Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Padlocked Chest - Part 4 - The Island

By the end of the day tensions were running high. A few people were still determindly, or desperately ,searching for food, but most had given up. It was when the first fight broke out, over nothing, that I decided we had to do something, fast.
     'We should try and build a raft,' I said, 'and we should also make a fire in case we see a ship.'
     'And how do you suggest we do either of those things, Genius?' said Robert, scornfully.
     I dragged him by the sleve away from the rest of the group. 'I am trying to take people's mind off food and despair, and onto something practical,' I whispered, fervently, 'now will you please co-operate.'
     'Who made you boss?' he replied, as I stepped away, loud enough for the others to hear.
     I turned back. 'Look, I get it. You have been stuck for the longest, but you know what that means? You've spent the longest doing nothing. Well move over pal, there's someone here who actually wants to do something.'
     'Fine,' he called, 'I'll do something. I'll take the cave. It'll be my home. Anyone who wants to come and live with me can come now, everyone else can stay out.'
     'Hey, that's not fair,' I began, but he cut me off.
     'You try making your raft, but I'm going to the place that's most like the chest. We survived in the chest, we were coping fine until you came.'
     'Fine, go then,' I retorted, 'hide, pretend it doesn't exist. Meanwhile everyone who's interested in getting off this island, let's get busy.'
     I set off in one direction and Robert in another. 'Is anyone joining me in the cave?' he called, 'last chance.'
     Everyone else had sat or stood unmoved to this point watching the arguement unfold, but then two men turned and went after Robert, followed by a couple more. We watched them go. Philippa, though, looked at me and said, 'how can we help?'

Two hours later I was in a tree hacking and breaking off small branches, while others used stones to try and cut into thicker logs. It was going to be a dry night, but it was also getting colder, so we took it in turn trying to make a fire. Eventually Jack, a guy a few years older than me, managed to get a spark and not long later we had a small blaze going. Seeing as the cave was now out of bounds we slept around the fire, which slowly shrank and in the morning was just a smoldering pile of ashes.
     We'd used almost all the wood we had cut, so we began again, collecting piles of twigs and sticks. Jack took a party of people off to the top of the hill to build a fire in case we saw a ship, while the rest of us began cutting into the base of a tree, hoping to fell it.
     It was well into the afternoon when we finally managed, but there were smiles all round and for the first time in 24 hours things were looking up. Just then, however, Jack returned with some of his group (they'd left a couple of people on the hill to be watchers). They were looking grim and told us how they'd gone to see the cave.
     'They've blocked the entrace up with stones,' Jack reported, 'there's just a small hole at the top for them to see out of, and to defend themselves apparently. One of them threw a stone at us and hit Gemma.'
     Gemma showed us the cut on her forehead. It wasn't deep, but blood was still dripping from it. Someone grabbed a large leaf from a nearby bush, folded it and gave it to Gemma who held it against the cut.
     'Well we can't do anything about them,' I said, 'we'll just have to stay away from the cave for the time being.' I tried to be positive, but the smiles had gone again.

Monday, 25 February 2013

The Padlocked Chest - Part 3

Evening came and so did a storm. We were lucky that while Alice, who's only thirteen, was trying to find some shelter on the north side of the hill she came across a small cave. Quickly we crammed ourselves in and then slowly fell asleep. At least everyone apart from Robert and I did. We sat up and discussed what on earth had happened to our lives.
     Robert had clearly had this conversation before and was happy to add his limited wisdom as to how thirty people end up in a chest, then go through a door and find themselves on a desert island. I was still enjoying this adventure but I guess after eighteen years things are pretty dull, and Robert was still grumpy.
     We stopped talking for a while and sat in silence listening to the wind and pouring rain and the waves smashing about on the beach. Then another thought occured to me. 'Robert,' I said, 'how did you actually survive in the chest? I mean, what did you eat?'
     Robert looked at me blankly for a few seconds and then said, 'We didn't eat anything. I never thought about it, but now you mention it I feel really hungry. Wow, I haven't eaten in eighteen years.'
     'But that doesn't make sense, how can you have lived without eating?'
     'Edward, not much is making sense right now, so I guess it's alright for us to have survived without food. Now though, I'm not sure I can. Maybe that's how it works. If you don't think about something, you don't need it, but if you started to think about it then you want it more and more. I am starving.'
     'I don't think we should mention it to the others,' I said, but Robert wasn't listening.
     'What do you think we could find on this island?'
     'I don't know. I haven't seen any animals, there might be some fruit though. We'll look in the morning, if the rain has stopped.'

The rain had stopped and we crawled out of the cave into the sunshine. Robert wasted no time in telling everyone he was hungry and sure enough they all said the same. So we began hunting around for anything to eat.
     An hour later, however, we still hadn't found anything. There was no fruit, the vegetation was awful and, as I thought, there were no other animals either.
     The girl, who was about my age and had been the first to come forward when I suggested going through the door in the chest, and whose name, I had learned, was Philippa, asked me, 'Are we going to die?'
     'I reckon if you can survive in a chest for eighteen years then we can manage on this island,' I said, but really I had no idea at all.

