Monday Is

Monday is the lowest of the low. It’s at the bottom of my trash can of hate, along with fake smiles and the objectification of women. I picture it like this: we have a perfectly good weekend, right? And on Friday and Saturday, we’re ever so happy.

But then on Sunday, we start prickling, just a bit, with dread, and the hairs on the backs of our necks stand up straight. “Whatever,” we think, and we brush it away and enjoy the last of our glorious weekend, like the last bits of an ice cream cone, the melty drips that slide down our throats, and it’s just as sweet and cold as the rest.

Except that then, you’re left with an empty cone in your hands and sticky drips on your fingers and a too-sweet taste in your mouth, and all you want is a nice, cool glass of water. All the magic and sweetness of that big, old ice cream cone is gone, and all that’s left is sticky fingers and an empty cone.

And that’s what Monday is: that empty cone. Because on Monday, there’s nothing to look forward to at the end of the day, nothing to push through for. No. All you’ve got is a school day stretching out in front of you, and after that, a school week, and you’ll have to wait until Friday for that big, old ice cream cone feeling to come back to you.




It happens quite often that I feel my thoughts start to disseminate like continental drift.

It happens also that I feel like I am biting into a chunk of solid butter.

Sometimes, though, it is melted butter, and sometimes, the butter is whipped.

Those days are good ones.

From time to time, the sky appeals to me so much that I have an uncontrollable desire to drink tufts of clouds through a peppermint-striped paper straw and feel the wispy white slinking down my throat.

I have a muscle in my leg that, when I’m really concentrated, pulses under my knee and doesn’t allow me to stop bouncing it.

Sometimes, when I watch rain pouring down outside my window, I feel water lapping over my contact lenses like there are windshield-wipers in my eye bags.


I do feel in control of myself occasionally, though.

I know how to swallow on purpose, blink on purpose, listen on purpose.


Some days, I have neutral legs.

Neutral wrists.

Neutral shoulders.

My legs and wrists and shoulders give off a slight vibration that is unnoticeable: energetic, yet calm.


When I’m cold, my sweat glands secrete fire; when I’m warm, they secrete ice.


I wonder if there is anyone in the world who has pierced fingertips and five hoop earrings dangling from each hand.

I wonder if anyone else has ever wondered about that.


Sometimes, if my mom is driving our car, my dad will stick both his legs out the passenger seat window.

I’ve never asked why, because he probably won’t have an answer that makes sense. But I’ve always assumed my impulsive nature stems from the strands of DNA I inherited from him.


I wonder if he has an urge to drink clouds. I wonder if anyone else does.

Sometimes, I am frozen milk left out in the sun, and I’m dripping and unfreezing and whipping myself into wispy clouds so that I can drink myself.


When I listen to people talking while I’m mad, all I can hear are potato-peeler sounds that cause my skin to flake and my feet to writhe.

When I listen to people talking while I’m sad, I am the churning heat in the air, creating wind slowly, like a milkmaid making butter.


My brother is less than one year old and hasn’t quite mastered crawling yet, so when he tries, his knees are soft, watery butter, and he slips and smacks his tummy on the ground, so I pick him up and put his knees in the refrigerator for a while.

Soon, he will have butter-knees strong enough to crawl on.


Sometimes, though, my mom is confused to see drawings of knees sitting in the fridge, but I tell her it’s a metaphor.

“I’m teaching Alec how to crawl.”

She gives me a look.

This is when I know my thoughts have disseminated.


“Mom have you ever seen someone with pierced fingertips?”

“I don’t think people do that. There are too many nerves in fingertips.”

“Is it possible?”

“I guess so. Don’t do it, please.”


My leg is bouncing, emitting blips of energy without my permission, but I am melted butter today, so it is a good day.


I have decided to like cauliflower and pumpernickel, and I have decided to like these things as a two-year-old likes bubbles.


My lips are bubbling. I used to play with bubbles.

There are liquified soap bars in my stomach, and solidified liquid soap has encased all the wiggling cells in my brain.

My brain contains pink soap balloons.

The balloons are turning yellow, like salted butter. The yellow balloons taste like sour apples. The sour apple taste is delicate, like cauliflower.


When I was a two-year-old who played with bubbles, I would catch them in my mouth and feel the soap cover my tongue.

A few years later, I melted butter and mixed it with whipped cream in a bowl and drank my mixture and pretended I was drinking butter-flavor whipped clouds. That was yesterday.


Sometimes, I wonder if it is possible for butter to rot to the extent where it’s brown like pumpernickel.

I wonder if anyone else has wondered about that.


Biting into frozen butter with buckteeth is like being the only one awake on a double-decker airplane.

Butter for buckteeth.

Rotten pumpernickel butter for buckteeth.

Expired airplane pumpernickel butter for buckteeth.

It happens on occasion that I feel like my tongue is a frying pan being burnt by butter.

It happens also that I feel my irises revolving like a silver doorknob.

Sometimes, the doorknob is sticky from bubbles.

Sometimes, my tongue is sticky from bubbles and butter.


Sometimes, I think my urine is melted butter.


Sometimes, my stomach is chunky like a chunk of butter after I eat butter.

Sometimes, my mom tells me not to eat butter.


Sometimes, I think I’m allergic to butter.


One time, when I was trying to pick Alec up off his tummy, there were hoops dangling from my fingers, and I couldn’t.

So Alec had to stay on his tummy.


I’ve decided I won’t pierce my fingertips.

                                                And clouds are too high up for me to reach.


My brother has learned how to crawl. Now I am waiting for his soft-butter-feet to harden.


Not So Perfect

Chapter 1

On May 18th, 1999, Julie’s life changed forever. She moved. It was the most horrible, rotten day ever, according to her. But for her parents, it was great! They were finally going to get rid of Julie! The puffy, blonde-haired brat would be out of their lives forever. They had been forced to take care of this horrible girl for twelve years.

“Come on Julie! We are going to miss your train!” her mom, Thelma, shouted.

“That’s the point,” Julie grumbled, scuffling her feet as she dragged her suitcase into the foyer.

“Oh sweetie, you don’t mean that!” her dad perkily said. “We know you want to move just as much as we want you to!”

Her father lugged the suitcase into the car.

At this very moment, she hated her parents more than she thought was humanly possible. She looked up from her bright pink hightops. The corners of her mouth pricked up a little when she saw what her dad was lugging into the trunk of the car.

“Ugh, Julie, what did you put in this bag?! Bricks?”

“Yes,” she said under her breath.

“Well whatever you packed is not our problem anymore,” Thelma chuckled. “Let’s just get in the car.”

“Okay, Mummy.” Julie smirked. She was trying so hard to contain her laughter.  If her parents were going to get rid of her, they would have to deal with extreme pranks all the way to the train station. And when they ate dinner. And when they went to walk their dog Fido. Her parents named him that. Julie hated it. It matched the neighborhood she lived in. Or used to live in.

Boring, happy, and perfect. Everything was the same. The neighbors were always nice. The houses all matched. All the lawns were cut 1½ inches off the ground. Julie had measured them on one of those perfect days.

Julie thought aloud to herself, “Would you be surprised if I told you that half of the dogs there were named Fido? No? Well, to add to that, the other half were called Skipper.”

She thought her life was like The Truman Show. Ever since that movie was released last year, she had watched it eighty-seven times. It was her favorite movie ever! It was because she related to Truman so much. He was stuck in a boring town that wouldn’t let him leave. Except she was being kicked out.

By the time Julie snapped out of her daydream, they were pulling into the train station. She saw all the cars in perfect rows. She was glad to be going.

“Bye mom! Bye dad!” she shouted gleefully. When she got out of the car, she closed the door really slowly. Just as she was boarding the train, which arrived at 10:45 on the dot, she heard it. BOOM!

Yes! The firecrackers had gone off at the perfect time! After the joy rush wore off, she realized the fun was over. She leisurely sauntered onto the train. A few minutes later, right on schedule of course, the train pulled away from the small town she used to live in. The beautiful trees turned to shrubs, the houses became more and more scarce, and the sky lost its baby blue color.


