We are so excited to share the finished versions of our Quick, A Portal Opened commissions!
As part of Portal: Fantasy Workshop Festival, the No Limits team opened portals across regional South Australia. We found eight brave storytellers to tell us about their adventures and of the creatures they encountered.
These storytellers wrote their first drafts live over September 10th and 11th in Google Docs and here are the final results of their hard work.
Whispers of Tar-Creatures by Maddy Nyp
When Sarah Daniels first saw the creature, it was from her kitchen window on a stormy mid-afternoon. The kitchen was a small room, with a second-hand table and a slightly sloped bench top. Pots and pans framed a generous window, which proudly displayed a faint drizzling of rain coating the hills outside in a misty blanket. Sarah watched her land with an odd expression, her phone limply curled in her right hand as she tried to conceive a message to her mother. It was the sort of day for curling up with an old book and a mug of hot chocolate, which made the appearance of the creature all the more startling.
At first, Sarah mistook him for a kangaroo. She was warned of the creatures when she first moved to 7943 Highland Valley– just outside of the towns and lights, and just before the untamed bushlands. And surely he looked the part, with his snaking tail and pronounced snout. But there was something decidedly different about him. Perhaps it was the tar-coloured fur around his back, or the way he held himself- like an old conductor waiting on a train. Sarah was pondering trains when the creature straightened and looked over its shoulder.
Sarah dropped her phone.
A few nimble curses spilled out of the young woman’s mouth at the sound of glass splintering against the tiled floor. The words I promise I’m okay flicked over the screen before the phone spluttered out of life. Sarah threw an accusing look towards the creature, only to realise it was gone.
It was the weather, Sarah assumed. What was it that her mother had said? The days shrouded in grey make poets of us all. Yes, that was it. She was being skittish.
Still, the black kangaroo seemed to follow Sarah through her week. Sarah found herself Googling strange animals with tar coloured fur during the long hours ordering a new phone. He came up in conversations with neighbours, nestled between assurances that she was settling in fine, and that no– she didn’t miss home. He was in her dreams, in her reflection, stalking her like a miserable dog.
The next time she saw him Sarah swore she was going insane. She was sitting on her patio, proudly admiring her little garden bed of dangling daffodils and rusting roses. The patio was a small space– just a few woven chairs that overlooked the hills and trees that marked her home. After moving to 7943 Highland Valley, Sarah had taken to eating her breakfast here, rather than cocooned in the warmth of her house. It was one of those romantic things those who moved to the countryside did. She enjoyed it, Sarah swore, she enjoyed it because it was the life she had chosen.
The creature, however, seemed hellbent on disrupting her morning. He appeared on her garden bed– appeared, mind you, like a TV suddenly switched on, or a radio bursting into life. Sarah screamed off her chair, grabbing her butterknife and quickly brandishing it like a gun. No, Sarah decided, he certainly was not a kangaroo. His face was long and thin- with bald patches on his forehead and talons perched on the edge of his paws.
Sarah was desperately wishing she had a phone when the creature started to dig into her flowerbed. Talons grasping the dirt, Sarah stood with her mouth gaped as the animal burrowed its way into her roses.
‘Hey!’ The word flew out of Sarah’s mouth before she could stop it. Stupid, Sarah cursed herself, always thinking before you act, this is where it gets you.
The animal raised itself onto its hind legs. Sarah stumbled backwards, until her spine knocked roughly against the side of the house. With a flick of its ear, the animal seemed to tense, before leaping forwards with a powerful kick. A yell died in Sarah’s throat as she watched the creature bound into the distance.
Sarah darted forwards. The flowers hung limply on strange angles, but Sarah was more focused on the small hole the animal had constructed. There was something near the bottom, something white and glimmering. Sarah reached for it, giving it a few quick tugs before pulling it free. Instantly, Sarah let out a screech.
It was a sheep skull.
That night, she considered going to the police. Sarah played the scenario over in her mind. She saw herself walking to the station, describing a hellish sounding creature with her usual gusto, and being promptly recommended for to several psychologists. Then, when her new phone finally arrived, hours of calls with the family, explaining that no– she wasn’t mad and yes– she was loving living the romantic life out in the country and no– she couldn’t come home, not when she was supposed to be an adult, not when she was supposed to be happy.
So no– she wouldn’t go to the police.
At One-thirty-two-am, Sarah gave up on sleep. Instead, she sat in the kitchen, a bottle of wine hung loosely in her left hand, and the skull in her right. What would a creature like that want with a skull? Sarah thought back to the bald patches over its eyes. Maybe the skull to the creature was what makeup was to Sarah on an early Monday morning– a way to cover and conceal from the outside world. At One-thirty-five-am, she had developed a plan.
It was a still evening. The sky looked like an old oil painting- all swirling clouds and cat-eye stars. From where she stood, Sarah could see the stretch of her land, all the way to the back paddocks and their shrubby trees lit like ghosts in the bleary moonlight. But Sarah didn’t pause to admire the evening. Instead, she limply sat in her doorframe, and tossed the sheep skull a few feet away. Taking a swig, Sarah waited.
When she woke in the morning, a decided crinkle in her neck, and the bottle of wine mostly emptied, the skull was gone. Sarah’s jaw dropped. In its place was her phone, as shiny as the day she bought it. Scrambling over, she cradled the thin metal in her hands like it was a newborn. Sarah clicked the device into life to find the text she had been pondering days ago still open:
I promise I’m okay.
I promise I’m okay, here in the countryside, at 7943 Highland Valley. I promise I’m okay, I’m living the romantic life, the one I always dreamed of. I promise I’m all grown up and don’t need my family anymore.
Sarah felt the sun rise as her eyes remained glued to those four little words. When Sarah finally glanced up, she was met with the creature’s gaze, heavy and sullen as it observed from just beyond the flowerbed. Rubbing her eyes, Sarah swore she saw her sheep skull balanced carefully on the animal’s nose, like a strange pair of reading glasses. He dipped his head, and Sarah found herself nodding back. Then she blinked, and the animal was gone.
