The One That Got Away

The One That Got Away

A Story by Elpaperman

I have been writing about my personal hero, Paperman, since I was a child and exploring Paperworld, where he lives, for just as long. This is a short story written about him and one of his adventures.


            We all have times in our life that we would rather not think about or do not remember. This story is about one of those adventures for Paperman. That is why I, The Writer, will tell this story.

            In Paperworld’s history there have been towns and villages that have sprung up and then disappeared as their inhabitants move to other places that are better to live. One such town appeared as a safe haven for travelers because of its proximity to the Forest of Shadows. It became a booming metropolis of trade and hospitality for anyone who was about to enter, or had just survived, the forest and its dangers. Some say that the city’s success was what lead to its downfall. Others say that it was destiny. I will let you decide for yourself.

            This story takes place during one of the times that Paperman decided to journey outside the walls of Papertown and explore the surrounding countryside to see if his heroics were needed. He was still a freshly drawn hero and had a lot to learn (but he did not think so, of course).

            While walking down the path, Paperman came upon the city haven he had heard so much about. With so many people living in one place, he knew that a hero must be needed somewhere. He entered through the large, open gate and walked the streets for hours. He passed through the market place. There were people everywhere buying and selling their goods or stopping in local restaurants for food. Paperman, of course, stopped for a quick bite to eat but he saw no sign of crime anywhere. He passed through the other parts of the city and everywhere he went seemed to be prosperous and happy. He was astounded at the city’s success. It was a literal utopia. No hero was needed here. Not yet, anyway. But it was getting dark so Paperman checked into a hotel for the night.

            The hotel was peaceful and the bed was comfortable. Paperman quickly fell asleep. He was not asleep long, however, before he was awoken by a loud scream. Sensing the city’s need for a hero, Paperman bounded out of bed, through the growing crowd of people, and to the city gate where the city guards had gathered. Through the hushed tones Paperman gathered that a group of boys had snuck outside the city walls to play a game and not returned. The guards were preparing themselves for a rescue mission. Paperman talked to the captain and joined the group. Finally he would be able to do something good.

            According to the captain they would be going to the Forest of Shadows just outside the city wall. This confused Paperman because when he had entered the city, there was nothing in sight. He had assumed the forest was further up the road but the captain spoke as if it were right outside.

            Paperman soon got his answer, though. As soon as the gate swung open, Paperman saw a large, dark forest standing ominously no more than a mile away from the city. It appeared to shift in the moonlight and cast an impossibly long shadow that stretched toward the city. Paperman had no idea how he had not seen the forest before but there it was, right before his eyes. Something felt off about it, but as a hero, Paperman knew it was his duty to help the citizens of Paperworld.

            The group was armed with strange weapons Paperman had never seen before. They glowed orange and seemed to pierce through the night. The captain told Paperman they had received them in trade from the Flames and they would help in the forest. Paperman did not understand but he trusted the captain. As they stepped outside the walls of the city, Paperman looked back at the crowd of people gathered there. Their faces looked distorted with grief and terror in the darkness. It was a very different picture from what he had seen earlier that afternoon. As the gate shut behind them, Paperman could not help but feel a knot forming in his stomach. Something was different about tonight. Something was definitely wrong.

            The closer they got to the forest, the darker the night seemed to become, which was impossible because the moon was directly overhead. Paperman assumed it was all in his mind but he could not shake the feeling since the guards seemed to grow more tense and uncertain the closer they got to the trees looming before them.

            They were now at what appeared to be the entrance of the forest. The trees seemed to pull away from the path at impossible angles like a curtain, leaving a giant void that was ready to swallow anyone foolish enough to approach. The guards talked amongst themselves, trying to decide on a plan of attack, but Paperman felt like they were just stalling for time. He grew impatient and quickly announced he would go in and look for the boy with or without them. Before they could protest, Paperman ran straight into the gaping mouth of the forest and soon found himself swallowed up in its darkness.

            Everything around Paperman went dark. His torch suddenly extinguished and he could not see anything. He turned around and could see the opening of the forest with the guards standing there. He was only a few feet away but he could barely hear them. It sounded as if they were underwater. He tried to call to them but it seemed like they could not hear them. He started to walk back to tell them everything was fine when his vision suddenly went black and when he could see again there was nothing but blackness around him.