Chapter 2

As much as she tried to hide it, she was going to miss her perfect town. She was undeniably sad. She knew why her parents sent her away, but they would never admit it. Julie tried, she really did, but she could never be like them. It was too… well, perfect! Nothing ever went wrong.

A couple hours later, the train slowed to a stop. She stepped on the the rickety platform. She saw a sign that said, WELCOME TO MANIFEST. FOUNDED IN 1804. The “F” in “MANIFEST” had fallen off, and the “T” looked like it was trying really hard to hold on. You could tell that the paint on it was at least twenty years old.

Julie grimaced as she looked around. There were women wearing big hats, men wearing suits and overcoats, little girls with puffy dresses, and little boys wearing sailor outfits. Even the little caps!

She heard footsteps running up from behind her.

“Abilene!” someone shouted. “You’re back!”

Julie looked around. There was no one else on the platform. The same person who was just calling Abilene, whoever that was, ran up to Julie and hugged her. She had auburn hair and bright green eyes. She looked familiar to Julie, she just couldn’t place her. As a matter of fact, the whole village looked familiar!

“I’m so happy you’re home! I missed having my best friend around!”

“What?” Julie said, confused about what this strange girl was saying.

“You were only supposed to go on vacation for one month!” the girl who was apparently her best friend giggled. “You were gone for an entire year!”

“What?!” Julie repeated. She decided she would call this girl Barbie, until she found out her real name. She seemed like the kind of person who would always be happy, and would fit right in with her parents. Julie was tempted to just ask her what her name was, and why she thought that they know each other, but she didn’t want to hurt Barbie’s feelings.

She might be crazy. Julie thought. I better pretend like I know her.

“I’m so sorry!” Julie exclaimed with mock sympathy.

“Let’s go to the river!” Her new friend babbled on about the new benches near the river for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only about five to ten minutes.

They headed away from the train platform and into the town.


Chapter 3

As they walked through the town, it seemed as though everybody thought she was Abilene. Julie still didn’t know who that was, but she was determined to find out. Everything in this place looked like it was from the 1800’s! They passed a small shop called Ms. May’s Flower Boutique. Julie caught a glimpse of herself in the window, and she had to try really hard not to scream.

She was wearing exactly what every other girl in this weird town was! A big puffy dress, white gloves(which she probably should have noticed before right?), and black flats.

“Susie Johnson! Is that Abilene I see walking with you?” She heard a faraway voice say. Julie was elated! She finally knew Barbie’s name!

“Yes mama!” Susie called back.

“Well bring her in here so I can give her a proper greeting!”

The two girls walked up the squeaky porch. There was a porch swing, chairs, and even a table. There was a pile of newspapers on the table that looked dangerously close to falling. She loved it. They weren’t in a perfect pile like they would be at home, and no one seemed to care. Just as they were about to go in the screen door flung open with a loud SWOOSH.

“Come here, Abilene!” Susie’s mom cooed. She looked just like Susie. It was kind of eerie. Julie took a step forward and was enveloped in a bear hug. She was having a hard time breathing, but she did enjoy it.

“Did you guys go to the river yet? Did you see the new benches?” Mrs. Johnson squealed.

“Geez,” Julie muttered. “What’s so special about some benches?”

“What sweetie?” Mrs. Johnson said alarmed. “You know that it’s the first thing they added to this town since it was founded 48 years ago!”

There was an awkward pause while Julie did the math. Math was the only subject she was failing in school. Julie snorted. “You’re kidding right? That would make it 1852!”

“It is.” Susie retorted obviously confused. “Just look at the local paper!”

Julie didn’t understand what they  were talking about. Were they playing a prank on her? And why was the whole town wearing clothes that seemed like they would be from the time these strange people were claiming they were in?! Was the whole town in on the joke? She didn’t even know them. What if they were all going to try and kidnap her? Why had she followed Susie, if that was even her name?! She had known something was going on from the start since they were all calling her Abilene, but then again, they had sounded pretty sincere. She stood in silence for a few more seconds. She heard someone say Abilene, which she ignored for another few seconds, until she realized they were talking to her.

“What?” Julie said abruptly.

“I said, do you want to go over to the school and tell everyone that you’re back?” Susie replied. “The class will think that it’s awful that you’re back.”

Julie snickered. This Abilene girl must be really mean. But then, she remembered what they had learned about the 1800’s in school. Words meant different things than they did in modern times. Awful didn’t mean horrible, it meant awe-inspiring! And the word backwards meant shy, not the opposite of forwards! She would have to get used to this. If these people were playing a prank, they were very good actors.

The two girls ran into town, Julie trying to act like everything was normal, and Susie just being normal. They ran past the butcher’s store with pig legs hanging in the windows, they ran past the cemetery, past the bookstore, and then, Julie saw somewhere she wanted to go. The sweet shop. She didn’t go for the candy, although she did buy some; she was more interested in the newspaper. She scanned the the articles for a date. There was a man behind her who was telling her all about the new printing press, and how they could now have updated news everyday.

“Not that anything important is ever going to happen here,” he sourly remarked.

Julie didn’t hear the rest of what he was saying. She felt like she was going to faint. The date at the top of the paper said “May 18th, 1852.”

She didn’t know what to think. If this was a prank, not only were they great actors, they went to great lengths to pull it off. Julie decided that if they were going to prank her, she might as well play along. She would be Abilene, and pretend like she was part of this strange joke. She would wear the itchy clothes, she would try to talk like them, and she would continue this until they gave in and confirmed her suspicions. If that took forever, so be it.


Chapter 4

The next day was the same. It was a lot harder for Julie to act like she had lived there than she thought it would be. Everyone was surprised to see her, and she got a tour of the town. Julie felt that she had to act bored and pretend that she already knew where everything was, but she was actually fascinated. There were butchers, fishmongers, grocers, greengrocers, bakers, dressmakers, tailors, shoemakers, jewellers, ironmongers, a stationer’s shop, drapers, and chemists.  Julie didn’t know what a fourth of these things were.

She was amazed at the signs, the people, and basically everything else. She wanted to remember this prank, or whatever it was, forever. She reached into her backpack, which everybody was pretending that they hadn’t seen before, and pulled out her camera. She had a Casio QV-10 Digital Camera that her parents got her for her birthday when they still loved her. She was so proud of it. She took it out of the case and pressed on the power button. She counted to three slowly in her head. One…Two…THREE! The screen lit up and made the starting sound. On the last ping, everyone that was in hearing range heads whipped around.

“Abilene.” Susie whispered. “How did you make that shiny, little box light up!?”

“Whoops.” Julie murmured. She had forgotten that she had to be careful about what she did now, they might think she had powers or something. As it turned out, Julie was right.

Susie pulled her aside. “Abilene,” she said, “tell the truth. Where did you really go? Did you go to witch school? You know that if the town finds out, they’ll put you on trial.”

“No!” Julie retorted, confused. “What are you talking about?!”

“You made that wood slab light up!!! Stop that, Abilene!”

“Stop calling me Abilene! Why is everybody calling me that?! And I have no idea who you are and who the rest of these people are! Why are you pranking me like this?! It’s 1999! Not 1852!”

In the midst of her screaming, she hadn’t noticed that the town psychic had pulled her into the fish mongers.

“Okay,” the town psychic whisper-screamed. “Are you done ranting?! I know that you’re not Abilene, but they don’t!”

Just then, Susie walked into the store, and the lady stopped talking.

“Oh hi, Ms. Romanowski! My mom told me to make sure you would still do her appointment later! I had forgotten, but I must have told Abilene! You’re such a good friend that you remembered! Mama would have been so upset!”

Now it was Susie’s turn to pull Julie away. The further into the fish shop they got, the worse it smelled. There were fish heads sitting in buckets of ice, with the heads chopped off. The beady, little eyes were staring at random points in the room, and it was making her really uncomfortable. Susie said something, but Julie was too lost in thinking about how she was going to escape the murderous fish.

“Abilene!” Susie slapped her.
“Ouch! What was that for?!” Julie screamed.

“What’s going on back there girls?!” Ms. Romanowski yelled from two doors over. “Are you okay!”

