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Short Story Contest Winners

Read our winning pieces below!

Seeing Red
by Madeline Moses
Short Story

​                “Marelle!” my mother yells at me as I run away. 
​                Today was the day. Either I was gonna kill the wolf, or it would kill me. But I wouldn’t let it get away with killing Seraphina.
​                “Red!” I hear Elias behind me. I stop and turn around. “You can’t be serious about this, Red.”
​                I stare at him and pull the large hood on my red cape over my head. Without a word, I turn around and continue on the path to the bakery.
​                “Red!” I hear him call out behind me. I blink my eyes and tell myself that the tears stinging my eyes are from the stinging cold air rushing past me.
​                I burst through the door of the bakery, ringing the bell. “I need some fruit pastries.”
​                The shopkeeper looks at me. “Red. You don’t want to do this.”
​                “Yes, I do. I have money. And I brought my own basket. Just give me some pastries.”
​                “Marelle-” The shopkeeper starts.
​                “Don’t call me that,” I cut her off. “That name died with Seraphina. I’m Red now. Look, I have three gold pieces. Just fill up my basket, or I’ll go somewhere that will.”
​                With a sad sigh, she begins putting various loaves of bread and pastries in my basket. While I wait, I finger the hilt of the sword I have hidden behind my back. It’s been soaking in jam for days, but I doubt the wolf will be able to smell it. As soon as the shopkeeper fills my basket, I put my gold on the counter and run out of the shop, into the street.
​                I’m ready now. It’s time to kill the wolf that killed my sister.
​                I walk into the forest. I’m careful to put a spring in my step and a smile on my face, pretending to be as happy as can be. I’m walking a path I walked with Seraphina a thousand times, the path to our grandmother’s. We always went together. But then, I got sick, and she went on her own. That was when the wolf attacked. Now I look around at familiar trees. The once welcoming light filtering through the leaves seemed sinister now. As if it knew the horrible things that had taken place along this very path. As I walk I think about all the times I walked here alone, all the times I ate jam and peaches without thinking, yet was always fine. Why? Why did he have to attack her?
​                I wait for the signs of him. The wolf only attacks lone girls and is attracted to them by sweet smells. It is said that when he is coming, a huntsman in green will greet you and ask where you are going. Upon your answer, he will disappear, and the wolf will find and kill you from there. I uncover the fragrant goods in my basket, hoping to waft the smell of them in the wolf’s direction. It isn’t long before I see a tall man on the path before me.
​                “Good morning,” he greets me. His ax looks dull and his green tunic waves in the wind. It’s him.
​                “Good morning!” I reply with a cheerful smile. Don’t cause suspicion. Lead the wolf right into your hands, and then-
​                “Where are you off to this fine morning?”
​                “I’m off to deliver pastries to my granny in the woods!” I smile sweetly at him.
​                “Well, don’t wander far from the path, young one. The forest is a dangerous place.”
​                “Alright. Thank you, kind stranger!” I skip away from him, continuing down the path. 
​                Perfect. Now the wolf is on my trail. Now we play the waiting game.
​                I walk down the path, waiting for the sound of a twig snapping, or birds flying, something to indicate the wolf is close. It never comes. Instead, I make it to my grandmother’s cottage, safe and sound. I look around. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Seraphina never made it to the house. Her body was found by the fork. That was miles ago! My heart pounds. Suddenly, I realize that there are no sounds coming from the house. No smoke. Nothing.
​                “Grandma?” I knock lightly on the door. “Are you in there?”
​                Silence.
​                “Grandma?” I push on the door, and it opens. It wasn’t locked. It wasn’t even closed. I push the door open, letting the evening light pour into the dark room within.
​                My heart stops.
​                My grandmother’s mangled body is in the bed where she had been lying down. Her tattered nightgown lies in shreds around her bloody, broken body. 
​                “No!” I scream. I scream, I scream, and I scream. 
​                I will kill the wolf. I will kill him if it is the last thing I do.
​                I unsheath my sword from my back. I don’t care if it warns the wolf. Let him run. I will find him. 
​                Finally, I see bloody paw prints leading away from the corpse and out the back door. I run.
​                I don’t know how long I run. I don’t have my basket anymore, but it doesn’t matter. I hear the wolf howl from not far ahead, and soon I see him. He’s killed a deer, with more blood, more life on his filthy coat. When he sees me and my sword he runs. But he does not get far. I throw a rock at him. I don’t know how it got into my hand, but it hits his leg, making him go down. I tackle him, holding him down with my knees and one hand, my other holding my sword.
​                “Why,” I scream in his face. “Why did you kill them?”
​                “It is my nature.” The wolf looks up at me solemnly, knowing his fate is inescapable.
​                A savage scream leaves my mouth as I raise the sword above my head, ready to end this life that has ended so many. One guilty life in exchange for hundreds of innocent ones. Suddenly, someone crashes into me, pushing me off of the wolf. My weight no longer holding him down, the wolf darts into the forest, quickly lost in the trees in the darkening twilight. I look up into the face of the man who stopped me and find the huntsman looking back at me.
​                “You!” I scream into his face, lunging at him, he grabs my wrists to prevent me from hurting him. We wrestle like that for a moment. “You monster! This is all your fault! Why are you helping him, he deserves to die! You deserve to die too, helping a monster like that! I’m going to kill both of you to make sure that no one ever dies again!”
​                “Stop, please.” He looks at me imploringly. “I understand that you’ve been hurt, and I know you want to hurt him back. I know your pain. He’s been following me for years, preying on anyone near me.”
​                I stop fighting him, watching the pain of memories pass through his green eyes.
​                “I feel your anger, but don’t go down this path. This path will consume and destroy you. Please.”
​                I stare at him. For the first time since Seraphina died, I cry. I collapse into the hunter’s arms, sobs wracking my body. All the pain, all of the sadness I had been holding in for the past month spills out of me as the huntsman pulls me into a hug, holding me for a long, long time.
​                The wolf was never seen again.

