What Lies Beneath

By Nicole Papa (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

There was a war coming.

Threading through the branches of the forest, lurking in the underbrush of the ground where queer creatures linger, whispers drift. Slithering underneath fingernails and beneath window sills, the raw anticipation seeped deep within her bones. She waited for it.

Each day that passed with no disturbance, each time the sun rose and fell without fault the anticipation grew until she was hungry for it. When dusk fell, glimmering stars and dark skies, Iris Bennet was reminded how each day could be her last. The creatures in the Forest watched her as she went each day, always checking behind as though a cloaked Grim Reaper would be trailing behind her and counting every foot step. The leaves began to descend, rich autumn colors coating the soil and leaving the trees barren. Even as November arrived with a startling cold, a chill lacing through her hair and seeping into the marrow of her bones, she knew.

There was a war coming.

The evil expected to arrive with it tore at the witch’s chest, leaving her with clamped eyes shut and scratches on her arms, harsh tremors that ran down her spine and kept her awake for days. There would be no coming back from this. There would be no surviving. A war was approaching.

A rustle of leaves a few feet ahead of the girl broke her out of her merciless trance, snapping her head up to meet the face of a polychromatic figure.

Her voice was airy, dream-like.“Focus on the present, Iris.”

It was strange for someone to speak to the girl without a hint of fear, but the fairies were hereditarily innocent, kind beings. It was almost refreshing.

Iris’s teeth were clenched so hard she thought they may crack. She released them, an immediate ache in her jaw pulsing. “That’s a bit difficult, Amaris.”

Amaris smiled slightly. “You don’t even attempt.”

Iris swallowed the words that threatened to spill out of her mouth, her bitter retaliation.  Though she said nothing. The fairies held a childlike innocence Iris could not bear to tamper with, it was virtually immoral.

Iris’s eyes flitted back to the treehouse the fairy before her lived in, accompanied by the rest who inhabited the branches. Streaks of different colors dashed across the sky as fairies chased one another. Amaris kept her eyes on Iris. “Be careful.”

Despite the persistent fear that resided in Iris’s chest, a ghost of a smile played on her lips. “You as well, Amaris.”

Refusing to fall back into her inevitable spiral, Iris inhaled quickly through her teeth. Even with her wand tucked safely into the sleeve of the girl’s jacket, she felt uncomfortably exposed in the woods. The simple set of winter fabrics couldn’t keep the bitterness from lacing through her hair. Iris wasn’t sure if it was from the eery silence that pounded at her ears or simply from the dewy frost that coated the grass under her boots.

Savorsnake Forest was and had always been forbidden in her world. No witch or wizard was allowed, only the peculiar creatures that inhabited it. Even the occasional troll, as infuriatingly arrogant as they could be, did not dare to enter. It was merely just dangerous. They let her wander freely for one reason: she was a dead man anyway.

Buvnu Exu,” she muttered quietly once she was at a distance with a simple flick of her wrist intact with the wand.

Instantly, the map began to fill with ink, fading in paths and locations marked with the names of places in Savorsnake. Seeing as she just passed House of All Fairies, Iris decided she was on the right track. Despite the witch making the trek before, Savorsnake was constantly changing: trees were re-rooted, grass was re-planted, colonies of creatures were moved all in an effort to trap anyone who entered. Without the map her father had left behind, she would have been lost in the ever changing nature years ago.

But one thing always stayed where it was.

The Door.

Iris never gave it a name. On the map, it was simply ‘Door.’ It needed no further explanation; Iris knew exactly what it was. It was where the war would stop before it began.

The dirt beneath her feet was cemented into her skin, years of familiarity wrapping around her skeleton. Her adolescence lived in this forest, days of sneaking in as a child merely a fantasy now. A life before her family turned against her, waging war when she refused to join them in Dark Wizardry. A life before everyone she once knew waited for her to perish at the hands of her own blood. Her childhood was buried into the earth, layer and layer of past years suffocating it until it was nonexistent.

