Writing Challenge Winner: Summer by Kayley Roach

Kayley Roach is a 14-year old writer who participated in the Summer 2023 Elemental Writing Challenge in which she wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Kayley’s contemporary romance follows the character, Kay, a high school senior preparing to graduate. Kay’s anxiety about the future manifests into strange mystical sensations amplified by the growing tension with her friend, Skye, who claims that Kay’s boyfriend cannot be trusted.

Read the full story below!

11:58am – After School

Sometimes, I wish I was a whole different person. I mean, I never really did ask to be who I am. All I know is that I was magically here one day and I’ve been living my life like this ever since.

I guess I decided not to do what I wanted and stay in bed till noon, but I guess I had to be there, you know. To say goodbye. If it weren’t for my best friend convincing me to come, I’d never have realized why I was being asked to come. 

If only I had stayed home… in my warm bed, writing my stories at home. But no. Instead, I had to go to school, even though it was only for two and a half hours. What was the point? Was the last day of school really that important? All I knew was that I didn’t want to go back… Ever.

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Writing Challenge Winner: The Villain, the Traitor, and the Daredevil by Isaac McKinnie

Isaac McKinnie is a twelve-year old writer who participated in the 2022 Seafarer’s Writing Challenge in which he wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Isaac’s sci-fi thriller involves a young motorcyclist participating in a race that takes a drastic and traitorous detour.

Read the full story below!

Roads are dull. There is no other way to describe them. They are just slabs of concrete shaped to make a meaningless line. However, roads are even more mind-numbing when no one is using them. On these occasions it almost hurts to see a sight so boring. Luckily for the road next the small harbor in Winfred, Sasnak, this was hardly ever the case; and today was no exception.  If someone had been counting how many cars had passed through, they would have lost count in the first ten seconds.

Yet, in all the hustle and bustle of this road, one vehicle stood out. It was a motorcycle, a Hoss Boss to be exact. Its black body paint glistened like obsidian in the early afternoon sun. The beautiful Hoss Boss sped down the (still dull) road with the same amount of importance as King Arthur and his own steed would have. The driver was unfortunately neither wearing a helmet nor taking any safety precautions at all. You might say that he was not very smart. If you did, I would commend you for being smarter than him. However, he seemed to prefer riding without any safety measures. Dylan (for that was the name of the motorcycle rider) laughed as the salty sea wind blew back his black hair and lifted the smell of the ocean to his nostrils. After he finished admiring the view, he revved the engine and sped off. As he rode, he decided to take a route he had not taken yet before going to the meeting place. He sped and then took a random turn. This was what excited him about motorcycling the most: the constant adrenaline, the rush of fear when he took a sharp turn, and the idea that anything might happen. He wove his way around the roads until he finally found his way to the meeting place. There it was––an abandoned warehouse. Now, this warehouse might look like any other abandoned warehouse.  But if you went inside and walked through the abandoned warehouse you would find a tear in the wall. If you squeezed through that tear, you would see a small shed. It was there that Dylan met up with his friends.

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Writing Challenge Winner: Captain Howe by Layla Mendoza

Layla Mendoza is a twelve-year old writer who participated in the 2022 Seafarer’s Writing Challenge in which she wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Layla’s nautical adventure tells the swashbuckling tale of Captain Howe and the spell that changes his life.

Read the full story below!

There really was no explanation as to how Captain Howe’s vessel had ended up in the Pacific Ocean. He could have sworn that they were going to stay in the Atlantic waters, but nooooooo, they just had to end up in the Pacific Ocean, and right by the Ring of Fire, too, if he had read his maps correctly. 

“Uh, Cap’n’?” 

“WHAT?” Captain Howe shouted, banging one pudgy fist down on the wooden table where he was sitting. Maps and books that had been on the edge of the table fell to the floor, and his Cartographer, the one who had spoken, slumped a bit lower in his seat. 

“Uh, um, just that, we- ah- seem to be getting fairly close to some active volcanoes that are part of the Ring of Fire, if I’m right about where we are on the map. We aren’t exactly headed directly towards a volcano, but we might pass by one. But,” he shrugged his shoulders, “If you don’t want to take precautions-” 

“No, no,” Captain Howe said gruffly. “Do take precautions. Try to alter our course so that we don’t have the chance of getting blown up by a volcano.” 

Continue reading “Writing Challenge Winner: Captain Howe by Layla Mendoza”

Writing Challenge Winner: Red Strings by Olivia Kasych

Olivia is a 15 year old writer who has participated in many of the library’s writing challenges, including last summer’s Voyager Writing Challenge and this spring’s Bad Guy Writing Challenge. Red Strings is the sequel to Olivia’s first short story, Neutral Zone, and dives deeper into the motivations of the tormented villain, Vic!

Read Olivia’s first story here:

Check out her sequel below!

“What makes you think I was gonna kill him?”

Vick can admit that he is not the best person, but he certainly is not stupid. He knew the oblivious, helpless person he and Terrace quite literally stumbled upon was not to be killed. He may want the end of the AWs, Alternate Worlds, but he is not that evil.

“You brought us here anyway,” Vick accused. The first AW was not his ideal battle terrain, mostly because anything multiverse travelers, like himself, killed there killed its counterpart everywhere else.

“No I didn’t! You did!” Terrace yelled back up at Vick. Vick smirked. Even if he was not suspended on a swing, he was still taller than the short creator.

“I don’t recall ever thinking to put myself at a disadvantage.” Vick was not happy. He lowered himself to the ground. He stared directly into Terrace’s ever changing eyes.

“It’s not like you don’t make mistakes,” Terrace said. “We’re both human, Vick.”

“Human, huh?” Vick spat at him. The red markings wrapped around his arms glowed with a fiery intensity. Vick scowled at Terrace. He felt his familiar red strings flow down from the marks to his hands. He shot them toward part of the back porch. The strings wrapped themselves around the poor porch and paused. He shot Terrace a crazed grin. “What part of me is human?”

He gripped his hand into a fist. He swung his arm at Terrace as if he was throwing a shot-put. The strings strained and yanked the porch out of the ground. In a blur of wood, the porch was on a direct course toward Terrace. It landed with a huge ​Crash!and…

missed Terrace. Vick knew that would happen, but was not in the mood. Terrace had teleported over to the fence gate.

“Missed me!” Terrace teased. Vick was fuming. He angrily directed his strings toward the nearest fence post, tore it out of the ground, and threw it at Terrace. He could not care less if he killed anyone else, he just wanted to wipe off Terrace’s smug grin.

He retreated his strings. Though he really wanted to make sure Terrace was at least scared, he did not want to stick around longer. ​Let Terrace take care of his own businesshe thought, teleporting away from the destroyed yard.

Now, one may expect Vick to have some sort of huge base where he would monitor the whole multiverse. That is not the case. Because of the stereotypical villain, Vick’s “base” is in a small cabin in AW 27, another “magic filled” AW.

Vick’s teleportation destination landed him in the kitchen of said cabin. He took a peek in the fridge for anything that looked edible. Believe it or not, destroying useless worlds worked up an appetite. Vick took the leftover pancakes from breakfast and closed the fridge.

“Back already?” Vick heard someone say from the living room.

“Not like you’ve been anywhere,” Vick grumbled. “Dumb creator teleported the both of us to the original. I gave him a bit of a job to fix.” Vick heard laughter. He made his way to the living room and found the new(ish) recruit, dressed in all black, playing with a knife.

“The original’s found out, huh?” Blood laughed.

“Yep. Scared the kid out of his skin. You should have seen it, turned him white on the spot.” Vick started gnawing on one of the pancakes.

“My turn?” Blood asked excitedly, his eyes flashing red as if to seal his intentions.

“Go aheath,” Vick said, half a pancake dangling out of his mouth. “Whehe’s Lethon?”

“Lendon’s probably in his room,” Blood answered. “Later!” Blood teleported out of the room.

Vick finished his pancakes and sighed. Blood joined them —that is, the team— about two years ago. Vick never thought about time because it did not mean much for a multiverse traveler like himself. It changes too much from AW to AW that Vick just stopped caring.

Vick never asked Blood why he joined the team, but Blood always seemed to know where Terrace and Cerulean were. Vick just went with it. He was sure Lendon knew —he was the head of the team and he knew just about everything about each of them.

Lendon was originally from AW 17, which also had magic. Vick does not know much about his origin either, but does know Lendon is pretty powerful. Vick has seen him

level a city in seconds. He has also fought Terrace and Cerulean to a stalemate, which Vick has yet to do. Vick is not patient enough for it.

“Yo, Vick!” yelled someone. Vick snapped himself out of his thoughts and looked up. He saw another member of the team. He wore a blood red sweater and black jeans. He stared at Vick with his cyan eyes burning through his shaggy black hair.

“What do you want, Dultin?” Vick grumbled.

Dultin took playful offense as he flopped on the couch next to Vick. “Why do you always assume I want something whenever I talk to you?”

“Because you do.” The day before, Dultin asked Vick to help him find one of his guns. Dultin claimed it was his “favorite” and “couldn’t live without it.” They almost got caught by the police in five different AWs and Vick came home sore.

Dultin came from AW 30. His father was a police officer and taught Dultin everything about guns. Dultin said it was his “calling” whenever he told the story. He claimed he brought a gun to “show and tell” in Kindergarten and accidentally shot and killed one of his classmates. Vick was wary about the credibility of the story, but did not put it past him to do so.

“Okay, you got me,” Dultin said, raising his hands up as if he was getting arrested. “I only want to know where Blood is.” Vick forgot that Blood and Dultin had bonded over the past two years.

“Fine.” Vick closed his eyes and searched the entire multiverse for Blood. Luckily, he had a good idea about where he was. “Upmost. AW 10.” Dultin was stood up to leave. Vick grabbed his arm. “Let him be for a bit. He’s playing with the original.”

Dultin seemed to understand and sat back down.


Blood did not come back in the next hours.

Vick started assuming the worst. He could barely think, mostly because Dultin was constantly assembling and taking apart one of his handguns. Vick grew tired of the constant clinking of metal. He stood up.

“Fine!” he groaned. “We’ll look for him. Get your things. I have a trap.”

Dultin shot up, giddy to leave. “You think it’ll work? It’s about 11 pm original time.”

“It definitely will. Terrace wouldn’t miss.” Vick opened a portal. “Come on.” Dultin hopped into the portal as Vick followed, sealing the portal after entering the location.

They ended up in a field surrounded by forest. The clearing was almost miraculous.

Occasional dandelions popped up every once and awhile. It was about noon in that AW.

“You’ve never seen me destroy an entire world, have you?” Vick asked Dultin. Dultin shook his head no. “Well, today’s your lucky day.” Vick’s markings glowed blood red. Vick knelt on the ground and put both hands on the grassy field. He again felt his strings flow into his hands, but this time they slipped out and into the ground like worms. Vick got up. “The trap’s set.”

“What did you do?” Dultin asked with genuine curiosity.

“Each world has a ‘soul,’ so to speak,” Vick explained. “My strings can locate and destroy that ‘soul,’ leaving the world to rot and disappear. The process takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Quick and efficient. The only flaw is that Terrace can sense when my strings are close to the ‘soul’ and can get rid of them the same way I distribute them. That is our opening.”

“Which world is this, anyway?” Dultin asked, loading a pistol with one of his homemade bullets.

“AW 2,102,” Vick replied. He rolled his eyes. “There’s too much of the same trash.”

“Darn right.” Dultin laughed.

The pair of delinquents were treated to a bright flash of light. When the light diminished, Vick saw four silhouettes. Two obviously belonged to Terrace and Cerulean. The third was the original, Vick figured. Vick could not figure out who the fourth was. He seemed to be part of Cerulean’s shadow, dressed in all black as he was.

Then he caught sight of his face. Vick stared at him, a spike of disbelief shooting through his insides. He wondered what happened in the last few hours that caused this.

Dultin started laughing. The laugh turned dry, shooting imaginary daggers into their adversaries. “Yes, Vick, the trap worked,” he said. He directed his now loaded gun at the “shadow.” “Alas, it worked too well. We caught a ghost, and now it’s time to dispose of him.”

Dultin’s smile turned toxic. “Goodbye Blood.” Dultin loaded and fired his pistol in half a second, aiming it directly at Blood. There was no time for Blood to dodge. ​Better off without himVick thought.

A mind-numbing screech of metal was heard. Blood had decided to deflect the bullet, using a knife to cut the bullet before it hit him. The two pieces of the bullet fell harmlessly on either side of him. Sadly, the pieces did not hit anyone else.

Vick did not waste time. Arms glowing, he sent his strings toward Terrace and Cerulean. They wrapped around their necks, daring to choke them to death. Vick pulled and their eyes grew wide with fear. They started choking and clawed at the strings to try to get air.

They were cut free soon after. Vick glared at Blood, who had freed them. Vick redirected his attention to Terrace. The short creator had eyed him and was holding his paintbrushes. “You got the other three?” Vick half asked Dultin.

“Can’t wait to kill that traitor,” Dultin hissed.

“Just don’t kill Derick.” Dultin scoffed. Vick could not worry about that. He had to keep Terrace from saving the AW. And he had a great idea. In the long time that he and Terrace have been fighting, he knew he put others as more important than himself. That was his flaw. Vick wondered if Terrace would ever learn after being exploited so much.

Vick’s strings shot toward Derick. The “poor kid” did not know what hit him. Vick pinned Derick’s arms to his sides and suspended him in the air. Vick shot Dultin a look. Dultin smiled, pointed another one of his “special” guns at Derick, and fired.

Terrace looked terrified. He froze and looked up at Derick in disbelief. Cerulean displayed similar emotions —even crying, to Vick’s delight. Blood just stared at Dultin. The gaze held back a hurricane of emotions, ready to be unleashed.

Vick watched as Blood almost doubled over, clutching his side as if he had taken the bullet. Vick smirked. “Dultin, what was in the bullet?” he asked playfully, getting everyone’s attention.

“Well!” Dultin responded excitedly. “That was one of my special concoctions! It locates magical bonds in the recipient and exploits the connection!” Dultin stared at Blood. “I wanted to use it on Cerulean, but you —you lying traitor— deserved it more.”

Derick started coughing. He was struggling to get out of the strings, but to no avail. Vick only tightened his bindings. Derick was staring at the ground in fear. “C-Cerulean? Why’s the ground red?” Cerulean and Terrace gave him a terrified look.

Vick smirked. “Looks like someone forgot why they were here. Forgetful creator,” he teased Terrace while shaking his head. Vick turned his attention to Derick and shot him a crazed smile. “That’s what a world looks like before it’s destroyed. Terrace was being slow, as always.” He nodded at Dultin. “Hope you all enjoyed your little late night expedition. I sure did.”

“Burn…in…hell,” Blood said, still holding his side in pain. “You know…you didn’t.”

Dultin’s instinctual course of action was to shoot Blood with another one of the special bullets. The bullet passed through Blood’s head without spilling any blood. Derick let out a strained yelp in pain. Vick dropped the now passed out kid from his strings. Terrace ran to catch the kid in time and, unfortunately, did. Vick almost signaled Dultin to leave when Cerulean also dropped. This shocked Vick. Any new connections like that shine like a beacon to Vick. ​That connection is nowhere near newhe realized.

He motioned at Dultin that it was time to leave. They both teleported out of there, just as the ground started collapsing. They arrived back at their base and just… stood in the living room.

“That traitor!” Dultin yelled, kicking over the living room couch. “I swear, I’m going to kill him after ghosting us like that!”

Vick was also mad. Blood was the last person he saw deserting and flipping sides. Honestly, he thought that if Dultin ever had therapy, he would be first. Dultin did what he did because he thought it was fun. Vick always saw that as a poor reason, so he always thought Dultin would desert.

He, Lendon, and Blood all had solid reasons, he assumed. As already mentioned, he did not know much about either of the two, but he pieced together that Blood has something against Cerulean. Vick did not know what, but after what happened with the bullets, he knew it was deep.

Lendon was still a mystery. Vick had no idea of how he even got so powerful in the first place. He just remembers when Lendon recruited him to his team. Vick could feel his power. It emanated from him like a radio signal that Vick could pick up and listen to. He remembered feeling uneasy as his fierce orange eyes stared into him as he spoke.

Vick was snapped back into reality as Dultin toppled the couch again. He was still angry about Blood. Dultin stormed off to his room. Vick figured he should go to his room also. He thought about telling Lendon, but Vick had a feeling he already knew.

Vick went up the staircase in the back of the room toward his room. It was the first door on the right. He opened the door to his bland room. He never bothered to decorate. He didn’t like clutter, and didn’t see any reason in doing so. He wasn’t in his room much anyway.

He was, however, exhausted. He plopped on his bed and went out like a light.

He was in a white and black area. He didn’t bother looking around. He knew where he was. The landscape swirled with the white and black colors, but nothing else could be seen. He also knew that. He did not know why he tried every time. Where was he? Well, he was home. His AW.

