Senior 1st Prize Winning Story
“The Hidden Sun” by Emily Barker, ELTHAM College, Australia, is the First Prize winning story in the senior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
The Hidden Sun
There is a beautiful lake winding along at the foot of a tall and wonderful mountain. The lake is filled with fish and other mysterious creatures feeding and living in its blue pristine waters. flowers and trees grow in abundance on its banks, and colours very few can imagine light up the surrounding land. Birds and other creatures come and go, basking in the beauty of the island.
That place is no more now. The landscape has changed. Only tough plants can survive; hardly any colour or even life can be seen. Days that were once filled with sun and light are now covered in shadow and misery. The sun is lost behind endless cloud and only the rare ray of light shines through. Some people believe that when these rays appear, a ghost of what the land once was becomes visible; they believe there is still hope.
Ayva was sitting at her desk staring at her computer blankly. There was nothing to do. She always finished work faster than everyone else did: it was just the way her brain worked. Every day seemed to be the same, excruciatingly boring. Ayva used to wonder whether time had forgotten about her, left her in this continuous loop: Wake up. Walk to work. Work. Walk home. Sleep. When Ayva was younger, she would never have guessed that an email would excite her as much as they did now. It meant she had something to do, something to take her mind off a constantly ticking clock.
Stines walked past her office. Ayva leapt up and scurried after him.
“Sir, Mr. Stines Sir!” He turned reluctantly, scratching his bald head. Ayva was always bugging him.
“What Donia, please make it quick. I’m going to a meeting,” he snapped so aggressively that his glasses slipped a little down his nose.
Ayva was used to the rudeness but it always seemed to brush over her head. She never seemed in the slightest bit worried if someone insulted her. “She has thick skin that one," her colleagues said.
“Well Sir” Ayva started breathlessly “I was hoping you could give some work to do, you know, because I’ve finished all mine and everything,” She smiled her best smile and looked imploringly at Stines.
He sighed, “I’ve already told you Donia, you do your work and everyone will do theirs, now please get back to your office, I must be going,” and he hurried away, leaving a disappointed look on Ayva’s face.
Finally at the end of the day everyone went flooding towards the exit, Ayva was always first. She burst through the doors and was hit by the outside air, and she immediately coughed. Everyone coughed when they walked outside without a mask. Ayva rummaged in her bag cursing herself for not getting it out before she left the building. She straightened up and glanced at the sky, which was filled with smoke and black clouds made of goodness knows what. The mask did hardly anything; Ayva was coughing the whole way home.
She trudged along the footpath, her feet taking her the way so well known to her. People were constantly rushing past her, on their way home, or going to work for a night shift, everyone worked in the same place around here. Nearly everyone where Ayva lived, worked at a company called ‘Landweber Inc.’ it was named after the founder Draven Landweber. Draven ran the company out of his small and very private office. Many people thought he was practically royalty; he had huge Landweber Inc. companies all over the world; one in every major city and one almost everywhere else. Ayva worked in the New York office, along with thousands of other people, they spent days, writing boring letters to boring people, trying to get them to support Draven’s big new scheme. Ayva didn’t even know what the scheme was, she just wrote emails and letters, over and over again. Sometimes she was given assignments like writing up reports on what her and the other workers had completed every month, she was given this role because she was always the fastest worker (and no one else wanted to do it).
Draven Landweber had just about everyone in the palm of his hand. He could do nearly anything he wanted. Hhe knew all the right people and said all the right things. Ayva didn’t know what he was really doing behind those locked doors until she got a visit; a visit from someone who changed just about everything she had known about Landweber Inc.
When she finally arrived outside her small house crammed between two apartment blocks, Ayva was relieved, it was about to rain, and the rain wasn’t very pleasant to be out in these days. She hurried inside and slammed the door, as she hung up her coat, there was a sudden knock at the door. Ayva jumped and stared at it, no one had ever knocked on her door before. She looked through the window and saw who had knocked on her door. He was rather tall, with red hair covering his head. Ayva didn’t understand why this man would be standing outside her house. She sighed and pulled the door open. The man almost looked surprised upon seeing her, like he wasn’t expecting anyone to be home.
“Can I help you Sir?” Ayva said politely, he really was very tall. He looked her up and down and said, “Can I come in before we speak please.” He said briskly as though they had unfinished business.
“I’m sorry, I don’t believe we know each other, and I cannot let a complete stranger into my ho-” she was cut short as the man brushed past her and stepped into the house. Outraged, Ayva cleared her throat by was interrupted by the man.
“My name is Beau, I am here to tell you something very important. Could you please close the door. Maybe close your mouth as well, the air is practically horrible today” He said it all very fast and quietly as though expecting someone else to overhear them. Ayva shut the door with a snap and stalked toward him.
