What Lies Beneath

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

I trudged through the crisp autumn leaves and my mind started to trail off.  I dragged my feet and found a peculiar door. Curiosity struck my mind and I aimlessly searched around as my environment started to change.

There was a strong wind that made the door shake, as if something was trying to tell me “Do Not Enter”. Instinct took over as I turned away from the door. I proceeded to walk through the woods filled with an array of broken sticks and crunched up leaves. Mushrooms were placed on the ground like the toadstools in the game Super Mario Brothers. Tree stumps were in sight, so I sat for a while and started to ponder how I ended up in this place.

I let my imagination free from my mind and began to think about the purpose for that door in the middle of the woods. A scrawny looking man approached me and asked in a confused tone, “Where did you come from and what do you seek here”.

Scared and alone, I gulped, and managed to spit out, “I think I may be lost and I do not know how I ended up here.”  As I started to walk away, still freaked out, I came to a long, brown, rickety bridge that had unique details carved into the railings. I was amazed at how delicately they were carved with symbols and letters.

I steadily started walking on the old worn out bridge and prayed with every step that I make it to the other side. Thankfully, I made it across and started checking out the wooded area and noticed a bunny rabbit out of the corner of my eye. I tried not to scare it, but then realized it had evil red beady eyes and looked like a vampire. I ran and screamed in terror but it was no use. I searched for a way out and frantically paced back and forth as I contemplated what to do.

I finally felt my heart start to beat normally again and I focused my mind away from everything. The sun could not shine through the thick clouds as it was pouring rain and thundering. I thought to myself, “Great could this day get any worse.”

Just when I thought I was safe I heard steady footsteps that sounded like the beating of a heart ready to come out of a chest. I turned back and was frightened by what I saw. Further in the depths of the woods, I saw a ominous figure and it came closer and closer every moment. My brain told me to panic, my lungs were paralyzed and I could not let my obnoxious screams of fright escape my mouth.

I soon found my way back to the haunted door and look back at a pack of snarling beasts their fangs white, their gray colored fur that surrounded me and I felt the creeping of their eyes staring into mine. I focused back on the door, pulled it open and ran into it despite the fact that worse horrors may have been found beyond it. 

What lies beneath this door is the choice between life and death and the plan that fate has for me.

What Lies Beneath

By Krista Gibson (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

There was a faint breeze that early summer morning, as she was sitting outside the downtown coffee shop sipping her coffee. She was trying to calm herself, fearful that she would have to see her father after him having a drunken night. That morning she tried to avoid him as best as she could, even if it was sitting on the bench. It was a distraction from her home life. Things were peaceful in that part of town, that’s why she adored it.  A friend of her’s spotted the girl across the street day dreaming. She ran over and sat next to her.

 “What are you doing here?! Thanks for not getting a hold of me for months”, she said with a sarcastic tone of voice. “How ya been?”

The young women sat on the bench for several minutes and caught up on the past few months after not seeing each other.

“Want to go inside and get some more coffee?”

 They went inside and took a seat near the front glass window and gazed out of it. Ariel unintentionally made eye contact with a strange man. He had a rough appearance, wearing a black jacket and wore dread locks.  She paused for a second to wrap her head around what just happened, and drew her attention back to the conversation. Soon after that, the same man walked past the shop but in the other direction, once again making eye contact with Ariel. He was a shady man, who looked as if he had a mission to complete.

An hour had passed by when the man strolled into the coffee shop. He approached Ariel and Joelle.

“What are you gals up to? Name’s Cade.”

The girls had mortified looks on their faces.

 “What..what should we do?” Joelle stuttered to her friend.

She held her face in her hands.

 “Uhm, I’m Ariel, she’s Joelle. What do you want?” she attempted to say bravely, yet said it with a cowardly tone of voice.

“From the look of it, you were the one making eye contact with me. Besides, you ladies looked bored. Would you like to go for a stroll?” he asked.

With no plans for the rest of the day and needing a reason to not go home to avoid Joelle’s father, they decided to go along with it. They didn’t know if it would be either a memorable adventure, or a ghastly decision.  

“Why not, what do we have to lose?” Ariel whispered to Joelle.

 “Our lives? Heh.”

“I know just the place to take you gals.”

They hopped out of their chairs and headed for the door. Not knowing if they made the right decision, they started to feel regret set in.

 “Where’s this place?” The two wondered for several minutes.

At this point, Ariel and Joelle were unsure of where they were. The man began to walk off the beaten path. There was a grassy field with a long dirt road. A wooden fence bordered the dirt road. From the far distance Joelle was not sure of what she was seeing. They long path led to what look like a tall wooden door. She pondered the thought of what lied beyond it. It was built in to an enormous hill that faded into the rolling hills with the fog and misty air. 

As soon as they reached the door Cade blurted out, “This is my favorite place in this beat up town. I used to come here all the time as a child.”

“Why did you take us here?” the Joelle asked.

“I’m not too sure. When I saw you and your friends sitting in the shop, your eyes looked empty, lifeless almost. I wanted to share this place with you. ”

He pulled a skeleton key out of his pocket and placed it in the key hole. He pushed the door with some assistance from the girls.

A gust of fresh air gave from beyond the door. An aroma of fresh rain filled their lungs and a sense of tranquility over came their bodies. The view from where they were standing was nothing like either of them had seen before. There was a water fall equivalent to the height of a sky scraper. Birds of all colors chirped and sang songs. They had not felt at peace with themselves in such a long time.

“This place is beautiful,” Joelle said.

 “Yeah I like it here. I come here when I need to escape from the world for a few hours,” Cade replied.  

All three of them saw the river flowing, they gave each other the same knowing look. They took off their shoes and ran straight for it and dived right in. A few minutes of silence passed by.

 “Wow, I can’t believe we’re here” Ariel thought.

She laid on her back floating in the water, absorbing her atmosphere. Joelle was walking along the rock beds. They were sharp, but she didn’t care, she was having fun watching how curious the frogs and fish were. The two young women were still in awe. Joelle looked around and saw deer tracks accompanied with fox trails. The trees were filled with bold pink and red flowers. It reminded her of the flowers that sat in pots outside of the coffee shop. They soon gathered their belongings and proceeded to explore.  

That night they searched for firewood. Later, they sat down and talked about their life adventures. Cade explained how he came upon the place. He would run away as a teenager and sleep in the tree house, not far from where they were.

“This is one heck of a place you have here, Cade.”

 “Yeah, it is a pretty nice place, isn’t it?”

What Lies Beneath

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

The pool of sticky blood in her bed was the end of Myra’s stable mind. She breathed deeply and tried to think of list of other possibilities for the blood but the truth was painfully obvious.

Her baby was dead.

Screaming incoherently, she threw back the covers to examine her mess. Blind with self hatred, Myra stumbled to the bathroom.  She grabbed her husband’s prescribed back pain medicine and poured a handful of pills into her shaking hand.  She attempted to swallow the lethal dose of medicine but could not due to her racking sobs. As she began to compose herself, she remembered where her husband kept his gun for emergencies. Turning towards the door, she realized that it was not her bathroom door. Instead there was a huge, oak door blocking her path.  Myra was momentarily stunned by its beauty but quickly regained focus by shaking her head. She cursed herself for imagining things and threw open the door. Rather than walking back into her bedroom, Myra was standing in the middle of a small clearing, surrounded by magnificently tall oak trees.  Vividly colored leaves danced with the soft breeze as they floated to the ground around her. There was an explosion of questions in Myra’s mind, but no one was around.

‘Hello?’ she called into the woods.

There was no answer. There was not even a small stir in the bushes or any bird chirps. Myra recovered from her initial shock and began to explore. She followed a dirt path that led to a cluster of small cabins. Eager to find someone to answer her questions, she walked up to the closest cabin and knocked on the door. No one came to the door. She waited for a few moments and then tentatively pushed the door open. Her eyes made a sweeping inspection of the room and she was surprised that she recognized it. Rather than seeing the home of a stranger, she was looking at her mother’s dining room. The table was set with Thanksgiving dinner and her family had their heads bowed in thanks. She saw herself as a five-year-old, making a face to her brother from across the table. Her grandfather finished giving thanks and everyone furiously attacked the meal before them.

Myra watched the scene with wide eyes, unable to comprehend what was happening. The whole room radiated with festive joy and realization hit her like a jarring blow. This was one of her earliest and fondest memories with her family. Before she could enjoy watching more of the dinner, the room faded to black. Myra stood in the middle of the room, confounded. Now what? She exited the cabin and decided to continue down the trail. Another cabin was only a few yards diagonal from the one she just left.

As Myra approached the cabin, she noticed it was different from the first. Instead of being a simple log cabin, it was more modern. There was a satellite dish on the roof and a porch light. Unfazed, Myra roughly opened the door, eager for more memories. She walked into a hospital room. There were two figures laying in the bed, one pale and thin holding a young woman. This was the day her father lost his battle with lung cancer. Myra had blocked out this memory for a reason and turned to leave the cabin. But the door only led to a deserted nurse’s station, not her escape from the memory. Reluctantly, Myra turned back to her dying father. Her dad was rambling to her younger self even though he was visibly struggling for air. Myra watched as her father closed his eyes and pushed the younger Myra into sitting position.

“Okay, baby girl, you need to go,” whispered her father. He hugged her one last time and let go, letting go of life.

“Be good…” he managed as he drew his last pitiful breath. Both Myras stared at him for a long time, both hearts breaking. The low, constant beep of the heart monitor echoed in her head like a broken record. He was dead.

Myra bolted from the cabin as soon as the scene disappeared. She collapsed to her knees in the tall grass as memories from his funeral flooded her mind. She remembered standing in line with her mother as an endless crowd of strangers flooded into the church, praising her father’s life.

Managing to stifle her tears, Myra carried on to the next cabin. As she walked up the porch steps, loose floorboards creaked under her feet. Spooked, Myra brushed away cobwebs as she opened the door. When she entered the room, she was standing before an open grave. One lone man seemed to be finishing preparation for the burial as the funeral precession arrived. Myra could not recall this memory. She stepped closer to read the gravestone. There was no message; it just simply read ‘Myra Marie Higgins 1984-2010.’

Myra was completely baffled. Did she go through with killing herself and this was her heaven? These cabins were not what she expected Heaven to be like by a long shot. As Myra continued to watch, black-clad mourners surrounded her grave. Surprisingly, there were not many in attendance. She saw her husband silently crying, vainly trying to comfort her mother.

‘Everyone must hate me,’ Myra realized, ‘but they didn’t understand my pain.’

As her casket was lowered into the cold ground, Myra surprised herself with tears. She cried for her mother’s grief and her husband’s confusion. She cried for her lost baby and the fact that she was all alone in this Heaven.

But this is what I wanted,’ persisted Myra to herself, ‘death.’

Myra’s swollen eyes wandered back to the few lingering mourners and her heart broke for her mother. Myra’s selfish perception of death suddenly changed. What had she really done? She didn’t solve any of her problems, she had just run away, like a coward. The people she loved were left behind to deal with their terrible grief. Her mind trailed back to the previous cabin, to her father’s death. Her father’s life had been taken from him, he did not choose to be inflicted with cancer. With her head hung in shame, Myra left the cabin with the picture of her own gravestone burned into her memory.

Sunlight caressed her face as she walked away from the troubling cabin. She slowed her pace and took a moment to appreciate the warmth on her face. She knew she never took the time to really enjoy this in her life and now she wanted to soak up as much sun as she could, because who knew what would happen to her after the final cabin. Before moving on, Myra cursed herself for succumbing to her own weakness and wasting her life.

Myra entered the last cabin but did not walk into some kind of recorded scene like she had three times before. She was all by herself in the dim cabin. The room appeared to be empty so Myra turned to leave but something caught her eye in the center of the room. It was a photograph facing up on the floor. She picked it up and held it close to her face. The picture was of a laughing baby girl and her mother. As some kind of cruel joke, the mother was herself. Disgusted, Myra flicked the photo back onto the ground, facedown. However, the photo flipped over, the smiling faces teasing Myra. She picked up the photo again and couldn’t help but admired what her baby could have looked like if Myra hadn’t killed herself.

The beautiful girl already had a full head of dark hair just like her mother’s. She looked soft and plump, caught mid-laugh in the picture. She was wearing a pink onesie that had ‘Daddy’s Girl’ printed on the front and wore bright yellow booties. It was the prettiest picture Myra had ever seen.

‘This was why,’ Myra thought to herself as she curled into fetal position, photo in hand. She cried herself into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Myra awoke to the sun shining in her face. Her hazy mind began to recall what had happened to her. She committed suicide. She was laying on a dusty cabin floor, crying over what could have been. Rolling over, Myra was surprised to feel a comfortable bed under her. Curiosity made she open her eyes and she was surprised to find herself in her own bedroom. Lifting the plush covers, she was even more surprised to see she was laying in her own blood. Remembering, Myra wept with a bittersweet smile on her lips.

What Lies Beneath?

By Stephanie Miersky (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

“Did a tornado go off in here?” I looked at my mom as she held her temper at the sight of my room.  I asked my mom to leave so I could start cleaning.  My room was messy because I hadn’t had time to clean being busy with sports and doing my school work.  When I was cleaning up my floor, I found a lot of things that I’d been looking for along with an old fashioned key.  I never saw the key before and I didn’t know what to do with it.  I put the silver key in my back pocket and continued cleaning.

I was getting angry when I started to clean the closet out because there were many different things just thrown in there.  Out of anger at the mess, I picked up a shoe and threw it to the back of my closet wall, and it made a huge hole in it.  I noticed that the wall was only about three centimeters thick.  I took a closer look and there was a tiny light shining through.  I started making the hole bigger by pulling and breaking it so I could fit through.

When I finally made the hole big enough, I climbed through.  I came upon an open wooded area with a dirt path leading to a wooden door.  The door was very old fashioned and I tried to open it, but it was locked.  I thought about the key I found when I was cleaning and tried to see if it would fit into the keyhole and unlock the door.  I struggled to get the key in the hole.  When I finally did I turned the key, and the door opened.

I hesitated to walk in at first because I didn’t know what I was going to see.  I stopped worrying and I walked down a path that was surrounded by trees.  I came to a clearing, and there were tree stump seats that were set up around a table that was also a tree stump. I also came across hay tunnels that led too new strange places.  I looked around to see if anyone else was there, but there was no one in sight. 

I made my way through one of the hay tunnels to see what else I could find. I came to the end of the tunnel and about fifteen feet away from me there was a wooden house.  I walked towards the house to see what was inside.  When I entered there were colorful tubes hanging from the ceiling.  I heard laughter coming from the stairs and I hid behind a wall because I didn’t know who was going to enter.  A young boy and girl about ten years old came in.  The little girl motioned me to follow them outside, so I did. 

We walked for awhile and passed areas that looked as if they were set up to look like a specific room in a house.  We all sat down on seats made out of tree trunks, and I waited to see what would happen next.  The girl and the boy were talking in sign language so I didn’t understand them.  Then I got it, those kids are deaf!  The kids signed something to me but I shrugged to let them know that I didn’t understand.  The girl motioned me to follow her again, so I did.  We walked over a bridge and then went to a miniature house with a tiny door that was underneath it.  A colorful little fairy, mostly different pinks and purples, looked like she wasn’t real when she was inside the lantern, but then she came out and sprinkled dust on us.  Next thing I knew the door was normal size.

I wasn’t.

When the kids opened the door, I was a little excited about what I was going to see next because everything else I saw was so cool.  We walked into a normal living room with a bunch of people talking and having a good time.  The kids signed something to the people and a lady greeted me. I asked the lady why the kids were deaf, and she told me they were born that way.  I asked her if she could tell me what they were signing to me because I didn’t know how to communicate with signs and I didn’t understand it.  The kids told me their names and asked me if I wanted to play.  The women asked me to stay awhile, but I couldn’t.  I told her that I would love to stay but I have much to do at home. I assured her that I will be back.

What Lies Beneath

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

They were the broken remnants of a childhood memory. They were a secret, kept for nearly a decade by the best of friends. They were ancient, powerful and great. Monica gazed up through the trees, wishing she could find them again.

The fairy houses.

The magical maze of twists, turns, and wonder, suspended high above the forest path. Connected by rope bridges, the fairy houses had seemed to stretch for miles through the trees. But now, Monica couldn’t find them anywhere. She sighed as she continued to search the treetops.

They have to be here somewhere…She thought. They couldn’t have just disappeared.

The memories were flooding her mind… 

*** 

She and Emma had been seven, maybe eight years old. Emma’s older sister Kristine, who’d been about eleven at the time, had led them into the forest to play a game. She had called it “Hansel and Gretel”.

“What are the rules?” Emma had asked.

“Well,” started Kristine, “I’ll lead you into the woods, towards the middle. Then I’m gonna spin you around with your eyes closed. When I leave, you guys start counting to 100, and try to find your way out.”

“Like hide-and-seek!” Monica exclaimed excitedly.

“Yeah, sort of,” nodded Kristine.

The three girls walked into the woods for about ten minutes. Emma and Monica had chatted excitedly to each other the whole way. Finally, Kristine told them to stop in a small clearing.

“This is where you’re gonna start counting.”

Kristine repeated the rules and promptly spun each girl around. Then, she ran off back the way she’d come.

Emma and Monica had fallen to the ground laughing. They started counting; shrieking and laughing with every number, as little girls are wont to do. As they approached sixty, however, they got quieter and quieter.

“I’m tired,” sighed Emma as she flopped down onto her back. “Too tired to go find Kristine.”

Monica nodded. “Me too. I don’t wanna go anywhere.”

“Let’s just stay here forever and ever and ever and ever!” smiled Emma.

“We won’t go anywhere ever again!” Monica shouted up to the trees.

The girls continued to laugh, the game forgotten, Kristine forgotten, just the dreams of two seven-year-olds and an afternoon of endless impossibilities. 

***

Monica smiled as she recalled the beginnings of their first forest feat. She sat down in the soft grass and looked around. There was a stone wall covered with ivy, a few tree stumps, and the endless forest. But nothing seemed especially familiar. She was struggling with her memory. She could remember the game, and the fairy houses themselves, but she couldn’t remember how they had actually gotten there.

“Emma,” she whispered to the sky, “how did we get there? What happened?”

Monica shivered as a cool breeze rustled through the trees. The wind knocked down a few strands of ivy across the stone wall. Monica did a double-take. Where cold gray stone should have been, there was rough, brown wood.

Monica rose to her feet and stared at the wall. She took a few cautious steps forward and shook her head. There was another gust of wind and, as if to reassure her that it was true, it blew more ivy down. Now she could see more of the wood, and the onslaught of memories began. 

***

It was during their first visit to the woods, after Kristine had left them in the middle. The girls had spent a good hour happily prancing around in the small clearing. Out of breath, Monica plopped down with her back against a stone wall. Emma sat down a few feet away, facing her. Monica absentmindedly raised her hand and began twirling strands of ivy through her fingers.

“Whaddya wanna do now?” she asked, her cheeks red with the November cold.

Emma shrugged her shoulders. “I dunno. I guess…maybe we should find Kristine.”

Monica nodded in reluctant agreement. “Yeah, I guess.”

Emma nodded silently, staring at something over Monica’s shoulder. Monica looked up, but saw only the ivy covered wall. She let her hand fall to her lap and looked questioningly at Emma.

“Em? What’s the matter?” she asked.

Emma stood up and walked over to the wall. Monica rose up beside her. Emma moved some ivy away from the wall. Both girls gasped. There was a wood door in the stone wall.

The girls looked at each other.

“Should we open it?” breathed Emma.

“I…I don’t know. Should we get Kristine to open it? She might know what to do.”

Emma shook her head. “No, Kristine doesn’t know much. She’ll just boss us around and be mean. Let’s just open it.”

“Okay.” Monica nodded.

The girls brushed some more ivy down. The door was rather large. It was rough and crude, most likely made by hand. The insipidness of it was unpleasant. There was a heavy black latch holding it shut. It took both girls’ strength to lift it up. Emma reached for the handle and pulled it open with all her might. 

***

Monica brushed away the rest of the ivy. There was the door. As solid and uninviting as ever. Her breath caught in her throat. She was remembering it all clearly now. The whole day came back to her, and all the days after that. Monica’s head was starting to hurt. She was supposed to be resting, but she wasn’t able to. Not with all that had happened.

As she began to recall the happy memories of her forest adventures, she remembered all the painful things that had happened in the past few days. Her eyes stung with salty tears, but she wiped them away.

“I found it, Em. I’m going back to them.” 

***

Emma pulled open the door. The girls peered inside. It was dark and musty, and it smelled like burning leaves. Monica took a cautious step inside and realized that there was a dirt hallway connected to the door. She took a few more steps and began to feel that the hallway was turning a corner. She could feel Emma breathing behind her.

As they turned the corner, Monica saw a shaft of light casting shadows within the hallway. It was at the end of the tunnel.

“Emma, do you see that light?” she asked.

“Yeah, I wonder what it is.”

The girls continued on until they reached the light. There was a rope ladder that led up to a hole in the roof of the hallway. Without question, Monica began to climb up. Emma followed close behind.

After a moment, Monica emerged into what she thought was a different part of the forest. She gazed around at the trees and flowers. Everything was bathed in a golden light. Emma popped up behind her, slightly disappointed.

“It’s just a shortcut or something through the forest,” she pouted.

“Shush,” Monica told her, listening to her surroundings. “Do you hear that…that bell noise?”

Emma paused, straining to hear the bells. She heard them faintly, tinkling throughout the November air. “Yeah, they’re really quiet though.”