After a few miles of the quiet but otherwise comforting chatter of The Forest, the snapping of twig caused Iris to snap her head up, her wand simultaneously armed in her hand. A broad-chested centaur watched her quizzically, his head tilted with a small smile playing on his lips.

“What a curious thing to have,” he drawled. “A map, for this forest.”

Iris stayed still. “What do you want?”

The beast chuckled, crossing his arms and leaning against the bark of a tree beside him. “Witches aren’t allowed in here.” Though his voice held no sense of threat, the words alone caused Iris’s heart to spike. It was no secret that many mythical Savorsnake creatures felt a hostility towards witches and wizards-this was their territory. She began to wonder if he knew who she was, though it was ludicrous-they all did.

“Are you going to stop me?”

He continued to stare at her, making Iris grip the wand in her hand tighter, raising it at him. Even with a few feet between them, the wand would inflict more damage than any physical weapon could. Her voice sounded stronger than she felt, the weight of the wand in her hand providing much needed confidence. “Are you?”

“Calm down, witch. I was wondering what you were doing. My family-they’ve seen you wandering around the grounds. They’re hoping you aren’t here to kill us.”

Iris let her hand relax only slightly, the wand lowering a few inches. “I was finding my way somewhere.”

The centaur looked behind him when a rustle in the leaves caught the pair’s attention. Iris swallowed roughly, glancing back at Arkin. “I’m to go. A witch isn’t welcome here.”

Arkin took a second to respond, tearing his eyes away from the disturbance. “Clearly. My family is angry.”

Iris kept her eyes on him, flexing her fingers while a faint panic arose in her chest.

Arkin’s ever-present sarcastic smile dropped, his upper lip curling. It was a drastic contrast to before, and Iris involuntarily took a step back. He muttered something under his breath, inaudible to Iris though he seemed to be talking to someone.

“You know what to do!” A voice boomed from behind Arkin. Out of the trees, a larger centaur appeared, his skin as dark as the fur on the bottom of his body.

Arkin shook his head, his lip twitching. “It is not necessary, Cedar.”

“Not necessary?” The other centaur growled, completely ignoring Iris’s presence.

“Has she hurt me? Hurt you?” Arkin spit.

“You’re oblivious. Foolish-”

Iris planted her feet, wetting her lips. “I haven’t done that,” she interrupted, causing Cedar to turn to her. His nostrils flared. “And I won’t. I mean no harm. Truly.”

“You’re lucky you haven’t been killed yet, girl.” Cedar bit. “Not just by us. You know how Savorsnake creatures feel about your kind. How they feel about your family.”

“I do.” she reasoned. “But I’m not them. You know about the war. You all do.”

Cedar’s eyes tightened as a silence filled the air around them, the subdued sound of the forest echoing around them. Recognition glittered in his eyes.


Iris did not glance at either as they trotted away, their hooves kicking up dirt as they went. Arkin glanced back, but said nothing.

Wordlessly, she continued the journey into nightfall, but it all sounded underwater in her head as she fell deeper into the spiral. Finally, when she reached The Door the mist that invariably coated the forest floor twinkled. She blinked quickly while the closer she stepped to the door, a faded, ugly looking thing. A fog hovered around the ground, thicker than before. The illuminance of it was breathtaking, glowing softly and obscuring her feet from view within it’s curls of gas. Iris turned, the glowing mist around her feet reflecting off of her eyes.

She paused just as she reached out to open it, realizing it was already cracked open. A thin stream of light cast out, enlightening a thin slice of her face.

Discreetly hitching her wand closer to her fingers, she nudged the door further open. More light spread on her face, while sending the glimmer of the haze in waves around her. Iris stilled as she watched The Door push backward, a descending staircase fading into darkness. Mist began to pour down the passageway, flowing down freely before blending into the shadows.

It was the trepidation that hummed in her fingertips, igniting a burning hatred in her chest that clawed at her ribs. She knew it then, her eyes unfocused and trained on the gloom before her. Her family was down there.

