Here, are a few more stories written by you in response to the story writing project launched in Notes on September 9, 2007.
—The writer is a freelancer based in Hyderabad, India

Writing tips: Charactersation

  • Every story has characters, human or otherwise. It is best to decide who your main character is, get into the head of that main character and experience the story through his or her eyes.
  • Decide who your main character is.
  • Is your main character male or female?
  • How old is he/she? How does he/she look? Is there some peculiar characteristic? Is it significant to your story?
  • What does your main character care about, what are the reasons for his/her behaviour?
  • Create a problem or a conflict that the character tackles.
  • Your character needs to be believable and, therefore, needs to have some virtues and some flaws. A perfect character or someone too good is difficult for the reader to identify with. Bring your characters to life.
  • Avoid stereotypes.
  • What change takes place in your main character as he/she tackles the problem?
  • What gives the character insight?
  • What makes your reader care about the main character?
  • You also need to create two or three more characters for a short story.
  • You need to know something about these characters too, how they work with the main character, what makes them tick, and what makes them fit into the world of the main character.
  • Give your characters orginal names. Create word pictures as you move along in your story.

How ophelia and sarah became friends

The air was filled with anxiety as all the participants of the elocution contest waited backstage for the winners to be announced. Ophelia was also one of the nervous participants. She remembered how much the judges had praised her and how much the audience had applauded her. That had made her so happy. Now, if only she would get the first prize.

Suddenly there was a cheer in the audience. Ophelia figured out that the chief guest had arrived on stage to announce the winner. Ophelia held her breath and crossed her fingers. She heard the chief guest's voice on the mike, "The winner is the one and only Ophelia."

Ophelia was overwhelmed with joy and started jumping up and down. When she finally got hold of herself, she went on stage to receive her award. She gave the chief guest a big smile, bowed, said 'Thank you' and went back.
All the other participants congratulated her, but Sarah, a girl from her class, screamed, "No! No! I won't accept this! I should have won, not her! She cheated!"

For a minute, a flabbergasted Ophelia just stared at her classmate, trying to convince herself that Sarah was just joking. Then she spoke up. "What is wrong with you, I didn't cheat. I won fair enough, and by the way, what proof do you have?" Soon both the girls were arguing.

Hearing their raised voices, the supervisor came up. "Girls, calm down, and tell me what's the matter."

Ophelia and Sarah each told her side of the story. The supervisor supported Ophelia because she knew that she was an honest and smart girl. Sarah became furious and kicked a burning oil lamp that was to be used as decoration. It rolled away and landed in the dressing room. All of a sudden they heard a shrill cry from the dressing room - there were flames coming out of the room. They realised that the oil lamp had set the clothes on fire. The supervisor immediately called the fire brigade and told the security guard to get everyone out of the hall. All of a sudden Sarah ran towards the dressing room. The supervisor called her back but she ignored her and went in.

The supervisor got worried and was wondering what to do, when Ophelia said, "I'll get her. I know how to handle fire. I'm a girl guide." Before the supervisor could stop her she was on her way. The supervisor nearly fainted out of anxiety.

The smoke choked Ophelia. She looked around and saw Sarah lying on the floor, unconscious. She flung Sarah's backpack on her shoulder and dragged her out of the room. By now the fire brigade had already come. It put out the fire and helped the injured people.

Sarah thanked Ophelia for her kindness and apologized for wrongly accusing her of cheating. She told Ophelia that she so badly wanted to win the competition that she became jealous. The kindhearted Ophelia forgave her.
The next day at school, all her friends, the teachers and the principal praised Ophelia for her bravery. And from that day Ophelia and Sarah became best of friends.

Amara Zahi,
Grade 8, Ibn Seena English High School, Sharjah

The Hanging Mustache

A few weeks back, in the small town of Hilton, a dangerous prisoner had escaped from jail. My friends, Sally and Bets, had come to my house for a sleepover. The three of us were 14 years old. Sally and I had similar facial features, were tall and slim, had straight black hair and had a taste for fashionable clothes. We loved hanging out at the mall. Bets, on the other hand, was short and plump, had wavy hair and couldn't care less about clothes.

The three of us were sprawled on the floor discussing the convict.

"I was reading the paper today," said Bets, chewing a cookie, "and I found a whole article about the prisoner."

We looked at the article she had brought with her. There was a picture of the convict with a notice of reward for information that led to his recapture.

Sally wanted to make plans for the next day, and thought that we could go to the mall. There was some squabbling about this as Bets had no intention of hanging out at the mall. We finally decided that Sally and I would go while Bets stayed back and researched articles on the prisoner.

The next morning, Sally and I made our way to the store. In the store, my eyes caught something peculiar. A man was walking towards the exit, carrying a big parcel in his hand.

The peculiar part was that half of his moustache was hanging as though he was wearing a fake one. He seemed familiar…I suddenly realized who he was. Probably no one else had noticed this; they were all busy shopping. I nudged Sally and pointed silently at him. She froze in fear. Sally pulled me outside and we came straight home. We told Bets about this and she at once suggested that we inform the police. Sally called the police station.

"Hello, we are three teenagers calling to say that we know something about the escaped convict," she said importantly. "We saw him today at the mall in the neighbourhood," and she told him all about how he had been in disguise and about the parcel he had been carrying.

