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Teenz Ink Short Story Contest - Runner Up, Middle School
Chasing the Wind
by Dane L.
Cambridge Christian School
I sat up. My back cringed with burning pain. Sleeping on the hard wood floors of the ship really took a toll on my back. The boat smelled of filth and rotten food. We had been at sea for months. I stood up and quietly brushed myself off. Others were sleeping nearby.
I leaned over a barrel to get a good look out of a port hole. It was a misty morning, and it was hard to see out; but I could make out a piece of land in the west. I kept looking a bit longer to see if my eyes were deceiving me, but no, it was real.
I stepped over people to get to the cabin door, opened it, and entered a corridor. I silently continued to a set of stairs that led up onto the deck. At first the light hurt my eyes. I could barely see and my eyes hurt, but after a while I was able to regain vision.
There were many others on deck to look over the port side at this unending piece of land. I pushed my way through the people until I could get a good view of the land.
Is this the New World we were looking for? I thought to myself.
“James! James!” I heard my name being called from the back of the crowd. I pushed through the people to find whoever it was. It was my younger brother, Peter, who was calling for me, along with my younger sister, Emily.
“James, are we really here?” Peter asked franticly, trying to see over an unusually large man. I smiled and stretched my back.
“Yes, we’re here.”
“Can you pick us up so we can see better?” Emily asked, trying to climb a barrel. I nodded and picked both of them up individually so that they could get a view of the New World. They both could not believe that there really was a world past England and the rest of Europe.
After they both got a long view of the area I said,” Ok, now go wake up mother and father. Tell them we’re here.”
They skipped off with large smile on their faces. After they left, I found the barrel Emily was trying to climb and took a seat on it and get a good look at the New World. There were no cities, no roads, or any other sign of civilization. It was a blank canvas for us to build a new home.
Then the ship’s bell began to ring, telling us that the captain had an announcement to make. The captain came out of the bottom of the ship and stood before all the people.
He was a tall, lean man with a beard. He had dark eyes, with ever so slightly gray hair. He stood ten or so feet from where I was standing.
“Good morning, and welcome to the New World, ” he spoke in a slightly joyful voice. “In a few minutes we will be getting off the ship in small row boats. Now, I will need two people to help row the colony leaders and I to shore.”
Before anyone had a chance to raise their hand or call out something he pointed to me and another boy who looked to be a year or two older than me. We followed him to the opposite side of the boat, where the colony leaders were waiting. All of us boarded a rowboat and were lowered down to the water.
We started to paddle to shore. Behind us more boats were being filled and lowered down. The smell of fresh pine replaced the bitter smell of fish and slat water. Gulls chirped above us, welcoming us to the New World.
As we neared shore, my back began to burn with pain to the point where I could barely paddle. The shore was rocky, unlike the smooth sand in Spanish Florida. When we collided with a large rock on shore, the captain climbed out onto the rock and helped the colony leaders get up too. I followed behind struggling from the pain in my back. I slipped a few times but, after a few attempts I was able to make it.
I looked around at our new home , and smiled like never before. After all those dark, cold nights at sea with the ship tossing and turning there was a New World just beyond that was more beautiful than I had ever imagined.
One of the leaders, whose name was George, bent down to the rock and hugged it said, “Oh, thank you God, thank you.”
As other colonists arrived on shore, they all began to show their emotions. Some people cried in joy, others prayed, those with children hugged them close. I looked around for my family. I saw them arriving in one of the last boats. I waited patently for them to unload. By now there were people swarming the beach. When my family was finally out I went up to each of them and hugged them.
“I can’t believe it,” Peter said trying to look at everything at once. “We’re really here!”
I walked over to the water’s edge and looked out at the ship and the unending ocean. Had we really come that far? The salty wind blew into my face making me remember how far we had come, and how we chased the wind…
Teenz Ink Short Story Contest - Runner Up, High School
The Fading Cross
by Savannah S.
Brandon Senior High School
Jade gazed out the window of her family’s cabin as the bright red sun sunk behind a jagged mountain range. A fresh cup of tea warmed her hands and filled the air around her with a calming jasmine aroma. She inhaled deeply, yet was surprised by a slight scent of smoke that mingled with the jasmine tea. She breathed again. Yes. An odor of smoke poisoned the air. Her brow furrowed in confusion and worry, until something outside the window caught her eye. Slowly, she glanced outside and gasped: the pine woods that surrounded the back of the house were on fire!
