What Lies Beneath?

By Becca Sweigart (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

The little boy was wandering through the woods all alone.  He saw a lady dressed in all silver and he decided to follow her. She went to a wood building, the door had a handle made from a tree branch and had a screen in it. When he followed the lady in the building it was small and pitch black. It smelled like wet, musty, old wood. The door slammed behind him. Once the door shut, a whole world appeared in front of him.

The lady asked “What is your name?”

“Alex,” he replied.

The lady, who’s named Maggie, informed Alex that he was in the year 3000. He did not fit in here.

Maggie told Alex, “We need to get you cleaned up young man. That’s not the way to walk around here.”

“Why? What I’m wearing is perfectly okay,” Alex stated.

“Well you stand out because you are really young, your clothes are not up to standards, and you smell,” Maggie replied.

“This is what I have been wearing for almost a year and it is acceptable where I come from.” Once Alex was cleaned up and dressed, he and Maggie went into the new world and started exploring.

Alex became frightened at what he saw; people were floating in the air all around him. The people had on silver pants, shirts, or dresses. Girls’ hair was pulled back in buns and the guys had nice combed hair. Everything was in place, everyone looked the same. Soon Alex’s feet started to lift off the ground.  He tried grabbing the grass but there was none. This place was strange and scary. Alex knew he did not belong here.

As they started floating around he saw that all the houses looked exactly the same. Each house was two stories and they were purple. He noticed that there wasn’t any grass, never once did he see a tree or flower, and there was not a pond or creek in sight. Alex wanted to go home where his feet were on the ground, houses looked different, and where grass and tree existed.

Years passed, and Alex still was scared of living here. Every year the houses would all change color at the same time, the people would change the color of their clothes. Nobody celebrated a holiday like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years. Not one person asked Alex where his parents were even though he was the only kid that walked around without parents and lived on his own.

Alex was now 26, he had grown used to all the new things around him, they weren’t scary anymore. He found a girl who he married. They now have a child together and another on the way. His wife Loren was at work and he had the baby, so they went for a walk on the edge of town. As they were walking around Alex saw leaves, something he thought he would never see again. He came upon a door, quickly realizing it was the same door he walked through 20 years ago that brought him to this crazy world.  Alex walked through the door and was back to the little six year old boy. Nothing had changed in the 20 years he was gone. It was like time stood still.

Now, Alex wanted to go back home to his family, but when he walked through the door again everything was gone. The place he spent 20 years of his life in, where his family was. Alex ran around the woods looking for another door that would take him back to his home. Unfortunately he found nothing. So he tried one last time. He ran to the old wood door and opened it. Yet again, nothing was there. Alex started crying and punching the ground, screaming “why?” over and over again. He wished he had never walked back through that door. Alex did not know how much he missed in this world. He knew he would never be able to forget about his wife and daughter.

Alex was now 26 and wondered if going through that door was a picture of his future in the real world. He got married and his wife’s name was Loren, they had a daughter with a son on the way.

That door in the woods twenty years ago changed his life. Not only did Alex get to be 26 twice, but he got to see what his future would be like. They did not float around or wear silver clothes. They still had water, trees, grass, and the houses all looked different. But for the most part everything remained the same from how he grew up to how he met his wife at a concert.

He would not change a thing and still went through the door to bring him back home.

He’d then experience it again, twenty years later.

The Escape to Forever Land

By Jordan Slaughter (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

Come here little child, into this world of light and harmony where you are always protected. Stray from the path of the corrupt and open the door. Yes, that wooden door to which you gave no second glance. The sunlight trickles down on it and the light brown wood appears golden. It sits, slanting into the hill surrounding it, still waiting for its old timber mouth to be opened and for someone to be engulfed into its stomach. Leave behind the world you once knew and come into ours. Where there was once darkness in your life, there is now only light.

* * * *

Charlotte opened the door. The cold wooden handle seemed to tremble under her touch in anticipation, but why, she did not know.

Maybe I should go back to Mommy, she thought, but the faintest sliver of violet behind the door piqued the five year olds interest immediately. Behind the door a magnificent violet color shone, blinding Charlotte, but also bringing a comforting warmth upon her.

“Come here Charlotte,” a soft female voice behind the door sang out to her. The child could not resist. The voice was too sweet and by this point her curiosity made her blind to the situation.