Monica nodded and took a few steps closer to the base of a tall tree. The bells, although they were still quiet, grew a bit louder. Monica looked up at the tree and saw another rope ladder, similar to the one she had just climbed up.

“Em…I think the bells are coming from up in the tree,” said Monica, gazing up into the foliage.

“Wanna climb up and see what it is?” asked Emma, who, without waiting for an answer, began to climb up.

Monica followed. It was a long climb, but easy. After a moment, Emma reached the top. She crawled into a wooden tree house, the size of a small bedroom, high above the forest floor. It was actually quite warm inside. There was a table with two plush chairs around it, and piles of books everywhere.

“Whoa,” whispered Emma as she stood up and looked around.

Monica hoisted herself up into the tree house and looked around. Her long dark hair blew out behind her as she rushed to the stacks of books around the room. Although she wasn’t old enough to read most of them, the numbers of them fascinated her. As Monica looked through the piles, Emma approached the table.

There was a piece of paper on the center. She picked it up and read it. Shock and disbelief washed over her for the first time that day. She reread the paper and turned to Monica.

“Monica, listen to this: 

Welcome to the fairy houses! We are very pleased to allow you boarding in our rooms. You’ve been chosen to “see,” if you will, our very special existence. You believe in us, in magic, in everything fantastic. We are but a small part of a very large, very wonderful world. These houses are open to you whenever you wish, as long as you always believe. You may not always see us, but we can always see you! There are few rules, but you must follow the ones we have set forth. Please do not share this secret with anyone. Do not bring anyone to this place, or to any other magical place you may discover. Do not try to harm us or any other creature (though we doubt you will). Please be very careful, we don’t want to endanger you, only to enlighten you. Have fun in our houses!

–The Fairies”

Monica and Emma looked at each other, fascinated.

“Real fairies,” sighed Monica dreamily.

“And we get to come here whenever we want!” smiled Emma.

The girls raced each other to the other end of the room, where there was another door. A bridge, made of wood and rope, connected it to another room. Spread out all over the tree tops were more bridges and rooms. Interspersed throughout were signs and directions, pointing here and there. The girls’ smiles grew even wider as they drank in the impossible images before them. 

*** 

Monica pulled open the door. It was even darker and mustier than the first time they had found it. She coughed and took a step inside, but there was something blocking her way. Where the dirt hallway should have been was a wooden wall, running the entire length of the entrance.

Monica touched it with her fingertips, her eyes watering.

“No…no it has to be here! It has to be here!” she broke down into sobs, leaning against the wall.

All those days Emma and her had snuck off to the forest to visit the fairy houses hadn’t been imagined. She knew they had been real. There was nothing that could explain them away; the fairy houses had been real. All of their adventures, climbing through the trees, laughing and playing in the golden sunlight, those things had been real, as real as the wooden wall before her.

There was another soft breeze, carrying Monica’s cries throughout the forest. A moment later, a scrap of paper fell from the sky and landed on the ground by Monica’s feet. She sniffled and choked back the sobs as she bent to pick it up. It was a note, in Emma’s handwriting.

“That’s impossible,” murmured Monica as she began to read. “She’s…she can’t…”

Monica,

This is very hard for me to do. I know you’re looking for the fairy houses. I know you want them to be there. I wish you could come see them one last time, but you can’t. The magic passed over us, Monica. All those years in middle school, and then in high school, corrupted us. We forgot to believe. They disappeared for us.

I know you think this must be impossible, me writing to you. And in a way, it is. But then again, wasn’t our whole childhood rather impossible? After the accident, I remember few things. I remember the ambulance, and being rushed to the hospital. I remember my parents and Kristine holding my hand. I could hear your mom’s voice across the room, talking to you. The doctor’s rushed them out, I know, because it was quiet for a few minutes. I think I told you that I saw the light, the light that brought us out of the tunnel. I said something about the fairy houses, didn’t I? Yes, I believe I did. You answered, I think, but I couldn’t hear you. The bells were getting really loud. That’s when my memories stop. I suppose that’s when I died.

But guess what, Monica? I’m living in the fairy houses now. I got invited to come back. I remembered to believe when it was the right time. I get to live with them, exist with them, learn with them. One of the things I learned first was “We find them, they don’t find us.” Don’t try to find the fairy houses anymore. They won’t appear again to you for a very long time. Just promise to remember them again when it’s your turn. Don’t do it sooner, do it at the right time. Please be safe, Monica. Be safe and be happy.

Love Always, Emma Rose

What Lies Beneath?

By Kathryn Delgiorno (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

I gently slid the glass door open and shuddered as the nighttime air hit my skin. I looked around me and started towards the woods behind my house. My hands shook with excitement and my mind wandered with possibilities. I couldn’t wait to see the door again tonight, it was always the highpoint of my days. It was pitch black, except for the silver light from the moon shining on a door. The frame was rotting and the handle was rusting.  As I reached for the knob, it dissolved into the air. I shook my head and sat on the ground.       

“I wish it would stop disappearing, so I could finally go through.” I said to myself.  Just as I finished this thought, the door slid open with a creak that made me jump. I walked through the archway, my eyes and jaw wide open. At the end of the tunnel there was a field of short green grass covered with mushrooms half my size.

I bent down to touch a mushroom and a small creature flew out from underneath. I was in awe as I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I turned around to face a girl with red-hair and big green eyes that were filled with mystery. Her skin was pale and sprinkled with dark freckles.

“Daniel! Hello, I’m Harley and this is The Hidden!” her voice was high-pitched, but still beautiful.

 “How do you know my…” I tried to say, but I was cut off by a shrill sound.

 “Your name?” she asked over the loud noise, “I heard your wish to be here and that’s all I needed to get you here.”

 “That’s impossible, I’m dreaming. I need to wake up!” I pinched my arm and shut my eyes hoping to wake up in my own bed, but I didn’t.

 “Isn’t this what you wanted?” her smile was fading, “To know what was here?”

“I don’t know, I thought it was all a dream.” I mumbled.

“Daniel, be calm, I’m here to help you. Let’s go introduce you to my father, he’s probably worried sick because of the bells.” Harley said as she grabbed my wrist to drag me into the forest. As we went through the thicket I noticed small houses without roofs. There were chairs made of trees placed in the main section of the living space. As we continued deeper there were bigger huts surrounded by thick vines and underbrush. In the middle of the beauty there was a huge oak tree with at least 300 large creatures surrounding it. As Harley pushed to the center she reached an orange mask and began talking to it.

“Daddy,” Harley said as she pushed through the people, “this is Daniel, he just came through the door!”

“Oh, Harley, this is the second outsider this month. What has gotten into you?”said a booming voice that came from the mask, “I’m taking it that this is why the bells went off?”

“Yeah, I was wandering in the fields and saw him enter through the door. Is he in danger?”

“Wait, what? Danger?!” I asked, “You have got to be kidding me.”

“No, the rebels try and take humans, like you, for their army. It’s beyond our control what they do, we can only stall them until you can escape, but they already know you’re here.”  It explained, “We’ll be sending you with the guards where you will rest until nightfall, then Harley will help you make your escape.” From behind the giant tree came four large men that were two times my height. They had grey wings protruding from their back and they carried long spear-like rods. 

One grasped my arm and led me towards the mass of trees and shrubs. It felt like we traveled for hours before we reached an old ram-shackled building that was surrounded by shorter trees and weeds. As we climbed up the stairs I noticed a maze of multi-colored tubes that hung off the ceiling.

“You can rest here.” The guard said, pointing to a pile of hay on the floor, “We’ll wake you when it’s time to leave.” My heart thumped in my chest as I thought about the danger I was taking part in. My mom would be missing me and I had school in the morning. As my head spun I began to drift into a peaceful sleep.

I woke up in complete darkness with a sense that I wasn’t alone. “Daniel,” Harley whispered, “it’s time to go.”

“Where are we going?” I asked groggily.

“Just get up and follow me. Make sure you’re silent.” She pulled me to my feet and started out of the door and down the stairs. In the distance there was a loud crack and my heart beat quickened. One part of me wanted to run and the other wanted to go find out what was going on. Harley ducked under tree branches and jumped over fallen trunks while I tried to keep up. Harley slowed her step when we heard a wretched laughter coming from the treetops.

“We’ve found the boy!” a voice screeched, “Chase him!”  I turned around to find nearly one hundred huge creatures flying after me at full speed. I decided to take a sharp turn, as I quickened my pace I tripped over a root causing me to fall right on my face. As I laid on the ground I readied myself to be attacked, but instead I heard a roar over my head, then it was gone. I turned over and opened one eye with caution, all I saw was the stars in the sky.

I sat up and looked around, there was a shadow running towards me, “Harley, is that you?” I spoke up.

“Yes, yes! It’s me!” she said with excitement, “I didn’t think they would fly right over you.”

“It was all a blur, I think I hit my head, but are you okay?” I replied in a soft voice.

“I’m okay, they didn’t see me. But I want you to get out of here, the door is clear right now. Run there, straight ahead and you’ll make it. I promise.” She looked at me and then squeezed her arms around me, “Be safe Daniel.”

“I will, Harley, don’t worry.” I said while hugging her back. I gave a quick smile then took off. As I approached the door I heard a rumble behind me and without looking back, I knew it was them. I jumped through the doorway pushing the door open. I was met with a rush of cool air and the early morning sun. I turned to make sure nothing had followed me, but instead I saw that the door had disappeared. My mind raced with possibilities that could explain what had happened tonight but I couldn’t believe any of them.

What Lies Beneath?

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

“You’re dead,” she screamed towards me.

Michelle is my best friend, but she can get rough.  It was only a game and it seemed as though she truly wanted to kill me.  I swiftly ran through the park past the empty swing set.  My clunky black boots made it difficult to escape.

I started to slow down and made my way to the bushes to hide.  The bare twigs tugged on my short brunette curls.  I blocked my freckled face with my mittens to keep the frigid wind from burning my wide eyes.  Struggling to get deep into the woods, my short legs felt a hard surface.

 “Whoa,” I spoke softly, out of breath.  The pieces of wood stood frigidly.  The arch of this random door was just a tad bit bigger than me.  I was as curious as any other ten year old would have been.  I observed the old rusty handle and gripped it.  Using my whole body’s strength, I slowly but surely crept open the mysterious door. I looked at the dark entrance with a puzzled look.  I made my way forward, I looked back into the white winter’s land, hoping Michelle was following nearby.  I got about 40 feet into the tunnel and found a ladder like structure.  It was as weak as the door and made out of twigs and branches.  Weighing only 65 pounds I choose to take a look.

As I climbed up the ladder of the tree it started to slope over. It was like I was crawling over the hump on a camel.  Before I could climb back to the secure ground, I found my entire body hanging upside down with my head facing the ground.  It was jet black and bare.  My skinny arms could not hold the weight that was getting put on them.  My fingers slipped off of the branches as they cracked and cried.  My heart dropped into my stomach as I fell through the air.  My hair covered my face as it blew in the darkness. 

I hit the ground with a thud.

My head was pounding when I woke up.  All I wanted was my mom.  Looking around, everything was so unfamiliar.  I was still in a forest, but I had never seen this.

A house.  I walked closer to a small old cottage with my eyes still drowsy.  I grew weaker with every step.  There was a beautiful, clear waterfall near the house.  It crashed down into a large amount of water and kept a flow.  The tiny cottage looked normal.  That was until I moved closer.  This house was obviously old and had been around for a long time.  A couple hundred years I would have guessed.  The garden out front was overgrown and unkempt.  Weeds were growing up the sides of the house almost covering the wooden windows.  However, one thing stood out.  It was hanging over the edge of the cliff.  Half of the entire cottage was leaning, waiting for its final day to take a plunge.

Everywhere else I looked trees and woods continued.  I had no idea where the ladder went and I was alone.  My mother taught me not to talk to strangers, but there was no other option.  I tried to act older and more mature than my age, but it was obvious I was scared when I walked toward the front door.

I gave it two soft knocks.  A slow creak came from the door with a subtle voice saying “Hello my dear child,” It was a short woman who only showed her smoky eyes.

“Um hello? I’m sorry to bother you, but I seem to be lost,” I said nervously. 

She opened the door rapidly after I finished my sentence.  She was a small plump woman, almost as tall as me, and wore gray locks.  She had a pale pink dress on with an apron covering it.  There seemed to be something shiny hidden in it.  Her wrinkles made me guess she was about my grandmother’s age.  “Come in darling.  I will help you,” she said enthused. 

I showed a shy smile as a thank you.  I walked in slowly as I saw a familiar face.  It was another child a small, but chunky red head girl.  She was sitting at a kitchen table with sugar cookies being plowed into her face.

 It was Michelle. It just so happens she had gotten lost searching for me.  “My dear, you may call me Leda of Hebe, Leda for short,” the older woman spoke with a creepy twinkle in her eye. 

“My name is-”

“Dalia,” she said, cutting me off.

 “How do you know my name?”  I asked concerned. 

“You told me already,” she chuckled anxiously. 

I looked toward the tall, wide window in her living room; I could see the waterfall.  “How does your house stay up on this cliff?” I asked curiously. 

“Magic,” she grinned at me.  I tried to stay calm. 

“You two stay here and play nice.  I’ll be right back,” Michelle looked at me. 

“We have to get out!” 

“What are you talking about? I want to find my way home.”

“Do you know why people call her Leda of Hebe?”  There was a silent hum.  When I didn’t answer she continued “she steals the youth out if innocent young children.”

“What? You’re nuts!”  I tried to play it off.

“She holds a mirror in her apron that is magic.  She is a witch.  She sucks the life out of kids and takes their youth for herself.  No one ever escaped her except for one boy named Jimmy, but a few weeks later, Jimmy disappeared again.  The police had no proof that “Leda” had done anything wrong.”

“I don’t want to end up like Jimmy,” I said while getting chocked up.

Leda then returned to the room.  She held a large brown book overbearing in her arms.

“Sit my children,” she sang in her crackly old voice.

Getting overwhelmed, I sat down close to Michelle.

“Now, I have already explained to this pudgy young girl what I am going to do.”  She looked at me and giggled.  “You are perfection my dear, your skin, hair, eyes.  You will make me beautiful once again,” I broke down in tears thinking of what Michelle had just told me.

“What are you going to do to me?’’ I yelled.

“My Dear, it won’t hurt a bit.  You’re simply giving me the life I need.  You see, I have been living for 279 years and I intend to stay alive. Thanks to beautiful people like you, I will have my youth back once again,” She pulled out her mirror and held it gently in her palms. It was oval and silver. It had an old design of vines growing up the handle. The actual mirror was spotless. It was clean, shiny, but evil, “Your souls will be placed in here my little darlings,” She giggled again “I hold all my past victims in this wonderful object. It makes me feel like a kid again,” She then chuckled louder than ever.

“Please! why would you do this to people?” I shouted

“You’re lost and never going homes my dear, no one cares about you anymore,” she said with a blank expression.

She then pulled on the side of the big book to open it up. She then found the page she must have been looking for.

I have always been a child that was afraid of what adults would think or say about me. I never talked when I was not commanded to, play with others toys without their permission, or take other people’s possessions. Then I did, I stretched my arm across the glass table and reached my boney fingers across towards the mirror. Before the old women had seen what I had done, she heard what had happened. The sparkling pieces shined into her eyes. The tiny parts had cause blood to gush out of my hand. The pain hurt, but probably less then taking my soul. The woman saw what I did and screamed at me in a different language. What was left of the mirror, spread all across the table.

The old witch was right. She was full of magic. She disappeared within seconds of the mirrors destruction. The house Michelle and I were standing in started to shake. It jumped and tilted towards the direction of the water below. Slowly but surely, we would be in the water, swimming with the house.

What Lies Beneath…

By Amanda Maher (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

Mama won’t tell me what’s behind the purple door. She says we don’t talk about it or it will bring dishonor to our family and to our village. Our village was founded by my great-grandfather after he discovered a big wooden door deep in the woods. The door led him to an unknown space that he decided to call his own. He started a community with many villages full of creatures, just like us. Instead of living in fear in the human world, the gnomes, elves, ogres and us, the fairies, each have their own village within the community. My great-grandfather named our community Crystal Cove.

“Kelly, time for dinner,” Mama called interrupting my thoughts. I flew down the hall into the dining room where the table was set. I took my seat and waited for mama to say grace. Every night when she prays, she prays for Daddy. I’ve never met Daddy before but Mama tells me he’s a wonderful man, strong, brave, handsome, and very caring. I’ve asked Mama what happened to Daddy before but she just told me he would be back home as soon as he could. I decided to ask Mama for a real answer because I know there was more to the story.

“Mama, what happened to Daddy and why isn’t he home yet?” I asked shyly. Mama put down her fork and took me into the family room where she sat me on the couch.

“Kelly, I know now you’re old enough to know the truth about your father. Your daddy’s in trouble but there are people who are trying their hardest to save him.”

Worry washed over me as I asked, “Well, where is he and why is he in so much trouble?”

Mama sighed, “Honey, he’s behind the purple door and if he doesn’t get out soon the dark man will kill him.”

“It’s been thirteen years, why would the dark man want to kill Daddy?” I whimpered.

“The dark man only uses his powers for harm. He is a warlock who hated your great-grandfather. He did not let his kind into Crystal Cove because of the harm he caused and wants revenge upon your father and the community. That is why we do not speak of him or we will be looked at with dishonor, but certain people who look up to your father have been trying for over thirteen years to save him.” I heard enough, I was going to save Daddy myself because obviously nobody else had tried hard enough. I stood up and flew out the window only hearing Mama call after me about a curse. I didn’t care how dangerous this would be, I was willing to take any chances I had to.

I flew until I reached the door. As I approached the purple door, I prepared myself for whatever was ahead of me. I pushed but the door wouldn’t open, so I pushed harder and the door slowly creaked open. A giant, long, dark hallway now faced me. I took a cautious step forward into the hallway. I couldn’t go on half blind, I used a little of the pixie dust I brought with me and made a light ball that would follow me. I call it Jay. Jay led the way down the wet, eerie hallway until we came to a split that led several different ways. I stood there in puzzlement trying to decide which path would lead me to Daddy. Left or right? I would go to the right and see where I ended up. At this point I didn’t care what I had to go through to get to Daddy. I just needed the security that he was still alive and loved me.

Jay led me down the right side path. We came to another small wooden door. It was locked but there were steel bars on the top half that I could fly through. I was cautious and told Jay to stay close as we kept flying down the hall. I was rewarded considering I found Daddy locked behind a huge prison cell at the end of the hall. I stopped right in my tracks as tears ran down my frozen face. My eyes locked with Daddy’s for the first time. After thirteen years I finally got the opportunity to meet my father. Mama was right, he was handsome. He had dark blonde hair, ocean blue eyes, and he was very muscular.

“Daddy?” I asked quietly.

“Kelly, is that really you?” Daddy asked me shocked.

“Yes, it’s me and I’m here for you.” I told him.

“It’s amazing to see you, I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for the first thirteen years but I was kind of in a tough situation,” my father explained sympathetically.

Tears were running down both of our faces now as I cried, “Don’t be sorry, we are together now that’s all that matters.”

“Kelly, no I am not going to let you risk your own life to save mine. This man is very dangerous and I do not want you anywhere near him. Go home to your mother. I know she is worried sick.”

“No, I waited thirteen years for this moment and I’m not leaving without you!” I nearly screamed. Daddy looked down in shame and I knew I had to get him out of the cell and home with me and Mama.

“Kelly, please.”

“Not going to happen, I’m sorry Daddy. Where are the keys to get you out of this?”

“The dark man has them in his office. If you are not going to give up I will tell you how to get me out of here,” Daddy said.

“I’m not leaving without you.”

“Okay, then listen closely, if you walk down the same hallway you did to get here the dark man’s office is down the left hallway. You have to be extremely careful when going down this hallway, fly high. Jay has to be close to you at all times! In the middle of the hallway you will come to another break, take that path and the office will be the first door on your right. Before you enter make sure he or any of his minions are not in sight.” Daddy explained to me. I nodded once and reassured Daddy I would be back.

I flew high, just like daddy told me to. Jay followed orders too, he stayed as close to me as he could. I reached the split in the creepy hallway and took the left path this time, still flying high. Jay got dimmer and dimmer as we continued down the hall. It eventually got so bad that I had to pick Jay up and land on the ground so I could add more pixie dust. Jay got brighter almost immediately and we kept moving. I found the door Daddy told me about.

I looked everywhere, up, down, left and right. Nobody was in sight so I flew through the small opening in the bottom. The office was huge! How was I supposed to find the keys in here? I turned around when I heard a small creek and noticed I had a bigger problem, standing in the doorway was the dark man. He was tall, black, and to my eyes ugly. Jay had the right idea and bolted for the door and I immediately followed.

 I was not quick enough, the dark man cursed me. I screamed in terror and agony as I dropped to the concrete floor. I couldn’t move, all I could hear was the dark man’s mischievous laugh as I heard him leave. I didn’t know how I was supposed to save Daddy now. Terrified, I called for Jay and Jay came back into the office. I had an idea but I needed Jay’s help. Jay has no arms, legs or a face but he has a strong heart that he would use to help anyone. I told him if he could get the keys to lay on his back then he could carry them to Daddy and he could get himself out. It took Jay a few tries but he got the keys and left.

As I lay there in excruciating pain all I could think about was Daddy. I didn’t care if I was here forever I just wanted Daddy to be okay and away from this horrible place. Daddy flew into the office faster than I ever would have imagined anyone could. He picked me up off the ground very gently and told Jay to lead the way out.

