What Lies Beneath?

By Jaime Simons (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

I followed the moon. It led me to the place my soul wanted to be. I find myself beneath towering trees, as if they are protecting me while the clock strikes midnight. Like the owls in the trees surrounding me, my eyes widen, exposing them to the cool night air. I am drawn to the sweet smell of the freshly cut grass, and I lie on its soft carpet. Staring into the star-filled sky, I feel the freshness of the air, and notice a small shot of light speeding across my field of vision. I make a wish, relaxing, feeling a sense of peace.

Suddenly, chills rush down my spine when I notice a faint smell of smoke, and see a fire not far away. I peer over the graceful tall grasses, and I see a beautiful bridge being devoured in an enraged sparking blaze. Doll-like people are sitting on the other side of the bridge, creating chaotic sounds as the wood is burning; while my side of the bridge is dark, and I am alone. I watch as the people dance and sing, all the while observe the hypnotic burning scene. Unbelievably, the neatly constructed pile of sticks is not being consumed by the fire. There is no rubble, no ash.

I wander over to a small girl with what looks like a dulcet pink icing swirled on the top of her head, and perfectly flawless features. With caution in her voice, she breathlessly told me that the other side of the bridge is forbidden territory. I must not cross the bridge, where a Hayman roams the woods there. But he can only capture those who pass over. Still, I am unable to control my body as it moves toward the bridge. I see my footprints in the glitter- covered mud, yet my eyes are locked on the river of fire before me. I hear leaves crunching and small branches snap beneath my feet, and become aware of being followed.

Before I can shake myself out of the trance am in, I feel myself being snatched up, carried high in the air. The Hayman! Through the darkness, I see we are approaching an old hidden door. It is small, crumbling and quite frightening. The wind whips the leaves around, the portending winter adding to my gathering fear. Flinging open the creaky door, the man tosses me inside like a pair of old worn shoes, and runs off into the night. I sit quietly, hoping for some small ray of light that just a little while ago, I was enjoying from my vantage point on the grass. But the space is darker than the night itself.

As if to confirm my deepening fear, a blanket of thick fog slowly descends upon me. Shaking off the fuzziness in my head, I begin to think of a plan. Carefully, slowly, I spread my arms in front of me, searching for any escape route. As I inch my way forward, I realize there are no obstacles in my way; no walls, no furniture, no stairs. With each step, I am seeing a light, growing larger and larger as I advance. As the fog dissipates, it reveals a beautiful lake sparkling, and lit like the sun. Running toward the shimmering stream, I jump into the soothing water joyfully. Its magical liquid soothes my cracked lips, softens the skin of my body, and makes my hair silkier than a newborn babies’.

Alarmed at this dramatic transformation, I quickly jump out, realizing that I am not aware of what this substance is. As I turn, the lake disappears, yet I have now acquired an amazingly strange night vision. At last, I can see my surroundings, and when I do, I gasp. Strewn around me are all kinds of porcelain dolls, staring like they can see into my very soul. They are peering into every one of dirty little secrets, and digging through my deepest, darkest thoughts. Blinking furiously, once again, I am thrust into a new place.

I find myself in a room in my old daycare center. It was a place I dreaded going to more than anything else in the world. I hated that I was locked in such a childish place, while my parents were free to live their adult lives as they pleased. As I recall these things, the place where I am begins to change yet again. Baby pink ducks and purple teddy bears pasted on the walls are covered with graffiti. Shards of glass are scattered across the floor. Broken tables and chairs are strewn everywhere. As my heart sinks, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of homesickness. Why would I wish away all the things I had? All I feel is regret, and the need to flee this strange place.

As I do, I catch a glimpse of myself in a cracked mirror hanging on the wall. I am mesmerized by my own smooth, flawless skin, so shiny that it could almost be a mirror itself. My eyes are bright, expertly made up in bright colors my mother never permitted me to wear. Crimson red lipstick stains my smooth lips. Pulling myself away from the mirror, I look to my side only to see a window, wreathed in cobwebs. Newly focused on escaping the room, I push aside the silky threads and jump out the window.

I find myself running toward the burning overpass. There are the porcelain people who were gathered at the bridge before my adventure. I now look exactly like them. I sit and stare at the flames just like them. Gazing into the infuriating flames like a sunset, I realize that I no longer look like myself. A tear slides down my perfectly smooth cheek, and I hope with all my might that I would see another shooting star, to bring me back to myself.

Very soon, I see a little girl who looks like the old me approaching. She begins to stare into the fire as she takes a place beside me. She whispered, “I created you, I created this place. If you can distinguish the burning bridge, I will take back your wish.” I reveal a slight grin as I realize how easy this task I was given would be. I need to find a source of water to defuse the raging flames. She returned the grin and informed me that there are no bodies of water around and I would have to find another method. The gears in my head are turning rapidly and I came up with the idea of splashing some of the magic liquid onto the bridge. The girl fetched me some of the liquid and I threw it on the fire. I’m relieved and want nothing more than to be back to my normal self. She points toward the other side of the bridge and appeared to be amused when I request to be changed back. She looks at me, “You really think I was going to go through with my promise? I wanted you to extinguish the fire so that the force field would be taken down.” I’m no longer smiling with excitement; my eyes quickly fill with anger and drown in fear. The girl pointed as a horde of large Haymen head our way.


What Lies Beneath?

By Sienna Novelli (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

It was a Friday night when Olivia and Malcolm decided to walk to the woods outside of their town. They wanted to find out for themselves if the stories they heard about the door of no return were true. Old Jim was the owner of the local pizza shop, and would tell anyone who would listen that the wooden door opened inward, and anyone who entered the door had exactly sixty minutes to get out, or they would never be heard from again. All of the teenagers, for miles around, heard about the story, but none of them really thought it was true. Olivia and Malcolm had been dating each other for the past year, and have always been an adventurous couple. As they got closer to their destination, Olivia began to wonder if they were doing the right thing. Were they heading to a dead end path? Olivia started to grip Malcolm’s arm tighter as they walked for hours to what they thought would be fun. They both stopped, looked into each other’s eyes, and continued to their destination. Hand in hand, they decided to cross over the bridge. Would they open the door? Or would they walk away? Once they arrived, Olivia hesitated on going any further. However, since Malcolm was the daredevil of the two he was willing to do anything. He pushed the door open as he turned to Olivia. He took her by the arm and noticed that she was shaking. He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath as they went inside.

They heard noises they could not identify. The room was empty except for a table and four chairs, plus a large clock on the wall. As the couple was looking around they came upon a second door, opened it and walked down the steps to a basement. They noticed beautiful flowers, and colorful paintings that hung in the room. They were admiring the furniture, when a man grabbed Olivia by the arm, and pushed Malcolm against the wall, He was unconscious before he fell to the ground. Olivia shouted “Please leave me alone.” As he moved towards them. he pointed to an old clock over his right shoulder, and told them “They have been in his house for twelve minutes, and have just forty eight minutes left to get out, or they will be executed for trespassing.”

The stranger picked Malcolm up, and after he threw him over his shoulder, carried him upstairs, sat him in one of the four chairs, and tied a rope around him. In the meantime, Olivia was trying to find a way out when she noticed the house did not have any windows or doors, just the one they came in. The stranger started back down the steps, as Olivia hid underneath him. She found a large piece of metal and tried to hit him over the head, but he pushed her against the wall, and cut her left arm. He carried her upstairs and placed her in one of the empty chairs. She looked at the clock on the wall and realized that she had thirty minutes to live. After the stranger left the room, she tried to wake up Malcolm. Olivia could not free him, because the rope was very thick and she just could not undo the knots. Malcolm was still lifeless. The stranger returned to the room, grabbed her arm and placed her in the chair, across from Malcolm. After he finished tying her up, he took another rope, and threw it over the wooden beam above the table. He placed the rope around Malcolm’s neck, and tied the other end to a pulley that was attached to a wall. The stranger explained, “That he was going to hang both of them for just coming into his house”. Malcolm woke up, just as the stranger was placing a rope around Olivia’s neck. She began to cry hysterically. The stranger told them both, “It will be over in minutes.” The stranger walked over to the pulley, and started to laugh. The couple were yelling and screaming as loud as they could, in hopes that someone would be able to help them. At exactly 9:35, the stranger started to pull the rope, and lifted Malcolm, by his neck. Olivia could see his feet kicking, and then silence. As the stranger turned towards her, Olivia’s heart began to race, she was never this scared before. She finally passed out.

She regain consciousness in the local hospital, and noticed a nurse beside her bed. The nurse gave her an injection in her left arm, and she started to feel very comfortable. She looked around and was quite confused on how she got to a hospital. Several minutes passed by when a police officer walk into her room. She could only see his back. The officer was talking to the nurse and she heard him explain that he found her walking alone, and unable to talk on a bridge. The nurse picked up several pieces of bandages and left the room. The officer was writing something on a clipboard. He turned around and walked to the bed.

She opened her eyes and froze.

It was the stranger from behind the door.

In Loving Memory

By Kelsey Jensen (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

I don’t know where I am.

The sun is blinding me, beating down and warming everything. I perch up, spread my hands out and feel the silky grass, still wet from the morning dew. Squinting for a clearer view, looking around all I see is grass, and trees towering high above. Fresh lilac pervades my nose as I breathe in. Standing up, I begin walking forward, and everything appears to be in slow motion. My hair is wisping in front of my eyes. Looking down at a wishing flower, the little white buds are flowing in the wind, so gracefully, slowly, twisting, and flipping. I stopped, spun in a circle and looked all around me. In my mind I knew there was a reason for going on a walk, but I was confused as to what I was even looking for.

Off in the distance I noticed something peering out of a hill. This is it. My brain knew that I needed to go to it. It was a door, rounded off at the top, made of rustic brown wood. The handle was a curved stick. It was in the middle of the open field. Just a door that connected into the hill behind it. I proceeded inside.

It is a family party.

My dad is cooking burgers on the grill. The smell of burning meat, and chopped onions created a profound aroma. Music was playing, balloons were tied to tree branches. Laughter and chatter filled my ears. Trees made a circle around the door, enclosing us in. My younger cousins were running around chasing each other. Picnic tables were covered with red and white checkered table cloths. Every person I looked at had a warm, content smile on their face. That’s when I looked at the dead center of the circle and saw my mommom.

Her golden head turned around and faced me. She was dressed in a white gown, and a soft light radiated from her body, as if the rays of sun were outlining her. Everybody else became a blur. I ran up to her as fast as I could and hugged her, squeezing tight. It was only her and me. Nobody else existed in that moment. The circle was pitch black around us. We were standing in the center embracing one another.

“I am alright darling,” my mommom said, twirling my hair through her fingers.

“I miss you Mommom.” I closed my eyelids, savoring the moment. She pulled back and maneuvered her hands to my shoulders.

She pleasantly said, “I love you…and I will see you again soon.”

“I love you too,” I replied, holding back tears.

Springing up, eyes opened wide, I sit there hugging my bed sheets, and contemplate about the dream I just experienced. My mommom had passed away from mesothelioma cancer weeks prior. I had prayed to God the night before, “Please, Dear Lord, let me see her. Let me see my mommom tonight.”

He heard my prayer, and had granted my wish.

A broad smile spread across my face.

What Lies Beneath?

By Kevin Cullen (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

I felt my adrenaline rising every second. I had been into these woods many times before, and I had never seen anything like the creature that stood before me. I was out hunting for my tribe, in this year of 1762. As I put my arrow in the string, and pulled back, I knew that my aim was true for I was no further than 15 yards away. It was a short and stumpy little fellow, and it’s face was green. My breathing was normal, and my hands were steady. Knowing I had never seen it before, I wondered what I could find out about it. My curiosity had gotten the best of me, and I ran after it instead of putting an arrow into its chest.

The creature was surprisingly fast for its size and shape. As I was catching up to it I felt a root come up from the ground and hit my ankle, which made me stumble. I was still on the little man’s tail, however. As I got close again, I saw the creature put its hand up, and flick it back at me as if he was throwing something. Next thing I knew a huge tree branch came out of no where and nailed me in the chest. The branch knocked the wind out of me, and the creature got away.

I spent 2 weeks in those woods trying to find him again. Before long I saw the same creature, and snuck up on him from the trees above. I jumped down on him and held him there and said:

“Tell me what you are.”

The little man responded in a language that I didn’t understand. The creature had power so I held its arms down tight. I got a closer look at him and realized how ugly he was. It had jagged teeth, and snot and drool all over its face. For a second I thought that was the reason it was green The green fellow used his yellow finger nails and rammed them into my hands. It gave me a burning sensation deep in my skin as if someone was branding me. When I released him I saw that his finger tips were glowing red.  He then disappeared, leaving me standing there in wonder. I looked down at my hand, and saw that the spot that he put his nails into was totally clean. Not even a mark remained.  I felt relieved and afraid at the same time, because I had no idea what was going on. I started climbing a tree to attempt to hunt again because it was getting dark and I was getting hungry.

As I was sitting by the fire I had made that night I was spotted by what seemed to be a wizard. He picked me up without even touching me, and forced me into the huge wooden door that had been there for years. As I floated passed the creatures in the rooms I went through, I saw trolls, wizards, witches, goblins, and all creatures that are unwanted amongst humans as the wizard told me. He then put me into a small wooden room. I felt my stomach turning and was getting dizzy. I passed out a short time after being dropped off in the room. When I woke up, I was lying on a cot in the same room, and a nurse that seemed to be a normal person was holding a cold wet rag on my head. I asked her what her name was, and she said:

“Joan.” In a voice that made my heart speed up in it’s beauty. Joan looked to be about my age, give or take one or two years, and she seemed to know what she was doing.  I just wanted an excuse to talk to her, so I kept asking her about herself.

“How old are you?” I asked.

She replied: “17, and yourself?’

“16, are you the nurse of this place or something?”

“I try to be.” she replied

“Well you seem to know what you are doing.” I said.

“Thank you. I’m going to get Dr. Edward, so he knows you’re awake.” She said.

She left, and my heart began to ache. I had felt something like never before. I had felt love. Her voice was beautiful, and her eyes were crystal blue. I had only ever seen the girls from my village, and never seen anyone that had blue eyes. When the doctor came in I got more serious, not answering his questions and asking for my bow. He told me that I couldn’t have my bow or leave for a while. I felt my stomach drop because I knew that my people would worry.

As I was waiting I got closer and closer to Joan, and grew to like her even more. The way she walked, and talked truly amazed me. I just couldn’t stop looking at her eyes. She told me about her life so well that it felt like I knew her, and made me not want to leave, even if I had a choice. I stayed for a few weeks and completely forgot about my own people when the doctor came back to me. He told me that I could have my bow back and leave, I just had to get my memory erased. They wanted this so I wouldn’t tell anyone of their existence. I told them I would so they brought me out to the wizard. Right before the wizard was going to wipe my memory I saw Joan and her beautiful blue eyes. I yelled: “Wait!” Then I asked them if I could stay with them, and hunt to feed everyone.

5 years later

I still hunt to feed the village of the various creatures of trolls, wizards, witches, fairies, etc. I know that my tribe has survived without me, for I have seen hunters from time to time in the woods. Joan and I are in love and she is pregnant. I am eager to be a father and teach my child the ways of the woods.

What Lies Beneath?

By Daria Rose Mariotti (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

She felt drawn to the door.

Not only was it shaped strangely, but it was also in a tree with weeds growing at its base, and golden leaves lying dead  around this particular spot. Maybe it was the beauty that had drawn Linda to leave the orphanage and travel aimlessly down roads to this particular spot, like a controlled puppet with a bag stuffed of warming snuggies. Sitting down Linda’s eyes grew heavy as the sun began to set on the forest’s horizon causing the cold brisk wind to feel colder against her skin. Looking around she felt at peace with her five fluffy blankets and the whittling leaves falling off the trees like sad rain drops into an endless ocean. As time beat on Linda found it harder and harder to keep her eyes open with the smell of burning wood and fire embers filling the air from her near by camp fire as it kept itself breathing.

Lurking in the distance was Kayo, one of the “tree people” who was sent to watch over Linda as she grow up. With his brown hair, muscular shape, and tall figure it was harder for him at times to blend in while still being near her. He had taken an oath long ago, that whatever was to happen he would protect Linda with his own life. Then, when the time would come introduce her to the life of the tree people, a world where she was royalty, and Kayo didn’t think this was  a hard job.

Fire ignited around the base of the near trees starting the ceremony in the late night, but Linda laid still in her peaceful sleep. Fire raged itself to life in tall, red, flaming hot walls around the door Kayo felt the normality and impatience that came along, just waiting for Linda to get her self up and walk towards the door. This was the sign that all of his long hours of virtually babysitting as Linda grew up had payed off to the moment of truth. She was ready for her introduction to the new world.

Slowly making his way around the inflamed circle of trees, he looked at Linda’s beauty he began to pity her. He knew how it felt to be alone, lost, and shunned, but also not to grow old and that is the same thing she is about to be thrown into. Now though there was nothing he could do besides be the one at the door with open arms.

Her eyes fluttered open but she was blind to Kayo, and was focused on the door. Beautiful in the dark lighting, and meaning everything to her as it filled her heart with warmth. As he took her blanketed self up, Linda slowly traveled towards the half open wooden passage. Feeling the presence of another she turned around and saw a familiar face without a name.

No words were exchanged, even as Linda put one fuzzy boot in front of the other traveling forward, sucking in and out the crisp autumn air as her heart beat raged. Kayo was next to the door in a flash with open arms and a smile, but the only thing she had to do was turn around. Walk away from what she thought was a weird dream and secretly that’s what Kayo wanted.

“Linda stop! Please think this through, you are about to go through a door in a tree?” Kayo argued.

