2nd Prize Winner - Ages 15-18 years

December 2023


Judges’ comments:  An original and powerful concept, tackling many relevant issues and focusing on the motivations and methods of leaders and decision makers.


Our Displaced Planet

by E. Wilson

“Order!” pig screamed, banging his meaty hand on the long table situated in front of him. “Order in the court!”

“Don’t you tell us what to do,” donkey grumbled from across the terrain, his arms folded and his nose round. “I say no.”

The men continued to argue, yelling over one another, insulting each other with their harshest comments. They each desired to be the biggest, the smartest, the most powerful.

Except for her.

She was the only woman on the board, surveying the men, her orange hair in contrast with the blue trees and vermillion leaves. They encircled the court, vines snagging one another, creating archways. Black bushes clumped around the trees, glowing from the stars in the sky. A lone bioluminescent alga hung over the court, lighting the rich purple planet. The floor glittered with the bioluminescent algae, a makeshift dancefloor for the swift athletes.

She shifted her head and stared above, towards the eternal midnight sky, where stars danced and sung from the darkness. They shone brightly, outperforming one another; they were competitive, these stars.

Finally, the court calmed down. The only sound came from cheetah and hyena, their dark eyes on pig across the court, muttering to one another.

Pig stood up, glaring at the surrounding men. His small eyes skipped over her completely; it was as though she didn’t exist.

“Well, now that all that is over,” he spoke over accentuated, his large jaw able to enunciate each individual sound. “We must discuss the matter at hand; our new home.”

Of course, this really was an urgent matter. Humans had betrayed planet earth, and it had turned against mankind, with intense bushfires and floods that threatened communities. Thunderstorms threatened societies worldwide, and diseases were abundant, each killing millions of people. Finally, earth had threatened to do what it said it would when humans first sinned; turn against its people.

So, to relocate, earth found these planets. And society moved.

“Now that we are here, we each must decide how each planet contributes to society, so our community is even stronger than before,” pig said.

“It is not your society,” snake hissed, his tongue long and face shallow. He was seated to the left court of pig.

“But who’s the leader?” pig asked primly. He cleared his throat and continued as if there was no interruption. “As I was saying, each planet needs a name. My court propose Unley,” he gestured behind him towards fox, platypus, and chameleon. “We have city remains. We will be the planet where the city is held. So, all your jobs and many homes can be here.” He gestured towards the right of him, and kookaburra stood up. His eyes twitched and his hands fidgeted with his tie.

“Our planet is filled with water, with lakes and oceans and stuff everywhere,” kookaburra spoke frantically, his eyes darting around the court, soaking it all in. “We’ve named it Murray because we’ll be the water resources. But hyena believes that water is a privilege, not a necessity. So, we’re not going to share with everyone. We’ll deem everyone as either worthy or not.” He sat back and his court of magpie, cheetah, and hyena clapped and cheered, their expressions smug.

“Alright then,” pig huffed. He pointed across the court. “You. You’re turn.”

Sloth stood sluggishly, blankly observing the court.

“Our planet is called Greenwith,” his voice was ancient; his skin wrinkled; his eyes murky and sunken. “We have trees. And flowers. And bushes. And it’s very green. Hence the name.” Sloth sat slowly, reclining in his trees. The court blinked, rubbing sleep from their eyes.

“Why is it ‘Greenwith?’” Pig squinted his eyes. “That’s an odd name.”

“It’s a good name!” Sloth snapped. For someone so old, he responded rapidly. “We are not changing the name. We chose it, and it’s staying.” He folded his arms and glared at pig.

“Fine,” pig muttered. He sighed and rubbed his nose with his fingers. He gestured to his left without looking up. “Go.”

Lion stood up and stared smugly around at the people. “Firstly, I would like to say thank you, pig, for your amazing speech. It was so insightful, and I just love how you’ve taken charge.” His voice oozed with sarcasm, and a smirk covered his face. His eyes were a challenge for pig to defy him. “We have called our planet Elizabeth after our lovely queen.”

Lion paused for dramatic effect.

Pig looked at him. “And?”

“Oh. Yes. Our contribution to society. Well, we have, uh, nothing,” lion muttered and glared down at the ground.

Silence descended upon the court before laughter erupted from the men’s mouths. Lion’s glare deepened and he stalked back to his seat before sitting, folding his arms, and slumped in his seat. The men continued laughing, slapping the table and each other alike. Yet chameleon was not laughing. She was scribbling furiously in her notebook, occasionally watching the person next to her. She left the men to their amusement.

The men had calmed down enough to continue speaking. Pig stood up once more and cleared his throat. “Now, this planet needs a name.”

“Yes, it does, and is holds the necessities to survival,” fox interrupted, speaking rapidly over pig. “It has food and water and cities and oxygen and -,” fox stopped speaking as pig pushed him to the side, standing in front of him, his glare prominent.

