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Our December Flash Contest was based on Creativity Prompt #181 (provided by Molly Torinus, Stone Soup contributor), which challenged participants to write a creation story for a fictional world of their own imagination. For the third consecutive month we set a record for number of submissions, all of them worthy of recognition. Molly's ingenious prompt led to a breadth of creativity, with creation stories for fully realized worlds containing mathematical sets with biblical influence to anthropomorphic clouds to the misadventures of a musical note. In the end, we selected our usual five winners and five honorable mentions. As always, thank you to all who submitted, and please submit again next month!

In particular, we congratulate our Winners and our Honorable Mentions, whose work you can appreciate below.

"Darkness" by Kimberly Hu, 9 (Lake Oswego, OR)
"Adventure to the Lost Kingdoms" by Tang Li, 9 (Palmetto Bay, FL)
"The Beginning, the End, the Rebirth" by Lui Lung, 12 (Danville, CA)
"The Fearful Cloud" by Julia Ma, 11 (Portland, OR)
"The World of the Grand Staff" by Maya Mourshed, 10 (Silver Spring, MD)

Honorable Mentions
"One Dance" by Audrey Billington, 10 (Hillsboro, IL)
"Math: The Origin" by Lucas Hinds, 13 (Lenoir City, TN)
"The Creation of Warland" by Sophie Li, 11 (Palo Alto, CA)
"Eternalia" by Brooke Negin, 11 (Kanata, ON, Canada)
"The Fourth Dawn" by Divya Srinivasan, 12 (Sammamish, WA)

Kimberly Hu, 9 (Lake Oswego, OR)


Kimberly Hu, 9

Where am I?

What am I?

Why am I here?

What even is this place?

Is this even a place?

What is happening?

I glance around. Complete darkness. Complete darkness is everywhere. There is only one word to describe it. Darkness. That’s it.

Silently, I repeat the questions over and over. Still, no answer.

I don’t know what I’m expecting. Here, there is just darkness and no accompaniment. Just nothing.

I am in the World Of Nothing Darkness.

I wonder, are there really any other creatures out there? Am I the first? Am I the last? Am I really the only one?

But deep down, I know it’s pointless asking. I am the first and last. I am the only one.

But the first thing I need is—

A name.

A name.

What even is a name? Something like Martha? No.

I am lone.

I am alone.

I am the only one in the complete darkness, the nothing. The World Of Nothing Darkness.

So yes, my name is Lone.

Will I stay here for eternity, with no meaning of creation, but then, where do I even come from? How did I end up here?

Those questions repeat in my mind over and over, and all the questions I have possibly asked, here in my mind. Those questions remain unanswered.

I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know what to think.

Can I even speak?

I search myself. I search my insides. I close myself, looking in the deeps of Lone. Of me.

And I find something surprising.

I find... the bit of creation that was used to create me.

But why is it left in me?

I find feelings.

I can feel?

What can I do?

Do I truly have a meaning for existing?

A spark of hope jolts through me.

Do I?

I dig deeper, willing myself.

I find creation.

More and more creation.

I find...

I can.

I can!

I, Lone, eagerly, willingly, opening my mind. I want to create a world. Not a nothingness world, a true world. Where peace can be found.

What will the world contain? A mysterious whispering voice asks me.

I feel more hopeful at the thought that another exists, but first I reply: A world full of creatures. Creatures that live in peace and harmony meaningfully, beings. I picture the creatures in my mind.

I can imagine!

Does my existence have a true reason now?

Now, I create.

I create more and more. Things I never imagined I could create. Plants—like flowers. Animals—like birds. More creatures—like kyones. Things that couldn’t be seen with the ordinary eye.

I create Artara, the world of pure magic and wondrous creatures. I create Universe, the world of mortality and simplicity.

I have created all.

My name is not Lone.

I don’t know what my true name is, just yet, but I will figure it out.

I, the creator of the Two Worlds, have finally learned that no one’s life is meaningless.

Mine included.

Tang Li, 9 (Palmetto Bay, FL)

Adventure to the Lost Kingdoms

Tang Li, 9

Introducing the Kingdoms

Plantasia: This kingdom was a clutch of forests and meadows. In this lush green territory lived all sorts of plants and animals as well as Plantasians. The Plantasians had the ability to create plants. Their enemy was the inhabitants of Virsca. Their king was Pothos and their queen was Lily. If humans didn’t protect nature, Plantasia would disappear.