“Abilene, we need to get out of here! Some of the townspeople decided to look through your backpack after someone reported the glowing, little box, which you still need to explain. They are all outside chanting!”

“What are they chanting?” Julie asked, puzzled.

“Burn the witch!!! Burn the witch!!!” Susie started running around chanting. “Burn the witch!!! Burn the Witch!!! Burn th –”

“Stop! Just tell me how we are going to get out of this!”

“Okay, so we are going go outside, and start chanting with them, and hope they don’t notice that it’s you.”

“But what if it doesn’t work!?!”

“Then you die.” Susie said.

“Wow, thanks.”

They ran outside and shoved their way through the crowd. Nobody noticed them until the got to the sign.

“Hey! isn’t that the witch!” Some kid screamed.

Julie heard a bombardment of “Get her” and “ We found the witch!!!”

She ran as fast as she could, but the town athlete caught her. Soon, the rest of the town caught up, and they all dragged her to the burning stake. Julie blacked out. When she woke up, she could smell smoke, and there was an intense pain in her legs. She looked down and saw the flames lapping at her feet. She blacked out again. This time, when she woke up, the flames were up to her neck, and a few seconds later, it all went black.


The Tall Grasses Return

Chapter 1: Apocalypse

Merlin’s eyes opened. As usual, a white ceiling was above him. It was the weekend; he should have stayed in bed. For some reason, he didn’t. He wanted to get up and eat breakfast. Maybe it was boredom. Maybe it was hunger, Merlin would never know. So Merlin rubbed his small eyes, scratched his light brown, overgrown hair, and walked downstairs to the kitchen table.

He first noticed the smells that were floating up the stairs. It didn’t smell like pancakes or fresh-out-of-the-box cereal, or anything like that. It smelled fresh and full of nutrients, but not the kind of nutrients that were that appetizing.

Merlin’s foot brushed over something growing on the step. It wouldn’t hold. He slipped and bonked all the way downstairs to the kitchen. That’s where he saw it.

The kitchen and dining room were barely recognizable as those things at all. It was more of a garden. That’s right, a garden. An overgrown garden.

The table wasn’t the rusty, wooden brown anymore. Some kind of flowering moss was there instead, acting as a tablecloth. That moss was all over the floor, along with dandelions and some golden wildflower that Merlin didn’t recognize. Giant, curling roots broke the window and molded around the cabinets, counter, and faucet. The sink was full of water, not to mention the lily pads and lotus flowers.

Outside didn’t look anything like a city. That one branch was curling through everything it could see. There were other trees, leaves that were growing and falling, moss, grass, wildflowers, bird baths with algae, and telephone poles covered in ivy.

The walk that Merlin began outside was anything but easy. The grass almost reached his torso. He shivered, not used to the feeling of mud and water, and even some bugs on his bare toes. He didn’t think to get his shoes. He was just wondering what the heck happened to his so normal town.

As Merlin walked, his feet grew numb, and it just felt like sneakers on the concrete again. He knew that it was still concrete, and that his sneakers were still inside his house, but to be truthful, he never walked anywhere without somebody who had a good sense of direction. He had no idea where he was, but he did know that he went straight for a while and then took a left, then straight, then another left, and then, a right. That’s what he knew, apart from knowledge of the strange attributes the city got. Things that he would recognize well.

The strong soil smell was still there. The spring day was breezeless. Merlin felt the exact thing that he was: alone. That didn’t make sense to Merlin. His city was densely populated, or at least it was. Now, nobody was in sight. So Merlin kept walking the endless streets of this overgrown place and kept taking notes of the interesting things he saw. Such as: a one-story house that had flowers of intense purple covering its roof, a fence that was covered in loose grasses and what looked like animal waste, a small patch of sidewalk that was covered in darker grass, rather than lighter grass, and many other things. The sky was painted a brilliant blue, which was new to Merlin. Before, almost every day had a gray, nimbus sky. That’s what Merlin was used to: a gray, nimbus sky.

Merlin stopped. A small breeze rustled his hair, and then stilled. The leaves were facing the sun. A squirrel scurried down a nearby tree, nut in mouth. Why wasn’t the sky gray or nimbus? Why did it alternate from breezeless to breeze? Why were there roofs covered in flowers, and branches curling around telephone poles and faucets? Why was Merlin alone? Why were his feet numb?

I’m not used to this, Merlin thought, I’ve never seen or felt anything like this. Was that a squirrel? I never usually see squirrels… but there’s another one running in the grass, and another one, and another one! What’s going on? I’ve never experienced this before. I’ve never walked this far, I’ve never been alone. Then why do I like the numb feeling in my toes?

“Why?” Merlin asked out loud and stared at the sun.

The sun did not answer him. It instead converted his vision to a burning white. Merlin’s head flew back down, and he shook it.

“Why?” Merlin asked again. “I used to be around so many people. Why am I alone?”

He started to look around. Then, he stopped.

“The funny thing is, you aren’t,” replied the person standing in front of him.

Her arms were thin, and her hands large. She wasn’t tall, but wasn’t short either. Her hair was black and matted. She had the largest ears Merlin had ever seen. She wore loose, black shorts, a brilliant orange, plaid, long-sleeve tunic, and a wide-brimmed hat. Her feet were completely bare. She smiled.

“Who might you be?”

Merlin let out a breath. He was beginning to think that all this was a dream because it was so surreal, and because dreams only had faces the dreamer has seen before. Dreams never have ears that big.

“I’m Merlin,” Merlin said, with some difficulty. It seemed that for a fraction of a second, Merlin couldn’t remember how to speak.

“That’s a cool name,” the girl said with interest in her voice. “My name’s Cecilia.” Cecilia smiled some more, and then her face suddenly became quizzical.

“I don’t recognize you. Do you live around here?”

Then, she started to look worried. Her arms started to raise, and her hands clasped together. They started massaging each other.

“Maybe you don’t… I shouldn’t have told you my name.”

Cecilia took one last look at Merlin and ran. All he did about that was stare. And stare. And stare. Stare at the grass, and at the moss. At the little stream coming from the sewers, ironically, with healthy and clean water.

Cecilia, Merlin thought. Cecilia. Why was Cecilia scared of me? Cecilia. Cecilia.

A habit of Merlin’s was, when he met a new person, to repeat their name over and over again in his head, so he might remember it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. You won’t ever know, will you? But then the thought, that question, came back.

Why was Cecilia nervous?  

Merlin then noticed that Cecilia wasn’t nervous at first, and then suddenly she was.

How peculiar…

Peculiar. “Peculiar” was a word that Merlin used often. When he first heard the word, said by his father, or maybe it was a kid on the street, Merlin didn’t remember. But when he had first heard it, he repeated it over and over again. Peculiar, peculiar, peculiar. At that time, Merlin did not know what peculiar meant, but he used it anyway. That system got many laughs from the surrounding adults. Something that came across as peculiar to Merlin was that when you’re a kid, you were always surrounded by adults. Merlin noticed another thing: there were no adults in sight. Merlin was alone again. A bird chirped in the distance. Another one joined in. More squirrels. More flowers. Merlin sighed, and finally decided that he should go after Cecilia.

He bounded across the streets, dodging trees, trying not to step on animal waste. Soon, Cecilia was in sight. She was with another woman. That woman was the tallest woman Merlin had ever seen. She was wearing an extremely dirty and faded, blue, floral dress. Her hair was black, like Cecilia’s, but less matted and longer. The woman wasn’t wearing any shoes either. Her toenails were long, and painted blue. So blue that Merlin could see it, even from where he was now.

Merlin called out “Cecilia!”

Cecilia’s head whipped around, and her face met his. At first, her face matched the expression of how Merlin saw her last, a little confused and scared, but then, her face twisted into a wide grin.

“There you are!” she exclaimed. She hopped over to Merlin and then said, “I’m sorry for that little outburst. My mother says I can get emotionally weird sometimes. Oh!”

Cecilia turned to the other woman, then grabbed Merlin’s arm and abruptly dragged him over to her.

“This is my mother. Mom, this is…” She looked back at him for a second. “Merlin! That’s your name.”

Cecilia’s mother smiled sweetly.

