Where The Paths Lead by Yoon Jeong: Part 1

PROLOGUE

 

House fireUntil I was twelve, my life was happy and joyful. My home was in California, and we lived in a pale yellow two-story house with a big garden. As a baby, I fell asleep listening to my mother’s melodic lullaby. Encouraged by claps and smiles, I learned how to walk. I remember my brother, Jason, hugging me every morning before he went to kindergarten.

As I grow older, the memories become clearer. My first word was ‘flute’, which my mother played so beautifully. My father’s violin melody was always my greatest comfort. The sadness I felt when I gave up my cradle was soon followed by happiness for my new bed.

On the first day of kindergarten I made new friends. I remember putting my feet into the salty ocean water. I remember having a birthday party with my friends, and learning the alphabet and how to write. I remember how red my eyes were from crying when my best friend moved away. I remember my how proudly my parents looked at me during my first flute lesson, and the day Jason mastered his first guitar song.

In the class musical, I gave up the role of the fire fairy because I thought there couldn’t be a green-eyed fire fairy and I couldn’t find a way to paint my eyes red. I remember my first flute concert, and learning how to ski, and going to Colorado on a two-month road trip through America. I remember when I started to write my secret diary, and having my first slumber party with Rachel, Emily, Violet, and Bella. I remember graduating elementary school and going to middle school. From the time I’d been just a little baby, nothing had been too difficult in my life.

Until I was twelve. On a beautiful spring afternoon, I was doing a lab in science class. It was my favorite class, the weather was beautiful, and the experiment was fun…nothing was wrong until Mrs. Bailey, my science teacher, tapped on my shoulder and spoke the short sentence that broke my perfect world into pieces. “Your house is on fire,” she said.

My next-door neighbor, Mr. Fort, drove me to the ruin of my home. The flames were almost gone. Gray ash buried the house. I don’t exactly remember the next few days. There were many people hugging me and crying, and Jason’s stunned, emotionless face. That’s all.

The next memory is Aunt Madeline glaring at me and talking about house rules. I was to do the dishes every evening immediately after dinner. I was to wake up early, cook breakfast, and do the dishes before I could eat. The laundry, the vacuuming, the ironing were all my responsibilities, and I couldn’t have friends over to the house. I couldn’t even answer the telephone or leave the house without permission. Compared to my beautiful old home, my new home was old, creepy and gloomy. I remember unpacking my stuff myself—which was a pitiful amount—and I suddenly started crying. My brother, Jason, was living across the country in New Mexico with Uncle Paul. I didn’t even know his phone number or his address.

Since I turned twelve, my life has not been so easy. My new home was in a small town in Maine. At school, I was a stranger. At home, I was still a stranger. Aunt Madeline was never satisfied. I chipped a dish, and she threatened to slap me. I chipped another dish and her hand slapped across my face, leaving my cheek red. When I cried out in pain, she smiled coldly.Girl being slapped

“Count your blessings,” she snarled. “At least I don’t beat you like your Uncle Paul does to that worthless brother of yours. If Jason isn’t careful, one of these days Uncle Paul might just kill him.”

My blood turned to ice. I needed to protect Jason, but how? I couldn’t even get myself away from Aunt Madeline.

Whenever I felt so miserable that I wanted to cry, I opened my secret diary and wrote about what was making me so sad. In the past, Jason had always comforted me, but he was too far away. Now, the diary the only thing I could get comfort from.

Now, three years have passed since the fire. I’m a freshman at West River High School. Except for that, nothing has changed since I was twelve. Every night before going to bed, I wish this was all a dream and that when I wake up I’ll hear my dad’s violin. But when I wake up, I always see the same brown ceiling. With a sigh, I start a new day, but it seems to be the same one, over and over again.

 

 

Chapter One: Finding the Diamond

 

I stumbled across a well-trimmed forest path. A few clouds curtained the clear blue sky. It was a very sunny day, but tall trees blocked most of the sunlight. The straight, flat path ran between the trees. The chirping of birds was the only sound floating in the air, when someone giggled behind me. I turned around. Nobody was there. I continued walking, but I still heard the strange giggling. I started walking faster, but the sound followed me. The path suddenly bent to the right. When I followed, I found myself standing in front of a crow. A single, white feather nestled among the black feathers. Behind the crow, a big wooden door floated about an inch from the ground. The door was dark brown, with cracks and scratches, and looked very old. I carefully touched it. It was rough, like the bark of an old tree. On the right, a golden door knob gleamed as if it had been polished moments ago. Filled with curiosity, I grabbed the knob and turned it. With a loud screech, the door slowly opened. Behind the door, there was nothing; it was just dark space that went on forever. Nothing was attached to the door; how could this be?

