Chapter 1

Written by: Zoutnet staff members
 

Rosalyn jumped around and stared at the old radio on the mantelpiece. She could have sworn that it was her grandfather’s voice that sounded in the room moments before. It was a voice she had not heard for more than a year, but it could only be that of Granddad Brian.

This was her first visit to the old house for quite some time. Granddad was living here all alone. She used to love visiting him, often just dropping by after school to say hello. He was quite a character, very eccentric and always fiddling with some strange device. Some people referred to him as the mad scientist from the haunted house, but for Rosalyn he was just her favourite family member.

She remembered her previous visit, almost exactly a year ago. She had entered through the back door, as usual, but granddad Brian was nowhere to be found. She had checked the garage, but only his car, a 1958 Austin-Healey 100/6, had stood there abandoned. She would often accompany her granddad on trips with the sports car. Few things were as enjoyable as a trip through the mountain pass, with the soft top down and the wind rushing through her hair.

But that specific day, granddad was not tinkering away in the garage. She had checked the garden, but it was empty. She had called his name, but no-one had answered. Even his study, where he kept his computers and laboratory equipment, was abandoned.

The mystery of her granddad’s sudden disappearance had even made international news headlines. She had never realised that her granddad was so famous. Strange vehicles had arrived at her granddad’s house, with people asking questions to the neighbours and speculating about where he could have gone. It was as if her granddad had disappeared into thin air. The police visited, but apart from opening a missing-person docket, they could not make head or tail.

Grandfathers’ disappearance had affected Rosalyn’s mother badly. Even while granddad was still there, her mother had battled with depression, often turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism. She had never fully recovered from the shock of the sudden death in a motor accident of Rosalyn’s dad. This also meant that Rosalyn had grown up as a lonely child.

Now, a year later, Rosalyn had returned to the deserted house. Apart from the dust forming a thin layer on the furniture, everything was almost exactly as it was when granddad disappeared. It was when she had walked into the study that the old radio had caught her eye. Granddad had two of these valve radios. They must be over 70 years old. She switched on the radio on the desk, causing the vacuum tubes to light up in an array of yellow and pink colours.

It was then that the voice emerged from the radio on the other side of the room…

(To be continued)

 

Chapter 2

By:  Amelia-Mari Labuschagne

In that moment of pure confusion, Rosalyn turned around, feeling a chill run down her spine. With a shallow crack in her voice, she called out to granddad Brian, hoping to hear once more the familiar sound she holds dear to her heart.

Rosalyn reached for her cellphone, with the thought of calling someone she knew, someone she could trust. Was it only her imagination playing tricks on her, or had she really heard her granddad’s voice? She put the phone down again.

Tears started rolling down her cheeks as different emotions swept over her. She thought of her mother, who was clearly in a very dark space. The death of her father had been unexpected, and it had left her mother exposed and depressed. Grandfather used to be the one solid rock in the family, and when he disappeared, her mother battled to cope, often finding solace in liquor. She blamed the loss of both men on herself.

Her mother’s misplaced efforts to cope with grief did not help Rosalyn deal with her own problems. Most conversations turned into conflict, and Rosalyn was becoming more isolated, with only her granddad acting as a sounding board on the odd occasion.

With all these emotions engulfing her, she started to wander through the empty house. The kitchen evoked memories of long conversations about life, the universe and everything else that mattered to a teenage girl. Her granddad was a man of many skills, but as for his cooking, that was another story. A smile formed around her lips, but quickly faded.

Rosalyn had no doubt that her granddad was alive and was trying to communicate with her. No matter how unlikely it seemed, she was convinced that her granddad would never leave without saying goodbye. She decided that the time had come to search the house for clues. Maybe if she could find some sort of evidence, she could convince the police to reopen the missing-person docket. Maybe if she could find her granddad, she could also, in a way, rescue her mother.