With a deep sigh, Sarah pulled up her contacts and scrolled until she found MUM. Hitting the button shaped like a phone, Sarah pressed the cool glass to her ear.
‘Hi Mum. Yeah, yeah, I know. Hey, can we talk?’
Maddy Nyp is an aspiring author from Highland Valley, SA. She is a novelist, scriptwriter and lyricist, with experience in acting and music. Through her schooling, Maddy has worked on several plays as both a scriptwriter and director. Recently, Maddy has partnered with Writers SA for their commission This Breath, and participated in Miscellany: A Storytelling Event. Maddy is currently studying a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) at Flinders University and enjoys writing about politics, fantasy and musical theatre.
The Little Geklian by Bri Boyington
I race through the forest, black shadows and looming trees flashing past as I stumble over roots and prying branches, streaks of lightning flashing through the black sky and filtering down through the dense canopy overhead, desperately trying to keep the fast disappearing toddler in front of me in sight. I hear muttered curses and snapping twigs as Callie and Aidan crash through the brush behind me, a strong wind picking up leaves and twigs, trees swaying in the darkness.
I trip into a clearing, pausing for a second, frantically looking about for John, barely noticing the crystal droplets, leaves and twigs suspended midair around me, before catching sight of his little foot disappearing through another bush. I dive forward after him, water splattering on my shirt, and wriggle through the tiny crawlspace beneath the shrub.
I hear John calling our brothers name, just ahead of me.
Heaving myself to my feet out the other side of the bush, I look around to find myself in a part of the forest where the trees around me are lit by a ghostly blue glow, shimmering as though from some ethereal force. I glance around for my brothers, heaving a mental sigh of relief when I see John standing just to my left.
“John, where’s…” I trail off, the words dying on my lips, as I finally see what he’s captivated by. Directly ahead of us, in the knotted trunk of a gnarled weeping tree, is a spherical blue orb, pulsing with some unknown light source. And directly in front of it stands my six year old prankster brother, Charlie.
“Charlie!” I cry in relief. I move forward in a rush, not sure whether to admonish him or just cry with relief, but before I can do anything, the blue sphere begins to mutate. It’s subtle at first, just a blip in the fluctuating pattern it’s pulsing with, but in a sudden rush of movement, it completely swells, the edges lit by flickering tendrils of blue-white lightning, and pictured in the middle is a scene I can barely make sense of.
There are creatures, ones I would later learn were geklians, large and lizard like, with massive scaled wings tipped with razor sharp claws, circling in the skies, on mountains and emerald plains, in what can only be described as a battle. I watch, morbidly fascinated, as the mammoth creatures rear up on hind legs and slash at one another with those hooked claws, beating each other out of the sky, falling in tangles of wings and trunk sized legs. There are bodies strewn across the battlefield, silver and gold substances leaking from gaping wounds and shimmering in the dazzling light.
Suddenly two of the geklians come into view, closer than the others, blocking out the rest of the battle. One is midnight black, huge, muscled legs and large scales rippling as it circles the other, of whom is completely golden, scales blinding in the light. It’s twice the size of the black one, and it’s wings cast long shadows over the dark creature. I find myself standing as still as possible, unable to breathe, as though making so much as a single noise would alert the beasts to our presence. The black one moves then, twisting and hitting the other with the razor claw on it’s wing, slicing through the scales on it’s shoulder. Golden fluid seeps from the wound, and then the dark geklian’s lunging upwards, grabbing at the golden one’s neck. The golden beast roars, a bone shattering sound, and they go down in a tumble, writhing and grappling with one another on the ground.
Just then, I hear a noise behind me. I startle, sensing my brothers do the same, whipping around to see my friends crawling out of the bush. Callie pulls herself up first, brushing off the thorns stuck in her jeans and grumbling, Aidan following after, an all too familiar grin on his face when he’s done something he knows will rile up Callie.
I gesture at them to shush, managing to catch Aidans eye. He looks confused for a second, before he catches sight of the portal battle scene in front of us. Eyes wide, he nudges Callie. She mutters once, before looking up. Her eyes go huge and her face pales, and she clutches at Aidan, positioning him between her and the portal, peering over his shoulder at the epic battle being portrayed before us.
I’m about to turn back to the portal, but just then I catch a glimpse of movement in Callie’s hair. Squinting, I see it. A huge, hairy spider is crawling slowly from the back of her head to the front, long thick legs feeling it’s way forward. I shoot a glance at Aidan. He sees it too, and as I take in his rapidly paling face and worried eyes, I realise he put it there, and that’s what he was grinning about.
Because we both know if there’s one thing Callie hates, it’s spiders.
Frantically gesturing at Aidan to get it off her, I cast a backwards glance over my shoulder at the geklians still locked in battle. They don’t appear to have noticed anything just yet, but I refuse to take any chances when they seem so close. I turn back to see Aidan giving little helpless movements with his arms as he tries to reach around Callie to the spider without her noticing, so she won’t freak out, but every time she moves her weight just a little so that the spider’s once again out of his reach. It moves ever closer to her hairline, and I realise it’s only a matter of seconds before she realises it’s there. With one last glance at the creatures, I move towards my friends, trying to keep my expression reassuring. Callie looks confused for a second as she takes in my and Aidan’s pale faces, but then one hairy leg brushes over her hairline and onto her forehead, and her face completely drains of all colour.
She screams, flinging the spider off her head and onto the forest floor, the shrill sound ringing eerily through the forest, before Aidan clamps a hand over her mouth. I spin around to face the portal, and feel a cold ice settling in my veins. Both creatures have stopped mid battle, covered in gold and silver fluid and limping – but both are ever so slowly turning towards the portal. Towards us.
Suddenly a body falls from the sky, directly between the two creatures and us. And then the portal starts to shrink. As it grows smaller, I see a little creature fall from a pouch on the fallen geklian’s chest, it’s little legs scrabbling to find a purchase on the emerald grass. Finding none, it slides forward, end over end, the image rapidly disappearing. Then, at the very last second, it tumbles over one last time, directly towards us and the closing portal.
The golden geklian roars, lunging forwards protectively towards the tiny creature, but too late.
