IN 2012, the winner of the only award the Crocodile Prize ever offered for student writing, Angeline Low, wrote an incredibly powerful short story, ‘Going through the Unimaginable’.
It was outstanding for several reasons. First, the subject matter was extremely sensitive and would test the talents of someone much older than her 16 years.
The story also had a ring of authenticity, helped tremendously by Angeline’s confident control of dialogue and narrative as the tension built up to its shocking conclusion.
Finally, the story was a bold attempt to expose an element of society often shamefully hidden.
One of the judges said the story “is a reflection of the social conscience not only of what happens in Papua New Guinea but all around the world”.
And a major sponsor, also a judge, observed: “Given the breast beating about the decline of educational standards, the quality of the English language expression was rather good, better than I'd expected … and comforting.”
With this in mind and a desire to encourage young writers in Papua New Guinea a last-minute decision was made to extend the award to three other runners-up in the student category.
The three winners of this encouragement award were Axel Rice, Jeremiah Toni and Kayla Reimann. Axel impressed the judges with his choice of ‘adventure’ genre and journalistic flavour; Jeremiah with his surprising poetic imagery; and Kayla with her maturity and breadth of subject matter.
Going through the Unimaginable
“LIFE back at home is simple and easy. Not much has changed since you left,” Molong said to Jacob in her native dialect.
“But I’ve been gone for almost 15 years! Surely there should be some development in Boda,” Jacob said flabbergasted.
Jacob had grown up alongside Molong on Boda Island located 10km away from Madang. Molong’s uncle had adopted him and took him to Lae at the mere age of two.
“Yes it seems like a long time but we still have no proper schools, no electricity, no clinics…,” Her voice shook at the mention of the word clinic.
Jacob knew that Molong had lost her mother to the deadly disease malaria. If there had been clinics on the island maybe she could have been saved. He looked down at the slim, dark-skinned girl sympathetically.
“You know there are some things we can’t change in life and I know you just lost your mother only a month ago but don’t you think if she were alive she would want you to be happy?” He asked gently. Molong studied the tall, handsome boy for a moment.
Since she had arrived in Lae from Boda, he had always been friendly towards her and always knew the right things to say.
“You know what, I’m sorry I said anything. It must be terrible for you. Sorry,” Jacob apologized after Molong did not reply to his question.
“No, don't apologize. I was just thinking about how you . . . . ”
“Hello children! I see you are up to your usual chit chat again. The lawn isn’t going to rake itself, you know,” A deep, rusty voice cut in.
Jacob and Molong turned to see a tall, broad and muscular man walking towards them from the front gate.
“Uncle Fegsley!” Molong cried out and went to hug him.
“Hi Paps,” Jacob said calmly.
“How many times have I told you about using that term son?” Fegsley replied.
“Ha-ha sorry, Papa. How was work?” Fegsley let go of Molong.
“It was all right. Now finish up your cleaning and come up for dinner,” he replied sternly.
Fegsley then walked away into the standalone house he called home as the two teenagers stared after him. He had this strong presence that commanded people to stop, look and listen to what he had to say. Molong had always admired this about her uncle.
Fegsley had taken Molong with him to Lae after her mother had passed away. Molong's father had run away with another woman, claiming he could not look after Molong anymore because she reminded him too much of her mother. Fegsley then took the initiative and took Molong in and cared for her when the word got out that both her parents were gone.
"You're really fond of him, aren't you?" asked Jacob curiously.
"Well yes, if it weren't for him, I would still be on Boda Island, suffering under my own misery. So yes, uncle Fegsley is like the father I never had. You should be grateful you have him as your father."
Jacob smiled at this. They then cleaned up the yard in silence.
Janet, a short, plump woman who was Fegsley's wife stood at the entrance of the house, one hand on her hips.
"You two, I asked you to rake the lawn two hours ago. What took you so long?" she asked, shaking her head at the same time.
"They were gossiping," said a small girl with a high-pitched voice playing with her Barbie doll.
"Lynn, you are such a liar. Don't listen to her Mum," Jacob said slightly annoyed.
"Okay, okay. Dinner’s on the table," she said while ushering them into the living room.
