Meet Riley Bodziak, Creative Story Writing Class Student

Welcome to my Student Spotlight Newsletter.  This year I introduced my Creative Story Writing Class, and I just LOVE this class!  I told my students it feels more like a college class, because the kids that are in it really want to be there; they are enthusiastic, creative writers who love to write and share their work.  Many of them are going way beyond the assignments and churning out incredible stories.  

This week I want to spotlight a story written by Riley Bodziak, one of my most talented and enthusiastic writers.  Her story was inspired by an IEW style, three-picture story prompt that featured an ancient Egyptian burial ceremony.  

About the Author

How old are you, Riley?
10 years old

How long have you loved writing stories?
I found out that I really enjoyed writing stories while practicing creative writing from pictures in my IEW class last year.

What do you most like to write about?
I like to write about magic, fairy tales, and mythological stories.  Right now, I am really interested in Egypt.  We just finished a couple of historical fiction books about Egypt in homeschool.

Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?  
Movies and books give me ideas.   I read a lot.  I have a journal to jot down ideas that come to my head.  I also like to research about different cultures, places, and time periods in history to make my stories sound more realistic.

What inspired you to take the Creative Story Writing Class, and what do you like most about it? 
I really liked the creative writing portion of my IEW class, so I wanted to try a class that focused on that.  My favorite thing about it is that it’s ONLY creative writing and nothing else.  The creative writing assignments are really fun, and I like making time every week to make up and write stories.

Anything else you’d like the Spotlight readers to know about you? 
Now that I have taken Mrs. Holly’s creative writing class, I think I want to be a writer when I grow up.  I want to build off of the stories I have written in class and make them into full novels someday!

The Mixup of Anubis
by Riley Bodziak

In a house in New Jersey there were two children, one named Ruby and the other named John, in bed waiting for their grandmother, Ruth, to pick a story to read to them.  As Ruth was scanning the shelf, the younger boy asked, “What story will you read to us tonight grandma?“  

Slowly getting up, Ruth told the younglings, “Tonight I will tell you a story that my grandmother told to my mother, that my mother told to me, and that one day you will  tell your children too.

“We must travel back in time to 1508 B.C.E.  Our story begins in ancient Egypt after the sun had set.  Ra was slowly falling asleep and Nut awoke.  It was her time to shine her beauty across the Egyptian sands,” she whispered in a mysterious voice.  “Ra gets all the attention with her rays.  Mine might not be as bright, but at least you can look at them,” thought Nut.  While Nut thought, there was a small cry of a girl about fifteen.  She was inside a small shack, but it seemed to be a house at the same time.  There was a small bed and next to it the girl was on her knees, seeming to sob and pray, at the same time.  On the bed there was an old man lying, motionless.  His hair was gray and his body bony.  Mostafa was the name of the man lost and Rana the name of the girl mourner.  Though, little ones, this is not a story about Rana, this is the Story of Mostafa.” 

“He just died, isn’t his story over?” asked Ruby.  

“No.  His story hasn’t ended, his story is just beginning.  Before we can dive into this story we must get to know Mostafa.  Why describe him with words when I can describe him with moments?  We will travel back in time to behold the greatness of this low class, old man, named Mostafa,” answered Ruth  

Mostafa was sitting next to a young lady and her infant.  They were all in rags and skinny.  They were poor and needy and the baby was so thin and weak.  He was barely clinging to life.  Mostafa reached into his sash and pulled out a small piece of dried meat, a wrinkly carrot, and a small piece of bread.  He held his hand out to the woman, as a gesture for her to take them from him.  

“No, Mostafa.  You have already given us too much.  Keep it,” replied the lady pushing his hands back to him.  

“No, no.  You keep it.  You need it more than me.  My life is coming to an end, but yours is just beginning.  I could not live with myself if you or the baby died and I could’ve done something,” ended Mostafa.  

He put the meager food on the woman’s lap and slowly limped away as the woman fed herself and her baby.  

