What Lies Beneath?

By Hannah Kirkell (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

Seven years ago, I almost destroyed the world as you now know it. Here’s how.

A dream is simply a fantasy your brain projects, right? You mentally galavant with pirates, or fend off ninjas while being chased by monsters, or go to school without your pants, and all the while your body lies motionless in a coma- like state, as if dead. So, in short, a dream is not any variation of reality; they’re just as they are: dreams. Hopes. Fears. They never have been, are not, and never will be substantive.

Well… I’m going to tell you a secret. My dreams aren’t reality- no, that’s just too simple. Reality is my dreams.

In my dreaming state, I have the capability to do whatever I want.

I could, for example, study for my math test, and when I wake up, I will have retained the outcome of my study session, and still be well rested. This is, obviously, an extraordinary gift. With only a few guidelines, I practically have the world at my disposal. I can’t kill anyone, I can’t change anything (this will tell why), and I can’t tell anyone. Other than that, I am an artist and the world is my canvas.

It wasn’t always like this, however. I didn’t receive this gift until I was about 13 or 14. The day I discovered my powers was the day I unleashed the horrors of hell and ruptured the known universe. In short, I opened a portal to another dimension- one containing mythical monsters, demons, terrible people, and the lake of fire. I remember thinking ‘this is just a dream; why not?’, and I was correct. Up until that point it was just a dream. After waking up, finding the world in chaos, and surviving a day that rivaled Judgement Day in the forms of death and destruction, I reentered my dreams to find myself in the same hell-like world I had struggled through that day. I knew I had about nine hours to right my wrongs: this is how it happened.

In my dream, I was standing in front of the same semi circular wooden door I had opened the previous night, but something was off. It took me a moment to realize that instead of being closed tightly and bolted with hundreds of locks, it was slightly ajar. The door was protruding from a muddy hill, constructed somewhat crudely with planks. There was a small opening right in the middle, barred off so that only a little light pierced the darkness. This tiny ray of sunlight had illuminated the inky blackness, allowing me to see a 7 by 4 oval that glowed with a faint violet color.

Now, I didn’t need the grated window. The opening allowed me to see just fine, but now the portal was gone. In its place, a small piece of paper, blackened along the edges, lay on the hard earth. After mentally wrestling with myself, I threw caution to the wind, yanked the door open wide enough for me to enter comfortably, and strode in confidently. I immediately smacked my head on the drooping ceiling. Courage failing, I scooped up the note, flung myself backwards, and slammed the door closed with a resounding BANG! Soundwaves echoed in my head and seemed to resound over the sloping hills, rolling over mountains into the valleys below.

Still clutching the scrap of paper, I willed myself to shoot heavenward, wanting to get out of the spooky forest and away from the door. Long hair ruffling in the wind and wind stinging my eyes, I shot towards a large clearing with a lake off to the side. I touched down in front of a wooden outpost, running to diminish my stored momentum. I took refuge from the oncoming storm clouds inside the lookout post, climbing the ladder and flinging myself down against a splinter-filled wall. Above me, the rain pitter-pattered and made whooshing noises as it slid down the slanted roof. Finally gathering the nerve, I glanced down at the note.

Three words were branded onto the aged paper: Look behind you. My heartbeat quickened as I threw a quick glance over my shoulder. Lurking behind me was a humanoid figure, one that heavily resembled a frog. Tiny white flecks marred his dark blue membrane, and his eyes burned with a cold fury. In those eyes I saw sacrifices, beings of straw being burned alive. Yelping, I leapt the 25 feet to the ground below. All memories of being in control were absent- terror streamed in like water into the titanic. Somehow, my feet brought me back to that ominous door. I darted inside it, flinging it shut and collapsing onto the dirt, out of breath. Menacing laughter echoed outside the thick door, serving as a barrier between me and my impending doom.

Shadows danced about the dark room as the monstrosity paced back and forth, beckoning me out. I attempted to steady my breathing and calm my racing nerves, but to no prevail. I didn’t have much time left- maybe an hour? Hour and a half? After that, any changes would be solidified for another day until my brain released me back into my dreams. So basically, if I was unable to take immediate action, I was as goo as dead. Somehow, I would have to slay the beast. Ignoring my mental screams of protest, I threw open the door and made a run for it. Legs screaming in agony, I pushed on. The frog-man was so close, I could feel his static breathing on my neck.