“Why, hello there, Merlin. This is new. Cecilia has never had a friend before.”

“That’s not true,” Cecilia complained, “What about Henry, and the others?”

Her mother looked at her and then looked back at Merlin.

“That is true, she does have friends,” Cecilia’s mom continued. “But you are her first human friend.”

Merlin paused. First human friend? Wasn’t Cecilia human? She looked like it, and so did her mother. They were nice people, though Cecilia was a little childish. Merlin looked around, then looked back. He smiled.

“That’s cool.”

“How old are you?” Cecilia’s mother asked.


“I’m almost eleven!” exclaimed Cecilia.

“That is true,” Cecilia’s mother said. “You are a little older than my daughter.”

She sighed. A sharp wind started to blow around the area, and the wind shaped her skirt beautifully. Merlin noticed her legs. They were dirty, and even a little hairy. Cecilia’s mother looked around just like Merlin did a moment before. She seemed to mirror his every move. She turned back to Cecilia.

“Did you tell Merlin our last name yet?”

“No, ma’am,” Cecilia proudly announced.

“Good girl,” her mother said

“How about we go back to the house then? I’m sure Merlin has some places to go.”

Cecilia’s eyes became as large as clementines. She rushed over to Merlin and grabbed his arm again.

“Can he come over?” she pleaded. “Please? I don’t think he knows where he is,”

“Well, if that’s the case,” her mother pondered.

A couple of seconds passed. Cecilia looked eagerly from her mother to Merlin, back and forth.

“I guess he can stay for a little while.”

Cecilia grinned her crooked grin again, and suddenly screamed, “Race you to the house!” and took off. Merlin shortly followed.

His bare feet pounded the ground, splashing water everywhere, hitting textured moss, and even cold, wet concrete. He slowly caught up to Cecilia, who was darting back and forth taking zigzags along the streets. She jumped over a stream, where Merlin had to jump across some rocks. She swung across some vines and branches and still had the energy. Pound, pound, pound went Merlin’s feet. Prot, prot, prot, went Cecilia’s feet and arms.

More zigzagging, and then, Cecilia abruptly stopped. She held her chest, bent over, and then flipped right up again.

“Whew,” she exhaled. “Won again.”

Then, she turned around to Merlin.

“You’re pretty fast, you know that?”

Merlin slowly nodded. He had just remembered that for some time, he had been on a track team.

“Look,” Cecilia pointed. “This is the farm, we’re really close to home now.”

Merlin looked ahead, and what he saw was almost unreal. What he remembered to have been the city park was a giant community garden, growing trees ripe with fruits, vegetables, roots, and flowers. Beautiful flowers in all sorts of colors. There were sections, it seemed, split by man-made streams of clear water leading all around the garden. Merlin knew why everybody was gone; they were all here. Thousands of men, women, and children were working and playing in the garden and the small islands of wild around it. Merlin stared in awe. That was what happened. This wasn’t a city any longer.

Soon, Cecilia’s mother was close behind, and she too stared. After a couple of minutes, Cecilia’s mother moved them along.

Cecilia didn’t run, but walked close to her mother, waving at various people. They waved back. Merlin was close behind them, looking around.

A garden? A farm, even? Why would we, if we came so far, suddenly resort back to farming? Why is everything so primitive here?

Merlin looked around at all the people and their faces. Some were happy, some were not, and some were neither. The children were playing, or sulking, or just sitting down. The adults were farming, playing with their children, or gossiping. Merlin sighed.

He thought, My parents didn’t know how to farm. I have a black thumb, and so do they. My mother may be able to cook food, but she cannot grow it. I’ve cooked before, and it turned out okay. I’ve tried to grow flowers before, and it turned out the opposite of okay.

So he just walked with the others, around the entire edge of the garden until they were back in forest again. That was when he couldn’t take it anymore.

Merlin ran up to Cecilia’s mother and asked impatiently, “What’s going on here?”

Cecilia’s mother looked back at him, confused. Then, it looked as if she had an a-ha moment.

“I see,” she breathed.

“When your great-great-grandfather was a child,” started Cecilia’s mother, interrupted by Cecilia.

She ran over to stop her mom, saying “Storytime!”, and then sat down right in front of her. Not knowing what else to do, Merlin sat down too, on top of a dead tree stump. Cecilia’s mother giggled, and sat down as well.

“When he was a child, even younger than Cecilia, this whole area was a big city. Buildings everywhere, made of clay and stone and metal and glass. There were roads leading to every single place there was, and all the grass and trees were controlled.”

“No way!” Cecilia exhaled.

“Yes way, if you’re strong enough to believe it. Everything was different, all the resources were from somewhere else, brought to our home by magical machines that could fly.

Cecilia’s mouth gaped wider.

“But one day, it all…” Cecilia’s mother paused. “Went away. It all disappeared. It wasn’t very fun, then.”

“What do you mean?” Cecilia asked quizzically, “After it disappeared, then it was like this?”

“Well, if you recall what I told you about plants–”

“They take time to grow.” Cecilia answered, “Ah, I see. What was it like then?”

“I’m getting to that,” Cecilia’s mother said patiently. “It really wasn’t fun. All of that clay and glass and metal were broken into little pieces of rubble on the ground. There were few survivors. Oh, what’s the word I’m looking for… paco… upa…”

“Apocalypse,” Merlin said. “The word’s apocalypse.”

Another peculiar word, and a word that Merlin did not like to say.

“Yes,” Cecilia’s mother said, looking at Merlin with happiness and a trace of sympathy. “Apocalypse. A time where there are few survivors. But, of course, he was a survivor and he grew up to reproduce me and Cecilia.”

Cecilia smiled.

“And you are a survivor, Merlin. One of the lucky few.”


Chapter 2: Days Turn To Years

Storytime left Merlin’s brain fried and confused. He had to think all the way through the forest; he couldn’t look at any of the sites or the broken buildings.

A survivor? An apocalypse? I was a survivor of something, something huge. How? It’s so peaceful here! How? It’s like nothing ever happened. Like the entire world changed in the time I was asleep…

How long was I asleep?

Merlin jogged to catch up to Cecila. He looked back at her mother, who knew the area so well she could walk through it with her eyes closed. He began to repeat that word. It was such a terrible word. He knew it so well, but he repeated it.

Apocalypse, apocalypse, apocalypse, apocalypse, apocalypse…

All the way through the forest. There were hills, valleys, animals, reptiles, rain, sun, and the word “apocalypse.”

Cecilia eventually ran back to Merlin, concerned.

“Are you okay?” she asked, “You’ve been silent for the past ten minutes.”

Merlin nodded his head. He was okay. He was just confused.

“Well, anyway,” Cecilia closed her eyes and held her head high.

“We’re here!”

Cecilia stopped, and so did her mother, in the same place. They both opened their eyes at the same time.

They all stood before a clearing surrounded by moss-covered trees, and a single warehouse with many holes. The clearing had grass that was much taller than any grass Merlin has ever seen, even those near his own home. There was a hut in the middle of all of it, made from bricks seemingly from the warehouse, boulders, and straw. The walls were held together with some kind of sap, and the roof was stone and straw. In the very front, a wooden door stood, closed. There were windows, those windows being holes in the walls, and a single sign next to the door. It read “Mentoris.

That must be their last name, Merlin thought.

He began his usual habit; he really wanted to remember that name.

Mrs. Mentoris beckoned the two children inside, and they followed.

Inside was a large bed made of wool and soft grass. A wooden, handcarved table with three stools. Those two holes making windows caused the bright sun to pour in from seemingly all angles. Merlin could see the dust particles flying. There was a small fireplace, with a pot hanging very close to a very small, dying flame. There was a trapdoor; Merlin guessed it was for storage. It all looked so primitive, like everything else had looked. Merlin looked around, interested and disgusted at the same time. Once he looked down, straight in front of himself, he took a step back.

A small groundhog was standing on two limbs, looking at Merlin curiously.

“Oh, that’s Henry,” explained Cecilia. “He’s one of my dear friends, so dear that he stays with us in the house.”

Merlin turned his head slowly, even more confused.

