A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
BY ELIDA ROSKAMP
I open my eyes and the landscape around me looks strangely familiar, but I’m not sure from where though. I see a small village off to my right and a kind of tower to my left. In the village, I see a bunch of people crowding around something that is emitting thick, black smoke into the air.
I walk or rather stumble over to the over to the village and the people, confused by my own feet.
“Excuse me! Excuse me! Can someone please tell me what’s going on here?”
All the eyes that were fixated on the smoking thing suddenly turn towards me.
“Shhhh. We’re mourning the dead and you’re interrupting!” a voice scolded. The voice sounded like a replica but higher of a voice I once I knew.
I look over and I realize that there’s a body underneath the smoking thing which just so happens to be a 1998 Volkswagen Passat. The same car that my mom taught me to drive on a couple of years ago. The body also has on my favorite shoes, red high top Converse.
And they’re worn too. Just like the ones I own. I then look down to see that my feet are bare. I don’t remember when or where I took off my shoes and socks or how they got onto a dead person’s feet.
“Um hey there. Sorry to interrupt your mourning ceremony or whatever but those shoes on that person,” I point to the person’s feet, “They’re uh, they’re mine.”
A murmur starts among the crowd. They don’t believe me. After a couple of minutes of me standing there before the crowd, someone who I’m assuming is the mayor steps forward.
“And who are you exactly?” The voice is accusing.
“I’m Donalee Gavin. I’m from a small Minnesota town and I don’t how I got here or why I’m here. Wherever here is!” My outburst gives me many pitying looks and brings tears to my eyes. I fall to my knees, sobbing.
The person who I thought was the mayor comes over to me and puts a hand on my shoulder although it does little to comfort me.
“Where am I?”
“You are in the land of Greo!” One of the townspeople responds.
“And where is Greo located?” I ask.
A scientific looking young man speaks up this time, “Greo is located in the country of Orbin. Our leader is the Great Ogardus, who lives in the tower over there,” the man briefly glances over to the tower that I saw when I first got here before he continues, “even though no one’s ever seen him. He never comes out of the tower.” Before I can ask one of the many questions that I have someone from the remaining group of townspeople shrieks. It is blood curdling. I look over to the direction of the scream and I see something floating from the sky. It at closer look it is a person floating on what looks like a cloud. The person looks like my mother.
But she’s wearing a dress that I’ve never seen before and her hair and makeup is done in a way that I would have never expected of my mother. Her chestnut brown hair is curled and done up into a complicated style that included some kind of braided bun. Her makeup was done lightly and showed her natural complexion unlike how I knew her. My mother always wore what looked like pounds of makeup on her face. She did this to cover the marks that marred her face from years of acne scars.
The person before me was not my mother. Just someone who looked distinctly like the woman who gave birth to me.
“Hello citizens,” the voice was soft, comforting, nothing like my mom’s. The people of the town all kind of looked down at their feet when the person, no, fairy spoke.
“I would like to speak with the person who is called Donalee Gavin, please,” the voice continues.
I step forward to meet the fairy. When up close to her I am almost the same height, maybe taller than her, not unlike my mother in the real world.
“Who are you?” I ask.
“I am Gwen, the guardian angel of this realm,” Gwen the angel sighed before continuing, “child, I can tell that you have many questions. About where you are and why you’re here. But I can guess that right now you also have many wishes as well. Luckily, being the angel I am, I can grant one of those wishes, but only one. So use that wish carefully.” Gwen’s words took a minute to sink in but when they did I thought about what I would wish for.
“I wish I could go home,” I had many other things on my mind but that was the only thought that surfaced.
“Oh dear child. I can’t send you home. But Ogardus can.” This confuses me.
“Wait. I’m confused. Hasn’t anyone ever seen Ogardus?” I ask.
Gwen just laughs when I say this. “I’ve seen him but that’s just because he’s my confidante and he’s my superior.”
