Creative Writing as an Arts Challenge

Year 8 pupil Ellie Lovewell is currently completing her Silver Arts Award. Part of the work for this involves setting an arts challenge to complete. Ellie chose to focus on creative writing for this, saying ‘My arts challenge will be to write a short story. I have chosen this because I struggle to keep things short, and this will be good practice for the future, as well as enjoyable. To help me with this challenge, my English teacher, Ms Goodbrand, gave me a lesson on how to write a short story.’

Below, you can read Ellie’s finished short story. 

Lightning shot through the sky, closely followed by a crack of thunder. Darkness returned to claim the space left by the lightning, as if reminding the world that light doesn’t stay for long without darkness following. Though it was long before nightfall, the sky was as gloomy as midnight and the sun hid, barely a shred of contrast against the crowded mass of early night. The smoky clouds beneath the shadowy sky swirled in like boulders, shoving any remaining scraps of blue sky into oblivion. They were like geodes; on the outside they were tough, unbreakable. On the inside, however, they were beautiful, but hurt. Their overlord, the great corrupt sky, demanded ultimate strength but in doing so cracked those geodes, smashing the delicate crystals inside. They wept. Their tears came into the world as rain, drizzling from the clouds as the storm raged harder around them. They had shown weakness. 

A forceful wind blew around the clouds, rattling them and dividing them into useless drifting wisps, but dark and depressing all the same. They teemed thickly, protecting each other from the icy blasts. The wind blew harder, and a lone tree shivered. It shuddered and shook, its deciduous leaves frigid. They huddled together, gathering as much warmth as possible in the dense branches. The leaves were starting to change colour as winter drew nearer. They were hardening and becoming crispy, preparing for the great leaf fall. Some were beginning to fall already, forming small bundles of orange and brown leaves underneath the tree.

The landscape around the tree was desolate; there were no other trees for miles. In the distance, you could just about hear the hum of the tractor engine being used to collect whatever crops were needed that day. This field however was empty. The grass had grown longer and longer over the years as fewer and fewer people came to tend it. By now, it was abandoned, and the animals, who long ago had been used to humans coming and going, had learned to fear them, and the larger animals would attack them if they saw one. This abandoned field was no longer owned by humans; nature had claimed this vast grassland as its own. The grass grew wild, untamed. It too had learned how to survive without humans. The grass blades never needed to be trimmed; they grew as they wished, and just kept growing. Their length made them weaker, unable to hold themselves up, but as their length grew, so did their thickness. Those small blades were unbreakable. The strongest were growing beneath the tree, using it for support until they gained strength, as if it were a trellis. 

Under that same tree – the only tree for miles – was a small clearing in the grass, just large enough for six snakes to curl up in. Near the edge was a heap of rotting bracken and other weeds. It was a snake nest. The heap was made up of twigs and dead plants of all kinds; grass, bracken, ferns, even some straw left over from the horses who used to dwell there. Long ago, the humans had piled all their spare cuttings there and forgotten about them. Many of their heaps had been filled with plastic and metal, deadly to the inhabitants of this grassland, but this one was beneficial. A creature, who without limbs found it difficult to make a nest, had moved in and made a comfortable home out of human scraps.

There was a rustle in the grass. Something moved. There was a flash of chestnut-coloured scales between the blades. Slowly, a snake crawled out of hiding. Her fangs glistened, and something dripped onto a small daisy below her. As it landed, its pearly white petals shrivelled and died, its creamy pink tips crumbling. Venom. The snake’s lustrous eyes, gleaming azure, gave away no emotion as she surveyed the scene in front of her. This was her domain, and she checked it for intruders before swiftly advancing to the other side of the clearing of grass. Her scales shimmered in what was left of the sun behind its prison of clouds. Occasionally there was a glint of ebony amongst her cinnamon scales, shimmering as she slithered across her nest. She was a metre long, yet she moved gracefully despite her length. When she reached the other side, she glided into the grass next to the heap. There she waited, her black tongue flitting in and out of her delicate mouth. She waited there, assessing her territory. The trap had been set.

There she waited, still as a rock, waiting for her prey to venture near her waiting jaws. She longed for food, but she dreaded what came next. As she lay there, images flashed before her eyes; the blood, the squeals, the cracks of bones unable to withstand the pressure, the absence of whimpers that meant another life had been lost to keep her alive. As these pessimistic images faded, a rustle of grass told her that these images would soon become a sad reality.

