" seems to mimic the sound of the drops. Also, I love Paige Grant's use of alliteration in the phrase "Dew Moon's deep, dark, feathers rise," and the fact that she uses it twice in her owl poem. Wesley Wang's poem uses a great combination of alliteration and onomatopoeia together with a strong rhythm, to create a real sense of movement - "A leopard pounces through the dark creepy jungle. / The tall trees swish through the dark creepy jungle."

Where the line breaks come in poems can make quite a difference to its meaning and effect. I like the way Joseph Ayoade broke his last sentence into two, emphasising the last line. Dew Moon goes back home. / With no food. I also liked the way Kate's (Waimataitai School) last lines echoed the first, and her nice use of contrast "The night is young and the moon is high."

Because poems are so condensed, every word counts - titles can be an important part of them, sometimes providing the clue to the whole poem, like in Annie Sun's poem "Midnight" or draw you in to read them, like Lucy Spence's "The drifting, creeping, scary, cat."

There were lots of great figures of speech too:
My favourite simile was William Taber's "The sun rises like a cake"
My favourite metaphor was Neve Cobham's "The night is black and smooth like a blanket ..."

Favourite endings: Caroline Moratti's "Hardly daring to whisper, / The darkness stares at itself in Natures Mirror, / and unfolds" and Booke Ellis's "Owls watching above looking for tea. / Rats hiding."

Favourite beginnings: Molly Marsden's, "The night was quiet / Elves making shadows / Stars watching silently" and Tupeni Valili's "Cold was the night as the sparkling stars gleamed in the dark blue sky ..."

But there can only be two winners and one special mention. I thought since there are really no rules in poetry I could get away with having a few extras. And they are ...

Dark Night - by Bruno McCall
The Night Shadows by Matilda Clack
Both of you wrote poems that worked well as a whole, but were different from each other. I liked the way Bruno had a great idea, and wasn't afraid to experiment with line breaks and play around with words and the way Matilda gave herself a challenge, by writing in a particular style and pulled it off.

Special Mention
Night - by Emma O'Shaungnessy
I loved the way you used the moon, to join together the image of the cat with the golden coat, and the little girl with popcorn!

The Ballad of Dew Moon

The stars were sulking silently, the moon, too, hid its light
when Dew went out to track the long-lost Chocolate Moose that night
She took her flash, new, camera phone, her cloak of coal-wing feather
pulled the hood around her face, and braved the bitter weather

Intent on finding signs of Moose, she never saw the creeping
of the shadows in the corners, or the darker-darkness, sweeping
And if she had, she would have said,
"A shadow? That's not right.
It must be more than what it seems, for shadows must have light."

The shadow-men had searched for years, on planets far and wide
looking for a the perfect match to be their King's new bride
and now, at last, they thought they'd found the perfect shadow maid
mistaking Dew, in black, at night, for some exotic shade.

And all the while, she never saw the darker-darkness sweeping
or the shadows that were growing, coming closer, nearer, creeping
but she must have had a premonition something wasn't right
for she shouted to the darker-darkness
"Come on out and fight!"

The moon came out. At last Dew saw the shadows all around
she knew then, as her forbears had, that she must hold her ground
She ditched the hood and shouted out
"I have a flash new phone
Step back or I will use the torch. My name is Dew Moon Jones!"

But the darkness only grew, and drew around her, slowly sweeping,
and the crowd of shadows circled, getting nearer, closer, creeping
She couldn't even see the keypad. Which one was the light?
In the end, Dew pressed the lot – the beam was blinding bright

Twelve LED's lit up her face. The crowd cried in surprise
She seemed so pale – a ghostly ghoul. No beauty, in their eyes
The tide of shadows turned away – how quickly it retreated
and Dew, the hero of the night, returned home, undefeated!

So if, at night, a darker sort of darkness comes a-creeping,
forget about that Chocolate Moose, just concentrate on sleeping

Monday, September 5, 2011

Melindiana Jones and the Treasure of the Caroline Caves and Judge's Report from Melinda Szymanik: II

Judges Report

Wow the Caroline Caves were filled with some very interesting treasures and secrets this week. And poor old Melindiana Jones got into some really tight spots. As always, editing is the key to making your story the best it can be. Some of you definitely could have done with more commas and full stops. I thought Victor Gan’s idea of a land of dinosaurs was very interesting and I liked Caroline Moratti’s twist with Melindiana becoming tired of her exciting yet dangerous adventures. Most dramatic ending goes to Tupene Valili with this

But it was too late they had come in I was terrified what would happen to the village. The menacing creatures came into the village and attacked all of us. Right now I am hurt by being attacked one of the creatures there big jaws attacked. I have been writing this to warn the whole Planet Fabo. 2 I hope you defeat these creatures and forgive me for releasing this cre……….