“What can I do to get to him?” this question gets some snickers from the audience which I forgot was there. I don’t understand what’s funny. I landed in their home and they haven’t done anything to welcome me. I just feel so lost.
“Well you’re going to have to go down the yellow concrete road. Not the red or the orange roads if you want to get to the right place of course!” Gwen chuckled at her own joke but didn’t get any others from the townspeople. It was kind of a stupid joke. “Anyway, you have to follow the yellow concrete road, go through the Woods of Despair, over the River of Emerald Glisten and to the tower of Capalala. That’s where you’ll find Ogardus.”
“Do you think that you could write those instructions down somewhere because I’m bound to forget.” Someone brings me a sheet of paper with the instructions written on it. “Thank you citizens of Greo for your kindness and generosity. I will keep your kindness in my heart and I will always be indebted to you,” I say, trying to sound regal.
Many people whistle or shout their goodbyes as I start to walk down the yellow concrete road with nothing but the clothes on my back and instructions to find a wizard. As soon as I’m out of the village all I see in front of me is the open air and the Capalala tower in the distance to the far left. I also see what must be the Woods of Despair with mist curling around the black trees. A feeling of dread washes over me because I don’t know what’s in those woods.
I come across a field with many bunches of sparrows, all sitting in rows of ten. I see farther in the field a sparrow-scarer sitting on a metal pole. If you don’t know, sparrow-scarers are stuffed with grass and are meant to sit in the fields to scare away the sparrows but usually the sparrows just ignore the sparrow-scarers. These sparrows were peculiar. They were doing some kind of mating dance while in their lines of 10. Another peculiar thing, the sparrow-scarer was moving.
It was moving its head in very jerky motions like it had never moved before.
“Mr. Sparrow-Scarer, are you alright?” I called out.
The voice that responded was hysteric, “Just leave me here to die! All I want is to die!”
“And why is that?” I ask trying to soothe the sparrow-scarer while also trying to get my questions answered.
“I haven’t been doing my job very well and the Great Ogardus already took my arm because I couldn’t do my job of keeping the sparrows out of the field,” the sparrow-scarer wailed, “and he said that the next time I couldn’t do my job, he would scrap my body and use it to make other sparrow-scarers! I don’t know what I’m going to do!”
“Shhh. Mr. Sparrow-scarer, please stop crying! Is there anything I can do to help you? Like can I take you to Ogardus so you can ask him to reconsider?”
“Oh no, I don’t think so. I’m just going to have to accept my fate as either a one armed sparrow-scarer or as another sparrow-scarer who is different than me,” the sparrow-scarer responded. I walk over to the sparrow-scarer wanting to embrace it but I stopped when I saw the sparrow-scarer’s burlap face. It was exactly like the face of my best friend Jameson’s face. I gasped and covered my mouth.
“Jameson?” I whispered.
“What? Who’s Jameson? My name’s Jackson,” the sparrow-scarer replied. This made me hold my hands to my face, tears starting make paths down my cheeks. Second time in a day that I’ve cried over something so trivial. Being in this land was putting a lot of emotional stress on my body. Oh how I wanted to go home. But I had to get to Ogardus first before I’m able to go home.
“So Jame-I mean Jackson, would you like to go with me to see the Great Ogardus? He might grant you forgiveness for not being able to job correctly,” I say, regaining my courage.
Jackson hesitates before answering my question, “Yes I will. I will join you on your journey to find the Great Ogardus,” I could see on his face that there was a sense of finality to his words. “But first do you think you could help me off this pole? It’s a little uncomfortable in you-know-where.” I just laughed and linked my arm with his. This journey may not be as I thought it would be.
After while of walking Jackson and I realized that I had forgotten food or any source of nutrition for the trip back in the village but we were almost to the middle of the Woods of Despair and there was bound to be some kind of food somewhere.
“Hey look! There’s a clearing! And it looks like it has some kind fruit tree in it!” Jackson’s enthusiasm pulled me from my thoughts and when I looked up, I realized he was right. There was some kind of golden fruit on what looked to be oak tree. I didn’t think that oak trees grew golden fruit or anything other than acorns. But hey I’m in a place where some of the people look like important people from my life so you never know.
