We had so many great entries that we decided to publish the runners-up, whose stories are also wonderful. Here they are, in no particular order. Please give these gifted young writers some love in the comments! -- Anne and Ellen
"At one point in this journey you’re gonna wish you had gone down the left path. What were you thinking?" said the nagging little voice in my head.
I had to admit, my voice of reason spoke the truth. It’s dark. It’s cold. I was lost, and I don’t know where my friends’ cottage is. There are seven of them and I was supposed to cook dinner for them, but I haven’t even seen daylight in two hours.
Getting home before supper was going to be virtually impossible. And in an enchanted forest, anything can happen. Fairies could kidnap me. Giants could beat me and take me to their cave.
There was a story in the Gazette a few days ago about a woman getting snatched by a couple of little dwarfs. Considering the fact that dwarfs are only three feet tall, the whole story just scared me.
I quickened my stride and ran blindly ahead, trying to catch a glimpse of something . . . anything . . . that looked familiar. Something that could guide me home.
It all started when I was walking down the path and met that old lady. She was all hunched over like she had some sort of back pain. She only had one eye and her single tooth sparkled in the moonlight. She winked at me and beckoned me closer with one crooked finger. Not thinking, I took a few steps forward and stopped a few yards away.
"What are you doing?" My voice of reason screeched, "Are you insane?"
Ignoring the voice for a moment; I summoned all of my strength and called out,
“What do you want?”
“You seem lost.” The old lady stated, smiling.
“No, not really.” I shrieked, trying to keep cool without success. “I was just trying to get home for dinner. My accomplices can’t cook. They’re waiting for me to get home.”
"Stupid! Why would you tell a complete stranger all of that?!"
“You make dinner? For how many people?”
“Just seven. It seems like a lot, but I’ve gotten used to it.”
“Your name is Snow White, isn’t it?”
My heart stopped. How did she know my name? I’ve said too much. I began to back away towards the pathway that would lead me away from this crazed old lady.
“Don’t go off now: I was just going to offer you a present.” From underneath her cloak, she pulled out a basket. Something red and shiny gleamed in the faint moonlight. I craned my neck to see what it was.
“Aren’t you eager?” Her face broke into a toothy grin, “Don’t get too excited. They’re just apples. Plain and simple apples. Would you like to take these back to your friends? I have enough to share. I just picked them fresh off of the tree this morning.”
“All right . . . thanks.” I stepped forward and snatched the basket from her bony hands.
She smiled again and said in a throaty voice, “Have a nice journey.”
My blood pounded in my veins and my heart was doing a mile per minute.
“And, since you want to get home by dinner . . .” she trailed off, pointed to the pathway that led towards the right: “I would suggest taking this pathway instead off the left. Gets you home quicker so you can make a pie out of those apples for dinner.”
I nodded feverishly, and swallowed. The old lady smirked. She turned around without another word and disappeared into the dark shrubbery. I blinked once, then turned around and took the right path towards home.
It was now hours later, and the supposed “shortcut” was taking me nowhere. I wished I had gone down the left path. I wished that I hadn’t even listened to that stupid witch in the first place.
I panted and clutched my stomach. It was hours since I had eaten last. There was a gust of wind and I shivered. I sat down on the ground and curled up into a ball to try and conserve whatever body heat I had left.
Several minutes passed in silence. I listened to the birds twitter and the wind push through the branches above me. My voice had been quiet for the past while, but it suddenly piped up and yelled at me angrily: “This is getting ridiculous. Stand up! Don’t be a wimp! You’ve got to keep moving, or at least go back the way you came! Get up you lazy witch!”
I shivered, and tried to sit up. When I did, my stomach pained doubled and I hunched over again, squeezing my eyes shut and waiting for it to stop. I fell back down to the ground again and whimpered softly. The voice clucked in my head and whispered, “You’ll have to get up eventually, you know.”
“Shut up.” I moaned. My head pounded. If only I had something to eat . . .
The apples! I quickly grabbed the basket and picked out one apple. I held it up to the moonlight and squinted. It hovered like an orb in my hand, glistening temptingly.
The voice suddenly screamed through the silence: “Don’t eat it!!!”
My stomach moaned, beckoning me to eat the only food for miles. I held the apple to my lips; took a deep breath and sunk my teeth into it. My teeth broke the delicate skin and the sweet juice flowed over my tongue. But something was wrong. Something tasted funny. It burned. My tongue burned. It was on fire. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t see. I was blind. The poison of the apple trickled down my throat and I opened my mouth to scream . . .
But nothing came out.