Suddenly, the crow cawed. It flapped its wings, and then flew into the dark space behind the door. I hesitated for a second. Since I was a little kid, I had always been afraid of the dark, not like Jason who always got lured in by adventures. But the crow made me curious. Slowly, I stepped into the dark space. After a few careful steps, the door suddenly slammed shut. I stopped walking. I couldn’t see anything and I was too afraid to go further. Then a little white dot appeared in front of my nose. It was a light, glowing dimly. I reached my hand out to touch it, but the moment I touched it, it disappeared. Then I saw it again; this time it was stronger. Again it disappeared when I touched it. The light continued to tease me, each time with a brighter gleam. After a dozen times, it was really gone. The dark started to creep in on me, and my panic grew.

Diamond in a cave A moment later, I saw something very bright in the distance. As I got closer, it became brighter and brighter. Finally, I was close enough to see that it looked like a small, beautiful diamond. And it was shining brightly all by itself.

 

 

Chapter Two: The Power Behind the Diamond

 

The diamond was bright enough for me to look around the sprawling, dark cave. The wall of rough gray rock met the floor covered in sand and pebbles. The stench of an animal blossomed in the dank air.

Suddenly, something glittered. I looked at it, a necklace hidden between rocks. I lifted it out. It was made up of a long, thin piece of brown leather. A gem dangled. At first, it glowed red. But then, it changed its color to green! Then blue, then black, then yellow...It was magical. The vivid colors made me think I could actually feel them.

 When I saw red, it felt like warm fire. When I saw blue, it was if I was diving into a deep, deep ocean. I put the necklace around my neck and the room lurched as though I were on an airplane that was taking off. All of a sudden, my feet were no longer touching the ground! I twirled my arms, frightened I would fall. But I didn’t fall, and started to check what I could do. I tried walking on air. It felt like I was wading through water. I giggled and tried a few more things.

When I looked at the diamond again, it was brighter than the first time. It shone so brightly that I could hardly see anything. I closed my eyes very tightly. After a moment, I opened my eyes again, but I was still blinded by the light.  Standing in the cave, I was still wearing the necklace, but I wasn’t floating.

 “Where am I?” I felt a little embarrassed talking to myself, though I knew no one would hear or answer me.

But then a very low voice said, “You are no longer in your world.” I froze and a big wolf with a beautiful white coat came out of the darkness from behind the diamond. It had pointed ears, a long snout, a furry tail, and claws as sharp as knives. If Jason was here, he would have tried to pat the wolf. But Jason wasn’t here, and I was afraid for Jason ,as well as for myself. It came closer, closer, and closer to me. I wanted to run away, but I was too frightened to move. The wolf came and stood right in front of me. I closed my eyes, waiting for the wolf to pounce on me. But instead of pain, I heard the low voice again.

“Why are you here?” I opened my eyes. The wolf’s eyes were looking directly at me. They gleamed red, and then turned green! I looked down at the gem stone of my necklace. As the gem stone’s color changed, the wolf’s eyes changed color, too.

“Don’t worry,” the wolf said again. “I won’t hurt you.”

 

 

Chapter Three: Out of the Cave

 

The wolf and I stared at each other. Silence swirled, and my breathing was the only sound. The wolf turned and faced the bright diamond. Then it howled; a frightening, lonely sound. After the long howl, the air filled with the flapping of a bird’s wings, along with the sound of cawing. Behind the wolf, a crow flew toward me and landed in front of my feet. I looked at the crow carefully. A white feather on its head seemed to leap out, telling me that it was the same crow I had seen in front of the door on the path.

“Grab the diamond and ride the crow,” the wolf said, pointing to the diamond with its snout. I looked at the diamond, still glimmering with the same light I saw when I entered the cave. Suddenly, I heard a small, rattling sound. A few little stones fell from the ceiling. I glanced at the wolf. Why should I listen to its order? Nothing happened for a moment, but then more stones and rocks started falling with loud, rattling sounds. The whole cave started shaking!

“What is happening?” I screamed. More rocks crashed to the floor; so many that I had to cover my head with my arms.

“Grab the diamond and ride the crow!” the wolf howled. It ran deeper into the cave, disappearing from my sight.Crow in the cave

Now the whole cave looked like it was collapsing. The rocks fell, clattering to the ground. I had no choice. I grabbed the diamond, but I didn’t understand what “ride the crow” means. Did it mean the crow right in front of my feet? How could I ride that little crow? But the crow was no longer at my feet. I turned to my left. There, right next to me, a crow as large as an elephant stood. The crow kneeled, as if it wanted me to ride its back, but I was afraid. I didn’t even know how to ride a horse! But then, the cave started to shake so much that I couldn’t even stand straight. I had to get out of the cave! The crow kneeled lower. I grabbed its black feathers and pulled myself onto its back. In one hand, I held the diamond. With the other, I tightly grabbed the crow’s feathers until my hand ached.