“He’s… supposed to be here?”

“Merlin!” Cecilia scolded, “Don’t you know about the revolution?”

Merlin stared blankly at Cecilia.


“Where animals and humans joined together? Y’know, the rule that you can only kill an animal and an animal can only kill you if it’s for purposes of survival?”

Merlin didn’t answer.

“What are you from? The twenty first century?”

Cecilia laughed, raising her face to the ceiling. Merlin looked away from Henry, and found Mrs. Mentoris sitting on one of the stools.

“What does she mean?” Merlin knew that Mrs. Mentoris would have an answer.

“It’s a joke, meaning that the people who lived four hundred years ago were stupid. She’s young, Merlin. She doesn’t know about the freezings.”

Merlin’s eyes widened.

“The freezings,” Mrs. Mentoris repeated, “Don’t you know? A surviving is placed in a bed and frozen. Their muscles are paralyzed and memories are erased. It saved hundreds of lives!”

Merlin looked down at his leg, and rolled up the pant leg. It seemed to be twitching. He found a band strapped near his ankle.

Muscle paralysis band – children’s. Freezings INC.


Honeysuckle Yellow Sunny Socks


There is water in the air bubbles that pop when I crack my knuckles. I am in a tank of water. The water tank is full of floating honeysuckles.

I am out of the water tank. There are strings of honeysuckles wrapped around my arms. There are honeysuckles in the air bubbles that pop when I crack my knuckles.


There is clean dust on my curtains.

There is clean dust in the air bubbles that pop when I crack my knuckles.

The clean dust from my curtains sprinkles down onto the honeysuckle strings on my arms. The clean dust on my honeysuckle strings trickles down into the cut on my foot. There is a sanitary infection on my foot from the honeysuckle clean dust.


The honeysuckles in my knuckles are dyeing my finger bones yellow. My yellowing finger bones are dismembered and have joined my honeysuckle strings.

I am a honeysuckle.

There is saliva contaminating my sanitary foot infection.


My foot infection is secreting yellow pus.


When I walk, my honeysuckle yellow sunny socks are whispering to the moss that is being squished under my heels, and the moss is shouting at my sunny socks. I feel the discord under my toes, squish-squashing, clay against green against yellow against flesh.

I am listening to the leaves of honeysuckle bushes rustling, and the rustling is beginning to sound like crashing ocean waves. Leaves are waves like I am honeysuckle.

There is someone pulling the honey vocal chords out of my honeysuckle-body.

The water from the tank is seeping through my pores and filling my lungs.

I’m alone in a water tank and drowning with no honey left in my blood.

There is someone plucking my honeysuckle pistils.

I’m being picked apart.

I’m crumbling into dirty dust.

Yellow pus is soaking my yellow sunny socks.

The pus is turning green.

Dirty dust is tickling my unsanitary infection.

I’m starting to float and bloat like the honeysuckles in the water tank.

There is dirty dust and green pus in the air bubbles that pop when I crack my knuckles.

There are dirty, dusty curtains in the air bubbles that pop when I crack my toe knuckles in my honeysuckle yellow sunny socks.

All the floating honeysuckles in the water are seeping through my pores and into my skin.

I am full of bloated honeysuckles.

All the water from the water tank is inside my body.


I am swollen and swelling and swamped.




orange is my least favorite color.

orange isn’t a peaceful birth, it’s a painful one.

orange is your mother screaming in labor.

orange isn’t the color of a peaceful death.

orange is a murder that’s creepy on another level,

a painful death with a chainsaw to cut you in half,

eyes out and on the floor.

orange is a witch-like person standing in the forest, and when you walk,

they follow you.

orange is the awful smell of garlic when you open your closet,

and when it opens,

you see the dead body from last night.


deities of green


i actually kind of like the park

it’s just that once my mother lost me and i’m still afraid of dirt paths and trees that look like faces in the dark

once, someone wrote a song about me and called it the Forest

i can’t remember the tune but i haven’t been able to get it out of my head/the idea

that i walk around with leaves in my hair

and woodchips and candy wrappers in my mouth

trees growing in my palms

trees growing from seeds to saplings to monsters under my care

the idea that things live and grow and die so quickly in my mind/i wonder how god does it

how he can sectionalize and rationalize and put all the green things in the city in one square of 843 acres

how he can put humans in a world full of birds and call them gods

give them a portion of the power/delegate the work

let them blame him/let them pray to him/let them fight wars in his name/let them die for him/let them live for him

my uncle believes that god resides in Central Park

says he had a spiritual experience once

when he saw the virgin mary walking her dogs

i’m afraid that he’s right

that getting lost was divine intervention

and i swore in the presence of a holy being


The Library Dweller


I walk into the public library and sit at a small table. The library is very small, with only a couple of tables, but with bookshelves on every wall. Most of the bookshelves are full, giving me the impression that the library is infrequently visited. I absently scratch my leg and select one of the books that is conveniently on top of a bookshelf next to me. I open the book and try to start reading, but I get this feeling that someone is watching me. I look around me, but see no one, so I try to ignore the feeling and get back to my book.

I get midway through the first chapter, but become bored with the book, realizing that it is completely non-fiction. I scratch my arm and scan the bookshelf. I don’t see any books that are interesting, so I put down the book I was reading and start to walk around. My footsteps echo loudly, so I try to walk quietly. All of the sudden, I hear a quiet voice coming from somewhere. I can’t really hear it with the noise my feet are making, so I stop moving and listen.

“Help,” I hear, coming from somewhere to the right of me. I start walking slowly and hear it again.

“Please, help me!”

I walk to the corner of the library and hear it much louder.

“I’m trapped in here!”

I walk up to the bookshelf where I think the sound is coming from. I hear rustling on the other side, and I pull the bookshelf out of the way to try to get behind it. I try to move it. The bookshelf moves away and reveals a small hole in the wall. A tiny creature walks out of the hole and smiles. Its eyes and face are visible, but its body is in the shadows. I sense someone behind me, but see nothing as I turn around. The feeling is still there, but I ignore it and call out to the creature.

“Who are you? What are you?”

The creature’s smile broadens and asks me a question. “Who are you?”

“My name is Aaron,” I answer. The creature’s eyes grow brighter, and a shiver goes through my body. It steps out of the hole, and I gasp. It looks like a mouse, but it’s completely blue, with speckles of purple around its eyes.

“I am not a who, but a what,” it says. “Also, my name is Bill.”

“Well, that’s a dumb name.”

“I didn’t choose it.”

“Whatever. Why did your eyes just glow?”

“I read your mind and viewed your soul to judge if you were worthy of learning what I am about to tell you. It is no coincidence that you were able to find me. Few can hear my voice, and the ones who could were unable to find me. I have been here for thousands of years, and you are the person I was waiting for. You are the only person that can stop the destruction of the world.”



“I have to apologize for one thing. You did not come to this place on your own. I sent you a telepathic message so that you would come here on this exact day. It had to be this exact place, for this is one of the few places in the mortal world that magic is at its strongest, and this is one of the only days that I am able to enter the mortal world. Magic is everywhere in the world, and everyone is able to see it, they simply don’t care. Many years ago, before I was even born, humans started to ignore magic, and slowly, they lost the interest in it. Once a century, a person is able to care enough to see magic, and even then, some of these gifted people never even realize that they can. Anyway, I’ll tell you more later, dinner’s almost ready, and you should get home. Your parents will get worried. I’ll visit you in a couple of days,” he says, his eyes swirling.

I nod numbly, too many thoughts going through my head to take in at once. I turn around and walk out of the library.


I ponder those words while walking home. I arrive at my apartment and knock on the door.

“Aaron! I was so worried! Where were you?!” my mom exclaims, as she opens the door.

I roll my eyes and walk inside.

“Don’t worry, Mom. Everything will be okay,” I respond, as I walk towards my room.

“Whatever,” my mom mumbles.

I sigh and flop onto my bed. Before I realize it, I’m dozing off.

“Dinner’s ready!” my mom yells, as I am unceremoniously shaken awake.

“Stop! I’m awake!” I yell, as I stand up and stumble to the kitchen table.