Best place name was Matthew Illing’s ‘Fabomuda Triangle’. Matilda Clack had some very poetic descriptions and Liv Coulter and Livy Maher (who collaborated on a story together) wrote a very polished story. And (drum roll please) this week’s winner is Isla Jackson for a well written and colourful story.

Melindiana Jones and the Treasure of the Caroline Caves

Slashing at the thick vines with the machete she held in her right hand, Melindiana Jones took another bite of the flat bread and piranha sandwich in the other. She hated fish but they had left civilization behind days ago and piranha were the only edible and catchable thing left in the Mewburn River that flowed down to Thompson Swamp. The piranha had eaten everything else in the river except the rubber-like crocs which were indigestible, although they made great hard-wearing shoes and each of the tribes-people in Jones’s team now had a pair. Though the shoes were great it didn’t make her sandwich taste any better. Not that food back home at Hard-Vard University where she worked part time as a teacher was any better. Too much soup-in-a-cup for her tastes. Everything was bland and the sandwiches were just so…so…square. 1935 hadn’t been a very good year for Melindiana. It had been a relief to take the sea plane down to South Allerica on another adventure.
She shoved the rest of the sandwich in her mouth and took to slashing with two hands. The entrance to the Caroline Caves was around here somewhere. The map the old guide had given her was faded, with a ragged hole in the middle where it had been unfolded and folded countless times over the centuries. She’d studied it in broad daylight. She’d pored over it at night in her tent under the jittery glow of the paraffin lamp. Everything led to that hole in the middle. At first Melindiana cursed her luck that the information she needed, the last few clues that would bring her to what could be the greatest find of her archaeological career, had been obliterated by the careless hands of her predecessors. But as she’d lain in her cot the night before, checking and rechecking the flimsy parchment she’d had a brilliant idea. The hole wasn’t an accident. It was deliberate.
The closer they got to the hole in the map, the closer and thicker the vines grew. She was sure someone was following them. She had to reach the caves first. Jones ignored the delicate, fragrant orchids as she pushed forward, crushing them underfoot, releasing their delicious aroma. Sweat poured off her brow.
“Thoc!” The tip of her croc shoe hit something hard. Melindiana parted the vegetation round her foot and jumped back in horror. She’d heard all those stories about the explorers who had gone before her and never been seen again. She always just considered them idle rumours put about by the tribes-people to keep folk away. After all, the map hadn’t got lost she reasoned. But the skull at her feet told a different story. The rest of her team piled in to the back of her as she stood frozen looking at the empty head grinning up at them. A chorus of shrieks rang out from the tribes-people, and startled birds flew up out of the trees above them as everyone except Melindiana and her trusted sidekick Big Mac, who wasn’t really all that big, took to their heels and ran back the way they’d come.
“I recognize that face,” Big Mac said leaning forward to examine the skull. Melindiana took a closer look.
Livingston, I presume,” Melindiana said. Big Mac nodded. “He was always taking credit for my discoveries,” Melindiana went on. “I won’t miss him.”
“What do you think happened to him?” Big Mac said.
Melindiana shrugged. “Probably died waiting for me to turn up and find the caves for him. C’mon, let’s finish this job.”

With both Melindiana and Big Mac wielding machetes the vines fell faster and after another dozen strokes they found that Melindiana’s discovery about the map was true. A ragged blackness opened up in front of them and before they could step back or alter their course they were both falling, sucked into the pitch black vacuum of what could only be the Caroline Caves, sliding on a slippery surface, down, down down…

“ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.” Melindiana yelled.
With a whump! they reached the bottom.
“Tchsk!” Big Mac scraped a match across the sole of his boot and the sudden glow of the flame pushed the darkness back.
“Here,” Melindiana said grabbing some wood off the floor and wrapping her jacket round the top, held it to the head of the match. The fabric burst alight just as the match sputtered and went out.
They were in a vast cavern, with dry rock walls and a paved rock floor littered with old dry branches and a jumble of other stuff.
“We are not the first to come here,” Big Mac said, poking a pile of bones with the toe of his boot.
“Look,” Melindiana said, pointing to two blackwood chests by the cave wall. She rushed over and kneeling, pulled at the lid of the first box. Flakes of red rust from the iron clasp came off in her hand. Big Mac brought his machete down and the clasp fell apart under the blow. The lid creaked open.
“Documents?” Big Mac said.
“They look like…recipes…” Melindiana gasped. “Chicken fried in eleven herbs and spices…” she read out from the top sheet.
Suddenly they heard a noise: feet scuffling in the blackness just beyond the firelight. Then a figure stepped out of the gloom: a man in a white suit with a little black bow at his neck and a strange pointy beard. Before he realised what she was doing Melindiana shoved one of the papers into her back pocket. The man in the white suit grabbed the rest out of her other hand.
“I’ll take those, thank you,” he said in a posh Kentucky accent.
“Stanley?” Big Mac asked.
“No,” the man said with a laugh. “You can call me the Colonel.” And in a swirl of dust and sparks and a savoury smell he was gone.
“Not again,” cried Big Mac.
“I know,” Melindiana said. “This happens every time.” She got to her feet. “Well at least I managed to save one of the recipes.”
“What’s it for?” Big Mac asked.
Melindiana peered at the faded writing.
“Hamburger,” she said, reading down the rest of the page.
“Whatever that is,” grumbled Big Mac.
“Big Mac,” Melindiana said with a smile. “This changes everything.”

The End.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Judge's Report from Melinda

Yet another bunch of fab Fabo stories. Many of the entries needed some serious re-reading and editing and were desperately in want of some good punctuation. If you plan to have a twist ending, plot twists work best if the reader has known the truth all along but is still surprised when it comes out. Please watch out for long sentences. Still, there were some real gems in there. I very much liked the inventive Spike Milliganesque qualities (with a little bit of Edward Lear’s ‘The Jumblies’ thrown in for good measure) of Arabella Cameron’s story and the amazing imagery. The team especially liked:

"Sophia and Bruce hadn’t seen each other in months so they spent every moment talking “ did you forget about me?" Questioned Bruce no said Sophia “ you were asleep in my heart and it hurt to much to wake you up, “ and they finished that conversation by embracing each other warmly,


Jim had found a splendid boat called Wild Water ship that had a sail and shone in the morning sunlight, but at the moment no one felt like admiring it because the wind was so heavy it felt like a scratchy cotton blanket

And I thought the ending of Arabella’s story was beautiful.

I laughed heartily over Dionne and Emma’s story, especially the following lines

Her goldfish was called Sam until it died in court (did I mention he’s a goldfish rights lawyer – and - She felt lonely so she went back to Fabowood to see her pet goldfish Sam Number Two. Sam Number Two did an amazing act so good that he got One Million dollars and an interview on Fabowoods got talent. But he didn’t say anything because he is a goldfish. – and - Sam Number Three was so awesome that he got his own cooking show: Cook like a goldfish (hosted by Sam Number Three) It got over one billion hits so now people all over the world are fascinated on how goldfish can cook. If you want to watch it go on www.Cook like a or you can just watch it on the TV on channel Nine hundred and nighty-nine at 4:00pm. It’s a big hit I dare you to watch it. I know I will what about you?

And I liked Jacinta Prior’s line - They couldn’t even afford to buy a drip of water or a crumb of cake.

Matthew Illing’s story was well written and I enjoyed Caroline Moratti’s story too. Her story felt most complete and yet left us hanging with a most tantalising final question. Whose over-councillor gravestone did she cry over? While I think other stories were more technically polished, this week’s winner is Arabella Cameron for the most imaginative and poetic story, Across the Lake.

- Melinda Szymanik

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dark shadows, Detectives and Dame Curried Iguana - Judge's Report by Brian Falkner

What an exciting week for FABO, the last round! The theme this week was detective and the contributors showed a fantastic flair in creating stories that fitted within that genre.

There were dark shadows and dark alleys, trench coats and fedora hats, all the elements of the classic noir hard-boiled detective story.

This week was a really great test of the writer’s ability to write in a particular style. As well as the elements that have become standard in these kind of stories there is also a taut style of writing that goes along with it. Short sentences, pithy comments, sudden action. Well done to all the contributors who managed to combine these things with clever storytelling.

There were some great lines too. How about this from Arabella: “Shadows decorated the room like souls having a bonfire.”

