Quenjule Slaven of St Mary’s College submitted this entry to take out the Year 12 English prize in the Samoa Observer’s 2017 National Short Story Competition.
Read other prize winning stories in the coming Monday editions of the Samoa Observer.
Once upon a time, somewhere in the universe, long before stores the size of cities and cars outnumber the human population, there was a beautiful planet called Earth. She was one good looking planet, beautiful and colourful that when she orbited around the sun in our solar system, all the other planets would sometimes stop and stare, intoxicated with her beauty.
Earth had mountains that burst with a green palette of amazing forests and hills of meadow full of flowers for all the fascinating species of plants and animals to live on her lands. The deep blue ocean and rivers were by far the most beautiful part about her. The water of her oceans and rivers were crystal clear and clean.
One day, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Earth was gradually getting sick. She started getting wrinkles, had a constant fever, and her skin was always itchy and very dry. Even more depressing to say, gas started to become a major issue for her. The other planets started to talk behind her back that she was beginning to stink, a smell of pollution.
Earth became concerned and started to examine her body very closely, and to her surprise, she noticed that people were cutting her trees and were destroying forests all over the world. She saw that many people were killing her precious animals, both on the land and in the ocean.
People were making the air polluted by building factories and using vehicles, pouring poisoned chemicals and oil spills into the rivers and ocean. She saw her island friends drowning from sea level rising, due to global warming. She even saw people destroying everything in its path by exploding nuclear bombs and fires of wars. “Why?” she cried.
Near the beginning of the 21st century, Earth who had been a symbol of beauty for millions of years was now the ugliest planet in our solar system. She looked like a haggard old woman. When Earth became aware what was happening to her, she became so sad and scared. She cried so hard that her whole body trembled, causing earthquakes around the world. She wanted to disappear and give up, until one of her island friends, Samoa, told her a story about hope:
One day, a class of children had visited a fair with many local caged animals. One of the animals that the children really liked was the endangered, green feathered Lupe. The children were very happy to see all the faces of the birds in cages. There was one very big, but beautiful Lupe staring at the children the whole time. The children were very excited as the big, beautiful bird approached them. She stood face to face with the young children. The children smiled at her, but noticed that the Lupe responded to them with a very sad look. It seemed that the Lupe, with her deep gaze, was trying to speak about something sad.
Finally the Lupe said, “What are you all smiling at?”
“Wooow! She can talk. Are you talking to us,” excitedly replied the children.
“Of course I’m talking to you all, who else would I be speaking to, the steel bar? Now answer the question, why are you laughing at me,” said the Lupe seriously.
“We are just very excited and happy to see such a beautiful and adorable bird,” replied one of the children.
“Do you also find it funny to see us in prison?” asked the Lupe.
“Prison!” exclaimed another child. “You must be mistaken Mr Bird. This is no prison. This is a cage, you’re protected in there. People come here to watch how beautiful you are.”
“It’s Mrs Bird to you and would you like to live in this smelly, dirty cage for the rest of your life? Well, be my guest!” said the Lupe.
“Of course not, Mrs Bird! We are human beings. We need to be free,” replied one of the children in vain.
“Then, why should animals be kept in prison? Do we not share the same habitat?” asked the Lupe. “You and I are both living beings. Like you, I enjoy my life when I feel free, and I am sad when I am not in the forest. Your home is the village as my home is the forest, not this stinky cage.”
“Can you tell us your story, where and how did you come to this place?” asked one curious child.
“Does this generation have any manners? Do you not know how to say please,” replied the annoyed bird.
“Oh please Mrs Bird, let us hear your story. We are quite curious,” asked one little girl.
And so, with a gentle tilt of the Lupe’s head and the look in her dazzling eyes, gazing at the tall surrounding coconut trees, the Lupe closed her eyes and began her story.
“A long time ago, when I was a wee little chick, this was a rainforest right where this big city is located now. Deep in this forest, many animals lived together surrounded with sweet grasses and lush meadows. This is where we called home. We loved walking among trees, eating fish, fresh fruits and leaves, also drinking clear water from the clean, glistening rivers. We admired the tall trees and we were very happy to roam free in our homeland. One day, humans were cutting our trees and building houses around the forest. The humans did not respect us animals, they killed whoever dared crossed their path. They did not stop until every tree was cut down to build more houses. Our home became so small that we could not find enough food to survive. Many of my friends and family were hunted by your kind. Those who did survive lived in daily fear. Our home was finally destroyed and we were captured and tossed into this stink hole, because we cannot fight back. Humans take advantage of us. I’m considered a delicacy in your culture. I dare not peep loudly in dismay to any adult human or I will end up chicken soup for your faife’au after church service.”
With a soft nod of her gentle head, the Lupe seemed to bring herself back from the rainforest. Her beautiful brown eyes looked once again not on the rainforest she once knew, but on the cold metal bars of her prison where she was held like a criminal.
The Lupe continued to say, “Children, you are the future generation, future leaders of our world. Humans are continuing to destroy nature. Without nature and trees, animals cannot survive. We will become extinct. Do you still get happy seeing us animals in the cage?”
“We are so sorry Mrs Bird. We vow we will never be happy again seeing an innocent animal trapped in cages. We are ashamed what people have done to nature. What can we do? Please tell us,” cried one of the taller boys in the group.
“You have heard my story. Tell it to your friends and family. Maybe if they understand what is happening, they can protect the natural environment and save future homes for other animals,” said the Lupe.
“We promise to tell your story to everybody we know!” said the children passionately to the Lupe.
The children were very serious and shared the Lupe’s story to their parents. Their families also felt very sorry for what other people were doing to nature and to the animals. They decided to help their children and get the school involved. They told the Lupe’s story in public, on televison and on the newspaper. They even made flyers to pass out to everyone at the fair and in the city. A website with Lupe’s story was also created and received 99.9 million viewers worldwide.
Several months later, many people were aware of the Lupe’s story. People started protesting at the fair and in front of the government building to stop cutting down trees and protect the animals. They also protested to release the animals from their cages and relocate them in the mountains. People were demanding the government to listen.
After long months of children and adults protesting, the government finally decided to release the caged animals in the eastern side of the country. Because of the people’s demand, the government preserved the eastern forest and banned anyone from hunting within that area. Together with other animals released, the Lupe started her life as a young mother. It was a free life for her baby chicks in their beautiful, natural surroundings. The Lupe lived a long and happy life after all.
Now, you may wonder about how the story ends with Earth. Well, the story is in fact still a mystery. It may just come to a pleasant ending like the story of the Lupe, but only if the future generation puts in positive efforts to save Earth. After listening to the Lupe’s story, Earth is now relieved. There is still hope in the world. Not all humans are the same and many do care, but voices need to be heard.
With the younger generation being educated about climate change and global warming, Planet Earth can still recover. Save the animals, the forests, the trees, soil, water, ocean and the air. Earth is sick, she needs our help. It is up to our generation to replace greed with conservation and replace polluting energy sources with clean, environmentally friendly ones.