This story is by Laila HEwitt and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Leaves crunched under Evelyn’s feet as she ran. She wasn’t sure if she was running away from school or towards home. The first generally would have been more plausible, but today, Evelyn was ready to defeat her writer’s block. She reached the white house at the end of the block and rushed up the worn red brick sidewalk. Reaching the door, she pulled a key out of her pocket and unlocked it.
While enjoying an apple, she pondered the day’s events and allowed herself, if only for a moment, to be caught up in the stresses which accompanied high school. From a failed math test to unkept secrets, things were not going well for her.
After eating, Evelyn tried to distract herself by visiting her older sister’s bedroom. Studying the desk, still exactly as her sister left it, memories poured into her head of the way her sister had seemed so different in the solitude of the wooden box and the hopelessness she’d felt watching it be closed and lowered into the ground.
Finding them unable to bear, Evelyn left her sister’s old room and headed to her own. She sat down at her desk and pulled out a laptop computer, ready to do the only other thing which brought her real happiness these days. Opening a file called “School” (a precaution in case anyone looked at her computer), she began writing where she’d left off the night before.
“As she beheld the great beast, Princess Eva cursed the enchanted assailants for having outsmarted her. They knew that her magic wouldn’t work here. That, she was certain, was why they had brought her sister here. This was just great. She’d come all this way and was finally getting close to finding her sister and now she couldn’t even use magic to get the girl back. She really wished that the Black Forest and its magic-killing abilities didn’t exist, but here she was lost in it. This was all stupid, double-crossing Vivenna’s fault. She never should have told Vivenna where she was. She could usually tell when a person couldn’t be trusted.
Put this out of your head, she told herself. Think logically. Don’t think of yourself. Right now, what matters is that you save Ashlyn. Don’t think about who told the enchanted assailants your location. Vivenna may be the only one who knows where you are, but she’s your best friend. She wouldn’t sell you out like that. Eva put her palms together, relaxed her brain, regained her warrior’s calm, and began to devise a plan.”
Eva was Evelyn’s version of herself. She added to the complex tale that was Eva’s story every day, giving her challenges that represented Evelyn’s own challenges. The difference was that Eva handled them with grace and what she called “warrior’s calm,” while Evelyn barely made it through and typically ended up in tears. It certainly wasn’t the works of Shakespeare, but it was her story, and she was proud of it.
After a break for homework, Evelyn continued writing. Eva got past the serpentine assailant by running ahead, bending a tree branch down so that she could stand on it, piling rocks onto it, and releasing them by stepping off when the serpent was in range. At some point, Evelyn’s parents returned home and called her down to dinner. She ate quickly and rushed back upstairs to continue writing, conveniently avoiding the subject of her math test. As usual, she became lost in her writing and didn’t notice how late it was getting. However, she usually snapped out of it and got to bed at a semi-reasonable time, but that night, she did not. She didn’t even make it to her bed; she simply fell asleep at her desk, head resting on her keyboard.
The next morning, Evelyn awoke, somehow having been transported to an unfamiliar bed. As she looked around, the room seemed strangely familiar, even though she knew she’d never been there.
The question of where she was was quickly answered as a young woman walked into the room and announced, “Miss Eva, you’re late! Your breakfast is getting cold, Your Highness!”
Evelyn pondered this. Who was that? Where am…Her always-wide eyes widened even further as she made the shocking realization. I’m in the story!
While this answered her question, it also spawned multitudes more, none more prevalent than the rest. Worry coursed through her and a thousand plans rushed through her mind, but she forced them back. She was Eva now, so she tried to find that “warrior’s calm.” Eventually, something became clear. Since she’d already been late, she knew she didn’t have to do exactly what Eva had done in her story, a prospect both daunting and slightly calming. However, it also showed her that she could legitimately abandon the entire plot of the story and focus entirely on getting out. Finally, though, she decided that if she abandoned the story, as strange as it may seem, the death of an entire (freakishly semi-fictional) kingdom would be on her, which wasn’t something she wanted to live with. Plus, thinking of her own sister kept her from abandoning Eva’s sister when her fate came knocking. She wasn’t going to let two sisters die. Instead, she decided to go along with her original plotline whenever possible and worry about getting out later.
Quickly, Evelyn readied herself, rushed through the hallways she’d designed, every once in a while stopping to marvel at how the whole thing had come to life, and arrived in the dining hall, where she took her place, gave a rushed apology and made-up explanation for her lateness, and began to eat.
