Sunday, July 6, 2014

THE WINNER OF THE GREEN MIRE WRITING CONTEST


IS Zee Yalin who gets the 
big $10 000L prize! 

Congratulations! This story kept us in suspense till the very end. Very well written, very smooth flow, excitement and great usage of the poem found on the swamp.

A BIG thank you to everyone who submitted their stories, we truly had a pleasure reading them all!


The Green Mire

I hadn't been to the Green Mire in years, but I never forgot the smell.

It was pungent and choking, I had to keep the window rolled up just to avoid breathing it in. The thought of treading through the water made me wonder If this was really worth it. The money was good, Mrs Lamil would do just about anything to get her son back. Skip's parents seemed concerned too, but they couldn't pay me... I told them I'd look, but I wasn't promising anything. What were they expecting, really?

“Hey, Dick Tracy. You awake back there?”

My reverie was broken by the broken english coming from the front seat. Pushing myself off the window so I was sitting up straight, I narrowed my eyes at the driver, “It's Nick.”

“Nick Tracy?” he asked. His thick accent masked his intentions, I couldn't tell if he was joking. The question seemed sincere enough though.

“Nick Winter.” I replied, looking out the window once more. The car trundled through the swamp, each roll of the tires left me bouncing in my seat and just made me feel more naseaus, “How much further can you take me?”

“Why, you excited to get there?” he laughed, “Take plenty of pictures, it's a beautiful swamp! And look for the crater too, and the statues-”

“Sure, I'll do all that and check the gift shop once I'm done.” I called back with a sneer, “I don't want to trek through swamp water for miles, I haven't got time for that. You need to take me as deep in as you can, alright?”

“I'm not taking you much further in, my friend. I just had her washed.” the driver replied, patting the dashboard of his car to encourage it onwards and quieten the engine, “You really think you'll find the boys?”

“It's been ten years, I'm not sure what I'm looking for.” I sighed. I wouldn't lie to myself, the chances of me finding them alive seemed slim. The Green Mire had it's share of whackos and alligators, hardly the place for two boys like Tony Lamil and Skip Dares.

“Mrs Lamil really wants to see her boy again, huh?” The driver said, trying to keep the conversation going, “Hey, you could get her any boy and call him Tony. She's desparate, my friend. She hasn't seen him in ten years, maybe she even forgot what he looks like.”

“I'm not going to hire someone to pretend to be Tony. I don't want her money that badly.” I shrugged the idea off. As I turned to look out the window once more I noticed something. It looked like a cabin, set up in the middle of the swamp it seemed remarkably out of place, “Hey pull over here.”

“You want to get out here?” The driver asked, though he continued to drive onwards as though he hadn't understood me, “It's not safe, my friend. The locals here are riled up over the crater... you could have some trouble if you start barging into shacks.”

“Stop the car...” I repeated quietly. The car rolled to a squelching halt and I opened the door, the scent of the swamp hitting me hard. I covered my nose and gagged before slowly allowing more of the smell into my body, trying to get used to it since I'd be around it for some time.

“Good luck, my friend.” The driver said, leaning out of the window to face me, “You call when you want to get picked up. Okay? You have my number.”

“Just wait here, I'll be back in a bit.” I told him quickly, the last thing I needed was my ride disappearing on me and leaving me stranded in the middle of the mire. I didn't have to check my phone to know there was no service out here.

“Your money, my friend. You pay me by the minute, not the mile.” he told me, tapping his watch before resting back in his seat. He reached into the glove compartment of his cab and took out a magazine, flipping it open and starting to read through it while he waited. I shook my head and pressed onwards, 'At least one of us would be making some money today' I thought as I walked.

I passed a hammock on my way to the cabin, though as I put my hands on it to test it I found them getting damp. Maybe it had rained before, maybe it was just the air, either way it wasn't like I needed the rest anyway. I turned to make sure that the cab hadn't gone anywhere, he gave me a wide grin and a wave, followed by a thumbs up. I humoured him with an impression of himself, contorting my face into a twisted smile and awkwardly thrusting my thumb upwards before pushing onwards in the direction of the cabin.

As I drew closer to the shack I discovered there was a swamp water lake between the bank where I stood and the small island it was on. I stepped closer to the water, narrowing my eyes as I tried to determine how deep it was. The water was a murky green, I couldn't see the bottom... or anything beyond the surface, really. Deciding not to chance it I turned my attention to the alternate path, an old bridge over it that lead straight to the cabin.

I began to walk across the bridge, each plank I stepped on creaked under my weight. I could feel my heart slowing in my chest as I focused on avoiding the gaps between the planks, but finally I had made it to the other side.

