THE WINNERS: The Deep Mighty Pens Young Writers Award

The Deep Mighty Pens Young Writers Award winners have been announced. Please see below for the winning stories. The competition has seen some very talented authors enter. Please watch this space for the latest news and of course don’t forget that Mighty Pens will be hosting a Young Writers Award with The Deep next year!

Shark Category:

Axolotl Beach Clean Up by Keiran Manning

(Shark Category Winner)

One day, on a sunny beach in Mexico, an Axolotl was taking a walk. The Axolotl loved the beach, it always put a huge Axolotl smile on his little face. Whilst walking he tripped over a bottle that had washed up on the beach shore. When he picked up the bottle, it had a message inside which read “Hey you! Yes you! You need to start cleaning the beach, otherwise our planet will become a wasteland!” The Axolotl said to himself “I’m just an Axolotl, how am I supposed to clean up this whole beach by myself?”

The next day the Axolotl went back to the beach to enjoy a nice peaceful walk but when he got there he saw it had become just as  messy as yesterday. This made the Axolotl very sad and he began to cry. Just then he started to hear familiar voices, it was the sound of his friends who had all come to help him clean up the beach.

“It’s OK Axolotl, we’ve come to help you. We were all so impressed at how lovely you made the beach yesterday that we wanted to help too,” said his friends. The Axolotl began to smile a huge Axolotl smile again and within no time the friends had managed to clean up the entire beach a lot quicker than it took the Axolotl by himself the day before.

“Wow! I can’t believe how quickly we cleaned the beach up working together,” said the Axolotl.
“Keeping the beach and oceans tidy isn’t just a job for one Axolotl. It’s everybody’s responsibility,” replied his friends.

Over the next few days the group of friends would meet and do regular beach clean ups. By the end of the week the friends realised there wasn’t as much to tidy and wondered why.

“Hey look!” said the Axolotl “Somebody has put signs up all around the beach about keeping it clean.” Suddenly, the Axolotl began to hear a bubbling noise coming from the sea. He walked over to the water and stuck his head underneath to investigate. He saw a faint glowing blob getting closer and closer to him. When it got close enough, the Axolotl saw it was a Jellyfish.

“It’s you!” said the Jellyfish. “Yes it is,” replied the Axolotl “err… who am I?” The Jellyfish began to laugh a buzzy laugh “You’re him! You’re the Axolotl who’s been cleaning up the beach. Thanks to you there’s far less plastic and rubbish in the water which means me and my friends can enjoy swimming here again without having to worry about being tangled in plastic.”

The Jellyfish explained that the Axolotl and his friends had inspired people to take their rubbish home from the beach and to re-use and recycle their plastic containers. “Thank you so much for all you’ve done” said the Jellyfish. “Keeping the beach and oceans tidy isn’t just a job for one Axolotl, It’s everybody’s responsibility,” replied the Axolotl with a huge Axolotl smile.

My Amazing Dolphin Dive by Inaya Rahman

(Shark Category Runner Up)

My alarm went off, it was morning. I looked out of my window and I saw a magnificent dolphin looking up at me. I was on a cruise ship sailing off the coast of New Zealand. I noticed the dolphin had a plastic bag wrapped around one of his fins and he was flapping his other fin and it almost looked like he was trying to call me over. I quickly got dressed and ran out onto the deck and over to the dolphin.

To my surprise, the dolphin opened his mouth and started talking! He said to me, “My name is Delfin. I am a dolphin and I live in the Tasman Sea in the South Pacific Ocean. People are dumping their litter into Tasman Sea. A ship just arrived about to dump its litter into the Sea and the first piece of plastic got caught around my fin. I saw your cruise ship and I bravely decided to swim over to try and get help. Will you help me stop the pollution of our sea?”

I felt very confused and I didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t get any words out.

Delfin noticed that I was hesitating so he took a deep breath and said, “Let me explain!”

“The Tasman Sea is home to lots of plants and animals – the dazzling coral reef, the shimmering fish, the olive turtles, the marvellous seals, the wonderful whales, the gigantic sharks and of course all my incredible dolphin friends. The entire habitat depends on the clean water. If ships dump rubbish into the seas, then animals can get caught up and strangled and the entire ocean life can become suffocated!”

