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Our March 2024 Flash Contest was based on Prompt #295 (provided by Stone Soup intern Sage Millen), which asked that participants write a story that takes place during a sleepover. These sleepovers were filled with fun activities; characters told scary stories, found a hidden portal, and chased after a runaway cat. They dreamed about transforming into fruit and meeting friendly dragons. One group of witches in particular even had to save Santa himself! 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.

“The Perfect Sleepover” by Arden Cha, 10
“A Friendship Sleepover” by Aubrey Huang, 11
“For Jade” by Sophie Li, 13
“Saving Christmas” by Miya Ma, 8
“The Cherry Tree” by Miranda Wang, 11

Honorable Mentions
“Amaya's Story” by Elaine Bai, 12
“Under the Stars” by Elise Ben-Akiva, 11
“The Truth Behind the Glass” by Ella Chen, 12
“Sleepover Magic” by Jiya Parekh, 10
“Sarah” by Chris Ye, 12

The Perfect Sleepover


I have always loved going to sleepovers. I remember going to my first sleepover when I was eight. My friend Calvin invited me to his house during December break. We devoured pizza, watched Home Alone, and spooked each other with eerie ghost stories with a flashlight placed under our chins (which gave the most epic spine-chilling effect). I enjoyed the sleepover so much that I hid in the bathroom when mom came to pick me up the next day.

Now, I am twelve (almost thirteen!), and I have been to forty-three sleepovers. It feels like every Friday, I get picked up by a friend’s mom and ... WOOSH ... I am magically teleported to my new one-night hotel. But, there is one thing that is peculiar. Considering how many sleepovers I have been to, I have never hosted one before. Mom always dismisses the subject with her classic, “Leo, there’s just not enough space. And, you and Abigail are already a handful.” I did not mention this before, but Abigail is my younger sister who is eight. She is utterly annoying. It is as if she knows everything that I hate, and she checks them off on her daily to-do list.

X  Take forever getting ready in the morning in our shared bathroom.

X  Blame me every time she gets into trouble.

X  Blast Taylor Swift while I am studying.

Just yesterday, Abigail entered my bedroom without permission and left behind a trail of chips. You should have seen me boil. It must have looked like there was fire dancing in my eyes.

This year, for my thirteenth birthday, I persuaded (after much pestering) mom to allow me to invite friends over for a sleepover at my house. After many hours spent contemplating who to invite, I finally selected my dream team. I picked Levi, because he is as funny as the funniest person you know times one hundred. One time in science class, we were learning about the parts of the heart and Levi said, “Aorta go before Mr. Bronson looks at my homework!” The joke was so bad that we cried until our stomachs hurt. I picked Logan, who has been my best friend since preschool. Logan stood up for me against the second grade bully. And lastly, I picked Wyatt, because he is the most responsible of all my friends. If we get in trouble (which happens a lot), Wyatt always knows what to do. It is as if Wyatt’s memorized this unwritten book about what parents think is the “responsible” choice in dicey situations.

If you have not noticed, I have really thought through my sleepover plans. Now, on to activities ... First, we will head to Golf Spot that Rocks, a mini golf and rock-climbing adventure. Then, we will go home and eat pizza from the Pizza Place. Next, we will fill up on three types of popcorn: cheese, butter, and caramel, while watching Harry Potter. Because I have been to so many sleepovers, I have had a lot of inspiration. It is as if I can go through my mind library and search for the memory, grasp onto it, and decide whether to select that activity or not.

One week ago, Abigail asked me, “Leo, can I join your birthday sleepover? PLEASE?!” I was too stunned to speak. She might as well have asked me, “Leo, can I use your toothbrush? PLEASE?!”

“No way!” was all I could sputter out.

“Oh,” Abigail replied with genuine hurt in her eyes. I almost wanted to forgive her for every horrendous thing she has ever done to me.... There was no way I was letting her anywhere near my friends and me.

