Nottingham Trent University’s (NTU) independent publisher, Trent Editions, and NTU’s book shop, Blackwell’s, teamed up for Academic Book week in order to organise a creative writing competition based on this year’s theme: the environment.
The competition was open to short pieces and was judged by NTU Lecturer, Dr Rebecca Cullen, and NTU PhD candidate, Victoria Callus, who is working on a critical-creative project.
Following the competition, the judges said: “These entries approached climate and the environment in various interesting ways. Themes included the changing world, alternative life sources and a return to a more respectful relationship with the planet; they portray a sense of hope for change, trying to find solutions for the environmental problems we face. The winning entries highlight the need to intervene, wherever and whoever we are.”
‘The Last Song’ by Mark Roberts (overall winner)
The seas had become the greatest wastelands in the world. The water was still there, the tide would roll in and pull out, but beneath the waves there was silence. The body of the Kraken lay under long forgotten nets.
In his office on the coast of the North Sea, Clyde sipped his coffee and surveyed the posters on the wall. Old photographs of schools of fish and vibrant corals, orcas coming up through the air.
His department of one was largely forgotten and he was sure that the government would soon find him on the books and cut off his funding.
At around 2pm on Thursday afternoon, he heard a sound from Monitoring Station XY8. The sound came through at 52hz, and he listened closely to hear that it was whale song. A sound that nobody had heard for thirty-five years.
Clyde sent the sound and its location to coast guards in Scotland, Norway and Denmark. They each scrambled boats and crews and set out across the waves. Clyde stayed at his post with his headphones on and listened to every sound that came. The whale song grew louder as it moved
towards the station, and he could see on his monitor that the boats were closing in.
He wondered how long it had been singing for, and where it had come from. There were no other whales for it to find. It was alone in the watery mass grave, but it must have remembered the times when the sea teemed with life. A time before Clyde was even born. He wondered why no
other station had heard a song in all these years, but he knew that he was the only one still listening.
He listened while the song grew louder and louder, and set the station to echo it back. The boats closed in on the location, it looked as though Scotland would make it there first. Clyde considered what they would do, take pictures and videos, stick a tracker on its back and watch
it move through the seas until it blinked out of life? Or would they try to pick it up and put it in a lab somewhere, secure its DNA to make clones? There must have been protocols and Clyde knew none of them.
The whale quietened when it reached the station. It seemed to swim around it, singing quietly beneath the boats above. Clyde switched off the monitoring station and radioed to Scotland.
He told them that it had disappeared, and that he couldn’t say where it had gone. He told them that they would have to continue their search from above. Then he wished that he could send a message to the whale just to say Swim On.
‘Nuance’ by Daniel Fisher (highly commended)
The world is grey,
According to men in suits who,
Pour drums of the blackest oil into the white froth of the Pacific Ocean.
“It’s imperative we drill down on the issue,
and come to a satisfactory conclusion,
one where all parties are satisfied,
On consultation with our shareholders,
Our concern is that,
To avoid toxicity,
We need to inject some nuance,
Into this very important conversation. “
Explain nuance to the pelican glued,
To the Coal Miners entombed,
To the Inuit whose hands crimson from
Endless bell ringing,
Shouting into the icy void of congressional hearings.
In oral tradition,
It is said that the CEO has over 100 words for “Slow.”
‘The Last Sphere’ by Kyran Wood (highly commended)
I found the sphere far under the planet’s surface, walking for miles through dark, granite tunnels in near darkness, lit only by the faint glow of my light stick. The chamber I found was adorned with stone carvings of abstract shapes I didn’t recognise. Thin lines between thick lines with shapes like clouds coming out the top. Squiggly lines stacked on top of each other. The remnants of the old world. In the middle, on a pedestal, sat a sphere. A non-descript metal thing, covered in scratch marks, holding great power. I clipped the sphere to my belt and started my ascent to the surface. A voice came across the mic when I was nearing the exit and regained signal.
‘I got it Nix, I can’t believe it, the map wasn’t lying.’
‘Holy shit, it’s real?’ The excitement in her voice was clear as day. ‘I’ll set in a course for Homestead.’
I finally finished the long climb and looked around the planet’s surface. Grey and brown rock for as far as the eye could see, with the ship waiting nearby. I boarded and was almost immediately tackled by Nix, she was overjoyed. I held the sphere up for her, tears and desire visible in her eyes. It took four day to fly back, the nearly derelict ship could only reach a certain speed, and this was the furthest we had ever been from the Homestead. The pair of us had volunteered, not knowing what we would find but holding out hope. The disgusting grey rations and terrible sleeping conditions were almost forgotten on the journey home, we were too overwhelmed. But it had all been worth it, for this.
‘Hey Captain,’ Nix stared out the window, pointing down at Homestead. ‘Looks like we have a welcome committee.’
The thirty residents of the Homestead stood near the shanty town of makeshift tents we called home. We walked out the ship feeling like Gods.
‘Daddy!’ Julep ran up to me, throwing her little arms around me. ‘I missed you!’
Everything had been prepared, we walked to the small valley a mile from the Homestead. The group formed a ring around a tiny patch of dirt, a shovel discarded nearby which had been used to form a hole. I stood over the small hole, Nix and Julep by my side, and held up the sphere. I clicked the almost invisible button on the side, and the lid slid back into the rest of the sphere. Inside it was filled with small oblong shapes, the size of a bead. I placed one into the soil, throwing the dirt back over it. Julep poured water onto the soil as she’d been instructed. I looked around, there were tears of joy all around. Nix and her husband took the sphere from me and began digging other holes nearby, putting more of the contents into the ground.
‘What was that we buried Dad?’
I sat Julep on my lap, passing her one of the bead-like shapes for her to hold.
‘Well baby, a long time ago these were known as seeds. From them grew giant trees filled with things to eat. They haven’t been seen in hundreds of years but soon will grow and be able to restore balance. Everything will be reborn.’
Feature image credit (edited) : Pixabay