THIRD PLACE (12 – 15yrs) Adam Quinn, 13 yrs old (Yr 9 John O’Gaunt School)
The mist was rising, I was lost. The moor stretched off into the distance as far as the eye could see and the only thing breaking the flat horizon was a dead tree, its branches hanging down as if it was trying to sink into the boggy marshland. I decided to head towards the tree, if not as a vantage point to scout the horizon, then as a respite from the monotonous landscape that would drive me mad if I did not escape it soon.
I heard her before I saw her.
There was a crackling sound behind me and I spun around to see a girl walking towards me. Her lank hair hung in front of her face like a curtain, behind which I could glimpse a snarling mouth and bloodshot eyes. Her nose had been cut off. It was not her mutilated face that terrified me, it was the way she walked towards me. Each of her limbs jerked forwards independently and out of sequence with each other.
Before I knew it, I found myself running. I did not know where or why but all I knew was that I needed to get away from this girl. I looked back and she was running after me, in that same jerky fashion but all the more terrifying now she had picked up speed. It looked like someone with no knowledge of how the human body worked was trying to operate a grotesque puppet.
Before I knew it, I reached the tree and immediately clambered up it. The girl followed shortly behind and looked up at me, as if wondering what I was. Then she completely ignored me and walked past me and started doing something on the other side of the tree, out of my vision. I didn’t dare turn around to see what it was she was doing and instead looked through the pockets of my jacket for something to use as a weapon against her. I found nothing.
I finally mustered up the courage to have a look at what the girl was doing. She was making some kind of model – a human sized figure made from compacted mud and grass, hanging from a rope made with entwined weeds – by its neck. It looked like she was making the face, her mouth was twisted in concentration and her eyebrows were furrowed. She noticed me watching and hissed at me, the sound coming a few seconds before her head or face moved.
I quickly turned back around, my heart pounding furiously, I had broken out in a cold sweat and I was hyperventilating. Something was wrong with this girl, was she on drugs? Had she been a part of some foul experiment? I didn’t know, all I knew was that she needed help. The tree started shaking and I spun around, the girl was looking at me, then at her model, as if prompting me to look at it. I slowly turned, afraid of what I was going to see.
It was me.