Charlotte took one more look behind her, regarding the world she was about to leave and thinking. She nodded to herself, well it will only be for a little while and I don’t want to go back to Mommy right now after she drank that bad smelling juice. She’ll find me before dinner time. With that, she walked into the light.

A lengthy oak stairwell was placed behind the door leading down to the unknown. Charlotte gave no second thought and proceeded to skip down the stairs with a grin on her freckled face. All Charlotte could do was smile and hum gently to herself.

“Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down,” she hummed over and over again as she proceeded her way down, finally reaching the bottom.

She carefully stepped onto the purple, pillow-like grass, fearing the first touch of it on her feet as though it would be fire. Her eyes wandered around the mystical forest that surrounded her. Grass went on for as far as the eyes could see and trees– spotted with violets on their branches– were aiming at incredible heights in the sky with little animals scurrying around them. The fragrance of the air was so sweet and the hint of honey tickled her nose. The soft sea-breeze wind seemed to be humming her favorite tune and Charlotte smiled in pleasure. This place was so unlike the siren-filled, trashy neighborhood she was used to.

“Oh, Charlotte it’s about time you got here darling!” The same soothing voice exclaimed, but she was no were in sight. Charlotte spun around and around, seeing nothing but the beauty that swathed her.

“Where are you?” Charlotte cried out.

“In front of you silly,” the voice chuckled. Charlotte stopped moving and looked right in front of her at the small being that hung in the air before her. The woman was not over seven inches and everything about her screamed small from her tiny pointy nose to her delicate tiny hands, but oh was she gorgeous; her very essence glowed. Her blood-red hair hung beyond the point of her backside and she wore a sprinkled ember green dress, matching the color of her eyes. What caught Charlotte’s eyes the most was the fact the little woman had wings like that of a butterfly. They reached far over the point of the woman’s head and they were colored a bright crystal blue.

“What’s your name and why do you have wings?” Charlotte giggled. “I don’t have them and neither does Mommy.”

“My name is Meredith and it’s just the way of my people. This is how we were born. You and I are two different kinds of beings, Charlotte, but that’s okay. We are going to be the best of friends.”

“Oh, I’d like that. Then I could tell Mary-Lewis and Mary-Beth that I’m friends with a person who has wings and they don’t. Maybe then they wouldn’t call me mean names and lock me in the girl’s bathroom.”

“Oh Charlotte,” the little woman said. “Here no one will be mean to you. Only happiness will torment you, my darling, from here on out. Okay? Now take my hand we are going on an adventure.”

The girl took her hand and on touch she instantly shrunk like the women. She giggled in the happiness of being tiny and thought, wow, if only the Marys’ could see me now. The little woman held tight onto Charlotte and they flew deeper into the world of magic.

Throughout the whole flight Charlotte smiled and hummed. The woman took her on a tour of the little majestic world. They saw things Charlotte only dreamed of. Charlotte and the woman flew through small villages that were placed on the body of trees and homes to friendly gnomes that had miniature unicorns and griffins as pets. The pets joined them in the air and rubbed up against Charlotte, caressing her. Together they visited a large pond that radiated with life in and around it. It was a majestic pond that was a light purple color and was so clear the bottom could be seen.

Little fish and nymphs swam in its beauty and trees covered the pond, shielding it off from everything else.

“Hey, Charlotte, wanna do something fun?” Meredith said.

Charlotte nodded even though she was already having the time of her life. With the acceptance, the woman let go of Charlotte’s hand and dropped her in the pond.

Water enclosed around Charlotte, but she was not panicked. The touch reminded her of the strong male arms that used to embrace her. So unlike the harsh touches of her mother after a few drinks. The water was at such a perfect temperature and brought such a calming sensation to the little girl. Her clothes clung to her tiny body and fish swam to her and tickled her nose. Finally, coming up for air she looked to the sky, seeing the woman smiling down at her.

“Will you not come down and play too?” Charlotte questioned.

“No, this is all you,” smiled Meredith. “Have fun.”

With that Charlotte played her little heart out for the rest of the afternoon in the pond, smiling and humming the whole time.

Later that day, Meredith and Charlotte lay on the soft grass looking out into the vast forest. All was quiet and still in the small utopia and all that could faintly be heard was the humming of Charlotte’s soft song. “Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

“Is that your favorite song?” The woman said looking over at Charlotte with her wings encasing her tiny body in a cocoon.

