Our November 2023 Flash Contest was based on Prompt #278 (provided by Stone Soup contributor Molly Torinus), which asked that participants use ChatGPT to generate a story and then write their own sequel. Submissions this month were set in fascinating worlds. Some were desirable with mountains of candy and lush gardens and others were terrifying with swarms of rats and evil villains. Explorers traveled back in time, a girl breathed life into a snowman, and two friends became K-pop stars. As always, thank you to all who participated, and please keep submitting next month!
In particular, we congratulate our Honorable Mentions, listed below, and our Winners, whose work you can appreciate below.
“Detective Henri Leclerc” by Rayansh Bhargava, 10
“The Dark in the Light” by Courtney Fong, 12
“The Sequel to The Elf with Royal Blood” by Chaesung Kwon, 10
“The Rise of Rob” by Taj Malinis-Jackson, 10
“Crime of the Future” by Emma Zhou, 10
“A Strange Encounter” by Angelina Chen, 13
“The Avalanche” by Vihaan D, 6
“The Resurrection Stone” by Mia Goldschmidt, 10
“Time Travelers” by Dara Jin, 10
“Reverse Evolution” by Luke Tang, 13
Detective Henry Leclerc
RAYANSH BHARGAVA, 10
The Incredible Detective
Amidst the turmoil of World War II, in the heart of occupied Paris, there was a detective whose intelligence shone like a beacon of hope. Detective Henri Leclerc was renowned for his sharp mind and keen observation skills. Despite the dangers that lurked around every corner, Henri was determined to outwit the enemy and protect his city from the shadows of war.
One crisp autumn evening, as air raid sirens echoed through the narrow streets, Henri received a tip about a secret meeting between enemy agents in a dimly lit café. He adjusted his fedora and tightened his coat, his eyes gleaming with determination as he headed toward the rendezvous point.
Inside the café, Henri discreetly observed the suspicious gathering. He overheard hushed conversations in German, piecing together fragments of information. With his photographic memory, he memorized faces and snippets of dialogue, his mind working like a well-oiled machine.
Outside, the rain began to fall, creating a rhythmic tap-tap-tap on the cobblestone streets. Henri trailed the agents through the twisting alleys of Paris, his footsteps silent, his presence unnoticed. The enemy spies led him to an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of the city, where they vanished inside.
Peering through a cracked window, Henri saw the agents gathered around a table covered in maps and documents. Their sinister laughter filled the air as they plotted their next move. Unfazed, Henri pulled out a miniature camera and captured each detail, ensuring he had evidence to expose their plans.
Just as he was about to retreat, he accidentally knocked over a stack of crates. The noise alerted the agents, and they stormed outside, guns drawn. Henri's heart raced, but his wit remained sharp.
“I wouldn't make any sudden moves if I were you," Henri said calmly, stepping into the dim light.
The leader of the spies, a menacing figure with a scarred face, sneered. “Who are you?"
Henri flashed his badge with a defiant grin. “Detective Henri Leclerc, at your service. I believe you dropped something back there." He tossed a roll of film onto the table, showcasing the incriminating photographs.
The spies exchanged uneasy glances, realizing they were outsmarted. “You won't stop us, detective," the scarred leader spat.
Henri's eyes gleamed with confidence. “Try me."
With the timely arrival of French resistance fighters, the spies were apprehended, their sinister plans thwarted. As the sun rose over the city, Henri stood tall, a true hero in a time of darkness. His intelligence and bravery had not only saved lives but also sent a powerful message – that even in the face of adversity, the human spirit, coupled with a brilliant mind, could triumph over tyranny.
And so, Detective Henri Leclerc continued his fight against the enemy, his intellect serving as a guiding light, inspiring others to join the resistance and stand up against injustice. His legacy echoed through the streets of Paris, a testament to the power of intelligence and determination in the darkest days of history.
Return of the Enemy
Henri Leclerc didn’t suppose that the spies, also known as, in the French Resistance, the Enemy, would ever return after their embarrassing defeat they had in the warehouse. So when a case file landed on his desk with an intercepted message from the Enemy, he was surprised.
“What is this?” Henri asked his assistant Jacques.
Jacques didn’t answer. It was a rhetorical question. Obviously Henri knew.