And there was a war coming.

Lying deep beneath the door she had taken shelter in, exceeding beyond any expectations, something was brewing beneath her toes, embedded into the world. Dusk had fell, and this would be her last.

And with a final terrified, trembling exhale, she entered.

There was a war beneath. And it would end the world.


What Lies Beneath

By Alyssa Barlow (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

8,9,10…. READY OR NOT

I ran wildly, darting through the bushes,  searching for the perfect place to hide. I looked over my shoulder, running like a track star, SMACK. I flopped onto my back and grabbed my head,it was  pounding, like someone banging on a door while trick or treating. Shakily, I push myself upward, legs extended in front of me. I’ve been here before; I was only 4 years old the last time, exploring the woods with my Father. That was before, when Daddy was still with us and my family had plenty of money, new toys, cars, and fancy dinners. Now Mama and I barely make it from paycheck to paycheck.

Something was different, the once towering dark brown door, now stands only up to my chest, its color now faded into tan.

“Elena” a voice whispers.


It sounded like my dads voice, but I know that’s impossible, he can’t just come back. I crouch down, grasping the worn stick handle and slowly pull it open. All is silent, like the people during the national anthem. Peeking my head around the door, curiously looking in, I see nothing but darkness. So dark I can’t see my hand in front of my face, but still; I enter.

On my hands and knees, I crawl in. The door slams, and a cold breeze blows its way up my shirt, sending a chill up my spine.


I crawl about the length of a minivan when suddenly I see a faint light in the distance. Crawling faster and faster, until I reach the light. I stand up, looking all around me, it looks like the same old forest I was just in.

“Elena!”this time the voice yells

I whip my head around, searching for the voice. No one.

“I guess I must have imagined it,” I say.

Continuing walking forward, going deeper and deeper down the grassy path, a dense fog starts to swirl around me. Its grey color, ominously filling the forest starts to make it hard to see. I stumble along the path until I come across a small bridge, where a guard post stands.


I jump, whipping my head around. A gnome like man with goat horns stares at me, his deep red eyes piercing into me.

“What are you doing here?” he says to me.

“I-I don’t know I just opened the door and ended up here.”

The gnome man’s eyes widen.

“Only certain people get through the door, so what is it you’re wishing for?”

“Wishing for? What are you talking about?”

“Just cross the bridge and it’ll take you right to Luke, he’ll give you what you wish for, tell him Cain sent you.”

He lifts the gate, I slowly shuffle across the bridge, legs heavily dragging behind me, finally I reach another grassy path. Continuing down the path, the fog continues to thicken,  and I can barely see a foot in front of me. After walking for what seemed like hours, I reach the end of the path, and the fog starts to thin. Towering above me is a huge wooden structure, with a drop floorboard right in the center, a giant flight of steps leads to its entrance. It looks to be an old gallows. Hesitantly, I start to make my way up the stairs, looking around me after walking up each step.

“So! I’m guessing you’ve come here for me huh?”

The booming voice terrifies me, causing me to trip and fall up the steps, I shoot my eyes upward. Leaning against the one side of the structure with his arms crossed, stands a man, about 7 feet tall, covered from head to toe in a black soot. He had thick goat horns, with red eyes that glowed, contrasting to his dark, dirty face.

“Uhhh are you Luke? Cain sent me.”

“In the flesh” he laughs. “Don’t call me Luke though, call me Lucifer. What brings you here?”

“I really don’t know, I came in through the door, Cain said something about a wish?”

“Oh, I see, what is it you wish for?”

“Well, I want my dad back, and I want my family to have money again.”

He pauses for a couple moments, biting on his nails and staring at me, nothing but silence. He lets out a sigh.

“I might be able to do that. But, under one condition; you have to give me something in return.”

“Anything, name anything and I’ll do it.” I say eagerly.

“Your soul and your friends.”

