Issue 10, 2023

2023 Blast Off Writing Competition Winners

Jools and Vern

We received hundreds of wonderful entries to our writing competition! After lots of reading and rereading and thinking hard and long, we selected one winning entry and two honourable mentions. Congratulations to everyone who entered—there were so many clever, creative submissions.

Read the story starter below and then enjoy the terrific continuations by our winners!

A Curious Glimpse

‘R-r-r-r-r,’ purred Jools the ocelot as the airship Cumulus soared above the thick Afromontane jungles. ‘Look, Vern! Look down there!’

Vern the meerkat, steadily steering the Cumulus, jerked up and down and peered over the side. ‘What is it, Miss Jools? What have you seen?’

‘Down there, in all those trees. It looks like some sort of … some sort of gigantic, shining light, blinking on and off!’

Vern saw it, then, and his eyes went wide as saucers. ‘Why, it appears to be—oh, no!’


A Curious Glimpse

story by Alexander | illustrated by Peter Sheehan

‘Look down at the base of the cliff, there’s a mirror shifting around, reflecting the blinding sunlight,’ exclaimed Vern.

‘By golly gosh! It’s a mega mountainous mudslide,’ cried Jools.

Their staring eyes followed the sloping mess of rocks and wet earth down to the gloopy river.

‘WHOA! That’s Tapir and Capybara sinking, like they’re in quicksand. They must have been trying to attract our attention with the mirror. We need to get there immediately to help them out,’ yelled Vern.

The Cumulus dived down on a deep descent before landing with a loud thud on the floor of Afromontane jungles. They rushed out of the airship and bolted like cheetahs through the dense overhanging vines.

As they approached Tapir and Capybara, they heard them bellowing at the top of their lungs, ‘Don’t set a foot closer or you’ll end up becoming sinking ships like us.’

Vern and Jools stopped suddenly in their tracks and contemplated what their next move would be. In this short space of time, Tapir and Capybara sank further down, so much so that they were blowing bubbles in the mud.

‘Leave us behind, save yourselves. It won’t be long before the next avalanche of mud comes thundering down the hill,’ spluttered Capybara.

It was now or never. Do or die. Could they save Tapir and Capybara? Would they survive or would they perish in the perilous mudslide?

Honourable Mentions

A Curious Glimpse

story by Nathan

'It is a br-r-roken aircraft!' exclaimed Jools as the blinding light flashed.

'Should we land to see what happened?' Vern suggested. Jools agreed so Vern steered the Cumulus in the direction of the smoking crash site. There was no space for the Cumulus to land, so Vern found the nearest clearing.

Jools hacked through the thick, green vines using a sharp blade, while Vern wondered what could have happened to the aircraft. While he was pondering this, Jools slipped out into the jungle, leaving Vern with the blade. Vern walked onward, not knowing Jools had left, only to get scratched by the vines. 'Whoah!' Vern cried, as he fell back into the wet soil. 'Joo-ools! Joo-ools!' Vern called into the evergreen jungle, but no reply came. He decided to pick up the blade and cut the vines himself. Little did he know, he was in for a big surprise…

Crackle! The blade cut through the last vine with a satisfying crunch. Vern could see the aircraft clearly now, but it did not look that wrecked from ground level. Also, the light had stopped flashing. He wondered what could have happened and what turned the light off. With this in mind, he slowly approached the airplane. He picked up a scent of something he had been craving recently but he could not put his finger on what it was. He opened the entrance as slowly and quietly as a pin dropping, but when he checked there was no one visible. He walked up to the emergency rations but all there was in it was a lot of gloopy tangerine custard. Just then Jools burst out screaming, 'Happy birthday, Vern!' Vern thanked her for making the surprise. Just then the engine burst to life…

A Curious Glimpse

story by Lucas

Jools gasped in awe. ‘This brilliant light is r-r-r-really blinding like an expensive, precious jewel!’ Jools cried as she admired how beautiful it was. She turned to Vern. ‘What is wr-r-r-rong with you?’ she asked.

‘I read about it,’ replied Vern. ‘These blinding lights are destructive, dangerous, dreadful things called black holes that suck things up and turn them into gloopy spaghetti. If we are unfortunate, we might never be able to escape!’

‘Quickly pull over!’ exclaimed Jools. She wanted to escape the harmful, flickering black hole. Vern sharply turned left, but it was impossible. He realised that he was inevitably getting closer and closer to it. Before long, the Cumulus collided with the Afromontane jungle trees while approaching the powerful black hole.

Soon after, the pull was so strong that Jools and Vern floated away from the Cumulus, and their feet were pointing towards the blinding hole. ‘Ah! My legs! Stop pulling on them. They will snap in two!’ roared the pair. Before they realised what was happening, they realised their legs were extended, gloopy and spaghetti-like. ‘This is what I told you about,’ said Vern. ‘And it’s painful!’ As they were about to witness their demise, they got pulled by some sort of invisible hand.

‘WHOA!’ cried Jools and Vern together …