Teen SF Writing Contest 3rd Place: Wildest Dreams Ruined

Wildest Dreams Ruined

by Zoe Star Harwood 

 

Alai’s adventures started in a place some consider boring: one of those mega bookstores. The sun was blazing in the city, and Alai was just getting ready to start his first book signing his best-selling novel, “Another Day on Fire.”  He smiled a wide grin, knowing this was going to be the first of many bestselling novels written by him, the great teenage genius Alai Casterwood. Nothing was going to stop him!

For a minute, the sun hit Alai’s eyes... and he thought for one crazy moment he could see... No, he must have just imagined it. There's no way ... that person was just fictional, after all.

Alai squinted his eyes, and the figure he thought was  the protagonist in his story vanished.

Over the next few hours, Alai nearly forgot this experience spent time talking to his adoring fans, signing books, and delivering the occasional wisecrack. But every once in a while, he’d see a faint shadow or a silhouette of a figure he certainly knew but couldn't quite place. Every time, it would slip into the back of his mind until the figure re-appeared.

Alai decided to investigate this after almost everyone was gone. He climbed up the stairs, searching for the shadow. He saw it move across the upper room several times. It was almost as if... but Alai knew THAT was absolutely crazy.

When he turned into the hallway, he saw someone that had confirmed his theory. Almost.

Up until this point, he thought he’d seen the protagonist of his story, Indigo.  But the situation was scarier, for it was instead the antagonist of the story. Tythius was that shadowy figure, and Tythius was the one in front of him now.

Tythius and Indigo did look very much alike: both were tall and thin and they both had the same brunette, neatly combed hair. But while they looked alike, they were very different in personality. Indigo was a brave adventurer, one of the many traits that made him Alai’s greatest hero. Tythius, on the other hand, was a malevolent cruel wizard apprentice who’s emerald green eyes lit up when something was about to go very wrong. Like right about now.  

“Tythius?? How is this possible?”

“Missed me?” he asked in that mocking tone so common when he spoke. “Because EVERYONE has missed you in that tiny little world you created! Let’s take a look at the mess you’ve created, shall we?”

Tythius lunged at Alai. The writer struggled, but it was no use: this man was one of the smartest strongest people in the dimension he’d created. Everything that had made Tythius his perfect villain was now working against Alai. Soon, everything went black.

When he finally came conscious, he heard voices arguing about him.

“Wait. You’re in favor of keeping that twit ALIVE?” a girl’s voice said.

“Look, if it wasn’t for our situation, I’d strangle that blockhead for all the trouble he’s caused us. But he’s probably the only one who can fix this mess!” That was Tythius.

“I’m with Tythius. We should at least figure out what he knows before we kill him.” A third voice. This had to be Zivae’s, Tythius’s right-hand woman.

When Alai opened his eyes, he found that he was in some sort of abandoned mineshaft, bound in about ten feet of rope. Alai’s pulse  skyrocketed as he trembled in place. Was it somehow possible that the villains of his own story had kidnapped him?

Three people stared right at him: Tythius, Zivae, and someone he didn’t recognize.

“We really should stop talking about him in the third person,” Tythius responded. “Wakey wakey, destroyer of worlds!”

“Where am I?! What have you done to me?! What the hell is happening?! LET ME GO!”

Zivae answered, her face red with anger. “We are in  Vayecleeven, the kingdom you ruined. We’ve brought you here so you can see exactly what you've done and so we can maybe fix what’s happened. No way are we letting you go until then!”

“Wait. What do you mean. . . ruined? Has something happened to Indigo?”

At this, the girl he hadn’t recognized walked up right to him. Even though Alai didn’t recognized her, he was able to make out distinct features: Her skin was cinnamon colored, her hair was a midnight black with an amber ribbon in it. What scared him most was what appeared to be a long time injury. In her left leg, there was a horrific knife cut that had carved a giant hole. There was never a character like this in his novel. Who was this mysterious girl?

“Oh, Indigo! He’s fine. . . ish. You know,” she said.

“Actually, I don’t know,” Alai replied. “That’s why I’m asking.”

“He’s a greedy, selfish, monster now. He bankrupted the entire kingdom of Vayecleeven, murdering everyone and anyone who tried to rebel against him! But you already knew that. You’re Alai Casterwood! You sat there and narrated the whole thing because that’s how you live. And you don’t feel a thing, do you?”