And with a soft thud, the little geklian tumbles through the portal, transitioning from it’s world and into ours, changing our lives forever.
Bri Boyington is a homeschooling teen based in Naracoorte, who likes spending time reading
fictional, fantastical and other-wordly stories, playing guitar and listening to music, crawling
through caves, sketching strange people and mythical creatures, and hanging out with friends. She
is also a singer-songwriter and a pilot-in-training, and loves anything to do with space. In fact, she
went to a space camp in the ACT not too long ago, so now when she gets lost in her imagination,
her parents must conceed she IS an official ‘space cadet’.
She loves writing as well, fictional short stories, of all different genres: fantasy, sci-fi, horror and
romance, with elements of the supernatural and unknown; as well as songs, poems, and more flash
fiction than she cares to admit.
Someday she hopes to travel the world with her friends and meet her idolised authors and
musicians, because who wouldn’t want that?!
She also wishes she had wings – like an angel. She doesn’t think an ostrich’s would suit her.
Alright, let me get this straight, I didn’t want any of this to happen. If I had it my way, I would go back in time, continue living my normal life, and erase any memory I have of this happening. But nothing can change the past. My name is Lilly Elzark, I am 12 years old and this is how it all started.
A flash of blue, a sound like a soft tear,and then it opened. A hole in the air, looking like it was ripped out of space itself, and out came a creature, its eyes a solid steel, and skin scaled and leathery. A tongue flicked out and back in. And then, it sped off into the darkness. A soft scream penetrated the silent night, and then, silence.
I woke from the nightmare breathing hard, and despite not yet opening my eyes, I knew something wasn’t right, that something was off. I could hear footsteps, yet they seemed distant, faded even. Hesitantly, I opened my eyes, and saw that I was in a bare white room, lying on a cold, stiff bed.
“Well, well,” a voice said, slurring and venomous. It sounded as though it was coming from the walls themselves. Then, a man wearing a crisp grey suit, his head bald and smooth, practically materialised out of the shadows, and the memories came rushing back. Three nights ago, my home town was invaded by people of unknown origins, everything I knew was destroyed, and my family killed. I was captured and held prisoner, because apparently, there was ‘something different’ about me.
“What do you want?”
I tried to sound tough, but even I could hear the fear in my voice. The man chuckled, looking up, allowing me to see into his ice blue eyes.
“We don’t want to hurt you,” he said, “We just want to see what you know. My name is Frost, Mr Frost,and yours?”
I was hesitant to tell him, but slowly I said, “Lilly, Lilly Elzark.”
Frost didn’t say anything, but I saw a soft frown on his face, and he was looking towards the wall behind me. Confused, I turned, only to see nothing. Then, a flash of blue, and a deep tear in the wall opened, revealing a place practically dripping with darkness. A sense of unwelcoming dread entered my body. Then, a lizard crawled out, its tail swishing as it moved. It opened its mouth revealing lines of jagged teeth inside soft pink maw, with an electric blue tongue flickering in and out.
I was frozen in fear, but Frost remained calm, looking like he didn’t see anything wrong in this situation.
“Ah, this my dear,” He started as the lizard crawled closer to him, “Is a Tiliquil Maximous, variant blue, from my home land, you see.” I glanced at him nervously, but either he didn’t see it or he pretended not to notice.
“I always had a soft spot for them, ever since I was a child I knew they deserved better, that they deserved to appease the bloodlust inside of them.” He stroked the chin of the lizard, looking deep in thought, though clearly still addressing me.
“What are you doing?” The fear that crept into my voice was clear and impossible to hide. He laughed again, cementing the uncertainty I felt.
“This is how we are going to get our information.” Then not a second after, the lizard leapt at me, pinning me against the bed. I was frozen in fear, staring into the beast’s eyes, a slobbering mouth, wide open, and then it bit me. Excruciating pain erupted, starting from the bite mark on my arm, through to my neck, my head, and then, nothing.
Everything was black, slowly everything just faded away.
Everything was quiet.
And then, my senses started to return. My hearing foggy, a soft bang, a yell, the faint feeling of being carried, and then, nothing.
“Aaagh” I sat up, seeing that I was in a forest, the sunlight filtering through the thick canopy. I was sitting on a soft bed of leaves and I saw that my arm was bandaged and the pain numbed. A twig snapped, and I whipped around to see a girl walking towards me, her black hair hanging, her pale skin almost ghostly in the shadows. Her blue eyes glinted as they caught mine, and she sat next to me, before unravelling my bandages and smothering a cream on the wound.
“It’s good to see you awake,” She said, her voice soft and caring. My first reaction was to rip my arm back and run, but she looked so small and innocent that I stayed and allowed her to continue rubbing in the cream.
“How long was I out?” I asked, almost forcefully. “Three days” she answered quietly. Before I could respond she packed up her stuff and moved it to a new location, before running into the forest.
Now alone, I was free to listen to my thoughts, and let them stray to my family, and everything that had happened these past days. I realised how angry I was, for my friends, my family, everyone that had died from the invading people.
“Well, hello” a voice came from behind me, deeper and firmer than the little girls, pulling me from my thoughts, “She lives.” A girl around my age, with long plaited silver hair, lightly tanned skin, and eyes the deepest grey, walked out from the shadows, holding the little girl’s hand.
“Run along now,” She said to the little girl, “I’m going to talk to her now.” She turned to me as the girl ran off, and opened her mouth to speak, but before she could say anything I burst in with, “Where are we?”
“Narrows it down, thanks.” I started to get up, struggling slightly but trying not to show it. “Now second question, WHO ARE YOU!” I practically screamed in her face, my anger rising, but she just smiled, almost mockingly.
“Calm down, honestly.” She started laughing, but stopped when she saw me glaring at her. “I’m Tayna, and the one spying on us from behind the tree,” I turned and saw the small girl duck down. “Is my sister Edana.” I didn’t answer, and Tayna continued talking.
“I understand if you don’t trust us, we are a part of your world’s invaders after all.” I stared at her, shocked, and slowly I started noticing differences in her appearance, the white rings around her pupils, the soft pink tint to her veins, the slight point to her ears.