I flumped to the ground and struggled to keep my eyes open. A long shadow, a shadow of a human . . . loomed over me, blocking everything from view. Then everything went black.
The voice was right all along . . .
By Rosalie, age 11
I had been staring at it for quite a while.
It was a hat. A faded, torn fishing hat, probably left by a careless hiker. Nothing more, nothing less. Just a hat.
It was obviously something not worth debating.
“Why are you staring at a hat,” said my brother. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. I hated when he did that.
“I dunno,” I said. “There's something special about it,”
“It’s a hat,”
“I know that,”
“What’s so special about it? I mean, other than it’s a hat.”
It was official: my very own brother was as sentimental as a cactus.
“It’s a special hat, that’s what.” I said.
He laughed at me.
“Alyssa, get over here already!” said the distant voice of my mother, already getting farther and farther away from my position at the trailhead.
“Coming!” I yelled back. I hesitated for a moment, then scooped up the hat and started running to catch up with her.
We kept hiking for a few minutes longer, watching the small trickle of passersby. I turned over the hat in my hands, and stopped when I found the writing on the inside. “If found please return to 208 Cranberry Road.”
I remembered exactly what had happened at 208 Cranberry Road. I was seven years old at the time. It must have been during the holidays, because I had gotten out of bed early that morning to hand out Christmas cookies to people on our block “all by myself,” my mother in tow.
If I had known . . . I never would have gotten out of bed.
Everyone was enchanted with the little girl with bright green eyes and bouncing curls. You can laugh all you want about my ballooning ego, but hey, I was taking it all in.
And then we got to the house on the corner. 208 Cranberry Road.I remember the door opening. A man opening it. Yelling. A door being slammed in my face.
There were rumors about him. One day, a kid on the block had been kicking around a soccer ball. He kicked it into the man’s lawn, and the next minute, there was the man, yelling at him.
The man at 208 was a kind of a legend. No one went near him, and he didn’t go anywhere near anyone else.
That man was standing in front of me right now. I braced myself for the door slam. I was less scared than I had been four years ago, but getting a door slammed in my face wasn’t my idea of a walk in the park, nor was it a pampering of the ego. I clutched the fishing hat in my hand, the words playing in the back of my head were something like, “idiot.” To think that I would go up to the man who lived on 208 Cranberry Road again was revolting. The fact that I had gone back to return a stupid fishing hat, of all things, was even more revolting.
I tried not to make eye contact with the man in the doorway so that he might not be able to see who I was. I was about to duck out from the doorway and leave without another word, when a little boy, probably about five, came up from behind the man and tugged at his arm.
“She has my favite hat, gwanpa!” he said. For a second, I was confused. The little boy came up, snatched the hat out of my hand and jammed it onto his head. He then reached up to grab the man’s hand.
“I see she does, Felix,”
I was startled with the man’s voice. It wasn’t anything like what I had remembered. It was warm and inviting.
“Thank you for returning this to my grandson,” he said.
I sat there, my mouth hanging wide open. When I finally regained enough sense to close it, the questions started piling up.
“What? Who? How?” I stuttered.
“His name is Felix,” he said. “My grandson. Long lost. Recently found.”
The man reached down and patted the boy’s head.
“Thank you. Good day.” The man closed the door behind him. Through the window, I could see him walking away from the door with his grandson.
Snow White vs. the Seven Dwarfs
by Kate M., age 10
"Queenie the Gypsy: Palms Read, Fortunes Told, NON-Homework-Related Questions Answered. $5 A Session," Cassie read the sign, and thought, "Well, I do have $5 . . . Okay, I'll do it!"
She entered the shop. Lavish, glittering drapes of red and purple decked the room. Scented candles perfumed the air. Flickering lanterns created an eerie red glow. And seated at the center of the room, there was Queenie herself, with crystal ball in front of her.
"Sit down, SIT DOWN!" the old woman ordered the now-reluctant Cassie. "Money, please. Thank you. Okay, at one point on this journey you’re gonna wish you had taken the left path. Now scat."
Well, obviously Cassie felt as if she did not get her money's worth. To her, one random blurt was NOT worth five bucks. They argued over the fee until the gypsy gave in, promising a full refund, IF Cassie assisted her stepdaughter, who was a counselor. The gypsy woman instructed Cassie to help "Snow" with "seven little brats.”
Queenie led her to a back door that opened into a forest and pushed her out.
Cassie walked and walked until she reached a fork in the path. To the left were dark skeletal trees, human screams, and the stench of rotting flesh. To the right were beautiful flowers, joyous music, and the smell of freshly baked cookies.
