2012 Totem Head Story Contest Finalist:"The Magic Library" By Katie Harrigan, 13 years old, Colorado.
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2012 Contest Finalist

The Magic Library
Written By:   Katie Harrigan, 13 years old, Colorado.

So there I was, flat on my back in the library, wondering what had hit me. I looked at the open book beside me then slammed it shut. Pushing a strand of hair out of my face, I sat up. Wait a second. My hair had been braided earlier. I jumped up and ran to the library counter, looking at my reflection in the shiny surface. Unbraided and windblown. So that hadn’t been my imagination. I really had just been riding into battle on the back of a centaur.

I had been surprised enough to find a door leading to this room in the back of my closet. We had just moved in last week. You can imagine the shock of finding a secret library under our new house. What was more surprising were the books.

There were books on mythical creatures, castles, magical objects, fairies–everything you would ever need to know about fantasy. There were old popular fairy tales and ones I had never heard of. There were fantasy cookbooks, books on how to sit on a throne, how to hold a scepter, what to wear to a royal wedding. I had never seen so much fantasy lore in one place before.

I had walked among the shelves, and then randomly selected a book. It was bound in smooth red leather with gold lettering that read The Centaur. Opening it to the middle of the book, I saw a breathtakingly detailed illustration of a male centaur, poised for battle. As I stared at the picture, I began to feel the picture. I felt his tense muscles rippling under his shiny brown horse’s body, felt the weight of the gleaming sword in his hand.

And then I was in the picture. I sat astride the centaur, clinging onto his dark mane as he reared up and charged into battle. I briefly felt him pause as my real self turned the page of the book back in the library. Then we were barreling on again, and this time I could see the enemy army. Minotaurs and dragons and hydras, all covered in black armor, waited for us. I looked to my left and saw more centaurs running alongside us. My centaur charged a hulking minotaur holding a pike as tall as me. He raised his sword and screamed a battle cry. Just as the sword pierced the minotaur’s side, my real self dropped the book. Suddenly I was falling from the centaur’s back. My last thought before I hit the ground was that I was going to get trampled and killed by the other centaurs. Then I hit hard ground and blacked out.

I woke up on the library floor, uninjured, with the open book beside me. My hair had told me that it hadn’t been merely my imagination.

I bent down and picked up the book, smoothed a creased page. As I slipped it back on the shelf, I wondered what other adventures these books held. Would I fall in love with Prince Charming if I read Cinderella? Would I sleep for a hundred years if I read Sleeping Beauty? What would happen if I read a dangerous book? If a character got hurt in a story, would I get hurt too? Did I dare pick up another book?

I decided that I did dare. I decided to start with Cinderella. That one couldn’t be too bad.

I sat down in a comfortable, overstuffed arm chair and propped my feet up on the ottoman. Then I opened the book to the first page and began to read. For the first half page, nothing happened. Then, when I looked at the illustration, it began.

I was laying on a lumpy pallet, a rough blanket pulled up over me. I yawned and sat up, then looked down at myself. I was wearing a faded blue dress with stains and tears on it, and next to my bed I spotted an apron draped over the back of a chair. I was Cinderella.

Just then bells began to clang. My stepsisters were summoning me. I leapt up and threw on the apron and a pair of brown slippers. Then I ran up the stairs, away from the servants wing, toward my step family’s chambers. Surprisingly, I knew my way around perfectly, as though I really was Cinderella.

My slippers made gentle thuds on the steps as I climbed the grand staircase. I knocked on the door of Anastasia’s room.

"Come in!" a nasally voice snapped. I opened the door and let myself into my stepsister’s huge room. I looked at Anastasia, propped up in her huge four poster bed. Her face looked like she was sucking on a lemon. She had a yellowed complexion and frizzy red hair. Her neck was overly long. She looked like a giraffe.

"I want my slippers. Fetch them." I ran to the slippers and brought them to her.

"Now put them on me." She turned and held her fat feet out to me. Trying not to choke from the smell, I bent down and slipped the shoes on her feet.

"I want my breakfast now. The usual, except make sure that the toast is only lightly toasted. Yesterday you burnt it. It made me ill," Anastasia said. She didn’t look ill to me. But all I said was, "Yes Anastasia." Then I left, and hurried to Drizella’s room. Drizella had dark brown hair and a snub nose, and she looked down at me disapprovingly as she ordered her breakfast. Then onto my stepmother.

Her room was the biggest of all. She stroked the family cat, Lucifer, as she sat in her big bed. The cat growled at me.

"Cinderella. You’re late," she said in a voice as cold and harsh as stone.

"I’m sorry stepmother," I looked down.

"Look at me! I want you here on time tomorrow. Is that understood?"

"Yes ma’am." I sighed. I was only late because I was seeing to Anastasia and Drizella first.

"Bring me my breakfast now." I nodded, and before I turned away, she leaned forward and I caught sight of her face, which had been hidden in shadow before. She had a severely pointed chin, a hawk nose, and gray hair. For someone so old, she was surprisingly intimidating.

I hurried to the kitchen, and when I got there, I found I knew my stepfamily’s usual breakfasts perfectly: toast and eggs for Anastasia and Drizella, and grapefruit and toast for my stepmother. I hurriedly prepared three trays of food. Balancing one on my head, I managed to carry all three at the same time. After delivering the breakfasts, I decided to let the real Cinderella finish the story. My real self closed the book, and the world seemed to tilt. I fell to the floor in Cinderella’s house, and then woke up in the library chair. I shuddered. I would never get used to that.

I stood and stretched, and then placed the book back on its shelf. Well, I tried too. It wouldn’t go in all the way. Something must be back there, blocking it. So I reached back, and my fingers brushed something. I pried the something out and pushed Cinderella in. Then I looked at what I held.

It was notebook, bound in soft brown leather. I sat down and opened it. On the first page, in fancy lettering, were the words Diary of the Readers. I opened to the first page and began to read. This time, nothing remarkable happened. It was just a regular book. The first page said:

I have discovered this library beneath my house. Don’t ask me how I found it. I just felt pulled toward a section of my closet. I discovered a keyhole, and hidden in the corner, an ornate brass key. When I arrived here, I pulled down a book titled Medieval Monsters. I began reading it, and got a shock. Suddenly I was standing before a hydra defenseless. I narrowly escaped with my life. Luckily, some part of me left behind in the library realized I was about to be hydra fodder, and I closed the book. A tear in my shirt was the only thing to convince me I hadn’t been dreaming. I have decided to keep a record of my adventures with this library, so as to perhaps aid someone else who should find this place after me. Will write again soon.

~Elliot Smith

I closed the book in shock. So I wasn’t crazy. Someone else had experienced the same thing! I flipped through other entries, and found about a dozen different "Readers" had written in here about their experiences in the library. I couldn’t wait to add my own legacy, to write about my own adventures, here in this magic library.

Link to Free Writing Contest for Kids

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