Nodding, Linda walked through the opened door into the bright white light and to her next life leaving behind the forgotten little girl she once was. As she walked further she began to shimmer and shimmer, until she woke up with her head on the soft pillow and the covers tucked under her sides.

The soft hum of cries filled her ears as the bed next to hears belonged to a small six year old who witnessed horrible things. As much as Linda wanted to admit it she wholeheartedly belonged here, and did not need anything blocking her reality, at least she received a good bedtime story out of  this younger kids.

This was her real hectic life and for now she loved it.

What Lies Beneath

By Cheyenne Hexamer (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

At first she thought this was nothing but a dream, but having pinched herself it was clear that it was not. She sat there, dozens of burly men clad in torn clothing and animal hides bustled around her screaming at each other. They messily clacked their shaven wooden cups together that were over brimming the rim with some unknown brew. She sat on that tree stump at the end of the table, her widened eyes staring at the dozens of plates sloppily filled with a vast amount of food that could’ve been served at a king’s castle. She, a fourteen year old girl, was petrified. After discovering a hidden passage obscured by a thick, brown door, she opened it to find a bridge.

Having crossed over it, she found herself in a completely different world. Instead of being surrounded by trees crisp with orange and red crinkled leaves, she found herself in a snowstorm. The strident gusts of wind kicked up the thick snow that blanketed the ground, whipping her face bright red and blinding her. The drop in temperature had chilled each pore on her skin and bit at her frail bones. Wading knee deep through snow, she trudged on. It must of been over thirty minutes before she stumbled and fell.

Before she passed out, however, she felt two calloused hands yank her up by her arm before she slipped into an icy slumber. Now here she was, amongst men who seemed to be like vikings. From what she gathered, they called themselves the night elves. Although they looked far from the tiny, pointed eared men that would skip about in Christmas stories. They were also at war with a race called the Pucas, shapeshifter deities that protected the forest and served under the mighty dragon, Bludenacht.

They were once united allies, but once the dragon appeared, they had craved nothing but blood shed. They see everything as enemies against the forest and have made a pledge to make sure no living thing within their line of vision would be left standing. Having their village right near the forest, they have been the primary target for execution. The shaman within the village predicted that a hero would arise from the door connected to the old spirit tree. That was her, she was now considered to be the soon-to-be savior of this village.

She also must go on this journey to the dragon’s den alone while they fought off the Pucas from preventing her from proceeding forward. Breaking her thoughts, one of the burly men hollered, “We have ate, we have shared our harvest. Now it is time to go to war!”

All of the night elves around them cheered loudly in agreement, making all the blood drain from her face, “Now?!”

“Aye,” he bellowed in reply while his men huddled to exit the eating corridor, “All apologies, lassie, but we’d rather get this done before dawn. We believe in you.”

“Wait!” she shouted, but he had already disappeared to go gather his weapons and horse.

What she wanted to say was how was she supposed to do this when she didn’t even believe in herself? The whole weight of their race was now pressing down on her shoulders and clinging to her back. If she didn’t do this correctly, they would be wiped out from existence and she wouldn’t ever be able to leave this place without acknowledging the fact that she would be a killer. Her stomach was somersaulting endlessly into twists and knots, leaving the stinging feeling of bile to bite at her throat. Even if she felt as if she were going to upchuck the leftovers she had from last night, she felt herself being carried forward by an unknown force.

Making her way out, they were already gathering with their horses at the end of the village. She was able to see them more clearly now that the snow died down. Wrapping herself in the fur cloak that the men had given her, she approached the crowd of warriors. The one from before had a stern glint in his eye as he held out the harness of a great brown stallion and a sheath that held a massive sword, “Get on this one and keep this by your side. You’re going to need it, child. I wish you luck and a safe return. Let us dine together in triumph the next time we meet.”

She didn’t say anything but gave a hesitant nod before climbing upon the horse’s back while slinging the weapon over her shoulder. They sent her off with uplifting farewells, leaving her to gallop forward to her fate and out into the unknown. The hills that were blanketed with white became steeper, leaving her to cling to the horse’s neck. The wind picked up and roared in her ears as soon as she caught sight of a line of trees. As she got nearer and nearer, she could practically hear her heart beating against her ribcage.

As soon as she and the horse entered the forest, the whole atmosphere darkened. The horse’s pace became more frantic and quicker, it’s hooves practically flying out from underneath itself. After a long time of just dashing forward, leaves rustled and fluttered to the beaten path as if they were being disturbed by some outside force. Did the Pucas sense her arrival? An arrow that whizzed by her ear automatically answered that question for her.

Letting out a startled shriek, she ducked as the horse darted forward at the speed of light. The bare barked trees and murky white sky whizzed about above her until she felt the ground fall out from underneath both her and the animal’s feet. Twisting around her falling body, her widened eyes caught sight of the cliff of where the forest abruptly ended. She heard the horse flailing frantically while letting out a cry of pain as she tumbled down a jagged stone hill. After a few moments of sheer excruciating twisting, she rolled to a stop.

The only movement from her after that was the casual twitch of her screaming muscles that were now battered and bruised down to the bone. She didn’t want to move. She had had enough of this. She was fourteen, frail, and not a hero. There wasn’t any chance of her getting to that dragon in time now. She would be the reason a race was doomed into extinction.

She was immediately snapped out of that thought the moment she felt a loud snort vibrate the ground she laid on, following a fierce gust of blistering hot wind that scorched the back of her shivering silhouette. Slowly, she rose her head, only to be met by two giant pair of cerulean eyes that glowed against the icy landscape around her. Its pupils narrowed to slits in order to focus in on her tiny form as it sulked closer with a single thunderous step. She was brought to a crouching position as it flared it’s nostrils, letting out twin blasts of sultry winds that blew both her hair and fur cloak back. She couldn’t make out its size for its shining crystal hide of scales blended in with the falling snow.

There was no doubt. This dragon was the infamous Bludenacht.

It’s needle-like teeth were bared and the fins on each side of its scaly face fluttered against the snowstorm. Two horns with tips sharp to the point spiraled out the top of its head. It truly was the most terrifying beast she had ever encountered. With her weak knees wobbling, her twitchy hand raised the sword from it’s sheath. Her heart screamed at her to flee as she pointed the tip of it towards the dragon’s snout. After a few moments of unbearable silence, the dragon’s lips drew back in a grin as it chuckled.

Immediately, the sword fell from her fingers as she stared wide-eyed at the beast. It had laughed at her. Lowering itself to eye-level with her, the point of its snout nearly brushed against her own nose. Without opening its tremendous mouth, a voice rumbled from it’s throat, “Hyacinth, she who bears the name of flowers,” his voice pulsated against her eardrums as his tone became more sincere, “you are not ready to face me.”

Soon, her eyes flickered open to reveal a bright blue sky and trees full of autumn leaves.

Hyacinth woke up leaning against the same door she had entered in her dreams.

What Lies Beneath

By Caitlin Fuhrman (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

I’ve seen prisoners young and old, men and women alike tossed into cramped jails to rot under his majesty’s orders for petty crimes.

Every day someone was marched from their cell, screaming and begging for their life. Those poor fools would be publicly executed for the king’s entertainment. He wasted so many people, smothered out the flame of so many lives just because he could. Give a man like that power, and people die for it.

However, the guards had their own means of amusement outside of watching people hang. They enjoyed prodding at the elf that was caught trying to assassinate a noble. I’ve been in here for months, and have grown used to the tips of a blade digging into my side. I refused to give them the satisfaction of crying for mercy.

With the cycle of prisoners on death’s door every day, I know of one other that had remained in the prison without execution. I can only describe us both as the original prisoners. The other was a pirate, whose name escaped me most of the time. All I remember was his story. He was raiding the castle treasury, and was planning on leaving as soon as possible. Then the king stumbled in, drunk and vulnerable. Instead of sinking his blade into the bastard’s chest, the pirate hid away and hoped the king wouldn’t remember him. Later, knights dug him out from under a pile of gold and dragged him to his cell.

The pirate always said with a sneer. “The only thing I regret about that night is not killing that idiot when I had the chance to.”

Every day, we searched for a way to escape. The pirate and I promised that if one got out, we would let the other free. We waited for the knights to pass out, and fashioned lock pick after lock pick, but nothing worked. Then we both targeted a time, one where all the knights would be gone from the jail. Once they pulled someone from their cell, they disappeared for hours at a time to attend the death of a person.

Tonight, they pulled someone from their cell.All of them were drinking, as the person to be hanged that day was a noble that had disobeyed the king. Noble deaths were a special occasion. As they dragged the dead man walking out of the dungeon, a ring of keys dropped outside my cell. Once we heard the heavy door slam shut, I pressed myself against the bars of my cell and reached for the keys.

I could touch the ring with the tips of my fingers, but couldn’t nudge it close enough to grab. My shoulder whined from the pain of the bars digging into the bone, but I refused to give up. Something emerged from the pirate’s cage- a shepherd’s crook that was crudely fashioned from straw. He must have sacrificed some of his bedding. With the crook, he nudged the keys into my grasp.

I could practically taste the freedom, feel the wind in my hair, and my heart beat faster as I slid the key into my lock. The satisfying click and the screech of rusted metal were the sounds of my escape. I could finally stand to my full height instead of crouched in a cage. I quickly unlocked the pirate and made a dash for the door.

“Wait, you fool!” The pirate was standing by a chest, and was pulling out my gear. He held the items on my person that got confiscated when I was arrested. I ran over and gathered as much as I could carry, slinging my bow over my shoulder and securing my daggers into my boots.  The pirate armed himself as well, tucking pistols into his waistband and wrapping his coat around his shoulders.

We navigated the corridors and came to a large wooden door. I threw myself against in, as nothing would keep me from my freedom any longer. My companion helped, using the force of his shoulder to force the door open. The wood creaked and splintered, but the force let it burst open.

I ran out into the meadow, dropping onto the ground. Birds chirped overhead, and the fresh air bit my skin. I was finally free. The pirate snorted. “Daechir, I’ll be damned. Good to see you old friend.”

I stood up, staring at the pirate. I recognized him from a long time back, when I was nothing but an elven slave to the king. “Captain Clyde, you got captured? Not quite like the pirate captain I know.”

Clyde laughed, shaking his head. “Not quite the assassin I know. Didn’t you brag once that you could escape any situation without your presence being known?”

I shrugged. “We can’t always be perfect, captain.” I then looked away, adjusting my bow. “Well, looks like I have to go now, before we get thrown back in there.”

Clyde gave me a small salute. “I hope you don’t get caught again, friend. Stay out of trouble.”

I stared at the wooden door that led underground. “I have a feeling we both might never stay from trouble.”

What Lies Beneath

By Sam Burke (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

The blood on the young girl’s hand startled her as she picked herself off the ground.  The hole in her jeans was no more than a slit but that didn’t stop her from seeing the flawed skin.  Cassie brushed her hands on her jeans and sighed at the stain.  She tried to get her bearings.  Trees towered around her, their red and orange leaves falling to the ground at her feet, but there was nothing else.  The air was still and the forest was silent and for once, Cassie was entirely alone.  She didn’t know what compelled her to argue with her mother, but she knew that’s why she was here- she was nothing but a runaway.

Twigs crushed from under her footsteps as she tiptoed through the brush.  The sun would go down soon and Cassie was in desperate need of a way out.  After wandering around and ending up where she started, she had to come to terms with the harsh realization that she was lost.

Cassie sat down and crossed her legs, bringing her head up to the sky in an attempt to hold back inevitable tears.  Her dark hair fell in front of her face as she brought her knees to her chest.  A small laugh was what brought her out of her bout of self-pity.

Hesitantly, she stood up and followed the sound.

“Is someone here?” she called out.


“You’re not funny.”

In a huff, Cassie retreated back to her spot near the branches but stopped short, nearly tripping again.  Something stopped her.  Cassie reached down and picked up the rusty, brass key and brought it near the light.  It wasn’t like a car key or one to a house; it had an engraving on its front.

Find what lies beneath,’ the key read in old, cursive handwriting.  Cassie took one more look around and laid her eyes on something she hadn’t noticed.  There was a door about fifty feet away from where she was standing.  She sprinted towards it and knocked.  Hearing nothing, she tried to use the handle on the shed-like door but to no avail.  It was locked.  The memory of the key returned so she fished it out of the pocket of her hoodie and turned it in the lock.  Cassie wasn’t sure what she’d expected to see on the other side, but darkness was the only thing that greeted her.  She contemplated whether or not she should go in.  The sun would go down any minute and the fall air would soon turn freezing and unbearable.  She put one foot in and felt solid ground before putting the other one in and shut the door behind her.  It closed with a slam, the lock clicking soon after.  Cassie groped the wall with her left hand before falling over nothing and tumbling down what seemed like a steep hill.  Her screams echoed around her as she plead for help but she was all alone.  She had no one to save her.

Finally, Cassie stopped falling and landed in a clearing.  There was early morning light surrounding the young girl, filling her dizzy head with confusion. This wasn’t where she had ran to, this was an entirely different place, along with a different season.  The leaves were a bright green and birds happily chirped.  Slowly getting to her feet, Cassie took a deep breath.  A covered bridge was nearby, along with trees, but other than that, it was an empty field.  The familiar, snide laughter was back.  Cassie began to cry and to make matters worse, there was a fresh wound on her palm.

“Who are you?” a sharp voice asked accusingly.  Cassie whirled around, expecting a large man, but instead her eyes met with a gnome-like figure that stood at no more than two feet tall.  Cassie backed away, nearly tripping over her own feet, but the voice spoke again.

“Are you aware that it’s rude to ignore people, young lady?”

“You’re…you’re a garden gnome.”

“And you have no manners, but let’s not state the obvious, Cassie.”

“H-how do you know my name?”

The tiny man looked at her with confusion, cocking his head.

“I don’t.”

“You just called me Cassie,” Cassie countered.  She began to wonder if she should make a run for the door but just as she was about to break into a sprint, the man opened his tiny mouth.

“Come with me,” he commanded.  Cassie was appalled.

“I’m not going anywhere with you, you creep.”

“But what about your hand?”

She’d almost forgotten that something had torn her palm up, the blood slowly drying into a rigid, cracked line.  It ached, along with the entirety of her body, but Cassie just stuffed it inside of her pocket.

“I’m fine,” she insisted.  The gnome chuckled, his familiar, condescending laughter from before.

“I don’t know who you are or what you want with me, but I need to go, like, right now.”

“Can’t you stay?  Please, Cassie!  I just want to introduce you to the others then I’ll show you how to get back home,” the gnome begged.

“There’s more of you?’ she asked with shock.  The gnome rolled his eyes and beckoned for Cassie to follow.  With reluctance, she trailed after the small man through the brush in silence before the two approached a bridge.  Cassie couldn’t see inside due to its cover, but it was wooden and looked rickety and treacherous.  To make matters worse, the young girl had an extreme fear of heights.  She was frozen when the gnome turned around, the annoyance evident on his wrinkled face.

“What are you waiting for?” he asked in a snappy tone.

“I can’t do this,” Cassie replied softly.

“Can’t do what?”

“I can’t meet your little gnome friends or cross some dangerous bridge or follow a two-foot tall man through an entirely different woods than the one I was in before!” she cried.

“And why’s that?”

“This isn’t real, that’s why!”

The gnome cackled at Cassie’s frantic state, holding his stomach as if his own laughter pained him.  Cassie took off and made a run for the door.  It matched the one she fell from except this one didn’t have a keyhole.  She yanked open the door, entering the darkness for a second time that day.

“Hey! Get back here!” the gnome called after her but Cassie refused to listen.  She heard the door slam shut, trapping her in the tight space.  She whirled around and even in the darkness she could see the gnome’s highly irritated expression.

“You just don’t know how to listen, do you?” he berated.

“How did you get in here?”

“Oh, Cassie, that’s the least of our problems,” the gnome answered a question no one had asked.  “We’re not getting out.”

What Lies Beneath?

By Gabriel Rodriguez (Schwenksville Elementary School, Schwenksville, PA)

Behind the mysterious door
Lies the shifting floor,
To Gnome City it leads
Which holds the magical seeds.
Providing food
For the gnomes in a grumpy mood.
The seeds give them ice cream
Giving them fun dreams.
This door is magical, in many ways
Come see it, before your end of days.

What Lies Beneath?

By Drew Shulman (Chatham Park Elementary School, Havertown, PA)

I think the forest fairies lie beneath the door. The girls wear gowns made of daisies. The boys wear suits made of leaves. They eat flower pies, barkcakes with sap, and grass salads.

Their hobbies are singing, dancing, weaving baskets out of sticks, and picking flowers.

They help our environment by making sure there are enough trees that streams and ponds are full and clean, and that plants are growing.

What Lies Beneath?

By Artricia Nou (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

I don’t consider myself crazy. From the things I’ve seen and have done, I wouldn’t be surprised if people raised their eyebrows at me. It’s crazy how a single death affects everything.

I wasn’t considered Dad’s son. I was considered a disappointment. Fine, I don’t get perfect grades nor do I excel at baseball or basketball. My only friend was the cleaning rag that I carried around. It seemed that there was nothing right about me.

Whenever Momma asked me to spend some quality time with my father, I would look down at my shoes and nod my head. She knew that this wasn’t likely going to happen; yet she always continued to ask.

Mom died that morning. Dad’s eyes were rubbed raw, but his cheeks remained dry. His fingers were tangled in the locks of his hair. He kept muttering, “She’s gone. Gone.”

I remember the low whimper that came from the back of my throat. It was a cry of disbelief and denial. For a moment my dad and I stared right through one another. It was he longest eye contact we had ever made. My face got warm and my palms sweated. I left.

