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Melissa Vanderstad
Melissa Vanderstad

Winners of Young Adult Writers Contest determined

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entertainment Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Editor's note: Judging has been completed for the Young Adult Writing Contest at the Park Rapids Area Library. All of the entries this year were very good, according to Nancy Minkel, Young Adult Librarian, but Melissa Vanderstad's and Danielle Hill's submissions were ranked at the top by the judges. The Forest, by Vanderstad, a student at Park Rapids High School, was the winner in the 7th-9th grade category. Hill, a home-schooled student from Park Rapids, won in the 10-12th grade category with her short story "One Strange Day." Each student was awarded a $20 Park Rapids Chamber bucks certificate from the Friends of the Park Rapids Area Library.

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The Forest

By Melissa Vanderstad

Trapped. A rat in a maze, a tiger in a cage, every cliche he could think of  - he was trapped.

The rope bit cruelly into his ankle as blood rushed to his head, causing his vision to blur. He wiggled fiercely, but to no avail. No matter how he twisted and turned he could not free himself.

His belongings scattered on the cold earth beneath him, he strained for his knife. However, the trap was expertly set, his fingers still were a good six inches off the ground. Realizing it was hopeless, he crossed his arms over his chest and adopted what he hoped was a nonchalant expression, like hanging upside-down by his foot was an everyday occurrence.

Soon he know whoever made this snare would have to come check it. Realizing that he was not an animal they would have to release him. And so he settled back and waited, as comfortably as he could.

The sun blared overhead, taking so long to cross the sky that he felt sure this day would never end. Finally the sun set and night began; still he could find no respite. He was too uncomfortable by far to sleep, and so many hours without water had left his throat parched.

Soon he found his mind beginning to wander back to the beginning of this horrible day, and the events that led up to his unlucky predicament.

He'd snuck to the door of his room, as quietly as he could. He opened the door just a crack. "Perfect," he thought. "He is still asleep." It was so early in the morning, although the sun was not yet up perhaps it could still be called night, that he had really not expected him to be up yet.

However, it was best to be careful. He had been planning this for weeks. He pulled on his sturdiest boots and hoisted up his pack. Everything he would need was in it, enough food for a few days, his bedroll, an extra shirt and his sharpest knife.

When he had crept quietly through the house he stood out on the lawn and had taken a last look at his home. He was not sorry he was leaving, not sorry at all. When his parents had died last winter, his uncle had taken him in. However, his uncle had turned out to be a mean, spiteful, controlling man. He had put up with it for almost a month now, but it had to end. He turned his back on his old home and walked quickly into the woods.

Inside the forest the night was quite different. Gone were the twinkling stars, and the bright, calming moon. Gone was everything familiar and friendly. The air was alive with the sounds of insects, and an occasional owl.

As he'd gotten deeper in the forest, glowing eyes had stared out of the underbrush, and menacing growls had come from seemingly all around. He'd quickened his pace to a run, hoping to evade the horrors behind him. And that is how, like a frightened rabbit, he had run right into his current predicament.

The sound of a snapping twig shocked him out of his relocations. He snapped his head from side to side, trying to see what was approaching. The world appeared different from his angle, and in his panic the green bushes of the forest seemed to blur together.

Another twig snapped. Visions of wolves, and all other sorts of deadly beasts filled his mind. So when the bushes on the right of him started shaking, the leaves making an eerie rustling sound in the silence, as something big moved toward him, he struggled fiercely against his bonds.

However, it was hopeless. The rope was just too tight. When he next looked at the rustling bushes, he saw a bright pair of emerald green eyes staring back at him. And then, a face, a human face. Not however, he was terrified to notice when the creature stepped into the light of the pale moon, entirely human.

It was a female, with long brown hair, and green tinted skin. She was a forest elf, a race that lived on only in the story's told at a child's bedside. Or so he believed.

The girl appraised him for several long moments, and then let out a laugh that sounded like birdsong. She took a few steps, till she was right next to his face. He scowled at her, which only made her laugh more. From his upside-down position it looked like a smile.

Then, quick as could be, the forest elf whipped a knife out of her belt. He knew for sure now he would die. He looked into her large green eyes and saw determination there. Sure enough, he saw her pull her blade back to prepare to strike.

He closed his eyes tightly and waited for the end and felt himself falling. With one smooth stroke she had cut the rope keeping him upside-down. He landed hard on his butt, and a groan escaped him.

The girl held out her hand to help him up. "I'm sorry for the rough landing," she said. "But who knows how long you've been hanging there ... you really should be more careful were you walk, you know."