            Paperman did not know where he was anymore but he could make out the faint outline of trees surrounding him. He carefully made his way through them calling out the boy’s name. Every time he called out he heard his own voice echo back in a hushed whisper. He felt surrounded by shadows. A cold wind cut through the trees that only grew stronger the further Paperman walked into the forest. He thought he saw lights in the distance that looked like torchlights. They were red and seemed to dance and glow in the darkness. He walked toward them.

            Suddenly Paperman felt something hit his body. He tried to pull it off but it was sticky. It felt like rope. Then his body was hit by several more cords of the sticky substance. Suddenly the whole area was illuminated. Paperman looked around and saw at least five giant creatures that looked like spiders with giant fangs crawling down the ropes toward him, their bodies glowing, and venomous saliva dripping from their mouths. It was then that Paperman realized what was happening. They were trying to catch him in their web. He looked around again but the torch lights had disappeared. Now Paperman was confused because the spiders bodies were glowing blue. Something else in the forest must glow red and tricked him into walking this way. It seemed like the whole forest was working to lure Paperman to his demise.

            Thinking quickly, Paperman grabbed his razor boomerang from his belt and used it to cut the web that was binding him. The cords snapped and the spiders screeched as they hit the ground, momentarily stunned. Paperman threw his boomerang, cutting through two of the spiders and jumping clear as another one shot a string of web at him. He started to run away but tripped on a tree root that he swore he saw move. He hit the ground hard, knocking the air from his lungs. He rolled to his back and looked up. Hanging directly above him was what appeared to be a cocoon and it looked like something was trying to break out of it. As Paperman stared at it he noticed the spiders look agitated, as if they were protecting the cocoon for some reason. Paperman never missed an opportunity to irritate something evil so he threw his boomerang and cut the web that was holding the cocoon to its branch. It fell to the ground and cracked open. Inside was the boy Paperman had been looking for. It looked like he was about to be spider food.

            The boy was dazed but Paperman helped him to his feet as the spiders closed in around them. Paperman threw his boomerang and killed another spider but more appeared out of the shadows and from the treetops. They were hopelessly outnumbered with nowhere to go. Paperman hoped the guards had gotten over their fear and would come to their rescue soon.

            A screech suddenly ripped through the forest and the spiders froze. The wind even seemed to stop. Two pairs of glowing red eyes slowly materialized in front of Paperman and the boy. They glowed intensely and stared at the boy. They looked as if they were staring into his soul. The boy grew cold in Paperman’s hands and his skin faded to a ghostly white. The eyes looked up at Paperman and appeared to smile, but it was a cold, deathly smile. It made a chill run up and down Paperman’s spine and directly to his core.

            A mouth slowly appeared underneath the eyes and what appeared to be a twisted crown of thorns and bones materialized above the eyes. This must be the king of the forest that the legends spoke of. Suddenly the king spoke in a raspy, withered tone.

“Not worthy.”

            A clawed hand appeared and pointed into the darkness. The boy turned and followed the direction of the hand into the darkness. Paperman tried to stop him when the forest suddenly opened up and he could see the guards still standing at the entrance. The boy walked straight into their arms. They picked him up and rushed him back to the city. The trees quickly collapsed back in on themselves leaving only darkness behind. Paperman was now alone.

            The king smiled a wicked, fanged smile and suddenly Paperman found himself hit from all sides by the spiders’ webs. He could not move. The king laughed.

“Heroessss mussst die,” he said in his cold, dead tone as he dragged his claw down Paperman’s face.

            Paperman felt his blood run cold. His vision started to blur. All he could see were the lights of the spiders bodies closing in around him and more red eyes. Either the spiders’ venom was causing him to hallucinate or the king had more followers than just the spiders. He could not keep his eyes open any longer and as the king laughed in his distorted, dead voice, Paperman’s body went limp and he fell unconscious.

            Paperman tore out of bed and whipped around. The morning sun poured through his window. He was confused. Then he remembered his dream. He had left Papertown and visited the city outside the gate and had a nightmarish experience with ghosts. He laughed to himself as he lay in bed, soaking in the warmth of the morning sun. He was the Hero of Papertown. Nothing could stop him from being a hero. Not even a bad dream. Soon he would venture outside the walls and be the Hero of all of Paperworld. And with that thought in his head, he fell back asleep.