“Sir, we don’t know how to decode it. All we know is that it is titled ‘Operation Green Light.’”
Henri observed the paper with great interest. After a thin silence, Henri laughed loud.
“Oh, Jacques! This is the simplest code available — ever! The Enemy must think we are stupid!” He showed Jaques a slip of paper that had the simple code written down on it.
Jacques shared in Henri’s laughter, and together they read the message, this time with ease.
Hello, Agent 102. This is Agent 206 reporting from the Reichstag building in Berlin. We would like you and your team to steal the Mona Lisa and bring it to the National Treasury here in Berlin. Please do so covertly. It is only a matter of time before France and Paris are liberated, and we want to take all the treasure we can before that.
Act immediately, Agent 206 from the Führer’s Headquarters
Jacques’s eyes widened in shock, while Henri regulated his calm demeanor.
“Jacques, remain calm. This kind of state of mind will not assist in our mission, that is for sure. However, instead, shall we call Caroline?” Henri asked.
Jacques regulated his breathing and notified Caroline of the message.
When Detective Caroline Bauderdale arrived at the briefing room, Henri and Jacques were already waiting for her.
“Good day, Caroline.” Henri said, acting as if the greatest treasure in France was not about to be stolen.
“Ah, off with the formalities, Leclerc. Where is the message sent by the Enemy?”
Henri passed the message to Caroline, whose pupils seemed to bulge out of her eyes even more with every word.
Finally, she shoved the message back to Henri with a trembling hand.
“Oh, what do we do?! The Mona Lisa is gone! We are stuck! Our life is over!” Caroline tugged at the eyes as if willing them to pop out.
“Caroline, the Mona Lisa hasn’t been stolen yet.” Jacques told her, amused at this behavior.
“What? Phew!” Caroline offered a smile at her foolishness.
“And we intend to stop it before it does end up in the clutches of the enemy.” Henri concluded.
Caroline stared at Henri with disapproval.
“What do you mean, Leclerc? The agents sent for this mission obviously must be highly trained in order to infiltrate the Louvre!”
“No, they are not. I know these people. They were discussing Operation Green Light the last time I met them in the café and in the warehouse as well, and I can assure you that they are not the definition of ‘highly trained.’” Henri said in a mock grim tone.
Caroline managed a faint smile.
“With you, I can expect amazing things, Leclerc, whether the Enemy is ‘highly trained’ or not.”
Henri bowed, and then began introducing his plan.
“We secretly infiltrate the Louvre and replace the Mona Lisa with a counterfeit one that is actually an entrance for an unknown room, where I will be hiding. When the Enemy removes the picture, I will jump out and capture them.”
Caroline raised an eyebrow but nodded reluctantly; she had no better plan.
“Meanwhile,” Henri continued. “Jacques will walk in from the door behind the Enemy and then assist me in rounding them up and sending them to prison.”
Jacques eagerly agreed, and Caroline also had no choice but to go along with it.
The plan went as Henry had foreseen. When the Enemy lifted the fake picture out of its case, Henri coolly stepped out the shadows.
“Why, I believe we meet again!” He exclaimed to the Enemy’s astounded faces, as if he was simply strolling by during a walk in the park instead of arresting multiple Enemy agents.
“Yes, I believe we did meet again!” The leader sneered. “But this time, you will not succeed. We will.” He held up the Mona Lisa in his arms.
“I’m afraid that you are holding a fake Mona Lisa.”
The team leader dropped the Mona Lisa in disgust, which cluttered to the ground. “WHAT?!” He gestured to his aide, who quickly made a phone call to Berlin. “Wir wurden erwischt. Ich möchte Sie darüber informieren, dass Mona Lisa heute nicht nach Hause kommen wird.” We have been caught. I would like to inform you that Mona Lisa will not be arriving home today.
Jacques closed on the Enemy from the back, and they finally held up their hands in surrender. They were led away from the Louvre, and Jacques clapped Henri on the shoulder.
“Another successful case closed . . .”
Henri was relaxing on his crimson chair when the newspaper was delivered. He instinctively tore it open and scanned the pages.
