Hi, my name is Alys Jackson and I'm an author and poet

based in Adelaide, South Australia.

My work has been published in books, magazines,

anthologies and online.

First Prize

The square package bulged with promise but of what the woman was yet to decide. She’d won the thing in a competition three weeks earlier.

‘Open it,’ demanded her son.

Elaine eyed Luke and the brown paper parcel with equal irritation. Her hands tested the edges for an easy way in, sighing across the soft surfaces, the slight lumps tickling the tips of her fingers.

‘For goodness sake,’ muttered Luke impatiently.

But Elaine wasn’t about to be hurried. It had sounded too good to be true. A competition where the prize was the ‘promise of whatever your heart desires’.

‘Nonsense,’ was how her husband had described it and it appeared he’d been right.

Elaine slid her fingers beneath the parcel and lifted it off the kitchen bench, weighing it carefully. It certainly didn’t feel like much.

When Luke thrust out a knife, she took it and carefully pushed the tip into one corner and began to cut away the outer wrapping, the sharpened blade slicing through the tired paper with ease. A shape emerged; a flat-screened box with hard plastic borders and four simple dials.

Mother and son stared at the machine nestled within the torn remains of its packaging their faces reflecting disgust and disbelief in equal measure.

Luke reached across and twisted the first dial. A green light blinked once and the LCD screen blazed into life. An emoji began to emerge, a smirking yellow face.

‘That is so lame,’ muttered Luke.

Elaine tried the second dial. Turning it produced a straight yellow line that moved in the direction of her fingers. The third dial allowed the line to bend and curve. After a minute of practising, Elaine had ‘drawn’ a crude axe with a single drop of water trembling from its edge.

‘That’s what your heart desires?’ snorted Luke. ‘No wonder we’re so poor.’

Although she and Luke lived in a six-bedroom house with a backyard pool and brand new pergola, neither were content and both blamed Luke’s father despite the fact he’d done his utmost to make them happy – loving and nurturing them both with little success.

Elaine glared down at the axe and tried the final dial. Nothing happened.

‘What a total joke,’ Luke sniffed. ‘I told you it was rubbish.’

With a series of angry twists, Elaine spiralled out a dozen simple balloons.

Before Elaine could finish the last one, Luke snatched the machine out of her hands and sketched a lollipop followed by a hooded cobra.

If either had being paying attention, they’d have seen the slight twitch of the kitchen curtains as a sinuous body wriggled out of their folds, bumped over a wooden axe and off down the hall. Twelve black balloons heralded the cobra’s progress by nodding sharply as its heavy body nudged their dangling cords.

Elaine grabbed back the machine and twiddled furiously.

Behind them two bananas and a soccer ball popped into existence, the ball bouncing silently across the Westminster carpet to come to rest against the leg of the kitchen table.

‘This is getting boring,’ whined Luke.

Elaine didn’t often agree with her son, but she did agree with that. The machine was boring and tomorrow she’d call the number on the box and complain. She was good at complaining – excellent, in fact. Almost as good as her son.

She was also good at drawing and she sketched their final creation with care and precision. The creature’s legs were thick with just the right amount of muscle, its three large toes ending in claws. She drew the body next, then a slim, stiff, pointed tail and two tiny arms with two fingers on the end of each.

Luke curled up his lip as his mother finished off the huge tyrannosaur’s head, filling its jaws with large, pointed teeth. ‘Looks like a stupid, dumb, fat chicken,’ he said.

He grabbed the machine and added an extra head, spikes on the tail and lasers above the creature’s eyes. ‘Now that’s what I call dangerous,’ he said with a smirk.

A low, grumbling growl sidled out of the living room followed by the sound of balloons popping.

Luke swallowed hard and very slowly turned around.

‘Oh dear,’ said Elaine.


Luke’s father hesitated at the front door. There were some very strange sounds drifting out of the two-story house; roaring, smashing, screaming, tearing sounds that sent shivers up and down his spine. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. ‘Sounds like Elaine finally got the home theatre going. Better go.’ He was talking into a mobile phone. When he pushed open the front door, an extremely fat cobra slid slowly past his legs and down the front steps.

Luke’s father watched it for a while then blinked.

Elaine?’ He kept his voice low and nervously took three steps into the hallway. ‘Luke?

A sharp beam of green light cut through the wall beside him and melted a small bronze statue of a kitten. It looked incredibly like a laser.

Luke’s father stopped and stared open-mouthed. Half the hallway and most of the kitchen seemed to have been utterly destroyed. There was sunlight streaming in through a jagged hole in the roof and on the floor lay an odd rectangular box with four simple dials.

Luke’s father crouched down and lifted it up. On the screen was a very convincing picture of a tyrannosaurus rex with two heads. He shook the box and the picture slowly faded.

Elaine?’ he called again.

His wife’s face appeared from beneath the remains of an enormously expensive art deco cabinet. ‘Has it gone?’ she whispered.

