THE OPENING CEREMONY
By Brian Falkner
By Brian Falkner
Mozart Finnegan (‘Mote’ to his friends) stood with his nose against the window, unable to tear his eyes from the spectacle below, despite repeated complaints from his sister that he was smearing the glass, and blocking her view.
“What if it breaks,” Debussy Finnegan said, when none of those things had any effect on her brother, “And you fall out!”
“Cool!” Mozart cried, imagining himself falling ten or fifteen metres to the tiered seating below, then crowd surfing down to the stadium floor, where the performers were finishing the last act of the opening ceremony.
“Better sit down,” their father said.
Mozart pressed himself against the glass even harder, just one last time, as if he could push himself through it and somehow be a part of what was going on below him, instead of watching it at a distance from this luxurious, glass walled prison high up on the grandstands. Then he reluctantly crept back into his seat.
It wasn’t always in his nature to do what he was told, but there were ‘important people’ in the room and several of them were watching him, which made him a little uncomfortable.
Inspector Doug Barker was from Interpol, the international police organisation. He was a tall, grey-haired man with sleepy looking eyes that always seemed to be watching you when you weren’t expecting it.
Captain Kate Pejalmer was from the SAS, New Zealand’s elite army regiment. She looked wiry and tough, and filled with energy like a coiled spring waiting to be released.
By contrast Mr Le Zard (he didn’t seem to have a first name) from the SIS, the Security Intelligence Service, was about as different from Captain Pejalmer as you could get. He was a rather plump gentleman with small reptilian eyes, whose every movement was slow and languorous as if he would rather not waste any energy that he didn’t have to. He reminded Mote of a Tuatara sunning itself on a rock.
Then there was Miss Priscilla Byrd, in her sixties, the security chief of the Titanic Games International Federation (TGIF). She had a long nose, and bright, bird-like eyes, and did things in tiny darting movements that were so appropriate for her name that Mote wondered if she’d changed it to suit.
Along with their father, Mendelssohn Finnegan, the head of the NZ Titanic Games Committee, these people made up the highest level of the security team for this year’s Titanic Games, the biggest sporting event in history.
And everything was going perfectly.
The opening ceremony had been a triumph. It was the first time New Zealand had ever hosted the Titanics, and this small nation had wanted to show the world that despite having a budget just a fraction of that spent by the North Koreans the previous year, they could still put on a spectacle that would wow the billions of television viewers around the world.
And they had.
From the start, where an incredible display of multi-coloured fireworks had painted a representation of the aurora australis, the southern lights, across the night sky; to the amazing synchronised skydiving sheep, incredibly well trained, who had joined together in mid-air to recreate the Titanic logo, it had been a wonderful, creative, emotional opening ceremony, sprinkled with flashes of irreverent kiwi humour.
Now as the performers left the arena, music from the live symphony orchestra began to swell, and the entire crowd, led on by cheerleaders in each section of the grandstands, began to sing, the anthem of the first ever New Zealand Titanic Games. The words flashed up on giant video screens around the stadium:
It’s not a bad day for it
it’s a good day for it…
The music rose and crashed around the stadium like waves breaking on the shores of a beach. The combined voices of a hundred thousand people rose with it, as it built up towards the climactic moment of the opening performance.
…wasn’t going to be
such a go…od day for it,
but it turns out to be a cracker.
Mote and Deb had sat through what seemed like a hundred rehearsals but every time, this part amazed and thrilled them. Mote could barely wait. In a moment a thousand multi-coloured balloons would float up out of strategically placed tubes. Ten metres off the ground they would all burst, each releasing fifty smaller balloons, which would burst in turn ten metres higher, each releasing a hundred tiny ‘pixel balloons’ that would somehow form a photograph in the sky: a photo of the planet earth, encircled by the motto of the Titanic Games: In Sport We Are One
“Congratulations Finnegan,” Le Zard said. He even spoke slowly, with a minimum of effort.
“A resounding success,” Miss Byrd said, with a sideways flick of her head.
“And nothing from our ‘Phantom’,” Inspector Barker said.
That brought Mote back to reality. A copy of “the letter” was stuck to the door of the corporate box they were sitting in, a constant reminder of the threat that hung over these games. He glanced at it. It was too far away to read, except for the last line. ‘YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW’ in uneven letters cut out from newspaper headings.
“It was a bluff,” Kate Pejalmer said. “And even if it wasn’t, with all the extra security measures we have put in place, he wouldn’t have had a chance.”
“Even so,” their father said. “The games run for a week. We won’t be able to let our guard down for a second.”
“And we won’t,” Miss Byrd said.
The anthem soared, building towards the grand finish, the last line, when the balloons would be released.
The entire audience, and billions of television viewers were about to be as blown away as Mote and Deb had been, that first time in rehearsals.
After that the Titans, as the athletes were known, would start to march, not by country, but by sport, all the egg-throwers together, all the backward sprinters in one group, all the bucket-stackers, belly-floppers and speed-texters marching with their arms around each other, showing that unity through sport was more important than geographical boundaries.
“It’s so exciting,” Deb whispered.
She was right, Mote thought. Each year the Titanic Games had become more and more popular. People had tired of the other games, with the same old sports. Very few new world records were being set, and those that were, were set by tiny fractions of a second. Swimmers had started growing their fingernails longer, to give them an extra millimetre or two when reaching out for the pad at the end of a race, marathon runners shaved their heads for less wind resistance, pole-vaulters shaved their legs in case a hair should touch the bar.
The Titanic Games had changed all that with exciting new sports. Each year new stars would emerge, each year new records were being set. Each year a new crop of athletes would go home with sport’s greatest prize: a Titanium medal.
The Games were now the world’s premier sporting event.
“Here we go,” their father said.
All over the stadium floor balloons were emerging, a dizzy kaleidoscope of colour and movement. Up they drifted, up, then with a ripple of tiny explosions the balloons were gone, and fifty thousand smaller balloons took their place.
“It’s beautiful!” Deb cried, and it was, Mote thought, except for one smudgy, smeary bit on the glass right about where he had been standing earlier.
Another ripple of tiny pops and those balloons were gone, leaving clouds of the smallest of small balloons.
Higher they drifted, and slowly the picture took shape, a fuzzy blue/green circle resolving into a highly detailed photograph of the earth. As it did so, so did the words also come into focus.
“O.M.G.” Deb breathed, and her hand reached out and clutched Mote’s arm.
“W.T.F?” Kate Pejalmer said.
Mr Le Zard jumped up off his seat and flung himself against the glass, staring at the sky above the stadium.
The picture was clear. But it was not the Titanic motto that encircled the earth. Far from it.
The words were there for all to see:
‘You Reap What You Sow’.
Then all the lights in the stadium went out.
Now it's your turn to write Chapter Two. You need to include two things in chapter two. You will write about the aftermath of the blackout at the opening ceremony, and the children will begin to investigate what is happening.
You can read the winning child's chapter and the judge's report on the Winning Writing Page.