Sadly, Wyatt texted me that he could not make my sleepover because of a soccer tournament. Even without Wyatt, I knew that my sleepover was going to be a blast!

After two weeks of never-ending school and swim practices, the day has finally arrived! In a few hours, my best friends are coming over for my sleepover, and in preparation, I have been doing things that my parents have been trying to get me to do for ages. First, I cleaned my room (vacuuming, window spraying and all). Next, I laid the dining table with paper plates and plastic cutlery. And finally, I actually read in the living room for an hour while waiting for my friends.

DING-DONG! “Oh my goodness! The doorbell just rang! They are here!” I thought as I dashed to open the front door. It felt as if the next eighteen amazing hours of my life were on the other side of this door. I hurriedly turned the door knob, and ... It was just the pizza delivery. I immediately asked myself, “Why would my friends come three hours early?” as I dejectedly took the pizza from the poor woman who was standing there waving her hand in front of my face while I stood there in a disappointed daze. I brought the pizza inside and put it in the microwave to keep it warm.

Three long hours later, the doorbell finally rang, DING-DONG, and thankfully, this time it was Logan. “Hey Logan!” I greeted him.

“Hey! I’m so excited for today,” Logan replied, with as much enthusiasm as mine. Just as I was closing the door, a familiar black sedan pulled into the driveway. Levi hopped out of the car with his sleeping bag slung around his neck like a necklace. He looked as crazy as the Mad Hatter, just without the hat.

“Levi!” I shouted, as he raced up the front steps.

“Hey, guys!” Levi said.

I then said, “Bring your stuff up to my room, so we can go to Golf Spot that Rocks. Come on!”

Thirty minutes later, we were walking into Golf Spot that Rocks. “Leo, you seriously outdid yourself,” Levi commented as he sized up the mini-golf course. He was no doubt brainstorming the best possible strategies to crush Logan and me at each hole.

“Yeah, this place is so cool!” Logan marveled as he took in the thirty-foot-tall rock climbing wall.

“I knew you guys would love this place!” I said proudly.

They were both right about the place being cool. A gargantuan rock-climbing wall wrapped around the entire building ranging from super easy to extremely hard obstacles. In the center of the room was a twenty-seven hole mini golf course with themes ranging from penguins in Antarctica to waves crashing against a beach. We decided to rock climb first and work our way in. The wall worked like a game. First, we chose, which mode we wanted (slow, normal, and fast). Then, as soon as we lifted our feet off the electronic pad, the timer at the top of the wall would start. You had to make it to the top of the wall before time ran out. When I touched the pad to stop the timer and realized I had two seconds to spare (on the fastest level!), I felt a rush of happiness. I smelled the victorious air. I could hear Logan and Levi cheering for me far below.

After we finished climbing, we headed excitedly towards the mini golf area where mom was waiting. “Good job, you guys!” Mom said as we walked over to her. “I saw that climb, Leo! You looked impressive!” she continued.

“Thanks, Mom.” I said, grateful that she was not showering me with kisses in front of my friends.

“Have fun mini-golfing. I’ll be watching from the other side with Abigail,” Mom said.

“Okay,” I said, also grateful that mom did not make me mini-golf with my annoying, bratty sister.

We got our clubs and headed in. Just like I predicted, Logan’s ball went in at least five hits before us every hole. On hole thirteen, while joking around with his club, Levi accidentally swung his club and hit his head! He crumpled to the floor, wailing in pain. “Oh no!” I said, staring down at him. My panic alert was going, “PANIC. PANIC. PANIC!” And that is exactly what I did. “MOM! Come here! We're on hole thirteen! Levi is hurt!” I shrieked, at the same time Logan screamed, “Mrs. Fairbourne, Levi hit himself! Hole 13!” Mom rushed towards us with Abigail following behind her.

