Back in October, we put out the call for creative writing on the theme of Portals. Some 23 young writers enthusiastically responded – eighteen in the 3rd-5th grade category and six in the 6th-8th grade group. We were treated to a rich array of stories on topics as diverse as fairy tale romances, healing potions, mysterious fogs, video game mash-ups, evil masterminds, and some tremendous world building overall! Believe us – with so many great stories to read, judging among them was a challenge.
And (drum roll, please), the winners of The Writers Circle’s Creative Writing Contest for Kids are:
3rd-5th Grade Winners
- First Place – “The Stranger in the Basement” by Charles C., grade 5
- Second Place – “One Day When….” by Teagan H., grade 4
- Third Place – “The Mysterious Fog” by Somya M., grade 3
6th-8th Grade Winners
- First Place – “Portal” by Ambika S., grade 7
- Second Place – “The Maze” by Aarav P., grade 6
- Third Place – “Sweet! A Gun!” by Hannah F., grade 8
(To protect the privacy of our young writers, we only use partial names.)
These six writers are the lucky recipients of:
- First Prize – a free winter workshop at any of our five locations
- Second Prize – a complete set of TWC’s Story Magic Decks
- Third Prize – our Plotfoolery Writing Adventure game
Congratulations to all our young writers. And we’re delighted to give you the opportunity to read our two First Prize winners. Enjoy!
FIRST PLACE WINNER – 3rd-5th Grade
THE STRANGER IN THE BASEMENT
by Charles C.
I thought I had a normal house. But can your house really be normal when it was built by J. Edgar Hoover? Not really. After all, Hoover was the first director of the FBI. He built our house but had never lived in it himself. It was a huge redwood mansion, and it was really fancy. Of course, Mom is a lawyer and Dad created a major search engine, like Google. Buying a redwood mansion designed by the creator of the FBI? They talk about it like it just cost a buck.
Anyway, the mansion is huge! I’m talking, like, I get lost in it. I find new rooms and hallways all the time! The kitchen alone is the size of a normal house. Chefs bustle around, making fancy dishes on ivory and gold plates.
Yesterday, I was walking to the T.V. Room when I noticed an Iris Biometric Identification System. That’s like a really hardcore electric lock. I looked into it and a laser shot out of it and scanned my eye. It beeped and a whole portion of the wall slid open. A set of ivory steps ran down into the darkness….
Well, what was I supposed to do? I started down the staircase. Automatic lights flicked on as I passed them. After what felt like forever, I reached the bottom.
I walked into the room. All the lights flickered on. Thick layers of stainless steel coated the walls. Oaken crates lined the walls. Stamped on the crates in fancy ink were the names of different precious metals: GOLD, CHROMIUM, STEEL, SILVER, TUNGSTEN, PLATINUM. The list went on and on. Other crates were filled with money, gemstones, technology, artifacts, and other riches. I peeked into one of the GOLD crates. It was filled with gold bars!
At the end of the hallway was a steel door. I stepped up to it and it hissed open. There were more crates, but bigger and labeled in the name of military supplies: HYDROGEN BOMB, ATOMIC BOMB, NUCLEAR BOMB, COMMON DYNAMITE, STUN GUNS, and so on. Tanks, armored vehicles, U.S. Air Force planes, and even NASA Space Shuttles were in this room.
Then the problems started.
Crackling laughter filled the room. Evil laughing, the kind of laugh you laugh in triumph when you thwart your enemy. There were clanging noises as a stranger entered. The man who stood there had no human legs, but mechanical spider legs instead. A large abdomen spit out steel cables. The man’s “legs” were moving with his abdomen, forming a metal net.
“Who are you?” I stammered.
The man glared at me. “I am Aranchus. Cross me, and things may not turn out as you want them to. Do what I say, and you might be lucky.”
“What do you want?” I asked, trembling in fear. “I will cooperate.”
“You will if you know what’s good for you,” Aranchus snapped. “Now, open that crate of steel and bring me ten rods.”
I ran over to the crate and pried the side off, splintering my hands. I gasped in pain. Selecting the metal bars was easy. Getting them across the room and into the next? Not quite. After pushing, heaving, and lugging for ten long minutes, I wiped the sweat from my brow. I couldn’t escape now. Glancing over at the staircase, I saw it was covered by a steel web. No way out.
“How about fifteen rods of titanium? And maybe four rods of tungsten? Yes, that would be sufficient.” Aranchus smiled a knowing smile.