For some reason, the bookcase in the study caught her attention. A few books were clearly out of place, seemingly shoved quickly onto the tops of the shelves. She climbed on a chair to collect the books. Inside one of the books she noticed a loose piece of paper that resembled a hand-drawn map. The location was not recognisable, but GPS coordinates were jotted in pencil next to crosses on the map.

With the sun setting outside, the room started to turn dark. She suddenly noticed the glimmer of light stemming from the vacuum tubes inside one of the radios. She instinctively pushed one of the buttons.

“Rosalyn, it’s me,” said the voice crisply. “I’m stuck here, and I need your help!”

Rosalyn stared at the radio in disbelief. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Granddad, where are you?” was all she could say.

“I don’t know, Rosalyn, but you need to find me.”

(To be continued)

 

* The second Chapter was written by Amelia-Mari Labuschagne from Louis Trichardt. The 18-year-old Amelia-Mari is a “home schooler”, studying at Impaq Homeschooling. “I loved writing this and even though I might not win, I really want to say thank you,” she said in her entry. Well, we liked her contribution and she is a very worthy first winner of our R300 cash prize.

Chapter 3

By Tinotenda Kujinga

 

In utter astonishment, Rosalyn tried to extract answers from a voice she had waited so long to hear, but the sound suddenly vanished!

The first thing she thought about was her mother.

As she reached for the phone, dialling the last numbers of her mother’s number, she stopped.

She realised that she could not tell anyone.

It was a mission she had to complete; alone.

A mission that had been entrusted to her.

The biggest lead she had or rather the only lead she had right then, was the object that stirred a surging concoction of mixed emotions within her, mainly determination.

The radio!

She quickly grabbed it and raced to the door. As she ran, out of breath, the sky filled with tiny droplet of rain blotted on her nose like a little tap and gave her a chilling tickle.

Rain started to land everywhere. She thought of this as a sign from God that she would find what she is seeking.

As Rosalyn entered the house, knocking things over, grabbing anything she thought useful, she finally found what she was looking for, the book her grandfather had given her on her birthday and a journal filled with Grandfather’s adventures (not that she had believed them all because some of those adventures were too bizarre).

She flipped through the pages, hoping there was a clue...

Then she found it!

An identical map to the one she previously found in her grandfather's library, but this one did not have a certain marking that her grandfather’s copy had. Each mark on the map was marked, ‘INC’ which in his journal meant Incomplete. And ‘INC’ was crossed after the C was placed. But the last did not have its ‘INC’ crossed neither was there a ‘C’ to Indicate that it was complete.

Rosalyn quickly paged back to where she had found the map.

She found it!

She quickly read through the passage, in total disbelief...

(To be continued)

 

This week’s winner is Tinotenda Kujinga from Louis Trichardt. The 13-year-old Tinotenda is from Ridgeway College.

Chapter 4

By Nyandano Ramushweu
 

The name El Dorado caught her eye as it was the only word written in English on the map. The rest of the map was covered in ancient symbols and dialect. “El Dorado?” she whispered. She knew what it was, but she thought it was only a myth, a legend. A city covered in gold, a city many looked for but could never find, but now it may have been found by her seemingly delusional grandad. She always knew there was something special about that man and now it was time to save him.

She tried to understand the various symbols and patterns on the map, but these only led her deeper and deeper into a hole of confusion. She tried paging through the book to look for more answers, until she reached the end of the book and possibly the end of all hope. Her blue eyes suddenly erupted in tears like waves in the salty blue ocean. She took a deep breath and told herself that she needed to stay strong although she felt alone, because nobody would believe her story.

She glanced at the back cover of the book and saw stranger ancient writing with a star-shaped depression in the centre. What was stranger than the writing itself was the fact that it was very familiar to her; she'd seen it before, but where?

She thought for a while and her eyes lit up in sudden excitement when she realised where she'd seen the writing. She reached for her throat and grabbed her necklace. The necklace her grandad had given her for her 16th birthday. The necklace was made out of what appeared to be gold and it was star-shaped with writing that she had thought was just random patterns before.