“What? How am I supposed to just give that to you? I can’t do that.”

He uncrosses his arms and sighs, his lips purse together and he shakes his head looking at the ground. He turns around slowly, “I guess you don’t want to see him again”

“No ,I do, I do.” I pause for a moment. Tears start to flood my eyes, and my chest burns like a fire as he walks away,

“Lucifer!” I yell to him. He continues walking.

“Okay, okay, I’ll do it,” I yell desperately, running up the steps. He whips his head around revealing a devilish smile.

“Great! Your wish is granted, go on home” he says to me excitedly. I turn to walk down the stairs, hesitantly walking down each step. That’s really it?

“Oh, and Elena,” Lucifer calls out

“Yes?” I question. Turning my head around slowly, with a puzzled look on my face.

“There’s no trade backs.”

I turn back around, still confused on what happened. My excitement to see my Dad overcomes my confusion.  I run back the way I came, through the thick fog and over the bridge, all the way back to the tunnel. I crawl back through the pitch black and shove the door open. Through the midst of my running, I see blue and red lights flashing through the trees. I start to make my way over

“I think that girl Elena was with them, everyone be on the look out for her”

After hearing that, I’m thinking my best bet is to run. So, I dash through the forest towards my front door, my legs so weak they felt like jello. A new mercedes benz sat in the driveway. “God I hope this worked” I thought, as I fling open the door

“Dad!” I sprint and jump into his arms, giving him a giant bear hug.

He was wearing his expensive Michael Kors watch, the one that mama and I had sold last summer.

“Honey, where were you? The cops have been looking for you since yesterday,” he scolds.

“What? I was only in the woods an hour, why do the cops want me?” confusion washes over my face.

“Something happened to your friends, you’re the main suspect.”

“Why me?”

“You’re the person who saw them last.”


The door sounds as if it’s going to snap off the hinges. My dad and I both shoot our eyes towards the door, my heart starts to beat so fast it feels it’s going to come out of my chest.

“Elena! This is the police, you need to come out.”

What Lies Beneath

By Elizabeth Mercier (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

Tucked away in what appeared to be a simple minded little girl, visions of what could be flashed across Riley’s eyes. Though she usually spent the day with her nose hidden away behind the hardcover of a story, her mother told her they had something to do that morning. Riley could never get absorbed in the abnormally large books that engulfed her mother’s shelf, so she grabbed a few off of her own. She followed Mother to the car and settled herself in, getting comfortable and beginning the first story for the car ride ahead. Riley got lost in her books instead of daydreaming or falling asleep like most children her age. She loved the idea of taking each character’s place in space, underwater, or in Neverland. When the little girl looked up again, the sky was dark and everything outside of the window was unrecognizable.

The car jolted to a stop, and Mother stepped out, encouraging her daughter to follow. When Riley did, she didn’t want anything more than to find herself back in the comfortable surroundings of the car. Mother kept speeding up, winding around trees and not seeming to care that her perfect shoes were now covered in mud and wet grass. It looked as if Mother was aimlessly guiding her through the unfamiliar surroundings, until she stopped at something that looked like a shed. The only difference between this door and any ordinary shed was that this door lead through the dirt and past what Riley could see.

Riley watched courisly as her mother used all of her strength to pry open the rotting door. In the same condition as the shed, questionably unsafe steps lead to what laid beneath it. Like a lost puppy, the child followed her mother, cautiously watching every step she took.

“Mommy, what is this? Where are you taking us?” she asked, her voice shaking and quiet.

“I can’t tell you yet, honey. This will help you; help us all.” Mother replied gently.

The two emerged into a world of green and beauty. The ground beneath them seemed to have never  been touched by human feet, and sunlight flickered through the immense branches hovering above.  A sense of relief and love filled Riley’s chest, making her surroundings feel safe even if they were unknown. The earth around her was as perfect and dreamy as the stories she loved getting lost in, and the darkness of the previous woods disappeared. When Riley looked back to find her mother, she was gone. Being alone in a perfect world didn’t bother or frighten her, she was happy to be left to her own devices.

