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Dream Quest One Third Writing Prize Winner
Winter 2008-2009
Haley Palaganas
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA



Ripley’s back slammed hard against the cold, steel lockers. Blood dripped from his nose and down his shirt.


“Stop it, Stanley!” he pleaded.


“What’s wrong, Rip?” Stanley taunted. “You’re the captain of the chess team! You should know how this game is played. What’s your next move?”


“I... I can’t fight back,” he stuttered. Stanley jerked him up high by the collar leaving Ripley’s feet dangling off the floor.


“I didn’t hear you, Rip, old buddy. Say it again, so I can hear you!”


“I can’t fight back, okay,” Ripley croaked weakly.


“Good, that’s better.” Stanley released his grip, letting Ripley slide downward.


“You’re so easy to push around, Rip.” He kicked Ripley squarely in his kneecap dropping him painfully to the ground. Then Stanley and the rest of the football players walked away, laughing. Defeated, Ripley sat in the empty hallway nursing his wounds. As the sun set beyond the school, Ripley Gambit limped home alone.


His glasses were cracked and crooked. He combed his black hair forward to cover his shameful bruises. He’d been beaten up by Stanley so often that it no longer seemed to faze him. Yet, for some strange reason, he couldn’t unclench his fists. Ripley stopped in front of a dreary, one story house covered in grey, chipped paint. The grass in the small front yard was dead and yellow. To him, the house might as well be a prison. With a sigh, Ripley fumbled his key into the rotting front door. He slouched down the hallway and locked himself inside his room.



“Be quiet, kid! I’m trying to watch TV!” his mother yelled from the kitchen. She couldn’t ‘t care less about me, he thought. His parents weren’t a big part of his life. In fact, Ripley had never met his father. The rumor was that his father had been put in a


Pawn page 2


psychiatric ward because he almost murdered someone. That was all he knew about the man. Nothing in his life made sense, except chess. It was the only thing he was good at. He could always rely on chess to get him through the day. Sleepily, he waded through the clutter of his room and dropped into bed. At last, he could unclench his fists. He was too tired to change his clothes. He was too tired to change his life.


“Goodnight, Rip old buddy,” he whispered to the darkness.


The next day was more of the same. He suffered the unwelcome glares of his peers. He drifted through classes until it was time for chess club. He entered the classroom but was not greeted. Even the chess nerds avoided him. Ripley sat down and started to set up his board. He held a pawn in his hand and stared at it. Stanley’s words played again in his head. You ‘re so easy to push around, Rip. Secretly, he put the pawn in his pocket. He was lost in thought when he overheard some kids talking.


“Did you hear what Ms. Quinn said in science class?” asked a girl with the large round glasses.


“You mean what she was saying about how you could control someone’s brainwaves using electricity? Ha, what a stupid idea,” said a boy in response.


Ripley turned back to his board. What a stupid idea. He remembered how Stanley had bullied and embarrassed him. Then he perked up. The idea struck him like a lightning bolt. It is possible to make a machine like that? I could do it! Then good, old Stan will get what he deserves! Excited, Ripley picked up his books and ran quickly home.



“Let’s get started,” he snickered.



Stanley Butcher was also getting out of school. The tall, good-looking boy was very popular with others and was a straight-A student. As the quarterback of the football team, he threw the winning pass at the homecoming game. He lived in a large, expensive house with shiny windows. A green lawn stretched out towards the street. He unlocked


 -Page 3-


the brightly colored front door and was greeted by his younger sister, Sarah. Both their parents worked and Stanley was usually left to watch out for her. But he didn’t mind it at all. He seemed to have the perfect life.


“Hey, Sarah!” he said in a delighted voice. “I brought you something.”


“What?” the little girl asked anxiously. Stanley reached into his backpack and pulled out a rusty locket. He opened it to reveal a picture of himself with Sarah. She giggled with joy as he put the chain around her neck.


