Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2020 finalist, Jonathan Sniadecki! Jonathan finished 4th grade this past school year. The story he submitted is called “Thunder and Lightning” and was inspired by Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.
Thunder and Lightning
By Jonathan P. Sniadecki
Hi! My name is Jason. I go to West Hill Boarding School. My life is really bad. Well, it’s not that bad. It’s just that I don’t really have parents that I know of. The only thing I can remember is turning up on the doorstep of West Hill Boarding School and them taking me in. The next thing I know, I’m doing algebra and other whacky math stuff… even though I have no idea what that is. People think there is something wrong with me. But I think I just have trouble focusing. I was diagnosed with ADHD and dysgraphia. People don’t think it’s my ADHD and dysgraphia, but every time I get mad something bad happens. It’s not like Harry Potter and all with the expecto patronum stuff, but more like the clouds cover the sun and it gets dark, and sometimes it starts raining. It’s like every time I get mad, my emotions control the weather! Surprisingly, I have friends. Well, not friends, but more like a friend. His name is Luke. He is a good friend.
Today was an odd day. I woke up at 1:00 a.m. in the morning from a really bad dream. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I just stayed in bed, staring up at my bunk. Oh, I should mention, Luke and I are roommates, along with two other kids, George and Henry. I don’t think George and Henry are human because no human can be that stinky. Later, I went down to my first class, one of my least favorite classes, Algebwa, no Algebra, I hate that word. The reason I hate algebwa so much, is not because algebwa is hard, which it is. It’s because George and Henry are in the class. Wait, was I saying it wrong this whole time? Dang it! Every time the teacher is not looking, they will do something really horrible. One thing that they did this class was something they had never done before. They took one of their books, ripped out the pages, and folded them into paper airplanes. Then, they threw them at me. One hit my head, the other hit the back of my chair, and the last one hit Luke on the head. On the paper airplanes, it read, “Look Inside.” So, I looked inside one of them. In it was a note. It said, “At exactly 2:00 a.m., go to the lunchroom and bring something to defend yourself. If you do not, you will be expelled. Here is the signature from the headmaster.” Surprisingly, there was the headmaster’s signature. Luke got the same note too.
“Jason?” Luke said slowly. “What’s going on? They’re joking, right? Because I’ve seen the headmaster’s signature and that’s exactly it on this paper.” I could see fear in Luke’s eyes as he said it.
“Shhh, don’t let the teacher hear what we’re talking about. We’ll talk about this later,” I whispered.
After that, George and Henry just sat quietly and did their work.
Second period was Art. I would say it’s my second favorite. My favorite is fifth period, History. I never really had a talent for art, but the teacher is really nice. She always lets us do free drawing, instead of doing special assignments. And George and Henry aren’t there. That class went pretty well, except that my pencil broke, and I had to ask for a new one. Third and fourth period went by pretty quickly, then it was fifth period, my favorite, History. During the class, the teacher talked about this Greek battle called the Trojan War, about how there was this wooden horse and all the soldiers hid inside and ambushed the Trojans. Then it was time for lunch. I sat with Luke and had lunch.
“What are we going to do about the note?” I asked.
Luke said, “I don’t want to be expelled, but I think something fishy is going on.”
Luke was always suspicious of George and Henry. In fact, he was usually suspicious of everyone, except me of course.
“I think that we should go,” I said. “We won’t get expelled, and we will get a chance to hit them a few times… before we get beat up, which we already have experience with.”
“We should go at midnight, giving us two hours to prepare,” said Luke.
“Then it’s settled,” I said.
I couldn’t concentrate for the rest of the day, because I was trying to think about when we should sneak out of our rooms. What defense would we bring? How would we sneak up on them? By then, it was time for bed. I set the alarm clock for midnight, like we decided.
The alarm rang at midnight. Luke and I got up. We went down to the cafeteria. Luckily, no teachers spotted us because they were all in bed.
“How are we going to defend ourselves?” said Luke nervously.
“We could use some of the forks and knives to defend ourselves, and we could use the plates as shurikens.”
“OK,” said Luke. As he said it, I realized that he wasn’t nervous anymore.
We turned the tables over and made a base. And we waited until 2:00 a.m. We heard clattering from the hallway and saw two figures coming towards us. It was George and Henry. They were both carrying bats. They did not see us.
“Ready?” I asked.
“Let’s go,” Luke said back.
We started throwing plates at George and Henry. One plate hit Henry smack in the face.
The other hit George’s bat,
And the last one missed. They ran at us, and we threw more plates. As they were running, they started growing and turning into seven-foot tall, one-eyed monsters.
