I’m back with two more stories I wrote for Loren’s CWWC challenge! Thank you so much for your sweet comments on the last stories – and I’m going to continue the second one, at least, so be looking for that after I finish this series. Now! Challenge 3:
“Are we almost there yet?” I whined to Mom and Dad. We’d been driving in our blue sedan for hours, supposedly to our new house. The landscape out my window was very different from the scenery I was used to, but not interesting enough to keep me from asking my parents every few minutes if we were getting close. Besides, the scenery was different, but not in a good way. This particular highway ran along a rather dry and scrubby piece of land. It reminded my of my archenemy, peanut butter sandwich crackers. Mom got them every so often from the grocery store, despite my telling her repeatedly that I hated them, and she always made Dad and I eat them so we “wouldn’t waste good food.” Unfortunately, Dad liked peanut butter crackers, so I had no one on my side. But I digress.
“No, Julia, we are still not almost there, just the same as when you asked us five minutes ago,” Mom sighed with exasperation. “Just – look out the window or something.”
I groaned. “But Mom, that’s what I’ve been doing the entire 6 hours of this trip.”
“Well… do it some more – maybe you’ll spot a unicorn,” Dad called from the driver’s seat. I rolled my eyes. Spotting a unicorn would certainly make my day. It was to bad unicorns or dragons or even a cute little rabbit didn’t suddenly pop up outside my window and save me from dying of boredom. But I did spot something interesting, though it wasn’t an animal.
“Hey, Dad, look at that sign!” I pointed to a brown sign by the side of the road that proclaimed, “You’ve been here before. We just made sure you forgot.”
“What a nice welcome to the state, huh?” I muttered.
Dad chuckled “At least we know the people here have a good sense of humor.”
“I don’t know if I’d call it ‘good,’ necessarily,” my mother said dryly. Then, “I know what we could do!” she exclaimed, brightening, “let’s sing some songs!”
Oh. Great. “Are we there yet?!”
Exactly two hours and 42 minutes later, we arrived at our new house.
So this is it. This is home now, I thought to myself as my parents and I entered an old, ruinous house. It smelled of mildew and the floorboards creaked under my weight. I felt like Riley from my favorite movie, Inside Out when she and her parents first entered their “new” home. Only I didn’t play hockey. And thankfully, our moving van wasn’t delayed. But I decided I might as well get to know the place, and it would at least give me something to do.
“Mom and Dad, I’m gonna go explore,” I called as I thumped down dangerous-looking stairs to what I thought was probably the basement.
Wow, it’s kind of spooky down here. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling and the only light was a dim lightbulb off in a corner above a sink full of dust. It looked suspiciously like a mouse’s dream abode. This house, or so the landlord had told us, was built over a hundred years ago, and it sure looked that way. There had been renovations, of course – how did people even live without electricity and a bathroom! – but you could definitely see and smell its oldness seeping out of the house’s seams.
I crept around the basement, shivering in the chilly air. Soon I approached a little door in the wall. I wonder where this leads too? I tried to turn the door knob, but the door wouldn’t open. I pushed and heaved, and finally, the rusty lock just fell off and clattered to the floor. I cautiously opened the door on its creaking hinges. The room had no windows, so obviously it was pitch dark. I felt along the wall for a light switch, but my hands encountered nothing except dust and cobwebs. Maybe the door has been locked since the first owners moved out, and no one could install electricity in this room! I shivered with delight at this slightly spooky thought. Who knew what was in there.
I raced back up the stairs, grabbed a flashlight, and raced back down before Mom and Dad could corner me to help with unpacking. As I approached the door again, a thrill went through my whole body. What would I find? Treasure? Valuable antiques? A mystery waiting to be unraveled? I beamed my flashlight straight into the room, and saw…
Nothing. It was just a plain old room with nothing at all in it except cobwebs, a door, and lots of dust. Wait! Another door? I swung the light back to a little brown hidey-hole type door in one corner of the room. Of course, this could be another plain room, but then again, it might not be! I inched closer and closer, trying not to think of the dark blanket surrounding me, hiding anything from spiders to mice to… *gulp*… I shook my head and pressed on. This door was unlocked. I opened the door, hopefully, and again… nothing. This door opened into a slightly larger room, but there was nothing in it except for a small, ancient coin on the floor (which I pocketed), and… another door! I felt slightly ridiculous as I proceeded once again towards the door. I beamed my flashlight in, hoping against hope that this room might finally contain something interesting. But…
WHOA! I’d hit the jackpot! No, no treasure or anything, but this room was amazing –at least to an avid reader like me! All four walls were covered from top to bottom with bookshelves packed with ancient-looking books. There were two antique armchairs sitting on one side of the room, and a small writing desk occupying another side. This was a reader’s heaven! And since I was the first one to discover it, I’m sure my parents wouldn’t object to my keeping the room for myself. From my Dad’s reports, there was already a nice-sized study and den in the upstairs. Maybe I would like this house after all!