The television was on downstairs and the news was going on. 'There was no indication that there was a struggle…" said the newsreader, "or anyone wounded in the incident…. efforts are underway to trace…"

'The escaped prisoner strikes again," said Dad, who was watching the news.

We were worried now that we knew that the prisoner was in the neighbourhood.

My friends spent the night at my house again and when we awoke the next day, we heard great news this time. "Finally the escaped prisoner has been captured and all thanks to three alert teenagers…" said the news.

We ran downstairs, our faces aglow. The police had called earlier to say that the parcel the prisoner had been carrying consisted of disguises stolen from the store and that they had a surprise in store for us.

A reward, no doubt! Hip, hip hooray!!!

Hafsah Mohammad Naim,
Grade 9, Pristine Private School, Dubai


Note: This story is told through the eyes of a survivor of the Southland wild fires near Los Angeles, California.

This couldn't be real. It just couldn't! My dogs, my horses, my house… everything torched. What were once my prized stables now lay in smouldering ruins. The kennels still stood but burned like wildfire. My house stood charred and burnt. That house had been in my family for generations. My grandfather had been the last owner. I remember how he used to tell me how his father had passed it on to him. This house meant everything to him, and to my mother and me. And now, after seven generations of my family's history, all that remained were a few planks of charred wood.

Tears spilled from my eyes, choking my throat as they did so. My whole life had been stripped from me in seconds. My possessions, of course, could all be replaced. But what of my companions? My dogs, my four beautiful dogs - had they managed to escape the inferno? What would I do if they were never found? Was it possible that they had escaped at all? Molly had always worried me the most. Her old legs could never outrun a fire. And what of Blue? He was certainly swift enough to escape the blaze without problems. But Jack and Lucy, they were mere pups! They would have run off into another state if they had a chance! Oh, they were surely gone!

And my horses… Could they have made it out in time? Azalea and Ebony, they might have had the chance to run. But Edgar… his short pony legs could never carry him away in time. I stood there and wept for what seemed like an eternity. My life as I knew it had been destroyed. My animals, my friends… They were all gone now.

A shrill whinny in the distance snapped me out of my despair. I turned to see Azalea and Ebony trotting towards me! I could hardly believe it! And there was Edgar! And Molly, and Blue as well! It was remarkable! They had survived! And trailing the lot were Jack and Lucy!

More tears spilled from my eyes, but these were tears of joy. I ran to greet my dearest friends. At that moment, the smoke-choked sky opened and a single beam of sunlight touched the earth. My spirits lifted in that instant. I looked towards the sky and I thought that maybe my life wasn't over after all. Maybe… just maybe… there was hope.

Catherine Cruickshank,
Victoria International School, Sharjah

Tainted Justice

Vilas lived in a small town about 79 km from Patna, Bihar. His father had died three years earlier and he had taken on the responsibility of feeding his mother and siblings as he was the eldest son. He earned Rs45 to Rs60 a day doing petty jobs.

Everything went well until Vilas's mother fell seriously ill. Vilas saved up three days' salary and took his mother to a small medical centre close to his home.

"It is tuberculosis," said the doctor. Vilas had heard of this medical condition before. His neighbour's father had suffered from it. He had passed away a year ago. "It's in the starting stage; it can be cured," continued the doctor. He informed Vilas that the treatment and care would require Rs7,000.

Rs7,000! Vilas froze. Where would he get that much money? He led his mother back home, deep in thought. Vilas's mother prepared dinner and they ate in silence. He stayed awake at night, thinking about what the doctor had said. He decided to visit the moneylender the next morning.

Vilas woke up early next morning, and made his way to the moneylender. The moneylender, after much contemplation, finally agreed to give him the money with 20 per cent interest, which was too much, and Vilas wondered if he could pay back at that rate.

Later that night, when Vilas was heading back home, he passed the brightly lit shop of the jeweller. He noticed an eye-catching gold necklace hanging in the display case and above it, a price tag that read 'Rs10,000 only, 22 carat gold.'

He didn't know why, but his feet dragged him inside the shop. It was deserted. Strange, he thought. Nobody at the goldsmiths! That was really peculiar. A bizarre thought occurred to him. If he could just snatch the necklace and make a run for it, he could easily get a considerable amount for the chain. But Vilas, surprised at his own idea, shook the thought and was about to leave.

"What about your mother?" said a voice in his head. "Do you not care for her? From where will you get the money to cure her disease?" All these painful thoughts! He didn't know what to do. He could not steal! What if he was caught? Contrary to the thoughts in Vilas's head, his actions were impulsive; he scanned the store, picked up the necklace, and made a dash for the door.

Just then, from out of nowhere, a big man appeared and shouted "Thief! Get him!" A dozen other men carrying sticks stood in Vilas's way. That was when Vilas realized that it was a trap! A trap set for the notorious thief who had been terrorizing the town. He started to run, though in his mind he knew he had little chance of getting away. The men soon caught up with him and started beating him mercilessly. The local police too joined in the action.

Vilas pleaded innocence but his cries were drowned by the loud voices of the mob swearing at him. Blood trickled down his neck, but nobody seemed to care. They stopped finally, but it was too late. Vilas's body lay on the ground, motionless.

