Laura Schaefer, HRVHS Class of 2004, loved literature and story of all kinds and was a devoted writer. In Laura’s memory, her brother and sister, with the support of family and many friends in the community, are holding an annual contest to foster creative writing in the community that helped Laura develop her love for the craft.
Congratulations to Elizabeth Gobbo, who wrote 2013’s winning story. The stories submitted this year were required to be modern day fables or fairy tales. You can read Elizabeth’s story below.
Here Be Dragons
When I was in fourth grade, I realized that a good arch-nemesis is hard to find. At the time, I was buried deep in the feverish process of writing what I humbly thought of as The Most Important Book In the Entire World. it was about dragons, of course and I knew that my dazzling protagonist needed a real foe. My protagonist, Mara Elencia, was a loose re-interpretation of myself, meaning that she was almost nothing like me. She was stunningly beautiful, tall, and thin, with long silky black hair and color-changing eyes. I was short, chubby, and had incurably curly brown hair that tended to get caught in the hinges of my thick plastic-framed glasses. She could shape-shift into a dragon, breathe ice, read minds, and turn invisible, while I merely felt invisible among the horde of unfamiliar faces at my new school. But on a deeper level, she and I were the same. We were explorers. We noticed things, asked questions and found our own answers. We created new worlds from our observations and built palaces of discovery, ”long hallways of twisting, echoing sounds and infinite vaulted ceilings of color and light and memory. We had the same desire to absorb and create, to gather the heavy wool of the world and spin it back into something shining, gossamer, newborn.
So I knew Mara’s arch-nemesis had to be special. I owed it to her. She couldn’t make do with the run-of-the-mill StormFyre Dragons that kept running around cackling maniacally and being otherwise generically yet unspeakably evil; she needed a true mastermind. But this was not a decision I could make lightly, this book had to be perfect if it was going to make me the Most Important Author in the World Who Also Happened To Be A Child Since Anne Frank. My creative process needed time and, more pressingly, a Nutellanana (Nutella and banana) sandwich.
And so began what shall be forever known as the Great Nutellanana Period of my writing. This period was not especially marked by brilliance of thought or prose, but rather by the smudges of chocolate-hazelnut spread marking the corners of my journals pages. Still, I pressed on, knowing that I was always just one more sandwich away from finding the perfect arch-nemesis, the antagonist of antagonists, the Almighty Badness of my dragon world. And then, I finally found her.
It was raining heavily that fateful day, and I was sitting alone at lunch like always, working on The Most Important Book In The Entire World. I looked up from my masterpiece for a moment and saw Lesley walking to her table. Lesley’s mother ran the Girl Scouts, which I’d dropped out of a few months before due to the lack of actual scouting and a surplus of stained plastic Christmas ornament production. Lesley had a buzzing swarm of friends that followed her wherever she went. She played soccer and lacrosse and danced ballet in pink shoes and had blonde hair. It dawned on me that I couldn’t find a better vehicle of evil in Hell.
So I wrote furiously through the rest of my classes, feverishly setting the stage for The Most Epic Battle of Good Versus Evil Since Forever, between me and my perfect arch-nemesis by which I mean, between Mara and a new FyreStorm dragon shape-shifter named… Lesley (though her dragon name was Deathstorm). My hands shook as I scrawled passages of caustic pre-death match repartee in thick, unsharpened #2 pencil, leading up to the inevitable climax. Finally, with a terrible roar, Deathstorm opened her wide red mouth and breathed out a fierce, swirling vortex of death, enveloping Mara with darkness, and cold, whipping winds. Mara felt herself being pulled closer and closer to Deathstorm’s waiting fangs as she desperately struggled to fly away. Closer and closer and closer… And then the bus stopped at my house, and it was time for another Nutellanana sandwich. I closed my journal, stowed it in my backpack to keep it safe from the downpour outside, and stepped off in front of my house, thoughts of dragon battles subsiding as I shook off my shoes and meandered toward the kitchen. For the rest of the day, I kept to the purple splatter-painted confines of my room, thinking about how to build a secret tunnel under the floorboards, and about how I really should learn to speak Hindi. I didn’t think of my novel again until much later that night, when dragons entered my dreams.
Sometime around what felt like midnight, I climbed out of bed and pushed my window open. It had only just stopped raining. I leapt gracefully to the ground below, feeling strangely slow and weightless as I fell through the rain-softened air, and landed gracefully on all fours. I held still for a long moment, letting the breath of the baptized earth soak upwards into the hardened curves of my feet, then took a few halting steps forward, quickening the thudding beats of my footfalls to match my racing heart. And then I was flying.
I slipped through the wind-knotted sky, beating my powerful silver wings and careening wildly through the air for what must have been hours. The sun stirred and rose, tingeing the horizon’s hem with creeping brilliant color that then welled into a flood of gold. Looking down, I saw I was flying over my school, over the gunmetal play structure and patchy grass field, over lunchtime recess at Westside Elementary. I hovered above the tiny moving model of my fourth-grade reality, amazed by its incredible smallness. In my fascination, I stopped beating my wings for just the slightest moment and then I was falling. Cold, whipping winds pinned my wings to my sides; I couldn’t regain control of them. I struggled desperately, trying to fly again, but the ground just kept rushing closer and closer and closer with frightening clarity. I braced myself.
I came crashing through the roof of my school, landing shuddering and numb from impact. The dust fell, cloaking me in deadened gray. All around me, my schoolmates stood frozen in place, eyes locked ahead, as if time had stopped seconds before my grand entrance through the ceiling. I pulled myself up, extracting tail and talons and wingtips from the rubble, feeling awkwardly large for the linoleum-and-carpet cafeteria. I surveyed the room of my anonymous existence, eyes flicking from hardened face to hardened face. There was the boy’s table full of superhero lunchboxes and dodge balls tucked under scrawny arms and there was the table of popular girls, where Lesley sat, caught mid-giggle amid her gaggle of friends. And then, I caught the unexpected gaze of someone who was not frozen at all, someone who was looking straight at me. Unlike the other children, the girl staring at me was also covered in the gray dust from the rubble, but even under the layer of dull silver, I could see that she was short, chubby, curly-haired, and bespectacled. I realized that the girl was me.
We made no sound for a long moment, taking stock of each other. She smiled, stepping shyly up to me, reaching with curious fingers. I knelt to the ground and waited for her to clamber clumsily onto my back and wrap her arms around my neck. We were together at last, girl and dragon no enemies, no loneliness, no darkness. And together we ascended through the gaping, glorious hole in the cafeteria ceiling, invisible cellos and timpani and trumpets singing midnight glory and hallelujah as we shot off into the sky. Lesley, Deathstorm, the terrors of elementary school all nothing to us now. We had places to go, and worlds to discover.
When I woke up the next morning, I opened up my journal and resumed my work on The Most Important Book In The Entire World. I’d been itching for a place to show off Mara’s ice-breathing capabilities, and it was time for Deathstorm/Lesley to meet her cold, ironic end as a dragon-sicle.
And so it was written.