Terror seized her and she raced to the kitchen to call the local fire department. Her fingers fumbled with the phone for a moment, but she jabbed the proper numbers and—somewhat coherently—reported the conflagration. With prevalent distress, she peered out the nearest window.
Bracing herself to view the flames only a dozen feet from the house and crawling closer hungrily she beheld … nothing. She blinked. The forest that had stood resolutely behind the cabin for decades still stood—not a single leaf was ablaze. The tall pines stood solidly, mocking her beneath their stoic façade.
She stood there until her heartbeat regained a regular rhythm, closing her eyes tightly. Perhaps it was nothing—just a figment of my imagination, she thought desperately, and when I open my eyes, everything will be fine.
A cry reached her ears. “Help me, please! Someone!”
Adrenaline filled her veins again as she whipped around to see the rows of trees engulfed in flames. Snatching a wool blanket and jamming on a pair of boots, Jade raced out of the house. The screen door slammed shut as she dashed across the lawn. She ignored the increasingly uncomfortable warmth on her skin as she neared the trees. Dark clouds of smoke poured into the sky, resembling a sickly purple bruise.
“I’m here! Please help me!” the distinctly male voice called from her left.
Wrapping the blanket tightly around herself, Jade started into the forest. Everywhere she looked was engulfed in flames. Sweat quickly accumulated on her skin in the heat and she soon felt droplets running down her chest. The flames licked at her boots, melting the rubber soles, but Jade jogged on. “Keep talking!” Jade hoped the boy had heard the muffled shout as she doubled over in a fit of coughing, her eyes watering from the smoke.
“It’s getting hard to breathe!” the voice shouted back.
Jumping over a flaming log, Jade struggled onward. The hem of her pants caught fire, but she frantically put it out with the blanket. “I know—I’m coming!” I’m almost there, I’m almost there, she repeated to herself.
“Please, hurry!” Jade followed the sound and came to a large bush, the branch’s skeletal fingers engulfed in fiery inferno. Looking to either side, she saw that there was no time to walk around it: going through was her only option.
With a growing sense of dread, Jade pulled the blanket in tightly and threw herself into the bush. The branches clawed at her flesh, drawing long red scrapes across her arms; Jade winced before stumbling over something on the other side.
After hearing a sharp interjection, Jade realized that she had tripped over a boy’s leg. Despite the tears filling her eyes, she could tell that he was a few years younger than herself with bruised olive skin, dark eyes, and curly black hair speckled with a layer of ash. His soiled shirt clung to his small frame, and his right foot was bent at an awkward angle beneath worn jeans. His left hand clutched a small wooden cross that hung from a black cord around his neck.
Although his eyes were wide with pain and terror, Jade could see relief flood through them. Without hesitation, she removed the blanket from herself and placed it around his shoulders.
“I think my ankle is broken; I can’t walk,” the boy explained distraughtly. He accepted the blanket and looked at Jade pleadingly. Please, his expression begged, don’t leave me here.
Without a word, Jade squatted and took his right hand, placing it around her own neck. With some effort, she hoisted the boy onto his uninjured foot. With a swift hobble, the pair started toward the cabin.
“My name is Carlos Gonzalez,” the boy informed, still holding his charm, “I’ve been trapped for so long.” He winced as his ankle brushed a fallen limb.
Coughing, Jade declined a response. Her lungs burned from the smoke and her muscles ached. As they stumbled out of the forest and onto the cabin’s lawn, Jade almost collapsed with relief. Over the crackling of the fire around them, blaring sirens told her that the fire department had arrived. She carefully helped Carlos to the ground before running to the closest fireman—who were simply milling around—and reported the situation.
The man stared at her in disbelief. “Carlos Gonzalez? Around fifteen years old?”
“Yes, he’s injured over there in the grass!” Jade urged. Why were they all just standing there?
He observed Jade with a worried frown. “Um, Miss, Carlos Gonzalez died on this property in a forest fire over fifty years ago.” He put a hand on her shoulder.
In disbelief, Jade shook off his hand and ran to where she had laid Carlos. She looked around, her pulse thumping in her ears. She noticed that the forest was again dormant—it stood as stoically as it had for years, not a spark in sight. She reached the spot where Carlos had been: an indentation in the oddly damp grass. Carlos was nowhere to be seen. With tears of frustration spilling down her face, Jade noticed a single object: a small wooden cross strung on a cord. As she watched, it faded into the grass before vanishing completely. A breeze lifted her hair about her shoulders and caressed her cheek. “Thank you,” it seemed to whisper.
Teenz Ink Short Story Contest - 1st Place Middle School
The Mind Of Survivors
by Graycie M.