"Vilas is late," said his sick mother to her other sons. "I hope you don't mind waiting for him. We'll start dinner after he comes."

Their wait was never-ending.

Mohammad Zubair,
Grade 9, Delhi Private School, Sharjah

A winner born from failure

"And the winner of this year's National Dance Competition is…. Who do you think is gonna win?" the host bellowed through the mike. As the host kept everyone in suspense, all I could think about was who the winner would be, our team or our rivals, and how my teammates' dreams were going to go down the drain and all because of me. As my mind wandered, all around me there were teams waiting, sweating, tired from the tough competition. Then suddenly my friend Tochi, who was screaming my name excitedly, brought me back to my senses.

"Chris! Chris! Listen to the crowd; they're shouting our group's name. OH GOD, I can't bear this suspense!!"

Like she said, I could hear the crowd outside but I knew that the decision was in the judge's hands not the crowd's. There was no use getting my hopes up, I had to be patient and pray they hadn't noticed my on-the-spot improvisation, something I used to lose points for in other competitions.

From where I was standing I could see my once friend but now rival Tanya. She too was tense and sneered at me as she caught me looking at her.

"Okay, I'll give you a guess, the team that will represent us in the upcoming World Dance Championship one of THE ANGELSS!" the host hissed gaily. "But for now I shall keep it a secret and let's take a short break!"

My legs started going numb under me as I grasped the information the host had just given us. One of the angels …. that meant the battle was between Tanya's team and mine - again, for the hundredth time in my life!

"The winners are … THE DARK ANGELS." The host finally bawled.

I felt my heart skip a beat as I realized that again my rival Tanya would be taking home my dream. But wait, what was that!! The host was apologizing - for what?? Oh my word, he'd made a mistake, if Tanya didn't win, then who did?? We were the only other Angels in the competition. How could he fumble at a time like this?

"Sorrrrrrrrrry" the host called. "The winner is THE AAARRRKKK AANGELLS!"

"Wow, we won!" I screamed! The addition of a simple D had made a big difference, but I forgot all about it when I went on stage with my teammates and collected the prize money.

Christine S. Varghese,
Grade 10, Pristine Private School, Dubai

Unwitting Witness

It was a bright sunny morning. I was staying in a hotel in New York. I came out from the hotel and called a cab. I told the driver to drop me to the Empire State Building. I stood there and looked at the building with amazement. It was really tall and beautiful. There were many people looking at the building, too. “Beautiful, isn't it?'' one boy said to me.

“Ya, it is,'' I replied, “What's your name?''

“My name is Dean,'' he replied, “And you are…?''

“Ovais,'' I replied.

We both gazed at the building. Every person was staring and talking about it. I glanced down and then I saw a man picking up a bag that was lying near a fire hydrant. I walked forward to get a better look. I looked at him closely, concentrating hard. I closed my eyes and then the answer came to me. It was the guy in the cab who drove me here. ‘What was he doing here?' I asked myself. I looked at other people to see if they noticed him, but no, they were looking at the building.

I looked at that guy again. He appeared to be holding something. “Hey Dean,'' I called him, “Look at that guy, he has something in his hand,'' I said.

He looked at him closely, “Ya, he has something in his hand. But I can't clearly see what it is.''

The person took off like he was in a hurry. “Let's follow him,'' I said.

We both ran to the corner. “That guy was the cab driver who dropped me here,'' I said. We were very close to him, so we pretended we were normal pedestrians. He stopped at a toy shop. He looked at us suspiciously, then he took out his mobile and started talking to someone. We were behind him wondering who he was talking to. “Maybe his gang members,'' whispered Dean. Before I could say anything the man took out a pen and a piece of paper and began to write something in it. And then he took off in his cab.

Dean and I sat in a café thinking about what we saw. “I have a hunch that the bag he picked up has money in it,'' I said.

“Maybe you're right,'' agreed Dean, “Maybe he was talking about which bank to rob next. Maybe that's why he was writing something,'' said Dean.

“I guess you're right,'' I said.

“So what do we call this guy?'' asked Dean.

“I am thinking of calling him the ‘GMP','' I said.

“GMP?'' asked Dean.

“Ya, G: Generally, M: Mysterious, P: Person,'' I said.

“Sounds cool to me,'' agreed Dean, “I'll give you a nickname too, hmm, what about Sam?''

“Cool,'' I agreed.

“Hey, do you want to go to a park?'' asked Dean.

I agreed. When we were walking in the park I saw the same cab driver again, wearing a black overcoat with a black hat. “Hey, that's the same guy we saw at the Empire State,'' I told him.

Dean looked at him. His eyes widened, “Ya, it is him, but what's he up to now?''

“Well let's go see what he is doing here with the bag,'' I said.

This time we crept up slowly to spy at him. We hid behind a rock. Another man with a monkey alongside met him. The two men talked in whispers. They whispered for a while and left in different directions. Some white paper had fallen out of GMP's pocket. When they had gone I ran and retrieved the paper. Something was written on it.

“It's written, ‘Harbour 6 p.m.'''

“Let's go to the harbour!!!'' he said.

We got into a cab and were driven to the harbour. “Okay, so he has to be here,'' said Dean, “What do you think, Sam?''

“Well the time is six,'' I said, “Where could he be?''