Despite the cabin looking as unsturdy as the bridge, I found myself stepping more easily once I was inside of it. There were two teacups laid out, filled up with what could be either tea or coffee, I wasn't about to find out. To the left of them was a lit candle, the only source of light in the otherwise dark room. On it's right were three roses in a vase... they looked fresh, like someone had been there recently.

Turning my attention to the rest of the room I found a couch, sans couch cushions which I thought I might have seen outside of the shack. Above the couch was a banner, a poem embroidered over it:

"Illusions of reality, dimensions of humanity,
Tiny drops of energy in the wings of a firefly.

The soul will keep its mysteries,
I know my solemn destiny,
with you I flew so high.

Moon exposes my naked truth,
the sacred spirits creep up my wounds,
when I float in a pond nearby.

As I raise my hand to feel your face and
speak of another lie,
the tempting darkness pulls me down,
and I've forgotten why.

My deepest sweetest fantasies are left
without your sympathies,
yet the peace has firmly found its home in
my mind's eye.

I hear you calling far away,
but the last thing I see,
are fireflies in the sky."

The poem spoke to me, and I guess I didn't think about it at the time, but I'm not really one for poetry. It seemed mystical, like something worth remembering. It rang over and over in my head, pretty soon I couldn't get it out... but after one more look around I couldn't see any real signs that the boys had been here. Maybe the shack belonged to one of the locals, but it didn't belong to Tony or Skip. As I stepped out I found something that seemed out of place. A book titled 'A beginner's guide to swimming'.

“Drop something, Tony?” I muttered to myself, tucking the book into my coat as I made my way back to the path. Crossing the bridge seemed easier the second time, though I managed to give my heart another jolt as I made my way past the hammock...

The cab was gone. Worse still, I didn't see any tracks that would reveal which direction it went.  The swamp could have swallowed it whole for all I knew, though I wasn't here to look for a missing car. “Guess I'll find my way back by myself,” I reassured myself, “That guy's not getting a tip though.”

I walked further down the path and saw another cabin in the distance, given my luck so far it seemed worth checking, though once again there was an expanse of water blocking me from reaching it without getting covered in whatever made the mire smell the way it did. Luckily enough for me, two trees had fallen in a very particular way, creating a bridge across the waters.

I climbed up onto the fallen tree and began to make my way across it to the other side, though as I walked I saw the fireflies that hung in the air over the swamp, darting between reeds or just hovering aimlessly about. The water didn't reflect them, maybe it was just too murky to do so. The poem echoed in my mind; 'Tiny drops of energy in the wings of a firefly.'

“Poets.” I muttered as I took another step, though this one went straight through the fallen tree with a loud crunch. I gritted my teeth, grabbing my leg and kicking it about trying to get free. The once quiet swamp was now filled with the sound of a thousand angry wasps, buzzing about inside the log as they jabbed at my leg. I yelled out in pain and grabbed onto the trunk I had been walking across, dragging myself away from the hole as I felt the constant assault on my leg sending shots of pain through me, it was like I was on fire, and for all my struggling I wasn't getting any closer to putting it out.

I finally managed to get my leg free, but that only uncorked the hole and left the swarm of wasps buzzing out into the air, searching for whoever dared to intrude on their lair. I pulled my coat over my head to protect myself as I ran, staggering with the wounded leg as I made it to the other side and landed among the jagged, thorn-like fallen branches that jutted from the swamp.

The wasps left me there, having done enough to wound me for whatever else lurked in the mire, and returned into their nest in the fallen tree. I rolled onto my back and stared up at the green skies above, tears emerging from eyes as I grabbed my leg and tried to numb the pain with pressure. I cursed quietly to myself and wiped my eyes on my sleeve, leaving my face covered with swamp water.

After some time of just laying there and waiting for the pain to go down, I pushed myself to my feet, wincing as I stood on the wounded leg. I snapped off one of the broken branches and used it as a walking stick, continuing through the mire. It was much harder to balance now, and after being stung to the point of numbing I didn't care so much about the water. I walked through the marsh, using the stick to find any deep spots and avoiding them until I reached the bridge that lead to the hut.

I stopped to catch my breath as I reached the other end of the bridge, collapsing on a yellow deck chair that had been left out and grabbing my leg, breathing through my teeth. The pain had gone down somewhat, but I didn't think to bring anything with me to deal with it. Looking over my shoulder I noticed a box that had been left in the shack and stumbled over to it, spilling out it's contents onto the desk it sat on. I prayed for medicine, bandages, painkillers-

Fishing tackle... I cursed under my breath and threw the box aside, it was worthless and I was angry. Angry at the driver, angry at the swamp, angry at Tony and Skip... but mostly at myself. I sat down on the wooden deck chair and kicked the desk infront of me, though that was when I got my first clue.

