Writing Contest High School Winner: Dragon’s Curse, by Justin McNabb
I am running through my school. A roaring, white dragon crashes through doors and knocks lockers out of its way as it chases me. I look back and curse loudly. It’s getting closer. I try to run faster, but my legs seem heavy as if cinderblocks were tied to them. Then I run into a locked door and curse again. I slam my shoulder against it, but it doesn’t budge. I look back. The dragon is almost upon me! I slam again. Nothing! No, no, no! You can’t take me! NO!
“NO!” I yell, waking up in my bed. I’m dripping sweat and shaking. My alarm clock says it’s two o’ clock in the morning. I sigh and lay my head back down on the pillow. Same nightmare . . . again.
My mother opens the door, a concerned look on her slightly tanned face. “Eli, is everything all right? I heard yelling.”
“I’m fine, it was just a dream,” I reply, rubbing my temples.
She cocks an eyebrow. “The same dream you told me about? The dragon chasing you through the school?”
I nod. “Yeah.”
She comes over and places a hand against my forehead. “Good gracious, you’re burning up! I think you should stay home from school today.”
“I’ll be fine.” I immediately regret saying that. I know better than to argue, even though I know I’m not sick. I follow up before she can reply. “I won’t go to school, but I’m not staying in bed all day.”
She keeps her gaze on me for a few moments, then goes to the door, “Okay. But you have homework to do in the morning, so don’t get any ideas.”
“Got it,” I say.
Mom heads back to bed, but as soon as the door closes, I grab a pair of black and dark grey camouflage pattern cargo pants, a black T-shirt, and pair of boxer-briefs and hastily put them on. I look over at my sweat soaked sheets and resolve to wash them later. I pull on thick socks and a pair of black boots that come up to just below mid-calf on my legs and tuck the bottom of my pants legs into them. As I tip-toe through the hallway, I open the closet and grab a jacket and a beanie cap. I then head outside.
I’m heading toward my favorite spot, where I always go when I need to think. There’s a hill with a tree growing on it, and a pond at the base on the north side. I live with my mother and father on a secluded piece of land in Alaska, so I’m not worried about anyone seeing me. The nearest town is almost twenty miles away in any direction.
As I walk up the hill, I notice that there are no clouds in the sky and the moon is full. Its light dims the stars near it, but I can still see a few brilliant clusters toward the horizon. I used to try to count them, but soon gave up. And, as I got older, I had less time. My days are often so busy that I go to bed late at night. That’s life in Alaska: chores, chores, more chores, and school. I manage to keep straight A’s in all classes except math, which I can never seem to raise above a C. So most of my free-time is in early mornings before the sun is even up.
Or times like this, when I can steal away without my parents knowing.
I gaze at the moon for a few minutes, or at least I think it’s a few minutes. But then I notice something different. The moon is slowly turning a dark shade of blue. I frown and think how strange it is. Is it normal for the moon to do that? Something to do with the time of year and being so close to the Arctic Circle? I decide not.
My thoughts are interrupted when I feel a prickling sensation on my arm, like something is crawling on my skin. I reach over to scratch it, but remember that I am wearing the jacket. Why is my arm itchy? I pull the sleeve back and stare in shock at what I find: my skin is turning hard and is separating itself into what appears to be scales like a snake or lizard.
“What in the world?” I exclaim.
The scales continue to form, and I start feeling it in the rest of my body. I start scratching my chest and arms and legs. I unzip my jacket and hurriedly take it off, then lift my shirt. My stomach is covered in white scales!
“This can’t be happening!” I cry out in panic. “What’s going on?”