I trotted over to a bookshelf and selected at random a dusty volume. The cover showed a picture of a boy in armor pressed against the wall of pit, with a sword outstretched in his arm, ready to fight the roaring dragon in front of him. This was going to be good.
I hurriedly opened to the middle of the book. I always did that when I was previewing a book, although Mom didn’t understand why I liked to ruin a good plot by jumping on it in the middle. As far as I was concerned, I had never injured or destroyed a good plot in my life. The first two sentences drew me in. The next paragraph got me hooked. I was drawn into a world where dragons were real, and the boy on the cover was just ready to enter into combat with the dragon. Soon I groped for an armchair and gave myself up to the charm of a magical world. Three pages later, I remembered that I had started in the middle. I shuffled the pages to the beginning, and – a piece of paper fell out!
It was old, tattered, yellowed, just like you’d expect a treasure map to be. But instead of a map with a big red “X” on it, all I saw was a strange jumbling of letters and symbols on the page. A code! The only thing I liked better than a good book was a good code. I had read numerous good books on how to crack a good code, and I figured I could crack this one in just a matter of time.
“Ju-li-a,” Mom called from the top of the stairs. “Come help with supper, please.”
Aw, great. I sighed and slipped the paper back in the book. “Coming,” I yelled back, not very cheerfully. The code would have to wait.
After dinner, I eagerly returned to the secret room and my code. Before I had to go to bed, I thought I had deciphered the first few sentences of the writing. I am writing to you, dearest Annie, in the greatest of trouble. I trust that my good friend William will bring this note to you in safety. If I do not see you again, heed the instructions contained in this letter, and you will always be provided for. I was so excited I couldn’t get to sleep for a full twenty minutes! (Well, that’s a long time for me. Usually I’m out in five minutes.) I hadn’t yet told Mom or Dad about the secret rooms; instead I came upstairs as soon as they called me for bed so that I could keep the rooms a secret for a bit longer, but I knew that eventually they would find out. Until then, the bookshelf room would be my own special secret, and I would try my hardest to finish cracking the code. Maybe the letter contained a hint that would lead to something exciting like treasure! (You might have noticed by now that I was obsessed with the thought of finding treasure – I think I had read to many pirate books.) But even some old antiques or other letters would be fun to find. I couldn’t wait to start deciphering the code tomorrow!
Challenge 4 (This one is eh… strange. I don’t usually write this way, and it isn’t my favorite thing I ever wrote, but anyway, here it is! It is also REALLY long, at least compared to some of my other stories, even though I edited it a little bit and took out some parts.)
A young girl sits alone in a dark, gloomy corner, weeping, with her head on her knees. Her name is Kendra, and she is just one of the many children forced to work in a shoe-manufacturing factory. Dozens of other boys and girls work with her, and they all have one thing in common. They are outcasts. In Kendra’s world, if you are crippled, maimed, ugly, or disabled in any way, you are thrown out of the city limits and forced to work in one of the many factories on the outskirts of Dromeda. Why is Kendra an outcast? Because of her eyes. One eye is clear blue and the other, a dim black. She can only see out of the blue eye. Just because of this, Kendra is put to work, seven days a week, making shoes for all of the “perfect” people inside the safe city walls of Dromeda. No one loves the outcasts, but they are champions. They are just children – they aren’t supposed to be heroes, but they are, forging through every day with incredible strength and endurance.
But Kendra cannot take this any more. She knows that she cannot live like this for much longer, or she will not live at all. Suddenly she stops weeping, and lifts her head, determination gleaming in both her eyes. She will stop this cruel way of life, if she must give her own life to do so.
Kendra walks slowly but determinedly back to the “village” made of sorry looking huts where the children catch their few hours of rest before they return to work at the factory just steps away. She stoops under the low doorway of one of the huts, and confers with the inhabitant there, her best friend, Mallen. Mallen is a boy known for his strength, both mentally and physically, even though both of his arms are maimed and crippled so that he can barely use them. Mallen, by order of the factory managers, oversees a team of children, kindly helping them to do their best work.
Presently, both Mallen and Kendra exit the little hut, and proceed to visit each of the huts remaining. In a short time, all of the children are gathered in a circle around Kendra and Mallen.
“Mallen and I have called you to this meeting for a very important decision,” Kendra begins, looking over all of the children. “I am sure that you will agree with me that we cannot survive this treatment much longer. And so, I have thought it over, and I have a plan.” She lowers her voice to a whisper, so as not to awaken the managers of the factory who sleep nearby in a grand house. “We are going to escape!”