I ran over a wooden bridge, wind stinging my eyes and preventing me from seeing the blockade until it was almost too late. Throwing my legs forward and my torso back, I slid under the wooden barricade and came up running. I continued to flee for my life, until my path was blocked on all sides. The only escape was a wooden covered bridge. As the frog-man drew nearer, I decided that creepy bridges were better than death. Entering the enclosed bridge, I knew that this was it- my final stand; a hail-mary. I altered the gravitational pull and turned the never-ending bridge into a vortex (a jail-like black hole that would hold the beast captive). I turned around… The beast sprung at me… I leaned my shoulders back, causing my body to plunge downward.

I was falling

Falling

Falling

The last thing I remember was the scream of outrage, and claws sinking into my left calf.

My body shot upright, eyes flew open. I was back in reality. Fearfully, I glanced out my bedroom window, and was greeted with a surprising sight- rolling hills with dying grass, red and orange leaves, and an algae-filled pond. “Oh, God…” I muttered. I had done it.

What Lies Beneath?

By Jada White (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

To delay the inevitable lecture she would receive from the strangers she called Mom and Dad, Lily did what any sane teenager would do. She went for a walk through the woods with her best friend Savannah. Ever since she could remember she and her parents just didn’t see eye to eye. Everything turned into an argument. When she got caught cheating on an English test and received a call home she knew they would over react. Savannah tried to prevent Lily from making yet another idiotic mistake. She expressed that arriving home late would only make matters worse, but everything she said went in one ear and out the other. There was nothing she could do but follow along behind her friend as she entered the dark shadows surrounding the woods.

Lily had been in the forest a million times which is why she was so confused when she discovered a path she’d never seen before. Without saying a word she led Savannah down the path and into a small clearing. Before her stood a green wall made of grass, twigs, and trees. In the center was a heavy wooden door twice the size of both girls. They glanced at each other as the sound of music and laughter flowed out from under the door. Without giving it a second thought Lily grabbed the handle and pulled. Once the door was open they were shocked by the abrupt silence. Not a single soul was behind the door. All there was to see was a field of grass too tall to see over and a little garden gnome.

“Welcome!” called the gnome, frightening the girls, “I am Daniel. Who are you?”

“Savannah and Lily,” they said after taking a moment to catch their breath. “What happened to the people we heard? What is this place?”

“They all went to dinner. I can take you after I give you a tour!” said Daniel avoiding their last question.

As Daniel turned and walked into the grass the girls whispered arguing about whether to follow or turn back. Their curiosity overpowered their suspicion and they ran to catch up. Behind them the only exit that they knew of slid shut with an audible click.

Savannah and Lily walked for what felt like hours behind the little gnome. They couldn’t help but look around for signs of other people. Every once in awhile a noise in the distance would catch their attention. They would look for the source but be unable to tell which direction it came from. Eventually, they emerged from the grass and were shocked by what they saw. Ten foot tall wood structures rose from the ground, one faintly resembled a person and the other, some kind of animal. Weeds had started to climb up the legs of both structures and the only metal swing was broken and rusty.

“Welcome to Tyler Park,” said the gnome enthusiastically.

“Shouldn’t there be children here?” asked Lily. “Where is everyone?”

“Dinner!” said Daniel slightly annoyed.

A familiar voice that both Savannah and Lily recognized cut through the air. Back at the path leading to the big wooden door their parents were calling them. The girls made eye contact then began to look around. For the first time they noticed how dark it was outside.

“Maybe we should go home,” Savannah suggested as she stared up at a bright white crescent.

“Nonsense!” replied Daniel. “Stay for Dinner. I’ll take you there now.”

Before the girls could protest he walked back into the grass. This time they exited in front of  a circular clearing. On the outside edges were glowing lanterns. There was a round table in the middle and tiny wooden chairs surrounding. Five identical copies of Daniel stared back at the girls.

“We should leave. Now!” Savannah whispered to Lily.

“I don’t think so,” said Daniel.

Lost

By Lindsay Ferguson (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

It was about 200 years ago when I took my first steps into the door that lead to the biggest change in my life. I didn’t believe in magic or ghost stories back then, but now it seems I live in one.

