The Annual Mary Poppins Literary Competition for young writers and poets was established to commemorate the writer P L Travers (the creator of Mary Poppins) who was born in Maryborough, Qld.
Over the years enthusiastic young writers from across the region have showcased their creative talents via this competition.
Congratulations to the Years 10-12 winners of the Short Story category!
Short Story Winners Years 10-12
1st Place, Anna Hoffman
As it entered the dock, his brow furrowed. The local harbourmaster boarded the injured vessel, lamp in hand. The man’s eyes foraged for visual clues. Odd. Where’s the crew? Upon entering the captain’s cabin, he saw nothing but four corners, cloaked in shadow. His lamp relaxed on the desktop, an aged logbook bathing in the light. Intrigued, the harbourmaster’s eyes engulfed the world described in the weathered pages…
Captain’s Log, May 20
Like knives, waves sliced the hull. Vociferous roars of thunder caused wooden planks to tremble, dismantling to save themselves. Screaming. Bright arrows from the archers of the sky creaked the world into fragments. My orders were lost to the ears of the sea. Wailing. As if on a nautical schedule, a thing from nightmares arose. Capitalising on the weather’s destruction, the horrific creature poised infinite rows of teeth at my vulnerable crew. Surreal. River-long tentacles gripped the barnacled wood, squeezing breath out of the ship. Encased in razor spines, the demon devoured the last soul in a cauldron of terror. A liquid mausoleum surrounded my splintering vessel. Desolate.
Captain’s Log, June 24
Witchcraft. This hull should have sunk by now. The masts are buckled, the wheel is wreck, and the floors have a peculiar red hue. Yet somehow, I continue to sail. I can still hear my crew’s hard work, though they never speak.
‘The deck should have been cleaned yesterday! Swabbie, get the mop!’ I strive for discipline. I constantly inspect this once proud ship, ordering the crew to attend to any damage. Some captains might give up on maintenance after such a devastating loss, especially when both natural and supernatural worlds join forces. But I believe in keeping a tight ship. Always.
Captain’s Log, June 27
The midnight subconscious acts a window into the other-worldly, a warning of eminent danger. ‘I knew you would come back for me, beast, by mark my words, my heart will never beat in you stomach!’ A tower of pure evil swallowed me in shadow, its crimson stare unwavering. ‘What sin must I repent to force this colossal terror back to its watery lair? Lord, hear my cries and guide me past this fiend! Unlike my crew, your presence will not falter my courage! You will not scratch my soul!’ Paranoia devours me like termites in an end table. Now, each wave is a clock, counting down the seconds until it arrives. It will not win again.
Captain’s Log, July 2
I know it’s coming. Wolves and fears alike are relentless, ferocious, merciless. All who encounter this wild, unpredictable pack of mental poisons are chipped away by the internal torment. None can resist. I know it’s coming…
Captain’s Log July 5
Enough! No more waiting. I scrambled to the deck, hastily readying the deadly powder. ‘Surely it is here, ready to strike!’ I aimed at the endless blue canvas on which to paint my revenge, peppering the seamless sea. BANG! I sprinted back to my cabin in case it was angered by my provocation. Small, salted spheres skipped down my face, weaving themselves amongst facial obstacles. ‘At ease, lads! All sorted.’ Unfortunately, standing tall and heroic in the face of peril is unrepeatable. I must summon my strength before it becomes my weakness. It will not win again.
Captain’s Log, July 8
Horrific. Terrifying. My sacred lingual tool is a mere manipulation of my cracked rationality. Murky ink which once swirled with promise now screams with hostility. Solid black lines that I used to curl and domesticate into a decodable pattern have become ravenous snakes that writhe and hiss. Their master is me no more; it is the unknown realm of circular squares and triangular swirls. Despite my strongest efforts, my minute words are no match for the power of the blank page. No matter how hard I strain to draw logic, my syllables drown in the ink’s own imagination. I have succumbed to the mesmerising prowess of the pen. I have no control. What have I become?
His face reflected the horror of each. The harbourmaster fumbled for his lamp, glancing around the room. A putrid odour coaxed nausea to attack him with passion. The fresh light stripped the gloomy clothing that encased the corners, exposing the pure, raw truth beneath. Upon uncovering the third corner, a satanic scene met his gaze. No. No. No! A mound of rotting corpses rested on the wooden planks. Below, a scarlet message was crudely scrawled: ‘bait’. Suddenly the light was extinguished. The room was completely still, filled only by the harbourmaster’s anxious panic. Two eyes appeared in the impenetrable pool of darkness, the wink of metal following close behind. In his final seconds, the harbourmaster knew the real sea monster.
