Aiya Zamurrud 1st prize 14-16 year old category

12 YEARS AGO  

Thunderous music echoed down the street like an infectious disease. I was grateful to be warm and snug on my sofa, cuddling up to grandma and watching TV. Mum and dad were out; mum at work and dad with his friends. Because of me, they are usually at home, so I’m glad they are out the house rather than giving me, in my opinion, unnecessary attention. “Grandma, what’s a lost key?” I say without warning. It had been on my mind for a while now. Grandma looked mildly confused. “A lost key?” I smiled up at her, knowing she was pretending not to know. “I heard you talking about it.” Grandma’s confusion was replaced with a warm grin. I was scared she was going to tell me off for listening to her conversations, but she didn’t. “Everyone has a lost key, Ziv. But not everyone uses it.” she smiled and winked.

Present

PRESENT I opened my eyes a crack to see what was going on. There was buzzing and noise and movement all around me, with bright lights trying to blind me. At once I knew where I was. Australian Fox Hospital. I must’ve been in a hospital bed since I wasn’t being pushed about on one of those emergency beds with wheels, going back and forth corridors and in and out rooms. There was an annoying beeping noise somewhere to my right, and the second I heard my mums voice my eyes flew open. She and dad were talking in urgent whispers to Dr Zooke, at the far end of my bed, which seems to be a weekly thing nowadays. Something must have happened to me last night when I was sleeping, again. As a patient, it gets a bit boring having the same thing happen to you over and over when you know you’re going to die. Obviously, everyone is going to die, but my death is most certainly going to be within the next year, as the doctors keep saying on my weekly trip to the hospital. “I know, Mrs Lawfer, it must be really hard to have a child who is terminal. I can’t begin to imagine. But please believe me when I say we are doing all we can.” Dr Zooke hands my mum a tissue, bows his head and leaves. My parents walk towards me, when I remember my eyes are open and I’m not pretending to be asleep. When I do pretend, I hear mum and dad stressing constantly about me, which breaks my heart and makes me cry for hours into my pillow. “Ziv, you ok?” Mum asks, squeezing my hand. “I’m fine. What happened to me this time?” Mum and dad exchanged anxious glances. I sighed. “It’s my illness, but you don’t tell me what’s going on. I’ll have a heart attack next and you’ll still pretend nothing’s happened.” Mum gave me a hard glare. “Don’t you say that. Ever.” Then she looked away, probably hiding her tears. Dad turned to me. “Son,” his voice was gruff. Clearly, he’d been up all night worrying about me as always. “You alright?” “Fine, dad. Are you okay?” “Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. Erm, I wanted to ask, it sounds crazy, but, have you heard of the lost key?” My mind raced. I vaguely remember grandma telling me about it. She had said everyone has one, but not everyone uses it. “Yeah,” I say slowly, “I have. Grandma told me about it once. Years ago. Why d’you ask?” “Use it.” “What? How am I supposed to use a lost key? Do I have to find it or something? What even is it?” But dad had turned away to comfort a sobbing mum. 

3 weeks later

My disease was getting worse. Barely anyone had any sleep, and most nights I didn’t either. The medication has made me really sick; sometimes I wonder if I’ll die sooner because of it. Mum doesn’t stop crying, that could also be a reason why my disease is getting more and more terrible by the day. Dad is just about keeping himself together; I can so plainly see how hard he is trying to look strong and not burst into tears for hours like mum. The hospital trips are currently 5 days a week, which I see no point in as I might as well live there now. I believe Dr Zooke when he says they are doing all they can, but reality is (and everyone knows it) that I am going to reach my demise soon. All the while, the lost key mystery is getting bigger. I sit in bed (when I’m not vomiting) thinking about it continuously, trying to crack the code. “Everyone has a lost key, Ziv. But not everyone uses it.” Grandma’s words circulate in my head on repeat, almost like they want to escape. If only grandma was still here to explain it.      
“Dad,” I say one night. We’re in the hospital, waiting to see Dr Zooke. “Can you tell me more about the lost key?” Dad clears his throat, “Everyone has a lost key, Ziv. But not – “ “Everyone uses it,” I finish, “Grandma said that bit. That’s all she said. What else? D’you have to earn it? When did you get yours, dad?” Dad merely chuckled. “You don’t earn it, son. You use it to unlock something. Something you should use to inspire you. Something you should use more often now that you’re in hos- “ He broke off. He couldn’t even bring himself to say hospital. He cleared his throat again. “Let’s just say, something extremely powerful.” “How on earth do I get this key, dad?” “Ziv, this key takes you to a world only you can possess, control and access.” “But I thought everyone has this key?” “Different key, different lock, different destination.” I shake my head. “Dad, this isn’t making any sense.” “It will only make sense when you know what to use the key for.” “But why can’t you tell me?” “Because you have to figure it out.” “But why?” “Because, son, you’ll never forget the moment you figure it out. It will encourage you to use the key more this way.” “Dad- “ “Good evening, Dr Zooke.” I was more confused than I was before.   

