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The living nightmare;Write Away;Competition;Winners

SEnior Winner Marta Aguiar, Age 13, St Julian's School (Colegio Ingles de S. Julian), Carcavelos, Portugal

The day was warm and the sun was shining down intensely on the fields. The earth was crispy dry and it looked as if it was about to crack. Some trees with bark as rugged as an old man's skin could be seen parallel to the road. All was calm and nothing could be heard, except for the low roar of the car's engine. The atmosphere had a sense of happiness and freedom which delicately touched the surface of every face it could find.

I looked out of the window half covered in dust and observed the magnificent countryside surrounding me. I felt both a will to scream, to let out the inner strength in me, and to stay as silent as a cat that hunts its prey. I radiated a smile which was filled with joy and contentment, not knowing what was to come . . .

The road was wide and smooth and my dad was driving fairly fast. Hardly any cars could be seen on it. Suddenly, while contentment was the predominant atmosphere, all went still. A car appeared in front of ours. The man in it seemed to have his eyes closed. I hid my head in panic. It all happened in a flash, but I remember feeling my heart beat heavily against my chest. It was all over, I thought.

I woke up. I opened my eyes but I could only see a misty image which seemed to be covered in red. I couldn't recall what had happened, but after a while, it all came back to me and I remembered . . . the accident.

My head seemed to bellow for help, but that was not my worry. I looked round. All that surrounded me was horrific! My dad and my friend, Joana, seemed to be cloths soaked in blood. My throat was dry and my face was as cold as the Himalayan snow. For me, the world seemed to have ended. Nothing could be done now. I looked down at my hands which were covered in blood and a large tear rolled down my face, a bowling ball rolling down the lane . . .

I suddenly heard the warm voice of my mother calling me. It gave me a bit of hope and a reason for living. I looked up and there was my mum, with cuts from head to foot and with streams of blood flowing down her body.

I burst out into tears and she, with a calm but trembling voice, said the words that I will never forget: "I love you . . .' My hand seemed to rise and float slowly towards her, like a boat being carried by the current. I rolled it down her face, touching gently each line and each feature. It felt cold and dry, a desert at night.

I cleared my tears with the back of my hand and, although fear crept up inside me, climbing the ladder of life, I grabbed my last bit of hope and moved towards the door. I tried with all my strength to open it, but my effort was useless.

"Marta, don't try dear, you will only hurt yourself even more! Keep calm, help will come," mumbled mother with dismay.

I looked at the smashed car. The back seats were torn as if a cat had been sharpening his claws. The metal frame looked like a boat smashed up by the rocky cliffs. Pieces of mirror and glass were spread across the living hell. The car looked like a gigantic harmonica covered in rivers and streams of blood.

We waited for a period of time that seemed an infinity. My heart could not resist the pain. I wanted to cry, but no tear seemed to roll down my terrorised face. I wanted to scream, but my throat was so dry that no sound could be made.

A white car, driven from heaven, came and took us away. My dad lay beside... I observed the white trees with blossoming red flowers erupting from his legs. I turned my face away, I could not stand observing such disastrous sights.

I closed my eyes and imagined life before . . . Cheerful and involved in all that was good. I thought of it now . . .

Was my dad going to die? Were we never going to live in happiness and love again? What was going to happen? Only fate knew . . .

* Marta is Portuguese but speaks and writes English fluently - in fact, she prefers English for her stories. St Julian's is an English-language school near Lisbon with about 800 pupils from all over the world who follow the national curriculum up to GCSE and then take international baccalaureate courses. Marta's teacher, Ann Cravinho, says Write Away produced some heartfelt writing. "Many described the traumatic experience of leaving home and not belonging at the beginning somewhere else." When Marta read out her piece, about a road accident, the class gave her a round of applause.

Her story is based on an event that took place when she was about four, and remembering the details was painful. Her father, who almost died, still walks with difficulty. Marta was on her way to the Algarve for a family holiday when another car, whose driver had fallen asleep, careered into their path. "When I was writing, I had to keep stopping. It was quite tragic for me, but I thought it would be a good topic and I wanted to get it off my chest," she says.

Marta plays the trumpet, electric keyboard and guitar and is an outstanding basketball player. Her team, made up of the best 10 players aged 12 to 14 in Lisbon, has just won the championship.

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