I was in total shock that we made it out of the purple door alive and with our honor. Daddy put me down for the slightest second and pulled put a key. He locked the door from the outside muttering something I couldn’t understand. There was a scream of defeat that came from inside the door.  Daddy threw the key into the bushes, picked me up and rushed me home.

Mama was home on the couch crying to herself when Daddy flew in. She jumped to her feet and kissed Daddy but panicked when she saw me. By then my eyes were drifting shut and my body was completely limp. Mama knew I had encountered the dark man and got all the pixie dust she could gather as Daddy laid me on the couch. At this point I didn’t care if I lived or died, my dream of my father coming home and us being a family came true. Mama put something on my head and said a few words that made me scream in pain. My scream made Mama wince, she tried again and again but it was no use. Daddy tried this time, something about it was different. Daddy was more gentle with his words but it didn’t matter because after he was done my eyes closed and my heart stopped. Mama and Daddy looked at each other and cried over me.

During that time something happened though. It must have been the combination of love, compassion, and sorrow, the tears combined together made my heart beat again. My eyes slowly opened and I looked at my parents with a grateful expression. They were in shock but just as grateful as I was. We all were alive and together and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

What Lies Beneath

By Allie Cox (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

While resting on the jagged rock, I heard something in the distance. My body jumped and my heart raced. Beginning to slowly walk backwards, away from the noise, I could make out the footstep like sound getting faster and closer. I turned around and sprinted, only to come to an eerie wooden door that blocked my path. It was covered in vines, with patches of aged timber. It seemed sketchy, but I had a feeling whatever was on the other side was better than here.

The door opened away from me and I could hear the bustling of the leaves being pushed out of the way. I crept through the entry way and slammed it shut behind me.

Before me in this mysterious place was a field of unusual mushrooms. The tops of these blooming plants resembled the head of Toad from Mario Kart, big, round, red and white. I plopped down on one and tried to catch my breath. It was then that my seat started to shake and emerging from a tiny door within the stem was a furious gnome. The feeling of safety was no longer with me. He was screaming with cheeks as red as his glistening pointed hat, and a beard white as snow, long, covering most of his blue blazer. I began to tremble with fear.

“And what do you think you’re doing, you giant,” questioned the gnome.

“I am no giant,” I responded, while wondering if they had even existed. “My name is Fiona. I came through that door and believe I am lost.”

“Just like you mortals, coming in unannounced and sitting on people’s houses. What’s wrong with you?” continued the creature.

Trying to explain myself, “Well you see, I-” then rudely getting cut off.

“Scram! Get lost!” hissed the one foot tall beast.

I turned around to leave, seeing as this place was no good, then noticed the door I had come in through, was no longer there. “What do I do now?” I thought. Scurrying away I suddenly encountered an unusual bridge, spread out over a rocky stream with the railings all intertwined. Right before crossing a sudden voice stopped me. It seemed as if I couldn’t do anything without running into trouble. Nervously wondering what it could be now, I turned around and surprisingly saw nothing. Inching forward to continue on, it spoke again.

“Over here,” echoed the deep tone.

There it was a talking tree. “Is this even possible?” I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“I would think twice before crossing that bridge there,” said the big oak. “Hello, I am Stump, I’m the oldest creature in these woods and I know everything there is to know about them. Now if you wish to stay safe and out of danger stay on this side of the forest.”

“But I just want to get out of here,” I wined.

“Well silly, how did you get in?”

I answered with a slight stutter, “There was a door, then there wasn’t and now I’m stuck here.”

“Oh I see, well good news is your not quite stuck here. You see that door is the portal between our world and yours, but there is another way to get out too. You must go over that bridge and through the Wicked West Woods and there should be an exit. I would love to join you, but I am planted here in the East Side, so you’re on your own kid. Just know the river is essential to continue, and keep a look out for that other door. Good luck.”

I was off, replaying every word the tree said to me with every creaky stride I took on the overpass. It was foggy in the distance and I couldn’t see anything ahead of me.

“Halt!” There it was, my first obstacle. “Before you pass by me, you must answer to thee. A riddle that’s all but if you fail, you fall,” rhymed the mythical troll. He was a little taller than the gnome and seemed noticeable nicer. To me that seemed odd. His ears were as big as Dumbo’s and he had a nose like an ice cream come. He was stocky, but not in a chunky fat way. He continued, “I have a mouth but can not swallow. What am I?

“A mouth but can not swallow,” I repeated, “How could that be?” I thought about it long and hard, but the roaring of the river rapids bellow was distracting. That’s when it hit me, like a flyswatter to the face. In a river an opening that flows into another body of water is considered a mouth, but technically it is not capable of swallowing anything. The answer to the brainteaser was a river.

Angered and spiteful because I had solved his measly puzzle, the troll let me go. Now pacing through the West Woods, attempting not to run into anymore danger, there was no door to be found. All of a sudden, I heard it again, footsteps off in the distance, getting closer and faster. I dashed straight ahead, not stopping for anything. Cobwebs stuck to my face as I darted through them and a dead end crushed my hopes of getting back in one piece.

Out of the corner of my I eye I saw something appear. It was the door, round like a ball and resembling the fancy Cinderella carriage. With no hesitation and not looking back, I swung the door open and there I was, home at last.

The Land Beneath

By Candy Kane (Devon, PA)

Candice was up before the sun was. She had been thinking about this day for a full week.  Today, Mombo was taking her to the Tyler Arboretum, where they would be free to spend most of the day walking and seeing the trees and leaves and maybe, some animals.  Mombo loved the woods and Tyler Arboretum had 650 acres of woods. It would be quite an exploration.

Candice dressed, making sure to wear her hiking boots that Mombo had bought her. She quickly ate the breakfast her mother had made for her brother Carter and her. She was so excited she could hardly eat.

“Candice, you must eat something,” her mother said.” Mombo will be here soon and she won’t wait for you. When Mombo is ready to go, she’ll just leave, if you’re not ready. Oh, but Candice was ready. She ate her breakfast so quickly she had a lump in the chest. Then she heard a car in the driveway. She flew out the door and joined Mombo as she hopped out of the car.  “Hi Mombo!” said Candice, breathlessly, “I’m ready, let’s go!”

Candice’s mother came out of the house and gave Mombo a kiss. “Hi Mom, thanks for taking Candice today. I know she would much rather go on an nature walk than to the game today.”

“We will have a great time! There is something wrong with you if you don’t have fun at the arboretum!” said Mombo. “Come on, Candice. It’s time for the adventure to begin!”

They waved goodbye to Candice’s mother and brother and off they went. They talked all the way about what they might see. Maybe deer, or an an opossum. Perhaps a raccoon or a fox and her kits. There is no end to what they would see in the woods.

Soon, they were there. Candice said, enthusiastically,  “Mombo, it’s so beautiful here. Which way should we go?”

“Well, a few weeks ago I started there,” Mombo pointed to the left. ” I haven’t been this way for years, so let’s go here.”

As they walked into the woods, Candice was thrilled by all the lovely sights she saw. Mombo walked one way, then turned a bit to the right. Every part of the walk was exciting and they did see all sorts of animals. Candice brought her journal with her so she could log everything she saw.  Soon, she had an entire page filled with sights she had seen.

Suddenly, Mombo shouted, “I’ve been here before! I remember this spot. Look, look at this, Candice! This tree has a hole at the bottom. Wait, it’s not really a hole, it’s a little black door. This is amazing!”

Candice looked closely at the tiny black door. It was only about a foot high and ten inches wide. She thought it was the prettiest little door she had ever seen. Of course, she hadn’t seen many tiny doors such as this. This was the first one, actually. But she was sure if there were more, they probably weren’t as nice as this one.

Mombo was consumed in thought. Soon she said, “You know, Candice, I’ve been coming here since I was younger than you. My Nanny, Margie, used to bring me here because she came here as a child. Once, I was with my brother and Margie. I ran ahead of them and found a secret underground world. I don’t know why I forgot about it, all those years ago, but I think this is it! Would you like to see what lies beneath?”

Her curiosity overcoming her fear, Candice said, “Oh yes, Mombo, I truly would, but how…”

Before Candice could finish her question, Mombo opened the door.

“I remember, now! You just start down the staircase. You just walk forward and down the steps!” And without stopping, Mombo walked into the tree, shrinking as she did.

“Wait for me, Mombo! I want to see this, too!” Candice cried.

Instantly, they were both going down the wooden staircase and into a very large, round room, with a dirt floor. There was a round needlepoint rug on the floor. The room had a kitchen at one end, and a piano at the other. A fiddle was laying atop the upright piano, as was a harmonica and a tambourine. Candice was no longer afraid, once she realized there was music down here. People who liked music had to be nice, she thought.

Candice noticed the fireplace in the kitchen, with a pot hanging from a wrought iron crane. Wonderful smells were emanating from that side of the room.

“I thought you would never come back,” a little man said, walking into the room from a doorway Candice hadn’t seen before. “I thought you had forgotten all about us.”

The little man was looking at Mombo. He had tears in his eyes.

“I’m sorry I stayed away so long. I don’t have any excuse. Actually, I may have forgotten, for a bit.” Mombo seemed different. Candice looked very carefully, now. Mombo was different. Very, very different. Mombo was getting younger. As an amazed Candice watched, Mombo, her very own grandmother, was now younger than Candice!

“Mombo, what’s happening? How can this happen? Are you still Mombo, now?”

“Yes, sweetheart, I’m just the same, why do you ask? I’ve always been the same person.” Mombo said, confused.

“But look, look in the mirror! You’re little. Your hair is really blonde and you don’t have any wrinkles anymore!” Candice shouted in alarm.

The little man smiled and said, “None of those things matter, down here. We all look better in this light.”

Candice took a good look at the little man. He wasn’t very old. In fact, he wasn’t much older than Carter and Carter was ten years old. Why had she thought he was an old man? And what had happened to her grandmother?

The little man took something from the pot and placed it in front of Candice. She didn’t think she was hungry, but the aroma was so enticing, she found herself gobbling the food. As she did, she looked up at the ceiling. She saw the bottom of carrots and asparagus, potatoes and turnips, parsnips and onions. But just the bottoms. Then, she saw the little man jump up on the counter and snip off a piece of carrot and throw it in the pot. He and Mombo talked and laughed. Candice was lost in the deliciousness of the meal, but she did hear a few words and realized they seemed to be talking like old friends. 

Soon, a little woman joined them in the room.  Again, Candice realized that this woman was looking younger than she had two minutes ago. Mombo was deep in conversation with the little man/boy, while the little woman/girl sat down at the piano. She started playing tune with a slow beat. Soon the man/boy picked up the fiddle and started playing, too. Mombo handed the tambourine to Candice and played the harmonica herself. The little people played faster and  faster. Soon they were all playing and dancing to a wild beat. This went on for what seemed a few hours.

“Mombo, this is the best place I’ve ever been.” Candice said, dancing and twirling, madly. “I don’t ever want to leave. I love the music!” Soon, Candice looked around and saw many children her age and younger, dancing as wildly as she was.  They danced for hours and then the music got slower and slower. Candice had been dancing for the last few minutes with her eyes closed. When she opened them, the other children were gone and just Mombo, the woman/girl and the man/boy remained. 

“I think it’s time for you to take Candice back to her mother,” the man/boy said.

“I know you’re right, but I so hate to leave. I don’t want to forget this place, again.”

“You won’t,” said the man/boy. “You’ll keep it in your dreams and in your heart. And some day, when you need me, I’ll be here and we can dance again.”

Candice started to cry. “I don’t want to leave. I want to keep dancing with the other children. I want to hear more music.”

The little woman/girl spoke for the first time.

“You have a family to go home to. The children you saw today had no one. We’ve made our own family here. We dance and sing and cook lovely meals. We will always be here, if you really need us. You can come back and visit the world that lies beneath.”

They said their goodbyes and walked up the wooden staircase. Mombo led the way. As they climbed, Candice noticed Mombo’s  hair changing color. Mombo turned to help Candice out of the tree. Mombo was aging. Her wrinkles were coming back. As soon as they reached the foot of the tree and closed the door, Mombo was back to the grandmother she knew.

“What a fabulous adventure! Wasn’t that the most fun ever, Candice?” Mombo gushed.

Candice thought of the last few hours. “Mombo, wait. I want to write all of this down, before I forget it.”

“Candice, how could you forget this day?” Mombo questioned. “You can write about it when you get to the car and sit down. For some reason, my feet are killing me.”

“Do you think it’s from all the dancing, Mombo?” Candice wondered, as they continued to walk back to the car?

“Don’t you mean hiking, Candice. We couldn’t very well dance in the middle of the woods, even though it would be great fun. But there’s no music.” Mombo stated.

Candice thought for a moment. Why did she say ‘dancing’.  She must be very tired.

“I think I’m going to sleep on the way home, Mombo.”

“I think that’s a good idea, Candice. The hike made me very sleepy, too. I guess I’m not as young as I used to be.”

And that night and for many nights that followed, Candice dreamed of music and children dancing and carrots that grew through the roof. Of men that were boys and women that were girls and a little girl that reminded her a lot of Mombo. As the years flew by, she had fewer and fewer of those dreams. But when people disappointed her or made her sad, she would dream a dream that made her happy. She would dream of going to a place of music and friendship, of youthful joy. She would let her dreams take her back to the land beneath.

What lies beneath…?

By Alex C. (Media, PA)

Rrrring!!!! The last school bell rang and millions of bodies rushed out of the door, for it was Friday. James had been my friend since birth. No, literally. We were born on the same day, at the same hospital. Every day after school, we would walk through a patch of woods behind our houses to get home. But this time was a walk that we could never forget. “James, what it that?” I asked him, scared. “Uh, I don’t know. Let’s go check it out.” As we ventured closer to the object I could see what it was. It was a small wooden door leading into the ground, with a note in the mailbox behind it:

     If you are reading this, you are probably scared. Well, you should be.
     If you are brave, and if you are strong,
     open the door and take a journey to find what lies beneath.

Well, you probably know what happened next. “Hannah, we’re brave, and we’re strong! We should take the journey, to find what lies beneath!” I was shivering at the feeling of what wrote that note. What could it be? I guess I would have to find out. Before I knew it, we had opened the creaky door and tip-toed down a path made long ago. “James, are you sure about this? What if our parents start looking for us? What if we never come back?” James just looked at me and said “I promise we’ll come back.” I nodded and kept walking. This “cave” was nothing like anything I’ve ever seen. There were openings, staircases and slides everywhere! There were stripes, dots, stars, and waves on the walls. Where were we supposed to go? We went straight most of the time but we made some turns and went down some slides and went up some stairs and through some tunnels. It was pretty dark in there, so I wasn’t sure how we were supposed to get back…. “James, where are we going?” James didn’t even look back when he said “We’re going to find what lies beneath that door!” Not only was it dark in the ‘cave’, but it was cold. I heard a loud rustle on the side of the path. “James! Is that you?” I felt kind of dumb asking that question but….”No, I’m right in front of you. It was probably just rocks falling, anyway. Don’t be scared. We’ll be fine.” That made me feel a little more comfortable about all this. “Okay. Right. We’ll be fine. We’ll be fine……. Ahhhhh!!!!!! Something’s grabbing me! Help, James!” I could feel the “thing” have a small but tight grip on my leg but I also felt James’ firm hand’s grip on my arm. Both James and the “thing” were playing tug of war with me. It felt sort of good but still scary, because I had no idea what was grabbing me other than James. It was only 20 minutes that felt like 6 hours while they were playing with me. Finally, the “thing” let go and I could hear him running away. “Ow! I hurt my leg. I can’t walk on it. James, what are we going to do?” James decided the only thing that he could do was to carry me like a groom carries his bride. It was sort of awkward but, okay. We started walking again. We walked for another 30 minutes. It felt like forever! When would this journey ever end? I didn’t even know what to eat, because we didn’t bring food and we would have to eat sooner or later. Drink too. There was so much to worry about. After a while of more walking I heard something down a set of stairs. “James, do you think we should go that way?” James stopped and listened. “Yeah, I do hear something….Okay, let’s go that way then.” James even carried me down the staircase. I heard the noise again “James, I heard the noise again! I think we’re getting closer!” I shrieked in horror and happiness. I was still scared because it seemed as if we would be meeting the author of that letter very soon. “Hannah, are you still scared?” James asked. “Uh, yeah, a little bit. I’m just scared of meeting the goblin or ghost or whatever wrote that letter. But it said you should be scared, so….” I kind of regretted saying that because now he would probably think that I’m too scared to go any further and that I’m going to start to cry. But, I was brave, and I was strong. And I could do this, no matter what. I heard another noise but this time I wasn’t scared. I knew then that we were getting closer and that nothing could happen to us so, I wasn’t scared. There were a lot of noisemakers this part of the journey. I mean, I heard shrieks and eeks and much more, but I wasn’t scared. We must’ve walked 10 miles because James was stopping in his footsteps. My leg was killing me! I didn’t know if I could take the vigorous pain much longer, and if I could, how long? Finally, I saw that there was a sign that said, in the same handwriting:

     You’re doing great! You’re probably not scared anymore. Just 3 more staircases until you find what lies beneath….

I could tell that James was up for it, but I was beat up. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was going to die. “Hannah, let’s go! We can do this!” I shook my head “no”. I couldn’t do it. No part of my body could move. I really was going to die. “James, I can’t. I, I’m going to die.” James kind of giggled for a second but once he realized I wasn’t joking, his smile slowly faded away. “What? Hannah, no! You can’t die! We’re best friends! You can’t just leave me! We’re almost there. You can make it, I believe in you. Please, Hannah, don’t go.” I could barely speak now. This was the end. “I’m sorry, James. I l-l-l…..” Those were my last words, forever. James was now alone. I was gone, away from him. “Hannah? You what? Hannah! Noooooo! It’s over. She’s gone.” James said sadly. But before he left to finish the journey, without me, down the 3 staircases, he picked up my head and gently kissed me on the lips. “I love you, Hannah.” I could barely hear him start to cry but it zoned out and I knew that I was officially gone from this world up to another. Heaven. I guess I wouldn’t find out who lied beneath that old door. I wonder what did. My guess is a goblin, but not a mean one, a good goblin, a forest goblin who lives in and watches over his forest. But this was my goodbye.

Goodbye Earth.

Goodbye Mom.

Goodbye Dad.

Goodbye, James.

The End

 

 

(just kidding!)

After I died, I thought I’d never see anyone ever again. James, my Mom, my Dad, nobody.  But after I did, I found that I could see from above. Like a bird, I could fly over the whole world and I could see anything. So, when I figured that out, I flew right back down through the atmosphere to the end of the cave where James and the “thing” would be. When I successfully found my way through all the tunnels and such, there was James, standing, talking with a forest goblin. Well, won’t you look at that, I thought. I was right! It was a forest goblin. James was speaking with him, asking questions about what he was and why he was here and what he did in this cave. “Well, I watch over all the animals of the forest. I watch passers, making sure the animals are safe from harm with the passers.” I heard every word he said and was amazed. How could anybody be afraid of such a nice creature? It was almost impossible. I just didn’t get it. Well, anyways, I watched as they sat on the couch. I forgot to explain how cozy and welcoming this goblins house was, considering how weird and freaky the pathway is. And even though James would never see me again, I would see him many times again. It definitely was NOT my goodbye.

Not yet.

What Lies Beneath?

By Cecelia Marshall (Hopewell, NJ)

A little girl named Cece went behind the door and found a fairy. The fairy turned Cece into a fairy. Then they turned the whole family into fairies, even Eloise her sister. The fairy took the new family and showed them the fairy dust factory. Cece thought the fairy dust factory was wonderful.

The End.

What Lies Beneath

By David Fanelli (Downingtown West High School)

If you are reading this, then you are probably the only one who knows what has happened to me. I will start from the beginning, from where it all happened, and get to where you are now.  It all began when I was on some nature walk with my family in the middle of some forest.  The tour guide was telling us all about the miracles of nature, while I was playing games on my iPod.  As we were walking along, the tour guide led us to some old rusty door.  I glanced up from my game to see what the tour guide was saying.  She said that the people who worked in the forest “discovered” it.  I had my doubts, and I was curious about what was on the other side of the door.  As I was formulating my plan, I was so distracted that I missed part of the guide’s story, and only heard something about not opening the door.  This only furthered my curiosity, so I told my mom I had to go to the bathroom, and I started to walk back to the nature center.  I walked for a minute, and then I turned around to see that the forest had swallowed up everybody, and I would not be seen.  I quickly went back to the door and, with a little trouble, pried it open.  What I saw on the other side completely boggled my mind.  It was like a giant, swirly mass of colors that pulled me in with its enchanting looks.  I didn’t even notice the door swing shut behind me.

As I went further into the depths of this impossible reality, I found it harder to think, as if somebody was poking around in my mind.  The cloudiness then turned into a headache, which gradually got worse.  Then, my headache became torture inside my head.  I heard pained voices screaming into my head, making it feel as if my head would explode.  I screamed, almost as loud as the voices inside my head. I started to run, but no matter how far I thought I had gone, all I heard was the same thing.  The voices inside my head got louder, and I got more frightened.  I then knew that running was futile, and that there was no way out of this torturous place.  I turned around, and to my relief, I saw the same door, that of which I had come in.  I started to run toward it, but invisible hands held me back.  It was if the very people inside my head were trying to keep me here.  I fought against the pull on my mind, and quickly pulled out the pencil and paper that the tour guide had given us so we could take notes.  I knew that if I didn’t get out that door, something had to.  I wrote frantically, all the while trying to get to the door. I jotted down everything that had happened, hoping somebody would find the note if it escaped this place.  As I got closer, the pull on me got stronger.  My pace gradually slowed, until I was blindly stepping into nothing.  I closed my eyes, and when I opened them, to my relief, I saw the door a few inches from my face.  I desperately grabbed the door handle and pulled with all my might.  It opened up about a foot, just enough to let me squeeze through, but the invisible hands would not let me leave.  I felt the handle slipping from my grasp, and as a last ditch effort, I tried to throw the paper out of the door.  I did not do it in time. The door closed, and I was sucked back into the oblivion of pain and misery. 

