Winner and runners-up in the #WHERETONOW Writing Contest
Judged by Paula Morris
Karen Holdom - Winner
I am black diamond. Born in a firestorm with a shriek that made the ocean draw back in awe then throw itself at my feet, trying to haul itself onto me, into me. The land arched and shivered and surrendered to my black cloak. My naked rocksides shifted and slipped, rolled and shimmered; my cratermouth drew in the rain and the pallid heat of the sun. I slept and dreamed of erupting stars and black dirt.
I have been woken by a vision. A pestilent city buried in rock.
What have they done to me? While I slept they have flattened my curves. Bitten off pieces of me. Chiselled pits into me. Carved off and smashed up my flesh to divide the land into unnatural lines. They have infected me with parasites sprouting foul heads of green and nasty fingers that creep into my caves. They cover me. They shame me. They name me. Maungawhau. Mt Eden. I reject their names.
I do not recognise the sea: it is drugged and sleepy.
I do not recognise the land: it is sliced up and torpid.
What have they done to my sisters? My poor sisters. They are cut, covered, cancered, devoured.
I will send emissaries of hot rock.
Wake up. Wake up!
My sisters will wake and we will cook up mischief. We will shimmy and shake. We will open our mouths and scream our vision of Auckland. We will toss our heads and blowkiss boulders through the streets. Sing ribbons of fire to immolate the tiny office blocks and pokie bars and sky tower and phoenix palms and victorian villas and beachfront apartments and turquoise swimming pools. We will burn until the stars disappear for a time and then, when the black land has stopped shuddering and the black sea is licking our toes, we will rest.
Carolyn Cossey - Runner-Up
Karoro navigated inland, screeching farewell to his breathren, and the others: ngatu pare with his askew beak, and the migrant godwits and plovers. He rode a thermal across long and gentle slopes, wings braced, to where the houses and the people assembled cheek-by-jowl. Too late to turn again the volcanic soil with long rows of planting, and the bent-double harvesters, but he liked that within each of the curves of the cul-de-sac streets were gardens. People gathered around baskets of beans and carrots; there were rows of sweetcorn, and scarecrows with jaunty hats.
A pane of water advanced across the ooze of mudflat, transforming it to a seaside treat. A small child sat on a blanket, tenuous grip on white bread and ham. Even Karoro was charmed, and dove instead at the nearby couple, their arms and lips entangled, and cold chips sitting fatty and forgotten.
The sea was dotted with radiant tin dinghies, slick kayaks, and the same child now suspended in the body of a puffy golden swan. A shaggy strawberry dog raced the curve of each wave before it dissolved. A kete burst with kernels of pipi. Karoro was pleased; there had been many summers when the water was deserted, currents of filth travelled with the tide, and signs screamed to stay away.
He avoided the massive craft that flew from here. He’d been too close before, felt the treacherous suck and blast of the engines. Instead he circled the maunga, enjoying the symmetry of stone, and terraces. Yellow machines had bellowed amongst them for a time, but had been driven back. In their place was a scattering of homes so small, and their roofs so matched to the colour of the earth, that Karoro had to fly low to make them out.
Sarah Ell - Runner-Up
I didn’t think I’d ever move into a home, or whatever they call them these days — elder haven. Permanent parking space. Place you go to wait to die. I always thought I’d die at home, but then Jeff beat me to the punch on that one. Once he’d literally died there, one day on the stairs, I found I couldn’t face living there any more. Started to look around.
Didn’t get much help from the kids. And no grandkids — both of ours said they didn’t want to be part of the overpopulation problem, as if that was the mistake we’d made. No one hanging around to hold my hand and wipe my bum at home, so I may as well come here.
No one’s coming to wipe my bum in this place either, mind you. At least most of the people working here are just that — people, not AIs — but you pretty much get left alone in your little pod all day long. Like I said, waiting to die. Though I think it could be a pretty long wait; once they got rid of her diabetes, Mum lived to 105. Said she was getting bored of living. I can kind of see why, now.
Still, at least I’ve still got my view of Rangitoto. Kind of wanted a view of that nice new volcano that came up over by St Heliers, but that was more expensive — novelty factor. Rangitoto’s good, though; still looks the same on top even though it’s a bit smaller round the edges, since the tide came in. Still changes colour to purple in the dusk, though it’s more rocky red than pohutukawa green during the day now, thanks to the myrtle rust.
This used to be a nice part of town — expensive real estate — before the sea rose and made a few more thousand properties waterfront, and some sub-waterfront. Now this part’s all been converted to these floating pods, to save space on land. You have what they call ‘the ultimate sea view’ but it actually just means you can’t go outside.
Oh well, better go — I can hear the signal for the shuttle. Today we’re going real-time shopping. I don’t really ned anything, and I’ve got nowhere to put it, but there’s nothing else to do, is there? Except wait to die.