The following is my entry to the Endless Press Realm Makers Scholarship Contest. I didn’t win but one of my favorite people did so I can’t be too jealous. 😉 To read the interactive version of the winning entry, please go here. You can also see the runner up’s entry at Endless Press’s page here.
by Kat Vinson
Prompt: You arrive late to the hotel for Realm Makers. After hurriedly checking in and throwing your luggage into your room from the hallway, you rush to the conference hall only to be informed by the bellhop that due to a scheduling conflict the sessions are being held offsite. He directs you out a side door where you discover a most unorthodox mode of transportation…
“They’ve got to be kidding!” Jay gaped at the colorful row of pogo sticks, neatly leaning against a bicycle rack. “Wha-?”
He spun around to stop the bellhop but the wooden door had already swung shut behind him. Striding over, he gripped the polished handle and pulled. Locked. He huffed and glanced around.
Aside from the rack of pogo sticks, there was a grand statuary fountain bubbling in the center of the portico and a human-sized banner standing to one side. It read, “Welcome to Realm Makers, where anything is possible.” Jay snorted. He had high hopes the conference would improve his writing, but he wasn’t hoping for much else. A fun time, some new friends maybe. “Anything” seemed like a tall order.
A high wall of holly encircled the side of the hotel, broken by a lone path in the center. It was either dig his way through the spiny leaves, follow the path, or get back in the way he’d come out.
He pounded on the heavy door with the flat of his hand. “Hey! Let me in!” Silence.
Pointedly ignoring the pogo sticks, he headed down the path. Not happening. Not today. Not ever. Watching closely for any break in the dense tree-wall, he walked. No luck so far. Then he turned a corner and ground to a halt. The path dead-ended against a stone wall. No. There were steps, climbing steeply up and rounding out of sight. But the steps were huge, easily five feet high. Much too large for any human.
With a groan, he thought of the stupid pogo sticks. Unbelievable. What kind of convention center was only accessible by such an insane method?
He could always wait for another attendee to open the door. He jogged back up the path to the portico. No one else had shown up yet… He glanced at the ridiculous toys waiting expectantly. Should he could go for it?
He rolled his eyes. Fine. “This’ll be one to tell the kids. Assuming I don’t fall flat on my face. Or break my neck,” he thought wryly.
Picking an orange stick out of the assortment, he set back down the path. At the base of the steps, he gingerly balanced the pogo stick in front of him. Maybe it was for the best he was alone. No one around to see him look like an idiot.
He placed a foot on one of the footpegs. Taking a deep breath, he leaped, his other foot quickly finding purchase. Gently pumping his legs, he hopped in place. Hmm. This was a lot easier than expected. Experimentally, he jumped higher. Tightening his grip on the handles, he leaned forward and pumped harder. Up one step. Then another.
Wow. He laughed aloud and continued on, rounding the curve and climbing ever higher. As he ascended, the tree tops disappeared, metal rails replacing their enclosure on both sides of the steps. A storied building loomed ahead, the steps ending where open glass doors beckoned.
Jay swung his head back, shaking the hair out of his eyes. Only a little further. With one last bounce he ducked to clear the door and popped into the air-conditioned foyer.
Several people were standing around a registration table. They stared as he hopped off the pogo stick, his feet landing with a muffled thump on the carpet.
Tucking the pogo stick under his arm, he strode up to the table, a grin plastering his face. “That was surprisingly fun. How do we get back down? Zip-line?” He winked.
They all looked at him with mouths agape. Confused, he glanced over his shoulders, then patted his hair down. “What is it?”
“You–” A man behind the table had half-risen, the badge hanging from his neck read Scott. He leaned on one hand, the other shakily pointing at Jay’s side. “You came up on that?”
Jay raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t all of you?”
Four heads shook in unison.
He glanced at the pogo stick under his arm and back toward the entryway. “Then how did you get up here?”
As if in answer, a dull rumbling filled the air. With a metallic groan, the steps moved forward and flattened, disappearing under the door in a continuous stream. A few seconds later, two woman came gliding up the stairs. Not the stairs, Jay corrected himself. The escalator. His jaw dropped.
Scott gestured. “Didn’t you see the button to activate the escalator?”
Jay shook his head, bewildered. “There was no button. And the steps were stone, not metal. Too tall to climb. Really!” The speculative glances he received made him doubt his own memory. He held out the pogo stick. “Plus why would they put pogo sticks down there if it was an escalator?”
One of the woman glanced at his hands. “I didn’t see any pogo sticks. Did you, Becky?”
Her friend shook her head. “All I saw was the Fountain of Merlin. And the welcome sign.” She lowered her voice and looked apologetic. “And the sign pointing, ‘escalator, this way.’”
“But–?” Jay looked at the orange toy in his hands, the shiny metal glinting. “I swear there was no escalator. Just a bunch of pogo sticks. And no way back into the hotel either.”
Scott walked around the table, folding his arms across his chest. “I’ve heard of these incidents but never seen one before now.”
The group hovered, waiting to hear the answer to Jay’s question.
“You know how this is a speculative fiction conference?” Everyone nodded. “Well, let’s just say things are known to happen sometimes. Especially when people need a little help believing.”
Scott clapped a hand on Jay’s arm. “Welcome to Realm Makers, where anything’s possible.” He shrugged and Jay couldn’t help but laugh.
“Well, I was right about one thing. This’ll be one to tell the kids!”