Virsca: A kingdom full of devils and monsters, along with fire-breathing dragons. All these creatures were banned from the other kingdoms and were given this piece of land. The land was rough and many parts were covered with lava. All the trees were dead. No outsider has ever been able to get out of there alive. The Virsacans had the power to destroy things. Their enemy was the Plantasians. The land had no laws and no rulers.

Cloudpolis: In this kingdom made of clouds, everyone had flowing blue, pink, or white hair and their hair was as soft as silk. Their queen was Cloudia and their king was Cirrus. The cloud fairies collected children’s dreams and turned them into soft silky clouds. It was said that if the world below them ran out of dreams, Cloudpolis would disappear. Cloudpolisers was the name of its residents.

Munchville: A piece of land that was made of food. The houses were made of gingerbread and the windows were made of pretzels. And the mountains were crackers and cookies. The snow was ice cream. The clouds were made of cotton candy. And the rivers were made of juice. The residents were called Munchkins. Munchkins were short little people that always had snacks in their pockets. They only let you in if you have a snack! Their king was Ginger and their queen was Lollipop.

Aquamarina: Aquamarina was a land underwater. The water had magic in it so you could breathe underwater. The residents had seashells and sea stars as accessories. You had to have a pearl necklace to enter. It was like a pass. The cars were hippocampus-drawn carriages. Their king was called Tide and the queen was called Marina. The residents were called Aquapeople.


On a cold winter day, I was all snuggled up in my favorite couch and covered in a soft, comfy blanket by the fireplace, sipping on hot chocolate. Oh, silly me, where have my manners gone? I haven’t introduced myself!

My name is Tasha, Tasha Smithton. I am a teenage girl, working as a babysitter. Each time I babysit for an hour, I earn $10.35. Now, where was I again? Oh right, I was sitting on my comfy sofa when, all of a sudden, my phone rang loudly. I groaned and got out of my snug sofa.

It turned out to be a message from my sister Nania. She reminded me that my babysitter meeting was in five minutes and I had to hurry. How could I forget? I dressed myself so fast that I probably made a new record. I hurried out the door and raced to my meeting at a cafe around the corner. I managed to get to the meeting on time! On the way back home, I saw a sight that caught my eyes. There was a dark building with no light except for that of a candle. I didn’t know why, but I had a feeling that I should go in.

I walked through the door and a sweet scent filled the air. Hmm, it kind of smelled like peppermint. A tiny bell tingled as I cautiously made my way in. A short old man walking wobbly on a cane greeted me. His long white beard touched the ground and his sweet smile made me feel at home. Then I noticed stacks of books in the corner and on the shelves and realized this must be a library. A very old library. On his desk, there was a giant book covered with dust. The old man must've noticed me staring at that specific book so he handed it over to me. “This book belongs to my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Voyager Smith, and now you can have it,” he said in a low, raspy voice, almost whispering. I blew off the dust and my eyes stuck to the cover like duct tape. It showed the words, “Lost Kingdoms” mounted in gold letters. I thanked him and walked out the door.

When I got home, I opened the book and looked inside. What the book showed left me speechless. It was a hand-written map of the lost kingdoms! The map was like a rainbow; its colors shone like gemstones. I read a few sites but stopped when my room began to spin. Everything around me seemed to dissolve into nothing and the world turned green. I hit my head on something and then—darkness.

I opened my eyes and noticed that I had landed in one of the lost kingdoms! I felt something in my hand; it was light and flat. I looked in my hand and found out it was the map from earlier. I observed my surroundings. The grass was crispy green, the trees danced in the wind, the flowers smiled in the sun, the forest thrived with colors, and the animals had just woken up. I looked at the map and guessed I was in Plantasia (Plan-ta-sia). I sat up and rubbed my sore head. I had absolutely no idea of what to do. I walked around in this colorful place and noticed something I had not noticed before; it was empty.