2 weeks later

The doctors are saying I only have a twenty percent chance of surviving the next two months. I couldn’t even hold in my tears then. I was frightened, and most of all ashamed. My parents had been worrying about me since I was five, twelve years ago, when I had been diagnosed. Ever since then I have done nothing but ruin and destroy their lives. “Mum,” I sobbed heartily, “dad, I’m so sorry for ruining your lives. All I’ve done is cause trouble – “ “Ziv. Don’t you ever say that again. How could you possibly accuse yourself for getting a terminal illness? No one would ask for this. And you have most definitely not ruined our lives. We’re just so grateful that you made it this far. Twelve years, Ziv. Don’t you ever feel ashamed.” I buried myself into my mum, soaking her up. My tears cascaded like a waterfall. It had never felt as real as this. Probably not even to mum and dad. I continued to think about the lost key, even when I got ready for another surgery. They had been non-stop for the past few weeks. But, honestly, everyone knows there’s no point bothering. I’m probably going to die next week anyway. Dad’s words replaced grandmas inside my head as they went round and round like a merry-go-round. “Something you use to inspire you … Let’s just say something extremely powerful … Different key, different lock, different destination.” Dad tried to help me solve this mystery, but all he did was bewilder me further. “Ziv?” Mum asks timidly. She sounded very far away. “we’re here for you. Remember, we love you.” Then she and dad walked out the door, both crying their hearts out into each other and their tissues. I took a deep breath, forgot about the lost key and closed my eyes.   

1 week later

My body was shutting down. I could really feel it. The agonizing pain wouldn’t leave me day or night, asleep or awake. Mum and dad had accepted the fact that I was almost gone from their lives, and seemed to be, rather than crying, enjoying and absorbing every last moment they shared with me. I still feel like I’m not any closer to solving the lost key puzzle. But, as I was wheeled into the surgery room, I had a strange realization. The lost key couldn’t be an actual, physical key. If everyone has one, and I have one, it must mean it unlocks something we all have as well, right? “Son,” Dad says as he approaches my bed, “you’ll be alright. I love you.” He leans down and wraps his arms around my neck for a few seconds. He was clearly holding in his tears, but I think I was too.  I hugged him back. “Ziv,” Mum says with fear and defiance, “promise me, whatever happens, you use you lost key.” “Wait. You know about it too?” “Of course I do, darling. Use it to unleash your amazing, one-of-a-kind superpower.” “Mum, it’s not a physical key, is it?” She smiled and stroked my cheek. “You’re halfway there now. I love you.” She hugs me too, then she puts her arm around dad’s waist and together they leave the room. “Alright, Ziv,” Dr Zooke says with sadness, “it’s time for surgery.” “Dr Zooke?” “Yes?” “Have you used your lost key?” He smiles, just like grandma did when I discussed it with her. “Oh, many, many times. I don’t know what I’d do without it. I’ve used it so many times, I forget the key is ever there. But you still need it. it opens a portal that you can visit anytime, anywhere.” “Even me?” “Of course, Ziv.” “My dad told me I should use it more.” “You should. It would help you think more positively.” My mind swirled so much it hurt. Out of nowhere, a sharp and intense pain erupted from inside of my body. It spread, until everything became numb. It became unbearable. I wondered if I was dying, and where I would end up. Hopefully, I would see grandma again, and we could do all the fun things we did when we were alive. Maybe go to the carnival, or to the seaside … Just then I realized I had found and used my lost key. It took me to a powerful place, like dad said. A one-of-a-kind superpower, like mum said. And it opens a portal that I can visit anytime, anywhere, like Dr Zooke said. It was my imagination.

The End

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