Luke’s father glanced around nervously.

‘Are you going to help me up or do I have to do it myself?’ hissed Elaine. There was a deflated black balloon flopped across the top of her head.

Luke’s father dutifully bent to the task of helping up his rather dusty and extremely bad tempered wife.

Luke was next, skidding around the rubble that used to be their dining room. ‘It disappeared,’ he announced loudly. He spotted his father and snapped his fingers. ‘Like that! Just disappeared. Un … believable.’

‘Disappeared?’ repeated Luke’s father faintly. His lips felt fat.

Luke rolled his eyes. ‘That … was … awesome!’

Luke’s father looked down at the machine in his hands and gradually put two and two together. ‘This is the prize,’ he said in a tone of awe. He thought about the snake and the picture of the tyrannosaur. ‘Wow!’

‘That thing almost killed us and all you can say is wow?’ snapped Elaine. ‘That is just so typical—’

‘We’ll have to move out,’ cut in Luke. He waved a hand vaguely towards the disaster that used to be their home. ‘Dad’ll have to book a hotel.’

‘Not before he’s called the insurance company,’ snapped Elaine.

Luke and his mother started to argue loudly, and Luke’s father quietly sidled around the corner and into what was left of the bathroom.

He stared down at the odd rectangular machine in his hands and very carefully began to draw.

A bald head appeared then square shoulders and a slightly overweight body. He added narrow vertical stripes to a baggy suit then sketched a neatly trimmed moustache and a shaggy beard. Glasses and a smart pair of shoes completed the picture.

There was an almost inaudible pop and Luke’s father spun around.

‘Wow,’ he said.

The man staring back at him could have been his identical twin.

Luke’s father gave his doppelganger a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. ‘Do take good care of them, won’t you, dear fellow?’

His twin turned to listen to Luke and Elaine screaming at each other.

Luke’s father winced and smiled. ‘Don’t worry. I won’t be gone for too long.’

He began drawing frantically as the screaming suddenly got louder. ‘A month or two at the most,’ he said. A red sports car popped into existence outside in the street. ‘Maybe three.’

Dad!’ bellowed Luke.

‘Four at the absolute max,’ said Luke’s father. A plane ticket to Hawaii popped out of nowhere and drifted into his palm.


Luke’s father leapt over the remains of a broken window just as Luke burst into the bathroom.

Why didn’t you answer?’ demanded Luke. ‘We need you in the kitchen.’

The doppelganger obediently followed Luke out into the hallway.

As Luke’s father eased out into the traffic he didn’t need to use the machine to draw a swift smile all the way from one ear to the next.

32 thoughts on “First Prize

  1. Hi Alys
    I really enjoyed reading this story because the idea of getting anything
    you want by just drawing is amazing.I wish that the magical box was
    where did you get this idea from?

    • Hmmm, I’m not sure where the idea came from, Tiaana. I will try to make a note of where my ideas come from in the future. Oh, I do wish it was true, though! Alys

  2. I wish all of this was true, in fact, I wish all of your stories were true! I really would like a machine like that except I don’t want it in the wrong hands. I wish I had an imagination as wild as yours.

    • Thank you, Mayumdi! It would be lots of fun if we could draw our wishes into life, wouldn’t it? I wonder what I’d wish for. But you make a very good point. It could be dangerous in the wrong hands! That could be disaster!!!! 😞😈😉 Alys.

  3. Hey Alys! I really like the idea that anything you draw comes to life. I think Luke and his mother should have been delighted instead of mad but they acted like snobs. I know a story where a quiet, abused, artistic girl receives a gift from her grandmother. Its a magic pencil and anything you draw with it comes to life. She drew a character that she created and got to play with her everyday. Anyways, I wonder how people would make a prize like that and I seriously don’t think Luke deserves it. I deserve it!

    • Yes, I think you deserve it waaaaaaay more than Luke did, Thisali. He and his mother wasted the gift. The story with the grandmother sounds really interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that one! I’d love a magic ANYTHING, to be honest. Alys 😊😉

  4. Dear Alys
    WOW! That was sooo interesting. Where did you get the idea! I would love to draw things into reality. I like painting . Also how long did it take you to write First Prize?

    • I really can’t remember how long it took, Thinara. A long time because I tried sending it out to different magazines but it never quite fit what they wanted…so then I tried re-writing it. In the end, I decided to publish it on my website because I really didn’t want to rewrite it AGAIN!! I’m glad you liked it. Alys

  5. That’s a really cool 😎 story it would be really cool if it was possible to draw some thing and it comes to life.

    • I know, Yehanya!!! I would probably start by drawing myself a huge cake because right now I’m soooooo hungry. Seriously though, it would be very useful…and potentially deadly 😂😞😄

  6. That was a very interesting 🧐 story . Were did you get the idea 💡 it’s very original and unique I’v never read something like it it’s proberly my second favourite book after Harry Potter I really liked it.