She never understood the meaning behind the gift; she never gave it much thought. At most, she just saw it as a piece of jewellery she got from her grandad. She held it beside the book and the writing on it matched the writing on the book. She cautiously moved the necklace closer and closer to the star-shaped depression in the book until, suddenly, the star flew off her hand and into the depression, like it was magnetically attracted to it.

In an instant, the writing on the book cover and the necklace glowed in a shimmering gold light. It was disorienting, like staring directly at the sun. She took a few steps back, but it was like the shimmering light was calling her name. She could feel the warm light gently touching her skin.

She took a few cautious steps forward with her eyes closed. She forced her eyes to slightly open, and there she saw, a shadowed figure.

(To be continued ...)
 

Our winning entry for this week comes from Nyandano Ramushweu, a Grade 12 learner from Ridgeway College

Chapter 5

By Anke Roos
 

Rosalyn’s first response was to jump back, but then she noticed that the shadowy figure came from the window. Just outside the room, clearly visible in the moonlight, was the dark silhouette of a man.

She held the book tightly to her chest, still feeling the warm light from the star. “Who’s there?” she asked desperately. She saw the shadowy figure starting to move. She stared at him through the windows as he walked by, marching quickly towards the door. She started to panic as the doorknob turned and the door squeaked open. A strange man entered the house ... with a pestle held firmly in his hands.

She was startled by the pestle. Her granddad was fascinated by history and often showed her pictures of antique relics. The pestle was used to ground spices in a bowl, also called a mortar. The man, however, carried it around as if it were a club.

She turned around and grabbed the maps spread open on granddad’s desk. While holding the book and maps as tightly as she possibly could, she ran to the garage, constantly checking to see if the man was following her.

She slammed the garage door shut and jumped into the seat of her grandfather’s old sports car. Fortunately, the top was down and the keys in the ignition. She was suddenly thankful for all the trips she and granddad had taken, driving all across the region. Granddad had no problem giving her the wheel once they were on the quieter roads. At the age of 16, she already knew how the overdrive of a 1956 Austin-Healey worked.

Rosalyn heaved a sigh of relief when the engine started with the first turn. After pressing the remote button, the big garage doors opened. She slammed the car into first gear and, with tyres screeching, she escaped. The maps ended up on the floor next to her, but she took care to place the book carefully on the passenger seat.

The cool morning wind blowing through her hair calmed Rosalyn down. She started thinking more rationally and decided to head for one of her favourite places, just outside town. Many years ago, her granddad had built a treehouse on a piece of property he owned not far from a stream. The site was a bit rustic and unkept, but the rope ladder hanging from the platform was still fine.

Rosalyn climbed up the tree with the maps and the book held firmly in her arms. When she got to the top, she placed them neatly on the floor and sat down. Without even realizing it, she fell asleep.

A few hours later, she woke up with a start. The first thing she thought about was the time. She reached for her phone and saw that she had a lot of missed calls from her mother. Her mother must be worried sick. Strangely enough, the 25 calls were made within the range of five minutes, around 23:00 the previous night. It was now just after 07:00.

She tried dialling her mother’s phone, but got no answer. She called the house’s phone, and again, no answer.

Not far from the treehouse she could hear the sound of a motor. She peeked from the edge of the treehouse’s platform, and it looked like her mother’s car. Rosalyn returned to where the book and maps were lying, spread out across the floor. The book had not stopped shining. She opened the book and paged to where the map labelled “El Dorado” was. She checked the maps she had brought from granddad’s house and noticed that there were similar stars in the top right-hand corner of the maps.

Her necklace started to make her itch and she took it off, placing it on one of the maps. Suddenly the markers on the map started to swirl around, like magical fireflies, and everything suddenly started to make sense to Rosalyn …


To be continued.