Jackson and I walk over to the clearing and we start to pick some of the fruit off the branches and then suddenly some of the trees farther back in the clearing begin to pelt the fruits at us but only some of them make contact with my skin. When they did hit they left giant welts on my arms and face.
“Hey!” someone shouted, “stop throwing pears at these people! They didn’t do anything to you rotten sour-pusses!” The throwing stopped and it was silent. It was strange because the whole walk through the woods there was always the chirping of birds or the rustling of the branches high in the air but now everything was completely and utterly silent.
“Hello?” I called, “what or whoever you are who just helped us thank you! Could you come out of hiding so we can see you?”
“Nope. Can’t,” the voice that was obviously female.
“Could you tell us why?”
The voice sighed deeply, “It’s because I’m rusted in place and no one’s been along this road in years so no one’s been able to oil my joints. Oh and I’m behind the bushes to your right and there’s an oil can in the pear tree a couple of yards away from where you’ll find me and you can use that to oil my joints. Then we’ll introduce ourselves.”
Jackson and I walked over to where the voice directed us to go and we found the oil can. Then we bring the can behind the trees and find a rusted aluminum body whose arms are stuck in an awkward position. I take the oil can from Jackson’s gloved hands and start to oil the joints of the body. The robot sighs in relief as the oil runs over its stiff joints and slowly but surely the body parts begin to move. It’s very squeaky but I don’t mind. As soon as I think that the robot is down being oiled down I stick out my hand.
“Hi there! I’m Donalee Gavin and my friend and I here are going to see if the Great Ogardus will grant some of the wishes we have,” at this the robot snorts as if we’re the greatest idiots to walk the Earth. The robot shakes my hand with a surprisingly strong grip.
“I’m Jocelyn the ugly, rusted robot of the Wood of Despair. Nice to meet you.” This robot sounds like she is very self-conscious just like my other best friend Jamie. Looking closer I realize that she has the freckles that Jaime has as well. I bet if Jocelyn took off her metal hat she would have bright crimson hair too.
“Hey, I was wondering-”
“Whatever it is, yes. As long as it gets me out of here. Yes I’ll go with you,” Jocelyn responded.
“So you don’t care that we’re going to see Ogardus to get a new arm and to go back to Minnesota?” I asked.
“What’s Minnesota?” Jocelyn asked but I just giggled and started to walk away from the clearing. Throughout all this, Jackson was over at the trees stripping the trees of their fruit for the remainder of our journey.
“Jackson, come on let’s go! We’ve done enough damage here and I want to go home as soon as possible,” I called over before turning my attention back to Jocelyn, “are you ready to go? Do you have any like animal friends that you need to say goodbye to before we leave? You might never come back here you know.”
Jocelyn just laughed, “No I don’t have animal friends to say goodbye to. All my friends are robots like me. They’re just placed all around Orbin and I haven’t left these woods in years. There’s nothing left for me out there.”
“Alright then,” I say cheerfully, “we’re off see the Great Orgardus!” and with our small band of merries, well two merries and a sarcastic, we were one step closer to getting what we really truly wanted. We stop a couple of times along the road so we can eat some of the pears from the trees in the clearing and replenish our energy.
“Do you think we will meet anyone else along the way?” Jackson asked.
“Yeah maybe,” I say, “if there is anyone else we’ll gladly invite them to join our group, right?” I ask. Silence. “Right you guys?” Jocelyn grunts her approval.
Jackson finally speaks up. “Yeah, I guess. But Donalee you have to remember that not everyone is as good as you are. Some people do terrible, terrible things. Like unthinkable things that I can’t even describe.”