There was nothing. Vick did not know what happened, but what was supposed to be an actually livable space with other people only turned out to be him. He could not count the number of times he had false hopes about someone being out there and disappointed when there was not. Sometimes, the area would play tricks on him and the blackness would shape like a person and then disappear.

He always dreams of being here. He cannot remember ever having a “good” dream. He always looked at the other AWs in disgust. They had so much when he had nothing. That is why he is so numb.

He simply does not care.

He did not always have the marks, either. They were blood. When he was stuck there, he would often think and dream about death. That was the only way out he saw. He would constantly dream of killing himself and the like. One time, his dream did not go away and he found the markings on his arms. The strings were painful at first, it was like shaping his own blood, but he grew numb to it.

Leaving was a complete accident. Vick remembered wishing to be somewhere better and he was instantly in a forest. He instantly knew he was not home. He heard birds and excited shouts. He followed them to a campsite with about five tents. Kids were running about as parents watched loosely while conversing with each other.

Vick was mad. He did not know that was out there. Why did he not get any of that? Why did he have to live in that nightmarish landscape while they had everything? His markings glowed blood red

Vick stared up at his ceiling. That was the first world he destroyed. It was the 3,979th AW. He never regretted destroying it. He knew it had only been an hour. He could never sleep for long and hunger was never a concern for him. He could go a very long time without eating and be fine. Eating was more of a “hobby” to him, so to speak. He did not care if it was abnormal. Nothing about him was normal anyway.

He really only joined because he was tired of his place and he thought it would be interesting. He doesn’t mind working for Lendon but made sure to tell Lendon that it would be no deal if he could not do as he pleased at times. Lendon agreed to it and welcomed him aboard. Vick made a point to destroy the world they were in before following Lendon. That was AW 1,249.

Terrace was an almost immediate acquaintance after he left his AW, but before Lendon (which was almost one and a half years after he started). Terrace was very confusing to him. He did not try to kill Vick, but also reversed the destruction of the AW. Confusion turned to anger and Vick decked Terrace before teleporting away. He hit a few other AWs before going back to his home.

Vick was not patient. He was, however, very easily distracted by his thoughts. A few days could go by and he would not have noticed unless something happened to or near him. He called this one of his “trances.” He blamed it on his sociopathic behavior. He luckily never did this during a fight. Plus, he never liked patience. He saw it as useless and wasteful. If he wanted to wait around, he would not have left.

Terrace also lacked patience, in his eyes. Their fights never lasted long and he could tell by the way Terrace used his attacks. Surprisingly, Vick found that attacks say a lot about a person. Vick deduced that Terrace was an outgoing person and would never kill anyone.

Someone was saying his name. He got off his bed and sauntered down the stairs to the living room. “Look who decided to show up!” Dultin smirked. Vick saw both Dultin and Lendon looking at him. Lendon looked like he had a plan. He was wearing his normal green shirt, grey pants, brown boots, and orange gloves. His aura hung around him like a magnetic field.

Vick took his seat on the fixed couch. “What’s the plan?” he asked.

“Thanks to Dultin’s… experiment,” Lendon started. “We know three of our four adversaries have a magic bond of varying magnitude. Any magic bonds strengthen both/all participants, thus decreasing our chances of defeating them. If we single out the one without any magic ties to the others, we should be able to lure the rest into any trap we may set. For instance, if we kept Terrace locked up here, we could count on the other three coming to us. But, we would have to keep Derick out of it.”

“Why though?” Dultin asked. “He’s weak and inexperienced.” He pointed a finger gun at Vick’s head. “Just one well placed shot and—” He jerked his hand back in recoil as if he shot Vick. “Well, no more problem.”

“Dultin, he’s the original!” Vick hissed. “We can’t kill him.”

“We don’t know what he may be capable of,” Lendon continued. “I intend on finding out one way or another. After we successfully capture Terrace, we will be able to ‘take out’ Derick. I’m thinking of the Prison. Thoughts?”

The Prison was an abandoned military base near their cabin. Each holding cell had soundproof walls and security cameras. It was easy to monitor and there was no way to know if anyone else was in there with you. Vick saw it as perfect. He nodded his head in approval.

“Finally!” Dultin said.

“Very well,” Lendon said, looking between the two killers. “The plan will start as soon as possible. Places, everyone.”


Vick was out again. He had the task of luring out Terrace, which would be very easy.

Another AW, another seed planted. Vick waited.

Terrace came alone. ​PerfectVick thought. Terrace did not have time to react when Vick strangled him enough to make him pass out. Vick dropped Terrace off in one of the cells in the Prison.

Not even a second later, Dultin came back with a passed out Derick. Dultin paraded him around down to his cell like a hunter carrying a deer he killed home. Vick thought for a second that Derick was dead, but they were all still there so it was not the case. ​Now, we wait, Vick thought. And wait they did. An almost 40 minutes.

Cerulean and Blood turned up near their base— glorified house. Vick could feel them coming in the Prison’s direction. He told Dultin to get ready. “This is exciting!” Dultin replied, playing with a switch in the control room of the Prison. The two entered the complex. Dultin and Vick watched them through the various security cameras placed in the maze-like hallways.

The moment came. “Now!” Vick shouted at Dultin. Dultin slammed the switch down and a sliding steel door slid between the two. The now separated pair tried to open/destroy the door, but nothing happened. They continued on their separate ways. Vick radioed Lendon: “He’s all yours.”

Lendon was waiting for Cerulean. He did not give any details on what he would do, so Vick and Dultin watched the security tapes intriguingly. Cerulean walked back the way he came. He took a left near the entrance and stopped at another crossroad. He took another left and a right at another crossroad. All along the walls are doors leading to cell after cell after cell. “Close the left door,” Vick told Dultin. At the upcoming intersection, the left door closed. Cerulean’s only options were right or backtrack. Cerulean took the right.

That was where Lendon was. Cerulean stopped and started backing away from him. Dultin was about to close the door behind him, but Lendon made a magical barrier, blocking Cerulean’s escape. Vick heard Dultin snicker. To be honest, Cerulean’s terrified face was hilarious, but Vick shut him up.

“Poor Cerulean,” Lendon sneered. “A weak shell of a human that wanted too much. Now look where that got you. Your so-called ‘friends’ are gone and it’s all your fault.”

“No, no!” Cerulean said, still deathly afraid. “I couldn’t have known!”

“Maybe,” Lendon smiled. “But, think about it. If you didn’t split yourself, maybe you could’ve found them and left by now. That’s not done by now because you’re weak and pathetic.”

“No… no!” Cerulean shook his head. Cerulean was frozen still by an orange glow around him. “That’s not true!”

“Oh, quit lying to yourself. It’s tiring, really.” Lendon walked toward Cerulean. Cerulean tried moving away, but the orange magic held him in place. Lendon tilted Cerulean’s head toward him so they made eye contact.

“No!” Cerulean tried looking away, but couldn’t. A blinding orange light filled the security camera. After blinking away the after effects, Vick saw only Cerulean in the corridor. He walked over to the dropped radio and radioed the duo in the control center. “Open the doors,” he said. He stared directly at the security camera.

They saw his eyes and immediately opened the doors. His eyes glowed the same orange as Lendon’s. ​Well, he can possess people now Vick thought. He cracked a smile. “He’s certainly full of surprises,” Vick said aloud.

“You bet!” Dultin said. “This just got better!”

“It sure did,” Vick said as they continually stared at the cameras. ​One more to gohe kept to himself.

Lendon was approaching Blood. Blood must have sensed him because he said: “What do you want, Lendon?”

“Blood!” Lendon said as Cerulean. “I found the switches to the doors and opened them. We should continue looking together.”

“I’m not a naive fool, Lendon!” Blood continued without turning around. “Leave me alone! I’m not going to be part of your team anymore!”

Lendon laughed. “That’s crazy Blood!” Cerulean’s voice said. “Why would I want you back? You obviously can’t be trusted.” Blood finally turned around.

“Cerulean?!” Blood shouted in surprise. Lendon stared at Blood.

“It would be easier to kill you now!” Cerulean’s voice took a dark turn as Lendon lunged for Blood’s throat. Blood sidestepped Lendon. He threw a knife in his direction. Lendon latched onto it with magic and used its momentum to fling it back at Blood. The knife destroyed the door behind Blood.

“No way!” Dultin yelled.

“What?” Vick asked.

“That’s where I put Derick! How did he know?!”

Cerulean did not convey any emotional reaction. Blood helped Derick out of the wreckage. “ ‘Really accurate hunches’, huh?” Derick teased.

“Hey, I got you out, didn’t I?” Blood responded. Blood shoved Derick behind himself. “Go find Terrace. I’ll deal with Lendon.”

“Who’s—?” Derick began to ask before he started glowing orange. He was struggling against the translucent bindings.

Lendon smirked. “You’re not going anywhere,” Cerulean’s voice said.

“Let him go, Lendon!” Blood threatened.

“Sure.” Lendon threw Derick against a wall. The wall was damaged on impact and debris went everywhere. Blood tried to protect himself from the blast, but Vick could see clear cuts in his sweats.

Derick was not unscathed. He had a huge cut on his cheek and Vick bet that he had popped his arm out of socket. He had many other minor cuts everywhere. He struggled to get up, using the wall as some sort of crutch. He looked at Lendon. “Why?” he asked. “Why Cerulean?”

“Cerulean’s not here,” Lendon smirked. Blood walked up behind Lendon and tried to hit him with the blunt end of his knife. Lendon froze him and sent him flying into one of the

other cells. “You’re very annoying, Blood.” He sighed. “It’s not like you’ll actually try to kill me. Though you might’ve wanted to kill him, you can’t kill Cerulean.”

The dust cleared and Blood was staring Lendon down. “… heh heh…” he laughed. “Who said I was trying to kill you?” Blood looked like he would drop down any moment. He threateningly raised a glowing red knife at Lendon. “By now, Derick’s been looking for Terrace. You really are unobservant idiots.” He eyed the security camera on the wall, which was directly at Vick and Dultin.

Vick was mad. He did not like that he was that easily distracted. “Where is he?” he wondered aloud while searching the cameras.

“There he is!” Dultin pointed at one of the screens. Derick was walking quickly; it seemed as if he already knew where Terrace was. Vick realized he was heading in the right direction.

“I’ll go stop him,” Vick told Dultin. “Keep watching Lendon, just in case something goes wrong.” Dultin puffed up in resistance, but did not make any moves to challenge Vick.

Vick teleported to where Derick was last seen. He did not want to accidentally hit Terrace’s cell while he tried to stop Derick, so he concocted a plan. His arms glowed red as he pursues Derick, who was getting dangerously close to the cell. He shot his arm forward, his strings lashing out toward their target. They grabbed onto Derick, promptly stopping his progress and incapacitating him.

Derick let out a surprised shout as he was yanked backward. Vick’s strings pulled him back like a fishing rod being reeled in. Vick grabbed Derick and teleported the both of them to the one place that Vick knew would do nicely.

The landscape swirled around their arrival. Nothing made a sound. The endlessness was welcoming Vick home. “Home sweet home,” he said.

“Where—?” Derick tried asking before a tight squeeze from his bindings shut him up. He seemed to be shaking from pain. Vick has almost forgotten about his injury earlier.

Vick laughed. “You’re lucky,” he said. “You’re the first to see this place. There is nothing here. This AW has no number anymore. Such a fitting place for someone like me.” Vick’s strings let go of Derick. ​It’s not like he can do anythinghe figured.

Derick hit the floor immediately. He used his right arm to help himself up as his left hung limp. He managed to get himself into a sitting position. “This… is where you’re from?” he asked. Vick shrugged, not interested in the slightest. “Do you have any family? Friends?”

“What part of ‘there is nothing here’ do you not understand?” Vick snapped. His markings glowed in his anger.

Derick flinched at the retribution. “So, you’re really alone here? That’s—”

“I don’t want your pity. I don’t care anymore.”

Derick looked a bit annoyed at Vick’s interruption, but thought a bit before talking again. “It hurts, doesn’t it? Being alone like this?”

“What did I say about pity?” Vick spat daggers. “And what would you know?”

“Nothing,” Derick shrugged. “I’ve never been secluded like this. As for my knowledge, only you have. Only you can find a way to deal with it.”

“It doesn’t affect me anymore.”

Derick laughed. “That’s like saying history is nonessential. Vick, being numb is not coping. It’s blatant ignorance. You can’t say you’ve moved on without, well, ‘moving on.’ It’s obvious you haven’t.”

Vick laughed. The longer it went on, the crazier it was. “That’s what Terrace has been saying all this time. I don’t need two of him.” Vick’s strings reattached themselves around Derick and lifted him into the air. Vick opened a portal back to the Prison underneath him. He slammed Derick down through it and jumped in after. Vick’s strings receded.

Derick hit the floor with the satisfying sound of bones breaking. Derick shakingly stood up and trudged over to one of the cells. Vick was about to follow when he saw Lendon, the real him, get flung into the cell Derick passed. The door cracked open and, well, curse their luck, Terrace jumped out of the cell. He caught notice of Derick and immediately generated his paintbrushes and painted him into some state of health. Derick looked surprised, but didn’t say anything.

Blood walked toward them with a limp. He had with him a non possessed Cerulean looking emotionally unstable. Blood devil stared at Lendon. “Don’t you dare mess with Cerulean like that again!” Lendon only hissed his denial.

Terrace looked between Vick and Lendon. “Your plan didn’t work,” he said. “Good job! Bravo!” he teased.

“Terrace,” Cerulean rolled his eyes. Terrace shrugged and teleported out of the Prison.

Cerulean and Derick followed, leaving Blood alone.

Blood stared at an overhead security camera. “You’re so lazy, Dultin,” he said shaking his head. He left promptly.

Vick sighed. He knew they lost. He caught Lendon’s smile.

Vick knew it was not over yet. Not as long as they three were there would it ever be over. Vick also smiled. He would be seeing them soon.

VERY soon.

Writing Challenge Winner: In the Shadows by Marley Bowker

Marley is a 13 year old writer who participated in the Spring 2020 Bad Guy Writing Challenge. Below is her creepy and action-packed short story about a family plagued by a strange nature spirit that roams their house.

Chapter 1

It peered down on the family from the tall tree where it had been stationed for the past hour observing them. “Hold on, watch this real quick” says Lili’s dad. Laughs fade to silence, and eyes flick towards him, as he throws a piece of what looks to be plastic into the large bonfire. After only a couple of seconds, the fire bursts out into a beautiful blue color, with purple streaks and if you look hard enough, even a very faint tone of green.

Everyone is silent, observing the fire in awe as the colors fade back into the traditional array of warm colors. As the night takes over on the chilly evening in the town of Springwood Pennsylvania, the Locke family decides to head inside as their bonfire grows smaller. Lili, the second oldest child, with two younger sisters and an older brother, decides to stay out after the rest of the family for just a few minutes. She liked watching when their monthly bonfires slowly die out, especially towards the end of the fire when all the tiny flames dance in the glowing red pieces of wood at the bottom of the pile.

Lili found it very awing that the giant piles of leaves, sticks, branches, and the occasional piece of broken furniture from the home could turn into a way smaller mound of ash that could be disposed of by simply blowing it around the yard. As the last few flames danced in the breeze, she saw something amongst the treeline. Two balls of warm white light, like a reflection. She giggled, because she knew it was her brother hiding trying to scare her as he normally did. However, when there was no response back, she became skeptical. She saw the two reflections go away for only a second, then appear right back in the same spot, like they were blinking. At that point, she was certain it was her brother trying to scare her, and he had simply blinked because he didn’t realise that you could see the reflection of their eyes.

And that’s when the thought hit her- human eyes don’t reflect light, such as the light from the fire which was probably causing it. Lili saw the eyes slowly moving, as if the unknown creature was moving, and then the eyes disappeared into the darkness in the forest. Just then, she heard a large crash from the trees as she had turned to head back to the house. There was another one. Then another. She recognized the sound as falling trees, but there was no noise indicating someone had cut them down such as a chainsaw. They were also falling at a rate that no person could cut down that quickly. One right after another, there must have been two trees falling every five seconds. Spooked, she sprinted back to the house, and ran into the bathroom to shower and get the smell of smoke, which she had grown to love over time, off of her body and out of her long, brown hair. Lili was just turning the water on in the shower when she heard something downstairs fall and break, so she decided to brave the walk down the stairs and see what had happened.

Then she saw it- her mother laying in her husband’s arms. The floor was covered with blood, and there were two huge gashes on the backs of her calves. Lili’s mom, dad, and the kitchen floor were drenched blood spatter, as if something had come behind her and slashed her legs open. Her dad picked up the phone, and tried to call an ambulance, or someone that could help. Just as he had hit the call button, the phone just beeped like there was no service. The only other time she had heard that noise was right after a category 4 hurricane had hit near her home along the border of Pennsylvania, and torn the power lines right in half. How could that be? Lili thought, because the power was still on.