Charlotte had to think about that question for a second. She prodded her mind thinking about the answer. “Yes, ever since I can remember I’ve always known it and sung it to myself. I remember a man singing it to me when I was a baby. But those could just be dreams. That’s what Mommy says anyway; that I can’t remember that kind of stuff. But I remember him rocking me in his arms and singing that song all of the time.”

The woman only smiled sadly in response as if she knew something Charlotte did not and looked out into the small world again. “Oh child,” she said in a small voice. “The world is a beautiful place, but beauty is danger. Here you will never have to fear anything and you can come here anytime you want. One day you will be here forever. Would you like that?”

“Oh yes,” Charlotte smiled. “I would love that very much.”

“Then it will be so.” The woman smiled happily and reached over, pulling Charlotte into her embrace. “Now sleep child. We’ll have more fun tomorrow night.”

“But I don’t wanna yet,” though even as she said it the child had begun to drift off. Hums of Ring around the Rosy clouded her mind and warm hands shook her awake.

* * * *

“Charlotte, honey, wake up. You’re talking in your sleep again,” Charlotte’s mom rocked her gently awake.

“Oh Mommy, I had the greatest dream tonight!” Charlotte exclaimed.

“Really, baby girl? The same dream that had the little woman with wings?”

“Yeah, but oh, this time she took me to a pond and we played with fishes. We also talked about the man that we talk about sometimes.”

“Oh really?” A sad look crossed her mother’s face, but left quickly leaving no trace it was ever there. Her mom lay next to her on her small bed. “Want to tell me the whole story?”

Charlotte took a deep breath not knowing where to begin and smiled, excited to recount the night she had in the mystical forest. “Well there was a door…”

The Reincarnation Continuum

By Emily Fisher (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

The crash happened so quickly, I barely had time to take a breath before my car flipped.

I’ve always hated the emergency sirens ambulances play. The calls of the ringing in the distance brought a certain reminiscence inside me that sojourned for a while, until I decided the memories overstayed their welcome, and I reach for the cigarettes in the dashboard’s glove-compartment. Menthols had always provided a sense of serenity ever since Mom died. When the paramedics took her from the crash scene years ago, they took a part of me with them. As the paramedics come for me now, I can hear my mother’s voice above all the sirens, serenading me into my last sleep.

The paramedics dragged me out of the car and began attaching me to a gurney and shoving IVs in the arm. Tears blurred my vision, making the carnage indistinct. Not that I wanted to see it anyway, but I watched my 2015 Chevy Malibu twist and burn away through swollen eyes. On the short ride to the hospital, I could feel myself falling in and out of consciousness. The Emergency Room was filled with somber faces and doctors sprinting from room to room.

“She’s losing blood fast, we need to get her into an intensive care unit now!”

Dark crimson stains seeped into the clean white sheets on the hospital bed. A thousand questions and orders were yelled to one another, doctors scurried into my room, their faces scorn. The lights above me began to intensify, burning my eyes. Even as I closed them tightly, the vehement rays burned me, consuming me. A feeling deep in my chest curdled my blood. The light lifted me, and when I awoke, I was in yet another unfamiliar terrain.

Sparse, tall oak trees surrounded me. I left the summer behind me, the leaves have fallen and the autumn air chilled my skin. I stood and began down the path that was cleared. The path looked as though it could go on forever, the twists and turns covered with the shadows of the trees. A calm essence of gardenia flowers filled the air, soothing my worries. I stopped for the slightest second, only for the sound of crunching leaves to reveal I was certainly not alone. I turned, and a man in a suit was sprinting my way. I hurried away, running as fast as I could go, twisting down the path and nearly tripping. A sharp left turn led me to a wooden door. It was connected to what looked like an old wooden shack that was decaying. The handle was the only thing that seemed to be in perfect condition- it didn’t rust and deteriorate like the rest of the house did. Its golden glow gleamed in the sunlight, looking brand new. Before I could enter the house, a hand laid upon my shoulder and turned me.

“Why are you following me? What is your name?” I asked suspiciously.

“I could ask you the same. I have a lot of names that originate from many different people, many different places. My importance fluctuates with whomever you ask. I’ve walked in the shoes of nearly everyone.”