A ripple of exclamations and murmurs pass through the crowd. Soon, a little boy about five years old limps out of the ring of children.
“But Kendry,” the boy lisps, “that is too dangerous. What if the guards catch us? Then they will hurt us, and I don’t like being hurt.” The boys face trembles, and he tries hard to hold back tears. “Please don’t let them hurt me, Kendry.”
Kendra draws the crippled boy close in her arms. “I know you don’t want to be hurt, Charlie,” she soothes, “no one likes to be hurt. But if we escape, we will never have to be whipped again! I will try my very hardest to help you and all of the others so that you won’t get hurt. Are you ready to listen to my plan now?” Charlie nods his head.
So Kendra, with Mallen’s help, explains her plan to all the children. Once every year, the factory managers leave for a short vacation. They leave behind an extra supply of guards and substitutes to make sure the children behave. But usually, as soon as the managers are out of sight, the guards relax their stiff salutes and immediately leave the factory building to enjoy their freedom, and talk with their friends, leaving only a few guards behind to watch over the children in the factory. The children know that if they disobey these few guards, they will get the worst whipping of the year. So every year the managers come back from their vacation and see all the guards back in their usual places, saluting them and ordering the children, who are as bowed down as ever with the burdens of their work. Kendra reminds the children that the annual vacation is coming up in less than a month. She tells them that then, if they all band together when there are but few guards watching them, they could overpower them, and, if they acted quickly, they could leave the factory gates behind forever before the other guards ever came back.
The children all stand up and silently applaud the two children, Kendra and Mallen, when the speech is at end. Every eye that can is shining with anticipation, and every pair of lips, if they are able, break into a rare and delightful smile, for they know that, even if “Kendry’s” plan is dangerous, it is worth the risk if there is any possibility of escaping their horrible home. Besides, they trust Kendra and Mallen, and they know that their two children leaders will protect them if it is at all in their power.
The next day, before the sun is up, each child is back at work, making shoes. But there is a difference in their faces, their attitudes, their eyes. They must only endure this toil for a little while longer, until they will be free forever.
In a matter of weeks, it is time for the plan to be put into action. The managers drive out of the factory gates, and the guards walk gaily off, laughing and joking with their friends. Ten guards are all that remain inside the factory, and do not pay much attention to the children. Every child is tense and ready for whenever Mallen shall give them the signal. Finally the time comes, and Mallen taps a child in front of him on the shoulder, twice. The child presses his neighbor’s arm firmly, and so on until Mallen’s touch is echoed throughout the whole factory, and until the last child, little Charlie, presses Kendra’s arm. All the children’s eyes look towards her and she rises up with a shout of exultation.
Then begins a mad rush upon each of the ten guards. The guards, bewildered, barely have time to act before they are tackled by heaps of furious and determined children. Soon all ten guards are laid flat on the ground, unable to get back up. A unanimous cry arises from every child’s mouth, and at once they rush to form a line between Mallen at the head, and Kendra at the rear. The little company moves swiftly onward, past the guards’ feeble cries for help, and madly through the door of the factory. Now they are halted at the foreboding metal fence. Mallen climbs up carefully, putting an agile foot in a chain-link here, and a chain-link there, making do as best he can with his crippled arms until he thuds down triumphantly onto the other side. A few of the bigger boys and girls follow. Kendra recruits a few more of the bigger boys to help her hoist the smaller children over the fence, and into the waiting arms of the children on the other side. At last every little one is over the fence, and the bigger children begin the climb, two at a time.
They are almost over when one lone guard rushes out of the factory, apparently recovered from the children’s blows. He shouts angrily at them to halt, but the children will not listen. The guard, seeing that he can do nothing by himself, races toward the grand manor in the distance where all of the other guards are indulging themselves in merry occupations. But as a last retort, he flings a sturdy stone towards the fence where the children are gathered.
The stone speeds towards its mark, and collides squarely into the back of Kendra’s head. Immediately, she crumples on the ground. So close, and yet so far! Mallen pushes through the crowds of children on the other side of the fence.
“Kendra!” he shouts, “Kendra! Get up! Do not leave us now. Kendra!” But still she lies in the dust, crumpled into a heap. Mallen thrusts one crippled arm through the fence. “Kendra…” he falters.
The guard is panting for breath, but he has reached his destination. He storms into the room where the chief guard is playing cards with his friends.
The guard addresses him, gasping for breath, “Oh my lord Jethro, I beg to speak with you. It is an emergency!”
“What is it, Abnur?” Jethro asks, unmoved, while dealing out another deck of cards for his friends.