Lynn was Jacob's little sister and was quite mischievous. Molong started disliking her when she ‘accidentally’ put chewing gum inside Molong's cap. When Molong had worn it the gum had got stuck in her hair and so they had to cut her shoulder-length hair to remove it.
Now Molong has short boyish hair. She had forgiven her already but was not fond of Lynn at all. The whole family as well as other relatives all sat down in the centre of the living room and ate dinner, cracking jokes as they ate.
After dinner Fegsley pulled Molong outside the house where no one was around. She knew she was going to get scolded because this was usually where he took her before lecturing her. It had been two months since Molong had arrived from Boda Island and so she had got used to Uncle Fegsley lecturing her on morals and ethics. He was like a father to her.
That day however his usual calm lectures turned into loud, terrifying screams of rage. Fegsley took Molong's friendship with Jacob as something else and was very upset about it.
“He is like your brother for goodness sake! He may not be blood related but that does not mean you can have a relationship with him!” Fegsley screamed at her.
“But I never intended on having a . . . .” She was cut off.
“Ah, bullshit! Noken giaman long mi!” he shouted and then took a deep breath. Before Molong realized it, he had raised his right hand and slapped her across the face.
“Get out of my face . . . .,” he said. Molong just stood shocked and dumbfounded. He had never laid a hand on her before.
“Now!” he said.
With that, Molong ran straight into the house, bypassing Lynn, Jacob and Janet who were standing staring through the window of the kitchen. She locked herself in the room and cried all night.
The next morning, Molong woke up to the sight of dozens of flowers in her room and a brightly wrapped present. It was a pleasant surprise. She stared at it in complete silence but her curiosity got the better of her and she gently tore the present open. Molong was perplexed. It was a rectangular object with a square reflective mirror in it. She did not know what it was and so she went into Lynn’s room to ask her.
Lynn explained to her that it was a phone that was used to talk with people. She showed her how to use it before asking her where she got it from. Molong told her that she found it in her room but Lynn did not believe her.
Just then, Jacob walked in and when he saw her, he quickly turned around and walked away. From that moment, Molong realized that Uncle Fegsley had scolded him too. Lynn realized how tense Molong looked and she quickly remembered what happened last night.
“Ah, Papa mas sore lo yu so em buyim yu fon. Lucki blo yu,” Lynn said.
Lynn was only thirteen years of age but she was quite assertive. Molong walked out of her room, showered and went on with her everyday chores, all the while ignoring Jacob.
At around five o’clock in the afternoon, Fegsley came home. He came straight to Molong and hugged her in front of Aunty Janet. Fegsley, then apologized, saying how wrong he had been to have concluded something like that about Jacob and her and how terribly sorry he was for slapping her. Molong accepted his apology and said it was alright. He is like a father to me and sometimes fathers and daughters have arguments she thought. It was normal.
The following days, were the same. Molong would wake up to presents and flowers in her room. She knew it was a bit strange but she was too infatuated with all the gifts she had received. Molong felt so loved knowing he cared enough for her to buy her all these gifts.
The next Saturday afternoon everyone went out for a family gathering and Molong was left behind to look after the house. It was around 6pm when everyone went out. She then went into her room and played with her phone. It was so silent in the house that Molong jumped when she heard a knock on her door.
“Yes, who is it?” She asked warily in her native tongue.
“It’s me, uncle Fegsley, I came back to get something in the house.”
“Oh, you scared me.” Molong stood up and opened the door.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” She asked.
“Yes...,” he replied, strangely calm. “Oh, I found it. I wanted it so much since the day I saw it but there wasn’t enough time for me to find it and get it,” he said as he moved closer.
“What?” Molong asked completely dumbfounded. Then before she caught what he meant he had grabbed her by the arm. His grip was so tight and strong that she yelped in pain.
“Ssshhh don’t scream. It’ll be over very soon,” he said soothingly then he pushed her down on the bed.
Molong wanted to scream to cry out for help but she was so lost in confusion and shock that she grew completely numb. She had thought Fegsley was a nice, genuine man who cared for everyone. He was like a dad to her. She never thought what would happen next would have ever occurred, but it did. He kicked the door shut with his foot and that was when Molong lost her innocence.