As confusing as he sounded, his voice flowed with formality and grace. He didn’t stutter when he spoke, and his gaze was captivating.

“What is your name?” he asked, his interest struggling to be contained.

“I’m Emily Fisher.”

“Not once you go through the door, you are not Emily anymore. When you pass away, there is no end. There is no paradise or punishment. There is no sin, or any good service that will guarantee you into a city above the clouds where the angels fly and sing songs of prosperity. Hell is just a figment of imagination. Religion is a mere pastime and just another set of rules that someone chooses to follow. There is only reincarnation into life, and lives to be lived.”

“Who am I?”

“You are a part of the reincarnation continuum, as am I and everyone else. Those who enter through the door forget their past lives and accept being reincarnated into a new life. I have experienced many things, and so will you. Betrayal, loss, heartbreak, fame, racism, wealth, tragic lives and beautiful ones too. You have just begun your journey. You will soon be reincarnated into another life. And one day, you shall experience all life has to offer.”

“What will I experience next?”

“You will only know, once you enter the house of reincarnation.”

And with that, he opened the old, wooden door and told me to enter.

What Lies Beneath?

By Madison Blair (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

“Hello?” called out a quiet, broken voice. It slowly started to hit Aurora that running away didn’t seem as great as before. She knew at home there were dishes to clean, a drunken father on the couch, and screaming brothers, though what was here? The lack of leaves on the massive trees were even more unsettling to her. She was alone, but for once in her life there was no bickering about why mom wasn’t home or why she took all the money. It was just quiet. Aurora didn’t know if she wanted to smile or panic, but she had to sit down, on her feet she seemed to tilt from all of the things she was trying to understand. There was no sun and no moon, the sky just seemed black so she stared into the abyss of the night until her eyes shut. She could fall into a new life, a life that wasn’t her own.

Morning crept into the sky sending shades of purples and pinks into the dead forest. Aurora found it to be incredibly beautiful, but with the sun up things seemed different. The trees looked bigger, uncomfortably bigger. She stood up, brushed off her pants, and turned to take in her surroundings. She turned to the left of her, there was a dandelion, ordinarily that would never be a problem until she was looking up at it as if it were a tree. Aurora began to panic. She wasn’t sure what to do.

A voice came out of nowhere shouting, “We found her! We found her!”

The chanting was followed by another unfamiliar voice “She’s awake, and weird looking”

“Is it a she?” the first voice called back.

“Yes, I’m a girl!” yelled Aurora before seeing what she was yelling at.
From behind a bush two large animals emerged. She knew she should probably run, but before she could even take a step she was lifted into the air. She screamed. She was flying through the air, falling into a patch of flowers. The flowers were laughing. This wasn’t happening. She couldn’t believe this.

“Knock it off,” came another voice unaccompanied by a face

Behind a patch or underbrush, that suddenly seemed like a forest in itself, a creature appeared. Aurora could not positively identify what this thing was right away, but she was pretty sure it was a fairy. It had long paper thin wings that appeared torn or burned and it’s skin was tinted a green with dark charcoal symbols or words, she wasn’t really sure, but it looked branded into the skin. Aurora thought she ought to scream, but her voice was caught in her throat nothing but a squeak came out. She closed her eyes tight as the thing came closer to her.

“What a pretty face,” said the supposed fairy as it traced a cold finger down Aurora’s jaw line. “What a shame would it be if something were to happen to it.”

“Get away from me,” Aurora said in an attempt to sound strong, but her voice was barely a whisper.

The fairy laughed. “Vivian, we have to go,” the creature turned her head to her subject.
“Are you Vivian?” Aurora said.

“Do not speak to me, and walk. We have many things to do,” Vivian said to Aurora.

Aurora didn’t move nor did she open her eyes. Vivian’s face turned red, “Now!” she screamed.

Aurora took a wobbly step forward. “Come on Miss, I’ll help you,” Aurora turned to see who was talking to her. Her knees gave out when she saw a rabbit standing on it’s hind legs, holding out his front paw for her. The rabbit caught her and led her into the forest. The walk seemed long. For what seemed to be hours Aurora just started at her feet. She kept considering if she could run, but where would she go? She couldn’t be more than 6 inches tall, if even that. This problem left her being dragged through a forest with giant trees and giant flowers by a rabbit.