“Look!'' Dean whispered in my ear and pointed to the man. Sure enough, there was the GMP! He went to one of the docks.

We followed him. There were black limos parked near some warehouses. We peeked through the window in the warehouse the GMP had entered. A number of heavily built men, all dressed in black and holding guns, were exchanging money. “We better call the police,'' I said.

“You got that right dude,'' agreed Dean, “I have a mobile and I'll call 'em right away.'' Dean punched in the numbers. “Hello, police, there is a meeting of some gunmen at a harbour warehouse. You can't miss it, there are many black limos here and a cab.'' said Dean.

The police came shortly in a blaze of sirens. The gunmen and the police had a gunfight. The fight continued for a long time. The GMP and his gang surrendered. They were sent to prison and the police rewarded us for being good detectives.

“That was cool, dude!'' said Dean, “I sure am lucky that I have a friend like you. You know, we should set up a private eye company,'' said Dean.

“Hmmmmm, nah, it's too much trouble,'' I said.

“Come on just you and me, we'll solve every mystery in New York,'' coaxed Dean.

I just shook my head and smiled and we both began to walk in one of the biggest cities in the world!

Age 14, Pristine Private School

Angel's Cry

It's been a week since the episode took place at the fair with the McClaris child and me and so far three other children have become victims of similar attacks. It was hot that day so my brother Josh and I thought of having some lemonade. Just then we saw Sandra, our neighbor, and her younger brother Peter from afar. We were about to call out to them when they walked away so Josh ran after them leaving me to get the lemonade. As I was heading towards the stall, I heard a shriek. It seemed to have come from the dressing room off the stage across the stall. Since there wasn't anyone else around I thought of checking it out myself before calling the police.

Later, the Deputy came and started with the questioning, and I told him what had happened. “The room was dark when I entered so I placed my hand on the wall trying to feel for the switch when a hand covered mine, taking it and twisting it around my back. I tried struggling but I was pushed flat against the wall, that's when I shrieked. A moment later I heard footsteps approaching the room and within a second the person left me and ran out the back door. Josh entered and rushed to me as I had fallen in a state of shock, and at the same time Peter came behind him looking surprised. They helped me stand and as we were about to leave we heard a soft cry from the closet. We went to the closet and saw a bruised, frightened child inside. Josh picked him up, trying to soothe him and Peter came to call you.''

"Well, that was very brave of you, Nina, to go in all by yourself," said Deputy Brad. "It's a huge area here, and the person responsible may be anywhere, but we'll try our best to find him."

At this point, I wanted to tell the Deputy that I found a bracelet but I had to be sure. I went to Sandra's room but how could I ask her if the bracelet I found belonged to her? It looked like the same one I had gifted her for her seventeenth birthday. When Sandra entered the room she saw the nervousness on my face and asked me if all was well. That's when I showed her the bracelet.

"Nina, were did you get my bracelet?" she asked. I hesitated and she continued, "When I went to play paint ball at the fair, I put the bracelet in my hoodie pocket and gave it to Peter to hold, but when I checked for it later, it was gone!"

"W-what do you mean…? Then you aren't the person who attacked those children?" I gasped.

"Attack the children? Why would I of all people do that, Nina, when I was beaten by my own father? And you know that!"

“Yes, I do, but as the person holding me against the wall ran off, your bracelet fell out of his or her hoodie."

"But I didn't have my hoodie at that time; I took it from Peter after we left the crime scene. Why, he had it with him the whole time!"

"Oh, gosh, Sandra, where is Peter?"

Though it was late at night there were some people in the park. But there were hardly any around the basketball court where Peter was supposed to be. We called Deputy Brad to come with us for safety and as we got closer to the court we heard a kid's whining voice and that's when we saw a man holding the child tight, wearing the same black hoodie and jogging pants that the other victims had described. The deputy ran onto the court leaving me with Sandra crying on my shoulder.

In less then an hour, we were at the town's police station and Peter had been arrested for attacking children. After a few tests, the psychiatrist said that Peter was suffering from psychological problems. He was mentally and emotionally disturbed and wanted revenge for his father's treatment because of which he and Sandra had lost their mother.

Peter was sent to a youth rehab centre and Sandra went to live with her aunt Lisa.

Ummulbanin Rasul Shamji
Age 15, Grade11, Pristine Private School
Emirate: Dubai

Fat is Beautiful

"And the Miss World award goes too...."

Eva watched intently as the beautiful lady stood there in a stunning Chanel dress while she accepted her award. It made her own heart leap even imagining herself in that situation. Since the age of 10, it was Eva's dream to be a supermodel. To others it seemed a passing phase but to her it was an addiction to being perfect and looking glamorous All these factors captivated her as she saw models like Kate Moss with their A grade looks and flawless skin.

Eva was from Manhattan Island, NYC. Her mother, Carol, worked as an assistant in the famed magazine Boudoir and her father, Mark, had left them when she was 5. Her mother rarely ever spoke about him but Eva could always see her mother tearing up when she saw other couples. Eva was often treated as an outcast in school, as she was overweight. Since she did not enjoy her school life she spent her time buying magazines, researching runway secrets and binging on McDonald's. Even though her mother was an extremely busy woman, she noticed the fact that her daughter was miserable and tried often to get her to exercise and diet. To Eva, though, these things didn't matter much as all she dreamt about was the day she would finally get a shot at being a model.