Looking down I noticed something red among all the brown, a Speak and Spell. I snatched it up and looked it over, “Oh my god.”

It had to belong to one of them, what else would it be doing out here? I was beside myself with glee, I was finally making some progress. I looked around the room, there were photos everywhere. Some were of the boys, others were of the swamp, one seemed to be of a frog captured in a bucket (I heard it croak just as I looked at it, maybe it knew I was looking). I looked down at the Speak and Spell once again, the screen lit up with a message in red pixels...

'Murder'

I stared at the screen for some time, hearing the toy beeping at me. The lamp that once lit the shack flickered out as the beeping got louder. I smashed the back and pulled the batteries out, but It was too late. I heard footsteps, creaking over the boards behind the cabin.

I began to glance around the room, seeing the machetes laid out and ready, the binoculars laid out and ready to spy from afar, the camera that laid on the side... it was such a rush of information, there was too much to take in and the steps grew closer and closer.

I snatched up a black book from the table and turned to run, dropping the beginner's swimming guide as I ran across the boards and towards the other bridge. I reached out for it, but I saw it disappear between the cracks and instantly get snapped up by the jaws of a crocodile. It lashed at the underside of the shack as I limped towards the bridge. I couldn't find Tony, or Skips... and I wasn't about to stick around to meet whoever left that message.

The soul will keep its mysteries,
I know my solemn destiny,
with you I flew so high.

My makeshift walking stick got stuck between the two boards of the bridge, and I was quick to discard it in an attempt to aid my escape. Even as I reached the shore I didn't stop running, the crashed police car half-sunk into the swamp hadn't helped my nerves either as I passed it by, not stopping to investigate out of fear that my pursuer would catch up.

Moon exposes my naked truth,
the sacred spirits creep up my wounds,
when I float in a pond nearby.

The further I ran the more my chest hurt, but I couldn't stop... not while it was there... chasing me. I had no idea why I was running, why hadn't I come with a weapon? All I had in my pockets were cigarettes, and a book by some kid... what was his name?

As I raise my hand to feel your face and
speak of another lie,
the tempting darkness pulls me down,
and I've forgotten why.

What was his name... or... their names? Were there one or two. Why was a police car this deep into the swamp, why aren't there posters for the missing officers? Aren't they more important than two kids... or, are they adults? How long has it been?

I can see something up ahead... a light... a light! It must be the driver!

...no, no, it wasn't... the swamp was glowing, just in that one spot, it was glowing. A luminscient purple. It was a crater, white lights danced in the air about it. The light was intimidating but soothing, I couldn't look away. I dropped down, landing with a squelch on the muddy swamp floor as I caught my breath and watched the lights.

My heart slowly began to return to it's normal pace. Why was I running? ...what was I running from? I could feel the weight of a book in my coat, and as I pulled it out I found a name across the front... 'Tony Lamil'... who was that? is it my name? ...am I Tony Lamil?

My deepest sweetest fantasies are left
without your sympathies,
yet the peace has firmly found its home in
my mind's eye.

The light was so peaceful... I couldn't stop myself, the more I stared the more I yearned to step into it. I took off the heavy leather coat, letting it drop from my hands with a heavy thud as I stepped into the crater. The mud slipped into my wasp wounds, but the stinging didn't deter me... I had to be within the light...

My legs gave up and I fell face first into the center of it, the smell of swamp mud warmed me up. I could finally breathe again, and as I rolled over and stared up into the sky I could see the stars beyond the smog. The fireflies danced above me as the green clouds went by. The constant clicking attacked my ears, I wanted to cover them and shut it out but I couldn't bring myself to move. I could only lay within the light and watch the stars, the clouds and the fireflies.

I hear you calling far away,
but the last thing I see,
are fireflies in the sky.

I heard foosteps coming closer, making their way over the tall grass and towards me. My coat shuffled, a hand dug inside it and took the journal... the figure turned and walked away with the only proof I'd have that Tony Lamil was still alive.

I no longer cared... not while the fireflies shone in the sky, and the purple light of the crater numbed my pain, dragging me down into it. I felt the warmth fading as I disappeared into the crater, the last of the fireflies disappearing from my view as I sunk into the abyss.

Maybe Tony and Skip didn't want to be found, maybe they were happier out here. No one telling them what to do or what not to do. No overbearing parents 'protecting them from the world', they could do anything they wanted.

They could get away with murder.





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