These works (from a group of high school writers who dubbed themselves “Children of Elnard”) demonstrate a remarkable range—haunting descriptions of creatures, lyrical dips into the cosmic, wryly comic scenes of the absurd, suspenseful tales of action. But regardless of their varying literary inheritances and moods, all of these six pieces boast the unique imaginations of their authors. This collection, which shows only a slice of what these young writers are capable of, vibrates with confidence and vision.
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The Black Turtle
If you have somehow managed your way through the vast maze of trees located on the edge of the Unknown Continent, you may at some point come across a peculiar cave on the other side of the forest where no light penetrates. In this very cave dwells the Black Turtle. A creature might be intrigued by this fact and dare to enter the cave.
Upon entering the cave, the Black Turtle will be triggered awake and proceed to emit a sudden, high-pitched screech. If the visiting creature does not heed this warning, it will hear three more screeches with each consecutive screech increasing in intensity. A creature that continues its way into the depths of the cave despite these warnings will soon witness two gleaming yellow dots as bright as the sun fade into appearance. As soon as the creature has been blinded and entrapped by the radiant eyes, the Black Turtle will reveal itself and attack.
Right before its demise, the creature will notice the Black Turtle, alight by its brilliantly glowing eyes. Amongst the darkness of the cave, it will discern a plethora of razor-sharp teeth residing in a mouth, an elongated neck plated with scales, a dull metallic shell, some curved claws planted on —
The Black Turtle stares at its latest victim then proceeds to drag the carcass backwards towards its collection. After it has finished disposing of the body, the Black Turtle climbs up its collection into the nest of corpses and closes its eyes.
There is a gazelle leaping through the sky.
Tufts of nimbus clouds dance around his hooves.
Only time guides the everlasting river below, as he carefully stops to drink from its healing waters.
His stripes are a swift sight,
bold shimmers of gold blinding men who seek wealth.
A dragon hiding among the child’s gentle eyes.
Upon delicate snow he rests, in the lonely mountain tops he wails
with twisted horns of guilt. Sleep never favors
such a wondrous beast.
Red walked discreetly through the woods, clutching her neatly woven basket closely. Her long, red hood hung lightly over her face, covering more than half of it and concealing her in darkness. It cast a shadow over the eyes, enveloping Red with a mysterious aura. The edge of the hood grazed the fingertips of the grass as she peacefully walked around, stopping now and then to pluck flowers from the open. The hood was the most distinct feature of this plain girl. Because of the constant habit of wearing the red cloak, the kingdom villagers had given Red the nickname Little Red Riding Hood.
It was once as red as blood. Woven from the finest of all threads, it had an extremely silky feel. Being as old as it was, though, it had become slightly battered, with several rips and tears scattered miserably. The years of constant weaving, washing, and sewing had downgraded the once beautiful, bold object to a significantly different looking thing with faded colors and patches sewn all over, leaving it looking quite mangled. The hood was incredibly dense and compact, weighing about fifteen pounds. The once-braided gold thread used to fasten around her neck had been reduced to a thin, frail piece of string, which was barely able to support the heavy weight.
People had constantly asked why she never bothered to purchase a new hood, or even ordered the finest weaver in the land to duplicate it. She could surely afford it; she was a princess and daughter of King Jack II. It was because the gift had been given to her by her late mother, whom she had deeply loved. To answer them simply, she always replied that it contained sentimental feelings. Red knew the idea of clutching this sad hood was silly and would never bring back her mother. But after she passed, Red had become the mirrored image of the hood — melancholic, pitiful, and frail, her once joyful aura destroyed for what everyone thought to be forever.
There once was a large praying mantis sitting in a church.
He was big, green, praying, and mantis-y.
For many hours, he sat under the church’s vast roof unnoticed.
After the service finished, everyone stood up.
Except for him.
Now he had been noticed.
Unreasoned terror ran through the church.
He was stomped at, and people crowded in, forcing him out the old wooden door.
What happened that day, we are still unsure of.
All he was doing was taking a nap.
A Story On Paper
– an excerpt
All I can remember are lines. Lines left imprinting wherever we went. I once asked, “Mother where are we?” And she replied, “Darling, we live in a world of pictures and sketches. We live like ghosts of paintings. We live on paper, at the mercy of the wavering lines from a pen.” The thought of being out of control and helpless terrified me so I never asked her again.
That morning, it was darker. The lines traced long shadows and shaded the white away. Graphite dust littered the house, so we decided to do some early spring cleaning. Afterwards, we sat down at the crudely drawn table and ate our breakfast. Mother wanted liver for dinner, so I went out to fetch some. On my way back from the market, I noticed something new. A rustic booth with delicately crafted light surrounding the archway. I don’t remember this being here, I thought to myself
When I was a child, all the other children nicknamed me “Nosy.” First, because I had a cartoonishly large nose. and second, because I was curious. I would listen to fragmented conversations and peek into closets in search of treasure. Mother said I always had an adventurer inside me. I guess the name suited me after all, because when I saw the booth I immediately felt the need to inspect the place.
