Third Place: Finding the Way: A Non-Scary Ghost Story
Journal One: June 14, 2014
WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN TO ME!?!?
Hi. My name’s Alan, and I’m nine years old. I have dark brown hair and brown eyes. Today, I was at Chickamauga Battlefield with my family. Chickamauga Battlefield is a historic Civil War battlefield in Chickamauga, Georgia. We are almost right next to the Tennessee state line.
During a break in our tour, the rest of our group and our tour guide left us behind. I know, EEEEEEEEEEEK!!! We have been trying to find them, but no luck. Now, it’s just me, my twelve-year-old sister Courtney, my mom, and my dad. We’re stranded in the middle of the Chickamauga Battlefield with no group or guide. YIPPEE!!! Not.
“Where are we?” I whined.
“I dunno, and just shut up!” Courtney shot at me. “I doubt mom or dad know where we are either.”
I sighed. We had walked for a really long time.
Oh, great, I thought. Now I’m gonna have a great story to tell my children and grandchildren when I get older.
“Tony!” cried Mom. (Tony was the tour guide) “We’re over here!”
Journal Two: June 15, 2014
My Mom is Scared to Death by a Boo
We woke up to find a grizzly bear standing over us.
I know, kind of weird, because this isn’t Yellowstone or Glacier or anyplace big. But, yep, we were being attacked.
“AAHHHHHHH!!” cried Mom.
We all started running, but in almost all survival books it says you absolutely CANNOT outrun a grizzly.
A voice in my head jolted me back to my senses.
“Everyone, play dead!” I cried.
I laid down on the ground and closed my eyes. I could hear the big bear sniffing me with its nose. I doubted that I would make it out alive, and I braced myself for the pain, for it all to end….
The grizzly bear jolted up and started running. I sat up, dazed, but all in one piece.
I noticed that Courtney and I were the only ones conscious in the clearing. Mom and Dad had both fainted from fright.
“Trespassers!” cried a voice.
“CHAAAAAAARGE!!!” yelled another.
“HEEEELP!!!” I cried.
“AHHHHH!!” cried Courtney.
We closed our eyes. It was just cruel that we were saved fr0m a grizzly bear, and now it was time for it to end again. I dared to open my eyes, and you won’t believe what I saw.
It was an odd assortment of Union soldiers from the Civil War. I could tell by the blue uniforms I learned about in school.
“He is awaaaaaaake.” cried a ghost that had many wounds, a sword sticking out of his side, and a missing right arm.
“Which ooooone?” asked another, who sported similar wounds.
“What is your naaaame, sooooony?” asked a different one.
“I-I’m Alan, s-sir,” I stammered. “B-but please d-don’t call me s-sonny.”
“Gooooot it, young’uuuun,” replied the ghost with a crooked grin.
“Colonel, please leave him alone.” demanded a new voice.
I spun around. There was a ghost with a wound straight on his chest. He was carrying a small drum.
“You got it, Joooooohn,” replied the Colonel.
John walked (or floated, I couldn’t tell) towards me.
“Please don’t mind the others,” he said. “They do not have to add the long syllables, but they insist. It makes them more ghosty-feeling.”
“The one who said you were awake is Major James, the Colonel is Colonel Sanders, then there’s……”
John continued telling me all the names until I thought everyone’s name was Danny. I was so confuzzled. (Is that even a word?) I’m pretty sure Courtney was too. All I wanted was sleep. I closed my eyes and let sleep wash over me.
Journal Three: June 16, 2014
Get Ready to Go On a Quest Where You Might Die
This morning, I was relieved to find my family alive, awake, and scared to death. The ghosts were still there.
“What is this place?” asked my dad.
“Unhand us, you ghosts!” said Mom in her best Mom voice.
“No, young’uuuuuuun,” replied Colonel Sanders.
“I am not young!”
“You aaaaaaaaare to me,” replied the Colonel.
“He’s like 170, Mom, he’s a ghost,” I explained.