Reality: Noun: The world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.
Any information about myself is entirely irrelevant, as I haven’t much time to tell you my story before this program is canceled, and my mind is wiped of any information I’ve gathered on the reality of life as we know it now. What I’m going to say may frighten you; may leave you questioning the realness of what you can touch, see, and feel. It may leave you looking in the corner of your vision for things amiss, searching for proof of what I’ve told you. This file contains information I have collected in the first year of living in this false reality.
You have ten seconds to close this program before it begins auto-play.
The world really did end on December 21st, 2012, the day the Mayan calendar ended. The cause of this end was due to several floods, fires, lightning storms, asteroids, earthquakes, sinkholes the size of states, wreaking havoc on the living population of Earth. At 3:00 pm eastern time, the same day, three hundred survivors from these numerous disasters were collected by emergency vehicles, thrown in an almost alien looking space craft, and brought to an emergency base located on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons.
Although this base was in the process of adapting from a prototype, technicians thought it was perfectly capable of doing what it was supposed to do; create a reality for us survivors to live in. Which it did, without any problems, and without us suspecting we were no longer on Earth. Almost.
When we, the survivors, arrived at the base, we were sedated, placed in pods, and hooked up to Reality Simulation Machines, or Real-Sims, I call them. Real-Sims recreate a false reality of Earth life, complete with realistic people, places, items, sounds, foods, etcetera. When we were hooked up to the Real-Sims, our minds were first probed, and the machine stored any information of our lives that would help create the closest copy of life before Earth was basically destroyed. Second, our minds were wiped of all of the things we’ve seen the day of the End of Earth, leading up to us being sedated and placed in the pods. Then lastly, replaced with fake memories that the Real-Sims interpreted our life would be like, if the 21st was any regular day.
The following is a collection of important events leading up to me realizing the truth of what happened on the 21st of December, 2012, and that the reality of my life after that day, wasn’t real at all.
The first time I woke up in the false reality, I had the most painful migraine I’d ever had in my life, complete with a throbbing skull and aching eyes. I stayed home from school that day, as well as a few of my friends, who also, strangely, had a horrible migraine. My mother said to me that it must be something that’s going around, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was something more than that.
The first month of living in the false reality was completely normal. So normal, I wasn’t even slightly aware that I was hooked up to a Real-Sim, not on Earth. All of that changed when I started to have dreams about the 21st of December, 2012. Though, calling them nightmares would be more fitting when dreaming about the end of the world. After waking up from my nightmares, I’d only remember a few details; I’ve never been good at recalling my dreams. The few details that have stuck with me through all of this are the terrified screams of the people I knew, desperately running from death’s strong hold, and my pitiful attempts of trying to help them.
The guilt from failing my loved ones ate away at me slowly, however, I tried to convince myself that they were just dreams. Nothing like that could have ever happened. Besides, I’m still here, and so are the loved ones from my nightmares, whom I failed to save.
Then from late June to early November, I stopped trying to convince myself that everything was normal. I stopped turning away when something strange happened, and started to search more and more for the answer to the question I’ve had since the day I realized my dreams weren’t just dreams.
What is the reality of the world that I live in?
Through out those months, I searched for the answer. I asked the few people I was certain survived with me, those who weren’t programs. We formed a “little conspiracy group”, one of my friends called it. The four of us gathered information about the glitches in our lives that we were experiencing. The people in our false reality were fading, then becoming tangible again; they were repeating themselves, almost like the stutter of a goldfish with a memory of a few seconds. After this, they would go back to what they were doing, completely oblivious to their actions.
Then finally, I got what I was looking for. The answer is; there is no reality to this world. This whole world is in mine, as well as all of the other survivors’ collective thoughts. We are trapped in the false reality us survivors created, and we will be trapped here for the rest of our natural lives.
Unless what I’ve told you is enough to convince you to do something about saving us, before all that’s left of this reality is what’s left of Earth.
Teenz Ink Short Story Contest - 1st Place High School
Cold Nights and Cold Bodies
by Charles M.