“Yes I know that Jackson. I was bullied when I was a child and sometimes it wasn’t just verbal. Sometimes it was physical. They bullied me because they thought I was insane. Because I was different than them and they didn’t like that. I know what people can do when they’re mad. But I like to believe that there is good in everyone,” after this I get up and I start leave but Jocelyn grabs my arm and pulls me back to the group.
“Donalee, don’t leave without us. If you try to finish this without us then you surely will be insane. You can’t do this alone Donalee,” the joke made me smile which I kind of needed considering the circumstances.
“Fine. You and whoever else we meet along the way can finish the journey with me.” Jackson and Jocelyn sigh with relief. “Now should we go and finish this? The way we started! Our heads held high and our shoulders squared.” Jocelyn and Jackson both nod in agreement. They stand up and we all loop arms and we walk down the path to finish this quest of sorts. After about an hour of walking we stop to take a rest.
“Hey guys,” Jocelyn says, Jackson and I look up from the pears that we were devouring but Jocelyn doesn’t wait for a response, she just continues on, “we’re almost out of the Woods of Despair and then after that we’ll be at the River of Emerald Glisten! And after that we’ll only have to go over the bridge and we’ll be at Capalala tower! And you know what that means,” Jocelyn says, waggling her eyebrows at Jackson and I.
“I get to go home!” I respond excitedly.
“I’ll get a new arm and maybe a new job if I’m lucky!” says Jackson
“And I’ll get a new position and some new friends that I see all the time!” Jocelyn exclaims. Then a shocking realization washes over me. I don’t really want to leave. Over this whole thing I’d made some great friends that I would be devastated to leave once we got to Orgardus. But then again I miss my real family and the friends that actually are my friends and not just look-alikes of them. I am indecisive on whether I want to leave Orbin or not.
I get up to try to clear my head and Jackson and Jocelyn also get up, thinking we’re leaving again.
“Donalee are we leaving again? I thought that we would stay and rest here a little longer. Just so that we have enough energy for the final stretch?” Jackson asks.
“Not leaving, just trying to clear my head. You guy stay here and I’ll be back in a little bit, okay?” Jocelyn and Jackson just nod and go back to where they were sitting. I walk off the path a little bit and into the misty Woods of Despair. I don’t want to get lost so I stay close to the edge of the woods, the mist helping to clear the fog in my brain. After awhile I am so lost in my thoughts that I don’t hear the twigs snapping behind me. I also don’t realize that I’ve wandered far away from the edge of the path. The only thing that snaps me out of my trance are the hands encircling my waist from behind and the ones that that covered my mouth so that even if I tried to scream no one would hear me anyway. I kick and thrash and try to bite the hands that hold me captive. The force brings me backwards and backwards and the last thing I saw before everything went black was a blue face that was saying “Goodnight darling.”
I wake up, my thoughts groggy and my tongue feeling like a large piece of cotton in my mouth. I look down and I see that my hands and feet are tied with rope. I still have my beloved red Converse on my feet. Everything hurts especially my left arm. I can see many bruises on my arms and legs but I don’t know how many there are that weren’t visible. The bruises aren’t really the thing that concern me the most. The thing that concerns me is the direction that my ankle is laying. My ankle looks a wet noodle that dried on the edge of the pot.
“Hello darling,” a voice says to me. I look up and I see the same blue face that I saw just before I blacked out. I gasp.
“Recognize me?” I shake my head.
“Should I?” I ask, trying to get over the cottony tongue in my mouth.
“Well I suppose not but I am your worst enemy, darling. All I want are those pretty shoes that you have on your feet and you’ll be free to go,” the voice sneers. Now that I think about it the voice sounds familiar and I know where from. It’s my old childhood bully, Lawrence Elmore. I remember how he and his gang of scumbags would beat me up verbally and physically. I would go home with a busted lip, a black eye, a bloody nose and tear stained cheeks. My mother would always clean me up and make sure that I would have enough self-confidence to make it through the next school day. Jameson always tried to protect me but he always got thrown to the side when the bullies saw him. No one in this moment in time was there to help me. No one was there to protect me or to take care of me.