Over time, the voices in my head faded away, and I lost grasp of what was real and what was not.  I felt like I was going crazy, until I saw something that brought my thoughts back to me.  It was a window into the real world. That was all it was, a tiny square of freedom, like the light at the end of a tunnel.  It was showing the area outside the front of the door that brought me into this place.  I thought I could reach out and almost, for the last time, touch the real world again, but I knew that I would never get out.  Instead, I took the paper out of my pocket and pushed it through the window.  The window closed, trapping me in this weird dimension, where all I had was my thoughts.  However, I knew that there would always be one thought that would be flying around my head, and that was that the paper that I pushed out the window is the one you are reading now.

The Door of Curiousity

By Michelle Slavik (Downingtown High School West)

As soon as I arrive home from school I rush inside my house to get my painting supplies. I grab a quick snack and run outside to the woods behind my house. I’m so excited to work on my nature painting for my art class.

While hiking through the trees I try to decide on a spot for inspiration. After ten minutes I stumble upon a mysterious wooden door hinged to a giant tree. It immediately captures my attention. I desperately want to know what lies behind it. After debating with myself whether or not to open the door I finally walk up to it. My hand reaches for the golden, expensive looking knob and turns it. The door slowly creaks open. I take one step inside and suddenly I find myself trapped in a net dangling in the air.

“We caught one! Dinner tonight! Woo!” a squeaky voice shout out.  It is accompanied by a small, stout body. The person reminds me of an elf mixed with a yard gnome. He has a grey, scruffy beard that contains an alarming amount food. After staring at him for a little bit my instincts quickly remind me that he just said he caught dinner. I really hope to myself  that he’s not referring to me.

He lowers me down gently and examines me closely. “Ah let’s see. Mmm good size. Oh and the artsy type too. This should taste excellent in the stew.”

“Uhm excuse me. I don’t know where I am and I need to get home ASAP. My mom is probably going frantic right about now and I don’t want her worrying,” I do my best to try to persuade the little man to let me go.

He glares at me with dagger eyes. My fear is growing by the second as if it were a sponge absorbing water. The gnome person ties my hands together and leads me into a small village filled with a number of small, cute houses. They each are decorated differently. Each little cottage showcases its own personality. One has plants covering it. Another is decorated with what appears to be feathers. All of them impress me, but one in particularly sticks out. It is covered in sea shells with a small pond sitting calmly in the yard. A sense of tranquility washes over me.

Walking through the town I begin to observe no one else is out on the streets. I realize that something like a ceremony must be taking place. I hope to myself that some kind of chaotic event happened so maybe I could have a chance to make my escape. Sadly I am wrong. We arrive at a clearing where a massive size cauldron is sitting. Surrounding the steaming pot is a large crowd of more elf gnomes who are singing songs. Behind the pot a stage is set up where people are throwing different types of food in. The little man walks behind the stage and attaches another rope to my hand. He ties it to a pole so that I am restricted from running away. He leaves me alone to make a speech and warns me to stay put. I try to loosen the rope, but I fail.

Rustle. Rustle. Out of nowhere a gnome lady appears in front of me. She is wearing a flowy, blue dress with a seashell dangling around her neck. She looks like a short version of an ocean goddess. “Hi. Don’t worry I’m going to help you get out of here safely. I saw you admiring my house earlier and felt bad. I’ve been trying to get this tradition banned for years, but I haven’t been too successful. Once I untie you, you must sprint as fast as you can towards that bright yellow light over there. If you lose your way, don’t panic. Just look on the ground and follow the seashells. Don’t ask any questions or hesitate. Ok. Ready. Go,” She whispers the explanation quickly.

I listen to her carefully and begin to move my legs while channeling my inner cheetah. I run towards the light and soon I find myself staring at the wooden door once again. It feels like déjà vu and the whole event never occurred. Instead of caving into my curiosity again I turn around and dash home.

Once I know I’m safe I start to feel bad that I never got the chance to say thanks to the kind ocean gnome. I decide to paint a beach with a sun setting behind it instead of the woods for my art project. As time passes by and I get my painting back I revisit the old wooden door. I place my picture at the bottom of the door. It poofs, disappears, and in its place sits a conch shell with the words painted on, “your welcome.”

What Lies Beneath

By Emily Harris (Downingtown West High School)

One day, in the small town of Catanzia a mysterious oak door appeared on the edge of the forest. The majestic and mysterious door came out of a mound of earth covered with the bright colors autumn had painted on the town. Its arrival sprung a mass of confusion upon the town and the mayor did his best to calm the frantic residents. However, in the mist of pandemonium there was one girl who was oddly attracted to the door. This was eighteen-year-old Maya Smith.

From the instant the door came to the village, Maya could not block the curiosity from her mind. She claimed to be catching indescribable aromas that she traced back to the door. Eventually, her neighbors dragged her into the town center and protested against her insane descriptions.

“She’s gone mad!” Said an angry villager.

“Kick her out of here mayor! She’s frightening my children!” a woman rocking her crying baby  claimed.

Overcome with fury and disappointment with her neighbor’s outbursts she declared that she was going through that door. “Fine, you’ll see” she said with her voice shaking, “whatever lies beneath is calling me and I’m going to answer!”

Maya strode confidently towards the feared passageway and turned back to wave goodbye to her village when suddenly red smoke came from the now open door. The people gasped as Maya was dragged through the dark threshold.

When Maya came to her senses she was lying on the soft green grass of a flourishing meadow. She sat up and saw the beauteous flowers and weeping willows surrounding her.

“Where am I?” she asked herself nervously.

“Your in Lecry” a sincere voice behind her said. “Don’t fear me. My name is Prince Daniel of Lecry. I have stopped in your village to find true love. It is a royal tradition to move from town to town until the love of your life is brought down under. That’s right, destiny brought us together.”

Even though she was utterly confused, Maya was unable to contain her smile, and giggled flirtatiously. Daniel took her hand and led her around his kingdom. From the enormous palace, to the rolling green hills Maya fell in love with someone she barely knew. Within a few hours was engaged to be married. She pleaded with him to send her parents a letter assuring she was safe and inviting them to the wedding. The next day, Maya’s parents replied in disbelief. They wrote about how they believed Daniel had killed Maya and was going for them next. Maya begged to go visit her parents but Daniel coldly refused telling her he was all she needed.

The entire kingdom gathered the next morning in the palace gardens for the wedding. Their fancy apparel dotted the earthy garden in elegance and they all stood in awe as Maya glided down the isle. She stood at the alter trembling and when they priest asked if she took Daniel as her husband she quickly turned and ran back to the door leading to Catanzia. By the time Daniel tried opening the door the villagers in Catanzia had bolted it shut and Maya had slid a golden note under it. The note explained that her heart and soul belonged to her family. Daniel gloomily walked back to the palace where his kingdom buried him for having a fiancé leave him at the alter, an old kingdom curse.

What Lies Beneath?

By Jordan Baker (Sun Valley High School)

After being tangled in vines after tumbling on the wet leaves, I knocked my head on a hallow surface. I was a clumsy child and it got me into strange positions. The hallow object was strangely small and, something Snow White would have used to get into the house of the seven dwarfs. It was a worn out, moldy door with tattered leaves and branches surrounding it.  On all fours, I was being pricked by sticks and trees with orange and red speckled leaves twisted into my curly blonde hair. I tugged at the dark dusty door and it creaked and cried open, I crawled curiously inward. I moved forward growing with anticipation to find out where it led. Eventually I hit my head on a flat, strangely smooth dark wall. My brows, as thick as caterpillars, rose up and crinkled my forehead in puzzled thought. In less than five seconds the wall had dropped. My body shook then plopped down. I had no control and started rolling down into a bumpy field of grass to an odd world.

I sat up to find a strange animal looking into my hazel eyes. It was a tall, lean, grey Great Dane. The animal sniffed my sweater and looked at me asking, “What set do you belong at, dwarf?” My eyes widened like a sponge in water absorbing the idea that this animal could talk.

“I am not a dwarf by any means, I am Beverly.” I responded

“Well, Miss Beverly I suppose your lost from the area of your set, follow me.” I didn’t want to argue with an animal that was bigger than my adolescent seven year old body, so I did as he told me to. “My name is Daniel and I am one of the groundkeepers on the sets to make sure none of the stories get mixed up. I guard west side Avondale.” He jabbered on about himself as I looked around. I saw all types of creatures in this place. It all looked somewhat familiar to me.

I finally asked “What is going on in this place?”

Daniel looked at me and said, “What do you think is going on here? We are simply making fairytales and folktales! Where did you think stories are created?” I looked around the woods and noticed all sorts of adventures being created. “I am going to work on the set of Cinderella in center town Avondale, explore around to find your set.” He told me.

I was extremely confused and taken back by everything that had just happened. I looked at the signs of directions that read things like Cinderella’s Castle, Jack and Jill’s Hill, Rapunzel’s Tower and other stories “sets”. I thought it was weird how all my books and stories from home were coming to life right before my eyes. It was what looked like a movie set, but instead of a director and script there were little trolls that watched the fairytale happen and wrote it in a book. This was how the stories were made! There were numerous jobs for the puny troll workers to do. One group of trolls was the pests. They caused conflict in the fairytale and the problems. They were the reason in stories that princesses would never have an easy happily ever after. Then there was the setting troll who created the scene and what type of area the people lived in. Last, the big slimy green troll was in charge of the show. He wrote and made the fairytale into a book.

After a short time of observing I continued around Avondale to come across things I would only suspect in a dream. I headed toward the forest where I came across a tall, grey, stoned, tower with only one window. Rapunzel seemed like a very sweet girl and I enjoyed having afternoon tea with her. We talked about all the girly things like dolls, make up and her specialty, hair. She showed me her special shampoo and how she manages her hair. But she hated her hair and started to confess.

“It’s such a bother.” she vented as she bit into her blueberry scone. “My hair takes all day to brush and taking care of it is torture!” I had noticed her room was full of her own hair, like one big fur ball. She then also complained about how a prince always is annoying her by climbing up into her tower by yanking on her long waves. I felt bad for my new friend and did what any nice person would do. Rapunzel would not have to deal with that bother of a prince anymore now that her hair was a bob stopping at her chin.

I left the tower and went to the main town to walk around and try and find my way home. Stars started blossoming in the darkness when I came across a left shoe sitting on a long white staircase sparkling in the moonlight. It was glass and petite and to my knowledge Cinderella’s slipper. I picked it up knowing that it had to be returned. I didn’t know exactly where Cinderella lived so I gave it to a local man who was an extra in her set. He said his name was Frank and that he would return the shoe immediately. Frank seemed like a nice gentleman so left the care of the shoe to him.

Feeling terribly hungry and sleepy I went to the closet cottage in sight. Turns out Snow White loves to cook as much as she loves to clean. I enjoyed staying the night with Snow White and the seven dwarfs; they all were very pleasant and happy except for Grumpy. After having a full stomach I had fallen asleep no later to wake up to a knock on the front door. An old woman dressed in rags was at the door selling apples. She was a creepy woman and I knew that those apples were not good, they were poisoned. Without a second thought I grabbed the straw basket and ran as fast as lightning spilling the evil ruby fruit on the dirt ground. I tripped on about thirty apples and was lying on my back with the room spinning around me.

I must have fallen asleep because then I heard a familiar soothing voice say, “Beverly, why are lying down?” My mother and father walked me and my sister home asking questions like what our favorite part of the new park was. I was awfully confused but everything got even stranger at bedtime.

My mother’s voice was calm, relaxing and soft, but that night it seemed everything she said was horrifying me. We read our usually stories after my usual bath. We would read Rapunzel, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Cinderella. The stories were different this time though.

In Rapunzel, my mother shouted in a deep manly voice “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down hair to me?” she quoted from the book, “Sorry, prince but my new do will not work with you!” My mother read as she did every night and nothing to her had changed. After Rapunzel we read Cinderella. Well, Cinderella never went back to her prince charming after the night at the ball. Instead, an evil local man named Frank took over the kingdom with the glass shoe. Trading royalty for love the prince and Frank made an exchange. Cinderella and Price Charming lived together ever after, but they had no money and had to work for Cinderella’s stepmother, Lady Tremaine with her stepsisters mocking her for the rest of her life. In Snow White, the apples were soiled so gladly she never was poisoned. But, Snow White stayed with the seven dwarfs until Grumpy kicked her out. She then went and lived with an old man and worked on his farm every day. I was shaking with the thought I messed up all of the fairytales. I ruined Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel’s life! My mother’s one eye brow rose asking me if I was alright. I didn’t get any sleep that night. I rocked back in forth in fetal position gripping my princess sheets. None of the fairytales ended with a happily ever after, and no little girl’s life would ever be the same.

What Lies Beneath?

By Jimmy Siermine (Sun Valley High School)

As I walk upon this beautiful and peaceful land of sustained harmony, I notice a door. This door resembles a shed that leads into the ground. It mystifies me of what could possibly lie beneath. The door looks a bit aged and is made of wood with small vents on the face. I look through them but it is completely dark. What could possibly be inside this shed? I know I have somewhere to be so I continue on.

It has been a few days now that I have been here, and it has been nothing short of amazing. The beauty of the grass and the trees give me a sense of content, while the people and even the animals are extremely friendly and sociable. I am still getting used to the fact that I can now communicate with animals, considering that in the real world its not within the realms of possibility. That is what this world is though, there are no realms of possibility that are constrained.

I have arrived to this world in escape and relief. In the real world, I had been very unhappy with myself and my life in general. I needed somewhere to go where I could be happy and stress free. The real world is full of sin and violence, it is very hard to find yourself at ease while living your everyday life. One day, I had come home from my job with a mountain of problems on my shoulders. I felt like I was trapped in my life and I was being suffocated by my responsibilities. I tried to rely on God to help me out in this time of need. I am a very faithful person and try to do my best to remain close to God. I said to him, ‘God, can you please, please help me, I really need your help right now, I am very unhappy with my life and I need a break. Can you please help me?’ I started to feel a bit tired so I went to bed, still feeling a bit discontent. When I woke up, I found myself under a wooden bridge. The light that shined through the layers that wrapped around the bridge blinded me. I had no idea where I was, it was brisk but the hot sun warmed me. I thought I was dreaming but soon realized I was actually awake. Fear grew across me, I began to shake as I made my way outside. There was a field with some people having a catch with a football and there were deer and all kinds of other animal sitting there watching. Right then and there, I was in almost complete shock, I had to blink a few times to reassure of what was before my eyes. I quickly reached into my pocket for my phone, then the other, they were empty. I had no other choice but to walk over there and ask them where I was. They stopped there game to tell me that, they hadn’t known either. At that point, I knew that God had answered my prayer, but for good or bad?

I take a moment to recollect myself to digest the situation I am in. I sat underneath a tree house that had partially functional rope attached to it. The scene in front of me hits me with a strong wave of peace and happiness. That is where I knew that I had finally escaped and was at ease. The sky was entirely blue with wall-to-wall sunshine and trees were tall and green and the flowers were alive and bright. I have never before in my life had taken so much appreciate and study into nature.

So since then, I had really drove this ‘dream’ far past what I would have ever expected. I have developed great relationships with all the people here, and I even got a chance to have one or two conversations with some animals. The one person though I really am very friendly with is Gerald. Gerald is a very likable kid with a great personality, and he has a killer flick when we play ultimate; he is always on my team.

I have finally arrived at the bridge, there I see Gerald and two other buddies, Rick and Chris. The night was catching up on us, so we ditched are game of football and decided to just relax and set up a fire to make some s’mores. A question that had been floating around my head for a while now is still, what is beyond that door? I am tempted to ask the guys even though the answer I get may not be straight forward, but I will ask them anyway. All three of them gave me a confused look, saying that they have no idea what is back there. They say they have only seen it once or twice and that nobody has tried to open it. I thought about what they said for a while. Maybe there is something valuable back there, or maybe its just an empty shed with nothing. The anxiety and curiosity was poking me inside and I had to find out what was beyond that door.

The next day I awoke, again with a beautiful blazing sun and the sounds of early birds singing in harmonic tone. I walked over to where Gerald and Rick were, they were still asleep. I guess me wanting to open the door so bad made me wake up earlier. Nevertheless, I made my way to where I first saw the door. I quickly found my self in a woods that was uncharacteristically quiet and dimly let from the sun trying to crawl past the trees. It took about five minutes or so before I got to the door. The door was just how I remembered it, large and bulky with very rough wooden surface. Butterflies began to whistle around my stomach as I engaged my arms towards the handle. I pulled the handle, and the door didn’t budge. It felt as if it were not supposed to be open because of how hard it was to move. I quickly regathered my self for another shot. I put both hands on either end of the handle, put one foot on the end of the frame and pulled. The door flung open like a jack in the box and…

I hear a soft voice echoing in my head, it vaguely sounds like my mother calling my name. It slowly became increasingly clear as I began to gain vision. I was laying down on my bed in my room, “Jimmy! Dinner’s Ready.’’ I was home again. I quickly picked up my phone, it said five o’clock. I notice I’m still in my uniform from work. I don’t know what happened; was it a crazy dream or did I really go to a completely new world. I got up from my bed and as I walked out of my room, I hear my phone go off, a text message. I walk over to read it, its from a blocked number. My eyes widen and my stomach turns upside down as I put in my password to unlock my phone, the message reads ‘Your Welcome.’ I put my phone down and look up to the ceiling and pointed towards God, ‘Thank You.’

What Lies Beneath?

By Lindsay O’Donohoe (Downingtown West High School)

Naturally, as the goddess of curiosity, Aeradae wandering in the woods and exploring every living being was not particularly out of ordinary to her. Aeradae was a lost and weary soul, relying on only the beauty and comfort of nature to suffice for a friend. Her favorite place to venture was a thick but narrow path of trees that lead into a fantastically large forest. On one particular night, she did not know the date for time was infinite and belittling to her, she crept through the entrance. Her hands were gentle and careful, as she caressed the tiny sapling’s leaves, just barely poking out from the earth’s womb.

The frigid air seemed to be whispering to her, and the stars were a warm blanket surrounding her. Aeredae’s smile was like a white light signaling for the earth to just swallow her up and embrace her.  She stopped and plopped down onto a soft and cozy grass embankment. She lifted her head and stared at the iridescent sky while giggling as she dipped her toes into the ice cold stream. The lapping of the water was like a calming song enveloping her ears.

Suddenly, the forest seemed to go dead silent and a shiver ran up Aeradae’s spine. She jumped to her feet and whipped her head to the right. The mist began to clear and she heard footsteps far off in the distance. She began to run, bounding like a doe escaping from a fox. She could sense someone was near. All of a sudden she was falling. She landed with a small thump and dizzily stood up. She felt as if she was shrinking. Everything was dark, except for the faint glow of an open door. She was curious of course and slowly stepped nearer and nearer. She slipped into the door and it shut behind her.

She was in a room that smelled of cinnamon and gathered around her was a tiny fireplace with a small chair beside it. A man was sitting in the chair, his broad shoulders casting a shadow onto the fire-lit walls. He beckoned her to sit in the chair next to him. Aeradae was startled but slowly approached the chair. “Who are you?” she asked.

“I am the gate keeper between worlds, and you are in the wrong realm my dear.” He stated. Aeradae was confused. He could be right after all since she had been living solely in the woods since she could remember, but how could it be that she had lived in the wrong world her whole life? She couldn’t let her life just change in an instant. She felt as if her control over her own life was slipping from her grasp. “You were kidnapped when you were a baby and thrown through this door eternally sealed until your mother, Hestina, found the door and just knew you were here. You must come home.” He demanded.

Aeradae was ecstatic but sorrow crept up on her, her not wanting to leave the land she loved. However, she wanted to greatly meet her family and have a normal life, so she took a sapling very gently and put it in her pocket to plant when she returned home. The man opened the door and Aeradae stepped into her rightful home.

What Lies Beneath

By Ian Fenimore

On her third evening of evading authorities, Nancy stumbled over what seemed like a root in the ground when she realized that she had actually stumbled on some sort of handle.  Weary from her running, she thought nothing strange of it. Having fallen onto the soft bed of pine needles, Nancy realized how exhausted she was and decided to stop for the night. She set down her meager supplies of food, a knife, some rope, and a sleeping bag. After assessing what was left to make it to the rendezvous point, she re-filled her pack and climbed up a nearby birch tree. There she lay motionless for a while before placing her pack in the crook of the branches beside her and tying herself in place atop one of the stronger bows of the tree.

The cold German night was well set in when Nancy first heard the voices of the Nazi commander Heinz Guderian barking orders loud enough to be heard in Pforzheim. Minutes later she heard the harsh pounding of soldiers in step ringing through her ears. So numerous were their numbers that the soldiers shook the very tree she was camouflaged in. She watched in shear awe as 200 helmets and 1 hat meandered through the tightly packed pine, oak, and birch trees.