I groan. Dinner tonight is meatloaf. My dad anticipates my complaint before I can even talk.

“Don’t complain, Aaron. This is the only thing that I know how to make with the limited amount of ingredients we have,” my dad says, as he glares at Mom.

“What?! I said I would buy food tomorrow!” she exclaims.

My dad sighs and proceeds to devour his meatloaf, while I have barely eaten half of mine. After a couple minutes of speed eating, I finish my food.

“Done!” I exclaim, as I stand up and go back to my room.

“Only an hour!” my dad calls after me, but I barely hear him.

I run back to my room and take out my phone. I unlock my phone and check my messages. I have a text from my best friends.

“Did you go to the library that we dared you to go to?”

I respond to both of them with a “yes” and lie on my bed, replaying the events that unfolded at the library. Bill’s words echo in my head. “You are the only person who is worthy enough to stop the destruction of the world…” As soon as the echo stops, he appears in front of me.   

“What are you doing here?!” I exclaim in surprise.

“I don’t have much time,” he says, as his form flickers like a broken flashlight.

“Be… careful… watch out… for… the…” he starts to say, but his final words get cut off, as he vanishes.

“Watch out for the what?!” I exclaim, realizing too late that he wasn’t able to respond.



The next morning, no one wakes me up, which is odd. Due to this, I am late for school. I get up and walk around the house, but no one is to be found. The only other living thing in the house is my cat, who swipes and growls at me as soon as I get near him. I try calling my mom. No answer. I try calling my dad. Nothing. That really gets me worried. My mom is always on her phone. I try to set my nervousness aside and leave my building. I get a taxi and go to my school.

I walk inside, but there isn’t anyone there. Oh yeah, class field trip. I groan and walk outside. I have no idea where the field trip is at. I guess that’s what I get for not listening in class. I call an Uber and go back home. The ride in the car is fairly uneventful, and I get home in a decent amount of time. I walk into my apartment and sense that something is wrong. I look at my phone. It says 8:20 A.M., but that was the time I left to go to school. That’s kind of odd. I get an uneasy feeling, but decide that I must be imagining things. I check on my cat again, but he is sleeping. He never does that. Now I’m really worried. Maybe it’s because of…

“It’s happening,” Bill says out of nowhere.

“What’s happening?!” I exclaim in fear, but I don’t get a response.

Then, the realization comes to me. Something must be stopping Bill from communicating with me. All of the sudden my body feels heavy, and everything fades to pink.



Everything around me is pink. The trees, the grass, even the sky. But it’s not the kind of bright, happy pink that you often see. It is a dull pink that looks like the life has been sucked out of it. Like it has given up. Bill appears in front of me.

“I had to take you here, so that I could finally talk to you. He has been interfering with my ability to communicate with the mortal world,” he said, in a voice that sounded dull and lifeless.  


“I cannot say his name, for fear of my life. If I speak his name, I will be found. He would suck away my essence, just like he did to this land. You must find the sword. It is the only thing that can stop him.”

There is a flash of light in the distance, and his eyes widen.

“Quickly! I must send you back! He has found me!”

His eyes glow, and I’m suddenly back in my apartment again. What sword could he be talking about? I get distracted by a vibration from my pocket. Josh or Melany must have texted me. I pull out my phone and check my texts. I have one new message from Melany.

“Aaron, what is going on? You aren’t responding to anything. Please answer me!!”

I respond with, “Something is going wrong. My parents aren’t at home and there is something I need to talk to you about. Meet me at Starbucks in fifteen minutes.”


I buy some coffee at Starbucks and wait patiently for Melany. She arrives a couple of minutes later.

“What did you want to talk to me about?” she asks.

“When I was at the library, I saw a strange creature. It told me that magic exists, and that I’m the only person that is able to stop the destruction of the world. And that its name is Bill.”

Melany bursts out laughing.

“That’s a really good joke!”

“I’m not kidding!!”

Everything around us stops, and Bill appears in front of us.

“Aaron is completely serious. I exist, and I need your help. You two have to find a sword. I’m not sure what the sword is or where it is, but I know from my research that Aaron has the ability to somehow sense its location.”

“Wait, how can Melany see and hear you? I thought that I was the only one able to?” I say in a confused voice.

“Only people like you can see me without any knowledge of my existence. The ability to see and hear me was given to Melany when you told her about me.

Bill disappears and time resumes its cycle.

“Well, that was odd.”

“Yeah. He’s mentioned the sword before, but never how to find it,” I answer.

As I say these words, a small shiver goes through my body. I instinctively know that it’s the sword calling me. I stand up violently and spill my coffee on my shirt. Without even noticing it, I toss some money on the table.

“Melany, follow me!” I yell behind me, as I sprint out the door.

Melany rolls her eyes, mumbling something about my rush.



Melany bursts out the door panting.

“Nothing yet?”

“No. The feeling that I was getting in Starbucks is gone. I think we should go back there and investigate,” I say, as I head back towards Starbucks.

When I’m only a block away, I sense that the sword is nearby. I immediately stop, and Melany runs into me.

“Ow. Why did you stop?” she asks.

“I can sense that the sword is somewhere nearby,” I say, as I look around.

I start walking towards the Starbucks, and the feeling becomes stronger. All of a sudden, the feeling goes away completely. I retrace my steps and notice that I’m standing right next to the playground.

“Aha!” I exclaim and run through the entrance.

Melany and I split up and start searching. A couple of minutes later, I hear Melany calling my name. I walk towards her, and the feeling gets stronger. As I stand next to Melany, the feeling gets to its strongest.

“This area looked strange. I think this is the place,” she explains.

I nod and start searching the wall. I can’t see anything out of place, but after some investigation, I notice a piece of the wall that looks unnatural. I push it, and a portion of the wall opens up. We walk inside in amazement, and I see a stick. Melany tries to pick it up, but she is unable to.

“It must be like Thor’s hammer. You can’t pick it up unless you’re worthy enough. I guess I’m just not worthy enough,” she says with a small sigh.

I try to lift the stick, oblivious to her feelings, but it doesn’t budge. I try again, but still no response. Finally, I will the stick to move while trying to pick it up, and it lifts easily. As I grip it with both hands, it changes from a stick to a shiny sword. I grin and take some practice swings.

“Aaron!! Be careful!! You almost decapitated me!”

“Okay, jeez! I’ll be more careful,” I complain. “How am I supposed to walk around if I’m holding a sword?”

“Try to will the sword to turn back into a stick I guess,” Melany says, quizzically.

I shrug and stare at the sword. Before my very eyes, it shrinks into a stick.

“It’s getting kind of late. I’m gonna head home. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Melany says, as she starts walking home.

“Okay,” I say, as I too head home.

The next morning, I wake up and get an idea. If I can understand how the sword works, then I can talk to Bill and figure out how to stop the person that he was talking about. I grab my phone and text Melany.

“I have an idea. Meet me at Starbucks again.”

I grab the stick and leave the house to go to Starbucks. I walk into Starbucks and see Melany in one of the corner tables.

“What’s up?” she asks.

“I have an idea. If we can figure out how this sword works, then we can talk to Bill and fight the thing that we need the sword for. Let’s go back to the playground. There might be some clues in the place where we found the sword.”

Melany nods in agreement, and we walk back to the playground together.

I press the button to the secret room, and we walk inside. I activate the sword, and it lets off a slight glow. Melany and I examine the sword, and I notice that there’s a word engraved on the hilt. I bring the sword closer to my face and say the word that is engraved.


Immediately, the sword starts glowing, and the blade catches fire. I gasp and almost drop it in shock. The fire slowly creeps from the sword onto my hand. My hand doesn’t start melting, so I assume that the fire won’t hurt me. Soon, the fire consumes my entire body, but I still don’t feel any pain. Melany looks at me curiously.

“Are you okay? How are you covered in flames?” she asks in wonder.

“I’m fine, but I don’t know how,” I respond, as I look at myself. As I turn around to walk outside, Bill appears in front of me.

“Quickly! Come with me!” he says in fear.

I turn the sword back into a stick, the flames disappearing with it. Melany and I stand next to Bill, and for the second time, everything fades to pink.