Zivae chimed in. “What you’ve done makes us sick to our stomachs. So does your presence, actually.”

Something in Alai snapped. Indigo, the beloved protagonist of the story, a monster? How could this have happened? What could make it all go so wrong? Why was the paradise he’d created so nearly destroyed?

“Oh my god. . . I didn’t write this. . . any of it!” Alai shouted defensively. “What happened to my beautiful world?” he turned to Tythius. “Is that why everyone’s so mad at me?”

“We all have our reasons to hate you. But yeah, that’s the main reason we all share,” Tythius replied.

“How can we stop this?” Alai asked.

“Simple. We can’t,” Zivae responded. “We tried, very hard. We were there to see an entire village, decimated by your so called hero. Tythius and I, we fought Indigo and his goons, and we lost. The only good thing that happened in THAT whole ordeal was when we rescued Lysavisa.”

“Oh dear,” Alai said, his expression grim. “I had no idea. I didn’t write any of this, I swear.”

“Why should we believe you?” Lysavisa asked “Why should we accept any of your words? They got us into this whole mess, didn’t they?”

“Why are you so quick to me, Lysavisa? Look, I have no idea-”

“Now, you listen to me, Alai Casterwood!!” Lysavisa said, not even attempting to contain her rage. “Just because we are fictional doesn’t mean we’re stupid! I don’t know what twits like you do when they screw up, but you need to work your magic quick and then get lost! I don’t know, make a comet hit Indigo or something!”

“I can’t do that!” Alai protested. “First off, that wouldn’t make for a very good story! Wh-”

“Oh, you want a taste of a good story?” Lysavisa asked in a raspy voice, nostrils flaring and face red. “I’ll show you a story you’ll never forget!”

She lunged at the tied up Alai, intent on choking him. But Tythius and Zivae managed pull her off of the terrified author.

“Look!” Tythius explained. “The whole point of bringing him here was to see if he could FIX this mess! He can’t do that if you murder him!”

“FINE!” Lysavisa yelled, almost bursting Alai’s ears. “But you,” she continued, pointing at Alai. “You need to watch your back!” She turned and stomped away.

“Can you fix this?” Tythius asked. “Well? Can you?”

“I . . . I don’t know . . . I’d have to figure out what went wrong with Indigo. . .”

“That’s it!” exclaimed Zivae. “That’s how we stop him! We bring Alai to Indigo!”

“Just how would that work?” Tythius asked.

“We can’t stop Indigo. But Alai can. We bring him to Indigo, then Alai can figure out exactly what went wrong, and  fix it!”

“It’s as good of a plan as any!” Alai replied. “Let’s bring in Lysavisa and work on the details. But can you please make sure she doesn’t try to kill me?”

Zivae’s plan turned into quite a journey. The destination: The palace that Indigo lived in which lay in Magliniba, the capital city of the kingdom of Vayecleeven. They would get into the castle, and figure out what went wrong, and then Alai would reverse it, if possible.

The four traveled for six days. In that time, the group fought evil witches, escaped capture from some scheming dwarves, and solved the puzzle of how to appease the troll under the bridge.

For Alai, this journey was an opportunity to experience life in the kingdom he’d created. And maybe, just maybe, he’d be able to get to know these characters better and ease their hostilities toward him. That last thing didn’t work out so well. Lysavisa still had to be given a reason not to kill him, while Zivae and Tythius constantly hurled insults at him.

Then one night, the stars were aglow, shimmering in the pitch black sky. Lysavisa and Zivae were setting up the tents along the edge of a cliff. Alai looked for Tythius, and found him sitting on a small ledge just next to a small waterfall.

“Do you mind if I sit next to you?”

“Go ahead.” Tythius didn’t even turn to acknowledge his existence.

“Can you explain something to me? I didn’t write any of the mayhem that Indigo has caused, and I’m going to do what I can to make it better, but everyone, especially Lysavisa, is still furious with me. Why?”

“We all have our own reasons to hate you. We don’t talk about them even with each other.”

“Look. I want to make everything better. But I can’t help if you guys don’t let me. What’s your problem?”

“Why did you make me a villain? Why did you turn me into this-” Tythius pointed at himself. “I don’t even know what I am anymore. Why’d you do it?”

“I needed someone who’d make the story move forward. A goal for Indigo to reach.”