Of course, there were a lot of animals and plants. But where were the Plantasians? Suddenly, roots shot out of the ground and wrapped around me like a python. A young woman, a little taller than me, stepped out of a willow tree's shadow. She had soft green hair, smooth glowing skin, and pointy ears. She wore a daisy garland on her head. Her eyes were the color of emeralds. She wore a shirt made of several blades of grass and a skirt swaying in the wind. Her shoes were minty green and had a little daisy on top as an accessory. In her right hand, she held a bow and arrow. She walked towards me cautiously, holding her weapon tightly in front of her. I wanted to tell her I was not dangerous, but I couldn’t because her roots had covered my mouth and tied my hands. As if she read my mind, she removed the roots. I gasped for air. She asked in a soft but firm voice, “What has brought you to our land?”, still staring at me suspiciously.

I looked at her straight in the eye and said, “I was reading about your land and ended up with my butt on your ground.” I guess the plantasian didn’t know what to do with me because she pointed her arrow at me and said, “Go to our king and queen; they will know what to do with you.”

She made me march down a rocky road and led me to a vast lake. Suddenly, with a wave of her hand, she made lily pads appear out of nowhere and set a trail. I stepped on one after the other, until it led me to a giant lily pad the size of a city. Really! On top of it was a giant castle glimmering in the sun. Around it, there were a million trees and tree houses. I stared at it in amazement. The girl seemed to notice my expression and said, “My name is Daisy! I am a guardian of the castle. I was out patrolling when you dropped out of the sky. I am bringing you to Queen Lily and King Pothos.”

When I got to the castle door, the guards looked at me warily until Daisy explained what had happened. They let me in and I came into a giant hall. Pictures of all different kinds of plants swarmed the walls. My favorite painting was the one with the stunning blue rose smack dab in the middle. As I admired the paintings, I failed to notice we had arrived at the throne room until Daisy nudged me on the side. Sitting on the thrones were Queen Lily and King Pothos!

Queen Lily had delicate, soft, silky green hair that went all the way down to her waist. Her dress, in different shades of green, touched the ground. Around her waist, she wore a yellow velvet belt lined up with green peridot. Her tiara was made up of a very rare type of dew drop. She was very slender and very tall. The king had a red bushy mustache. He wore a green cape lined with golden silk. Dew drops decorated the outline of the cape. He wore a green long-sleeved shirt and yellow pants. He wore a crown made of emeralds. I curtsied even though I wore baggy jeans. I explained everything to them and they nodded their heads in understanding.

Before I left, I asked a question. “How can I get back home?” Though this place was enchanting, I missed my family and friends.

“I cannot bring you back, but I know who can. Go to Aquamarina. There, you can find a wizard that can bring you back. You have to pass through all the other kingdoms to get to Aquamarina. Be careful at Virsca!” Lily warned.

“Wait, Aquamarina is underwater right? I can’t breathe underwater!” I said in concern.

“Don’t worry! The water is magical so you can breathe,” the king said. I brought some fruits and vegetables, some magical healing herbs, and a sword given by the king. I said my final goodbyes and was off on a fascinating adventure.

Outside of Plantasia was Virsca. I could see why the queen told me to be careful. The kingdom was deserted and dry. The cracks were filled with lava. Every plant in sight was wilting or dead. Bones covered the ground. They made awful crunching sounds when I walked on them. And the smell! It was a mixture of rotten eggs and stinky gym socks. That stench was enough to make a sewer rat lose its appetite. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it started to rain. And it wasn't our normal water rain. Oh no, it was icky sticky mud! P.U.! I dragged myself into the nearest cave I could find. Inside, there was a terrible smell. Kinda smelled like a wet dog. Suddenly, a single glowing eye came out from the cave’s darkness. Unfortunately, it belonged to a cyclops. The cyclops was tall as a sycamore tree. He had bumpy green skin, a yellow eye sitting squarely on top of his nose, drool dripping out of his mouth, shaggy brown clothes, and a giant club. And from the look on his face, he definitely wasn’t happy to see me. Raising his club, he charged straight towards me. My heart was beating so fast that I thought it was going to pop out of my chest. I ran out of there as fast as my legs could take me. I dashed until I was forced to stop in front of a super wide lava river. The cyclops caught up to me pretty fast and he captured me in his giant hands. Locking me in a cage, he brought me back to his cave. He began to prepare the fireplace to cook me in a stew. I took in my surroundings and found that there was a little crack (small for a cyclops) big enough for me to go through. I saw that there was also a giant owl trapped in another cage. Wanting to help him, I used my hair clip to open the lock. I quietly got to the owl's cage. I opened the lock and set him free. For helping him, he let me ride on his back so he and I could go to freedom. We flew through the little crack and were free!