Friday, 22 February 2013

The Padlocked Chest - Part 2

I held my breath, but nothing happened. No noise, no tipping forward and falling and no shrinking feeling. Instead bright light flooded the chest, sunlight, dazzlingly clear.
     'What can you see?' called someone.
     I gazed through the doorway. 'I can see,' I said slowly, 'the sea.'
     'What? said Robert, incredulously.
     'Yes,' I said, 'I promise you. Are you coming?' I turned to look at them. I could see them more clearly now, there must have been nearly thirty of them huddled together, most with worried faces.
     'You're not going through there?' said a man.
     'Well I'm not going to stay in a chest I can't get out of,' I replied, 'now is anyone coming with me, or am I going by myself?'
     'I'll come,' said a girl, stepping out of the crowd. She was about my age and height, although, since we'd shrunk, I wasn't sure if that meant anything.
     'So will I,' said someone else, and then suddenly they all decided they'd quite like a change of scenery and eventually even Robert gave in.
     'Good,' I said, 'let's go then.' Slowly I stepped through the door and onto soft sand. The sun was hot and bright and we all blinked as our eyes adjusted to it. We spread out onto the beach and some people went cautiously down to the water's edge. Others turned and looked around. When the last person stepped through the door it swung firmly shut, and no amount of banging or wiggling the handle could open it.
     'It's like the lid of the chest,' I said, 'it can only be opened from one side.' It looked very odd stood there on the beach by itslef but now we began to wonder what new world we had found.
     'Where do you suppose we are?' said someone.
     'It's the Caribbean,' said Robert.
     'Or the Pacific,' I offered, either way, it's an island.
     There was a small hill rising away from the beach and after a short climb we were able to see all around and this confirmed my statement.
     'Well it's bigger than the chest,' said the girl.
     'Can't be more than half a mile long, though,' said Robert, 'and less than that wide. I don't see any more doors either.'
     'Will you stop being so gloomy,' said a woman, this is much better than the chest, and of course there aren't any doors, everyone knows the only way off an island is by boat.'
     She's right, I thought, I just hope it doesn't take eighteen years for one to turn up.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Padlocked Chest

Yesterday in my Writing for Young People class at Uni we were given a task, just to get us writing. We were given a short beginning to a story and had to continue it. This is what I was given:

I sneaked into the old, abandoned house at the end of the street. I was surprised to find a small, padlocked treasure chest on a dresser in an upstairs bedroom. There was a note that said, "Do not open. EVER!" I also noticed a small key hanging on the wall. I tried the key in the padlock. It was a perfect fit.

Maybe you have some idea about how you would continue this story, but here is what I wrote:

I paused. My heart began to beat quicker and my hand, which was still holding the key, began to shake. Was I really going to do this? I couldn't very well not now. I glanced about, breathed in slowly and then, as quickly as I could, turned the key and flipped the lid open.
     An intense amount of noise hit my ears and at the same moment I felt myself get tipped forward, going head first into the chest. That was ridiculous though, I was was much to big to fit into such a small chest. As I fell, however, I realised that I was shrinking rapidly, until I landed with a thud on on the bottom. The lid slammed shut above me and plunged the inside into darkness.
     I lay still for a moment, dazed from the fall and then I heard a click and a chink of light appeared above me. The key had been removed from the hole.
     'Hello,' said a voice.
     I jumped and turned around on the spot. In the small amount of light I made out a whole crowd of people. Slowly they gathered around me.
     'Hello,' the man said again, 'what's your name?'
     I was still very surprised and confused, but I managed to say, 'Edward.'
     'Welcome Edward,' said the man, 'my name is Robert.'
     'Do you live here?' I asked.
     Robert looked at the others. 'You could say that, yes, but we haven't always. We came here the same way you did. I have been here for eighteen years. I was about your age when I unlocked the chest.'
     'Can't you get out?' I said.
     'To get out through the lid is impossible unless it is unlocked, but it is only unlocked when someone like yourself comes along. We tried to warn you by shouting but it never works.'
     That explained the noise, I thought. 'So there's no other way out?' I questioned.
     'Well,' said Robert, 'there is a small door, over in that corner, but it has another sign with it.'
     I peered through the gloom and made out the door and the sign above it that said, "Do not open. EVER!" 'That's the same sign which is on this chest,' I commented.
     'Yes,' said the man sadly.
     'So, why has no-one opened the door?'
     'We made the mistake once, why would we make it again?' said a woman.
     'Correct,' said Robert, 'we have learnt our lesson.'
     'No!' I said, 'we should open it.'
     'Shhh, now,' said Robert, 'you've had a big fall, don't get upset.'
     'This is ridiculous,' I said, standing up. Then I raced to the door and grabbed the key.
     'No! Don't!' screamed the people, but too late, I turned the key and swung the door wide open.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

A deep and amusing conversation

Part of a conversation in my 6th form common room many years ago. (I've changed the names of those involved to Harry, Barry and Larry.)