“Dad, I’m going to check on the lines outside to see if something happened to them. Try and figure out what happened to mom!” She grabbed the flashlight off the table, and ran outside to check. As the light flooded the darkness, she saw that a single part of the line was cut cleanly in half. The two halves were swaying as if there was wind that was blowing them around, but there wasn’t. The breeze had gone away. That could only mean one thing, Lili thought. The line had to have been cut very recently if they were still swaying like that. She shined the light around the lines looking for an answer. She didn’t see anything. She was shining the light all the way down both sides of the cables until the light could not shine any further. But when she flashed it back to where it was originally cut, there it was again.

That pair of eyes shining in the darkness. Again, reflecting the light, only this time, it was the flashlight and not the fire. Lili could not see exactly where the eyes were shining, but she felt that they were staring straight into hers. They blinked again, and the creature started moving. It began slowly, and then all at once, began leaping from one post to the next. She was in shock at how it could move like that, because all the posts must have been at least thirty feet apart from each other. Shining the flashlight towards whatever was jumping, she saw a large bony body, light grey in color, and it had almost looked transparent. Lili still had no clue what it could be, but one thing she knew for sure, and that was that it definitely could not be human.

She then ran as quickly as possible back into the house to tell her dad what she had seen. But when she tried getting inside the door, it was locked. She banged on it for someone to let her in, but within twenty seconds no one answered it. So she ran over to grab the ladder and come back in her window that she knew was unlocked. She set the ladder on the house, and climbed up onto a part of the roof, where she then pushed it back down so nothing could follow her, and ran to her window. She had always left it unlocked because the doors sometimes got jammed and they needed a way to get inside the house, but when she went to pull it open, it was locked. She tried every other window, but they were all locked too. Lili ran back to where she had put the ladder so she could get back down and try another way, but when she got there, she realized that she had pushed the ladder down, and she was now stuck on the roof.

Chapter 2

               Don’t think you’re getting away that easy, sweetheart. It thought. Good luck getting down without a ladder. You want to take my family away from me? Two can play at that game. My nest used to belong where your huge brick nest is that you’re constantly inside. Sleeping, eating, everything. Why your nest is so much bigger than mine was, I don’t know. But I’m going to take care of it. Once and for all. Good luck to you all, Locke’s.

The games have begun. It watched Lili scrambling to the windows looking for a way down, but there was nothing. Windows? Locked. Ladders? Tipped over. There was nothing she could do. The drop down from the first story section of the roof was still a nine foot drop. Curse you, country houses for having such high roofs she thought. Then she remembered she had a trampoline in her back yard. She tried running around on the roof on the first story, but it got blocked off before she was at the point she could jump. So she climbed up onto the second story section, which was very easy as part of it came down close to the first story roofing above the porch.

So she got up there, and eventually made her way around to the back of the house. Looking up from the trampoline onto the roof had not looked like that tall of a drop, but now that she looked where she had to land and how far down it was, she was hesitant. She had to drop nearly two stories and jump out six feet to hit the edge of the trampoline. It was very dark too, since none of the back lights had been turned on because they were motion sensors. This is the only way. I have to do this. For mom. She took a large breath, and jumped as she exhaled, pushing forward with all her strength. She landed on the trampoline, and fell through the padding onto the ground. Could’ve been worse. And then she got up- almost. She noticed that her leg was bent in a way it should not have been bending. That’s when the pain set in. Nothing hurt her until she realized that there was something wrong with her leg and that it was messed up somehow.

The pain quickly seared through her ankle and up to her knee. It was like someone had struck it with a metal club that was on fire. She tried to touch it, but she instantly regretted it as she had touched her ankle directly on the injury. She tried to pull herself to her feet from the metal framing of the trampoline, but when she got on her feet, she fell right back down. What am I supposed to do? Mom and Dad are in serious trouble and I can’t even be there for them! Lili thought, tears rolling down her cheeks, pale from fright. She eventually got on her feet again and began hopping on one foot, headed for the back door. She tried to stand on her hurt foot, but it could not yet support her. So she continued hobbling on her right foot until she reached the back door.

She pulled it open, and walked in between the counters and used them almost like crutches. She turned the corner into the dining room and saw that her mom and dad were still in the same peril state. She bent down and touched her mother’s head, making sure she knew Lili was there too. Her mother slowly looked at her, eyes red and wet. “Lili, honey, you know I love you right?” These words brought tears to Lili’s eyes as well, knowing what the next few following sentences would bring. She nodded. “You know that wherever I may go, I’ll always be right here with you, don’t you?” Her heart dropped. “Yes”. Lili looked up at her dad, who was trying very hard to hide the fact that he was hurting. But Lili could tell he was crying, both on the inside and on the outside.

It was at this moment she realized how much blood her mother had really lost. She didn’t have anything to say. She just bent over and gave her mom a hug. She didn’t care that her shirt was covered in blood at that point, she just cared that she was with her mother, while her mother was still with her. Her dad pulled out his phone to try to call someone one last time, and to everyone’s shock, it worked.

He called an ambulance and they were out in nearly ten minutes. They put Lili’s mom on a stretcher and took her away. At that point her dad quit trying to be strong. He grabbed Lili and held her, sobbing. She held him just at tight as he had. “I love you baby girl” he said. “I love you too dad.” Those were the last words they spoke to each other for the next twenty minutes. Eventually they got in the pickup truck, and headed to the hospital. They weren’t allowed in the ambulance simply because there would have been too many people, but nevertheless, they were on their way.

Chapter 3

               They arrived at the hospital half an hour later, and they sat down in the waiting room. This gave Lili time to think about everything. What it was, who it was, what it’s problem was with her family, and why it was trying to hurt them. It had nearly killed her mother already, who knows what else it could do. She tried to think about all the stories she’d read as a girl, about all these different kinds of paranormal and extraterrestrial creatures that may or may not exist. She’d always been a fan of stories and documentaries on the subject, but she never thought she would be living in one. She gave herself a list of things to figure out; what it was, why it was targeting her family, and what it wanted. She thought and thought for hours on end and never came up with anything. There was no lead. They hadn’t done anything spiritual that might have triggered it such as a ouija board. “Hey dad?” He looked over at her. “Have you ever seen it?”

“Seen what?”

“That creature, the one that hurt mom?”

“What creature? You know what did this to her?”

“I think so. I went outside to check why you couldn’t call anyone earlier, and I saw this thing on the power lines. It wasn’t the first time I had seen it either. Do you remember the other night when we had the bonfire in the yard?” He nodded. “Along the treeline facing the back of the house really far away I saw it then too.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t just someone from the other side of the tree line? There are a couple of houses on the opposite side like ours.” He asked.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Human eyes don’t reflect light, that thing’s did. I have no clue what is going on.” Lili looked down at the cast on her ankle and wondered why she jumped from the highest spot instead of hanging off the edge and dropping. She would have only been a couple feet off the ground. And it would have saved her a lot of pain. It was too late at that point, however. Her thoughts wandered back to her mom. She wondered when she would get to see her, and if she would be okay. About an hour of thinking later, she still had come up with no explanation, nor a place to start.

A nurse came into the waiting room from a door across the room. “Are the Locke’s here?” Lili’s dad shot up from his chair, and Lili followed. She giggled at the fact that there was an indention where her dad had been sitting, but the joke quickly escaped her mind when they walked through the doors into a long hallway. The nurse showed them where Lili’s mom was staying, opened the door to the room, and stepped aside so they could walk in. She let the door close behind them as she continued down the hallway to do her job. The room scared Lili, as there were multiple tubes coming out of her mom’s arms, and machines beeping, over and over. She felt trapped. She watched the heart monitor continue in the same path. With each beep, it would spike, then go back down. Then again, and again, and again. It never sped up, it never slowed down. Until it did.

“Hey mom, can you hear me?” No response. The nurse had told them that because of the medicine she had given her, she might be unresponsive because she was sleeping. Lili reached for her hand, and laid hers on top of her moms.

“I know you’re in there, mom. Keep fighting. Don’t give up on us. You can’t give up on us. I need you.” Silence followed by the beeping of the monitor. Then it began speeding up. A lot. Doctors burst into the room and ordered the family out. So they left the room in a panic. They turned to look from outside the window on the side, but the curtain closed on them. They could hear faint shouting coming from the other side of the room.

“Is she going to be okay, Dad? Please tell me she is going to be fine.” He did not respond for a few seconds.

“I don’t know yet, Tiger.” Tiger. She’d been called Tiger once before by her dad, and that was when she fell off of her bicycle when she was younger and broke her arm. That sent a wave of shock over her, and her heart dropped yet again. The same nurse began walking towards them from the direction she had left earlier, and ushered them to another waiting room. There were no people in this one, and it was much smaller. This room had to be four times smaller than the normal one, with only ten chairs and a small coffee table. A TV was mounted to the wall, and it was broadcasting some little kid show Lili had never seen before. Just like in any other waiting room, the volume had been turned down very quiet. In that room they sat.

One hour, two hours, three hours. The room had gradually become darker as dusk had set in. Finally, someone had come into the room. By that point, both Lili and her dad were dozing off, and the sudden burst of the door startled them both awake. It took them a second to realize where they were but once they did, the doctor took them to see Lili’s mom. The doctor said that she had a seizure, but that she was stable as of right now. Lili walked over to see her mother with bags under her eyes. Meanwhile, the creature was trying to find where the Locke’s were at. They were not inside nor outside the house. It had checked already. Maybe I finally got rid of that stupid family. They decided to take my family away from me, don’t think I’ve forgotten that easily. The creature posted up on the roof, scanning the surrounding area for signs of the family. But when nothing came up, it moved on. I’ll be back in the morning. Prepare yourselves Lockes. I will get my revenge. Don’t you doubt it for a second. And just as quickly as it had appeared, it sped off into the treeline.

Chapter 4

               As they drove away from the hospital, Lili’s mother began to speak. “I’m still so confused as to what happened.”

“Something attacked you, Mom. What do you remember? Did you see it? Hear it? Tell me everything.” Lili said.

“I didn’t see much, all I remember was that I was at the counter making sandwiches for dinner that night, and something knocked me to the ground. I could not see what it was, I just felt a sharp pain in the backs of my legs. When I turned around to see what happened, nothing was there. I tried to scream for someone to come help me, but I couldn’t. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t. Then I passed out and woke up in that hospital bed.”

Lili pondered on this for a bit. If that creature she had seen multiple times before was the culprit, it would make sense. Her mother said it was quiet, and she never heard anything. Lili didn’t hear anything when it was leaping away on the telephone poles. Her mom said it was so fast she could not see it. That thing had been pretty quick when Lili saw it. It all connected.

Okay, well at least I’ve got somewhere to start now Lili thought. I know now that the creature I saw was probably what hurt mom. I still don’t have the why, but at least I have the who. The Lockes got home, and at that point it was nearly two in the morning, so everyone went to bed.

When Lili woke up the next morning, she went downstairs to make herself some breakfast, thinking this whole thing would be over and done with. But after her parents did not come down stairs, she became skeptical. She went upstairs to check on them at about noon, which was way late for them to get up, as they are early risers and are usually out and about by nine. She opened the door to her parents room, but they were not there. Lili searched the whole house, but could not find anyone. She soon pulled out her phone, and called her dad. No answer. Then she tried her mom. No answer. She went outside to look for them out there, because sometimes they liked to go out to the pastures and groom the horses and milk the cows. But they were not there.

In fact, nothing was there. The cows were all gone, and so were the horses and chickens. She checked and even the eggs were gone from the coop. This had never happened before. She tried calling again, but there was still no answer. Eventually she began running back to the house, and called her mom one more time. This time, instead of hearing her own phone ring, she heard her mom’s ringtone going off in the distance. Confused and terrified, she called again and again, until she found the source of the sound. Lili found both of her parents’s phones laying right next to each other, perfectly straight. None of this made any sense. And then that is when she saw the eyes again. Along the treeline yet again, but instead of being at her house looking towards the trees, she was only yards away. They blinked, and moved forward. It was at this moment Lili realized how large the creature really was, towering above her nearly as tall as her house did.

“Lili, I see we finally meet face to face.” She heard the voice, it was deep and monotone. She did not see a mouth for a moment, because the creature was black. Really black. Darker than the night sky. When she did eventually find it, it looked like someone had attempted to stitch it closed and failed. Skin stretched between the lips as it’s mouth opened, making it even more terrifying than it was before. “Who are you, and what do you want with me? Where are my mom and dad?” Lili shouted at the creature.

“Me? I’m surprised you don’t remember me, Lili Locke.” A shiver ran down her back.

“Who are you!” She screamed.

“Oh honey, you shouldn’t be worried about me. It is your parents you should be concerned about. Do you know where they are?” Silence. “Oh, that’s right. I have them. You guys took my family from me and left me alone for years, so I am going to do the same to you, Lili Locke.”

“Why are you doing this?” She shouted at it, tears beginning to sting her eyes.

“You killed my family when you built this house. You took away the only people I have ever loved. So I am going to  do the same to you.” The creature pulled out an arm with long, sharp looking fingers, which only added to the terrifying aspect of this creature. It pointed behind the tree line, where there was an open area. It was at this point she saw her mother and father, wrapped in web-like material, from there feet to their necks. They were motionless and their eyes were closed. “What family are you talking about? Who did we take from you?”

“My mother, my father, and my brothers and sisters. When you burned down the forest to create this area of land to build your giant house on, you burned my family’s home. I was the only lucky one that was able to get out!”

Chapter 5

               “What even are you?” Lili asked.

“That doesn’t matter! Who do you all think you are, to come to my forrest, burn it all, and claim the land as your own? Why should you get to keep your family, but I lost mine?”

“Because I didn’t do anything to deserve to lose my family!”

“And you think I did? I was very young, I had known my family for less then a year! You’ve had yours way longer, and it’s finally time you feel what i’ve felt all along.” Lili went stiff as a board. She had no clue what to say.

“We aren’t the ones who burned your forest! This house has been here longer then any of us have been alive!” Even though Lili knew this was a lie, she had to try everything she could in order to save her family. Years ago, many before she was born, they had bought out the plot of land and burned it to make a new life here. They had hundreds of acres of forest burned down for them, and never replanted a single tree.

“LIES! I watched your father light the match and toss it at the tree! Don’t try and lie to me, Lili Locke, you WILL regret it.” the creature got closer to her face. This made Lili very uncomfortable, and she stumbled backwards.

“I’ve seen what your family can and will do to get their way. And I think it’s finally time they pay for that, don’t you?”

“Please, you’ve got to take piddy on me, I wasn’t even alive yet when it happened, please don’t punish me!”

“It’s too late. Begging isn’t going to do anything. I wish you would see that already.” The creature leaped over the tall trees back into the clearing where Lili’s parents were being kept. She sprinted as fast as possible towards them, and stood in front of them. She shook them aggressively, but they did not come out of their state.

“Wake up! Mom! Dad! Don’t leave me like this!!” she screamed, but it was useless.

“Move child, or you’re going with them.” The creature said. She did not budge. Lili simply stood there in between her parents, as if she was guarding them.

“Dang it kid, I said move!” The creature was now only half a foot away from her face. She could feel it breathing on her as she reached up and grabbed it’s head. She punched it multiple times, until eventually it threw her off of him. Thats when something happened that no one expected. Lili’s eyes shone bright green beams of light, and began rising into the sky.

“Let. Them. Go. Now.” She said.

“Silly girl, haven’t you realized by now-” he was cut off. The same green appeared in his eyes that were in Lili’s eyes.

 “Wha- Whats happening?” it cried. Lili watched as it began fading colors, shifting grey, then white, until it was nearly transparent. Thats when everything began to pan out. With the loudest BOOM Lili had ever heard, the creature was gone. The explosion sent her flying backwards towards the ground, and she blacked out. When she came to, she saw her mom standing over her. She sat up, wondering what had happened.

“Where am I?” she asked. Her mom simply giggled.

“Honey, you’re still in bed. It’s time to wake up, you’ve slept way longer than usual. Are you feeling alright?” Lili was just confused at this point.

“Wait, but how did you get out of the web nets?” Her parents now looked as confused as Lili.

“What web nets, you crazy?” Her mom said, laughing.

“The ones the creature wrapped you up in! You and dad were both stuck and when I tried to shake you awake, you didn’t wake up!”

“Sweetheart, I think you’ve been dreaming a lot lately. Come on, I made breakfast. It’s your favorite, scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon! It’s real bacon this time too, not the turkey bacon you said you didn’t like. But I don’t understand how you don’t like turkey bacon, I honestly like it more than normal bacon. Come down when you’re dressed.” She turned and walked away. Lili looked at the back of her moms legs as she walked out, and there were no signs of cuts. Not even any scars. She got up and looked in the mirror. Her eyes weren’t green anymore. Just her normal blue. Maybe it was all just a dream She thought. But it felt so real! It was like I was right there. Even now that I know it was just a dream, it still feels like i’m going to walk into the kitchen and see mom laying on the floor in peril again. Lili got dressed, and headed down stairs. Her mom greeted her in the kitchen with a hug, and handed her a glass plate to get her food. Lili looked at all the amazing food, and it smelled so good. She couldn’t wait to dig in, but she let her mom get her food first since she cooked it all.