2nd Place, Tiainei Goundar
I still remember that day, the warm Tuesday on which everything would change. The UV rays hugged my back as I watched yellow consume the pear in my hand. I turned to look at my wife through the fatigued windows of our house, grinning when I caught her face. This newfound fortune was going to help us, it was going to help me. She raised her eyebrows at the sight of my smile and mouthed something at me. I bent down and picked up a few from my pile of riches before running inside to see her, the wealth in my hands glistening as I moved towards her. I pushed myself through the door, my shoulder spreading yellow along its face and down the frame. My wife gestured to the metal in my hands. ‘What’s that?’ she questioned. I dropped them onto the table before taking a seat of my own. The yellow spread from my armrests, down the legs of the seat. My wife just laughed, undoubtedly wondering what was going on and I joined in on her cachinnation. Looking back now, she must have been nervous watching as my fingertips became a vessel of fortuity. She served me a plate of food and I just stared at the cob placed in the middle of the ceramic. I had hated it. Eating such beggarly food; it was driving me nuts. I watched the steam rise from the yellow on my plate. Yellow. I thought to myself. It was crazy to me; the vast difference between the yellow in front of me, and the yellow beneath me. ‘Yellow.’ I murmured to myself. My wife looked up from her plate to watch me and I returned the same attention. I studied every wrinkle that laced her face, every line represented our years together. But I wasn’t satisfied – I was an unhappy man and I wanted more. I wanted more than the same lame meals I was being served. I wanted more than the same lame house I lived in, and I wanted more than the same lame woman in front of me. So, I ordered her around, I blared my wishes at her. Yellow had turned from being the symbol of our poverty to being a symbol of my power.
She watched with intent as I raised the glass-turned-goblet to my lips. Something wasn’t right. The events of the evening had turned her laughter into silence and the mellow look on her face had morphed into an expression of panic. I snapped out of my state of hypnosis, gagging on the hardened liquid on my tongue, and reaching at my wife through gasps for air. She just started to scream. This wretched woman was screaming at me. I began clawing at the tablecloth, desperately trying to clear the metal in my throat all while she watched, stumbling over the furniture to get away from me. I retracted my arm and engrossed in the feeling of hypoesthesia, the world turning black as my vision faded. I came to, beneath me – my pool of riches, the metal shard was now beside me lying down in the same fashion as myself. I could hear my wife’s meek sobs from inside the guest bedroom. I forced myself up colouring the remaining floor as I moved towards our room and into our bed. A million thoughts occupied my brain. Was she scared of me? Why? Why would she be scared? Questions I couldn’t answer at the time, so I just slept. I went to bed with hopes of never opening my eyes again.
Upon waking up I could still hear her cries. This yellow was causing her distress. The wealth I had procured through my greed was now my biggest adversary. I was starving and my own wife would not let me touch her for fear that she would become a monument, an artifact for a museum. She was so scared of turning yellow that she had thrown me away. And so, I left – abandoning all my wealth, abandoning my house and finally, abandoning my wife. I fell through the door and as I looked back at the yellow trail littering the ground, I couldn’t help but weep. The once battered wooden door frame was now edged with metal, a golden hue under the sun’s smile. Such a colour had now become the symbol of my defeat. Yellow, the colour that had stripped me of everything.
3rd Place, Grace Mulligan
The smell of human flesh on fire burned her nostrils. The smoke pillars above the tree line created stark stains against the horizon. Agnes looked to where the livestock resided as she draped another tunic on the line. She heard the signature clop of a horse’s hooves galloping up gravel pathway. Her shoulders automatically locked up with tension. He was home.
‘Greetings, Phillip. How were your travels?’ Agnes inquired later as she chopped vegetables for the stew. Phillip sat in the head chair at their small table awaiting supper. He was dressed in cream-coloured tunic and brown trousers that matched his scraggly beard that reached halfway down his chest. Agnes hated the wretched thing. ‘Quite well. We got another today. The church has made the settlement safer yet again. The power of God has rid of us of another abomination.’ He boasted. His voice grated her ears.
