In this blog post, we are excited to celebrate Jacob O’Toole Corrigan, from Tauranga Boys College! Jacob placed 1st in the Year 11-13 category of our 2023 NZ-wide Student Writing Competition. What an incredible achievement for Jacob, whose story competed against other beautifully crafted, strong entries, but ultimately took the winning spot! We are incredibly proud of Jacob and hope to see his writing in future competitions!

You can read Jacob’s powerful story, Oh, the Humanity, and see his Stylefit grid result, just below.

Oh, the Humanity 

This piece works to explore the emotional and verbal journey of the protagonist, an alien who has become dehumanised/dealienized and put up for sale. The language used in the first paragraphs explores the cold analytical aspect of his nature, and throughout the story, we see how the vernacular changes to become warmer, with the introduction of other characters like Hope, and scenarios where he needs to show empathy towards a species that he despises.

Time. I’ve come to know this variable well. All hours of the day, grotesque faces oggle my pale wrinkly features. The water surrounding me casts yellow shadows into the room, small windows into the life I am trapped from. Bubbles trickle over my barren scalp, reminiscent of the cool wind. Strange folk pass by my prison and tap on the glass, wanting me to entertain their perverted wishes. In the expanse of time, I’ve been privy to a certain fact; ELAS ROF. The strange native tongue eludes me, despite the time I’ve been exposed to it. Little sound enters my ears, (slow buzzing) they long for the speech of my homeland. Every new sun, the smaller natives rush to my home with wide eyes, curious. I know not how long my stay has been, only that I am not welcome. The plethora of small niches this species has is not to my taste. Only one thing remains evident, I must escape.

A small one, smaller than most, arrives on a new sun. I know not the tongue he speaks, yet he squeaks just the same. Jaundice for this race has poisoned my consciousness. No longer do I look on with curiosity, instead I am a slave to their gaze. This halfling receives my full displeasure. My eyes are always analytical, searching for the many faults these peoples worship. The halfling however does not bear the marks of his people. His fellows shirk him with eyes mixed with half pity and half contempt. My shrivelled heart jumps to his aid, against my will. He does not deserve my pity. Similarities of isolationism and… oddness, pass through my eyes and into his. My eyes share pain, his share hope. 

The youngling visits me from time to time, never talking, always looking. To say the least, I have grown fond of him, although the hate for everything and everyone else remains. Sometimes I wish the bubbles stopped, sometimes I long for the cold embrace of death. However, should this come to pass it would harm the Halfling. Other nights when lights fade, and the natives that defile me disappear, I blissfully dream of escape. In my dream I fly, free of the constant gaze keeping me captive. Hope, the child. 

One sun, Hope appears in my cage. His eyes glisten, wet with something, or maybe that’s the new water so graciously provided to me on the last moon. I look into Hope’s wet eyes, scrunching my own, I stare on, sad. Hope is sad. A bubble floats past my face, briefly enlarging his features. I see swollen eyes and scars like hour hands on a clock. Dissolution commands his face, wholly. Time is forever, hope is lost… Emotions are weakness. I will Hope to become impassable, immune to the cruelty of this existence. But whenever his eyes find mine, another drop escapes his eyes. For every Hope, there is a Fear. Fear is a large elder, round in the middle and hairless at the top. He embodies the very hate I feel. Fear is a thunderous face sneering at you. Fear is a black eye branded on Hope’s face. 

Hope started bringing a chair to me and our almost daily sessions carried a note of consistency and security. One early sun, Hope did something peculiar, he spoke. ‘You speak?’ He said it so quietly that I almost mistook it for the filter. 

‘Ooo,’ I gurgle, straining to talk after what feels like ages without using my vocal cords. Hope tilts his head, contemplating the sound that I released in response to his question. As if fighting a mental opponent, I see Hope wrestling with an idea.

“I.I.I” He enunciates pointing to himself. “T.E.A.C.H… Y.O.U.”

On the last sound, Hope places his small hands on the glass. Warmth emanates from the print, slowly that warmth cocoons me. I place my hand across from his. Suns go by while I patiently learn, letters and numbers flash before my eyes brighter than any moonlight. Hope grows, not in height (he’s still a youngling) however, with each new sun, he arrives with more knowledge. Yet, he grows evermore cold and distant. Sometimes change isn’t always good, Hope brandishes more and more injuries every sun. 

Progress is slow. It’s the small algae accumulating in a corner. It’s the long stretch from one full moon to the next. 


“Very good!” Hope squeaks. 

His voice snares me back to consciousness. Suns pass, and my stretch continues. Sometimes he tells me things; he tells me of illusions of far-off places and unlit ideas of freedom. He calls it ‘Liberty’. Sun…day, Hope rides in on a wave of affliction and I can’t help but notice a dark sticky liquid escaping his fists. Tears stream down Hope’s features, doing little to wash away the sanguine blood caking his face. Manically, he pounds the glass, tinting my prison blood red. Hope continues, working himself up into a crescendo of sobs and squeaks. His fist slips off the drenched glass. No more does he cry, instead, hands shaking, he pulls out a device –one I haven’t seen before. This isn’t good. A woeful smile slowly spreads across my face as the projectile erupts from Hope’s hands. I stare at Hope, his namesake barren from the eyes I used to cherish. A bubble floats past my face. Pop.

Stylefit descriptive grid result

Category judge: Robyn Pearce