The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is a highly prestigious contest that recognizes the most promising voices in middle and high school. This year, they received 350,000 entries. Only the top 15% of the entries receive an award. All of our eligible students participate, and some submit more than one piece. We had 21 winners!!
Today, we are featuring two of our GOLD KEY winners! Both seniors, Deklan B. and Parker C. are in our AP English class. They took on the Flash Fiction category with an assignment to highlight a moment in a character’s quest. While very different, both deal with the horrors and fears of going beyond the “known” into new territory–one psychologically, and one physically. These two have created incredibly visceral stories while completing the challenge of staying under 1000 words to enter this category.
Both Deklan and Parker’s stories have moved on to national judging. Good luck to them both!! As we await these results, please enjoy being taken to another place in both of their works.
By Deklan B., Florida, 12th Grade
“Honor thy father and mother…”
Those words bounced around in Poppy’s head as she knocked a security officer out cold. How far was she willing to take that Christian sentiment? The thing that was supposed to keep her from making the wrong choices? The thing that made her who she was? Poppy twisted to avoid a punch and threw herself across the dining car. The scuffle ended as the last of the guards were rendered unconscious by one of her fellow gang members. She glanced at the destruction she had caused behind her. Thirty-odd bodies, heaving slowly, of security personnel. Poppy shuddered as her brain began processing the chaos of the preceding cars. Her mother had made her join this raid, telling her it was honorable, even just. She said no one would get hurt. That they were merely “Owing to Caesar what is Caesar’s…” The past eight cars full of bruised government officers told a different story.
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”
Had she made the wrong choice?
As her mother explained the plan to the crew, Poppy felt a yank in her stomach that almost threw her out of the moving train window. Every heartbeat processed more sins crawling up and down her spine. She tried to speak and nearly puked.
“Uh, mom?” She squeaked, worried her staff would slip and hit somebody. “What are we going to do once we get into the safe room?”
Her mother swung around to her, fire burning deep in her eyes.
“We just went over this. Get a grip girl, or we’ll leave you here!”
Her child’s stricken face cause her to sigh and try again, thumbing an explosive Poppy didn’t remember her packing.
“We’re going to gently take out the guards and free the much-needed medicine that they stole from our dying people. Don’t you worry, hon – It’s all under control.”
With one of her winning smiles her mother turned to the door.
“We’re the good guys, remember?”
Poppy’s stomach stopped tearing at itself and rather settled into a sickening silence. She couldn’t seem to reason out of her mother’s words. They were the good guys…right? This morning Poppy thought she was a part of a stealth operation, not one with ‘taking out the guards’ as a major point. Was she helping her people and glorifying God, in spite of the horrors laying out behind her?
She didn’t have time to finish her train of thought as her mother blew the metal safe door to shards and her gang spilled into the car beyond.
“Forsake not your mother’s teaching…”
Poppy leapt before she could think twice.
As Poppy pole-vaulted across the divide, the wind trying to throw her onto the roaring tracks below, she almost wished it would. She entered into the hysteria, unable to process what she was seeing. She dove behind a stack of crates to her left as a barrage of bullets caught two of her gang members in the chest. Stifling a scream, Poppy forced herself to peek from her hiding place to see where this whistling death came from. Probably fifty people were crammed together into a tight-knit wall in the far corner. All armed security this time. All but one. Poppy recognized him immediately. Hiding behind the engine equipment in the corner, surrounded by hounding guards, was Governor Blanche. Poppy’s face went whiter than his skin. She had grown up disliking Blanche, mainly because he was consistently elected over her mother to govern their province. She hadn’t known he was part of the mission and didn’t like what her mother’s true intentions might be. Her suspicions multiplied when her mother and remaining criminal allies drew guns of their own. Hellfire roared through the train, deafening her as she hugged her chest and prayed it was all a lie. Her heart beat faster and faster as the screams from around her grew louder. And then it all shattered to stop. Her brain was a tornado of verses and words screaming at her, yet not giving her a definitive command. She wished someone she could trust would tell her what to do. With a shudder, Poppy heaved herself up with an empty crate, seeming to never have carried medicine at all, and saw a room full of friends and enemies turned to silent corpses. Once her brain had started piecing itself back together, she realized two crushing truths. Blanche was gone. Her heart started pounding again as she glanced at the open hatch in the ceiling, the howling wind blustering in from the top of the train. Her mother had disappeared as well.
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls…”
Something in Poppy snapped, and that one lonely verse in the swirling black sea of her mind drowned, shaking its head in disappointment.
Poppy pulled herself to the top of the train with gritted teeth and saw exactly who she didn’t want to see. Her mother cornering a fleeing Blanche, the wind having blown his wig onto the slicing tracks below. He was whimpering as Poppy’s mother slowly made her way towards him, knife in hand.
Poppy heard the words once spoken by Peter, but for the first time, the only voice in her head was her own.