Fifteen minutes later, Levi’s dad bolted through the doors with sweat cascading down his face. I could tell that he ran from work, because he still had his scrubs on. “What happened to Levi?” Mr. Anderson asked, sounding extremely concerned. After mom explained what happened, Mr. Anderson asked Levi, “What is your name?”

“Levi,” he replied.

“How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Two,” Levi replied.

After asking him some questions, Mr. Anderson said to mom, “It doesn’t look like Levi has a concussion, but I think the best thing to do is take him home, so he can rest.”

“Of course,” mom said.

I thought, “Noooo! I can’t believe this is happening! We are losing another person! Levi was supposed to tell us ghost stories tonight!” And, even without looking at him, I knew Logan was thinking the same thing.

We said our goodbyes to Levi and his dad and drove home in silence. Once we returned home, Logan and I quickly turned our attention to the extra cheesy pizza, the buttery smell of popcorn, and Harry Potter. While Ron Weasley was sacrificing himself in the life-size wizard game of chess, Abigail barged in. “OUT! NOW!” I said, without lifting my head from the television screen.

“I am not here for you! Logan, your mom just called our mom. You tested positive for COVID.” As soon as Abigail said that, I melted into a world of despair.

“Seriously? Logan, too? I must have the worst luck in the world today,” I thought miserably.

That is how I ended up spending my birthday pouting in my room for an hour. I was writing down all the horribly unlucky events of the day in my journal, when I heard a quiet knock at the door. “Who is it?” I asked, expecting it to be mom, trying to comfort me. Instead, Abigail came in timidly.

She asked, “Leo? I wondered if you wanted to play ship like we used to.”

After thirty seconds of sputtering, I made out an “Ok.”

“Ok,” she repeated with content. The piled pillows and stuffed animals became a ship, and the blue bed sheets on my bed transformed into ocean waves. We slipped into the imaginary world of fending off pirates and hammerhead sharks. From the stern of the pillow/stuffed animal ship, Abigail called out to me, “Leo, the Princess Pirates are approaching! Turn starboard around, so we can meet them in battle!”

“Aye aye, Captain Abby!” I replied in a convincing pirate accent. In the great battle against the Princess Pirates, I said “Arrrr, Captain Abby, should we seize their ship?”

“Yes. Yes. Carry on, First Mate Leo!” Looking at my raised sword (Captain Abby’s stuffed animal snake), Abigail and I fell into a fit of giggles.

Two hours later, mom came into my room to find us peacefully asleep in our ship and dreaming about the dolphins and orcas swimming alongside us.

A Friendship Sleepover


Will she be the same? Has she suffered? Am I still her best friend? Does she still remember the memories we shared?

I stand at the door, feeling the wind rush past my ears as I wait to ring the doorbell. “Just press it, it won’t bite you!” I chant this same sentence repeatedly, but I still do nothing.


The door slammed open. A slim face appeared, a face I hadn't seen in three years, one that seemed both familiar and unfamiliar to me. A pale face, but full of dark circles. Though she has the same freckles and thriving dark hair, she has changed.

“Emily?” We embrace each other tightly. “You really have changed,” I say.

“How could I not after so long?” We laugh as we observed each other.

“Come in!”

We talk and talk about the things that have happened to us. But there seems to be something Emily is hiding.

We go through the pictures of us when we just met (kindergarten). We felt as if we were sisters.

The lights go out and I am sitting on Emily’s bed, legs criss-crossed, listening to stories about her new life in her new school. Rain pours outside as we enjoy our sleepover.

“School is awful,” complains Emily. “Nobody seems right for me. I feel alone. They don’t even talk properly to me, and they don’t bother to care at all. I try to smile in school, but everything only makes me frown.”

I hesitate and ask, “What happened to your face?”

Suddenly, she bursts into tears. At that moment, I know the answer: bullies. I want nothing else but to stand up for her. I would do anything. I can’t stand all the things that happened to us. I feel as if life is not the same anymore, as if there is an enormous gap between us. I can say nothing. My feelings are too complex to explain. All I can manage is to whisper a few words.

