Who doesn’t enjoy stretching out under a shady tree, allowing the peaceful summer breeze to float over you as you are swept away into another world? What I love about fiction is how a single turn of a page can take you anywhere, prompting you to dream about who you could be and who you want to be. Writing fiction only takes this to the next level. When you engage your imagination, there are no limits! British playwright, short story writer and novelist Somerset Maugham once explained: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” Be creative, relax, and enjoy creating anything you want through fiction writing!
We hope you enjoy this fiction edition of our Magnum Opus Magazine Newsletter!
Congratulations to the student-authors who were published in this newsletter:
Upcoming Magnum Opus Magazine Writers’ Deadlines
Journalism - July 18, 2016*
*The journalism submission deadline has been extended. Please send your submissions no later than July 18.
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Thank you to everyone who submitted stories to this newsletter. We encourage you to keep writing and submit again!
On the horizon, the black silhouette of a ship approached with a sea-monster figurehead at the prow. On the poop deck, steering, stood Captain Edward Williams, wearing a magnificent blue coat studded with shining brass buttons. The wind ruffled his cravat as he shouted orders. In clean white trousers, tall black boots, and dark tricorn, he was clearly in charge. Also, there was the sword on his belt, and small bandolier with three pistols to back him up.
“Lower anchor,” Williams ordered. He was a pirate captain, favored by England for returning stolen treasure recaptured from other pirates. He was beloved by the king, the rich, and the poor. He was not very liked by other pirates, however, for he spoiled the business. Christened the “Spoiler” by the rogues, Williams did not enter major pirate ports – for safety, of course.
One pirate disliked Williams to his very bones. Having once fought, and lost his left eye in the process, One-eyed Tom vowed to poke Williams’ left eye out in revenge. When Tom raided Williams’ stronghold, he barely escaped to his ship, the Kraken. Burning for revenge, One-eyed Tom — cheated out of his eye for an eye — stole treasure from Williams’ basement. Sailing to the remote island of Ohadi, Tom buried it.
Upon his return to the stronghold, Williams found a note from Tom — Ha Ha, I stole your Treasure! It’s in a place where you’ll NEVER find it! — signed with an evil smiley face. Williams set off to prove him wrong. The Captain assigned a man to creep into Tom’s room at an inn, and note the latitude and longitude from his map. Ol’ One-eye was famous for his monstrously loud snore — he never heard the intruder.
On the fifth day of the voyage, they lowered anchor for some well-needed rest. Captain Williams retired to his cabin and checked the charts again.
“We look to be 20 miles from the island. Hmm.” Williams pondered where the treasure might be located on the island, since latitude and longitude only told which island it was on. He paced the room for quite some time, then finally slept. In his dreams he wrestled his way through dense jungle and dug in the sand like a dog, only to find a chest filled with foil-wrapped chocolate coins! Loud screaming ripped him from his nightmare. He was embarrassed to find he was the screamer. He finally dozed off into an easy forty winks.
When he awoke, he had a good feeling. He got dressed, buckled his sword, donned his hat, and strode onto the main deck.
“Weigh anchor! Loosen the sails!” Captain Williams commanded. Leaping to the poop deck, he grabbed the tiller, turning the ship towards Ohadi. Looking back to the horizon, he spotted a ship flying a skull and crossbones racing the same direction. The skull had an eye patch on its left eye.
“Full speed! Tom’s after us!” he yelled. As the Kraken sped, so did One-eyed Tom’s ship, the Black Revenge. Williams knew a battle would be necessary. Knowing Tom, it would be savage. The Black Revenge tilted starboard, towards the Kraken. They maneuvered close enough to see sharp swords glittering in the sunlight. A cannonball whizzed by Williams’ head, a mere inch from his nose. The ships exchanged fire, cannonballs and bullets flying everywhere. A few pirates boarded, but were quickly dispatched. On the Black Revenge, One-eyed Tom stood on deck, infuriated by the repelling of his crew.
