Spring Festival Short Story Competition 2021 – School Years 8-10 Category


Spring Festival Short Story Competition 2021

School Years 8 to 10 Category Winner

The Game of Life

Written by Sophia Cuevas

Every day the dice is thrown, another life is predetermined, and another day is decided. The game of life is cruel, unjust. Humans blame it all on fate, oblivious to the fact that a single dice that I roll decides their future, set into stone, unable to be changed. Once I get bored, I throw it all away and start over. Life after life, I roll the dice, deciding people’s future. I am worshiped, every day, millions of people pray to me, to keep them safe, unaware that I don’t control their future. Every day it all repeats. Fortune and misfortune, what will be decided. I watch over all humans, pitying them as their bound by the game I play. The game of life.


I never wanted this, watching millions of people suffer every day. Not only are they bound by the game of life, but so am I. Taking a deep breath, I roll the die again. How unfair. It’s always the best people who end up with the worst fates. How very unfair. A cold-blooded killer, what will be their fate? I sighed and anxiously rolled the die. A future of success and happiness. I gazed in disbelief. The guilt and despair that took over me every time something like this occurred haunted me. Billions of years later and I’m still not used to it. Yet there’s nothing I can do. For I am too controlled to play this game, forced to play this game. The game of life.


I can no longer do this, for the empty void is not only around me, but also deep inside me. I search for answers, so I can be freed, no longer trapped, from this game. What if I went to Earth, posed as a human and lived a normal life, what would happen? Would the game of life be abandoned or would someone else take over? Would destiny no longer exist and simply become a myth? Would people finally have free will and be able to choose their own actions? Would that be a good or bad thing? Questions flooded my mind as I questioned the world beneath me. For someone who was believed to know everything, was merely as clueless as the lowly human. Will I finally be able to be released? From this inhuman game. The game of life.


I stand in the middle of the mess I had created. Abandoning the game of life was the largest mistake anyone could’ve possibly ever made. Who was I to know that the game of life was needed to keep the planet fair and balanced? I feel pain in my now human heart and feel my human hairs stand on end. For there is no going back from the mess I made. The ruined planet had now reached its limits and the public going berserk lead to worldwide destruction. A single tear rolled down my cheek as I watched the scene of a dystopian movie unravel from my very eyes. For this is all the fault of that immoral game. The game of life.



Judge Charlie Durante’s comments:


“This story reads like an extended parable about the enigmatic nature of existence and the reversals of fortune which some people attribute to a blind force.  Life is unpredictable, unstable and baffling.  Is there a god who decides our fate and is this god benevolent or malevolent?  Maybe there is no guiding principle but all is down to the throw of a die? The power that speaks the words of this story seems to imitate Jesus by becoming human and sharing our fate.  But this does not solve the problem as someone has to control ‘the game of life’.  We end up with a scene from a dystopian movie, all mayhem and despair.  This story conjures up disturbing questions about the the purpose of life, the nature of providence, if there is such a thing, the ultimate meaning of the striving we all engage in.  The mythical and the theological are mixed in a very compelling narrative. Well done!”


School Years 8 to 10 Runner-up


Written by Megan Edmunds

We sneaked Upground! Jacob and I took a deep breath, only to start coughing from the toxicity lingering in the air. Broken and blackened stumps blotted the scorched earth which stretched for miles. Having never seen the light of day or felt the texture of the dry earth between our toes, we surreptitiously edged towards our destination, shielding our eyes from the blinding light. The very few surviving trees loomed over us; despite their beauty they felt malevolent. Following the scent of the saltwater, we reached the shore. I wiggled my toes around in the sand, delighting in the change of texture after the rocky bottom of The Shallows. The waves beckoned me, the air was fresh, and the sea was taunting.


“I am going in,” I stated, much more dramatic than intended.


The water bit into my ankle as I stepped into the subtle blue, calming water and giggled as it reached my waist. The childish sound echoed against the rocks as ripples danced around me.


“It is breath-taking,” I commented, savouring every moment. I felt like I was drifting in a thousand memories.


“It sure is! Although my parents had told me about Upground, it is a bit of a disappointment,” he replied, gazing into the bleak and barren woods.


I agreed. From what I had heard, the woods were meant to be teeming with life. To my disappointment all we saw was a charred wasteland. One thing was certain, we had to miss the dragon raid. We had to be back before sunset.


We had been forced into lockdown when the dragons arrived. Jacob and I were born in The Shallows, having never felt the fresh air, until now.


We must have lost track of time because soon the sky turned a brilliant pinkish­orange. It was spectacular.


Suddenly it hit me! A scorching heat engulfed us as menacing shadows flew high above. My breath caught in my throat.


I came to a halt, appearing in the sky was the dragon sign. We had to get out of the water.

“Jacob!” I screamed.


We frantically swam to shore. My stomach was uneasy; Jacob looked pale. Baleful, dense, black clouds began to cover the sky and winds blew in every direction. Waves raging.


A magnificent fiery red dragon flew towards us. Rain hit my arm like daggers. My heart was thumping as icicles filled my veins.


Abruptly, I was aware that the dragon was close, setting the skies alive with toxic rage. Fire ignited around us.


We darted forwards, my legs giving way.


“Any ideas?” I shouted.