That day was actually not that far away. On her 16th birthday her mother surprised her with an entry form to participate in Boudoir's face-of-the-year competition. This was more than a gift - it was an opportunity to show the world what she could really accomplish.

The auditions were the day after her birthday, so one could imagine her enthusiasm the night before: let's just say it was more than normal, much more. She got up at about 5 in the morning to get ready for a 2-in-the-afternoon audition. By the time it was 1 she had styled her hair, dressed up in her sassy new clothes and had finished her makeup. During the ride to the place, her mother assured her that even if she doesn't get chosen, she was beautiful.

They reached the venue at about 1: 45 and just as she set foot in the place her body was filled with vibes of happiness and excitement. As she walked to the registry, she could see girls everywhere. Most of them fitted the look - skinny and way too much makeup. This didn't bother her much, but when she went up to register, that is when things started to get her down. The lady at the registry stared at Eva in disbelief when she was applying for her audition.

What was worse, Eva soon realized, the lady was not the only one! The other girls, too, were staring at her as if she did not belong. One girl even whispered, loud enough for Eva to hear, “I can't believe she fit through the door!''

It was not long before her eyes were fogging up! Before she could feel any more humiliation, she dropped her form and just ran out. Her mother was waiting outside for her to finish with her audition and when she saw Eva running towards the car, she was confused and alarmed. Eva ran up to the car and told her mother she wanted to go straight home. Her mother asked what was wrong but Eva wouldn't answer. Her mother decided to leave the topic until they had reached home.

But as soon as they reached, Eva ran straight to her room and locked herself up without even looking back. Her mother tried to talk to Eva, but she would not respond. After two hours, her mother finally decided to call security to open the door. When the door was broken open, her mother saw a lifeless body lying on the floor with a bottle of pills right next to it. A panic-stricken and frightened mother lifted up her child in her arms and cried while the guard called the ambulance. It took emergency about fifteen minutes to arrive and they quickly picked Eva up, placed her on a stretcher and tried desperately to calm her mother down. Upon reaching the hospital Eva was rushed into the ICU unit and was attended to immediately. While Eva lay on the hospital bed, her mother just stared at the blank cold floor, blaming herself.

Three hours later, a doctor finally emerged from the room with a distraught look on his face. This lonely and caring woman had lost her daughter due to the misconception that fat is not beautiful but look at role models who are beautiful, curvy and successful - who says Fat is not Beautiful?

Nyla Khan

Attempted Robbery

Last year when I was in Grade 7 an incident took place in my school which I will never forget .Our school was holding an elocution contest and I along with one of my classmates was chosen to participate. After a lot of practice, I was ready for the poetry session.

Finally, the big day arrived and many parents came. When it was my turn, I went on stage and I recited my poem. When the prizes were announced I was first. I was happy and proud, but when I came backstage, one of the participants accused me of cheating and this resulted in a big argument between us. Suddenly, I heard a loud crash and a lady screamed. When I went to see what was happening, I saw a man with close-cropped hair carrying a knife and next to him was a fallen stage light. He must have dismantled the stage light and so it fell. Then three other people came up from the audience with knives and guns. The school security guard was injured, lying on the floor with his arm bleeding.

One of the men told all the people to put their jewelry in a black bag, which he carried .Everyone did as they were told. Meanwhile, backstage, one of the teachers called the police and within a few minutes the school building was surrounded. The robbers panicked and told everyone to stay where they were and not to put up any resistance. The teachers helped the security guard to his feet and he was taken backstage where he planned to disarm the robbers.

Two of the robbers had gone to search the school to see if there was anything else that was valuable, so only two men were left in the auditorium. It was a good chance to attack them. The wounded security guard stealthily came up behind one of the men to attack him but he accidentally stepped on the fallen stage light. The noise made the robber turn and he immediately punched the security guard who fell to the floor. The others in the audience could stand no more. A group of teachers attacked one robber, while the other ran out. He and the other two robbers were overwhelmed by the parents and teachers.

The police arrested all four robbers and the injured security guard was taken to the hospital. My parents took me home with the prize I had won. Winning it didn't seem as exciting as what had followed!

Meldon Augusto Azavedo
Age 13, Grade 9, Pristine Private School
Dubai, UAE

I am the winner

Two a.m. The alarm rings. My eyes open. It's happened again, the same dream. I only wish it wasn't real but I have to face reality. The torture he inflicted on me re-plays in my head every night. I am helpless and trapped in the silence of my room, hidden from the outside world. I feel he has robbed me of my innocence and optimistic attitude. I am sick and tired of being alone. His attack forced me to give up on everything. He was the winner.

My life now is filled with crippled love, shattered hope, corroded faith, destroyed peace and suppressed memories. I beat myself over it every day though today I am wearier than ever of hearing it. I open my cupboard and reach for my running shoes; I slip them on and am overwhelmed with emotion. Memories flood back of when I was an athlete and I realize just how he has taken control of my life. But I must regain control over my mind and body; I can change those painful thoughts. My invaded soul is ready to let my courage show.

