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Flash Contest #25: Write a Story that begins with "Once upon a time in a land far away. . ." and ends with ". . . and they all lived happily ever after."

Our November Flash Contest was based on our weekly creativity prompt #125, asking participants to write a story–any story–with the traditional fairy tale opening and closing lines. What a difficult task we had judging these entries! We could see that all our entrants had fun with the idea of playing with and subverting the fairytale form, and we loved reading the range of imaginative journeys everyone took. While we enjoyed many stories involving the more traditional witches, royalty, dragons and other magical creatures (not necessarily in traditional mode, though!), we also encountered aliens and were transported into outer space–and even entered the mind of a roll of toilet paper (look out for that one on the Covid-19 blog)! A huge thank you and a hearty well done to everyone who wrote a piece and submitted it to us.

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

The Aliens by Benjamin Fraenkel, 8, Mansonville, Quebec, Canada
The Queen and the Tiara by Samantha Lee, 11, Thomaston, CT
The Bookcase by Iago Macknik-Conde, 13, Brooklyn, NY
The State of Matter by Maya Mourshed, 8, Silver Spring, MD
The Forest of Mystery by Areesha Nouman, 12, Westlake, OH

Honorable Mentions
Happily Ever After by Isabella Bixler, 13, Fairview Park, OH
The Witch's Journey by Lorena Manrique, 11, Fort Worth, TX
Dragon Tales by Georgia Grace Hoover, 11, Forth Worth, TX
The Naughty Princess by Atalie Lyda, 11, Portland, OR
My True Self by Michelle Peng, 10, Scarsdale, NY 

Selected for the Stone Soup Blog
Pecky's Bravery Saves The Forest by Elise Cheung, 8, Danville, CA
The Toilet Paper Roll's Quest by Charlotte Zhang, 12, Portland, OR

Benjamin Fraenkel, 8
Mansonville, Quebec, Canada

The Aliens

Benjamin Fraenkel

Once upon a time, in a land far away, a rocket-ship landed in the middle of a playground. I know because I was there. I was just walking home from school when an unknown kind of alien climbed out of it right next to the sandbox. Their rocket-ship made poisonous gas and horrible noise. And they themselves were unlike anything I had ever seen. They had two eyes, one nose, one mouth, two ears, hair uniquely on the tops of their heads and their skin was pale! They were also wearing weird white suits. I couldn’t understand them, so I took out my languaginzinator to comprehend what they were saying. Here’s what appeared on the screen:

“Who are these weird aliens with green hair covering their bodies, three eyes, two noses, two mouths, four ears, and shiny black skin!?”

“No idea, but take out your gun, they may be dangerous!”

Gun? I didn’t know what that was, but I was furious. They seemed to be insulting my green fur. I had groomed it nicely, thank you very much! I knew what I had to do. I had to go to the supreme king of Planet Benzadya, King Benzoubi. He was chosen by the citizens of Benzadya because he had gotten the highest mark on the goodheart-measurer. He was a kind, good ruler.

“Aliens!? Hamuns? I mean, humans? My, my!” he exclaimed. “I must help them! I have seen how they destroy each other and their planet. I will speak with them, and then I must create a portal to planet Dearth, eh, I mean, Earth.” He bustled out of the room in a hurry. I heard much talk after that, and I even overheard them speaking about something they call “war” where they divide into groups as though to play zorkball, but instead they kill each other! Silly hamuns! We gave them a goodheart-measurer, a device that allows you to detect jealousy, anger and goodness in a person's heart. And also a copy of Benzadya’s book of wisdom translated into human-speak. We all study it in school here.

I have not seen the humans since then, but I can only hope that they brought our wisdom back to Earth and lived happily ever after.


Samantha Lee, 11
Thomaston, CT

The Queen and the Tiara

Samantha Lee, 11

Once upon a time, in a land far away there lived a little bunny. The bunny’s name was Tiara, for it had long been told in those parts that if you said the right words, the little bunny would turn into a gleaming tiara. Tiara’s fur was a perfect, sparkling white and was softer than fresh snow on a winter day. Her graceful ears and big eyes made Tiara the cutest little rabbit in all of the land. She would spend her days frolicking in the Caramel Meadows and bounding through the Lollipop Forest. Sometimes, the bunny would go to the far edge of the meadow and look up at the sky where she could just imagine a shimmering castle glistening beneath the clouds, always housing a little princess in a sparkly tiara and glittering gown.