That shrill mocking tone returned. “Ha! Should have known. You’re nothing but a blockhead who doesn’t care about anything but his fancy stories. Thanks for reminding me! Bye now!” Tythius turned to leave.

“Wait, no! Look, I made you a villain for practical reasons, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care! Why are you so angry at me?”

“I had a LIFE before all of this, you know. But that didn’t work for your story, so you just changed me into a monster. Because you’re Alai Casterwood, world class author and blockhead.”

“Tythius, geez!” Alai said. “I actually want to know about who you were before you were my antagonist! I never wrote you a decent backstory. I just assumed you were always evil. Maybe I can fix some of that now. Just tell me.”

“Fine,” said Tythius, harshly. “I was raised in a village on the southern edge of Vayecleeven. Hot summers, mild winters without snow. . . long story short, nice place. I was clever and charming, and I was going places. Then well. . . I don’t know what happened to me. You, I guess. But I started thinking about evil plans to take over Vayecleeven, and spells to make my enemies suffer for eternity. . . it was a small desire at first, but it grew and grew until it consumed me. I left my hometown to pursue dark magic and then, somehow I became your perfect villain. Causing mayhem left and right.” He made a quick chopping motion to show this, then continued.

“I don’t know what repulses me more, the fact that people begged for their lives at my feet and I killed them anyways, or that I really enjoyed watching it happen at the time. I was even worse than Indigo is now. After the story ended, and your character won, I started to remember that clever boy in that small village. Part of me wants to return to there, and return to that version of myself. Part of me doesn’t even know who that was, the image blurred by my transformation. Once you left the story, things quickly fell apart for me.”

“I’m sorry. I had no idea. . .”

“Thanks to you, I don’t know who the hell I am anymore. All anyone sees me for is that monster you created. That’s why I’m furious. You took my future, and any hope I had, then turned me into an ugly monster. Why’d you have to make me your villain?! Why couldn’t you just leave me alone, you blockhead!?”

“I DIDN’T take your future, Tythius. It’s still ahead of you! You can’t change the past. But you can change the future. If you want to change yourself, you can! You can still go back! Make it mean something!”

“How could I?!? How could anyone possibly accept me now if everyone thinks of me as the monster you made me all those years ago, Alai? And even if they did, would it really matter at that point?” He sighed. “I just wish more people knew me for the tall magic kid in the village than the supervillain you created.”

Alai smiled. “You know, you may have just made a self-fulfilling wish. I knew you as that kid in the village. Just now, with only your words to guide me! You sounded so happy about your home and your life. More people know you for that kid now, even if it’s just one person!”

Tythius smiled back, just a little. “You know, that’s already helping. We should probably get back. The others are going to be SO mad at us, just sitting here while they did all the work.”

“Yeah. Good idea.” They got up and walked back. Alai was aglow at finally making something better in his fictional world. Maybe, just maybe, that was the key. . .

Slowly, Alai learned more about his own world. There was far more to it than he’d ever written! After his conversation with Tythius, they grew closer. He’d never thought he could have such a meaningful relationship with his antagonist. And he finally found out Zivae’s reasons for hating him:

“All my life, I’ve been nothing more than a sidekick, thanks to you! I’m my own person you know! If it wasn’t for me, we wouldn’t even have a plan! Why, why, why are you so sexist?”

“Sexist? How am I sexist, Zivae?”

Zivae’s shrill angry voice ranted. “You have a male hero and a male villain. Your little story has so few female characters I can count them on my fingers! I am one of the top female characters, and I don’t even have a last name or a decent backstory. And all I do is follow Tythius around! Why couldn’t you have a female villain? There needs to be equal representation in villainy! Why couldn’t I be your villain? I’d make a much better villain than Tythius!”

“I’m sorry, Zivae, I hadn’t even noticed-- ”

“Yeah. And that’s my problem with you.”

“Wait. Why do you think you’d be a better antagonist than Tythius? Do you have any evil plans? Anything I should be worried about?” 

“Oh yeah! Once we’re done getting Indigo out of power, I plan to take the castle for myself, then use my army to take over West Pamdolla, then East Pamdolla, and maybe kill Tythius if he gets in my way. Then, I’ll cast my Mega Plus Death spell and use it to kill all the ungrateful peasants who tried to bring down my rule! Maybe I’d make peasants fight to the death while I watch comfortably in my castle! I’ve got plenty of plans!” Zivae looked at Alai’s disgusted face before adding, “Oh crap. Did I just say that aloud?”

