During the height of lockdown, we asked you and your kids to get creative in photography, arts & crafts, videography and written word/audio, as part of our Forces Voices competition.
All written word/audio entries were judged by Amanda Prowse, a forces wife and International Bestselling author who has had twenty-four novels and six novellas published in dozens of languages around the world.
Here is one of the over 18 entries and the story behind it. Click here to view more creative masterpieces.
Joanna Brown: Out Of The Unexpected Blue: A Tale Of Friendship
"My story began as a storyline that my son wrote a paragraph about at school.
"He shared his idea with me one evening at bedtime and I asked him if he would like me to join him in writing this as a whole story.
"We discussed his ideas together and I was really impressed with the meaning and values within his storyline.
"With the gift of more time than usual to pursue this idea, I enjoyed creating, from his imagination, a complete short story.
"When I read it to him, he was really pleased with it and very proud that his characters had come to life.
"I have always enjoyed writing, and encouraging creative writing, in the children I teach currently at Hornbill School in Brunei.
"I feel refreshed excitement to continue to engage children in writing short stories, having had the time and the opportunity to write one myself."
Out Of The Unexpected Blue: A Tale of Friendship
Once, thousands of moons ago, when knights wore shining armour and fair damsels needed rescuing, it might not surprise you to hear that there lived a dragon. It was an emerald-green dragon with evenly-spaced, shiny scales covering the length of its muscular body. Inside a cave, the walls of which were covered in slimy strands of translucent dragon-saliva, it dwelt all alone. Dragons, pre-extinction, could live for hundreds of years and, for that reason, loneliness was a very real problem. Imagine, hundreds of years of lacklustre loneliness! It was this heartbreakingly sorrowful seclusion that brought our dragon to the front of his deep, dark, comfortless cave where he lay with his bearded chin nestled mournfully on his front paws.
As he lay there, he sniffed the over-spent tears that are all that’s left after years of loneliness and breathed a flammable sigh. In the silence that followed (before the next sniff) he heard an unfamiliar sound. Unfamiliar and yet very familiar – a similarly sorrowful sniff. Not the loud, echoing sorrow-filled sniff that erupts from a lonely dragon but a much smaller sniffle-ette. It was almost inaudible to the dragon and yet he strained his cavernous ears to hear it once more. Yes, it was most definitely not his imagination. He lifted his head from his paws to scan the grassy patch in front of his cave and there, not at first entirely visible, was the source of the sound. A tiny grey mouse lay in a position mirroring the dragon’s own, his minuscule chin resting unhappily on his equally minuscule front paws.
Curiously and cautiously, the dragon opened his mouth to speak – curiously because he hadn’t actually spoken to another living creature for as long as he could remember and cautiously because he didn’t wish to burn to cinders this unexpected opportunity to communicate with his fiery breath. “Little mouse … little mouse,” he uttered, trying his best to speak softly … which, for a dragon, is not as easy as it sounds. As the mouse remained in its recumbent position, seemingly oblivious to the dragon’s attempt at conversation, he spoke again. “Hello, little mouse.” Hiccupping another sniffle-ette, the mouse lifted his little hairy head and made huge eyeball to diminutive eyeball contact with the dragon.
“H- hello,” the mouse ventured, his whiskers twitching anxiously as he took in the sight of the dragon oh so much bigger than his miniature frame.
“You cry like I cry,” the dragon spoke plainly, looking closely at the mouse who had by now stood up on his hind legs, eager to decrease the height difference between himself and the dragon … at least by a little.
“In that case,” the mouse sniffled one last time “you must feel as lonely as I. Are you … lonely?”
“Lonely? Yes. I am. I am very, very lonely. You, little mouse, are the first living creature that I have spoken to in a long, long time.” The dragon spoke gently, his head low to be able to see the mouse’s face.
“I have hundreds of brothers and sisters,” the mouse replied beginning to scuttle closer to the dragon. “It should be impossible for me to be lonely…but no one wants to be with me. No one seems to notice me. I feel invisible to them all. It makes me so sad.” The mouse’s eyes welled up with tears once again. Seeing another creature look so very sad and knowing how bad he felt himself, gave the dragon a sudden surge of courage.
“Perhaps … ” he thought to himself, “perhaps you and I, little mouse, should take a journey together to find some friends. We could help each other with a problem that we both have,” the dragon urged, suddenly feeling an energy and a sense of excitement that he had forgotten existed. The mouse was wide-eyed.
“You and I, together? You would do that for me?” he questioned, disbelieving.
“For you … and for me!” the dragon nodded. “We can be adventurers together.”
And so, the unexpected and, to be honest, rather mismatched duo set out to find themselves some friends to cure their loneliness. The mouse sat amongst the fluff of hair on the crest of the dragon’s ample head and they set off along the highways and byways of their medieval land.
The first living creature they happened upon was sitting on a lily pad in the middle of a pond. It was a bulbous toad, rhythmically puffing out its cheeks. The dragon and the mouse looked at each other. Perhaps, this creature could be the answer to their loneliness. Unpractised in the art of making a new friendship, the dragon spoke first.
“Please, kind sir, excuse me. We, the mouse and I, that is to say, are looking for a friend. Would you be a friend to us … either of us or both?” This carefully crafted question was met with a silence that did not fill either the dragon or the mouse with confidence.
