Aug 05
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Igniting Writing ‘Explore’ Contest 2019, Submission by Vince from Lake Erie Ink

Some good news to share with you all - we have our first entry for the Igniting Writing ‘Explore’ creative writing contest, in collaboration with Fighting Words, Young Writers Project and Lake Erie Ink! Our first submission was sent in by Vince, from Lake Erie Ink, and it’s a great read, capturing the rebellious streak of bored teenagers and a supernatural twist! Have a read for yourself below:

Exploration was a godsend to the kids of Mountain Brook Street. Due to the amount of space around them deemed ‘private property’ there weren’t many places for people to hang out. Often times the kids on the street found creative ways to get around the rules or odd places to chill.

A lot of the families on Mountain Brook Street had their kids grow up there and then all leave. It was a very move-in-then-move-out kind of place. Despite that stigma, there was a small cast of families that never quite got the memo. One of these families was the Beckers. Thomas and Julie Becker had bought the house when they were newlyweds and despite having three kids of varying ages they hadn’t ever thought of moving out. Their youngest child, Richie, was definitely the most adventurous of the group. He was the youngest of the three, at 15. His two brothers, Randall and Donnie, were 21 and 30 respectively, so they were already out of his life at a young age. This meant that family visits and reunions were an absolute drag for him. On one hand he got to see his siblings, but on the other, he’d get scolded by old people he barely knew for trespassing, cheating, or whatever he’d done that week.

It was July 18th and his three cousins and two uncles were coming to town. He despised them and it’d been the sixth time this year that they decided to come ‘visit’ for a week. They all knew the real reason why they came over so often, but no one wanted to argue about it. Money was thin these days and, likewise, so was Richie’s patience about this whole ordeal. Summer vacation was an evil that he would never wish on anyone (other than his cousins, of course). He was alone to do anything his free will granted and he wasn’t happy about that. Richie longed for a chance to do mischievous things with others. He just hoped high school was going to be the haven for chaos that he’d always dreamt of. All his previous friends were one-off jerks who lived in the city and until this summer he never realized what it was like to not have people around. Luckily for him, there were a few younger neighbourhood kids that he could hang out with. One of which was always open for causing a ruse.

Gregory Palm was the perfect mixture of true neutral and chaotic evil. He lived with his parents, four siblings, three cats and a canary. Richie never really saw him as more than an acquaintance, but it was evident the feeling was not double-sided. Gregory trusted Richie with his deepest regrets and despite being a year younger was very trustworthy himself.

Today was a reckoning day for sure. Today was the day that Richie was going to do the impossible. He was going to ditch a family reunion. Gregory had told him about this place he found while wandering a few weeks prior, that was right between the steel mill and the salt mine (and processing plant) that had plagued them their whole lives. For a while ‘Private’ and ‘Property’ were the only two words he knew how to read besides the omnipresent ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘because’. It was just one of those things the kids of Mountain Brook Street grew up with.

Richie set off on his expedition early that morning. It was about 8:30am and the guests were due to arrive in about an hour. He yelled, “I’m going to Gregory’s house, see you later, bye!” very quickly towards the direction of his parents’ room as he stormed down the staircase to the front door. He practically leapt out of the house and slammed the door behind him. This was the beginning of a very long day. He made his voyage down the sidewalk to Gregory’s abode. It was definitely what people would classify as a fixer-upper, but it still managed to be menacing in its own way. Before even stepping foot into the yard he heard the somewhat loud voice of his friend. Gregory hung out the second floor window, dressed in a flannel and a vacation-esque floral t-shirt. He was waving down at Richie, who seemed to be shocked by the level of incompetence he was witnessing.

“Gregory, what are you doing up there? Aren’t you scared of falling? You could get hurt!”

“Shut up!”

After he gave his response Gregory pushed the window closed and ran downstairs faster than what seemed possible. He swung the door open and skidded to a halt in front of Richie. He was breathing heavily, hands on his knees.

“I told you, dude, I do a lot of things I don’t really think about first.”

“Seems about right!” Richie laughed.

“I didn’t ask for a response from the peanut gallery, did I?”

“Ugh, can it! Where is this crazy forest tunnel thing you were talking so much about?”

“Oh, yeah! Um, follow me!”

The walk was pretty long by any 14-15 year old’s standards, so there were frequent stops for water and jokes until they finally arrived at about 9:45am. Amongst the clouds of factory gas and industrial flower gardens there was a hole in the ground. It wasn’t an uncommon sight in the built-up areas between the many manufacturing plants, but something seemed to draw Richie closer.

“So, this is what you were so crazy about?”

“Yeah, I can assure you I didn’t just bring you out here to any old hole!”

“Oh? What’s so special about this hole, then?”

“Look at this!”

Gregory took Richie by the arm and pulled him forward to look down.

“A staircase, Gregory?”

