Sub-junior 1st Prize Winning Story
“Among the Flames” by Muhammad Zaid Wali, Beaconhouse School System, Pakistan, is the First Prize winning story in the sub-junior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2020.
Zaid is an inquisitive person who likes to read and to learn. Other than writing, he is also a very good artist. He is an avid thinker and observer which can be seen in his writings and drawings. He is creative when it comes to writing short stories or drawing images. His hobbies include reading, art and playing sports.
Among the Flames
It was dark and gloomy as the dark night engulfed the dense forest. The clear, starry skies in the backdrop made for a fitting view as the young koala bear made his way home.
It was his first day out to search for food. He remembered every word that his mother said to him as he made his way back. But the words, "be back before dark", were haunting him the most.
The eucalyptus trees looked so near when he had started his journey in the morning. They looked delicious and welcoming with their dark green leaves and almost white trunks shining with the early morning sun. The cool breeze made the journey pleasant and less tiring.
But the little bear lost track of time as the sun started to move towards the horizons. The vibrant array of colours of the setting sun had the koala mesmerized. First day away from home, so beautiful. So far.
But the darkness had changed all that. The sound of rustling leaves and breaking twigs felt alien at this time of the night. The fear of ugly predators lurking nearby made every step difficult for the little bear. His only guiding light was the shining north star in the sky, another advice from his mother which he refused to forget.
Suddenly, the north star disappeared. It seemed it was engulfed in the same blackness which had taken over the jungle. Smoky blackness.
But there was light, a raging light which seemed different to the little koala. It couldn’t be the sun, he thought. What else could it be? Curiosity got the better of him as he decided to explore this light further.
It seemed it was getting nearer. The little bear stopped dead in his tracks. This didn’t seem right. Suddenly, a heat wave hit him in the face as he was surrounded by flames. The darkness he just witnessed vanished to reveal hell, which was eating everything in its path.
Battered and bruised, the koala ran away from the flames. He could feel the fire chasing him, as the heat got stronger. He felt it creeping up his back almost reaching his fluffy ears. He was scared to death.
He longed to be home with his mom, away from this chaos. But he knew not how. He was panicking, not knowing what to do. The heat was getting unbearable. He saw a hollow tree trunk in the distance. The little bear dived into it, hoping to find some relief from the flames.
But the unforgiving flames made him realize his mistake almost immediately. The poor soul looked on as the flames started to eat away at the trunk. The dryness made it all the more delicious for this fire monster to feast on the dead tree. The heat had made the little bear weary. His heart was racing and his limbs were numb. He used the last ounce of energy which he had left to run from the trunk, away from the flames.
The little bear grew very tired after a while. His limbs had started to give way. All of a sudden, he felt a sharp pain which made him look back. His fur had caught fire.
He desperately looked around for help. He was too young to die. He screamed loudly as the pain got unbearable. Maybe this was it, the little bear thought. My mom would be so sad.
All of a sudden the little bear was pulled from the ground up in the air, and down again. But he didn’t fall. He felt a warm embrace instead of the burning pain which had engulfed his being a short while ago. Mom was here.
A moment later the little bear was in the river. Mom cleaned his wounds and put out the fire on her little boy. But the flames were growing bigger as Mom got overwhelmed. It looked like a gigantic monster which was gobbling everything in its path, plants or animals alike. But there was hope.
The little bear climbed onto Mom's back as she stepped into the icy cold waters to attempt to swim through. Just as the fire engulfed the very last tree on the riverbank, she dived into the water, saving herself and her little boy. She swam across the shallow part of the river and rested once both were on the other side.
The sight of the flames growing larger felt frightening as they looked on, but the thought of being safe on the other side gave the family peace of mind as they both started walking towards home. A close escape from hell.