Under 18 Non-Native English Speaker – Winner 2016

“Path to Heaven”

by Gaspar Zimbrek Turkovic

As long as Cybèle remembered she had been living in that school. Cybèle didn’t know her parents. “They must had beenwealthy and important because they could afford to put me in such a prestigious place”, she thought. The school was located on the top of a hill, surrounded by nature, with friendlyemployees who took goodcare of them. The teacher was wise and experienced. He gave them good advice, nourished them, and protected them from bad weather and strangers. From very early age they were trained to fulfill their lives’ purpose: go to Heaven. But that was not easy – “when the Judgment Day comes, God’s hands will chose only the fairest” said the teacher. The fairest meant to be healthy, sweet, and above all, to have a perfect complexion – without wrinkles, scars, blemishes or other defects. To keep them healthy and good-­‐looking the school employees frequently gave them medications and dietary supplements. “Keep away from strangers”, the teacher often reminded them. “The nature around you is beautiful, but it is full of dangerous creatures who may hurt you.” There was another, smaller school nearby, whose pupils were much less fortunate. While at her school students were getting all kinds of beauty and health treatments and various multi-­‐mineral sprays and powders, students in the other school were never treated with cosmetics. Sometimes they were even fed a disgusting concoction smelling of liquid manure. “No wonder they look so plain and unattractive”, she thought.

Despite all the care they were given, accidents happened. Cybèle remembereda day when she was young, a heavy storm came and lots of pupils disappeared forever, but she managed to resist the wind, tightly holding a thick tree branch. Another time one of her friends

fell asleep under full sun and burnt her skin so much that they expelled her from the school. And some of her classmates got infected by incurable diseases and others were injured by strangers who, despite strong security measures, entered the school few times and attacked them, even ate them alive.

But all that was now behind her. She had always followed the teacher’s advice, took all the medications and treatments, even when they didn’t feel good, and hid from strangers, heavy winds and bad weather. She grew strong and healthy, and her skin was properly tanned and perfectly smooth without any scars or freckles. It was early fall and the teacher told them that God’s emissaries would come soon to choose the best candidates for Heaven. He taught them how to wash themselves in morning dew and how to best reflect the sunrays to look as attractive as possible.

God’s emissaries soon arrived in great numbers. They went to every school in the neighbourhood and carefully examined all the students. When emissaries finally entered her classroom, Cybèle almost fainted from hope and fear. Although the teacher had never told them what happened to those who didn’t go to Heaven, Cybèle had heard that they would end up in an unpleasant place. Since that was such a good school, she was not surprised that most of the students made it, including herself. Only few skinny, obese, and unhealthy-­‐looking were left behind. Although Cybèle knew that this was not the final selection, she felt proud, happy and relieved for the moment. The emissaries put the selected ones into luxurious carriages. As they were transported, she fell into deep sleep.

Cybèle woke upin a huge beauty salon with many other candidates whom shehad never seen before. There they were cleaned, perfumed and polished. She overheard that this was their last preparation for the final selection and they had to look their best. That night they were taken to the place where the fairest ones would be chosen to Heaven.

The place of the final selection was over-­‐crowded. Cybèle found herself in a large, bright hall surrounded by thousands of candidates. Those of the same kind were grouped together and had a number assigned to them. Her group number was 1,99. Cybèle didn’t know what it meant. At first she felt concerned because she didn’t expect so many contenders, but then she noticed a group of students from the small neighboring school. They seemed out of place – with scars, scratches and freckles on their skins – and were not perfumed. They smelled like nature and looked neglected. Their group number was 3,99. All of a sudden Cybèle started feeling optimistic. “With that kind of competition, I have much better chances”.

At 9 a.m. members of the jury started to arrive. Usually they briefly looked at group numbers, touched or smelled some candidates, then finally took few selected ones and left for the day. New jury members were constantly coming and leaving. Late that night, after the jury left, cleaners arrived. They cleaned the whole place, covered the candidates with plastic sheets and turned the lights off. After the first day, Cybèle was disappointed because she hadn’t been chosen but was not worried yet. But after several days, she started growing increasingly anxious. She had noticed that some candidates had developed a deadly disease, which usually started with bad scent, then bruises appeared, which later became open wounds. Early in the morning, cleaners would separate those who didn’t smell or look nice any longer, put them into a separate group and assign them a new, lower number. And those who were seriously sick ended up in a trash container and were transported to a crematorium of some kind, she had heard. Cybèle had also noticed that most of the plain-­‐looking students from the neighboring school had already been chosen to Heaven and that made her feel very demoralized. “I must look even uglier than those unsightly creatures”, she despaired.

After one week the cleaners moved her into an unhealthy group with number 0,99. By the tenth day Cybèle lost all hope. She was feeling sick and knew that if no onepicked her up that day, she would end up in the trash container that evening. The morning passed, than the afternoon. Cybèle was so tired that she dozed off ni front of jury members who were passing by. Suddenly, she felt a gentle grasp on her body. She woke up and saw two big eyes watching her intently. The jury member was an old, pleasant-­‐looking lady. Cybèle held her breath, thinking: “one last chance”. After a short hesitation, the old lady put her in a plastic bag where several other lucky candidates had been already waiting. Few minutes later, they were out of that horrible place. Cybèle was lying in a willow basket, watching blue skies above her and feeling a soft breeze on her skin. She was exhausted and soon fell asleep again, dreaming of the beautiful place she was going to. “I am on my way to Heaven” she thought in her dreams. And then she died, happy.

* * *

On her way home from the supermarket, Madame Dubois was thinking about the Sunday family visit. She looked at the apples in her willow basket and smiled, picturing her grandchildren’s delight in the tarte tatin she was going to make for them.