TIME’S UP
Last Clue
Mandy could not contain her excitement. Today was her 13th birthday! She happily unlocked the door of her house and entered. Every birthday since Kindergarten, Mandy’s mom always made her a special after-school treat for her birthday. And today, she could not wait to see what it was.
“Mom! Dad! Jacob! Hello? Where are you?” Mandy cried, rushing into the kitchen. She flung her backpack into the corner and put her house key on the counter. Huh, that’s odd, she thought. Where are they? She took off her sandals. There was a note on the counter. It was written on slightly worn notebook paper that appeared to have been ripped out of a notebook. It said,
Welcome home, you’re here now, my dear
I hope you enjoyed your birthday cheer.
There is something for you, a special treat
Look in the pantry, where you keep the sweets.”
Mandy was confused. Suddenly, she had an idea. Oh, I see, she thought, smiling slyly. There is a surprise waiting in the end. They set this up for me. She excitedly raced to the pantry, stuffing the note in her pocket. She lifted the basket where her parents keep the candy off of the shelf and inspected the contents. There was another note inside.
“Congrats, Mandy, you found the first clue
Don’t forget the surprise waiting for you.
Your next clue awaits in someone’s bedroom
Your brother’s, in fact, you will find it soon.”
Mandy speed-walked upstairs to Jacob’s room, again stuffing the note in her back pocket.
‘Jacob’s room’ was not a very helpful clue. Her 6-year-old brother’s room was so cluttered that it would be impossible to find a tiny piece of paper. But she tried anyway. She looked on his bedspread, in his Lightning McQueen lamp, on the walls, in his dresser drawer, and even under the bed. She didn’t dare open the closet door in fear of what might fall on her head if she did. She sat down on the floor with a humph. She heard a muffled crinkle beneath her. Duh. She thought. Of all the places the note could have been and she didn’t even look on the floor. The note said:
“You are one step closer to your birthday surprise
I hope you are looking forward to your prize.
You will have to look in the hallway somewhere
Maybe look in the basket you keep by the stairs.”
Mandy went back into the hallway after putting the clue with the others. She rummaged around in the basket until she found the paper.
“Congrats! I see you are finding these quick
Look back in the kitchen and find a long stick.
Something to remember about your prize, now, my dear
You might not enjoy what you find on your birthday this year.”
Mandy shuddered. Why would she not like what she found? Is her family just trying to scare her? She shrugged it off and walked back to the kitchen. What in the world could they mean by long stick? she thought. She glanced around the kitchen, looking for a branch or a rod or something. Then she spotted it. The ruler sticking out of her backpack! There was another clue taped to it. She ran over and snatched the paper off the ruler.
“This is your last clue, you are happy, I’m sure
I hope you enjoyed your little adventure.
Receive your prize now, it lies on your bed
Or, rather, in it, or underneath it instead.”
Suddenly, something got Mandy’s attention. How could someone have taped the note to her ruler? She had her backpack with her all day! Maybe it had been there all day and she just hadn’t noticed. She went back upstairs to her bedroom, excited, but slightly doubtful.
She did not see a party, or a cake, or a present sitting on, in, or underneath her bed. She did find another peice of paper, however.
“Mandy, you’ve done it, you now receive your prize
However, I told you something, and I never lie
That you may not enjoy your gift today
Unfortunately, pleasure is not coming your way.
Happy Birthday, Mandy, here is your surprise
Time’s up, my dear, the end has arrived.”
With every line, every sentence, every word that Mandy read she became more and more terrified. Her hands shook and chills ran down her spine. Mandy reached her hand into her back pocket and gasped when she felt something powdery. She immediately jerked her hand out of her pocket. Her pocket was filled with ashes, and she realized with horror that the notes were gone. She suddenly noticed that there was more writing on the other side of the note. She read it, trembling with fear.
“Those notes, those clues, those things that you had
Are really the ashes of people, once glad
You, too, will become like them today
Burned into ashes and tossed into flames.”
Mandy shook even more. The room became significantly darker until it was just barely light enough to see. The note she was holding turned black, then fell apart in her hands, turning to ash. She heard a ear-splitting screech somewhere in the darkness, and then watched in horror as fire filled the room around her, completely concealing her in the flames. The last thing she saw was the fire blazing high above her head around her- and ashes, black as the cold night sky.
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