You Choose Your Own Adventure.

Submitted into Contest #86 in response to: Write a fairy tale about someone who can communicate with woodland creatures.... view prompt


Teens & Young Adult Fantasy Suspense

You Choose Your Own Adventure.

As you did every week, you visited the library. The worn brick building was gigantic, occupying the entire corner of the street. Normally a quick and pleasant stroll from your house, today you ran faster than lightening to reach your destination. You may get struck by lightening if you dawdled. Drowning in a flood if you did not hurry was a legitimate concern. Such a fate had befallen other uninformed people previously. 

Saturday arrived, bringing bad news. As you opened the curtains of your bedroom, anticipating a sunny day filled with bright blue skys, you saw a monstrosity instead; the gray sky and clouds. Rain would soon follow. Regular rain in this desert state never occurred. The entire neighborhood's grass was brown you observed. Growing flowers was pointless unless they could be kept inside. When rain did visit the state, often people panicked wondering if the apocalypse was coming. Rainfall frequently resembled a flood. School was generally canceled; a 'rain day' versus 'snow day' without all the fun of snow. Swimming practice could not occur you learned as a child. Never would you build a snowman until you moved to a colder state. 

Drowning verses facing the anger of your parents. Which death would you choose? They would murder you if they were sent another late return fee notice. As teenagers often do, you frequently did not obey your parents or forgot their advice. You did read the eight books you checked out, you simply forgot about dropping them off after school yesterday. If only you had listened you sighed while dressing too quickly. 

Keeping the weather situation in mind, you weighed whether your parents would grow angrier if you went out in such weather, got sick, resulting in paying for a doctor's appointment against the price of eight overdue books. Sickness was not a guaranteed outcome. However, nightmares would haunt your parents over how they would pay off an overdue book debt. Running out in what could easily be mistaken for pajamas, your thin flower printed leggings and green shirt would be seen as nothing more than a blur as you jumped over road blockers, dodged other people, shocked they were pushed aside by a strong 'wind,' before you finally took a deep breath. 

At last the library was finally in sight. Cautiously crossing the street, you reached the doorstep. In this weather the building was intimidating. A deserted castle, with a moat in construction you thought. Bright yellow caution signs were placed in all windows indicating an early closure, presumably due to weather conditions you noticed. Visitors should come another day. Desperate, you pulled on the door handles; the doors were not yet locked. 

Sneaking in, you should have just dropped the books off and left. Curiosity got the better of you and you walked through the library maze. Rain started violently pounding upon the windows. Realizing you had better leave before the weather grew worse, you were too late. The arm of a woman stretched across you, preventing your escape attempt. Looking up at the stern face of the new librarian, dressed in her black raincoat, carrying her matching umbrella you feared punishment, not the weather. Would you be banned from the library; you would not blame them for taking this opportunity of rule breaking as an excuse for ridding the library of the late book return girl.  

You noticed she put her hand in front of your face, preventing you from talking. “Why did you come today? I would think the 'weather app' on your smartphone would have told you take caution. Clearly, the app failed,” she commented in a polite yet irritated voice.

She put her hand down, giving you the chance to speak. All you could do was stutter. You would have come back another day except the library was closed on Sunday, therefore the books would be late. “Please, my parents will be infuriated! A tiny moment of your time is all that I ask of you. I'm begging you!”

Entering the books as 'returned' into the computer was all you desired. You did not intend upon lingering today and understood how destructive the weather inevitably would become. The desperation coming from your voice opened her heart up enough to help you, although you clearly broke the rules. Your reputation preceded you, she commented. She was warned you frequently were late returning large amounts of books.

First impressions can be deceiving. Her stern appearance did not match her personality you observed. You luckily met a kindhearted new employee. With a sigh of relief, you both went into the library. Taking the books out of your bag, you were grateful nothing got wet. While you dug through your bag, searching for your library card, you realized you were in such a hurry you foolishly forgot a jacket and umbrella. You wondered whether all people living in the state owned umbrellas? Most probably did not given the rarity of the rain; a waste of money for many. The librarian was intelligent; she remembered leaving home with a jacket and umbrella. At least you were wearing sneakers instead of flip-flops. 

She yanked the card out of your hand, clearly irritated by the delay. Nevertheless, she provided help. Nothing can be simple you thought as you apologized noticing the computer take longer loading. The impending doom possibly effected the power of the internet signal. As the librarian realized it would take a long time, she encouraged you to browse the shelves. Pick another book if you wanted. You took her advice and browsed, amused and horrified a new employee was given warning about you. She had only been working there for a week. 