BREAKING NEWS: SPECIAL ACTIVITY - THE ESCAPE OF THE ENEMY
A band of the Enemy has escaped from a prison operated by the French Resistance on the outskirts of Paris. They are known to have attempted to steal the Mona Lisa, and we fear they are going for it again. These agents are German and were freed by the Wehrmacht once they stormed the hideout. — Kathereen Critsen
“Here we go again!”
The Dark in the Light
COURTNEY FONG, 12
A thousand and one years ago, someone said that all dreams were balanced with a nightmare. And during the past few months, the people of Tuscany had seen that saying come true. Their vineyards had been haunted by a figure clad all in black, squeezing the blood from the grapes, ripping the vines from their stands, and spilling already barreled wine. The figure was also exceptionally fast, and they only squished bundles of grapes that were ripe. The police, having been called to scene after scene, worked furiously around the clock to catch the wine-destroying criminal. But the criminal, as the police found out, wasn’t an ordinary person who just did crime. In fact, the criminal was from one of the family-run vineyards.
Gordin had always been clumsy. She had broken her mother’s vases, lit a fire, and even broken a barrel of wine, which had just been ready for consumption. Everyone in the family was skeptical of Gordin. She was the eldest of her siblings, the next to take on the trade. It was true Gordin was a fast learner, but what if she broke another barrel of wine. What then? And what if she picked the grapes too harshly, smashing them in the process? These thoughts didn’t deter Antonio though. He thought anyone could do anything if they just put their mind to it. His children thought otherwise.
"Don’t you think she’ll be better off for other things, Dad?" asked Gordin's mother, Caroline.
"Not at all," Antonio replied, hefting a cigar to his mouth.
"Why not let her stay in the house?" said Gordin’s father. "She might be better suited to it."
"Balderdash!" said Antonio.
"Well, at least don’t let her in the fermentation room. Let’s not forget what happened last time we let her," said the mother, a line of creases dipping in her forehead.
"Caroline, there’s no use in teaching a person the trade if they’re not allowed to do every aspect of it," Antonio said.
And so, Gordin was taught which grapes to pick. How to know they were ripe. She ran through the aisles with fast-paced legs, picking the grapes with extra care, placing them in the basket so they wouldn’t squish. She ground them up, pouring the juices in the barrels. But no matter what she did, how she did it, the wine always came out salty and not like anything the La Dolce Terra family had made. Gordin’s mother thought she just wasn’t suited to making wine. Gordin’s father thought it was better to have Gordin be put in the kitchen. But Antonio would have none of it. He watched her every move, trying to figure out what had gone wrong with each barrel. It became so nerve-racking for Gordin, having Antoino examine everything, that she no longer enjoyed it. Her siblings and cousins all thought it was fun though.
"These grapes sure are sour, huh Gordin?" said cousin Tom, when the wine was salty or the taste didn’t match the wanted outcome.
"Don’t be so WINE-HY Gordin, I’m sure the next batch will be just fine," Lily, Gordin’s sister, said.
But the jokes soon withered, as more vineyards were destroyed by the figure in black. The La Dolce Terra family didn't notice. They had other things to worry about. The business had collapsed and money was scarce. Socks couldn’t be mended, as there was no thread. Clothes went unwashed, since there wasn't any detergent left. And the adults constantly fought. But every argument turned towards Gordin.
"It’s that Gordin I tell you. She’s brought the whole family down with her."
"Her barrels are always salty. She’s ruining the La Dolce Terra name."
"She was never meant for it."
"Better off in the kitchen, that’s what."
And through it all, Antonio could only look the other way and sigh. He didn’t like the way things were going, but he couldn’t argue with the bills. And what the adults were saying was true. The other children were better at the trade.
But Gordin’s eyes filled with tears, and she raced up to her room, into her closet, which was clothed in black. Was she really the reason to blame? She couldn’t have done that bad. And yet, she was ruining the grapes every year. She knew her barrels bought back nothing. But Gordin was at the stage where she didn’t know what to do anymore. Everyone had told her from the start what they thought about her wine. And Gordin grew bitter. The family had decided she was the villain of this story, always had been, always would. Now, she wasn’t allowed to make wine anymore. She wasn’t allowed to grind the grapes up. She wasn't allowed to pick the vineyard. Instead, Gordin watched from the kitchen window, baking pies. She could hear the rest of her siblings playing and joking with her cousins, learning the trade so well. Something she could never-had never-been able to do. And they didn’t include her in their games, never gave her a second chance, because who wants to be with the person who almost broke the family?