I wake up to the sound of Melany yelling in my ear. I almost ask where we are, but my question is answered when I look around. Everything is the same dull pink, but it looks even duller than the last time I was here. The trees are blackened, and the ground is scorched.

“You got the sword!” Bill exclaims in excitement.

I nod.

“Now, how can I stop the destruction of the world?”

“You need to stop an extremely powerful being called The Drainer. It sucks the life out of a world and uses the energy to become stronger. It is only told of in myths, and the myth that I have heard says it is almost invincible. I did some research and have been able to pinpoint its location. I will try to help you in every way I can, but I will not be able to kill it. You must be the one,” Bill explains.

“Umm… Okay,” I say. “How do we get there?”

“Follow me,” Bill says, as he starts walking towards a giant castle in the distance. Melany and I follow him towards the castle.

I activate my sword and cut a hole through the castle doors, like a hot knife through butter. I look behind me and without words, they nod. The three of us line up and walk into the castle as a group.


The silence is eerie. Only our footsteps can be heard through the blanket of muteness. We are all tense, fearing an unknown assailant, but nothing confronts us. As we reach the end of the entrance hall, we are stopped by a large wooden door. I tentatively push it, expecting resistance, but it slowly opens up without trouble. It is all too easy. We know that we’re going directly into a trap, but we decide to continue. Bill peeks his head through the doorway and immediately catapults backwards, screaming. The screaming suddenly stops with a crunch. I wince, but my worries are quelled, as I hear Bill groaning and cursing. I try to ignore him and focus on the door. I slowly peek through the door, hoping to not go flying.

“No! Get back!” Melany yells, as she tries to pull me away.

I resist, but she pulls me back anyway. The door slams shut with a crash.

“Damn it, Melany! Now we’ll never be able to get past this door!”

“Sorry, I just didn’t want the same thing to happen to you,” she responds in a quiet voice.

“I know. I’m sorry for yelling at you, Melany. It’s just really annoying. This thing will destroy our world, and I just want to stop it.”

“It’s okay, Aaron. I forgive you. Let’s go check on Bill,” Melany says with a smile.

Melany and I walk over to Bill.

“Well, what are you waiting for?! Get me up!”

Melany and I roll our eyes and grab his arms. I pull with all of my strength, and Bill finally gets into a standing position.

“What did you see through that door? I wasn’t able to see anything,” I ask him.

“I saw a little creature that looked like a skeleton. There is a door behind the creature, and I think that it leads to where the Drainer lives,” he responds.

“Okay. What are we waiting for then?!” I say, as I turn the doorknob and rip the door open.

The skeleton creature is standing in the center of the room, eerily still. What is it doing? I slowly creep into the room. As soon as I step into the room, the skeleton lunges at me at inhuman speed. Before I can even react, I am shoved outside of the room. As I am sent flying, the skeleton walks back to the center of the room as if nothing just happened. I hit the wall with a grunt and slowly get up.

“Guys, I don’t think we can get the skeleton out of this room. It only tries to attack me when I enter the room.”

“Maybe we don’t need to get the skeleton out of the room,” Melany muses. “Maybe we just need to attack it while we are outside of the door.”

“Yes!” I exclaim, “Good idea!”

I take out my sword and aim it at the skeleton, while staying away from the door. The sword ignites, and I shoot a fireball at the skeleton. It burns completely through the skeleton’s ribcage and continues into the door. The skeleton’s upper body caves in, and it collapses to the ground, shattering on impact. I grin and walk into the room. The skeleton bones start to shudder, and I quickly destroy them with fire. The feat of power makes me feel strong. I walk to the next door and pause. I look back, waiting for confirmation. Melany and Bill nod. I open the door and brace myself for whatever is behind it.


The door swings open easily, on hinges well-oiled.  An empty white room, coated in mist, appears. I put my hand through the doorway and hit an invisible wall. I push and feel the wall slowly move. Melany helps me push the wall, and we walk through into the room. There is no visible door in sight, so we split up and start examining the walls. Almost immediately, Melany shouts. I turn around and see her getting sucked into the ground. I run to her side and try to pull her out, but the attempt is futile. Before I know it, she’s gone.



“This is all my fault!” I complain loudly.

“It most definitely is not,” Bill says reassuringly, “You couldn’t have done anything more than what you did.”

I sigh.

“I guess so,” I say, as I look at the place where she was taken.

I suddenly realize something. There’s a little button on the ground that I didn’t notice before. I bend over and push it. Slowly, the ground near me turns invisible, and I’m able to see a ladder going down into a dark hole. I peer into the hole and realize that it’s longer than I first expected. It goes down for at least twenty feet, and the rest is darkness. I gingerly put my foot on the top rung and start going down slowly. Suddenly, my foot touches the floor. I get off the ladder and look up to encourage Bill to follow me.

“Come on! The ladder is really short!” I yell up to Bill.

He nods and starts descending on the ladder. I look ahead and see a plain, white door, an arm’s length away. I try the handle, and it opens into a room with computers everywhere. Most of the monitors are in a fixed view of the misty white room, but a couple of them say “Project: Drainer.” Melany is tied up in the center of the room. She puts a finger to her mouth and motions for us to stay still. I raise my eyebrows, and she points to something in the doorway. I focus on where she’s pointing and see a bunch of small red lines crisscrossing the door frame. I assume that they’re motion detectors and move back slightly. Melany points to the goblin, and I see a small black remote control. I sigh in defeat. It’ll be impossible to reach the remote from where I am without going inside the room. As I turn around to leave, I hear a faint click. I turn back around and realize that the motion detectors have deactivated. The goblin must have rolled over onto the remote! I tiptoe into the room and untie Melany. I pull out my sword and blast the goblin with fire. Its body turns into a blackened crisp, and I look away. The three of us run out of the room and climb the ladder. We run back through the rooms and out of the castle. The three of us stand in a circle, and Bill warps us back into the mortal world.



The next day, the three of us meet at Starbucks. I ask Melany for her version of how she got kidnapped, and she starts talking after a moment.

“All of the sudden, I was pulled underground by a goblin. It tied me up and carried me down the ladder. I was dragged into its control room and put on the floor. It sat down in a chair and turned on a computer. After a couple of minutes, it left to go to sleep, but it forgot to turn off the computer. I waited a couple minutes and started using it. I read about a secret project called, “Project: Drainer.” It said that the Drainer is actually a robot controlled by the goblin that kidnapped me. The room that it took me to was the control center. After that, the computer died, and you came to rescue me,” she said.

“Wow,” Bill exclaims, “I was led to believe that the Drainer was some sort of monster. I guess not!”

Out of nowhere, my phone starts buzzing.

“Sorry guys, I have to go!” I say.

I get up and run home for dinner.



One year later…

Melany and I are sitting down at a table in Starbucks. I drink the final drops of coffee with a straw, listening to the sucking sound that it makes when the cup is empty. I have bags under my eyes; it took forever for me to finish my homework last night. I can’t believe that my life is finally normal again. Just as I’m about to get up for more coffee, Bill appears in front of me.

“Aaron, I have another mission for you,” he says in an upbeat voice.

“Not again!” I exclaim, as I roll my eyes.


The Assassin

“What was that?” John said to himself.

It was the sun glinting off of something shiny that was lying in the sand. John went up to investigate.

“Wow — a triangular piece of a gold doubloon!” John exclaimed.

John went to his camp, a tent hidden in bushes, and looked again at the report and pictures of the person he was supposed to kill.

“Where is he?” John said to himself again, since there was nobody else to talk to.

For thirteen years, John had had only his clients to talk to, and occasionally the police, but not for long, because it was boring to talk to dead people.

The reason why John was so alone was because, when he was eight, John had gone fishing with his dad, whom he loved so much, off the coast of Costa Rica. From out of nowhere, there was a tropical storm that grew into a hurricane. There was a huge storm surge coming at them, and suddenly, there was a loud crashing sound as the storm surge came down on them, and everything went black! Slowly, John’s hearing came back and everything was quiet, and then a few minutes after that, his sight came back. John realized that he was on an island with black volcanic sand. John went looking for his dad.

