Voting is now open in the 2018 Around DB and Life on Lantau Young Writers Competition, sponsored by Bookazine. Serena Wong, a student from Discovery College, has been shortlisted for the final, along with two other entrants.
To vote for Serena’s story, head to the Around DB Facebook page and comment on the pinned post at the top of the page, with Serena’s name, or alternatively click ‘like’ or comment on the individual Facebook post linking to Serena’s story. You can also cast your vote by commenting on the comment section of this page.
By Serena Wong – DC
Mentored by Trisha Hughes
I am crushed. Devastated. Hope doesn’t exist anymore.
I was born a year after we were forced inside this underground compound. They said there was a time we were free to go outside. You could play for hours in a gleaming golden warmth and only get called back into the compound when the light was fading. Pollution, the grownups call it, that’s why they keep us inside.
My only window to the outside world was through the scattered memories of the grownups. They spoke of a heat warmer than our warmest lamp, and mountains reaching beyond the heights of our tallest room. They say there was no roof, and you could stare up at an endless blue wall, forever and ever.
My parents delight in sharing what they remember from the beyond. They told me about a gigantic statue of a man sitting cross-legged. They’d watch the resplendent orb they called the sun glisten upon the rhythmic waves of an ocean of endless blue water. They’d climb mountains and feel real wind brush their faces and no, it didn’t come from fans. But that was 18 years ago. None of that exists in my sterile world.
Soft cries echo here at night, especially from the teenagers. I think they could still remember the crumbly earth beneath their feet and the placid pattering of rain on their windows. Then they wake up and they realise it had all been stolen from them.
The government sets all the rules here. They tell us when to eat, when to sleep, when to get up. Just like they forced us inside 10 years ago to a box with no windows, ensuring that none could even so much as glimpse their failure. The chief said the pollution was like a sickness, conquering our island and clouding our sight. “Even mist can be a threatening thing”, he told me. But I wouldn’t know, I’ve never seen mist. I’m only nine.
It’s impressively massive where we live. I’m from region 2, a place that was once called Tung Chung. There’s six other regions in my world but we don’t interact with them much. I’ve seen each region with their lengthy grey pathways like ours melding with bridges that lead to a multitude of locations. One pathway leads to the largest room of all where each region can gather. It’s the gathering hall. When the chief talks, his voice echoes, giving him a sense of authority. But people said he wasn’t really as mighty as he appeared to be.
Every day there were more people protesting against being kept inside. Every day the protests got louder and more and more people were taken away, anger burning brightly in their eyes as they went. Finally, the chief succumbed. He announced he would let us all out and the cheers, I believe, were deafening. Some, like my parents decided to stay behind saying that they wished to remember things as they were. I know now they suspected the truth. But at the time, I couldn’t wait to leave.
Everyone rushed out into the open to feel the soft earth and the lush grass beneath our feet but we found only rocks. The trees were withered and bare. Where were the mountains? The soft earth? A cloying stench pervaded the air. The ocean didn’t shimmer in the sunlight. Flaccid vines snaked their way up the treetops and vanished in the choking mist. My chest was tight and I struggled to breathe.
I am heartbroken as I stare around. Nothing is as my parents said. I hear a cry off in the distance. The youngest must be afraid. Others have slumped shoulders as they slowly drag themselves back into what is now their sanctuary.
I stare back at the compound with absolute sorrow. I feel broken. The silver columns I have always found dull now looks warm and inviting. My mother stands near one, completely dwarfed with outstretched hands and glistening tears in her eyes.
I suddenly realise there is a man next to me, his eyes are lifeless and he looks drained like the environment around us.
“This isn’t the world we knew,” he croaks, voice lowering to a hushed whisper.
“This isn’t home.”
Photo: Portrait of Serena Wong by Baljit Gidwani – www.evoqueportraits.com
You can read the entries from the other two 2018 finalists via the links below:Young Writer's Competition, young writers competition 2018, ywc 2018