“Yep. . .” Alai was horrified at first but then saw something else. “And since Tythius wishes to retire . . . Oh! So much potential I hadn’t even seen!”

Zivae perked up. “Really?”

“Tell you what, Zivae. If I ever write a sequel for Another Day on Fire, you’ll be my antagonist. Tythius can go back to his village in southern Vayecleeven and try to put his life together, and you can replace him. It already sounds like you’ve got some terrifying ideas. I’ll work with you on those. It works out perfectly!”

“This is so exciting!” Zivae looked like she wanted to jump up and down. “Thank you, Alai! You won’t regret this!”

“Uh-huh. . .”  Even as Zivae said this, Alai was already starting to. She did just prove herself to be totally evil. . . he wasn’t sure if that was a good thing!

There was still one character Alai had yet to unravel: Lysavisa. And that seemed like an impossible goal. Lysavisa was still clearly very angry, and the fact that the others weren’t seemed to be making her more suspicious. Anytime he even got close to her, she’d turn  and walk away. Alai guessed her ager had something to do with about that horrific knife injury in her leg. But he couldn’t find out for sure because Lysavisa wouldn’t even talk about him like he was a person, let alone talk directly TO him. He thought that maybe he just needed to give her some time to warm up. But days went by, and as the four neared Magliniba, Lysavisa became increasingly aggressive.

Like boiling water left unchecked overflows, so does suppressed anger. And that’s what happened on the final night of the journey to Magliniba. Alai was sleeping in his tent when a voice woke him:

“Get up. Now.” A raspy voice.

“What?” responded a sleepy and annoyed Alai. “It’s still nighttime!”

“I said get up. NOW!” The voice got louder, clearly not willing to answer questions or any nonsense.

“All right!” Alai got up. “What are we doing?”

“Follow me, Alai.” The figure finally held up a lantern. It was Lysavisa, though that should have been easy enough to guess by the harsh tone in her voice.

“What’s going on? And where are Tythius and Zivae?”

“They aren’t going to be able to hear you. If you try to call attention to yourself, I will show you a world of hurt. If you don’t follow me, I will hunt you down and strangle you. There are so many things I could do to you and an equal amount of ways you could test my patience. Basically, if you don’t do what I say, I’ll make you wish you were never born. Are we clear on that, you bratty coward?”

“Lysavisa, wha-”

“Do I have to make myself clearer?! Because I will be more than happy too, you bas-”

“Yes! We are clear! You don’t have to do anything more!”

“Good.” she said, even though her gritted teeth and voice seemed to indicate nothing was good at all. “Then follow me.”

She walked towards a gathering of trees. Alai reluctantly followed, trembling as he cautiously trailed behind her. He resisted every urge to hide. He wasn’t sure what to be more scared of: Lysavisa’s burning bitter hatred for him or all of the things that could happen if to him if they were alone, in the dark. As a writer, his imagination led him to some dark places.

The forest was unlike any they’d ever seen: the majority of trees only had the slightest bit of brown and leaves shaped exactly like triangles. But by far the weirdest thing about it was that most everything in the forest was not trees, but instead very large mushrooms. There were plain red ones that were tall and covered most of the treetops, and there were red ones with stripes that were short and barely reached halfway up the trees.

Alai tried to mask his fear by using the Vayecleeven countryside scene. “Oh, I know this place! The mushroomwood forest! You know, in the original draft of my novel, I had a whole page just devoted to the type of mushrooms here!” The frequent cracks in his voice proved he wasn’t doing well. “There was one really small blue mushroom that could heal any injury if you just rubbed it on your body. There was also a spotted brown mushroom that if you touched, it would shrink you to the size of an ant! My editor told me to cut it out of the final draft, but it was a really magical place! I wonder if those mushrooms are still around. . ..”

“Stop here.”

“Lysavisa, why are we out here?”

Lysavisa ignored his question. “I don’t know how you made the others believe you, but I want to let you know I didn’t fall for any of that baloney you gave them. You’re a liar and a coward, running away from your own stories once the content catches up to you. So, answer me honestly, Alai: did you enjoy writing about people  suffering?”