Luke screamed, “What are they?”
I yelled back, “I don’t know! Cyclopes?”
George swung his bat. Wait, no. Should we still be calling him George? I would say, ugly smelly Cyclopes, or for short, USC. Anyways, where were we? Oh yes, he swung his bat… and smashed through one of the tables.
Luke yelled, “RUN!” and I started running.
I saw a sheathed pocketknife on the ground. I picked it up. On the sheath it read in ancient Greek, ‘Bone Breaker.’ I didn’t know how I could read Greek, but I didn’t have time to think about that. I had USC’s chasing me. USC number 1/Henry ran at me and swung his bat at my head. I ducked and unsheathed the knife. Right when I unsheathed Bone Breaker, it started to grow into a well-balanced sword. I stabbed USC number 1’s arm. He screamed in agony as I got up.
Then I saw that Luke was in trouble. He was trying to hide behind some chairs while USC number 2 looked for him.
I ran at USC 2 and yelled, “Hey, dog breath, over here!” He whirled around but it was too late. I slashed at his neck and in a flash of light he disintegrated.
“Thanks. I think I’m hallucinating,” said Luke.
“Don’t calm down now. Still one more,” I replied.
I saw USC 1 stumbling towards us, holding the bat in his unwounded hand. He threw his bat at me and it hit me smack in the chest.
I fell over and slumped on the ground. Luke picked up Bone Breaker and slashed at USC 1. It was a clean cut through his chest. He exploded into a flash of gold light.
Luke said, “What the heck just happened.”
“I don’t know, but soon other people are gonna wake up if we keep up this racket. We should head back to our rooms before someone finds us.”
“You know we still have this mess to clean up.”
“Oh, yeah. Let’s tackle this muck!”
After an hour of cleaning up the cafeteria, it looked as good as new. We headed back to our dorms. Right when I got in my bed, I fell asleep. I woke up at 7 in the morning and started getting ready. The whole time, I was talking to Luke about the events that night. We were thinking about telling the teachers, but then we thought they would think we were crazy.
During breakfast, the Headmaster came to Luke and me and told us we had a visitor. He said to go to the library and the visitor would be waiting. We did as we were told and went to the library. There, sitting on a chair, was a big man who was wearing a robe that looked like it was from when the Trojan War happened.
“Sit down,” he said. “My name is Zeus.”
I thought he was joking around, so did Luke.
“You probably think I am a comedian,” said the man. “You know George and Henry, I am guessing. Right now, if you go ask the teachers ‘Where are George and Henry?,’ they will probably say that they never heard of them. That is because, unlike you, the teachers are mortals and they do not understand demi-gods or immortals. You are probably thinking that I am a joke and that I am a history dude just trying to teach you some Greek history, but no, I am Greek history, and you will be too, my son.”
Then Luke said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold up. Slow down. I only heard half of what you said. The rest of it is mumbo jumbo. You are just playing with us, right? Just because Jason doesn’t have parents doesn’t mean a crazy guy like you can just adopt him all of a sudden.”
I said sternly, “You think you are my father, huh? Well, I don’t have parents, so you can’t be my father. And, you are not Zeus.”
He waved his hand and a lightning bolt came from the sky and exploded a tree outside the window of the library.
“You were saying?” the guy said in a deep voice.
I thought I would faint because how could this guy just waive his hand and summon lightning? Only Zeus could do that, or was he actually Zeus like he said?
Then another guy walked into the room. It seemed like the ‘Zeus-guy’ knew him because they started talking in a different language, that I had a feeling was ancient.
Luke turned to me, “Let’s get out of here.”
“I think I want to see what they have to say. This guy might actually be Zeus, but then again, Zeus isn’t actually real.”
“I’ll stay just because you’re staying, but hear me out. He’s not Zeus, and nor are you his son.”
The two dudes stopped talking and turned to us.
“This is my brother Poseidon,” the Zeus Guy said.
“Hello, my name is Poseidon. God of the sea. You are my son,” he said to Luke.
“Ok, dream stop. I wanna wake up. Jason, come on, let’s get out of here,” Luke said.
“You can leave, but I’m staying,” I told him.
Poseidon waved his hands a few times, and the river nearby started gurgling and bubbling. Then a jet of water shot through the library window, smashing it to bits and exploding a bookshelf. I was drenched but Luke wasn’t. The water parted around him.
“What the heck just happened?!” Luke said.
“Why is the water parting around you?” I said.