Jefferson High School
I’m sitting on my bed and I can’t sleep; today was such a normal day, but the day didn’t really feel normal. So dark and so cold in my room…normally, I’m afraid of the dark, but Daddy talked to me a lot about being brave; I hug my bunny and close my eyes. I brushed my teeth, got dressed, ate breakfast and went on my way to school as usual. Darcy looked like she was asleep when I got on the bus, so I just let her have the seat to herself and sat somewhere else. My teacher, Mr. Martin, started talking to us about someone who got sick in school with something. Everybody got quiet, and then started crying. I was too distracted looking out the window. Yesterday was such a pretty day. Nothing special after that. I tried to give answers in class, but I didn’t get picked. Not a big deal. Only when, I got home, I heard my mommy crying in her room, I knocked on her door. I called her name over and over again. But she wouldn’t answer me. I felt cold. Daddy was busy working on his car. I didn’t want to bother him. That night I just put some food in the microwave and went to bed. Mom wouldn’t have to worry about me.
Now I’m just sitting here trying to sleep. I feel like someone is in the room with me. The lady in my closet? She’s actually pretty nice lately. I decide to splash my face with warm water. I make my way to the bathroom, so scary walking in the dark. I want to sleep so badly I force myself. I can see her in the mirror when I turn on the light. She’s standing right behind me, a little girl in a white dress, long brownish hair, but no face. I told Daddy about her two weeks ago when I started to see her. He said she’s just an imaginary friend, but why wouldn’t I imagine her with a face? She even speaks to me, but has no mouth.
“You won’t be able to sleep tonight, you know that,” she says as I take in the steam, “not really anyway.” Once; she told me why I haven’t been able to sleep lately but it didn’t make sense so I ignored it. I call her Betty, her voice is familiar but I don’t remember where I first heard it, and as I turn off the bathroom light and return to my room she follows, her footsteps make no sound. She sits at my feet while I lay in bed. I want to hug her, she’s like my best friend, especially since I’m the only one who can see her. “Do you still feel cold occasionally?” she asks.
“I do feel cold, but I don’t know what occasionally means.” Sometimes I think she forgets that I’m only eight years old.
“It’s like saying sometimes,” Betty says. I don’t bother saying goodnight, because I might not fall asleep right now anyways, but when I open my eyes morning is already here, she’s still sitting at my feet. When I go downstairs mommy and daddy are dressed really fancy but they don’t say anything. Betty told me something happened and they haven’t even spoken to each, she looked sad when she told me. I decide I should eat breakfast and get dressed like them so they don’t have to worry about me. I’m sure they want me to tag along anyways. I see daddy going to turn on the car and hop in the backseat to wait for mommy, Betty sits right next to me. Mommy is walking really slowly so daddy goes and opens her door for her and waits. He closes the door really slowly and looks at her through the window for a minute before getting in the driver seat, I can hear Betty sniffle, “They’ll be okay,” she says. I’m not really sure what she’s talking about so I just look out the window while we’re riding in the car.
“I wonder where we’re going.” I whisper.
“Somewhere nice I bet,” Betty says, “don’t worry.” She’s right; we stop at a pretty field with a bunch of weird rocks in it. There’s a bunch of people dressed like my parents and mommy and daddy start walking towards them so I follow. When we get close people start to move out of our way. When I realize Betty is the only one wearing white here. All these people are looking at us when we stop at the top of a small hole with some brown thing in it and mommy and daddy start to cry.
On April 13, 16 contestants performed at the John F. Germany Public Library in the grand finale of the HCPLC Teen Talent Show. Previously, each of these contestants competed at either the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library, Jimmie B. Keel Regional Public Library, Jan K. Platt Regional Public Library, New Tampa Regional Public Library, 78th Street Community Library, or West Tampa Branch Library and placed in the top three contestants.
The first place winner was Melisha C. from 78th Steet Community Library!
Teen film directors and film makers were invited to create a short film and enter in the HCPLC Teen Film Festival. Selected films were shown at the Teen Film Festival Red Carpet Event on June 8, 2013, at the John F. Germany Public Library. The Best Picture and two additional films received cash prizes, courtesy of the Friends of the John F. Germany Public Library.
Only One from 15-year-old film maker Daniel P., a student at Strawberry Crest High School, was awarded Best Picture! The movie is about a smart and hardworking teenage boy who is troubled and misunderstood. Eventually he meets one person who might make a difference and change his life. Watch it by clicking the link below.
The HCPLC Teen YouTube channel also has videos from Teen Talent Shows and films from prior Teen Film Festivals, including the three other films shown this year: America vs. Nature, Wonder Manand The Prankster.
This video shows the top three winners of the Bloomingdale Regional Library Teen Talent Show held on Saturday, March 23, 2013. This program gave the community a great opportunity to see the diverse talents of their teens.
The top three winners were invited to perform at the Grand Finale at the John F. Germany Public Library on Saturday, April 13, 2013 for a chance to win more cash!