Hours passed and day light drifted away when the traveling stopped. Aurora looked around, and was puzzled due to the fact that they were still in the middle of nowhere and she was tired. Vivian moved her hand back and forth as it wiping a window and a door began to appear.

“Hello Vivian. Welcome home,” said a deep monotone voice.

Startled by a face that rested on the door, Aurora looked back down at her feet.

“Hey, Pete,” Vivian said. “I got another one here. These doofuses say she’s the right girl so we’re gonna head to the chamber.”

“Well, come on in.”

Aurora had so many questions, but was too frightened to ask. Vivian took her to a castle that towered over the other homes and shops of the village. She lead Aurora inside, for the other animals had left. She had found safety in the rabbit and not having him arose more fear.

“This is where the queen lives,” said Vivian.

“Is she your queen?” Aurora asked.

“Yes, and she is yours so I expect you to show respect.”

Aurora felt Vivian had become nicer to her than before, but fear still screamed inside her that she should run.

“Remove your clothes,” Vivian demanded.

“Pardon me?” Aurora’s face flushed red, “What did you just say to me?”

“Take your clothes off.”

“I will not!” screamed Aurora.

“Do it,” said Vivian in a quiet growl. “I could just kill you now.”

Aurora didn’t know if that were true, but she wasn’t going to sit around and find out. She removed her shoes and her socks and laid them in front of Vivian. She took of her jeans and her face turned completely red. She removed her shirt and threw it to the ground.

“You’ll have to get rid of those to,” said Vivian looking at Aurora’s undergarments.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Aurora said, completely completely uncomfortable by the exposure. Vivian did not have the face of someone that was kidding, so Aurora took off the rest of her clothes and used her hands to try and cover herself as much as possible.

“Go inside. Someone will be back for you soon.”

Aurora went inside the room with her head down. She hoped no one had witnessed that. The room was so much bigger than she had imagined it would be. She sat on a large bed that was covered in beautiful blankets and pillows that welcomed her like a friendly smile. She laid down and wrapped herself in a silk blanket. She started thinking about her brothers, wondering what they are doing right now. She actually missed them. Although her thoughts were quickly interrupted with her body’s call for sleep.

A loud banging on the door jerked Aurora from a deep sleep. She stood up, dragging the blanket in front of her. She pulled back the door where a small green creature dressed in silver armor was waiting for her.

“Well, hello,” she said with a smile trying not to freak out.

“I’m here to take you to the gown room,” said the little slimy creature handing her a soft gold robe.

She nodded her head said stepping outside, and putting on the robe. The little green guy took her to a room filled with elegant, amazing dresses from wall to wall. She ran her fingers along the many fabrics.

“I’m gonna have to get you fitted for a dress, ma’am,” said a man the emerged from a pile of even more dresses.

Aurora felt like she recognized this man, but she didn’t know how. She shoved the feeling aside and let him direct her to a platform for her to stand on. He helped her up and told her to hold out her arms. She did as she was told.

“My name’s Aurora,” she said

“I know who you are,” he said looking up at her face. “My name’s Antonio.”

“How do you know me?”

“You’re the princess,” he said, casually handing her a dress.

“The what?” Aurora asked completely confused. “You have got to be kidding. No, you’re wrong. I already know this is all a dream. You’re all in my head. This isn’t real. I just have to wake up.”

“Go behind there to get changed,” Antonio said pointing to a fold screen.

She did what he said. “What do you mean that I am a princess?” she continued with the questions.

“I’m not the one to explain it to you,” he said. “You will be filled in later, ma’am”

Aurora stepped from behind the curtain. She looked into a mirror to see herself. She was wearing a beautiful, floor length, lavender gown. Her mouth dropped, and all of a sudden pieces of blurry memories, or dreams she couldn’t tell, were flashing through her mind. She didn’t know what it meant or what they were. She grew dizzy and fell to the ground.

She tried opening her eyes and getting up, but there was a throbbing in her head. She could faintly make out voices.

“She’s starting to remember,” it was the guy that had given her the dress.

“Tisk tisk. We can’t have that,” came a female voice that Aurora recognized and she was filled with fear and uncertainty.

“Vivian just let her be. She is harmless.”

“She doesn’t deserve what is truly mine.”

“It isn’t yours,” Antonio screamed.

“Well it should be! What does a child know about running a kingdom?”

“She deserves to be told the truth,” Antonio said in a softer tone.