The door I entered was small and embedded in the side of a hill. It was made of wood, with a rustic curved roof and a stick for a handle. I found it while on a leisurely stroll through the woods behind my high school, my usual stomping ground. I had thought it belonged to a child, so I followed my adventurous instincts and took it upon myself to go in and investigate. Upon entering, I saw nothing but chilling blackness, the kind that will forever haunt my soul. Every ounce of color and light was sucked up into the void until I, myself, was a part of the bleak darkness too. I struggled to find a way out of the bone chilling abyss for a minute or so, then I saw a miniscule speck of light. I began to drift towards it until I got sucked completely into the light and fell out in a colorful wooded area, the likes of which I had never known.

Everything was kissed with starlight. Every leaf on every tree dazzled and sparkled in the sun. From the soil in the ground to the clear blue sky, shimmering starlight speckled all that could be seen. I was in awe. A door full of perpetual blackness lead to a world of wonder. I looked around and saw that the door had vanished. This, however, did not frighten me because I was in such a beautiful place, and I grew eager to explore it. I stood up off the ground which I had fallen on, and began to stroll into the woods of glowing wonder.

For many miles of walking I saw nothing strange, just vast stretches of the sparkling diamond-like woodland covering all the eye could see. Then, all at once it seemed, night fell upon me. I found a lovely tree to sleep under, and blissfully drifted off in the world of starlight. Sadly, my blissful sleep only lasted a few hours until I was awoken into a new world of terror.

When I stirred and began to look around for the cause of my awakening, I saw that I was not in the same place I had fallen asleep. I was in the center of a field, surrounded by large statues made of rope and straw. Around me sat thousands of tiny gnomes. The gnomes could move and speak, though it was a language my ears did not recognize. My stomach turned to butterflies and my hands grew clammy. The gnomes had restrained me using various ropes and chains. When they saw that I was awake, they ran to me and in unison carried me up to one of the straw structures. They bound me to one and began to chant a ritual. I fiercely fought to escape but it was to no avail. It was then that I knew my life would never be the same.

All at once, a beam of light shone down on me from the heavens, and the gnome chant grew louder. I fought as hard as I could to free myself from my restraints and still had no luck. Then, my whole body began to tingle and shake. I was transforming into something unknown.

Then I blacked out.

When I awoke, I saw my old body lying before me. I looked down at my hands and saw that they were smaller and my surroundings seemed much bigger than before. Then I realized the terrifying truth, my old body had been sacrificed and my soul was in the body of a gnome. Emotions overtook me. I was doomed to live out my infinite days in the world of magic kissed by twinkling starlight.

At present, I am stuck as a mischievous gnome with nothing but ill intent. I constantly place doors around the human world to lure children in and turn them into gnomes. We gnomes do this as sacrifices to the gnome god in the hopes of receiving blessings in return. I miss my old home. Starlight no longer dazzles me, it makes me yearn for my old life. The languages of the gnomes no longer puzzle me, they just make me long for the diverse languages of home. Everyone I have ever loved has probably died and forgotten about me. After all, how could they know where to look? As I capture more children each day, I wonder how their families will react. Will they think their children ran away, were kidnapped, are dead? Will they ever think to look behind the rustic small door hidden in the side of a hill? Will they even consider the possibility that their kids are trapped in a world of starlight? Who knows, maybe we all did get kidnapped, ran away, or are dead. Maybe this is just some twisted version of the afterlife or our mental escape from the horrible reality we may live in.

Maybe we gnomes are all just lost souls trapped in a world of starlight.

What Lies Beneath?

By Lola Ibrahim (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

The gates ridged edges cut my palms. I reach the top and let myself down, my foot slips. I take a second on the ground and try to collect my thoughts well enough to get up and keep running. My camera bangs against my chest in rhythm to my steps.

“Stop!” The park guard exclaims. I hesitate, frantically searching for a place to shield myself. I find a mass of partially dead trees and various other scraps. Deciding to sacrifice my hoodie I dive into the heap, my black hair gets caught in numerous twigs.

Beams of light shine through the bush in scattered, misshapen, patterns. I lean from side to side trying to dodge the rays. My breathing stops; I hear him inching closer. I can only pray he doesn’t spot me. He leaves, that’s my cue to start investigating; I photograph a bridge made of intertwining branches. I question how something so beautiful could be created by an average human. I look up at the sky and on my right to the setting sun.