“Hey, where is dad at? I haven’t seen him yet today.” Lili asked.

“Oh, he just went out to do some work around the pastures, fixing old broken boards and that horrible old gate. He went out to get wood and stuff last night to fix it. Said it should all be done around supper time.” Lili wondered if she should help him or not

“Do you think he would want any help? I don’t think I have anything to do today. I finished the replica you told me to build.”

“I’m sure he would love some help, honey. You can go out there after you’re done eating. Did you sleep well?”

“Yeah.” She was reminded of the dream again. She sat down at the dining table across from her mom, and began eating. So much happened in so little time, I still can’t believe it was only a dream.

Writing Challenge Winner: Neutral Zone by Olivia Kasych

Olivia is a 15 year old writer who has participated in many of the library’s writing challenges, including last summer’s Voyager Writing Challenge and this spring’s Bad Guy Writing Challenge. Neutral Zone is a science fiction story that leads the main character through multiple universes to battle against his alternate self!

Check it out below!

Original artwork by Olivia!

Derick slouched in his chair. The seemingly endless babble of his History teacher discouraged any interest he had in the Industrial Revolution, which was none in the first place. He just wanted the class to be over and the weekend to start. He stared blankly at his History book, trying to make sense of it. His teacher was not even talking about the Industrial Revolution at this point, instead about a bet that he made with one of Derick’s classmates. It was something about a race around the school with Derick’s fastest classmate.

Derick shrugged and tried to fill out notes for the section. He hurried through them, barely reading the section, so he could finish before the bell, which was supposed to go off in five minutes.

When the clock was in the last minute, Derick could hear the sea of eager children quickly stacking all the stuff they had in messy piles on their desks. He was doing it too, so he had no room to judge.

The bell rang and Derick almost had to run out of the classroom to get to his locker before the hallway became too crowded. He shoved his stuff in his backpack, closed his locker, and was out the door before someone could count to ten.

“Hey, dude!” called someone from behind him. Derick looked over his shoulder to find his friend Chris running after him. “You’re taking me home today, remember? And what’s got you hurrying?”

“Sorry, I forgot,” Derick answered as he slowed down a bit for Chris to catch up. “And Mom’s got to go for her yearly check up today. I didn’t want to miss my chance.”

“You knew I was coming you dumb nut, and okay.” They both continued to run to Derick’s mom’s car. The red minivan was not hard to miss. Sprinting across the parking lot was not their best idea, Derick admitted, but they did get there faster than they would have any other way.

“Boys!” Derick’s mom exclaimed once they got in the car.

“Sorry for Sprinting,” Derick apologized. “But the car was over the Verizon.” He added gun fingers.

“Derick no!” Chris said, threatening to get out of his seat and leave.

“Derick yes!” Derick retorted. He loved to mess with Chris like that.

His mom sighed. “Can we not have one moment of peace?” she asked wishfully.

“Nope,” Derick and Chris said at the same time.

The drive home was a quick three minutes. Derick’s mom dropped them at the front door and drove off. Derick walked up to the door and rummaged around in his pocket to find the key to the house…

Of which he accidentally left in the long gone red minivan that belongs to his mom. He face palmed.

“You left the key in the car, didn’t you?” Chris asked, already knowing the answer.

“Yep,” Derick said.

“Dude, you have a problem. That’s the third time this week.”

“I know.”

“And your mom’s going to kill you next time you do it.”

“I know.”

“Just saying.” Chris sat down on the front step. “You know, that cloud looks like a dragon.”

Derick joined him. “No, it looks like a Star Destroyer from Star Wars.”

“You and your Star Wars.” Chris said, shaking his head.

Derick heard something that sounded like a bomb went off in his backyard. He noticed Chris was not put off by it. Derick wondered if he was hearing things, but he figured it would be safe to check anyway.

“Hey, I’m gonna go check on something,” he told Chris while trying to strain his neck around to see his backyard.

“Sure dude,” Chris shrugged and went back to stabbing the ground with sticks he found laying in the grass. Derick rolled his eyes.

Derick quickly climbed over his fence to see what was going on. He could not believe what he saw. There was a huge crater in the middle of his backyard. In the center was a short person, about a head shorter than Derick. He wore a tan short-sleeve shirt with one light green triangle in the center of the sleeve. The tan color matched the color of his skin pretty well, but his skin was a tad bit lighter. Under it was an orange shirt with sleeves that reached his elbows. It was matched with dark brown cargo shorts. He had light blue shoes on and a sash that contained little containers full of paint that was pretty much every color of the rainbow. He had dark brown hair, the color matched Derick’s, and different colored eyes which seemed to change every few seconds. Some black paint was splatted near where his nose was, but he did not seem to notice.

Derick only had about a thousand questions for him, but another person was hovering in the air. Derick looked again and realized that he was not hovering, but sitting on a swing made of blood red strings. The strings seemed to be coming from markings on his arms. He wore a black t-shirt with grey sweats. He had on black shoes. His skin was a dark brown and his hair pitch black. His crazed grin sent a shiver down Derick’s spine. He had a bad feeling about this.

“It’s all your fault, Terrace,” the person on the swing said. “If you let me do my job, we wouldn’t be here, would we?”

“If I let you do your ‘job,’ Vick,” Terrace said. Derick assumed that was his name because the other person said so. “There wouldn’t be anything left!”

Derick was glad both of them had not noticed him yet. They both looked piping mad at each other and he wanted no part in that. He tried sneaking back over the fence. It was going well, he almost made it over.


Another chill went down his spine. He felt like he was being watched. He froze, not daring to move.

“Well, what do we have here?” sneered Vick. Derick could tell it was him because his voice was a lot harsher than Terrace’s.

“Gosh darn it,” Derick mumbled to himself. He turned his head back around. He saw both of them now staring at him.

Terrace had a terrified look on his face while Vick continued to smile. Vick pointed his hand at Derick and his markings started to glow.

“Don’t do it Vick!” Terrace yelled. “You can’t kill him! This is the original AW, don’t you know that?” He pronounced ‘AW’ as two individual letters.

Derick was confused. He had no idea what was going on.

Vick lowered his hand and his markings stopped glowing. “What makes you think I was gonna kill him?” he asked Terrace. “You brought us here anyway.”

“No I didn’t!” Terrace yelled back. “You did!”

Derick noticed that, at this point, their battle had been forgotten and they now resorted to bickering with each other. Derick used this time to finish making his way over the fence. He could not leave them like that in his backyard, so he used a crack in the fence to watch them.

“Hi!” someone exclaimed next to Derick. He jumped back and turned to look at the person. He was wearing a light grey t-shirt and dark blue basketball shorts. He had on light blue shoes, which matched the color of the scarf he had around his neck. His skin tone was the same as Derick’s, a tan color, light brown hair, and, to Derick’s surprise, green eyes. He had on a big smile.

“What are you doing here?” Derick asked. He had no idea who this person was. “It isn’t safe!”

“You mean them?” The person pointed at the fence, but Derick knew what he meant. “They always do that! That’ll be over soon!” He giggled. “I’m Cerulean by the way!”

Derick shook Cerulean’s outstretched hand.

“You know them?”

“Of course I do! Terrace is my friend! He helped create the multiverse and the AWs! Vick destroys the AWs.”

“Hold up, what multiverse? That’s just a dumb theory. It’s not real!”

“You better believe it! Where you live is called an Alternate World, or AW for short! Your AW is the first one and mine’s the second!”

“You’re bluffing!”

“Nope! Derick, everything I said was true!”

“How do you know my name?” Cerulean did not answer. “I don’t remember telling you.”

Cerulean took a deep breath in and out. “Derick, I-”

Something blasted the fence gate and destroyed it. Cerulean and Derick ducked for cover. When he looked up, Derick saw Terrace run over towards them. “Cerulean!?” he called frantically.

“I’m here!” Cerulean called back from behind a bush. Terrace looked relieved. “So is Derick!” Cerulean added.

“I’m over here!” Derick called. He and Cerulean got up from behind the bushes. Derick quickly looked at the damage to the fence gate. He could not even recognize that there was a fence there. He further looked around the wreckage into his backyard to check for Vick.

“What happened?” He heard Cerulean ask Terrace behind him.

“Well, Vick and I were arguing for a bit and, well, you know how unstable he is,

he…uh…” Terrace stumbled around for words to describe it. “Kinda wrapped his strings around part of the porch and threw it at me. I dodged and it hit the gate. Then I laughed at him for missing me and he tried to hit me with a fence post. He stormed off to who-knows-where.”

“Man! How am I going to explain this!” Derick exclaimed. “I’m home for ten minutes and my backyard looks like I was experimenting with nukes and accidentally exploded one!” Derick was freaking out.

“Derick!” Terrace yelled. Derick stopped. “I can fix this, just give me a sec!”

“Really?” Derick scoffed. “This is not a one man jo—” Terrace generated two paint brushes out of thin air and, with a determined look in his eyes, proceeded to draw Derick’s backyard back to its original state.

“How?” Derick gaped. He was in shock.

“Terrace is the god of Creativity,” Cerulean added.

“Oh.” Derick recalled Cerulean saying something like that earlier.

“Oh yeah! I was going to tell you how I knew your name!”

“I would still like to know.”

“Well, so, basically, I’M YOU IN MY AW!”

Derick was surprised. He did not see the connection until then. “So are Terrace and Vick?”

“Yes,” Cerulean said, with less enthusiasm.

“What’s with the nicknames then?”

“Derick, you are more important than you realize!”

Terrace started laughing, much to both of their surprise. They both looked at him weirdly. “What?” Terrace asked.

“Does he always do that?” Derick asked Cerulean quietly.

“Yes, but sometimes it’s a bit different. The other day, he got really mad at me for no reason. A second later, he apologized to me for it and claimed he didn’t know what got over him. I think he’s keeping something from me.” Cerulean whispered back.

“ ‘I got a bad feeling about this,’ ” Derick said in his best impersonation of Han Solo. Cerulean laughed.

“You want to see something cool?” Cerulean asked Derick excitedly.

“Sure,” Derick said, winking one eye and smiling.

Cerulean bounded over to Terrace. “Terrace!! Can we show him the place??” he asked.

“Which place?” Terrace asked playfully. Derick could tell Terrace knew which place Cerulean was talking about.

“You know what place, silly!” Cerulean smiled.

“Okay,” Terrace said. “I guess I can do that.”

“Yay!” Cerulean cheered. “Come on, Derick!” Terrace drew a big portal-like thing with his paint brushes, stepped in, and disappeared. Cerulean did the same.

Derick did not know if he wanted to go with some strangers to some place. Scratch that, he wanted to go, he just did not know if he should. He figured a few moments could not hurt, so he walked through the portal. ​Gotta trust myself at some pointhe sighed. ~~~~~~

Derick had to take a step back. The teleportation made him a bit queasy, but Terrace reassured him that it was only because it was his first time.

“Derick, welcome to AW 10,” Terrace said. “Or, specifically, to Upmost, Earth satellite and a hospitable place for humans.”

At the moment, Derick realized…

He was in space.

Derick had to step back to take in the breathtaking view of the Earth from space. He could see the sun peaking out from just over the horizon the Earth made.

“Wait, how can we breathe up here?” Derick asked.

“This place is covered by a sort of force field,” Cerulean explained. “I’m not sure exactly how it works, but in the building over there is a generator that generates oxygen.” Cerulean gestured toward a whitish-grey covered building in the distance. The building seemed to be laid out in sections and each section was connected by some sort of above-ground tunnel.

“Here comes the head man,” Terrace announced. Derick saw someone emerge from the building. He was taller than all of them and wore a white lab coat over a dark gray shirt. “Derick, this is Astro. He’s a future you that’s a scientist. He also runs things around here.”

“Hello,” Astro said. Derick gave him a small wave. Astro turned his attention towards Terrace. “Terrace, I don’t mind that you come here, but you have to tell me beforehand, got it?”

“Sorry,” Terrace apologized. “But I had to show Derick around, Cerulean begged me.”

“This is your one pass,” Astro said.

“Hey Derick!” Cerulean pulled on Derick’s shirt. “How about I show you around?”

“Okay.” Derick followed Cerulean inside the building.

Derick barely paid attention to Cerulean giving him a tour. He really was fascinated by the structure, but he was not feeling well. Shortly after entering the building, he heard a ringing sound in his ears. After a while, he also felt incredibly hot.

“Hey, Cerulean?” Derick started to ask. “Is it hot in here or what?”

“Derick, are you okay?” Cerulean asked. “This room is practically a big freezer for all the food here.”

“Nah, I’m fine,” Derick lied. His vision started to blur. His knees buckled and he fell forward.

“Derick!” Cerulean screamed, but Derick did not hear him. He had blacked out.

Derick opened his eyes. He seemed to still be in the building. The air was musty with the smell of blood. A strange fog covered the area, giving it an eerie feel. Derick started walking around. He saw a shadowy outline in the fog. After getting a bit closer, he identified the outline as Cerulean.

Cerulean was really beat up. He had generated some sort of weapon that hung loosely in his right hand. Derick made a mental note to ask about it later.

Cerulean noticed Derick. “What are you doing here? It’s not safe!” Derick heard laughter behind him. “Watch out!” Cerulean yelled. Derick turned around to try and identify what the threat was. He tried to move, but he was not fast enough.

He could feel the terrible pain of a knife piercing his side. His hands flew to the place where the knife was. He could feel his blood on it. In front of him, he saw another outline in the fog.

“Who—” Derick started to say but was interrupted by a coughing fit. He could feel blood trickling down from his mouth. “Who are you?” he rasped.

“Who am I?” The person stepped out of the fog. He was wearing a black hoodie and black sweatpants. His hood was pulled over his eye line and he held another knife. “I’m you, but everyone calls me Blood.”

Blood walked closer to Derick. “It’s so nice to haunt your dreams. Too bad you’re not actually here. This would have been so much more fun if so.” Derick only stared. He knew he did not have the strength to run.

Blood stood in front of Derick. He smiled. “You must have thought Vick was the only one.” Blood pulled out the knife that was wedged in Derick. The ripping motion reopened the wound and blood flowed out of it. Derick desperately tried to stop the blood flow with his hands and, while doing so, sank to his knees. He felt a hand grip his hair, forcing his head to tilt upward. He saw Blood’s merciless eyes staring back.

“Silly,” he laughed. “There are a lot of us.” Blood stabbed Derick again. “Goodbye, for now.”

Derick jolted awake. He saw Terrace and Cerulean staring at him. He grew a little uncomfortable. He seemed to be in some sort of infirmary. “Welcome back, Derick,” he heard Astro say. Derick got up from what resembled a hospital bed. He felt a weird pain from his side.

The pain was close to nothing, but it was enough to remind Derick about his dream, if it could even be called that. He could still perfectly picture the knife in his side and Blood laughing at him. He all of a sudden wanted to get out of the building.

Derick walked out of the room before anyone could say anything. Somehow, his feet remembered which way he entered from. He could hear Cerulean following him; Derick knew it was him because he was calling Derick’s name. He continued on.

He finally found his way to the exit. He was going to open the door, but his side started hurting more. He figured it was because he had been running, so he casted it aside. He tried to open the door again, but Cerulean caught up with him.

“Derick!” Cerulean yelled. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Derick said. “I just need some fresh air.” He reached again for the handle.

“That’s not a good reason why you bolted off!” At this point, Derick’s side was throbbing

with pain. Derick opened the door.


Derick was planning on going through the door, but he did not. He took a step back and stared forward. ​Speak of the devilDerick thought.

“What’s wrong?” Cerulean asked. He also looked forward and flinched.

“Aww, this is so cute,” Blood said. “I actually get to kill someone.”

“When you said ‘for now,’ I didn’t think you meant in five minutes,” Derick said, trying to be funny for his own sake.

Blood was obviously not amused. “Your humor is stupid,” he said. He took a step forward. Out of the corner of his eye Derick saw Cerulean generate a slingshot. ​That’s what that wasDerick realized.

“Don’t come any closer!” Cerulean warned.

“Or what? You’re going to hit me with that?” Blood laughed. “You can’t aim!”

“Yes I can!” To prove his point, Cerulean flung a rock like object at Blood. It hit him in the face. It did not seem to hurt him, but it did surprise him.

Blood was furious. He generated a knife. “This has your name on it Cerulean.”

“Get behind me, Derick,” Cerulean ordered “So he can’t hit you.” Derick did what he was told.

“I already did,” Blood smiled. He snapped his fingers. Derick’s side started hurting as much as it did in his dream. Again, he imagined a knife in his side. He grabbed onto Cerulean’s shirt to try to stay standing.

“Derick!” Cerulean shrieked. He put his arms around Derick to steady him. Cerulean looked back at Blood “What did you do?!”

“No, Cerulean,” Blood shook his head “It’s ‘what did you do?’” Cerulean flinched. “You’ve kept the truth long enough. Heck, you’ve lied to keep the truth. Now what kind of friend is that?”

