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Kylee Tan Clinches Silver Award of Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition

by Kylee Tan (Secondary 3E 2021)

Every year, Fairfield’s student journalists take part in The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition (QCEC). It provides a platform for all youths from Commonwealth countries to share their writing skills and convey vital messages. This year’s theme was ‘Community in the Commonwealth’. Fairfield is proud to announce that Kylee Tan from Secondary 3E clinched the Silver Award in 2021. Here is her essay!

Kylee Tan C.jpg
My aunt once told me that the world used to be an unwelcoming place. Train rides were grey and silent, no one spoke to anyone, their faces glued to and illuminated with a dim light radiating from a palm-sized rectangle. In the obscure alleys behind the stations, scarlet leaked into the cracks between the bricks as another person was assaulted over their colour. Either the ashy clouds would block the long-forgotten sunlight or vermillion would shroud the sky while a rampaging rust-coloured brobdingnagian swallowed what was left of our emeralds, our lungs stinging from the invisible poison in the air. The world was governed by those who looked down on us, perched atop their ivory towers, wanting the world for only themselves.
Only black, white, and the occasional red.

And then, the pandemic happened. There were many stories but my grandmother told me that when it all ended it felt like so much time had yet had not passed—there was a gap in history.
. . . . .

“For today’s history lesson, turn to page 185.” 

Mr. Montag’s monotonous voice droned on behind the screen as I lowered the e-lecture volume. He told us that school used to be face-to-face in physical classrooms. But after the Western Recession of 2028—economies crashed when the work force caught the virus from their kids who caught it from school—the world decided that maybe school should be virtual instead.

“The Delivery Drone is here!” Clara, our Smart Home persona said. 

When the world came to a standstill due to the pandemic, people stopped leaving their houses and Delivery Drones became the means to transport material items about. 

“Okay, let it in.”

It flew into the house, buzzing faintly like a little worker bee. After leaving the package in the Drop-Off Cabinet, it whizzed off, anxious for its next delivery.

I pulled open my desk drawer, fishing around the multi-coloured metallic squares inside, finally pulling out a coffee-coloured square with the title ‘Upper Secondary: Unit 3 History’ engraved at the top. Clicking a tiny button on its side, the square to thrummed to life, a glowing blue circle appearing in the middle of the square. I pressed the circle—there was a brief haptic hum before a hologram popped up. I flicked my hand in the air, the hologram reacting and flipping the pages of the book. This was the textbooks now—Technology was constantly advancing; that was the one thing that remained amidst this ever-changing world. 

Slumping further in my chair, I turned to look out the window, barely listening to Mr. Montag. He was a really nice teacher, but his voice was just so, so boring. 

The landscape of the city had rows after rows of gleaming black skyscrapers which climbed into the flocculent clouds above, touching the heavens. The residential blocks had vertical vegetable and fruit farms on the rooftops. The Delivery Drones flew in neat rows left, right, up and down, the tiny lights on them flickering like strings of fairy lights. Further up downtown, there were stores covered with jade-coloured vines of violet morning glories; hues of red, coral, and pink bougainvillea; or sometimes even fruit vines like grapes. Office buildings were lofty pewter-grey glass buildings fitted with balconies and rooftop gardens. Of course, office buildings were not common now as working from home was the default unless the job specifically requested otherwise.

The drones zooming here and there; the electric cars driving by, never stopping; the people going on with their days, busy with this, before that, then that, after this. Busy, busy, busy. Sometimes I forget how fast the world was going.

A muted swishing sound of the main door sliding open snapped me out of my daze. I closed my computer; the e-lecture had ended. 

“Mr. Dorian! Rhys! Welcome home!” Clara chimed excitedly, “Rhys! How was the injection?” It was mandated by the United Nations that all 10-year-olds have to receive a COVID-19 vaccination jab.

Clara deployed the Home Health Bot from its charging station in the corner of the kitchen. It hovered over to Rhys, two glowing blue ovals popping up on the bot’s screen, the base of the ovals curving upwards as though that were the bot’s eyes and it was smiling. 