I open the front door and feel the winter chill kiss my face. I am ready. I begin walking. I am scared and a small thing like walking on the footpath seems new to me. I remember walking to the bus stop every morning and I play the old game, making sure not to step on a crack. I smile. I jump over a line of ants working together to move a large crumb of bread back to their home. I try not to remind myself that he is the winner, I am more determined with every step to win myself back.

I quicken my pace and create my own beat. Left. Right. Left. Right. I begin counting my steps and realize I am going faster and faster. The sprinklers in the neighborhood turn on; I can hear my panting and taste the cool water. I imagine the attack and remind myself. ‘I am the winner.' I think of the days of being confined to my room, the sleepless nights and traumatizing nightmares

My lungs feel like they are about to explode as my mouth dries up and my legs feel heavy. I feel empowered and so full of life. The colors around me are ones I have forgotten existed. The stars shine bright and I know ‘I am the winner.'

I see the playground at the end of the block signaling my finish line. I take my last few hard breaths as I collapse into the sand box.

I am the winner.

Evita Lynn Basilio
Age 13, Grade 9, St. Mary's Catholic High School
Emirate: Dubai

Unforgettable Journey…

“I was really busy, I swear Ma'am.'' I protested as my Science teacher asked for my assignment. This was nothing new - once again I didn't have my homework done.

After school as I was strolling down the street on my way back home, a strange voice stopped me, “Excuse me, young lady…'' I turned and saw an old woman who looked pale and exhausted, obviously from the hot weather. “Could you help me, please? My bag is really heavy.'' But I refused and used my talent for making excuses to get away from her as fast as possible.

Finally, tired and sleepy, I arrived home and went to my room and just lay on my favorite chair to watch TV. It wasn't long before I felt warm and comfortable and went into a deep sleep. When I woke up I was feeling energetic but to my amazement I had slept for only one hour.

“Do you want to eat something?'' asked my mom.

“No, thanks, Ma, I don't feel like eating,'' I replied.

“Ferozan, dear, can you help me to clear up the roof, all the TV cables are jumbled and it is really messy up there!'' said my dad. I didn't have a choice - not when my dad was around. So we both climbed on the roof; the sky was clear, the sun was bright and beautiful and I felt great.

“Ferozan …'' called my dad, as I was enjoying the scenery around me. I turned to face him and it happened… My right foot slipped and I thought I would fall on my face, but my Dad moved forward to grab my shirt. He seemed mired in molasses, and missed me by a fraction of a second. “No..No!'' Dad shouted, the cable he was holding clattering on the roof. Somehow I had time to wonder what was happening and then I began to drift. There was no pain, just a feeling of dread and loss.

A feeling of guilt made me fear God, fear whether I would be answerable for everything I had done, I remembered my negative attitude towards my parents, the last thing I had said to my best friend, “I'm sick of you, you are so boring, man.'' Worst of all, what I did to that old lady this afternoon……………

Ah! It is too late, I'm dying ..too late for me to offer my prayers, which my mom had to force me to say, too late to ask God for mercy....too late to regret.

“God ..if you would give me one more day.. I promise ..'' then another thought interrupted and I looked down as I was falling , the ground of our yard was getting further and further away, my body was numb… I couldn't feel anything.

“Get her on the table…'' an unfamiliar voice said, “and get me a cross match, what is her BP?''

“Ninety over sixty,'' someone said. I tried to say “Mom ..Dad..'' but a nurse was forcing a tube down my throat. I felt myself falling down a dark tunnel, deep and far…. I couldn't remember anything....

Suddenly a voice called “Is that enough, Ferozan ..? Do you want more…?''

I opened my eyes and jumped to my feet, startled. Mom had a bowl of soup in her hand.

I pinched myself – now I was awake. I didn't know whether it was a warning from God, but that dream changed my life forever…

Ferozan Mohammad Ibrahim
Age 16, Grade 10, Pristine Private School

A Shadow of Death!

School was over and the holidays stretched ahead. There was nothing to watch on TV. I called up my schoolmate and asked him if he could come for a football game, but his mother wouldn't let him, so I decided to go by myself to practice my football technique.

As I set off with my gloves and ball, I felt like I was being followed, but when I looked around, there wasn't a soul about. It took me half an hour to get to the field and when I arrived there my heart was jumping with excitement because I don't just like football, I love football - it is a passion for me. The time was 6:30 p.m. and I had to return home by 8 p.m. because that is when Mamma and Papa get back from work.

At 7:30 I started walking back. The streets were lonely and quiet, as usual. Suddenly, I heard noisy footsteps and voices of men coming towards me. I did get a little scared but I ignored it and kept on walking. I was deep in my own thoughts when I felt something hit me. Then I saw five masked men marching towards me. I started shaking. I hoped they wouldn't do anything to me.

Four of them walked past then suddenly the last man caught my arm and pulled me hard towards the others. The five men now circled me, leaving me no space to escape. One of the men pulled out a bottle with golden brown liquid. Now I was really scared! I wanted my Mamma and Papa! I started screaming, trying desperately to think of a way out of this horrible situation!

Someone poured that liquid on me, and then took out a match and lit my foot.

I WAS ON FIRE!! I fainted.

When I woke up, I was in hospital. Mamma and Papa were next to me. Later the police asked many questions but I couldn't tell them anything about the men because of their masks. I lived in fear for months, then slowly I began to get on with my life. No one knows who those men were and I don't know why they wanted to kill me.