A mouse sauntered into the clearing of grass, its ginger and white fur was soggy with rain, but if he didn’t like it, you couldn’t tell. The mouse’s beautiful fur was soaked with rain but was drowned even more in his arrogance. He strutted in, and paused to sniff the air. The snake shifted. Mistake. The grass around the snake rustled, alerting the mouse to the presence of danger. The mouse sniffed the air once more and, despite the threat, carried on swaggering through the clearing. This mouse was clearly too cocky for his own good. 

The snake lay there, watching and waiting. Confidently, the mouse strutted ahead. She willed him to get to her finish line, the space directly in front of her fangs, which were glimmering in the remaining sunlight. Though she needed food, it meant doing the unthinkable. Again. As she waited for what seemed like an age, the two halves of her split mind argued over whether the death of prey was justified by survival. As the mouse drew nearer, she quietened them both, but silently dreaded the mouse’s impending death. Eventually he reached her, but before he continued across the clearing, he paused to sniff the air once more. How convenient. This was her chance. Before the mouse’s pink nose could detect his impending doom, she struck. Her lithe body shot out from the edge of the clearing, grasping the mouse firmly around his middle. She faltered. The magnitude of what she was about to do overwhelmed her. Her head lowered, letting the mouse fall to the ground, yet still securely in her jaws. Was it the right thing, to justify the death of millions of creatures just to satisfy her own hunger? On impulse, she almost let him go. What was stopping her? Only her instincts, but what did survival matter to her? All she cared about was letting this poor, struggling, squeaking mouse go free. She slackened her grip.

Before it was too late, the sensible part of the snake’s brain took over. No, she must not let this mouse go free. Something inside her told her that no matter how many lives are lost in the process, she must not lose hers. She must get through this, even if it means this innocent(ish) mouse must die, then so be it. Though it broke her heart to do so, she must kill once again. She swivelled her gaze round to look into the round eyes belonging to the mouse. She watched as they stared confidently into her own, as if challenging her to try and kill him. Well, if she was going to crush the mouse’s pride, the least she could do was to make it quick. She gave him one last look before moving her fangs to his tender neck. She bit down. His body slumped. The deed was done. It was over.

The rest passed in a blur. It happened so fast, the snake’s mind reeling all the while. She had killed. Again. Blood spilled. Lives destroyed. All in a matter of seconds. The art of being a snake was a messy one, yet it had to be done. Before long, a scrap of fur was the only thing to show he had ever been there at all.

The snake could relax now, though her soul begged to differ. She meandered back to her nest with a heavy heart and a guilty conscience. She couldn’t sleep, and rearranged her body. There was a faint crunch. Puzzled, she stared down, and shifted her tail out the way. Where a mass of scales and muscle had lain mere moments ago was a small, green grasshopper. His smaller front legs were undamaged, but behind… His entire back leg was shattered, and his wings had taken a battering as well. It was clear he wouldn’t last long. And it was all the snake’s fault. She stared down at him, sympathetic but mostly horrified. He would die because of her. She had done this. She had as good as killed him. She had taken an unnecessary life. She had become a murderer of innocent souls. Her head slumped forward, overwhelmed with guilt. The grasshopper whimpered, and she was once again brought back to her senses. He may be dying, but this poor creature did not deserve to die alone. She swiftly slithered to the other side of the grassy clearing. With difficulty, she removed a daisy head from its stem, apologising for the third life she had to take that day. She glided back to her dying companion and laid it tenderly beside him. 

The snake bowed her head, and when she lifted it, the grasshopper’s round caring eyes were gazing into her own. She looked at him, begging for forgiveness. He nodded at her, as if to say “It’s alright. It’s not your fault.” An understanding passed between the two of them, and the snake felt a weight lift from her heart. Her companion reached over to her, and laid his tiny head on her tail. He looked up at her, and, in his own way, he thanked her. Both understood. The snake waited with the grasshopper as life left him and she was left alone once more.

After her acquaintance had passed into the world of the dead, the snake bowed her head in respect. She slithered back to her nest, and lay down to sleep. This time she could.  The grasshopper’s final gift to her had put her mind at rest. 

But what was his gift? He had bestowed upon her the knowledge that the animals she still encounters on a daily basis know the circle of life they are born into. They know what it means to live in a wild environment, and that meant being okay with the fact that death could come knocking at your door at any time. They know that at any time they could be eaten, or squashed, or eat a poisonous berry, or get caught in some human rubbish. They know this, deep down in their soul. It’s how they live their lives; knowing these things. They know this, and that if a fellow creature must eat them in order to continue life, they respect them, and acknowledge that this is the way of the world. They accept what is happening to them, and die thinking about all the good things in their lives. So when death comes along, they don’t infect their last moments with regret and anger, only with peace.



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