“I’m not afraid of you anymore Lawrence. I’ve grown up and I’m not scared. Nothing you try to do to me will shake me. And I am NOT giving you my shoes.”
“Oooh. Feisty are we?” Lawrence chuckles. “I always like the feisty ones. You may think that I am this Lawrence person you speak but you are sadly mistaken, darling. I am the great and powerful Lowell of Moninsula. I think the things that I do to you will in fact shake you whether you want it to or not.” I shudder at his words and his unnatural blue face and hair. I try to squeeze the memories of the bullying out of my mind but it’s not working. All I keep seeing is Lawrence and his posse ganging up on me and Jameson. “Not so proud are you now, darling?” Lowell snarls. “If you just give me the shoes this will all be over. You can go back to your little friends in the scary woods. Or we can do this the hard way. Would you like to see the hard way, darling?”
I don’t make eye-contact. No I don’t want to see the hard way but I don’t want to give him my shoes either.
Lowell forces my chin up to look at him. “So what’ll it be darling? Easy way or hard way?”
I sigh deeply. “Easy way,” I mumble.
“What was that? No one likes a mumbler, darling.”
This time I say louder, “I said the EASY WAY! Now get these stinking shoes off me and let me go!” Lowell goes to feet and he unties my shoes and tries to pull them off. But they’re stuck. He pulls again and grunts, using all of his might to try and pull the shoes off my feet but they just won’t budge.
“What did you do? Super glue them on to your feet or something?” Lowell grunted through clenched teeth.
“Of course I didn’t.” Now that Lowell is in front of my feet, I take the chance and I kick him in the face. He falls back, his nose gushing blood and I attempt to untie the ropes that bind me to the chair and I succeed. I run out of the room and I hear Lowell moaning loudly in pain. I don’t care though. All the compassion that I had recently had was gone. All I feel is rage and revenge. I told Lowell that I wasn’t scared of him anymore and I wasn’t lying. I run down a staircase and I find giant wood doors with iron handles. I pull one of the handles and the heavy door creaks open. I walk out and I see the woods stretching out in front of me. I don’t think, I just run out and into the woods. I run until I can’t run anymore. I look down and notice that that the mist that back where Lowell was that was very thick but now was starting to thin. I looked through the trees and I see the yellow concrete road. I must be close to my friends, I think.
“Jackson? Jocelyn?” I yell hoping to hear my friend’s voices.
“Donalee! Is that really you Donalee?” I hear close by. It sounds like Jocelyn. I run to the path, the twigs and branches scratching my legs even more than they already are. Then I see them, Jackson and Jocelyn waiting at the edge of the path.
I run into their embrace. “Oh Donalee, we were so worried about you! You’ve been gone for two days. We thought you were dead!” Jackson exclaims. TWO DAYS?
“You said I was gone for two days?” I ask
“Yeah and you had us worried sick,” Jocelyn says. “Where were you?”
I hesitate before answering because I really don’t know where I had been when Lowell kidnapped me.
“I was with a person named Lowell. He kidnapped me in the woods when I was walking in the woods trying to clear my head. He must have knocked me out because everything was black. After that he tied me up and beat me up. When I woke up he was staring at me and he told me that I could either give him my shoes or he could torture me. I chose to give him my shoes but they didn’t come off so when Lowell was trying to take them off my feet, I kicked him in the face and escaped. And now I’m here,” I say all of this without even stopping to breathe. “So what happened to you guys over the past two days?” I ask Jocelyn and Jackson.
“Well we worried about you, slept, and ate the rest of pears,” Jackson responded. “Sorry about that by the way.”
I don’t care that the food is gone now. Adrenaline is fueling the rage that I have for Lowell. “It doesn’t matter,” I say. “All I care about right now is getting to Ogardus and me going home. So now that that’s out of the way, shall we go?” Jackson and Jocelyn stare at me, but agree that we should leave before Lowell’s henchmen go after us. We gather what little belongings we have and we walk off to finish our quest. After awhile the mist thins even more and we are out of the Woods of Despair and we are at the River of Emerald Glisten. It is beautiful but there is no time to stop. We want to get to Ogardus as soon as possible and the only way to do that is by not stopping. That is until the adrenaline finally ran out and my hunger returned full force.
