Long ago, Hephaestus, the God of Fire, saw a maiden in the woods. Her name was Aphrodite and she was the most beautiful maiden that he had ever seen. Many years later, he asked her to marry him in the same forest where they met. She could not speak. Surely he knew she was about to marry Poseidon the God of Water. She desperately wanted to marry him, but she knew Poseidon would harm him. So, she said, “I am very pleased to receive your offer, but I’m afraid I am already in love with another man. We will always be friends, maybe even the best of them, but as long as my mate lives, I will be loyal to him.” With that, she left. Hephaestus was angry, but he loved peace so therefore, shed a tear. Only a tear of happiness, for Aphrodite, that she had found the love of her life. That tear was marooned and fell to earth in a huge ball of fire where it settled on old Native American land. Never to be discovered.
Thousands of years later…
In 1800, while the Library of Congress was still under construction, a worker stayed after hours to look at the design once more. Dead center of the huge structure, he found a stone. This was no ordinary stone; it was the color maroon and wriggled around on the ground as if something was trapped inside. He picked it up and took it home.
The next day, the man did not show up for work. His boss got angry and went to his house. When he got there, he saw that the door was locked and the curtains drawn. He assumed that the man did not wake up on time. He knocked on the door. No answer. Then he thought the man might be sick and he could send him a message later demanding details. Six days after is when people became worried. The man was not seen; there was no movement within the house; and, he still did not show up for work. The Mayor sent strong men and one of his friends to the house because he was too scared to do so himself. The men knocked on the door. They did not get an answer so they threatened to bust down the door. No answer. They busted down the door and it gave way after about six tries later with a sound that should have made them all deaf.
Inside, there was blood all over the walls spelling things in a foreign language. They searched all of the rooms but there was no sign of the man or his wife! Rumors went around that he took farm animals from his neighbors and killed them, then took their blood and smeared it on the walls in a foreign language telling where he went. The Mayor tracked down someone to decipher the message. A lady, as ancient as ever from the old Native American tribe, the Green Moccasins, said that the messages were not where he went but it had many complaints of old Native Americans, like when the rain season came early and there were no crops because the rain season was late. She said some strange things about how the house was cursed, that they should not stand there, and this place should be fenced off or there should be a barrier stopping people from coming there. This old woman, Running Water, said that the building should be taken down immediately unless the people in the town wanted to be cursed for life. Then suddenly she stopped and went into the house. She came out again with a bulge in her pocket, which to her great relief, no one noticed.
A while later, at exactly midnight, she came to the construction site of The Library of Congress and examined the stone in her pocket. Suddenly, the stone burned her hand until there was nothing left. She watched as the blood from her hand spelled out more complaints on the ground. Then she screamed and threw the stone away very quickly. It landed dead center at the library’s construction site. The stone wriggled around and settled. Running Water ran as fast as she could and as far as she could to get away. The next day, when the flooring of the library would be done, a designer stepped on a round maroon stone. It wriggled and she jumped back in surprise. Saying nothing, she dug a hole, kicked the stone into it, then covered it up again.
A few years later…(1812)
It’s burning! The Library of Congress is burning. The fire is very strange because it started in the very center and ran along the floor as if it were coated in gas. The fire even got to the books and the fire department had to call in back up from Virginia because it was so bad. All of the people were stunned; the fire occurred exactly at midnight, not a second earlier, not a second later.
Many people fled in fear that the fire would spread and reach their homes. The Mayor didn’t know the cause of the fire so he said the fire was started by British soldiers during the War of 1812. The British thought they would conquer Washington D.C by burning the Library of Congress. The fire was finally put out and now I’m walking by the scene. It’s horrible…thick black smoke is billowing out of the gap in the library. As I walk by, I see a man hurrying, but this is no ordinary man, for it looks as if he is coated in mist. “Sir, can you tell me how bad this fire was?” I say as he walks even faster. I follow.
“Sir, wait!” I call after him. He still makes no attempt to stop, then, all at once, he turns around and disappears right before my eyes! I scream but my instincts set in. I have never been to this part of town before. I notice an abandoned old house in front of me, covered in caution signs. I look over and the door is wide open! From across the street, I peer into the dilapidated house. There is red paint smeared into letters on the walls. I will take no more chances. I walk away slowly from the scene and then I pause. Which way? I see an older woman wandering the streets. I cautiously approach and say, “Ma’am, can you tell me where I am?” She smiles and says, in a foreign accent, “Yes, you’re on Main Street, dear.”
“Thank you,” I say and ask her name. She replies, “Running Water.” The walk back to my house from Main Street seems endless . I go to bed and conclude the day… or so I thought.
I hear a knock at the door. I look through the peek hole and see the lady from earlier today. What was her name? Running Water? I think so. I open the door and she says, “Good, I need to tell you something quickly. Step outside. I thought one of your folks would have answered the door before you.” I start to tell her I live alone, but she shushes me loudly. She stands outside and says, “Please follow me; there is something I need to tell you.” You followed a man yesterday.”