Weaving in and out of the mass amount of trees, she stumbled upon findings she didn’t understand. There were walls made of straw that didn’t seem to have anything on the other side or a purpose. Riley stayed at the wall for less than a few minutes before continuing to saunter among the woods again. This time, she came across faceless figures, walking seemingly with a purpose. Like the world around her, the figures didn’t frighten Riley, instead intrigued her.

“Have you seen my mother?” Riley asked each one. None stopped to answer her, they only continued down the invisible path to an unknown destination. In defeat, the little girl settled herself under a tree, losing the motivation she previously had. Before her appeared creatures such as gnomes, fairies, and groups of what looked like miniature people to Riley emerging from the trunk. They were quite small compared to the figures she had seen before. Similar to the stories she had read before, the creatures introduced themselves kindly and played games with her. They span in circles and played games of pretend, growing tired, and bored quickly like most little girls tend to do.

When her eyes closed and opened again, the former untouched ground beneath her morphed to a rugged, gray carpet. Looking to her left, the faceless figures now were sitting comfortably in chairs, one of them being her own mother. In her hands, she held the same small creatures, but they were now stuffed with cotton and had glass eyes. Posters filled the wall next to her, with words like “mental health” and “self help” spread neatly across them. There was a glass window on the other wall, and Riley wondered what or who might be on the other side, relating it to the straw wall she was just near. “Why was it there?” she asked herself. It seemed familiar to her.

“Riley Madison? Hi, I’m Dr. Williams, I can take you now,” claimed an older woman, emerging from a door in the corner. Mother stood up and walked towards the doctor, leaving muddy footprints behind her, encouraging little Riley to follow in them.

What Lies Beneath?

By Vivian Long (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

I darted through the woods, blood dripping from my arms. Sensing the men behind me, I glanced over my shoulder. Catching sight of them in my peripheral vision, I turned back around only to trip over a tree root and fall flat on my face. I rushed to regain my footing, wincing at the pain in my ankle. Thankfully, the door and the staircase leading up to it were drawing nearer. The guards were almost in arms reach of me so I pushed myself harder and sprinted faster than before. Taking the winding steps two by two, I reached out to grab the door handle and…

Sitting up straight, I gasped for breath. My head throbbed as I tried to comprehend why I kept having this god awful nightmare. Wiping my eyes, I groaned and rolled over, not wanting to get out of bed. As I pushed myself up into a standing position, flinching at the cold feel of the floor on my feet., sunshine streamed into my window causing my eyes to squint. Moving to my closet with the speed of a snail, I had no clue what I was going to wear today. I was skimming through my shirts when a loud ring! startled me. I looked around, trying to find my phone and grabbed it in the nick of time. I flipped it open in a hurry and sighed out a hello.

“Hey, babe,” the voice said smoothly.

“Mmh, hi Wells,” I grumbled.

“I’ll be at your house in a few,” he said. “Are you ready?”  

“Son of a-! I’m getting ready right now. I just woke up late. Sorry, gotta go! Byeee,” I yelled hurriedly through the phone.

“Okay…Goodb-” he tried to say. His voice getting cut off when I clicked the red end call button.

I dashed to my dresser and picked out a pair of black jeans, pulling them on in a flash. Dashing over to the mirror, I examined my outfit. Black on black would made anyone look like an angsty teenager, but it was the easiest kind of outfit to put together. My dark hair flowed over my shoulders like waves in the ocean while my face on the other hand looked like a racoon who had not slept in twenty years. I racked my hands through my hair, wiped under my eyes, grabbed my bookbag, and ran out the door. Running down the stairs, I could hear the car pull up, so I sprinted outside.

Wells’ new, red Toyota Corolla sparkled in the bright sun, the reflection causing me to squint. He rolled down the window and flipped me the bird. I rolled my eyes in annoyance at him, then threw my head back in laughter, giving him the same finger. Wells flashed me his ever so charming smile and I yanked his car door open.

