I wasn't very proud of this one. It was long and dragging and without purpose, and I ended it abruptly because I ran out of time:
Mid Year Exam 2008
Cassandra Von Tempest looked up into the ashen sky, blanketed with sheets of grey cumulonimbus clouds. Thunder rolled. It was beginning to rain in Hazelnut Avenue.
The tall, raven haired girl picked up her bags in a rush and scrambled to the doorstep of the dilapidated house.
“Hello?” Cassandra called out, hoping to hear a response.
“Hello?” She looked around.
“Hello? Is anybody home?”
An elderly woman with snow white hair greeted her with a wrinkled smile. “Cassandra, is that you?”
The old lady chuckled. “Grandaunt, actually. Grandma’s dead. Now, it’s just you and me.”
Cassandra was a little disheartened. Was she totally alone with no other relatives other than this old woman?
“Come, I’ll show you to your room.” The old woman stretched out a beckoning hand to Cassandra. She took it cautiously."
The two of them made their way up the creaking stairs. Creak, creak. Cassandra noticed that for an old woman, Grand Aunt was still strong as her iron grip clasped firmly around Cassandra’s wrist like a handcuff.
“Here we are. You can unpack your things. I’ll be making tea in the dining room. We can have lemon meringue pie today.”
Cassandra dropped her bags to the floor. She looked around the dusty, cobweb-covered room. There was a four-poster bed in the center and a wardrobe in the corner. The drapes were discolored, but Cassandra guessed that it must have once been red in color.
Cassandra sat down on the bed. As she sat, the bed also creaked. The room felt cold and uninviting. She wondered how she could possibly get used to all of this.
Ever since her father died due to a suicide bombing in Bali, Cassandra became an orphan. When she was little, her mother was involved in a car crash. At that time, Cassandra was there as well, but luckily, she survived.
Whenever Cassandra looked at her own reflection, she would see her mother’s eyes looking right back at her. The icy blue eyes that could sometimes, send a chill down the spine.
Cassandra got up and made her way down the creaking stairs. She noticed that the old house must have been a mansion once as it was so huge and had many rooms. The Victorian wallpaper convinced her even more of the house’s old age. Grand Aunt cannot be that old, could she?
Cassandra was greeted by her Grand Aunt’s beaming smile. She sat down on a chair.
“Earl Grey, my dear.” Grand Aunt said as she poured some tea into a dainty porcelain cup.
“Thank you, Grand Aunt.” Cassandra took a sip. “Do you live here all by yourself all this while?”
“Well, yes and no.” Grand Aunt said. “I had children. Lots of them, but they all had mysteriously…disappeared.”
The puzzled Cassandra fixed the old woman a curious look.
“One moment they were there, playing in the living room, and the next, they were gone.”
“Don’t you feel scared?”
“Of course, I do. I have made police reports, but nothing can be done. People don’t just vanish into thin air. However, I still can’t get myself to leave this house.”
A queer, uncanny silence clenched the atmosphere. Cassandra shivered, but it was not because of the cold.
“This house has been passed down from the generations of the Von Tempest family. Although I was not of the Von Tempest blood, a mere outsider who married Victor Von Tempest, your grand uncle, I am the only one who has stayed. I am the only one faithfully taking care of the family heirloom. Cassandra, have you not known that you are of noble blood? One of the surviving Romanian aristocrat family members?”
This was a shocking revelation to Cassandra. Her brain digested the new information, but she still remained skeptical.
For the following weeks, Cassandra tried to adapt to her new surroundings. She was enrolled in a new school and she had made many new friends. Everything seemed to be back to normal, except for one thing. The old house still bothered her in an inexplicable way. The eccentricity of her Grand Aunt was also disturbing.
At night, as Cassandra lay in her bed, snuggled in her mothball-scented duvet, she would hear footsteps walking past her closed door. The troubling sound kept her awake. The footsteps never stop, even until four in the morning. In the end, Cassandra would simply fall asleep after being tired from keeping awake. The darkness terrified her, but there was no electricity in her room.
Every morning she woke up lethargic. Her friends would ask, but she never answered. Sometimes, if they asked about the place she lives in, she would point to the dilapidated house at the corner of the road.
“I thought that house is supposed to be deserted. Nobody lives there,” Serene said.
“I do, and my Grand Aunt does.”
“Well, nobody has seen her."
It was true that nobody in the neighbourhood had ever seen Cassandra’s Grand Aunt. It was strange, and she began to wonder if her Grand Aunt was actually a hermit or a deranged person or something. She was simply too … secretive.