I follow her down to the library and around a corner. There is the house that I was cautioned from. She asks if I knew the Legend of the IFireStoneI and I answer, “No, I’ve never heard of it.” I get around a lot so it was surprising that I hadn’t heard the legend before.
She begins, “Long ago, Native Americans had possession of this land and each townsperson had a complaint stone that they said their dislikes to. This land did not have very many perfectly round stones so all of the people of the land had to share one stone. This stone was thought to be rare because its color was off. It wasn’t the typical color of a stone. The stone had been passed down forever and all the Native Americans had to share what they disliked to the stone. Then one day, invaders came so most of the Native Americans left or died in battles against invaders. The stone stayed and the Indians lost possession of it. Now, hundreds of years later, the stone is found again. Someone must remove it from the land or it could intern destroy the world.”
“How could a stone destroy the world!?” I ask.
Running Water replies, “Well, you see, this is the answer to the question you were going to ask the man you saw earlier. The stone got too full of all of the complaints and it had to get them out. It found ways to spew out the complaints by looking attractive so that a human or animal will be drawn closer and touch it. Once they touch the stone, it acts harmless until you look a second time. Then it burns you and uses you blood to spell out complaints onto whatever is closest to it. That is also why I bring you here. So you can see what the stone does.”
We walk inside and I see blood, a lot of blood. Spelled out in some different language that I didn’t know. Running Water pipes up, “You see no bodies because they were burned to death. This fire is very strange because the stone makes it seem like it doesn’t hurt and you usually don’t realize that you’re being burned to nothing until it’s too late. It has hundreds of years of complaints in it so it’s going to take hundreds of years for it to finish spelling out bad things, which could destroy our world as we know it. This is what happens to someone who touches the stone.”
She slowly takes her hand out of where it was hiding. Why didn’t I notice this before? I wonder. Her hand is nearly gone; all that is left is a few ashes, very black instead of tan.
“Running Water, you touched the stone and survived?!”
“Yes, but the bad thing is that once you realize the stone is burning you and you let it go before it’s too late then you feel like you still have a hand and it’s burning all the time.”
“You should be thankful that you survived!” I say.
“But I’m not. I really wish I’d died because of the constant pain I will have all my life.”
Suddenly, I say, “Running Water, we need to get out of here and go back to my house.”
She answers, “No you go.”
After a few moments, I say, “I think I get it. Was the fire at the Library of Congress started from the stone??”
“Yes!” she says, “You are very smart. I will come home with you but first we must make a stop.” We walk off Main Street and I am about to turn the corner to my house when Running Water says, “Stop here.”
As I turn around, I see the Library of Congress. She says, “I want to find the stone and kill it. The only way to do this is by picking it up and throwing it into an ocean; but, I can’t do this alone. The stone will burn me since I have already seen it. You must pick it up. Don’t look at it until we get to the ocean as it will burn you if you look at it more than once.”
I say, “But, what if I fail and I look at it?”
She replies, “Pay attention to the stone. It will wait for its chance to burn you. Do not look at it. I am warning you. Once the stone realizes we are taking about it, it will a fight to the death.”
I start to run, but my body stops me from moving. I repeat in my mind, Why me? Why me? Then I faint.
Splash!! The next thing I know water is on my face and I am awake! Running Water says, “It’s time to find the stone; I cannot go in because if I see the stone, my hand will burn off the rest of my body. It’s up to you to go in there and find that stone!”
Then she pushes me towards the library. I’m in! It would be much prettier if the walls weren’t covered with black ash and soot. There are paintings all over the wall. I entered from the gap in the library not the doors because Running Water told me that if I entered from the gap, I would not have to walk so far to find the stone again
I walk for what seems like hours until I spot something wriggling in the ground. I cautiously approach. There it is. I am terrified! How am I going to pick up this stone? It is the color maroon and thrashing wildly. My hand shoots down. I grab the stone, shove it into my pants pocket, and leave.
Outside, Running Water asks, “Did you get it?” I nod yes. She says we need to start the journey towards the ocean. Then I stop. “How can I leave everything behind?”
“No one will miss you, after all, you do live alone, right?” she asks. I am astounded, “H How did you know that?”
She smiles, “Come, we must go now!” As we walk, it seems endless with so many miles to go before we reach the Atlantic. We will then have to row out to the deepest part. This is pointless, and I feel like it’s a habit, but still I ask, “Are we there yet?”
With a smirk, Running Water replies, “Still 43 miles to go and we can’t stop; got it?”
“Fine.” I say. We are almost there. I can smell the salt of the ocean and it smells great, but we still need to row out to the deepest part to deposit the stone.
We’re here!! The ocean stretches for miles. Running Water stops and looks up at the sun. We left the library at 12:49 a.m. and it’s almost midday! She looks at the house parallel to the sun and says, “Here it is!” She moves aside a raft and there is a door. We enter. Inside is a huge rowboat and four oars but two are broken. She enters another door inside the “little hole in the house” as Running Water calls it. Inside the actual house is a living space, a ton of windows, and old paintings of sunsets. She digs into a drawer and finds shrink wrap.