As it turned out, Tiara’s imagination was closer to reality than she would have thought, though farther off than she would have wished. The sparkles and light had long since vanished from The Castle in the Distance. So had the glittering girl Tiara pictured. Instead there loomed a stark, menacing castle and a Queen that was both starker and more menacing. The Queen’s imagination wasn’t nearly so lighthearted as Tiara’s. The Queen imagined conquering more wide, green lands and taking more innocent people as servants. The Queen’s favorite word was “more”, especially when it came after the word “much”.

One day, The Queen heard tell of the magical bunny Tiara from one of her older servants. A wicked grin spread across her lips and an evil laugh slipped out. The Queen wanted Tiara. She wanted her very much. And when the Queen wanted something, she would do anything at all to get it.

Tiara inhaled deeply as she sat in one of her favorite clearings in the Lollipop Forest. A sweet, fresh smell always seemed to linger about there, making the whole clearing radiate a perfect aroma. The berries were sweetest from that part of the forest, and the brook giggled gleefully under the slow dancing of the branches. Tiara went to this place when she had something to ponder.

Tiara wondered about the old stories of herself. Had she truly once been a tiara, or was that merely a myth? Was someone going to come and turn her back? And were the stories right about how she would become a tiara again? She wished that could be, she felt like it was her destiny. There was a reason behind Tiara’s magical ability, the little bunny could feel it in her heart.

“The sun shall make the soft fur coruscate, the fur will sparkle brighter and brighter. A gleaming tiara will be left in its place,” a deadly voice whispered as it held a certain bunny over an old wishing well in the heart of the Forest. The wishing well made a joyful gurgle and the trees parted for a ray of sunlight to shine upon the Queen and Tiara. The sunshine hit Tiara squarely on the forehead, creating a blindingly bright flash of white light. And then Tiara was no longer a bunny but a beautiful, shining tiara. It would have been a joyful moment if it hadn’t been for the Queen’s high-pitched cackle of excitement and jubilation. Tiara had always looked forward to this moment, but never once had she imagined this.

“You, my dear, are lucky enough to now be my most prized and valuable possession,” the Queen said gleefully. “No more hopping about willy-nilly and other foolish doings, now you will sit on my head as you should be.” The Queen stood, admiring the flawlessly shaped silver set with beautiful, gleaming diamonds. A victoriously content smile spread across the Queen's face. Neither rabbit nor queen realized there was much more to the story. Much, much more.

Time passed as it has a habit of doing. Around a month went by before the Queen decided she could use a new treasure in her collection. Tiara had held her distracted for an admirable amount of time, but eventually the distraction wore off. That wicked being went off and stole an extremely valuable locket from a neighboring kingdom. A beautiful portrait depicting their first queen sat snugly inside. Tiara, of course, went along for the ride.

When the Queen got back to the Castle in the Distance, she felt a white hot pain. Something was burning her! Before she knew it, she was thrashing in pain on the Castle’s black marble floors. I’m afraid to say that Tiara took quite a tumble, but she hardly minded. She had burned the Queen! Tiara’s fiery anger at what the Queen had done had all been released in a ring-shaped bald spot.

The Queen stopped dead. Her tiara, her wonderful tiara! Could it really be? Impossible! But there was no other explanation. The tiara had burned her. The Queen reached out a tentative hand towards the tiara. Not a thing happened. The Queen pursed her lips. Perhaps it only happened once? The Queen put it back on and went out to steal something else to make her feel at least a little better.

Instead, she only got more severely scorched skin. The Queen winced, rubbing the spot on her head where her tiara had burned her once again, just after she had stolen another valuable trinket. The burns stung with two different kinds of pain. One the Queen could recognize as physical injury, the other she couldn’t quite place. It was a regretful feeling, like she had done something wrong. The Queen was close to gasping. It couldn’t be. Was the tiara helping the Queen feel guilty? Was the tiara trying to tell her not to steal? The Queen covered her mouth. She could hardly believe what she was about to do.