Chapter 6

By Nyandano Ramushweu
 

Rosalyn placed the map right below the book, so the stars on the map could complete the stars on the book as one image. The golden light pulsed as soon as the stars connected.

She observed carefully and critically, but she was still confused. She almost forgot about the sound of the car moving closer and closer towards the tree. She had to figure this out before her mother, who’s understandably furious, found her and dragged her home.

On the platform of the treehouse there were binoculars, astronomy books and a broken telescope her grandfather had bought. Her grandfather had always had a passion for astronomy. She remembered how he would ramble on about Orion’s belt … or was it Orion’s bat? She couldn’t remember; all she could remember was being incredibly bored and waiting for his crazy delusional stories to end. “... And I would’ve flown Apollo 11 if I didn’t fail that physics exam”. She wished he was there to tell her one more of his crazy stories.

Rosalyn looked over at the map and gasped so loudly that the birds scattered from the tree. She noticed the three linear stars, but they weren’t just any three stars; they were the stars forming the belt. “Orion’s belt!” she shouted.

She grabbed the astronomy book and searched for the annotated diagram of Orion. She found the diagram and realised that the stars also formed Orion’s bow and arrow, “so the book pieced together with the maps creates constellations,” she thought. “Beeep!” She heard the car’s horn. The sound dragged her back to reality. She had to think of a creative way out of this mess. How wouldshe explain driving off in her granddad’s Austin-Healey and spending the night by herself in a tree house?

She climbed down the ladder slowly, facing away from the car while thinking of an excuse. As her feet touched the ground, she turned slowly towards the car, expecting her angry mother with her brown to almost-red eyes shooting daggers at her soul. Instead, she found a tall dark man holding a golden pestle.

“I finally found you,” he said with an eerie grin. “My name is Tinashe, Rosalyn. I have come to reunite you with your granddad.”

Something felt terribly wrong about his aura. “How do you know my name?” she asked with a trembling voice.

“You are the missing piece. I was sent by the chief to return you with the golden mortar to El Dorado.” He reached for his pocket and pulled out a glowing, golden necklace similar to hers.

The strange man suddenly felt his necklace tug towards the tree house where Rosalyn had left the book and maps. He looked up at the treehouse and smiled.

A myriad of thoughts crossed Rosalyn’s mind. Should she trust her instincts and run? Should she simply trust this man who suspiciously arrived in her mother’s car? Matter of fact, where is her mother?

Although so much was unclear, she knew she had gotten closer to solving this mystery.


To be continued.

 

Chapter 7

By Nyandano Ramushweu

 

Rosalyn and the tall, dark stranger stared at each other for seconds that felt like hours. Nothing was heard but the wind blowing through the forest around them and the sound of the nearby rapids on the river.

Tinashe, as the man introduced himself, was obviously waiting for Rosalyn to respond, but she froze up. Rosalyn couldn’t make up her mind. Yes, Tinashe was the missing link she needed, but her instincts were screaming at her to run. Something was incredibly off about his sudden appearance, and that didn’t sit well with her.

“You’re not going to run off again like back at the house, are you?”

“No, but I should be the one asking the questions,” said Rosalyn, displaying a bit of attitude. For a moment she asked herself whom she was fooling. Was the façade of bravery she was showing supposed to fool Tinashe, or herself? She knew the answer but brushed it off.
Tinashe pushed her gently aside and she stumbled slightly. When she looked over at where he was, he had already climbed four steps up to the treehouse.

“Hey!” she screamed. She followed him up the steps, only to find him on the platform, holding her grandfather’s book with his eyes wide open with excitement. Something told her it was all over - a feeling she could not explain. She felt like she had lost everything. Watching Tinashe stare at those pages, she felt her stomach churn.

Tinashe removed his necklace, and it flew to the depression on the cover. In a quick act of desperation, she lunged, grabbing the book out of his hands while he was still seemingly basking in his “victory”. She held it close to her chest, close to her heart. This was not just a book anymore, it was the last remnant of her grandfather, but it was too late.