I took a deep breath, wishing I enjoyed adventures like Jason did. If he still did. If Uncle Paul hadn’t beaten it out of him. Terror pressed in. The crow flapped its wings and broke through the ceiling of the collapsing cave. A very bright light flashed from the diamond. I closed my eyes.

When I opened them again, I was standing on a high mountain peak. Snow was falling, covering the ground with white. It was hard to see anything else around me because of the snow. I looked down to the ground, hoping to find any clue about this place, and saw a small black metal box. On the lid was a carved letter, a “G”, simple but very delicate. I stretched my arm to pick up the box, but then I heard a low voice saying, “Don’t touch it. It will turn you into a stone.”

It was the white wolf.

 

 

Chapter Four: The Cursed Box

 

“That box has a curse on it. If it feels your hand, it will turn you into a stone no larger than your thumb.”

I looked at the box. It didn’t seem so dangerous.

The wolf looked into my eyes as if reading my mind. “I know it’s hard to believe, but you have to. Can you see those buildings?”

With its snout, the wolf pointed somewhere. When I squinted, something came into my vision. Buildings! A round wall surrounded them, and it looked quite big. “There is a big city. It was beautiful once. It was not a rich city, but people were always happy and peaceful. And I was the king of that city.”

I gasped, and my eyes widened. “What?” I managed to croak. Even though the wolf looked very powerful, a king? I couldn’t imagine that.

The wolf laughed gently. “You look surprised. But yes. It is true. I am just a wolf now, though I once ruled that city. But about a year ago,” the wolf said, his face suddenly becoming very dark. “The goblins attacked. You can’t find any creature more ugly, vicious or cruel. They only eat small creatures like rats or lizards, but they will kill things just for fun. When we were attacked, there were simply too many of them. Their heads barely reach your knees, but their fighting skills are better than most humans. All my soldiers died to protect me. I survived, but I was transformed into a wolf because of the goblin king’s curse.”

The wolf looked so sad. I couldn’t speak; I didn’t dare to question him. The cold wind started to blow. It scraped across my skin, as though it reflected the wolf’s feelings. If a wolf could cry, it would sound like the wind.

Carefully, I asked, “White WolfSo, what about the box?”

The wolf sighed. “The letter on the lid represents the goblins. I don’t know what’s in it, but it must be something valuable. Otherwise, why would they put a curse on it?”

I thought for a while then said, “They must have lost it.”

The wolf nodded.

“Then I’ll try opening it,” I said. I looked at the box. If I couldn’t use my hand, how about my foot?

“Wait, don’t do th---,” the wolf yelped. But I had already kicked the box as hard as I could. It didn’t open; instead, the ground cracked and split apart as if it was opening its jaw. The ground shook, and the rocks rumbled as they rolled and fell into the dark, deep gorge. I couldn’t see the bottom. I fell to the ground, dizziness whirling in my head. The wind was blowing faster and colder than ever. Then as abruptly as it had started, it ended.

The ground stopped shaking and the gorge disappeared. Everything was perfectly still.

The wolf barked, “I told you not to do that!”

I felt embarrassed. “I’m sorry.”

The wolf seemed still angry, but his voice was calmer. “It’s okay, but be more careful.”

Then I noticed a long wooden branch right next to me. It was very rough and uneven, as if it had just broken off from a tree. I picked it up and looked at the wolf. He nodded in silent agreement. I held the stick up high. I counted one, two, three...then hit the box with the stick. The box didn’t even budge, but the stick shattered into hundreds of sharp pieces that flew high into the air. Then suddenly, they began to fall like arrows from the sky toward me! I panicked. If one of those things hit me, well… I didn’t want to think about it. I started running. The pieces fell right behind me as I ran. “Please,” I pleaded, “Help me.” My legs felt like they were on fire, and my breath became raspy.

I turned around. High from the gray, cloudy sky, a sharp wooden piece was falling directly toward me. I raised my arms, trying to protect myself. Now it was just a few inches from me. I thought of Jason. I would never see him again or be able to save him.

Then suddenly, everything began to move in slow motion. Just before the piece reached me, something blocked it and broke it into dust. I put down my arms. It was the bright diamond, floating in the air.

I heard the wolf’s voice saying, “Use the diamond.”

I grabbed the diamond. It was warm. I searched for the black box. It was buried under the snow, but I could still see the lid and the letter. I placed the diamond on the lid. Then I heard a small click. The lid opened.

Additional Info

  • Author Bio:

    AUTHOR BIO:  Yoon Jeong is an 8th grader who loves writing on computer, but not with pencils. While reading books, she imagines what happens next for days, even after she’s finished it. She can’t decide what to be when she grows up, but she sure doesn’t want to be a professional wrestler.

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