“That was so nice of him!” squealed Ruby.  

“Yes,” agreed John.  

“Yes, it was. Though before we can start the story we must get to know the other man that died this very hour- Ammon,” replied Ruth  

“You’re going to describe him to us with moments of his life, aren’t you grandma?” asked Ruby, poking up her head from the covers.  “You catch on quick, now shall I continue?” replied Ruth.  

“Yes!” yelled the children in unison.

    “Please Ammon, I will pay you back.  I just need a little more time,” begged a farmer.  He owed Ammon, who was the wealthiest and most powerful Lord in all of Egypt, crops and gold that had once been kindly loaned to him.  

“No.  I have given you time, but if you cannot pay me back you will be sold into slavery to pay me back,” cruelly roared Ammon 

“No, sir!  Please!  I have a family to care for.  Show me mercy!” pleaded the farmer.  

You should have thought of that before you dared to not pay me.  Take him away!” answered Ammon unmercifully.

    “Why did he do that!” cried John, astonished by the cruelty.  

“He was blinded by grief.  You see, when he was young, his father and mother went on a little journey to see some trading partners.  This was because his father ran a trading company and had trading partners everywhere.  He was so successful that the pharaoh would buy things from him, like exotic trees, among other things.  Normally his mother would stay home on business trips, but these traders were old friends that she wanted to visit with.  Ammon was left with their servants because he was only a boy of twelve.  His parents had promised to be back in a few days, but on the journey they died.  Ammon was filled with sorrow, but when he grew up sorrow turned into anger.  He was angry that his parents left him and that now he could never see them again.  In truth he wasn’t mad at his parents, he was just grieving.  Because sometimes it was easier to be mad than sad.  After that he never trusted anyone because he didn’t want to be hurt.  He kept on pushing everyone away and slowly became sour,” replied Ruth.

    “Now I feel sad for him,” announced the girl.  

“Yes, sometimes you just don’t know the whole story.  That’s why we must treat all people equally.  Now, back to the story….”  

“Wait!” yelled the boy, “How did Ammon die?” 

 “Ah, I almost forgot.” responded Ruth.

    One night the farmer escaped from his cruel master and headed to Ammon’s house.  At this time it was dark and the only light was from the little dim lantern the farmer held.  Once at the house he carefully crept in and stole some loose gold.  When taking some gold coins he dropped the lantern on the floor.  Ammon woke up and went to see what the clatter was.  When he saw the farmer, he was about to shout for help, but the farmer hit him in the head with a chair.  He only meant to knock him out, but killed him instead.  He was sad to kill him, but Ammon was so unpleasant that the sadness lasted only for a second.  The farmer was free and with money.

    Mostafa and Ammon both now woke up in a strange temple.  Looking at Mostafa in disgust, Ammon asked “Who are you and where am I?  Have you kidnapped me?”  

“Me, kidnap you?  No, no.  I am only an old, poor man named Mostafa.  I believe we will soon pass to the afterlife and will see Anubis.”  

“Very right you are,”  answered someone in a shadowy corner.

    “Who was it grandma!  Who was it!” yelled Ruby, curious to know.

“You will soon know,” answered Ruth with a voice that seemed to represent endless patience and love.

“Show yourself, for you are in the presence of Lord Ammon!” roared Ammon. 

 “I am not beneath you, as you think me to be.  You are beneath me.”

      “Anubis,” breathed Mostafa, bowing down so low his knees began to tremble.  When Anubis spotted Mostafa, he had a startled look across his face because two men or women had never died at the same time.  

“Grandma, grandma!  What did A-An…”  started John

“Anubis?” answered Ruth

“Yes, that guy!  What did he look like?”

“Well, I’ll tell you now.  He had the head of a jackal, but the body of a human.  His job was to weigh the hearts on the scale,” replied Ruth.

“Wait, I thought that Ammit weighed the hearts,” asked Ruby.