“Emily, you’ve still got me.”

Emily looks up and smiles. “I know.”

For Jade


One week ago-

The bell rings and I head into the halls. I open my locker, decorated with singers that my friends worship and something bright pink catches my eye. It’s a stark contrast to the gray and black that form the color palette of the inside of my locker. I grab it. It’s an envelope. Could it be...?

I tear it open. Inside is an invitation...to a sleepover. I smile excitedly. I’ve finally been accepted, I think.

I can actually belong here. This is the start of a new life. A normal one.

“I’m so excited for the sleepover,” I say as I set my lunch down and squeeze in between Cassy and Riley.

“Me too! It’s going to be so good.” I casually look around at the cafeteria and suddenly make eye contact with someone. Someone I had never seen before, who I had never seen in the school, yet looked oddly familiar. Her pale gray eyes bore into mine, and I see her expression change into one of horror and betrayal. Then, with a jolt, it all comes back.

Her name was Jade. She was once my partner in Project Mutation, an experiment with the intent of rounding up all the criminals in the world and using a special program to change their lives, personalities, and relationships for the better. And it was all going well until one of the convicts got wind of what we were doing. And that convict was Cassy’s dad. Cassy and her friends didn’t just bully us like I thought, they had tortured us, locked us up, starved us, and were about to kill us when I made a deal to spare our lives. Because while I changed my identity and got onto Cassy’s good side, essentially disappearing, Jade became an outcast, forced to take the blame for a failed mission... for both of us. And while I had forgotten, and buried those memories away, Jade never did.

The realization of what I had done hits me square in the chest. I gasp.

“Are you all right?”

“Yes,” I manage to stand up. “I need to use the restroom.”

I glance back, but Jade had disappeared.

I know what I have to do now.


“Good night.”

“Good night.”

I wait. An hour passes. Everyone should be sleeping now, but I give it a few more minutes to be sure. I crawl out of my sleeping bag and survey the scene, a night light dimly illuminating three other girls, sound asleep.

I smile as I pull out my laptop and enter in Cassy’s name. I can’t believe I just forgot my computer can do this, I marvel. The number of times I left something this powerful lying around.

I can hear my heartbeat, but I savor the adrenaline. This mission won’t be failed for long. My fingers shake, in excitement and fear, over the keyboard.

I go into the file that says “relationships”, a comprehensive file detailing her relationship with every single person she has ever interacted with. I scan through it quickly, taking in all of those details. Her deepest, darkest secrets. The lives she’s ruined. Then, I make some simple yet detrimental edits. I repeat this process with the other girls in Cassy’s gang.


Wait. Just gotta fix something...

I go into Jade’s file.

Oh yeah, she’s definitely going to be living her best life now.

“Mission complete,” I whisper to myself.

I pack my sleeping back and head quietly out the back door. As far as anyone remembers, I was never there that night. They will wake up the next morning with their lives destroyed, with a guilt that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Their dearest friends will turn on them. Everyone will.

As I step out into the cool night air, for a split second, I see Jade’s face again. One of approval...and contentment.

Then it’s gone.

Saving Christmas


Twas was Christmas Eve, three little witches named Susan, Ethel, and Aurora gathered together for a fabulous sleepover. They settled into a small, abandoned cottage, and decided to stay there for their mystical sleepover.

“Let’s make this place the perfect sleepover cottage,” Susan stated.

As they settled in, they used their magical power to make the cottage as wonderful as you could ever imagine. There was a crackling fireplace, where glowing embers caused long shadows to dance on the walls. A sweet scent of gingerbread and pine filled the room that was now filled with Christmas lights that came in various colors. The witches wore their dazzling robes with sapphires for Susan, emeralds for Ethel, and ambers for Aurora. They huddled around a crystal ball shouting spells to make games appear.

“Protégé!” Ping! A Monopoly board that was all set up flew on to a table.

