Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2020 finalist, Claire Rubin! Claire finished 5th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “A Door Between Two Worlds.” Claire told us that her favorite element of her story is the way she crafted her characters. Enjoy!
I woke up to my brother Jack calling my name.
“Come on,” he said “these things that I think are called manticore are chasing us. They’re scary. They have the body of a lion, the head of a man, and the tail of a scorpion!”
“We need to go,” I announced.
“Well, duh. Come on,” he said, shaking his head. We ran out of the tent and drew our weapons. Jack was using a sword, and I was using a bow with an infinite supply of arrows. He charged into battle while I started shooting them down.
You are probably wondering why we are here. Let me fill you in….
It was a regular Tuesday morning, and I was fighting with my younger brother Jack as we walked to lunch. He’s 10 and I’m 12, and we are nothing out of the ordinary in any way. I was about to go and join my friends in the cafeteria, when an old oak door with ivy growing wildly on it appeared on the side of the hallway. I must be seeing things, I immediately thought, but then Jack asked, “Do you see that door, or am I just hallucinating?”
“Yes, I see it too, let’s open it and see what’s inside,” I replied. “Wouldn’t there just be the other side of the hallway?” I opened the door.
For some reason Jack and I made the dumbest and best decision of our lives and stepped through the door.
I immediately smelled fresh evergreens and felt cold, wet snow drench my shoes. Behind me, Jack wondered, “Where on planet Earth are we?”
“I’m not sure, but it looks like I’m stuck with you,” I answered.
It looked like we were in a winter wonderland, when an elfish looking thing appeared in front of me. It was a bit shorter than me but stood up straight and proud. “Welcome to Forest Evergreen!” It squeaked cheerfully.
“My name is Lexi. What is yours?” the elf asked.
“My name is Olivia,” I answered.
“And I am Jack,” Jack introduced himself.
Suddenly another elf appeared with a loud pop. While Lexi was green with blue hair and purple spots on her pointy ears, this one was pink with short flaming red hair.
“Why are you always late!” Lexi scolded her. “Sorry about my friend Anna.”
“It’s fine. Can you just tell us how we got here and why?” Jack said bewildered.
“Yes. I will try to answer all your questions when we get to the main cabin,” Anna ushered us.
We hiked up a large hill to get to the main cabin. When we got to the top and looked around, it seemed like to the north it was winter, filled with glistening snow and elves having snowball fights, building snowmen, and skiing down snow-capped mountains. When I looked to the east, it was spring, with flowers blooming everywhere. The south looked like summer, where elves were playing in pools, having water-gun fights, and sliding down slip-n-slides. The west smelled of fall with cinnamon and bonfires, with carved pumpkins on the doorsteps of tiny little elf huts. In the middle, in front of us, was what looked like a clock, but the hands circled the four seasons instead of twelve numbers.
“What is that?” Jack pointed to the clock thing as he ran over to eat snow.
“That is the Four Corners,” said Lexi.
“Can you just tell us where we are and why?” Jack blurted out looking alarmed. “Also aren’t the Four Corners a place, not… Well, that?”
“Don’t worry, come inside, and we’ll answer all your questions,” Anna said.
“We think you’re here to help us,” Lexi started.
“But what help do you need? Nothing is wrong except for the fact that we’re here! I was about to go eat lunch!” Jack interrupted.
“Many things are wrong. For starters, the Four Corners are messing up. ” Lexi continued.
“The Four Corners control your human weather,” Anna informed.
“Hold on, hold on, I’m not trying to be rude or anything, but who are you and what’s doing this?” Jack asked rudely.
“We’re the Season Elves, and not what but who—Lysa is doing this. She’s trying to make a new season and make it only that season.” Lexi responded patiently. “Anyway, we’re in lots of danger. The Four Corners are glitching. We thought you may be coming. There is this prophecy… Well, come. We’ll show you.”
Lexi and Anna led us to a circular table with words inscribed in a strange language on one half, and English inscribed on the other half.
“Two of the same blood
shall bring peace to the seasons,
in their hands, the new fifth shall rule or or fall.” I read aloud,
“To find her they will have to reach the other side
of the river bordering summer and fall
if they are going to bring peace or end to all.
“So, that means you two have to go on a quest to make sure that this person can’t make a fifth season and make it so only that season exists,” Anna said.
“Also here, you might need this, so handle it with care.” Lexi slipped a jar labeled “serpens flammae” in my hand along with a remote control. I got filled with a weird sensation and slowly tried to open the jar, but Lexi and Anna suddenly screamed, “STOP!!”