I liked to walk through my neighborhood and find random things to fix. Whether it was simply trimming a neighbor’s lawn or aligning a crooked book on the shelf, I would fix it. These tasks reminded me that not everything in life is broken.

A car was parked at the corner of our street. I found myself staring aimlessly at it. I inched towards the car, head cocked. The rear door resembled a crushed Pepsi can. It was registered here, in Pennsylvania, but I had never seen the vehicle in our neighborhood. The foggy windows and dull metal made me cringe. Along with anything that looked messy, I got an urge to fix it.

It was easy to pick up litter off of the ground, but that blue car was a pain. I took out a folded rag and scrubbed the glass panes. Only a dusting of dirt covered the cloth. This one was a stubborn one. I added more pressure and again tried get rid of the filth that was caked onto the car. Why won’t it come off? I huffed a breath-full of air and scrubbed harder. Nothing. Next thing I knew it, I threw the rag on the ground and began blowing kicks into the dented surface.

I was breathing heavily. It took me a second to realize what I had done. That car wasn’t a car anymore. Instead of fixing something, I completely wrecked it. It was the exact opposite of what I wanted to do.  What have I done?

I ran as far as I could. I didn’t even acknowledge the muck filled pond or cooked stop signs. I sprinted with millions of thoughts speeding along side me. My lungs burned inside of me, and my heart was pounding. I kept going until I couldn’t go any further.

When I reached the woods, I collapsed onto the dirt. I crawled into a ball and felt my throat tighten. I forced my eyes shut, trying to stop the tears. She’s gone, I thought. I’m alone now. I drifted off and fell asleep.

The strong stench of pinecones hit my nose and caused me to open my eyes. There was a brief moment of where I did not remember anything that happened the previous day. My thoughts were wiped clear, and for half a second, all I felt was grogginess. After that, my eyes widened and I begged to go back to that half second.

I reached for the truck of a tree to gain balance, but only managed to trip over a hidden branch on the ground. A burst of laughter rose from behind me causing me to jump. I whipped around only to find an amused girl watching me.

What surprised me wasn’t that she glowed in the pitch-black woods. It wasn’t that she wasn’t wearing a pink tutu covered in glitter. No, what surprised me were her wings.

Her dainty feet hovered from the ground along with the rest of her body. Her face was rounded and her eyes were as sparkly as the wings on her back. She giggled once more and zoomed towards a cabin. Curious, I followed.

The door of the cabin seemed enormous compared to the structure itself. Foreign engravings were etched into every inch of the wood. The girl was nowhere to be found. I breathed warm air onto my dry hands any rubbed my arms. I looked towards the sky in search of glittery, pink fabric. I began to get cold. Despite the odd engravings, I yanked the door open and entered.

As I opened the door, a random shimmery light shined. I raised my hands to shade my eyes and saw a flash of pink. The girl flew further through the doorway. I followed her, squinting from the bright gleam of light. She would giggle and then motion me to go with her. Being only ten back then and desperate for company, I followed.

Soon, the brightness faded, and bridge was in front of me. Branches were intertwined and spiraled to form a platform. On the other side was another door. I slowed down to admire the craftsmanship. There was no order in which the branched were placed. It was messy, but for once, I didn’t mind.  I crossed my arms looked towards the fairy.

Her back was faced towards me. She was waving her arms over head. One by one, clumps of fairies approached me. All were smiling and innocently giggling.

“Play with us,” the pick fairy said. My eyes widened at the invitation. I froze. Where they really asking me to play? I have friends now, I thought. The fairies quickly dispersed after gaining my approval to play hide and seek.

“One, two, three…” I counted. Loud, cruel laughter arose. Before I could make it to twenty, I heard a voice.

“See you later, Sammy Wammy.”

Opening my shocked eyes, I was surprised to see the pink fairy girl stand in front of me. Giving me a smirk, she repeated,

“See you later, Sammy Wammy.”

Why did that sound so familiar?

Stop!” I commanded.

“See you later, Sammy Wammy!” she yelled. She was mocking my dead mother. My mouth hung open but nothing came out.

Just like I usually did, I ran. I ran from my problems and escaped across the bridge. My feet thumped on the pathway and caused the spiral bridge to creak. The door on the other side was an exact replica as the one I had come in before. I rammed myself through the door. Gasping for air, I slammed the door shut.

For a while I sat, my arms wrapped around my knees. My breaths were short, and my lip quivered. I couldn’t stop myself from shaking. I didn’t know if it was from the frigid air or from what had just happened. All I knew was that I was scared, cold, and alone.

It was quiet. Maybe they are still hiding, I thought. Maybe I’ll just leave them there. I shook my head. No, that would be mean. I didn’t want to be like the pink fairy, and I especially didn’t want to be alone. I wanted company. I straightened my back and poked the door open.

Through the crack, I saw no bridge. There were no floating fairies, and there was no wild laughter. What lied behind the door was inside of a home. My hand went up to my cheek as I stared at the hands of the clock that hung above the TV. There was a man slumped on the couch. His face showed no emotion, but his eyes were red. He was tugging on the fronts of his hair.

It took me a second to realize that this man was the only company I had left. I walked through the door any sat next to my father.

What Lies Beneath?

By Colleen Baksi (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

Isabella sprinted aimlessly through the woods with her heart pounding a hundred miles an hour. She shoved her way through moss and sticker bushes, ignoring the sharp stabs she felt all over body. She let out a sigh of relief when she spotted her black labrador retriever ferociously barking at something while his tail whipped back and forth.

When Shadow saw her approaching, he immediately sat down and looked up at her with a whine, as if apologizing for his bad behavior from earlier. His cherry red leash had turned brown from being dragged along the ground. Isabella ignored him and slowly walked towards the mysterious object that he had been barking at.

It appeared to be a large wall of brightly colored green leaves and small twigs, but what was holding them up? Isabella started peeling off the leaves one by one at first, then started grabbing handfuls of sticky leaves and throwing them onto the ground. Her eyes bulged and her mouth dropped as she saw the result.

Behind all the leaves, dirt, dust, and twigs, there was a giant wooden door.  But it was no ordinary looking door. It stood about only a foot higher than her and was rounded at the top, almost like it was half of an oval. It was made completely out of rotting, dust coated wood, except for the handle which was a small tree branch vertically attached to the right side of the door. But the odd part was that it wasn’t attached to a house or building or anything, it was just randomly standing upright in the middle of a forest.

Isabella’s first instinct was to try and open it, so she lightly tugged on the handle, afraid that if she pulled too hard the whole thing would collapse. The door did not budge. She dug her heels into the squishy mud and pulled as hard as she could, and fell backwards into the mud as the door swung open with an obnoxiously creaking noise.

Isabella took one quick glance inside and gasped. She blinked and rubbed her eyes, but still saw the same thing.

“How is that possible?” she murmured to herself.

Although it was a doorway unattached to anything, it somehow led to a giant open field with tall, greenish-yellow grass, a couple of trees off to the side and a cloudless blue sky. The light, cool breeze wafted the scent of freshly cut grass and pine needles. She absentmindedly floated towards the door.  It was as if some sort of force was pulling her and Shadow inside. She slowly picked up Shadow’s leash, and stepped through the door.

As soon as she did so, the door slammed shut behind her. She stiffened and was about to run back, but looked around. She slowly started to relax as she looked around. Everything was so peaceful here. The grass was soft beneath her feet, and the scorching heat from the sun she felt on her face was canceled out by the cool breeze. She squeezed her eyes shut and breathed in the scent of the outdoors.

Her eyes flew open when she realized that she had no idea where she was, and she looked around. The large field that she was standing in was bordered by a forest of pine trees, and not far away there was a small, chestnut colored wooden bridge that went across a clear, blue creek. There was nobody in sight.

She slid her i-Phone out of her back pocket to check the time. It was already seven o’clock in the evening. She and Shadow had left the house for a short walk around the block three hours ago. Her mom was going to be worried.

She whirled around to open the door, but it wouldn’t budge. She tried again, pulling with everything she had, but it still would not open. She noticed that there was a keyhole right below the tree branch handle. There had been no keyhole on the other side of the door.

“You can’t open it without the key,” she heard a husky, deep voice say from behind her. She jumped and whirled around, her hands shaking.

Standing at about three feet high, was a little old man with a wrinkled face and a long white, scruffy beard. He wore a dark red pointy hat that covered most of his face. She immediately recognized him as a gnome. “Once you come in, you never go out.”

Isabella ignored what he said, still shocked. “Are you a gnome?” she blurted out. And then as the gnome’s words sunk in, she demanded, “Where do I find the key? I need to go home.”

“The wizard of our world has the key.” The gnome spat out the words, almost like it caused him pain to say them.

“Take me to the wizard!” Isabella pleaded. Her eyes started bubbling up with tears. Her voice quivered as she cried out, “I need to go home.”

“That’s not a good idea,” the gnome warned, his eyes narrowing.

Isabella didn’t even think to ask why, she just begged the gnome for a couple of minutes and eventually he gave in and started to lead the way.

Isabella and Shadow followed the gnome across the bridge which led into another giant field, but this one was not deserted. Her eyes widened as she looked around. The first thing she saw was a giant oak tree with tiny doors and windows and other things you would find outside of a house stuck all over it. It looked as if a child took apart their doll house and glued all the pieces to the trees. There were a bunch of creatures fluttering in and out of the doors and windows. Isabella first thought they were butterflies, but then realized that they were fairies.

She looked around at the rest of the open space and saw a tiny house, about as tall as her knee. It was circular and made out of twigs and sticks, but the cone-shaped roof was made out of grass. She heard a splash from beneath her, and saw the sparkling tail of a mermaid flopping through the water.

The gnome continued on, leaving no time for Isabella to gape at her surroundings. He walked surprisingly fast considering the size of his stubby legs. He led Isabella to yet another bridge and then froze. This sand-cored bridge was a lot bigger than the last  and had a cracked roof, allowing the sun to peek through.

The gnome turned and stared up at Isabella, his eyebrows pulled together. “The wizard lives right across this bridge,” he mumbled, slowly. “I cannot go with you any further.”

“Why?” Isabella asked, curiously.

The gnome did not answer her question. He simply turned on his heel stalked away. “Good luck!” he called over his shoulder, and then vanished behind the trees.

Isabella’s could feel her heart pounding through her chest. She reached down to pat Shadow on the head, took a deep breath, and stepped onto the bridge. Isabella could barely hear the rattling of the bridge over the sound of her pounding heart and staggered breathing. As she neared the end of the bridge, she spotted a large log cabin. There were no windows, but there were two steps leading up to a mahogany colored door. Her stomach churned.

As she approached, Isabella wondered whether she should knock on the door or just walk in. But judging by the way the gnome had spoken of the wizard, he probably wasn’t the friendliest person. So she balled her hand into a tight fist and lightly knocked on the door.

The door opened slowly and a freakishly tall man with long, white, curly hair and a long, white, curly beard stared down at Isabella. He was wearing a long black cloak, which looked like something similar to what a nun would wear. His eyes were jet black and were glaring down at Isabella with disgust.

“Can I help you?” he grumbled, barely moving his mouth as he spoke.

Isabella could barely get the words out of her mouth. “May I come in? I need to ask you for a favor.”

The wizard said nothing, but shoved the door open wide enough for Isabella to enter. The room she entered had cabinets, and decorations hanging all over the walls. It was surprisingly bright despite the lack of windows. There was a large, black couch in the corner, and Isabella sat down.

The wizard sat down across from her, on a wooden chair. “What do you want?” he asked. His expression hadn’t changed at all, like his face was made of stone.

“I am a human,” Isabella began, her words slurring. “I just came here by accident from my world, and I need to get home. Could you maybe give me the key to the door? Or show me where it is?”

As she said the word “key”, she noticed the wizard’s dark eyes flicker across the room and then  back to her. She quickly glanced over to see what the wizard had looked at, and noticed a large key hanging on the wall by a small silver hook.

“No,” he replied sternly. “Once you enter, nobody leaves. Now get out.” His black eyes looked like tiny pieces of coal.

Isabella’s heart dropped. Her hands started to shake again and she cried out, “But you don’t understand I have a family-”

“Leave!” the Wizard bellowed, in a voice that shook the whole cabin and possibly the whole forest.

Isabella jumped to her feet, and quickly started walking to the door with Shadow following her. But as she strode across the room, she swiftly snatched the key off the wall and took off running.

She lightly sprinted across the bridge, trying not to look back. She sprinted all the way to the tree trunk home of the fairies, when she and Shadow both stopped abruptly, mid-stride. All of the fairies turned with wide eyes to watch as Isabella and Shadow turned completely gray-colored, cold, and hard.

All of the creatures that were watching gasped, and then turned to stare as the Wizard slowly strode towards them. The Wizard lifted a finger and tapped Isabella’s head, making a soft pinging noise. He reached down and broke the key off of Isabella’s stone hand.

He shoved the key into his pocket, turned to face all of the fairies and gnomes and other creatures that were listening, and bellowed out with a thundering voice, “This is what happens if you try to leave! Someone, take them away!” The Wizard started back towards the bridge, as a bunch of gnomes ran up to carry away the statues of Isabella and Shadow.

What Lies Beneath?

By Samantha Locklear (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

Princess Arya loathed the idea of an arranged marriage. Three evenings prior to her eighteenth birthday, she faced her reflection in an extravagant full body mirror.

“It really is beautiful,” her mother mused.

Inspecting how the dress looked again, Arya could not deny that it was gorgeous. All of her dresses were. Only the finest could be expected for the royal family.

“Mother,” Arya commented as she glanced over her shoulder, “you have said that about the last three dresses I have tried on-’’

“And were they all beautiful?”

“Well yes of course, but-’’

“Arya, you are to be wed in three days-’’

“I know.”

“Well, what seems to be the problem then? Ever since your father and I have been speaking of arrangements for the occasion, you haven’t been yourself.”

“It has just been very…hectic around here as of late. I-’’

Before Arya could finish her sentence, her mother was obsessing over more dresses that the seamstress had brought up. “Oh Arya, you must try this one next. It matches your eyes! Oh it’s simply perfect!” Queen Clarissa had always admired fashion. Even when ill, Arya noticed, her mother looked presentable.

As the seamstress and two maids helped Arya change into the new dress, she wondered why women wore so many different layers in their dresses. Preserving modesty was important for regal women, Arya knew, but wearing seven layers for one dress seemed tedious and foolish.

“Tie it more tightly,” Clarissa told one of the maids. The maid obliged and Arya gasped heavily as the corset constricted around her torso even more.

“This is the latest style in the Torrid Region, Arya,” the seamstress stated.

“Well women there must have learned not to breathe,” the princess rasped.

Clarissa gave her daughter a stern look. “Arya, as future Queen you must learn to-’’

“Respect and cherish all Regions. Yes, I know… I am sorry.”

The maid finished tying the corset and turned Arya around to face the mirror again. The dress was a Champagne colored material. It was, by far, the most elegant dress the princess had tried on. The train of the dress was several feet long and each stitch was precise.

“This is the one, I think,” Queen Clarissa said, her eyes wide in awe as she stared at her daughter.

The evening air became crisp as millions of stars began to shine. The princess could not sleep. Arya knew for years that she would have to marry when she became of age, but she had never met her future husband. She heard that she was to marry Prince Damon of Summaria. Supposedly, he was a well- built man in his early twenties, with perfect teeth  and eyes that glistened like the sea. Arya figured that things could be worse but the prospect of starting a family with a man who she did not love was dreadful. Maybe, someday, she could learn to love Damon Sinclair, but that could take years. Despite what Arya wanted, each region in the hemispheres needed rulers. It was her duty to become the next queen of Summaria.

The entire castle was up at dawn. Everybody except for Beatrice. She was only three years old, yet she was the most greedy child in the family. Older than her was Magnus who was seven, the twins, Olivia and Theodora who were nine, and Xander who was fifteen. Arya would have to leave her siblings once she got married, only to return for family banquets or birthdays. That was what had happened to her mother.


The princess’ thoughts were interrupted by her father’s booming voice. He stood before her, arms folded over his fat protruding belly. His eyes narrowed as she looked up at him.

“What is the matter, child?” he inquired.

Arya cringed. A child. That is what she was. If she was only considered a child to her father, why was she being forced into a marriage?

“Nothing, father,” Arya said, forcing a smile. “I was just thinking about the wedding.”

“If you were really thinking about this wedding, dear, you’d be more focused on what we were discussing.”

It was then that Arya noticed that her parents had been talking to the florist. The skinny man smiled at her and gestured towards the baskets of flowers he had to offer.

“The white roses are nice, I suppose,” Arya muttered.

The king and queen gave one another a questioning look. “You don’t like the orchids?” Clarissa asked.

“Those are nice too…But I really do like the roses better.”

“We’ll go with the roses then,” the king told the florist.

After the florist left, decorators worked on making the castle more beautiful than it had ever looked. Arya tried to stay focused, however she just wanted some time to herself. If she could have any gift for her wedding day, she wanted the chance to explore the Outerlands. Her family’s kingdom extended to where the sun’s light could reach during the day. Past the shadows was considered the Outerlands. Nobody in the south went there. There was a legend that Arya’s mother had told her as a child that at the very edge of the Emerald Forest there was a door that existed on the trunk of the largest tree. As the legend went, the Northern and Southern hemispheres fought in a bloody war that lasted for one hundred years. Spies from the north had built doors in all of the large tree trunks that led to underground tunnels. The tunnels led to every tree that had a door and was connected to a main tunnel that led back to the northern regions. After the war, which the south had supposedly won, all of the trees with doors were chopped down except for one. Arya always wondered if that legend was true. She knew that once she moved to Damon’s kingdom, she would never know whether that one last door existed.   On the day of her wedding, it rained. The women complained about the humidity as the men wiped sweat of their brows.