I fall to my knees after feeling them pop out of socket. Agony spreads throughout my body as I feel myself changing. But into what? I see light swirling around me. The light brings more pain. I hear a tearing sound as my shirt rips. I feel something growing out of my back. I am on my hands and knees, unable to move. I feel like my body is being torn apart from the inside out. I cough and blood comes out. It stains the ground dark crimson in splotches. An agonized cry rips from my throat and the light swirls around me faster and faster until all I can see is streaks of bright yellow in a wall of orange like a fire is trying to consume my body. I feel myself grow larger and larger by the second, my bones crack and split and I feel a pressure in my lower back. I turn and find a tail had sprouted from the seat of my pants. I growl and close my eyes. Trying to ignore the burning pain that courses through my frame. Soon the light starts to fade away, and I cry out one last time. But it’s not a normal cry I hear; instead it’s the roar of some great beast that bellows from my mouth. As the pain leaves my body, I collapse. I feel changed, different . . .alien. I slowly pull myself to the north side of the hill so I can see the pond. When I look into it, I am completely shocked at what I see.
The face of a white dragon.
The adrenaline from the pain is fading, bringing weakness and a darkness to my vision as my mind slowly slips into unconsciousness. The last thing I see before my sight fades away is a distant, hazy figure coming towards me.
I slip away into the depths of my own subconscious, and my mind wanders through a strange world of dreams. I see again the white dragon that chases me through the school hallways. I run again, as I always have. This time I head straight for the gymnasium. I will be safe there. I can hide underneath the bleachers. I slam open the double doors and sprint as fast as my legs can carry me. Then I slam into a wall that had materialized out of nowhere. I try to go around, but it is extending and blocking me. I back away, trying to see if I can scale it. But something catches my eyes. There are glowing symbols on the wall, and they seem to emanate whispering voices. I turn and am startled. The dragon is standing there, looking me in the eyes. It is not roaring or growling anymore, just standing there, looking at me. What does it want? Why is it not tearing me to shreds?
Too many questions flood my mind, and the whispering symbols are growing louder and louder. I try to listen more closely. They seem to be repeating one word: Makaidos. I don’t know why, but I instinctively know it’s a name. But who is Makaidos?
The dragon stretches out its neck and touches its snout against my forehead. I feel a tingling sensation like I’m holding a lit match next to my skin.
I hear a voice like a young woman’s. It whispers in my mind, “Remember who you were.”
Then I hear another voice calling me. “Wake up! Please, wake up!”
The voice keeps pleading and the dragon fades as my dream dissolves back into the void of my subconscious. My eyes slowly open to a distorted world. As my eyes adjust, my sight returns, and I see a face I have never seen before. The face is of a girl in her late teens. Beautiful with slightly rounded cheeks, diamond blue eyes, and auburn hair. She seems Asian, Japanese, maybe. But the hair color says otherwise. Her clothes are odd: like she’s wearing some sort of school uniform.
She is clearly worried at first, but then she smiles. It’s the kind of smile I’ve seen Mom give to Dad whenever he comes home from a long day at work or a hunting trip. Then she grabs my shoulders and pulls me upright into a tight hug. She heaves out a breath that is somewhere between a gasp and a sigh of relief.
“You’re awake! You’re here! I can’t believe it! After all these years of searching we’re finally together again!” she says with obvious excitement in her voice.
I push her back, a thousand questions now racing through my mind. “Hold on. Who the heck are you?”
She’s surprised at this. “You mean . . . you don’t remember me? You don’t know who I am?”
I shake my head. “I think I’d remember a red-headed Asian girl.”
I reach over to scratch my arm, and my strange transformation flashes through my mind. Had I really turned into a dragon? I look at my hands and see that they are normal again. I feel my chest and am relieved to feel my shirt still intact. I know it wasn’t a dream. I look around and, for the first time, realize I’m sitting on a cot in a log cabin I’ve never been in before. So how did I end up here, and back to normal?
I look back at the girl and somehow know she is perfectly aware of everything that just happened. “Where am I?”
She replies, “My name is Katrina, and we’re in a cabin that has been abandoned for many years.”