“Never take this off,” he said. “I know it isn’t pretty on the outside, but it’s beautiful on the inside. Whenever you feel frightened or lonely, just look at it and I’ll be with you.”


“Thank you!” said Sarah as she wrapped her arms around him. Stanley loved his little sister and wanted to protect her from any threat. He wondered if Ripley Gambit was a threat, so he bullied him just in case. Everyone in school heard that Ripley’s father had gone insane and almost killed a guy. Stanley suspected that Ripley was just as crazy and dangerous. Sadly, it was not long before he discovered the truth.


Meanwhile, back at the Gambit house, Ripley was busy building his machine. As time passed, Ripley became consumed by his anger. Before long, the old Ripley no longer existed. A darker, scarier one replaced it. Finally, he finished his invention. It was a big, round helmet covered with complicated lights and wires.



“It’s almost done!” he exclaimed as he dug into his pocket and pulled out the pawn. “I’ll put you right here.” Ripley glued it to the top of the remote control.


“Now, let’s play!” he growled.


Ripley marched down the street. His black hair was wildly spiked out from the electrical shocks he had endured while making the machine. His bruises weren’t covered anymore, and he wore his cracked glasses with a twisted sense of pride. Soon, he arrived at Stanley’s house. It was late. He climbed up a tree and into an open window. He made his way down the hail to Stanley’s room and barged in.


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Stanley awoke to find Ripley at the end of his bed, his yellow eyes shining in the moonlight. The boy’s mouth was a crooked smile and for the first time, Stanley was overcome with fear.


“What are you doing here?” he asked. Ripley didn’t answer. He approached Stanley with the helmet and forced it onto his head.


“What is this piece of junk?” Stanley cried out. The large, round helmet looked strange sitting on top of his thin, straight body. Ripley just smiled his crooked smile and pressed a button on the remote. A jolt of electricity made Stanley’s body go rigid, and he was forced to stand.


“Ouch! That hurt, Ripley. Stop it!” he pleaded.


“What’s wrong Stan, old buddy?” Ripley taunted. “You’re the quarterback of the football team! You should know how this game is played. What’s your next move?”


“Ripley, I knew that you would lose it someday.” Stanley screamed. “You’re just as crazy as your father!” Ripley’s fists clenched at the insult. Then he pressed another button, and Stanley abruptly stopped talking.


“How does it feel to be pushed around so easily, Stan?” Ripley jeered. Ripley noticed a picture of Sarah on Stanley’s side table.


“Perfect,” Ripley whispered to himself. He pressed the button again, and Stanley walked stiffly down the hall into Sarah’s room.


“No!” shouted Stanley. But Ripley wouldn’t stop. He made Stanley rip the locket off of Sarah’s neck as she slept.


“Stanley?” Sarah moaned, groggily.


“Sarah, I’m so sorry,” he answered tearfully.


“Enough! We’re going now,” commanded Ripley.


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“Ripley, this isn’t right!” Stanley cried; as he was forced against his will towards the school.


“What is right, old buddy? Is it right to slam weaker kids into lockers? Is it right to beat them until they bleed?” Ripley asked fiercely.


Stanley lurched into the chess room. Ripley calmly directed him over to a closet in the back. No one ever used it.


“Get in.” Ripley ordered. Stanley unwillingly did as he was told.


“Don’t leave me in here. I can’t fight back!” he begged.


Ripley replied blankly, “Don’t worry, Stan. I’ll look in on you once in a while. You tortured and shamed me. You backed me into a wall. Now, it’s your turn.” Ripley pressed the remote, and a final shock doubled Stanley over painfully. He slumped to the floor, speechless. Unable to move, he held the locket tightly and thought of Sarah. Ripley locked the closet, leaving Stanley alone in the darkness. Ripley grinned with satisfaction as he walked away. His voice was cold as steel.


“Checkmate.” he declared.
# # #
By Haley Palaganas