Once the regiment had past, Nancy let out a relieved breath, but at same time felt shaken to her core. As the frigid air crept into her insufficient flannel pants and rain jacket, she remembered why she had stopped. With a revived sense of memory she recalled the mysterious handle that had seemingly come from nowhere. Being a spy, her curious and nosey personality led her out of the safe haven that was her tree to investigate the handle. Brushing off a thick fall blanket of pine needles and leaves, Nancy felt out the characters “MI6” carved into what felt like a thick hardwood door. Cautious and conflicted on whether or not to investigate further, Nancy decided to go with the fist option and open the door.

As she turned the handle and opened the door, a warm gold light poured out. From within a deep chamber carved into the earth someone spoke to her.

“Hello Ms. Wake. We weren’t expecting to see you until Thursday.”

Realizing what a huge mistake she had almost made, Nancy stepped through the door to be de-briefed before she was to be flown home by the Royal Air-Force.

What Lies Beneath

By Adam Finnegan (Sun Valley High School)

This unforgettable story starts with the door. Michael, my best friend, and I were walking through the woods in search for something to occupy our time, which would usually get us into a whole other world of trouble. As we walked aimlessly into the wilderness, Michael began to pick up anything he could find and throw it at trees.

He began gathering stones and throwing them as far as he could, not knowing where they would land. He was down to one stone and as he wound up to heave it he shouted, “I’m so bored!” and threw the stone with all his might. We laughed as the stone pierced the mid-day sky. Our laughter was however cut short by a loud thud in the distance. The rock had struck something that clearly wasn’t a tree and at that moment Michael and I locked eyes and, as though we had sent a message to each other with just our minds, turned and sprinted towards the direction of the sound.

As we ran we looked everywhere for whatever could have made that noise, which distracted us from the path we were galloping. We kept stumbling over  rocks and branched that rested upon the path. “That must be it!” Michael yelled as a mound looking object sticking out of the ground began to come into eyesight. Approaching it, we realized it was a door.

There was no way it was someone’s home because there was no room for an entire house, it was just the door standing upright. It baffled me that after six long years of parading through these woods with Michael, we had never stumbled upon this door. It was made of wood and had a relatively large handle on the right side of it and there was a word scratched into it. The word was written in Latin, a language that I knew little of, but this word, however, was one that I knew. I took a step back and tilted my head puzzled at why this was carved into this door.

I turned to Michael and said, “Well, after you, good sir”, with a smirk and waved my arm to allow passage. He stood, frozen, his face paler than the moon on a cold winter night. “I can’t, not now, not me.” He kept mumbling these words as he turned and began to walk away. “Fine, just go home. You’ll be the one missing out.”

I turned to the door and after a deep breath I opened it. Instantly a gust of wind made its way through the branches and pushed at my back. I turned and gazed at the sky, taking a moment to watch the clouds float by. Without warning, another gust came but this time from the door itself. The wind sucked me in and I began falling into the dark abyss that was behind it. As I fell, my mind was tortured by the word on the door.

Interitum…..”The Afterlife”.

What Lies Beneath?

By Carly Carman (Sun Valley High School)

It started with a door.

Andrew, Kelsey and I had been walking through the woods on a warm August morning, when suddenly we came across a door. It was actually more like a barn made of wood. We stood there staring at it, all of us silent, not really knowing what to do. Andrew on my right, his tall figure lingering over me, and Kelsey on my left with her hot red hair and green eyes that always seemed to be glazed over.

So here we were standing in front of some door.

“What is it?” Andrew asked. I looked over at him.

“It’s a door, stupid.”

“Well, where does it lead to?” he asked me. I shrugged my shoulders. “Open it,” he told me. I looked at the door again, hesitating. Then, I slowly moved towards it, my hand extending forward to the long tree branched handle. I pulled on it with all my might, for it had been heavier than I had expected.

Slowly, but surely, the door opened. I stepped back to find only a dark tunnel that seemed to go no where.

“Well that was a waste of time,” Kelsey said.

“Go in,” I said, looking over at her. Her eyes got wide.

“Why?” she asked, her voice unsteady.

“Well if it’s such a waste of time, prove that it’s not. Go in.”

She stared at the black space for a long moment, thinking. Finally, she started walking towards it. I watched as her body became devoured by the darkness. Then, she spoke.

“You guys have to come see this!” she yelled to us. Immediately, Andrew and I bolted forward into the unknown.

It took a minute, but after I crept out from the dark, what I saw was amazing. There were miles and miles of grass and trees. Not a building in sight, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen. The sky was an unusually bright shade of blue, no clouds even beyond the horizon. In the distance, on the edge of the trees, I saw some animals but they were too far to specify.

“What is this place?” Andrew asked. We all shook our heads, not knowing how to answer.

“Something about this place doesn’t sit right with me,” Kelsey said. “I’m going home,” she said, and turned around. Instead of walking away, though, she stood there. “Guys, where’s the door?”

I turned around and instead of seeing the darkness; there was only more field and trees. My eyes widened with fear, not knowing how we were to get home. I heard Kelsey weep next to me.

“How are we going to get back?” Andrew asked. No one answered. We just stood there staring at what should have been basically a black hole.

“What time is it?” I asked Andrew. He glanced at his watch and responded, “About ten.”

“Okay,” I started, “we have all day to get home. I mean, if we’re not back by dinner, people will worry, right?” Again, no one spoke.

“Of course people will look.” Kelsey said, staring ahead.

“Well,” Andrew started, “we better start moving.”

“Where do we even start?” I asked. He shook his head.

“Let’s just try straight.” He said, and with that we started walking towards the evergreen.

It took us about half an hour to reach the edge of the forest.

“Are you guys sure we want to go in there?” Kelsey said, hesitantly.

“Do you have any better ideas?” I asked her sarcastically. She put her head down as she walked on, twirling her fiery red hair with her fingers.

We entered the forest casually, not knowing what to expect really. It wasn’t long before we reached a stream. The stream wasn’t too wide but we could all see it was deep.

“Now what do we do?” Kelsey whined. I looked around.

“There,” I said, point down the stream. There was a small bridge going across the water. It looked like it was made form wood and tree branches. “Come on!” I said, walking towards it. We crossed over one by one and kept walking in, hopefully, the right direction.

“Stop,” Andrew said suddenly, putting his hands out to stop us. Kelsey and I stared at him, questioning. “Do you feel that?”

 I was suddenly very aware of my senses. I smelled like some kind of freshly killed animal, the air thick with blood. I scrunched my nose up, and started noticing the ground was moving and rumbling. It was almost like a small earthquake, but even smaller, and had beats in between each rumble and shake.

“What is that?” Kelsey whispered to us. I shook my head.

Then we heard it. It was a tremendous roar; bigger than a lion and a tiger combined.

“Oh my gosh,” I said out loud. The rumbling grew stronger and the beats of foot steps became distinct. I came to the realization of where we were. I could only utter one single word. “Hide,”

I immediately ran to the biggest tree I could find, Kelsey and Andrew close behind me. There were huge roots at the bottom, big enough to hide in, so that’s where we stayed. We lay under a root, huddling together in a spooning position, Andrew in the front, and Kelsey behind me.

“Gale, what’s going on?” Kelsey whispered in my ear.

“Okay, this might sound completely ludicrous but I think somehow we transported to the age of dinosaurs.”
“You mean when we went through that door?” she questioned me.

“Yes,” I said firmly. She didn’t say anything but I could feel the warm moisture of her tears flow on my shoulders and down my back.

The footsteps got closer and louder until I was sure the beast was right next to us. I could hear the calm, steady breathing of the beast. I was almost certain it was a T-Rex.

Then I saw a huge scaly leg come into my view. It was a grey-brown color which had a slimy texture to it. I put my hands to my mouth to silence my breathing even more.

The beast stood there for a moment, hunting. I lay absolutely still making sure not to disturb anything around me.  I watched as the leg moved, and the other came into sight as the dinosaur stomped away. I made sure until it was positively still and silent until I spoke.

“Andrew,” I whispered, “get out.” Without a word, or even a sound, Andrew crawled out, looked around, and stood up. He waved us out to tell us everything was clear.

“What should we do?” Andrew asked me.

“Keep going,” I said, as if it were obvious.

“Keep going?!” he replied. “You mean in the direction of that thing?”

“Shh!” I commanded. “Stop screaming. And yes, that’s the direction we’ve been going all day.” He rolled his eyes at me, but I just started following the tracks of the monster. Eventually they lead off to a different path, and the mood eased.

“Look at that!” Kelsey said out of the blue. We looked to where she was pointing to see a small porcelain house nestled between two tree trunks. “What do you guys think it’s for?” she asked, crouching down to examine it. I shook my head,

“I don’t know.” She looked up at me, disapproving. “Come on, let’s keep moving. It’s going to get dark soon.”

Kelsey stood up.

“We can’t spend a night here!” she exclaimed, her eyes widely filled with terror. I looked back at her apologetically.

“Well if we don’t find a way home, we’re going to have to.” Kelsey got very serious.

“We’re not getting home tonight, maybe not ever. Frankly, I’d rather die than spend a night here.”

“Well than, let’s keep walking.” I said, ignoring her comment. She nodded, and again we started walking.

The longer we walked, the darker it got.

“We’re being hunted.” Andrew said suddenly.

“Hunted by what?” I asked, not even knowing how he found this information out.

“Velociraptor,” he told me. My eyes widened.

“What do we do? How do you know?”

“I saw a few when we left the little house thing. There’s about four, maybe five. Just stay close and keep walking, they attack from the sides, not the front.” I nodded taking in all this information.

“Oh my gosh,” I heard Kelsey breathe next me. I looked ahead and saw exactly what I hoped I wouldn’t; A Velociraptor. We stopped dead in our tracks.

“Form a circle!” Andrew cried, taking my left arm, Kelsey on my right. I was staring straight at the dinosaur.

“Where are they, Andrew?” I asked, frantic.

“I see one on my side, how many on yours, Kels?” She didn’t have time to answer, because the next thing we heard was a screech, followed by a scream. We broke the circle, turning to face Kelsey, and greeted by a Velociraptor heading straight towards her. I grabbed Andrew’s hand and ran in the direction we came from.

The dinosaurs did not follow us.

“We just left her,” Andrew said breathlessly when we finally stopped running. “How could we just leave her there to die?” He looked over at me.

“I don’t know, Andrew. I was frantic, and I knew she couldn’t have gotten away, at least not without them following all of us. I’m sorry.” I gave an apologetic look.

“Well,” he said. “She got what she wanted.”

“Let’s just find a way to make camp or something,” I said, and he nodded.

We ended up making a little roof by taking a bunch of large, thick sticks, and resting them against a tree trunk. We took some mud and grass and layered that on top of the sticks. All together, it covered about five or six feet across and three feet long.

“Gale,” Andrew said. “Do you think we’ll ever find a way home?”

“I don’t know Andrew, but I sure hope so.”

“Me too,” he replied, and with that we both fell asleep.

The next morning we both woke up as soon as we could, which basically meant the crack of dawn. We took no time hesitating, and started walking in no certain direction.

“Ugh, I’m so hungry!” Andrew whined.

“I know me too. Let’s keep an eye out for berries or something.” I told him. I hadn’t really thought about how hungry I was until Andrew brought it. My stomach rumbled loudly.

We walked all day, but along the way we did find some berry bushes that held us over for a little while. Just while it started getting darker, there was an illuminated light up ahead.

“What is it?” Andrew asked me.

“I don’t know, but we’re going to find out!” I said, making my way towards the light with Andrew by my side. As we got closer and closer I made out a figure from the light. It was the door! When Andrew and I saw this we started full on sprinting.

“Open it, Andrew!” I said when we finally reached it. When he opened it, instead of darkness, the door was filled with light.

“Let’s go home,” he said, grabbing my hand, and together we walked through the door, taking us home…

“Gale, wake up. Gale? Oh gosh, she’s dead!”

“She’s not dead, Kelsey, you knocked her out, she’s fine.”

I opened my eyes and saw Andrew and Kelsey leaning over me, concern covering their faces. It took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the bright sunshine coming in from the trees overhead. Was I in a forest? I couldn’t remember. When they saw I opened my eyes they smiled. “See, she’s fine.” Andrew said to Kelsey.

Kelsey said, “Gale, I’m so sorry! I was just so excited to find this thing that I flung my arms out and kind of knocked you out.”

“No, its fine,” I said, starting to get up. “I had the craziest dream though. Here, let’s just go home and I’ll tell you about it.”

We turned back on the path we’d come and headed towards home. I couldn’t help noticing though, as we walked away, I heard a low, distant roar coming from the door.

What Lies Beneath?

By Nicole DiIorio (Sun Valley High School)

The clock in the hall chimed one. Slowly, I slid out of bed and pulled on my dressing gown. My door creaked as I pulled it open and looked down the hall. No one was awake; Mother and Father were snoring loudly. As I crept by her door, I heard my little sister, Grace Ella, breathing slowly.

I crept down the stairs, careful not to make a sound. I was halfway towards the door when a voice across the foyer caused me to skid to a halt.

“Mistress Vivien? Where are you going? It’s one o’clock in the morning!” exclaimed May-Anne.

My mother’s maid must have heard my door creak open.

“I…I’m going to…to uh…”

“Mhm,” huffed May-Anne. “Sneaking out in the dead of night! I told your mother she ought to watch you more closely. Ought to get you another Care-Woman, that’s what I said.”

“May-Anne, I don’t need another Care-Woman! Charity and Sadie are plenty! I’m fifteen anyway, I hardly need them both!”

“Mistress Vivien, go back to bed right now, or I shall call your mother.” May-Anne said through clenched teeth.

I made a quick decision. “Fine. Good night May-Anne.”

I turned on my heel and walked swiftly up the staircase. When I was about halfway up, I hid in the shadows, watching May-Anne continue her work. She polished tables and scrubbed the floor, making sure to get every last tile. And as if to take up even more time, she arranged and rearranged all the flowers and vases in the foyer, polished all of the sconces, and cleaned every window. As she worked, May-Anne muttered to herself, mostly about me and all the trouble I caused. It was almost 2 o’clock when she finished. Sighing contently, May-Anne made her way to the servants’ quarters.

I held my breath as I crept down the stairs. I paused behind the heavy oak doors. I pushed it open quietly and stepped outside.

The cool autumn wind blew my long blonde hair behind me. I took a deep breath and padded across the lush, manicured lawn. When I looked back at the manor, there was not a light nor a soul emanating life from within.

I pulled the crumpled piece of paper out of my pocket. The note had been delivered to me early yesterday morning. An unknown courier had brought it to the manor. It read:

The door in the woods will lead you to the treasure.
3 o’clock tomorrow morning.

After this, there was a list. Number one said DECIEVE. I had puzzled over its meaning all day. Now I understood it; I deceived May-Anne. The rest of the list was also puzzling, especially the last three: BETRAY, WAR, DEATH. Those were the ones that scared me the most.

Shivering in the night wind, I made my way to the woods. It was dark and quiet when I entered.

I knew the door the writer spoke of. Almost every child living in Carson knew it. The door was attached to a shed. It was wooden and old, older than my grandfather. It was said to be haunted by the founder of Carson, Robert Carson, and his wife Ellen. No one dared to peek inside, but I was never afraid of it. I’m hardly ever afraid. However, I did not know what the writer meant by treasure. The legend never mentioned a treasure hidden in the shed.

I walked some more, squinting my eyes to see everything more than a yard away. I shivered, wishing I had brought a cloak instead of my thin dressing gown. But sadly, the cloak closet door squeaks when opened. May-Anne or another servant would have heard it open for sure. Then I would never make it out.

I was drawing closer to the clearing where I knew the shed was. Suddenly I saw it. Moonlight shone through the trees, illuminating the clearing and the old shed. Cautiously, I approached it. I realized how dangerous this was: a young girl walking alone in the woods at night all because of a mysterious letter written by an unknown person. I pushed all thoughts of danger out of my mind. I was standing right in front of the door now. The wind blew harder and I drew my dressing gown closer around me. My hand reached towards the door of its own accord. It grasped the large iron handle and pulled.

I’m not quite sure what happened after that. All I remember is a blinding flash of dazzling white light. I was thrown back onto the ground. I shielded my eyes and crawled away from the shed. The light subsided and I opened my eyes.

The shed was still there, and I was still in a clearing, but it was daylight, and definitely not the Manor Woods. Startled, I stood up and walked towards the shed. My hand reached out again to grab the handle.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

I yelped and turned around. A boy was walking towards me, maybe my age or a few years older.

“Who are you?” I asked, taking a few steps back.

“I’m sorry if I frightened you. My name is Patrick. You are Vivien, correct?”

“I…I…yes I am.” I said apprehensively. “How did you know that?”

“I know almost everything about what goes on in Leven.” He replied vaguely.

“Leven? I’ve never heard of that before.”

“No, most people haven’t. I suppose it’s because Leven doesn’t exist. Or rather, people don’t believe it exists. You see, Leven is a magic world, on the brink of war. And that’s why you’re here.”

“Me? But I don’t even know how I got here! Besides, magic doesn’t exist. I must be dreaming.”

I was suspicious. Patrick seemed nice, but this was all too odd for me. Suddenly I remembered the list:

1.) DECIEVE

2.) MEET

3.) SUSPICION

4.) BEFRIEND

5.) TEMPTATION

6.) BETRAY

7.) WAR

8.) DEATH 

I had already deceived May-Anne when I snuck out. I had met Patrick and now I was suspicious; he seemed to know that I was coming and insisted that I was in some sort of fairytale world. Something supernatural was definitely going on here.

“Don’t worry Vivien,” said Patrick. “I’m here to help you. But you must be the one to convince King Richard not to wage war on the neighboring kingdom of Moran.”

“Why me?” I asked, still dazed and confused. “I’m not from Leven or Moran! I’m from Carson!”

“Vivien, may I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Were you worried about what you would find at the door?”

“Yes, but my curiosity overrode the worry.”

“So you did not think anything dangerous was going to happen?”

My head hurt. “I, uh…well I certainly didn’t want anything dangerous to happen, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Patrick seemed content with my answer, although I was still thoroughly confused. Patrick led me through the woods, talking about King Richard, Leven, and Moran.

Golden leaves glittered in the trees. The grass was greener than in Carson, more lush and beautiful. We passed by a pond and I gasped. Nymphs rose to the surface and stared at us as we walked by. They were all female, with blue skin and blue hair. Their eyes were as blue as the sky. A young one waved shyly at me. Slowly comprehending what I was seeing, I waved back. I had never seen such beautiful creatures before. The rising sun reflected off of the crystal clear water, bathing everything in a bright light. I heard birds in the distance, filling the world with their cheerful morning songs. Once, I swore I saw a little elf. He couldn’t have been more than three feet high, with white whiskers and bright red hat.

My arms were going numb, as were my feet and face. I knew the tips of my ears would be red by now. My dressing gown had fallen off during my transportation and my thin dress was no match for the autumn wind. My teeth chattered. Patrick stopped and put his cloak around my shoulders. I blushed, but said thank you and pulled it tightly around my body. It smelled like cinnamon.

We continued walking and talking. I found myself telling him about Carson, about Mother and Father, Grace Ella, and how I always seemed to be in trouble. Patrick told me that he had no parents, his oldest brother Michael looked after him and the five younger ones, and how he was part of the organization that brought me here.

“We’re called Beneath.”

“Why is that?”

“Because we answer the question, ‘What lies beneath?’”

I must have looked confused because Patrick explained further.

“We feel that the townsfolk and village people have a right to know what’s really going on in the castle. We tell them more than they get when King Richard makes an announcement. We help them see what’s really going on in Leven. We help them see what lies beneath the trickery and fallacies presented to them by King Richard and his court.”

I nodded as I digested this information. Patrick continued.

“King Richard told the people that we will not wage a war on Moran. However, we have reason to believe that he is lying, that war will begin at any moment. So you are going to find out what lies beneath the huge smirk on his face.”

“That makes…some sense.” I said, “Although I’m still unclear as to why I’m here.”

“Because there is a prophecy:

From a world not our own
A girl named Vivien shall appear
To convince the King
Not to wage war.
She shall answer the question
What lies beneath?
She shall be crowned
With a golden wreath.

“You would have appeared here anyway, but I decided to speed up the process.”

“So you sent the letter and the list! Please, tell me what the list means!”

Patrick looked puzzled. “I’m not sure. It was written under the prophecy. You’ve already reached number four: befriend.”

I looked up at Patrick and smiled. He smiled down at me. I felt myself blushing and looked away.

“Look!” said Patrick. “It’s Leven!”

I looked up. Rising in the distance was a beautiful kingdom. A giant white castle with golden trim and pointed towers dwarfed the town. People milled around the town going in and out of various shops and houses. Hills and farmland spread out from the town. Small villages and farms dotted the green sea of grass. It was breathtaking.

Patrick took my hand and guided me into town. It was just like a fairytale, magic and all. I looked around, drinking in everything I saw. Fire-eaters danced around us, their flames coming close to us then retreating just in time. I smiled.

“Patrick this is amazing! The town is beautiful!”

I looked up to see Patrick’s face hard and stony. He tried to smile at my clear astonishment but failed.

“Patrick? What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Nothing. Into this building, right here.”

Bewildered, I turned into the stone building as directed. I caught a glimpse of the sign hanging overhead: Bennett’s Tavern of Warriors. That was enough to make me nervous. I felt Patrick right behind me, his footsteps in sync with mine, easing my discomfort. The tavern was empty save for the bartender.