by Lucy Stutz
Short Story

                When I was younger I would trap fireflies in my hands when the sun set. The tiny bugs,
emitting little flashes of light, cupped in my small hands, excited me like nothing else. I would
then lure the little lightning bugs into a glass jar, and screw the lid on real tight so they could
never escape. People congratulated me when I proudly held up the illuminated jar. At the end of
the night, I would unscrew the lid to free the fireflies. But one time, they yelled at me, “No!
Don’t lose the light!” So I didn’t. I re-screwed the lid and decided I would never dare open it up
ever again. I would protect this light with my life. I put the bugs on the tallest shelf of my
bookcase so no one could ever steal the light from me. I never opened the jar out of fear that the
bugs would fly away, and there would be no more light in my life. That was a mistake, because
there were no air holes for the bugs to breathe, no food for nourishment and energy. And then
slowly, the light died. As quick as it came, the luminescence vanished. I cried for a long time
after that. Suddenly, I was scared, scared I would never capture a firefly again, scared that I
would never see the light like I once did. Just like that, with a prompt snap of the fingers, I was
right back where I started. No light. Walking for miles, getting nowhere. The worries crashed
down on me like a wave hitting the sand. Little me expected the fireflies to live forever. I’ve
since learned, although it is too late now, not to be deceived by life’s superficial simplicity.

                A couple of years later I found myself in my own jar, with my own lid, screwed on as
tight as could be. There were still no air holes because I’d told myself the lifespan of a human is
longer than a small lightning bug. I ate, but I felt no energy or nourishment. Deep down inside,
behind my wall of denial, I could feel my light fading. I breathed heavily, my lungs craved a
breath of fresh air like the oxygen I had breathed when I was little. I was somehow tired, even

though I hadn’t moved since I’d trapped myself in the jar. My fears paralyzed me. I didn’t dare to
touch the tightly-screwed lid, afraid I would lose my delicate light. I was dying in this jar but I
could not save myself. I stared at a one-way mirror, unaware that something was on the other

                I would walk around school in the safety of my jar. The jar protected me. Nothing hurt
me when I simply snuggled up on the glass floor. Nothing pleased me or brought me joy either,
but I did not realize that at the time. My friends would urge me to breathe. They sensed my
luminosity slowly disintegrating, but they didn’t carry the oxygen I desired or the correct
nutrition for proper recovery. There was only one person who could’ve nursed me to health. He
felt very far away from me, but he sat in my math class. His aura glided beautifully through the
air with ease. The oxygen of my youth coated him in a layer of bravery and nourishment. The
boy had all that I needed. He was out of reach. I didn’t know that all I had to do was unscrew the

                He was never truly out of reach, but I missed the chance to extend a hand. My light is
now dim, and I can no longer think without tiring myself. I was always praised for catching those
little fireflies and shielding them from anyone who got too close. It’s all I’ve known. Don’t lose
the light.
It seemed the only way to protect the light was to keep it hidden, tucked away, for no
one to enjoy. No risks were to be taken when it came to my light. Nevertheless, I lost the light
when it was closest to me. I protected my light out of fear, not for peace. I suppose I was
deceived, but not by life’s simplicity, instead its complexity. The complexity of needing to let the
light dance freely in the wind, while gripping it tightly, like a leash.

