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Final Story!!

anat Sabrina Belle on Pixabay

Youth Short Story Competition 2023 2nd Prize!

Raspberries! Just to imagine the taste of the sweet juicy fruit made my mouth water. For days, I had been only eating meat since my family's bush was destroyed in a storm. I didn't understand why the tribe leader didn't let us take fruits from other families' bushes! We had been waiting for what seemed like an eternity until our family's berries grew back and ripened to the color of fresh blood from a newly caught prey.

Finally! I dreamed of raspberries as I walked along the stream of water that snaked out of our last settlement into the uncivilized forest. The current of the water was unusually strong that day, and as the path got steeper and I got closer to my destination, my excitement rose.

I had never been so far from the settlement, and this was the first real responsibility my family had given me that wasn't cooking, reading or writing. My parents had told me that reading and writing were immense responsibilities because they were useful inventions that had to be kept a secret from other tribes. If the other tribes discovered the technique, they could create their own language and use it as a weapon against us. I had never understood how letters could be dangerous, but I had learned not to question them. However, letters didn't matter to me then. The only important thing to think about was the berries. I wanted to bring home only the freshest ones, to make them proud. I thought they might even let me have more independence, leave the settlements more often.

The stream turned into a river as it flowed faster, and my pace quickened. Soon I was in a full sprint, my legs going faster than my mind. The excitement and freedom that I felt was the only thing in my mind as the world blurred around me. I kept running forward, with the sound of the river rushing in my ears. While I was running, my foot hit a large rock in the middle of the path. Immediately, I fell. I closed my eyes as sharp pain spread through my body, but when I opened them something much more important caught my eye.

It was a strange white object, unlike anything I had seen before and it was lying on the ground just in front of me. I slowly pushed myself up to pick it up. The object was very thin and smooth, like a dry leaf. However, when I pressed and dragged my finger against it, it felt very firm and didn't fall apart like dry leaf would. Then, I decided to shake it and heard something rustling inside! Without thinking, I tore the object apart and found inside… letters!

The letters were written very smoothly, with clean beginnings and endings. It didn't seem as if a human had written them, not even The Wise among us could do that, but if it wasn't a human, who was it? That wasn't the only bizarre thing about the letters. As I stood there examining them, I realized that they were my tribe's letters, the same ones I had practiced writing a week previously! However, they were written in the smooth white leaf, and not in dirt or stone as my tribe did. Did that mean that another tribe had discovered our secret? I should have felt fear, but instead, I felt pride. I would become a savior by discovering this!

I ran home with the leaf, forgetting about the berries and ignoring the pain from the fall. I ran straight to the main cave, where the leader and The Wise were sitting in a circle around a bonfire. They seemed to be in a passionate argument. The moment I entered, everyone fell silent as prey does when a predator is close. After a few seconds, a Wise One finally spoke, but not to me.

"What in the world is a child doing here!?"

"I don't know, maybe she got lost?", another one guessed. "Maybe we should ask her...".

"I don't think she is a child, she looks old enough to be a mother", a third one added.

"Well, it doesn't matter how old she is! She shouldn't be here," the first one replied.

"I'm extremely sorry for interrupting, but this is urgent!" I broke in.

I saw their faces turn red.

"That is incredibly disrespectful."

"It's about letters!"

The leader of the tribe, who had been silent all of this time, spoke at last but in a whisper so low that I had to strain my ears to hear it.

"What about letters?"

"I found one, outside of the settlement. I was going to collect berries," I explained.

He suddenly turned pale.

"Give it."

I slowly handed him the leaf, but he snatched it the moment it reached his hands.

"It's torn apart."

"Yes, I'm awfully sorry about that…"

He didn't respond. Instead, he bent down and arranged the pieces together so that they formed words and sentences. I thought that he was about to keep them for himself, but surprisingly, he read them aloud.

"Hello,

I'm from the year two thousand and thirty three, the first man to go back in time in history. You may not understand what this means, so I'll explain it to you quickly. Years and numbers like 'two thousand and thirty three' are ways for us to count time. As time passes, the world around you changes. You grow up, build and invent things, change your environment and your tribe, and have a new generation of children that will someday be like you. Many years later, in my generation, people invented a way to go back in time to our ancestors: to you.

When two large groups like your tribe and another tribe fight against each other using violence, it's called a war. In my time, most of the world has been destroyed by war. From our research, we know that you haven't had a war yet - but it could happen soon if you continue on your current path! Wars are very dangerous, and we believe that if you try to cooperate and work together with the other tribes, you could create a world without wars. If you work with the other tribes, not only will you save the world, but you'll flourish greatly."

When he finished reading, we all remained dumbstruck. I tried to let the words sink in, to understand what this man from the future was telling us. I put aside the revelation that you could go back to the past, there would be time to think about that later. The important thing then, was the concept of war. Could it really be possible to destroy the world? I tried to imagine what it would be like. Would there still be forests, settlements, raspberries? I knew that some people in my tribe sometimes fought with people from other tribes about territory, food and knowledge and there was sometimes violence, but everything was always solved between the leaders because we needed each other to survive. Why would we ever want to do what the man described? But then, I remembered the fear in my parents' warning when they taught me how to read letters, the way our leader always talked about how we were the most advanced tribe and how we had to keep it that way. How it would be dangerous to share our inventions. Fear flooded me.

"Well, we have to do what he says!"

Everyone looked at me. I hadn't realized that I had said this out loud, but I took a deep breath, gathered all of the confidence I had, and spoke again.

"Do you realize what the man has just told us? We need to work with the other tribes! To protect our future!"

They just kept staring at me.

"I don't understand, don't you want to flourish?" I asked exasperated.

Without answering, the leader separated the pieces of the leaf again and threw them to the fire.

I watched with surprise and with loss of words as my discovery turned to ashes. Did he really just do that?!? Then, he looked at me, his face trying to be kind.

"I'm sorry, you are just too young to understand, but we can't do what that man is asking us. It is too complicated. Now, can you please go back and collect the berries?"

It took me a moment to understand what he was saying. I was too stunned and disappointed by my leaders to be able to speak. I forced a smile, nodded, and walked away. However, that day I promised myself that I would do everything that I could to stop that dreadful future. Since then, I have left my tribe and have traveled to all of the tribes in the known world to achieve my goal. I promised myself that it didn't matter how cold and thoughtless my world turned, I would never give up.

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