Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2021 finalist, Maya Mourshed! Maya finished 3rd grade this past school year. The story she wrote is called “The Neon Sign.” Enjoy! 


by Maya Mourshed

Dark clouds crowded the cold night sky, framing the flickering sign. Its green, neon light used to glow brightly, with five letters that spelled ‘DINER’. But now, only the D and R shone intermittently, while the ‘INE’ had fallen dark. With each passing day, fewer customers were visiting the diner, its fortunes following the same ruin as its sign.

A noble gas, Krypton, lived inside the sealed glass tubes of the neglected neon sign. Its round nucleus lay flat, arms and legs splayed by its sides. Surrounding the nucleus were orbiting electrons in a stable shell. Krypton needed an electrical current to knock its electrons out of their orbit, producing energy that would in turn create green neon light once again.

“Only two customers visited the diner tonight,” whispered an electron glumly.

“Such a sad situation,” responded the nucleus.

“If only the owners would fix our sign…we would shine brightly and customers would once again visit the diner,” said the electron wistfully.

“It has been two months since our sign worked properly. We have been forgotten.” lamented the nucleus.

Then, the electron and nucleus heard the faint voices of the owner and her teenage daughter as they locked the diner’s doors for the night. “I’m afraid we will have to close down the diner,” said the owner softly.

“Oh no, why?” asked the daughter, wide-eyed and with alarm.

“We don’t have enough customers, and we will run out of money by the end of the month.” The owner’s voice broke as she told her daughter the truth of their bleak financial situation.  

Tears glistened in her daughter’s eyes, rolling slowly down her cheek as she contemplated life without the diner. The owner hugged her daughter tightly as they turned to walk down the street.

The electron and the nucleus watched them in dismay while the wind whistled loudly around the sign and black storm clouds began to form in the distance. The nucleus and the electron silently gazed into the night.

“Do you think that we could fix the sign ourselves?” ventured the electron. “If I could manage to knock myself out of orbit, we could create energy and the sign would light up.”

The nucleus nodded in agreement. The electron began trying to expel itself from the shell. It strained as it pushed its arms and legs against the tube walls, grunting with effort. But no matter how hard it tried, it remained in orbit.

“It’s no use,” panted the electron with a ragged breath. 

“We need an electromagnetic field,” echoed the nucleus.

As they pondered their sad plight, the storm clouds grew closer and thunder rumbled in the air. The night had now taken an angry turn. A lightning bolt cracked the sky, a signal that a storm was soon to unleash.

“That’s it!” exclaimed the electron, slapping a hand against the tube wall. “When the lightning hits the sign, it will create an electromagnetic field!” 

The nucleus’ eyes widened at the possibility. “Do you really think that will work?”

The nucleus and the electron stared at each other, excitement building at the prospect of escaping their inert state.

Krypton’s electron and nucleus lay in wait as the storm’s eye grew closer. The lightning bolts were coming faster and stronger now, dazzling the sky. And then it happened. The lightning hit the sign, and the electron and nucleus were suddenly jolted to life. The energy forced the electron out of the shell, creating a surge of positive and negative charges across the Krypton atom. As the ionized Krypton recaptured its electron, sparks flew inside the tubes like a firework display. Krypton released waves of green neon light.

All five letters of the DINER sign shined brightly once again.

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