How it Began

This piece won third place in a competition for Hampshire Writers’ Society in March 2018.  The prompt was ‘Write 300 words for readers aged 9-12 about an incredible secret that, if discovered, could change the future of the planet or of the people on it.’  I was delighted to be placed and even more thrilled when my writing friend, Nancy, received a Highly Commended for her entry.

‘Careful where you point that thing,’ Jess yelled. Her hand jerked up to block the fierce light of her brother’s torch from her face.

‘Keep out of the way, then,’ Ross grumbled. ‘I can’t see through you. There’s something on the ledge back there and I want to take a look at it. Shift.’

Jess turned round cautiously, her feet feeling for hazards on the cave floor. In her head she imagined rocks, craters and skeletons. Her eyes followed the line of torch-light to an alcove just above her shoulder height. Ross was right. A small package rested in its shadowy depths. She stepped forward.

‘Hands off – I saw it first,’ he pushed her out of the way and she stumbled sideways, sitting abruptly on a large boulder, the breath whooshing from her body. Ross struggled to keep the torch focussed on the package as he tried to undo its wrappings.

‘Why don’t you sit down? You can hold the torch while I open it,’ Jess said.

‘I found it. You can hold the torch.’ Ross thrust it into her hand and dropped to the floor in front of her.

‘OK, but be gentle. You don’t want to break it. We’ve no idea how long it’s been down here. It could be fragile.’

‘It feels weird,’ said Ross. It’s not like paper or plastic. I don’t… oh!’


‘I pressed this knob and it just popped open. Look.’

From inside the wrapping Ross pulled a bundle of slippery, postcard sized pictures. They spilled out onto the floor between him and his sister. Every one showed two children – a boy and a girl – staring straight into the lens. Some were in old-fashioned clothing, some in outlandish costumes and some stood in other-worldly landscapes. Jess and Ross spoke in unison.

‘That’s us!’