It is with great pleasure that I announce the winners of our annual 350 for 50 writing contest! Each writer was challenged to compose a short, 350-word story that included the sentence, “The surface began to move.” Winners from each of our 3 age categories enjoyed a $50 shopping spree at Labyrinth, our local bookstore. Congratulations to this year’s talented authors!
By James Bertrand, age 10
I checked the clock. 11:59. One more minute until I turned eleven. Beep. I sat up, bumping my head on the concrete wall above me. Groaning, I gingerly touched my forehead with my hand. Ouch, I thought. Dragging myself out of my bed, I thumped through the hallway and down the stairs. I didn’t think about the fact it was the middle of the night. I just crept through the ghostly rooms, silent. That silence was broken by an eerie creak when I stepped on a broken floorboard.
The pure blankness of everything was pretty creepy. I could see dust particles float and twirl in the slightly chilly air. I peered at the living room table. Then the surface began to move, pieces sliding and grinding away from each other. Then I remembered. Today was the meteor shower, right on my birthday. Traversing through the hall I found my presents. I was really tempted to open them right then and there, but I didn’t.
I stepped into the kitchen to find my phone lying on the counter, buzzing. I walked over to the island and I turned it on. I had tons of texts from my friends about my birthday and the comets. Then my phone beeped again. It was happening now! Climbing out the front door, I wondered how amazing this would actually be. As my feet touched down on the wet, soft grass, I heard sirens. Nothing unusual, I thought.
People were screaming and crying, sirens were blaring and my heartbeat sounded so loud, I thought people in China could hear it. I didn’t understand what everyone was so scared about until I glanced at the sky. Sure enough, there were meteors. A large white rock was hurtling across the sky, growing larger each second as it got closer to the ground. I didn’t have time to think when someone yelled “Brace for impact!” I dropped to the pavement and curled into a tight ball as bright light and the smell of smoke enveloped me.
By Jieruei Chang, age 12
Don’t fly into a rage, my father always said. I never knew he
meant it literally, until now. This is the story he told me.
One day, my father tripped over a rock.
“THAT ROCK!” He yelled, kicking it over and over.
At that instant, there was a blinding flash of light. The surface
began to move. He was lifted off the ground by an invisible pair
of wings, flew through the air and landed headfirst on a
“That rock,” he muttered.
As he brushed himself off, he noticed a sign that said,
“Welcome to Arage, where what you say is reality.”
As he looked around, a pack of hikers flew through the air and
landed in quick succession on top of him, still arguing when
they found themselves in a much hotter climate.
“How do we get out of here?”
“The only way is to swim.”
“Yeah, right,” another hiker responded with a sarcastic tone.
“As easy as falling off a log.”
The hiker fell off a log that had somehow appeared.
“Ow!” he said. “How’d it get here? I think I have a concussion now.”
“Quit that! There’s an elephant in the room! We have to get off
of this place called Arage!”
All of a sudden, they were in a room. An elephant appeared,
smashing through the door and waving its trunk in the air.
At that moment my father understood. “Whatever we say
“So that means…”
“When the cat’s away the mice will play.”
Playful mice appeared. The elephant’s eyes nervously swept
side to side for a few moments before it crashed out the door,
making another hole in the process.
“Now that’s proof. I think I know what to do. We’re all in the
same boat on this, right?”
A boat appeared and they all were thrown onto it. “Well, let’s get out of here!”
And so they rowed through the night (and a knight for good measure) back to shore.
So hold your temper, or you really might fly into Arage – but at
least now you know what to do.
I CAN’T CONCENTRATE
By Abigail Reytblat, age 14
“The surface began to move,” she says, and then stops reading.
“What?” she asks.
She’s annoyed. I can tell because of the way her eyebrow twitches, for just a moment, before she speaks.
“Nothing. I just coughed.”
She looks at me, for one, two, three moments, and then raises the textbook to her eyes again. “ The surface-”
“But,” I interrupt, “That sentence seems very cliche. I mean, it’s not descriptive at all. It’s redundant, actually. It’s already told us before what happens during an earthquake.”
She glares at me. She knows this game. It’s a dance I play, one that she hates. “Tam, it’s a history textbook. About an earthquake from 1906. No one cares if it’s well-written. All you have to do is read it.”
“I care. I think many other people would care about it more, too, if it was well-written.”
I grin. She touches her glasses, compulsively, pushing them farther up on the bridge of her nose, so that for a moment her eyes are covered. “Fine. Do you want to read?”
“No, no. No, you keep on going. I’ll be quiet, I promise.”
“No, you won’t”
“No, I won’t be.”
“Tammie, this project is due tomorrow.”
I’m just saying that, perhaps, the author should have chosen her words more carefully.”
“Focusing, Samantha, focusing.”
There is silence as she flips the pages, trying to find the right one. “The San Andreas Fault- what? ”
“Hmm? Nothing, nothing. Nothing at all.”
She starts the sentence over again “The San Andreas-” and now she’s the one who laughs. “Is it going to be like this all day?”
“Yup, pretty much. We should take a break.”
Her mattress creaks as she rises. “I’ll be back. Just getting some water. You want to come?”
“No,” I say, watching her. “No, I think I’ll stay here.”
In a moment, the sound of her footsteps have faded from the hall. I pick up the fallen textbook, running my hand over the tattered book jacket absentmindedly, before opening it- “The surface began to move.”
I’ve finished reading by the time she returns.
Artwork by Aliisa Lee