“Cerulean, what is he talking about?” Derick asked. He was skeptical about what Blood was saying but Cerulean’s reaction made it seem like it was true. “What truth?”

“It’s nothing,” Cerulean said. Cerulean did not make eye contact with Derick.

“‘Nothing’? I’ve been living ‘nothing’ my whole life?!” Blood spat. “I’m only here because of you! Do you know what it’s like to be made of someone’s insecurities? Huh?”

“I didn’t know it would turn out like this!” Cerulean said.

“Oh, so you ‘didn’t know’ you were lying about Terrace? Is that how this is going? And now you’re pulling not just another person, but the original into this?”

Derick was completely lost. The pain in his side subsided, finally, but Cerulean would not let go of him. Somehow, he felt like he needed to be strong for Cerulean. “I don’t get it,” Derick asked. “Who are you?” He directed the question at Blood.

Cerulean answered. “He’s me, Derick.” Derick just stared at him. “In my… our AW, people are born with the natural ability to do magic. Some are better than others. And you can be whatever you want to be!”

“But that’s true for everyone…?” Derick half asked.

“Well, I took it more literal than everyone else. I wanted to be the best me I could be by locking away almost all of my negative traits. It took almost all of my magic to do, but I was a better person. I loved it!

“Over time, all those negative feelings grew a literal mind of their own. First, it was just nightmares. Those nightmares gave me back my regret. And then, after a while, they had a body that followed me around like a ghost. He was stable at first. He gave me criticism, but I mostly ignored it.

“You actually heard me?” Blood looked surprised.

“Yes,” Cerulean answered. “Anyway, I met at Terrace one day. I showed Terrace around my home, and we became friends. When he asked if I wanted to go with him, I immediately said yes. He showed me his favorite places in the AWs, and we had fun. During this, I didn’t realize my negative ghost was gone. When I finally did, I was concerned, actually.

“Yeah right,” Blood scoffed.

”I’m not kidding. I was so used to the constant commentary that I felt weird without it. Well, the days went on and I met Blood, he was calling himself that, truly on accident. I recognized him instantly.”

“So you’ve lied about this instead of telling the truth?” Derick pieced together. “I know the truth is very important. While you were telling the story, did you realize Blood lost the insane look he had before?” Cerulean was stunned. So was Blood. “The more you lied, the more piled on Blood, the more crazy he seemed, and the more positive you were.” As a joke, he added. “Come on, you guys do magic. You’re, like, ten times more powerful than me.” Cerulean laughed. Blood chuckled a bit too.

“You are going to explain to him this one,” Cerulean said to Blood.

“Fine,” Blood took a deep breath. “Derick, you know you are the original, right?”

“Yes?” Derick said. He did not know why that mattered.

“You get certain powers because of that. The most important one is that if you die outside your AW, all other yous die and all AWs collapse and there goes the multiverse. You can traverse the multiverse without help and…um…”

“We don’t know all of those powers,” Cerulean finished.

“Wow,” Derick said. “That’s awesome! I have one question though.”

“Shoot for it,” Cerulean said.

“Are you ready to tell Terrace?”

“I don’t know. I’ll need time. I’ve known him longer and I don’t know if he’ll take it well.”

“We’ll tell him together, all three of us,” Derick assured Cerulean. “In about five seconds.”

“What?!” Cerulean and Blood said at the same time.

The door slammed open. “Oh my gosh! Did someone die?” Terrace demanded. Derick saw that he had his paintbrushes out.

“Everyone is alive!” Derick yelled back.

“Not while he’s here!” Terrace started at Blood. Cerulean stepped in between them.

“We have something to tell you,” Cerulean said.


It took a while, but the three of them told Terrace the whole story. Terrace took it surprisingly well.

“Do we have to tell Astro that Terrace broke the door?” Derick asked.

“Nah, Terrace will fix it,” Cerulean assured Derick.

“He was you the whole time?!” Terrace asked. Cerulean nodded. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to think less of me,” Cerulean admitted. “And I was ashamed of it.” “Cerulean, you’re my friend. I would never.” Terrace gave Cerulean a reassuring smile.

Derick was happy for the two. He could not help but glance in Blood’s direction. “So,” Derick started. “What will you do now? I mean, you have things sorted out with Cerulean, and you’re done with that knife trick of yours.”

“Who said I was?” Blood smirked. Derick felt a bit of pain from his side. He elbowed Blood. “Hey, I was kidding.”

“How do you do that anyway?” Derick asked.

“Magic.” Blood grinned. Derick glared at him. “Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”

“This may seem stupid, but what if you helped the multiverse?”

“Me?” Blood laughed. “I’m the literal opposite of the hero type.”

“Cerulean just admitted to being ashamed. Maybe you two share some emotions instead of trade them off.”

“Derick, I’ve killed a lot of people. How am I going to come back from that?”

“One step at a time. You’ll have to give yourself some sort of chance at redemption.”

“You are very hopeful.” Blood stared up at the stars. “I’ll consider it.”

Derick smiled. He noticed that Astro was coming out of the building. “Terrace! The door!” Derick shouted.

“Shoot!” Terrace exclaimed. He quickly repainted the door. It reminded Derick about his yard. For the first time during the trip, Derick felt homesick.

He chuckled to himself. “Man, my life will never be the same after this,” he said.

“Welcome to the club,” Blood said. “If Cerulean doesn’t throw off any more negativity, I can finally act sane for once. It’ll be nice.” He smiled.

“Derick! Are you ready to go home?” Terrace called.

“Not yet!” Derick called back. He looked at Blood. “After all you put me through, I’m going to miss you.”

“Heh, me too,” Blood said. “I might just have to invade your dreams again.”

“If you do, pick somewhere less creepy, okay?” Derick and Blood both laughed. Derick had a feeling that, deep down, something sparked in Blood.

“In that case, see you on the flip side,” Blood said. “Make sure you talk to Cerulean, it looks like he has something for you.”

“Okay,” Derick waved back at Blood before walking over to Cerulean.

“Oh, Derick!” Cerulean said. “Thank you for giving me another chance! I did a terrible thing and I told big lies to cover it up and I just went about it the wrong way and I really should have known better and—” Cerulean was almost in tears.

“Cerulean,” Derick said, cutting Cerulean off. He looked Cerulean in the eyes. “It’s okay. Making mistakes is what makes us human. It’s not healthy to beat yourself up about it. You have to accept that you did something wrong so you can move on.”

“I don’t think Blood will let me.”

“Yes he will. He’s as done with the lies as you are.”

Cerulean grinned. “Thank you, again, Derick.”


“That reminds me!” Cerulean held out a piece of paper. “It’s my number. If you need anything, just ask!”

Derick pocketed the paper. “Thanks Cerulean.” Derick turned toward Terrace. “I’m ready now.”

“Okay, give me a quick second,” Terrace created a portal. “See you, Derick.”

“Come by anytime, Terrace!” Derick smiled. He went through the portal and ended up back in his backyard. He waved at his new friends through the portal before it closed. He climbed back over his fence.

“Hey dude,” Chris said. “Did you see something?”

“Well,” Derick looked back at his backyard. “I guess you could say that.”



Derick’s mom was disappointed with Derick. After she dropped Chris back at his house, she talked to Derick about being responsible with things that were not his. Derick promised to do better.

After dinner, when Derick had enough time to himself, he whipped out his phone. He took out the slip of paper in his pocket. He entered in Cerulean’s phone number. He was about to close the contact when he saw the words “dial (-) first” scribbled on the back of the slip. He completed the contact. He took a deep breath. He hoped it worked and he would not accidentally text some random person instead. He texted “Heya, it’s Derick.”

The response was almost instant. “Hi Derick! It’s Cerulean!” Derick smiled. He had a feeling he would see him again soon. Above everything, he was really tired. He had had too much excitement for one day. He said good night to his parents and went to bed.

It did not last long. Derick woke up to a crashing sound. He reached over to his light switch and flicked it on. He saw Cerulean tangled up in a cord. Derick was not sure what it was to. “Why are you here, Cerulean?” he said groggily. “It’s probably midnight.”

“It’s eleven,” Cerulean said. “And we need your help!”

“Why didn’t you call me?” Derick was not fully awake. He was not thinking straight.

“This calls for drastic measures!” Cerulean gave someone behind Derick a thumbs up.

In an instant, Derick felt a cold liquid poor down his shirt. That woke him up.

“What the—” Derick started to say. He looked behind him. He saw Blood laughing his head off. “Guys, my parents!”

“They’re fine,” Blood said. “Extra sleep won’t hurt.” Derick got the idea.

“So what is it?” Derick asked.

“It’s Vick,” Cerulean said. “He’s at it again.”

“Where are we meeting?”


“Okay, I’ll meet you there.” Derick took a deep breath. “I’m going to try it.”

“Be careful,” Blood said. He and Cerulean disappeared.

Derick had no idea how to teleport. Well, he had one. He cleared his mind and closed his eyes. He thought about the spectacular view of Earth from Upmost.

A second later, he opened his eyes. He found himself in the same spot he thought about. He pumped his fist in the air.

“Oh good! You made it!” Cerulean said.

“Cerulean was worried sick,” Blood said. “He wanted to go back to help you, but I told him you’d be fine.”

“How were you so sure?” Derick asked. Blood pointed to Derick’s side.

“We have a small link now,” he said. “Don’t worry, it can only do dreams and really good hunches.”

“How long will it be there?” Blood shrugged. All three of them laughed.

“We should probably get going,” Cerulean said. “Terrace is waiting inside the building.”

They walked towards the door. Derick felt ready. He knew that whatever Vick was doing would be stopped by the four of them.

He felt truly invincible.

Look out for Olivia’s sequel called Red Strings coming soon to the blog!

Writing Challenge Winner: The Darkness in the Woods by Sydney Winegar

Sydney is a 9th grade student who participated in the Bad Guy Writing Challenge in April 2020. She completed an epic, 13,000 word novella set in a bleak, fantasy wood where a dark assassin struggles with his inner purpose.

Enjoy Sydney’s story below!

No one wondered what happened to me, for they all knew my story. No beast dared to threaten me, for they knew I’d slay it. Nothing in this dark, cold world could care for me, for I once cared too much and now, what I loved is gone. The savage fire inside my heart could never dwindle by any form of love or care, for I knew it no more. People say keep your friends close but your enemies closer, well I only have one friend and one enemy, and they happened to be the same person. The darkness was my friend and my enemy.

Our villain and protagonist

I only knew the dark, he was my friend and my closest ally. Yet I hated him with all my gut, he was my most feared enemy. What strange kind of a man is like this you might ask? Well, I can assure you, I am no man. I know not who I am, but I am not human.

I say this because the once warm feeling of emotion swirled inside of my chest, I was once proud and full valor and then I was left with nothing. Something happened to me and it destroyed me. I had no pride and valor, instead I was left with an empty hole in my soul and a crack in my heart. No man could go on forever with such an empty vessel, so I had to fill myself with something new.

I found no happiness in life and seeing people smile, no love could revive my heart and soul, I knew that good and well, for I had tried to replace that feeling yet failed. I’d nearly given up on all hope of becoming my old human self again, when a light was shed on my situation. Only, there was no light, there was no happy ending or sunset, instead I found darkness and only darkness.

How strange you might think, is this ‘man’ even a real thing you ask? Yes, he is very much a real thing, for I know him like a brother. Now, the darkness was simply dark. Just black like a void to nowhere, yet one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I’d hit the goldmine with this new, unexplained passion.

In the dark, no one can see anything, not even one’s own hand. It will hide you from the others, it shall protect you and keep you safe so that no one can judge you or expose you. I found peace in this—I was hidden from the outside world where I could be alone and safe. However, the darkness also prevents you from seeing yourself. You can’t watch yourself become a monster, nor can you stop it. It hides what’s growing inside of you. Over time you get so used to it, that you don’t even know what’s happening to yourself. It will consume you. This I feared—for I could no longer know what I was or what I could do in the blink of an eye.

Some would describe me as a mad man, others a drunk, I say I’m neither of those, or any name one could call me. I was no man or beast, no storm or sea. What am I? I am the dark. A powerful being that’s strong enough to save you and powerful enough to destroy you.


I wondered the snow bitten forest in the middle of the cold winter’s night. The moonlight broke through the bare trees casting long shadows in the crunchy snow. My skin was cold to the touch, as cold as the snow some described, yet I hardly noticed it. I enjoyed the numb, lifeless feeling crawling inside my bones. The way my blood hardly flowed inside of me was how I was living in this very moment. I thrived off of the cold, dark feeling of emptiness.

I could see my breath in the air, it came out like dragon smoke and then it vanished into the night. My stallion let out a snort and his ears twitched as he trotted through the bloody snow. For a moment he was hesitant to move but with a gentle touch of my heel he moved forward past the dead bodies.

There weren’t many of them, not enough to completely ‘ruin’ the forest floor. Their dark red blood stained the fresh mountain snow. Oh, it was a beautiful sight, I loved it. For these people were no help to me, and I was of no help to them, thus their deaths were inevitable.

They were merchants and traders coming in a caravan from the southeast, they’d gotten lost here in the northern woodland trying to get the big cities just beyond this forest, yet very few knew how to navigate through them, most got lost and needed help. I don’t desire to help anyone unless I need one of their skills to help me for my own well-being, but that was rare. I possessed nearly every skill I needed to survive on my own in this wasteland. Very rarely did I seek an acquaintance to help me gain something I did not already have.

Most sensible men, with a normal mind set, would have tried to help these men in exchange for gold, not me though. People who’d see me this way would say I was psychotic, not right in the mind, and I very much agree with them, so I’d kill them too. I killed these men for pleasure, for it filled the emptiness in my heart and fueled the life of my soul.

The crimson liquid that covered the snow was splattered and pooling everywhere. A heavy snow fall was coming down just as I was leaving, the white flakes soaked into the blood, soon there’d be a lighter red puddle of mushy snow and bloody lumps all covered in a thick snow all over the forest floor.

My work was done for the day, I’d spared these people from freezing and dying alone in the woods, with no assurance that their wives and children would be taken care of. For the day I’d killed four of them, these four were scouts from there caravan trying to find help. I assured those four men that I would help them, and I most certainly did. I might have been in the middle of the process of helping them, but I was doing what I promised them.

I’d killed those four now off to find their caravan and kill the rest of those helpless souls. I was being merciful if you ask me, for no help would come from me therefore no help would come to them at all, it was only reasonable that I do this. I was showing them the mercy that I never received.

The wind had picked up since I’d departed from the four scouts’ bodies. I was perhaps thirty minuet’s due south of them. The poor fools told me right where their caravan was. If they were smarter, they wouldn’t have trusted me so easily. Most people don’t trust a strange rider in the northern woodlands. For these lands are strange and wild, so little is known about them.

Though the forest is dark and unknown to my misfortune not all people who live here are as dark as I am. There are a few rangers who roam, they’re no more dangerous than I am, yet there no less smart. They are like me, but I am not like them. They keep to the shadows away from the world, trying to perhaps runaway from there past life, yet they’re barely able to stay afloat in the light, unlike me who completely submerged myself in the darkness.

There is one of these rangers who I am not particularly fond of—I’m not fond of any of them but this one gets on my nerves—He goes by the name of Vidarr. Most of us who roam the woodlands have encountered him more than once. He’s strange like the rest of us, for he wonders without a purpose and he thrives for no known reason, but he’s rather spirited.

Vidarr, the Ranger

For a ranger such as himself he keeps an optimistic attitude. For the times that I’d been watching him he seemed so hopeful. He was kind natured towards the animals, and he didn’t enjoy killing them, but he did to satisfy his hunger. He didn’t track of hunt for sport, and the thing I didn’t understand the most about him was how he ‘helped’ others.

I’d watched him before, and the few people we have wondering in the forest he helped. Whether it be day or night, summer of winter he set aside his own time to show compassion towards pathetic and weak souls who’d gotten lost in this wasteland. I couldn’t understand why he was this way, for people who come here, come here to leave their life behind, but he seemingly did not.

Vidarr and I had encountered two times before. The first time he happened to look at the right place and the right time, he saw me lurking around in the woods. I was trying to spy on him and getting to know my new enemy. He spotted me so I bolted away. To my surprise he didn’t follow me, however, I picked up that he was a curious creature and he did want to follow but he stayed put.

The second time I encountered this young man, he and I ran into each other by the river to the east. I’d gone there to water my horse and sure enough he was there too. I desired to track him down and slaughter him, but he barely slipped away by climbing a steep ridge. He however didn’t escape without a scratch.

To my displeasure, he got away, but our quarrel was far from over. For any man of no use to me was surely no use to anyone at all, therefore the reaper would be coming to collect Vidarr’s soul soon enough. I intended to kill this bright, unique ranger as I did any man or beast I encountered.


Riding swiftly through the forest I soon discovered lightly dusted over foot tracks, roaming the area. The caravan was close. Keeping a sharp eye out and an even sharper ear I watched and listened for anything signs of life.

