Tyler Radant is a senior English major who is intrigued by the unnatural. He likes the idea that there are endless possibilities when creating something with a fantastical element. He is breaking ground with his first fairy tale: “Beneath the Shed.” A young boy and his dog take shelter in the old shed behind their house during a storm. While they investigate some old toys, they happen upon a secret tunnel, leading to a place where anything can happen. - Sara Dziubek
Once upon a time, Kevin and his pet dog named Barry were playing in the backyard. It was a bright and sunny day, and they were having lots of fun playing fetch and rolling around in the grass. They decided to have a quick lunch and made their favorite sandwiches: peanut butter and jelly! While they were eating, big, dark clouds rolled across the sky and darkened the sky. The rain started off as a drizzle, but before Kevin and Barry could run back into the house, it started to downpour. They’d been playing in the yard for so long that they hadn’t realized how far away from the house they were. So Kevin and Barry ran into the much nearer garden shed to escape the storm.
While waiting for the storm to pass, Kevin found some old toys and trinkets that he used to play with, which he wanted to show Barry. Upon continuing to rummage through the pile of toys, Kevin uncovered a wooden platform in the concrete floor. There was a handle on the wooden platform, and he realized it was a secret trap door. The door was too heavy to lift by himself, so Kevin and Barry decided to work together to pry the rusted door open.
"I wonder where the door leads to,” Kevin said.
Barry gave out a small, nervous whine as Kevin approached the door.
"We should find out," said Kevin, and he lit an old oil lantern that he found lying in the shed.
They climbed down the narrow steps into the dark tunnel with only the light of the lantern to illuminate their way. Kevin, who has never been in such a dark place before, gripped Barry’s leash a little bit tighter and kept him close by.
There was hardly enough room to walk side by side. Occasionally, Kevin had to lead the way while Barry followed behind him, which he didn’t like. Suddenly, they heard a strange noise and noticed a huge shadow around the bend in the tunnel. Kevin and Barry froze dead in their tracks and closed their eyes, hoping it was just their imagination, or in the least, the shadow would go away once they opened their eyes. Then they heard a small scuffle as the ominous figure seemed to get closer and closer. At first, they heard a scuffle, and later some whistling. Kevin dared to open his eyes, and to his surprise, he found a tiny little garden gnome staring right back at him.
"I think we should turn back now," said Barry to Kevin.
“Barry, you can talk?!” Kevin said as he jumped in amazement.
“Nonsense!” replied the garden gnome in a deep boastful voice, which is surprising for a gnome that stands only two feet tall. Just as surprising as Barry suddenly being able to speak.
“I am certain that you will want to see where this tunnel leads,” continued the gnome.
“And why is that, Mr. Gnome?” asked Kevin
“It’s Gerome to you,” said the gnome
Kevin replied by saying, “Okay, Gerome. I’ve never seen a talking gnome before, and now my best friend Barry is able talk. I’m just nervous to see what else we may find down this tunnel.”
“Well, don’t you see?” replied Gerome. “There is light at the end of the tunnel, and I guarantee that you will want to see what lies beyond. After all, who wouldn’t want to speak and understand their dog?”
Just as Kevin and Barry were about to turn back, the two looked at where the gnome’s finger was pointing, and they spotted a hint of light in the distance at the other end. "Look!" shouted Kevin. Barry saw the light, too. Bursting with curiosity, they both ran towards the light to see what Gerome wanted them to see. As they neared the end of the tunnel, they could hear some voices coming from the light. They were quiet, and Kevin couldn't make out what they were saying, but he was sure there were people on the other end of this tunnel. Or at least he thought they may be people. Maybe they weren’t people at all. However, the voices did seem oddly familiar. Could there be more talking gnomes, or could they be something entirely different? Kevin and Barry were determined to find out. They walked what seemed like forever, and the light wasn’t getting much closer. But soon enough, Barry, with his keen canine eyes, was able to spot a structure leading up to the light!
"Look, there are some stairs! Come on, Kevin. We have to see what's up there," Barry barked.
The two climbed the stairs at the end of the tunnel. Their anticipation was starting to rise with each step. Eventually, they reached the top where Kevin noticed another wooden trap door from which the light was shining through. Something clashed and clanged on the other side of the door.
"I wonder what's up there." Kevin and Barry pondered, trying to look through the cracks in the old trap door but to no avail. After seeing a garden gnome that could talk, their imaginations ran wild with all the possibilities of what fantastical creatures could be lying on the other side of such an antique looking door.
Kevin reached up and unlatched the old, rustic door. Barry and the gnome, who apparently was following them the entire time, watched as Kevin slowly inched the door open. Kevin pushed harder and harder as the door seemed to be wedged shut. With a huge creak and a thwang, the door burst open and a gust of air rushed through into the tunnel.
"Kevin? Barry?" a shy, quizzical voice answered as the door opened. A voice that Kevin and Barry recognized all too well.
After their eyes adjusted to the sudden burst of light, Kevin and Barry were able to see the astonishment before their eyes. All the toys that Kevin and Barry used to play with had come alive in this secret room. Teddy the stuffed bear, Joe the army action figure, and even Barry’s favorite ball that he used to play with as a puppy was there. It was Teddy who first addressed Kevin and Barry. All their favorite toys and trinkets that Kevin and Barry played with while growing up had made it to this fantastical new world where they could come alive and be happy.
“Boy are we glad to see you guys.” said Dan the dinosaur.
All thanks to Gerome the gnome, Kevin and Barry were able to reconnect with their favorite toys. Gerome had been taking their forgotten toys that were left in the old garden shed and carried them through the secret tunnel beneath the shed and into the magical world of Toyland to come alive and live freely. And the best part of it all, Kevin and Barry’s toys weren’t the only toys Gerome rescued. Gerome visited all the children’s backyards in search for forgotten toys left in old sheds so that they too could be rescued. And any pet who entered Toyland could also speak, too!
For the rest of the summer, Kevin and Barry would sneak away beneath the shed to be with the toys that made them feel like children again, and they never felt old again. Not ever.