“Serpens flammae is very dangerous. If this jar breaks it will explode. You can’t put out the fire with water, so it is nearly impossible to tame.” Anna explained right as I passed out from all the information at once… And all the weirdness.
I woke up in an armory with weapons lining every square inch of the wall. I got up and chose my weapon along with Jack, snatched a map, and we then set out to go on our quest. We set out along a road, Jack with a sword and I with an infinite supply of arrows and a bow.
“Well, where are we going?” Jack asked
“You heard the prophecy! ‘To reach her, they will have to reach the other side of the river bordering summer and fall,’” I quoted.
“How do we get there though?”
“I have a map!” I said, getting frustrated.
“Ok, ok I get it!” he said, putting his hands up.
“Shut up!” I whispered angrily at him. “Something just rustled in the bushes!”
We had our weapons ready when a cat and a dog jumped out of the bushes! We doubled over laughing as we saw the cat attacking the dog and put our weapons away. Then, I went over to the dog and coaxed it away from the cat. The cat hissed angrily to have its new toy taken away, while the dog barked gratefully.
“I know that type of dog!” Jack declared, “It’s a Bernese Mountain dog!”
“Let’s keep them, they might be able to help,” I decided.
However the cat had different ideas. As I tried to pick it up, it hissed and sprinted off into the shadows of the woods.
We named the dog “Charlie” and were walking with him in a big open field, when the grass started rustling and the trees began to sway. I thought I saw a shadow of something, but it quickly disappeared. It was close to dark, so the shadows were eerie and long. Suddenly, a shadow, huge and dark, covered the field.
“No!” I cried. “Jack don’t get near it!”
I screamed, just as Charlie dashed off into the distance. Suddenly I remembered those shadows from a book that my friend gave to me a long time ago. “Wait! I’ve read about them! They’re called wodahs! Otherwise known as shadow catchers! You can’t get near that thing! It will overwhelm you in darkness and kill you!”
“Then how do we kill it before it kills us?” Jack screamed.
The shadow loomed closer, manipulating other shadows to grow with it.
“We need light!” I remembered. “That’s how we kill it!”
“Ya! Well, where are we going to get light?” Jack shouted darkly. I racked my brain for ideas. “Come on, Olivia, hurry up. It’s luring us closer!” Jack shrieked.
He was right. I suddenly had to fight the urge to go straight towards it. Then, I finally got an idea, “Jack! Get the flashlight and point it at it!”
He got out the flashlight and shone the light straight at it. It let out a cry of defeat as it grew smaller and smaller, opening the dusky sky again. Jack and I, too tired to continue on, lay down on the grass and fell asleep, until my brother shook me awake.
That happened yesterday. Now, I ran to go help Jack fight. I pulled out my bow and started shooting down the manticore. I counted 1, 2, 3, 4. I shot well, but as soon as one was killed, it seemed they just multiplied.
“We need to get out of here!!‘ I shouted to Jack. “We should run for it! They can’t be killed!”
“Well! I noticed that! But even if they can’t be killed, they can be delayed!” He said that with a sly grin on his face that I didn’t trust. “One, two, three…”
“What!” I shouted confused.
Right as I said that though, Jack threw something at them and the smell of smoke and burning flesh consumed me.
“Run!!!” He grabbed me and made me run faster. “We need to throw them off track. Here!” He pointed to a river, “Get in! They might lose our tracks!”
“Ok, but what was that?” I asked as we dove into the water. The water wasn’t as icy as I had expected but not warm either.
“It was a bomb. I found it in the armory when you passed out. Come on! Swim this way and quietly!”
Suddenly, I stopped.
“Come on Olivia, we need to keep going.”
“No, we don’t. We’re here,” I exclaimed as an excited feeling rose in me.
“What do you mean?” Jack questioned.
“I mean,” I said, getting annoyed, “we’re in the river between summer and fall! Look around!”
“Holy cannoli, we are!” Jack said in awe. “Well, I think there would be a door somewhere below… ahhhh!!” Jack started to get pulled under the water.
“Jack!!” I yelled, hoping he would hear me.
“It’s quicksand!” he said in a muffled voice, just as I started sinking in too.
“Jack don’t struggle, just relax!” I told him. I stopped struggling and fighting, and let the mud pull me down.