The Home Health Bots were the most notable invention since COVID-19. Small hovering robots with smooth off-white finishes, designed to give it a friendly demeanour, the bots were home health consultants. They did health screenings by scanning the patients, giving 97% accurate diagnoses and would prescribe medicine. For unusual symptoms, the Bot would contact the family doctor—This provided more accessible and instantaneous health care to the people while ensuring that should anyone be sick, they would not have left the house unnecessarily, curbing possible spreading and infections.

“It went really well! My arm’s a little sore, but it’ll be fine in no time.” 

Rolling up his left sleeve, the Home Health Bot scanned Rhys’ arm. 

“Yep! All good!” Clara reassured before sending the Bot back to the charging station.

“Ilana, is school over yet?” 

“Yes, dad. Oh, and Rhys, Aunt Reina left a message.” 

I plopped down on the sofa and pulled my phone out, Rhys leaning on my left shoulder. We got along pretty well, actually. 

Aunt Reina was a biomedical researcher part of the team which developed the latest COVID-19 vaccination and was currently in Kenya helping the residents there.

Thursday, 20 March 2070

And attached a selfie of her in the medical centre with several smiling kids behind her holding up peace-signs with Levi, her Helper Bot, peeking in from the corner of the photo. 

During the pandemic, the developing countries were badly affected, even after the vaccines were first produced in 2021. Until now, economies were still recovering and healthcare sectors needed help. So, Aunt Reina and her friends applied to be temporarily posted in developing countries to personally bring technologies there and reach out to the people. 

Helper Bots were among the most common type of bots available now, second after the Home Health Bots. Helper Bots were multi-purpose bots and Levi primarily helped Aunt Reina and her team carry equipment and settle the administrative side of their work. 

Rhys quickly keyed in a reply before going off to his room to rest. I sat in the living room a little longer. Come to think of it, Rhys and I had not ever fallen severely sick before. After COVID-19, the scientific community went berserk wanting to ensure that such a pandemic would never happen again. And about 23 years ago, they finally settled on adopting gene therapy. 

I looked up from my phone. This house was actually pretty big. Mr. Montag told us that for a long time, countries, Hong Kong for example, had houses that were way too small and resulted in increased COVID-19 transmissions among the people. So, we adapted and houses became bigger. 

A comfy cream-coloured sofa, the one I was sitting on, was in the middle of a neat living room which had white wooden accent walls and paintings hanging on them. The other side of house’s walls were floor-length windows which Clara could tint dark for privacy. The top half of the windows were swung open, letting the low buzz of the almost empty roads below and animated whirring of the Delivery Drones zooming across the sky into the penthouse. People got more comfortable staying at home during and after the pandemic. So, we adapted and houses became more comfortable. 

Walking over to the windows, I gazed out to the world. All buildings’ exterior walls had a layer of solar panels—that was why the buildings were black. Even the windows were made of transparent solar cells. I guess people got bored during the pandemic, of their lifestyles and of the world. The emptiness gave us a lot of time to think. And the people thought ‘Why don’t we finally combat climate change. Properly, this time.’ So, we adapted and now society powers solely on green energy. 

Adapt. Adapt. Adapt. 
. . . . .

There was a gap in history, just bits and pieces of memory here and there. It almost seemed like we all wanted to forget everything that had happened. During the pandemic, time had hardly passed, yet 20 years had so easily slipped by. Now, life was going so fast, waiting for no one, yet nobody gets left behind. We bounded ahead, paving the path for the future generations. 

30 years ago, the World Health Organisation finally declared that COVID-19 was an endemic after 20 long years. The pandemic forced radical change on us, and since then, humanity had adapted.

The sun had begun to set, casting a soft aureate glow with tones of warm orange and yellow over everything. The green and glassy blue waters of life flowed through everything as delicate purple and pink petals littered the ground.

It used to all be black, white, and red. Look, we found the rest of the colours!