Write from the Heart Fall Fiction Contest Winners!
High School Winners
We are so excited to announce the high school winners of our Fall Fiction Contest!
Students answered this prompt from our Story Starters Journal: “On the top floor of an apartment building, across from the elevator, there is a door labeled “Roof Access.” But it doesn’t lead to the roof.” The contest was open to any student in 9th-12th grades and did not need to be a current student to enter.
We had so many wonderful entries, and are thrilled to announce our winners!
Lauren K., Florida
Winner of a Free Workshop
The Mysterious Disappearance of Kyle Rowan
The rain pounds against my windshield as I struggle to find my way in the dark. I pull over to the shoulder of the road, a difficult feat in the darkness of night. Even my high beams are getting swallowed into the pitch-black fog. I smack the steering wheel in frustration, sending a jolt through the car. My phone sits on the dashboard and shakes with the sudden movement. The blueish-white color it emits bounces around the interior of the car. It falls doing somersaults in the air until it lands on the floor next to my feet. I let out an exasperated sigh before I lean down to grab it.
After a few minutes, I get myself situated again and turn my focus back to the road ahead of me. “There are just a few miles left. Then, you will have your answers,” I think to myself. I force myself to pull back onto the winding road. The trees surrounding me that are usually hauntingly beautiful in the daytime seem to pose as a threat in this setting. The wind throws them back and forth. Their trunks creak and howl in protest. I know this path like the back of my hand. I used to draw maps of it as a child. Tonight’s destination was once my favorite place in the universe. This winding road stirred so much excitement in me. But now… Tonight…
I take a deep breath to bring myself back to the present. “You are doing this by your own accord, by your choice. No one is forcing this on you.” These phrases play on repeat in my head. “No one is forcing you.”
7 months, 3 weeks, and 6 days ago my brother was declared missing. 5 months, 2 weeks, and 4 days ago he was pronounced dead. His disappearance shook our little town to its core. Nothing so tragic had ever happened. Benton has a population of just under 600, with more deer making their home here than actual human beings. The crime rate was almost nonexistent, which just added more mystery. Surrounding towns were miles away and separated by dense forest.
Search parties had spent day and night for weeks combing the woods for any sign of Kyle.
Kyle Rowan, our high school’s popular “floater” was your all-around ideal student: played sports, had all A’s, in the marching band. Teachers were shocked when he didn’t show up that Wednesday morning for classes. Our parents were called first. They too, were confused at his absence. The principal called me down to the office to see if I knew where he had gone. I didn’t help any, as I gave the same answer my parents did. I was pulled out of class 3 hours later. My mother, father, and I drove around town the rest of the day looking for him. We had neighbors offer their assistance, but they came back with nothing. At 10:30 p.m. we showed up at the police station.
I finally reach the last bend of the path. The familiar curve is like adding salt to an open wound. An oak tree forks the road abruptly forming a split down the center. The right side eventually sends you to the highway. The left was rarely used. Mother Nature had reclaimed it, making it hard for even our toughest tractors to pass.
The rain has now slowed to a drizzle, making it easier to see. Parking on the side of the road, I step out of the car. I bend slightly trying to block my phone from the rain. I hit send on a message to my best friend letting her know I arrived.
Aimee never left my side through the search parties, prayer circles, and funeral. When I would ask her why, she would always respond with the same retort, “For my own satisfaction of doing something good, obviously,” said always with a smile.
The day of the funeral was rough on everyone, but something just felt off. There was a strange feeling of doubt that settled in the pit of my stomach that morning. I forced myself to read it as dread for what the coming hours would look like. I couldn’t shake the feeling though, and just had to tell someone. That someone became Aimee.
“Do you think something else happened, then?” she had asked. There was a flash of hope in her eyes.
“I don’t know. But what I do know is that he isn’t gone. He can’t be.” She misunderstood my last sentence, and pity washed over her face.
“I know this is hard for you. It’s going to be alright.”
I shook my head hard once and stopped walking.
“I don’t mean that in a broken, grief-stricken way. He is not gone. I can feel it,” I say, hoping she understands what I’m feeling…somehow. “Where could he be? We’ve gone to the ends of the earth looking for him.”
Aimee’s brow drew together, something that always happened when she was deep in thought. Finally, after what seemed like eons, she responded with, “I don’t know where he could be.” Her shoulders slumped, her look of defeat. I put a hand on her shoulder, suddenly feeling like the roles were reversed. “I’m going to find him,” I said.
Now months later, I am still searching. It makes me feel moronic to have thought of this only now and not at the first mention of his disappearance. Just ahead, approximately 150 feet into the left path is a pile of sticks, fallen branches, and a torn blue tarp. Us Rowan kids had named this spot “The Fort.” It was by no means a fort. The pile was defying all laws of gravity by somehow staying vertical for years, never budging with the frequent storms and strong winds. Our father had built us an actual “fort” that was more like a small cabin built into the ground, just a few feet from our prototype. The wood was a grey-brown color, not yet blackened by the foliage that encases it. Inside the 400 square foot cabin a pantry, tattered sofa, and small coffee table complete the space. Lining the back wall was the pantry, which was almost always stocked with junk food. The sofa sat right in the middle of the room and the coffee table just in front.
I turn the doorknob with a flicker of hope. I push the door in and a dim light washes over me from the inside. There were keys to it that Kyle and I both had, as well as our parents. We would come down to the cabin on weekends when the weather was warm and the night sky full of stars.
I remember telling our father of my suspicions a few days after the funeral. At first, he thought I was playing a cruel joke. I convinced him that I was serious and that Kyle could still be out there somewhere. He replied with the same thing as Aimee: “I don’t know where he could be.” Something in the way he said it was off. It came out hurried.
I step inside the cabin and to my disbelief, I catch a shadow of movement in the far-right corner of the room. I cannot believe what I am seeing.
Just a few feet from where I stand, my father hunches beside someone I haven’t seen in far too long. Exactly how long?
And 6 days.
Aimee’s answer had been genuine, the truth. She didn’t know about the cabin to even look there. My father? Well, it looks like he told me a lie. Funny how they both told me the same thing.
Second Place Winner
Dahye L., South Korea
Winner of a $50 Gift Certificate
August 22, 20**
Today was my first day of middle school and I was very excited about it. Before driving me to school, Mom and Dad gave me a bouquet of flowers and a lovely note. My sister, Isa, who is a senior in high school this year, gave me a journaling set, which I am using right now. Middle school is different from elementary school in many ways, but the good news is that I can see Mom and Dad more often since they teach at our school! I can’t wait to learn from them in the classroom. I think it will be very interesting and new experience.
Third Place Winner
Adriana H., North Carolina
Winner of two novels/journals
She told me the truth. He told me a lie. Except they both told me the same thing.
When I was in Elementary school, I met this girl named Regina Whitlock. She wore a light blue dress with white ruffles and a dark blue bow in her blond hair, making her blue eyes and fair skin seem brighter. That day I wore a steel gray dress that matched my eyes, with no bow in my black hair. She was like the sun, while I was like the moon. We were just 5 years old at the time, but I knew we were going to best friends for life. If only Regina would live to see it for longer than 11 years.