I felt sad about the sea life being destroyed and was excited to go on an adventure with a dolphin so I replied, “Yes. I will help you save Tasman Sea!!!”

Delfin instructed, “Jump on my back and I’ll take you to the dumping ship.”

I looked at his fin which was still caught up in the plastic bag and said “but if you’re trapped, why are you smiling?” He responded, “I’m a bottlenose dolphin, I always look like I’m smiling because of my curved mouth!”

He made me chuckle, but I could tell he was being serious so I leant down and took off the plastic bag and grabbed my oxygen mask and said to him, “You lead the way, I’ll swim behind you.” I jumped off the ship and dived down with Delfin to begin our adventures.

Starfish Category:

Secret Life of Animals Under the Sea by Evelyn Wrigley

(Starfish Category Winner)

One day, me and my family went to the seaside. It was sunny, warm and dry, a good day to go  to the beach. Together we built a big princess sandcastle, big enough so all of us could actually play in it. We made a big door and opened it with a magic shell key.

Inside there were diving suits on the wall next to a pond with a big fountain, it was a pink and yellow fairy riding a rainbow alicorn! We all put on diving suits and stepped into the deep blue  water and found a secret tunnel. We swam down the tunnel and found ourselves in a secret part of the sea.

We saw mermaids, stingrays, jellyfish, turtles and lots of other sea creatures. We swam to hide behind a big rock so we wouldn’t scare them. We watched them to learn their secrets but we  wouldn’t tell anybody so they could keep their secrets safe and sound so nobody could hurt them. We watched the sea creatures play happy sea games.

The mermaids and stingrays played hide-and-seek. The mermaids were best because they found great hiding spots, like tunnels and little holes in rocks. The stingrays tried to hide but every time their tails just couldn’t quite fit anywhere, except for one place, in a cave because the stingrays were massive much bigger than the mermaids.

The turtles played tag, using their flippers, they were good at it because they were fast. We were  surprised because they have big heavy shells, we thought they would be slow! The jellyfish danced  because they couldn’t play the other games because they might sting someone. They danced slowly so they could look where they were going.

They spun, jiggled and swam up and down. The starfish played guess what is under the shell. They hid stones, broken bits of coral and treasure! We counted their arms, most had eight but some had five arms. I hoped they wouldn’t see us with all those eyes at end of their arms so we wouldn’t  spook them. We saw crabs playing pinch the pebbles. They had ten pebbles to catch and put in a shell.

We didn’t watch for very long because we wouldn’t have enough time to play on the beach. We sneaked behind another big rock back to the tunnel. We swam back to the fountain and took off our diving suits and hung them up for another adventure. We walked around the castle to investigate because we only built the outside, the inside magically appeared!

We found some stairs which led us to the top of the castle. We could see the sea and everyone else on the beach but we couldn’t see the sea creatures. We left the castle and locked the door. We built sand guards around the castle so no one could get to the fountain to watch the secret life of animals under the sea and we could come back another day.

Make Your Plastic Fantastic by Isaac Forbes

(Starfish Category Runner Up)

One sunny day some people were having a picnic by the river. A person left a plastic water bottle behind. The bottle was called Bobby. Bobby said, “Why have they left me here, I wish I was made into something fantastic.”

That night there was a storm and Bobby the Bottle blew into the river. Bobby said “Someone please get me out of this river. HHEEEELLLLLPPPPP.”

Bobby was banging on some rocks and some trees that had fallen into the river during the storm. Down the waterfall Bobby fell “AAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHH” BANG CRASH THUMP!

The wind got stronger and stronger and stronger. Bobby was pushed down the river even faster and by morning he woke up in the ocean. Bobby began to cry. “This is NOT fantastic!” Steve the  stingray was gliding and thought Bobby the Plastic Water Bottle was a fish. Steve tried to eat Bobby. Bobby wasn’t a fish! Bobby was sadder than ever! Steve started to cough. “This is strange. This is not good. This is not a fish.”

Steve went off to try and catch a real fish. Bobby was sad again. Tommy the Turtle was swimming along when he saw a jellyfish. “I want to eat that jellyfish” said Tommy. CRUNCH OUCH!

Tommy recognised it wasn’t a jellyfish it was a plastic water bottle that had sailed into the ocean. Tommy had cut himself on the bottle. “Sorry” said Tommy the Turtle. “I didn’t know you are a bottle.” Bobby the Bottle said: “This is NOT fantastic.”

