Westerville writing contest 2021: Category grades 6-8

Compiled by Linda Wilkins
Arts Council of Westerville

First place: “Back Row” by Vanessa Reznik

Second place: “The Witches’ Covenant” by Ashley Elchert

Third place: “Scales” by Ava Amlin

Honorable mention: “Into the Unknown” by Mira Shyamalan

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First place

"Back Row"

By Vanessa Reznik

Vanessa Reznik

It was the perfect fall day. Leaves falling off the soon to be hibernating tree, squirrels collecting their last few acorns before the wicked winter storms come. A crowd of kids were gathering in a school courtyard waiting casually for a strong ringing tone, also known as the bell. Every single kid was either talking to friends or kicking around a ball. That is all except for one little girl named Laney. She was a 6th grader in the school. She had ok grades, she was ok at her sport, she was ok at the school spelling bee, and practically ok at everything. Just ok. She usually sits on the bench by herself waiting, well more like hoping to hear the bell ring. She is often forgotten about, ignored, and unnoticed. This had never really bothered her because that's all she had known her whole life. When she was a baby she was often abandoned and left to fend for herself because her parents were very busy with their jobs. When she was in preschool she sat in a corner and listened to the teacher just like her parents told her to. She never did talk to the other children. That went on all the way through Elementary school. Now it’s her first day of middle school and she intends on doing the same all the way until she's out of the education system. Suddenly she hears the bell she's been anticipating to hear for what seemed like forever. All the students proceeded to enter the school and go to the classrooms marked on their schedule. Laney looked at her paper and headed toward classroom number 164. She walked and walked until she saw it. The classroom at the end of the hall was her first class, room 164. She walked in with her head down. She eyed down the seat in the back row. She walked faster and just as she was about to take her seat, a boy with a bright neon shirt snatched it. Laney looked at him and grunted. He barely noticed her and started getting his name tag out. She took a seat one row up. A few minutes passed and it was finally time for the teacher to start taking attendance. He called out names, some familiar from her old school, and some not. He called out her name and in the loudest voice she could she said here. The teacher still struggled to hear her because she was so quiet. Laney noticed while the teacher was talking to another student who was lucky enough to have gotten a seat all the way in the back row. She had a hoodie on, almost completely covering her face, and she was not listening to the teacher at all just like Laney wasn't. The whole class went by and by that time it was next period. Everyone got up but Laney did what she always does, and waits till the big rush gets out and then walks out of the room. Weird enough, the girl in the back row did the same. She didn’t move a bit. When the big rush was out Laney gathered her things and stood up, the other girl did the same. She walked out the door right behind this mysterious girl. She looked at her paper and saw that her next class was social studies. She headed over there quickly to get a good back row seat. Crowds and crowds of kids were swarming around in the hallways, all the faces she had seen in class where lost with the flow of kids running to their next class. She arrived and sprinted to the back. As she was getting settled she noticed that the mysterious girl was right next to her in the last, not taken back seat. They both glanced at each other at the same time. They looked away in different directions. The suddenly a loud booming voice said, “Ok class, we are going to get to know our neighbors, partner up with the person beside you and discuss some of your favorite things.” Laney looked over again and quietly said, “hi im Laney, and you are? The girl looked over and said in an even quieter voice, “Im Mary Anne.” Laney decided to start a conversation by saying her favorite show, The Amunopies. Mary Anne’s face changed to surprise. She said quietly, “thats mine too.” Laney smiled, for some reason Mary Anne seemed easy to talk to and really similar to her. They talked about their favorite things to do and before they knew it class was over. While walking out Laney realized that she just might have made her first friend. She couldn’t believe it, and she couldn’t wait to see her again!

