Turn on your TV. Write down the first line that you hear and write a story based on it.
I was out late last night and when I got home, I turned on the season premier of Grey’s Anatomy. The first line was, “When I was five, my mother lost me in a park.”
So, here’s the story that came from that line.
When I was five, my mother lost me in a park. I was riding the carousel and when I turned around, she was gone. She was supposed to wait for me by the entrance. That was what she promised, but when the carousel spun around again, she wasn’t there.
I climbed off my favorite, a bright red and blue seahorse, and stood near the rail while the ride still spun. The attendant should have stopped the ride, but he wasn’t watching.
There were two who were watching me, though. A tall man in a red shirt and a flag on his baseball hat. His eyes followed me, but his head didn’t move. And a boy, the same age as me, crouching in the shadows in the middle of the carousel. He was dark and very small and he waved for me to come to him.
As the carousel slowed the man came closer. He held out his hands to me. “Here, sweetie. Hop over the rail, I’ll catch you. Your mom fell down. She’s at the first aid station and asked me to bring you there.”
“Is she okay?” I was so scared about Mommy.
“She will be. He followed along as the carousel turned. “Come on, honey, let me take you to her.”
I reached out my hands to him, but then a chill ran up my leg. I looked down. The boy’s hand touched my ankle and he shook his head frantically.
“Come on, sweetheart, your mom is waiting for you,” man in the flag hat said as the carousel turned.
I glanced at the boy and his lips moved, though he made no sound. The word his lips shaped was, “stranger.” With that one word, I remembered the times Mommy had warned me about strangers and how I should never, ever go with one.
The man’s hands brushed my fingers and I jerked away from him. He tried to grab me, but his fingers only grazed the back of my red sun-dress.
I was confused and frightened and tried to run away from both the man and boy, but when you run in a circle, you eventually come back to the beginning.
My sneakers skidded as I saw the man climbing over the rail. He was staring at me and he didn’t look friendly any more. He looked like a monster.
The boy reached out his hand to me, and I took it.
And fell into the shadows.
“Come on, hurry. You can’t stay here,” the boy said.
“Where are we?” I asked him.
“We’re nowhere.” He pulled me to my feet.
Colorless and dark, the carousel still spun slowly around us. The man with the flag on his hat looked like a shadow as he jumped over the railing and darted back and forth.
“What’s your name?” the boy asked me.
“Jordan,” I said. “What’s yours?”
“Hadi.” He glanced once at the shadow man looking for me. “Come on.”
The shadow park was still and quiet. And cold. I shivered as I followed. At first I thought Hadi and I were alone in the shadow park, but then I saw a few other kids hiding.
A girl watched me pass. She wore her blonde hair in pigtails that curled down over her shoulders. Her blue t-shirt was torn and muddy.
“What’s her name?” I asked.
“That’s Rainbow. She doesn’t ever talk.”
Hadi shrugged. “And that’s Toby and there’s Azalea and Tanisha and Dontae.”
The cold made my fingers ache and my nose hurt. But Hadi didn’t seem to even notice. He wore a striped tank top and shorts, but he didn’t shiver.
We passed the shadowy carousel and followed a stone path. I tried to pull my hand free from Hadi, but he held it tight. “Not yet,” he said. “Don’t let go.”
“Why not?” I wanted to wrap my arms around myself. My teeth rattled together as I shivered. I’d never been so cold.
“It would be bad, okay? Just hang on.” He looked at me and bit his lip. “Just a little farther.”
I glanced back toward the carousel and gasped. The man with the hat was right behind us.
“He’s following us,” I whispered.
“He can’t see us,” Hadi said. “He never sees us.”
“He’s looking at me.” Tears rolled down my cheeks and my chest heaved with frightened sobs.
Hadi glanced back and bit his lip again. “Come on, let’s run.”
I only wanted to lay down, but Hadi dragged me after him until I saw Mommy among the shadow people. She was crying and yelling at two policemen trying to talk to her. She was very upset.
When I saw Mommy I ran with Hadi, but she wasn’t there. I even stood right where she was, but she couldn’t see me and I couldn’t hug her.
“Everyone! Hurry up!” Hadi said.
The man in hat had slowed down when he saw the policemen. He looked around and then turned to the parking lot.
The shadow children came to us. Rainbow took my free hand and the man in the hat stopped and stared at us. Then Toby joined hands with Rainbow, and then Azalea and Tanisha.
The man’s mouth moved like he was saying “No, no, no,” but like Mommy, he didn’t make any noise I could hear.
Dontae was the last one to arrive, and he closed the circle so that the man in the hat was surrounded by us. The man began to scream and we could hear it, like a noise from a far way away.
The policemen turned to him and one ran over, but when he tried to touch the man, the man began to hit and kick him. They wrestled for a minute, then the policeman tripped him and handcuffed him.
“OK, now you need to go while you still can,” Hadi said. The other kids let us go and Hadi pulled me into the shadows near the pavilion. “Thank you, Jordan,” he said. “You helped us.”
Then he pushed me and I fell into the shadow and landed in the park. The colors and bright light and warmth washed over me, but I only wanted my Mommy.
I ran to her where she still talked with a policeman. She grabbed me and hugged me and cried. I hugged her back.
When I looked over her shoulder, though, I saw pictures of the shadow kids. Hadi was there and Azalea and Tanisha and Rainbow and Dontae, twelve in all.
“Those kids in the pictures,” I said to the policeman. “Where are they?”
He looked uncomfortable and glanced at Mommy without saying anything.
“They were killed, Jordan,” she said. “That’s why I was so scared when I couldn’t find you.”
“Over the last 24 years,” the policeman said.
I pointed to the man in the hat. “He did it.”
Everyone looked at him and he started to cry.