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Read the "Now What?" Grand Prize Winner (13 and Under Division)!

Last month, we challenged writers to revise and submit a 400-word excerpt from their NaNoWriMo novel. From over 650 stupendous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and three Honorable Mentions. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did! (For more stories, check out this forum thread.)

From Just This Once by Stella - Grand Prize Winner (13 and Under Division)

The passenger drone purrs as we glide over the fish farms, spindly black grids stretching for miles. In front of us the border floats innocently, a line of solar transmission buoys.
The iCom beeps and the flashing screen shows a red dot moving steadily towards the coast. Dad sighs deeply and taps the screen to lock in the location. He looks tired; this job’s getting to him.

I reach out and take his hand.

Dad hovers above the boat and I can’t help thinking it looks like a teardrop. He presses play and an automated voice echoes over the sea: “You are approaching New Zealand coastal waters. Our population must remain stable to be sustainable, and therefore all immigration is banned. You must leave these waters immediately.”

The people on the deck shout something as Dad lands the drone on our side of the border. He deactivates the windows as a woman calls out, “Please, help us. We’re running out of desalination filters.”

“Look… You’re gonna have to turn around. This is the New Zealand border. I’m sorry, I can’t let you through.”

Out of my window I notice that the group of children who had been pointing at our drone, have fallen silent. A tall girl my age pushes forward. Her hair is stiff with salt, but her face is clean, her cheekbones pronounced.

“Where did you come from?” My voice is quiet.

She looks at me sadly.

“The beaches sparkled like a thousand suns were buried in the sand. The sea was the deepest of blues, and every morning we woke to the deafening sound of the shrikebill’s song. But the sea, that was once so dear to us, rose, and rose. It flooded our homes, drowning our island.”

I turn away from her hopeless face, and I whisper, “Can’t we let them in Dad? Just this once. They have nowhere else to go.” 

His voice is stern, “Just this once is what happened to America. Now they’re overflowing with rubbish and pollution. There are concerns about their resources. They are facing the consequences of just this once.”

“But Dad…”

He flicks on the drone engine.

As we rise, I cast one fleeting glance back at the boat and see the girl standing on the prow like some figurehead of old and I imagine what it must have been like, to watch your home disappear under the waves.

author photo

Stella W. is an aspiring author who loves writing, swimming and hanging out with her friends. She has been published in Toitoi journal, has read her stories on the HeiHei listen app and has been commended in several short story competitions. She is a year 9 at high school and some of her favourite things are food, 5SOS, and reading (especially John Green). She loves to write her own novels and is hoping to publish her current project. 

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