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Second place

"The Witches’ Covenant"

By Ashley Elchert

Ashley Elchert

The spine-chilling wind whipped around my hood. The dead, brown leaves crunched as I apprehensively crept through the dark woods. The bare trees cast shadows all over. If you dared, even just to glance at them, you would see small, red eyes. I reminded myself that they were just owls, but I was desperate. I didn’t even know why I was here. Why was I wandering on the path to Grandma’s cabin? Even so, my feet continued to walk. It felt as if I was supposed to be here. I was drawn to something, but what was it? I held on to my emerald, gemstone clasp. It glowed like there was some sort-of magic powering it. No, that’s dumb, I thought. There is obviously a reasonable explanation for why it was glowing! My purple cloak danced wildly through the air. I tucked my hood back over my head. The full moon wickedly smirked as I looked up at it. Even with the moon there, no light shined about. A whisper rang in my head, “Keep walking... I promise this is who you are destined to be.” 

I jumped. Who was that? A whimper fell from my lips. Suddenly, I sprinted forward. I couldn’t control my legs! Any tree or bush that blocked me, I went straight through. No cuts or trips. It felt as if just air was passing through me. Then, out of the darkness emerged a small, shanty cabin. Grandma’s house.

 I stopped at the door, unexpectedly. A wrinkled, hunched-over elderly woman opened the door and it slowly crept open. Grandma. I wanted to scream and run away, but my body wouldn’t respond to my commands. 

“Welcome, Mary. How very fine it is to have you for the ceremony. Come in, come in,” she said. Her voice was soft and solemn. I didn’t know whether to be afraid or calm. I reluctantly went inside. 

There before my eyes were two other older ladies. One had a navy blue robe that was tattered at the end. She had bushy, white hair and one eye. A navy blue, pointy hat rested on her head. A witch’s hat... The other had short, white hair with no hat on top. She had dark green robes with a belt buckle at her waist. Both stood by an incredibly large pot. A cauldron steaming with red smoke. Candles were lit all around them. The smell of burning wax clogged my nose.   “So, the spell worked?” one rasped.

 “Yes, but she tried to fight it. You cannot fight magic,” Grandma responded, staring into my soul. 

I noticed she was wearing a dark purple cloak, exactly like mine. I gained the nerve to speak, “Grandma, why am I here, in the middle of the night, surrounded by witch stuff?”

 They all cackled. Seriously, piercing, shrill laughter arose from their mouths. “Oh, Mary. So dim and young. You are here for very important reasons, sweetie,” Grandma said.

 “Why are you acting like this? You are never this… creepy,” I asked. 

She frowned. “Why, I am only being my true self. Ever wonder why you are so… unique? Why you possess abilities not all girls have?” Grandma said.

 I thought about my nightmares. The visions I continuously see. The shadowy figures in those mirrors. Those terrible-looking beasts. 

“But I can’t be. There’s no possible way. Everything has a logical, scientific reason behind it. Everything…” I said. My voice seemed to echo about the room. 

“If science is the why behind everything, then why are things even unto today still unexplainable?” The one-eyed lady questioned. I cringed when she glared at me. 

“Grandma, who am I?” I asked.

 She cackled louder. “Isn’t it obvious, darling? You are a witch!” 

Then they all joined in. Grandma was always so nice and friendly. What happened to her?

 Fear consumed me whole. “No way!” I screamed. Agony shot through my body.

 “It is not ok for you to deny magic. Now that you are of age, you must learn,” Grandma said darkly. Grandma rose her hands in the air.  More red smoke rose from the cauldron. “At the age of 13, a witch shall be deemed. She will fully gain her powers and magic. She must learn to resist the darkness,” Grandma’s voice echoed about the room. It was as if there were three voices all at once. Evil smiles spread across their faces. 

My feet started to walk. “No! Stop it! STOP IT!” I cried. 

Grandma continued, “Do you, Mary Lee, swear to never admit your true identity? To keep your magic a secret? To sacrifice yourself in order to hide the witches’ truth?”

I couldn’t control myself. My hand went to my chest, “I swear!” 

Grandma waved her hands in the air. “Behold, the most treacherous promise, the witches' covenant!”     

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Third place

"Scales"

By Ava Amlin

Ava Amlin

Fires were ablaze everywhere.  A dark shadow soared above the ground.  Screams echoed in terrifying rounds, only adding to the chaos of the kingdom under attack.  I coughed as the smoke-filled my lungs.  