Her tone was that of a mother scolding her clumsy child for once again getting into something they weren't supposed to. He found it really annoying.

"Well maybe you should have been more careful as to where you put your snare. Anyone could have tripped over that.' He snapped back, gathering his stuff. He climbed unsteadily to his feet.

"And you should be a little nicer to me child, because you are fortunate that it was I who found you, instead of the wolves. If they had found you first, you would be dead. The forest is no place for a child; I will bring you to the outskirts of your village. Follow me."

"No, I have just run away from there," he said. "I will not go back. I must cross to the other side of this accursed forest. It is said that on the other side is a land so prosperous that no one wants for anything."

The girl looked at him like he was crazy. "Other side of the forest? I have never heard of such a place. Our forest is massive, if you were to cross it, it would take many weeks. Surely a child like you is not planning to cross it all by yourself."

"Stop calling me a child! I'm almost 12 years old, and I do have a name." he snapped at her.

She started at his coarse tone. "I am sorry if I have offended you, chi ... urn. What is your name? My name is Kira."'

"Hi Kira. I supposed I never did thank you for getting me down. So well, thank you. My name is ... he did not get a chance to finish, for at that moment, out of the dense bushes, came a huge lion.

Easily the size of a horse, its teeth, far longer than a normal lions, were tinted red, openly displayed as it snarled fiercely.

He stumbled backwards, terrified. The lion flexed its large muscles as it got ready to pounce. Kira drew her knife and crouched, ready. The lion gave one final snarl, and then leaped, right at his face! He screamed, then sat bolt upright in bed.

His breathing was heavy, his face flushed. He was drenched in sweat. A dream, nothing more. He tossed back the covers, and looked down at himself. Yep, still in his pjs. However, one thing in particular drew his gaze.

There upon his right ankle, were marks. Marks that could have only been made by one thing. A very tight rope. Confused, he laid his head back on his pillow, and next to his face lay a leaf. A tiny perfect leaf. He picked it up and got slowly out of bed. He wandered over to the window.

Looking out into the forest, a plan began to form. He grabbed an old bag out from under his bed, pulled on his boots, and began to pack.

One Strange Day

By Danielle Hill

Trapped. A rat in a maze, a tiger in a cage, every cliché he could think of - he was trapped! "Why couldn't he think of a way out of this mess?" I thought as I stared, with disbelief, at the image in the mirror.

I was standing there dressed in my pajamas. I appeared to be a little taller than those dolls of my sisters, the ones I am so sick of stepping on. This meant I was only about six inches tall!

How could this be? The last thing I remembered was going to bed last night at six feet tall and now I was six inches tall! This was too much for me to handle on this intended-to-be-lazy Saturday.

"I must be seeing things," I muttered to myself. Closing my eyes tightly, I took a deep breath, and opened my eyes again. I was still six inches tall. Sighing deeply, I looked around my room. It was a mess, like normal. How would I even get to the door?

"Why me, why today?" I shouted at the top of my lungs. It was loud enough to sound like a whisper. I sighed again, knowing this was going to be a long day, or weekend, or however long it was until I turned back to normal height.

The thought that I could not play hockey, be normal, or even go to school again for who knows how long stung. It was more of a searing pain shooting through my already aching head. Is not going to school a big deal, I wondered? "Yes," I groaned helplessly under my breath, "It is."

Knowing that food always helps everything, I headed to the kitchen. Reaching the top of the stairs with little difficulty, I looked down. I had to figure a way to get down the stairs.

Looking up I saw the railing. Grinning and with eyes sparkling with adventure, I climbed up to the top of one of the spindles. I swung myself up onto the wide railing. I could see the entire entryway of the house.

Crouching low I started to surf down the railing. "This is great!" I yelled as I surfed the rail. Mom isn't here to yell at me to "stop." I could almost hear her say it.

The thought was barely out of my mouth when I ran out of railing and was flying through the air. I was heading for that giant fish bowl on the side table that sits next to the door. I landed with an immense splash, right in the bowl!

Holding my breath I struggled frantically to get to the top fast! Finally my head broke the surface. Gasping for a breath I shook the water from my face and began swimming to the edge. "Ahhh ... "

I breathed a sigh of relief, when suddenly there was a tug on the cuff of my pant leg. My sister's goldfish, named Stuff, was hooked to my leg.

I held my breath while trying to flip and wiggle around to get him off. I wasn't very fond of this fish right now. I wanted to fry him and eat him! My still hungry stomach growled at the thought.