“Ta-ta, my pet!” the Queen said, as she turned away from her princess niece. Far on the other side of the land, the Queen’s sister ruled a happy country very kindly. Her little daughter was the nicest little princess that ever lived, and dearly loved her new tiara. As for the Queen, something about that surge of guilt had helped her see things from a different perspective. Tiara did just enough to make the Queen realize her wrong. She stopped her bad habit of stealing and kept a much happier kingdom. As for Tiara, she was unendingly joyful to be worn by such a nice princess and exuberant that she had helped the Queen change her ways. This was much more than Tiara could have possibly imagined. And they all lived happily ever after.

Iago Macknik-Conde, 13
Brooklyn, NY

The Bookcase

Iago Macknik-Conde

Once upon a time,
in land far away,
a family lived
in a one-room house.

Their coffers were empty,
their cupboards bare.
Their only indulgence
an old bookcase,
resting against
the farthest wall from the door.
Safe from the sun and rain,
cherished by all.

Its shelves were carved
from an oak felled by lightning
in an ancient forest
ruled by a fairy queen,
and sanded
with hardened magma
from an extinct volcano
on a forgotten island

The bookcase
was to have pride of place
in an emperor’s library,
but it never arrived
to its destination.
The galleon
that carried the bookcase
in its hull
now rests
on the bottom of the Pacific,
sunken by pirates,
haunted by its lifeless crew.

The bookcase washed up
on a beach by the family’s home.
They found it on the glaring sand,
unscathed by seawater,
crammed with volumes
of stories upon stories,
life upon life.

The emperor’s librarians
searched for the bookcase.
Once they were kind men and women,
but now they ravaged the villages
that stood in their path.

The family learned
of the advancing army
and grew scared.
They knew they must surrender
the bookcase.

Then they saw
the barrier around it.
Not of metal.
Not of bricks.
Of love.

The stories from the bookcase
had come to life.
Giants and wizards,
knights and princesses,
witches and ogres.
Linking arms
around the bookcase,
a ring around the rosie
of shared dreams.

The fairyfolk had seen the family
through hardship and joy.
Together through it all,
telling each other
stories from the bookcase.

The creatures from the tales
drove the wicked librarians away,
not with their magic wands,
or their knightly swords.
They beheld the librarians
and made them remember
that they, too,
had once loved fairytales.

The librarians hung their heads
and walked back to their dusty library,
never to return.

The fairyfolk went back into the bookcase.
The family read their stories once again.
And they all lived happily
ever after.

Maya Mourshed, 8
Silver Spring, MD

The State of Matter

Maya Mourshed, 8

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a city called Property in the state of Matter.

Property had four quadrants, one for each of the natural states of matter. In the Liquid quadrant, the citizens of Property found great delight in the enormous blue lakes, gushing waterfalls, and pristine pools.  The Solid quadrant was Property’s business and industrial center, dominated by skyscrapers and bustling streets, which in turn were surrounded by manufacturing zones filled with factories. The Gas quadrant was Property’s energy source, providing the city with large reservoirs of natural gas on which the citizens depended to live.  And finally, the uninhabited Plasma quadrant contained fierce lightning bolts and exploding stars that burned erratically at night. While Property’s citizens moved frequently between the Liquid, Solid, and Gas quadrants in their daily life, they feared the unpredictable powers of the Plasma quadrant and avoided going near it.

At the exact point where the four quadrants meet was a small house. And inside this small house lived the secret to Property’s existence. Each quadrant had a protector who carried the same name as the quadrant that they protected: Solid, Liquid, Gas, and Plasma.  Their sole mission was to prevent Antimatter from destroying the state of Matter. The lightning bolts of the Plasma quadrant, if they were strong enough, could emit gamma rays that create antimatter. And as all of Property’s citizens knew, when matter collides with antimatter, they annihilate each other and become pure energy.  This would mean the end of life in the city of Property.

On this particular night, storms raged in the Plasma quadrant. Lightning bolts crackled in the darkness, creating bursts of gamma rays that spun and twirled in the atmosphere.  In the small house, the Plasma Protector suddenly felt a crawling sensation on her skin, alerting her that antimatter was forming in the Plasma quadrant. “Team, it’s happening again! Antimatter is gathering in the Plasma quadrant!”

Solid grabbed the giant magnet, and said, “Let’s go!”

Together, the four protectors dashed to the Plasma quadrant as the lightning bolts continued to flash in the night sky.

Gas shouted, “Let’s create the antimatter trap!”