“Yeah, pretty cool, right?”

“I wonder what’s down –”

He was cut off by Gregory yelling, “Not it!” out loud and pulling his hand away from his friend’s arm.

Richie sighed. “So, you’re asking me to go down this suspicious spiral staircase in the middle of the woods between two big factories… by myself.”

“When you put it that way, it makes me seem like a jerk, ouch!”

“Well right now I don’t think that’s far off from the truth!”

Richie crossed his arms and turned around.

“Fine, fine, take this –” Gregory took off his bag, rummaging through the top portion and pulling out a Swiss Army knife on a keychain with pepper spray and a mini flashlight. “If you see anyone super crazy down there, you’ve got a weapon! I’ll stand up here and keep watch; I think our parents might be looking for us. I may or may not have told them I was hanging out with Tommy from over on Redwood Drive.”

“Gregory Marvin Palm, you lied to your entire household about where you were going? They have phones, you know!” This terrified Richie, although it did not cause him to leave this crazy place so soon.

He sighed, turning back around and releasing his arms from their criss-crossed position. Richie stepped on to the first step of the spiral staircase and smiled. “If I don’t make it out alive, put it on record that I told ya so.”

Gregory nervously laughed, as the other boy walked slowly down the descending pipe into the earth below.

It seemed to go on forever, down into the dark depths. Despite only being lit by the keychain flashlight, Richie could tell that the place was rather clean for what he would assume to be a sewer. He reached the bottom and walked down the long corridor extending from the final landing. There was an old-fashioned wooden door held together by metal and century old nails. He brought himself forward to grasp the doorknob and turned it. On the other side of the door, there was a huge open room, with slits in the ceiling, like water vents for rain. The walls and floor were decorated with flowers, fruits and vegetables of all kinds. It was a marvellous cacophony of darkness and life. Richie was comforted by the familiar smells, which brought him closer to the greenery.

All of a sudden, the door behind Richie slammed and he heard a ringing noise in his head. He had the Swiss Army knife in one hand and the rest of the keychain in the other. The ringing died down and he started hearing a shaky, strained voice. It wasn’t loud, yet he could still hear it. Panicked, he ran for the other door in the room that he hadn’t seen when he walked in. It was open, so he figured there was a way out somehow. The voice went in and out in his head. It sounded like a test recording of some kind. As he walked cautiously to the door, he yelled, “Gregory, this isn’t funny! Is this why you wanted me to come down here? To lock me in? You’re sick y’know!”

The voice shuddered before responding. “Who?”

Richie stepped into the second room, pulling the door open completely. There was a huge machine against the right wall, with someone in a black cloak standing in front of it. Richie was petrified with fear, which caused him to stand there blankly. The person in the cloak turned, showing his skull-like face. “Oh, I wasn’t expecting anyone! Hey! I’m not too sure what’s going on, but you seem a little worried, how about we sit down?”

Before Richie could say anything, he was sat down at a table across from this crazy skeleton-esque man. The guy was so goofy, that he couldn’t help but laugh in almost terror from being so scared before. This was of course terrifying, but not to the extent he was preparing himself for.

“Oh – um, well, before you say anything, I should probably get off my chest that I am completely and utterly deaf. I cannot understand, or lip read, but! That machine in there is for telepathy! I can hear and speak to you through brain waves! Pretty cool, right? By the way, I’m Death! Death himself!” Death stuck out his hand for a shake.

Richie obliged, shaking his hand. He went to open his mouth, before realizing that he can’t just speak out loud. Once they stopped their handshake, he started to try to speak telepathically.

“So, you’re Death himself?”

“Yeah, pretty sure I am!”

“Why do you, like, live down here with plants? Don’t you kill things?”

“Ouch! Um, not exactly. Death is at the end of life, so honestly, my job is to nurture and care until they’re too weak to support themselves anymore.”

“Weird. Why are you deaf?”

“Why? Do you ever ask someone why they have cancer? Why do they have a pet? I mean, come on!”

“So you’re not going to tell me.”

Death sighs. “Hearing is just a foresight that I cannot ever truly obtain in this mortal form. What you see now is much like a hologram of who I really am. I’m the new Death and unlike most before me I don’t loathe Earth – I enjoy it. Much like people having to make sacrifices to be happy, I had to make a sacrifice.”

“Huh. I should probably get going. Gregory is probably freaking out right now –”

Richie went to stand, but Death got up before him and said, “Wait! Take this!” as he ran over to a potted plant with bright purple flowers. He walked back to Richie and handed it to him.

“You might not need this now, but here’s a token of my thanks for visiting. Just remember that even if you know things are a certain way, you don’t have to take it as it is. There are a million things you can do in life and I hope that you do all that you want to before I see you again. Take care and goodbye!”

Richie woke up in a cold sweat, in an empty sewer, next to a potted plant and a staircase. No door in sight.
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