After deeply inspecting the shelves, an unusual book caught your eye. 'Choose Your Own Adventure-A Walk in the Woods.' You knew of a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' series, yet never read such a story. A moderately thin book, the gimmick was making a choice. At the end of each page, you would choose which page to read next. The ending would vary depending on the choices the reader made. No longer produced, the book series ended in the mid- 20th Century. Perhaps after getting killed off by the ending too many times, the series was killed you jokingly thought. 

Taking the book carefully off the shelf, you took the worn book to the desk. Nearly crumbling into dust when your hands touched the scratchy pages, the book was clearly ancient. Merely as an experiment did you consider reading a children's book. Those sorts of stories were what your parents read as children; now you could share with them a mutual experience. Most children did not even know libraries still existed in the 21st Century you assumed. By the time you married and had children, libraries may actually no longer exist you thought. Online book services were quickly taking over the literature section of the world. Reading was just a hobby you believed. 

Oh SH*T you thought. The malfunctioning computer delay left you both stranded in the library. How she managed to control her temper was astonishing when she told you the better option would be staying until the rain died down. Although your parents could not be angry with you over a book fee, missing dinner and being foolish enough to wander around in the first place would infuriate them. Your bad luck continued increasing when the power went out and your cell phone had no battery. Yet another reason to be punished. Causing excessive worrying, unable to say you're safe. Cars are meant for dry roads; you could not expect your parents using them as rescue boats however. 

“Wanna read like in the old fashion days? Take one of my flashlights. Read until the storm dies down,” the librarian said, trying to make the best of a bad situation. Taking the flashlight, you did as she suggested. Placing a flickering flashlight on one of the old wooden desks, you sat down and opened the book. Reading by candlelight must have felt similar.

After the first page you finally understood what your English teacher meant by 'omniscient' point of view. The writing used 'you' rather than he/she/ they etc. to tell the story. Making a choice for other characters was not as immersive as 'you' making a choice. 

The beginning of 'Choose Your Own Adventure-A Walk in the Woods' was depressing you noticed while reading the first page. Your car broke down in the middle of the night, with no help in sight. Cell phones did not exist when these books were written, so the choice 'call someone for help,' was not an option. The two choices were either 'leave your car and walk down the deserted road with nothing more than a small flashlight' or 'walk down through the nearby forest with your flashlight.' Given the title was 'A Walk in the Woods,' you assumed making the second choice was the correct choice.

Indeed, you were correct. Carefully navigating through the dark forest was extremely hazardous. Your flashlight provided little help; you tripped falling into a hole. The next choices were 'call for help' or 'try climbing out.' Surely the safer choice of 'try climbing out' instead of altering any nearby creatures of your presence was correct. Wrong choice. You died by being buried alive. While climbing out you grasped on to the looser parts of the dirt hole; all the dirt fell on you before you had a chance to move out of the way. 

Starting back from the previous page, you read the short section again. Each page only contained 2-3 paragraphs before the next 'choice' was offered you noticed. The format of the book made that a necessity. Apparently, the choice of 'calling out for help' inside of a potentially dangerous forest was the correct choice. Your cries for help altered three creatures, a snake, rabbit and a bear. The next choice was 'ask the rabbit and snake team for help' or 'ask the bear.' You chose the first choice and learned that was correct. The rabbit rapidly dug part of hole away making a ramp. The snake acted as a rope for you; as you held on, his slimy scales guided you out of the hole. You thanked them, knowing they certainly did not understand. However, they responded with "you're welcome!" and "please don't pull so tightly in the future."

Your character was one of the few humans who 'spoke' creature you realized. Given all the references the book made regarding you talking to the rabbit and snake, both clearly understanding you the revelation was not shocking. Instead of trying to explain what a 'car' was to animals, your character stated they were lost and needed a way out as quickly as possible. Although the duo were extremely helpful with removing you from the hole safely, neither were completely familiar with the forest. Loosening your grip as requested, you held onto the snake as a rope as you both followed the rabbit. He knew of a place there might be shelter. The next choices were 'follow the rabbit down the left fork in the road' or 'abandon the rabbit and follow the snake on the right side of the road.'

This time, it was wise to abandon the snake and follow the rabbit. Out of curiosity, you read the page of what would have happened if you went with the snake. He would have swallowed you whole. Turning back to the current path, the rabbit did find his shelter; a large cave filled with other creatures of all shapes and sizes. It was too dark to see exactly what was present, however, if the rabbit felt safe your character ought to feel safe. The choices of 'spend the night' or 'walk out alone' made you uncertain. Adding an element of suspense increased your positive opinion of the writing. 