Ten years have passed now and sometimes I still tremble, remembering the most horrifying moments of my life.

Sana Bokil
Victoria International School Sharjah

Sibling Rivalry

One beautiful morning, the newspaper arrived at our doorstep with an invitation to students to participate in an art competition. My elder sister was very excited about it because she is a great artist and is also learning art.

On seeing her excitement I, too, decided to participate, and my parents encouraged both of us to do our best in the contest. My sister started to laugh and said only she would win, as my art is not half as good as hers. I was hurt by her careless remark and decided to put my best effort into the drawing to prove to her that I also have talent. We both decided to do our own drawings and not show each other what we were doing.

When the day of submission of our drawings arrived, we went to the submission center with my mother and submitted our drawings in separate envelopes, with our details on them. Then on the day when the results were to be announced we both eagerly awaited the newspaper. We were so nervous and anxious that every minute seemed like an hour.

When the newspaper arrived we rushed for it and started to fight over who would see the results first. At last, we decided that we would both look at the newspaper together. When we saw the results, my sister was very disappointed because somebody else was first and I had come second, while her name was not there at all. She started to cry and said that I must have copied her work and won the second prize; she should have won. I tried to explain to her that when we had not seen each other's work how could I have copied her drawing, but she was so upset that she went on accusing me.

Our parents intervened and tried to calm us. They made us understand that the most important thing is to have faith and trust between the two of us. At last, we sisters realized our mistake and apologized to each other and decided never to mistrust each other again. We are now looking forward to participating in our next competition without fighting!

Avni Priyadarshi
Age 9, Grade 5 A, International School of Choueifat
Emirate: Dubai, UAE

Trust and Friendship

Ever thought about forming a band? Well, this is a story about teenagers who planned to become the most famous band in history. They were a group of four who lived in the same neighborhood. All of them were talented rockers.

''Hey, guys, how about forming a band? We are talented, right?'' said Pete.

''I'm not so sure, our schooling is in the way,'' said Patrick.

Pete was determined. He told his parents about his dream to become a famous rock star and to form a band with his friends. Pete's father said, “What are you saying? Do you even know how much I spent on sending you to a good school? A rock star! What a childish dream!''

Pete was furious with his dad. He started skipping his classes along with his friends just to practice music; he wanted to prove to his dad that his dream wasn't so childish and a waste of time. They went to a studio and recorded some songs, using their own money, and sent them to a recording company. After a week the company said they really liked their type of music so they asked the band to perform at a bar. The people there would decide their future in the music industry.

''We worked really hard, guys, even if we fail to be a band then I wish you would forgive me for putting you guys in this situation, I never wanted you guys to skip school just for me to prove my dad wrong,'' said Pete.

''No, don't say that! We also want to show our parents that we can achieve something,'' said JB.

Everyone agreed. They prayed before their big performance in the bar. After about two hours of playing their best songs, one of the judges came up to them with the manager next to him, with a smile on his face. They said that they had done a great job and they wanted to sign a contract with them. They were overjoyed; they celebrated a lot, inviting all their friends over. After a night of wild partying, they fell asleep with contentment in their hearts. They felt they had achieved a huge task on the first try.

The next morning, they gathered their parents and told them that they had a contract that would make them part of the music industry. Their parents didn't believe it at first, but soon enough they were able to accept that their children had followed what their hearts really wanted and that was music.

Gregor Lorenz R. Vidal
Age 14, Pristine Private School
Emirate: Sharjah

African Floods Worst in Living Memory
Through the eyes of a seven-year-old Ethiopian girl

I'm lying on the muddy floor shivering and coughing. Raindrops are dripping onto my head through the gaps in the ceiling. I'm lying on wet ground. It has been raining non-stop for days and the water is nearly up to my ankles. Our tiny shack is made up of old planks and driftwood that are joined together with rope and mud. There are huge gaps between the planks and there is no insulation at all. I am holding onto my three-year-old brother, Rashidi, who is also shivering in his sleep. The rain is pouring down outside, and I am starving with hunger and I have a pounding headache because of lack of water. Crops and food supplies have been ruined in the rain and our water has been contaminated. I feel weak and tired and I have trouble sleeping. Our mother is out working at the local hospital in our village. I see through the gaps in the wood that it is getting lighter, but the rain still pours down. On a typical day, the sun would rise at this time and the heat would be immense.

Rashidi stirs in his sleep and yawns as he wakes up. “Aziza, what's the time?'' He mutters.

“About 6, probably,'' I reply.

“I'm hungry, will mum bring back food?'' He asks.

“Mmm … maybe …'' I say hesitantly. I don't want to tell my baby brother about the food shortage. Even though I am very young myself, I am treated like someone older because all the responsibility cannot be placed on my mother. I have to do various chores like looking after Rashidi and making sure we both have food and water.

The others in our village are still asleep, or at least still in their huts, and once again; I go in search of food and clean water. I haven't had much luck lately, but an old woman in our village tells me that there is rice growing on the far side of a river that is in a small forest right next to our village. The river is usually completely dry, and I am so hungry I don't even think about that fact that it has probably filled up with water. I carry my little brother through the bush, with the rain pounding onto our skins. Rashidi squirms with discomfort and as we got closer, I see the river, overflowing with water. As we near the riverbank, I can feel the icy cold water on my toes, which makes me tremble even more. The water from the river is even worse than the water that is flooding our village. The rain gets even heavier, and I worry about our village, because it is in a valley. If it keeps raining like this, our homes will be destroyed and people will die.