Darkness overwhelmed me. Faintly, like it was far away, I heard Jack’s voice screaming for me. I tried to yell back, but I couldn’t breathe. I started to suffocate in the quicksand, my lungs feeling like they were caving in. However, right when it became unbearable, I saw a burst of light and fell, with Jack screaming next to me.
I landed on a highly polished wood floor half on top of Jack.
“Well, wasn’t that wonderful!” he said with evident sarcasm. He pushed me away from him to wipe mud and quicksand off himself.
“Come on.” I pulled him along, shaking my head at him, our shoes squeaking and squelching with each step.
As we walked down the marble white corridor, we saw many highly polished wood doors on either side of us. None were open. We didn’t encounter anything or anyone. This worried me. Perhaps we were in the wrong building, I thought. Right when we were going to turn a sharp corner along the marble white walls, Jack suddenly pulled me back.
“What is it?” I asked.
“I thought I heard something. Oh! I just heard it again!”
He was right. Now that I stopped and listened, I could hear voices whispering something, but too far away to make out the words. However, I also could hear rustling leaves and water rushing in a stream, but the sounds were muddled as if they were being pumped together then shot out in a strange rhythm. I took a deep breath that smelled of flowers, when a cold gust of wind blew the smell away. I looked over at Jack. He was ghostly pale and had a terrified expression.
“We need to hurry,” he cried, rushing past me. “They’re making the fifth season NOW!” We drew our weapons then, and Jack opened the door.
When we walked inside no one noticed us; they were all too absorbed in their work. We had entered a large circular room; everything in it was white and sterilized. There were four people in white lab coats, each filling jars from buckets at the outskirts of the room. The buckets contained boiling water along with the essence of each season. As we looked towards the center, I could see where we had heard the first noise coming from. Four more scientists wearing blue lab coats poured jars with the essence of each season into a giant cauldron. They were doing this in a rhythm, pouring in time with a clock that was ticking down to zero. On every multiple of four, they poured. Then, on every multiple of six, all the seasons mixed together in a weird blur that would shoot out of the cauldron with incredible force. It smelled like nothing I could recognize, mixing the freshness smell of spring and summer with the darker, more spicy scent of fall and winter.
“We need to do something!” Jack whispered to me.
“Yeah, and before that clock gets to zero,” I added.
“Well, we need to have a plan because there are about eight of them and hmmmm, let me think, two of us? So yeah, we’ve a great chance,” he said sarcastically. “Well, thankfully, Anna and Lexi taught me a few tricks when you were passed out. See?”
He started mumbling under his breath, saying strange words. Then suddenly, I couldn’t see him anymore. I reached out, and he felt completely solid. I couldn’t see him, but Jack was definitely still there.
“You want me to do it to you?” he asked. I nodded, and he started whispering again. At first, I thought it wasn’t working, but then I silently gasped in pain. It felt like I had gotten dipped in an open fire. Suddenly, as abruptly as the pain had come, it went and was replaced by a tingling sensation. When the tingling stopped, I looked down, but I wasn’t there anymore! Not even my bow and arrows.
“Come on! We need to turn off that clock!”
To make as little sound as possible, we slipped off our shoes, which couldn’t be seen but could still be heard, and we silently snuck around near the clock. Nothing was there, so we snuck around to the back of the screen. We found a control panel immediately and went over to it.
“Wait!” I whispered, as Jack drew his hand closer to the panel. “We need to first break open the jars and release the seasons. Then we need to turn off the clock. Otherwise we will just delay it, not stop the whole process,” I explained.
He headed back to the center of the room. I looked around. There was a small remote control next to the clock. I took the remote control and slid it in my coat pocket, then ran to catch up with him. The four scientists were still pouring in the seasons into the pot from large vials. I looked over at the clock—2 minutes and 14 seconds left.
“We need to break open the jars in two minutes and stop the clock,” I instructed. “I’ll help you break open one, and then I need to go stop the timer. If you need to break them faster, use this, but get far away from it fast,” I whispered, handing him the jar of serpens flammae.
“Olivia! How are we going to put it out? You can’t!”
“Oh really? Why not? Watch and learn brother,” I pulled out three small flasks from my backpack and poured the fire into each one. Four jars: one for each season. Then, still invisible, I ran around the perimeter of the room and placed a flask into each of the season containers. However, as I was putting the last one in, I tripped and the flask splashed into the water.
“There is someone there I think!” a short burly man in white shouted.
“No! Impossible! You must be seeing things!” A man in blue yelled.
