The last straw?
by Kyle Mewburn
There was no time to lose. Mote had to escape the choking smoke before he ... well, choked. He stumbled forward with his arms held out before him like a zombie. The packed stadium was buzzing with disquiet. The spectators were beginning to suspect the thick, pink smoke wasn't actually part of the egg-throwing event.
As the sound intensified, Mote's feet began moving faster. If the crowd decided to panic, he could be trampled in the stampede. And if he got trampled, who was going to find his dad and Deb? He'd been waiting all his life for a chance to be a hero. There was no way he was going to miss it now it was here.
But first he had to find the exit.
When he glimpsed a row of shadowy silhouettes through the swirling smoke, Mote smiled. Despite the explosions and drama, the line of security guards had maintained their position along the bottom of the stands, preventing the crowd from spilling onto the field.
Dad's recruited an awesome security team, Mote thought proudly as he veered towards them. Being a hero was going to be a lot easier with a crack team of professionals beside him.
"Hey, guard! Over here!" he yelled as he neared the first guard.
The guard remained motionless with his back towards Mote.
"Hey!"Mote yelled louder. It wasn't that noisy in the stadium. There was no way the guard hadn't heard him. When the guard still didn't turn, Mote grabbed the sleeve of the guard's coat and yanked it roughly. "Hey! My dad and sister are in trouble! You have to come and ..."
The guard's arm pulled loose with a weird rustling sound.
For a wild-eyed, frozen moment, Mote stared in horror at the uniformed limb dangling from his left hand. Then his instincts kicked in. His hand shot skyward, sending the guard's arm looping through the air. Mote's mouth opened wide as he backed away. But his scream shattered into a series of retching coughs as his lungs filled with pink smoke.
"COUGH! SPLUTTER! COUGH!"
The arm made a graceful arc then thumped into the top of the guard's head.
Mote groaned. The guard was going to be really angry now. As if rippng his arm off wasn't bad enough, Mote had to go and whack him in the head with his own dismembered limb.
But the guard didn't turn. Or even make a sound. He wobbled slightly forward, then silently toppled sideways. His head smacked against the neighbouring guard ... then broke loose. As the first guard's head rolled away across the artificial grass, the next guard toppled sideways, setting off a chain reaction.
Mote watched the line of guards falling like dominoes. The crowd, thinking it was part of the show, started a mexican wave. Loud cheers resounded around the stadium and the sky rained confetti as Mote inched towards the fallen guard. He took a deep breath to steel himself. He didn't like blood. And one thing he knew for certain - if someone lost an arm and a head, there would be masses and masses of blood.
With his face set in a grimace, Mote carefully turned the guard over.
Mote shook his head, blinking furiously all the while. There was no blood soaking the guard's uniform. No veins and sinew hanging from the gaping wound where his arm used to be. No severed muscles and spinal cords sticking out between the collar of his shirt. There was just ... straw.
Mote gasped. In a way, it was the last thing he expected. But it all made sense, too, in a nonsensical, not-quite-real, weird story kinda way. No wonder they were able to evade security all the time. There was never any real security. Just an army of scarecrow deterrents.
But that meant ...
"Hey, Mote! Over here!"
Mote jerked round.
"Deb!" he yelled, rushing towards his sister. He was surprised, and a little embarrassed, by how relieved he was to see her. If he'd been just a teensy bit more relieved, he might have even hugged her. "The security guards ... they're all scarecrows! That's why ..."
"Shhhhhhh!" Deb scolded as Mote halted beside her. "You don't have to tell the whole world, do you?"
"I wasn't," said Mote, feeling offended. "I was just telling you and ..." He halted with a frown. "Hey, how come you're not surprised?"
Deb rolled her eyes. "There's one sitting outside the exit. When I followed Dad I expected the guard would try and stop me. But he didn't. So on my way back here I checked him out. He's just a dummy in uniform."
"Sounds like Inspector Barker," muttered Mote, trying to disguise his disappointment. He'd been looking forward to making his shocking revelation in front of the assembled suspects. Just like in one of those old crime movies.
"You can mope later, Mote," said Deb, shaking her head. "Right now Dad needs our help. Come on!"
They sprinted out the emergency exit and raced across the stadium carpark.
"Where ... are ... we ... going?" puffed Mote
"Shhhhhhh!" hissed Deb. "We're almost there!"
Mote's head spun one way, then the other, trying to get his bearings. The main gate was off to his right, beneath the giant iceberg that was the Titanic Games' (slightly ironic) symbol. In the distance off to his left was the giant frosted tower of the Blindfolded Cake-Decorating venue. So that meant they were heading ... where, exactly?
"The security command centre!" Mote gasped as Deb started climbing the narrow fire-escape winding around the outside of the main stadium. "Of course!"
"Shhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!" Deb hissed again. "Do you want to get us all killed?"
"Sorry," gulped Mote. He hadn't thought about them getting killed. But whoever was trying to disrupt the Games wouldn't hesitate to kill two pesky kids, would they?
Deb finally paused outside the fire exit door and waited for Mote to catch up.
"Ready?" she whispered.
Deb held her breath and eased the door open. Muffled voices drifted through the narrow crack.
"I know the company was called 'Scarecrow Security', but how was I supposed to know they were going to use actual scarecrows?"
They recognised their dad's voice right away. He sounded scared.
But the second voice was too faint to offer any clues. They couldn't even understand the words.
"Of course I wouldn't have sacked your company if I'd known," said Mendelssohn Finnegan. "But they put in the cheapest tender and I've got a budget to worry about."
"What now, Deb?" whispered Mote.
Deb's answer was drowned out by an evil chuckle coming from right behind them.
"Eavesdropping is very rude you know," said a familiar voice. "Why don't we all just go in and join the conversation?"
It was impossible to argue with that. Especially when the words were punctuated with the sound of a cocking pistol.
So one week left. Time to tie up some of those loose ends and finish with something memorable. Will there be a twist or a shocking revelation? I can't wait to read the final entries. Good luck!
You can read the winning child's chapter and the judge's report on the Winning Writing Page.