I move closer, the leaves crunch under my tacky rain boots. There’s a small door under the bridge. “I know there’s something weird about this place” I whisper. My hand timidly reaches for the little knob and I open the door. I squint through the window trying to find anything in that tiny house. But I can’t pick anything up in the darkness. I depart in seek for more mysterious treasures. “Ow!” I yell. My shriek of pain gets cut off by my hand, as if to suppress my already exerted scream.

I look down to a gnome in a frightened expression. The top of its hat is broken off, and the gnome appears like it’s experiencing some sort of pain. It feels oddly warm despite the winds of November. I lightly apply pressure to it’s abdomen and it moves. I gasp and drop the creature, it hits the ground and scurries away.

It runs along a dirt path and I follow closely behind. The gnome leads me to small village of living gnomes. They live in small houses like normal people sleeping, eating, and walking around. It’s like a whole other world down there. I snap some pictures, they acknowledge my presence but keep doing whatever they were doing previous to my entry.

I catch a eerie blue glow out the corner of my eye. I turn and walk towards it, I arrive at trees hovering over a worn door. It looks like the trees are shading the door, protecting it from harm. A thick piece of wood plays the role of a door handle. I’m no match to the size of the gray door, I stand on my tippy-toes trying to see through the metal gate. Hoping to find the cause of the light. I lay my hand on the handle feeling the crevices of the grain.

The door fiercely swings open, a cold hand grabs my wrist and pulls me inside. My mouth’s covered with a cloth, I try to scream but can’t manage more then a muffled yell. “Stop” he says, calmly “ leave from here”. I punch him trying to loosen his grip. I can’t get a good look at him, his black, hooded, cloak covers his face. I struggle fighting him, I still can’t see his face as we wrestle each other. It’s all a hazy blur of blue and black, I try to piece together what’s happening but everything’s moving so fast it’s impossible.

He picks me up and throws me outside, I fall, out of breath. I feel for my camera, patting my chest in panic. I desperately hunt for my Nikon, I feel the ground for any trace of the device. I rustle the orange leafs, but there’s no luck.

I get up and brush myself off, the door that was once there is gone. All that’s left was my camera shattered to pieces. Everything had managed to disappear including my only evidence.

I hear something in the distance and run towards the gate. The park guard is close by, I climb the fence. Sunrise is coming and my mom would have a heart attack if she found out I was missing. Through it all I smile as I run, knowing my article’s getting an “A.”

Four

By Kyri Colson (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

With a flabellate leaf bag wrapped around her shoulders, Silva strolled out of her home onto the cobblestone path before her.

As she walked she quietly hummed a melody Silva had heard the crickets perform the night before. Unlike Silva, the other creatures quietly shuffled down the firefly-lit pathway with gloomy expressions. Silva tried her best to smoothen out the wrinkles in her new dress she had bought on sale at the Caterpillar-Market two weeks ago. She wanted to look as nice as possible when she would meet the queen.

“Bu!”

Her call went unnoticed by a young bullfrog with warted moss skin, and a bright yellow belly. His attention was occupied when he noticed a mindless fly had begun to circle around him. Finally, his long gum-like tongue captured the poor insect, almost hitting Silva’s in the process.

“Must you do that so close to my hair? Nothing can go wrong today!” the young sprite whined, then reached into her bag to pull out a small piece of glass so she could check her appearance. In turn, Bu’s laugh crackled in the night alerting many of their presence.

“Happy Created day Silva! Today’s the day right?” Bu exclaimed, “think about it, little Silvy! The first sprite in years to find a four! Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? I can see it now! You’ll get to meet Queen Claire, now that’ll show the fairies just because they have wings they’re not better than us!”

Silva took one last glance at her home. Her roof was made from dead red maple tree bark and was hand glued together poorly with nearby tree sap. While the windows were made from a leftover bottle glass that she had cleverly stolen from the Human Lands.

“Don’t even think about doubtin’ yourself, Sil. It doesn’t matter what your home looks like. You know it, I know it, and once we find that four everyone else will too!”

“We?”

“Okay,” Bu muttered sheepishly, “I meant you, of course.” Finally, the two of them had approached a wooden crisscross door that stood tall around 7ft above them. In front of it was a small yellow and brown spotted bunny sleeping inside a large toll booth.

“Cornelius?”

Bu quickly slapped his tongue onto the side of the glass and the sound of his slobber immediately woke the rabbit. “Bu?” The rabbit murmured while he rubbed eyes and quickly scrambled to gather his wits. “Thanks for waking me up before Hulga got here. The fairies threatened to shorten my rations for a month if I even blinked too long.” the bunny muttered, and Bu tried his hardest not to snicker when he saw Cornelius’ little nose begin to twitch.