“My lord, the children are escaping! They overpowered all of the guards in the factory, (you understand that we were but few, my lord), and they are at this very minute escaping over the fence!” Abnur continues explaining vehemently to the chief guard, but receives no reply except “indeed.” “What shall we do, my lord?” he finishes. “Did you, or did you not hear me?” demands Abnur.
“He was not listening,” replies another guard (Jethro’s right hand man), “for I heard him say, ‘indeed’ several times during your short speech, which is a sure sign that he was preoccupied with something else.”
At last Jethro looks up calmly from the cards he has finished dealing out.
“I’m sorry, Abnur. What did you just say?”
Mallen pulls his arm out of the fence, and quickly starts climbing over to Kendra.
“What are you doing, Mallen?” inquires a little girl by the name of Mary.
“I must help Kendra,” Mallen answers. “Eric,” he directs his gaze at a robust older boy in front of the children, “You must lead them on. You know where we had planned to take you; now you must be the leader.”
As the children follow Eric, Mallen kneels down beside Kendra.
“Kendra! Are you all right? Answer me!” Gently Mallen pulls Kendra’s auburn hair back from her face. “Kendra. The guards are coming. But don’t worry, I will not leave you here.” He pulls her up to a sitting position, and starts to hoist her onto his shoulder to take her over the fence.
But Kendra opens her eyes. Mallen looks at her with ecstatic surprise. “Kendra!” She smiles faintly at him.
“Thank you trying to save me, Mallen. But now you must go and leave me here. I will come later, if I can. The children need you.”
“They need you too, Kendra,” Mallen pleads. Kendra tries to rise to her feet, but the pain in her head is too much, and she sinks to the ground again.
“I will be fine, Mallen. Please. Go.” Kendra’s voice is exhausted but firm.
Finally the guards have heard Abnur’s message and they pour out of the house, shouting angrily.
Mallen sadly obeys Kendra, and slowly, mournfully, crosses the fence. He waits on the other side. Kendra once again tries to stand, and this time she succeeds. Her head is reeling, but she wills her hands and feet to move through the pain. Slowly, painfully, she ascends the fence, chain-link by chain-link. The guards are drawing nearer. Abnur sights the two children ahead, and picks up a rock without a pause in his wild running.
“Halt, you little rogues, or you’ll be sorry!” he shouts. Kendra, nearly at the top of the fence now, looks back at the guard with a despairing glance. She hesitates, wobbling on the fence, until finally she begins climbing again. As she is finally climbing down the other side, the safe side, the rock comes whirling through a gap in the fence, glancing the side of Kendra’s face with a stinging pain. She gasps, but still continues her descent. Now she passes a “No Trespassing” sign, now she catches one last glimpse of the black factory in the distance, and then she falls, right into the waiting Mallen’s crippled arms.
But now what is he to do? He cannot carry Kendra for long with his maimed arms, and the group of children is too far gone to hear his call. And then a figure steps out of the shadows.
“I can help, Mallen,” a little voice pipes up. It is Charlie! He has disobeyed orders to stay behind with his beloved Mallen and “Kendry.”
Mallen looks at him in astonishment “Charlie! Why are you here? You should be with the rest of the children! But no matter. For once, I am glad you have disobeyed. Here, are you able to tie a knot?” Charlie nods his head.
Soon, Mallen and Charlie have constructed a makeshift sled for Kendra. It is a sorry thing made out of a garbage can lid and some raveled twine, but it will have to do. Charlie loops the end about Mallen’s waist, and off they start, Charlie pushing from behind and Mallen pulling from the front. The guards have passed the factory, and are coming ever nearer. But the children are on the other side of the fence. A shower of rocks rains through the air towards the children, but few get past the fence . Soon, the rocks are out of range, and the children are safe – safe! Mallen and Charlie push on, down a short hill and over rocky ground, until they come at last to the group of children who have waited for them under a small grove of trees. There they stop.
Everyone gathers round Kendra, Mallen, and Charlie. Kendra opens her eyes again, and gazes up at all of the faces looking down at her. “Are we safe?” she asks them all.
“We are safe, Kendra. You have saved us.” Mallen smiles at her.
We are safe! We are free! At last, at last!
Kendra’s face breaks into a huge smile.
That night, all the children celebrate around a roaring bonfire, made from collected sticks and lit by the matches that Mallen had thoughtfully remembered to take with him. No matter what the future might bring, it certainly could never be worse than what they had escaped from. The guards would never catch them now – the children had crossed the boundary from Dromeda into the neighboring country, and there they can live safely.
So yeah. I guess that’s that! The fourth story is pretty much finished already, but would you like my to continue the third one? Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my writing!