“Good morning Patrick.” said the greasy old man.

“Good morning Mr. Bennett, sir.” Patrick placed his hand protectively on my shoulder, steering me towards a door at the far end of the tavern.

“Got a right pretty piece there, eh Patrick?”

Patrick’s grip on my shoulder tightened. “Sorry sir, can’t talk.” He said as he guided me through the door.

“Never liked that man,” Patrick said once we were alone. “Always talking about women as if they were nothing.”

My respect grew for Patrick as we sat down at the table in the middle of the room.

“Now when you meet the King, it will only be you and him in the room. You must say these exact words: Do not wage war on Moran. It will endanger your people and your kingdom.”

“That’s all I say?” I asked.

“Yes. He thinks you are a Prophecy Woman from a far-away land. Hopefully, he’ll listen to you. Do not be tempted by anything he promises to give you: power, money, jewels, what have you. And don’t take any food or drink he offers you. Deliver your message and wait to be dismissed. Do you understand?” Patrick asked.

I nodded.

“Good. Now don’t worry. We won’t be sending you to the king right away. You are scheduled to see him in one week’s time. Until then, you will by studying Leven, Moran, and Marsini, the land of which you are said to have come from.”

“Who will be teaching me?” I asked.

“Myself, a man named Jonathon, and a kind woman from the market, Lady Lydia. They are both members of Beneath. Any other questions before we start?”

“Just one. Where will I be staying?”

“Here, in the Tavern of Warriors. You will share a room with Lady Lydia and Jonathon and I will be in the next room over. The inn part of the tavern is upstairs.”

“But I have nothing with me! No clothes, combs, make-up…”

“I’m sure Lady Lydia has things for you.” Patrick said as he looked thoughtfully at my ratty blonde hair. “Come, let’s get you ready for your lesson.”

Over the next few days, I learned more about three kingdoms than I knew about my own country. It was a wonderful world, much like a fairy tale. And there were fairies. Bright green ones with dresses made of leaves. They were no more than three inches tall, so small I could carry one around with me. During my lessons, they would pull my long hair and sleep on top of Patrick’s head, nestling themselves in his soft brown hair.

As the days wore on, Patrick and I got closer and closer to each other. I felt myself falling for him as our conversations drifted from Leven’s trade routes and more towards our personal lives. I found myself looking for excuses to see him, to touch him, to talk to him. And I knew Patrick felt the same way every time our eyes met.

On the day I was to meet with King Richard, we went to the small room in the tavern. He quickly went through the list of things I was not to do.

“Only relay your message. You’ve only learned about the kingdoms so you can pass the villagers unnoticed. Do not say anything else to King Richard. Do you understand?

“Yes.” I breathed.

His face was close to mine. His brown eyes looked down at me and he smiled. We leaned closer together. I tilted my head up and closed my eyes. The door slammed open.

“Oye! Patrick! We need to get ‘er ready! The Majesty’ll be expectin’ ‘er!”

Patrick took a step back and sighed. I opened my eyes and turned towards the door. Jonathon, my portly but kind and generous teacher, had entered the room.

“Hello.” I said cheerily, trying to hide my embarrassment.

“’Ello m’lady. Jonathon said as he squeezed past me towards the end of the room.

He approached a large dresser in the corner. From it, he pulled out a dark purple dress trimmed in gold and lots of beaded necklaces. He handed them to me.

“’Ere m’lady. Patrick and I will leave you to it. Come out when you’re done,” Jonathon said as he shut the door, leaving me alone in the room.

I quickly took off my blue dress from Carson and threw on this new purple one. The necklaces were heavy around my neck, but I suppose they added to my disguise as a Prophecy Woman. As I was getting changed, I heard Jonathon and Patrick talking.

“…and we’ll enter through the south gate. He’ll never see it coming,” Said Patrick.

“Yes, very good, very good.” answered Jonathon.

I finished and opened the door. They were standing right outside it.

“Well,” I said. “What do you think?”

Patrick gaped at me. “You look…beautiful.” he said.

I blushed. Jonathon led us out of the tavern and into the town. I followed him to the gated entrance of the magnificent castle. There was a set of three golden bells. Jonathon rang them and a uniformed guard appeared.

“State the nature of your visit, please,” said the guard.

“I am here escorting Madame Lucia, a Prophecy Woman from Marsini. She has urgent news for King Richard. He said he would see her today at this time.”

The guard checked a piece of paper in his hand. “Alright. You three may come in.”

He opened the gates and led us inside. Patrick fell into step beside me.

“Do you remember what you are to say, Vivien?” he asked.

“Do not wage war on Moran. It will endanger your people and your kingdom.” I said.

“Correct. Do not say anything else. Not hello, not goodbye, nothing. Do not be tempted by anything he says. Do you understand?” he asked.

I nodded. “Yes. It’s all very simple, I think.”

“It may seem simple Vivien. You’re human, and humans are tempted very easily. Just promise me that you’ll be careful.”

We stopped walking. Jonathon and the guard didn’t seem to notice.

“I promise,” I said.

Tentatively, Patrick put his hands on my waist and pulled me closer to him. I tilted my head up as he leaned down. Our lips met. Happiness flowed through my body as I kissed him. We stayed like that for a moment, then we parted. Patrick still had his hands on my waist.

“Remember,” he whispered, “I’ll be right outside the castle. Don’t be scared.”

I nodded. We embraced one last time, then I hurried down the hall to catch up with Jonathon and the guard. I was dizzy with excitement. The guard led us to a large chamber. He pointed to a chair and told me to have a seat. Then, he took Jonathon and left.

I sat there for a few seconds, lost in my thoughts. The door opened and I stood up. The King entered.

He was a tall man, with dark hair and a faint moustache. He nodded to me and I curtsied, like a lady should. He sat down in the chair opposite me.

“I am King Richard, as you know. You are Madame Lucia, I am told.”

I nodded.

“Excellent, excellent! Well, as is custom, I understand that you cannot talk except to deliver your message. So let’s get on with it.”

King Richard seemed like a nice man. I wondered why Patrick was so leery of him. Nonetheless, I was careful not to say anything lest I be cursed by whatever force controlled my destiny. I stood up.

“Do not wage war on Moran. It will endanger your people and your kingdom.”

I waited to be dismissed. King Richard just looked thoughtfully at me.

“Madame Lucia, would you like something to drink?” he asked.

I remembered Patrick’s warning to not take anything from the King so I shook my head.

“No? Well, I’ll pour you a glass of water anyway, in case you get thirsty.”

King Richard set a glass down in front of me. I didn’t look at it.

“So Madame Lucia,” King Richard began, “You believe I am going to wage war on Moran?”

I nodded.

“And you’re here to advise me against it?”

Again, I nodded.

“Well, I might actually take you seriously, my dear. A peevish group called Beneath has been pleading with me to stop it. I tried to convince them that I had no intention of waging war, but sadly they didn’t believe me. Smart of them. I suppose since you saw a vision, I won’t go through with my plan. Tell me, my dear, what exactly did you see in this vision? Surely you can talk about that.” King Richard leaned forward.

I hesitated. Patrick told me only to say the prophecy, nothing else. However, I didn’t know all of the customs of this world. Were Prophecy Women allowed to speak about their prophecies? King Richard seemed to think so. What if he found out I was a fake if I didn’t talk? I swallowed the lump in my throat and spoke.

“Your Highness, in my vision, I saw a land of devastation,” I began, my head spinning as I thought of what to say. “People dying of foreign diseases, crops withering, droughts, and madness spreading throughout your Kingdom. You sat upon a throne of bones, as the sickness came upon you. A servant, close to death, whispered in your ear, ‘My Lord, unnecessary war has caused this. Your greed is to blame for your people’s annihilation.’ My vision ended with a flaming arrow coming down from the sky and piercing you in the heart.” I finished.

King Richard, instead of looking terrified, merely smiled. “Is that so, Madame Lucia? How very unfortunate…for you! Imposter! Prophecy Women never reveal anything about their visions!” he stood up and smacked me across the face. “Guards! Bind her! I believe Beneath has infiltrated the castle. Lock down every entrance and exit!”

I struggled against the guards. I now realized what number five meant: I had been tempted by the prospect of being found out. I knew a way out of this mess, but it would endanger Patrick. I had to do it. This wasn’t my world and not my problem.

“They’re at the south gate!” I choked out.

King Richard turned to face me.

“Beneath. They’re at the south gate!” I said again.

King Richard gestured to a guard. They had a quick conversation and then the guard left.

“Release her,” ordered King Richard. “And go to the South Gate.” To me he said, “I know you’ve betrayed your friends, my dear, but it hasn’t done you any good. You’ve only postponed your execution. Goodbye my dear. Your execution will be early tomorrow morning. Sleep well.” And with that, King Richard locked me in the room.

I threw myself down on the sofa and wept.

“Patrick,” I wailed, “I’m so sorry! It was number six! I couldn’t help it!”

“It’s okay.”

I sat bolt upright. Patrick was climbing into the room through the window. I ran across the room and threw myself at him.

“Oh Patrick! Why aren’t you at the South gate? I heard you and Jonathon talking…”

Patrick put a finger to my lips. “We meant for you to hear us. We manipulated the prophecy.” As he talked, Patrick took a key from his pocket and unlocked the door. “A war will not ensue, rather a small fight between the King’s men and our men. Death does not apply to you or I, for I shall kill the King.”

Now we were running down hallways, up staircases, and around turns, presumably to the south gate. Soon, we reached the fight. King Richard stood aside, watching it. His back was to us.

We were on a balcony overlooking the battle. I was horrified and yet amazed at what I saw. Guards and villagers savagely beat each other. Swords clashed, the sound of metal on metal magnified by the open area. Terrified screams were cut short as was the person’s life from which they came. King Richard seemed to observe it with mild interest.

Patrick approached him, motioning for me to stay back. He drew his sword as he stopped behind King Richard. For some reason, I just could not look away. Slowly Patrick raised his sword, his muscles rippling through his body. I gasped as Patrick began to bring it down. King Richard must have heard me for he turned around and leapt away just in time.

Without a word, he drew his sword and lunged at Patrick. Patrick recovered from his initial shock and side-stepped as he jabbed at the King. King Richard parried it away and took a few steps back, but was blocked from going any farther by a wall.

“This is the end, Your Highness,” said Patrick, advancing. “You always were a cowardly King.”

With one smooth, quick motion, Patrick cut off his head. I turned away as it rolled off the balcony and into the fray. Someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Patrick, and he looked worried.

“We have to hurry!” he said.

Quickly, we ran out of the castle and into the town. Patrick led me towards the woods.

“Find the door!” he yelled.

I glanced behind me. Guards and dogs were right behind us. I ran as fast as I could. Patrick never left my side.

I saw the door ahead of us. Patrick grabbed my hand, pulling me closer as he reached out and grasped the door’s handle. There was another blinding flash of light.

Suddenly, I was back in the Manor Woods, in the clearing with the door. But this time, Patrick was there with me. It was daylight now. I stood up, as I had been knocked down during the transportation.

Although he was breathing heavily, Patrick looked at me and laughed.

“She shall be crowned with a golden wreath.” He recited as he brushed autumn’s golden leaves out of my long blonde curls.

I chuckled. “Well,” I said. “We each found out what lies beneath. You defeated King Richard, and I proved the Robert Carson myth wrong.”

I looked at the door, wondering about its mysterious ways.

Patrick took a step closer to me. “And love. Love lies beneath it all.”

Patrick kissed me again. As I entwined my fingers in his brown hair, I mentally added a number nine to the prophetical list: LOVE.

What Lies Beneath?

By Stephanie Evans (Sun Valley High School)

I was walking down a rocky dirt path through the woods. I’ve known about these woods for a while and I needed a breath of fresh air, away from people. My thin red hair was blowing in the wind as a cool breeze hit me in the face. I was wearing a black and red zip-up jacket and dark skinny jeans hugged my hips. As I looked down, grass was tickling my black boots. Suddenly, I heard a faint voice. I walked down the path a little further and I noticed a door and heard the voice again.

What lies beneath?

Normally, I would’ve ignored this, but I wanted to investigate. 

The door was wooden with a handle attached to it. I took a deep breath and I gained the strength to grip the handle and open the door a crack. It was dark, but I could see furniture. It was very small, as if elves lived here. The voice stopped as I opened the door and I felt like I was intruding someone’s house.

I stepped down onto the light blue carpet and saw a tiny couch, a tiny television, a little kitchen, and two doors that possibly led to a bathroom and a bedroom. The two doors were smaller than regular doors and when I walked a few steps, the floor creaked under me. I peered down the hallway only to notice the bedroom door, which was the farthest from me, slowly started to open. I backed up so I didn’t startle the person, if it even was a person.

I started to bite my lip and watched a small lady walk past me. She jumped a little and let out a scream. I know I shouldn’t be here right now. What am I doing? She had short purple hair that was tucked behind her pointy elf ears. 

“I’m sorry for scaring you. My name’s Vanessa,” I said, my voice shaking.

“Well my dear, you sure did get me good. I am Trinity and who taught you to barge into a stranger’s house?”

“No one. I am terribly sorry,” I blurted out.

“Well in that case, would you like some tea?” Trinity asked.

I couldn’t get over how small the house was and I kept looking around.

“No, but thanks anyway. May I ask you something?”

“Sure! What can I do for you?” Trinity questioned.

“When I was at the end of the path, I heard someone talking and it was coming from your house. Was that, by any chance, you?”

“No, it wasn’t. It was Robert, my poltergeist. He is very friendly and I just have to accept him.”

“Oh. He doesn’t bother you?” I asked.

“No, I’m used to him. He isn’t harmful. He just likes to stay here and trick me sometimes.”

“Oh, well I better be going. I’m sorry again for frightening you.”

“Are you sure your leaving so soon?”

“Yeah, I better. Thanks for the little chat.”

I started to turn around to leave when I saw a purple magic beam come out of Trinity’s finger and lock the door.

 A magic Elf?

 She seemed so nice for the few minutes that I talked to her. I guess it was just a trick, like Robert.

“What is going on?” I questioned in shock.

“I’m sorry, but that’s what you get when you enter my house without permission,” said Trinity with an evil grin.

 I once read in a book that when the clock hits eight at night, elves suddenly go extremely mad. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and looked at the time. It read eight PM. Her eyes were red and she had the scariest look I’d ever seen on someone before. I thought that just maybe the magic was just making me think the door was locked. I quickly ran to the door and tried opening it. It was bolted shut.

“Can you please just let me go?”

“Yeah, when pigs fly,” she said sarcastically.

Coming into the woods to “investigate” was a terrible idea. I realized how much I missed my annoying siblings and parents. I tried to think of something to distract her while I call home. I just need to get out of her sight so I can call for help. She went into the kitchen and I crawled into the tiny bathroom door. I locked it and I was squished, but it was better than being with an evil Elf. I dialed my house phone and it rang. Thank gosh, my mom picked up on the first ring.

“Mom?”

“Hey. Where are you?” My mom asked.

“It’s a long story. I am in an Elf’s house in the woods,” I whispered.

“Real funny. Seriously, where are you?”

“Mom, I’m being totally honest right now. I’m in the woods a couple streets behind ours. An evil Elf with purple hair locked me in her tiny house. Bring something to knock the door down!”

“Alright. Your father and I will come looking for you!”

“Thanks. Hurry!”

I hung up the phone and put it back into my jacket pocket. I know for a fact my parents won’t be here a while. I unlocked the bathroom door and crawled out. Thankfully, she was still in the kitchen fixing herself a cup of tea. I quietly walked fast to the couch and took a seat.

She told me she would be right back; she just needed to go to her room for something. I heard people in the woods and I hoped it was my parents coming for me. Suddenly, a chainsaw started up and I was frightened!

Do we own a chain-saw?

Next thing I know, I hear Trinity bolt out of her bedroom and into the living room. The chainsaw cut a circular hole in the wooden door, big enough for me to escape out of. My dad’s head popped into the hole and I was so happy to see him. Trinity just stood there, amazed at what she saw. She was terrified of chainsaws, maybe because she doesn’t know what they were.

“Dad!” I shouted.

“Vanessa!”

I never saw my dad so protective of me and kicked Trinity so hard that she turned to dust. She remained in a pile of pink glitter on the carpet. My parents and I escaped and I got the whole speech about how I’m not allowed to be alone for a long time. Whatever!

The Door

By Sierra Holland (Sun Valley High School)

“I don’t think we should be doing this, Bentley,” Mackenzie said to her brother as he walked ahead with his friend, Jackson. They were always getting into mischief and Mackenzie somehow always got dragged into their plans. Today they were supposed to be at home doing their chores but Bentley and Jackson were surfing the net and found a story about a little place down the road from their house. It’s called Tyler Arboretum, and there’s apparently a secret door there and in the story they say that four kids were walking along the trail when they found the door. Of course they were curious, so they opened the door and entered. No one has seen them since.

Bentley and Jackson wanted to see it for themselves, and Mackenzie was dragged along. They didn’t have money so they snuck through the back way. It took them a while to find the trail but they eventually did. “You go first,” Bentley said to Jackson as they approached the door.

Jackson, terrified, walked up to the door, put his hand on the knob and said, “If I go, you’re going with me.” So Mackenzie and Bentley walked up behind him and grabbed his hand. Now, hand in hand, eyes shut tight, Jackson pulled the big door. It swung open, and they were pulled in with the door slamming shut.

Next thing they knew they were laying in a field of pansies and sun flowers the grass was greener than any other grass they’ve ever seen. There were a few apple trees and some cherry trees there were butterflies and birds flying around and chirping beautiful melodies. To their left there were three little men towering over them. The men were wearing jean overalls and one was wearing a green shirt, one was in a purple shirt and the other was in a blue shirt. They all had short, brownish hair and shocking blue eyes. They all were about four feet tall.  “What do you think they are?” one man said to the other.

“They’re humans just like the ones who come banging on the door every day.”

As Mackenzie started to open her eyes, the little men got frightened and ran away. When she was fully awake and unaware of where she was, she shook Bentley and Jackson until they woke up.

“Where are we?” Jackson said looking around. They walked along the red trail, when they saw a map on the ground and picked it up. As they kept walking, they found that the trail split into three. A blue trail on the left, green on the right, and red in the middle.

“Which way should we go?” Mackenzie asked

“Blue, definitely blue” Bentley said in a nervous tone.

“Why?”

“Look!” All of a sudden scorpions came out of the bushes on the red trail and 3 tigers out onto the green path. So they ran up the blue trail and kept going until they saw the three little men again. “Why are we here?” Bentley said to the men.

“You’re the one that opened our door.”

“Alright, alright no need to be rude, I’m Skuzzlewuzzle, this is Sneezhiemer, and this is Grumpiwumpi. You are?”

“I’m Bentley; this is Jackson, and my sister Mackenzie, nice to meet you. Now don’t get offended, but how do we get out of here? We have to be home before our mom.”

“Oh, don’t worry, when you’re in here, real time freezes. So whatever time you came in, that’s what time it will be when you leave.”

“Okay, but we still need to leave.”

“Well, you’re going to have to follow this map.” “Okay, whatever it takes to just get out of here.”   

“You have to go through the woods, across the river, through the point of no return, and you’ll find the door.

“That’s it?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, will you help us?”

“Sure, but only until the point of no return, then you’re on your own, fair enough?”

They walked along the trail until they got to the woods. As they got closer, they smelled the sweet smell of chocolate and other goodies. As soon as they saw the gumdrops and licorice on the trees, they knew they were in for a treat. There were gummy bears walking around and candy flies and butterfly chocolate fountains. The candy woods weren’t big, so they grabbed a couple things and proceeded towards the river. Arriving at the river, there were gummy and chocolate fish in the water, but they had to find a way to get across. In the distance they saw a boat, but it only seated three. So Skuzzlewuzzle said Bentley, Mackenzie, and Jackson should go across since they were the ones that needed to get home. When they were on the other side, they turned to wave to the men and then walked ahead.

They looked at the map and noticed they were getting close to the point of no return, it grew quieter and colder. Once they got to the entry they heard howling and it grew darker. They took the first step hand in hand. “I’m scared,” Mackenzie whispered. There were rats and snakes all over, and evil little men running around. They accidently took a wrong turn and ended up right in front of the big “Its” cage. Nobody knew what it was or what to call it so they named it “It”. It was huge, bigger than five elephants put together. It was brown and fury. It looked like a cat only much bigger.  They heard the big angry snores of it sleeping.  They tried to sneak past without waking “It” but Jackson tripped and fell. “It” woke up, and shocked, the kids ran for their lives. It almost caught up with them but then they finally found a little crack and jumped in there while “It” kept running. When they were sure he was gone, they got out of the crack and looked for a way out before it came back.  They saw a light and ran towards it. They got out to the point of no return, and when they looked around, they saw that they were in the same exact place they came in. They saw the big door and the three little men. “We could’ve left the way we came in?” Bentley said in an aggravated tone.

“Well, yes, but we thought you wanted adventure.”

“Not when we almost get killed. Come on you two, were getting out of here and going home!”  Bentley screamed.

Drenched in water and mud from running from “It” they walked through the door and back home. Upon it shutting, they heard Grumpiwumpi say, “That’ll teach them humans to bother us again.”

The Land of Deceit

By Maria Klecko (Sun Valley High School)

A large, wooden door, standing several feet tall, was what I stumbled upon on a muggy Tuesday afternoon in June. My friends and I were playing a rousing game of Hide and Seek, and as I was running through the thick green trees of the forest, not entirely paying attention to where I was going, I abruptly halted at the sight of this massive entryway. Not recognizing what it was at first, I closely examined it. The door was attached to a curve shaped type of building, which at the time I thought served as a storage area, a shed. Boy, was I wrong.