Bobby was tired and he started to sink. From the Sunlight Zone to the Twilight Zone and down to the Midnight Zone. SNAP! Flossie the Nurse Shark gobbled Bobby the Bottle up.

“OUCH” said Flossie the Nurse Shark. “My tooth! That wasn’t a crab!” Flossie heard something inside her. “This is NOT fantastic,” said Bobby the Plastic Bottle. Flossie did a big burp and out flew Bobby! Bobby whizzed into the Twilight Zone to the Sunlight Zone and onto the beach!

Bobby is laying in the sand. “This is NOT fantastic” said Bobby.
Isaac was on a beach clean with his grabber when he saw a plastic water bottle. He grabbed the bottle and put it in his recycling bag.

Isaac took his recycling bag to the factory who made it into a hoodie to sell at The Deep. The money raised from the hoodies will be used to help the ocean creatures like Steve the Stingray, Tommy the Turtle and Flossie the Nurse Shark who are all feeling a lot better.

Isaac bought the hoodie that was made from Bobby the Plastic Water Bottle. The Deep raised lots of money. It was really good.

Bobby said “Maybe plastic can be FANTASTIC!”

Seahorse Category:

The Bottle by Elliot Miller

(Seahorse Category Winner)

I was born different to the others. I was squished and squashed into shape and moulded on
big noisy crushing machine. The noise was loud and never ending. I stood on the conveyor
belt and I wobbled to the labelling section where they stamped my clothes with the words
‘Sparkling water’.

I wasn’t scared when I was packed into large cardboard box, as I was with the family who look the same as me. And in this box I stood and I waited for days which became months and months that became nearly a whole year. Until one day I was on the move.

Bumping up and down I arrived at a shop and was lined up smartly in a row on a shelf. The sun streaming in through the window was something I had not seen before. I stood there for days looking round at my new busy home. There were lots of shelves and lots of brightly coloured plastic bottles. There were plastic packets and plastic shaped boxes and plastic wrapped sweets. It was like I had arrived in my own amazing, shiny plastic world.

Then one day a boy aged about twelve took me off the shelf. He took me to the large beeping machine and carried me home in a plastic bag to his house. I sat on his bedroom desk and watched him play exciting video games.

“Shoot shoot,” said the boy as he drank my contents of crisp sparkling water. Then with no warning he threw me into the bin and replaced my place of the table with a can of fizzy drink. The plastic bag laid next to me and some wrappers too.

After being emptied into a large bag I was thrown on to a moving rubbish truck. Again, I was bumping on the road until we came to a very large bump and I went flying out or the back of the truck. Bang. I hit the hard road so hard I dented my side. There I remained for many days before the storm. The storm swept in and it struck fear into my heart.

It took me and swirled me around, round and round, up and down, until I landed with a splash in the freezing cold, dark water of the river. The wind still swirled and whirled and pushed me further and further down the river. By now I was caught up in a fishing line, a plastic bag and an old blue plastic shoe. Together we rushed along the river. Sometimes we would get caught on things and then become free as the storm went quiet, we arrived at the sea.

The sea was beautiful and elegant like a blue dancer swirling and showing their moves. The sun shined down on me warming my plastic. I floated there for lots of days watching the submerged fish in the glimmering water.

Every now and then a big strange floating object fleeted across my only view. Large floating animals keep creeping towards me investigating me while looking for food. One beautiful day as the sun was beginning to rise, the sky was beautiful orange with a glimmer of gold. I was relaxing on the water when I saw a big, large, bowl shaped hole heading towards me, it looked like a giant black hole. Faster and faster it steamed towards me then swallowed and sucked me up whole.

I now was floating inside the whale. It was very dark, I couldn’t see anything. But I could hear the heartbeat of this massive animal like drums beating loudly. I was surrounded by a liquid mess. Many of my type were here. Bottles and bags and other plastic items, swirling around.

I stayed here for days until suddenly the whale started to empty and gravity throw me up to the top of the whale. I was moving no more. It felt like we were back on land. I felt strange as it was so quiet. The drums had stopped and the heart beats no more. What would become of me here I wonder, now this animal is no more.