Or this funny line from Matilda: “A strong man with a golden cape and bright pink fluoro pants riding a wave of monkeys that were pushing him into lava as he ate KFC. It was very, well, RANDOM.”

Here’s my favourite opening line. It fits very well within the genre. This from Caroline: “The alleyway was dark… too dark… Sam Spader thought, as the darkness leered at him.”

And the overall winner this week: Caroline Moratti and “Ain’t no Coward.” (Read it here).

Code words, great villains, humour, and a neat reversal of the usual tough guy hero. Well done Caroline.

Congratulations everyone on a great bunch of stories.

My own story is below.


The Opera singer

She walked into my seedy west-side office like she was auditioning for a role in Fabowood. She was tall and elegant, with legs that went all the way up to her body. Which was fortunate. She’d fall over otherwise.

She wore a moonstock fur cape and a hat made from fluorescent pukaheke leaves. Around her neck a large gloomstone hung from a silver chain. She was a real classy dame.

‘Sam Spader?’ she purred my name in a voice like molten chocolate moose. She could be an opera singer with a voice like that.

‘Who wants to know?’ I asked. It was a silly question. Clearly she wanted to know. You didn’t have to be a private detective to work that out. I guess I was just a little intoxicated by her beauty. Or maybe it was the bottle of twelve-year-old pomato juice in my filing drawer.

‘I’m Dame Curried Iguana,’ she said.

‘Dame Curried? The famous Opera Singer?’

She nodded.

A Dame and an opera singer. I’d been right on both counts.

‘What can I do for you, Dame Curried?’ I asked, gesturing for her to sit. She did so, elegantly.

‘I have been sent here by the Fabo Over-Council,’ she said. ‘They need your help.’

‘Really? My help?’ I fixed her with a gun barrel stare. ‘Have they forgotten who it was that fired me as the Erewhon Chief of Detectives?’

‘Ah yes,’ she said, ‘That unfortunate business at Glottis Castle. That’s in the past now. Grand Moff Mewburn himself sent me to find you.’

That didn’t make sense. Why would the grand moff send an opera singer to hire a private detective. There was more to this case than met the eye.

I pulled my diary out of a drawer and pretended to study it. It was empty, but I wasn’t going to let her know that.

‘I might be able to fit in an appointment on Thursday of next week,’ I said.

‘They need to see you now,’ she purred. The light from the window reflected off the gloomstone around her neck, it sparkled, like her eyes.

‘I’ll rearrange my schedule,’ I said, grabbing my trench-coat from the coat-stand, my hat from the hat-stand, and my hand from the hand-stand.

The Over-Council

Twenty minutes later we were pulling up outside the Council Chambers in my classic ’73 Ford Moustache convertible.

I trotted up the ornate marble steps, trying not to slip over on the ornate marbles, and walked in the main entrance.

The building was strangely quiet. There was nobody on reception. The guard’s desk also was empty. It was as if a swarm of suckerpunch spiders had just swept through, leaving nothing in their wake.

‘I got a bad feeling about this,’ I said.

There was no reply. I turned. Dame Curried was gone. I was alone.

The hairs on the back of my neck started to rise. I drew my weapon. There were few problems on this planet I couldn’t solve with hot lead from cold steel.

I found my way into the council room. I stopped. I put my gun away. I wouldn’t be needing it.

Whatever it was they wanted me for I was too late. I was half past too late.

The Fabo council were slumped in their seats. They were dead. All of them. Deader than a ghost in a slime pit.

Tania; Kathy; Maureen; Melinda; Michele; Elena; Brian: all of them. I didn’t need to check their pulses. The wide vacant staring eyes, the drooling mouths, the pale, waxy skin: they looked like a bunch of children’s authors who’d just had their latest manuscript rejected.

In the middle of the table was a jar of jelly beans. Red ones. I hate those ones. I looked again at the body of Vice-Moff Colston. One of the jellybeans was still lodged between her teeth. There was a red smear around Treasurer Beale’s lips.

I picked up one of the jelly beans and sniffed at it. A strong smell of cinnamon.

Next to the jar was a yellowed envelope. A piece of parchment was half-tucked inside. I picked it up and was about to read it when there was a commotion by the doorway. I tucked the envelope into my coat pocket just as a squad of police stormtroopers burst through, weapons drawn.

The new Chief of Detectives, Angus Smith followed them into the council chamber.