To say the paint on the “shed” wasn’t fresh is an understatement. It was in dire need of a new coat, which made sense since the building appeared to be centuries old. I wasn’t sure why I was wasting so much time staring at some door when I should have been on my merry old way, off to my hiding spot. I couldn’t quite walk away though; I was too intrigued and curious about the enigma that was the entryway. I had to figure out what was behind it. Cautiously, I approached it, knocking lightly at first. There was no answer, so I tried again, that time more forcefully. Still, I heard nothing, which only sparked my curiosity. I placed my ear against the door, in an attempt to hear any possible commotion coming from behind it. Once again, there was not even a pin drop of sound.

I couldn’t just leave, I didn’t want to. There had to be something or someone on the other side of that door and I was determined to find out who or what it was. Trying my luck, I decided to put my hand on the long, thin handle, desperately hoping it would open. To my astonishment, it actually did, producing a rickety, creaking noise. Slowly, I stepped inside the doorway, without the slightest idea of what to expect. I didn’t know whether to feel incredibly excited or nervous. As soon as I entered in completely, the door slammed violently behind me. At that moment I knew exactly which one to feel.

What my eyes beheld was unbelievable, so unbelievable, that the setting seemed surreal. I was surrounded by elves and gnomes, and I’m not referring to abnormally short humans either. I’m seriously talking about tiny, fairy like creatures that are thought of as being Santa’s little helpers or the objects that sit out on the front lawns of homes. I was convinced that I was dreaming and that I’d wake up any minute from that crazy world I had accidentally barged into. I even pinched myself a few times to speed up the process, but it was to no avail. Then the realization came to me that it was not in fact a dream, but some twisted reality that I was trapped in. Now don’t panic, I repeated to myself several times. I knew I just had to act normally, like nothing was out of the ordinary. Though I was nervous about how they’d react to me, I figured that since I was such a strange guest to their world, they’d gladly help me get back to mine. Plus I did enjoy being the tallest person for once.

I surveyed the room, in search of a friendly face. Even though these creatures were so unlike me and my world, I couldn’t help but notice quite a few resemblances. I appeared to be in a pub. In one corner, there was a group of elves shooting pool, and over by the bar sat a group of gnomes, drinking ale, eating peanuts, and watching a football game. They even had mini jerseys on, and half of them yelled at the television when one of the players made an interception. I didn’t quite know what to make of all of it. I expected their lives to be totally unusual, nothing even remotely similar to that of the human world.

They were all so wrapped up in their own activities that they had yet to notice me. I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing, but I had to talk to someone if I was going to get out of there. I scanned the room once more and when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an elf walking around, table to table, smiling and greeting everyone. His rosy red cheeks glistened as he spoke, and dimpled as he grinned. The mistletoe green cap he wore on his head jingled due to the silver bell dangling from it. He also sported stockings of the same color, and black, gold buckled shoes. That elf looked like he had been transported straight down from the North Pole. His gaze finally fixated upon me, and his grin grew even wider. He seemed to be amused by what he saw and quickly came over to me. “Well, golly, you sure are rather tall for an elf,” he joked.

I smiled at the comment and replied, “Yeah, as I’m sure you can tell I’m a bit out of place here. It’s a funny story really, one minute I was playing hide and seek and saw a door, and the next I ended up here, in a world that clearly isn’t my own.” He stared at me for a second, and I noticed his sparkling blues eyes, they looked kind and inviting.

“Well, that’s perfectly alright, you’re not the first human that it’s happened to,” he reassured me. “You don’t have to worry either, because I’ll gladly help you find your way back home.”

 “Oh, thank you so much!” I exclaimed. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t get your name.”

“My name’s Ollie,” he informed, extending his tiny hand.

 I shook it and responded, “Well it’s nice to meet you Ollie. I’m Maria.” Just like that I had made a friend in that world. Ollie told me that toward the end of the town there was a door just like the one I had entered. All I had to do was go through it, and I’d be back in my world. It was a bit far off, but Ollie mentioned that at least I’d get a tour, which lifted my mood; I was very appreciative of his optimistic attitude.

I was amazed by that miniature village; it was filled with bustling activity and its vibrant atmosphere left me in a state of awe. I had strongly underestimated these creatures. There were elves carrying blocks of wood in their teensy arms and gnomes gathering materials and outlining plans to construct a building. I became greatly aware of all the work that went into making their village a thriving, successful one and developed admiration for them. In the midst of all the bustle, I noticed child elves and gnomes running around and playing together. All of that camaraderie made me respect the society even more. I felt a bit disappointed that I would not get the chance to be in that encouraging environment longer; however I did miss my own.

Ollie and I continued on, and as we did, we talked like we were old friends and learned quite a bit about each other. We had a natural rapport and I enjoyed being in his warm presence. Before I knew it, we were close to reaching the doorway, and that’s when I spotted somewhat of an odd sight. It was a miniature house, just like all the others in the town, however its location was bizarre. It stood under a short, slanted, wooden bridge. As I studied it, I saw two eyes peek out of the peepholes. These eyes were unlike the bright, welcoming eyes of Ollie, they were dark and icy. They stared at me for what felt like an eternity. Feeling worried, I turned to Ollie and asked, “Whose house is that and why is it under a bridge?”

“That’s the mayor’s house. He’s a gnome, his name is Finley. Under the bridge is where the mayor always lives, it allows him to keep a watchful eye over everyone, especially who comes in and out of the village.”

“Should I be concerned? I mean technically, I’m an intruder. He saw me and didn’t look too happy. Is something bad going to happen to me?” I began to feel uneasy, my stomach started to churn and knots were twisting inside of me.

“Nah, you’re fine, besides you’re about to leave anyway. Just to be safe though, we better get a move on.” We picked up the pace and at last we reached the door. It looked exactly like the one I encountered in the woods.

“Well, I guess this is it,” I declared with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Before I could open the door, all of those tiny creatures, elves and gnomes, stampeded towards me, grabbed my legs, and forced me to the ground. I guess of all that heavy lifting paid off for them. “What’s going on?!” I shouted. I was in total shock and felt absolutely horrified by those unforeseen events. The creatures started tying me up in ropes. Finley emerged from the crowd, an evil smirk spread across his face. “I see you’ve tried to escape,” he said in a voice that was uncharacteristically deep for such a wee fellow. “No human who enters our town gets to leave and return to his or her own world.”

“You can’t do this!” This was insanethere was no way I was going to go out like that, captured and tortured by itty bitty, mythical creatures. At that moment as I faced the crowd, I noticed Ollie, standing there, his eyes no longer sparkling, and a look of complete and utter shame was plastered on his face. I couldn’t believe he was just going to stand by and let me suffer, I thought he was my friend. Clearly, he couldn’t be trusted, none of those creatures who I mistakenly believed as being noble and gentle could.

“Oh, but who says we can’t?” Finley answered. “Send her to the chamber,” he ordered. The group of elves and gnomes, who had seized and tied me up, lifted me and carried me away. I screamed all the way to wherever it was they were taking me. Turns out it was a chamber like Finley mentioned, a fire chamber. I became even more frightened, and started shrieking again, but this time an elf came over and placed duck tape on my mouth. Finley entered the room, with that nasty smirk on his face again.

“I hope you find this place to be of your liking,” he spoke with a malicious tone. “It’s where you’ll be spending your final moments.” I tried to scream, but that was awfully hard to do with silver duck tape covering my mouth. “Enjoy.” After that he and his minions exited the room, and left me to sit all alone, tied up in a fire chamber. I sat there for an hour, awaiting my cruel fate. I started thinking, thinking about my entire life, going through it in chronological order. Then, I began replaying that day’s events over in my head, deeply regretting my decision to open that stupid door. If I hadn’t been so curious, I wouldn’t have opened the door. If I hadn’t opened the door, I wouldn’t have been in that very mess. I realized that it is true what they say: curiosity really does kill the cat. I also came to the conclusion that I could very well sit there and ponder over the poor decisions I made, but the fact of the matter was I couldn’t change anything, no matter what, I was stuck there, and was about to be burned alive by elf and gnome people. I wanted to cry over that horrible twist of fate, but I remained strong. Soon, I heard the door slowly open. This is it, I thought to myself. Well at least, I had a fairly decent, albeit short lived existence. I was surprised to see that it wasn’t Finley who entered, or any of his flunkies. Ollie was the one who had come in, and he carefully approached me.

“I’m so sorry about all of this,” he told me with a tone of sincerity. Even though Ollie had deceived me, his apology actually appeared to be genuine, and the glum look on his face, with a blue tear streaming down his rosy red cheek, made me realize that it was. “I wanted to help you, honestly I did,” he continued. “But I couldn’t, I’m just not strong enough to have taken them on by myself. I want you to know that I really do like you, and I did, I mean I do, consider us to be friends, and I want to make it up to you by helping you now.”

I pointed to my mouth, signaling for him to remove my duct tape. He did and I responded, “It’s okay Ollie, I believe you, but I was tremendously hurt by your betrayal. I am willing to accept your apology though, as well as your help.”

“Oh, gee Maria, you have no idea how much that means to me,” he answered happily, that wide, dimpled smile returning to his face. “We have to act quickly, in order for you to get out of here safely, before they come back.”

Ollie untied me and he discreetly opened up the chamber door, first checking to see if the coast was clear for us to exit. “Nobody’s around, let’s go,” he directed. We quietly, but hurriedly went out the door, turning left down a hallway, and then ultimately exiting the chamber. We traveled to that door I was originally supposed to set foot in to return home. That time, there were no evil creatures stopping me.

“Well, thank you so much Ollie for coming to my rescue and taking me here,” I announced. “I guess this is goodbye then.”

“I guess so,” Ollie uttered sadly. We hugged farewell and I told him that I would never forget him and he promised me the same. I looked back and waved at him one last time, and thankfully, despite that unfortunate delay, turned the handle of the door and stepped inside of it, praying that it would lead me back home.

I ascended out the other side of the door, cautiously, with my eyes closed; I did not know what was awaiting me. A feeling of relief rushed over me as I saw that familiar green forest. I was back home, back in my own world and I had never felt happier or more grateful than I felt right then. One of my friends ran up to me, and was panting. Sounding of out breath she asked, “Where have you been? We’ve been looking all over for you, we were just about to call your mom and check your house.”

I was so glad to see her, to see the face of someone I knew from the human race, that I hugged her, which was very unlike me. “Are you okay?” she inquired, sounding concerned and shooting me a puzzled look.

“Yes, I am now, you won’t believe what just happened to me.” I stood there, telling her the story in about a ten minute time frame. She looked even more disturbed.

“Are you sure you’re feeling alright? We better get home; I think you need some rest.” We headed home, but neither of us said anything else. After hearing a ludicrous story like that, I didn’t blame her for thinking what I claimed was crazy. Truthfully, if I hadn’t experienced it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it either. The fact of the matter is, it did happen and it was undeniably unforgettable. Though I must admit, ever since that day, I’ve been wondering about my sanity.

What Lies Beneath…

By Nicole Murphy (Sun Valley High School)

The deep-blue lake glistened as the bright moon brought out its true color. His sparkling ocean-blue eyes burned through mine as he grinned down at me . . .

“Nicole!” my dad bellowed, causing me to wake up with a sudden jolt and fall off my bed. I quickly scrambled to my feet and I looked at the digital clock on my nightstand. It was six-thirty a.m.

“Nicole!” Dad screamed again. I heard his heavy footsteps through the hall towards my bedroom. Then, a second later, he threw the door open.

“What?” I asked groggily, sitting up in my bed. I rubbed my half-closed eyes tiredly, trying to remember the dream I just had.

“What time did you get in the house last night?” he asked me, as if I was five-years-old. “Or, should I say, this morning?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about, Dad.”  I rubbed my eyes some more.

“Oh, come on, Nicole. You know exactly what I’m talking about. What time did you get in last night and who were you with?”

I felt all of the blood in my body turn to solid ice. Oh, no, he knew and he knew well.  I only could look down at my hands as if I was a misbehaving first grader that had to sit in the corner.

“Nicole,” Dad barked again. “What did you do last night?”

I felt my ears turn a decent shade of  red as I continued to look at my hands and not answer. It was so dead silent in my room that I thought he might hit me, but I knew that he’d never do that. I felt my muscles relax the slightest bit as I somehow opened my mouth to say something.

“I was with Michael last night,” I said almost in a whisper, as if I had spoke any louder, it would shatter the wall of safety between me and my dad.  “We went to the mall, and then the movies, and then we spent the rest of the time at the park. I didn’t get home until two this morning. I’m sorry, Dad.”

My heart pounded in my chest and sweat began to accumulate at my temples. Dad definitely did not like Michael, this boy I had been seeing for a couple of months.  He got angry whenever I was even around him. He thought Michael was not good enough for me.

“You can’t see him anymore,” Dad said with such finality, it sent chills down my spine. “Go back to bed.”

“What?!” I shouted, storming out of my room behind him. “What do you mean I can’t see him anymore?  That’s so not fair!”

He didn’t turn around to glare at me.  He didn’t tell me to go back to bed.  He didn’t say anything.  He just continued down the stairs and into the kitchen for breakfast.

“Dad, I deserve an explanation. Why can’t I see Mike?  I am twenty-one years old and I deserve the right to see who I want to see!” I felt like crying. I mean who wouldn’t?

I’ve lived half of my life without a mother and it felt like I was trapped inside a small room with bullet-proof doors and windows. Dad wasn’t always this strict. Before my mom died, I recall Dad was really happy and he almost never yelled at me, except when he really needed to. Mom did all of the yelling; Dad just stood there and took my side whenever he felt I didn’t do anything wrong.

“I don’t like Michael,” Dad finally said. “At all.”  Then, without another word, he grabbed his coat and left the house for work, even though it was six-forty-five on a Sunday morning.

 *******

 “He’s so unfair! I can’t do anything around him. Now, he won’t even let me see Mike. Isn’t that so arrogant of him?” I was ranting to Stacie, my best friend from high school, the next morning when we were heading to the coffee shop before work.

“You’re the arrogant one, Nick,” Stacie said, pulling into the parking lot of the coffee shop.

“What?” I snapped. “Did you just call me arrogant?” I was shocked and in total disbelief.

“Yes,” she admitted, not afraid to confront me.  “It’s only because you are. Maybe your dad’s just trying to protect you. What if there’s something about Michael that he knows that you don’t?  That’s possible. I mean, he’s probably worried about you because your mother isn’t around anymore…”

I shook my head, undoing my seatbelt. “Don’t talk about my mother, Stacie.”  Stacie knew very well how I felt about the whole deal. She knew when I was about ten-years-old, my mother died in a tragic car accident that shattered my entire family, including mine and my dad’s world, into a thousand pieces. Considering I was so young, I barely remembered Mom, but I remembered the incident vividly. I just can’t explain what happened because I know I would never be able to finish it.

Neither of us so much as let out a breath the whole car ride to the designer’s firm where Stacie and I worked. But as soon as I got to the office, I picked up my desk phone and dialed Dad’s work number, praying that he’d answer. Dad and I haven’t spoken a word to each other since that mishap the morning before and I felt like I needed to call him.  Sadly, I only got his answering machine.

“Hello, you’ve reached Matthew Richardson’s office. Unfortunately, I’m not in right now, so if you could, leave a message and I’ll get back to you,” his deep, rough but firm voice said on the machine.

I figured it was pointless to leave a message, so I just hung up. I took my coffee, walked up the front circulation desk, and joined Stacie. “Hey,” I said in a weak voice. “Sorry about earlier. You know, in the car.”

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” she said, but I could tell in her voice and in her eyes that she didn’t mean it.

Just then, Danielle, one of my co-workers, got up from the desk. “Hey, Nicole. Michael’s on line two for you,” she said. Stacie jabbed her elbow into my side.

“Uh, good, good,” I said, getting up from the desk. “I’ll take it in my office.” My blood started to pump as I speed-walked to my office. As soon as the door was safely shut behind me, I pressed ‘2’ on my desk phone.

“Hey, babe,” his gentle manly voice greeted me on the other end and my heart rate slowed to  normal.  I twisted the phone cord nervously between my thumb and index finger.

“Hi, Michael,” I said. “I’m glad you called. I need to tell you something.”

“Cool,” he said energetically. “Shoot.”

Ah, it won’t be that easy, Michael, I thought.  “Okay. You see, I kind of got into a little argument with my dad yesterday morning and he said that we couldn’t see each other anymore.” I don’t know how, but I somehow got it out there.

It went dead silent. Just as I thought something had happened to his end of the line, I heard him take a deep breath.

“Come with me to the arboretum after you’re done work later,” he said, after about five minutes. “There’s something I want to show you.”  Then he hung up without giving me a chance to reply.

*******

Somehow, without my dad knowing, I was able to sneak out to the arboretum after work late that afternoon with Mike.

“What did you want to show me?” I asked him the second the two of us were safe in the arboretum.

“Come over here,” he said gently and he lead me on a pavement path with a bunch of dead leaves that the wind scattered in all four directions, as if by magic. He lead me through that narrow path until we reached the strangest thing I had ever seen. What he’d lead me to was a door. It wasn’t any ordinary wooden door I’d normally see in a school or something. This door was different. For instance, it was short and sort of oval shaped and it didn’t have a doorknob. It had a depressing gray color to it and it looked like it’d been there for a hundred years. 

Michael pushed open the thick, heavy door and stepped inside. “I found this place about six months ago, but I never told anybody about it,” he said, as I followed him into the heavy, humid room. Inside, the door didn’t look much better than the outside. In fact, it looked worse. There were creepy cobwebs hanging from the ceiling and loose papers and books scattered all over the floor and on random chairs. It looked like a troll lived there. It wasn’t very big inside; it was only about as big as someone’s basement, and the ceiling was so low, I would’ve knocked my head on it if I wasn’t careful.

“Ugh, Mike, this place is a mess,” I complained helplessly, trying to step around the scattered books. “How’d you find a place like this?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said thoughtfully.  “I guess I was just wandering around and I happened to find it.  Just then, a strong scent of moss lifted in the air.

“Why did you even bring me here? I told you that my dad doesn’t want me to see you anymore.”

“I know that,” he told me.  “But, it’s just that we’ll never see each other again, I might as well show you this odd door I found. Besides, I thought of my sister the second I saw this strange door and I remembered how we used to play in the woods as kids.” He chuckled.

I was taken aback. “What do you mean we’ll never see each other again? We’ll still be able to see each other in town and we can still send each other texts and e-mails!”

He shook his head.  “No, we can’t,” he said solemnly. “I’ve been meaning to tell you that I’m moving to the Big Apple in a couple of weeks. I got a big promotion at work and I’d regret it if I turned it down.”

I swear I heard my heart shatter into a million pieces just then. My stomach dropped and I swallowed a lump that had grown in my throat. “That’s great . . .” I managed to say. “That’s really great. I’m really proud of you. Two weeks, huh?”

“Yep, two weeks. But, it’s all right , you know. I’m just worried about you. Will you be okay?”

I somehow managed to nod. “Yeah, I’ll be fine,” I choked. He saw the hurt in my eyes and he hugged me tight.

“Do you really have to go, Mike?”

“If I want to keep my job, yeah, I really have to go. I’m so sorry.” He continued to hold me tight as if I was one of his childhood stuffed animals.

I didn’t even reach my driveway until at least eleven o’clock that night because Mike and I had spent the entire afternoon and most of the night in the arboretum. I just hoped Dad wasn’t awake to see that Mike and I were just sitting there in our driveway in Mike’s car.

“You kind of bummed that I’m moving to New York City?” Mike asked. I nodded, shivering in my sweater, at least until he wrapped his strong arm around my shoulders to warm them up.

Then Mike did the most unexpected thing at the moment. He leaned over in the driver’s seat and started kissing me. Everything that had happened from the morning before until that moment had washed away in that one kiss. At least, it was perfect until I heard a tap on my window. I looked over to see my dad giving the two of us a devilish grin outside the window. Uh-oh.

“Great,” I muttered to Mike.  “Not again. Look, just stay in here. I’ll deal with him, Mike.” I rolled down the window and acted like I didn’t do anything wrong.

“Yes, Dad?” I asked in my best “princess” voice.

“Get out of the car, Nicole,” he demanded. “I’ll deal with Michael.”  I unlocked the passenger side door and my dad opened the door for me.

“Don’t hurt him, Daddy,” I mumbled. He only grunted in return.

When I got into the house, I changed into my pajamas and looked out my bedroom window so I could see what was going on in the driveway. Mike’s car was gone.

I screamed to the top of my lungs and stormed down  the stairs. “Dad!” I yelled. “What did you do to Mike, Dad?!”

“Shut up, Nicole,” he snapped.  I gasped.

“Dad, do you have any idea how much Mike means to me? Any idea at all?” I asked frantically. “He’s moving to New York in a couple of weeks and I just wanted to spend some time with him.”

“No! I specifically said you cannot see him anymore. That’s that.”

“I hate you! You’re just mad about what happened to Mom and you’re taking it out on me!”

“That isn’t true, Nicole, and you know that,” Dad barked.

“Yes, it is! It totally is! And you know what? I don’t care what you think, but I’m moving to New York with Mike, whether you like or not.”

I turned to run back up to my room, but something in his deep voice made me stop dead in my tracks. “Don’t you dare.”