“How many times to I have to tell you?” Alai asked, with fear creeping into his voice. “I didn’t write any of this!” His heart started to pound as he said this, desperate to get out of the forest without Lysavisa making his imagination reality. “Why don’t you believe me?”

“I’m not sure you realize this, Alai, but just because I wasn’t a character in your book doesn’t mean I’m not affected by it. I have a life you know, and it was just as real as Indigo’s or Zivae’s, or any of the other characters. What you did to me was inexcusable and unforgivable, and that’s why I have to do this.” Lysavisa  reached into her pouch for something, but Alai couldn’t tell what.

“Do what?” Alai asked, though he was slowly beginning to figure out that his imagination may not have led him  astray after all.

When Lysavisa’s hand appeared again, there was a dagger in it. Alai ran as fast as his legs could carry him. But as he ran, faster and faster, Lysavisa was always right behind him, knife in hand. Her leg injury didn't appear to hamper her speed at all, and likely only increased her determination. Every once in a while, she’d wince and yelp a little, but it was never enough to stop her.

Then, Alai tripped on a rock. Lysavisa pinned him down. She was incredibly strong, and Alai found it difficult to move.

“Oh, Lysavisa. What happened to you?”

“Oh, you want to hear it again? You really did enjoy yourself, you venomous snake! Let me dictate your own story to you. There was a small town on a mountain in southwestern Vayecleeven. Indigo and his goons came. The mayor of the town begged the army to leave their town alone, but that made everyone in Indigo’s army move even faster. They drowned the mayor in the local well; set fire to every building; killed people for no reason.

“I was hiding in the bushes, and I escaped harm for a while. As much as I wanted to help, I could only watch, or I would become one of them. Then, one of Indigo’s goons stabbed me with the very dagger I am holding now. I thought for sure I would be killed. . . or worse.

“Then, Zivae beat the crap out of my attacker. I was the only survivor in that whole town. I always swore that when I was stronger and smarter, I would find the person responsible, feed their own organs to them, and stab them with this dagger. So thank you, Alai, for coming back to your world so I can fulfill my wish.”

“Lysavisa, that was Indigo. All of that was Indigo, not me. I never wrote any of that, and I’m sorry that this happened to you. But killing me won't do anything. Take your experiences, and make them mean something.”

“It's already being done. And that was a coward’s speech.” With that, Lysavisa got ready to murder Alai. He struggled and squirmed around as much as he could, but he failed to get free from her grip. Why did everyone in his own dimension have to be stronger than him and hate him?

“Whoa! Stop it right there, Lysavisa!” It was Zivae.

“Stay out of this!” Lysavisa told her.

“No! Why are you trying to kill the person who can make things better?”

“He’s a liar, coward, and a twit. Whatever he told you and Tythius, he was lying about all of it.  He killed everyone from my hometown!”

Alai looked past Zivae and saw one of the mushrooms he’d been talking about earlier. They were still here! Maybe he could use them to help her. . . he could see her leg injury, horrific and damaging. Maybe that healing mushroom could change this situation around. . .

“Lysavisa. I know how we can heal that injury of yours.”

Lysavisa lifted her eyebrows, just a little, but this alone wasn’t enough. “Why should I listen to anything you have to say?”

“Look. I see one of those blue healing mushrooms like I was talking about before. It’s right there by that tree to your left. Just rub it on your leg, and the injury will heal!”

“I don’t believe you.”

“You don’t have to, Lysavisa. Zivae, can you find it and get it for her?”

Zivae quickly retrieved it and brought it back. “Just try it!”

Lysavisa let Alai go and took the mushroom. “I’m only doing this to prove to you that Alai has been lying about everything all along.”

Lysavisa rubbed the mushroom on her leg. Right in front of her eyes, her injury healed itself. Sparkles were everywhere on her leg as this happened, and they faded when it was fully healed. Lysavisa didn’t appear grateful at first, more like curious. For a long time, there was just silence.

“Why’d you do it?”

“Why what?”

“I tried to kill you! You could have just taken advantage of my injury, gotten free and then ran far into the forest. But instead, you healed me. Why?”

“Because you have a life, and your life is just as important as my characters in the original novel. I want to help the people of Vayecleeven, just as I’ve been trying to say all along. I needed to prove that to you.” Then, he just looked at Lysavisa for a long time, wondering what she would do next.

“Thank you. I guess you’re not that bad after all.” She paused, and then added, “That being said, you’re still a twit!”