‘Caught you red handed,’ he said in a voice that cracked like a whip, ‘Sam Spader you ‘re under arrest for the murder of the Fabo Over-Council.’

‘I guess it wouldn’t help to point out that I only just got here,’ I said. ‘The councillors were dead when I arrived.’

He shook his head. I figured as much. I knew a stitch up when I smelt one and this one smelt like a bad Moonbeast curry.

Speaking of curry, where had the lovely Dame got to?

I put my hands in the air while one of the red-shirted stormtroopers relieved me of my weapon. They frisked me, but didn’t find the envelope. I decided not to advise them of their oversight.

I spent the night cooling my heels in the Fabo City Jail.

The Interrogation

It was the next morning that they finally hauled me in for interrogation. My hands were cuffed securely behind my back. A single light bulb swung low over a table in the darkened room. Video cameras whirred in the corner, capturing everything.

Chief Smith sat opposite me. He stared at me.

‘Why’d you do it?’ he asked.

‘I’m not going to be your fall guy,’ I said. ‘You know I didn’t do it. But I know who did.’

‘You might have a hard job convincing a jury,’ he said. ‘Come on, let’s hear your story. Who did it?’

‘Mr Groat,’ I said.

‘Mr Groat?’

‘Yeah. He believed that the Fabo Over Council was brainwashing all the citizens of Fabo. Blocking out their creativity and imagination.’

‘Why would he think such a thing?’ Smith asked.

‘Would you believe me if I told you that an alien named James Bond who spoke only in movie quotes gave him a letter telling him so, and freed him from the brainwashing?’

He answered with a single word. ‘No.’

‘Well it’s true,’ I said. ‘It’s all in the letter. The Fabo Over Council tried to snare him again, and thought they had succeeded, but Groat was only pretending to be brainwashed. The letter told him that the only way to free the people of Fabo was to murder the Over Council, and that is exactly what he did.’

‘Totally preposterous,’ Chief Smith said. ‘A feeble excuse to try and get yourself off the hook. You’ll be sent to the slime pits, or cast into the great crater for this, Spader.’

‘Somehow, I don’t think so,’ I said. ‘In fact, I’m going to walk out of here in just a few moments.’

‘And how exactly are you going to achieve that,’ he said.

‘You’ve seen the strange scar on my hand,’ I smiled at him, ‘I got that when a sucker punch spider bit off my hand a few years ago at Glottis Castle. Fortunately Dr Bixley was able to replace it with a bionic hand, and it’s detachable. It makes getting out of handcuffs real easy.’

He stared in shock as I brought my arms up from behind my back and clicked my artificial hand back into place.

‘Now let’s go find Mr Groat,’ I said.

Smith was quick. He ran for the door. I was quicker. I got there first and kicked it shut as he tried to open it. He stabbed a finger at an alarm button and a shrill siren filled the room. There was a banging on the door, but I threw my weight against it, preventing it from opening.

‘You won’t get away with this, Spader!’ Smith yelled.

‘You’ve got it all wrong,’ I said, ‘It’s you that won’t get away with it… Mr Groat.’

I grabbed at the skin under his chin and the rubber mask that he was wearing came off like old milk. I moved away from the door, and the stormtroopers burst in. They looked at me, then in shock at Mr Groat, the remains of the Angus Smith mask in tatters around his neck.

‘You’re going away for a long time,’ I said. ‘You and Mrs Groat. Disguising herself as an opera singer fooled me at first, but I don’t stay fooled for long.’

He laughed maniacally. ‘I don’t care what you do to me. The people of Fabo are now free. Free to let their creativity run wild. Free to have inspiration and imagination once more!’

‘That may be true,’ I said slowly, ‘But you’ll still have to answer for your crimes.’

I turned to the captain of the stormtroopers. ‘Here’s your murderer, book him. ’

I pushed past him out of the room.

‘Where are you going?’ I heard Mr Groat call out behind me.

I raised the collar of my trench coat and pulled my hat low over my eyes. I muttered under my breath as I walked away without a backward glance.

‘I got a dame to catch.’

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Riding Off Into The Sunset

Well howdy there strangers....This here FaBo team was left slapping their jeans with mirth....what with disappearing almond and vanilla fudge cake, a ten foot bright pink sand-caked octopus and towns that were so small they didn’t even have trains ....

The inhabitants of Planet FaBo have expanded with a circus of trained sucker punch spiders...not to mention show ponies and fantasy dwarves.