On one of the flips, I caught sight of how big Stuff the goldfish actually was, and I shuddered. Stuff, the name my 7-year-old sister, Tayrn, gave to the fat beast, was no joke. He had eaten so much that she named him Stuff. I had to get out of there as I was loosing breath fast!

I gave a hard jerk to the left and broke free, swimming to the surface at top speed. Upon reaching the surface, I wasted no time in getting out of the bowl. I flipped up over the rim, dropped to the side, and lay there panting for breath. Trembling, I stood up and turned around to look at the giant bowl that was almost my death.

"What a horrible way to die, death by goldfish," I said aloud. I laughed at the thought. I stood making faces at the attacker, who now swam glowering and glaring at me.

Once more I set out to reach the kitchen. I was now enjoying the adrenalin rush from sliding down the banister and fighting off my attacker.

All was going well. I successfully slid down the leg of the hall table and strolled into the kitchen. I climbed up the broom handle by the phone onto the countertop. Looking down I saw a note addressed to me. I stood on top of it and read:

Dear Aiden,

As you know, dad and I went to the cities for the weekend for our business conference. We will be back tomorrow. Your sister, Tayrn, is staying at Grandpa and Grandma Rothenwells. Have a good weekend. I will call you tonight and tomorrow morning. Stay out of trouble (no parties)! There is food money in the cookie jar, but don't eat pizza every night!

Lots of love, Mom & Dad

"Good! I have more time to think of an explanation as to why I am six inches tall!" I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm.

I jumped as the phone rang. I pressed the speaker phone button and said, "Hello," right into the speaker.

"Hello honey, this is mom. I don't have a lot of time, but I thought I would see how things are going there. Is everything alright?" The voice came rapidly over the phone. I gulped and stammered,

"Well, ye-ye-yes, I guess so."

She replied, "Well, the conference is starting and your dad is trying to turn off my phone. I will talk to

you tonight. I hope all is well. Love you, goodbye!" my mom managed to spit out before the line went dead.

I was again left in absolute silence.

It was nearly noon and I was now extremely hungry. I looked at my weak arms and at the heavy refrigerator door. "Nothing cold, I guess."

I walked over to the sink that my mom had heaped with dish soap and water. This sink full of bubbles was her way of hinting that the dishes needed done. Most of the time I just pretended not to notice, but the consequences were never that easy.

I cautiously climbed behind the sink and inched to the other side of the sink. I gazed at the mess of Fruit Loops and oatmeal on the counter. I glanced up at the cupboard where all the good junk food was stored and at the nearby cereal box.

I scooted the box closer to the cupboard. I found an overturned cereal bowl, left from the morning rush to get out the door, and pushed it closer to the box. I now had created a ladder to climb up to the door. I scurried up, opened the door, and climbed in.

I had a good lunch, if you can call chips and part of a doughnut a good lunch. At any rate, it was better than an empty stomach.

I leaped from the cupboard. I now stood on the counter, looking around, and I thought I could put that dishwater to good use.

Grinning, I did a giant cannonball into the dishwater. The water sprayed the floor and the drapes that hung above the window with a mess of sudsy, warm water. I was in big trouble! I could make all kinds of messes, yet I could not clean up one of them because of my size. After my much needed bath, I decided to take a nap. I was exhausted!

After much climbing and struggling, I reached the top of our stairs. I dragged myself into my bedroom and crawled into my bed. "Oh boy, what a long day and it's only four o'clock!" I yawned and fell asleep.

The next thing I knew, I was hearing, "Wake up Aiden, wake up." Mom was saying as she shook me awake.

"W-w-what is going on?" I managed to stammer under my breath.

Mom answered, "Your father and I got back early from our business trip." I looked over at my alarm clock that said 9 p.m., and then down at my six-foot body. I laughed when I saw my toes at the end of my bed.

"Did you sleep all day?" she asked accusingly.

"Um-I-a-well I am not really sure," I spit out in between the thoughts that raced through my head. "How was your conference?" I asked trying to change the subject.

"Great!" she shouted as she walked out of my room.

I got up and sauntered downstairs. When I reached the bottom of the stairs I paused and looked long and hard at the fish in that bowl. Stuff swam to the edge of the bowl and winked at me. He winked at me!

"What is going on here?" I thought as I walked into the kitchen. "I should eat, food always helps," I muttered to myself. Besides, I had to get away from that killer goldfish.

Boy, had it been one strange day!

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