‘Oh?’ She hesitantly asked, not really wanting to hear the answer before supper.
‘She was a hellcat this one. Fought tooth and nail. If only she were born a man. She would have served well in the Popes Crusade.’ He had the audacity to sound proud of himself.
‘She cried out for so long. Spawn of the devil, she was.’ He continued. Hadn’t he considered that by hunting monsters he had become something much worse?
‘You should have seen the state of decay- ‘
‘I have heard quite enough of that,’ Agnes interrupted.
He scoffed, obviously displeased with her reaction.
‘My day would have been better if supper was ready when I arrived home. I’m famished,’ Phillip grunted.
‘You were early today, dear,’ she replied, continuing to chop.
‘You should prepare earlier,’
‘Yes, dear, but I was hanging the washing- ‘
‘No excuses. A woman is meant to cook for her husband. That is what the church and the lord say is holy and right.’
‘Yes, but, dear, I have my duties here, that keep me quite engaged. Like caring for the livestock and they are quite unwell-‘
‘Just. Cook.’ He demanded. She averted her gaze and chopped faster, the blade hitting the block almost as fast as her heart pounded. The only sound that filled the tension filled air was the chop, chop, chop of the blade.
‘You know, I heard that King Henry was granted a divorce,’ Phillips’ voice was softer now.
‘Yes, but the church would never grant that for anyone else,”’ They both knew that by ‘anyone else’ she meant them.
Supper was ready, and they ate in silence. Neither mentioned the darkness in the room. The darkness that had made them miserable for so long; their resentment for each other, their mutual hatred. The darkness that crept up on them so slowly, they didn’t know they were enveloped until it was too late.
The bed they shared later that night was cold. It was always so cold between them.
By the time she awoke, he was gone, joining the other heretics for their crusade.
Later, she wandered the grimy, filth riddled streets. A rat scampered past her feet, making her jump. The markets had a buzz. Many stalls were set up throughout the street, all varying colours. She smelt meat cooking. People made friendly conversation and bartered for the smallest discount. Agnes wondered why she bothered making the venture when she saw her and remembered why. Agnes practically ran to her stall, almost tripping on the length of her tunic.
Beth’s blonde hair fanned around her face as she smiled. There was such warmth in it.
‘Agnes! Back so soon? I have your favourites here,’ Beth sounded delighted to see her.
‘Yes, well, my husband loves the stews I make with them,’ Agnes explained. Somehow just seeing Beth had lifted the dark haze that had fallen over Agnes. Beth pulled out the bag of potatoes. When Agnes went to reach for them, Beth’s delicate fingers brushed hers. Agnes’s’ eyes snapped up to Beth’s’. ‘We can’t do that here,’ Agnes whispered, whipping her head around to see if any passer-by’s had noticed. ‘No one’s watching,’ Beth replied, ‘Do you know what we would be accused of if anyone saw us? What they would do to us? What my husband would do?!’ Agnes’s whisper raised to more of a yell. ‘Agnes, calm down. How about I help you walk these vegetables home?’ Beth asked, her freckled face catching the light as she leaned towards Agnes.
‘That would be very much appreciated,’ Agnes said, calming down with a deep breath. Beth put a sign up on her stall, indicating she would return soon. Time flew on the trek to Agnes’s humble abode. The pair walked side by side, Beth carrying the potatoes. To Agnes the cobblestones didn’t seem so bad when Beth was by her side. A warm breeze ruffled nearby trees, tousling Agnes’ hair as the breeze passed through the path. The sun beat down right above their heads, indicating midday. Like every other day, Phillip would not be home until darkness had descended, the smell of supper most likely the solitary thing bringing him home, much like a cat, she thought.
The pair arrived at Agnes’s home; the crudely built cabin a dark stain against the bright skyline. That was when the first sign came, the first sign of trouble that should have made Agnes turn around. The gate had been left open. Agnes was almost certain she had closed it.
‘Didn’t you close this? What if the cows had escaped?’ Beth inquired.
‘I always close it, it’s only Phillip who doesn’t close it, I’m always pestering him about it. I must have forgotten,’ Agnes supposed, trying to ignore the nagging feeling something wasn’t right.
‘Well, come on,’ Agnes encouraged, leading the short trail to the house, Beth on her heels. Agnes pushed open the door, eliciting a loud creaking. There, painting a formidable silhouette in the room, was Phillip, still in his dark coat and hat.