            Okay, I know what you are going to say. You are going to say that I cheated by making all of it a dream. The truth is that I did not. All of that actually happened. I saved Paperman from the Shadow King after he blacked out. This was a time when he was still young and inexperienced. Paperworld needed him. And as you know if you have read about Paperman’s other adventures, this was not his only encounter with the Shadow King. The one thing I could not save Paperman from was the mark the Shadow King left on him, making him more susceptible to his power, which only helped him in his evil schemes later. After this, though, Paperman became very wary of superstitions and other things out in the darkness that no one can explain. He later remedied all of this but that is a story for another time.

© 2016 Elpaperman

Author's Note

This short story was originally written for a blog for fans of my self-published books about Paperman. The context might be a little lost here, but I think the story still works.

My Review

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Well, I absolutely loved this.

I try to be a bit harsh, and extremely blunt when doing critiques or reviews, because--how else can we improve?

But this was great. There's honestly very little to pick on here. (Though I always manage to find something, however nitpicky it may be!)

So, diving in:

At first, the storytelling seems very stiff/formal. The lack of contractions, for example, is jarring. However, on making it through the first paragraph or two, I got into it. It reads like it's just the way "The Writer" is, with "The Writer" as an established character in Paperman's paper world.

It's kitschy but in this case, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's endearing and fun.

There's little in the way of dialogue in this piece, so I can't tell if the (other) established characters speak in the same way. If so, that could be something to work on -- distinguishing their voices.

"A mouth slowly appeared underneath the eyes and what appeared to be a twisted crown of thorns and bones materialized above the eyes. This must be the king of the forest that the legends spoke of. "

If "The Writer" is narrating past events, the reader will assume "The Writer" should know what things are and how they happened. For this reason, I would personally eliminate "what appeared to be". I'd also state "This was/is the king of the forest", instead of saying "This must be" (sic).

That said... if read, aloud, in the right way, it's got a very childlike aspect to it. I picture an elementary school teacher, or a parent, standing in front of a group of children in a classroom or around a campfire. The storyteller is excited, standing, flailing about as they act out the scenes. They gasp, mouth agape. "This must be the king of legends!" they shout, waving an arm in the air.

There. If that's what you were going for, you've succeeded. If not, I chose to read it that way, so nyah.

But not everyone reads the same, and it may throw some readers off, so it's something to think about.

Other than that...

There are about 10-15 times when "The Writer" (or the writer, I'm not sure which!) slips into passive voice unnecessarily, which gives lie to the Excited! Campfire! Storyteller! effect I outlined above, but otherwise works well with "The Writer"'s voice.

There's a LOT of adverbs. (I stopped counting at 25. Might have missed one or two or ten.) I expect a lot of adverbs in this sort of super-hero, almost comic-book style of storytelling (about twice to three times as many as with other forms of writing, which would allow for a max of around 24,) so this isn't bad. However, there are times where it becomes really redundant.


I read "his vision suddenly went black" in one paragraph. Two paragraphs later, "Suddenly Paperman felt something hit his body." Two LINES after that (same paragraph): "Suddenly the whole area was illuminated."

In the following paragraph, out of nowhere, the sentences get (most of them) insanely long, out of nowhere, which is a little jarring. Most of that could be said more simply, in a manner which fits better with the rest of the story. This happens again in the last paragraph.

Actually, now that I read it again, it happens sporadically throughout the piece, so I can't decide why it's so jarring in those two areas. Either way, it could help to take a look. :)

And... that's all I could find, for now. The piece is technically sound. It's a fun read--I've bookmarked this page to read to my seven year old (it's just slightly outside his reading ability, lol) and plan to look up more "Paperman" stories. So you've won over at least one new reader.

I hope something in this review helps you, and I desperately hope you keep at what you're doing. This is, imo, a far superior quality of writing to most of what I find on the internet. Thank you.

Happy writing!

Posted 2 Years Ago


2 Years Ago

I actually wrote this specific short story for a slightly older audience since it was intended for p.. read more

2 Years Ago

" Thanks, AloneWeTravel!
The Adventure of Paperman: The Journey Begins will be auto-delivered.. read more

2 Years Ago

Awesome! Thank you! Enjoy and let me know what your son thinks! It's a trilogy. The third one is don.. read more

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1 Review
Added on June 17, 2016
Last Updated on June 17, 2016
Tags: Adventure, Hero, Fantasy



Los Angeles, CA

I create the worlds I want to live in and invent the characters I want to spend my time with. I break the rules and never let grammar get in the way of a good story. more..

Preface Preface

A Chapter by Elpaperman