John floated/walked toward us.
“We leave today,” he declared.
“Leave for where?” challenged Courtney. “Where are you taking us? We need to find our group!”
“You are going by yourself.”
“We don’t know where to go!”
“Find the biggest, oldest oak tree,” John instructed. “Your problems will end there.”
“Wow,” I said sarcastically. “Thanks for the help.”
“Then what are you waiting for? Get going!”
Journal Four: June 20, 2015
My Life is Saved
I really had to think before I wrote this journal. A LOT.
After John sent us away, we walked for a long time. I wondered when this was ever going to end.
“Everyone!” cried Courtney, pointing. “Look at that huge tree! It could be the oak tree!”
“Then what are we waiting for?” asked Dad.
We all walked with newfound energy. Soon we reached the tree. There we found our tour group with a search party.
“You’re alive!” Tony cried.
“You bet,” I replied.
“How did you find us?” a park ranger asked.
“Well, we had a bit of help,” I replied.
“Who helped?” another asked.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw John give me a wink. Then, he vanished. I never saw him again.
Now I know that I truly believe in ghosts. How could I not, after I had seen one in the flesh? (Does that work with ghosts?) I never told anyone about my adventure, except my family, of course. If I told anyone else, they would think I was the craziest human alive.
But I did tell this story. I told it with these journals that you are holding in your hands.
Andrew Neal is in the fifth grade at East Central Elementary School in Rome, Georgia. When he’s not writing stories, he enjoys Legos, reading, taekwondo, basketball, and making stop-motion animation videos. When he grows up, Andrew wants to be a designer for Lego.
Second Place: The Bird That Started It All
I saw the ball in slow motion. It was going to the corner of the goal, and so was I. I barely pushed the ball out of the goal. I had just blocked the last penalty of the championship game! We won!
The entire team was so happy! After celebrating, I went to my parents. Mom said that since I did such a good job, they would take me to hike on Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park! I was very happy! I’ve seen it from the distance, and it looks cool!
When we got there, I marveled at the height of it. I saw squirrels running around, probably collecting acorns. I also heard the constant call of birds, and their voices in a beautiful harmony. It was as if they had programmed a little song, just for us. There were also lots of cannons because it served as a battlefield in the Atlanta Campaign. Since it was fall, the leaves were red, yellow, brown, and golden.
When we got to the very tippy top, we ate a snack and had some water while looking at the breathtaking view. If I really squinted my eyes, I could see the tall skyscrapers of downtown Atlanta and Stone Mountain, although it only appeared as a dot.
Dad was taking pictures and Mom was looking at the view.
“What ‘ya doing?” I asked Dad. I obviously startled him for he jumped.
“I’m taking pictures of birds, and think I have discovered a new species! I saw it in the backyard for a mere instant, and if I could only get ahold of a picture of it, I could be famous!” He said.
He had a glint of hope in his eyes as he spoke. Then, he pursed his lips, and stared open-eyed at a spot above me. “The bird.” He whispered. And before I could blink, he was after the bird shouting, “Heeeeere, birdie birdie birdie!” Then, I was after him!
Now, reader, imagine this scene: A girl sprinting after her dad shouting, “Dad! Come back!” while the dad is shouting, “Heeeeere, birdie birdie birdie!” and chasing a bird in the woods at full speed. This was the crazy scenario I found myself in when I suddenly see Dad stop and take a picture.
When I finally got to where he was, I saw a glum look on his face when he saw the picture he just took.
“IT’S JUST A BLUE JAY!”I shouted, looking at the picture.
“Apparently, this is not a new species.” Said Dad.
“Now, which way back?” I said in a cutthroat voice.
“Errr…I don’t really know, but we’ll be alright.” He said.
After looking for a way back, we realized we were lost, and getting hungry. We searched until we found a small bush with some berries. Close by, we found a stream that looked decent enough from which to drink.