“What do you want with me?” My voice sounded hostile, but Tayna seemed unfazed.
“I’m sure you heard,” She started slowly stepping closer to me, “That there is something different about you.”
“Frost,” I said, still not understanding.
“Correct, and you may have noticed yourself, strange occurrences that happen around you.” I knew what she was talking about, too many times to count, odd things had happened to me. When I was five, a man was following me and my family in the supermarket before my father told him to leave, but nobody believed me when I told them he had one eye in the middle of his head. When I was ten, I was at the beach with friends, and I could have sworn I saw a scaled tail curve through the waves.
Tayna continued talking.
“After the invasion, Edana and I heard that Frost had captured you. For questioning, we were told. We snuck into the fortress where they were holding you and managed to get you out. I will spare you the details.” She grimaced, as if remembering something unpleasant.
“I still don’t understand,” I said. A loud crash came from afar, a yell, as if orders were being declared. Tayna looked around in distress,
“Edana, Lilly, we need to go, NOW!” Edana came out from behind a tree, and Tayna grabbed her hand and my wrist, and started running. Only later did I realise that she knew my name without me telling her. The crashing became louder from behind us, a thundering of feet, I looked behind me, and saw Frost step out from the shadows, the lizard behind him. He saw me.
A horde of people wearing black vests and pants surged through the trees as we started running. I saw what looked like a stream of blue energy hit Tayna, and she fell to the ground, enclosed within the energy. I lost sight of Edana in the chaos, but I continued running. A blast of blue energy skimmed by my head, missing me by a centimetre. My foot then hit a tree root and I fell flat on my face. I got up and continued running as fast as I could and slowly the sound of my pursuers disappeared. I had no idea where I was, but I must have been near the edge of the forest as the trees were thinning out. I knew I wasn’t safe, and that I needed to keep on moving, but my thoughts lingered on Tayna and Edana. They’re the ones who know the forest. They would know what to do.
After that moment, everything became a blur. I was surrounded, streaks of energy hitting me left and right. My limbs were going numb, and the last I saw was Frost, standing over my limp body, grinning, as his lizard bit me once more.
Johanna Sanders is 12 years old and lives on the Copper Coast, Yorke Peninsula. She loves reading, drawing and being more sarcastic than is probably healthy. She is a Pokemon fan and likes dancing with her cat. Johanna enjoys doing research and writing about different animals and also learning about the world and people around her. Mostly by staring at them.
Womechibat Stole My Mango by Kat Bell
Kat Bell is a First Nation Gudjula and Girramay woman, mother, and autistic person. With a background in corporate communications, business and systems analysis Kat turned to art later in life to reconnect with her voice, Aboriginal identity, culture and place. She has curated solo exhibitions almost every year for the last decade and contributed frequently to group exhibitions and community arts projects. Over the last few years her attentions have turned to the digital arts where she has worked on designs for businesses, organisations, schools, murals, public art installations, animations, large scale projection projects, and small films for cinema. Her most recent solo exhibition Threads has been Kat’s most prolific body of work, addressing her long journey with trauma and PTSD. She uses her art to create narratives about her experiences as a neuro- diverse Aboriginal woman navigating a neurotypical world.
Kat is also a writer, known for writing poetry that accompanies her physical artworks, as extensions to the pieces of art and the stories she is sharing in the artworks. She is currently writing a fantasy novel for young people, a series of children’s books, and a short story for adults. She is also working on a series of poetry books, largely a compilation of the poems she has written for each artwork over the last few years.
In the eerie half-light between night and day – it wakes from something akin to sleep. The blue of the portal lingers as it begins to wake and stretch. Its muscles begin to stir, the cells of its tiny, translucent, scaled wings cinch together and it wails in pain as it shakes away its old hide; shedding the layers of feather and scale as it cranes to see the light of the moon fading. The morning edges its way into existence and, with it, the primordial desire to eat. Standing on its stronger legs now, it arches to the sky, its body outstretching finally.
It’s wiry and small, almost skeletal, the size of a Kowari. This small, marsupial-like creature doesn’t have skin or fur, more like a combination of both. It doesn’t “sit” well on its skin, it’s more like prickles on a wrinkly onion. It is patchy and rough with its undercoat looking more like scales that have turned in on themselves. The way it moves is disjointed but mesmerising, skulking in and out of the shrubbery and bending around the trunks of trees. Its bristly and thin “wings” are nearly invisible, except for the glinting of the light as it refracts and bends with its movements.
These “wings” which reach from its back down to its tail look like wilting, old leaves, with veins of black and blue, looking as though they would break in a second if it were to try and take flight. The way it hops and stumbles about, it doesn’t seem to desire to fly just yet. The tail is long and black and gives it stability as it jumps and moves faster now towards town. It can smell what it wants, senses it like there is a string tied to its long, pointed teeth, pulling it along to the destination.
The animal’s desire to feed and the intrinsic need to survive leads us today, to a small house in the bush. Set back from the road, ivy-covered walls and warm fireplaces. Bricks and mortar and love and storytelling and lullabies by moonlight. This innate knowledge of what it means to consume and feed brings us to our heroine. She has the soul of a warrior, the heart of a traveller, the spirit of a storyteller… and she has her first wobbly tooth.
She wakes to the sound of something breaking, she can’t tell if it’s something close or far away, she can’t even tell if it’s something inside or outside of her own mind. Maybe it was a dream?
She looks at the crack between the curtains, and can’t see if the sun is up yet. Although her glassy eyes and the tingle of the warmth of the blanket against her toes tell her she doesn’t think it’s time yet for the world to be awake. The scent of her quilts, like lavender and clean clothes, beckons her to close her eyes for a little while longer. Even her five-year-old brain knows it will be a blink of an eye before the world will descend back into the chaos that is the start of the day…
Something else inside her stirs though, she feels a pull, like a piece of rope being pulled in water to see what the sleeping world has to offer today.
Tonight? She doesn’t yet really know the difference but she knows in this moment, she is somewhere in between.
