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Short Stories School Years 11 to 13 Runner-up: Juliette Charvetto with ‘Unbreakable’

Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

In a small, peaceful village nestled amidst rolling hills, there lived an old man named Henry and his faithful companion, a loyal dog named Max. Henry and Max were inseparable, sharing a bond that had withstood the test of time. Henry, with his weathered face and silver hair, had seen many seasons come and go. He had lived a long and fulfilling life, but the passing years had left him feeling lonely. His children had grown up and moved away, and his beloved wife had departed this world, leaving Henry with only memories and his trusted four-legged friend. Every morning, as the sun began to rise, Henry and Max would embark on their daily routine. They would stroll through the village, greeting familiar faces and exchanging warm smiles with the townsfolk. Max's tail wagged with joy, bringing a sense of happiness to everyone they encountered. As the seasons changed, so did the landscape. Spring brought vibrant colours and blooming flowers, filling the air with a sweet fragrance. Henry and Max would explore the meadows, feeling the gentle breeze on their faces as they revelled in the beauty of nature. In the scorching heat of summer, Henry and Max sought solace in the shade of ancient oak trees. They would sit beneath the cool canopy, sharing stories and relishing the simple pleasures of life. Max would listen attentively, his eyes reflecting a deep understanding of his companion's words. Autumn arrived, painting the village with a tapestry of golden hues.

Henry and Max would wander through the falling leaves, their footsteps creating a symphony of crunches. They would pause by the riverbank, watching as the water flowed steadily, mirroring the passage of time. Winter brought a blanket of snow, transforming the village into a winter wonderland. Henry and Max would venture out, their breath visible in the icy air. They would build snowmen and engage in playful snowball fights, their laughter echoing through the frosty landscape. As the years went by, Henry's steps became slower, and his eyesight began to fade. Yet, Max remained by his side, guiding him with unwavering loyalty. Max's presence brought comfort and reassurance to Henry, reminding him that he was never alone. One fateful day, as the sun dipped below the horizon, Henry felt a sense of serenity wash over him. He knew that his time in this world was drawing to a close. With a heavy heart, he whispered his final goodbye to Max, expressing his gratitude for the years of companionship and love. Max nuzzled his hand, understanding the unspoken words. As the stars began to twinkle in the night sky, Henry closed his eyes for the last time, a content smile on his lips.

In the days that followed, the village felt a profound silence. Max, now without his beloved friend, would sit on the porch of the house they had shared, waiting patiently for Henry to return. The townspeople would visit, bringing him food and comfort, sharing stories of the kind old man who had touched their lives. Max's loyalty never wavered. Every morning, he would take the same walks he had once enjoyed with Henry, stopping at the familiar spots where they had shared countless moments. The villagers would see Max and remember the bond between the man and his dog, a testament to the enduring power of friendship. As the seasons continued to change, Max grew older. His once brisk walk turned into a gentle amble, and his eyes, like Henry's, began to lose their luster. Yet, the spirit of his companion seemed to guide him, filling his heart with warmth.

One crisp autumn evening, Max lay down on the soft bed of leaves by the riverbank, the place where he and Henry had spent many afternoons. He took a deep breath, the cool air filling his lungs, and let out a contented sigh. Feeling the presence of his friend by his side, Max closed his eyes and drifted into a peaceful sleep. The next morning, the villagers found Max, still and serene, with a smile that mirrored Henry's own. It was as if he had decided it was time to join his friend on a new journey, beyond the hills and meadows they had so loved. In the heart of the village, a statue was erected in honour of Henry and Max. It depicted the old man with his arm around his loyal dog, both gazing into the horizon. It stood as a reminder of the love and loyalty that had graced the village, inspiring all who passed by.

And so, the story of Henry and Max lived on, passed down through generations. It was a tale of true companionship, a bond that not even time could sever. In the whispers of the wind and the rustling of the leaves, one could hear the echoes of their footsteps, a symphony that would play on for eternity. And the legend of Henry and Max became a gentle reminder to all who heard it of the beauty found in the simplest of relationships. Children would play near the statue, their laughter mingling with the stories their parents told of the man and his dog who were now woven into the fabric of the village's history. As time marched on, the tale served as a beacon of hope and friendship.

The statue, weathered by the years, stood proudly as a symbol of unwavering devotion. It was said that on certain evenings, when the sun dipped low and painted the sky in hues of orange and pink, one could see the silhouettes of a man and his dog walking side by side in the distance, an eternal stroll through the twilight. New pets would come to the village, each with their own stories and bonds with their owners, but none could ever eclipse the legacy left by Max and Henry. It was a legacy that taught the villagers the value of companionship, loyalty, and the deep, unspoken understanding between two souls. Their story, though a whisper from the past, continued to inspire and comfort those who believed in the power of love and the unbreakable ties that bind us to one another. In every wag of a tail and in every kind gesture, Henry and Max's spirit endured, a timeless reminder that love, once kindled, burns forevermore.

Adjudicators Comments:
‘A beautiful and heartfelt story about the love between dogs and people. The narrative takes on the form of storytelling, which works effectively to display the passing of time and the impact the bond between Henry and Max has on the village and future generations. A strong, descriptive piece that allows readers to gain the sense of a large story within a limited word count.’

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