“Expelaralas!” Poooof! Snacks and drinks flew on to plates that were silver and shiny.

“Abracadabra!” Plop Plop! Invisible servants came out of nowhere and quickly scurried over to clean the room.

Finally, the room was all set up and the witches each settled upon a chair around a table. Aurora was just about to play her first move on Monopoly, but unexpectedly, a small, high-pitched voice from above them said, “Please help us!”

“Did you just hear what I heard?” Aurora whispered.

“I guess we did,” Ethel said, and then called out, “Who’s there? I’m a witch you know, and if you don’t come out now right this minute, then I am going to blast you into outer space.”

“I’m an elf named Sledda, and I serve under the legendary but real, Santa Claus!” the voice said again, “Santa’s sleigh and reindeer are trapped in a snowstorm, and without your help, Christmas might not come! Now come quick to help us!”

Susan, Ethel, and Aurora exchanged determined glances. Without hesitation, they swiftly mounted their broomsticks. "We can't let Christmas be ruined! Let's follow that elf’s light tightly and help Santa!" Susan, spoke to her friend-witches.

They soon approached the North Pole, then they saw, far away, the sleigh had tipped over and the reindeer were stuck in the snow, and Santa was frantically trying to make the sleigh move.

Ethel said pointing down. "There it is! Santa's sleigh, stuck in that stubborn snowbank."

Aurora added, "We need to be quick. The children are counting on us."

With a synchronized nod, the three witches landed near the snow-covered sleigh.

"Together now, let's melt this snow and free those reindeer!" The three witches waved their wands, and the tips emitted a warm glow.

Ethel, her eyes narrowed in concentration, said, "Come on, we can do this!"

The snow began to melt away.

As the last of the snow melted, Santa, with a hearty laugh, approached the witches. "Oh, thank you, my dear witches! You've saved Christmas tonight!"

Susan replied satisfyingly, "It's our pleasure, Santa. We can't let a snowstorm ruin the Christmas holiday."

Ethel added, "You've always been there for us, especially when you saved my kitten. We're just returning the favor."

Gratefully, Santa said with a twinkle in his eye, "Well, you've certainly earned a place on the Nice List. Now, with your help, Christmas can continue, Hoo, Hoo, Hoo!"

At Christmas Eve, three witches shared a secret smile, knowing that their sleepover had turned into an adventure...

The Cherry Tree


“Hey, Jillian!” Jillian looked up. “You wanna come over? We’re going to have a sleepover!” Jillian stared off into space. “Jillian? Jillian! Earth to Jillian!” Susan snapped her fingers. Startled, Jillian turned around. “Are you coming or not!” Susan pleaded.

Jillian shrugged. “No thanks...” She murmured dreamily. Susan stomped her foot.

“Listen, I’m sorry your gramps passed away, but it’s been three months, already!” Jillian just stared at the window. Susan muttered something under her breath and walked away.

Three months ago, Jillian stopped talking. She didn’t pay attention to anything anymore. She just sat there, dazed. Without grandpa, she felt empty. She had no interest in anything at all since then. Sleepovers may be fun ... She thought, but then felt guilty. How on earth can she play without gramps? Ever since Gramps passed away, she refused any kind of entertainment.

Every time her grandpa was mentioned, she would think of his crooked smile, his interesting pipe that she was forbidden to touch, his magnificent stories, his chuckle that brightens her day, his special power to cheer her up every time she felt down ... She put down her bag and stared at the bare room that once was filled with the hazelnut smell and historic displays.

“Jill! You're home! Wash your hands, and I prepared you cookies!” Her mom shouted with a cheerful tone. Jillian didn’t respond. She slammed her door and jumped on her bed. She picked up the portrait of her and her grandpa. They were smiling, with Jillian’s smile almost stretching out of her face. She smiled a little, her heart aching. Tear drops fell down her cheek, falling on the smiling face of her grandpa. “Gramps...” She whispered. “I miss you...”