“What? Why?”

“You’re a twit because you play with people’s lives like a god and don’t see the consequences until things get out of hand.”

Alai realized something. When he’d written Another Day on Fire, he had just focused on one piece and was completely oblivious to the rest. If he had learned anything on this journey, it was that there was a lot he’d missed. He had missed Tythius’s story completely. He had given everything just a few brief thoughts except for one person: Indigo. And somehow, it had dealt such heavy damage upon Vayecleeven that the kingdom was in ruins. And none of that would have happened if it wasn’t for him.

“You’re right, Lysavisa. I am a complete twit. But we can still fix things. We need to take Indigo down, now.”

“What are we still doing in the mushroom forest, then?!” Lysavisa asked. “We need to keep moving!”

“Ok, but we may want to take more of those healing mushrooms first. As well as  some other magic mushrooms. Just as a precaution.”

The three of them each took a handful of magic mushrooms from the forest, put them in a small container, then continued on their journey. Within a few hours, they had reached the palace in Magliniba. Through some spells, sorcery, and old fashioned brute force, the four made their way through the security of the palace. They outfitted themselves with armor and upgraded weapons, then got to the doors which lead to the throne room.

Unfortunately, it was surrounded by a small army of palace guards. Luckily, Alai did happen to know Indigo’s #1 enemies, and Thythius and Zivae were so much of a distraction that all of the palace guards instantly chased after them, letting Alai and Lysavisa enter the throne room.

 In the throne room Alai finally found the person who caused this mess: Indigo. There he was, sitting calmly on his throne. Was he waiting for them?

“Indigo,” Alai said the name, full of burning anger.

“Alai Casterwood,” Indigo said the name, with even more rage. “You finally came back for me. I was hoping it would be you who found me. Wait, who’s she?”

Here, he pointed at Lysavisa, in a full suit of glittering green Saharhium armor which she had found in the armory. It was a special type that Alai had created, forged from emeralds, iron, and a whole lot of magic that made it as stronger than an ox. It was perfect for sword duels, which was good because in Lysavisa’s hand there was a very sharp sword that she had every intention of using.

“Hello, Indigo. Let’s duel.” She turned to Alai. “Leave. This is my fight, and my fight alone.”

“No. It’s not.” Indigo replied. “Alai, I challenge you to a duel to the death! But we’re going to do that thing where we pick someone to fight in our honor because I’m too important to die. I assume this girl is whom you summon?”

Alai wanted to protest this, but before he could, Lysavisa said “Yes. I will fight in his honor.”

“Lysavisa, no! This isn’t part of the plan! Don’t do this!”

“This is my fight, Alai. I was created for this.”

“Well then, she shall fight to the death. I summon my strongest knight!”

A fourth figure walked in. He also had green Saharhium armor, and a sword identical to Lysavisa’s. He looked tough and bulky. He smiled at Lysavisa with yellow teeth, which were probably sharper than a razor blade.

“Will fight!” he said. And the duel began.

Lysavisa lunged at the man, swinging her sword left and right. Alai was horrified, he stood quietly shivering in place. But if he wanted to really fix things, he had to put aside that inner terror and catch up with his old protagonist. Where did it all go wrong?

“What happened to you, Indigo?” Alai asked.

“You really don’t know? I didn’t know you were THAT dumb.”

“What did I do to you?”

“At the beginning of the novel, I was nothing. At the end, I had found four friends, and together we stopped the evil wizard apprentice, Tythius, from completing his plans to take over the world. Then, it turned out that I was the king’s long lost nephew, and then I became ruler of Vayecleeven, etcetera. You remember because you wrote it.”

As Indigo said this, Lysavisa struck her sword against her opponents. They  clashed fiercely. Lysavisa pulled her sword away and swung at her opponent’s knee, but he quickly defended himself.

“Yes, I know about that, Indigo. What happened next??”

“You believe that just because you’re a writer that you can play with people’s lives. You believe that you know exactly what you’re doing. You’re so arrogant, you decided to create Vayecleeven! You and I, Alai, we are so alike. We are both rulers and we are both connected to this kingdom in such a special way. We even look a little alike!”

“What’s your problem, then?”

“You made me insincere and so lonely, Alai. Once I got in power, one way or another I drove those four friends away. As time went on, you made me lose everything except for my power and my ambition.”