Entranced by her surroundings, she forgot to prepare herself for what was coming.
Suddenly, a piercing scream like nothing she’d heard before rang through the room, and she remembered what she’d written. It had come, she knew, from Ashlyn, Eva’s six-year-old sister. Evelyn looked up to the enormous castle windows and saw what appeared to be an enormous flaming bird, just as terrifying as it had been in her head. While glad to see she’d transferred it to the page well, her foremost thoughts were those of terror and the necessity to save the six-year-old, now in the claws of the bird, which had just broken the window glass. She ran forward, but the bird had already gone, unsurprisingly.
Even though she already knew, she demanded, “What in holy heck was that?”
Tears filling her eyes, the queen described the enchanted assailants, a group of enlightened animals which could speak and had magic abilities slightly inferior to the humans’ in that they could only work with one material, the one of the bird being fire. They used these to institute the royal family’s downfall, feeling that animals were rightful leaders of Wylina, their kingdom.
If the monarchs had had their way, the world would have gone on as though nothing had happened. The only change would be that Ashlyn would be dead, for she’d been trained to end herself rather than divulge any information. Evelyn, however, could not cope with another suicide and had given Eva the role of sneaking out of the castle and rescuing Ashlyn.
Shaking with nerves about what was to come, Evelyn took everything she might need from her chambers, the magic supply area, and the weapons room. With a final glance around the castle grounds, she started off. She hid in the trees and, once out of view of the castle, entered the main road. Here she stayed until it forked. There, she suddenly had a revelation and turned off to a smaller, less used path, another time not following the original plot.
As she walked, she cast several basic spells just to get the hang of it. While Eva was one of the strongest magicians in the kingdom, Evelyn had never done any spells at all and wasn’t certain she’d be able to when the time came. First she tried a simple charm to grow a plant, and subsequently did several more to disguise herself by changing her hair, lightening her skin, and making herself taller. All she had to do was drop some dust on the ground (green was for plant spells, blue for water, yellow for transformations, and red for attacks) and think solely of the spell’s purpose.
After a time, she came to a small town. Now thoroughly disguised, she felt safe enough to walk into the town, search in the library for a while, and purchase a bound notebook, quill, and ink, luxuries to many in the area. After her purchase, Evelyn spent about an hour in the town writing in the book when Eva would have been planning. Eventually, she decided she was done and headed to a shaded spot between trees and changed her disguise again, always taking precautions. She headed back to the main trail and went back to her preordained course of action, albeit filling the time by practicing magic instead of shooting the bow she’d brought. Evelyn was already a pretty good shot and knew her spells were what needed the practice.
Eventually, she worked her way up to the tracking spell Eva had cast at the moment she’d entered the forest in the first place. A small glow appeared in front of her and lead her off of the trail.
She followed it, and thus began the journey of her lifetime, which included several encounters with the assailants and countless instances in which she barely got away with her life, some serious magic useage, a betrayal, several failed plans, and two days with only pine bark to eat. As she grew closer to the point at which she’d stopped writing, the stakes grew higher. Every night, she made sure to write in her notebook before giving herself over to restless sleep featuring dreams of the story she’d never finished ending and her being tossed into endless nothingness, or even the story ending with her death.
Against all odds, both of Wylina’s princesses returned alive. Ashlyn was frightened of animals from that point on, but Evelyn had become much braver through her journey. She’d brought development to Eva’s character and settled in with the idea of keeping her new identity. As queen, she did her best to make every subject feel heard, which lead to a stronger society ready to conquer foes like the enchanted assailants.
If one were to open the locked door on the third floor of Eva’s castle, one would find a corridor empty but for another door, which would perhaps be propped open. Through the doorway, a simple room would be visible. The desk and chair would do nothing to differentiate this room from others, and neither would the shelves full of books. What would make it stand out would be the content of those books. Every one of them would be filled with handwriting that grew neater from book to book and told the story of a girl in a world full of anger and blame, unsolved problems, and advanced technology. The first of these was the book Evelyn had purchased in the town outside of the forest. She’d decided that since she clearly wasn’t in her old world anymore, it needed to be treated just as this one had been. She wrote about it as if it were the figment of her imagination, and the story focused on her old life. This way, she could ensure that the world continued to turn and the characters in both worlds to develop. While there was never any confirmation that it had worked, it felt as real to her as the fantasy world had when she’d been creating it, and that was proof enough.