“Be careful with my car, love,” he said. “It cost a lot.”

“You mean that it cost your parents a lot of money,” I teased.

“Shut up,” he chuckled. “How are you feeling today?”

“Horrible. I had the strangest dream last night. It felt so real and I just can’t stop thinking about it.”

“Don’t worry about it. It was a dream. It can’t have been that important, right?” he laughed, as we pulled into the school parking lot.

“Yeah, I guess. It just felt so real.” I said as I drifted off into though.

I had been having this dream since I was around nine or ten, but had never told anyone about it, not even Wells. The dream always began with me falling, then ending up in a large forest right in front of a wooden door. The door was could change between big and small, almost like a camera moving in and out of focus. The door always intrigued me although in the dream I never find out what is behind the door.

“Ronnie!” Wells yelled.

“What? What? Sorry…What happened?” I said hastily.

“You kind of just drifted off. I’ve been sitting here for the past five minutes trying to get your attention.” Wells said, the concern showing on his face.

“I’m fine. Seriously, I’m fine,” I chuckled. “Let’s go, I don’t wanna be late again.”

“Okay, okay. You’re just acting strange. I’m worried,” he said hopping out of the car and running around to open the door for me. Together we marched up to the school doors and entered hell.

When the day finally ended, I raced out of the building to meet up with Wells at his car. Five minutes passed, then ten. I grew antsy and bored, pacing back and forth in annoyance and worry. Looking down at my phone, I realized that he had texted to say he could no longer drive me home. The annoyance lingered for a few more minutes before I began trudging home. About ten minutes into walking, I felt a presence behind me, but saw no one there. Person behind me or not, an eerie feeling was now surrounding me from all sides, so I picked up my speed to a slight jog. My breath began to quicken as I became more and more paranoid with every step.

I sighed in relief as my house slowly crept into view. My heartbeat was finally slowing down when out of nowhere I was grabbed from behind and dragged around the side of my house. A black gloved hand was covering my mouth as I attempted to scream for help. My ankles scraped across the wet grass, now soaked in lumpy mud. The longer I struggled against this masked person, the more I grew tired and weaker. We were now in the backyard and he was pulling me towards a partially covered wooden door that I had never seen in real life, but brought back all too many familiar memories. He struggled to push me through this door, the opening barely big enough for my body to fit through. The masked figure with one final push managed to hurtle my body into the dark hole. He pulled off his hood and threw his head back in a chuckle. All I saw as I was falling into the abyss was his charming smile fading away as I fell deeper and deeper.

I jolted, feeling grass and roots beneath me. I looked around, surveying my surroundings and realizing I was surrounded by trees on all sides. For a second I thought that maybe I had hit my head a little too hard on the way down, but my mind finally registered where I was.

My dream. I was in my dream, my mind told me, but I just could not wrap my head around how any of this was real.

I hoped that this would not end how all my other dreams had, being chased by guards constantly. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself down. Putting my anxiety aside, I began to walk not knowing where I was going or how I could find the door that brought me here. A few minutes had passed when I heard an all too familiar rumbling sound. I sensed that there was danger, but tried to play it off as something that was all in my head.

Men suddenly began spilling out of the forest from all around me. Charging at me with their swords and shields, I began to sprint towards the closest clearing, which was a number of yards away from me. I darted between men and trees as fast I could. If this was in fact real life then there was a chance that I could die, and I did not want that to happen. After making it to the clearing, men in toe, I had no clue where to run next. Thankfully, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the sun reflecting off of an object. A doorknob.

I raced towards it, hoping that it was the right door that could take me away from all this madness. The men, being almost in arm’s reach of me, caused me to speed up and charge for the long staircase. Taking the stairs two by two, I prayed that I was going to make it to the door in time.

I reached out for the doorknob, almost having it in my grasp, knowing that this time I was not going to wake up.

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



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.


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.