Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2022 finalist Maya Mourshed. Maya finished 4th grade this past school year and wrote a story called “Bonding Together.” One judge had this to say about Maya’s story: “The creativity Maya showed by personifying Helium and its characteristics was so fun!” Enjoy!


By Maya Mourshed

Helium sat sadly on the blacktop near the orange playground equipment, and stared longingly at all the atom children bonding together. They were sharing their electrons with each other and playing games. Some atom children shared two electrons, others four, and even others six in order to bond with each other. Then their combined molecules would bounce around and play happily, swirling and twirling in the air above the playground equipment. 

Helium continued to gaze wistfully at the atom children. In the past, Helium had tried and tried to bond with other atoms, but he could not. Helium came from the noble gas family, which had a very special attribute. All noble gasses, including Helium, had two electrons in their outer shell, making them perfectly stable. This meant that none of the members of the noble gas family had any need, or even ability, to exchange electrons with other atoms. So whenever another atom child tried to bond with Helium to play together, that atom sharply bounced off of Helium’s outer shell. Helium was always left alone, fervently wishing he could experience the joy of connecting and playing with atom friends.

This same pattern had been repeating since the first day Helium attended chemistry school. His classroom had a big whiteboard at the front, with levitating white chalk hovering nearby. Hanging on the walls were posters of molecules, types of chemical bonds, and the periodic table which also doubled as the attendance list every morning. The desks were arranged in orderly, straight rows, with each one having an element square carved on its surface indicating where each atom student should sit, as well as their personal information including chemical symbol, atomic number, and atomic mass. 

As soon as the atom children realized he was Helium, none of them wanted to sit near his desk in class or at his table during lunch, whispering, “He doesn’t like to play with anyone! He doesn’t like to share electrons and bond with us!” 

Helium would pretend to not hear their unkind words. He wanted nothing more than to bond with the other atom children, and it hurt him deeply inside that they instead made fun of him because he was different. 

For the rest of the week, Helium was distracted from his chemistry lessons as he pondered how to change his situation. He could not help that he was born a noble gas and had a stable outer shell. But he also could not accept that being friendless was his fate in life. Then, an idea popped into his head. 

He had been focused on how to make himself like all the other atom children, which was an impossible task. Instead, he started thinking about what makes him special compared to the other atom children. Helium was one of the lightest elements in the entire periodic table, giving him the power to fly up higher than most atom children. Also, Helium could emit a dazzling pink light when he was activated by heat. He began imagining scenarios for how to combine his two special abilities together, his thoughts racing as he quickly crafted a plan.

At the end of the school day, drifting buses waited in front of the school entrance. They were color-coded for each of the element groups – for example, the alkali metal bus was red, the transition metal bus was yellow, and the non-metal bus was blue. When the atom children streamed out of school during dismissal to float into their buses, Helium could barely contain his excitement as he put his plan into motion. He elevated high in the air, positioning himself close to the school’s grilled heating vent. His electrons began dancing chaotically, slamming against his outer shell. Then out burst a punch-colored light from his atom core, bathing the entire school entrance and playground equipment in its incandescent color.

All the other atom children stared up at Helium in amazement. 

“Where’s that light coming from?” “It’s sooo beautiful”, “I love this color!” heard Helium, which made him glow even brighter.  

Then, one atom started bopping in the light, which then led to other atoms joining in, bouncing and bonding with each other as they smiled up at him and waved their hands in the air. Helium basked in their attention, feeling like they were seeing his true self for the first time. And he finally understood that there was more than one way to bond.


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