It was getting dark, so we decided to camp out near the stream and the bush, at a tree that had very low branches; so low that if I kneeled, my head would bump into the branch above me. We made a pile of sticks and branches that we would use as firewood later on.
Then, I remembered about bears. “Dad? Are there any bears nearby?”
“Well, maybe. We should get a fire going to scare them away. To make the fire, we have to find some flintstone. Let’s search along the side of the stream. If you see a glossy looking rock, hand it to me.” He said.
We went to the stream and I looked for glossy rocks. I saw him take the rocks I found one by one and strike them with his pocket knife multiple times. He threw most of them into the lake and kept three.
“We should be heading back now.” He said.
We went back to our tree. Dad told me to set the wood up in a cone shape, so I did just that. Meanwhile, he cut a piece the size of his fist off of his shirt. I watched him with curiosity as he struck the flintstones together on the fabric until it had a small, red circle on it. He then blew on the red circle and put it on the pile of wood and it burst into flames!
It was easier to fall asleep feeling safe from the bears. I said good night to Dad and thanked him for the fire. He hugged me, and I almost instantly fell asleep.
I awoke to Dad sitting up and bumping his head on a branch. I just lay there seeing him get up, go to the bush, and getting some berries.
“Breakfast’s ready!” He said. I smiled and got up.
After we finished our berries, he threw his head back and let a long, loud groan. “I just realized how we can get…unlost! We can follow the stream down!”
“Perfect!” I said.
He was already rushing down when I yelled, “Wait!”
“What?” Dad said.
“We should put the fire out. Also, can we bring some berries home? They’re delicious!” I said.
“Good catch.” He smiled and said, “Of course you can bring berries home!”
He put the fire out while I put some berries in mycap. Then we immediately began to stagger down the mountain. After a while, we encountered the trail. We were smiling and whooping with joy to have found our way back!
People that passed by looked at us like we were lunatics. I didn’t blame them, for we were very dirty, and the bottom of Dad’s shirt was mostly cut off, so you could see his stomach.
After some time walking, we bumped into Mom. We were crying and hugging and kissing until Mom said through tears, “You guys look like a mess!” We were laughing when Dad suddenly stopped, pursed his lips, and stared open-eyed at a spot above me. “The bird” He whispered.
Isabella Castro lives in Marietta, Georgia, with her parents and brother. Since she was a baby she enjoyed books. Isabella is an eager reader, she and her team have won two reading competitions at her school. When she is not reading Isabella is playing soccer, singing, or playing piano.
First Place: The Lost Pet
“This is the best surprise vacation ever!” I shout as I scramble up on a rocky ledge with my cousin, DJ.
We both stop to listen to my voice echo in the giant cavern and laugh. Yesterday morning, my mom and dad woke me up early to tell me they had a surprise. I was so excited I jumped right out of bed.
“You’ll need to pack jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and your hiking boots, kiddo,” my mom said.
“Where are we hiking?” I asked.
My mom just smiled. “Wait and see.”
I love hiking and was super excited, but the best surprise came when we arrived at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. My cousins, DJ and Ileana, as well as my Aunt Rachel and Uncle Domenique were waiting at the hotel. The next morning the grownups handed me and my cousins a back pack, then told us our tour would be starting soon.
“I didn’t even know wild caving was a thing. Isn’t this awesome?” I say to DJ as I continue climbing along the ledge and see a cave covered in shiny crystals. “How cool! Let’s take one home.”
I pull the small set of emergency digging tools from my pack. The tiny ice pick and the edge of the shovel will be perfect for breaking off one of the crystals.
“Didn’t they tell us that was illegal?” DJ asked
“Boys, it’s time to go,” my Aunt Rachel yells.
“Oh, yeah. You’re right.” I pulled out my magnifying glass and my extra flashlight. “I’ll just get a closer look then.”
I bent closer to the crystal as DJ walked away, my back to the tunnel where my family rested.
“Just another minute,” I mutter as I studied the way my light reflected inside the crystal.