She sits up in bed, pink and blue curls bounce off her shoulders as she rubs her eyes, removing whatever was left of the dreams that the sandman left behind when he lulled her into worlds of make-believe and mermaids the night before. The coloured hair had been a request of hers that she had been dismayed against for many months before her parents finally gave in.
‘Grown-ups often think we won’t remember the things we ask for if they say maybe for long enough.’ She thought to herself as she asked the final time before finally being granted the yes she had waited so long for. ‘They say next week a lot to me,’ she thinks, ‘I don’t know how long a week is but it feels like it’s forever.’
The sound of scratching and something like a fly stuck inside beating against a window breaks her train of thought. The sound is coming from the window to the kitchen. All the doors are closed and locked – as they are every other night – but something about this in-between feels magical.
‘And magical things don’t listen to locks,’ she ponders as she pulls herself free from the tuck-ins she got from Mumma last night.
“Stars shining right above you…” as she drifted off to sleep. The lull of her voice pulls her so slumber like nothing else. Eyelids heavy she falls to sleep. Her Mumma’s chair is by the bed as she traces her face over the space between her eyebrows over and over until her breathing feels heavy.
Tiptoes feel warm against the cold wooden floors she tries so hard not to squeak as she sneaks out past the rooms until she reached the kitchen, a bookshelf filled with plants sits in the void between rooms and she uses it to hide her body as she peers her eyes around the corner until she has full view of the noise-maker in front of her.
The creature has found the pantry and is darting somehow between the glass jars filling the shelves. It peels itself from behind half-full mason jars of herbs and wholewheat, it almost disappears in the half-light meeting the glass until it stops suddenly. Taking a quick breath as it turns its head towards her hiding place, our heroine dodges back into the shadow, hoping her silence is enough as it sniffs the air. Turning its black eyes to the ceiling and closing them, it skulks forward. The bones in its skeletal frame protrude as it saunters, seeking its prey.
It continues moving forward now, it’s moved from the pantry to the benchtop, pushing glasses and discarded jars as it moves, threatening unknowingly to wake the rest of the sleeping household if a glass was to tip and shatter.
Catching sight of the animal, the pull feels stronger now. The little warrior takes a deep breath and makes a decision. Breathing in and setting her chin out, she steps out from the safety of the shadows as the creature moves again. As she rounds the corner, she comes face to face with the snarling marsupial as it steps from the edge of the counter.
It jumps suddenly to the kitchen stool, grasping it precariously with hind limbs as it sits to look her in the eyes. She is frozen with fear but after a moment she thinks it might just be more scared of her than her of its wild, snarling albeit small figure.
They stand and stare in stalemate for what feels like a million years before she dares to move. Taking a step forward, it retreats immediately, the scales on its back standing up higher than they already were. She notices its slight frame and thinks perhaps things that are hungry usually aren’t as angry as they seem. Her mum calls it hangry and it probably makes sense to grown-ups.
It makes nipping actions at the sky and looks almost as though it’s cocking its head at her. She knows it wants something but staring at its figure; half-missing hollowed-out skin in the half-light of the dawn, which now steadily approaches; she isn’t convinced it’s her it needs.
She takes a deep breath and lifts her arm up, reaching out to touch it. It flinches but doesn’t back away. She makes the slightest contact with its withering skin and it furls its wings around itself, hopping back before rising up to hiss, making itself as tall as it can on stringy black legs. The tail lashes and whips around its body, with a mind of its own, she now sees it as much a weapon as a means to balance.
‘I think I understand hangry better now,’ she thinks to herself, feeling brave and rolling a crumb of bread towards the creature, trying to woo it into submission with food. When it refuses, she breathes out in a huff. As the sigh reaches the small marsupial, it turns its nose up to the sky. Sniffing erratically, it starts to dart its face in all directions, the search for its prey intensifying by the second. Another large sniff and it folds its head back around to face the tiny human, not even reaching eye level with it as it stands on the chair. It cranes its head down and down, bending low to face her while she stands frozen, mouth slightly agape, a squeal held back on the edge of her lips as it snarls silently from beneath its jaws.
Her teeth chatter and the realisation dawns on her. Our brave storyteller.
Moving slowly she grabs for the apple from the fruit bowl situated on the counter, bringing it to her lips, she breathes deeply before opening her mouth to sink her teeth in. Taking a bite, she feels the familiar twinge of the loose tooth pulling against her gum, this time, instead of transitioning to a less painful position, she completes the bite and as she pushes her teeth further into the sour/sweet flesh of the fruit. The loose tooth she had been sporting for a week pulled free from her gum as she chews. The creature on the chair beside her starts to twitch and dart in place, transitioning between invisible translucence and flourishing opacity, sensing the feed is near. She opens her mouth and faces the blackened and bony face. Half chewed apple spills free as she empties the contents into her hand.
Presenting it to the creature she watches as every scale on its body prickles, patiently awaiting its prize. She quickly tips the apple shards and the tooth amongst on it on the counter. She turns
for a moment to reach for her shirt to wipe her hand and mouth and in that second, the creature lurches forward to snap up the whole selection of masticated goodness. Apples and all, the creature snaps up the tooth from the counter, she hears bones grinding between its own pointed teeth as she turns quickly around and jumps back from the feasting animal, hoping it does not want for more “bones” before they are ready to be taken.
As if hearing her thoughts again, they immediately answer her. She hears it clearly echoing in her skull, like both a whisper and a shriek.
The bones must be given freely, we make not take what is not given willingly.
Eyes meeting, they stare at one another once more, another deep breath from our valiant heroine as the change begins to take hold. The creature, twitching again but almost shaking now, sheds its old, rotting skin like a snake. The coat-like covering that forms in its place is shiny and smooth like silk as it moves in the morning light that now shines through the crack in the venetians. Another shake and the scales that were once the main aspect of its skin, come free, shiny and golden as they glisten on the countertop. Then, taking a final, valiant stride forward, it unfurls its wings. Which, like magic, its skin has been shed and regrown. The wiry and leaf-like appearance is gone now and has been replaced by an iridescent veil, like thin satin, pulled tight over a frame. It takes a step forward and leaps from the chair, the wings guiding its glide downwards and its tail, now silky and wet-black, like a snake, guide it towards the front door.