“I want to go home!'' cries Rashidi, “It's too cold and wet! I'm hungry and thirsty and tired, Aziza!''

“Shhh! Don't be upset, Rashidi!'' I say uncertainly, “I'm sure we'll find some nice berries on this side of the river … soon.''

“No!'' shouts Rashidi, desperately trying to get out of my grasp, “I want Mum! I don't want berries, I want to go home!''

Rashidi is sobbing and has given up being mad at me. “I'm sorry Rashidi,'' I say softly, “We'll go home now. Mum will be back.''

We walk back in the pouring rain and once we are back in the village we are completely saturated. We get to our house and find our mum inside, lying down and holding her head in pain.

“Mum, I want food! When can we eat?'' asks Rashidi.

“Shush! I have a headache! Why can't you ever be quiet?!'' shrieks Mum.

Everything is silent for a moment before Rashidi bursts into tears.

“I'm going over to Auntie's house!'' He cried before running off. Rashidi often has tantrums and ‘runs away.'

“Mum!'' I cry. “He's only little! Don't be angry!''

Mum sits up and when I see her face she looks as white as a ghost. She has dark circles underneath her eyes. “You look terrible! What's wrong?'' I ask.

“I have caught pneumonia.'' She croaks.

“What's that?'' I ask anxiously.

“It's an illness that affects you're lungs. I caught it because it is very cold. It makes me feel even worse than usual.'' She replies.

“Oh! That's bad! Maybe it will stop raining!'' I say, trying to act hopeful.

“Sweetie …'' begins Mum, “I'm not sure that it will stop flooding … I asked some workers at the hospital and the news is that in three days we will be shin-deep in water!''

Mum is right. I never knew it could rain so much! I am filled with sadness; I am hungry, thirsty, cold and worried. Mum can barely sit up and Rashidi is always drowsy. I know that we have to flee our village soon, but I am afraid because Mum is too weak.

A few nights later, there is a wild storm. It rains so hard that we are scared of going outside; the rain is cold and hard on our skin. I know our village is slowly filling up with water. Rashidi is asleep and Mum is barely moving. I know that she will not survive. I sit by her side and hold her hand. “I know I am going to die tonight,'' she says, so quietly that I can barely hear her. “As soon as I do, promise me that you'll take your brother and leave the village. Soon the water will be too high and you don't know how to swim.''

“I promise,'' I whisper, tears running down my cheek.

“Try to get some sleep now, Aziza,'' she says.

I crawl up to my little brother and fall asleep next to him. When I wake up, my mother is dead. Gone from the world forever. I don't want to leave her, but I never break a promise. I don't want to wake Rashidi and upset him, so I lift him up and go out into the storm. I take one final look at my mum, who is peaceful and still, before running out into the storm. I run as fast as I can while carrying Rashidi, away from the only place that I have ever known. I know I will never see it again.

Alex Creece
Year 8, Victoria International School of Sharjah
Al Mamzar, Sharjah, UAE


I, Emily Madison, was a manipulative, lying, acid-tongued monster who was the perfect teenager and suited the wild, villainous role for a soap opera. Well … yeah, my family had given up on me. Getting into trouble at home was like changing from my night suit to my school uniform every day. My parents and family had become numb towards me and so had I. My cousins detested me. “She's awfully spoilt,'' “What a spoilt brat,'' “She has no future,'' “God give her brains,'' they muttered. I always stayed away from the family and departed from home whenever I heard of a family gathering.

And then came the most decisive moment of my life. Something that was unanticipated that came like a bolt from the blue.

After routine tests, the doctors revealed to me that my DNA did not match my family's. I was taken aback. Who was I and where had I come from? Such questions ran through my mind for hours. My attitude towards my family became even more hostile. Each day passed like a burden on me. Locked in my gloomy room, I lay on my bed with a heart filled with intense pain. My life-force kept urging me to take a step and find out about myself, but I had gone astray. It was then recommended I join ‘Teen Forum.'

There, I was flabbergasted to see the number of individuals who were in sadder circumstances. I received a lot of help and subsequently shared a lot of opinions with other teenagers; this was the point where I got counselled. I felt mature, and finally … I was determined and motivated to know about myself. All I established was that my biologic mother was a single parent who had been deceived, went through harsh trauma and had been admitted to an asylum and then died.

No more did I fit the ‘villainous' role. I sobered down. A better relationship grew between my family and me. I had been reborn into my childhood days and like a child shared every split second of my life with my family, specially my new mother. People appreciated this change, and told me about my sleek, straight brown hair being genetically inherited from my birth mom. Yes, definitely there are times when I wished to be with her … at those moments I just peacefully sat down and wrote diary entries, “Dearest Mommy, how heavenly is it up there? Everything happens for a reason, Mom, which is known only to God. God blessed me with the love of so many people who are just like my own. You and I didn't meet in this life but indisputably, if God wills it, we will meet in the hereafter.''

Sidra Iqbal Usman
Age 15, Year 10, Pristine Private School, Dubai