Aurora’s heart dropped. She laid as still as possible until she heard Vivian storm out of the room. She attempted to get back on her feet.

“Here let me help you,” called Antonio.

“I’m fine,” Aurora said coldly, pulling her arm away, but she lost balance. She fell back down to her knees and finally started crying. “I just want to go home.”

“You have so much to learn. Please let me help you,” Antonio said in a soft voice. Aurora did not argue. She was so tired so he went to help her up.

Aurora was sent back to the room she had first been brought to, and not long after Vivian was at her door. A soft knock came, but she didn’t wait for a response before entering. She held a tray with a glass of water and a small sandwich. Aurora was sitting in bed crying. Vivian came over and sat the tray on a nightstand.

“Oh, poor thing, don’t cry,” she said.

“I just want to go home,” Aurora answered in sobs.

“Here, drink this,” Vivian said handing her a drink.

Aurora took the drink and thanked Vivian. She took a sip and within seconds the glass fell from her hands and she dropped back on to the pillow that rested behind her. Her eyes slipped back into her head as blood trickled down her chin.

Vivian rose from the bed and smiled.

What Lies Beneath?

By Gavin Sekel (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” Jack blurted out. The entire room looked at him. Everyone was meeting in the cafeteria to discuss opening the door.

“Jack, it is broken,” Tom whispered to him. “We’re running out of supplies.” He had been good friends with Jack since they took cover there.

“We don’t know what will be out there,” Jack continued to say to the crowd.

“The books say it should be safe for human life out there now,” a voice came from the people. They had been left books to tell them how to live over the years. “It has been twenty-five years since the bombs dropped.” The crowd began to roar in argument.

“Come with me,” Jack said to Tom as he began to push through the crowd.

“Where are we going?” Tom asked.

“They’re going to open that door no matter what I say. We need to be ready,” Jack answered.

When they made their way back to Jack’s room, Tom waited as his friend flipped up his bed. Underneath was a safe.

“The door will be opened in exactly one hour,” the loudspeaker echoed along the metal walls of the hallway outside the room. “We advise everyone to stay calm and return to your rooms…”

“Take this,” Jack said, handing Tom a revolver. He had one for himself too. “We should find some better weapons once we get out. Tom, it’s going to be dangerous out there.”

“I believe you, Jack. I’ll stick by you,” Tom said. Jack gave him a head nod and the two headed for the vault door.

The hallways were chaotic. People were running to hide in their rooms or to get ready to see the outside world. Tom and Jack waited at the vault door as the hour went by. A large group of people slowly gathered to wait with them.

Jack noticed a young boy standing with his father. He thought about how that kid had never seen the outside world before so he walked over to him and knelt down.

“Here bud,” Jack said to him and handed him a pair of glasses.

“What are these?” the boy asked.

“They’re sun glasses. The outside is going to be brighter than anything you’ve ever seen,” Jack replied.

“Thank you,” the boy said with a smile. He put the glasses on and looked excitedly up at his father.

When the hour was up, three men arrived. Jack knew the one man quite well. His name was Jared. His hands shook as he approached the panel next to the door. He typed in a code and a box on the wall opened. Inside was a red lever that had WARNING written on it. Jared turned to look at all the people waiting and locked eyes with Jack who shook his head. With a deep breath, he pulled the lever down. There was a loud crackling noise in the wall and the door slowly swung open. The sunlight poured in and the whole crowd took a step back. They all held up their hands to cover their eyes.

Jack was the first to climb up through the door. He sniffed at the air and looked down at the soil. It was dry and cracked. The outside rang with noise. Tom stepped out next to him.

“Hello, old friend,” Tom said with a smile. He breathed in the fresh air.

Jack turned back to Jared. “This door needs to be kept shut at all times. We don’t know what’s out here and we don’t want anything getting in. I will knock three times when we get back. Be ready for us,” Jack announced. Jared nodded and closed the door.

“Well, let’s do this,” Tom said. The two men walked through the woods. It was different than they remembered. It held less life. They walked on through the dust and the trees. A feeling came slowly up from inside of both of them. They wondered what knew things would come into their lives.

Jack stopped and noticed something sticking out from the soil. The sun reflected off of it. He bent down and realized it was a sort of knife made from scrap metal and fabric. A shiver spread through his body.