“I’m sorry Sir but you had better have a very good reason for being so rude, I will ask you to leave one more time or I will call the police.” The man looked at her for a while, it was very uncomfortable.
“I have already told you my name, please use it. I am here because I have heard many things about you, I think you can help me with a little problem I have at the moment” He was still talking quietly and his eyes were darting all over the place. Ayva had no idea what to say except
“Okay, Beau. Do you have to say?” She immediately regretted saying it, why was she trusting a complete stranger?! Before she could say anything else he was striding towards her and held out a small picture. She took it, not managing to keep a look of curiosity off her face. The picture was beautiful, it was a picture of a tall mountain, and a small river winding around the base. The colours in the picture were indescribable, many birds and animals Ayva had never seen, dotted the picture.
“Wow” she whispered, “Is this even real?” asked Ayva looking up at Beau. He smiled sadly and took the photo back.
“It was, but it is gone now.” Ayva’s questioning look made him continue, “Humans managed to destroy lands like this a very long time ago. One person in particular covered all of that up.” Ayva frowned.
“But why would anyone want to destroy something like that, and what has this got to do with you charging into my house?” A hint of anger was entering her voice now. Beau obviously noticed because he hurried on explain.
“Well, cutting down trees, killing animals, ripping up plants and polluting water ways seems to be a bit of a sport to some people”
“Who?” Ayva said forcefully. Beau looked at her calculatingly, as if trying to decide whether she could handle the truth. “I doubt you would believe me.” he muttered. At this Ayva opened her mouth to protest but shut it again as Beau continued, “I have come to you because according to your file, you are the smartest person in your division.” Ayva blinked. “It said that you were not to move up in the company in case you found out too much.”
“Too much of what?” said Ayva, she couldn’t believe it, was this the truth?
Beau sighed, “Could we sit down? It’s a long story.” Ayva’s curiosity was now getting the better of her, stories were always her favourite. She nodded and led him through to the little living room.
“Okay, you’ve barged into my house, please explain what is going on.” Ayva said almost pleadingly looking at Beau sitting opposite her. He took a deep breath and started his story.
“Draven Landweber has practically the whole world in the palm of his hand, he so much influence and not to mention charm. Anything he wants, nine times out of ten, he can get it. If he can’t, he will find a way.” Beau was talking with so much hatred in his voice that Ayva looked at him in alarm.
Seemingly unperturbed by Ayva’s alarm, he continued. “But most of all, he wants land. I know that sounds strange but he is obsessed with it. The moment he has a bit of land, machines and hunters come in, they take down the trees, kill all the plants and animals and he watches them die.” Beau was now looking out the window, Ayva couldn’t tell if there were tears in his eyes, maybe it as just the light.
“As much as I want to believe you Sir, we all know that is just natural causes, his company is trying to protect the land” said Ayva gently.
“He took my home” Beau whispered quietly, Ayva stopped. “One day, these men came, from Landweber Inc. they were inspecting our land and then they tried to buy if off us. They offered my parents money, gold, anything they wanted. When my parents declined every offer, they left. We thought that they were gone, until they came back the next day. That day Draven came with them, my father got angry, furious. He threatened to call the police and they…” at this point Beau’s voice faltered. Ayva’s mouth was slightly open, she shut it.
“What did they do?” Ayva said in a small voice look inquisitively at Beau. He straightened up and looked her full in the face.
“They shot him. Then and there. In cold blood, they shot my father” Beau’s voice was shaking with suppressed rage. Ayva sat there, unable to think of anything to say, she was saved as Beau continued. “They then turned on the rest of my family, my mother told me too run and don’t look back I did. I never saw my mother alive again. They killed my whole family and two days later bulldozers came in and destroyed my home.” Ayva just sat there, waves of shock rolled over her, sudden realisation crashed into her.
“So that is what his new scheme is” she whispered shakily, Beau’s eyes darted to her.
“what scheme?” he said, his eyes boring into Ayva. “The scheme, it was my divisions job to send out information to the public, hang on. I’ll grab my computer.” She rushed out of the room. Two minutes later Beau was reading the email that Ayva had sent out to hundreds of people. His eyes swivelling back and forward slowly widened as he finished reading.
“We have to leave.” He said abruptly, Ayva looked at him in surprise.
“I’m not leaving; I don’t even know who you are!” Beau glared at her.
“My name is Beau Cosmo, laugh at my name all you like.” he said noticing the fleeting grin on Ayva’s face. “for the past year I have been trying to convince certain people of Landweber Inc. and their deadly plans, I recently hacked into their system and found you as one of their best workers. They have all your information in their database” He said ignoring the indignant look on Ayva’s face. “I have slowly been working up at group of people who believe me, and they have been helping spread the message.” He ploughed on. “After reading the information you have just provided me with, I have finally found out his next move.” Ayva couldn’t stop herself.