                There was so much I did not know, so much I did not bother to try. I did not know that
the boy I needed, needed me. I did not know that what he lacked was what I had. Our souls

waltzed in the corner of my eye, but of course, I did not notice. His fireflies were dying just as
mine were. We needed each other, but our own ruthless thoughts kept us apart. Our fear of loss
caused us to lose. Misled by our own minds, we are our own worst enemy. The fear of mere
existence masks the intricate and beautiful labyrinth that is living.

What Makes
a Monster

by Sabrina Solares Lisboa
Short Story

                As a kid I always feared what was under my bed. I always feared there was a monster underneath it waiting to drag me down with it. My friends mocked me for it, saying it was irrational and foolish. Their words had, nevertheless, no effect on me. I was sure there lay a monster.

                But what makes a monster? I always imagined this “monster” as some hideous and gruesome creature, as this uncanny critter. I thought it was, maybe, brown or green or some nauseating color, with more than two arms and two legs and two eyes. An inhuman being.

                “Today we are doing a fun activity!” my teacher said one day. “Each of you, please, on that sheet of paper I’ve given you, draw a monster.”

                It was Halloween and a Friday, so it was logical that a third grade teacher would instruct her children to draw monsters. In her, and everyone’s mind, it was a silly activity.

                In my mind, it was my worst nightmare. 

                I was, however, exceptional at drawing. My teacher had congratulated me, saying “it was the best monster she’d ever seen!” Little did she know it was the one thing that haunted me every night before bed.

                Eventually, as I grew up, I became less and less terrified of monsters–specifically the one I believed lived under my bed. I no longer believed monsters were real. They were merely a fairytale, a product of our imagination. 

                As a kid, I never once thought about my physical appearance. I never once thought about who I was. I kind of just… lived. I never once looked at a mirror and felt disgusted, and I never once talked and felt the urge to shut up because of how embarrassing I was. Even entering my adolescence, that was just never something I did.

                I was pretty comfortable in my own skin. I was always confident and happy with who I was. 

                “You’re amazing, honey,” my mom always reminded me.

                I believed it.

                “You’re the best!” my friends told me.

                I never once doubted it.

                Until I met him.

                He was my first love, though it is safe to say he was also probably my last. 

                As a kid who loved Disney, I always dreamed of a true love’s kiss, always dreamed of finding my own prince charming. When I met him, I strongly believed I found him.

                Everyone around me supported our little romance. My friends thought he was charming, my mom thought he was a lovely young man. To me, he quickly became my whole world.

                Little by little, I started to make him the center of everything. Soon, he was the center of my whole life. His opinion mattered most.

                He also didn’t believe in monsters, just like me at the time. But, he was the one to prove to me they exist.

                But what makes a monster? As a little kid, I would have told you a monster was ugly, physically. I would have told you a monster is a repugnant, unearthly being. Evil. Out of those three, I was only wrong about the first two. Monsters aren’t repugnant, unearthly beings, but they are evil.

                He was the one that proved it to me.

                A monster is a human. A monster isn’t hideous, but rather they can be beautiful. A monster isn’t gruesome, but rather one can seem as the most precious jewel. Without realizing, I made a monster the center of my life. A devil disguised as an angel.

                I never struggled with self-image, but all of a sudden I cried every time I looked at myself in a mirror. I rarely felt embarrassed of who I was, but all of a sudden I stopped hanging out with my friends because I was ashamed. Ashamed of myself, my personality, and who I was. I stopped believing in monsters, until I met him.

                He was the monster laying under my bed, waiting for me to come out so he could drag me down with him. And he did. He brought me to the lowest I had ever been.

                They said every bad experience is a lesson. From him I learned a monster isn’t an ugly creature, but a human with an ugly heart.

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