Teenz Ink Short Story Contest - Runner Up, Middle School
An Unlikely Friendship
By Erik B, 8th Grade
Crossbow bolts zoomed past the ears of soldiers, making a deafening sound that some could find unbearable. There was an immense battle with two common enemies doing their usual war over which should have what. Both sides of the battlefield were raging with utter destruction. This medieval battle seemed to be one of the best ways to show extreme dislike between common enemies. The only difference about this battle was that in the strangest way it resembled the largest of friendships, and, as some might call it, an unlikely friendship. The two groups in this battle were the Boartusk Clan and the Ironshell Clan which had been mortal enemies ever since they both decided that they needed the land of Master Rock. Master Rock was a mighty mountain that towered above all and was said to carry boat loads of gold, silver, copper, and precious gems.
Moving over to the Boartusk side of the battle, you could see the chieftain standing on a boulder doing his battle cry to strike fear into everyone in the area. The chieftain’s name was Wolfheart, and he always wore his wolf skins when going into battle and Wolfheart would always say, “Life’s a battle and always will be.” A lot of people just said that Wolfheart would just say this because he liked the wolf’s skin on him, but he stuck to his word, of course, up to this day he did. Today the war was just as drastic as any day, but, of course, the casualties are always different. Wolfheart saw his men fly back in every direction, but couldn’t understand what weapon did such a thing with such ease. The fog was blinding today, so things would seem to come out of nowhere, including the flying masses of people from the strange, mighty weapon. All of a sudden, the fog began to clear a little and on the rock which he stood upon, Wolfheart saw a giant weapon that was hurdling boulders at his troops. There was a giant wooden contraption controlled by man and made with wood and steel. Wolfheart awed at the sight and soon thought it was time to use his new weapon that the makers called a ballistae.
“Fire the ballistae at whatever it is hurdling those boulders!” Wolfheart shouted.
Phewt! Phewt! Phewt! The noise flew by Wolfheart’s ears as the giant arrows flew past him. Explosions were in the distance as the arrows made contact with the giant machines. Laughter started to erupt from Wolfheart as he saw the destruction of his opponent. Suddenly, Wolfheart broke out in laughter as he saw a giant boulder heading towards the front of the boulder he was standing on. He tried to run but it was already too late for him to run. The ground started to rise as the rock made contact. Everything was blasted away as the boulders clashed, and Wolfheart was shot up into the air and soon crashed to the ground with a big crack. Slowly, Wolfheart blacked out.
Over on the Ironshell Clan, there was a different experience for Chieftain Viperbite. For him, it was almost the opposite of what happened to Wolfheart. At the beginning, Viperbite was laughing because of, what the creators called it, the catapults. Soon the ballistae, which were unknown to him, were used and destroyed the catapults. One of the explosions from a catapult caused him to fly into the enemy’s area and break one of his legs.
Surprisingly, both chieftains landed in the same general area where no scouts would go to pick up people that are still living. Soon, they woke up and saw each other, immediately making them pull out their crossbows. Soon it was a standoff as they each had their crossbows at the other’s head.
“Truce?” Viperbite finally asked.
“Truce,” Wolfheart accepted after a long pause.
Their crossbows slowly got lowered, and they got themselves a bit more relaxed.
“So what was that thing you guys were using?” Wolfheart questioned, remembering his almost fatal moment.
“Oh, it was just some catapult thing from the natives,” Viperbite answered. “How about you?”
“This thing called a ballistae,” Wolfheart responded. “Strange enough, it was from the natives too.”
“Let’s go confront them for working for two sides of the battle,” Viperbite replied.
“Yeah let’s do that.”
Off they went to the native hideout in the Master Rock. They overheard them talking about overthrowing the clans and owning all of the land with the new inventions they have, including the catapult and ballistae. Both chieftains went back to their base to say the news and told them to attack the natives. Both clans did, but they did it without each other and easily fell to the native’s massive power.
The two chieftains went back to talk with each other about what happened to them when they battled them. After collaborating, they came up with that both clans should come together to make an amazing army. At first, when the clans got the news, they were aggravated with their chieftains and sent them to jail for treason. After countless defeats against the natives, the clans finally decided to free their chieftains and join forces. The next battle that came was a whole lot easier, and the clans won and got rid of the native’s devious plot.
In the end, the clans shared the mountain and found out that there were no hidden riches inside of the mountain except for iron. All the mountain had was wood and iron to build the machines that the natives had. Soon the two chieftains decided that this mountain should be renamed because of the outcome. Since such great friendship was made out of the mountain, the mountain was renamed Friendship Mountain.