“Annette!” someone called.  I whipped around to see Rupert, my best friend, running towards me.  His face was flush and he dropped to the ground, coughing uncontrollably.  I rushed over and knelt next to him.  He was losing consciousness, and I had to help him.  

“You have to get out of here…” he whispered, “your family is already-” he paused to cough and catch his breath, “riding away in a carriage. If you hurry-” he coughed again, “you may be able to catch them.” 

 “They left?! Their home is being attacked by a dragon-” I’m interrupted by a round of coughs, “and they just run away!  What kind of rulers are they?”

Rupert coughed, “I don’t know, but you have to leave. NOW!”  He was desperate, and so was I.  

This was the fifth time the dragon had attacked Bavaria and I was tired of it! My family had done nothing to help rebuild- all they cared about were their precious, little riches.  My people needed a ruler that actually cared about their well-being.  I could be that ruler, I could be their queen.  

Of course, in the natural course of the monarchy, that would never happen.  My eldest brother would take over, and the villagers would continue to suffer.  However, maybe I could change that.  If I was the one to slay the dragon, maybe my parents would finally see what I was capable of.  Maybe they would finally listen to me and know I would be the best successor to the throne.  Alas, that would have to wait; I needed to help Rupert. 

I slung one of his arms around my shoulder and helped him stand.  He coughed some more and his head drooped down.  “Please, Rupert,” I begged, followed by a round of coughs, “you have to stay awake.  You have to help me.”  He groaned, but then he started to walk. Slowly, we made our way to the stables.  We stocked up on water, swords, and crossbows then climbed aboard Gale, my horse. 

We trotted out of the castle grounds, the fire dangerously close.  The dragon’s shadow soared overhead, back into the woods where it came from.  “Ready?” I asked Rupert. 

 “As ready as I’ll ever be,” he mumbled.  

We rode off, following the dragon’s silhouette.  As we went further into the woods, the smoke eased up.  My throat was still sore, but at least no more damage could be done. 

 The dragon became visible again, unaware its hunters were close behind.  I aimed my crossbow and shot.  The modified weapon threw a large net at the beast.  It screamed as it fell towards the earth.  I guided Gale over to where the dragon had landed.  It was rolling around, screeching in anger, trying to break free. I hopped off Gale and tip-toed to the beast.  The dragon spotted me and snarled.  I held up my hands and crept even slower, trying to act like I meant no harm.  I reached out and touched the dragon’s muzzle.  As we met, a light shone so brightly I was forced to close my eyes.  When I opened them, I was staring at...myself. 

 My limbs felt constrained.  I watched myself smirk as I drew my sword.  I was about to be attacked.  I screamed, but it only came out as a roar. Somehow, I had switched bodies with the dragon.  My plan had suddenly taken a turn for the worse.  

I mustered all of my newfound strength and clawed my way out of the net.  My impostor fell backward, and I advanced.  The person screamed for help.  Rupert jumped off Gale and rushed over. 

 “Wait! Rupert! It’s me, it’s me Annette!” I yelled, but only roars came out.  

He pointed his sword at me. “Back you beast!” he shouted. 

I couldn’t believe what was happening.  Only to make matters worse, I saw a glint of orange in the reflection of the blade.  I looked to see a mob of villagers rushing over to help.  

They surrounded me, and I did the only thing I could think of-I blew fire.  Columns of flame shot all around, one of them hitting Rupert’s hand.  He screamed in agony. I could not believe what I had just done. I was panicking, my new instincts continuously blowing fire.  Soon every tree around me was burning, and some people had received burns as well.  I was only making the situation worse.  I spread my wings and shot myself into the air. I took one last glance at the pain I caused, then I fled the only home I’ve ever known.

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Honorable mention

"Into the Unknown"

By Mira Shyamalan

Mira Shyamalan

Nayeli swam gracefully and quietly through nothing. 

“Almost there?” asked a sharp voice, interrupting the peaceful silence. 