I shouldn’t have worried as it was only a few hours before the whale was surrounded by people, I could hear their voices shouting and talking and suddenly like a light was turned on the whale was cut open. Like a crowd rushing out, myself and the other plastic bottles and bags rushed and scuttered out laying onto the beach. The sudden bright light was so bright and it was hard to see after being in the dark for so long.

Then gradually as I could see again there for the first time I saw the whale. It was just lying there with a big hole shaped door cut in its side. Dead like giant shiny rock lying lifeless on a mountain of sand. I wondered how such a large and beautiful animal could just die, maybe it ate something that disagreed with it, in fact I can’t imagine I would make the best food.

I was just left there beside the whale until nightfall. Then the waves gently got nearer and nearer and surrounded me pulling me back out to sea. By the morning I’m back floating in the ocean. The ocean is very still. It has stopped dancing. Maybe the sea is silently, sorrowfully sad for the whale too.

As I lie here back in the hot sun I consider my time here, since I was crushed into shape. It’s been a long journey here. Although I am a little confused and don’t fully understand. As I remember their voices when they said I was disposable but yet I’m still here. They said they could just throw me away and I would go but I didn’t just go, I’m still here. I am not disposable, I am long lasting and I will not just disappear.

The Day The Sea Disappeared by Alice Wilson

(Seahorse Category Runner Up)

As I woke up this morning I could hear loud shouts coming from the beach. I leapt out of bed and threw some clothes on. As I rushed down the stairs, the shouts grew louder and I could hear what they were saying.

“The sea!” they were shouting, “Where is the sea?” What do they mean where is the sea? I thought to myself. I burst through the front door and ran across the road to the Floral Hall and peered over the railings to look at the sea. But what I saw made my chin hit the ground and my eyes fill with tears.

Instead of the blue, sparkling water all I could see was a damp, empty landscape which looked sad, with spots of brown, shrivelled seaweed and fish frantically wiggling around trying to breathe. On the horizon there were boats that must have been stranded there for hours! I also noticed the rubbish. There were plastic bags, drinks cans, sweet wrappers, wipes, broken buckets and spades.

Is this really what people throw in the sea? Maybe the sea disappearing is our punishment for not looking after it? Out of nowhere a loud, booming voice shouted, “MOVE OUT OF THE WAY!” Suddenly, a huge tow truck appeared and behind it, like a snake slithering along the road, was a line of tractors, trucks and army vehicles all coming to help try and rescue the stranded sailors and fishermen with their boats.

They got down to the sand and started driving towards the boats. Their wheels spinning in the brown murky mud, they were getting stuck! The army vehicles with the caterpillar treads had to go first, with soldiers throwing down stones and making a path for the other trucks to follow. As they reach the first stranded fishermen they cheer. Then they started to hook the boats on to tow them back to shore.

Back on the beach, everybody is worrying. Some wondering if we will have enough water without the sea, others concerned about where they will get their next fish and chips supper from. If the  sea has gone, will Hornsea need to change its name? Hornosea just doesn’t sound the same. Will any visitors still come here on their holidays?

I took a minute to stop and think about what this all meant. It’s too much for me to understand. All I know is that I felt as miserable as not getting presents on my birthday. It is not a good feeling. I had to do something to help.

I had an idea. “Go and get buckets of water” I shouted to the people on the beach. “Quickly, go now!” I ran towards the fish and started gathering them up and running back towards the beach. As people brought buckets I put the fish in.

More people saw what I was doing and started to help. We may not be able to save them all but we could save some. This filled me with a warm tingly feeling. The feeling spreads throughout my body from my toes up to my head. I open my eyes…..I’m back in my bedroom. Was it all just an awful dream?

I leap out of bed, throw on some clothes, I rush down the stairs and burst through the front door, I run across the road to the Floral Hall and hold my breath as I peer over the railings. Phew, the blue sparkly sea is all I can see as far as the horizon.

Dolphin Category:

Lost To The Tide by Jennifer Jackson

(Dolphin Category Winner)

Pandora Jenelle Becket was officially stumped. She had somehow, in some inexplicable way, become a dolphin. She did not know by what means or why or even how to turn back, not that she truly wanted to be in school when she could be in the sea, but still, turning into a dolphin was not exactly in her morning plans. She had only wanted to spend a few hours swimming before getting ready for school.