“Because he is the son of the sea god,” Poseidon said.
Then, in a flash of light, they were gone.
Luke and I were shocked. Luke fainted in the middle of the walk back to class. I had to drag him all the way there. I did not want to be a demi-god, but now that I knew, I felt that I was one. Now that I am the son of Zeus, I’m guessing that I could shoot lightning bolts out of the sky and Luke could make a tsunami as big as a mountain, but we couldn’t. Why not?
We paid more attention during History class because this period was about Ancient Greece. So, now that we are demi-gods, we should get used to this stuff. I wanted an explanation. How could all these gods and monsters be real?
Throughout the school year, we kept reading about Ancient Greece. We realized that we could do small little things, like I could shoot sparks and he could move water droplets. As we practiced, our powers grew until I could shoot a bit of lightning from my hand and summon a small storm, and Luke could make it rain and move a stream of water.
West Hill Boarding School closes during the summer, so at the end of the school year, we were sent to a boarding house. On the way there, we met two people who tried stopping us from getting into the house. One of them pulled out a sword and the other pulled out a bow.
“We’ll kill you if you don’t give us the house!” the man with the sword shouted.
I didn’t think they were mortals because if they were, they would have likely pulled out guns instead of ancient weapons.
I decided I was going to use my new trick on them. I summoned a bit of lightning from the sky to come down and charge up Bone Breaker. Then I stabbed at the air, shooting a blast of lightning at the guy, knocking him backwards into a tree.
“AARRGGH,” he said as he disintegrated.
But the force of the lightning knocked me back too and I hit a tree. Next thing I know, I opened my eyes and I saw Luke fighting the other guy. Luke was shooting jets of water at the guy with the bow from a stream nearby, trying to distract him so he could land a hit with his sword. A blast of water hit the guy’s stomach, knocking the wind out of him. Luke saw the opening and slashed. Crack! The man’s bow deflected it, then he started changing form. He started growing into a giant black dog. I remembered from our research that he must be a hellhound, which was a very deadly creature. I saw that from the ashes of the guy with the sword, another hellhound started to emerge. It charged at Luke.
I got up from the tree, rubbing my head, and I charged at the hellhound! I stabbed his head and then hit him in the face with a lightning blast. Luke was shooting waves upon waves of water at the other hellhound, but then the hellhound bit him in the neck and Luke collapsed to the ground.
“RRRAAAAARRRRRGGGG,” cried the hellhound in triumph.
I stabbed the hellhound and with his dying breath, the hellhound said, in a menacing voice. “Beware of Hades, god of the underworld.”
I didn’t know what he meant, but I had to take care of Luke. I knew that water could heal him, so I picked him up and carried him to the stream. As soon as I submerged him in the water, he started to wake up. We went inside the house and rested for a bit.
I woke up in the middle of the night to a loud knocking at the door. I opened the door, and there was Zeus, dressed in mortal clothing. Personally, I thought he looked stupid in the way that he was dressed. Why would he wear bell-bottom jeans in the year 2020?
“Wake up Luke,” he said. “Did anything try to stop you on the way here?”
“Yes,” I said. Then I remembered what the hellhounds said. “The thing that tried to stop us was a hellhound, and when it died it said,” as I imitated its voice, “beware of Hades, god of the underworld.”
“Then if this is true, you must go to the underworld quickly. There have been too many monster attacks. We have lost too many demi-gods already. You must go to Hades and defeat him and make him promise not to send any more monsters. He is the one who is sending all of these foes. The way to get into the underworld is to find a monster and persuade it to take you there. Once it does, you will find two big gates. Guarding it will be a three-headed dog, called Cerberus.”
Then in a flash of light, he was gone. We started preparing for our trip. We would go to the underworld in two days, so we didn’t have much time to prepare. Zeus had briefed us on what to do, but there was still a lot of stuff we had to do on our own.
When the day of the trip came, we started hunting for monsters. We went to the woods, where there would be a lot of monsters. We saw a half-human, half-bull creature standing there, which was a minotaur. When it saw us, it got really angry and charged. Luke jumped up onto the minorar’s head, while I distracted it while running around. Luke started stabbing at the back of the minorar with his sword. The minorar tried to buck Luke off, but then I sliced the minorar’s face with my sword and he collapsed. Wait, hold up, have I been calling it minorar this whole time? You’ve got to be kidding me. First algebwa, now minorar. Alga-, al-, al-, algegra, no algebwa, no ALGEBRA! AL-GE-BRA! Finally! Ok, let’s get back to the action.
