Sep 03
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Igniting Writing ‘Explore’ Contest 2019, Submission by Angel from Igniting Writing

Entry number 16 for the ‘Explore’ themed teen creative writing session, led by Igniting Writing, Fighting Words, Young Writers Project and Lake Erie Ink, has been submitted. It was sent in by Angel, our longest standing Igniting Writing group member, and is a well written short story titled ‘The Three Generation Exploration’. It’s got some great emotion built into the story, with a protagonist that it’s impossible not to empathise for, and is really nicely paced, so check it out by reading the whole piece below:

This may be my final entry after my short time exploring the world for a cure. It is going to be written in a different way than what I usually do. Maybe the more story like I can make it, the less real this life will seem. I don’t know how else I will have the courage to write what I am about to tell you.

My mind has convinced itself I will find answers here in hope I am not yet beyond the point of salvation. Nature itself rejects me as plants recoil at the touch of being brushed aside. Each of my footprints emerge with an unholy residue. This thing, this curse, quickly developed into a feasting parasite, preying upon my own life. My fingertips were no longer saveable. They were the first things to turn, along with my toes. This was evident when witnessing my ill-balanced and stumbling stride. Now one leg ventures onwards and on occasion the other ceases my progress with an uncontrollable stubborn attitude. It was during the first few moments of this exploration that I soon came upon realisation that these overgrown leaves and ancient trees began to draw back in my presence, anticipating my hand’s contact to cast them aside, almost as if they too feared they would be contaminated.

“Are we there yet?” His youthful hand tried to pull away as he dawdles behind. Poor Joey. All he has is me now. I momentarily wonder if he is aware I had already unintentionally infected him. Impossible. His mind is too young to comprehend this isn’t the holiday to the jungle I had promised. The excuse is becoming an old one now. It shouldn’t matter for the time being, not unless I fail on this final day of trying.

“Not yet.” I know what is coming next. Using a father’s sixth sense I rummage through one of my bags.

“Dad?” I do not need to look over as he continues. “I’m hungry.” The moment before he could utter another word, I fill his hands with a few squares of chocolate, and after considering the circumstances, continued by giving him the rest of the packet. Yet again he has forgotten his manners as he becomes preoccupied, smearing the food all around his mouth. It is the speed of which he devours it is enough gratitude for me. These little things are what make these final moments bearable.

What is it I am looking for? This is the same question I have been repeating to myself countless times. I have even, on occasion, asked Joey this, not that he would know the true purpose of the question. A simple shrug of the shoulders would be all I receive.

Eighteen countries in just as many months and I have yet to find out the answers to my secrets. My only clue remains in the scorched notes belonging to a diary previously owned by my father, and his father, and his father’s father. Now I fear my newly owned diary will soon become my son’s possession. My only wish is he will not be as betrayed as I was when he sees the insane look in his father’s eyes.

We are not exploring a secret jungle for forbidden treasure as I have repeatedly told little Joey. This is my sweet lie to him and quite possibly soon could be a parting gift. Instead, it is something far more sinister we are searching for. I consider telling him the truth now as my time is almost over. I refrain from doing so though.

It’s in our blood to explore. My father, his father and his father’s father shared the same bloodline, meaning my time has come to share the same destiny. Joey is the last relative in my family who have yet to show signs of the curse, but I know that is due to his age.

This is the only place in the world my family has yet to discover.

“Keep going forwards.” I pretend I am telling my son this, but in reality it is for me to keep on moving, even if I have to trick him into taking the first few steps for me to follow behind. Now I am convinced what I have been searching for is the sight just yonder the treeline, the clearing coming into view. The cliff faces glaring down at our presence would have been enough to deter anyone if it were not for the severity of the situation.