To my pleasure I heard the sound of horses whinnying and snorting towards my own steed. He gave no response, for I trained him better than that. We went quietly, slowly gaining ground and getting closer to the people.

Then I saw smoke rising in the wind and I could smell the fiery sent as well. I could see the silhouette of people sitting around a large fire, bundled up with heavy blankets and clothes. They were so far, unaware of my presence. I could see their horses tied up a fair amount of distance away from the people, and there were a few well sized carts next to them. These were a very poor people coming from the southeast, probably wanting to get a better life for themselves, that dream certainly wouldn’t last long.

I rested my hand on the cold hilt of my sword. There was a small crust of frost over it, and the icy feeling it made my adrenaline rush. Slipping off my dapple-grey horse I silently stalked up towards the people. I was like the darkness following up on a sunset, unexpected, fast and if you aren’t smart, fatal.

There was a particularly young female sitting by the fire, and she faced me. I saw her look up and I saw the panic in her face. That’s when I drew my blade. The sound of the metal scrapping against its sheath made them all look up at me. There were a few slightly older men around the fire, not well worn but older then the scouts that I’d killed, I saw the fear flash in their eyes as they too jumped up and started ordering the women and children to run while drawing their swords.

I was nearly upon them, but I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I quick movement that was of a human. Not to mention I saw one of the men looking behind me, not directly at me. Someone was behind me. To my knowledge this person had a bow, and probably a sword handy. For I heard something drop, perhaps firewood, and the stretching sound of a tight string getting pulled back.

I small smile crept up on my face, and I lowered my sword ever so slightly, turning my head I could see the figure out of the corner of my eyes. He looked different from the rest of these men. He was taller and younger. He wore a thick brown cloak and there was a hood covering his eyes. A filthy ranger just stumbled across me and my day. Perfect.

‘’Are you going to shoot or what?’’ I taunted, my voice was deep and calm. ‘’I don’t have all day.’’

‘’Why don’t you just leave, get your horse and go and perhaps I will consider sparing your life.’’ He was young from the sounds of it, younger than what I’d thought.

A deep hum of amusement burned in my throat. ‘’Do you really want to do this?’’ I asked. ‘’I don’t take kindly to strangers—‘’ I eyed the four men in front of me. ‘’And I don’t spare them either.’’ I warned.

‘’This is your final chance!’’ He snarled. ‘’Leave or get an arrow through the heart.’’ He growled.

‘’I think I’ll take my chances.’’ Then suddenly barrel rolling forward and I sprang up right in front of the first man I saw, and I sank my blade up into his torso. I knew the other three men were reacting fast for they would be on me in a heartbeat and this ranger was slow and hesitant to shoot me. For by the time the life had faded in my victim’s eyes I’d pivoted around him using him as a shield and an arrow lodged itself in his chest. This ranger wasn’t a big fan of hurting me for he was slow to shoot at me, interesting.

I knew another man was behind me and his sword was raised over head. I whipped around and I gracefully dragged my sword across his stomach. It was a quick, clean cut. Not enough to kill him but enough to make him suffer.

Over in the distance I could hear the women screaming and their children crying. One of the three men with dark brown hair was screaming at them to run and leave so I turned my attention towards him. I swung my long, silver sword and he jumped back and put up his own stubbier sword in defense.

Twisting it easily and flipping it out of his hands I began to corner him in. Before I could swing and end his miserable life, I saw the third man coming at me. He had longer blonde hair and feisty blue eyes, he let out a battle cry as he swung, he’d missed me, and he slid off of me towards the side. He had blood smeared across his face and I realized he had been with the man who I’d struck before—surely, he was dead now.

These two younger men—both scared for their lives and families—were trying to find a way to gang up on me. I could tell for the one with the blood on him was circling to the left and the other with the dark hair picked up his sword and was circling to the right. Oh, this was going to be fun!

I thought back to the ranger for a moment, looking to see where he was, I realized he was gone. He hadn’t left he was probably circling around the clearing to find a place he could sneak up on me or he’d gone to the women and children to help them flee. Either way, whatever he was doing wasn’t going to work.

The one on the left charged at me, he was mad furious. I could tell due to the way he was swinging. Strong and quick blows from the sword were coming from him. I saw the anger flash in his blue eyes as I blocked his attack and shoved him off of me with a kick, then whipping around to meet the darker haired one’s blade. He wasn’t as mad as the other—more scared but he put up a fight.

Our swords clanked together, and he tried to shove me back. Stumbling a little I backed off and turned towards the other and he was really into it. He was boiling over now. ‘’Having fun yet?’’’ I sneered quietly. His face and my own were close together and I saw his expression darken. He let out a growl and I knew the other man was coming at me.

‘’I will end you!’’ The vicious man hissed as I spun off of him, meeting the other one and the two crashed into each other. Then I spotted the movement of a cloak, and then with a jolt I felt an arrow sink into my left shoulder. I hissed in pain as I looked towards the ranger to see he was already pulling another arrow up towards his cheek.

Then I formulated a plan to end all three of them. ‘’Get out here and fight like a man.’’ I mocked the ranger in pain as I yanked the arrow out of my left shoulder and clenched it tightly. ‘’For these two fight like men—‘’ He knew what I was about to do. He dropped his bow and pulled out his sword and he ran towards me in fear.

The more angered man with blond hair behind me had already collected himself and was coming at me like a made bull. I saw the fire in his blue eyes and the blood smeared on his face made him look like a real soldier.

‘’Gideon don’t!!’’ The ranger yelled.

‘’And they will surely die like men too.’’ I spun around and I stabbed the arrow into his chest. His eyes grew wide and thick, crimson blood dripped from his lips. He wheezed for air and I backed away from him, letting his body drop to the snow-covered floor. And then there were two.

I had no remorse for any of the deaths I’d caused. This pleased me, and I let it fuel me. Turning quickly the ranger swung his blade and I blocked, and we had a quick spat. Our swords bounced off of each other and he blocked as I swung. He circled in around each other for a moment. My more-calm gaze stared into his own fiery one. ‘’Why must you be this way?’’ He snarled as he swung his sword out of anger. ‘’You kill everyone for no reason.’’ He stated as I dodged one of his blows. ‘’Why?’’ He questioned as I noticed the other man with the dark hair begin to scramble away. He was trying to flee for his life that was unexceptional. I needed to finish him off and end the rest of them.

‘’You know there’s not a lot of talking in a duel, one normally keeps his mouth shut before he dies out here.’’ I snarled as I attacked him with a quick series of strikes.

‘’What makes you think I’m going to die?’’ He asked as he backed away from me, his sword still held up, yet he knew he was losing.

‘’I don’t think you’re going to die.’’ I saw his darkened face grow confused. ‘’I know you are.’’ Then just as I was about to charge without mercy something jumped in between us. The other man with dark hair who was cowering away now stood there with a blade in his gut.

Yanking my weapon out in anger I finally saw the rangers face. He pulled off his hood and I saw him stare at the man in shock. I instantly recognized the ranger. It was Vidarr! He had olive colored skin, muddy brown hair and wide black eyes. He had a more-square face and a sharp jaw. He was more no more than the age of twenty-two winters, still young and spirited.

He looked terrified and upset as his comrade fell to the floor. He looked at me in disbelief and horror as he began to back away from me. I saw the panic and confusion in his eyes and his mouth gaped open a little as if he wanted to say something, yet no words came from him.

Talk about killing two birds with one stone, I could get him out of the picture while helping these souls out as well! The day had just gotten better. Oh, how I longed to stab him now, but he was making a bolt for the forest. I had to chase after him, there was no way I’d catch him on foot. He was much younger than me, thus faster. Not to mention, my shoulder burned from the previous arrow that was stuck in it.

Turning quickly, I sprinted past the fallen bodies of the men, looking to see that the women and children had a taken a few of their horses and things and left. They could run but they couldn’t hide. They wouldn’t last long out in the wild world of the forest. I’d kill Vidarr and then I’d easily track them down and slaughter them too.

What a perfect day today was. I couldn’t ask for a better one. Killing a ranger and some helpless people was just what I needed to make my day. I spotted my silver stallion and he stood where I left him. His ears twitched and he lifted his head as he took a few steps towards me in the thick snow.

Grabbing his reins and quickly hoisting myself into the saddle. I sheathed my sword and I gave my horse I hard kick in and he immediately took off in a strong canter. I rode back out into the clearing and past the bodies and towards the forest once more. I quickly spotted the fresh tracks that the young ranger had left. He was in a full sprint trying to get away from me. Kicking my horse a little harder, encouraging him to run faster, he picked up the pace in a full run. He was fast and he would take me to Vidarr easily. Now, the chase was on.

Of all the days in my past, there is one memory that really makes me remember who I once was. Of when I was a man, of when I was human. It’s only an echo of the past but I tend to dwell on the memory more then I should. It’s something I unfortunately wished I had, of course, now it was gone and I did everything in my power to let go of it, yet I was still clinging to this small thread of my past, as if I still needed it to live.


There was once a man named Allerick. He was a proud, happy man who lived outside of a large town just north of the woodlands. He had a very good life. A pleasant home his grandfather built sat on a grassy green hill where his family lived. Allerick was married to his wife Adeena, and he loved her very dearly. He also had two children, a son named Priamos and a daughter named Nesrin.


It was a good life Allerick lived, and he never wished for another. He was a content farmer living a simple life—a good one too. He only wanted to live the rest of his days in that cozy home with his wife, but that wasn’t meant to be.

Though these lands were filled with good and light, there was still a shadow following them around. There was a great force conquering the lands. Vikings from the south wanted to take over the country for themselves, and they went planning on taking it nicely. Starting in the southwest and working their way north, the Vikings started taking over the country. They came with fire, spears and swords, they showed no mercy to anyone. Not even the helpless.

Of course, being the head of the household and a respected member of the town Allerick proposed they stand their ground and fight, everyone agreed that fighting back was the right call. Defending their home was one of many ways the people showed their love towards the country.

That fateful day came when fire covered the grass and smoke filled the sky, the people stood no chance against the Vikings. The men stood their ground at the tree line to the woodland, but they were overwhelmed and had to retreat. There was no time to warn anyone against the numbers and brutal strength of the enemy, the town was to be slaughtered.

The people tried to flee to the north but very few made it to the outskirts of town, let alone the mountains to which they would retreat too. Allerick fought honorably, as did all the men but their efforts were of little use, their families were burned and slaughtered. There was nothing they could do.

Allerick desperately tried to save his wife and children, but it was not to be. He was held back, forced to his knees and he helplessly watched as his families’ necks were slit open. The Vikings figured they should kill him next, but one of the leaders said he was already dead, at least on the inside. Killing him would be merciful, so he was spared from the jaws of death.

Eventually, over time the Vikings were driven out of the country, but the losses were heavy, heavier than what everyone would have wanted. Allerick was a lost soul like many other fathers, his beloved was dead, and his future was dead as well, he had no reason to move on in life, as the Vikings said, it would be merciful to kill him. He couldn’t bring himself to end his life, and that’s when the sun set on his human reign and so arose the darkness in him.

He became something inhuman, he became darkness, and nothing more. He was one of the soul survivors who made it through the war, and he wished that the rest of his days would be spent helping the helpless and showing mercy to those who had received no mercy.


The Woods in Winter

This man I was thinking of was someone I didn’t know anymore. He was a stranger of the past who I didn’t care about or love, if I ever saw him, I would turn my back to him and leave him behind, I had too. He was dead to me. Once again if you ask me, I was showing mercy to him—killing him off and leaving him behind in the past. He was only a burden I carried on my shoulders, he was useless and pathetic, it was only quite reasonable that I’d kill him.

I cast the thoughts of this man I once knew to the back of my mind and I focused on the task at hand. I needed to get Vidarr. I needed to end him like I ended Allerick so many years ago, it was the only just that I did this, if I didn’t, I wasn’t doing my job.

Urging my stallion to run faster, I was able to spot the young ranger ahead of me. His cloak was sailing behind him and he was clenching his bow in his hand. He peered over his shoulders and I saw panic flash in his eyes. He was afraid, he certainly should be.

I had no bow and quiver of my own, for many reasons. One being I liked to end my victims up close and in person. The job just didn’t seem to feel right ending a man from a distance with an arrow. My hand rested on my sheath, my fingers inched up towards the hilt and they rested on the cold metal. I was gaining ground quickly, Vidarr didn’t have long.

I’d been dreaming of this moment for months and know it was upon me. I was about twenty meters behind him, and I was closing in on my prey fast, I began to pull my sword out of its sheath. My lips curled into a smile as I drew it fully out and was getting ready to swing, but that’s when something unexpected happened.

I was about to end poor Vidarr’s life when I saw another horse coming at me. It was a small bay colored mare and there was an even smaller girl riding her. She looked bewildered and she clung to the horse for her life. What a strange thing, you might say. Seeing a little girl riding a horse next to me near moments before ending the ranger. I very much agree with you, I quickly decided that ending her would have to be added to the days kill list, so turning my attention towards her, I quickly raised my blade overhead but that’s when my horse reared up, making me fall off of him just as an arrow whizzed past my head.

Landing in the thick snow, I quickly put together that Vidarr had tried to pull off a quick shot while my attention was on the girl. In the process of falling off my steed I lost grip of my weapon. I was able to spot it just as the girl slipped off her horse and ran towards Vidarr who was panting in the snow, looking terrified himself.

She tugged and pulled at his hand and he seemed to bounce back because he scooped her up in his arms and bolted back to the horse. This was my chance to get them both, I scrambled over to my sword and I grabbed the cold metal and I ran towards the duo.

My adrenaline was coursing, and my heart was pounding. This was it! They were right there. Vidarr quickly shoved the girl onto the back of the horse and his head whipped towards me. He put his bow up in defense against my swing and my blade chipped into his wooden long bow. There was a snap in the wood from the sounds of it and the mare jumped because of it. She let out a panicked neigh and she reared up her back legs, making the small girl fall off in the process. Then she trotted away still kicking up her legs, leaving the girl defenseless.

Vidarr shoved me back but I swung so he was forced to turn around and use his breaking bow to defend himself. As he fought for his life and the girls, his head was constantly looking over his shoulder towards her. I couldn’t figure out if the two were related or not, but they clearly cared for each other. ‘’Reila you need to run!’’ He ordered her as he tried forcing me back, but I stood my ground, forcing him backwards and trying to get his bow to snap.

‘’But I won’t get far!’’ She squeaked as she weakly pushed herself up to standing, now I was able to get a good look at her. She was small and rather frail, maybe about ten winters old. She had long blonde hair and hazel eyes. I completely lost focus on Vidarr, for this girl called Reila looked like Allerick’s daughter.

As I said before, Allerick had a family. Adeena his beautiful wife, his son Priamos and his daughter Nesrin. Nesrin was a small, petite girl with warm brown eyes and golden hair. She was innocent and gentle, not much of a fighter. Reila looked the same way. Same small frame and nearly the same eye color. Pretty long hair and to innocent to be in the woods.

Something about her made me remember Nesrin before killing him. I knew Allerick loved his daughter very much, he spoke fondly of the girl and he cared for her. Something in me was almost tempted to stop fighting and just look at her for a moment. There was something about her that just…made me want to stop and turn around.

I was suddenly snapped back into reality and with a hard push I managed to make Vidarr trip backwards. Now I was on top of him. I was going to end him. Raising my sword over my head, I looked down at my victim. He was panting like a dog and staring up at me with hopelessness running over his eyes. I was about to swing down and sink my blade into his stomach, but the small girl screamed in fear.

My eyes shot over to her, she was on her knee’s, sobbing her eyes out. I couldn’t terror my gaze from her. She looked like Nesrin. If I hadn’t known any better, I would have thought it was actually her. Something inside of me was screaming at me to leave, it was like this ‘thing’ didn’t want me to kill Vidarr or Reila.

I still hesitantly stood where I was before, staring at the small girl with the ranger underneath me. I couldn’t bring myself to lower my sword and kill Vidarr, instead I just stood there thinking about Nesrin and the man I once knew.

I ranger didn’t know what was happening either, but he wasted no more time lying where he was. Instead he scrambled backwards, then he finally pushed himself up, picked up Reila and he chased after the horse.

I could feel myself come back to my sense’s, I still didn’t understand why I was hesitant to swing my sword. It was confusing to me, I looked to the ground back up to the duo to see Vidarr climbing onto the mare with Reila, kicking the horse then running off deeper into the forest. What happened to me? Why was I hesitant to kill him?

I shook my head in disbelief and as I ran my fingers through my hair, and I walked back over towards my steed. I couldn’t believe what just happened. Allerick, was very much alive inside of me, and I knew I had to end him again. In order to maintain my current straight of saving the helpless, I had to kill Allerick, and I had to kill him now.

I was enraged at myself. How could I not know Allerick was dead?! After all this time—it had been years since I’d so much as felt his presence in me and now he just decided to come out of hiding? This was unacceptable! I felt foolish for not making sure the man I was knew was truly dead, and now I had to go through the process of killing him all over again, while tracking down Vidarr and the rest of the caravan. Perfect, just perfect, they day was going perfectly fine until Allerick decided to drop in.