There were some great lines from

Izaak Glynn

‘Eddie whipped his shot gun from his back and blasted their slimy little peanut sized brains out.

Matthew Illing

‘But as he got closer he realised that it wasn’t the glint from a real sapphire after all, but one of the eight automatic pistols of the most evil villain in Western history, Octo-puss.

Caroline Moratti

‘Tightening his boots, he started to descend into the desert, leaving a broken heart and all hope of civilisation behind him.

Overall this week's batch of stories often took a long time to get going. When you have only one thousand words you can’t spend eight hundred words on back story.

Writers also seemed to have difficulty with structure and tense. Read your stories aloud to help with tense. If it sounds odd then there is usually a problem with tense ... have you put a sentence in the past instead of the present? This can happen really easily just by changing one word, is to was or hasn't to hadn’t.

Westerns can have shootouts and punch ups but they are there for a reason. They must either carry the plot forward or develop the character by the choices made when faced with a life or death situation.

Violence to fill up space in the story or because there hasn’t been any action for a while, leaves the reader feeling battered and questioning what was the point of that scene. Too much violence in a story can have less of an impact because the reader switches off. Your duty as a writer is to grab your reader and keep them reading every line because they need to know what happens next ... not to have them skipping lines because it’s just another punch up or shootout.

Poor old Eddie had a rough ride from some of you, dying in the last few sentences of the story. Killing a character has to be thought out carefully. Does it complete the story in a satisfying way or raise the stakes of choice for remaining characters or leave the reader feeling cheated ... (but why and what happens next?).

This week's winner was Matthew Illing (Read Matthew's story on the winners page.)

Matthew wrote a complete story that had a satisfying end. Eddie returns home as a hero ... but he has a choice to make. Matthew, that sapphire must have been a magic one as the villain's death was very quick ... spend a bit more time on the climax of your story next time.

Mozey on down to read my Planet Fabo story...Western style.

Maureen Crisp

There and Back

Eddie bellied up to the ridge of the small hill and peered over the top, careful to make no sudden moves. He didn’t want to die before he had taken the first step.

The plains stretched in front of him, fifty leagues of scrubby tussock, unpredictable windstorms and a tribe of fearsome Suckerpunch spiders. He needed money to save the farm and this was the quickest way to get it, if he could stay alive. He would be rich if he could gather a herd of moonstock drive them to the saleyards and find a buyer.

Eddie slid back down the hill to get his pack off Sparky, his trusty quadruped. He pulled out the netting his mother had made and began to tie bunches of tussock all over it. When his tussock cloak was finished, he flung it over himself and Sparky. By pretending to be a windblown ball of tussock he could travel safely through the day hunting a sleeping herd. The moonstock were active at night...and so were the spiders. He would hole up at night avoiding the spiders and hopefully the fearsome outlaw Octo8.

After two weeks of drifting with the wind over the plains, Eddie finally found a small herd of moonstock grazing in a hidden gully. He dug into his pack for his secret weapon, salted peanuts. Carefully he tossed a handful of peanuts in front of the lead stock unit. Bait taken. He flung the peanuts in front of as many noses as he could. It was working! The moonstock milled around noisily casting this way and that looking for salted peanuts.

Eddie’s heart sank. Travelling with a noisy herd of moonstock was not going to help his chances of getting off the plains unseen. He flung the cloak around him and trailed along with the herd, every now and then throwing a handful of peanuts in front of them.

By nightfall Eddie was exhausted and he thought his arm would fall off. He carefully flung a few handfuls of nuts into a small gully and watched the moonstock stumble tiredly about looking for them. Eddie quickly strung a rope fence across the mouth of the gully and covered it with tussock. Then he settled down to wait out the long dangerous night.

Eddie woke up with a shiver. He could hear a rasping sound. Spiders were near. The sound was joined by another and another. Soon the night was filled with horrible noise. The Spiders had caught a prisoner.

Eddie eased out of his sleeping bag, covered himself with his tussock cloak and crept towards the sound. He knew he was endangering his life and all the money on the hoof he had in the gully but he hated the thought of any one in the clutches of the spiders.

He peered around a rock and saw a large circle of Suckerpunch Spiders surrounding a web bound prisoner. It was Octo8, wearing his famous sapphire belt. His tentacles were bound and he was about to be lunch.