“That’s it!” Tom snarled, “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” He snatched a rope, and swung onto the Kraken. Tom stormed the poop deck, drew his sword, and sprinted at Williams. Seeing his attacker just in time, Williams parried the down stroke, and thrust. Tom deflected it, swords clashing again and again. Tom drew back and smoothly pulled a pistol from his bandolier, an evil leer spread across his face. With lightning speed, Williams hurled his dagger end over end, whistling through the air. It sliced the back of Tom’s hand, making him drop the pistol, which shot upon impact, taking out a spoke handle.
Captain Williams, infuriated that his magnificent tiller wheel now looked like it was missing a tooth, thrust his cutlass with venom. One-eyed Tom barely dodged the blow. Tom slashed his sword. Williams narrowly escaped, and so did the sword from Tom’s hand, thudding into the wood floor TWANG, flopping like a fish.
Tom pulled the stuck sword with all his might, feet braced. Williams used the moment to his advantage and swung at his foe. Tom let go and watched the crash from Williams’ cutlass knock his sword loose. Tom grabbed it and retreated to the Black Revenge, pursued by Williams.
The Black Revenge pulled away, avoiding cannonballs fired from the Kraken. The Kraken gave chase. Swerving away, the Black Revenge fired a return volley. The Kraken sped towards the cannonballs, sailing under their arc as they fell into its wake. Speeding ahead, they ran right into the thick fog of cannonball smoke and had to slow down. Tom took advantage and made his escape.
“Blast him!” Williams spat, when the smoke cleared. Williams decided to get to the island before Tom did.
The next day, Williams was awakened by the cry of “Land!” Looking west through a spyglass, he saw the island of Ohadi for the first time. It was covered in dense jungle. He was overloaded with joy.
“Ready the cockboats!” he ordered. He did not see, however, another inlet. In it was anchored the Black Revenge, empty of passengers.
Soon, they were beached and headed into the thick jungle. As they went, they marked their way to the center of the island. There they found a giant, fallen palm. The rest of the crew started to move on, but Williams stopped them.
“Have you noticed that the end of this tree is smooth, as if cut by a saw?” They all were startled to find he was right. “Don’t you think someone cut the tree on purpose – possibly to hide something?” Williams inquired.
Everybody was thinking what the Captain was thinking. One-eyed Tom chopped the tree down to hide the location of the treasure! The crew ran to push it away.
“Everyone heave!” Williams shouted. Grunts and groans filled the air as the tree started to move. At long last, the tree rolled out of the way. “Start digging!” Williams commanded. Shovels, pickaxes, and anything handy lying about was used to mercilessly hack at the dirt. Hours passed, when they suddenly hit wood. They heaved a wooden chest up from the pit. In their moment of triumph, an unexpected voice rang out.
“Hello, Williams! Thank you for doing the work for me!” said One-eyed Tom, appearing from the jungle. The crew and its Captain whirled around to see Tom’s band of pirates.
“You one-eyed barnacle!” shouted Williams.
Tom chuckled, “It seems you never saw my ship at anchor in the hidden inlet!” Williams glared darkly. Pulling a pistol from his belt, Tom prepared to fire, but Williams was quicker. He crouched, swung his legs around, and tripped Tom. His aim thrown off, the round hit a nearby tree. Leaping up, Williams pulled out his sword, his men doing the same. Captain Williams slashed downward at Tom. Tom yanked his sword out, deflecting the blow. The final battle began.
Slashes, cuts, thrusts and gunfire filled the air as men from both sides fell. Williams and Tom were the fiercest. Tom fired his pistol at Captain Williams. Williams ducked and leaped at Tom, tackling him. A wrestling fight ensued. Punching and kicking, they fought with such terror. Finally, Tom threw off Williams and ran, Williams in hot pursuit. Running crazily, Tom looked behind to see how close his foe was. Looking forward again, he skidded to a stop just in time to avoid falling off a cliff. Rocks plunged into the sea below. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Williams coming.
Williams stopped and punched at Tom. Tom dodged the blow and swung a right hook to the jaw. Williams fell on his back at the edge of the cliff. Tom jumped on top of him, pulling out a knife. Williams strained to push his wrist away. Tom pushed harder. Gritting his teeth, Williams couldn’t hold out much longer. His strength was giving way, when he had an idea. Rolling to his side, he shoved with all his might against his enemy’s shoulder. Tom lost his balance, rolling over the edge.
“NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” Tom screamed, plunging downward. Not hearing a splash, Captain Williams looked over the edge to see Tom’s pants caught on an outstretched piece of rock. Tom struggled gingerly to unhook himself without falling into the sea.
Williams snickered and ran back to his men. He found them victorious. Carrying the treasure back to the cockboat, and singing a new chantey – “One-Eye Hangs O’er the Sea” – they rowed to the Kraken and sailed away for further adventures.
The Beryl Thief by Jessica Andress, age 16 Magnum Opus Magazine Intern
It was a mystery. The news was everywhere. People were completely shocked. As the golden shades of evening descended upon the countryside, Colette raced speedily down the road in her small, silver sports car. A recently painted fence hugged the right side of the road, and the trees in the pasture beyond tossed their shaggy heads with the timid, tepid breeze.
Despite the fact that nature had not altered her manner when the felony had been committed, society was unquestionably disturbed. People whispered apprehensively about the monumental burglary of the century: the disappearance of the Sapphire Beryl. Never in the history of crime had such an audacious robbery been executed. Fingers had been pointed almost immediately to some of the less popular civilians, but so far the police had been unable to pinpoint a definite crook.
Although all the wealthier residents in the area feared for the security of their own valuables, there was not another soul in England who worried more than Colette. Hardly a day after the incredible robbery, her brother, Adrian, mysteriously vanished without leaving any inkling as to where he had gone. He was an eccentric, queer young man who occasionally assisted the police in their most secretive cases. Since he was well-known for his peculiar bravados and had vanished virtually simultaneously when the Sapphire Beryl did, some people, including several officers of respectable characters, suspected him as the thief. While Colette scarcely believed such a fantastic speculation, she nevertheless had become skeptical herself. It had been three days since the robbery. Where was her brother?
Quickening her speed, she raced down the country lane to her home.
“And what if he is the thief?” she wondered quietly to herself, staring dully out the window. “What on earth could he possibly want with such an expensive gem? It isn’t as if he doesn’t have enough money already. That business with the finding of the missing staff belonging to a pharaoh left him with enough money to live comfortably off.”
A magnificent, massive mansion zoomed by her left, but she took no notice of it.
“Maybe his disappearance is just a coincidence,” she rambled on thoughtfully. “After all, how could he expect to sell something so recognizable? Yes, that must be it.”
As she swiftly swerved round the corner, Colette’s monotonous expression instantly altered into one of utter incredulity. Ahead of her there was gathered an assortment of wealthy people. They stood before the gates of the Wellmores, a noble family of esteemed respectability, as if they were just retiring from a pleasant party. At the head of the odd group was Constable Moric, a haughty, sober man with a ruddy complexion and chestnut locks.
Yet it was not this man which caused Colette to gasp. Fastening her astonished eyes upon the gentleman who was speaking to the constable, Colette could not help but blink twice and rub her eyes to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. The man was her brother! Except for his newly purchased suit, boots, and hat, he appeared no different than when he had vanished three days ago.
Engaged in a conversation with Constable Moric, which eventually led to a congenial handshake and a “Good evening,” Adrian strolled away from the Wellmore property, glanced once at Colette’s car, and waved leisurely to her as if he had been expecting her. Before she quite knew what was taking place, he was in the passenger seat casually ordering her to drive away. Numbly, she obeyed.
Down the lane they sped. A deathly silence hung over the two people in the car, as if an invisible hand had tied their tongues in impossible knots. When they were several miles from the Wellmores, Adrian finally removed the tension with an amused, energetic laugh and ruffled his neatly-combed flaxen hair until it was in its usual hysterical state. Amazed, Colette glanced at him.
“I have a reasonable explanation for all of this,” he assured her, slipping off his white gloves and reaching his pale hand into his breast pocket. Slowly he drew out the most dazzling sapphire gem Colette had ever seen.
“The Sapphire Beryl!” she exclaimed in horror.