There was a growl deep in my throat as I marched back towards my horse. He anxiously awaited me, a couple meters away. He nervously snorted as I rested my hand on his muzzle and he calmed down. For a moment I had an urge to call my companion, by his given name…wait…I just called him my companion! Allerick was trying to come back out!!

Thinking of a way to shove the man back down into the darkest pits of my soul I broke my gaze from my horse, and I grabbed his reins and I hauled myself onto his back. I gave him a sharp quick then he let out a whinny as he began to trot forward. Yet he knew what I wanted to do, his trot turned into a gallop and from there into a run. He knew I wanted to get on with my work.

I followed the other horse’s tracks in the thick snow, they were trying to get away from me. They were probably a fairway ahead of me, but I’d soon catch up, there were two people on a small mare on the run from a single man on a big stallion. They wouldn’t last long.

For a moment again I thought of Nesrin, I remembered her soft voice and cheerful personality, she was gentle towards everyone and kind. I thought of the girl called Reila, I began to wonder if she was the same way….ughh….not again!! There was Allerick trying to come out once more! I thought about how I was to slaughter the girl and Vidarr, I thought how I was going to kill of the other women and children, yes, yes, the blood! That’s just what I needed, I needed to see more blood seeping into the snow, I needed to see lifeless bodies on the ground, yes that’s what I wanted, I was craving it!


The icy wind nipped at my ears and it danced through my hair and I felt my blood pulse through me. Focus, on killing them, just killing them. My breath fogged out in front of me and I squinted my eyes trying to protect them from the chill in the air, soon, more crimson blood would ruin on the forest floor.

I rode my horse long and hard until the tracks became fresher, up ahead I could a darkened shape trying to escape me, and it was now or never. I simply needed to get this over with and move on with this. I saw Vidarr try to urge his horse to move faster but the mare only seemed to slow, this was excellent on my behalf. ‘’Come on, faster.’’ I hissed to my steed.

The ranger looked over his shoulder and I stared at him with wide dark eyes. This was it, no hesitation! I quickly yanked out my sword and I could almost hear the panic coming from him, I was riding next to them now, and once again I saw the girl. Reila was cowering into Vidarr and she was trying not to look at me, I saw her teary brown eyes and she sank back towards the ranger.

Vidarr kept one of his arms wrapped around her, and the he reached for an arrow in his quiver. He was on the defense now, for he was holding the arrow as if it was a knife, he was not going down without a fight. Though, he was scared and fearful of me, I realized he’d die before I got near Reila.

Then the thought of Nesrin crept back into my mind. Ah! Why did this keep happening to me?! I had to act now! I swung my blade without thinking and the mare neighed in pain and Vidarr yelped. My eyes spotted fresh red blood on the tip of my steel sword. It was deep and dark, it nearly looked black. The blood began to drip off the edge of it and I felt satisfaction roll over me. The blood was an overjoying sight and it calmed me, and I felt Allerick shrink away again. Oh, how thankful I was now…now I could…

By the time I was snapped into my normal scenes the horse the duo was riding reared up because I’d struck her flank. She was on her hind legs and the two fell off, I pulled my steed to a stop then circled around back towards the ranger and girl.

Vidarr was scrambling around in bloody snow, he was trying to stand so he could fight, but I’d slashed open his left thigh and there was red liquid everywhere. The almost black blood pooled down his leg as he grabbed yet another arrow. He looked to the ground and the girl was scrambling up towards him.

She grabbed onto his cloak and cowered behind it. He put a hand in front of her as I circled around them. ‘’Will you at least consider sparing her if I gave my life?’’ He winced painfully as his position followed me wherever I rode.

I heard her whimper when he said, ‘consider sparing’. It was almost his way of saying ‘there’s no way out of this one’ to the poor girl. I suddenly remembered Nesrin crying over the fact that we were going to war with the Vikings so many years ago. She didn’t want us to fight, and she couldn’t understand why we couldn’t just have peace, and I remembered her screaming my name to help her just moments before she died.

That ebbing pain I felt as I remembered my daughter made me want to ride off and leave. I pulled my horse away from the two, for a moment I stared blankly at my sword. Did I really have to kill people…no…I mustn’t think that way! I’d already injured Vidarr, soon enough he’d bleed out anyway and Reila had no chance of surviving in the woods on her own. Mercy was all I could show towards them!

I slipped of my horse as I stormed towards them and the cowered back, both of them looked terrified and fearful, Vidarr looked more ready to die due to his wound and Reila…I swear in the kings name it was Nesrin!! My hand began to quiver as I lowered my sword. ‘’Perhaps…’’I spoke. ‘’I can spare you both—‘’ I cut myself off and I saw the confusion and hope swirl in Vidarr’s eyes.

Maybe I could spare them…I could be merciful in the since of being a leader…For a moment I was brought back to being my true self, I felt the presence of Allerick come over me. I blankly stared off into thin air and I saw Vidarr start shoving Reila backwards, but she tried moving towards me.

I watched her small figure scramble out of the rangers grasp and she came to me. I broke my gaze from her, and I noticed my reflection in my sword. I saw my normal self, my stormy blue eyes…longer brown hair tied back so I’d stay out of my face…a sharp jaw and pain. Lots of pain, but there was also sympathy.

There was sympathy in my gaze and the smallest flicker of hope in my eyes and I looked back to Reila and her own brown eyes were wide with curiosity. It was like she wanted to get to know me. How strange, how foolish.

He was coming back out again! The darker form of myself who wanted to kill and slaughter the helpless, I couldn’t, I was back, and I couldn’t let him return! I felt cold snow fall onto my cheek and that familiar feeling of emptiness pounded through my veins. That cold lifeless feeling was back inside of me and oh how I loved it!

I tore my gaze from my reflection, and I saw Reila creeping towards me. The ranger was still standing where he stood before, and I saw how cautious yet hopeful he looked, what fools! ‘’Forgive me Vidarr but I must end this bright moment early…’’

He tilted his head and he inched towards me. ‘’Whatever do you mean? You haven’t killed us yet, that gives me hope that there’s still good in you. Don’t let that go to waste.’’ He begged. ‘’We’ve all heard stories of you. How ruthless and cold you are…prove them wrong. I know you used to be a good man—‘’

‘’Well you were wrong to think that!’’ I hissed. ‘’I never was a good man—‘’ My voice trailed and I suddenly reached forward and I grabbed Reila by the arm and she yelped in fear and I pulled her close to me, putting my blade to her neck. I needed to get her out of the picture!

‘’Don’t you dare!’’ The ranger stepped forward but he was crippled by pain, he still held his arrow in a stabbing position. ‘’You were Allerick a second ago, find him!’’ He growled, but I would do no such thing!

Don’t do it.

You must!

This isn’t right.

Kill her! Kill her now!

Walk away from this all.

I heard these phrases in my head and they wouldn’t go away. I began to panic ever so slightly. Do I kill her and the ranger or do I walk away and spare them? What was I supposed to do?! With these voices inside of me it was nearly impossible to think straight and now who was right and who was wrong! Kill or spare do or die! It was nearly impossible to know what I was supposed to do, I just had to…I had to…run.

Without knowing what to do I ran. I grabbed Reila and I ran to my horse, shoved her on and I rode him into the forest. I heard Vidarr scream and Reila tried squirming away from me and she was trying hard not to cry but I didn’t listen to her plea. I tuned her out and I zoned into my mind.

Take your sword and stab her in the heart!! One voice screamed. You know that’s wrong, stop, turn around and take her back. No! You’re a justice giving being that is called darkness, this isn’t who you are, you’re dark and heartless!! You were once a man called Allerick, don’t you miss being him?

Back and forth my thoughts screamed at me and it made my head hurt and my heart race. The moment was so intense for me it was hard for me to know how to ride a horse right. I felt Reila yank the reins around she was trying to slow my companion, ugh!! She was trying to slow my steed and she could hardly get the leather reins out of my hands.

‘’Slow down!!’’ She screamed as we ran past a tree, nearly running right into it. ‘’Take me back! Take me back!’’ She begged me as she tried shaking my arms that were caging her in. ‘’I don’t want this!’’

For a moment I felt Allerick overcome me and I quickly pulled back on the reins making Vangelis slow down quickly. ‘’I don’t want this either.’’ My silver horse jerked his head and he bucked ever so slightly but he slowed down to a trot. ‘’That’s a good lad.’’ I patted his neck gently and he snorted.

Reila turned her head and looked at me. ‘’You’re not going to hurt me now, right?’’ She asked hopefully as she noticed my sudden changes in behavior.

I looked into her deep brown eyes and I sighed. ‘’I—I don’t know.’’ Was all I could say as I began to devise a plan on how to keep the darker form of myself locked away forever. I needed to kill him just as he once did to me so many years ago, only this time I was intending for him to stay that way.

I quickly slipped off of Vangelis and he stopped moving and I made sure Reila stayed put on my dear horse. ‘’Listen to me young one, ride back to the ranger and—‘’ I stopped talking and my head throbbed as I winced painfully. He was trying to come back, I felt one of her little thin hands touch my big rough hand and I felt him disappear for a moment. ‘’—And ride back to Vidarr, you can follow the tracks that we’ve already made…’’ I backed away as I felt the darkness overtake me. ‘’Leave! Vangelis won’t stray from you, go!’’

I grabbed my head and I fell to my knees and I saw the girl ride off. Ahh! How could I let her slip away like that?! She was right under my fingertips and she got away! How could I be so naïve?! I had the girl and now she was gone! Stay where you belong Allerick! Stay in the grave!! I screamed at the man who was suddenly back from the dead!

No! I shall fight until you kill me again!! Allerick yelled back. I grabbed my head and let out a yell as I wished these two voices would just leave me alone! I never asked for this said Allerick, I never thought you’d give in so easily, said the other.

The madness was getting to me as I felt myself fall apart in the snow, I wanted to be the old me, I wanted Allerick back! But the pain I felt as the darkness tried to consume me was almost over-baring, I could feel the two of them battling inside me. It was almost physical like in a real fight, I felt sharp pains and jabs going on inside of me, for a moment one would win but then the next the other would conquer the enemy. My head was throbbing, and I wished it to stop but no end came to the fighting!

‘’Stop this!! Aahhhgrrrr!!’’ I winced as I grabbed my skull and yelled. I squinted my eyes shut and I felt Allerick pull through for a moment. Have faith, I’m not going back to the grave he said. You were good once. Now listen to me—

I didn’t hear Allerick finish what he wanted to say for a sharp pain replaced his voice and the darkness overruled him. Get up and chase the girl, go kill her! Go spare her helpless life!! Get up, take your sword and get her! Remember the blood, remember the darkness hides you and protects you from those around you! I can hide you, no one will remember you for being weak and helpless, let me help you!

That offer was so tempting, I grabbed it by the hand, and I felt myself get pulled into the darkness. Oh, I was back! I was back and I was going to kill everyone! Yes, yes, I was going to end them all! I pushed myself up and I dusted the snow off my legs, I let out a sigh and my breath fogged up for a moment.

I let out a deep chuckle and I grabbed my sword from its sheath, and I began to march forward, following the tracks of my horse. Oh, this was going to be fun! Finally, I could end this once and for all. The darkness was in control and there was no coming back.

I trudged through the snow, quickly following the tracks of my steed, soon enough I’d end them all. The wind picked up ever so slightly, and a light snow began to fall once more. Even though it was a light snow fall I’d rather not risk the tracks being covered, so I went from a walk to a march, eagerly searching for the ranger and the girl.

Not too much time passed when I was able to spot my horse trotting along with the girl on his back. One too many times had she slipped away from my grasp, not anymore though. I kept quiet and I treaded lightly doing everything in my power to keep to the shadows of the forest.

So far, I’d gone unnoticed, I had the element of surprise to my advantage, I need to kill her, no more hesitating. I told myself. Show mercy, I must show mercy, be merciful. Don’t think just do. I looked towards Reila again and she was occasionally peering over her shoulder to see if I was following her, of course I’d trailed off towards the far side of her, so I’d catch her off guard.

The small girl looked so weak and helpless as she rode along. She was scared and on edge, she didn’t know what to do, as far as I could tell she was still trying to figure out where Vidarr was. There was no way she’d get out of this one without a scratch.

I yanked my sword out of its sheath and I started making my way out of the woods towards her. When I was within thirty feet of her my horse stopped and he looked towards me. His ears were perked there was a gleam of happiness in his eyes. He bobbed his head up and down and snorted and the girl looked at me.

She gave me an unsure smile and it quickly faded away. Her little brown eyes grew round, and she tried pulling back on the reins, ushering the horse to back away. He did what he was told but he pawed at the ground and his ears twitched, the poor thing was confused. He wanted to come to me, but he knew what I was about to do. He didn’t know what to do though—such a loyal thing but concerned for the girl’s well-being. He had to decide between listening to Reila and coming to me.

He dipped his head and he started backing away again, the girl looked relived, but my steed wasn’t going very far. I picked up my pace and I snatched his reins into my hands, and he stood there unwavering, he’d given into me, so pathetic. That’s when Reila tried to slide off the saddle I grabbed her. ‘’Wait! I thought you were good now!’’ She whimpered in fear as I pulled her close towards me and I readied my sword.

‘’You thought wrong dear girl.’’ I hissed.

‘’You now you can change.’’ She squeaked as I saw tears swell in her eyes. ‘’I don’t want to die.’’ And that’s when I struck, there was no hesitation this time.

I saw crimson red blood drip down my blade, and I saw the fear in her eyes as the life left her body. Blood dripped from her mouth as she sank towards the ground and died. Everything happened to quickly, I just…grabber her and now…she was dead. Good…good. That’s what I needed to do, and I did it. Her small frail body dropped to the ground and I stared at if for a moment.

Her pretty eyes were now dull and lifeless, blood stained her face and torso, and she didn’t even put up a struggle she just let it happen. She put up no fight, she was just…so innocent. She was…so similar to…I couldn’t bring myself to say or even think her name. I knew if I spoke of the daughter of Allerick he’d come crawling back out of the pit again. He had to stay there, there was no hope for me now. I’d done too much and gone too far. I couldn’t let all that precious work go to waste over a single girl that needed to be put out of her misery.

I needed to move on now, I just needed to leave and take care of Vidarr and then find the rest of the caravan and end them too, but my feet wouldn’t budge. I just stared at Reila, I was unsure of what to do something in me didn’t want to leave, I-I…I felt regret swell in my chest the longer I stood there.

Allerick must have been trying to crawl his way back out and for some reason…I let him come. I crashed to my knees and I felt my entire world fall apart. I…I killed her. She was dead because of me. I killed her for no just reason…what had I done?!

I found myself crying over the fact that I’d killed an innocent girl, she was just like Nesrin and I ended her. I killed her, I killed her…wait no. The dark rider version of myself killed her, I could of tried harder to stop him but now it was too late! I couldn’t bring her back! I couldn’t control myself anymore I was a monster. I needed to leave I just needed to leave and live out the rest of my life in solitude, not that I wasn’t already alone but I just needed to isolate myself even more so the darker version of myself couldn’t come out and hurt anyone anymore.

But first I needed to tell Allerick, the younger ranger was probably not too far off bleeding to death in the snow. I let out a chocked cry as I dried a small tear that was running down my cheek, what had I become? Over the past ten years I’d turned into something so incredibly wicked while I was cowering away in the dark, I didn’t even know what I was anymore.

The darkness might have hid me from the world, but I’d stayed in it too long and it changed me into something inhuman, I desperately needed to leave and runway. Yes, I’d been running away from my problems for some time now, but there was no point in going back or trying to retrace my steps. No one would help me after the things I’d done.

I just had to pull myself together, tell Vidarr I was…sorry and then I’d be gone for good. No one would ever hear from me again. As I sheathed my sword—regret filled my bones as I felt my heart pang with more grief and sadness after killing the young girl. She had so much to do in her life, so much to look forward to and I ruined it. Her parents were probably worried sick and sooner or later they’d find out I killed her.

More tears slid down my cheeks and I felt my friend nuzzle my face and his hot breath warmed my cold cheeks. He nuzzled me again then he started sniffing at Reila’s small lifeless body. He then looked back to me and he pawed the ground and snorted. ‘’I know old friend…I know.’’ I muttered as I gently rubbed the side of his head. ‘’She was much to kind to be killed, she didn’t deserve it, and I don’t deserve your compassion.’’ I said as I looked into his big black eyes he snorted again, and he tried nibbling on my hair. It was as if he was trying to say, ‘It’s going to be okay’.

‘’You’re such a good companion.’’ I said quietly as I looked at him. He jerked his head again and he lowered it over towards Reila. I figured he’d miss the small girl. ‘’I know boy, I know.’’ I said quietly and I knew I’d best be off to tell Vidarr, what terrible crime I’d done.

I believed it’d be best to bring her body with me so Vidarr could see her one last time, so I slowly and carefully picked her up. She was so light in weight, it felt as if I was picking up a feather. I closed her dull eyes and I carefully picked her up and climbed onto Vangelis. Without me kicking him he started trotting forward, he was such a good horse.

