Townsville City Council’s annual provides a platform for the vibrant creative literary talent in our community, inviting writers of all ages. This year’s theme ‘My Fabulous Summer’ inspired Cathedral Year 8 student Alice Acton to pen ‘Hidden Worlds’ which earned her the Runner-Up prize in the Young Adult category (12-17).
Thank you Alice for allowing us to publish your story.

Pictured: Alice Acton receiving her prize at Townsville’s ‘Riverway Library’.

She silently padded up to her room, cautious not to step on the wrong floorboard and wake her sleeping dog. Julia settled down in a beanbag nestled in the corner of her pink, floral-patterned room. She reached over her heart-shaped cushion, lying abandoned on the cream carpet, picking up her most favourite book.

Julia slipped her bookmark out of the tattered book’s pages, placing it gently next to her. She began to read, her hazel eyes skimming over the tiny black font covering the torn, well-worn pages. As she read on, she was oblivious to the wind beginning to rush as if it was late for work and the room twisting and turning out of proportion. A sense of spinning snapped her subconscious reading and quickly brought her back to reality, just as she became engulfed in a washing machine sensation.

Dirt, ferns, moss, and the occasional lizard spun around her before she landed with a soft thud. Confused and lost, Julia sat almost frozen in time on the chocolate-brown, dampened earth. Slowly, she blinked and craned her neck to the left and right, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Perplexed, the girl delicately stood up and took in her lush, green surroundings. The call of exotic wildlife and the crunch of twigs and sticks were the only thing breaking the blissful quiet.

While the rainforest seemed quite familiar, it wasn’t anywhere in her hometown. An answer seemed to settle in the girl’s mind, just beyond her grasp. The sights, the sounds, the smells, it was too familiar for her to never have been here before. Julia began to scroll through her memory, trying to solve her confounding riddle. Suddenly it dawned on her. Months ago, she had ventured to this same rainforest. “The…the Daintree!”, she exclaimed as she remembered the tropical rainforest’s name.

As Julia‘s mind began to settle, she noticed something in her hand. A book. The book she had been reading. Her favourite. As she clutched the book tight and allowed its warmth to fill her up, she didn’t notice a cassowary sneaking up behind her, bobbing its head forward and backward. The black flightless feathered bird dashed past her, snatching her most treasured book from her reach.

Julia gave chase, the two of them dashing and dancing along the path, scattering rainforest debris as they flew. Despite the cassowary being much faster than the girl, she kept an eye on the bright blue neck of the endangered bird. As the bird rounded a bend, Julia took a shortcut through a small patch of King Ferns, Fan Palms, and a sharp Pandanus tree that tore Julia’s ankles like papercuts.

She arrived back on the path just in front of the runaway, sending the startled bird into the air. The bird landed ‘SMACK!’ on the rocky ground. She snatched the book out of the creature’s beak and the bird took off running down the path again, getting lost in the never-ending green maze. Julia continued to wander through the Daintree. 

Image digitally created by A.I.

As she pushed aside plants that covered the path, all she could see were more plants and more dirt. It was going to be impossible to find a way out of the biggest rainforest in Australia, and the oldest in the world. At least 135 million years of plants began to cover the path as she walked on, and Julia quickly lost sight of it. Thunder suddenly clapped, and grey clouds rolled in from all angles like police cars, swarming above the monstrous trees like bees.

Julia dashed through the slowly darkening forest, following a familiar path. Rain began to spit, and she raced through the undergrowth to a huge Curtain Figtree. She pressed her back up against the ancient wise giant and curled into a ball clutching the soggy book to her chest. Just as she reached cover, the thunder began a hearty applause, the lightning cracked, and the rain pelted down like hail, causing shallow craters in the dirt.

“Sunshine, sunshine, are you still there?”
“Of course, you are, you must be, you always are.”
The clouds were low and dark, but the sunshine was just above, ready to appear as it always does.
The girl slowly slid her fingers between the wet pages of her now ruined book and prised it open. Slowly she began to read.

The wind howled and the trees swirled around the girl. Julia was picked up by the cyclonic winds and whisked back through the flora and fauna. But this time there was no goanna in sight. Instead, as her room slowly came back into focus, she dodged a dog wandering across the carpet, scarcely missing the poor things tail.

‘PLONK!’ Julia landed on her beanbag bone dry just as her mum stuck her head through the girl’s timber doorframe to announce they were going on holidays to the Daintree. Half-conscious in a trance of confusion, Julia closed the book, stood up and reached into her cupboard to grab a bag. The first thing she packed was an umbrella.

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