I look at the door behind her and notice it is ajar with rusted hinges, one of which looks ready to break at any moment. The door is also missing a doorknob. I hear a loud creak above me and look up. I immediately find that I do not trust the ceiling would hold for any longer than a few months. When I had finished a quick study of my surroundings, I looked back at Katrina. “What did you mean when you said ‘we’re finally together again’? I really don’t know you other than your name. Do I?”
She looks away towards the wall to the left of the door and bites her lip, possibly nervous. After a few seconds of silence, she turns back to me. “It’s a very long story. And a crazy one. You might not believe it.”
I roll my eyes. “I turned into a dragon! I think I’m ready to believe that leprechauns and unicorns really exist.” I then look straight at her. “So start at the beginning.”
She nods slightly and her gaze falls to the floor. “A long time ago on a world very different from this one, we were dragons. But not just any dragons, we were the king and queen of the dragon race, and we were mates. Husband and wife kinda thing. My name was Lucilia and yours was Makaidos.”
She continues on with how we met. How she knew I had a kind heart because I risked my life to save orphaned hatchling dragons from a burning building. That I used to find her annoying but eventually fell in love with her. How we became engaged at an early age. How we soon found out that I was to be the next king because I started shedding silver scales and growing golden ones. How I was cursed to be a human by a sorcerer. And so many more things. I sat on the cot and listened in silence. So many things had happened that I have no memory of.
When she had finished, dawn was rising. She bites her lip and looks away, blushing, “I’ve told you everything I remember.”
I look up at the ceiling and close my eyes, trying to digest all of this information. Could all of this be true? Am I really a dragon cursed to be a human? What did I do to tick the sorcerer off so badly? So many more questions flood my mind.
My head hurts, and I begin to rub my temples. After a few moments, I realize she’s staring intently at me, her eyes searching mine for an answer. I sigh and glance away. My throat is dry.
This has to be true. It feels true.
I face her again. “I believe you,” I say, and it’s not a lie.
She smiles the same radiant smile I saw earlier. She lunges forward and throws her arms around me in a hug. “I knew you would!” she says, and she tries to kiss me.
I push her back again. “Just because I say I believe you doesn’t mean we’re married. Not now, anyway. I don’t know you.”
She frowns, “But we ARE married. We’re just not dragons.”
“Not anymore. I just met you, and I don’t remember a thing from our life before,” I argue.
“It doesn’t matter,” she replies, her tone hinting annoyance. “We are married.” She then breaks into a smile like she just thought of something. “And I can make you remember.”
I cock an eyebrow., “What are you smil—”
I am not able to finish my sentence, for she suddenly grabs my head and pulls me into a kiss. I try to push her back, but suddenly I feel an intense heat in my skull and everything in my vision grows further away like I’m flying backwards. Then everything goes stark white.
In the white landscape I now see, there is only one thing I recognize: Katrina walking towards me. But the clothes she was previously wearing had been replaced by some form of regal garment like a queen’s dress. But it was not “poofy” like in movies, it was slim and effervescent. Then I see the white dragon from my dreams behind her, walking in perfect pace. I hear her speak and both her lips and the dragon’s move in unison. Her voice and its echo multiple times into a melody of voices seeming to come from everywhere at once.
“I am Lucilia,” she says, “queen of the dragons on Drakenguard. Your wife. Your mate. I am your past, present, and your future. Our destinies intertwine like two strings in a single cord. A bond that shall never be severed, no matter how sharp the sword is that strikes it.”
I back away, frightened by the scene before me. “Keep away from me!” I stumble, realizing now that I am a dragon again and unable to use four legs at once. I try to stand.
She is getting closer. “Why do you fight to keep away from me? I am the opposite of your enemy. I am your love.” Her voice is haunting.
I carefully back away from her again, “Katri— . . . Lucil—, whoever you say you are, stay away!” She is very close now, just beyond arm’s length. Suddenly, my body feels different and I find I’m human once more. Behind me is another white dragon that’s mimicking my movements.