Pandora had been in this predicament for a little over two hours now, having got into the water, moved to propel herself forward and crashed against the docks – she was apparently just as  clumsy in dolphin form. It had taken her some time to get used to her new body but once she did, she couldn’t deny that the sea was absolutely beautiful from a dolphin’s perspective. The water rushing past her fins as she raced through schools of fish and preformed acrobatics she had only ever dreamed about.

What she would give to be able to be like this forever. She conveniently ignored the small voice in the back of her head – a small thing called common sense that sounded a little too much like her older brother for comfort – that worriedly told her that she had not got a clue how to turn back to her normal self and to be incredibly careful what she wished for.

She swam, looking at everything that caught her attention. Pandora watched crabs scuttle by, fish dancing and mentally scorned the people responsible for the plastic bobbing in the water. She pranced around anything and everything as she happily twirled through the water. She had always loved the sea.

She had been in the water for what seemed to be around three hours when she saw it. IT being a rather peculiar looking cave entrance. Pandora snorted at her thoughts, it was a little more than  peculiar, it was glowing a bright ice blue! She swam forward and looked at the cave warily before making the decision to investigate.

The weird brother voice in her head saying something along the lines of “Curiosity killed the cat” and “I always knew you had no survival instincts.” She silently wondered if she had finally gone off the deep end, with turning into a dolphin, hearing brother voices, and seeing glowing caves it was entirely possible that she was in a hospital ward somewhere. Or perhaps she was dreaming, she pondered.

She shook her head and rid herself of those thoughts before swimming further into the cave, it appeared to be a hallway. It was shortly after that decision that she thanked the curiosity that normally had her getting into trouble. The hallway suddenly widened into an enormous room, something she imagined was beautiful enough to be a ballroom in days of old.

A stunning room built for royalty. Murals carved into the walls; Mermaids laughing surrounded by fish, sirens luring ships to their death, beautiful aquatic creatures etched carefully into the stone. The top left corner open, the morning light shining beautifully through the water, in an unusual mime of a doorway on the ceiling – rainbows somehow being reflected onto the floor. The aquatic beings joined together – predator, prey and all in between – in a watery yet beautiful rendition of classical dancing.

Pandora desired to join them but couldn’t deny the need to explore further and was soon floating through the ceiling light, hoping to be graced with something just as beautiful in wherever it led. She swam up for a while until she reached a pool. It was large, around the size of an Olympic swimming pool.

As she breached the surface of the water, she felt something so calm yet wild, stormy rage yet silent anger, pure joy yet weary sadness, something so magical that as it wrapped around her in an imitation of a hug that it felt for just a moment that she was the sea.

She opened her eyes; they encountered something so beautiful she was stunned. The walls of the pool gently pull together and as she looked up, she decided it was probably a volcano. The three walls she could see were stunning, the left covered in glowing jewels peeking out from behind a wonderous waterfall.

The right seemed like carvings of the history of the sea; kings, queens, battles, and names stood out for her pleasure. By far her favourite was the wall in the centre, carved into the cave wall was a throne, decorated with metals, jewels, shells and sea glass it stood unwavering in its grandeur, taking pride of place.

Painstakingly carved next to the throne were rectangular slots for the two royal tridents identical in every way except for one jewel. They were about a meter and a half long, made of a marbled teal and white material. Each of the three forks of the trident had a crystal on it, on either end was a shining clear crystal, the cause of the rainbows in the room below, while the middle crystal could  not seem to make up its mind as it twisted and swirled between midnight blue, royal purple and  black.

The only difference between the two she noticed, were the shape of the jewel between the head and body of the trident. Both were a black jewel that stood out against the white and teal. The left trident having a dolphin of exquisite detail, looking as though it was mid-way through a flip. The right trident had a shark shaped jewel of intricate detail, with its mouth open showing off its pearly whites.

Pandora jerked her eyes away from the wonderous sight turning around only to receive the fright of her life… Barely a foot or so away from her was a shark, a great white to be exact. I am sure you can understand her surprise when the shark grinned at her and spoke!

The Boat, The Girl and The Grandad by Mia Blackwell

(Dolphin Category Runner Up)

Slowly drifting the boat lolled back and forth, back and forth with the rhythmic dance of the tranquil waves. Vibrant green moss had begun to edge its way up the side of the rust-covered boat, time was slowly taking its toll. The  wooden dock where boats rested awaiting their next adventure on the dark ocean was silent except for the few birds and the rustling of litter.