“Jack,” Tom whispered. Jack looked up to see Tom staring off at something. Rising to his feet, he saw what it was. Multiple statues stood twenty feet tall in an opening in the woods. They were made from sticks and hay. A few of them represented humans and another looked like some type of four-legged animal.

“Something must have built those. Just like they made this,” Jack whispered showing Tom the knife. “They almost look like scarecrows. I think we’re the crows.”

At the same time they noticed a house made from scrap wood and metal built in a tree across the opening. It was small. The door was only a few feet tall. They began to notice other houses in the trees as well.

“The world has changed, Tom,” Jack said as they began to back away slowly. “We need to get back to the vault and tell them about this.”

“I agree. We need to figure out what to do about this,” Tom replied.

They began to run back to the vault but stopped after they thought they were a safe distance from the tree houses and statues. Along the way they noticed a few strange animals. One of them looked like a normal rabbit, but it had yellow spots throughout its fur.

“This world holds a lot for us to learn. There’s a lot of opportunity out there. We must be careful though,” Tom said. “We needed to open the door though. You know that don’t you?”

“I know we did. There are just so many things we are going to have to face now,” Jack answered. “We have no idea what’s out here. Maybe I’m wrong though. Maybe it’s safe.”

Arriving back at the vault, Jack knocked three times on the door. It remained shut though. He looked at Tom with concern. They couldn’t hear any movement inside.

Once more, he knocked three times.

What Lies Beneath?

By Carly Bondrowski (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

Adeline ran from her house until she couldn’t anymore. Everyone there seemed to be fighting. There she was, stranded in the middle of the woods with nowhere left to turn. The door, embedded on the side of a hill, was pulling Adeline in with curiosity. Adeline yanked on the door and she barely pulled it out a centimeter. She tried yanking it again and it pulled open with a loud “WHAM!”. Adeline peeked her head in the door as if she could see something. It seemed to be the same on the inside as it was on the outside so she wandered in. The door slammed behind her. She was locked in and couldn’t get back into the real world anymore. Adeline thought to herself, “No one will miss me anyway, they’re all too busy fighting with each other to realize I am even gone.”

Adeline found one lone path in the woods and began to follow it straight down. She heard the leaves rustle beside her and her eyes widened as her jaw dropped.

“Is someone there? I need to find a way out of here,” Adeline yelled into the woods.

“I don’t know if I can help you with that, but I can help you with a place to stay for the time being,” a voice asked Adeline.

“Why can’t I see you? Are you a ghost? Am I in heaven?” Adeline panicked.

“If you look really closely, you’ll be able to see me. I am right in front of your eyes,” the voice said.

Directly in front of her, Adeline saw a little person. She helped the little person up off the ground and into her hands. This little person had pointed ears, and a pointed hat. She seemed trustworthy because she had no reason to be nice to Adeline other than the kindness of her heart.

“Follow my direction, we’ll be home in no time,” the person said.

As they approached the person’s home, Adeline quickly realized her home would be far too small for her. It was obviously fitted to sleep a tiny person, not a young girl. The size of the fencing was just right for Adeline. It was hollow enough that she could curl into a ball and be comfortable while she slept.

Adeline asked, “What should I call you?”

“Brenda, Brenda will do,” she replied.

“Brenda, do you think I could sleep in the fence around your.. stum- er, I mean, house?”

“Why, yes of course. I noticed you would be too large to sleep in my stump.”

Adeline dropped Brenda off in her stump and she curled into the hollow fencing to sleep for the night. The next morning, Adeline woke up in a panic, unsure of where she was and what was happening. All around her the Earth was shaking. She turned her head to see what was happening and there was a 7-foot tall four-legged animal running towards her. Behind it was a 8-foot tall human looking creature.

Adeline screamed and woke up all the people around her. The people seemed to be annoyed that Adeline woke up the whole village, there was a low mumble with a negative tone. They were used to this kind of thing every morning and since Adeline yelled that way it had brought attention to the people. Now the giant creatures were coming right for Adeline. There was no stopping them now. Adeline began hearing her name being called from far away. It was coming from one of the tall human looking creatures.

“How does this creature know my name?” Adeline thought as it picked her up and ran away with her.

“Help me! Help me! I don’t know what’s happening!” Adeline yelled, wishing Brenda would come save her.

“Adeline! Adeline! Are you going to contribute to this conversation at all?”