“Mother,” Arya said as Clarissa fixed her veil, “How long did it take you to say that you loved father?”

“A while,” Clarissa sighed. “But it will happen, my love. Once you get to know Joffrey.”

“I know.”

Clarissa kissed her daughter on the cheek. “I know this isn’t fair,” she said, “but you have to know how proud your father and I are of you.”

Arya sniffed and tears began to trickle down her cheeks. “Thank you mother.”

After the ceremony, Arya went out into the courtyard to admire the roses she had picked. Though dripping with raindrops, the flowers were beautiful.

“Much better than orchids,” Arya told herself.

“Who on earth suggested orchids?”

Surprised, Arya turned around to see Damon standing at the entrance of the courtyard.

“My parents had suggested them.” she replied timidly.

Damon shook his head and chuckled. He did have perfect teeth like Arya had heard.

“What is so funny?”

“We are married now-”


“And…you sound as though you’re afraid of me,” Damon said. “You barely looked at me during the wedding. Is there something in my teeth?”

Arya could not help but laugh. “No, no your teeth are fine.”


Arya sat down on a bench. It was wet and cold but she did not mind. She would probably never have use for the wedding dress again. “Just…getting married…I guess that’s what scared me.”

“Especially to somebody you do not love.”

Shocked at what she had heard, Arya stared at Damon, her mouth gaped open slightly.

“Do not look at me like that,” Damon said with a smirk. “I know you do not love me. You do not know me.”

“I didn’t expect you to be understanding about this

“I did not want to get married either, to be honest.” Damon admitted.

“Oh really? And why is that? My smile not as perfect as yours?” Arya inquired. She started to laugh and Damon smiled at her.

“Do not feel bad, not everybody can have a perfect smile.”

The couple laughed and talked for what felt like hours. Arya’s brothers and sisters secretly watched them from inside the castle.

The next morning, the couple left Phoenix Valley to return to Damon’s home in Summaria . The goodbyes were awful. Not a dry eye existed in the household.

“You know what I didn’t get to do?” Arya said as she looked out the carriage window at the green meadows as they drove past. “I regret it…”

“What?” Damon asked with a yawn.

Arya turned back to face her husband and saw that his eyes were closed. For some reason though, she knew he was listening intently. “I didn’t get to find the hidden door in the Emerald Forest.”

“The door from that old legend?”


Damon finally opened his eyes and with a look of utter seriousness, he said, “we could go back, you know. If you would like to.”

Arya’s eyelashes fluttered as she blinked numerous times, trying to understand if she had heard him correctly. “Could we?”

“Of course. We could turn back right now. Or we could wait for a month or so.”

“Let’s wait

Damon looked surprised. His wife had spoken immediately, but it was not the answer he was expecting. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. The forest will remain. We have plenty of time to discover what secrets lie beneath those trees.”

“All right,” Damon said with a smile. “Next time we return to your home, I promise that we will search for those hidden doors. And I will continue to search even if I have to check every tree in that forest.”

For the rest of the journey, the couple sat in silence. All that could be heard was the occasional whinny of one of the horses or the pebbles bouncing against the carriage. Arya no longer loathed the idea of being married and she had a feeling that she would be able to say “I love you” to her husband sooner than she had originally expected.

What Lies Beneath?

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

The last sign of her light was traced up to the woods. After being chased by sticky fingered, nosy children, Raindrop, a fairy, had no choice but to turn to her last resort, Pearl City. She hadn’t been there in years, and was wondering what had changed in the years that she’d been gone.

Raindrop arrived at the nostalgic, crooked, molded, rusted, and uneven doorway that brought back very uneasy feelings. The door itself was a trick for humans because it was sealed shut. The only way to enter was to be one millimeter small.

After Raindrop’s eleventh attempt to open the lock located in the tiny keyhole, it gave way and Pearl City stood before her eyes once again.

Nothing seemed different at all. The rain fairy workshop was still just beyond the ever-present rainbow over the grassy fields, and the gleaming silver castle was still right in the center.

Raindrop passed the twinkling lagoon filled with air-headed mermaids. Next was the magic sparkle factory, which made her wince. “This is the reason that the humans think we’re so cliché.”

After passing over more mysterious hills and valleys, the time had come where she would have to open the silver door yet again.

Reaching for her key necklace which she hadn’t been able to rid herself of, Raindrop’s stomach was doing flips. It had been such a long time since she’d last seen her daisy flower petal bed, twig desk, and specially designed kitchen.

Taking a deep breath, Raindrop slid her key into the familiar lock, shut her eyes, and pushed the squeaky door open.

A gasp escaped her mouth. Rather than the expected dust-filled, untouched room, there was nothing. Panic set over Raindrop as she flew all over the room looking for obviously gone materials. Then she sought for Sunny. Her old neighbor had to be home! She just had to!

Raindrop rushed out of her old room and across the hall. Knocking frantically, her eyes began to drip.

Sunny finally came to the door. As she registered who was standing in front of her, her eyes widened and her mouth gaped open. “R… Raindrop?”

“Uh, yeah,” Raindrop answered, “Do you know where all my stuff went?”

“They took it a while back, figuring you wouldn’t be returning.”


“I’m sorry. Would you like to come in for some tea? I have a kettle on now.”

“Sure,” let out the disappointed Raindrop.

As Sunny made the tea, she explained to Raindrop what she had missed. A new queen, Dawn, had come into power after defeating Delilah, the former queen whom everyone loved.

Regarding Raindrop’s belongings, Sunny explained what she knew.

The larger-than-most servant fairies came the day after the inauguration of Dawn and took everything. Apparently, the new queen didn’t care too much for fairies that left the realm.

Ever since the new queen came into power, the Pearl City had never been the same. No more festivals for each season, no more weather dances, and especially no more leaving the fairy realm.

Or getting back in.

“That’s why I was so surprised to see you. Dawn put an enchantment over the city,” explained Sunny.

Raindrop merely shrugged and tried to put her finger on why the name Dawn rang a bell.

Of course, Raindrop would have to go and see this new queen. She asked if Sunny would like to come along but was interrupted when Sunny jumped up quickly and grabbed Raindrop’s arm.

Sunny began to describe that the new queen was Raindrop’s ex best friend, and had set the enchantment over the realm so that specifically Raindrop could not come back in. Ever.

Immediately, Raindrop thought to go and visit Delilah. The only problem was finding out where the queen lived.

In a spark of sudden clarity, Raindrop called for Bud, her pet bumblebee. He’d know for sure!

It took Bud a mere five minutes to appear before Raindrop and start spilling all of the information pertaining to Delilah’s whereabouts. In no time, Raindrop, Sunny, and Bud were on their way to the Black Woods.

Of course, the Black Woods was where Delilah was thought to be. It was the only place in the entire realm that sent a shiver up Raindrop’s spine.

Putting aside he fears, Raindrop led the way as they ventured up to the edge of the woods and began the next part of their journey. With each step, more and more light began to disappear. The tall, lurching trees reached up and appeared to touch outer space. It wasn’t long before all of the light was gone and the group was the epitome of “a shot in the dark”.

They were going to get out of the labyrinth; it just depended on how.

Raindrop felt a tug on her arm and it definitely wasn’t from a bumble or Sunny. She let out a screech but was shushed by a very soothing voice.

“Delilah?” questioned Raindrop. She finally felt the warmth she hadn’t felt since the day her parents were killed by Dawn.

“Yes, dear. Is this really Raindrop? The one who left?”


“Well, in that case, follow me. You and I have an awful lot to talk about,” insisted Delilah.

Raindrop let herself and her company be pulled towards an unknown location. An understated, dimly lit cottage appeared in the distance. Delilah led them there and opened the door. Immediately, she went to get a paper and pen. When she came back, a plan was already being drawn out on the paper.

The plan involved bees, the rebellion fairies, Delilah, and Raindrop.

Sunny was allowed to go back to her cottage, and happily obliged.

First, Bud would go and collect a bunch of other bees from his hive, and then all of the bees would go out and collect all of the rebel fairies. They’d be fairly easy to spot because they wore red strips of fabric that hung from their belts.

Next, everyone would report back to the cottage and they’d leave when the moon filled the sky.

Finally, the group would go in the back door and take down the inside of the castle.

The bumbles didn’t waste a single second and went out to find the rebels right after the plan was devised. In the mean time, Raindrop and Delilah had to make sure no guards were suspicious of anything.

Raindrop went down underneath the floorboards and into a secret room. Just as she did, a husky servant fairy knocked on Delilah’s door.

Delilah opened the door with a smile on her face and sweet talked the guard fairy. When he left, he had the idea in his head that Raindrop was dead because she tried to leave the realm again and was shocked by the spell.

The rebels and bumbles came back just as the sun was setting. As the moon came up, everyone set out and flew low to the ground on the way to the castle.

When they arrived, a single guard fairy was protecting the back door. Two rebels went down and took care of it easily. Delilah opened the door with a secret combination and everyone piled in.

At first, the guard fairies were sparse, but as they traveled further towards the center, the numbers increased.

An hour passed and the mini-army was finally close to the center of the palace. Two more guards were between them and the golden chair that held Dawn. Delilah got rid of the guards quickly with a simple spell.

Everyone surrounded the chair.  Delilah leapt towards Dawn but with the lift of Dawn’s pinky, she was thrown against the back wall.

“I want Raindrop,” hissed Dawn.

“How funny, I was hoping you’d say that,” retaliated Raindrop as she shot a death spell at Dawn.

The queen deflected it with a yawn then threw the same spell back. Raindrop dodged it with ease. The two went back and forth for a couple of minutes before Raindrop was able to throw in an extra spell that sent Dawn to the ground.

Raindrop went and stood over the balled up fairy with the death spell accumulating in her hand. For some reason, she just couldn’t do it. Raindrop threw the spell right next to Dawn’s head and yelled, “You must leave. You are banished from the realm after you give the crown back to Delilah.”

Shakily, Dawn shook her head and stood back up. Delilah limped over and snatched the crown off of Dawn’s head.

Raindrop escorted Dawn all the way to the doorway leading to the human world, and pushed her through the door.

The next day festivals of celebration were held and the people of the realm were once again living in peace. Raindrop retrieved her old belongings and brought Bud back to her old room. “Maybe sticking around here won’t be too bad,” Raindrop said to Bud with a wink.

Dawn was never seen or heard from again; just as the fairies of Pearl City liked it.

Fate’s Gate

By Theresa Costello (Malvern, PA)

Fate’s Gate

You’ve seen my door stuck into the hill.

The locks and bolts keep me quiet and still.

The roots of trees hold me in their embrace.

Springy mushrooms and soft moss fill up my space.

Deep in the earth where mysteries dwell.

Where magic still grows like flowers in the dell.

There do I slumber, my furry head on my paws.

Stormy eyes closed and dreaming of fresh meat in my jaws.

Pointed ears twitch and turn at the small sounds they hear.

The Harvest Moon has arisen and soon I’ll appear.

Boulders tremble and quake at my growls from within.

Those who fear fate should flee for I am the Grim!

What Lies Beneath?

By Rosie Carrillo (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

He stepped forward and stood in the doorway made of natural wood. The handle was carved with an intricate design. She loved the door because it reminded her of a fairy tale she was told as a little girl. He held her close, looked into her eyes and said, “Beneath this doorway, and through, is the beginning of our forever.”

 * * *

“We’re ready,” said the assistant.

Mabel stood up, let out a sigh, and took one last look in the mirror.

“How do I look?” she sweetly asked while smiling at her own reflection.

“Like a bride who is ready to walk that aisle,” the assistant grinned.

After she left her room and got to her starting point, a bridesmaid shuffled over to her with a little bag for Mabel’s wrist. While putting it on her she said, “In the bag is something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”

“You look like Cinderella!” said the flower girl while she skipped toward her.

“Thank you so much.” Mabel gave her a hug.

 The flower girl danced away to throw her flower petals as the bridesmaids followed. Mabel closed her eyes and her thoughts took her back to the months before.

* * *

In the fitting room, Mabel was trying on the last dress out of twenty options. The expression on her mother, sister, and best friends’ faces were priceless when she appeared.

Her dress was strapless and fitted with a lace, floral torso. Around her waist, was a silk purple band that hugged her figure, tied in the back, and cascaded down. The bottom of the dress slightly billowed out around her.

“What do you think?” she asked.

Her mother was at a loss for words. “It’s… It’s…”

“It’s beautiful,” her friend finished with a twinkling voice.

“You look like a princess,” her sister added.

Mabel gave a little spin and said, “Do you really think so? I feel like one.”

The women nodded their heads and gave her praise. She had found her dress.

* * *

Bringing her back to reality, Mabel’s father said, “Are you ready, darling?”

Startled, she opened her eyes and exclaimed, yes. They walked to the doorway when the music started and proceeded down with their arms linked. Her fiancé, Henry, had a goofy smile and was practically in tears as he saw her for the first time in two days. They reached the alter and Mabel stepped up to be level with Henry.

“Dearly beloved,” the minister started. He said the whole speech, Mabel and Henry said their vows, and the rings were exchanged.

“You may now kiss the bride.”

Everything went as planned and they processed out. The reception took place afterwards where they were happy and dancing, everything was perfect.

* * *

Mabel and Henry decided to spend a week and a half in Jamaica for their honeymoon. Together they bonded and experienced the things a newly married couple would. On the last night, the two cuddled close on a blanket and watched the sunset.

“Honey,” said Mabel.

“Yes, dear?”

She tilted her head to look at him and said, “Remember our first kiss?”

Henry smiled, “Of course I do. That memory is clear as day.”

* * *

Two grade school kids ran across the playground like two scurrying squirrels. They went one way, circled around, and went the other. He was chasing her with a dead bug he had found.

“Stop it, Henry! That’s gross!”

“Eat it, Mabel! If you don’t, it will eat you.”

Mabel fell to the grass, rolled onto her back, and started screaming. Henry ran over and sat on her, dangling the bug above her face. Mabel started crying because he began to lower the bug. Crying and gasping for air, Mabel managed to utter, “Henry… puh- please st-stop.”

He took a closer look at her dirt-covered face streaked from tears. Henry made the decision to throw the bug away. He continued to sit on her and said he was sorry. Instead of getting up, he leaned down and quickly pecked her on the lips. Then he got up and ran home.

Mabel, lying on the ground, was in shock. What just happened? Why did he do that?

“Wow,” was all she could say still looking at the sky.

* * *

The sun had set completely and they went back to their hotel room. The couple packed their things before they had to leave the following morning, and got some rest. Before leaving at six thirty in the morning, they took one last picture together. The sun created a silhouette. The slight wind made Mabel’s long black hair and dress flow gracefully.

They hurried to the airport and when they boarded the plane, Henry told Mabel he had a surprise. The whole flight, she thought about Henry’s surprise. He fell asleep on her shoulder and his tan hair tickled her cheek. It had a red tint from the sunlight streaming through the window.

Their plane landed and the two held hands as they departed the plane to walk to their car. After he put their luggage in the trunk, Henry ran to the passenger door and held it open for Mabel. He got into the driver’s seat and drove into town straight past Mabel’s neighborhood.

“Honey, you passed it.” Mabel said puzzled.

“I know, I figured now is a good time for my surprise. Do me a favor and close your eyes.”

“Okay…” She was unsure, but closed her eyes one at a time.

He turned a few corners, went down a couple streets, and then they came to a halt.

“Where are we, Henry?” said Mabel.

“Just wait, hold on.”

He took off his seatbelt in a hurry and stumbled getting out, but played it off as if nothing happened. He opened her door and reached for her hands while calmly saying, “I got you, it’s just me. Keep your eyes closed, I will lead you there. Watch your step.”

Mabel giggled, “Henry, where are you taking me?”

“Wait a second, just stand here.” He let go of her hands and backed up. “Okay, open your eyes.”

Mabel opened her eyes and looked around.

“It’s our house. It’s all ours,” said Henry looking at her surprised face.

“Henry,” she walked toward him, “it’s beautiful.” and she wrapped her arms around him.

It was a two level Victorian home painted a light green with lavender shutters and window frames. They walked to the porch and stood in front of the hand-made door. Henry opened it and lifted Mabel in his arms as Superman would to Lois Lane and said, “See that door? It is guaranteed to last. It is like our love that will go on forever and always. I love you, Mabel.”

What Lies Beneath?

By Angelica Carmolingo (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

My biggest desire was to experience the unpredictable. I always turned back because the image of my mom calling my name distracted my attention. Curiosity got the best of me.

“Come on a walk with me, I need some air.” With hesitation, Sean came barging through the side door, clinking the annoying wind chimes.

“Okay, where we going?” Leading him on, he realized I was walking toward the trail in our ‘never ending’ backyard and he refused to go.

“I don’t know what’s back there, I’m not going!” he turned to stomp the other way. I lunged to grab his hand.

“Stop being such a baby and just come.” His concerned expression showed interest.

“If…if I come …and it gets too scary, I’m darting to the house, got it?” Sean stuttered. The repetitive sound of crunching leaves was all I could hear as we realized the pathway was longer than it seemed.

“This is boring, nothing is here and we’ve been walking for an hour. It’s getting dark, can we leave now?” begged Sean.

“No, I know this path has to lead to somewhere.” I insisted we walk further.

“Well, it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere, so let’s go home.”

“You can go home, but I’m not,” I demanded.

“Okay, sounds good,” agreed Sean.

“No, you’re not going anywhere!” I grabbed him again.

“If I have to walk another step-”. Over a jagged rock, I landed on a patch of grass, sprawled out with Sean behind me.

“Get off!” I snapped at him.

“…Where are we?” whispered Sean.