An amber glow started to lighten up the landscape as the sun started to peak over the horizon. Chattering sailors, eager children and dogs of all shapes and sizes started to filter into the dock. A small girl with a gold glowing dress and a bright orange life jacket stumbled into the boat. She was followed by an older man he carried a small rucksack and his silver hair was slicked back. He wore a red and white polo shirt and jeans. Swiftly, he untied the boat, they were off!

Salty sea spray filled their mouths they were laughing and giggling the boat knew her way. On the bottom of the boat the contents of the rucksack were sprawled. Bags, nets, gloves, first aid kits and food. “Are you ready?” the old man whispered as he pointed to something.

Off in the distance, a small turtle had been engulfed by a plastic bag. Quickly the man scooped up the helpless  creature. They swiftly pulled off the bag and placed him gently back in the water and watched as he swam away. This was just the start. As the day went on the bags started to pile up 1, 2, 3 they were overflowing with tin cans, plastic, soda cans, wrappers and anything a person could imagine.

As always, the little girl kept drawings of all animals they have helped turtles, dolphins, whales, seagulls, and every other type of bird imaginable. She kept all her pencils in a small pastel pink metal can that her mother gave her. “Grandad tell me the story again.” She looked and smiled.

He smiled and laughed “When I was little like you, my grandpa took me on this very boat. We would be out all day until the sun went down and back up in the morning as soon as the sun began to rise. But there is one difference between what me and you see. When I was little there wasn’t any of the rubbish like there is now the ocean was bright blue and clear, you could see right to the bottom and see all the fish swimming around. We would go swimming right out to the turbines without being worried about being caught in fishing wire.

“But we didn’t have the things you do we didn’t have the mobile thingy me bobs, so I couldn’t call my grandparents like you can. Sometimes there are somethings that are out of our control and something’s that we have to suffer the consequences of because of the way other people treat our planet, some people aren’t like us so we have to work extra harder because we have to clean other people’s mess up,’’ he looked at her and smiled, “Come on let’s get back to shore now or your grandma isn’t going to be happy because your tea will have gone cold!”

Just like that another day was over they docked back in and hopped of the boat and back onto land. They sat on the edge of the crumbling wall their legs swinging, snuggled into each other their smiles beamed.

Slowly the sun began to set, and the moon began to rise. The early morning fresh ocean mist filled their nostrils but the stench of petrol masked it. The rust-covered boat still lolled there back and forth, it was covered in a thick black layer of petrol and plastic and waste clung to the side, the dock was underground and the wall that the girl and grandpa sat on was drowned by the rising water.

Rain poured down from the dark sky. There was no movement the world stood still the silent cries from the animals that hadn’t gone extinct echoed throughout the monochrome land. Birds cried in despair as they tried to find food, starved they went back to their nests without anything.

Slowly a man and an old woman made their way down the bank. The man was maybe in his late twenties he wore a black tracksuit and his eyebrows were burrowed. Cautiously he sat down besides the wheelchair and took the hand of the old woman, she wore a black dress her frail knees were covered by a golden blanket. She pulled a pastel pink tin out of her pocket. Inside was a bunch of worn paper that had all the pictures that she drew when she was younger.

“What is that again?” he asked inquisitively.
“That’s a turtle. I wish you could have seen one they were the most majestic animals ever.” Her wrinkled hand squeezed the boys a little tighter and she thought back to the time with grandpa and how he is looking down  watching this unfold, he can’t do anything to stop it, nobody can. It is too late.

Turtle Category:

The Seven Turtles by Ryan Watch

(Turtle Category Winner)

There was once a family of turtles who traveled the vast, blue expanse of the ocean. In this family are seven siblings, each different in size and unique in personality. The eldest brother who goes by the name of Afra is known to be the most responsible of all the siblings. He struggles to be an ideal role model by fulfilling his parents’ every wish, though he occasionally wishes to feel wild and free.

The second oldest brother Asa is more reserved and timid in nature and unlike the rest of his siblings, he has no  desire to explore the surface world. Asa would much prefer to hide in the tall seaweed forests and drift along the coral reefs where he can enjoy his peace and quiet.