"That hag is nuts if she thinks I'll ever want to go down THAT horrid path!" Cassie thought. So she moseyed down the right path.
As she trotted along, whistling a tune, her foot stumbled on something wet. The trodden-upon item was a fresh apple core. "This," she deduced, "must be a sign that someone is nearby." She called out into the woods. No answer. She noticed a rocky cave. Since it would be dark soon, Cassie decided to venture inside to see if she could find anyone, and ask for bed and board.
She stepped into the cave and called again. This time, she could see a light coming towards her. As it drew nearer, she could see a person holding a lantern.
That is, if it could be called a "person".
The grotesque figure stood 20 feet tall. He wore a pointy hat and had a beard stained yellow with food, though it must have been white. He wore old-timey clothes that had worn into rags.
But Cassie had no time to contemplate that mutant's appearance, for six more followed him. Two seconds later, she was tearing like heck out of there, with seven mutants in hot pursuit. Screaming all the way back to the fork in the road, Cassie silently apologized to the old gypsy woman for not believing her. Hanging a right, she ran into the dark forest. On and on she ran, until she was sure that she had lost them.
Suddenly, she spotted a miniscule cottage among the trees. Cassie bent over and knocked. An eye peeked through a tiny low window. The eye disappeared and someone said, "All clear!"
The door opened; Cassie stooped and tip-toed inside. The moment she entered, she had the curious feeling of walking into a dollhouse. Everything was miniature, wooden, and home-made; INCLUDING the kitchen sink!
"Ahem!" Cassie spun around to see two people, a man and a woman. The woman, more beautiful than an angel, had hair blacker than night, lips redder than blood, and skin whiter than snow. The man, just as beautiful, had wavy golden locks and abs that made body-builders look like weaklings. Cassie thought that they were glorious. That is, until the man opened his mouth.
"What, no gifts?" he complained, receiving a sharp slap from the woman.
"Well," Cassie thought. "One out of two.”
She asked the people if they knew someone named Snow.
"I am Snow," the woman said, "Snow WHITE, that's me!"
The man was Charming, Charm for short. They told Cassie how Snow's step-mom had given Snow a poison apple, but seven dwarfs ate it to protect Snow. The apple mutated them into monsters and they were destroying the forest. Charm proclaimed that killing them was "men's work" and ordered the women to stay and clean. Three minutes after he left, the women grabbed swords and followed.
They arrived just in time to see Charm getting eaten by the giant Snow recognized as Dopey.
"Good riddance," mumbled Snow, as the battle began.
Cassie had no idea what to do except to swing her sword around in all directions. Surprisingly, this tactic worked extremely well, because she was the weakest. In an hour, there were six dwarfs down.
The last dwarf standing was Dopey, and he was NOT in a good mood. Snow lunged at him; he swatted her away like a pesky fly. She hit the ground hard, out cold. He sneered, and advanced on Cassie like a lion to lunch. Cassie fearfully stuck up her sword and braced herself. After two whole minutes of bracing, she opened her eyes. Miraculously, he had tripped and fallen, impaling his heart on a sharp boulder. Snow, who had just now come to, asked Cassie if they should bring Queenie a "hunting trophy".
Queenie looked up from her tarot practice as her step-daughter entered the shop.
"Oh bother," she thought, turning red. "What could SHE be here for?"
Snow turned as Cassie lurched into the store, carrying a moist paper bag. Snow revealed its contents; 'twas Dopey's head.
"Uh-oh, 'tis time to skedaddle," Queenie thought. She transformed into a crow and flew out the window, right into a hungry hawk's beak. Bidding Snow farewell, Cassie skipped home, wondering how on earth she could explain to her mother why she was TWENTY FOUR HOURS late!
And Snow lived happily (and Charm-lessly) ever after!
by Mehr R., age 11
The rusting black tram kept on coming closer, closer, closer. I knew we would collide this time. I could see the crooked nosed, light haired driver with a determined look in his blue eyes. The tram was an inch from my nose . . .
My eyes flew open. I kept on having that same dream, and the train got closer every time. I grabbed my glasses off the windowsill.
I heard my mother’s voice coming from downstairs. “Amelia! Summer vacation doesn’t mean you can sleep forever! You said you would return my library books!” she called.
I sighed and looked out the window. The sky was a beautiful light blue, and the grass was green as ever. It wasn’t raining, and I really had no reason not to go. I heaved myself off the bed and slipped into jeans and a t-shirt.
I skipped down the stairs, and chugged a banana milkshake my mom had made for me and set on the table. My mom gave me one of her “you’re so sweet” smiles. I just wanted to go for a walk and think about the dream.