    • Thank you, Yehanya. I had sooooo much fun writing ‘First Prize’. I think because I’d love to draw things into life. Wouldn’t it be great fun?!! I have NO idea where the idea came from – I think I was probably day dreaming. Alys 😄😆

    • Hi again Yuneth. It would great to be able to draw your pictures into life, wouldn’t it?!! I think I would draw my garden into a beautiful tropical beach with lots of fruits 🌊🌴🌼 Alys

  7. Hi Alys
    This story reminded me of one of Malala stories which is when Malala was little she used to watch a cartoon about a boy with a magic pencil. When the boy was hungry he would draw a plate of food. When he was in trouble he would draw an army of police. He was an saviour. Malala really wanted it so she asked God to keep it in her cupboard and she would be very grateful for it. She looked everyday but she couldn’t find. Then one day her mother sent her to empty the food scraps in the junk when she saw three children digging for metal in the junk. When she went home she asked her father why they weren’t going to school and he told her that their family is poor and with the pieces of metal they find they will sell it and buy food with that money, However if they go to school their family will starve to death. Malala felt really sorry for these children because school was her most favourite place to be. She realised that god was trying to teach her how lucky she was.

    • Hi Yenuli. That’s a really interesting comparison and such an important lesson to learn in life. Not everyone has an easy life, do they. I’m glad you understood the message from the Malala story and thank you for sharing it with me!! That’s the beautiful thing about stories. They all have something we can learn from. Alys 👍👍👍😊

  8. Hi Alys,
    Your story was pretty imaginative and descriptive. I enjoyed reading this story and I think I can never imagine such a story but definitely got some inspiration from your writing. Only thing I didn’t like in the story was cobras 🐍. I felt scared then. If I have to change the story I would change cobra part to something like fairy world 🧚‍♀️.

    • I’m very pleased you liked the story, Ishrit. Oh dear, I’m sorry you got scared at the cobra…and what a brilliant idea you had instead. I do enjoy fairy stories, in fact I am writing one right now!! Alys 👍👍

  9. It was pretty funny but i loved how impatient Luke was best of all. I would love to be able to draw anything and it came to life! I would love to be in that story … but without the cobra and the dinosaur. I’m sort of an author myself and want one of my stories to be published someday. I always look up to other authors for ideas and you have a very silly imagination!

    • Thank you Rose, and I agree that I have a very silly imagination 🙂 And thank you for your comments. I hope that your dream of becoming a published writer comes true! If you practice and never give up, I’m sure you’ll succeed in anything you put your mind to. Alys

  10. Hi Alys,

    I absolutely loved this story. The idea of being able to draw anything and make it come to life is quite cool but you have to be careful what you draw because it may end in disaster.It was pretty cool when you could draw something on a box and then it comes to life. I think that the husband should get more stuff from the box with the four dials. I think it was the dining table getting destroyed as well.

    • Thank you Methuli, I think it would fun to be able to draw things into life. I think I’d draw a whole table full of cakes and chocolates…but then I’d probably have to draw myself a doctor to deal with my stomach ache afterwards 🙂 Alys

  11. Hi Alys,
    I loved that story. It was amazing. I liked when the hall way went all weird and the kitchen and dining table getting destroyed. I think it was the dining table getting destroyed as well.
    I loved how the dad didn’t stop whispering because he was so scared.
    I’ve written about 62 books at home and I really want to be an author when I’m bigger.

    • Thanks for the comments Harper. It sounds like you’re a writer already. There are lots of great competitions for younger people who want to write. You could ask your parents to check online or maybe even your teachers. It’s a great way to get feedback. Good luck with your stories and I hope your dream comes true!! Alys 🙂

  12. Hi Alys,
    I love your story because the detail of the story is great. I think that the husband should get more stuff from the box with the four dials. Also the way you draw stuff on screen is really cool and it comes to life is awesome.

    • Hi Dinal. Great comments and I agree – I think the husband deserves to get lots more from the box…wouldn’t it be wonderful, if it was all true?! 🙂 Alys

  13. Hi Alys
    That was a really twisted story of yours. It was pretty cool when you could draw something on a box and then it comes to life. Like you said though ‘promise of whatever your heart desires’ is a cool thing because it’s like being a magician but only with drawings though.

    Thanks for the great story Alys

    • Love the comments Dinith. Maybe one day children will be able to create things just by drawing an object. I guess that’s kind of what happens with a 3-D printer. Alys 🙂

  14. I absolutely loved this story. The idea of being able to draw anything and make it come to life is quite cool but you have to be careful what you draw because it may end in disaster. I never expected the prize to be like this and expected some boring old kitchen tool or something. How do you keep on coming up with these creative ideas?

    • Thanks Chomilka. This story is very silly but wouldn’t it be great if it were true? I’m not sure what I’d choose, and I’m not sure where the ideas come from – that’s a great question! I must have a very silly imagination 🙂 Alys

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