Student Work: Rose, age 14

Rose, age 14, wrote this chilling science-fiction story in our Upper KS3 Creative Writing tutorials.

In creative writing, one of the biggest challenges is often knowing how to help students get started. Students can be really enthusiastic to write, but the prospect of staring at a blank page can be really daunting for them.

To help overcome this, students were given a rough outline of a science-fiction story, (specially written by Tutor Dave), which included a typical narrative arc, suggestions for common sci-fi character types and a range of other tropes.

The story outline was broken into six sections and students developed and extended the outline of the story over the six tutorials in the topic, completing more in their own time if they wanted to.

This is a brilliant piece of writing, Rose. It is rich in description and you have structured it in such a way as to clearly convey your protagonist’s sense of confusion by making them discover what is going on at the same pace as the reader. You have used a wide range of sophisticated vocabulary and techniques in your work, which adds a certain maturity to your writing. You might want to, in future pieces, consider the effect of similes a little more as there is sometimes a clash between the tone of your writing and the tone of the similes you have chosen. However, this is excellent overall, Rose – well done :)”

Feedback from Tutor Dave

To unleash your child’s creativity and help them to write like this, join our Upper/Lower KS3 English Tutorials.

A Science-Fiction Story

I wake with an urgency, every thought in high definition, as if sleeping has become a danger. I desperately need to move, to shake the numb, heavy sensation out of my body. I feel as though I haven’t moved since the last ice age, like a worm stuck in limbo. My brain is thick and slow but I am aware of thinking even though my head is as empty as a bird’s nest in December, and has been for the last millenia. Instinctively, I know that even the smallest movement will be exhausting to the extreme but at the same time, I don’t remember ever being this energised. The effort of breathing is immense, every breath draining me of the little strength I have like a sponge squeezed of water. I am magnetised to the floor, cold on my exposed back and I realise I am not wearing any clothes. For the first time, I notice the temperature. It’s freezing and my newly awakened brain springs into action, imagining all the cold things in the world: 

As cold as ice. That’s a classic.

As cold as frozen water. Wait a minute, that is the same as ice!

As cold as snow. 

As cold as cucumbers. 

As cold as a snowball on a very cold winter morning. Wow, that one is terrible!

As cold as a frog. Frogs aren’t even that cold… 

As cold as a dead man’s nose. 

The last one is rather unsettling so I try to turn my thoughts to something a bit more positive but now all I can think of is a dead man, eyes staring blankly up at me, jaw slack and mouth slightly open, nose frighteningly blue. 

Unable to turn my thoughts away from the face which I now realise to be my late father’s, I decide to try opening my eyes which, until now, I hadn’t been aware are closed. I take a minute to steel myself before attempting the seemingly gargantuan task. Sixty seconds pass. Then another twenty. Ten more. Five minutes…

After procrastinating for a while (a really long while), I finally open my eyes with surprisingly little effort. Blinding white light. Searing pain penetrates my skull, rickashaying around the inside of my head, confusing my thoughts, my mind, me. My brain is on fire. Flames burst from me in a piercing scream of pure agony. Everything goes suddenly black.

I slowly regain consciousness, memories coming to me in disorderly flashes. My mind is as tired as a worn out shoe but I try to work out the chronological sequence of events, piecing together the little snippets of information to form a beginning, a middle and an end. The details elude me but finally I have a storyline which, admittedly, isn’t comparable to the works of Shakespeare but it is something: waking up, the cold, the white light, then blackness. I begin to wonder what my story is, the story of my life, not just the last half hour. I have a name don’t I? And a family? How old am I? These are all things I should know but don’t seem to. It’s all so frustrating but I mean to find out the answers to these six questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What am I?
  3. Where am I?
  4. When is this?
  5. Why am I here?
  6. How did I get here?

Question 3 seems to be the most straightforward to answer so I decide to start with that one. I hesitate before opening my eyes again but this time it doesn’t hurt although it still isn’t exactly a pleasant sensation as I look around at my surroundings. Everything is white and I can’t quite distinguish the different features of the room I am in. I lift my arm, wanting to know how far I can reach. My hand quickly comes into contact with something clear, cold and hard that seems to be the sides of a container. My fingers, shocked by the intense numbness now creeping slowly up my arm, stumble drunkenly across the surface of the ‘solid air’. I feel desperately to each side in an attempt to determine if I am inside or outside of the container. I am inside. Trapped.