“Yes, and I have liberated it from the perpetrator.”
With that he plunged into a rough sketch of his recent adventures.
“I had a call from the head officer asking me if I could look into the situation. Naturally I consented.”
“They asked you to personally investigate?” asked Colette doubtfully, frowning at him.
Adrian shrugged. “Something like that. On Wednesday I sighted the suspect and followed him everywhere, the post office, drugstore, tailor, and, believe it or not, library. As far as I was concerned, he did not have the slightest idea as to who I was or what I was doing. That night he conspired with his three cohorts, and in the morning he struck.
“No one was prepared for his clever scheme to remove the jewel from its secure, comfortable glass display in the museum. I won’t bother going into the details of the burglary – you never seem to enjoy that part anyway.”
Colette frowned at him, but Adrian took no notice.
“Nothing happened for the rest of that day. In fact, the perpetrator seemed to have vanished entirely, and for a moment I feared he had escaped my grasp. He did a splendid job concealing himself from the police. No one would have suspected him of the crime – not even I did at first – if he had not overlooked his one flaw.”
“What was that?” inquired Colette, wholly intrigued by his narration.
“His farewell party.”
“His what?” she cried, jamming her foot on the breaks and nearly spinning off the winding road. At the last moment she managed to resume control. Unfortunately, her brother, unprepared for her impulsive reaction, lurched forwards and banged his elbow against the dashboard. He rubbed it in annoyance now, glaring at his sister.
“Yes, and if you would kindly reserve your fanatic stunts for another day, I will finish my narration.
“As I was saying before my untimely interruption, the thief announced his departure for his home country two days after the robbery and invited a substantial number of rich associates to his home to celebrate his brief stay in England. Thus saying, I hastily joined the revelry, accompanied with a few of constable Moric’s ace troopers, and waited until the opportune moment to accuse my suspect. Then I sprang my own little trap. The entire arrangement worked like a charm. The man was so flustered and angry that his plans had been foiled that he attested to the entire theft – and in front of two dozen witnesses, too. Lord Wellmore won’t be picking purses, purloining jewels, or blackmailing nobles anymore.”
“Lord Wellmore!” exclaimed Colette, unable to believe her ears.
“Why of course. Who did you think was the thief?” replied her brother calmly, staring amusedly out the window.
“I would have given you more than ten names before even considering his. Why, he is one of the most highly regarded gentlemen around here.”
“That is why the police and everyone else never suspected him in the first place. If it wasn’t for me, I’ve no doubt the crook would be miles away from England by now. Good thing they called me in when they did.”
“What will you do with the gem now?” inquired Colette, glancing suspiciously at her brother.
Adrian merely shrugged, a wolfish smile spreading across his face. With that he stretched his long legs leisurely upon the dashboard and chuckled over his own adventure, leaving his sister to wonder if the police had really caught the true Beryl Thief or not.
The True Gift of Life by Bridgitte Wright, age 13
Rolling green hills and glittering pine forests occupy the warm and safe kingdom of Falia. A noble king and queen rule the land. They live in a majestic palace as radiantly beautiful as the sun with their daughter, Alluna. Unsurprisingly, they have many subjects, some who they have never met, and some they never will. If you were ever to visit Falia, you would view lakes as clear as glass, oceans the colors of turquoise, emerald green and even snowy white! Regarding the food, you would delight in the sweetest of fruit, the freshest of meats, and the finest desserts. However, this story is not about Falia, it is about how Alluna realized the most treasured gift of all – the gift of family.
