Too early too late;Write Away;Competition;Winners

15th May 1998 at 01:00
Senior Winner, Elizabeth Rowden, Age 13, Katharine Lady Berkeley's School, Wotton-under-Edge Gloucestershire

Not one more word will he disclose, not one more word of all he knows.


My socks were odd. The pit of long, white asps writhed and struggled as my protected hand delved into the never-ending abyss. I plucked the unfortunate specimen from his comrades and held it to the light.

It was a pair!

I had succeeded in my mission.

Everything in the eye of a five- year-old, such as me, was seen to be an escapade, an adventure, of great risk and fear.

No more shall he hear the crunch of freshly fallen autumn leaves upon the soles of his well- loved trainers.

I fought my way through the undergrowth, through the tangled vines, past the deadly alligators till I reached the enchanting pool of reflection. The ripples upon the surface settled to reveal my appearance, as was to be seen by the entire universe. I was Elizabeth Rowden, master of expeditions, ace detective and spy, singer and actress to the envy of the female population.

No more shall he see the colours of day, the faces whom he loved and cared for.

I approached the most fatal, the most lethal, the most terrifying natural obstacle on Mother Earth.

"The Stairs Of The Deceased And Perished''.

The patterned grass, that cleverly disguised itself as carpet, was not just a beautiful spectacle to be photographed and mentioned in useless guidebooks, it was extremely deceptive. As much as one touch from your little finger on the red and green patches, and you were history. The yellow areas were your only safe passage down to the room of the living. I ran, taking three, maybe four, steps at a time, but of course I made it. After all I was Elizabeth Rowden, master of expeditions, ace detective and spy, singer and actress to the envy of the female population.

His face, his expression, you could never even attempt to draw or describe it.

The cards were on the table. Did I trust this woman? This, this food she had laid before me, was it drugged? I dragged my spoon through the white liquid with the crispy orange lumps surfacing now and again.

This was it.

I swallowed.

He was a sweet and frail child.

He's late.

Maybe he'd been abducted by aliens, or eaten by dinosaurs.

What was I to do?

My lift to work was late.

He lay upon the cold cement, his heat being absorbed by the man-made road and running down the hill to the drains. His warmth, his compassion, it was gone.

I was going to be late for training at my secret college. My instructor would be disappointed that I missed the day's assembly, I'd miss the day's missions.



Rose red liquid cascaded over the contours of his face and smashed onto the unconcerned grey solid.



That drip was driving me mad.




That constant ticking, why wouldn't it stop?

The silver metallic dog was dripping saliva at certain intervals.

The bomb on top of the information box was ticking down its final seconds before it would explode.

I had to keep to a schedule.

Where was he?

My Dad burst the door open and with it my childhood bubble.

With his hands shaking, trembling, he explained softly.

The car.

The boy walking to school, falling into the road.

The screaming from the car's driver.

The screeching brakes.

The boy was silent.


Change is a friend we all come to love and hate, for it can come too early and too late.

* Elizabeth enjoys writing poetry as well as prose and her experimental piece about the changing perceptions of an imaginative young child has elements of poetry. Her description of an incident when she was five is oblique, an attempt to convey her understanding of it at the time, when her father stopped to help a boy injured in an accident and was late to pick her up. The boy died and the normal routine was never the same again. Her teacher, Pauline Thomas, had given her class some hints about surprising the reader, but she grants Elizabeth full credit for her original treatment.

The day at Katharine Lady Berkeley's begins at 8.20 and ends at 2.45 - but only to allow extra time for foreign languages. This is a language college, described by Pauline as "an ordinary comprehensive with an extra component", which means Elizabeth is learning Japanese as well as French and German.

Elizabeth has just had a starring part as one of the Pink Ladies in a school production of "Grease", and has a secret ambition to go into musical theatre, but "in real life I'd like to be an author or a speech and language therapist".

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