Eddie thought fast. The reward money for Octo8 was more than he would get from the sale of the moonstock. While the spiders were occupied he could get the moonstock out of the area. Eddie raced back to the gully and saddled up Sparky. He pulled down the rope fence and flung peanuts in front of the herd.

Eddie ran Sparky around the dozing moonstock, whacking them on the rumps with his rope to get them moving. ‘Hi yah,’ he yelled. The moonstock stumbled out of the gully in a boiling mass. Eddie grinned, his plan was working. Eddie flung another handful of nuts. The moonstock ran towards them.

The Spiders heard the sound of charging feet and tried to get out of the way. Moonstock thundered through the camp. Eddie pulled away to one side. He flung handfuls of nuts into the seething mass of stock and spiders. When the spiders were totally confused, Eddie rode forward with his knife. Octo8 fainted. Two slashes later and Octo8 was a bundle hanging from his saddle bow. Eddie lit out, running Sparky straight for the hills.

Behind him the spiders tried to capture the rampaging moonstock. The moonstock ran after the disappearing peanuts. Then Eddie heard a rasping scream of rage. The spiders had noticed their packed lunch was gone. The hunt was on. Eddie out in front, the spiders and moonstock behind.

Sparky began to tire. The weight of Octo8 and the half sack of salted peanuts was too much for the trusty quadruped. Down a little gully Sparky stumbled, out the other end and off the side of a cliff.

‘Arrgh,’ yelled Eddie as he found himself and his steed falling through midair. A gust of wind sweeping up the cliff caught them, slowing their fall.

Behind him the following moonstock tumbled off the cliff also. The wind slowed their fall. The Suckerpunch spiders weren’t so lucky, being lighter they floated up with the wind disappearing into the dawn sky.

Sparky hit the ground. Eddie was flung out of the saddle. The moonstock tumbled about him but they were soon on their feet, hunting peanuts from the broken sack. Eddie limped towards Octo8. He was unconscious but not badly hurt.

Sparky scrambled up and stood trembling while Eddie untied Octo8. He dragged him into the shade of a cactuspear tree. The moonstock settled down. Eddie made a fire and began to fix up Octo8.

The fearsome Outlaw came to and stared at Eddie. ‘You saved me.’

‘Yep,’ said Eddie, fixing another splint to Octo8’s leg.

‘Are you going to let me go?’

‘I’ve got enough stock here to save the farm.’ Eddie limped over to Sparky with some cactus pears. While Sparky was munching, Eddie took off his saddle and limped back to stretch out in the shade. He would start for home in the evening.

When Eddie woke up, there was no sign of Octo8, only a belt of sapphires lying beside him.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Love, Romance, and Goldfish - Judge's Report by Tania Hutley

What a great bunch of stories this week! Romance was in the air on Fabo2, and I could tell you had as much fun as I did writing about it.

I was impressed by your brilliantly creative plots and funny lines. It was difficult to choose a winner, but Caroline Moratti has taken the prize. Caroline's story is quirky and funny, and contained my two favorite lines:

- "Donovan could smell the almond vanilla scent the earwax carried, and it
smelt like heaven."

- And, "Maybe love was like a goldfish tank, Donovan mused. You put two goldfish in there, and they fall in love. Take one goldfish away, and the other one eats its children. Simple!"

Special mention this week goes to Hayley's story, which I enjoyed very much. Hayley, I liked that your heroine was the one who knocked out the bad guy. I also liked that she "... called him a certain word that no one would put in a story."

William's story about a boy's ambition to join the circus was also very good, but William, you forgot to include Donovan in your story. I loved that your heroine could juggle three TV sets though!

Anyway, here's my attempt at a romance story. Click the WINNERS button at the top of the page to read Coroline’s winning story.

A Voice From The Caves

- By Tania Hutley

Donovan woke in the middle of the night, his heart beating fast. The mournful call that had woken him was still echoing through the cave. Everyone said the voice called out warnings about burgers, but Donovan knew better. Really it kept calling out his name; this time he was sure of it!

Donovan knew he shouldn't get up. His body was still repairing itself from the day before - his belly hadn't fully tightened and his beard hadn't yet disappeared. But, darn it, he couldn't just stay in bed! The cries had been waking him every night for weeks. What if the legends were true, and there really were ghosts in the caves?

Donovan sprang up and grabbed a light-stick. As he slipped silently past all the other sleeping-caves, the snores of the rest of his tribe followed him out. Most of them had gone through the pairing ceremony ages ago, before they'd reached 10 solar-orbits old. He and Flicka were the only two people still un-paired.