I think in my heart I knew Vangelis was the only friend I had whether I was me or the dark rider. Loyal to the fault and he never left me, I felt as though he was grieving for Reila too. He slowly walked in the snow and I soon spotted Vidarr sitting up against a tree, slowly dying where I’d left him.

His skin was pale, and his breath was shallow, blood covered his leg. He looked to me and his eyes widened, he tried to sit up, but he was barely able too, he still had his broken bow in hand, and he grabbed it and put it up in defense. But as I slipped of Vangelis, with his friend in my arms he lowered it and I saw the pain in his expression. It wasn’t only from his injuries it was mental too.

He then tried to push himself up to standing, and he supported himself against the tree. ‘’You—I thought there was some good in you, clearly—‘’ He winced. ‘’I was wrong.’’ Blood oozed out of his cut.

‘’Vidarr—‘’ I spoke in a soft voice, trying to keep my own emotions under controlled. ‘’I–‘’

‘’You were just showing mercy? I know…well I don’t call that mercy, I call that being a coward. You’re just afraid of your past. Now…let’s settle this and get this over with.’’ He said as he stepped forward and he used his bow stick as a sword.

‘’Vidarr I know the things I’ve done are bad, I’ve killed…’’ I chocked on my words, for a moment nothing came out of my mouth. ‘’I’ve killed too many innocent people to count, including Reila.’’ I began.

‘’Stop with the speech and just fight me…please. I’d rather die to a blade then a wound.’’ He grunted in pain as he tried inching his way towards me, thought it was very hard since his left leg was practically useless.

‘’I don’t want to kill you.’’

He looked at me and his brown eyes were wide like the full moon. ‘’You’re…you’re you aren’t you?’’ he asked me.

Nodding slowly, I walked towards him. ‘’I can’t kill you. I can’t bring myself to end another life.’’ When I spoke the word ‘life’ I practically chocked on it, for a moment I looked at Reila who was dead in my arms, it was getting harder to bare this by the second.

He then let out a painful sigh as he tossed his broken weapon aside as tears started streaming down his face as I slowly walked up to him with Reila. He crumbled to the forest floor burring his face into his hands and I came to him. ‘’Just kill me already, I’ve got nothing to lose.’’ He begged as he looked at me. ‘’You killed her, the caravan is probably a lost cause, I won’t recover from this…’’ he closed his eyes and looked away from me in shame. ‘’Just please kill me.’’ He muttered through a sob. ‘’You’d being doing it out of real mercy. This would be justified.’’ He cried as he looked to me.

I shared his pain as I knelt down in front of him, and he made eye contact with me. I kept Reila close to me, but I started handing her towards the dying Ranger. ‘’I can’t—‘’

‘’You must…please. I’d rather die to a sword then a wound.’’ He sniffed, trying to dry his tears, he then looked at Reila and he gave me a weary smile. ‘’Was it fast?’’ he asked me in a painful tone.

Nodding I began to hand her towards the ranger, and he took her into his arms with trembling hands. He cradled the small girl in his arms then I noticed how Vidarr was doing, he looked so weak, I could tell he didn’t have long. His breath was light, and he was shaking cause of the cold, his skin was paler than the snow and his eyes were growing dull. ‘’She was like a little sister to me, they were all like family.’’ His voice trailed as he looked to me.

‘’You won’t kill them, right? You’re not going to turn again, are you?’’ His voice grew dark as he looked at me. ‘’I know you’ve been going back and forth between your current self and the darkness in you…are you going to stay the same?’’ He sounded as if he wanted me to assure him that I would.

“I-I will try Vidarr.’’ I put a firm hand on his shoulder.

‘’Good, now…please…’’ He looked towards my sword and eyed it. ‘’Do it.’’ He begged.

I started shaking my head ‘no’ as I backed up from him ever so slightly. ‘’No, I can’t.’’ I muttered, I feared if I touched the sword the darkness in me would creep out again.

‘’You must.’’


‘’I’m asking you as a friend and enemy to kill me.’’

‘’I mustn’t.’’

‘’It would be justified, I’m asking you to do it for one and you’d be putting me out of my pain…’’ he winced as he touched his bloody leg, showing me the deep cut into his flesh.

‘’No Vidarr!’’ I hissed. ‘’If I do, he might come back out!’’

The young man paused for a moment. ‘’I-I see…but still, I want to die Allerick can you not fulfil a dying man’s request?’’ He asked in a deep voice.

I shook my head ‘no’ once more. ‘’I cannot Vidarr, I am sorry.’’ I whispered.

Vidarr let out a snort. ‘’Fine, if you can’t end me, I guess I’ll have to force you too.’’ He suddenly grabbed the sword out of my sheath and I instantly backed up.

‘’What are you doing?’’ I asked in confusion, very slowly backing away from him

He winced as he carefully picked Reila up and he set her in the snow away from him and he barely managed to stand up and hold my bloody sword in his hands. ‘’Forcing you into something you can’t get out of.’’ He hissed, as he sloppily swung his blade at me, I slid to the left of him as he stumbled forward. ‘’End me Allerick or I’ll end you trying.’’ He snarled in pain as he spun around and tried to hit me again.

I didn’t understand what he was getting at, but I knew I had to defend myself. Looking around I spotted his broken bow that was snapped in two in the snow. I ran towards it and I snatched it up a broken half of the stick and I turned around and his weapon met the stick I was using to defend myself. ‘’Vidarr lets not—‘’

‘’No Allercik! Just—‘’ He crashed to his knees and he yelped in pain. ‘’Just kill me!’’ He begged.

I shook my head as I looked at him. ‘’I can’t! I can’t kill anyone anymore!’’ I nearly shouted at him.

He tried to swing at me, and his weapon nearly skinned my shin. ‘’Stop being so selfish and think of others for once in your life.’’ He hissed as he used the sword to support himself as he stood up again and swung at me, his weapon weakly crashed into my broken bow stick and I backed up from him and he stumbled around.

‘’I can’t, I’m already a monster!’’ I growled as I swung my own stick at him and he blocked, for a moment he tilted his head and I saw his eyes light up as he blocked my attack.

‘’Your pathetic if you can’t end a dying man! It’s a mercy kill I tell you! Mercy! Isn’t that all you ever wanted to give when you were the dark rider!’’

Anger flashed up inside of me. How could he bring back something I was so desperately trying to put behind me? I swung my stick and he blocked. ‘’That wasn’t me! I can’t kill anyone, he can!’’ I growled in anger. ‘’And I’m not letting him back out again!’’

Vidarr spun around and he sloppily attacked me with my sword. ‘’Maybe you should, it wouldn’t be a bad idea, I’m already suffering, he’d surely put me down!’’

Just then I felt myself boil over and I jabbed my stick forward and I watched in horror as the stick sank into his torso. Vidar fell to his knees, and there was a small grin on his face as he held his stomach. What had I done?! I came to his side and he looked at me as a little bit of blood dripped from his lips. ‘’Die to the blade rather than the wound…’’ he coughed out as I began to lower him to the ground.

‘’Vidarr I-I didn’t—‘’

‘’No Allerick, this is what I wanted…’’ He croaked as his eyes began to close. ‘’Might I ask one last favor of you?’’ he asked as he let out a raspy breath.

For a heartbeat I couldn’t answer him, I was still in shock that I stabbed him. His blood was everywhere, it was pooling out from his new injury and my hands were cover in it. I felt myself begin to panic as I looked to the dying man. ‘’That—that wasn’t supposed to happen!’’ Pain stabbed my own heart as I stared at the ranger with tear swollen. ‘’You shouldn’t have to die! None of you should have to die to my hands!’’ I said as I shook him trying to keep him awake.

‘’It doesn’t matter—can you do one last favor?’’ he wheezed as he drew a hard breath.

A favor?! How did he see me ending him as a favor?? ‘’I-I don’t think I can, I can’t live like this anymore!’’ I cried as I watched him die. I killed an innocent man and girl. I’d killed husbands and wives, children and the innocent. I was a monster!

‘’Allerick—‘’ He grabbed my shoulder and he forced me to look at him. ‘’Please don’t let your sacrifice go in vain—‘’

I shook my head as I looked at him. ‘’My sacrifice…? W-what do you mean?’’ I asked as I forced myself to swallow my sobs.

‘’I mean don’t let the darkness come back out because I asked you to kill me—‘’ He yelped and more blood came from his mouth and nose. ‘’Don’t live in fear anymore…deep down I knew there was good in you…don’t let it go to waste. Don’t let him take control of you and make you live in fear—not worth it.’’ He said more quietly as his hand began to sink away from my shoulder. ‘’I-I—‘’ he panted. ‘’I lived a good life Allerick, knowing that someone else benefited from it—‘’ His eyes began to close and his body grew limb. ‘’Leave…the woods and…and help others that need saving—mercy and justice…like a king would.’’

‘’Vidarr…please don’t say such things…I can’t do that.’’ I cried as he drew his final breath.

‘’Yes…you can…I know…because I…was once like the darkness…too.’’ He rasped then his eyes shut, and his body fell still, and I let out a mad scream as I cried over the fallen ranger. He was dead, I killed him! I killed him and Reila and so many people!! I couldn’t live like this! How did he expect me to live if I just felt myself die on the inside?? I was a horrible person…who killed the innocent! And what did he mean he was once like the darkness too? What stories did he have to tell that where never heard? Did he suffer as I did so many years ago?


I mourned and grieved and cried for many hours to come. I hardly came to terms with what just happened, I sat in the freezing snow with two dead bodies next to me. I killed them both, I killed them both! I couldn’t let this thought escape me but Vidarr’s last words still rang like a bell in my head. ‘Help others that need saving—mercy and justice—like a king would’ What did that even mean?

Nighttime fell upon me and I was starting to understand what he meant. He wanted me to show real mercy and justice towards people who needed help. He wanted me to be like a king and help everybody…he wanted me to truly become like the Allerick and help people, he wanted me to guide them, lead them on the right path.

I thought of the war ten years ago when I stood as respected man of the town and I fought in the front lines with other soldiers. I led the charge, people looked up to me, they had a respect for the man I was. He wanted me to be like that. How was I supposed to do that now? I was nothing but a broken man with no one to go too.

As the night went on, I built a small fire and I watched the flames devour the sticks I’d tossed in it. To the left of me a couple feet away sat two dead bodies wrapped in thin cloths that I found on Vidarr. I’d have to bury them sooner or later. I figured I’d go bury them by the norther tree line a couple miles away from one of the big cities in the country. It was quiet and peaceful there, not many wondered in that area since it strayed into the forest. I knew there were rolling green hills there in the spring and flowers bloomed, and once an old town used to sit right next to it. I knew that town for it was my old home.

It’d be good to pay a visit to my former home, I’d bury Vidarr and Reila there…and perhaps go to my families’ graves. I hadn’t been there in nearly ten years, I supposed I owed them a visit. Deciding that in the morning I would depart north I settled down for the night, hoping that somehow everything would be okay.

I woke early the next morning to see the two bodies were lightly covered in snow and my fire had died out. I looked around as I began to gather myself and I spotted my dapple-grey stallion standing off in the distance looking at me. He too was covered in a lit dusting of snow, her perked up his ears and he snorted as I patted my leg motioning for him to come over to me.

He happily neighed as he trotted towards me, he had a small prance in his step as he came to me. I grabbed his reins and I gently stroked his forehead and he stood there patiently. ‘’Off to home old friend, off to home.’’ I said as I left him standing where he was and I carefully tied down Vidarr and Reila’s bodies onto his back and then with a click of my tongue I lead him into the forest, heading north towards home.

Several days passed when I finally noticed the trees were thinning out. I let out a sigh as I saw the snow-covered hills and old ruins of homes and buildings littered the landscape. Once a small town stood out there and now it was rubble, used by travelers on their way to the cities.

As I led Vangelis further out, I spotted a familiar sight. There was a large pasture filled with wooden crosses and planks labeling fallen people. Out there was my family and out there I’d bury the innocent lives I ended.

As I walked into the center of the pasture, I found my wife and children graves. They were buried side by side, each one had a wooden plank with their name on it. There was Adeena, I missed her dearly. My beautiful wife whom I loved, lied here now. Next to her was Primaros, my son. He was such a courageous boy who tried to defend his sister and mother. I wished him to be a great man but now he was a fallen boy, and next to him was Nesrin, my little girl. I wanted her to stay a little girl and always be happy but now she was still and gone. Here they were all silent and dead, here I remembered my family.

Later I found an open spot under a willow tree in the pasture by the tree line. There I started digging two graves while my horse patiently waited for me. A little while later I was carefully lowering their bodies into the ground and covering them with dirt and snow. Vangelis stood there with a soft expression on his face, he kept his head rather low and he stood there as I finished my work.

‘’There, there Vangelis.’’ I said quietly as I finished covering Reila’s small grave. ‘’There in a better place now.’’ I mumbled as I slowly stood and came to my friend’s side. ‘’There in a better place I’m sure—away from this world and…People like me.’’ I spoke quietly.

He gently nudged me, and he tried nibbling my hand as if he was comforting me. I then put my arm under my horse’s neck, and I started gently rubbing and patting him. ‘’I know boy I know.’’ I said a I sniffed a little as I thought about Vidarr and Reila. I didn’t know too much about them, just that they were innocent and didn’t deserve to die to my blade. So, I stood there in silence, paying my respects to them both.

I stayed in the pasture all day going back and forth between their graves and my families. Finally, at the end of the day and I knew I’d have to leave. I stood under the snow frosted willow tree I stared at Vidarr’s grave. He was such a good man, he died too young to my hands. He was a forest warrior trying to find the good in people, the good in me. He would have been an exceptional leader, much better than me.

A chilling breeze ruffled my hair as I pulled my cloak tighter around me. Vangelis let out a muffled neigh and he nudged my arm. ‘’Yes, I know boy. Let us…go.’’ I sighed as I took one last look at their graves, but I didn’t move, I needed to do something before leaving.

I slowly drew my blood-stained sword out and I walked up to his grave and I sank the blade into the dirt and I didn’t pull it back out. There it would rest forever. Vidarr died a true warrior, he died to the blade and not the wound, and he deserved to be respected as one to. My sword was his now and that’s how it would remain.

Looking to Reila’s grave I knelt down and pulled out a small knife that I owned, and I started carving something into the wooden stick I used for her headstone. I slowly carefully carved a small heart next to her name, it wasn’t much, it seemed to suit her well. It was the same thing I did on Nesrins headstone so many years ago.

Then with a sigh a stood up and went back to my steed. He nuzzled my cheek and I patted him once again. I then slowly began to lead him out of the pasture back to the forest, I didn’t look back to any of their graves I knew I had to look forward to something much great then myself.

I got onto Vangelis’s back and he slowly walked back towards the dark forest. I thought of Vidarr once more and what he asked of me. He wanted me to lead others back into the light…surely, I must do it now. I had to justify myself, and this was one of the small ways I could. All people knew me as a dark rider lurking in the forest. It would take a great deal of time for someone to trust me but if Vidarr could then someone would later on down the road.

It might take months or years, but one day I hoped to be the leader and man I once was. I knew I had it in me, just so long as I kept the darkness locked away. I never wanted to see or hear him again, I had to try my hardest to move on and stay as my current self. I had to be Allerick in order for anything worth living for in the future.

For ten years I was darkness, and only darkness. I lived in shadow and I slaughtered people—calling it ‘mercy’. I was a dark rider trying to forget about his past. Now, I was my old self, I was Allerick. I was going to strive to be a good and merciful leader who helped others. That’s what I needed to do, that’s what I had to do. I had to do this for Vidarr and Reila and every person I’d ever killed.


As I rode deeper into the forest, I felt a new presence in the air. The forest was somehow different, it was no longer calling to me and begging me to come thrive in the shadow it was just… a forest. ‘’What do you say we try to help that caravan?’’ I asked my horse. ‘’I know…I know they probably won’t let me help but the least I could do is try right?’’ I asked him. He simply bobbed his head up and down. ‘’I have too…for Vidarr and Reila…’’ My words trailed. I felt a chill run down my spine, but for some reason I was calmed by it. How strange.

‘’I don’t know what I am anymore Vangelis…maybe I am a man, but I still think I have a way to go before earning that proper title.’’ I spoke quietly as we walked into the night. ‘’Over the years I will earn a new name. I know I cannot erase the past, but I can try to mold my future…’’ I spoke and he snorted as a response. ‘’Tell me, what am I?’’ I asked aloud. He whinnied and I chuckled. ‘’I suppose your right about that…I am no longer the darkness in the woods.’’ Then all of a sudden, a great burden was lifted off of me. I felt free…I was free of my past, free of the dark rider. I’d let go of everything I once loved…and now I was moving on. Then somehow I knew, everything was going to be okay.

The End

Sydney Winegar is 14 years old and in 9th grade. She frequents the library’s yoga classes with her family. This is her second time participating in a library writing challenge.