You stayed in the cave with a zoo full of creatures. No longer did you need your flashlight as you saw the dots of a blue sky and sunshine through the thick grove of forest trees. Keeping the black and white spotted rabbit as your guide he introduced you numerous other creatures. Non-man eating bears, other rabbits, robins, eagles, owls, and butterflies. Faeries were seen deep in the cave, causing everyone to flee. The next choice, who to go with, the 'creatures' or the 'asking faeries.'

Choosing to go with the faeries was too easy. The narrator of the book, scolded you for resorting to magic to quickly leave a horrible situation. The faeries did not appreciate it and zapped you into stone. You fell on the uneven ground and cracked into bits. Were all the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books written in such a manner you wondered as you looked up briefly, noticing the weather clearing up, although not safe enough to leave.

Forced to return to the previous page, your character was sent to follow the large group of creatures. Everything seemed fine, with the bear letting you ride on his back, the other animals moving obstacles, The pink and blue butterflies leaning on your shoulders distracted you from your fears. Without the creature's help you would not have made it through the several miles of forest. You all traveled so easily; too easily you thought. 

As you finished the bottom of the page, you expected to see a set of choices. Although they were technically present, the two intended choices were illegible. Crossed out in navy blue sharpie, a reader was not happy with the two choices listed. “Ma'am, I noticed someone scribbled in this book,” you reported, breaking her concentration. “Really, well what a shame.” She briefly took the book from you, examined the book then returning the dying book. “Frankly, this book is so damaged if you want you can have it. When you check out books in the future, don't bother with this one,” she told you while still staring at the computer. 

After processing your good fortune, you asked for a pen. There were blank pages in the book, why not try to be author while waiting for your release from the library? Opening a blank page, you started writing, only to keep crossing items out with the pen. This was not homework, you should not be concerned about perfectionism like school writing classes often do. Struck by a sudden sense of inspiration, you began writing without a care in the world. 

Continuing from were you left off, you decided you would not give choices. There was no point when the 'wrong' choice simply led you to a disgustingly dreadful death. You still wrote with the 'you character' rather than going back to 'traditional book' formatting. Following the creatures through the forest was too easy of a task to accomplish. There were so many references to moving rocks, tree branches, rocks and other simple forest elements you did not want to say 'they continued walking along the way and you got out...the end.” How boring you thought.

Eventually, the forest travelers came across a large river. With no hope of getting across, your character had no chance of returning home. Sitting by the flowing water, they jumped when a large splash drenched you and the others sitting by you. A crocodile speeding across was the cause of the disturbance. Several feet long and wide, he was the first malevolent creature the crew had met. You could see the eyes only partially open, scanning for prey as he passed. Whether they had a taste for humans had never been tested; crocodiles did enjoy the taste of other creatures. 

Noticing the unusually large group and having rarely seen humans, the crocodile stopped. He spoke to you, listening to your story. Uncertain if anything would work, he made a proposal to the human speaking 'creature.' He was having difficulties removing the faeries from constantly playing cruel pranks, destroying his fellow crocodiles and lair. He would ferry you across the vast river if you would stop the faeries. Not certain if you would be able to help, but knowing he was your only chance to continue, reluctantly you agreed.  

Jumping on his back, the slow ride across eventually led you to his lair. Night had fallen as you were greeted by faeries. Their evil smiles and dark colors blended into the night. They hide from light you had been told. Hopeless, one option was left. Would what you would do help? Balancing on the crocodile, you flickered your flashlight on/off until the flashing disintegrated the fairies. Startled, the librarian tapped you on the shoulder, “Finally, we can leave. The rainstorm ceased. Let me take you home.” Much like your character trusted strangers, you trusted this woman, allowing her to ferry you home. THE END. 

March 26, 2021 20:36

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Ethan Poehlmann
22:41 Mar 29, 2021

Neat story! I read choose-your-own-adventure books when I was a kid, they were fun stuff. Your descriptions are super vivid. Well-done!


Shannon Ruane
05:57 Mar 31, 2021

Thank you for the compliments. I really appreciate them. I noticed your bio saying you were completing a Creative Writing Speclization at Wesleyan. Are you a student on campus or what I did and took their Coursera class program? It was extremely helpful to take the course.


Shannon Ruane
06:52 Jun 12, 2021

Hi fellow authors and readers! I'm grateful to those who read my work. I feel I ought to mention this story is not part of the 'Not Just Yet,' story universe. Most of the stories do feature characters and/or locations which may appear if I expand my 'Not Just Yet,' stories on this blog into a full novel.


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