I looked down at one of the cookbooks I was returning for my mom-“Oh NO! Ravioli AGAIN!” I dropped them into my blue tote bag, and headed for the library.
It was convenient living near the library, as I rather liked books. I pushed up my glasses, and pulled my dark black hair back into a ponytail. I felt an odd breeze, too cold for summer. I reached into my bag, remembering my woolen scarf I left there in the winter.
After walking the few blocks to reach the library, I pushed open one of its large wooden doors. I knew the librarian Victoria well, and I didn’t have time for a conversation. I rushed over to the returns bin and dumped the books in. On my way out, I saw a news article clipped out and put on the “Interesting Reads” pinboard by the entrance. It was about how sometimes recurring dreams are a sign of something soon to happen. I scoffed to myself.
Just as I was crossing a road, something didn’t seem to see me. A dark tram was coming at full speed towards me, driven by a crooked nosed, light haired driver with a determined look in his light blue eyes.
The Mysterious Forest
by Brian S., age 11
“We really shouldn’t be out here, dude,” said Charles Fertago to his brother, Connor.
The day wasn’t that bad, Connor thought to himself. The clouds were balanced across the sky, the sun was only partially hidden by them, and the wind was muffled by the trees of the enormous forest that lay ahead of them.
“Oh come on, you wimp. I told Mom and Dad we might be out for a while. Besides, it was your idea - you wanted to make your documentary on the ‘mysterious forest,’”
Connor thought that calling him a wimp might get him to cooperate, and he was right.
“Fine, I’ll do it, because I’m not a wimp.”
So the two boys started down the path until there came a fork in the road.
“Let’s go right,” Connor said
“Why should we go right?” argued Charles.
“Because I’m right handed and I’m the oldest,” answered Connor
“Only by a minute!” said Charles, frustrated.
“So! By how much older I am doesn’t matter, the point is I’m the oldest and we’re going right”
“Whatever,” Charles muttered
“Come on, I want to explore more before it gets dark!”
Connor took off running at top speed with Charles right on his heels, but they'd only gone twenty yards when Connor stopped very suddenly and Charles very nearly knocked him over.
“Hey doofus, why did you stop?” said Charles as he carefully examined his newly bleeding knee.
“Have you ever seen a glowing apple core before, Charles?” asked Connor.
“No, why?” Charles replied.
“Then I’ve got something for your documentary up ahead on the path,” said Connor, his mind working on how in the world an apple could glow.
“What are you talking about . . .Oh.”
“I’m sorry, did that apple core just speak?” said Charles, in total disbelief.
“Yes, I’m pretty sure it did,” said Connor, who at the moment was rubbing his eyes. “Who are you,” he said to the apple core.
“I am the spirit Radia inside of an apple core, what does it look like?” Said the apple core.
“I’ve never heard of Radia,” said Charles. “Why are you here,” he asked.
“Well of course you've never heard of me. None of the Greeks or Romans ever cared enough about me to have a story about me in their precious myths, so nobody knows who I am. I am Radia, the Goddess of the future. As for why I’m here, I’ve come to warn you about the path that lies ahead.”
“What lies ahead?” asked Charles.
“Danger. Trust me, at one point on this journey your going to wish you had down the left path,”
“Ha! I told you we should have gone left, I told you!” Charles said triumphantly.
“Now I must be on my way, good luck, and goodbye.”
Then the apple core simply disappeared, and the boys took off down the path.
They ran forever, right up until their knees buckled underneath them and their stomachs had cramps, but strangely, Connor felt the need to keep going. So he got up, but then the weirdest thing happened. The world seemed to drop away. Connor could feel himself start to fall. He reached out for his younger brother, but Charles was nowhere to be found. Connor screamed out one more desperate call of “Charlie!!!” but everything was already black.
Connor woke up covered in a thick layer of sweat, thankfully in his own bed, in his own house. To his surprise, he found Charles sitting by his bed.
“What did you dream about Connor?” asked his little brother.
“I had a nightmare, you were there, we were in an-”
“Enchanted forest?” said Charles.
“Yes,” answered Connor, “How did you know?”
“I think we shared a dream. I had the same thing. It must be a twin thing.”
But then they both saw it at the same time, a faint light coming from an apple core. It was glowing blue.
Charles smiled at his brother and said, “Let’s go left this time”
Connor grinned back at Charles as he realized what had happened. That dream was somewhat real, up until the black hole, he hoped.
“That,” he said, already moving toward the apple, “is the best idea I’ve heard all night.”