A thick horizontal plank curved into a bridge with rails made of branches. We entered a life sized playground. Green seas of grass covered our new secret hideaway. Sean ran to the ten foot tree fort he’s never dreamed of. Shuffling through the leaves, I followed and watched Sean’s smile grow and his eyes widen.

“Sean! Be careful! We don’t even know where we’re at…I don’t even know what this is!” “Oh shush and just have fun….who cares what it is! …It’s interesting.”

It is interesting. I didn’t know what to do, or where to start. The narrow trail of pink glitter convinced me to see where it was coming from. I peeked one last time at Sean to see if he was okay by himself. He looked happy to me. I traced the glitter patches with my toes and it led me to a butterfly mansion, where my head touched my back to look at it. My nose tickled, and with the crossing of my eyes, a butterfly greeted me. Through the feathered opening, pink glittered ceilings and patterned walls blinded me to sit in a cushioned magenta chair. Beautiful winged creatures fluttered in my hair and brushed along my eyelashes. “No Boys Allowed” was plastered along the halls and rooms of the butterfly mansion. Thousands of them flew in each direction to welcome me. I sip the cup of tea offered to me as my feet are lifted for a pedicure and a left handed manicure. I feel like a princess. A bang of the unrealistic door startled the fairies.

“Hello! Anybody in here?” It was Sean.

I burst through the feather opening, this time getting some stuck to my lips.

“How did you get in there!” he screamed in curiosity. 

“Okay, so where do you want to go next?” I changed the subject so I didn’t reveal my life-size playhouse. I wanted to keep wandering around. We turned clockwise in a three-sixty degree circle. Nothing.

“Is there anybody else here?” asked Sean. The air was getting colder, and I could hear the chattering of my teeth. The dim sunlight is just enough for us to find our way back home though.

“Do you hear that? It sounds like wind chimes…like the exact ones we have home Sean.”

“No, those things are so annoying!”

“It is them!” I recognized the pitch. We followed the vague sound, enough to figure out where the clinking was coming from.

“Didn’t we just pass this bush?” Sean was right.

We were walking in circles, but the sounds of the chimes were getting louder. The tree! The weirdest tree we’ve seen all day. It had a blue tinted trunk and was only the one with leaves on it. Sean ran and put his ear on the tree’s trunk. The chimes were inside!

“Wait, there’s a knob on the other side!” I screamed.

“Is it a door? Open it Sean!” The door was camouflaged with the blue bark of the tree. It was two feet in height and had an old wooden front. He pulled and turned, but it wouldn’t budge. I turned the crooked knob on my first try and it creaked open.

“I loosened it for you…” It was dingy and claustrophobic inside. The chimes had stopped clinking. Sean and I sat down next to each other.

“We’re never getting home, are we?”

“Yes we will, just be patient Sean. There has to be a way out.”

“Sean! Angela! Dinner!”

“Is that mom? That’s mom’s voice!” Sean jumped up and bumped his head.

Crouched down, I ran my hand along the wooden walls to keep my balance. We crawled through a smaller opening and we tumbled onto familiar grass.

“Sean! Angela! Dinner is ready!” I looked back at Sean with a confused look. We were in our backyard! Sean and I raced to the back door like we would never make it inside.

“Coming, mom!” I yelled. Sean beat me to the kitchen.

“Where have you guys been? I’ve been calling your names all day!” Sean and I looked at each other and smirked.

“Nowhere, Mom. What’s for dinner?”

What Lies Beneath?

By Crystal Certo (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

EVICTION NOTICE.  There was more, but my welling tears transformed the words into blurry, black blobs.  I turned and leaned against the door.  The eviction sign proved to be a comfortless pillow.

I had known that it was coming, just not so soon.  I wasn’t prepared.  What options were there?  Let it fade away, I thought, exchange this door for another.  The cold metal gave way to weathered wood, the stuffy air to a balmy breeze, and the walls to a forest.

I transferred my weight from the door to my feet and wandered about.  The hum of insects filled the air, overpowering the sound of my footsteps.  The canopy of trees was like a security blanket sheltering me from the outside world.  Light filtered through the leaves letting off a mellow, green glow.  Eventually, I stumbled upon a clearing with a single tree at the center.  It contained a fort-like tree house made of sun-bleached wood.

After taking a few cautious steps into the open, I hastened back into the shadows.  A flash of red in the tree house had caught my eye.  A woman in a scarlet cloak emerged onto the balcony.  She was dripping with precious stones that glittered as she moved and in her hands was a bowl of pears.  The jewelry on the woman’s arm jingled as she selected and examined a piece of fruit.  It didn’t pass inspection.  She let go and it fell to the ground with a solitary thud.  After repeating this peculiar process several times, the woman reached for the last pear.  Timidly, I returned to the clearing.  “He-hello?”  I mumbled.

The woman’s gaze rested upon me.  Her countenance fell, equaling the disgust of someone discovering a cockroach.  Without a word she hurled the pear at me.  The fruit smashed against a tree as I dodged into the forest.  From the undergrowth I could see its juices dripping down the bark.

The woman disappeared into the tree house.  Fearing that she had gone to retrieve more ammunition, I swiftly withdrew in the opposite direction.  All the while, branches and thorns scraped past my skin, but I didn’t care.  Fear gradually gave way to endurance and the feeling was liberating.

Without warning, my body tumbled over what seemed like tree roots.  It wasn’t.  I found myself lying at the base of an upright figure composed of bound twigs.  Standing up, I circled the figure like a hesitant predator.  It was much like a skeleton stripped of all flesh.  There were no muscles to move; there were no nerves to feel.  And yet, its determination to stand against the elements, whatever form they took, was admirable.  Perhaps it had even been hit by a hurtling pear or two.  “Are you ok?”  It spoke causing adrenaline to shoot through my veins.

“You ok?”  I was back to reality and a large man wearing a drenched jacket stood before me.

“Huh?”  I replied, still disoriented.

“Are you ok?”

“Yeah, I was just…I was thinking.”

The man seemed dissatisfied with my response.  He glanced up at the eviction notice and then back at me.  His eyes filled with pity.  Unable to formulate any words of consolation, the man sighed.  “You have a good night.”  With that he continued down the narrow hall and disappeared behind a door.

Upon gaining a measure of composure, I traveled to the elevator at the end of the hallway.  Once inside, I pushed the button for level one.  It didn’t light up like the rest.  The elevator lurched and began its descent as I looked out at the city through a window with a cloudy film.  Concrete tree houses loomed and became increasingly daunting as the elevator approached the ground level.  The door opened.

What can you do, I thought, but hang in and hope that something better than tree houses comes along.  And into the elements I walked.

What Lies Beneath?

By Jess Baldini (Sun Valley High School, West Chester, PA)

I could feel the inside of my stomach growing in guilt.

“It’s a small wooden door,” I said.

“Can you tell me anything else? What happened, Haley?”

She gently rested her cold hand onto my knee, and gazed into my teary eyes.

“No. That’s all I remember,” I lied.

“Are you sure?”

I looked down at my feet and nodded.

She got up and handed me a box of tissues. She took my hand, and I got up off the couch so she could pull me in for a hug. “Everything will be all right,” she softly whispered into my ear.

But I didn’t believe it.

My father came to pick me up around 4p.m. I stayed in the waiting room, eager to hear what they had to say about me. I brushed my ear up against the door.

“Her next appointment is this following Tuesday at 2p.m,” Dr. Hart said to my father. “She is going through a rough time and she isn’t taking it very well.”

“I know. I’m worried about her constantly. She hasn’t eaten for days.”

I rolled my eyes as I listened into the conversation.

“Were she and her mother close?” Dr. Hart asked.

“Very,” Dad said, “But so were my other two kids.”

“Everyone copes with things differently. It just takes time to heal.”

“If you say so,” He replied, “Thank you for everything.”

I opened up the door to Dr. Hart’s office and said, “Dad, let’s go.”

He unlocked the car door, and I hopped in the front seat. I plugged in my headphones, blasted the music, trying to forget about the rest of the world for at least a little while. I tried to ignore my father’s presence but he kept interfering. “Haley, what’s gotten into you?”

“Nothing. Just leave me alone.”

I didn’t want to remember that night but it kept coming back to me, over and over again like a new single on the radio. It scared me half to death. The memories of that night were starting to make my heart pound like crazy. I felt the sudden urge to jump out of the speeding car onto the highway…just to get away and never come back. Thinking about her laying on her death bed, an innocent woman who just made a mistake, was breaking my heart… I could have saved her.

Her screaming voice, crying for help, blasting in the back of my mind causing me to gain the worst headache anyone could ever imagine. It was slowly shattering my heart into a million tiny pieces, but only she has the ability to put them back together like the pieces of a puzzle.


I sat there in a daze, my mind wandering in all directions. She looked at me as I spoke the words, “I’ve been to Hell and back.”

“I know, sweetie. These past few weeks have been hard on all you guys. I-“

“No…” I butted in, “Literally.

 She cocked her head, and stared into my eyes. I stared back, waiting for her reply.

“Tell me more about this door,” Dr. Hart said. “Be as detailed as possible.”

“I really shouldn’t.” I murmured, looking up at her anxious eyes, “They’d get mad.”

“Who would get mad?”

I looked down at her notepad and pen. I hesitated. “Th…The…” I stuttered, “The people who live there.”

“Go to this place.” She said, “Tell me about it.”

“Oh no,” I went on, “I can’t…not anymore.”

“Why is that?” She asked.

I closed my eyes, and drifted off into that Sunday night dream of a few weeks ago.


“Come. Come. Come,” the luring voices of whispers led me to a wooden door as it creaked open. I saw a layer of unattractive stairs. Thorns painting the walls, dust covering the steps, and blood splattered on the ceiling…the stairway, leading to a place of misfortunate and utter terror.

I walked through, holding onto my bare shivering elbows, and my chattering teeth woke up the abandoned sleeping men and women hidden behind the calmly swaying trees.

“Don’t let them see you.” A teenage girl’s voice called out.

I turned around, and in the doorway of a small bridge, stood a girl around my age.

“Hey!” She whispered, “Get in here before they take you away!”

I walked over and walked through the doorway under the bridge. I sat down on the cold hard floor.

“What is this place?” I asked her.

“This is the land of the living, and the once living.” She said in a shy, timid voice, “I sent myself here…”

I nervously walked backwards. Quite frightened to hear her response, I asked, “Why? Did you…did you kill someone?”

She looked down at the cuts on her wrists and scars on her legs, and then looked back at me. She pulled out a picture of her family. Tears poured from her eyes as she said “I gave up. That’s why I’m here…it was a mistake.”

I looked out of the small window and I noticed as the people walked by, every single one of them had purple and black scars either on their neck, or on their wrists. It was a terrible, frightening sight.


“They’re just dreams…they mean nothing.” I lied, “Dr. Hart, it’s no big deal.”

“But it doesn’t seem like it,” she went on, “What is this place? And why can’t you go back there?”


The awful, disturbing sound of a woman crying for help woke me up.

What is that?

I opened my eyes to pitch black darkness. I lifted up the sheets and got out of bed. I felt my way down the hall to my parents’ bedroom, and opened up the door. I stomped my hands onto the sheets only to find a half-empty bed. “Mom?!” I yelled.

I walked vigorously, pacing back and forth. I couldn’t see a thing. The awful, awful noise was growing louder every minute. “I’m coming!” I shouted out, hoping she could hear me.

The innocent voice of a desperate mother in need of help, crying at the top of her lungs, was breaking my heart. I looked all around but there was nothing to be found. The screeching yells were coming from all directions, echoing back and forth. I was losing my mind.

“God, please help me!”

But out of the midst of the growing darkness, I saw a light. A bright, shiny light, almost blinding my vision. I slowly walked towards it, covering my squinting eyes. “I’m coming, Mom!”

I slowly reached the light; the darkness grew dim once more. I felt the sudden rush of my heart sinking, as the shadow of the brown wooden door appeared before my blinded eyes. I turned the knob.



I shivered; getting out of my zone. “What?”

She grabbed a tissue and wiped away the tears falling down my cheeks.

“Why can’t you go back to that place?” She asked once more.

I thought back to the last moment I could hear my mother…I was holding the knob.

I took Dr. Hart’s hand, with tears in my stained glass eyes, as I softly spoke, “The door is locked.”

What Lies Beneath?

By Darian Beahan (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

“How long has he been gone now?” Arra-Bella knew the answer, but hearing it again might remind her of how desperately they need to find him before it was too late.

“Almost a week,” Jebel said. “And we don’t have much time. The clock is ticking, and legend has it that if people go missing around here, they’re gone for good.” Jebel squeezed her hand.

“Are you sure Jonah went this way yesterday?”

“I’m positive.” Jebel stared down the path that the woods created. Even someone as smart as Jonah could have easily gotten lost here.  The path was a dark abyss. It was October 25th, 1061. The wind chill was piercing, and the howl it made when it thrust through the trees was loud and shrill. The trees were so tall that the siblings could scarcely see the night sky above. Eleven-year-old Arra-Bella had always felt protected around her seventeen-year-old brother, but now, not even Jebel could calm her.

They linked hands and took off down the path. Jebel felt weak, as he had resorted to seeking comfort from his eleven-year-old sister’s presence. The woods spelled out nothing but danger, and fear crept up through their bodies like a spider would slowly crawl up ones spine.

“What is that?” Arra-Bella pointed at a nearby field of grass. There were about five wooden, larger-than-life sized figures. They were in the shape of donkeys.

“I don’t know, just disregard it. It’s not important. I want to find Jonah.” And they walked on. About each mile that they walked, there seemed to be more and more of these figures popping up along the path, getting larger as they walked. In one field, there were so many of these figures that the siblings stopped to look around. The eerie atmosphere filled the air like fog, and the siblings couldn’t help but feel as if they were being watched. Arra-Bella turned and crept behind a tree.

“Uhh… Jebel,” Arra-Bella stammered. “Jebel, you might want to have a look at this.”

Jebel, torch in hand, spun around with a sigh of annoyance. “What, Bella. What is it now?”

Arra-Bella pushed back a few over-grown tree roots and fallen leaves. It unmasked a wooden door, stained with dirt and mud.

“What the…” Jebel couldn’t believe his eyes. “What is this? Huh? What is this?” he grabbed her shoulders and began shaking her in frustration and fear.

“I know just as much as you do!” She held up her hands in front of her face. “Please don’t hurt me! I just found it! I don’t know if it will help!”

He immediately felt guilty for letting go of his equilibrium in front of her. The entire trip, Jebel’s goal was to keep calm as possible. He could not fall into panic in front of her. 

“Should I open it?” Arra-Bella whispered.

“Stay put.” Jebel ordered. “I’ll have a look inside. But don’t move.”

“But… what… you’re not just gonna leave me…”

“Stay put!” Jebel demanded. Arra-Bella shut her mouth as her brother slowly pushed the door open.

Jebel stepped inside of the door, torch in hand, and felt as though he had stumbled into a torture chamber during the Spanish Inquisition. Pictures of the wooden donkey figures they had seen in the woods were nailed to each wall. There were weapons strung up on the walls, decaying bodies and piles of skeletons burying the rugs. On each dead body, a piece of skin was cut out in the shape of a donkey. Fear electrified his body. He had to hold his feet up to keep from falling to the ground in a shaking panic. A faint shrill which progressed into a loud shriek stung his ears, and he instantly recognized it as the scream of his sister. He dropped the torch to the ground and ran, sprinting towards the door. He was nearly at the door when it slammed shut. Not gradually, but all at once, creating a loud bang. He could no longer hear the scream of his sister or the howl of the wind. The room was silent. His torch extinguished as soon as he dropped it to the floor, and the room was completely dark. He was blinded.

“Arra-Bella!” He heard no reply.



Jebel and Arra-Bella were tied, strung up 20 feet high in the trees, on each side of Jonah’s rotting body. A piece of skin in the shape of a donkey was carved out of Jonah’s cheek. The elves stood on the ground, chanting, pitchforks and torches in hand, thirsty for their blood. There were so many of them, at least a thousand. They were small, no more than two feet high. They had dark blue skin, solid black eyes, and yellow, penetrating pupils. They formed an ocean below Arra-Bella and Jebel. An elf, much taller than the others of the mob, emerged from the crowd. The elves parted to create a path for the tall elf, almost as if parting the red seas. He stared up and Jebel and Arra-Bella, and smirked. “Who has captured the humans?”

“My King, Isaac and I have captured the humans,” two of the elves presented themselves to the king and bowed down to his feet, glowing with pride. A loud applause came from the crowd. The king took out a long sword from his black robe, and tapped each of them on the head twice.

“Sir Issac and Sir Jeremiah. Shall the two of you do the honor of the disposal?”

Jebel and Arra-Bella had given up all hope of rescue as they stared into the eyes of their dead brother. Arra-Bella quietly weeped. Jebel turned to her.

“I love you,” Jebel crept up out of his throat. “Be brave, for me and for Jonah.”

Arra-Bella choked back her tears. “I’ll be brave for you two if you be brave for me.”

Jeremiah and Issac had dreamed of this moment ever since The King was crowned. His inauguration speech still echoed in their heads.

Anyone of The Clan of the Donkey who captures a human shall be knighted and rewarded with lifelong respect, wealth, and fame.

“Are we ready?” The king shouted, and handed his sword to Jeremiah.

Isaac smirked at Jeremiah, ready to make their lifelong dream a reality. Jeremiah took a deep breath, and proudly raised his sword.

What Lies Beneath?

By Taharih Rogers (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

“I’ll do anything to take it back!”

The little girl ran into her sister’s room. Not even ten yet, she was the picture of youthful cuteness. Her green eyes twinkled when she smiled, and she was missing one of her front teeth.

“Cecelia, come play with me!” she begged her sister, brown curls bouncing.