“And it wouldn’t be the first time!” added on a dark-haired lady in blue.
“No, I can see what he is talking about! It is right there. I can hear them running away,” pointing straight towards us.
This woman must have been their boss and clearly had excellent hearing. She had a very pointed chin and was wearing so much glitter on her clothes, it was hard to even look at her. She was clearly Lysa.
“Attack when I say go,” Jack hissed at me. “We have almost no chance… So go!”
At first it went well. We had struck them by surprise and had a head start. We were invisible and we had weapons. However, they kept at their work. The scientists in white started throwing things at us, but the scientists in blue kept at their work. We needed to stop them and fast. I looked at the clock—45 seconds left. I started shooting at the people in blue, but as soon as the arrow came close to them, it would bounce off something invisible, like a force field. I glanced at the clock again—37 seconds. I had to make a choice.
“Jack! Start running!” I whispered. I pulled out the remote control, crossed my fingers, and hit the off button, hoping it would stop the clock. Nothing happened. The scientists kept doing their job in the same rhythm. I decided it was now or never. I took the remote which controlled the serpens flammae jar and pressed the one big red button on it.
The first thought I had was, well, if I die now at least the view is pretty. The original jar Lexi gave me exploded, causing the other jars to break in a burst of green flame, as if they were fireworks each one setting off the next. Through the smoke, I could see the four seasons escaping, immune to the fire snaking its path everywhere. I ran away, my nose and throat burning while coughing from the smoke fogging up my vision, when everything went black.
I saw a dog chasing a green snake. Dogs were talking to me. Jack was asking something about me. Then, I thought, I must be dead, but dead people don’t think, do they? I slowly opened my eyes. I could see a pack of dogs hovering over me, as well as Jack and Season Elves.
“Sleeping beauty has finally woken,” Anna teased.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Let me explain,” Charlie the dog said.
“What! Hold on a minute! You’re a dog! How can you speak?” I shouted bewildered. “Calm down girl! All dogs can speak. Well, not when they’re pups,”
“But….You’re a dog!”
“So what if I’m a dog! You can talk. Why shouldn’t I? Anyway,” sighed Charlie, “I knew you guys were going to need help after I saw you fight the wodahs. Monsters were on your tail. So, while you were fighting the wodahs, I ran off to get some help.” He gestured to everyone around him. “We don’t know how, but Lysa was tracking you,” he told us. “We kept track of you because of my master Bernese Mountain dog nose. We tracked you into the ‘factory.’ We waited a few minutes for you to come out. Minutes passed without a sign of you two, so we got worried. When we were about to go in and find you, Jack came running out. He told us that you were stuck inside with the serpens flammae flaming around you. He showed us the unguarded pathway to get to you. Once we started seeing the smoke—”
“He made me stay out of the room and do nothing!” Jack rudely interrupted.
“Yes, yes, but it was for your own good.”
I looked over and saw Jack sulking against a tree.
“When we got in the room you were in, the fire had almost consumed it. We searched in the heat as it got hotter and hotter, blocking the way we had come. Finally, I found you unconscious, and Lexi came over and picked you up. We ran out, leaping over the tongues of fire. Noah here helped heal you, ” Charlie finished, gesturing to an elf I didn’t know.
“But is Lysa dead?” I asked cautiously.
“No, I don’t think she is,” Charlie replied calmly.
“But then it was all for nothing!” I cried.
“No, it wasn’t. Calm down. Even though she is not dead that doesn’t mean it was all for nothing. You both have released the spirits of each season and they know not to get captured again. On the other hand, I don’t think Lysa will be trying that trick again because you destroyed her factory completely.”
“Well, goodbye!” I called out to everyone. Anna, Lexi, and Charlie came up to Jack and me.
“You better come at least once a week!” Lexi demanded.
“Anna! Lexi! You’ll see her soon enough! Go do something!” Charlie instructed. “Make sure you come back, okay?” Charlie said to the two of us.
“Don’t worry we will!” Jack assured.
Charlie then led us over to the door that we had permanently installed to get from world to world easily. Jack and I said a final goodbye to Charlie and stepped through the door.
We appeared right where we had been when we left and found that no time at all had passed. We had the same clothes we had on, and we had our shoes again. It was like nothing at all had happened, when really, our whole lives had changed. From a distance, I could hear my friends calling for me to come over to the cafeteria. Jack and I glanced at each other. I smiled as I punched him in the arm, and we both walked off to lunch.