Katrina, or Lucilia, stretches out her arm towards me, and the dragon stretches her neck towards the dragon behind me.
Her hand touches my cheek softly, and light appears at that corner of my vision. She whispers, “Remember.”
Then my vision flashes with different images and my senses are assaulted by different sounds, smells, emotions and touches. My head burns with pain twice the intensity of a migraine. I can barely hear my agonized scream with all the voices and sounds being pressed upon me. I feel like my head is ready to explode. After what seemed like hours, her hand leaves my cheek and my vision returns . . . but only for a moment. Darkness quickly takes over and there is silence.
~* * *~
I release my lips from his, breaking the kiss. His eyes are closed and his breathing slow. I gently lay him back down on the cot, his head on the pillow. Even though he is not a dragon currently, he is still handsome. I place a hand against his cheek, but no sooner than I do, he arches up and a piercing, agonized scream rips from his mouth. Surprised, I back up to the wall and watch as he writhes on the cot. I clutch my hand over my heart and feel it pounding. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, his fit stops and he falls silent and motionless. His breathing is normal again, but his face still seems in pain. I inch towards him, slowly reaching my hand towards his face. I hesitate when it is half an inch away from his forehead. Should I do it? Or would it just cause him to go crazy again?
Only one way to find out.
I gently touch his brow, but nothing happens. I remove my hand and back away. I should let him rest. He’s been through a lot. I exit the room and close the door softly. Heading to the fireplace in the living room, I coax a fire from the embers with a fresh log and gentle blowing. Once the fire takes hold, I sit back in a recliner with a broken footrest. A door opens and I turn my head to see what made the noise. A girl walks into the room. She is dressed in Japanese school clothes just like me. Her name is Izanami.
She looks nervously at the door I just came out of. “I heard yelling. What happened?”
I shrug. “I really don’t know.” I then begin explain what I had tried and Makaido’s reaction. After I finish, I slump forward. “When he screamed, I felt so afraid.”
She seems very surprised. “He doesn’t remember you? Not even a little bit?”
I groan. “I know! It’s horrible! It broke my heart when he pushed me away and asked me who I was!” I can barely contain the tears welling up inside me right now. I choke back a sob. Izanami comes over and gives me a comforting hug. That is when the tears flowed freely.
~* * *~
My eyes open slowly. Everything is fuzzy and there is a loud ringing in my ears as if a grenade blew up near me. I clutch my head with both hands. I sit up, kick the covers off, and breathe deeply. The pain subsides a little, and I try to stand. I don’t know how long I’ve been out. But I have to get out of here.
I rise, but my head flares with pain and I crumble back to the cot, “Crap!”
Then I hear voices on the other side of the door. I ignore the pain and stand again, then walk over. I press my ear up to the door and hear someone talking and sobbing. It sounds like Katrina, but I can’t tell what she’s saying. Someone else responds. Another girl. I don’t recognize the voice, but she seems to be speaking a foreign language. Possibly Japanese.
Am I still in Alaska? What else can go wrong?
As if on cue, I hear footsteps coming to the door. I dash back to the cot and lay down, pretending to sleep. The door opens and the footsteps come closer. Then I feel a hand touch my cheek and hear whispering. The hand lingers a few moments, then is pulled away. The two girls continue whispering in Japanese. I lay as still as I can, keeping my eyes closed and controlling my breathing. I wait and listen, knowing they are talking about me.
Writing Contest Middle School Winner: The Sumanian Crystal, by Michael Taylor
Chapter 1: I’m Jackie Jones
My name is Jackie Jones, and I’m 13-years-old. I have two adoptive siblings, a mom, and a dad. I go to church. Go to school. Have friends.
You would think that I’m a normal, everyday kid, right?