“No, that is Anubis’ job.  In the Egyptian belief system, if the heart weighed the same as or lighter than a feather from Ma’at, the goddess of truth, the person was deemed worthy of the Afterlife.  But if the heart was heavier than the feather the person was not worthy of the afterlife and Ammit would eat the heart.  The person would be dead and be doomed to travel the world without peace,” answered Ruth.

“If Anubis is the one who weighs the hearts, why do I always see pictures of Anubis kneeling over the sarcophagus?” asked John

“Well, priests would dress up like Anubis when preparing a mummy because…”

“What’s happening here?” asked John and Ruby’s dad, Lucas.

“I was just telling them a story,” answered Ruth.

“Seems more like school than a story,” chuckled Lucas, then continued, “Don’t keep them up too late.”  He turned and walked out of the room humming an old song.

“Of course,” replied Ruth, turning to the children.  “I would love to tell you about the wonders of Egypt, but I must continue the story.  Where did I leave off?”

“Anubis just came!” yelled John and Ruth

“Ah, yes,” sighed Ruth.

    “It’s good to see that someone around here respects their gods,” remarked Anubis while giving the death glare to Ammon. 

 After a moment Ammon announced, “No.”

“What do you mean, No?” questioned Anubis.

     “I mean, why should I, Lord Ammon of Egypt, kneel down to you…” Ammon took a step forward towards Anubis, “Since you are nothing but a figment of my imagination.”  

“You do not want to go there,” commanded Anubis.

“Why not?  Huh?  Nothing here is real!” yelled Ammon, spinning around with his hands in the air,  “I’m going to wake up in my bed and laugh.  Do you know why?”

Anubis didn’t move, but stared with hatred at Ammon.

“I’ll tell you.  Because I’ll know everything here wasn’t real!  And I’ll laugh at myself that for even a moment I believed this was real.”

“This is real.  Whether you like it or not.  I think you’re just scared of the truth,” snapped Anubis harshly.  “Are you, my faithful follower, ready for the extraction?” asked Anubis, turning his attention to Mostafa.

“Of course, my master.  I await the time when you will weigh my actions on the scale.  I accept the outcome, whether it is good or bad.  I know the scale will be truthful and judge my actions in life fairly,” Ammon told Anubis.

“It’s good to see that someone appreciates the ones that are above them,” thanked Anubis, while giving Ammon a harsh glance.

“Grandma, why is Anubis mad at Ammon?”

“Well, think of it this way.  How would you feel if someone a year younger than you, a third grader, said that they were smarter than you, wouldn’t you be mad?” answered Ruth.

“Ya!  He wouldn’t be smarter than me!” replied John.

“Exactly.  Anubis is annoyed because the gods were all powerful; they were the highest of the highest, even higher than the pharaoh.  It’s the same as how a third grader would not have had as many years of school, so, even if they were really smart they would not have learned what you had learned,” continued Ruth.  “Now I will continue the story.”

What will you do with us?” asked Ammon, his tone less arrogant and more respectful.

“You have not learned this?  I thought you people knew of us,” responded Anubis, a little offended that Ammon did not know of the process.

“Do you know what is going to happen?” Anubis asked Mostafa.

“Yes, and if it would please you, I could tell my companion,” answered Mostafa.

“Go on,” replied Anubis.

“Our hearts will be extracted,” started Mostafa turning to Ammon. “They will be put on the scale and be weighed compared to a feather of Ma’at, the goddess of truth.  If we are worthy of the afterlife our heart will weigh equal to or less than the feather.”  Mostafa paused, regaining his breath.

“If our hearts weigh more?” asked Ammon, curious and worried.

An evil smile crossed Anubis’ face, “Continue,” commanded Anubis in a snarky, knowing tone.

“Ammit will devour our heart and we’ll die forever,” replied Mostafa, his voice steady and calm. 

“How does this man know more than you?” asked Anubis, turning to Ammon.

“I-I,” stammered Ammon, no longer calm, cool, or quick tempered.