The palace was busy this morning. Servants hustled back and forth carrying orders, lists, fabric for dresses, satin for cloaks, and deep ocean blue ribbons for decorations. King Jason’s birthday was approaching rapidly, and while he was out on friendly travels with other countries, Queen Alyssa wanted everything set up and ready for when he returned home. Meanwhile, Alluna, who was in her room, was contemplating on a gift she could give to her father. She could visit any of the large markets and buy a figurine of pure gold, the finest of silver, or a ruby the size of an apple. But it wouldn’t feel like a gift. It would be expendable. It could be replaced. It wouldn’t be priceless. Alluna wanted to give a gift which would last a lifetime. Then she realized it! The memory hit her like the light of day. There was a date the year before when she had witnessed her parents walking in the royal gardens, and they had shared a loving smile with each other. That special moment had instantly imprinted itself in Alluna’s mind. Yes, she would paint that scene to be forever remembered in the kingdom of Falia. She immediately set to work. She collected all her paints and a canvas and set up her easel on her balcony that overlooked the royal gardens. Then she began her work. First, she used her oil paints for the background. She painted a large maple spreading its leafy boughs around. She added beams of sunlight to the yellow flowers that sprinkled the path and to the ruby and peach colored rose bushes. Beside the roses, she also highlighted the clear diamond-like surface of the stream. At last the oaken arch where her parents had become husband and wife completed the background.
Next, Alluna created their faces: her father’s bronzed skin and high cheekbones, her mother’s creamy tone and dimpled chin. She accented her father’s sea green eyes and her mother’s ocean blue ones. Carefully, Alluna added the fine details of their hair, her mother’s silky curled ringlets and her father’s short mahogany toned strands. She mastered their tilted heads as they beamed at each other.
Finally, she painted their clothes. She defined her mother’s deep violet, floor length dress that featured a strand of pink iridescent pearls at the collar. She accented her father’s riding clothes he was wearing since he had recently finished working with the creamy strong-willed foals. She prominently displayed his row of brass buttons and the black leather belt that wrapped around his mid-section.
Now that Alluna was finished, she allowed the painting to dry overnight. The next morning, her showcase was dry and she carefully wrapped it in fine forest green tissue paper with a pearly white ribbon. Although the present was already beautifully wrapped, she added a shimmering ruby pin in the shape of a lion to complement the green.
The next day, her father arrived home. Although he was in awe of all the decorations and family members who had arrived, he had missed his daughter and wife greatly and was delighted to be with them at home once more. Unlike any other, they then had a wonderful feast, featuring steak, lobster, heaps of rolls, potatoes lying in gravy, crisp golden buttered corn, fresh fruit piled in glimmering crystal dishes, and finally a large chocolate cake decorated with buttercream frosting and flecks of blue and green sprinkles. Then the presents were given. King Jason received leather-bound books, golden quills, sparkling gems and many other unique treasures. Finally, the last gift was presented, or so the kin of the royal family and the king and queen assumed, until Alluna retreated into a closet and brought out the wrapped gift. When her father unwrapped it, he was amazed at the gorgeous painting. The emerald greens sparkled in the light, the ruby red flowers shined; everything about the painting perfectly portrayed that moment. He too, along with his wife, recalled that day. Her father was so overjoyed remembering that moment, round crystal-like tear drops fell from his eyes. He then opened his arms to Alluna for a hug, and as they embraced, Alluna realized family is the true gift of life.
Not So Bad by Abigail Nguyen, age 16
He had travelled for what seemed ages. Jesse Ryder sighed. All he had wanted was a change of luck. At twenty-one years, it seemed he had had just about the worst luck a person could have. He thought back. Truly, his situation had been desperate. The only thing of value he had owned was his horse, Demon, and even that had been debatable. Although Demon had his strengths – he was handsome and fast –, still no one would buy him. For as his name implied, he was anything but gentle. He refused to be ridden by anyone but Jesse. Nevertheless, even without a penny to his name, Jesse had been able to manage. After all, he had been an orphan since birth and had learned to fend for himself. However, that was before he had met Eva Sawyer. Eva was beautiful and wonderful, and she and Jesse had soon fallen in love. Jesse had known he needed a way to provide for her if he would marry her. Willing to work, he had looked for a job, but there was none to be found. So, with his wild horse Demon and the clothes on his back, he had determinedly decided to try his luck in California. Rumors had had it that there was easy gold for the taking. After months of traveling in a wagon caravan, he had finally reached California.