“Leave me alone,” Cecelia commanded, pushing her bangs out of the way so she could look at her homework again. Cecelia’s hair was an artificial black, and she wore darker make up than most sixteen year old girls do. In fact, her eyeliner was so thick that barely anyone knew she had brown eyes, not green like her sister’s.

“No! Not until you play with me!” the little girl whined.

“Amelia, I need to do my homework!”

“But I want to play hide-and-seek!”

“No!” Cecelia slammed her hands down on her desk and stood up, glaring at Amelia. “Why can’t you leave me the hell alone, huh?”

Amelia blinked at her sister with tears in her eyes. She was surprised at the complete change that had taken place in her sister.

“I’m telling Mommy!” Amelia said, running down the hall.

“Mom! Mom!” she chanted when she saw her mom, who was busy chopping tomatoes.

“What is it?” the mom asked tiredly. Their mother was a woman in her late thirties, with graying hair and plenty of wrinkles.

“Cecelia’s being mean!” Amelia reported.

Her mother sighed. “And I thought teenagers were difficult before that tragedy…” She turned her attention back to Amelia. “Look, Amelia, why don’t you go out and play until dinner’s ready, okay? Leave your sister alone for an hour or so.”

Amelia whined before running out the door to the back yard. She sat down on the cold concrete of the porch, staring at the forest on the edge of the yard.

Amelia pouted and thought, Cecelia’s been mean ever since she started eating those candies in the orange bottle, and before that, she was always too sad! I hope they taste nasty. Amelia rested her head in her hands.

If Cecelia only remembered how fun playing hide-and- seek with me is, then maybe she would stop being so mean. Amelia smiled. I know how I can make her remember!

Proud of her idea, Amelia ran into the forest with a carefree skip in her step. The broad daylight lit her way so she didn’t trip. Amelia only stopped once she saw the perfect hiding spot. There was a hill with a circle of trees around it, and a door sticking out of the side. The door was round and wide but short, and the wooden planks looked old and gray.

She grabbed the handle and pulled the door open, revealing a dark cave that tunneled down. She walked in and shut the door behind her. Amelia walked a little farther into the cave to explore, but she lost her footing, and fell.


“Where’s Amelia?” her mother asked, walking into Cecelia’s room, with a hint of panic in her voice.

“How should I know?” Cecelia replied, irritated that she hadn’t made any progress on her homework.

“It’s time for dinner and I can’t find her anywhere!”

“Okay, I’ll help you find her,” Cecelia sighed. They practically tore their house apart trying to find the little girl. When they didn’t find Amelia, both of their hearts began to fill with panic.

“Cecelia, what if she’s lost in the woods?” her mother nearly shouted.

“I’ll go find her,” Cecelia offered. “No one knows the woods better than I do.”

“Take a flashlight, it’s getting dark.”

The sun was so low in the sky when Cecelia went out the back door that she couldn’t see it over the line of trees. She ran and checked behind the trees just within the perimeter of the forest, but the sun had fully set. Cecelia turned on the flashlight and prayed that Amelia could see it. The darkness and the silence made her fill with anxiety, and she began running and shouting Amelia’s name. Just when she thought she would explode from worry, her foot caught on a root and she hit the ground.

When she looked up, the flashlight’s beam was resting on a wooden door. Cecelia grabbed the flashlight and yanked open the door. The light instantly fell on a small body sprawled out on the floor.

Cecelia ran and kneeled in front of it before rolling the body face up. “No, Amelia!” Amelia was pale, blood was coming out of her head, and her eyes were staring up at the ceiling, as if in a trance.

“Amelia, wake up!” Cecelia begged, starting to cry. “Amelia, please!” When Amelia didn’t move, Cecelia continued, “Amelia, if you wake up, I’ll tell the doctor to take me off the pills, we’ll play again, I’ll be happy, I’ll do anything to take it back! I’m sorry I’ve been horrible! Just, please, come back!”

Cecelia rested her head on her little sister’s body and sobbed louder than she ever did before. Her crying prevented her from noticing the two figures that stood deeper in the cave.

“I want to go back, Cecelia needs me.”

The taller figure looked at Amelia’s spirit. “You can go back if you answer me one question: What lies beneath?”

“The opportunity to fix mistakes,” Amelia’s spirit answered. Not even a second after she did, her spirit transformed into a shimmering white orb. Undetected, it floated over to her body, before nestling itself within. Color returned to her skin and air flooded into her lungs. Amelia smiled when she lifted her head and saw her sister.

“You found me, Cecelia!” Cecelia looked up at her sister’s face, her make up running down in streaks. She did not hesitate to throw her arms around Amelia.

“I’ll always find you, Amelia; I promise,” Cecelia said, stroking her sister’s hair.

The tall figure smiled at the two sisters, his work done, and he faded away.

What Lies Beneath?

By Sam Schmucker (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

“She’s back! I told you, Dexim.”

A faint, feminine voice rang in her head as if it had echoed out from the deepest river and up over the highest mountain.

“Well, if we don’t get her up and out of here Zyprex will find her, Manci.” This time the voice of a worried man came from the distance.

Helen finally had the strength to open her eyes to see who these strange voices belonged to. White light filled the space before her as the luminous sun shone through the morning sky. Her eyes adjusted to the brightness and she found herself lying naked in a field of magnificent wildflowers. Blue poppies littered the space around Helen, broken up by purple sunflowers as tall as trees. Beautiful, red dandelions the size of baseballs seemed to dot the field below the emblazoned orange sky. Where am I? Helen thought to herself sitting up in the middle of the field of flowers. “Moody Meadow of course!” said the female voice. “Remember?  Dexim brought you here to hide from Eskalith the last time.”

“Who’s there?” snapped Helen. “Come out and show yourself!”

Puffs of soft magenta and periwinkle smoke furled and spun before Helen’s eyes. The sound of a balloon being popped put a halt to the beautiful smoke clouds and all at once a white, translucent otter surrounded by tufts of the same pink and purple smoke appeared.

“Right here, Helen!” said the otter as cheerful as a child on Christmas morning.

Helen let out a little shriek and began to faint. “Get her Dexi!” the otter said with absolute concern. Just before Helen hit the ground a blue fox with the same ghostly look as the otter appeared out of thin air to break her fall.

“Manci!” roared the fox, “Why’d you go an’ scare the poor girl? And she doesn’t remember the last time!” The fox leaned on his front two legs to let Helen rest amongst the flowers. “She has no recollection of the kingdom of Narsad, or Sero and Zyprex, or the Door for that matter!” said the fox, scalding the otter.

“Well I didn’t know that you, you… oh Dexim I can’t be mad at you!” said Manci refraining from calling Dexim a name she would regret later. “You’d better get her up though Dex, the Meadow is going to change soon.”

“Right,” said Dexim.

The blue fox hovered his snout above Helen’s limp face and breathed a glimmering, white breathe into Helen’s mouth. Her eyes shot wide open followed by her body bolting upright as if she had been struck by lightning. Helen looked between the slender, sly fox on the ground and the beautifully bubbly otter floating above her. She sat for a moment just staring at the two of them when she finally asked “Who are you? And where am I?”

“My name is Dexim the fox and this is…” Dexim was cut short when Manci disappeared and reanimated herself in front of the fox, before Helen’s face and half-shouted “I’m Manci the otter! Dexi and I are arceations and you’re in Moody Meadow in the kingdom of Narsad! Speaking of the Meadow Dex, let’s get her out of here. The sunflowers are fading.”

“No!” Helen interjected. “I’m not going anywhere except home. This is a dream, a crazy, unreal, stupid dream.” Dexim and Manci exchanged looks of concern for this poor girl when  the Meadow began to change.

Tall, lingering willow trees crept up out of the ground to replace the wonderful sunflowers and soft black grass replaced the inviting poppies. A light breeze blew through the meadow taking with it the lasts remnants of color from the dandelions. Helen’s naked body had gone from warm and comfortable to cold and irritated.

“What’s happening? Where are we?” she questioned frantically before being cut short by an arrow piercing a soft spot between two of her ribs. Her eyes turned in the back of her head and bubbling white foam fell from her lips. Helen collapsed in to a pile of poisoned human flesh and bone.

“It’s Zyprex Dexim! They know she’s here!” shouted Manci. “We have to leave now before…” the otter was also shot with an arrow, one that made her translucent body frozen from death’s keen sting.

“Manci! Where are you Zyprex?” yelled Dexim in disgust.

One of the willow trees rustled and a cloaked figure fell from the highest branch. He wore all white and bore the number 400 across his chest. In his hand was an extraordinarily long bow. “Dexim,” Zyprex started “you ought to know by now that Lord Sero and I will always find her.”

“Until you no longer work!” snapped Dexim.

“No, no Dex. We’re the final answer.” Said Zyprex pulling a long knife from under his cloak and stabbing Dexim squarely in the chest.


Helen felt consciousness flood her body. She opened her eyes to a horrifying sight. Dexim and Manci we’re thrust over the shoulder of the white cloaked figure, limp with lifelessness. Helen let out a shudder which did not go unnoticed.

“Zyprex! The time has come,” said a deep, guttural voice.

“Yes my lord Sero, right away sir,” answered Zyprex in fear. He turned to Helen and picked her naked body up by the arm and led her to his master. Helen’s mind was numb when she looked from the ground to the ominous figure before her. Draped in regal ivory robes with the number 300 printed across the front was undoubtedly the one they called Sero.

“Helen Ross. You’ve returned to the kingdom of Narsad due to the former lord Eskalith’s inability to rehabilitate you. I, however, have that power. Zyprex, please lead Ms. Ross to the Door.” growled Sero to his servant.

“At once my liege.” answered Zyprex leading a confused Helen to an extravagant wooden door. The Door opened on its own letting out a bone-chilling breeze and the smell of disinfecting chemicals. Sero then appeared at Helen’s side speaking his final words to her

“You’re free,”he said pushing Helen’s naked body through the Door.

Helen stumbled through the Door and a white light filled her eyes.

White linen sheets covered Helen’s bare body. Bright lights and strange people surrounded Helen who could barely make out what they were saying.

“400 milligrams of Zyprexa doctor, followed by 300 of Seroque,l” said a female.

“Her response?”  A male this time.

“None yet sir, still waiting for her to wake up.” The girl again and at this Helen’s eyes opened to find a sight stranger than Moody Meadow. She was lying in a hospital room, surrounded by unfamiliar faces.

“There we go! How do you feel Helen?” said the same male voice.

“Where the hell am I?” Helen said in a weary voice.

“Carnegie Memorial Hospital.” Said the nurse “You’ve been suffering from schizoaffective disorder for several months now and I think it’s safe to assume the hallucinations have stopped.”

“Hallucinations?” questioned Helen.

“Yes ma’am. Why, what have you been seeing?” asked the doctor.

What Lies Beneath?

By Megan O’Neill (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

It certainly was nothing like the giant manor she had grown up in, but shelter was shelter. It was a safe haven after running from unseen enemies for 27 hours with no sleep.

It was a small, one roomed shack that had long ago been abandoned, tucked into a patch of close knit trees. In front of it was a small clearing, the first Arella and her battered companion had come across in days. The makeshift door was made from planks of wood, slapped and sloppily nailed together. The hut was in the form of an arch one would find in a church. The entire thing looked like it could be knocked over from a strong gust of wind.

Inside, pelts of long dead animals covered the walls, which only aided in making the room feel that much hotter in the blistering southern sun. There was a wooden table near the entrance, with a small chair beside it. A forgotten mattress lay in the corner of the shack, which Noam immediately declared was Arella’s. The exhausted woman tried to refuse, but when he plopped himself down in the unstable chair, she nodded and collapsed onto the dusty cot.


Arella’s eyes opened to find Noam’s form peering down at her.

“Noam! Goodness, you frighten me!” She let out a shaky laugh, trying to calm her heartbeat.

“Sorry Miss Arella,” he said as she propped herself up against her elbows, “but it’s about time we started walkin’ again.”

“It’s night already? Did you get any sleep? Noam!” She cried out when he shook his head, “you were supposed to wake me up! You need your sleep much more than I do.”

“But you looked so peaceful layin’ there, Miss Arella. I ain’t never seen you look that peaceful since we left the farm.” Noam argued, shifting back as she swung her legs off the bed.

Arella took a moment to stretch, then peered at his face through the dimness. She reached up and scrubbed at a patch of dirt on his face before speaking. “Noam, I have told you over and over not to call me ‘Miss’ or ‘Lady’. You know it annoys me. Now more than ever since we’re not on the farm. I don’t want to hear it, alright?”

Noam nodded, defeated. She gave him a bright smile before walking to the table. “We are probably going to need some food of sorts for the road. I’ll go out and take a look while you take a nap.”

“Pardon me, ma’am, but a lady of your standing shouldn’t sink to the level of a slave,” Noam said in a quiet voice. “Let me do it.”

“Sir, if you think that I am afraid to get my hands dirty, then you are sadly mistaken. Besides,” here she paused to give him a stern look, “you need to get some more energy before we leave. Don’t worry, I won’t go very far.” She whisked out the door after that, leaving no room for an argument.

During her search in the twilight, Arella thanked her Lord for the trousers she had stolen from her brother’s room.

But it’s not like he will miss them that much, right? He has so many pairs of them. Although, I guess I should have said goodbye to him…

Abruptly, a yell cut through Arella’s guilty thoughts. Her eyes widened as she thought of what that yell could mean.

Arella darted though the trees, running as fast as her legs could carry her. She tore into clearing, realizing in a second that the door to the shack was crooked. The lady ran to the doorway, breathing heavily as she screeched to a stop.

A shaky sigh escaped her lips as she gave a relieved smile. Noam was standing right there, looking a bit rumpled, but alright.

“Noam! Thank goodness, I thought I heard a yell! Are you alright?” Arella asked taking a few tottering steps towards the man.

“Miss… Arella,” he gasped out. “Leave. Run. Quickly.”

“What? Noam what are you say-,” before she could finish, Noam dropped to the ground. Behind his fallen form was a strange man, and in her friend’s back was a knife.

“Noam!” Arella jerked awake, arms failing as she struggled to get up from the old mattress.

“Miss Arella?! What’s wrong?” A deep voice bellowed out, followed by the sound of wood scraping against wood.

The woman stood in place, swaying. It was a dream, all just a dream. Arella’s hands came up to cover her face, fingers creating small gaps for her unfocused eyes to stare through. When she felt large hands on her shoulder, Arella forced her eyes to focus in on Noam’s dirty shirt. Then she raised them to his black eyes.

“Oh Noam. Everything is fine now. However I think we should leave right now.” She spoke softly, like raising her voice would shatter something.

“But, Miss Arella…,” Noam started, but quickly silenced himself when he felt his lady grab his forearm. When he looked at her, he saw frantic, pleading eyes. He made a split decision, and nodded.

In silence, he packed their meager belongings, along with a fresh rabbit. The thought struck her that he must’ve gone out to get that while she slept. Arella smiled, thinking it was without a doubt something he would do.

She pulled her hood up as he stood in the doorway, scanning the area. After she tucked in all of her blond curls, Noam stepped outside, leading her towards the opposite side of the clearing.

When they got to the edge of the wood, Noam turned around to stare down at her. “You sure ‘bout this, Miss Arella?”

“Of course, Noam,” she answered with a dismissive wave of her hand, “and don’t call me ‘Miss’ anymore! You’re not anyone’s slave, and we’re both wanted. Therefore, we are equal, right?”

Noam nodded, and spun to begin the hike. Arella let out a squeak as something zipped by his face, embedding itself into the bark of a tree behind him. The two stared at the silver dagger for a second before Noam turned slowly, searching the forest for the knives handler.

“How lucky you are not to have taken an extra step,” a voice cackled out, an instant before its owner came into view. The man was pasty white and holding three more identical blades in between his fingers. The man kept talking, inching closer. Noam would retort every now and again, but Arella knew she had to do something. She breathed deeply, before whirling around.

She was not going to let this end like her dream.


Noam hated this situation. It wouldn’t be possible to get Miss Arella and himself out of here. The man was constantly flinging insults at him, making it hard to concentrate. He was only a few steps away now.

“Miss Arella, you need to get away from–,”

Before he could finish, there was a blur ahead of him. He swiftly became conscious of the fact his shirt was splattered in blood, and Miss Arella was in front of him.

For an awful moment, the world froze. Then the man slumped, and she stumbled back into Noam’s arms. Paralyzed, he watched as his gentle lady dropped the bloody dagger he could have sworn was in the tree behind him.

What Lies Beneath?

By Eric Gommer (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

“And I can’t tell you how many ways that I’ve sat and viewed my life today
But I can tell you, I don’t think I can find an easier way.” 

  – Blind Melon – (“St. Andrew’s Hall”)

Another war of screams could be heard from the sidewalk outside. Ken and his wife seemed to do nothing but fight about the little things. His wife could smell the alcohol on his breath from feet away. Whenever he would drink he’d become such a monster. The night was growing colder and it was a surprise the neighbors weren’t becoming disturbed.

“I’ll do whatever the hell I want,” Ken screamed at his wife, “you aren’t my damn mother, okay?”

She responded nervously, “Well, by the way you act, maybe your’s didn’t do her job so well.”

Ken’s alcoholic rage was growing more intense by the minute. He would never dare himself to lay a hand on his wife but he felt like he would break at any point. Before the situation could get any worse, Ken stormed out of his home into the darkness of the night. The slamming of the door echoed through the quiet neighborhood. 


“Where… where am I?” Ken asked himself. The last thing he could remember was falling down a steep hill near the lonesome road. But as he looked around there was no sign of the place he was before. His drunken state had worn off, but he retained a bit of a headache. It was unbearably dark but Ken was able to make out something in the near distance. It was a door of some sort.