“What do you mean ‘His next move’?” at this Beau pulled out the picture again and pointed at it.
“This place has been destroyed by us pumping pollution into nature, but… but not to the point where nothing can be repaired. Draven has obviously realised this.” He jabbed the picture again, “This is what he is after, this land.” Beau looked up at Ayva.
“Why me?” she said weakly, she was so confused.
“Because you know how the company works, do you have any idea how helpful that will be?” Ayva did know, but how could she just throw most of her life away to follow this man? “Ayva” Beau said, standing up. “It’s now or never” and he walked out of the room.
Twenty minutes later Ayva was running out the door with a bag in hand. Beau grinned at her, “Let’s go save the environment!” Ayva said loudly, skipping down the path. Beau struggled not to smile.
Ayva was still very confused, one thing she did know was that Beau was telling the truth and she wasn’t going to let Draven win. Not if he had watched innocent people die and especially if he was ready to watch more. They walked for what felt like ages, eventually they came to a dilapidated old house. It was here where Beau turned and walked down the front path, Ayva paused looking sceptically at the house. Beau knocked on the door, a small, worried looking man immediately opened it, he ushered Beau in and hurriedly beckoned to Ayva, she trotted up to the door; she was pushed inside by the small man. Frowning at him Ayva looked around the room they had just entered.
There were about ten people dotted around on old fashioned chairs and couches, they all looked relieved to see Beau and were looking quizzically at Ayva.
“We were getting worried Beau” grumbled the small man looking indignantly at Beau. “I’m sorry Charlie, Ayva here took a lot more convincing than I thought.” He glanced at her grinning. The man called Charlie huffed and sat down.
“We need to go, now Beau” said grim looking woman seated on a chintz arm chair.
“I know Flacks.” He replied, and then to everyone “Pack up, we are going to the Mountain Valley.” Everyone immediately jumped up and into action, Ayva looked at Beau questioningly, he just handed the same photo of the mountain. Ayva took a deep breath and nodded.
It took them 3 days to travel there, Ayva was crammed in the back of a ute with 3 other people who all seemed very interested in her. The rest were sitting in the trailer, Charlie was driving.
The Mountain Valley was nothing like any landscape Ayva had ever seen. It had obviously seen many better days than today, there were many dead or dying plants and trees scattered around, the sky was still shrouded in black clouds. Ayva sighed, she feared there was no point in trying to save this place. Suddenly Naomi gave a yell of delight, Ayva moved her head so fast that she cricked her neck, the pain was immediately forgotten when she saw what Naomi was pointing at. A ray of sun, so pure and strong, was shining through the clouds it lit up the ground that it hit. It was beautiful, all colours of the rainbow were there, the grass was a bright glowing green and Ayva had never seen such beautiful trees before (she had never seen many trees at all in her life). The sun smiled down on the land it hit, and the land smiled back. Ayva realised that she was wrong, this place needed to be saved, and a dozen people were all that was left in the way.
Another cry rang across the valley, this time from Beau.
“They’re here!” he bellowed. Ayva shivered, already she could see the sun beginning to fade and the faint echo was machinery pierced the air. Everyone ran up to where Beau was, sure enough, they were there. Draven led the enormous march in a flash car that looked like it was covered in gold leaf
“Though it probably is” thought Ayva savagely, glaring at the small face of Draven Landweber. After what felt like an eternity, the precession stopped, Draven got out of the car and strolled up to the angry line of faces.
“Now, what do we have here” he drawled, flashing a fox-like grin and each person, his eyes paused on Beau. Beau stared defiantly back at him. “Are you the Cosmo boy?” asked Draven quietly staring at him up and down.
“What does it matter if I am!” Beau snapped, his hands curling into fists. Draven just smiled and turned away. He waved at some men waiting nearby, the machines started forward and Ayva felt a stab of panic. Beau turned to Charlie and yelled over the screaming of engines “Where are they!?” Charlie grinned and pointed behind the machines that were advancing. Ayva squinted, there were big white vans, with TV channel brands all over them and they were zooming around with cameras flashing and recording. Shouts of surprise from the machine drivers echoed around the place. Draven looked livid, he couldn’t do this without destroying his reputation now.
Beau threw his head back and laughed, “What will you do now, you rat” he yelled. Draven’s eyes darted back and forth. Suddenly he waved his hand and his deadly contraptions leapt forward once more, Beau’s company looked shocked, they were straight in harm’s way.
All the television vans were suddenly screeching in front of Beau and Ayva. What happened next was a blur.
All Ayva remembered was lots of shouting, then, there were police cars and federal cars, Draven was being taken away, it was over. Beau and the others were being interviewed. Ayva sat on the ground, shaking violently.
3 months later everything had changed… for the better.
The sun had returned everywhere. The sun wasn’t hiding behind lies anymore.