The view became a blessing as it blinded me with its existence. Instant thoughts lead me to believing this is the end of a three-generation exploration around the world. This must be it. Although I have no idea what I am looking for, this curse seems to make my blood boil in a desperate attempt to keep me away. The sight is thrilling. This place is as important to me as the fountain of youth is to a dying soul. I wish my own father is here to see it, just as how Joey’s is. I’m sure he would be proud. I can almost anticipate his hand on my shoulder, keeping me steady.

“You’ve made it, Ethan.” I can hear his voice causing me to jump behind only to realise it was my own wishful thinking.

I miss my father. I so greatly wish to become the man he was and both fear what would become of me if I do so.

Splashing interrupts the silence as I see childish hands jumping in and out of the water, their owner’s head remaining deeply buried under the crystal blue, dangerously close to the thrashing waterfall. I realise he must have jumped in when I notice my hand no longer was with its partner and my back turned. No second later I dive in after him. I put my fear of his life before the fear of my own. If he does not have a life then mine is not worth living. I throw him onto the bank at the water edge in desperation. His cries let loose the fact of the severity of what he put himself through during that minute. However, the water does not reveal if what is coming out of his eyes is a sorrowful look or tears. I hope it is not the latter as I cannot bear to see him cry but I suspect it is both. He is the apple of my eye – he is my son.

Saying he is alive now gives me a sense of fulfilment, knowing I have been a good father, the best I can be.

I begin to whisper sweet things to him and pull him into a warm embrace. “Shh, Joey. It’s over. You’re okay.” He looks at me with his eyes and I can see his mother in him. “I’m here Joey. You’re safe.” He wipes his face on my shirt and I suspect is also trying to secretly wipe his nose on it as well. I don’t mind. I soothe him one last time by messing up his blonde hair, which he inherited from me, and stand him up on his own two feet.

I have no idea why, but he gives me a haunting look. I don’t understand. “Joey.” He takes a step back and I must grab his hands to prevent him running off. He starts thrashing, screaming, and tries to bite me the once. “Joey!”

“I want my Dad!” I’m lost for words as I try to hug him again but he screams blue murder. Now I notice it: my hands, my arms… They look inhuman, ghastly. This shouldn’t be happening yet. I still have more time. It’s too early. I can feel the situation becoming desperate. I catch sight of the worst part. Joey. His hands… No. This shouldn’t happen to him for another ten years yet but I cannot convince myself my eyes are lying to me.

I have to let him go. He runs. Wearing his favourite shoes and the clothes his mother picked out for him on his birthday last year, moving as fast as his legs can carry him. My mind will not let me run after him, no matter how much my heart aches for it. If I go now, I know I can catch him, any longer and I will lose him forever. I need to make the heavy choice.

The water is meant to cure us. Why doesn’t it work? I peer over the water edge, glaring at my reflection. I cannot see it. All that stares me back from the abyss is a monster, the kind you are too afraid to fall asleep in case of. I feel my face, feeling crusty and in ruin but so does the monster, scarily mirroring my every action and emotion I portray. The hurt on its face brings me to think tears may soon show. But monsters don’t cry. I am not a monster. Not yet.

I cannot bear to continue with this story further as I already know what happens. I have become my father. Not the good man he was, but the monster the curse created him to be, and his father, and his father’s father. If you cannot imagine what you might perceive my appearance to be, do no go looking for me to find out, or my family.

My only last wish before I lose control of my mind and the demon takes over is that my son will find this diary and continue to write in here that one day he has continued to explore this planet and found the place where the cure has been hidden.

Joey, I know you may never see me or this diary again. Your face looked too terrified to want to return here again to collect it. All I want to tell you is this is not they place I was told about when I was your age. I made a mistake and for that I’m sorry. Before, the curse would take exactly three years. Now I have no idea. The water did something to us and I think you will have even less time than the rest of us. You were so much younger than as when it started happening to you. It’s all my fault. The monster I have become may not recognise you and may try to harm you, but I love you. You are the apple of my eye, my son.

Goodbye, Joey. From your father, Ethan.
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