Alai then understood what had happened. Eventually, the faults he’d given Indigo had taken over, and everything was doomed to fail from there. All this time, he’d believed that something other than himself had turned Vayecleeven upside down. Now, he knew that it really was his fault that Indigo had gone crazy.

The clash of swords continued. Alai looked towards Lysavisa. She was clearly losing now. She still defended herself, but she was slowly being cornered by the man with yellow teeth. His eyes glowed with malevolence.

“What’s a matter, Alai?” Indigo asked, in a mocking and insulting tone. “Just figured out everyone here is doomed? I thought you were the creator of everything, and that this was your world.”

This was all his fault. Everything in this story was coming to a close, including the lives of his beloved characters. Lysavisa was doomed. So were Tythius and Zivae, somewhere in this castle being chased by a zillion palace gaurds. For a minute, all hope Alai had of fixing things was lost. Alai bowed his head in either shame or remorse for the mess all around him. If only there was something he could do to help her. . .

And then he remembered. The mushroom container! He checked his pocket for it. Please be there, Alai thought to himself.

They were. There were a variety of magic mushrooms from the forest. Maybe one of them could help Lysavisa. The moment of hopelessness passed.

“Take a look at this, Alai. Your friend is about to die. Tythius and Zivae are far away, and I have you just where I want you. Face it. You made me so powerful that you gave me the abilities to destroy you, my own author!”

“You’ve spoken too soon! Me and my friends aren’t done just yet.” Alai said, beaming. “People can surprise you, your own characters included.” He smiled at Indigo as he threw the container. “Lysavisa! Catch!”

Both Lysavisa and her opponent saw the container of magic mushrooms fly through the air. Lysavisa poked her sword at her opponent. It didn’t hurt him, but it threw him off course for just long enough for Lysavisa to grab the container.

She looked in the container and saw the mushrooms. Alai looked to Lysavisa, then to her opponent, worried that one false move would lead Lysavisa to her doom.

Lysavisa smiled and got an idea when she saw the contents. Still defending herself from sword attacks, she waited for just the right moment. Then, with her left hand, she threw all of the mushrooms at her opponent’s face. Most missed their target, but one small brown mushroom managed to hit him. Right before Alai’s eyes, the man got smaller and smaller until he was the size of an ant. She was a quick thinker, resourceful too, and this shrinkification proved it.

Alai looked at Lysavisa’s now shrunken opponent and smiled a wide grin. Lysavisa gave a shout of triumph then said: “Now to deal with Indigo!” She turned to him, an expression of pure rage painted across her face. She looked to her sword, then to Indigo. For a minute, Alai thought that she was going to stab Indigo.

“Lysavisa, I know this is a person that makes you very ANGRY. Please do not do what I think you are about to do.”

Lysavisa appeared to ignore Alai’s words. She charged at Indigo, sword in hand.

Indigo panicked. “No! Stop her!” He tried to run away, but Lysavisa’s rage fueled her in such a way that there was no escape from it or from her.

Just when it looked like she was going to kill Indigo, she lowered her sword. “The only reason I’m not hurling this into your ice cold heart is because your brain is about the size of a fly, and I feel sorry for you. But don’t think you won’t pay for your crimes.”

After a few hours, the four had gotten together and were sorting stuff out, and saying their goodbyes. Zivae decided she was going to continue her villainous pursuits right there. Her predecessor, Indigo, had been thrown into the dungeon.

“What are you going to do, when Tythius and Lysavisa get you to your world?” Zivae asked Alai.   

“Simple. Write a sequel. And I’m going to make it far better than Another Day on Fire!”

Tythius interjected here. “You’re not going to force me into being a bad guy, right?”

Alai gave his former antagonist a smile. “No. After this, you’re a free man. You can go back to your hometown, no worries of me dragging you back here! Zivae is more than happy to pick up where you left off.” Alai paused before saying “With your permission, though, I’d like to fill the readers in about your past, as well as what happens to you, after all this.”

“I’d like that,” Tythius responded. “But there’s one more thing: now that Indigo is in the dungeon, who’s going to be your new protagonist?”

Alai smiled and pointed at Lysavisa. “I think I found her.”

“Whoa whoa whoa! Did I hear you right? Me, the protagonist of your new story?”