There was a slight knock on the door. The concerned face of Jillian’s mother peered in. “Darling?” She called out. She saw Jillian, sleeping peacefully on the bed, her face wet with tears. Her hand reaching out, as if trying to get something. On the floor, a broken portrait lay quietly. The grinning depiction of grandpa and Jillian shone on the broken glass. Ms. Morris sighed. She kissed Jillian on the cheek. “Goodnight, sweetheart.” She stepped out of the room.

“Jill! Jilly pie!” Jillian stirred. She looked around, her eyes eventually adjusting to the darkness. She looked around. Then, she screamed. A glowing figure sat near her bed. As her sight grew clearer, she gasped.

“Gramps!” The glowing figure nodded. She opened her arms and embraced him. Gramps smiled. He had his usual glinting eyes, wrinkly but lively face, and the familiar friendly smile. The only difference was that he was a glowing, bluish ghost-like figure. “How-why...” Jillian was so bewildered she couldn’t make out one word. Gramps grinned.

“I thought you would want a sleepover with your gramps. Isn’t it?” Jillian sobbed.

“But-but you’re—“

“Yes, I did.” Gramps nodded. He pulled out a glowing, blue pipe, and took a long swig. “But, I missed my Jilly Pie. So that’s why I came back. Isn’t it?” His hands glided through Jillian’s hair. Jillian laughed, her laughter mixing with tears.

“But why-" Gramps laughed.

“Let me tell you a story, Jilly. Do you know where the deceased go?" Jillian shook her head. She was still overwhelmed by the appearance of grandpa. “Well, when we die, our souls travel through the dream express. You know what express means?” Jillian nodded. “Perfect. The journey to heaven is free, but if we want to pay a visit to our family, we need a ticket to come back.” He pulled out a greenish ticket, glowing slightly. Jillian curiously touched it, but felt nothing but a chill on the hand. “So, I had to work for money. The thing that I did the most may be cleaning party waste created by the angels. Did I mention them? Oh, annoying show-offs, they are.” Jilly hid a laugh behind a cough.

“Oh, you can laugh. Anyways, that’s how I got here, Jilly. But that’s not the point. The point is, why I came here. Jilly, I came here for a sleepover because I’ve heard recently you’re sad. Sad enough not to do anything.”

Jillian pouted. She didn’t want to talk about that. “Tell me more about where you live.”

“Shush. This is important. Jillian, you know I cannot be by your side forever. You cannot be sad anymore. I want you to be happy. Join sleepovers! Parties! Have friends! You cannot be like this anymore.”

Jillian stopped. She felt tears in her eyes. After all these months, the misery and fury exploded. “I cannot!" She reached out her hand, trying to touch Gramps’ nonexistent body. “You left me, Gramps! You left me! I ... I want you to come back...” She choked.

Gramps, for the first time, looked helpless. But then, he coughed. “Ah, Jilly, I didn’t leave you. You see, in heaven, we could chose something that represents ourselves to stay with our loved ones.” He glided to the window and opened the curtains. There was a cherry tree outside, in the cold, nodding slighting as the wind touched it. It was so old Jillian can hardly remember when it sprouted.

“Look at that cherry tree. It is almost as old as I am. I planted it when I was three, and it stayed there since then. Jillian, after our 'sleepover,' when you miss me, just look at that cherry tree. When you look at it, think of me. And by that way, I’ll never leave you. I’ll always look after you. Always.”

“Really?” Jillian sat up and stared at the tree. It looked old but kind, just like Gramps. “You’ll always be here?” Gramps nodded. He touched Jillian’s face.

“Jilly pie, I’ll always love you. Be happy for me.”

Jillian blinked. It was already morning. The morning sunshine sparkled inside from the curtains that were opened beforehand. The cherry tree swayed peacefully.

For the first time in three months, she smiled.

She turned to the cherry tree.

“Good morning, Gramps.”

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