Our hero takes a step forward. “Will I see you again?” She asks as the morning light starts to stream through the front curtains too. “Friend?”
On all fours again, it turns to face her, I will see you again, its voice rattling her brain once again. “When-” she goes to say to the morning light as she heard a splinter and crack once more, that
she cannot confirm nor deny, that anyone else could hear.
Pulling the curtains back and staring out into the morning sun, she hears a voice behind her. She wheels around to see the vision of her bleary-eyed mother, stretching in her pyjamas, to greet the morning, “you’re up early Nugget.” she sighs, looking down at her daughter.
“My tooth came out.” the small, but braver than she was last night, child states, pulling her lips down to display the missing item.
“Oh, it did!” Mumma exclaims, leaning closer, still tired from interrupted sleep, “and the tooth fairy left you a coin!” she looks confusedly, assuming someone else stepped in in the middle of the night to perform the changeover, at the coin on the counter.
All her daughter sees though, are the small scales, discarded by her dawn friend with the scary smile, squashed together to make something almost round.
“I guess they did.” she smiles as she climbs up the chair as Mumma goes for the toaster. She looks out the window, wondering about the next time will be that she will see her friend the tooth fairy.
In the distance, it as puts rocks and trees and morning mist between the house and itself, the creature too, turns to look at the house. It remains hidden amongst trees and ivy-covered walls but is more visible now than hours before when it found its way by hunger only. Looking back at the window its human stares out of now, it stretches its wings once more in the warmth of the sunshine before curling up under a small shrub and hearing the crack once more as the cool blue light opens and welcomes it into sleep.
The portal closes.
This is Britnie and she is not a poet. She is a mum to three beautiful hurricanes, praying for her sanity daily. Britnie lives in activewear and she gets through each day with a little luck, some sarcasm and a whole lot of coffee. She is a passionate feminist, extremely chatty and loves TV and films!
For the sake of curiosity by Olivia Aston
In the beginning there was nothing.
Well not literally nothing,
afterall , the law of conservation of mass states
“Matter is neither created or destroyed”
But perhaps that was part of the scientist’s ploy.
Convincing us that the world as we know it was created by the big bang.
Perhaps there was nothing,
Perhaps a catalyst for evolution was introduced.
The sun shines brightly overhead,
You shudder as the sweat pours down your back.
Maybe the sweater was a bad idea
You stand at the curbside.
Your eyes dart left,
Then you start to cross.
The sun disappears and you look up.
A chill runs down your spine.
That wasn’t forecast.
Then you hear a clap of thunder
You shake yourself, trying to break the strange trance that has left you dawdling in the middle of the road.
That is when you see it.
And definitely not of this world.
Is it stupid to step towards it?
Have you ever been known for making the best decisions?
Would your mother kill you for meddling with things you don’t understand?
But you only live once right?
Here for a good time, not necessarily a long time.
As you step closer it starts to grow.
The shape darkens.
No, not a shape, a portal.
You’ve read enough fantasy novels to know that this is either going to be your very own adventure,
Maybe you should figure out how to close it.
No great scientist ever made change by running from potential danger.
Besides, imagine if you actually discovered something,
Who doesn’t want something named after them?
You are now close enough to touch it.
You reach forwards, because who knows, maybe it leads somewhere cool like Narnia.
Well maybe not Narnia,
It snows there… that is far too cold.
Maybe it leads to some fantasy realm that is not cold.
Also maybe somewhere where you wouldn’t die immediately.
That would be nice.
That’s when you see it.
Not any kind of leg
You run backwards,
Tripping over your own feet.
You land on the road with a sickening crunch.
Checking yourself over, nothing is broken.
Your tailbone is very much bruised
So is your ego
but you are alive
Gritting your teeth you bite back the scream that most certainly wants to escape.
The spider keeps coming towards you.
You rub your eyes,
They have to be playing tricks on you.
Could it just be hayfever?
Is the spider pink?
You were expecting a giant spider… but a pink one?
How has no one noticed what is going on?
It’s a country town, it’s probably not the strangest thing to happen here.
But what if it eats you?
How long until someone finds your body?
How long will your body rot in the Australian heat?
How much will you smell?
You force your shoulders back.
Spiders are more scared of you than you are of them.
Does that still apply when they are the size of a medium pony?
You circle each other,
You attempting to find it’s motive
And the spider… you have no idea what it is doing.
Is it venomous?
It’s fangs certainly look long enough.
You think back to biology class,
How do you determine species?
Genetics, ability to breed and produce fertile offspring, and morphology.
You can’t test its genetics, and who knows where it is from so how would you know what it’s offspring are like?
You settle with morphology.
There are no pink spiders, however, using google images (thank you internet)
You decide it’s a huntsman.
A giant pink Huntsman spider.
It runs towards you.
Well kind of,
It’s more like scuttle
Is it going to eat you?
Is this the end?
Will it be quick?
You close your eyes and place your hand out behind you.
It works in the movies when they are training animals,
So why not you?
Because you are not in the movies!
You crouch down and brace for impact, hand still extended.
Perhaps this wouldn’t be happening to you if you weren’t so nosey,
If you didn’t meddle in things that were beyond you.
If you had just listened to your mother.
Then you feel it,
Hair beneath your fingers.
It’s not soft
It’s not silky
And it is enough to make you gag
But you are alive.
More worryingly, there is a spider with it’s head resting in your hand.
You turn your head slowly,
Surely it can’t be any different to a cat
Low and slow
You can do this.
Experimentally you give it a small scratch,
The spider shifts and you resist the urge to jerk backwards.
No sudden movements.
You scratch it again, the spider shifts again.
Is it trying to tell you something?
You scratch a different spot and hear a low rumble.
Is the spider purring?
Do they even have vocal cords?
You stand, brushing yourself off.
It scuttles backwards, as if it is waiting
Waiting for you.
Tentatively you take a step towards it.
It scuttles backwards,
the low rumble growing.