“Take us to the underworld,” I shouted.
“Never!” he growled.
“Then we’ll do it the hard way.”
I generated electricity in my hands, and started zapping him, shooting electricity at him. He yelled in agony.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHH, AARRRGGGGH, Okay, Okay,” he said. “I’ll take you.”
“Good,” I said. “Now let’s go.”
The minotaur took us to an open field and told us to grab onto his horns. We did as we were told, and then everything turned dark. It felt like the darkness was forever, but then the darkness passed and we were by the gates that Zeus had talked about. There was the giant, three-headed dog, called Cerberus. Ok, when Zeus said dog, I thought it would be a cute little puppy with three heads that would just nip our feet. But no, it was a ginormous, fifty-foot black dog that was definitely not fluffy. Its fangs were bigger than a full-grown man. Ok, I was scared. I admit it, I am a scaredy cat. Well, I’m not really a scaredy cat, but when you’re facing a fifty-foot dog you turn into one. Anyway, Cerberus hadn’t spotted us yet, so we started sneaking around it. But then it saw us, and it started to attack.
It bit at me and Luke. We dodged it, and I tried to shoot lightning at Cerberus. But then I realized that this was Hades’s domain, and I couldn’t use my powers. Neither could Luke. I came prepared though. I pulled out a dog bone and threw it in a direction away from us. Immediately, Cerberus ran to the dog bone and grabbed it. As it was distracted, we ran to the gates. We pried them open. Sitting on a giant throne was none other than Hades.
“What do you want,” he said in a deep voice.
“I want you to stop sending monsters,” I said.
“Why should I be told what to do by lowly demigods?”
“Because you are also being told what to do by Zeus’s and Poseidon’s sons,” I said.
“Well then, almighty son of Zeus and son of Poseidon, I could just wave my hand and you guys could die. But, I’m feeling nice today. So, I’ll spare your lives, and maybe even stop sending monsters, if you do this task. You will go up to Mount Olympus and bring me one of Zeus’s lightning bolts, then I’ll stop sending monsters.”
“Okay,” I said. “We’ll get you your lightning bolt, and in return, you stop sending monsters.”
“Okay,” said Hades. “It’s a deal.”
We turned around to leave, but then Hades said, “You have until tomorrow, so go.”
We started running back towards the gate, and up to the mortal world. We didn’t know where Olympus was, so we guessed it was somewhere up in the clouds. So, I willed the clouds to come down. It felt like I was dying. It took so much energy to get the clouds to come down. But finally, it worked.
The clouds began to move towards me, getting lower and lower until I could touch them. I sculpted a Pegasus from the clouds. Then, right when I did so, I prayed to my father, and the Pegasus became alive, and we hopped on its back and flew up. In the clouds, we saw a giant palace, well, not a palace, but hundreds and hundreds of small palaces. We flew towards them and parked the Pegasus, thanked it, and got off.
We walked up the steps towards the throne room. We had such good luck that no one was there. Sitting next to Zeus’s throne was a lightning bolt. I picked it up and felt energy surge through my body. Instantly, with a flash of lightning, and a BOOM, we were back on the ground. I’m guessing that the lightning bolt sensed that I was Zeus’s son, and shot us back to the ground. Right when we got on the ground, a giant hole opened up. We heard a deep voice.
“You’ve brought me a lightning bolt, now send it down,” said Hades. “When you do that, I’ll stop sending monsters.”
We walked to the edge. I threw the lightning bolt down and Luke and I started walking home. When we got home, I decided I was going to take a nap for about a year. I laid down and had the best sleep I’ve gotten in a lifetime.
This epilogue has no action, just what my story would look like without the help of the Young Inkling Society that gave me the suggestions and nudges to help me write this. So, here is what it would look like. Sorry, I can’t do that. I don’t have enough space. But I will show you one part of what it would look like. I would not have purposely and with humor misspelled words because misspelling words for humor is the oldest trick in the book. Because algebwa is really hard, so why not misspell that word? And minorars are in a lot of ancient Greek stories. Wait, don’t tell me. I misspelled them. Maybe I’m just bad at spelling. Well…
The Inklings Book Contest is open for submissions!
Whether you write stories or poems or both, whether your words are funny, heartfelt, imaginative, or true-to-life, there’s a place for you in the Inklings Book Contest. Every 3rd-9th grade writer who enters will receive feedback. That means this contest is a win-win, for every applicant!
We're open for submissions through March 15, 2021. Not quite ready to submit? No worries. Try our free prep course to get your story or poem in tip-top shape.