Eura the third sibling is the most social turtle in the family. She can be found hanging out with the other creatures in the ocean or traveling frequently to the surface.

Following Eura are the twins Amer and Rica who are always seen together riding along the waves or pulling mischievous pranks. Fun-loving and buoyant, the twins are known as the thrill seekers of the siblings due to their obsession with any fun activity.

Lastly, the youngest turtles Cea and Alia, although naive about the world, they are curious to learn about everything the world has to offer. Underneath their ocean homeland, the seven siblings enjoy endless days of play as they watch their parents carry the sun and moon across the world every day.

The siblings never knew of the responsibilities that lay ahead of them until one day, their father gives them their own lands to care for. Placing the lands on top of the seven shells, the father offers advice before returning to the sun.

“My children, I am entrusting each of the earth’s lands to each of you. You are all old enough to handle these duties and I am expecting all of you to protect them and care for them as you care for each other. Will you promise me this?” asks Father.

“Yes father,” the turtles reply.
“While you rule, just remember that each of your lands are special and that you should never envy each other’s possessions. Each of you are given something that is best suited to your personalities and as such you must be content with what you have. Do you understand, children?”

“Yes father,” answer the siblings.
At first, the seven turtles enjoyed ruling their lands but over time, they become discontent with their responsibilities. They begin to envy each other’s portions of land and eventually the sibling rivalry turns into a violent struggle for power. Verbal bickering quickly transforms into physical violence, unaware that the humans of their lands are caught in the crossfire.

As the fierce battle rages on, the waves and sea spray crash upon the islands while stormy gales blow hard on the miniature island cities as if threatening to rip them apart. Destruction and havoc wreak the island’s civilizations, drowning the buildings and the people in torrent after torrent salt water. Desperate to end the pandemonium, the panic-stricken humans decide to take action. As loudly as they could, the leaders of each island call out to the clashing turtles and entreat them to cease their battles.

“Look at what your petty squabbles has done to our beloved homes!” cry the leaders as they point to the debris and rubble.

“Your selfishness and avarice led to the destruction of our domicile and our resources and now our people are suffering from this devastation! Keep the promises you made us by caring for the lands you are charged with instead of arguing to claim each other’s possessions. Please put an end to your fighting and help us restore our lands!” pleaded the leaders. Seeing the damage they inflicted on their subjects, the seven turtles bow their heads in shame and remorse.

In their self-driven quest to conquer each other, they had neglected their father’s wishes and placed their human subjects in dire peril. After realizing their mistakes, they quickly begin to regret their actions. Eager to make amends, the seven turtles absolve their grudges and pledge to bring peace under the dawning sunrise.

“I vow to bring peace and protection to the lands Father entrusted to us…” begins Afra.
“To watch our people vigilantly…” continues Asa.
“To be content with the lands we have…” says Eura.
“…And to never desire my sibling’s lands.” answers Amer.
“To forgive each other’s mistakes…” resumes Rica.
“And love each other always.” replies Cea.

“For it is our responsibility to keep our promises and fulfill our duties as guardians of this planet’s lands.” finishes Alia.

With the pledge made, the seven turtles part ways and return to their respective oceans to guard their lands. The turtles kept their promise to mankind, and up to this day, they are still watching over the lands we now walk in. Though their true names have been forgotten through the ages, the we know the turtles as the seven continents of the world.

Turtledove by Joni Lee Arthur

(Turtle Category Runner Up)

The air isn’t warm or cold, it’s just there, and the sky is dark but not unseeable and the sea is darker but so wide and softly lapping, quiet but not silent. There are so many stars, and so many waves; the sun has dipped below the horizon, not a golden scarf left in the sky, just night – you can see to the ends of the universe.

Two rows of small propped-up fire-lit sticks lead from the lodges to the beach, flickering and  dancing light and shadow-shapes only a few feet before the night on the island reigns again, plants and trees swaying, rustling secrets so all you want to do is tiptoe into the dark and listen.

Mums and Dads shepherd their kids, high on staying up late, along the path, some smallest ones carried and draped around shoulders and backs, eyelids slowly blinking and closing, or quietly pretending to be almost asleep whilst little pupils gaze up to the sky, widening as it expands and reveals more stars the longer they look.

Some grandparents slowly follow; some teenagers lag behind, imagining meeting their soulmate whilst both reaching for the same baby turtle as they gaze, dazed, at the spiderweb of moonlight cast over the sea.