Adeline looked up with her brows furrowed and rolled her eyes. She had forgotten all about this fight going on and she had thought about ways to get out of it.

“Whatever, I’m going to bed. I’ve had enough of all this fighting,” Adeline said.

Adeline dreamed that night of the magical place she had thought of that day and wished she could actually escape to there. Unfortunately, every time she went to the woods, the door she imagined was never there. She searched every corner and every path there was and still she found nothing.

Adeline finally decided it was time to give up, when one day she saw it. That exact door, that led to her magical world. As she walked in, she wasn’t sure if she would actually meet the person named Brenda, or sleep in a fence, or get taken by a giant human like creature. Adeline was sure that she would not be coming out of the magical world this time.

She intended on staying there a long, long time.

What Lies Beneath?

By Brandon Saul (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

The teenaged boy’s pale shaky hand reached for the doorknob, but it creaked open itself. He tiptoed into the dark room and the door shut on him. Lights flickered on and there was a dead body on the ground. The boy ran to the door and jiggled the handle. He started to panic and screaming “Help!” and banged on the door with his side.

Soon after he realized it was no use. While looking around the compact room he found what looked to be an elevator switch. The only number there was zero. He hesitated to press it, but he knew it was his only hope. The small room shook as if it was released from hatches. The room dropped and an elevator door opened. The boy took a few steps out. There were lights, shops, and homes everywhere.

“You too, huh?” She grabbed his hand and pulled him along. The boy’s face turned red, his hands started to sweat.

“How old are you?” she asked.

“15, I mean 16, uh… uh… 17.”

“So am I,” she replied.

They approached a small house covered in flowers. They went inside and an old lady approached the boy. “What’s your name, kid?” she asked.

“Damon.”

She turned her head and said to the girl “So he had the same fate as you Serah?”

She replied “Yes.” Then the old lady insisted that she show him to the town’s garden. On their walk Serah explained how she’s been down there for almost two months. Also, that most of the people have lived here most of their lives. They have no way of escaping because the key to the exit is kept by the ruler. They reached the garden.

Serah said “Food has been low recently; we’re all bound to die soon if the ruler keeps taking from us.

Damon became awfully scared, he didn’t want to die.

He said “Why don’t we sneak into the ruler’s home?”

“Many have tried, but the guards kill everyone, it’s nearly impossible.” Damon sighed, “But we’ll die either way so we could try.”

She agreed and they went back to consult the old lady about their plan. Although she thought it was crazy, she agreed they should try. The old lady dug into a closet and pulled out two military outfits.

“These should help protect you if you get hit; supposedly they belonged to my dad.”

The two kids put on the baggy, dark green and light green outfits. Serah was practically tripping over herself so she had to fold them at the ends. The two walked out the door and marched towards the ruler.

There was a protest going on outside the ruler’s house about the food shortage.

Serah said “This should make it easier.”

Damon nodded. They found the furthest vent on the house and crawled inside. They came upon their first entrance. Serah smushed her eyeballs against the vent to check the surroundings. The vent collapsed and she went head first into the floor. Damon jumped down and helped her up and noticed she had a big bump on her forehead.

“Let me lead.” He pressed his ear up to the door to make sure it was clear. He looked at Serah in the eyes as a signal to run. He opened the door and they ran to the ruler’s bedroom at the end of the hallway. There was a safe with a lock on it. Serah took a bobby pin out of her hair and snapped it in half. She pick locked the safe.

Serah snatched the key and said, “There are no vents we can reach, we’ll have to rush by everyone at the front door.”

Damon nodded and they exited the house. Guards from all over pointed their guns to them.

“Halt.”

They ran past them while being fired at. Damon got hit twice in the back, but they managed to make it to the old lady. Serah grabbed her hand, trying to take her with them.

“I’ll only slow you down, please go!”

Damon picked Serah up and ran to the small elevator. He quickly pressed the zero and it started going up. Damon, losing his breath gave out a sigh of relief, and asked “Do you know why there is a dead body here?”

“Probably someone who mistakenly came in here like us, but never pressed the button.”

The elevator hit the top and the dead body moved. Serah unlocked the door and opened it. There was a gun fire followed by a thump. Serah turned to see that Damon was lying face down on the floor. She paused in fear, but then ran away and shut the door behind her.

The lights flickered off.