The seasons rolled by, and the business was running smoothly now. All the while, Gordin cooked in the kitchen. And day by day, her anger grew. She knew she had temporarily ruined the family’s name. She knew. She also knew how to bake seven different types of pies. She also knew how to cook salmon. She also knew how many tablespoons of sugar were needed to make cookies. She even knew how to roast and stuff a whole turkey! But no one paid her any notice. No consideration. Not even a thank you. So Gordin brooded in the kitchen, shuffling here and there. All the while she twisted and turned her thoughts. Wasn’t SHE the one who made dinner almost every night now? Wasn’t SHE the one who knitted little mittens and clothes for Aunt Hester’s little boy? Wasn’t SHE the one who made sure the family always had a roasted turkey during Thanksgiving?
Gordin thought long and hard. Enough. She had disgraced the family, yes. But after? What had happened after? The villain had continued being hated. She had been excluded for long enough. But Gordin didn’t ask for attention. She didn’t take this to Grandfather Antonio. Oh, no. She wanted revenge. And she wanted them to feel it.
The next night, Gordin slipped out of bed, the mattress creaking just a little bit. Dressing herself, Gordin thought about the curry she had made that night. Sure knocked them out, Gordin laughed dryly. The one skill she had, and she could use it for something at last. Something she so desperately wanted. "Let’s see what they’ll do when I’m done," she said, opening the back door wide to the vineyard of grapes.
Gordin’s calves pumped, her legs in smart, black slacks, down the aisles of grapes and vines, grabbing handfuls and clenching her fist around them, purple veins drizzling down her hand. Gordin then broke the lock on the door to the fermentation room, knocking down all her siblings' and cousins' barrels. The ones she watched them bottle. The ones they laughed over. "Let’s see them laugh now," she said, under her breath, while she battered the grinding tools, sending them over on their side. Running out, while she ripped down each and every vine hanging onto the little sticks of which held the grapes. "Let’s see them laugh now."
The next morning, the sun shone down on the little vineyard, the sky as blue as the ocean, shimmering in the sun’s heat. Aunt Hester, coming down to make breakfast, opened the window for some fresh air, and screamed when she saw what was outside. The vineyard lay in ruins. Entire rows of grapes only pulps, the sticks splintered, the vines hanging loosely, dead. And Gordin, walking down the staircase, smirked when she saw the spilled wine on the ground just outside the fermentation room, dying the dirt crimson red.
The Sequel to The Elf with Royal Blood
CHAESUNG KWON, 10
Elara stared off into the distance of her home, Eldoria. She couldn’t believe that once she was a lone beggar, scraping excess bowls from the local diners to get her food, which was not very often. The crown of Eldoria, shining a pleasant gold in the sunbeams, sat on top of her head, almost light, but yet, still heavy. The four crescent jewels were fixed in the crown, a ruby, an emerald, a pixie jewel, and the greatest treasure an elf could ever wear, the Four Moons Diamond. Elara was a strong leader; she was bold when fights broke out on the lower streets. She was also very bright, considering that she had no sort of education before her reign. The treasure chest that had once revealed Elara’s royal bloodline was placed proudly next to her bedside. Elara pranced off her velvety throne and placed the majestic crown on a pearl-encrusted cushion that was propped up on a large, rectangular table. “Mother, Father, I wish you could see me now.” Elara said as she glided her fingers across the crown. She turned, and left the room, her two arms criss-crossed, and her face straight.
“SHRIEK!!!!!” An ear bursting screech awoke the halls of the Eldorian palace the next day. Yusef, Elara’s butler, emerged from his sleeping quarters, still brushing the horse hair off his check coat from when Elara forced him to help her groom her pony Nine-Tails. Yusef hurried down the hall and soon came to see what looked like Madam Redyard pointing at the empty crown box. Her face was pale, and her eyes rolled back with her body trailing behind it.