“Croak! A friend to either of you? How would that work exactly? I live in this pond and you on the land. You breathe fiery breath that would toast me to a toady crisp in seconds, whilst you … ” he directed his gaze to the mouse, “are far too small to waste my time with.” With that, he turned from the pair and dived off the lily pad and into the weed-entrenched pond.
“Oh dear!” quivered the mouse. “Oh dear! I’m not so sure that this adventure will end as we hope.”
“It’s early days, my fellow traveller. Let’s continue onward.” The dragon unfurled his wings and they flew from the pond to another part of that kingdom.
Flying further on, across fields, villages and hillocks, the pair happened upon a field of cows and into that field they descended in hope. It was the mouse that took the lead in opening the conversation this time.
“Excuse me!” he ventured, breathing deep to project his teeny-tiny voice to a volume that might be heard by the many twitching ears of the cows towering above him. “Excuse me, ladies. My fellow traveller, the dragon, and I are searching these lands to find friendship. If you would like to be our friends, then we would very much like to be yours.” Phew! This long speech at his loudest volume had taken a lot of energy and the mouse leaned back into the comforting leg of the dragon to catch his breath once more. At first, it appeared as though the effort had been in vain, as the group of cows nearby peeled off and, one-by-one, began to walk across the field. One cow remained and looked directly at the minute mouse.
“Moooo … a friend to you, small fellow? One wrongly placed hoof and you’d be squashed flat. A field full of cows is no place for a mouse, I’m afraid.” She, unlike the toad, spoke kindly and with a tone of regret. “… and the dragon? With him in the field, there just isn’t room for us. His wide wingspan sends shadows across our grass and blocks the sunlight that makes it so juicy for us. I’m sorry, but we are not the friends for you.” The dragon gulped and blinked back a large tear that was welling in the corner of his eye.
“Thank you for your reasons,” he spoke bravely, “we will continue on our quest. Come my constant companion. Let us resume our exploration.” With that, the mouse clambered up the dragon’s leg and nestled his weary body into the soft hair between his ears once more.
Into the wide, cloud-mottled sky, the dragon flapped until they soared on the breeze. After some time, they saw a solitary traveller on the road below. Their descent was steady and as silent as they could manage so as not to surprise their potential new friend. Landing some metres ahead of him, they prepared themselves for their third attempt at striking up a friendship. Approaching them with some caution, the traveller, an elderly man with grey wisps of hair beside his ears, put down the long stick he carried which held a bundle at one end, presumably his possessions. The dragon bowed his gargantuan head in greeting before raising it to look into the eyes of the man.
“With our great respect, we are companions travelling together to seek friendship to assuage our lonely souls. We’ve met a toad and a herd of cows, neither of whom felt able to help us. Would our friendship be accepted by you?” The dragon and the mouse both looked on, wide-eyed and ears at the ready for his response.
“Well, well, well. What a journey you’ve taken!” Old age had not stopped the man’s eyes from twinkling with merriment and his whole body seemed to jostle with mirth and happiness. “It is a great honour to be asked by such a magnificent dragon” (at this the dragon seemed to grow an extra few inches with pride) “and such a mightily courageous mouse to be a friend.” He smiled brightly to himself as he settled to sit on a comfortably-flattened rock on the roadside. “Friendship. Company. Someone to share life with. What greater privilege than these? I would think that a friendship with you would bring great adventure with it. I am an old man and I have lived many years and seen many friendships. Some strong and lasting, others weak and fragile.” By now, lulled by the man’s melodic tone and his welcoming rapport, the dragon and the mouse had edged close to him, leaning in to hear his every word.
“Neither of us has experienced friendship, you see,” the mouse explained, his voice melancholy.
“We found each other so lonely, so sad and so lost,” continued the dragon, eager for the man to understand their unfortunate predicament.
“Tell me,” the ageing gentleman urged, “since finding each other so sad and lonely, is anything different? Has anything changed?” Thinking carefully, the mouse spoke up.
“Since I met this dragon, I have started to have someone that isn’t me to speak to.”
Nodding in agreement, the dragon breathed, “It’s true. We have talked to each other a lot – making plans, choosing directions … We have had many things to discuss on our journey … and,” he was gaining energy and pace with every word, “it has been so different to my long years of silence.”
“Anything else different?” the old man prompted them to think some more.
Raising his hand to share his thoughts, the mouse excitedly squeaked his response, “I have been noticed, properly, for the first time in my life. This dragon has taken good care of me and has always been thinking about how to keep me safe on our journey.”
“Yes! I have had someone else to think about … not just me and my own loneliness, it’s true.” The dragon agreed wholeheartedly with the mouse.
“I wonder,” the wise and thoughtful old man said as he creaked his elderly bones back into an almost upright position, “I wonder whether you’ve already found what you’re looking for.” With that, he picked up his bundle, heaved it up onto his somewhat sagging shoulder and, whistling a merry tune, continued along the road, not stopping to look back … not even once.
The mouse looked at the dragon and the dragon looked at the mouse, a new light in both their eyes and an understanding of what they had, unknowingly, created between them.
“Climb onto my head, my friend,” the dragon smiled, “we have much adventuring ahead of us … together.”
Up, up they soared into the wide, blue sky … many moons of faithful friendship awaiting them.
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