“We have to get back to The Shallows!” he responded.


I rummaged my brain for the location of the nearest entrance, remembering one that had not been used since the fire enveloped it.


“Do you trust me?”! screamed. Jacob nodded, uncertainly.


The dragon’s breath was singeing our ankles. I turned around, its menacing wings stretched far apart.


“Are you crazy?” Jacob screeched.


Ignoring it, I dashed under the dragon, sensing its scales above me. My heart missed a beat. Running as fast as my legs would withstand, we neared the entrance.


Not daring to look back, I felt the searing fire of the dragon’s breath. We came to the edge of the cliff, at the bottom was a pile of rocks and what I hoped to be the opening underneath.


“I need you to close your eyes.”


He did so.


My blood ran cold, the dragon was within reach. Petrified, I built up the courage to seize Jacob’s arms. Shutting my eyes, we jumped.



Judge Charlie Durante’s comments:


“This is a rollicking adventure story which begins when Jacob and the narrator emerge from the Shallows into the Upground, a ravaged, almost lifeless wasteland, the remains of some ecological or nuclear disaster.  All ventures into a new world carry an implied threat: here the danger is posed by a dragon whose fiery breath can consume everything.  Our two friends have to run, frantically looking for an entrance to their ‘Shallow’ world.  The ending is literally a cliff-hanger as they come to the edge of a cliff and jump for dear life and we are not told the outcome.  The short paragraphs give the story a momentum which impels the narrative and keeps the reader on tenterhooks.  The brisk pace, one line paragraphs and lively dialogue make this a very enjoyable story indeed.”

Highly Commended


Written by Nicole Zinovev


Pain. It pulsed through my veins, threatening to shatter my very skull. I gasped as my eyes flew open and a blinding light pierced my pupils. I shot up, only to be immediately forced back into reclination by some form of restraint. I quickly discovered that my arms, legs and head were likewise restricted, and that I could barely move, even if I had the strength to.


This initial wave of fear and adrenaline left me exhausted; it was all I could do to slightly angle my head away from the light that seemed to be burning through my brain, and this only by sheer willpower.


Suddenly, a loud clang reverberated through my bones; each footstep I heard drawing nearer repeatedly ruptured my eardrums. A long shadow momentarily distracted the light, and for a brief instant I felt relief, until panic regained its avaricious control over my body. A man’s obscure silhouette loomed over me, and though I could not make out his features, I managed to identify a white lab coat hanging off his shoulders.


“Nice of you to rejoin us, Myla.” Even this soothing voice aggravated me. “Where am I?” I strainingly rasped.


“You’re in a hospital. Do you remember anything about yourself?” He negligently scribbled on a notepad.


“I … The last thing I recall … an ambulance?”


“Very good. Is there anything else?”


I painstakingly attempted to concentrate on my memories. Flashes of my childhood, then later of school, then the emergency waiting room at hospitals … it all came flooding back. Nights interrupted by screams, unconsciousness indiscernible from reality, endless doctor’s appointments. Oxymoronic diagnoses: ‘hyperalgesic’, ‘psychotic’, ‘alcoholic’, ‘schizophrenic’. The increased sensitivity of my nervous system had rendered me virtually paralyzed. I was prescribed infinite medications, creams – there was nothing we hadn’t tried. Yet still, each time I stubbed my toe my howls brought my parents flying. Until finally, a last resort had presented itself: a clinical trial for a drug, meant to impair nerve cells in the body in such a way that pain tolerance would be increased.


Naturally, it was decided that I would participate. Only … the mountains of paperwork had never sanctioned this anguish. I had wanted the exact opposite of this. Dread consumed any remaining rationality left in me as I grasped the corruption of my situation.


“I have to leave,” I wheezed. I desperately struggled to detach myself from my cuffs.


“Myla?” His inquisitive tone only served as fuel for my horror.


“I have to get out of here,” My breathing accelerated. Adrenaline backed my efforts.


“Myla, I need you to relax.”


“I need to get out. Take these off me!” I was frantic.


“I’m afraid I can’t do that.” The lilt in his voice indicated anything but apology.


“I have to go, I need to- someone help! Get me out of here!” My screams were pitifully hoarse. I began to flail around, jerking fitfully around in an attempt to free myself of my bonds. Everything hurt. In my terror, I thrashed even more destructively, until I felt the sharp prick of … a needle? Instantly I grew still. The pain receded. Footsteps retreated; a now quieter clang smothered my mind. The world darkened. My muscles, once rigid, calmed as hushed voices lulled me to sleep:


“At least this time she reacted.”


Judge Charlie Durante’s comments:


“Hypersensitive Myla is strapped to a hospital bed.  Her nerves are tingling with exposure to different sensations, her mind initially confused, her freedom curtailed. She must have a complicated medical history with a long trail of mental illness.  She submits to a newfangled drug treatment, but it seems to have aggravated her symptoms.  This story powerfully conveys the feelings of a patient who feels she is at the mercy of clinicians and physicians who don’t seem to understand her condition and have bombarded her nervous system with endless, invasive medication.  Poor Myla’s desperate cries are ignored and she is subdued with another calming injection.  We know this has all happened before and we feel for this hapless patient: will she ever recover or will she remain a prisoner of her own psychotic condition and the incompetent ministrations of her doctors?”