KidEngage Writing Competition Winning Entry – “Dare to the Death” by Gyanada

Short Story

Continuing our series of the KidEngage writing competition winning entries, the one presented to you this week has won the Second Prize in the Short Story category in the 12-16 years age group and has been written by Gyanada Badipatla of Grade IX of Phoenix Greens International School. The young author totally bowled over the judges with the maturity in her writing, and the tautness with which she has told the story. You can’t not like this one! 

Please feel free to read, share and comment – to encourage the young talent.

Dare to the Death

Where did the tears of the children disappear into when they were beaten?

Where did the echo of their laughter die down long after it was forgotten?

The old Banyan tree at the edge of the village took it all. Stealing secrets across ages. Whispers floated that the tree was born, not from a seed but from a grave.

Viren and his friends gazed at the colossal wood in hushed awe. Dark storm clouds loomed over the group of friends. Suddenly, Bhuvan, who was feeling braver than the rest shouted “Five hundred rupees for he who dares to climb this tree…”, his voice died to a whisper “….in the pitch of the midnight, as ghosts play, and the branches sway”.

A wild wind screamed, whipping away the leaves of the Banyan into a noisy frenzy. Viren’s hair flew rakishly around his forehead. “I can do that!” he said, shouting above the wind.

The gale died, just as suddenly as it was born. “All right !” Bhuvan broke the silence. A green five hundred rupee note peeked out of his pocket. Whole of his last month’s savings being put on a wager ! “You must drive a nail into the trunk high up there, so that we would know you were there”, he said pointing above. Both the friends clasped their hands in a tight grip midair. Bhuvan’s eyes gleamed, almost all black pupil.

That night a blood red hunter’s moon hung low in the sky. Close to midnight, Viren started out and walked briskly towards the Banyan tree. He began to whistle, attempting to mock the forbidding silence of the forest but his heart beat violently as if to escape its prison of bone.

Soon the Banyan was in sight, its extensive foliage silhouetting against the moonlit night. Viren set his foot against the gnarled trunk and felt for a grip. Slowly he began to clamber up the tree, both his hands grabbing nooks and contours for support. There was a low branch where he could find his footing. Out came the nail and the little hammer from his pocket and in one fluid jerk the nail went clean into the trunk.

Viren lifted his head to the sky in triumph. A dark cloud shrouded the moon. Viren looked down, and began his descent, his heart brimming with pride. Somewhere in the cold forest a lone wolf let out an eerie howl.

Just then something from below gave a sharp tug at his trousers. Horror froze on his face. His hands shook and he sailed down…down…down through the darkness.

The next morning the entire village stood in muted horror under the Banyan. Bhuvan and his friends saw the nail deep inside the flesh of the tree. On the ground lay Viren with his hand outstretched as though for the wager, his brave heart not beating any more.

Around there, not an eye was dry. Was that why all the eyes missed to notice the thin scrap of cloth, almost like a line, caught in the nail on the tree, the same colour as Viren’s trousers !

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Bet you had a lump in your throat as you read this!

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