Tinashe burst into demented laughter as the book began to glow brighter and brighter. Rosalyn was panicking. Her mind was racing. As the wind blew louder, the birds turned from singing to screaming, and the ground was quaking. Tinashe was loudly chanting words in an ancient dialect that sounded all too familiar to Rosalyn - chaos. She knew something was going to happen, but she didn’t know what…

“Where am I? ... Where am I?”

In the blink of an eye, she had been transported, teleported, but where? She struggled to stand and staggered around for a while, until her eyesight and balance returned. All she could remember was holding the book, and then a big golden flash, and now she was standing in the middle of a grassland in the moonlight. “Definitely not in the treehouse anymore,” she whispered.

Surprisingly, Rosalyn wasn’t in shock because she had magically vanished and reappeared in an unknown location in the dark. At this point she realised that she had to stop trying to understand. She looked around her, trying to peer into the distance. Large rectangular boulders appeared to surround here, each about four to five metres tall. She walked closer, and they only seemed to become bigger and bigger.

The boulders were arranged in a circular pattern and resembled something she once saw in a National Geographic documentary. It reminded her of Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England.

She walked around the gigantic stones, until she noticed that one of the boulders was placed horizontally on top of two vertical ones, creating a doorlike, rectangular space in the centre. She took a few steps forward into the space, and then she saw it - the rectangular space was exactly aligned with a familiar constellation.

“Orion,” she whispered.

(To be continued.)

Chapter 8

By ???

(To be continued.)

How does it work?

We have written the first chapter of the story. Two stories are featured, an English one and an Afrikaans story. The stories will alternate, meaning the first week will be English and the second week Afrikaans and thereafter it will continue alternating until the final chapters get published. The stories are completely different, and the young writers do not have to enter chapters for both stories. (Choose whichever you are comfortable with).

The first chapter merely sets the parameters of the story, such as some of the characters and a very basic plot. Where the story will eventually end up is totally up to our young readers. Writers may introduce new characters and (sadly) kill off some of the old characters.

Every new chapter gets published on a Thursday in the newspaper. The writers then have up to the following Wednesday afternoon to send in their contributions. The entries will be judged by a panel of writers. Every week’s winning entry will receive a small prize. An overall prize for the best contributions (English and Afrikaans) will also be given at the end of the series.

Is it difficult?

We want to encourage all young writers to contribute. The writer’s imagination and the way the plot is structured are more important than the use of language. The winning contributions will be sub-edited and corrected before the next chapter is published. (If necessary information may be added to keep context and add to the continuity.)

In every week’s edition, a judges’ discussion with some advice for the young writers will be provided. The competition is not about language excellence, but rather about the telling of an interesting story. We do not know where the story will end up, so this is an exciting journey for all involved.

Who can enter?

An age-limit of 19 has been set, but anything younger goes. Entrants are not limited to specific schools, but they must reside in the Vhembe District.

We would love if language teachers can promote the competition in their classes. Unfortunately, we do not have prizes for schools, but we will consider this for future competitions.

Some rules:

Although we want to keep rules to the minimum, some guidelines are necessary. Each chapter should be limited to 500 words or fewer.

Entries must reach the newspaper before 23:00 on a Wednesday after publication. (If, for instance, the Afrikaans story’s chapter is published that specific week, the entries for the next chapter must reach us the next Wednesday.)

Entries must be e-mailed to leigh@zoutnet.co.za.

The story will be published on our website to make it easier for entrants to recap on what had happened in previous chapters. Entrants must stick to the characters and not deviate too much from the existing story line. Each chapter must preferably end in a way that the suspense is maintained and that the other writers can add to the story (so do not let all the characters die in a massive explosion in Chapter 3.)

Both stories need to end in Chapter 10. Build the story in such a way that a conclusion can be reached in the final chapter.