Solid swiftly got into position with the giant magnet, immediately creating a magnetic field that drew the charged antimatter particles to it.  Plasma then formed a force field around the magnet, trapping the antimatter particles inside its walls, where they danced and spiraled chaotically.

Holding her breath, Plasma slowly shrunk the force field, until the antimatter particles collided with its walls, and were instantly transformed into pure energy.

Liquid then said, “My turn!” She dowsed the energy particles with jets of freezing water, turning them into ice. Completing the quartet’s work, Gas then transported the frozen energy particles to the Gas quadrant, storing them safely with the energy supply.

The seamless choreography of the four protectors once again saved the city of Property in the state of Matter.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Areesha Nouman, 12
Westlake, OH

The Forest of Mystery

Areesha Nouman, 12

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there stood a forest, dark, gloomy, and forbidding: The Forest of Mystery. It was not called The Forest of Mystery for nothing. Anyone who dared to venture into it in the past had instantly regretted it, as those who had come back out had told their tales of darkness and mystery and shivered as they warned the others to never, ever, set a foot near it. The rest of those who had gone into the forest had never, ever been seen again.

In this land, there also lived two siblings, Lilah and Keith. They weren’t your average sweet, rule-abiding kids, though. The two were a mischievous pair, always finding their way into trouble. And, when they heard about this forest, what others saw as a scary, foreboding place was what they saw as a fun, new area to explore.

“Hey, Lilah!” Keith whispered excitedly to Lilah one night late after their mother tucked them in bed. “Wanna go to the forest?”

“The Forest of Mystery ,” corrected Lilah. “And I think that would be awesome!”

“When do you want to?”

“How about...now?”

Keith and Lilah slowly and stealthily crept out of bed, past their sleeping parents’ bedroom, down the stairs, and out the front door, taking each step carefully and cautiously. When they had escaped the door, they bolted across the grass and turned right, then left, then right again, until they finally glimpsed the forest: dark, gnarly tree trunks surrounded all sides, and the path into the forest was clouded with black mist and darkness. Lilah turned to Keith, and trembled. “Are you sure this is…safe?”

Keith swallowed and tried to hide the fear in his face. “I…I think so…”

They couldn’t hold their curiosity back any longer, though, and before they knew it they had stepped into The Forest of Mystery.

“Hey, this isn’t so bad after all!” Keith exclaimed as they both trampled over dead leaves and crackly tree branches.

“It actually isn’t,” Lilah agreed. “People make a big fuss over it since it’s all dark and musty. If they cleaned it up it would be a really pretty place!”

“Yeah- AAAH!” Keith’s sentence was cut off with a loud scream, and Lilah frantically turned towards him.

Or where he used to be.

Keith was nowhere to be seen.

“KEITH! WHERE ARE YOU?” Lilah called out. “KEITH!”

Suddenly, she heard an eerie voice echo throughout the forest and ringing in her ears.

“Your brother is here, but in order to find him you must complete the three tasks of The Forest. Are you willing to take on this challenge?”

Lilah trembled and through her mind flashed her parents telling her, “ Never go into that forest, understand?” and all the stories she had heard about those who had. But, Lilah knew she had to.

Slowly, she replied,


“Very well.” The voice continued in Lilah’s ears. “We shall begin.” As soon as those words were said, Lilah froze as thick green vines snaked towards her. Terrified, Lilah climbed a nearby tree and hurtled herself away from the vines as she landed with a thump on a pile of dead leaves. Gasping for breath, Lilah staggered back to her feet. But then, her eyes grew wide as she witnessed the tree she had just climbed to escape the vines bending, slowly bending towards her. As all the other trees started to do the same thing, Lilah screamed and closed her eyes, not knowing what to do…where to go…fearfully wondering how bad the third task would get…

Lilah found herself in her bed, heart thumping wildly, the images of the forest flashing through her mind…but safe.

It had all been a dream.

Besides her, Lilah heard Keith’s panicked voice,

“Lilah! Lilah! I just had this dream where we went into the forest and…”

“ I know. I had it too.”

Both their eyes widened as they looked at each other. That night, Keith and Lilah both knew for a fact that they would never, ever, go to the forest ever, or for that matter, anywhere they were told not to go.

From that day, Keith and Lilah learned their lesson and stopped their mischievous endeavors, and they all lived happily ever after.

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