You quicken your stride.
The spider matches your pace.
It hesitates outside the portal.
It wants you to go through it.
You have to do this,
It could mean progress for the human race.
Besides a true scientist never let fear stop them.
Olivia Aston is an emerging young writer based in the mid north in regional South Australia, with a keen interest in social justice and fantasy fiction. She is currently in her final year of high school and intends to study law in the very near future. She is particularly interested in using fiction to not only create safe spaces but also using it as a platform for addressing societal issues. She does this through her own work, regularly writing protest and spoken word poetry as well as writing a dark fantasy novel about vampire, fae and finding your place in the world.
Ahh… Another day at work finished! Man, I really need to get home, the sun is kinda setting soon. Walking around the neighbourhood feels boring when you walk here everyday but to me it is rather peaceful than… there …(sigh) nevermind that lets continue walking. Today however was…different you see as I was walking down a park when I heard a loud bang coming deep in the woods. That was really close perhap I should check it out…butttt what if that something was dangerous like in the horror movies scary! But then again why not? So I press onward to the forest.
It’s easy to navigate in this forest. The trees are so thin you can see the town clearly even after reaching the other side of the forest. And with that information I found the source of the loud bang in a clearing. In the middle of the clearing there is a hologram of some sort of dark magenta with small stars flickering inside what in the world… this is out of this world quite literally. The hologram has a white door frame with a design similar to how columns would look like. All of the sudden a voice spoke “Hello mortal”
I look around to see no one here “Down here dear” I look down to be met with a snake, a
lowland copperhead to be specific. We see these around all the time so I did what a normal person would do. I turn around and walk the other direction but before I can reach the forest trees the snake uppered its voice “Now now there is nothing to be afraid of my dear, come back and let’s talk!” I froze and walked back to the snake. I couldn’t control my body like the snake used its voice to control me. The snake reassured me it only wanted to talk, with no other choice I sat down and looked at the snake. It has a grey colour in the front and a faded red colour on the bottom, strange but ok. The snake sighed and said “I am sorry for that, it
had to be done” . I mean controlling someone is not cool but fine by me. “Now what is your name, young girl?” “Callista starlight or just Callista” I answered. “What a wonderful name! I am
quite surprised you didn’t scream when I spoke.” Honestly I am surprised that I didn’t scream perhap I am just used to being silent. “I guess it’s pretty normal around here” I said nervously
because that was pretty much a lie. “Hmm..very well you can keep your secrets but I am not here just to talk” I could feel the intense atmosphere building up like a job interview but with a
talking snake. I took a deep breath and said “ Then why are you here?” The snake hissed happily “I am glad you asked, would you like to be my host and join me in my world?” There was a
few moments of silence before I started busting out with questions like what do you mean? Are there any strings attached? Why me? What do you mean my world? The snake stopped me and said “ So many questions… You mortals are quite the curious ones aren’t you?” I
mean the snake wasn’t wrong. The snake continued “Let me explain, if you let me forge a bond with you we can become one and leave this foolish world of yours and join me in my world. Don’t you think that sounds wonderful? You get to use 100% of my power as well no string attached I promise my dear.”
Forge a bond and adventure, a new world huh? Wait… “What do you mean ‘this foolish world of yours’ you haven’t even fully set foot in this world? What do you think you know of this world to say it foolish?” I said ,the snake answered back “Ahh you see you may not believe
it but i have watched you for your entire life and what this world did was inexcusable plus you were a perfect candidate for my host” “Then why ask for my name when you already know? Beside how do I know you are no different from them!?” I felt demanded it make no sense like why
would a snake be watching let alone me? The snake however looked calm and said “Now, now would it be more strange for a snake to say your name when you have never seen the snake?” I guess that would freak anyone out. The snake continued “Dear, aren’t you curious what is on the other side of this portal? It could be better than anything this world could even imagine and you got nothing to lose my dear!” My voice hesitated, I would love to leave this place but then again could I really trust anyone let alone a snake. “Those people only use you as a tool and believe me when I say I felt what it is like to be looked down upon, to be seen as a toy. But not anymore! You and I can become powerful so powerful people would bow upon our presence. Don’t you want to feel the taste of power, the taste of revenge, dear Callista? Let’s show the world what we are made of, just lend me your hand and we can start our long lasting reign!” I never thought of that power…revenge
you know what this world doesn’t need me anyways I opened my mouth with confidence “ This better not be a lie.” lending my hand toward the snake being ready to start my new journey the snake happily hissed “I promise you aren’t making a mistake. Now close your eyes and
let us begin the forge!” As I close my eyes I can feel the snake crawling around my body while
chanting some kind of spell I suppose.
The next moment my hair definitely grew an extra inch or two, my body felt more colder
and my skin was much rougher. But I can tell I felt stronger than before, like I was bathed in a shower of strength. “You can open your eyes now.” the snake said but when I opened my
eyes the snake disappeared “Don’t be concerned my dear, I merely emerged with you so I could hear your thoughts and so do you” Does that mean you are part of my body now like inside my mind or something? “Yes but I could also make a physical copy of myself and still remain in your mind at the same time. But we can worry about that later…why don’t you step right into the portal Callista, a new world awaits you my dear…” I fixed my gaze to the portal, I can hear the sound
coming from it like calling for me to step right in. With no hesitation I step right into the portal touching the magenta colour like it was liquid and seeing the flickering stars grab hold of me as I enter this new world. Let the journey begin….
To be continued…
Kimjurin is a 15 year old student from Mount Gambier High School, studying Year 9. I am also a Cambodian who came overseas to live in Australia. As of now I am nearly finishing Year 9 and soon starting Year 10. I love to write fantasy stories, sometimes I would spend time reading books and I have an interest in the world of game development. A fact about myself: I like to daydream about all sorts of things when I am bored, which is where I get all my ideas to make a story.
My bush walk in my fathers country was broken and disturbed by a giant blinding bright blue light that appeared from outside this reality. It started as an orb that spun rapidly as it expanded into a merkaba then shaped itself into an oval..
Frozen in fear, I stared in awe and horror.