“I think so,” Nayeli responded, a bit put off from the sharpness of the voice. 

“What do you mean, you think so?” asked Sadie over her comm.  

Nayeli bit back a rude response, knowing that Sadie was under lots of stress. At least I hope so. Nayeli thought. 

Before she could say something, a new, dreamy voice interrupted. 

“Now, now. This map shows us that she is 2000 meters away.”

Sadie didn’t respond. Nayeli smirked. It was the boss, Cosette, a woman with silvery hair and big eyes that were also silver. It was hard to believe that she was a trillionaire, but she was the one who had started the space exploration movement and was funding the mission. 

Cosette was a dreamer, and she had once told Nayeli that she was often teased when she was younger for imagining the impossible. 

“But that is exactly what made me start this program. Instead of being Cosette the dreamer, I am now Cosette the achiever!” she had said. 

Nayeli shook her head. Concentrate. She couldn’t afford to lose focus, not now.

“1250 meters away,” Nayeli reported.

“Roger,” Sadie responded. “But there is floating debris from the supernova of that star, IT 45961.”

Nayeli frowned. “That’s over two million light years away, and we contained that. How is that possible?”

“There are rumors that some traders were meddling around there.”

Nayeli frowned again. “They do realize how dangerous that is, right?”

“Not necessarily.” Sadie’s bossy side disappeared to be replaced with her nerdy nice side, the side that Nayeli admired and liked. “If you do the Stoaman Formula, you could go in there.”

“But you would have to know where everything is,” Nayeli argued back, thoroughly enjoying this. It felt good to have some happy moments before she did the most dangerous thing, far more dangerous then what the traders were doing, or ever attempted to do. 

Then she realized her mistake. “Oh, wait. Everyone knew about the explosion ahead of time, so they could have figured out the average speed on the sectors and-”

“Exactly,” Sadie said. Her bossy side reappeared. “What’s your distance?”

Concentrate. “850 meters, and slowing down. I see the debris in front.”

“Got it. Once you get through the barrier, if you are still alive, you’ll contact us immediately, roger?” 

If you are still alive. Nayeli’s stomach churned. Concentrate. “Roger.”

“Ready?”

“Ready.”

Nayeli swerved to one side to avoid a meteor and swerved to the other side quickly to avoid another rock. 

Flying through the debris was surprisingly quick and easy. Besides one loop she had to make, Nayeli feel fairly confident. 

“Okay,” she said, slightly out of breath from her workout. “Approaching target.”

“200 meters,” Sadie said. Already her voice sounded quieter, which meant the gravitational pull was starting to take place.

“100 meters.” This time her voice was barely audible.

“Bye, Sadie,” Nayeli mumbled. “Tell my sister that I love her.”

No response, but Nayeli thought she heard Sadie say, “I will.”

She was being nice, which concerned Nayeli. Sadie usually told her to get over it whenever Nayeli mentioned her dead sister. This must mean Sadie didn’t think the chances of Nayeli surviving were high. 

Nayeli breathed in and stopped right before the barrier. Cautiously, she put her hand through. The thing, which turned out to be in a round spherical shape, turned on like a lightbulb and glowed a bright light. If Nayeli hadn’t been wearing special goggles, she would have been blinded.

She pulled out her hand quickly. The orb went black, invisible in space. 

Nayeli could imagine Sadie saying impatiently, “What are you waiting for?”

She could imagine Cosette saying back, “Now, now, dear, just take your time.”

Then another voice sounded through her head. “All you ever wanted was to prove yourself. Now is your chance.” Nayeli frowned, wondering who the voice was then realized that the voice was her sister’s. Or maybe it was Nayeli’s?

Taking a deep breath, she willed herself to move her body forward. First her hand, then a leg, the half her body.

Halfway in, she looked back one more time. The stars were twinkling merrily at her. On a silvery planet Nayeli could just barely see, she imagined her sister waving to her and mouthing you can do this. 

Nayeli stepped completely into the white hole and disappeared into the unknown.