But what if I said there was more to my life than what I’ve told you? What if I said I had secrets? Secrets that would change my life and other certain people’s lives forever? What if I said I knew stuff? Stuff that would put me and those certain people in danger? What if I said I was . . . an alien? Not from Canada, but from out of this world?
My name is Kenyundimensog, but you can call me Kenyun. My people are called the Sumis because my home planet is Sumania, which is something like twenty-five galaxies away from yours. In case you’ve never travelled through space, that’s ridiculously far away.
Why am I here? I was sent to your planet to retrieve an artifact one of our people stole. He’s a traitor to our kind, and he was my best friend. Oh, and he decided to hang out on your planet. Surprise! I hate to say this, but he is ten times more powerful than a normal human. Bummer, right? Even his name sounds terrifying. Kenyogalmenjink. Pretty horrible. But we called him Kenyo for short.
Kenyo was tired of Sumania. It’s a long story, but let’s just say he had some trouble with bullies and didn’t get along with the king. So what did he do? He snuck into the royal treasury and into a secret vault (which isn’t so secret anymore), and stole a huge crystal that had amazing powers to hold the planet together. Oh, and did I forget to mention the crystal also provided us with all the food, energy, and other supplies our planet needed? Well it did.
Not that Kenyo cared. He just grabbed the crystal, hopped onto an escape launcher, and punched in a destination for the farthest planet with life forms away from Sumania.
So that’s why I was sent. Because I was his closest friend and apparently everyone thought I could talk him into returning the crystal. Though they had to know I would end up battling him. Jerks.
And I didn’t have much choice. Without the artifact, our planet wouldn’t survive ten Earth years. Which isn’t very long. One year on our planet is thirty-and-a-half years on yours. Translation: Sumania had about three years to survive.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Kenyo found out I am here. Which is why I disguised myself as a boy named Jackie Jones and snuck myself into an orphanage to get adopted. It’s the perfect cover.
So now I’m stuck on some far-away planet without any help from my people. I guess I should count myself lucky for all my military training, though I can’t say I pictured myself using my skills on my best friend. The most support I get is a nightly pep-talk from the Sumanian ruler, King Domesicanesetical (or King D for short). It’s the same each time. My alarm goes off at midnight, I pull out some Dimensional Gel, squirt it on the ground, and a portal to Sumania opens up, revealing King D’s worried face.
“Don’t worry, King D. I’ll find the traitor and restore the planet to its former glory!” I assure him.
His panicked look tells me he doesn’t buy my confidence. “I wish I could say the same. I put all my faith into you. Do not fail us!”
“I won’t. I give my Sumanian Promise!” I say.
The king’s face turns purple. “You know what happens when you don’t fulfill a Sumanian Promise!” he yells. “The whole galaxy will blow up if you don’t fulfill that promise! That promise hasn’t been made in over a thousand years!” He starts sobbing.
An old superstition. But still, his panic almost had me convinced it was true.
“We’re dooooomed!” he cries as he fades away and the room goes dark. The gel oozes back into the bottle.
It’s nice to know he has such faith in me.
Chapter 2: The Fight
It had been two-and-a-half years since I landed on Earth before I’d found any trace of Kenyo. In case you haven’t been following, that meant my time was seriously running out. I was beginning to think I’d get to see if the whole Sumanian-Promise-galaxy-explosion thing was true. But that’s when my luck changed.
I was following a hunch I’d had after a gas station in Florida was attacked by a teenage boy with super-human strength and tentacles. After searching the area, I stumbled into an empty cave. There, in the ceiling, was the Sumanian crystal. It provided the only light, but it was strong enough to illuminate the whole cave, which looked about two miles long. Half of the cave’s floor was covered in water, and I could tell from the way it bubbled and churned that it was full of sea life.
I found Kenyo sleeping in a shack at the water’s edge. I pulled out my sword and prepared to chop off his head when he snapped awake.
With one swift motion, he slapped the weapon out of my hand and put me in a headlock. One twist and he would have killed me. I elbowed him hard in the stomach, and he bent over groaning.