Now here he was, panning for gold. However, his luck was still terrible. He swirled the water around and around. Nothing twinkled. Nothing sparkled. Nothing shone. Jesse sighed again. It was hopeless. Surely there was a better way to find gold! Panning was arduous and depressing. Jesse decided he needed a break. Stashing his pan in his knapsack, he swiftly saddled Demon and galloped towards town. When he got there, a crowd of boisterous, excited, and noisy men were gathered around a powerful black stallion. Astride the stallion was a man as menacing as his steed. His eyes, which were as black as night, held the crowd with vile contempt. His huge fists held his reins in an iron grip. He was eerily calm as his steed paced and pawed the dusty ground.
Curiously, Jesse inquired to one man in the crowd, “Hey mister, what’s going on?”
The man answered, “That man is Bill Harrison. He’s challenging any man brave enough to race him one on one. He claims he ain’t never lost a race and never will.” Confidingly, the man leaned over and whispered, “In fact, he’s promising one thousand dollars in gold to any man who can beat him!”
“What!” Jesse started, incredulous. “Wait, what’s the catch? There’s always a catch.”
The man quipped, “If Harrison wins, the other rider will have to pan him a thousand dollars in gold on Harrison’s claim.” The man laughed. “Who would be crazy enough to bet like that! Not me for sure!”
Jesse gulped. Paying off a thousand dollars? Why by then he’d be an old man! But then he thought of Eva. He thought of panning for gold. His luck in panning for gold was not that successful.
He made up his mind. Mustering up his courage, Jesse declared, “I accept your challenge! I’ll race you!” Jesse knew Demon was fast. He hoped he had a chance.
After an hour, Jesse was on Demon, who seemed as excited and anxious as his master. Demon pawed the ground impatiently. Beside them, the black stallion snorted and strained at the reins. Vaguely, Jesse observed the sheriff holding a pistol in the air while he called, “On your mark, get set, go!” The gun went off. Then, the two horses immediately bolted as if struck by lightning. Their hooves barely seemed to touch the ground. Tearing towards the finish line, the horses raced neck-to-neck. Slowly, gradually, Demon began to pull ahead. In the distance the finish line approached. Jesse saw the glittering ribbon, saw it snap as Demon charged on. The crowd went wild. He had won the race.
Years later, after he had married Eva and had a large family and successful farm, Jesse would fondly remember his time in California. As when he had panned for gold, he had to admit bad luck wasn’t always so bad. If it wasn’t for his awful luck panning for gold, he probably never would have won the thousand dollars!
The Book that Changed the World by Jada Sankey, age 13
Robert Hooke peered intently into the microscope. He had had multiple experiences throughout his life, ranging from working as an artist’s apprentice to entering college at age thirteen. Ever since he had been born in July of 1635, though, it seemed as if he had been bent on studying science. Now, fellow Oxford students bustled around him boisterously as he moved the thin slice of cork he was examining to the right, and the image instantly cleared. He gasped at the intricacy of a mere slice of cork. Honeycomb-like structures created a unique texture which possessed both the smoothness of silk and the cragginess of rocks.
Robert grabbed a passing student and excitedly ordered him to look into the microscope. “Look and see for yourself!” The student, who seemed slightly disinterested, gave a quick glance into the microscope.
“Hey John, wait up!” he shouted as he spotted his friend in the crowd. He immediately dove back into the congested hallway without giving Robert, or his newfound discovery, a second glance.
Feeling disappointed and dejected, Robert continued to examine the piece of cork. Cells, he thought to himself, because they resemble the rooms we sleep in.
During the following months, Robert proceeded to stick anything he could find under the microscope, including various kinds of sticks, leaves, and other plant material, uncovering more and more discoveries. Finally, he had so many notes and sketches that he decided to place them all into a book which he titled, Micrographia. Most people had mixed feelings about the book. Some said they adored it; others detested it and said that it was worthless. Months later, when Robert was walking through a park, he spotted a young man seated on a bench, reading. Robert immediately recognized him as the student whom he had shown his cork cells to the day he discovered them.
“What are you reading?” he asked.
“It’s a world-changing book by a man named Robert Hooke. It’s called Micrographia,” the student replied. Robert strolled off with a smile on his face and a warm feeling of accomplishment in his heart.