We flew up and up until we reached Cloudpolis. The clouds were so soft; they felt like marshmallows! The owl said good luck to me and flew down. I walked for miles until I came upon a crystal clear castle. I gently knocked on the door and it flung open. I walked through the halls and came to a throne room. (Again!) But this time, it was completely different. The roof was held by columns of what seemed like silk. The thrones were puffy cumulus clouds. Sitting on them were Queen Cloudia and King Cirrus. Queen Cloudia wore a long dress made of silk. Her white, silky hair flowed in the breeze. She had light blue eyes and crimson lips. And her skin seemed to glow in the sun's reflection. On her head was a tiara made of water droplets. King Cirrus had darker eyes and red lips. His hair was a light shade of blue. He had navy pants, a white long-sleeved shirt, and a cape made of silk. They had a worried look on their face. After a long moment of silence, I had the courage to ask a question. “May I ask, Your Highness, why you brought me here?”

“It is because our kingdom is in danger. The Cloud Fairies suddenly stopped making clouds! And nobody knows why,” Queen Cloudia explained. “Since they produce clouds using silk from children’s dreams, I am guessing they either stopped dreaming or the silk the fairies created was stolen,” King Cirrus continued. “We brought you here because a prophecy said that when our kingdom is at risk, only the Daughter of Eve can save us. All we are asking you to do is help us figure out this mystery,” Queen Cloudia finished.

I agreed to the queen’s proposal and began to explore the castle. The first thing I did was find the Cloud Fairies’ room. There, I saw a few fairies with delicate clear wings and tender glowing skin. Their hair was long and silky, and it trailed down to most of their waists. The most common hair color in the group was pink. I asked the first fairy I met, whose name was Cindy, “What is the reason the silk began to disappear?”

“Well, we do our job every night. I swear! But when we go to sleep before sunrise, it’s gone!” Cindy replied. I asked the other fairies, but they all said the same thing. So it was confirmed: the silk was being stolen. I began to look for clues. The first thing I noticed was that by the window, the curtain was torn by something sharp. It couldn’t be a rock or a stick because the cut was too perfect. My best guess was a knife or a sword. Then I noticed there were cookie crumbs on the window sill. Hmm, the thief must be very hungry. When I looked out the window, there was a rope made of licorice. Black licorice. Blech! No offense, but I detested it. I wrote down the clues on a notepad and gave it to the queen.

“Hmm, it looks like the thief is from Munchville!” she declared. She let me use some clouds to make a winged horse. I decided to name the horse Marshmallow because her white coat just reminded me of one.

Just when I was about to leave, Cindy came running towards me and stopped to catch her breath. “May I join you on your adventure to Aquamarina?” she asked, huffing and puffing.

“Sure,” I replied. She got behind me on Marshmallow’s back and down we flew. Below us, we saw scrumptious treats and delicious food. Just looking at it made me drool. When Marshmallow landed, we got off and almost fell on our sitter-downers (AKA our butts). Some gingerbread people came to greet us. I explained everything and they said, “Well, all this sounds like the work of Sir Cookiehead. He works for our queen no matter what the order is." So, we went to King Ginger and Queen Lollipop’s castle. When I got to the throne room, the first thing I noticed was that the Munchkin guards were round and the rulers were even curvier. And I could tell why. They were eating chocolate chip cookies and munching on cakes. To drain that all down, they drank coke. And only coke. And if we didn’t scream, they wouldn't even know we were there. We demanded to know why in the whole wide world Sir Cookiehead would steal the Cloud Fairies silk.

“Well, I thought the silk was so beautiful! And I thought it would make a great dress!” Queen Lollipop said.

“But without the silk, there will be no more clouds in the sky!” Cindy exclaimed.

“Oh, I didn’t know that! Then we must return it at once!” Queen Lollipop declared.