“Yes, yes, yes, those are all fantastic attributes,” pig said. “But we really need a name. That way, we can respect this planet, and not kill it like we did to our previous home.”

The men began muttering and whispering amongst one another; the one who named the planet had power over it.

Chameleon cleared her throat, standing up. “Throughout the court case, I have taken some notes and I believe I have a name to honour this planet that can be simply memorised. I believe this planet should be named China.”

No one listened; they continued speaking. Only platypus was watching chameleon with squinted eyes. He smirked and stood up, casting her in shadows. She sat back down, watching him with an unreadable expression plastered on her face.

“Well, everyone, I have come up with the best name possible,” everyone stopped speaking and cast glares in his direction. Power to Unley would bring devastation. “We should call it China.”

The boards glanced at one another, but platypus wasn’t done speaking. “Think about it. It holds everything that we could need. We will import and export necessities between the planets. It’s a perfect name.”

Pig stood next to platypus and clapped him on the shoulder. “My man, the name is perfect! Unley will reign over all the others, seeing as how we have the most advanced civilisation.”

“You!” Snake roared and stood up, slamming his hands on the table before him. “Who made your planet the ruler over all of ours? We would be the better candidate for ruler.” Elizabeth’s board jeered and shouted at one another. Murray’s board joined in the fray and started yelling that none of the other planets would be receiving any water from them. Greenwith’s board sat and watched; all they cared about was holding onto their own opinions; they never cared. “Your suggestion isn’t even good,” snake hissed; his lanky body filled the space, and his head brushed the scarlet leaves dangling from the tree. “His suggestion isn’t even original. We already had a country named China back on earth.”

Fury built in your stomach, starting bitter, an acid that crawled through your body, higher and higher, until it reached your head. From there, the anger began to cloud your judgement. You stood subconsciously, jabbing your finger in the direction of the court.

“Of course, the idea isn’t original. It wasn’t from him!” you scream so loudly your throat burns. “It was an idea from her, the only women on your court. Don’t you hear her?” Your chest heaved with the effort of yelling, yet it made no effort; nobody listened; the men carried on as they had previously.

You sat with a heavy heart. No one would fight for her.

Not even her.

She has been deemed second rate by the enhanced individualism and arrogance these men carry themselves with. Only she can prove to herself that she’s enough.

Enough, so someone would fight for her.

Enough, so she would fight for herself.

Finally, the men stopped yelling and jeering. They settled down again. They sat and waited, glaring and fidgeting.

Politics was like this.

Pig stood up, patiently waiting until silence descended upon the court. He smiled a sickly smirk around the court and began his speech. “Thank you snake for your insight. I am so delighted that you brought up why Unley should be the ruler over the planets. And, more importantly, why we demand leadership over China too.” He paused and the boards muttered to one another, shifting their weight in apprehension.

“As we all know, the environment threatened us for many years. We hunted it; it plagued us with diseases. We polluted its waters; it polluted our hearts. The atmosphere became obfuscate; it responded by warming our planet.

“But why would the environment do this? Why seek retaliation against us?

“Well, the answer to that is quite simple: we hurt the environment first. All we had to do was care for it, and it would care for us. Yet we ruined all of this. We ruined our home out of the selfish desires of our hearts. How could we be so egocentric?” pig sighed, his mouth curving to be a leer.

“Yet the cities remained. We tried our best, but all your areas felt the struggles. They fell, they burnt, they suffered. And you turned your backs on the environment when it needed you most.” He pulled himself upright and closed his eyes, thinking how best to answer. He opened his eyes, his gaze latched on Greenwith’s board.

“You have trees. You have greenery. An abundance of flowers, bushes, animals. You have life. And it rests in your hands.

“But you ruined it once. Who’s to say it won’t be ruined again?”

“We never ruined anything,” cat hissed, his small hands pointing at pig. “We never tried to hurt the planet. We are not the problem here. It’s you manipulating us into believing we are the problem.”

“Yes, yes, whatever you say,” pig dismissed him with a wave of his hand. “Yet I don’t believe this. We’ve witnessed your stubbornness, however we’re yet to see your heart.” Cat glared at him, his eyes piercing yellow, glowing in the moonlight.

“Murray,” pig turned his attention abruptly towards the board to his right. “You have so much water. Lakes and rivers, oceans and streams. What will you do with it all?

“Obviously I can trust you with distribution. I know that people on our planets will receive the water that is necessary for them. But how can I trust you with the pollution that I know will contaminate the waters as it once has? You used to discard your rubbish; you had no heart for the animals below sea level,” pig heaved a dramatic sigh and shook his head slowly. “I just don’t know how I’ll ever trust you again.

“Oh no, you can trust us,” cheetah spat ferociously. “We’ll ensure that Murray remains clean, and our distribution will be oh so fair.” Magpie glanced around to where you were sitting and smirked lightly. Dread curled in your stomach; you knew that you would never receive water.