“Hey guys, do any of you by chance know how to fish?”
“What do you think Donalee? Out of all of us you are the most likely to know how to fish. Jocelyn and I have been stuck at posts for years, we don’t have any life experience,” Jackson says sarcasm lacing his voice. I sigh and we keep walking and we see a bridge and what must be Capalala tower a short distance after that. Just that moment we hear crying that seems to come from under the bridge. I look over at both Jocelyn and Jackson and they both give a slight shake of their heads. They know what I want to do. But I decide against it and we keep walking over the bridge. Home is so close, I can almost taste it. When we get to the door of Capalala tower we knock and a person dressed all in silver opens the door. We walk in and our footsteps echo in the empty space. We walk up to a desk that has another silver-clad person behind it.
“Hello there, we would like to speak with Ogardus please,” I say confidence taking over my body.
The person looks up and starts typing on her computer. “Yes, right, well go over to the elevator and ride it up to the top floor and then you’ll find him. Good luck,” she says almost as an afterthought. We follow her directions and we ride the elevator to the top of the building and we walk in to the giant room. Over by the windows is a large desk and behind it is a man in a silver suit with stark black hair. He turns in his chair, his hands clasped in front of him.
“Ogardus, we would like to ask you for somethings,” I say my voice quivering.
“Okay go ahead.” Jocelyn steps forward.
“My name is Jocelyn the aluminum robot and I would like to have new friends and a better sense of humor,” Ogardus nods and Jocelyn walks to the side.
Jackson is next. “My name is Jackson the sparrow-scarer and I would like a new arm and reconsideration for a new post.” Ogardus nods again and then it’s my turn. I walk forward and take a deep breath.
“My name is Donalee Gavin and I would like to go home, to Minnesota, please,” Ogardus looks at me, confusion on his face.
“Oh my dear girl. I cannot send you home.” I start to cry and all my dreams crumble to the ground.
“I cannot send you home for you are already home.” I look up at Ogardus, much more confused than I’ve ever been.
“I d-don’t understand. How am I already home?” Ogardus looks down at me with sympathy in his eyes.
“Well Donalee it has to do with those pretty shoes that are on your feet. All you have to do is three-heel clicks and wish in your mind ‘go home’ three times and you will be home.” I look up again, incredulous.
“How can that be so? These shoes are nothing out-of-the-ordinary,”
“On the contrary dear. Those shoes are enchanted. The person you got them off of was the Evil Wizard of the West. And he enchanted them before you killed him.” I am disbelieving of Ogardus’s words. “Go on and click your heels.”
“Can I say goodbye first?” Ogardus nods and waves his hand at my friends that are standing off to the side. I walk over to Jocelyn and Jackson and I embrace them.
“So you’re really leaving?” Jocelyn whispers.
“Mmmhmm” I say.
“Will you ever come back?” Jackson asks to my hair.
“I don’t think so Jackson. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine. I know that you need to go home,” he responds. I unlatch from Jackson and Jocelyn’s embrace and I walk back to the center of the room.
“I’m ready,” I say. Ogardus just nods. I click the heels of my red shoes together three times while also chanting in my head, ‘Go home. Go home. Go home.’ There is a flash of blinding white light and then there is pitch black. I see no colors and no hear no sounds.
I don’t wake up and the doctors turn off the machines keeping me alive and I die peacefully. I don’t see my friends or anyone again. I didn’t even get to say goodbye.
Elida Roskamp is fourteen years old and lives in Glencoe Minnesota. This piece was written for an English assignment but she creates because she has words and characters and stories in her mind that sometimes they feel like they are bursting onto a page or in this case a Google Document. She hopes to be a professional author someday.