After the Munchkins returned the silk, on Marshmallow’s back Cindy and I headed towards Aquamarina, our destination. The sea was shining in a shade of turquoise. As we dove into the ocean, I closed my eyes and prayed that we would be able to breathe. I opened my eyes and saw a pearl castle. Swarms of fish surrounded us. As we breathed and swam towards the castle, all of a sudden, the door cracked open. Even if the halls were filled with water, the walls still shone and the art was still beautiful. In front of me, I saw two thrones made of seaweed and decorated with seashells. Queen Marina wore a long tunic made of sea silk (a type of thread produced by a mollusk). The tunic was light and very delicate; it was blue with tiny pearls at the end. Queen Marina’s skin was as white as the pearl necklace and earrings she wore. Her hair was wavy and a light shade of turquoise. Her eyes were the color of the sky. And her tiara was made of crystal. King Tide wore a tunic the same as the queen except he had golden lining instead of pearls. He had a mustache that curved up like a wave. His eyes were black like the Mysterious Abyss. He wore a crown made of pearls. And they seemed surprised to see us. I asked them to let me see the wizard. I told them everything, from top to bottom. They hesitated as though they shouldn’t trust me. They said something that almost made me cry. “I am sorry, Tasha, Cindy, and Marshmallow, but you have to go through a challenge before we let you see the wizard. Here, you may have some food, just in case it takes a long time.” Queen Marina handed us a bag full of bread and a bottle of milk. King Tide led us to a door and shoved us in.

I looked around us at a whirling, spiraling maze! We walked through the maze, using our instincts and doing blind moves. Well, except for Marshmallow. She seemed to know the way. So, trusting our friend, we followed her out of the maze. Just when we were almost at the exit, we heard a scream for help. We used a silver string Cindy brought to lead us back there. Then, we walked toward the sound. We saw a young maiden fallen on the fiery ground right in front of a legendary Chimera. (A Chimera is a creature with a lion head and a goat’s head on the back. She has a serpent as a tail. The Chimera’s parents are Typhon and Echidna. Typhon is a giant serpent and Echidna is a half woman half snake.) Marshmallow wasted no time. She flew into the raging fire and took the young maiden out of it. Cindy healed the maiden with some herbs I got from Plantasia. Now, it was up to me to fight the beast. I took out the sword which King Pothos had given me and charged towards her. I threw the sword and, fortunately for me, it landed on her chest and she fell down dead. We then followed the line and got to the exit. There, we found a crystal cave.

Inside, the wizard sat on a wooden chair. A sickly green potion bubbled in a black pot slightly above the fireplace. There was also a table lined with ROY G BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) potions. On a nearby bookshelf, there were books about spells and potions. Nothing a wizard wouldn’t have. The wizard had a long, white, flowing beard, kind blue eyes, and wrinkles. Everything I would have imagined a wizard to have. But what surprised me most was his clothing. Instead of the usual blue velvet robe, he wore a tunic that looked so much like the night sky, I could practically see the stars twinkling. And not only that, the tunic seemed to magically evaporate at his feet. Instead of the typical navy hat, he wore a golden one that shone like the moon. The wizard was looking into his crystal ball so deeply that he didn’t even know I was there. It wasn’t until I knocked on one of the many crystals that he reluctantly pushed his head up. His eyes widened to the size of tennis balls when he saw me. Clearly, he hadn’t had many visitors. He jumped so high that his hat touched the roof. He rushed towards me and shook my hand so hard that I was sure it would fall off. Finally, after what seemed like a thousand hours, he spoke. “Welcome! Welcome! How may I help you?” he asked. I took a deep breath and managed to squeeze out the words, “Home, please.” He nodded and waved his hand in a spiraling circle that made me dizzy. I said good-bye to my friends and, in a whirl of wind, I was back in my bedroom. I opened the book and saw that all the pages wrote down what had happened to me. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Though I was filled with excitement, my eyelids drooped and I went to bed with the book in my hand. I dreamed of my adventure. Something told me my adventure wouldn't end just yet.

Lui Lung, 12 (Danville, CA)

The Beginning, the End, the Rebirth

Lui Lung, 11

“Status on Earth-21.”

It wasn’t a question, but a command. The Overseer’s voice was impassive, as if inquiring the time of day rather than a report on billions.

There was a tremble in my hands as I rushed to obey, like the unsteady beating of a frightened bird’s wing. Only the most esteemed of us were permitted to serve beneath the Overseer’s vast authority, suspended high above the rabble. To be chosen was a great honor, and to be cast aside was an even greater disgrace.