“She had fainted,” Yusef explained to Elara when she woke up. “Your crown is gone, sire. Someone must’ve thieved it!”
“How do you know it’s not Maryam, cleaning all the lint off it?” Elara questioned, her elf ears twitching with mystery.
“You KNOW Maryam wouldn’t have made a mess like this just going in and out of here!” Yusef exclaimed, pointing at the dirt tracks imprinted all around the room.
“You are right…” Elara rubbed her chin. “But this must lead to the culprit, if not.”
“Your majesty, we can have some detectives hooked up for the scene, if you’d like.”
“No thank you, I will go myself, and you will come with me.”
“U-um, I beg your pardon, your majest-”
“YOU will come with me. I demand it.”
Elara and Yusef, soon enough, were on their horses, ready for the ride. They crossed deserts, mountains, chilly terrains, (Yusef got his mustache caught in one) all a great challenge to find the crown of Eldoria. They searched and searched, hours passed, hope began to fade. Until they came across a jungle brush with a large, brick, mossy tower. The edges were crumbling away bit by bit. They entered, and they saw the beautiful crown, placed on a windowsill inside. A figure rustled slightly in the corner of Elara’s eye. She reflexed, taking her sword out and pointing it at the culprit. “YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT!” Elara bellowed and lunged for the figure. The figure stepped out of the shadows to reveal a young, mad woman with frizzy hair and an evil look.
The Rise of ROB
TAJ MALINIS-JACKSON, 10
Ever since the attacks on Bob, Ravenwood was at peace. Little did the jovial townsfolk know, though, but Bob's power was growing back. The nights were feeling longer and more villagers were getting lost in the depths of the darkness. The townspeople just thought, "It doesn't matter! A few missing people won't hurt! It happens all the time!" Still, more and more went missing, and it was turning into a problem.
After conducting theories and plans with other small villages, the people of Ravenwood had an idea. Through extensive research, the villagers found where the malicious force, once known as Bob, was hiding.
The people were growing tired of everybody getting lost, so after several months, they had convinced a villager to become a trained spy for the town. With courage by his side, he entered the maze of darkness, better known as Bob's domain. There before the spy's eyes, stood Bob. He had grown terrifying, with giant claws, horns, and many small figures that looked like miniature versions of him. His hands were wrapped in luminescent purple chains that were giving off an unsettling light. Stories from other villagers said that the same purple chains sat on small rocks when the battle against Bob had commenced. He had also noticed a purple glowing crystal on Bob's forehead. The spy ran off in fear, yet still eager to tell the villagers about his findings.
Bob had definitely outsmarted the villagers before. His giant army-gathering strategy was just phase one for him. No one had bothered to check his destroyed realm again after the first battle. It was rumored to be cursed, and Bob was like a forgotten memory. Sadly, the poor people had been lied to. Bob was still growing in his realm.
After hearing the news from the spy, the village's great minds once again went to work. They spent day after day replicating a figure like Bob that could destroy him. After working on the exoskeleton of this machine, they had to plan how to power it. They tried to use many items, including robotic cores, ancient artifacts, and even cheese! But the solution was right in front of them the whole time: the cube of death. After hours of long work with this unstable cube, they had finally created a sentient protector of Ravenwood: Rob, the emissary of light.
For weeks, the masters of battle in the village trained Rob. They taught him weaponry skills, ways to hone his powers of light, and even simple hand-to-hand combat skills. But something was off. They knew Rob could be more powerful. The village didn't know what to do about it, but the wisest man in the village knew how to increase his might. Rob needed one thing: Emotion. The wise man taught Rob how to deal with Bob's vile force, and how to not be like him. After a few days of training, Rob was ready.
The townspeople went out into the labyrinth once again to confront Bob with their new creation, Rob. As they went through the deep forest known as Bob's domain, some kept disappearing. They knew that they had to make it quick, or else almost all of the villagers would be gone.
Vines twisted around the blackened trees. Crows flew overhead the giant plants. And seven hundred-fourteen villagers ventured into a malicious devil's land.
When the citizens of Ravenwood reached the Land of Bob, hundreds of his little minions stood guard. The villagers knew they were the ensnared souls of their fellow townsfolk. They vowed to get them back home safely. Soon, the second battle of the century commenced.