“But we must obey God rather than men.”
By Parker C., Vermont, 12th grade
My eyes glazed up into the gray sky, barely comprehending what they were seeing – not that my other senses were doing much better. A strong ringing in my ears along with almost a complete numbness throughout my body was leaving me disoriented and weightless. I don’t know how long I’ve been laying here. A few minutes? An hour? Hell, it could only have been a few seconds, there are no clouds to see any passage of time. My head moves to my right, eyes looking around; I’m on a beach, white sand, and black rocks emerging everywhere from the bank in various formations. Nothing else to be seen from here. Moving my head over to my left I see nothing but an endless ocean. I lift myself off my back and rest my arms on my legs while looking out onto the water – the emptiness of it makes me feel uncomfortable. I fully get off the ground, shaking as I do. Why do my legs feel like they’ve been running for days? The better question is, why don’t I remember anything?
After a few stumbling steps, I can walk better and the ringing in my ears has lessened. Glancing around, my eyes quickly land on an uneven part of the beach a few steps away. I walk over and brushing away the sand around the mound, revealing it to be a… Oh, God. My hand jerks away as I reel backward, causing sand to fall into the eyes of the skull. My eyes widened into saucers, my shaking began to intensify and the ringing in my ears was getting louder. W-What the hell is going on here? Who the hell is this and how did they get here? With some distance I’m able to focus on the body; it’s old, disintegrating into white dust similar to the sand. What’s surprising is the cloth on the arm of the skeleton, which I don’t dare touch. I fear it will disappear into nothing, no matter how gentle I could be. The once white cloth has been aged to a yellow over time. I manage to tear my eyes away from the skeleton, looking further into the land I’m on, and like my first analysis, there’s nothing – just black rock and white sand surrounded by a dark ocean. Wait. What is that? I squint my eyes onto the furthest point on the island. Is that a mountain…? No, no… it’s too…. pointed and manmade looking. I-I need to get closer. And so, I did – the feeling of eyes following as I go.
The walk was long, unnaturally long, it should have ended hours ago – I also hoped that hours ago would have been the last skeleton I would ever see. I was wrong. Sometimes it would be a while before I saw one on my path, while some were immediately one after another. One thing is clear though, each one is getting… fresher – more bones, more flesh, and, most notably, more clothes. Clothes that are starting to look frighteningly familiar to my own. With each body I pass, the more unnerved and watched I feel, like a weight placed on my shoulders that gets heavier and heavier as time and bodies pass.
It’s an obelisk. Easily standing 50 feet tall, almost getting bigger as I walk towards it; resting inside a lagoon with a path of terrain leading towards it. Getting closer I see a podium of some type, completely black, with tentacle-like decorations, and a circular indent on the surface. The presence of the obelisk was one thing, but just looking at this podium makes me feel like I’m… I don’t know… I… I can’t… I look away and make eye contact with another body. The weight of all the eyes comes crashing down on me as I look at my own rotting corpse. My hand instantly shoots to my mouth to stop any bile from coming up. I can’t take my eyes away as they flicker around the body – it’s stretched out on the ground, stomach down as it reaches towards the podium with one arm, the other cradled around something dark underneath the body. Swallowing the burning acid that made it to my throat, I lower myself down and shakily turn the body over revealing the item underneath. It was a small statue of an ungodly figure sitting on a mountain of some sort, multiple eyes and two sets of arms – tentacles that seemed to emerge from, not just the creature, but the ground it sat upon. It’s completely carved out of a black crystal, any cracks and chips it had were sealed with slivers of gold and silver. If I thought the podium was bad in any way… I have no way to describe th-this thing. The ringing in my ears is almost deafening, causing me to wince and let out a curse. It has a circular bottom; I glance at the podium. Taking the statue from the—my body. Oh God, don’t look in its eyes. I place it into the podium’s slot. It fits.
Immediately the world begins to shake. Something is moving, and that something is big. My eyes quickly jump to the obelisk – holy sh… what the hell are those things?! The obelisk was rising out of the ground with a horrible scraping noise, but the noise wasn’t what was grabbing my attention: it was the legs. From underneath the lagoon, four sickly white and fleshy legs with protruding veins emerged from the sand, connecting to the edges of the obelisk as it moved itself upwards. It slowed to a stop, the risen… “obelisk” had revealed a staircase into the ground that was best described as a void. The ringing in my ears has stopped. Trying to avoid a horrified expression, I glace at my body; I hold a stare with the statue. A deep breath. Let it out. I walk towards the void.
Interested in Taking a Class?
Our Fall Registration is open! Our annual classes are designed for students in 6-12th grade, and meet the requirements for a full year English credit. Our AP English class is approved by the College Board.
Annual classes run September-April, and students are part of a vibrant writing community, where they read one another’s work as well as getting help from a professional coach. Check out our list of year-long classes here.