Tears fell down my cheeks. “You can’t do this to me, Dad. I am a legal adult and I have the right to do whatever the heck I want. I no longer belong to you! This would not be happening if Mom was still alive.”

His wry smile fell from his face and a dark shadow passed over him. “Fine, do what you want. Just remember that this world isn’t all about you.” He flew past me up the stairs and he slammed his bedroom door so hard it knocked the picture that was hanging on the wall down onto the floor.

*******

The next two weeks came and went. Dad and I only spoke a few words to each other and I didn’t talk to Michael at all.  Then, about two days before Mike had to leave for New York, I just simply could not stand the utter silence.

Around four o’clock in the afternoon one Tuesday when my dad was at work, I invited Mike over for dinner.

Mike was really only supposed to be over there for a few hours and he was supposed to leave before Dad got home from work, but things didn’t go as planned.  It’s all that stupid movie’s fault. If we didn’t watch that boring movie, then Mike and I wouldn’t have fallen asleep on the couch and Dad wouldn’t have caught us.

Not realizing that I had fallen asleep, I felt someone scratch my cheek.  “What is going on here!?” Dad yelled so loud that I fell off the couch.

“Oh, hey, Dad,” I said, sitting back up on the couch casually. “What’s up?” I frantically pulled my dark hair back into a ponytail.

“Well, it looks like someone here has been misbehaving,” he said calmly. Almost too calmly…

“Dad, it wasn’t like that,” I said hopelessly. “We were just watching a movie and we just—”

“And you just decided to fall asleep with him on the couch?” Dad finished for me.

“Mr. Richardson, I can definitely explain—” Mike tried to say, but of course, my dad had to go and interrupt him.

“I want you” Dad said firmly, but dangerously, “to never stand within twenty feet of my daughter again or I swear I’ll break your neck. You got it?”

I knew that my dad was serious when he said he’ll break his neck!

“Dad, no,” I breathed.  “You wouldn’t dare hurt him.”  Tears rushed to my eyes. I knew that Dad was only trying to protect me, but this was getting out of hand. He really didn’t like Mike.

“Go up to your room, Nicole,” Dad insisted. “I’ll be up there in a minute.” The only choice I had was to do what he said, or who knows what would happen. Dad was already fired up enough as a it was.

Dad never did come back upstairs. Or he did and I just didn’t know it. I guess I didn’t know because I was asleep the second my head hit the pillow.

*******

On Thursday, after Mike was supposed to leave for New York, I went to the door he showed me in the arboretum. The two of us had said our goodbyes secretly over the phone the day before so we wouldn’t have to go through the grief when he did leave.  I just went back to the door because I needed to be reminded of him. But something made me go into the door and I’m so glad I did. There still wasn’t anything special inside the door; it was still all messy inside. The only thing that stood out to me was a tiny black velvet box sitting on a nearby table among a zillion papers.

I rushed over and opened the box to reveal a beautiful sparkling diamond ring.  “Oh, good, you found it,” a familiar voice said from behind me.

I spun around to see Michael standing behind me, neatly dressed in a university sweatshirt and black jogging pants. His blonde hair was pushed back and he was sweating a little bit, as if he ran to the arboretum.

“What’s this?” I asked, but I knew exactly what it was and I knew exactly what he was trying to do. “How’d you find me?”

“I knew this would be the first place you’d go to after you thought I left,” he said softly.  “That ring was my great-grandmother’s engagement ring. I thought maybe you’d like it.”

“Are you proposing?” I asked, my entire body shaking.

“Yes,” he said.

“What about my dad?  He said that he’ll break your neck if you came near me again.” My heart was beating so fast, I thought it was going to jump right out of my chest.

“I talked to him today over the phone and I made a deal with him. If I promised I’d take extra care of you like the way he had, then he’d let me marry you. I don’t know how I did it, but I finally got him to trust me and he agreed to let me marry you under one condition.”

“And that is?” I asked worriedly.

“Only if you said yes and let him pay for the entire wedding.”

For the hundredth time that week, I began to cry.  But, these weren’t like the tears I shed before. No . . . these tears were different.

I nodded, totally unable to speak, and I hugged him. I nodded joyfully because I was afraid if I said anything, I’d burst into non-stop tears.

Mike slipped the ring on my left ring finger and we went out to the lake that wasn’t too far from the arboretum. The deep-blue lake glistened as the bright moon brought out its true color. His sparkling ocean-blue eyes burned through my eyes as he grinned down at me.

His lips were soft on mine as the night’s breeze whizzed past us. Then, I realized that this seemed so familiar.  But it wasn’t a dream. It was really happening and I didn’t want it to end.  All of my problems automatically lifted and it felt like I was being lifted to heaven.  Dad finally understood him and I was finally happy. For the first time in a very long time.

I love you, Romeo.

What Lies Beneath?

By Amanda Marek (Sun Valley High School)

Samantha was walking through the woods on her way home from school.  It was June 16th, and it was her last day of the 6th grade.  She was the only one from her school that had to walk through the woods everyday in order to get to her house, and everyday she would walk through the entire forest.

The hot summer sun was bright as Samantha hurried into the shaded woods. It was just another normal day. She walked on the same old dirty path. Throughout the forest, she saw the same green oak trees, and she saw the same old overgrown plants. Samantha was running, hurrying to get home for the first day of her summer vacation. As she ran, she looked down at her phone while texting her friend, making plans for the day.  Samantha was texting and running at the same time until she accidentally slammed into something. She fell flat on her back, and her phone went flying out of her hand and into the air.

“Ouch!” she yelled, as she rubbed her back. “Where did this come from?” she asked herself.

She was sitting on the ground, looking at a mysterious door that she had run into. It was sitting in front of a hill. She had never seen it before. She walked over this hill many times, and that was the first time she had ever seen this door in her life. However, it was a very old looking door. It looked as if it had been around for years. It was wooden, with grass growing all around it.

“That is so strange,” Samantha whispered. She stood up, and continued staring at the door.

Then, with a lot of curiosity, she decided to open it. Before she did so, she looked both ways, making sure no one was in sight. Then, she turned the door knob as slowly as possible. The door creaked as she opened it carefully. Samantha opened the door, and saw nothing but complete darkness. It looked like it went deep into the hill. It looked almost as if it could be a cave. Other than that, it was too dark for her to see anything.  She waited a few minutes to see if she would hear anything. She didn’t.

She took a deep breath as she tiptoed into the doorway. It was still too dark for her to see anything.  She walked back out to the bushes and picked up her phone. She used the blue light from her phone to light the way as she courageously walked deeper into the entrance.  She walked endlessly for ten minutes, and didn’t see a thing.  All she could hear was the chirping of birds from outside. Even though it was super quiet, the suspense of what she was going to find made her very nervous. She was about to turn back, until something caught the corner of her eye. She squinted as she tried her best to see what was to her right. It was another door.

“It’s another door!” Samantha silently exclaimed.  She used her phone as a helpful lighting tool again, as she held her phone up to the door. She saw a picture. It was a picture of a tree with a lot of little doors around the trunk of the tree. The doors were colorful, and very tiny. It was a very weird picture. She stood in silence for a few minutes.

Samantha held her breath again, as she opened the door. Suddenly, bright lights flashed in front of her eyes. They were bright lights from the hallway that were behind the door. Since there were pictures and lights set up, Samantha obviously knew that someone was in there. She automatically told herself to return home immediately, but her curiosity made her want to enter deeper to find out exactly what was in there.  Was it a house? Was it a random hide-out place? Has it been here all along? Does it serve a purpose?

Samantha told herself, “I’m allowed to walk a little further, but only a few more steps.” Then, she continued to walk. This time, she walked quickly. She wanted to see as much as possible, before she became even more frightened. She walked through the mysterious hallway.  Hundreds of posters and maps lined the walls of the hallway. The maps appeared to be maps of the forest. However, the posters scared Samantha. Every single picture had images of magical fairies. They looked like they belonged in a fairy-tale book. Samantha walked and walked.

“Who’s there?” a quiet voice of a man finally asked. Samantha froze. Her heart pounded. Someone was in there.

“I knew I shouldn’t have entered the door!” Samantha thought to herself.

“You can come in if you’d like,” the voice said again. Samantha’s first instinct told her to run back outside as quickly as possible. At the same time, she didn’t want to be rude and ignore the man. After all, she had already been rude. She entered someone else’s property without being invited. Samantha’s hands trembled nervously as she walked further down the hallway. It led into a very small room. Then, she saw the man. He was a man that looked as if he was in his late twenties, or early thirties.   He wore big round glasses. He was sitting in a wheelchair. The room looked as if it was a small library. Book shelves surrounded the room. It was a dark room, but lanterns lit the bookcases.  “Hello,” the man said. “What brings you here?” he asked. Samantha shrugged and tried to think of a quick answer. “I am very, very sorry! I don’t know what I was thinking! It’s just that I haven’t seen the door on the side of the hill before!  Though, I have been through these woods as far back as I can remember. I’m sorry.” The man laughed. “It’s okay. This is my home. It’s no big deal.” Samantha was scared.  At that moment, she was very worried. She couldn’t believe that it was his home. Samantha didn’t know whether he was joking, or being serious.

“Welcome,” he said politely. He grinned. “My name is Max Brookinson. It’s nice to meet you. I’m actually glad you came. I haven’t seen anyone in such a long time. It’s been many, many years. I have been living in these woods by myself for a long time. It is nice to talk to another person again.” Samantha nodded politely, but she was scared. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing! Max Brookinson continued, “My parents died in a car crash a few years ago. I’m the last one of the Brookinson family.” Max frowned and looked to the ground. Samantha began to feel bad for the man.

“I’m sorry to hear about that,” she said. Max smiled.

“It’s alright. What is your name?”

Samantha replied, “My name is Samantha. May I ask you a question?” Max finally closed the book that he was reading. The book had a picture of a fairy on it.

He said, “Sure. What is it?” Samantha looked at the book and tilted her head. She was beginning to wonder about the fairies.

“Why do you live in here?” she asked. Max leaned in close to Samantha.

“It’s a secret,” he whispered. “However, I am going to tell you! Can I trust you?” Samantha nodded. Max began talking again, “Other than the fact that I don’t have a family anymore, I am on a mission. I am on a very important mission. You see, there has been a secret discovery in my family from long, long ago. My great, great ancestors discovered something that no one else has ever seen! In fact, no one has seen it but them! No one knows it exists, except my family and me. Now I am the only one on Earth that knows about this secret!”

Samantha became anxious to know what the secret discovery was.  In fact, she was a little excited. “My family was full of great explorers and scientists, and one of them found a magical source here in this exact forest!” Samantha’s mouth dropped.

“What do you mean?” she asked. Max moved his wheelchair over to a bookcase.

“I’ll show you!” he exclaimed.

He went to one of the bookshelves. He pulled out a picture album that read, The Brookinson Family’s Discovery of the Forest. He talked as he flipped the pages, trying to find a picture. “It can grant any wish. Do you remember how I was telling you about how my parents were scientists? They built this secret house in this hill, so they could find our ancestors discovery! They wanted to find it. It was their dream to find it. They searched throughout this whole entire forest, but they just could not find it. ”

Samantha tilted her head in confusion. “Well, what is it? Also, how did your parents even know for sure that it still existed?”

 Max finally found the page he was looking for. He showed Samantha the page. Samantha saw something that she recognized. It was the same exact picture of the colorful little doors on the trunk of a huge tree. “My family recorded information about it. The information has been passed down the family for generations. Now, I have all of the information here in this lodge! Can you guess what this picture is? It is a home to a house of fairies! Of course, fairies were originally make-believe, but my ancestors found proof that they did exist!” Samantha’s eyes widened.

“Is this for real?” she asked in shock. Max grinned and nodded. “Real wish-granting fairies and magic were discovered in this forest by my family. Yes, I am telling you the truth, one hundred percent!”

“Are you searching for it?” Samantha asked.

Max looked down to the floor again, and sighed. “I want to. I really do. The thing is I don’t want to find it to get my wishes granted. I want to find it because of my family. My parents worked so hard together. They made this house, and they searched throughout this forest to find it. It was our family’s very own discovery. It was very important to them. Now that they’re gone, it would make me happy if I could continue the mission for them. However, there is only one problem. I am not a scientist, nor am I an explorer. I don’t have the knowledge that they did, in order to find the fairy house. Besides, I am in a wheelchair, so it is harder for me to move through the whole entire forest,” Max frowned again. He looked very sad. He sighed. “I just wanted to continue my family’s mission.”

Samantha felt bad for Max.  He was hidden away in the forest. He didn’t have any friends or family. It seemed like he really missed his family. The mission was very important to him. After all, he is the last person in his family. Samantha wanted to make him happy, because she felt very bad for him. She wanted to do something nice for him. Samantha smiled and said,

“I have an idea! How about this? How would you like it if I walked through the whole entire forest everyday? I can look for it. Besides, I am on my vacation, so I have a little bit of time to spare.”

Max’s face lit up. A big smile appeared across his face. “Would you really do that for me?” Samantha smiled and nodded.

“That would mean a whole lot to me!” Max exclaimed.

Samantha laughed and said, “Sure, I’ll do it!”

Max went over to Samantha, and shook her hand. “Thank you so much! You’re the nicest young girl ever!” Samantha smiled.  Then, she left the house and headed home.

The next day, Samantha woke up and told her parents she was going for a walk. She went straight to the woods. Samantha ran past Max’s door and ran into another section of the woods that she have never been before. She didn’t really know if she believed in this fairy house. After all, fairies were only make-believe characters in the books that she read when she was a little kid. However, she was happy she was doing a nice thing for a sad, lonely man. She ran while she looked around. She was basically going for a jog, while keeping her eye out for anything unusual. As she jogged in the hot weather for about 20 minutes, she came to a bridge. It was a wooden bridge lying right in the middle of the forest.  Samantha got excited. Even though it was just a bridge, it was something different and unusual! Samantha examined around the bridge. She looked around it, and under it. As she was looking under it, she saw something that was buried underneath the dirt. “Here goes nothing,” Samantha said to herself, as she laid on her stomach, extending her arm far underneath the bridge trying to get a hold of whatever the buried object was. She extended her arm as far as it could go, and finally grabbed onto it. She pulled it from the dirt, and pulled it out from underneath the bridge. It was a weird shaped object. She used her hands to brush the dirt off the object. Soon, the dirt-covered, unknown object was revealed. It was a gnome. It was a ceramic garden gnome. “That’s odd,” Samantha mumbled to herself. She ran back to Max’s door to tell him that she searched the woods for the first time, and she also wanted to make sure that he was okay.

 “Max, look what I found!” Samantha laughed as she held up the gnome. “It may or may not be a clue, but it sure is something!” She laughed again. Max was happy he had company.

“Thank you for visiting,” he said as he laughed at the gnome. Samantha shrugged as she held up the gnome.

She said, “The weird thing is that it was hidden under a bridge.  Is there anything about gnomes in the recorded information?”

Max thought for a minute. “I don’t know! I’ll look tonight though!”

Samantha nodded. “Okay! It was nice seeing you again! Tell me if you find anything about gnomes!” she laughed and added, “I’ll search again tomorrow!”

For the whole entire week, Samantha would look throughout the forest. She would take up 20 minutes of her day, searching for the fairy house. Also, Samantha would make sure she visited Max to tell him about her search. Max didn’t find anything about gnomes in the recorded information, but Samantha kept finding small garden gnomes in the dirt of the woods. Every other day, she would find a small garden gnome somewhere hidden in the woods. She would find them in the dirt, in the bushes, and she even found one in a tree-hole.

It was the eighth day of Samantha’s small search. Again, she was jogging deeper and deeper into the woods. She was listening to her iPod, until she heard a loud noise. She didn’t know what it was. She threw off her iPod and put it into her purse. It sounded like rain. However, it wasn’t raining. “It must have been loud,” Samantha told herself. “I heard it over my music!” She jogged into the direction of where the noise came from. She walked across the bridge. She walked further into the dark part of the forest. It was the place where there were a lot of huge trees. It had more trees than any other place in the forest. Samantha walked and looked all around, trying to find out where the noise was coming from. She passed all of the places where she had found the gnomes.  Then, Samantha heard it again. It sounded like a lot of rain drops hitting the side of a window. However, it still wasn’t raining. She walked for about two miles, and she still heard the noise coming from the same direction. She kept walking, and the sound began to get louder the closer she got. Samantha was walking very slowly, and calmly. Suddenly, she heard a weird buzzing noise fly past her ear. A beam of light moved past her at a very quick speed. She jumped as it flew past her unexpectedly. It moved so fast, that she couldn’t even see it clearly. It looked like a large lightening bug from what she could see. Her heart was pounding.  All of the sudden, she was questioning whether she believed in the secret discovery or not.

Samantha chased after it. It had a dim gold light to it. It looked as if it sparkled with the sun, as the sun shown through the tree leaves. Samantha continued to chase after it. Samantha grew very excited, even though she felt like a little kid chasing after what may or may not be a fairy. She pulled out her phone’s camera, in case she wanted to record anything for Max. Samantha ran for as long and as fast as she could. Soon, she became lost in the forest. She didn’t know where she was going. All she knew was that she was following the mysterious gold light. Samantha ran until she lost her breath and her legs became tired. She stopped, gasping for her breath.

BOOM!  The sound of thunder echoed throughout the forest.  It started raining. Samantha screamed, as she became wet. She pulled her hood over her head, but she continued chasing after the light. “I have to see what it is!” Samantha exclaimed as she ran through the rain. Samantha ran faster and faster. She jumped over bushes and dodged under tree branches. The light stopped a couple feet in front of her. Samantha ran after it, but she lost her balance and slipped in the mud. She fell into a creek. Samantha screamed on the top of her lungs. She couldn’t believe what just happened. She coughed and trembled from the cold creak. She climbed out. Her clothes were full of mud. She wanted to give up. If it wasn’t anything special, she would be so embarrassed for herself. The light started moving again. She had to make a decision quickly. She wanted to go home, but her feet started moving in the direction of the light again. “It’s too late to give up now,” Samantha thought to herself.  The light sparkled in the dark forest. Samantha starred at it. She looked at it, and found out that it had wings. Amazingly, like a fairy, the wings sparkled.

Soon, lightening was covering the sky. Samantha ran faster. She was running in the direction of the fairy, but she was actually hoping she was almost out of the woods. Samantha was now trying to find a way out of the forest. The sky flashed with lightening, and the glowing light with wings flew unbelievably faster. Samantha watched as the light flew into something at the very end of the woods. Samantha rubbed her eyes, wiping water from them. She felt weak and tired, but she decided to finish her long journey. Samantha walked slowly, and she walked towards the light. She was approaching it. It was completely still on the ground. 

Soon, Samantha was standing two feet away from the light. It looked exactly like a fairy. Samantha soon decided that it was actually a real fairy. Samantha’s mouth dropped open.  She stood there in shock. She didn’t know what to do, so she just watched it. Soon, the rain slowed down, and it finally came to a stop. The fairy flew into a tree. It was the tree with the doors! Samantha’s eyes widened. She didn’t know what to do. It was so exciting for her, but shocking at the same time. She couldn’t believe her eyes. Soon, glowing light escaped through every little entrance way of each little door. Sparkling silver light gleamed all around the tree. Gold dust slowly flew into the air, surrounding the tree. The tree was glowing. It was glowing so much; Samantha figured people could see it from miles away.

“I can’t believe this!” Samantha whispered under her breath. She covered her mouth. “Wow,” she whispered.  Then, she heard several versions of the noise that she heard before. The rain noises that Samantha heard were the fluttering of the wings. She watched as fairies flew together in a group out of the tree, and flew away at a fast speed into the sky. They looked like they were moving at the speed of light. Samantha looked up. She watched as the fairies disappeared into the sky. She couldn’t believe what she just saw.

“That was unbelievable!” Samantha exclaimed out loud.

“Yes, it was,” said a voice coming from behind her.

 It was Max. Max’s eyes were widened, just like Samantha’s. Samantha jumped up and down.

“Can you believe it?” Samantha asked. She was still shocked from what she had just witnessed.

“I know, I saw the whole thing,” Max replied. “I thank you, Samantha. You searched these woods everyday. You didn’t think the fairy house existed. I know you didn’t. You were doing it for me. Thank you so much, Samantha. You’re a very nice person,” Max smiled to Samantha and reached out his arms to hug her.

 Samantha smiled and said, “You’re welcome. How did you get here, anyway?”

Max replied, “It took me a long time to finally catch up with you, but I followed you. It took me a long time, but I needed to tell you something. It turns out, the gnomes secretly led to the fairy house. My ancestors buried them in the direction to the fairy house.” Max held out an opened book, and showed Samantha the information.

“It was hidden in the basement,” he added. Samantha laughed.

“I thought the gnomes had something to do with it! Anyway, I can’t believe what we just saw! I recorded it on my phone and everything! I will never forget this summer! I thought this was just an ordinary forest. I mean, I would walk through these woods everyday after school since the third grade.”

Max gave Samantha a jacket and said, “I know. You never know when something is hidden right in front of your own eyes. Thank you again, Samantha. Anyway, you should go home. I hope you’re not sick!”

Samantha walked over to the fairy house and looked inside, “Before we go, I want to know something. What about the wishes? The fairies are gone!”

Max threw his hands into the air and said, “After what I just saw, I’m not that disappointed about not getting the wishes. I got to finish my parent’s most important mission. Besides, I actually did get one wish out of all of this.”

Samantha looked to Max. “What is that?” she asked.

Max smiled and answered, “A very good friend.”