“Don’t worry, Corne, you’ll be able to get some sleep when I find that four leaf clover! I’ll ask Her Majesty if you could have a day off as a reward for my excellent service.” Silva replied with a smug expression.

“Right, well, happy Created Day Silva. I hope you find it.”

Silva saluted her fuzzy friend as Cornelius pressed a large red button on the keyboard inside the toll booth. It triggered its rusty hinges and the door gradually opened.

Cornelius revealed a large field as long as the eye could see.

The sun, had risen from the horizon and created shadows behind those who worked diligently. They were all hunched over with seldom expressions. While fairies of all shapes, colors, and wing spans were seen hovered in the air overseeing these creatures work diligently below them.

Another sprite by the name of Emerald walked behind them. Despite her sickly yellowish skin, she was heavily favored by the queen because of the rest of her beauty. Because of this, she was rewarded with a lavish lifestyle even though she carried no wings on her back.

“Happy Created Day, Silva.” She said, but despite her cheerful words, her tone was a mocking one and caused a sinking feeling in Silva’s stomach. “Thank you.” Silva replied quietly then ducked her head to avoid letting Emerald see the blush blossoming on the apples of her cheeks.

“Good luck on finding that four, Silvy. You’ll need it!” Emerald snickered then walked over to her section to greet the rest of her friends.

Silva’s section was in the middle of the field.

She was completely surrounded by grass, and the tips of these large blades were browning. The harsh wind nipped at Silva arms and caused the clovers to sway. Unfortunately, none of these said clovers were fours. Silva assumed that today would be the last day to search for a four before the ground was covered in a blanket of snow.

The sprite decided not to let her mind wander on the upcoming season as she got to work.

With doll-like knives, she began to cut three leaf clovers at the stem. Then she proceeded to place them on a large wooden wagon.

Silva continued her work even when the clock struck midnight and the fairies began to call, “Nighting!” Yet, their instruction still went deaf to her ears.

When the sprite looked up she realized she was the last one in the field.

The wagon was gone and had long been pulled by the Caterpillars so they could take them to the Planters. The eerie sense of silence began blaring in her ears but it didn’t stop her hands from scavenging to find a four.

That is until she collapsed.

Her fingers were numb from holding her scissors, she had a blaring headache from squinting too much through the night, and her back ached from being so hunched over. Silva looked up to see the last clover in her section standing upright and tall above her. Her vision became blurry with tears of exhaustion.

Silva rubbed at her eyes several times.

“One.

Two. Three…

Four!”

What Lies Beneath?

By Sophia Belgiorno (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

The headline of the newspaper read, “Fourth Local Resident Missing: New Evidence?” They bounced up and down in Mallory’s bike basket. After launching the papers at every house in the neighborhood, she took one copy for herself and read it as she walked her bike home. Her eyes bulged out of her head when she read the article about the new evidence. She could not believe that the police had discovered four strange structures built in a field close to her house. Her jaw dropped when she found out that the structures were about fifteen feet tall and shaped like human bodies. She finally approached her house and darted inside.

“Mom, the cops found these huge things in the field down the street! Can I please go investigate? I’m good at this stuff,” Mallory pleaded.

“I’m sorry, Mallory; it’s too dangerous. Let the cops do their jobs. They’re trained for these kinds of things,” her mother responded. Mallory pouted and stomped up to her room, carrying the newspaper, to continue her research.

After studying every aspect of the structures, Mallory had almost put all of the pieces together. She felt in her gut that the structures were not built by the kidnapper; it would be too risky to take the chance of getting caught. But then, who would have built them? It didn’t add up. Mallory could not hold the weight of her eyelids up any longer. She walked over to her bed and lifted up the plain white pillow resting there. Hidden under it was her favorite colorful pillow that she had been using since she was a baby. She put the white pillow over it so anyone visiting would not know that she slept with a baby pillow.

Just then, the gears in Mallory’s head started turning, and all of the pieces fit together to form a perfect picture. The structures were decoys made to lead the cops off of the kidnapper’s trail. The logical place to look was far away from the field, but not too far. Chills crept down Mallory’s spine as she discovered the place she was thinking of. It was the woods right behind her house. She knew she had to look around, but her mother would never let her with a kidnapper out there. There was no way Mallory could fall asleep with all the information buzzing around in her head, so it was the perfect opportunity to carry out her plan. She jammed boots on her feet and hesitantly climbed out through the bedroom window.