He heard what you said.

And he would remember.

“Fine,” pig was apathetic and changed course, deciding to drill the last board. “Elizabeth, my least favourite planet. What is there even to say? Your planet has nothing. Dare I say it, but have you already ruined your planet? Elizabeth will gain quite a bad rep you know.” Pig clicked his tongue against his mouth, shaking his head, waiting for Elizabeth to snap.

Vulture took the bait. He had remained silent throughout the court, yet now he erupted. “We have done nothing of the sort! It must have been you has damaged our planet. There was only one planet left, besides this one, and this had already been claimed as ‘headquarters,’” vulture put this in quotations. Clearly, he deemed this planet second-rate if Unley had control over it. “So, we could not have done anything! It surely must have been any of these civilians. After all, they left before us. They’ve always had it out for us politicians. Why don’t you start with them?”

“Careful, don’t get too ahead of yourself,” pig chuckled. “The people will think you don’t like them. We can’t have that for a leader, can we?”

Vulture glared at pig, but we was smart enough to remain silent.

“So, now that we’ve concluded that Unley is the best planet,” he looked back and shot a wicked smile to his board. Fox and platypus nudged one another and smirked. Chameleon was disregarded. “The court of Unley will take care of China. We will distribute necessities and resources to all the planets. You can trust in us that we will lead with justice,” pig stared at Murray, his mouth a stretch of teeth. “We will never be stubborn,” pig stared at Greenwith where the board yawned; cat was asleep on the table. “And finally, we will rule with kindness,” lion snarled at pig and snake hissed.

“But most important of all, we strive to lead you all with nothing but the goodness of our hearts. Our aim is not to hurt or harm; we wish to help our community. Surely you all believe us?”

No one dared say a word. It was so still one might have assumed that the air itself had stopped. There was no movement from any of the people; there was no breathe from anyone in the court. Even you observers remained still, too afraid to break the spell, afraid that pig would snap and ruin his perfectly curated lie.

Pig smiled, trying to be kind, but a shadow crept over the side of his face. It curved and hugged his teeth; it was the shadow of a monster. “And on that note, you are dismissed.” He turned and sat back, chatting cheerfully with fox and platypus.

The people around you stood and began to chat animatedly, grabbing handbags from beneath seats and clutching scarves. It was quite cold on the planets. People filed out of their rows one by one, some socialising, others scampering.

You remained seated, observing the politicians at work. They talked, they laughed, they glared; it was just a normal day for them.

But for you, it was the beginning of a nightmare. One that you knew would leave you frightened for days, weeks, months at a time. A living nightmare that drained the joy and peace from all those who dared glance at it. A nightmare where the weak drowned in fear, and the strongest could only remain so when day broke in at last.

You realised you have been staring into space for a few moments. You glanced at the boards, yet chameleon had long since departed, her chair an empty easel. She blended in too well; you wouldn’t even realise she was there unless you looked.

You stood to leave, but movement behind you had you frozen in your position. You turned, and there chameleon stood, staring at you.

“Hello,” you said. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Thank you,” she whispered quietly.

You shrugged. “You need recognition. I can’t give you that. Neither can you.”

You and chameleon stood in silence for some time before she walked off, and you hurried to catch her.

“Hang on, wait!” You catch her arm, and she spun around.

“What?” she snapped lightly, clutching her arm where you had grabbed her.

“What – what’s your name?” You stammered. It had seemed like a good plan a few moments ago.

Chameleon remained silent. You turned around, thinking she wouldn’t answer, but she softly responded. “I’m whoever you think deserves a better life.”

You stopped in your tracks and turned, but she was already gone. All you saw of her was her tangerine hair escaping between the trees.

Suddenly, rage flooded your system. It was so tight you could hardly breathe. How dare these men steal her heart? No, actually; men is too kind. How dare those animals think of themselves as better than her.


That is an adequate word for those people.

You walked off, pushing past the groups of people who walked too slowly.

You walked off, placing as much distance between you and those animals as possible.

You walked off, because the further away you walk, the more you can pretend that all of that didn’t happen.

You walked off, because now your memory is becoming hazy; did everything really happen?

You walked off, already picturing the next meal you’ll eat; what should it be?

You walked off, because that’s what always happens, doesn’t it?

You walked off, but your pace is slower now; the steps are harder to take.

You walked off, but now you pause, because now you’re aware that once you leave this, you’ll become like everyone else; an observer in a world that demands participants. You’re already only a watcher to that court case. You observed inequity and corruption of leaders, and nothing changed.

And all you did was sat and listened.

Yes, you stood up for her, but that’s one issue. One person. Only one you.

And now you’ll walk off, and never give any of this a second thought. You’ll push it to the back of your mind.

Ignorance can be bliss.

This will be disregarded. All of it. Because you’re not the one who started these issues. Someone else did. It’s someone else’s problem.

But hey. Maybe I’m just manipulating you.