After he was done, her whole body ached and she began to sob. Blood covered the bed sheet.
“Don’t cry… I’m so sorry… I promise I won’t ever do that again to you. Please don’t tell anyone. Let’s keep this between me and you,” he said.
Molong continued to cry uncontrollably. She could not dare look at him and she crawled away from him like a scared puppy afraid of thunder.
“I will buy you anything you want. Just promise me you won’t tell anyone,” he said almost desperately.
Molong curled up, holding her body tightly; scared he might touch her again. When she didn’t reply, he responded by again begging her not to tell anyone.
“Okay,” she managed to say just to get him away from her.
“Good girl. I’m going to go now, clean up the mess,” he commanded before he buckled up, and took off.
Molong stayed in her room for an hour before she gathered up the energy to go wash her aching body. She also washed and hung out her stained clothes and the bed sheet as well, too scared of what uncle Fegsley might do to her if she didn’t.
Molong was so young and so stupid. She could’ve gone to the police but she felt too embarrassed to do so. So she spent the whole day in her room crying her eyes out. She cleaned up before uncle Fegsley’s family and he came back. When they returned from their trip, everyone noticed her sudden change in character.
“Are you okay?” Lynn asked genuinely.
“Yeah mi orait,” she lied. Molong knew her eyes were puffy and her appearance terrible but she still tried to appear normal as best she could.
Jacob looked at her concernedly but she just shrugged. Then suddenly Aunty Janet came into the living room extremely angry.
“Em wanem?” she shouted while holding up Molong's trousers.
Molong had missed a spot on the back of her trousers and the blood stain could be seen clearly. She grew numb again. Her mind whirled and twisted, she couldn’t focus. Then someone shook her hard. She regained her senses to see Fegsley and Janet arguing. Somehow her mind had blanked for a few seconds. It turned out it was Jacob who had shaken her. He held her close to him as they watched in silence.
“It was all her fault, she seduced me!” Uncle pointed at her in disgust. “It’s true! She came on to me. She was touching me all over, that little bitch!” he said loudly.
Molong’s mouth went dry when she heard this.
Aunty Janet then shot her a look. “Is this true? She asked harshly.
“I … I … no, it’s not true…,” she replied.
“Don’t lie to me!” Aunty Janet screamed and walked closer to her.
“I swear in the name of Go…”
“Don’t say his name in vain. You filthy animal,” Fegsley cut in.
Why is he doing this? How can someone be so cruel? Molong thought.
“You came into my house. I feed you, clothed you, did everything for you and this is how you repay me? By sleeping with my husband?” Aunty Janet asked, her tone escalating with each word and her fists clenching and unclenching, ready to bash Molong up. She ran to the kitchen and picked up a knife.
Oh no, this can’t be happening. Molong thought. I shouldn’t be at fault here. She tried to speak but words couldn’t seem to come out. Her heart rate increased rapidly.
I’m going to die now; she’s going to kill me she thought.
Time seemed to freeze and Molong saw everything in slow-motion. Aunty Janet running towards her with the knife. Fegsley trying to stop her. Lynn’s jaw dropping. Jacob … What’s Jacob doing? Time regained its normal pace and she saw Jacob step in front of her just before Aunty Janet launched the knife right into his heart.
“NO!” she cried out as blood spurted out from Jacob’s chest, staining his shirt.
One drop of blood landed on her face. Then Jacob dropped on his knees, the knife stuck in his heart.
“Hes ly...lying... mama...,” he managed to say before he collapsed to his death.
Molong staggered towards him holding him in her arms as she cried and sobbed out loud. She couldn’t believe what she had witnessed. There, lying on the floor in a puddle of blood was a young man, a moment before full of potential, full of life.
He had sacrificed his own life for her and for that Molong would forever remember him. Aunty Janet, Uncle Fegley and Lynn just stood in silence completely shocked and devastated at the same time.
"Rest in peace Jacob. I love you," Molong whispered to him while caressing his face gently. Tears soaked up her shirt and she sat there holding him for half an hour in complete silence.