The path opens onto the beach, guides leading the group to one side, away from the fluttering torches. Small hands rip off shoes, if they were wearing any in the first place, and splay toes like talons into the cool sand, before running and skipping down to the water’s edge, skating and  skimming over shallow waves, squeals hiccupping and water spraying behind like a dust trail.

Adults’ hearts sink into the warmth of wonder, nestle beneath the constellations. Maybe God is real, or at least something, they chuckle. Far from houses and lamps and paths now, the guides stop everyone and draw two lines in the sand, starting at a mound and stretching down to the hushed sea.

All the people gather behind the lines, kids attached to hands, standing on parents’ feet, some, older, crouched down, toe-tips just brushing the boundary. Then, a guide starts using his hands to dig into the mound. Everyone is suddenly aware of their own breathing, and holds it, loosening their grasp only so a tiny, slow exhale can seep out between fingers, before even that ceases, ribcages pressed onto lungs like a gag, daring them to make another sound.

Perfect. Dusted buns of white dough. Snowballs cupped by little hands. Perfect. It’s like the moon feels it too, pauses, turns to look, spooling out a shaft of silky light to carry the eggs back up to heaven where they belong. But the ocean lies close, blanket open. Crackling taps at the hush; shells expand and fall back like beating hearts, then splinter.

The first fin, same colour as the coal ocean, emerges to a shared, barely perceptible intake of breath, and soon all the eggshells are conceding to their miniscule sieged warriors. Their fins,  hardly end-of-thumb-sized, don’t stop pumping, flapping against the sand slope like humans  marching underwater but they don’t stop, and more and more keep coming, slapping fins against one another’s heads, tireless sand angels.

Children are coming out of their transfixion now, cheering individual four-finned competitors and skipping and pattering up and down the lines. Bigger legs are still glued to the spot, eye and mouth corners involuntarily lifting, like watching their own children leave for university. The favourites are those whose internal gps malfunctions and leads them sideways or backwards; each meanderer has a small cheerleading squad on the side-lines, whispering with hearts warm and tight like clasped hands.

The first hatchers are reaching the damp sand now, tasting the salty waves for the first time. Wide semicircles of water rush up, drawn by ranks of white horses, trimmed with lacy foam collars, embracing the sand-covered creatures and polishing their obsidian scales. Children stand ankle deep, training their eyes on their brief hero until the sea well and truly cloaks them, holds them. Chatter is abundant now, mixing with the ocean’s whooshing inhale and exhale, the small waves’ babbling, laughing surf; the stars wink along too.

Hours later, small fins still beat off the now-light, turquoise water, tracing the shallow coast. The ocean’s ceiling is like a molten mirror of green-blue mist and bundles, swathes of pink-satin sand. A tiny beak occasionally approaches its reflection, piercing the water’s surface for air; here the keep echoes and calls of the ocean are fleetingly sliced with clear, crisp wind sounds until  submersion brings back the million heartbeats, the thousand paddling flipper noises, though all  that can be seen are peacock currents and rosy, blushing underwater desert. The little shelled thing swims and grows and swims and grows; and sees.

A reef; a land of coral palaces with strange alien anemone guests, with fish of more colours than you can picture darting all around like petals in the wind. Lionfish are winged and feathered angels; octopi are rockets in ballgowns, daintily shuffling over banks and then rippling their skirt of tentacles like an engine, shooting off. An eel’s head protrudes from a ledge like a sphinx, royal, still as stone.

Jellyfish mushroom-caps fill the horizon; there is no up or down, no organised waltz, just a thousand independent dancers swelling and curtseying to their own beat, a thousand baubles. A turtle’s feast.

Her fins are wide wings now, soaring between the silver flocks and shoals around her; she flies in slow motion, not even breathing as she glides through the blue, shell of firework flowers and sunlight shards, glinting like a turtledove’s feathers. Her own deep voice joins the ocean chorus and she will be returning to that first home soon – but what’s this?

She surfaces for air in a jungle of bright shapes, tubes, oblongs – chandeliers hanging from the emerald ceiling. Some are larger, billowing, bulging bodies, inflating and sagging, like strange, creased mushrooms. Her beak gapes wide, preparing to snap up the jellyfish…