The tungsten was heavy. Try carrying it sometime. Rough job. After hours of labor, bringing alkalis and alloys to Aranchus, I finally collapsed.
“I can’t do any more sir, I can’t!” I held up my blistered, scabbed, splintered hands.
Aranchus sneered at me. “Not a problem,” he spat. He turned away and his metal legs busied themselves with other tasks. Sparks flew. Metals became runny lava and solidified. Heat radiated off his metal legs. Finally, he let out a triumphant cry. His spidery legs parted to reveal a steel cannon with metallic cannonballs.
Aranchus scuttled into the riches room, stuffing sacks full of gemstones, money, and precious metals, and tying them to his belt. He sped back into the weaponry room. Aranchus held up a leather pouch labeled Black Powder. He grinned and dropped it into the shiny cannon. He struck a match, turned the cannon to face the ceiling, and dropped the match into the cannon. There was a hissing noise and a BANG! as the ceiling blasted apart. Aranchus turned up his abdomen, shooting metal coils into the trees. He retracted his wire, sending him up and away into the leaves. He was gone.
I ran. I mean, what was I supposed to do? Stand there and wait for the vault to collapse on me? Probably not. I ran out of the vault and up the stairs, but the walls were sealed. Instead, the hallway rotated, facing me with another passageway. I ran down it and slammed into a wall. Unfortunately, it was at the precise moment that the wall slid open, tossing me onto the ground of the kitchen. Odd.
Security wasn’t hard to find. I mean, all you have really do is trip and a bunch of guards run up to you. I yelled “Security!”
Sure enough, ten guards were at my side, like they knew I would call them. “The stranger! In the trees! Get him!”
The guards held up their stun guns and reloaded them. They rushed out of the doors. Alarms blared and red lights swooped around the room. I ran out onto the front lawn, where a ballistic missile shot out of the grass, demolishing the redwood tree in front of me. There was a yelp as Aranchus sailed out of the tree and into the yard, his legs white hot. As he limped away from the guards, one of them held up an Iapetus anti-circuit gun and fired. A blast of energy shot into Aranchus’s legs, frying the mechanical work of it. The thief collapsed, exhausted.
So Aranchus was caught and taken into custody. He was stuck in jail for ten years, and upon release was distraught to find that no hospital, mechanic, or prosthetics expert was willing to make him new legs. He spent the rest of his life disabled and miserable. He was imprisoned many times after that for various reasons, such as smuggling, fighting in the streets, and government burglary.
The basement was searched and investigated, locked with an extremely sophisticated lock. It was left that way ever since, leading everybody except me to forget it existed. As for me, I will always remember that adventure. Alas, that was not the last excitement that that basement ever saw….
FIRST PLACE WINNER – 6th-8th grade group
by Ambika S.
The doorway of the school opened and the children burst into the stinking, repulsive streets. All of them were dressed with the scraps of frayed, filthy linen that was all their mothers could spare. A small 12-year-old girl named Zsófia was one of them. Her bare feet slapped the ground as she ran home, eager to escape the gritty smell of smoke and muck that settled in her nostrils, refusing to dislodge.
She and the rest of the children were running somewhere, be it to the little roofs under which homeless people sheltered or, if they were fortunate enough, to their houses.
Zsófia had a house. She was running to it now, nearing the afternoon sun. Toward the frontier, though she would never make it that far. She could see the wall that separated the east and west now, guarded by soldiers at the doors.
Zsófia looked longingly at those doors, those doors which led to the light and goodness of the western country, though she couldn’t see it. She stopped running, almost dropping her torn and bedraggled books as she watched, speechless. A family walked toward those doors. They looked terribly poor, but one of them presented something to a guard. And the guard let them through.
They left to the marvelous country in the west: the Maschflik. That was what the Easterners, the Podcrik, called it. Zsófia longed to go through one of those doors so much it hurt.
But there was no way they would be authorized to leave the Podcrik. The east was where she lived, and where she was forced to stay. Once, she heard, it had been a beautiful place, where light and love had triumphed as it did in the west.
But that was over now. The Podcrik was in shatters ever since the old government failed. Zsófia mourned the loss of her happiness as she slowly began to walk again. The guard had closed the door. There was nothing more to see.
She thought of all the other times she had watched people go through those doors. The sight of them leaving brought a painful lump to her throat. It hurt because she was left behind.