Picking himself up from his seated position, he maneuvered closer to the door. Ken looked it over and, though he didn’t want to, figured there was nowhere else to go but inside. When he entered there was a wooden bridge-like passage which he followed to the end. At the end Ken was startled to find he was back on the outside, but it was mid-day. Rubbing his eyes to make sure he wasn’t crazy, he stood in complete shock. He didn’t have a clue as to what could possibly be going on.

“Hello there, sir,” said a voice behind him.

Ken turned around and examined the man in a sort of daze. It was just a normal guy about Ken’s age. But as Ken looked him over he noticed something. The man stood there smiling at him waiting for Ken’s reply. The man’s smile began to fade and he spoke, “Your eyes do not fool you. I stand here on a foot.”

“Sorry… I didn’t mean to stare,” Ken replied.

“It’s quite okay, sir,” the man responded, “My name is Bone.”

Ken wanted to question the odd name, but figured it may have just been what people call him. Although Bone was about the same age as himself, he was extremely skinny and looked incredibly tiresome even in his energetic state.

“Look,” Ken began, “I don’t know where I’m at or how I got here but I want to go home.”

“I know why you’re here, but only once you learn will you be on your return,” Bone said.

Ken questioned what that meant, but Bone said very little. Instead he insisted Ken just relax and stay for a while and that would only pass the time quicker. Bone began to show him around the area. They came across a small bridge with a mini door underneath.

“What’s in the door?” Ken asked.

“All that needs to be said,” Bone responded.

Bone had some connection with that bridge. He kept talking about it and how lovely he found it. Ken couldn’t figure out why, it was just a worn bridge in his eyes.

Bone led Ken to a burial ground. The ground was made up of small chunks of stone and animal-like wooden figures stood around. Nearby there was a ledge way up high. Bone liked it up there because he could stare off the edge and let his thoughts flow out into the sunset.

A moment of silence between the two was interrupted by the sound of two voices walking along the trail. A man and a woman were coming into sight. Ken’s eyes shot wide. The man had three arms! Ken was disturbed by the gruesome look of this man. Yet the woman accompanying him was elegantly beautiful.

“Hey, Bone!” she yelled, running up and hugging him.

Bone seemed nervous and started talking quickly to the girl. He didn’t even think to introduce Ken at all. The woman slipped away before Bone could even finish speaking, only leaving him with a haunting smile.

“Who were they?” Ken asked.

Sighing, Bone said, “The man’s name is Skin and that lovely woman is Chloe.”

Ken sensed a depressive state coming over Bone and asked what was wrong.

“Ken,” Bone began, “you have a lesson to learn here. You thought you knew something about love but you don’t. Your daily life consists of breaking down what you swear to love the most, breaking down what someone else would give their life for in a heartbeat.”

Bone began to tear up, “Chloe was mine once. But you see, three is greater than one… no matter how hard you try to change that… three is greater than one.”

Ken stood in silence as Bone wandered away as the sky grew darker. Ken walked over into a patch of grass with a big rock in the center. He sat against it and tried to digest all that Bone had said and find some meaning within it. But keeping his eyes open was getting tougher by the second. Before he could put together all these thoughts he drifted into night’s slumber. 


Ken was awoken by a faint weeping carried by the unsettled wind. He gathered himself together and began to peer into the night. The weeping seemed to be getting worse. Ken decided to follow it. It didn’t take long before his feet had reached the burial ground. At top the ledge that seemed to cover the sky was Bone looking down. Although so far down, Bone was crying so hard that Ken could easily see the tears.

“Are you okay!?” Ken yelled, worried.

Bone could only stare back. He looked physically destroyed and his tiresome looks had only aged. The air was still and an uneasy presence was growing so hauntingly.

Bone shouted down to Ken, “All that needed to be said has been said… and three is always greater than one.”

As the last word slipped from Bone’s lips, he leaned forward and began to freefall off the ledge. Ken’s mind began racing and he didn’t know what to do. There was nothing he could do. He let out a hectic “No!” as Bone plummeted. The fall seemed to take forever but Bone soon hit the stones with incredible force. Ken dropped to his knees and began to sob. Never in his life had he witnessed something so twisted. As he lifted his head he could see Bone’s face. Puddles of blood surrounded his body and his eyes remained open and in a lifeless daze. Ken inched his way over, staring deep into the eyes of Bone. He began to really think about his life and all the things Bone said. In his own reality he realized he was a three armed man himself and had done nothing but abuse it. As the tears streamed down his face, he took a breath and continued to look deep into Bone’s eyes.

“I don’t blame you… I don’t blame you…” was all Ken could utter.

He went into a seated position and turned his head away from Bone. Ken couldn’ bear to look at him any longer. The last few moments started to replay themselves in his head. He thought of the last thing Bone said, “All that needed to be said has been said.” Then he recalled Bone saying something similar about the little door beneath the bridge. On that thought Ken picked himself up and ran to the bridge. He tried to push the little door open but it wouldn’t budge. Ken punched it over and over but to no avail. Then with one swift powerful kick he broke the door in. Dropping to his knees he began feeling around inside. A piece of paper is all he felt so he pulled it out. He unfolded it and started to read:

It’s hard to begin to say these things but they’re all too true. This world is dark and cold. It’s blind to a child’s eyes and too clear to a man’s. It chews away at the weak. The fragile are meant to be broken, and that’s just so unfortunate. I tried to fight it but you can’t fight the inevitable. You can break your back every day and give only love, but the fragile will only ever breathe in misery and pain. Being a nice guy won’t get you anywhere. As much as you want to be that type of person, a nice guy is merely just a fool in a wise man’s game. When a man fights the same war for so long he grows too tired to fight anymore, rightfully so. Selfish isn’t one taking their own life, but is wanting someone to remain in their eternal suffering. We all must meet our demise at some point. If only men like me knew what decisions to make in our youth to avoid tragedy. Maybe we don’t have a chance to avoid it, and that’s also unfortunate. A man can only speak out of the pair of shoes he has walked in before. But I have never walked in a pair. I have only walked in one. That, my friends, is also so unfortunate. With the love I have left, goodbye. 

                              ~ Bone

Ken didn’t know what to do. He had everything in his life made and had only abused it the whole time. Bone was a victim of the world’s cruelty and Ken was practically part of a murder. He sat down and laid his head against the bridge. Tears rolled down his cheek as he thought of Bone. It was there Ken promised to change. He swore he would quit drinking and start cherishing the things he had. Some people could never come close to making out so well in life. After all, three is greater than one. No matter what one can try to do, three is greater than one. 

“So if I see you walking hand in hand in hand with a three armed man
You know I’ll understand, but you should’ve been in my shoe yesterday.” 

– Blind Melon – (“St. Andrew’s Hall”)

What Lies Beneath?

By Aleia Scott (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

The purple helmet was splattered in blood. My head was pounding. There was blood in my eyes and on my hands. I was unable to move, and slipping in and out of conscious. The ambulance rushed me to the emergency room. Doctors were attempting to bring me back, but my body went into a deep sleep. I could feel my body getting heavy, and my soul drifting away into the shadows. My mind played tricks on me, I couldn’t tell what was real anymore until it was dark, pitch black. I lifted my hands up in front of me, at this point I knew it was a dream.

I was unable to see anything but I heard voices.

“Save her,” my mom sobbed.

“Over here Aleia the door is open,” these whispers said.

I tripped over my own feet and pushed the door open. Foggy light was brought to my attention, along with my dead grandmother and a metal gate. Behind the gate there were zombie like devils. They were screaming, some even on fire. The devil’s hands went through the holes of the gate, as if they craved to be on the other side. Were they possessed or just lost, I thought to myself.

“Grandma where are we,” I asked unaware?

I had not seen my grandma since the last time she was in her bed. However, she didn’t get up the next morning. They took her body into the blackness.

“Calm down my beautiful Pooda Bear, we are in the Half Dead Field,” she told me.

“Grandma you’re not making any sense,” I said. 

She started to fade, her body was growing transparent.

“Listen Pooda Bear, wait for your number to be called, then we will meet again,” she told me. My grandmother was now a soul flying north. The only thing she left me was a paper with the number 827.

In front of me were thousands of lost souls. I used to be scared of ghosts, but this new world changed me. I could only stare at my surroundings. I was in the middle of the field, standing in lifeless grass. There were barely any clouds in the blue sky, and a single tree with no leaves it stuck out like a sore thumb. Why is there only one tree, in this enormous field, I asked myself.  There were dandelions around my feet, I went to pick one up but I lost my balance. I was hoping the grass would catch my fall, however, I fell right through the dried up grass. I was falling for about six seconds until my face collided with wooden floor.  I had sunk into the lower level of death.

“We’ve been waiting for you, Aleia,” a voice said calmly. I sat in silence and stared.

I was in a dim, medium size room. The ground started to shake like an earth quake, and a large man dragged a dirty little fellow up to the voice. He must be the head man in charged, I thought.

“Sir, we caught him stealing again, we gave him a fair warning the first time but now it’s time to take charge,” the large man said.

 “Agreed Periwinkle, chop his hands off,” the voice giggled.

“No, please, I was just so hungry,” the dirty man said as he was being dragged away. He clawed his nails into the floor board, and the sound it made was horrifying I couldn’t block it out. I was there to witness the whole situation, but no one to tell this too.

The voice slowly turned his head in my direction and said,

“Aleia, beautiful, you are here of accident aren’t you?”

“Yes sir, where am I,” I asked.

“Aleia, don’t ask questions. Just let me explain,” he said.

“After that car hit you your body was in so much pain it gave up. You were brought to the Half Dead Field, where the good and bad remain for the final destinations. The bad desires to be on the other side of the gate, unfortunately God did not save their souls, so they’re suck here with me.“However, God saved yours Aleia, you were not meant to die yesterday,” the voice said.  

Yesterday,” I hollered, “I had only been here for an hour.”

“No, my beautiful in the half dead field the time moves like the speed of light,” the voice said. “Now Aleia if you want to go home I will compromise with you, just complete the task before your number is called. So you might want to hurry.

“What’s my task, and how do I solve it, I asked?

“You must save two souls. They can come on the good side as long as they believe in their hearts that Jesus died for their sins. All you need is this,” the voice said. A Bible appeared in the palm of my hands. “Time is ticking Aleia,” the voice said.

In a blink of an eye I was back in the Half Dead Field, with the Bible in my hands. I started walking through the wild dried up grass, the gate was about twenty feet away. The grass was scratching my legs. I finally arrived at the gate, and the lost souls were uglier than ever.  Their faces were peeling and they smelt so dreadful. Their skin was fading and pale. I walked over to an old lady, her eyes were black and her skin was wrinkled.                                   

“Ma’am do you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins,” I asked.

The old lady covered her ears, screamed and ran away from the gate. I knew this was not going to be easy. I saw a little boy next, curled up in the corner, gripping the metal gate so tightly his hand started to bleed.

“Little boy, why are you crying?” I asked. He refused to look at me, only past me. I got on my knees to his eye level and asked with more authority this time. “Little boy, why are you crying I demand an answer,” I yelled.

“They can hear us, they know where we are and what we are doing,” he whispered. He looked into my eyes and disappeared right in front of me.

It was at this point I had given up all hope and I wanted to cry. I sat in the dry grass with my back against the gate. I opened the Bible and read out loud. John 3:16, “for God so loved the world he gave his only son and whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I could feel the tension in the air, so I turned around and saw this young couple staring in my direction. I knew they could not stare directly at me or they would vanish like the little boy.

I flipped to Revelations 22:13, “I am the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last,” I looked up.

At this point the couple started to cry. I said a prayer for their lost souls. At the end of my prayer I asked the couple if they would accept Jesus Christ in their life. They couple nodded their head yes. I began to cry, not because I was going home, but because this young couple got a second chance. I was ecstatic with happiness as the gate started to shake. I stepped back and saw the gate was unlocked. The couple walked on the other side. Their appearance slowly started to change. The couple looked beautiful and renewed. We stood in a circle and held hands. A bright light took over the sky until it was my surroundings were white. The couple flew north and left behind two papers that read, “306” and “307.”

My legs were weak and I could no longer stand. I fell on my back in the grass and looked at the souls one last time. I said a prayer for them and my eyes rolled in to the back of my head. My heart was beating faster than ever. Right when the doctor was about to pull the plug I inhaled a breath of fresh air. My mom instantly started to cry and hugged me. I was awoken from a long nap but I knew it wasn’t a dream, I knew it was real. Everybody was crying even my brother that despised me. I truly made a difference, but I decided not to tell my mom about the Half Dead Field or grandma. I stared up at the ceiling and thanked God for another chance. My family entwined hands and my mother closed the night out in prayer.

What Lies Beneath

By Danielle McDonald (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

She lifted the steaming porcelain cup to her pruned lips and sighed a sigh that spoke volumes of her past. Her granddaughter observed her, searching behind the façade of a primitive woman. As she watched, her mind wandered to thoughts of her grandmother’s past. She helped her from the white iron chair and through the French doors, past cracking pots of flowers. Before long, the secrets would be sealed forever. As her grandmother settled her round body into the plush chair, she seized the opportunity. She shouldn’t have, but she did. She looked into gray eyes that held more behind them than imaginable. Crouched next to her, she squeezed the woman’s crumbling hand. As the story began to unfold, she wove an intricate web of a forgotten life that to a young girl was magical and far, far away.

I remember the wooden door well. It was surprisingly sturdy with its intriguing, curved oak structure. The iron fastened to it was dark and intense. It was hidden beneath a mess of bushes, but although it could not be found with out searching, does not make it weak. The door, perhaps the most vivid of my memories, was a strong barricade into that world. Ah, my darling, to see the door again.

I was a silly girl, thinking he actually loved me. I am sure he thought as much, otherwise he would not have asked me to go with him. Father owned a book binding company and Jack’s parents worked in the factory, so naturally, he did not approve. I understood that going with him meant that I was giving up everything, but he was my everything.

The door creaked and the sun shone through the willow trees. The door opened to a wooden bridge. It was also oak; however, its rails were made from petrified wood that was tangled into itself like antlers. It was not until we crossed it, dear, that I noticed the house it loomed over. As our feet pressed into the soft ground and I pointed, a woman appeared from it, peered at us with warning eyes that caused my stomach to lurch, smiled sweetly and retreated to her humble home. Jack must have seen the worrisome look in my eyes, because he grabbed my hand and pulled me after him into a field of unknowns. 

We reached the edge of the field and inquisitively looked at a round door in the side of a hill. It was like the oak door I spoke about earlier, except smaller and purple. Jack let go of me and knocked on the door and a dirty family came out of it. We sat on tree stump chairs, with the seats carved into the logs and backs that were rotting away from the morning dew. I suppose the man who spoke was the father and the rest remained eerily silent. I was being foolish and not listening, but gaping at what I saw. Around those chairs stood a hollow hay fence, with what seemed to me a rabbit path in the middle. Oh, my childish thoughts. The trees were personified with clay faces on them and it frightened me that I had not noticed that before. I moved my stump slightly across the moist ground to be closer to Jack, who was swallowed up in his conversation. Our hosts watched me with the same empty but warning eyes as the first woman, framed by filthy faces.

Jack jolted from his stump and hastily followed the man across the field. I stumbled to catch up with him. I put my arm in his and as I glanced back I saw a last look at the people who were hauntingly staring at the place where I once sat. Once we were on the north side of the field, Jack and I were instructed to wait outside of a breathtaking castle. Its threatening wooden stairs and sheet metal walls were comforting but in the similar way it is comforting to know that the dead are held back by the very ground you step foot on. I spun around like a child in a toy store, taking our new life in. I saw in a clearing up ahead that there was a flattened bridge and a small, mossy hut in the center. Jack followed my eyes and his lips made my ears hot when he whispered to me that it was ours. I smiled and turned into him and his arms were the belt around my waist. Our guide clattered down the wooden stairs and Jack pulled away offensively quick, a soldier at attention.

With two slender fingers, the man summoned us to trail after him. After a few moments of walking, I attempted to continue that previous moment with Jack, longing for his reassuring touch. We trekked across a suspension bridge, hung between two trees and I looked deeply into his eyes to communicate to him what I needed. What I saw, although familiar, was only recognizable to me because of the previous looks from that day. I saw Jack underneath, but he was being eaten by the warning eyes of the others.

Now that spooked me, precious. I reached my hand out to touch him, to see if he was real, but when I touched him, my hand was cold against his skin that had once blushed at our contact. With tear brimmed eyes, I squinted at his face again. His eyes looked back at me, empty. Memories of our life together flooded my head and made me dizzy. My thoughts and fears consumed me at that very moment. I no longer knew this man. I pressed my lips against his in one final attempt, to no avail. It was as if I had kissed a stone, there was no recognition in his body. I pulled away and sobbed against his face. I did not know what I should do, my dear, but make that decision. My hands flew back from his body and I ran. I ran as hard, as fast and as quietly as I could from that world, never to return again.

Today, I can not bear to think of it. My daughter is the only fruit I have from that man. I wish that I had not made a decision to run away from him as I did, but other times, I know that it was the only way to save me from being with a person who put me so far behind other things that when it came my time, he had forgotten what I was to him. Darling, I went back a few years later to part the bushes in front of that door, but when I went to find it, I could not. I only could see that door because your grandfather made me believe it was there and since the day he did not believe in me, I have not been able to believe in myself.

What Lies Beneath

By Brian Hrischuk (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

I could hear the multicolor leaves crinkle beneath his feet. I knew he would be here soon, he would find my door. I heard the loud whine of it opening, and I saw the bright sunlight of a mid October morning. Then, the loud bump of his first, second, third step. I fell from sight behind a root. His hair was long and brown, wearing a blood red shirt and shadowy black trousers. He padded across the floor right past my spot in the dark. Soon after I watched three more pass by, two boys one young and one a teenager, then a teenage girl.

