The Short Story Competition run as part of our Arts Learning Festival showcased the creative talents of Victorian students. We’ve asked winners to record their stories. This is The Moment, by Archer Tatham-Thompson, in Year 6, at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School, who won the years 5-6 category.

The 250-horsepower twin turbo engine scamped happily across the glassy water, the roar of the engine cutting through the air like a bullet.  Four people sit astride the tiny boat, none of us talking due to the fact that none of us could hear a thing over the roar of the engine. After what felt like an eternity we started to slow down, nerves began to shiver down my spine. It was time. As the boat came to a complete halt I started to gear up.

I gave the ok signal, putting my thumb and forefinger together to make a circle in the air. Sitting on the side of the boat looking across the water I felt the nerves spread through my body like butterflies. I leant forward, tumbling into the icy depths of the ominous, endless blue, stretching out like eternity.  Before I saw him, I heard him; my father plunging into the water and arriving beside me in a stream of bubbles. We signalled to each other, making the familiar circle with our hands. I pointed out a large school of fish as we pushed through the icy currents.  All around us was staggering beauty, life blossoming from every corner of the reef. Every colour imaginable, every shape imaginable, everywhere shimmered with life.

Time passed too quickly for everyone liking. Distracted by the scenery I went further from the boat, drifting away from my dad. With a sudden realisation, I saw I was on the edge of colourful world full of life. Here the coral was white, like a dead man’s fingers waving up at me from the ocean floor. Realising I had ventured too far, I turned to look for dad. As I scanned the vast ocean around me the happiness drained out of my body and was replaced by a throbbing fear. Swimming towards me at high speed was a large black fish, the shape of its fin unmistakable. Shark!

My body was paralysed; I was filled with sheer terror. I tried to move my legs but they wouldn’t respond to the instructions from my brain. The shark was getting closer by the second, it was almost at me. I closed my eyes, waiting for the serrated teeth to tear through my flesh.  Nothing happened!  I opened my eyes and looked, the shark’s sleek, silvery body glided majestically below me, looking almost peaceful. I exhaled with relief, the bubbles from my breathing apparatus rising to the surface like fizzy lemonade.

But it was then that I noticed the shark had twisted in the water heading straight towards my father, who was totally unaware of the imminent danger he was in. The shark was 100 metres from dad who was gliding about close to our boat. I called to my dad in my mind: ‘Look out! Behind you!’ It was as though my dad could hear me, spinning around he saw the looming shark racing towards him, cutting through the water,

Bubbles exploded around my dad’s face like fire crackers, kicking his legs, he shot up through the water like a rocket, stretching his arms up above his head reaching for the ladder on the boat.

Suddenly my legs sprung to life and I kicked with all my might.  Reaching the surface, I was in time to see my mum on the boat grabbing hold of a large silver pole. As the shark launched out of the water, it’s mouth agape. She thrust the pole towards the gigantic monster, hitting it on the nose.

Momentarily stunned, the shark splashed back into the deep, blue, salty ocean. This gave dad the window he needed to scramble up the slippery silver ladder, to the safety of rocking boat. Mum and dad hug with relief unaware that their favourite child was still in the water.

‘Hey!’ I call across the water, suddenly aware that I am alone with the gargantuan beast. ‘Over here!’ I shout, waving my arms above my head. Mum and Dad turn, their faces full of fear and dread as they realised the terrible danger their youngest son is in.

Dad rushes to the engine controls, turning the key causing the engine to roar into life. The shark, fearful of the pole and the sudden eruption of the engine fled into the murky depths of the ocean. My dad steers the boat towards me, my mum stretches the pole across the water.  My relived arms clinging on to it for all that I’m worth. My mum pulls me in to a tight embrace, both of our hearts pounding in our ears.

My brother, sun bathing at the front of the boat, pulls out his ear bud and yells over the rumble of the engine ‘what’s for lunch?’

The Parents' Website | Archer reading his story The Moment

Archer Tatham-Thompson records his winning story, The Moment, for The Parents’ Website.

The winning stories were also featured on ISV’s Short Story Dispensers at the festival, along with some 40 others selected by the judges.

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Posted by Independent Schools Victoria