He and Flicka would pair at some point, Donovan supposed. The whole tribe assumed they would and were impatient for it to happen. The problem was, Donovan didn't love Flicka. Not like he'd once loved Aurora.

Aurora's eyes had been golden, and her hair a lovely mud-brown. Her smile still lingered in his memory - more beautiful than any girl he'd ever known.

Donovan sighed. If only Aurora hadn't been sucked into the black slime pits, suffocating in the sludge while her flesh was eaten by carnivorous slugs. After a love as strong as his and Aurora's had been, how could he possibly settle for pairing with Flicka?

His thoughts in turmoil, Donovan was hardly aware of how deep he was going into the labyrinth of caves. The long, sad cry sounded again, calling him. Urging him to go deeper into the caves than he'd ever been before.

It seemed like a different world this far down in the cave. Instead of the comforting dry grey stone of home, these rock walls were covered in slime and cave-worms inched blindly across the dampness.

Ahead of him, a ghostly light flicked. What could it be? His steps faltered and then stopped. His heart raced.

The voice he'd been hearing for weeks called out again, clear and strong instead of weak and distorted.

"Don-o-van. Don-o-vaaaaan."

Shock made his voice squeaky. "Aurora?"

The light came closer and now he could see a ghostly shape inside it. The shape of the woman he'd loved.

"Yes, it's me. Aurora. The strength of my love kept my soul here after I died, trapped in the cave underworld. Yearning for you. Every night I've been calling for you, calling your name, over and over. Didn't you hear me?"

"Something's been keeping me awake," he admitted. "But most of the tribe think the voice has been calling out, 'Beware the burgerrrrrrrrrrrrr'."

"Um," said the Aurora-ghost. "That was Fred."

The ghostly shape of a boy flickered from the darkness and glared at Donovan. "A pile of burgers fell on me," said the boy in a resentful voice. "Didn't know they'd be heavy enough to squash me flat."

Aurora's ghostly figure drifted forward and held out shadowy hands towards Donovan. "Now you are here, my love, and we can finally be together!"

Donovan blinked. "But, Aurora, you're a ghost, pale and insubstantial. I can see the cave walls through your body! How can we ever be together?"

"You must join me. Become like I am."

"Become a ghost? You mean, I have to die for us to be paired?" Donovan took a step backwards.

"My love, it's the only way."

Donovan hesitated, taking in her misty form that hung so weakly in the air. Through her ghostly shape, he could see the wet cave walls glistening and the blind cave-worms crawling. It almost looked like carnivorous slugs were still sucking the flesh off Aurora's long-dead bones.

He swallowed hard. Then he said, "Flicka expects me to pair with her. I must go and talk with her. I must explain."

Aurora nodded. Her smile filled with joy. "Hurry back to me, my love! Join me and we shall haunt these caves forever. I will call out for you every moment we are apart, until we are together once more."

Her voice followed him as he stumbled away from her, back towards the surface, thinking hard. He'd gone so deep into the caves that by the time he got home it was morning and all the tribe were stirring, but he could still hear Aurora's faint and mournful cries.

"Flicka," he called. "Where are you? I've something to tell you."

She came out of her sleeping-cave, yawning and stretching. "What is it, Donovan?"

"Last night I went deep into the caves. Deeper than anyone has ever gone before. And I made a decision." He hesitated, taking a deep breath. "I'm going to get paired."

A smile spread over her face. "Oh, Donovan! I've waited so long for you to ask me! I'm so happy."

Flicka threw her arms around Donovan, but instead of hugging her back, his hands stayed by his sides, clenched tight into fists. With a confused look on her face, she drew away from him.

Donovan lifted his gaze to meet hers. As he looked into her jewel-green eyes, he thought how lovely they were, sparkling with life. Her hair was limp and straggly, but maybe it just needed a good brushing. And her smile, although slightly crooked, was warm.

Best of all was the way her arms had felt when she hugged him. Solid and real. Not ghostly. Not in the least bit damp.

Slowly, he opened his hands. He was holding four small, rounded pieces of cave-worm. Although he had no imagination, desperation had driven him to create something entirely new.

"What are they, Donovan?"

"An invention."

"What's that?" She frowned.

"Dearest Flicka, they're a pairing present for us. I call them 'Ear Plugs'. I have a feeling they're going to come in very handy."

Listen to A Voice from the Caves

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.’