The Overseer looked on. The reflection of the earth in flat, black eyes was the only discernible detail through that cold, vacant mask. I awaited judgement with bated breath.

“Scrap it.”

I thought I’d surely misheard. “What?”

The thought that clung to my mind was how the Overseer made not a sound as they neared me, a wraithlike, soundless figure swooping in for its prey. “Scrap it, and start over. Mark Earth-21 as a fail.”

Fail. My gaze strayed back to the holographic image in a slow orbit before me. The patches of blue and white and green, the home to over seven billion lives. What did the Overseer see in it that defined it as a failure?

I knew I was toeing a dangerous line with the simple act of hesitation. My fingers hovered before the controls, unmoving and uncertain. It was a terrible thing, knowing that you held the power over another’s life in your own two hands.

“But we can still help them.”

The words had left my lips before I could stop them. They hung in the air before me, as if taunting me, for I could not take them back.

The Overseer’s gloved hands cut sharply through the planet, causing the projection to flicker. That masked face turned to me. “Do not forget your place. Human affairs are not of our concern.”

I deciphered the undertones of those words and swallowed dryly. It was the final warning I was to be given. The beginning, the end, the rebirth. The words ingrained into our mind. The birth of a new world resulted from the death of the previous. It was our way, destroying to create and start anew, the unvarying cycle wrought into our very beings. It was not my place to defy it. At least, this was all I could say to myself in consolation. I dipped my head into a brief nod.

I’m so sorry. This I wanted to say, but I could not. What value had my shame? What right did I have to remorse?

I blinked, watching the gradual tilts of the world before me. I could feel it coming, hear it in the silence.

“Status on Earth-22.”

Julia Ma, 11 (Portland, OR)

The Fearful Cloud

Julia Ma, 11

It was a rainy day. Thunder and lightning rolled across the sky. Rain poured down, Pounding on the world like a chorus of tiny bells. It was a dull kind of weather, and up in the sky, two clouds were arguing.

“It’s your first time having lightning!” exclaimed Gray. “Isn’t that exciting?” Misty hesitated.

“I don’t want to.” One of Gray’s wisps curled away in surprise.

“But...why? It’s so much fun!” Gray said, more confused now.

“But, what if it hurts?” Misty wailed. “I don’t want to! I don’t want to evaporate because the lightning is too hot!” Gray sighed. He’d had this conversation before when he taught other young clouds to make lightning. Misty seemed to have a problem with trying new things. Sometimes, she could be a real pain in the nimbus.

“Listen,” Gray said patiently, “it’s just like raining down. You tried it, and you liked it, right? Now you’re the cloud with the most rain in school.” Misty paused.

“True, but lightning looks so bright and hot. Remember what happened to Foggy?” Gray winced. He did remember. Foggy had tried to make lightning once and had evaporated because she hadn’t focused hard enough.

“The only reason she evaporated was because she didn’t concentrate on what she was doing,” Gray explained. “With rain, you sort of will it to happen. It’s like what the people down below call intuition. But with lightning, it requires focus. Reach deep inside, and find the small spark in your stratus core. Then, call it out, and release it onto the world below. Here, I’ll demonstrate.” Gray concentrated, reaching into his stratus core. He pulled out the spark and let it out like a sparky rope. He dropped it on the ground far below and heard the satisfying boom of thunder as it hit the earth and vanished. Misty looked down, then up at Gray. Her rain seemed to be falling slower and slower.

“I’ll try,” she started. Gray let out a small burst of lightning in excitement. “But if I don’t like it,” Misty continued, “then I’m never doing it again!”

“Alright, I’m fine with that,” Gray said. Misty started to vibrate with concentration. Soon, a small lightning rope appeared beneath her. She pulled it out, and dropped it down right where Gray’s lightning had been, frying a small patch of grass.

“Sorry!” she yelled down. Gray laughed.

“How many times have you been told that no one down there can hear you?” Misty grinned.

“Exactly 486 times, your highness,” she said, exaggerating a bow, then burst into peals of laughter.

“Come on,” Gray said, “it’s time to change. The rainstorm is almost over.”

“I almost can’t wait for the next rainstorm. Maybe I’ll get out faster than you! Let’s race!” Misty floated off.

“Oh, no you don’t,” Gray yelled, zipping after her, leaving a fresh world washed clean in rain.

