Prose, Grades 10 – 12: Honorable Mention

Starship Troopers and Freak Accidents— Natalie El-Hain

My earliest memory is of a man lying on the ground with his brains spilling out of his head. I witnessed this image when I was two years old, and it’s pretty much set the tone of my life. This scene wasn’t from some horrific accident — it was from the movie Starship Troopers.
I had woken up at some ungodly hour, and while my father held me, he entertained himself by watching whatever was on TV. It was Starship Troopers — a graphic cult film about alien bugs infesting the brains of humans. I didn’t understand it, but I was fascinated.
I like to think that that fateful moment set me on the path for a lifetime obsession with the strange and obscure. I was interested in the weird things that many young kids are — bugs, bodily functions, the like. But I unearthed a goldmine when I discovered freak accidents; the stories of sudden decapitation or car explosions entranced me.
How could such an absurd event happen to such an ordinary person? I enjoyed hearing about freak accidents so much that my father set up a notification system on his computer that would send him an email any time the term “freak accident” was used in an article. He’d then report it to me, and my day would be a little bit brighter.
Soon I discovered something that brought me even more pleasure than hearing about freak accidents: repeating them to other people. I loved watching their expressions of shock and disgust as I casually described the man who was crushed at a car factory. Not only did I enjoy their response, but I enjoyed the sharing of information. My friends now knew that they too could be walking down the street and be decapitated by a manhole cover. Every freak accident was a fabulous story that deserved telling.
Soon my freak accident obsession turned into an interest in something else. I realized that it wasn’t the odd events that I liked. It was the people and stories surrounding them. My fascination with emotions and people soon overtook an interest in mere facts. I love that every single person has their own unique take on what happened.
Every individual, building and location has a history. One event always triggers another. Plots branch off, things get confusing, evidence contradicts itself, and it’s all beautiful. I want to unravel every narrative and capture every emotion. I seek new stories out as often as possible from friends, the news, and, more recently, podcasts. These outlets have sparked my fascination with journalism and literature.
My obsession with freak accidents has fostered a strong sense of curiosity in me. My initial desire for the weird and shocking has led me to find the unusual in a much more commonplace subject: everyday people. I’ve learned through telling stories of freak accidents that the unusual is all around us and there’s a story in everyone.
It is my goal to find those stories and investigate them — to learn every twist and turn in their arc. From there I want to share those stories with others. I want other people to see what I see — that every element of life contains a story that is worth telling, and no matter how it first seems, nothing is ever ordinary.