“Shall I start?  Or does your lordship wish otherwise?” mocked Anubis in a snarky tone.

“Stop that!” roared Ammon, “And do whatever you want, I don’t care,” added Ammon, quickly turning around so his back was to Anubis.

“If you knew what I was going to do, you wouldn’t say that,” smirked Anubis.

Ammon quickly whirled around, just what Anubis predicted he would do.  Before Ammon could blink Anubis reached his hand into the two men’s…

“Wait.  What?  What is Anubis doing?” asked John, confused.

“Would you like me to tell you or do you want to learn by listening?” asked Ruth.

John thought for a moment then answered, “I guess I can wait.”

Ruth chuckled quietly to herself, then continued the story.   Anubis pulled out the hearts of the two men and they lay in his palms pumping, as if they had not left the chests of their owners.  As Mostafa realized, getting your heart pulled out was not nearly as bad as it sounds.  It felt like your chest was quickly being extended, then fell back into place.  It did not hurt.  It could not, since both men were dead.

“Y-You just p-p-pulled out my heart,” stuttered Ammon.

“Yes.  Aren’t you glad I didn’t tell you before I did it?” Anubis sarcastically asked.

Ammon didn’t even answer.  He just stared blankly at his throbbing heart in the palm of a god.  It finally seemed real to him.  He knew it wasn’t a dream.

    “Wait.  You are…..real?” asked Ammon.

“In the flesh.  I see you’ve come to your senses.  Do you have anything to say to me?” snickered Anubis.

“Oh, please forgive me. I was blinded and I have been branded a fool.  I am honored to be in the presence of a god and I hope you can look past my rudeness and stupidity and judge me with an open heart!” begged Ammon on his knees.

“I accept your apology, but I am afraid you are mistaken,” answered Anubis.

“Mistaken?” repeated Ammon unknowingly.

“Yes, you were mistaken.  I do not judge the hearts.  The scale is the judge and I cannot choose the outcome of this.  Now rise, as you will see something you will never behold again,” finished Anubis.
    “Now, I have a question,” started Ruth, “This whole time I’ve told you this story, have  you seen a difference in the way Ammon acts throughout the story?”

“Yes, very much.  He used to be mean and grumpy and rude!  Now he’s nicer and respects Anubis,” commented Ruby.  While Ruby said her answer there was a small chuckle that all three people in the room, Ruby, John, and Ruth, heard and recognized.  Once Ruby had finished speaking Ruth stood up from her chair and walked to the doorway.  There was a startled gasp and soon after two people entered the room and one was chuckling.  It was Ruth and Ruby and John’s father, Lucas.  This time it was Ruth who was chuckling.

“Now, tell me,” asked Ruth, after she had seated Lucas down, “How long were you listening?”

“Well, to be honest, the whole time,” replied Lucas, blushing.

“Oh my.  I didn’t realize we had another kid in the house,” chuckled Ruth. “I guess you haven’t gotten tired of my bedtime stories, am I right?”

“I guess you’re right,” admitted Lucas as Ruby and John laughed.

“Can I continue the story?” asked Ruth.

    “Yes!” yelled Ruby, John, and Lucas.
    “I mean…” started Lucas, blushing again, “…you can start.  I mean, if you want to.”

“Then I guess I will continue.  For the sake of the children, right?” asked Ruth with a wink.

“Yes.  For the children,” repeated Lucas smiling awkwardly.

With both of the hearts in his hand, Anubis started to turn so he could place one of them on the scale and then asked, “Who will be the first to be judged?”

“I have been waiting my whole life for this.  I can wait a little longer,” started Mostafa. “Let the young one go first.”

“I will do as you say,” replied Anubis, but when he turned around again, he fell and the hearts tumbled to the floor and started to roll.  This was not Anubis’s fault.  When  Ammon was begging for forgiveness he was on the ground, and  when he was standing up Anubis was turning.  Ammon had one hand on Anubis’ robe, so when Anubis was turning he fell.  Ammon did not mean for this to happen;it just did.  Mostafa leaned down and picked up one of the hearts.  He outstretched an arm and gave it to Anubis. 