When she asked her Grand Aunt about why she has never been out in the neighbourhood, her Grand Aunt simply answered, “I don’t see any reason why I should go out.”
“Don’t you feel lonely?”
“Why should I? I have everything I need here, and I have you and the house to care after.”
Cassandra thought that her Grand Aunt’s behaviour was very strange indeed. Looking around the house, there was barely anything left. No tapestries, no pictures, no portraits, no decorative ornaments. On the shelves, there were no books. In certain areas, the walls looked blackened as if it had been badly burnt.
One day, as Cassandra was exploring the house, she came across a small notebook. Its pages were yellowed, torn and frayed and there were scribbles in it.
Cassandra flipped through the pages gingerly and read the brief entry written on the 27th of July, summer 1978. It was a little girl’s handwriting, and it read:
Lucille died today. We saw the people take her out. Poor, miserable old lady. Serves her right for shooting Viktor dead in the head.
It was a sordid entry. Dark and magnanimous. Lucille? Wasn’t it her Grand Aunt’s name? Could this be a mere coincidence?
Cassandra decided to keep quiet of her finding. On another day, Cassandra found an old album in the wardrobe of her room.
There were many pictures, depicting a little girl in ponytails playing in that very room. The next few pages contained family pictures. Cassandra spotted her father who had not yet married her mother. Then, she saw Viktor, her granduncle. At his side was Lucille, her Grand Aunt.
Cassandra kept on flipping until she found a piece of paper. It was a will written in Viktor’s handwriting. However, it was badly torn and the ink had faded, so the writing was no longer legible. She felt frustrated. She was so close in uncovering Grand Aunt’s secret, the skeleton in her closet.
That night, instead of just lying down in her bed, Cassandra made her way downstairs after hearing the footsteps. Strangely, there was nobody there. Could she be hearing things?
Suddenly, she caught sight of her Grand Aunt in her white night gown. The old woman was in the kitchen. Cassandra peeped. The old woman had not noticed her.
Grand Aunt then opened the back door and stepped outside. Cassandra followed behind her, careful not to be seen by the old woman.
The old woman made her way to the backyard of the house, where the vegetable patch grew, but not a single vegetable was to be seen. The patch looked neglected. Beyond there were some bushes. The woman kept on walking and disappeared through the bushes.
Cassandra followed. Despite being badly scratched by thorns, she forced her way through. Her mouth dropped at the sight of a mausoleum. The family mausoleum.
Grand Aunt had entered the mausoleum. Cassandra entered as well. Inside, there were crypts. Each engraved with the deceased’s names upon it.
Cassandra read each of it, one by one. Camille Von Tempest, Lucinda Von Tempest, Mikeal Von Tempest, Vlad Von Tempest, Victoria Von Tempest, Matheu Von Tempest … Viktor Von Tempest and lastly, Lucille Von Tempest.
A bead of cold sweat ran down the side of her temple. She was utterly shocked. It can’t be true. Lucille was dead. Her Grand Aunt was supposed to be dead? How could it be? It must be a mistake!
Cassandra heard the sound of a woman weeping, but in the dark, she didn’t know where the sound actually came from.
Cassandra sank to her knees. She had never felt so alone in her life like this.
this one is okay, guess, but not brilliant:
Ujian Pengesanan 1 2009
His mother smiled when she heard the news. Her son, the sole breadwinner of the family will be going to space.
Shen Yao hugged his mother tightly, almost suffocating her in his embrace.
“Our hardship will be over, mum. We can have a decent home to live in, decent food to eat,” Shen Yao said.
“Joining the aerospace programme was wort every cent I’ve saved.”
“Indeed it was, son. I’m so proud of you that you have been chosen. It’s too bad your father isn’t here to witness this historical moment.”
Since then, their lives changed drastically. Shen Yao was shipped to Russia for his official training. His mother stayed back in the village and lived off the money Shen Yao sends to her every now and then.
Shen Yao expected the government to give support to his family, but unfortunately, the government had only promised to finance his training and excursion to space alone.
The moment of happiness was brief, and was followed by a sudden loneliness; loneliness in a foreign country, and loneliness without the company of a family member.
Shen Yao’s mother sighed as she worked on the laundry. Her back ached from hours of bending down, scrubbing the clothes. On a normal day, after she had finished with the day’s work, she would head to the market with the little money she had to buy some fish and then return home to cook dinner while waiting for Shen Yao to return from the city after working in the factory.
Now, she would return home and sit on her rocking chair, sewing. Despite her loneliness, she had to be strong. “When Shen Yao comes back from space, he will have some money, and we can live together again,” she thought to herself.