Running Water and I walk back through the door. This time, she locks it behind her. In the “little hole in the house,” she tapes the oars together and sets off with the gigantic boat and oars. She is much stronger than I thought. At the shore, she says “I forgot something; stay here and watch the boat.”
Running Water goes into the “little hole in the house” and comes out holding two life jackets. “Safety first,” she says and hands me one.” Then we hop into the boat. Blue letters on the side spell out “The Seas’ Pearl.”
As we paddle out to sea, my pocket squirms. I remember what I have in there. I freeze until my brain takes action! I take out my hair ribbon and tie it to my pocket so the stone can’t move at all. I look over at Running Water and she is staring at me, horrified. She says, “It has begun!” and rows faster than my father ever could in his lifetime. She tells me to be quiet about water as the stone might listen in.
After rowing for what seems like hours, we get to the center. “You know what’s going to happen now?” I nod my head and every inch of my body says run, hide, and never come out again; but, I stay because it’s open ocean. Where are am I going to go anyway?
Running Water sighs and says, “Child, you have come far enough; your job is done. I will return the stone to where it belongs.” I am overwhelmed. Running Water will die for me and everyone else in danger of the stone’s wicked fire. This is too much for me. She is the closest thing that I’ve ever had to a friend and I won’t let her die because of a stupid stone.
The problem is, how am I going to pull the stone out of my pocket without losing my hand or burning to death? Running Water looks at me hard. “You must hand the stone to me when I’m about to jump off the boat.”
Now it is my turn to speak up. “Why can’t we get someone else to do this instead of you?”
She says, “I thought this might happen.” I shake my head.
“I can’t let you take the stone” I say. She yells, “Give it to me! I must take care of the stone myself!” She pauses. “The only reason I must throw the stone over with myself is because my limbs won’t hurt me anymore. The water will cleanse my wounds and repair me as long as I have the stone with me. Also the stone might be able to help me with the shark problem.”
“What shark problem?” I ask. She looks at me. “Forget I said that.”
I might have made the worst mistake ever; but, trust is everything with a friend, so I trusted her. I hand the stone to her as she jumps.
“Look away,” she screams as she lands in the water. I can’t take my eyes off her though so I watch her fall into the water. Her hair shrivels up and disappears. Her clothes are replaced owtj fancier clothes. Suddenly, everything is quiet and a fin breaks the surface of the water near my boat. I scream. My heart beats faster than Native American drummer playing Taknoki on an old Shaman log.
Running Water gasps as she sees fins circling her. She says, “Quickly hand me the rope in the bottom of the boat and tie the other end of it to the cleat.” I hurry to do as she asks. She hoists herself on to the rope and climbs. When she is finally on the boat with me, she looks as if she is 24 again.
“Wow!” I say, “That was an awesome recovery!”
She looks at me. “The stone is taken care of and the world has nothing more to fear. You must never tell about this mission and remember some things are just illusions.”
Then she jumps off the boat, but hangs in midair for enough time to say, “You have proved yourself to the world that my job is done here.” She smiles and disappears into mist. I scream and cry. How will I get home now? Emotion overtakes me. I scream again and throw my hands off the boat into the water. I sit and take all in. Land is in sight. I’m heading towards it. I don’t know how long it will be until I get there or even if I will get there. Fins break the surface of the water. I pull my hands from the water and watch. More fins. The sharks are circling and nudging the sides, testing me. I become angry and hit the sharks with my oars; but, after a while, I began to accept that they will just be there. I’ve officially gone mad. I am scratching at my skin and tearing at my hair. I am this close to land!
I am at land! I get out of the boat and push it onto the sand. How am I ever going to get home now? I hear a noise. I stop and listen. I hear a voice, not loud at all. It sounds like a cat’s meow. The voice asks, “Running Water, is that you?” I am overcome with fear. After all I have seen, the talking bush is the most exciting thing today! Except this is no talking bush. I jump as an old women comes hobbling out of the bushes. She looks me over.
“You are not Running Water; what has happened to her?” When I do not answer fast enough, she runs at me and dives, slamming into me really hard. The woman does not let me go. “Tell me what you did to her!” I stammer, “I…I…I…” She pushes down on me even harder. I scream. “I am only a kid. Get off of me and I will tell you the whole story about Running Water from begging to end.”
At first she looks like she wasn’t going to buy it, but then she drags me inside with her and shuts the door. Inside, I spill everything to her, even the parts I am not too happy about. Once I am done, she says, “Come with me. I will tell you my name after you touch this.” I do and…Zap! Zow! Zoom!
I am gone from the house and back on Main Street. I look across from me and notice the caution signs on the house are gone. I turn. There is the library with the big gap.
Still today, I can’t believe this story is true. Now I am a grandmother to a young woman named Tabitha. She took her STEM field trip there with her class. She wants to know what the library was like during my time. So I told her.
Oops, I’ve got to go. Tabitha’s calling me!
Sixth grader Tabitha Oakes, Central Elementary School, Anne Arundel County, called upon her STEM field trip to create this story.