Maya Mourshed, 10 (Silver Spring, MD)

The World of the Grand Staff

Maya Mourshed, 10

A sheet of classical music sat quietly on a piano stand. Music notes of all kinds filled the sheet, some bundled together while others stood alone. As a breeze from an open window rustled the music sheet, a solitary half note suddenly jolted to life and shook herself off her line on the staff.

No sooner had Half Note tumbled onto the piano stand when a purple light exploded. Half Note suddenly found herself rocketing and ricocheting on sheet music through a dark tunnel, her path illuminated by a constellation of yellow lights shaped like music notes. Half Note hurtled through the tunnel’s end and bounced onto a landing pad. As she slowly picked herself up, her eyes gazed around in wonder.

She saw whole notes, quarter notes, rests, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and clefs. They were dashing around, harmonizing their rhythms with each other. The sixteenth notes marched together, chanting, "1-e-and-a, 2-e-and-a, 3-e-and-a, 4-e-and-a." The treble clef and the bass clef were guiding notes to play high and low-pitched rhythms. The quarter notes and quarter rests were composing punctuated rhythms that sounded like, "clap, clap, shh, clap, shh, clap, clap, shh."

As she continued to get her bearings, Half Note saw what appeared to be musical landmarks. To her right was a fountain topped by an eighth note, followed by a restaurant with a sign that said "Staff Servings." To her left was a colorful display that announced "Glissando Garden" on the entrance arch, followed by winding paths that led to note-shaped plants and flowers.

“Where am I? What is this place?” wondered Half Note. As she tentatively took a few steps forward, she suddenly saw a d-shaped male note that looked just like her.

“Hi! You must be a newbie note!” the male half note exclaimed. “Welcome to the World of the Grand Staff! You’re going to love it here. We make the best beats!”

Half Note struggled to find her voice. “The World of the Grand Staff?” she whispered. “I’ve never heard of this world.”

“All the newbie notes say the same thing when they get here!” laughed the male half-note.

He then proceeded to share with her the origin story of the World of the Grand Staff. “Thousands of years ago, there was a chemist who loved classical music. She was playing Beethoven in her lab while combining crystal iodine, aluminum powder, and water. The chemical reaction created thick purple smoke and bright sparks, leading to a huge purple explosion that created our World. The Grand Staff was the first music symbol in our World, which is why it is called the ‘World of the Grand Staff,’” explained the male half note. “Shortly afterwards, Treble Clef and Bass Clef joined Grand Staff to lead our world together. Our world is invisible to the human eye, and only music notes who are selected are allowed to come here. And ever since then, we receive a new batch of newbie notes during the first week of the month.” The male half note eyed her pointedly when he said "newbie notes."

Flabbergasted, Half Note was filled with questions. “What do we do here? Why was I selected? Are other notes from my sheet music invited to come here?”

“Slow down!” said the male half note. “All the notes in our World make music together. Life on a sheet of music is so monotonous. The notes play the same piece over and over and over again. In our world, notes combine to play whatever comes to their imagination and fills their spirit. You were invited here because we need more half notes for our musical pieces to harmonize. Half notes are critical for starting or ending groups of measures, or for holding chords.”

“That’s amazing! How do I get started?” asked Half Note excitedly.

“You start by looking for a group of notes whose rhythm has a raggedy start or end. Or, you can also look for other half notes who are trying to form a chord,” replied the male half note. “Off you go!”

As the male half note disappeared, Half Note began walking towards the fountain in search of other notes that she could support. Standing in front of the fountain were quarter notes and eighth notes making their own beats.

“Hi....I’m a half note....” she said nervously. “Can I join in with you?”

“Um, no, we have all the notes we need for our rhythm,” said an eighth note and turned his back to her.

Disappointed, Half Note quickly walked away when another group of notes standing by Glissando Gardens caught her eye. Four sixteenth notes were harmonizing and making new rhythms. “This just might be my chance,” thought Half Note.

“Hi!” she said, more self-assuredly this time. “Can I join in and make beats with you?”

“Of course you can!” the four replied. “Our rhythms would sound much better if a half note complemented us!” Half Note excitedly sat on a line of the Grand Staff with them. They made beats that sounded like "tika-tika, ta-ah, tika-tika, ta-ah." As they beamed at each other, basking in the joy of their new composition, Half Note realized that she had found her place.

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