 “Yuck!” yelled Ammon without thinking, but at the judging glance of Anubis, he quickly added, “Let me grab one.”  Then he smiled a fake smile. 

Once Ammon had given the other heart to Anubis, Anubis spoke, “We have no way of knowing whose heart is whose.  I will consult the council of high gods to seek their advice on what to do.  Stay here and wait for me to come back.”  Anubis turned to leave, but added, “Don’t touch anything.”

“So, what is it with you?” asked Ammon.

“Pardon me to ask, but what does your excellency mean?” replied Mostafa.

“I mean, why do you act as if you had dignity or respect?  You are not even as respected as a common man.  So how do you know this stuff?” repeated Ammon. 

“Me, well I do not believe that people that have less than others are not their equal.  I used to not think this way, but being on this side really changed all of that,” responded Mostafa.
    “Could you explain?” asked Ammon.
    “Of course,” started Mostafa, “My daughter and son-in-law died on a trip.  You see, I used to be a rich lord, but after their deaths I spent almost all my gold on a trading voyage.  Normally I would not have gone on the voyage, but I was selfish.  I could not bear to see my grandson.  He reminded me so much of my daughter, so I went on the voyage and was gone for six and half years.  When I came back my grandson had married and moved to a different city.  I never saw him again.” 

“That’s so depressing!” blurted out Ammon. 

 “Yes.  After that I was turned to the streets, kicked out of my mansion.  I used the little money I had to buy food for me and my adopted daughter, Rana,”  replied Mostafa.  

“Do you know what your last name is?  Maybe I’ve heard of you,” asked Ammon.  

“No.  I was filled with sorrow and stopped using my last name.  Now I have forgotten.  I might be able to remember if someone said it, but that name means little to me.  What once opened doors that were closed now does nothing on my lips.  It means only something for my grandson,” answered Mostafa, “And if you don’t mind me asking, what is your name?” asked Mostafa.

“I do not mind you asking.  I feel we have gotten closer.  My name is Ammon Mahmoud, answered Ammon.  Mostafa stepped back and started breathing heavily.  “Mostafa! Mostafa what’s wrong?” frantically yelled Ammon.

“Oh, I am fine.  I am already dead, remember?” replied Mostafa.

“Yes, of course.  Then what happened?” answered Ammon.
    “I have just realized something that, well, it is big and important.  I hope you think it is as wonderful and amazing as I do,”  replied Mostafa.

“If you think it is important, I think it is important.  You can tell me; I can barely wait.”
    “Of course.  Ammon,” started Moastafa, taking Ammon’s hand in his, “You are my long lost grandson.”

Ammon gasped and then replied quietly, “Grandfather?”  

“Yes,” answered Mostafa, “Now give your old grandfather a hug.”

The two embraced and once they were done Ammon blurted out, “Oh, Grandfather, I’m sorry!  I shouldn’t have said those things!”

“Now, now.  That is in the past.  Right now all that matters is that I’m with my grandson in the afterlife.”

“Grandfather,” started Ammon shakily.    

“Yes?” responded Mostafa.

“I have not been kind to those around me and hence I do not think I will go to the afterlife.”

“Nonsense.  I will not let anyone speak bad about my grandson,” answered Mostafa, smiling.

And for the first time in a while, Ammon smiled too.

“What happened while I was gone?  A family reunion?” smirked Anubis.

“How was the problem resolved?” asked Mostafa.

“The hearts will go to you if you concentrate.  Now, put out your right hand with its palm up.  Now close your eyes and visualize your heart pumping,” directed Anubis.

Ammon and Mostafa did as they were told.  Both hearts came floating from Anubis’ hands and onto their owner’s palm.

“Perfect.  Open your eyes, it’s time to weigh them,” stated Anubis.