I push against the air, fear making me strong. I push and push and keep on pushing. The numbness is overwhelming, flowing down my arms and flooding my body with a terrifying sense of not feeling. But still I push with all my might. It could be my imagination but I think I feel it start to give. My heart throws itself painfully against my ribs, pumping energy through my weary body with a frantic rapidity. I push for what seems like forever. My arms begin to grow tired but my new found strength doesn’t fail me. Eventually, it shatters. The air splits into a million pieces, each shard hitting the floor with a faint tinkle. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, I let my arms fall back down to my sides.

I sit up, surprised when my body obeys the command. As I look around from this new perspective, I can just make out the details of my surroundings. All the white surfaces seem to blur into one before me but, as my eyes adjust to the intense lack of colour, I can almost see the faint outlines of blank windows, busy control panels and high-tech chairs slowly growing stronger. I seem to be inside a spaceship from a rather dull futuristic novel. Everywhere, there must be hundreds of bleeping monitors and flashing lights but it is utterly silent and white. Slowly, my eyes and ears begin to process all the colour and noise as if a filter has been lifted, letting everything in. My ears start to pick up the beeping and buzzing I had imagined there would be, conveying meaning and urgency to whoever can understand. As I look around with my colourful new lens, I see for the first time the amazing vibrance and variety of hues that cover every surface, each with a different significance and each as bright as the next. One light in particular catches my eye. It flashes red, danger, help. I try to stand, desperate to investigate. Swaying on the spot, I feel light headed but manage to remain upright. I take one shakey step, then another, and another until I reach the red light. I don’t know what it means but it definitely isn’t good. I call out. My voice is rough and faint, unaccustomed to shouting. I try again and this time the noise is stronger, more certain. It rebounds off the walls, repeating one word over and over again; ‘help’. 

My discovery has somewhat dampened my satisfaction of answering Question 3 so I decide to try 5 and 6. I turn my back on the light as I try to banish the sense of foreboding that has settled in the pit of my stomach. 

Mine isn’t the only pod. There are hundreds, thousands even. All in neat, orderly rows, with just enough space to walk between. I stagger over to the nearest pod, tripping over my feet like a newborn giraffe. I lean on the solid air in an attempt to stay upright as I peer into the pod. Inside, I see a woman. Her hair flows gracefully, as if underwater. She looks so peaceful but, deep down, I know she is dead. My heart quickens but I manage to stay calm. What if I am the only living person on this ship? I look into the next pod. A child lies as if asleep, also dead. I look into another and another. Everyone is dead. I am the only one left. 

I know its stupid but I am just really relieved that they aren’t gruesome corpses, that they look almost happy inside their pods. I should be thinking about escaping or something serious like that but all my thoughts are focused on living and being the only survivor. That is a horrible thing to think and I instantly regret it but I can’t help but skip a little as I make my way back towards the control panel and the flashing red light. 

I run my hand over all the levers and dials, trying to resist pressing a button. All the colours are exciting and new, blinking back at me from all angles, reflecting off the different surfaces. Pressing just one button won’t hurt will it? My hand might slip and accidentally push that big purple one. It wouldn’t be my fault really. I might not even press it. My finger hovers over the button, wanting action after the never-ending nothing. The ship swerves just as my hand is about to accidentally slip, sending me flying to the floor. 

I sit up, disorientated. The fall seems to have brought me to my senses. My head spins as the gravity of my situation hits me for the first time. Who is driving this thing?!

I have the strength to run now, so I do. Staring into the flashing red button, I notice a really, really tiny word written on its surface. My eyes struggle to focus, blurring the letters together. The first letter is very small – a ‘t’… or an ‘f’? The word definitely has four letters. I think it ends in ‘el’ but I can’t be sure. I curse my smudgy eyes. Maybe it is ‘ci’? The second letter could be ‘y’. ‘Tyel’ isn’t a word and nor is ‘fyci’. The ‘y’ might be a ‘u’ or possibly an ‘x’. I wrack my brain for a word that fits at least some of these requirements. I come up with nothing so I decide to continue eliminating possibilities through trial and error. It can’t be ‘fxel’ and ‘tuci’ doesn’t sound right. ‘Fxci’? Or ‘Tule’? Umm… fu- fue- fuel! It says fuel!! My heart begins to beat faster – the ship is running out of power and I am the only living person (as far as I know) who can do anything to avert the disaster. 

Panic overwhelms me, drowning my rational thoughts in the murky waters of despair. Resurfacing briefly, I start to understand the answer to Question 5. Why am I here? I breathe deeply, dragging truth and fear into my lungs. I have been kept alive as a kind of ‘just incase’. The lack of fuel led to the demise of my fellow travellers as the machine became unable to sustain so many people without sufficient energy. It sensed the impending doom so woke me in the hope that I knew how to fly a spaceship without any fuel or an instruction manual. I don’t even know where the steering wheel is!

To be continued…