I tracked them through my tunnels until I heard them speak.

“We should split up and see if we can find anything,” the man said.

“Okay but Jared, who will Tyler go with?” the girl said motioning to the young boy.

“I’ll take him,” Jared responded walking down a tunnel with the boy.

I decided to follow the girl and as she walked no more than thirty paces we heard a flutter of wings. A hideous form dropped from the ceiling, my brother.

He cracked his hideous neck and stood up to speak, “hello,” as he flicked a fat fly from his wart covered face. “My name is Bertrand! I am what you little piglets call a fairy!” He flew at her and pushed her to the floor standing before her. “And what would your name be hun?” he said as he drug a dirty finger from her neck down to her elbow.

She shivered as she choked out “E-Erin,” and pulled herself back away from him.

“Hold on hun. I just want to have a little taste of that there neck, after that you can have a nice long nap,” he said bringing his blade filled maw closer to her neck.

I ran at him, my feet leaving the ground and my shoulder just missing his elbow. I slammed into him and we tumbled to the ground, his sharp fingernails digging into my flesh.

“Randall, mind your own damn business!”

I jumped back off him as he slashed at me again. I shouted, “We cannot break the laws set in place by the elders for dealing with the humans! We cannot harm them.”

He chuckled before replying, “Oh, but brother they only apply when we are on the surface world, we do what we desire here.”

I charged at him but cut my run short, twisting around after hearing a scream. I watched as the other unnamed man slumped to the ground blood dripping from his lips and flowing from the open rip in his neck.

“So tasty. He is right Randall, we can feast down here,” my sister gristle slipped out between chews.

I shook my hairless head and screamed, “I don’t care! Leave them alone!”  I helped the girl up and told her to run and get away.

She took off, in the opposite direction from the exit passing by a stunned Bertrand and smiling back, “I’m sorry but I got a job to do down here Randall.” I knew my back would be sore as I felt a sharp pain in the back of my head and my vision went black.

I awoke to the dim light of a flame. My father sat in his throne, my siblings at his sides.

Raspily he spoke, “Dear son, I am told you betrayed your siblings, and for a human no less.”

I stood in silence.

“You dare play silent? Bertrand, seventy lashes.” Father said directing to the whipping room.

Later that day, I awoke from my pain induced slumber to the thin rays of light coming through the grate above, it was obviously getting late, I could not lose them. My back sore and bleeding I looked and saw the man Jared standing before me. “Oh hello Jared, what’s wrong?” I asked seeing his odd posture. I gasped as I noticed he was hanging from a rope wound around his neck. They had killed him. I had to hurry and save them. They were so special, so human.

Running along I heard a loud bang. I found an enraged Bertrand bombarding himself against a door.

“You little pig! I’m going to eat you like dessert!” he wailed as he continued.

I couldn’t believe my luck, I had found the kid in less than ten minutes.

Bertrand continued, “Little piggy! Little piggy! Hey Randall, use your knife on the door lock.”

 I knelt pulling my knife out and getting ready to break the lock when I pretended to slip and sent the knife into his fat gut and opened him up as he spilled out onto the floor. “Wish you luck brother, do better there than you did here,” I said opening the now unlocked door.

The boy and I ran for what felt like hours when we stopped hearing some angry grunts. I peeked around the corner seeing Grestle. I dodged down and shoved Tyler into the closest room which happened to be mine. “Stay here, and don’t touch any of that stuff, I found it all on the surface,” I said pointing at a crude workbench covered with human junk.  I stepped back out and saw Grestle.

She asked, “You find either of the kids yet?” I shook my head as she snorted, pushing me against the wall. “Scum.”

She began to trot down the hallway when I stuck my knife in her back and cut through her while catching her and setting her slowly on the floor.

“You…” She sighed as she grew eternally silent.

I returned to my room to find out that Tyler had run out and was bringing his sister back. They went into my room and walked over to the bench.

She smiled and picked up a picture frame.

“Hey! That’s mine.” I yelped grabbing it from her hands.

“No, it’s ours, look at it, it’s our parents.”

I peeked at it and noticed it was them. I handed it to her and I led them towards the door to leave.

A tear crept down my cheek as I watched them open the door, leave and say goodbye forever. I wished I could go with them, but in a way I was. I began to dream as my father’s sharp nails dug into my neck. Smiling, I started my eternal sleep, following my brother and sister. 

Meanwhile Erin stood staring at the picture as she noticed a corner bent, she pulled it out fixing it and seeing a small bald humanoid standing beside her in the picture. There was a note written as if to reassure him.

“I will be one of you in another life. -Randall”

What Lies Beneath

By Ashley Lopez (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

“Lily, come quickly! The door’s opened! Someone was trying to break in!” Rose called from a distance.

Flying as quick as her vibrant pink wings would take her Lily raced to the entrance. She took one look at the old wooden door leading to their sanctuary and knew something was wrong. The rickety door that always made them feel at peace was now disturbing her more than anything.

“Who was on watch last night?” she asked

Rose tells her that Elizabeth, Annabelle and Sally were. She was torn between being extremely furious and extremely frightened for their safety. If something were to go wrong she would be fully responsible for the fairies. Lily chose the position when Nana died, it was all her responsibility now. Summoning the three fairies to the entrance, she asked what had happened and they responded saying they don’t remember the door being opened or anyone attempting to open it.

“Rose, sound the alarm,” Lily yelled.

When the shrill of the bell pierced her ears she flew to the meeting circle. As she sat on the stump in front of the blue door all the fairies rushed out.

“Attention! Everyone quiet down please. Something has gone terribly wrong. During the duration of the night the door opened. Only I have the key which means someone from the outside world has discovered our door,” Gasps filled the air. “We may or may not be in danger if there really are intruders. The only way to find out is to venture out and check the vicinity and see who comes back. Unfortunately our army is in the Beyond battling the garden gnomes for access to the Enchanted Woods. Do I have any volunteers to join Rose and I to the land they call Los Angeles?”

She waited patiently for a brave fairy to volunteer and one by one there were fourteen slim hands in the air. She lined them all up in front of her to see if they were physically capable for the journey out of  Latopia. Only ten of the fourteen were, but that seemed alright.

“While I am gone Tulip will be in charge. She will be given a communication box to tell me if things go wrong,” She warned the fairies.

Motioning for the chosen ones to follow her, they got geared up as if for war. She had no idea what could be out there, nobody did. Giving them instructions to follow her every demand out there and not to screw anything up, for it could put everyone else in grave danger. They approached the door and stared at it for a few moments. All together they heaved the door opened just enough for them to slip out on by one. Following behind everyone, Lily pulled the door shut behind her. Turning around and seeing the outside world everyone let out a gasp. Everything was one hundred times bigger then what they were used to. There were lights in every direction they looked, giant buildings and moving objects filled the streets.

Flying out towards the sparkling passage ways all the fairies followed. Lily turned around to check that the door was closed but instead saw gigantic letters spelling out ‘HOLLYWOOD’.  She quickly assumed that was their leaders’ name. Rose positioned the girls around the door just far enough to see the door but not to be noticed if someone did try to break in. She told them not to move until they spotted something.

Hours passed until they heard noises. Giant people were stumbling through the branches walking over them as if they were just measly twigs. There was a boy in sun-kissed skin and bleach blonde hair, the girl looked almost identical.

“This little door opens to some glittery place!” the one with the deep voice spoke.

“No it doesn’t Brian, this is so stupid. Let’s just go,” replied the one with a soft voice replied.

Giving the signal to attack, they all jumped out towards them. Shooting at them with their bows and arrows the people seemed not to notice. Rose shot one right in the cheek and that’s when they jumped. The male looking down at Lily reached toward her and lifted her high up to his face.

“Julie, look, it’s a fairy!” he screamed in her face.

“Brian, put the poor thing down! You’re scaring it half to death!” she yelped.

“Actually his breath is very smelly. Has he lost his tooth brush?” assuming that she was referring to her contorted face Lily defended herself. He put her right down after that.

“Why do you think you can just go about opening up people’s doors, huh?! We thought there was an actual intruder that could cause us harm. Not some giant weirdo with gross breath!” She was furious.

“Whoa there! I didn’t know something actually lived in there. I just thought it was some random door for decoration,” the boy responded

“Well it isn’t! I have about three hundred fairies I have to protect in there and I would highly appreciate it if you left us be!!” Lily was letting him have it.

The shriek of my alarm filled my head, taking me away from the setting in front of the enormous letters. I loved dreaming about the fairies, especially when they ventured out of Latopia. They were always the best dreams and I knew that it was going to be a great day. I strained to reach the alarm shutting it off and closing my eyes for just a mere five more minutes of the fairies.

What Lies Beneath?

By Sara Seibert (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

My old heart is racing with excitement as I make my way down the battered path. It has been decades since I last made this journey, yet my mind still remembers the way and my feet instinctively take me where I yearn to be. The sun filters down through the canopy above me, giving highlights and shadows to the forest that made it appear as if I am walking through some surrealistic painting. Birds chirp and flitter above me and the hidden silhouettes of deer can be seen though the thick trees.

After walking about a mile on this isolated trail, I find what I was looking for. Before me is a large wooden door, looming a couple of feet above me, set into a hill. It is constructed of wide, sturdy planks with a large black iron handle to the right. I smile and close my eyes, letting the all too familiar and comforting smell of pine and faint smoke enter into my senses. It all reminds me of that time I was here so many years ago. I clear my mind, I did not want to waste this time by reminiscing on the past. I wrap my gnarled hands around the handle and pull with all of my remaining strength.

Ahead of me lies a tunnel burrowing into the hill, it is formed out of packed dirt, with tree roots lining the sides. That earthy smell of untouched nature is strong, and an overwhelming sense of nostalgia sweeps through my body. Knowing that I still have a long way to walk, I decide to give into the feeling, and let my mind wonder back in time.

I was a young girl, only 20, and had all of the youth that has left me now. I had a happy enough life then, my family was fairly wealthy and I was receiving a decent education. However, I was an adventurous girl, and so one day I took off into a tract of woods that my father had just bought but had not yet built on. Nobody knew that I left, and I simply starting running through the trees without a care in the world. Only later would I notice the pulls and tears my blouse and skirt had suffered during my flight. That did not matter at the time though, the only idea that was running through my head was how good it felt to have the wind rushing over my face. I reached what I thought to be the heart of the woods and that is where I found the door for the first time.

I stop my memories, seeing that I had neared the end of the tunnel. I begin to have a strange feeling as I get closer to my destination. The pain that was set deep into my joints from so much walking has faded away and I feel as if some weight has lifted from my shoulders. I pass this all off as unimportant and step out of the mouth of the tunnel and into a large field. I am relieved to see that the place has not changed in the four decades I have been gone. It still has that air of an unseen magic and nothing has that abandoned look to it that I feared that time has a tendency to do. I walk, yet again, crossing over a small bridge built out of branches and twigs. Looking back at the bridge, I see a small house hidden under it that I had completely forgotten about. I smile and make my way through the place. I pass by all of my memories. To my left are bright and colorful mushrooms with small doors leading into them. To my right is the entrance to a small and empty building. I continue straight ahead and climb up a ladder-like structure onto a platform that is wrapped around a thick oak tree. I look out ahead of me with a view of almost the entire secret meadow, happiness coursing through my body. I glimpse the outline of a building and I am instantly reminded of one of my favorite places.

I climb back down the ladder and go towards my left, where a barely visible path is hidden. I quickly walk down it, approaching another wooden building. I walk inside, where above and around me are chimes. They are all different sizes and colors and I let my fingers graze a few, hearing their small sweet tinkling sounds as I make my way to the center of the room. I let loose all of my feelings, pushing the long tubes of graceful metal into one another to make my own unique song of pure joy. Although I am by myself, I laugh. I laugh like how I used to when I was young, and with all of the unrestrained bliss of a young girl. After what seems like hours, I let them settle, and that is when I realize how quiet it is outside.

The last time I was here, I remember there were many noises. I never directly saw any creature before, but I saw their shadows and outlines and heard the noises they made as they walked through the woods. The silence upset me, and I left the chime house in search of a living creature. I remember another section of the field where there are chairs formed out of logs hidden in secrecy.

It was at this place, I remember, where I found fruits and other small gifts set out for me before. They were accompanied by a note imploring me to stay there and I had thought it was sweet. Images of sweet, little creatures had passed through my mind when I wondered who could have left a present there for me. Today, I make my way there again, keeping my ears open for any sounds in the ominous stillness. Small, grumbling noises come from in front of me, and I hurry to the source of the commotion.

I walk around walls of hay and branches and quietly tip-toe to the opening of the meeting area. Sitting in the chairs are creatures I had never before seen. They remind me of those silly lawn gnomes, except they did not seem so silly now. They have more serious faces, with human expressions. Their clothes are earthy, like their surroundings and their skin is wrinkled with experience. Fear arrived unexpectedly, and I froze. The gnomes noticed me, and began to rise from their chairs. They begin to beg for me to stay, bringing me back to my memory of the gifts, but their faces look frightening and I become ever more scared. They start walking towards me and my frozen stance melts, and I start to run back to the tunnel. I had no idea what this feeling was that had come over me. This meadow had always seemed so peaceful to me when I was young. But now that I see the twisted faces of the creatures that live here, my young dreams shatter and I climb into the tunnel.

I hear scratching noises from behind me and run faster. Halfway through the tunnel, I am again enveloped by silence, although this time it is comforting. I slow down and continue to walk until I reach the door yet again. This time, when I leave, I will never come back. Now, as an old woman, I look back with regret. at the same place I had once looked at with wonder as a young woman. Things change, and I promise to myself to sell the tract of woods as soon as I find the opportunity.

What Lies Beneath

By Mary Vancleve (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

The house had been empty for days, all their stuff packed and gone with them. Questions ran through my head. Why would my parents just leave, why didn’t they take me with them? Where did they go, and would they come back for me? I wasn’t even gone long, but somehow they had managed to get their stuff and leave.

I walked up the stairs to my room. Apparently they took my things to. Only one thing was left over, sitting in the corner of my room on the floor was a recent family portrait. We looked happy, and I wondered what happened. I opened my closet door, and nothing was there either, except a few dust bunnies. I was going to close the door but something caught my eye.

An outline of a door had started to appear. Slowly its shape became more pronounced. Where was this thing coming from, I thought, this cannot be real. I was never a believer in the paranormal stuff, I have to see it, otherwise it isn’t real to me.  I was hesitant to open the door. I’m not going to lie, it kind of scared me. Not knowing what was behind it, or if I was just seeing this and it wasn’t really there. I reached out to touch the door, it was cool and solid. There was no doubt that the door was real. I grabbed the knob, twisted it, and pushed.

I walked through the entry way, and looked around. A bridge was right in front of me so I decided to go that way. A loud bang rang through the air, it was the door. It had slammed shut, I couldn’t do anything about that now, so I kept walking, and hoped that it didn’t lock.

Straight ahead was a little wooden table and a set of small chairs. A tunnel of hay circled the table. It was like a little dining room for small people. All of a sudden a dog started barking, I turned around to see. It was my old dog Max, who had died when I was eleven. This just confirmed things for me, this wasn’t real. None of it was, it was all just a bad dream and I would wake up, my parents would be home and I wouldn’t be here.

Max ran up to me and started barking at me, like he wanted me to move forward, and stop standing there. He started to walk forward, but turned back to look at me. I guess he wanted me to follow him. So I walked with him, not sure where he was taking me. He led me to a tree house, looked up at it and ran off. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him so I just looked at the tree house, not really sure if I wanted to climb up it. It was a big piece of plastic, and almost looked like a leaf. Instead of going up I just walked past it to another little setup with chairs.

This time it looked like a little living room. A small oval door was right at the front. I walked over to it, and tried to open it, but it wouldn’t budge.  Instead of getting frustrated and trying to open it I walked forward and almost hit a tree. I jumped back in surprise. A creepy looking face stared back at me. It wasn’t carved into the tree, it was just tied there. It almost looked like it was looking at me, and when I moved so did its eyes. Walking away, I could swear that its eyes were following me.

Another little bridge was ahead, and in front of it was a small house. The sign in front said that it was a fairy house. So now fairies were real? This place is weird as anything, I thought. I heard a little fluttering inside the house, or maybe I just had it in my head that it was a fairy house, and it made me believe that there really were things like that in there. I didn’t want to open the door though, not wanting to believe that fairies could possibly be real.

Keeping my eyes on the little house incase anything happened, I walked backwards over the bridge. Going right, there was a path with mushrooms and little bunnies roaming threw the tall grass. Garden gnomes were sitting next to the mushrooms. It looked like a scene right from a fairy tale. Some looked like there were real, and they would get up and move any second. I shook my head. This place was making me crazy and think things like fairies were real, when they clearly aren’t. I ignored the gnomes, and continued forward.

Up ahead was a house. It was incredibly small, and probably couldn’t fit more than a couple of people in it at once.  The outside just looked like a normal shed, with a door on the side. I didn’t want to open the door, because opening a door was what got me here in the first place, but my curiosity won out and I pushed it open.  Strand of ribbons were hanging from the ceiling. It looked so peaceful in the house. The ribbons swayed gently with the breeze, and the birds chirped in the back ground.

Glancing back I saw people standing to the side of me. My grandmother was standing at the front, smiling at me. I stood there holding my breath. My grandmother had died when I was nine. She walked to me, and grabbed my hand, patting the top of it.

“You’re finally here,” she said.

I was so confused.

Why would I have to be here, and why was she waiting for me?

Then, it hit me like a Mac truck. Why I had sen my dog, who had died, and why I was seeing my grandmother.

I was dead.