He walked over and grabbed Mostafa’s heart from his palm and placed it carefully on the scale.  Almost as soon as the heart was on the scale the feather’s side lowered and the side with the heart raised.  This showed that Mostafa was a good man and therefore worthy of the afterlife.  In a certain part of the solid wall the bricks started to crumble, revealing a doorway lit with pure light.

“We are in the presence of a good man here.  Now let us see if your grandson is as pure of heart as you,” commented Anubis, talking to Mostafa.  

“Pardon me for asking, but how do you know we are kin?” asked Mostafa.

“I may not judge the hearts, but I know kin when I see them,” replied Anubis.

Then in silence, Anubis took Ammon’s heart and carefully placed it on the scale.  The scale swayed from side to side as if not knowing if he was good or bad.  After a while it started to slow down.  When it stopped the feather was up and the heart was down.  He was not worthy of the afterlife.  Ammon had a look of despair in his eye because he knew he was not always good, but now he wanted to be and wanted to have peace.  He looked to Mostafa and he seemed to have no thoughts of the situation.  That is, except for the lone tear that ran down his cheek.  He did not wipe it off, but let it drip to the floor.  It was like his despair was so great he could not simply wipe it away.  It was too much sorrow, but it would stay, slowly growing less and less, until it was no more.  Like a ripple in a calm lake, it starts big, but slowly lessens, until it’s no more; until his memory is like a distant place.

“Now what happens?” asked Ammon shakily.

“I can answer that,” announced an unknown voice that seemed to have come from nowhere, but at the same time, it seemed to be everywhere.

A monstrous looking beast came out from a shadowy corner.

“Who are you?” asked Ammon.

“I’m Ammit, but you can call me the Devourer of the Dead,” answered Ammit

Ammit was a Goddess with a head of a crocodile, body of a lion, and the rump of a hippopotamus.  Her eyes could make a baby cry.  Her growl could make the strongest man flinch.  To look at her would mean to look at cruelty, revenge, and despair.  She was like a real life version of what every kid thinks lives under their bed.

“You did some bad things in your lifetime and should be punished.  So, your heart will be my snack,” replied Ammit.

“What will happen then?” asked Ammon, his teeth chattering.

“I was hoping you would ask,” started Ammit, “You will be doomed to spend your life without peace or happiness.”

Ammon shivered. 

“Snack time!” yelled Anubis.

Anubis threw the heart to Ammit as she opened her jaws, but before the heart entered Ammit’s mouth Mostafa threw himself in front of Ammit to catch the heart.  Mostafa caught the heart and fell to the floor with a thud.

Ammit’s face filled with fury while Anubis stood as still as a statue without emotion.

“Will you stand for this!” roared Ammit, “Give me both of their hearts!  They deserve to be punished!”

“I see your anger,” started Anubis, “Though the rules state that no good man’s heart may be eaten, but it does not specifically say a bad man cannot  enter the afterlife.  We must comply with his wishes.”

Ammit was furious, but stayed silent because she knew she could not change what was going to happen.

In silence Ammon and Mostafa walked through the doors to the afterlife.  The afterlife was beautiful.  Mountains rising, flowers blooming, and rivers flowing.  When Mostafa walked through the doors his weakness and pain was gone, his sorrow was gone, and all that remained was happiness, peace, and love.  There were many houses and huts that followed the river’s edge.  All of the good people were housed there with their families. Their life was in some ways, similar to life on earth.  However, in the afterlife people did not eat nor drink, have illness nor pain, nor any displeasure.  Both Ammon and Mostafa lived happily together with their family and friends that had passed.  Though, while this reunion was happening, Ammit was not happy like those in the afterlife.  She was angry that Ammon had not been punished and that Mostafa was allowed to make the rules.  “I will get you,”  Ammit grumbled under her breath, “And I don’t just mean both of you, I mean the whole earth.  My revenge will come someday, and then you will know the wrath of Ammit, the Demoness of Death.”


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