With that thought in mind, she kept her hopes up for her only son.
Shen Yao could now speak in Russian. Apparently, he was popular among the trainees, and he even had a Russian girlfriend named Lena.
While he laughed and joked around with his new friends, he still thought of his aging mother. How he longed to return home to taste the sweet and sour fish that his mother cooks for him everytime he gets home.
However, he was not allowed to return until he has returned from his space voyage.
“Have some beef stroganoff,” Vladimir offered.
“No, thanks,” Shen Yao declined politely.
His blond friend noticed the melancholy in his friend’s eyes. “Missing your homeland?”
“No, I’m just missing my mum.”
Vladimir placed a hand on Shen Yao’s shoulder. “Be strong, my friend. Our journey is only three months away. You have a special cushioned seat in the Sputnik VII and a nice view of planet Earth to look forward to. Look, I have something that will certainly cheer you up.”
Shen Yao’s eyes widened in excitement as Vladimir handed him a parcel. Shen Yao quickly tore the package open and produced a knitted sweater from it. There was a letter that came with it. It was from his mother. She had asked him to wear the sweater, just in case it gets cold.
Shen Yao blinked back a tear; he was ashamed to cry in front of his friends.
Months crept on. Shen Yao’s mother waited ever so patiently in their shambled home. She prayed each day to the god of prosperity, grateful for their unexpected luck. She also prayed that her son would return sooner.
“When his voyage is broadcasted on television, I will go to the city to see it myself. My son in an astronaut suit!” she thought, joyfully.
Suddenly, she felt an ache in her chest. She clutched at it, hoping that it would ease the pain
“Hush, my restless heart.”
She experienced spasms in her upper abdomen every now and then, but within these few months, it was getting a lot more frequent. She got up from the linoleum mat she was sitting on and prayed to the gods for her prolonged health and Shen Yao’s success.
Finally, the historical day has arrived. Shen Yao puts on his suit with much enthusiasm. “No more simulated zero-gravity for me.. It’s the real deal now.”
Lena kissed him for luck. “Pride for your nation.” He smiled at her, but at the back of his mind he pictured his mother, smiling proudly at him when he first told her that he was going to space.
On the day of the voyage, all the local channels were broadcasting the same thing. All the local newspapers had almost the same headlines: Local Boy off to Space.
Shen Yao’s mother had excitedly headed for the city on an old bicycle, which was once Shen Yao’s. She had to see her son on television, waving back at her on television.
As she drew closer to a restaurant, she saw many people were starting to crowd the restaurant. They were gathered at a table, listening attentively to the programme. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Shen Yao’s face on the screen of the television. She rushed to get closer.
All of a sudden, the pain struck her like the lightning striking a wrinkled tree in the middle of the field. As people were pushing and shoving in the crowd, she was knocked down to the ground.
The spasms wouldn’t stop and she was too weak to fight it off. She took one last look at her surroundings, listened to the shouts and chatter of the people, and finally, the news announcement that Sputnik VII has taken off. She drew one last breath before closing her eyes.
Shen Yao returned home as a hero, but he was not happy. The one person he was longing to come home to was no longer here. How his heart shattered when he knew that his mother has passed away when he went to space. He mourned for her death for quite a long time.
One day, when he took Lena to his old house, Lena had found a yellowed envelope in the folds of the linoleum mat. It was a will that his mother wrote for him.
“She knew. She knew it all along,” he said.
In the years to come, Shen Yao had married Lena and has lived a wealthy life. His country now built their own rockets and will be making space voyages soon.
Shen Yao would be one of the pioneer astronauts among the other younger men, for he would be carrying out one last mission.
He clutched the urn that contained his mother’s cremated remains in his arms endearingly.
“This is for you, mum.”
Soon, after take off, on the way to the ISS, Shen Yao suited up and got out of the space shuttle, carefully balancing himself on the side of the shuttle.
With one hand on the urn and one hand on the lid, he opened the urn and his mother’s ashes floated in the vacuum of space. This was what his mother had wanted in the will. She had wanted her ashes to be dispersed in space, and Shen Yao had honored her death wish.
“Rest in peace, mum. I love you always.”
Shen Yao stared into space, and was admiring the lovely view of planet Earth. The greens and blues and whites swirled around like pastel colors on a canvas. It was the most beautiful scenery he had ever seen. He had seen the most beautiful things in Russia, but nothing could compare to this. He was lucky to be able to see it for a second time
Shen Yao didn’t realize that his tears were streaming down his face. This time, he did not blink them back. He pictured his mother smiling to him like she did the first time he told her that he was going to space.