“I’m definitely buying one in the gift shop,” I turn to tell DJ, but he and the rest of my group is nowhere to be seen. My heart pounds and I start to shake. I swing my flashlight around the cave, looking for any sign of my family.
“Mom? Dad? Anyone?”
I hear an ominous scraping from the crystal cave behind me. I spin around.
Loose rocks hit the cave floor and I jerk my light toward the sound. In the beam is the weirdest looking boy I’ve ever seen. With red hair, pointed ears, and overly large eyes, he looks like no one I’ve ever seen before, but it’s his pale greenish-gray skin that really freaks me out.
“Who are you?” I ask cautiously. “What are you?”
The frightened boy, his hands shielding his eyes, says in a shaky voice, “If you’d stop blinding me, I’d tell ya.”
I lower my light and he drops his hands. “Thanks,” he says with a sigh.
“This is when you tell me who you are,” I say sarcastically.
“You’re the one invading my home. Why should I tell ya anything?” he responds with a smirk.
I look around the dark cave skeptically. “You live here?”
“Yeah, and a thief just pet-napped my pet crawfish, Crawly.”
I can’t help a startled laugh. “You have a pet crawfish and you named it Crawly?” I shake my head. “Now you really have to tell me your name. My name is Aidan, by the way.”
“The name is Havyk, but that’s not important. I have to find Crawly before the thief eats him.”
“Well, I just lost my family. How about I help you find your pet, then you help me find my family?”
“Deal,” Havyk says. “It’s nice to meet you, Aidan.”
I move my flashlight beam around the cave, looking for a stray crawfish among the crystals. “We need to look for clues. What have you found so far?”
“I found the thief’s tracks near Crawly’s favorite swimming hole and followed them here,” he said, crouching down to look at the cave floor.
I swing my flashlight to see what he’s looking at and see wet raccoon tracks making a trail across the cave floor. Following the tracks, we leave the crystal cave and enter a tunnel too low for us to walk. We crawl through the steep, upward-climbing tunnel for what seems like forever until sunlight appears ahead of us. Near the opening, a raccoon stands holding something in its hands.
Thinking fast, I pick up a rock and throw it at the raccoon as Havyk yells, “Crawly! Let him go, you fiend!”
The rock hits the raccoon, making it drop Crawly, and it runs out of the opening.
Havyk scrambles forward and picks up his pet. “Oh, Crawly, I missed you. I’m glad you’re okay.”
The crawfish lifts up on its tiny legs and makes a popping sound like when I squeeze bubble wrap.
“I’ve never heard crawfish sounds before.”
“He’s just happy to see me,” Havyk says. “Thanks for helping rescue him.”
Suddenly, I hear my family’s voices coming through the opening. I poke my head out to see my mom gesturing frantically to a tour guide.
I turn to face Havyk. “And it looks like you helped me find my family.” I hold out my hand, which he looks at with a confused expression before reaching out to grab my hand. “It was really nice meeting you, Havyk. Will I ever see you again?”
Havyk shrugs and kicks the ground. “Dwarves aren’t supposed to reveal ourselves to humans, but if you ever come back you may find me playing with Crawly in the crystal cave.”
I nod and shake his hand. “Your secret is safe with me. I’ll come back soon.”
Havyk nods then disappears back into the dark tunnel. I crawl out of the tunnel and run over to my worried family.
My mom sees me and strangles me in a tight hug. “Oh my gosh, I’ve been so worried. Where have you been?”
“I helped someone find his lost pet. Can we come back this summer?”
My mom just squeezes me tighter. “We’ll see.”
Aidan Fish lives in Oklahoma with his parents and two cats. He plays piano, loves to sing, draw, and read, and is known to crack up over really bad puns. He’ll never turn down cherry coke or Hershey’s milk chocolate. Someday he wants to either be a rock star or an expert in cyber security…but at only twelve years old, hasn’t quite made up his mind which yet.