“I think you proved yourself worthy. You’re tough and strong, but also have a lot of heart. All I’m going to do is point you in the right direction. Then, you’ll be a nearly unstoppable force, fighting for all of Vayecleven. I won’t make another mistake and re-shape your personality for my own convenience. That’s how I let down Tythius and Indigo. You’re a warrior, Lysavisa. Whatever happened to Mr. Creepy Yellow Teeth guy, anyway?”

“Oh!” Zivae smiled. “He’s perfect! If I’m going to be a good villain, then I need an army. Why not add someone to that army who has personal issues with my new enemy? The shrink effect will wear off eventually.”

“Oh come on. You expect that clown to defeat me?”

“Well, don’t get ahead of yourself Lysavisa. You still have to find a way to defeat my army AND get over the other obstacles Alai will probably have planned. But  we’ve gotten off of the subject of getting Alai home.”

“Right, we should probably get going,” Tythius said. “Alai, we need to get you back to the “real” world, I guess.”

“Hey, that reminds me, Tythius. How did you three manage to find out about me and your own fictionality?”

At this, Tythius chuckled. “Remember, how in the original novel there was that sorceress that lived in the mushroomwood forest? Well, let’s just say she turned out to be one of your better characters.”  

“I want to hear EVERYTHING,” Alai replied. “There’s a long way to go back.”

“Actually. . .” said Tythius. “It was a lot of effort for us to get to your world, but you can easily be transported back.”

“Seriously? How?”

“Someone from our world has to get you unconscious. That's it, really.” said Zivae.

“Last time, I knocked you unconscious to get you here. Sorry about that, by the way,” Tythius added. “It might be a little easier getting you back if we just use a sleeping spell. We can do it right now if you like.” 

At this, Alai hesitated. On one hand, he wanted to go back to his own world and write about this strange experience. On the other, he loved being in Vayecleeven and wanted to stay with his old antagonists, and new friends.

“If I do go back. . . am I ever going to see any of you again?"

“You’ll see all of us again, Alai. I am certain,” responded Lysavisa. “We won’t visit you anymore. But you’ll visit us when you write that sequel.”

“And you’ll always see us in your dreams and imagination,” Zivae chimed in.

“Well then,” he said. “Let’s do this. And let me just say, it was a wonderful, but slightly terrifying experience to meet you all in person.”

After everyone got their goodbyes in, Zivae and Tythius started chanting in a language Alai couldn’t understand. The whole world went black, just for a minute. Then, Alai woke up, back in his own world. But not quite where he expected.

It was a different room than the one he had seen Tythius in. The walls were whiter than ivory, and he was in a bed  and his father was sitting in one of the two chairs next to him, a look of great concern and worry on his face. He could see equipment hovering just above the pillow, all of which was hooked up to him. Suddenly, there was just a glimmer of hope on his father’s face as he saw his son open his eyes.

“Kiddo! You’re awake!” His father rushed to his side. “You’re finally awake!”

“Uh . . . dad. . . where am I?”

“Kiddo, you’re in the hospital! We were so scared when we found you in that hallway. You wouldn’t wake up. . . ”

“What happened?”

“You’ve been in a coma for six days!”

His father went on and on, but his words were filtered out by Alai’s mind.  If he’d indeed been in a coma for three days, then what was the adventure he had gone on? Was it all just a dream? Was being kidnapped by Tythius, or being almost killed by Lysavisa in the mushroom forest, or that conversation with Indigo in Magliniba fake? Or, and this was a stranger answer still, could it all have been real somehow?

It didn’t matter, what mattered was writing it all down. As soon as Alai got the chance to, he wrote about everything within a few hours. This time, he’d get it right, make Zivae the villain she wanted to be and have Lysavisa as his hero. When he was finally finished, he read it to himself. And the story was more magical than Another Day on Fire ever could have been.

The End

About the Author:

Zoe Star Harwood is 14 and lives in El Sobrante. She attends El Cerrito High School and plans to go to a UC college after graduating high school. Someday she hopes to become... oh she doesn't know, as long as it involves writing she's happy! Her favorite authors are Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, George Orwell and Grace Lin. Her favorite book is The Illuminae Files. Zoe wishes to thank her grandmother, Marie Livick for encouraging her to write. 

Be sure to read all winning stories from the Teen SF Writing Contest:

1st Place: The Tower
2nd Place: Hidden Beauty
3rd Place (Tied): Twilight Promenade 
3rd Place (Tied):  Wildest Dreams Ruined