There was my chance!
I slipped out of his arms and grabbed my sword, turned, and swung. He dodged it too late, and I grazed his ear and the side of his face. It was a small wound, but I could tell he was furious. He wiped away the blood and balled up his fists.
Then the unexpected happened.
A tentacle flew out of his side right under his ribs and wrapped around me. It lifted me up three feet off the ground. Another tentacle came squirming out of his other side, snaked toward my face, and poked me in the eye.
How dare he!
And then it slapped me. Then again. And again. And again. This went on for about five minutes as Kenyo rolled on the floor in laughter.
Finally, I was able to twist my sword arm free and slash at the tentacles. They fell to the floor and wriggled around for a few seconds before falling still. Kenyo screamed in agony and anger as I circled him, my back to the water.
Before I could make another attack, he whistled. The water behind me erupted. A shark the size of a whale burst from its surface and sank its teeth into my leg as its bulky, torpedo-shaped body slid back into the depths. I fell to the ground as it pulled me with it. Once in the water, I knew I wouldn’t stand a chance. Ignoring the blinding pain, I twisted and swung my sword around like crazy. The shark’s skin was so tough I barely made a scratch on its nose, but it was enough. Its teeth loosened, and I flung myself away from the water just as the shark disappeared beneath the surface. I made sure I was out of reach, and then turned to face Kenypo once more. That’s when I realized he was escaping, the crystal in tow behind him by a rope.
I jumped to my feet and ran as fast as I could, quickly catching up thanks to the huge crystal slowing him down. I swung by swung my sword at him, but he dodged. Then I did the next thing that came to my mind.
“Kenyo! The King!” I yelled. “The King has come for us. He’s right there!” I pointed to the other side of the crystal. He realized it was a silly trick, but his hesitation was all I needed. I slashed at the rope with my sword, and it snapped in two. Then I slashed at his leg. Kenyo dropped to the ground, clutching his thigh where I’d nick him. In one quick motion, I pulled out the bottle of Dimensional Gel and emptied the entire thing. The portal to King D flew open. He was very surprised to see me, as you can imagine, but before he could say anything, I shoved the crystal through. There was an ear-splitting cracking sound as the edges of the portal stretched to their limit. Then finally, with a blinding blast of energy, it squeezed through. The blast knocked me backwards so hard I hit my head on the floor. I was barely aware of the portal and the crystal disappearing completely. Before I blacked out, I saw Kenyo’s form standing over me. I swung my sword wildly and felt it make contact. The last thing I remembered was Kenyo collapsing to the ground next to me.
I woke up in a hospital bed, but it wasn’t on Earth—I was home! I sat up and was surprised by the darkness of the room. The only light was a dim lamp by my bed. Then the lights popped on and the King, his guards, and my Sumis family were in the room with an Earth cake and a bunch of sodas (how did they know?). I looked at the window and saw a crowd standing around the hospital. The next two weeks was nothing but celebration for my saving the galaxy.
I never found out what happened to Kenyo. Maybe he died. Maybe he didn’t. But since we got our crystal back, I guess he’s your problem now.
If you are an alien and want to chat about my Earth experience, just send a message to my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The sequel to this book will be coming out Neveruary 32, 2014. Bye!
A Kid and Teenager’s Guide to Getting Published
Whenever I talk to kids and teenagers about writing, there are usually three questions that come up. How long have you been writing? What made you want to be an author? How do you get published? The first two questions are easy to answer; and let’s face it, people only ask them to be polite. (Since I was 14 and because it’s fun. There, I answered them).
People are really interested in the last one. For an author, to be published means a lot of things. Recognition. Encouragement. Relief. Relief most of all. Relief that all the creativity swirling around in your head, and all the effort it took to craft it into something real, wasn’t for nothing. So on to what matters: how kids and teenagers can get published.