Casino High student shortlisted for writers festival prize

Three student writers have been shortlisted for the Byron Writers Festival’s Greener Futures Writing Prize.

Casino High School Year 11 student Jorja Hammond is one of them. Jorja wrote a 500-word piece about overcoming climate change.

Winners will be announced at the Byron Bay Writers Festival, held in Bangalow, on Thursday, August 10.

Here is her piece:

Scars by Jorja Hammond

The red polluted air burned my throat, I pulled my makeshift mask onto the bridge of my nose, providing me temporary relief from the burning sensation. I needed water and I needed it desperately. My bindle was packed and I had a plan to get across this deserted town. There were ebony clouds above the town, acid rain was coming, I needed to act fast.

The town had been deserted by humans for a long time before the Martians had made Earth their home. I had had only one close call with them before this night. I pressed my back against the cold brick wall of the alleyway I had called home for the past two nights, I crept to the end, reaching my fingers around the edge of the corner before peeking my head around too. There were two of them, their heads drooping in an eerie way, almost struggling to hold themselves up. I pulled my head back quickly and held my breath when I realised that the second one noticed me. I could hear him, the thick sludge he was trailing behind him told me to run. I was too weak to run but the walls in this alleyway were close enough for me to climb, but the rain was getting closer, being on the roof would be risky.

My survival instincts kicked in before I could think, my weakness turned into strength. I threaded my bindle down the back of my shirt hoping it wouldn’t fall and give me away. I pressed my palms against the rough bricks on either side of me and soon I couldn’t see the ground through the thick red air. I pulled myself onto the roof, laying to rest for a moment. I sat up and gazed out on this town I had called home for 256 tallies on the side of an abandoned restaurant.

For the first time since climate change was at no return, the sun shone onto my cold, sickly skin. It was then that I noticed the signs of life that now remind me of you, there were green sprouts. The Earth was making a redemption and fighting back. The Martians couldn’t adapt quickly enough, they were melting. A drop of rain landed on my left arm, burning quickly through layers of my skin. I cupped my right hand over the wound before noticing a sunroof, so I took shelter in the building.”

As I retell my story of the 2020s to my grandchildren, I smile at their fascination with the scar on my left arm before smiling at the fact that Mother Nature will only ever give them scars when they are playing a little too carelessly in the green grass under the bright healthy sun. She won’t scar their lungs or body for the mistakes of the humans in the past, for the scars they gave her back then. She will take care of them, only if they take care of her in return.

The full festival program is here.

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