She walked back to her house. The concrete walls were splattered with muck and cracked in places, but they were there, solid, almost comforting.
Zsófia was glad to be back, and as she walked inside a new stench greeted her: the smell of her 15-year-old brother, Jackriel. He was deformed, born with much of his flesh gone from his leg.
Today was one of his bad days, and he lay back on the wall, breathing slowly, trembling with pain. Pus oozed from his leg and the filthy covers showed it. It dripped on the floor. Blood mingled with it. But, as always, he was happy to see Zsófia.
“Lánytestvér!” he murmured. Dearest, he was saying. “Come.”
She walked to his side and knelt.
“How much pain?” she asked.
“More than usual,” he said. “Mama has gone to find linen and food.”
“Try to ignore it,” Zsófia said sadly. “We learned about grass today since we’ve been so hungry. Do you hear, Jackriel? Grass? Remember the stories? How it’s on the other side of the wall?”
“Yes, I remember, legkedvesebb,” he said, smiling. “I remember how it’s supposed to be soft.”
“Yes,” Zsófia whispered. “We learned how it grows.”
Since her brother could not go, Zsófia would teach him what she had learned every day after school. It distracted him from his pain. Jackriel was about to reply when Mama walked in.
“Ah, gyermek, you’re home,” Mama said in her harsh voice. “Help me take care of your brother.”
Zsófia obeyed at once, partly for her Mama, but mostly for Jackriel. Mama was usually kind, but she whipped Zsófia if she was disobedient. Mama’s whippings hurt.
Mama was holding a strip of paper, probably a scrap of newspaper she’d found on the ground. Mama couldn’t afford to buy her own newspaper.
Zsófia was about to tear it into pieces to lay on the wound when she read some of it.
“Mama!” she cried. “This is no newspaper!”
“What is it then?” Mama asked.
“This is a ticket!” she cried. “A ticket to the Maschflik!”
Mama couldn’t read, so she hadn’t known.
“Give it to me!” Mama yelled, snatching it. She grew pale and sat on the ground.
“We could leave!” Zsófia cried. “We could! We could really leave!”
“Lánytestvér,” Jackriel groaned. “Quiet.”
“No, Jackriel,” Zsófia said, shaking him. “We’re leaving, aren’t we, Mama?”
Mama came back to herself and said, “Yes! We are! We can!”
“Oh!” Zsófia cried, a thought coming to her. “Jackriel can’t walk to the wall. We’ll have to carry him, won’t we, Mama?”
“Oh, yes,” Mama said absentmindedly. “Let’s go! Now!”
Zsófia ran around the little room for joy. It was all so quick she could hardly believe it.
“Now?” she asked.
“Yes, child, now,” Mama said. “You carry Jackriel’s head, and I will carry his legs.”
Zsófia was glad she didn’t have to carry her brothers’ legs. She supported his head and Mama took up his legs, and together they carried him out the empty doorway. The people who sat around outside their homes looked at them curiously. None of them said a word. They were all too steeped in their own misery to care.
Zsófia and Mama carried Jackriel to the wall. The soldiers attempted to halt them at the door.
“Stop!” one of them said, brandishing a spear.
Mama thrust the ticket at him.
“Here,” she said roughly.
He scrutinized it, searching it, even smelling it, in case it was a forgery. Zsófia crossed her fingers. Finally, he gave a grunt, stepped back, and opened the door.
Jackriel gasped in wonder as the light shone through it. They carried him through. Zsófia couldn’t make a sound. She was so happy for that door, that beautiful door that was the portal to happiness and light and everything else that would make life worth living.
As soon as they went through, the door swung shut behind them. Zsófia, dazzled by the beauty, stared out at the gorgeous green mountains and lake that lay in the distance and basked in the rays from the setting sun.
And the grass, soft on her bare feet, felt better than any of the streets in the Podcrik. The smell of daisies wafted toward her on the gentle breeze, relieving her nose of the stink of the Podcrik. Zsófia thought she was the luckiest girl in the world.
There was a village by that pretty lake, and people were milling around it, laughing and gay. Zsófia didn’t know what they were saying, but whatever it was, it was cheerful.
“It’s beautiful,” Jackriel said.
There had never been less pain in his voice. Zsófia looked back at the wall and the pain that they had left behind and then looked forward, to the glorious hills and sunlight and her hopes for a future.