H: What I wanted to tell you was that I’ve figured out the expansion of the universe. Outside the universe there is nothing, apparently, and it keeps on expanding into nothing. We were thinking about why, and Mr Smith says that that’s impossible because nothing makes nothing. So, if nothing makes nothing then nothing must constantly be multiplying, cause nothing makes nothing. There’s growing more and more nothing.
B: That’s just play of words.
H: It’s not.
B: Yes it is. (laughs)
H: Nothing makes nothing. Means nothing makes nothing.
L: A equals B. B equals C. Therefore C equals A. But Jane loves Pete. Pete loves Mary. Therefore Mary loves Jane, doesn't work.
B: That’s the same as, you have a table and a saw. Cut the table in half, two halves make a whole and you jump through it.
H: The only reason nothing makes nothing works, in a general sense, is because we don’t have nothing. As soon as you start saying there’s nothing outside the universe, nothing makes nothing doesn’t work anymore.
B: The universe is mainly made up of nothing.
H: Is a vacuum something?
B: No, a vacuum is absence of something.
H: But it is still something.
L: Not tangible.
H: What happens when you take away the vacuum?
B: Well you can’t take away the vacuum; the only way you can remove the vacuum is by adding.
H: Just because there’s a blank piece of paper there, with nothing on it, it’s still a piece of paper. There’s nothing in a vacuum but it’s still a vacuum.
B: A vacuum is just a description.
H: Of something.
B: No a vacuum is a description of the absence of something.
H: But anyway my theory was really good, and it was that if nothing makes nothing then nothing must be multiplying.
B: That is good.
H: Which means the something inside the universe must be spreading out into the nothing by diffusion.
L: Why is the universe spreading?
H: Because it’s being drawn into the multiplying nothingness down a concentration gradient.
B: You can’t be drawn into nothing.
L: If there’s nothing there, how can that draw you?
H: Because it’s diffusion (laughs) by concentration of stuff, or no concentration of stuff.
B: (laughs) Oh dear.
H: And my other thought was, if the universe is expanding and time and space are linked and we’re getting more space, what’s happening to time? Maybe we just don’t know, maybe time is constantly warping.
L: Time is only in the universe, though, time is not in nothing.
H: That’s why it’s growing.
L: Why are time and space linked?
H: Because Einstein said so.
L: What's the theory behind that?
B: Yes time and space aren’t supposed to be linked.
H: The space-time continuum.
L: I thought that was something out of/
H:                                                          Star trek/
L:                                                                        Back to the Future or Star Trek, or one of them.
H: But it is real, he did write a lot about it.
B: You’ve got it in the wrong context-
H: - I don’t have it in any wrong context!
(General laughter)
H: The reason the universe is expanding is because time is happening and it’s affecting things. If you stop time you can stop the universe, or if we stop the universe we will stop time.
L: At the end of the universe time will end and there will be no time.
H: Why wouldn’t there be any time. Just cause there’s no clocks?
L: There’ll be no night or day.
H: Well that’s just a measurement, there’s nothing to compare it against.
B: Therefore you can only really gauge time by your aging.
H: Does the justification of time warrant that time exists?
B: I’m sure you can’t deny that time exists.
H: Can’t you?!
B: Try.
H: I can deny the future exists, I can deny the past exists.
B: The future hasn’t happened yet. The past is just a record of events.
H: The future doesn’t exist-
B: -No it doesn’t exist yet.
H: If the future doesn’t exist that means we’re creating something somehow. Something’s being created all the time.
B: No, something’s progressing.
H: That means it’s already there to progress to. If it’s not there and then it happens, then it’s created somehow.
B: It’s not there to progress to.
H: Well you’re saying the future doesn’t exist but somehow we’re gonna get there.
B: Because everything around is changing. It’s not being destroyed and then created, it’s just altering.
H: You know when we say, ‘Now’.
B: Yes.
H: The present, how long is the present?
B: Now that just comes from your own opinion, it could be present day, a year, a month.
H: Yeah but when we say, ‘Now’. Me saying, ‘now’.
L: Is then past.
H: The ‘N’ and the ‘W’ are in different times.
B: That’s just your opinion.
H: But when does it happen? Like now, when I’m experiencing now? I’m not experiencing one time at all. It’s just going past like a motorbike.
B: Maybe you’re thinking too much
H: The present is just not; it’s just a happy interruption of the past.
B: What before we get onto the future?
H: Yeah. All there is, is a past and a future, and our interpretation of what we call the present.
L: But then if you say, “in a minute I’m going to say, ‘now’, then you know the future.
H: Yeah, you know the future.
B: Look. It depends. I will do something, I am in the process of doing something, I have done something. It all depends how it fits the situation.
H: Maybe none of it exists
B: (to someone else who’s just arrived) You don’t want to come here.
H: None of it exists.
L: Deep conversation.
B: And my head hurts.
H: You’re holding up quite well.