I was peering into the heavily shaded opening trying to make out its contents, when all of a sudden I realized someone was inside. Jumping back, my breath caught. I was contemplated running away when a woman stepped out of the shadows and said, in a voice that sounded like a creaky floorboard, “Looking for someone, Deary?”
“Max! We’re going to be late, again!” The dark-haired, clean-shaven man sprinted down the stairs. “Max!” he bellowed again.
“I’m coming! I’m coming!” said the voice from upstairs in an exasperated tone. A boy of about ten or eleven hopped down the stairs. He wore a T-shirt with a drawing of Batman on it, red Converse, and a slight boyish smile.
“All right. Let’s go, kiddo,” said the man, as he ruffled his son’s sandy blond hair. “Wait!” said Thomas, stopping in the doorway. “Do you have your sketchbook?”
“Of course I do, Dad! Do you really think I’d forget something that important?” Max replied lightheartedly.
“OK, Mr. Smarty Pants,” Thomas chuckled.
“Can you put on the radio?” Max asked.
Thomas guided the steering wheel parallel to the bright yellow lines on the road, and tapped the dashboard in beat with the music as he drove. Max took his sketchbook from his backpack and opened it carefully. On the page, in the middle of the thick white parchment, a booth with the window had been drawn. Lights adorned the frame of the single window, and an old woman’s face peered out of the darkness, looking at a spindly drawn girl with a big nose.
“How’s the story going?” asked Thomas.
“Great. I’m about to get to the good part!” said Max, grinning happily. He picked up his inky black pen and began shading the landscape with quick slender strokes.
Alessia was a hunter, a swift, lean being who stood only five foot two but could slam you into the dirt at any given moment. She was one who believed in superstition and witchcraft, in bad omens and black cats, cracked mirrors and clovers. So, when she found the wild crystals protruding out of the smashed-glass soil of Tomorrowland, she was overjoyed. They were a rosy pink, a color known to represent friendship, affection, harmony, inner peace, and approachability, and they stood out from all the other rubble; the demolished windows and skeletons of old buildings were the only proof that a war had been waged on America — a story for another day. Tomorrowland was what the survivors had built out of nothing, named after a section of a former amusement park.
Alessia nudged the crystals with her foot, jostling them. She was well out of Tomorrowland town limits, so putting down her gun might be a risk. But she did so anyway, looking down the barrel and pulling the lever to take her gun off safety, then storing it securely between her legs. She pulled at the crystals, unearthing them with a cloud of dust and a tinkling of shattered glass. Alessia turned the crystals around, examining them until she noticed the carving on the other end, the crystals neatly filed into the figurine. Slowly, she spun the object in her hand and brought it close to her face to look at it, the gun on the ground forgotten.
A detailed skull had been clearly carved out of rock. Its hollowed-out eyes seemed to stare into her soul, and the mouth was curved, teeth bared in a mad grin. Alessia looked at it in wonder, then caught a flash of silver in the skull’s eye. Passing it off as a figment of her imagination, she started to think. She knew skulls were a bad omen and wanted to drop the crop of crystals right where she’d found them. Yet she was compelled, almost by a haunting, disembodied voice, to keep looking. She finally tore her eyes away and gave a violent shudder, dropping the skull crystal and reaching down for her gun.
But another hand beat her to it. She whirled around to see a man dressed in black, a lazy grin on his face as he twirled her gun through his fingers. Alessia was up in a flash, kicking and choking and biting the man, forcing him to drop her gun with a thump onto the ground. She picked it up and pointed it at the man, finger on the trigger, one eye closed for a precise shot.
“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t kill you right here, right now,” she commanded, staring the man down fiercely.
The man chuckled. “Because, sweetheart, there’s someone else behind you.”
This did not startle Alessia. Being a hunter, she had expected something of the sort. Without even taking her eyes off of the man, she rotated her gun so it was pointing the opposite way, shot in the direction of the sound of stealthy footsteps, and heard a low voice scream “Ow!” followed by a heavy crash.
The man now looked scared, because Alessia had not been the defenseless little girl he had expected. The girl in question took a step towards him, cocking her gun, one long finger reaching towards the trigger. She looked into the man’s fearful hunter green eyes with her own fiery brown ones. She thought she felt the ground shake, but couldn’t be sure. The man also seemed to sense it, she noted. Just as she was about to pull the trigger, one ear-shattering explosion to end his life, a deep, commanding voice issued from the ground directly beneath their feet. It shook the ground, sending vibrations all around them.
“Never disrespect the sacred skull.”
That sentence was all Alessia heard before she dropped her gun, collapsing to the ground, her mind turned to an inky black.