A slimy thought crossed my mind, Was this the disturbance father had trained me my whole life to prepare for? Was this happening because I was the tribal shaman for the next generation of our people?
Before I could finish the racing thoughts, a slight hissing sound started to emerge from the 5th dimensional object as it opened just like lifting a veil.
My heart raced, as the first thing I saw was a long blue velvet looking muscle that launched forward through the portal.
Then what followed shocked the living daylights out of me.
Two big beady black eyes that saw straight through my soul, past lives and higher self, that began to glitter and sparkle as it fully manifested into this dimension. With golden scales covering its head, it moved with a slow and steady pace of grace as it made its way towards me.
I suddenly realised it looked an awful lot like my Barngarla totem. Our sleepy lizard, the one with its blue tongue. However as it continued to come through the portal, something felt odd.
The more I stared at the creature, the more it made no sense.
It had arms, and legs that looked like a child had put them on backwards. With claws that resembled talons, that looked like medieval weapons rather than something a normal lizard should have naturally. And they looked as sharp as any blade I had ever laid eyes upon.
My heart dropped, why was the ancient one coming here to South Australia? Was it something I had done, or did someone from the tribe break lore?
I was trying to summon up the courage to speak, when the rest of the body and its tail came through. And it was glowing, with little sparks and flames that danced around its gigantic torso, much like it was alive with unlimited energy. Highlighting the brown and black within its golden scales, matching the colour of my own skin.
I could only stare in wonder, and fascination more than fear now.
The creature rolled its velvet blue tongue back into its jaw, as it continued to drag its tail into our world. And when I say tail, I meant tails! It had seven attached to its core torso, each pointing a different direction, that seemed to continuously fade in and out of existence, as if they each existed within different layers of dimensions that protected secret realms that hid within our own.
A voice suddenly rang throughout my mind.
“Young one, I have been waiting for you.”
My head snapped around looking for the source of the voice, when I realised it could only have been the ancient looking creature before me.
I kneel before the creature, and apologise in the secret tongues, for staring into its eyes. A big no no in my culture, as you steal one’s energy by absorbing from the window of their souls.
“That is fine, I need you to witness my ascension as your first initiation into your future.”
“Yuwa, Wundi.” Flew from my mouth, as the fear kicked in.
After all, there has never been a female shaman before, let alone a woman going through man’s business by seeing the portal.
“Yes, no, is not the answer, young one.” The creature barked as its tongue flew towards me and wrapped itself around my body. Suddenly I felt a million suckers on my skin, like that of an octopus or a squid.
It brought me even closer to its face, and locked eye contact.
“I can taste that you are worthy to witness a great mystery.”
I close my eyes, and nod. As a burst of flaming energy enclosed us and created a force field.
“Dont be scared, this is just to ensure the humans and animals won’t get hurt during this transformation on country in your dimension.”
My eyes opened as I felt the wave of energy transform my body into atoms.
Until I was nothing by a spirit, a shadow person, however, the ancient sleepy lizard began to evolve.
It’s head snapped and went limp, as the neck became elongated.
The eyes suddenly doubled into three sets, with the nostrils vanishing deeper within its scaly skin.
Then the scales started to fall off, one by one, dropping like the sunset. Until there was nothing but tough pink flesh
I was so entranced by the creature, I didn’t realise we had entered the abyss.
Surrounded by darkness, together we became the light as the creature’s scales burnt brightly throughout the void. As they began to sing and dance the rituals of our people. Showing me the creation of the universe, as the sleepy lizard continued to awaken into its new form.
Its flesh started to flake off, and form what appeared to be the elements of my world. The blue tongue released me as it turned to liquid.
The heart started to form into Earth as we know it. From pink flesh, it solidified into rock, and terrain. A rainbow of natural colours kissed the surface.
From there, the eyes started to spin and spin until they generated enough energy to fly off into the different regions of the earth, spittling like cell division, as each fragment of the ancient ones’ eyes became our ancestors, all across the globe.
And the tails started to shapeshift into a familiar form. I watched as the tails revealed themselves to be the seven sisters.
Then the remains of the lizard turned into an old fragile man, and then disintegrated into stardust.
The sisters smile.
“Young one, you have freed us and broken the cycle. How can we repay you?”
Without hesitation, I whisper “Let me help protect our humans, the Earth and all its creatures. I would gladly sacrifice my mundane life to become whatever you need.”
The sisters surrounded me in the most peaceful hug of unconditional love, and made me a necklace with the symbol of their former entrapment.
“You have done everything needed. You pushed through the fear of the unknown.You have completed the mission no one else could. You have looked after the totem, and as long as everyone looks after theirs, the worlds can be balanced, you have honoured your soul contract and broken the curse by your mere presence. Please accept this amulet, and if you are ever in danger summon our previous form, the Blue Tongue Creature to fight for you, like you fought to understand it and us.” The sisters said in unison, as they each kissed my third eye which flung me back to Earth.
Where I found myself before the portal, as it was closing. When a baby blue tongue lizard jumped through the portal at the last minute, and landed on my heart.
I looked down and smiled.
As I began my journey home, knowing this experience was my secret and mine alone.
After all, who would believe in a giant magical sleepy lizard besides us “crazy people”?
The City of Port Lincoln’s Young Citizen of the Year 2022 Award Winner, the 27th Youth Governor of South Australia, Her Excellency, Lady Shania Richards, is interested in terraforming trauma into infinate possibility which is reflected throughout her work an djourney. Shania graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. Her creation style includes performance (theatre, singing, dance, industry level acting), music (singer/songwriter/rapper/clarinettist), painting, writing/poetry modelling, wood burning, drawing, cooking, and candle/bath bomb making. These works explore intergenerational trauma, unconditional love and surviving earth.
Quick, A Portal Open! was part of our Portal: Fantasy Workshop Festival. This commission was presented by the Writers SA No Limits: Young Regional Writers program and aimed at regional writers under 30, however writers from all ages and locations are very welcome to our program.
If you have any questions about this project, please contact Riverland Coordinator, Kirste Vandergiessen ([email protected]).