After snooping around in the woods for a while, she realized that she was lost. She ran around, looking for anything familiar. She came along a path and noticed a small door hidden behind some leaves. Curiosity replaced her fear as she crawled through it. The other side did not look any different from the regular woods at first. She explored the area and discovered an oak tree with tiny windows all over it. She took small steps farther and saw a tree with a wooden cage in it. She heard a cracking sound, and her head jerked down to see something running away from her. She bent over and squinted at the object. When it turned its head towards her, she recognized it as a toy gnome. Then she realized, toys do not move on their own, and everything went dark.

As consciousness returned to her, Mallory looked around to see four people huddled together in a corner. She recognized them as the four missing residents. She was in the cage she had seen earlier. In that moment, she knew that her name would be the headline of the next day’s newspapers, but there would be no one to deliver them.

Not-So Sneaky Santa

By Chloey McFadden (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

Beads of sweat grew on her forehead, as did the acid in her stomach.

The mess of a woman shoved her unfinished homework into her cluttered drawer. She caused the piles of incomplete college essays to slap the wood floor. Clarinda stomped over heaps of dirty clothes and stormed out of her front door. Her feet charged to the familiar trail she’d walk in the woods to escape reality. The tears were wiped off of her cheeks and she thought her bloodshot eyes were imagining things. A beaten up, wooden door in the middle of grass and trees was staring at Clarinda. What on Earth is that? It’s never been here before. It does look more enticing than that homework though.

Clarinda let her ankle high converse guide her to the elf size entrance. The handle on the right seemed to whisper “open me,” to her. Her hand listened and bent down to pull open the piece of aged wood. A hole of black stared back at her as she entered a foot inwards. Her unsteady balance sent her flying downwards, head first into the portal. Fluffy, soft snow padded her freefall. Clarinda’s eyelashes fluttered a couple of times in astonishment.

Looking around, there were red and white candy canes all over the snowy path. The village ahead was full of brightly lit stone houses, no taller than 8 feet. The houses were covered in green wreaths and lights in every color. She peered down around her shivering chucks. What are those? Dog prints? Where am I?

She dove into the chilly snow and began throwing it around her and dancing in it. Clarinda hadn’t been this stress free since the summertime. After her excitement, the intriguing lights pulled her into the village. Clarinda was welcomed by hundreds of  elves dressed in green and red outfits with pointy hats and shoes. Oh my, how cute! I want one!

“Hi! My name is Jolly the elf! Who’s your favorite reindeer? Mine’s Prancer!”

“Um..hello, I’m Clarinda and there’s reindeer here? I like border collies.”

A concert of gasps exploded around her.

Jolly tugged on Clarinda’s sleeve and dragged her to the biggest red house she’d ever seen. Behind the red brick, sat an elderly man with a beard the color of snow. It held numerous amounts of cookie crumbs and milk droplets. The man greeted Clarinda with open arms and told her he’d love to have her stay to experience his town. She learned his name was Nicholas and he had elves working in a workshop all year long. Clarinda discovered a land of presents, they were all different shapes and sizes, wrapped in varying wrapping papers from Justin Bieber to Elmo. She let her eyes wander, finding a list longer than most highways. It stated Naughty and Nice List on the very top. Okay…no way. I thought this stuff was only in the movies. It’s like I’m 8 years old again.

Lost in her reminiscing thoughts, something smashed at the back of Clarinda’s head and she spun around to see Jolly giggling to himself. Her hands dove into the light snow and she tossed a snowball straight at Jolly. This lasted about an hour, filling both players with joy. The two called a truce over cups of hot chocolate and warm cookies. When the sun was sinking, Clarinda and Jolly began to blister their throats by singing carols.

As the stars appeared above, Clarinda noticed the same door she’d seen earlier in the day. Out of curiosity, she popped through it again. To her disappointment, when she came out she was staring at trees and grass. She twirled in circles, but everywhere she looked there was no door. Her face fell along with her hopes of becoming an elf.  Returning home, her mother was waiting outside with a water gun. She soaked Clarinda’s sweaty face, making both women squeal in laughter. Maybe even if I grow older, I can always be a child at heart. I hope Christmas and winter break from school come quickly this year.