With weapons at their hands, the villagers charged at Bob's minions. Shing! BOOM! Thud... Tiny bodies were scattered across the stony floor. Other humans' bodies were also in the mix. At that time, the rest of the villagers knew it was time. Rob was released.
Rob flung his fluorescent fist towards Bob. A hole lay straight through Bob's stomach. Bob sent a flurry of dark slashes from his chained claws. Villagers wouldn't let Rob fight alone. They, too, charged at him at full speed. After much slashing, slamming, stabbing and punching, Bob was weakened. Rob then slammed himself at full speed into Bob's head, shattering the crystal and getting rid of Bob's existence. Forever.
But wait, we aren't done. For Rob, too, sadly faded away into the now pure and beautiful forest.
Months after the battle, the villagers decided to all help out with a statue of Rob in the place where he had slain Bob. This was to commemorate his valiance, honor, and bravery in the battle of light and dark.
A decade after the battle, the villagers lived normally until something happened. And if you're guessing, no, Bob did not come back, nor his nonexistent successor...but! Bob did. Skipping down the pathway of the forest, the villagers welcomed him back to the world, and he was dubbed the hero of Ravenwood, maybe even the hero of the world.
The End... for now.
Crime of the Future
EMMA ZHOU, 10
Detective Sarah Jackson sat at her desk, her cybernetic eye whirring across wanted posters, police reports, and mysterious items. The year 3065 was still filled with mysteries and felony, but now, it was enhanced with cybernetic body parts, evolved weapons, and hacking tools, which were all found on the black market. A new crime was afoot, and this time, it threatened to burn every major city on Mars to the ground, starting with New Colorado. The sound of her office door opening and slamming brought her head up from a report about Hacker Jones' recent activities.
“Sarah!” The detective’s partner, Inspector Josh Fleming, burst into the room, waving a stack of papers at her with a triumphant gleam in his eye. “I found something about Flamethrower that might lead to the hidden firebombs in the cities!
“What?!” Sarah whirled around, scattering papers to the floor. “What is it?!”
Josh swept several files of The Phantom off the table with his hand and spread a blueprint of a multi-part, complicated bomb on it. “I was in a bar, and I met a fellow who goes by the name Cyberpunk, who was in league with The Flamethrower a few years ago. He was one of his closest allies, and he trusted him with his life. He had this blueprint, and I bought it off him. Funny guy, he would do anything for a couple extra cybernetic parts.”
Sarah’s eyes could have lit up the entire city of New Colorado. “Josh, this could help us crack the case of the bombs!” She stood up, grabbed her coat and slid it on. “I found the Flamethrower’s base a few days ago, but I didn’t think it would be him…” She flung open the door and beckoned him to follow. Together, they traveled to the very outskirts of New Colorado, almost to New Kansas. They arrived at midnight at an underground bunker with guards flanking the perimeter. Sarah gave Josh a signal and they sprang from their hiding place. The fight was long and hard, but the two detectives finally opened the trapdoor and climbed down a ladder. At the bottom, they saw the Flamethrower hunched over a copy of the bomb blueprint, muttering to himself.
“Hands up!” Sarah cried, holding up her gun. “You’re under arrest!”
The Flamethrower slowly lifted his head and turned around. His half-burned and scarred face broke into a sneer scary enough to send even the military running back to their parents.
“Ha,” he snarled. “You think you won, having Cyberpunk give you two the copy of the bomb that I worked three years on? You think I would just slap the cuffs on my own wrists, bringing myself to justice with my head hanging? You poor, naïve devils. I already placed the bombs in every major city, And with a press of the button,” he gestured to a big, red button affixed to the table, “I can make the whole world go kaboom.”
“No you won’t!” The three looked at the entrance of the bunker and saw that the police had arrived. Sarah had dialed reinforcements before they left for the bunker, and they had arrived at the perfect moment. Hours later, The Flamethrower was in jail, serving a fifty-year sentence. As the sun was just starting to rise, Sarah was on the top of the Crime Management Skyscraper, watching it. She looked over her shoulder as Josh came to sit beside her. The two leaned into each other, the golden rays of the sun shining over the pair as they saw their city of New Colorado come to life once again.