After a while of looking for his dad, John found his boat’s remains on the other side of the island and started to search it. While searching it, John found a telescope and his dad tangled in the ropes, dead. John quickly looked around the island with the telescope and saw the tip of a mountain smoking. Occasionally, sparks would fly out. His dad, James, had been strangled by the ropes and was bent at an unnatural angle. It soon became night, and John used his boat’s sail for a blanket and tent. John was devastated by his father’s death and cried himself to sleep. John dreamed about his mom, who was probably wondering where they were at this time. When John woke up, his eyes were red and tear stained. He was still sad, but not as sad as the night before.

The following morning, John decided to explore the island, since he had never gone to the other side of the island because it was so big. On his way to the other side of the island, John thought to try and see if there was an island nearby that he could find life on. John was looking for an island out at sea with his dad’s telescope when he stumbled on something. When John looked down, he saw the end of a stick protruding from the ground. John decided to dig it up and see what it was. It turned out it was the skeleton of a boat, and John decided to use it to make a boat. John hauled the boat down to his tent with vines he had found and laid it down beside the tent. By that time, it was already night, so he decided that first thing in the morning, he was going to explore.

The next day, John woke up and washed in the ocean. Then, he dried off in the sun and set off for the other side of the island. Once on the other side of the island, John took out his telescope and looked around.

“An island!” John shouted.

John could see boats leaving and arriving at the island! Finally, civilization. John could use the boat that he was building to get there. Later, when John was building his boat, he realized that the land he saw was where he had come from. After John finished the boat, it was weeks later. John was still homesick and couldn’t wait to leave the island and get back to his mom, but it was too late at night now. First thing in the morning. He did like that there were a ton of monkeys to play around with.

The next morning, John dragged his boat down to the shore and stopped to have breakfast, which consisted of a coconut and some monkey meat, which he had caught the day before. Finally, John started rowing himself and his food, which was even more coconuts, over to the island. That night, John stopped to camp at one of the islands he had spotted that he would pass along the way. In the night, John shivered on the cold ground; even with the sail of his ship on him, he was cold. In the daytime, it was warm, but at night, it was freezing where he was.

Finally, the following morning, John set out for the next island, which would be his last island before the main island. After hours of rowing, John still had not made it to the island, and he was scared. The reason he was scared was because there was no island near him. Finally, John made the hard decision of sleeping in his boat that night. It was a long and painful night, so the next morning, John’s back was aching, and he was so tired. John finally got to the next island, but he was soaked with not only water, but also sweat. After a few more days of rowing, and rowing, and rowing, John finally made it to the port.

Finally, John was at the island, and he was so happy that he ran all the way to his house, which was only a few blocks away. The first thing he saw when he got there was the police tape and the police surrounding his house.

This must be the wrong house, he thought, but he asked anyway.

The police closest to him said, “A woman named Sarah Cable had killed herself because she thought her son and husband died in a hurricane, so she was so depressed that she tied a weight to her feet and hands and jumped into her pool.”

“How do you know why she killed herself?” I asked.

“Sarah had left a letter on her door.”

At that point, John had been crying for a long time.

“Why are you crying?” said the police officer.

John said, “I am crying because Sarah Cable was my mom and I am John Cable and my father was James Cable, but he died in the hurricane, but I survived.”

The officer was stunned for a while. Finally, he pulled out his walkie-talkie and said, “Whoever is inside the house, this is officer P. Johnson. Are there any family photos in there?”

After a while of silence, the walkie-talkie crackled and a voice said, “Yeah. Why?”

“Because there is a kid out here claiming to be Sarah’s kid,” replied Officer P. Johnson.

An officer came out of the house carrying something in his hand. After a while of comparing the photo and John, the officer told Officer P. Johnson that the only difference was that John’s hair was longer in real life than in the picture, because he had been at sea for three years.

The next thing that happened was so sudden. Officer P. Johnson said that John had to go to an orphanage. He didn’t want to, so John tried to resist, but P. Johnson was too strong for him.

The next day, he was driving off to an orphanage in the heart of the town. He felt scared.

That night, John had a sleepless night at the orphanage. The next day, nobody talked to him. In fact, over the next ten years, all of his days were the same: Wake up, have breakfast, walk in the park outside, read a book, eat lunch, read a book, go to the park, eat dinner, read a little more, and finally go to bed. He would read action and adventure.

Well, all days were the same until one day, when he was at the park. Somebody, dressed in a coat that went down past his knees with the collar pulled up to hide his face and a hat pulled down over his eyes, asked him about the orphanage.

The person, who sounded like a man, asked questions like, “Are you happy at the orphanage?” and “Do you like the food here?” and “Do you like anyone here?”

John’s answers were: “I do not like it here, the food is awful, and I don’t like anybody.”

Just before the strange man left, he asked two more questions. The first one was, “How old are you?” and John’s answer was eighteen, and the second question was, “Are you mad at people?”

To this John’s answer was, “I am mad at people because my parents died, and I am depressed.”

The strange man replied, “I am leaving now, but I am going to leave you with this question. How much do you hate people?”

For the next two days, John thought about the question, and when the strange man came again, he had an answer.

“What is your answer?”

“I hate people so much, I want to wipe them off the face of the earth. I just wish there weren’t any people on earth except me and you, because you have been so good to me.”

“Well, then, I have the perfect job for you.”

“What is the job?”

“It is being a hitman.”

“How do I know I can trust you? What if you are the police?”

“I am not.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Anyway, do you accept my offer?”

“Yeah, sure!”

“Okay. I will bust you out. At midnight, come down, and I will cut a hole in the fence and you can come out.”

“Okay.” John says.

Beep, beep, beep. John’s alarm clock was going off at 12:00 p.m. and he went out to the yard. There the man was, standing there with wire cutters and a hole in the fence. John crawled out, but in the process he got a lot of scratches.

When John came out, the man said, “You need to be quiet. Follow me.”

“Okay,” John said.

They walked a long time.  Finally, they got to a dark building and the strange man said to go inside.

“First, tell me your name.”

“My name is Xavier.”

“Huh,” John replied.

* * *

The next few months went by in a flash. John practiced his accuracy with a sniper, pistol, and Ak-47.

One day, Xavier came up to him after practice and said, “It is time.”

“It is time for what?” John replies.

“It is time for your first kill.”

“Okay. Who do I have to kill?”

“You have to kill somebody named David Oreily. He is a billionaire.”

“Okay. Where is he?”

“He is going to be coming out of a limo near the Italian restaurant, Gibetto.”

“Where will I be?”

“You will be across the street on the top of a building with a sniper.”

“Okay, let’s do this.”

John went to the building and climbed the stairs to the roof.

There David was. He was getting out of the car! He stopped to talk to one of his security guards, and that was the time when John looked through his thermal scope and found David’s head. Before he got moving, John shot and hoped for the best. It was like slow motion, the bullet slowly traveling through the air towards Oreilly’s head. All of a sudden, John lost track of the bullet and waited for one second before seeing Oreilly jerk his head and fall to the ground.

John did it! He took apart his gun and threw it in his suitcase and ran down the stairs. John looked out the door, and there were police everywhere. Instead, John used a side door and got into a car that was waiting for him, and off he went.

After two years passed, John was assigned to a mission at the Grand Canyon.

There was a trillionaire who had just created really high-tech virtual reality goggles. John was on his motorcycle when he saw the trillionaire driving his Mustang convertible. John started chasing him and the man looked in his rearview mirror and saw John. John opened his throttle and closed in on him. John was closing in when the man saw a huge hill. He jumped off the hill and landed in front of his car, but he kept coming at John. John pulled out his pistol and shot the trillionaire. His head jerked back and he died, but his car still kept on coming.

John started up his engine and tried to get out of the way, but the car hit him. John went over the edge! He was falling! It felt like forever. John reflected on his life and the people he killed, and that this was the feeling to know that you are going to die. He regretted killing so many people. John wished he had never done that.


Generation of Fear


After World War I ended

Hitler took the stage

He took the crowd, suspended

Projected on them his rage


“The Jewish are to blame,”

He shouted with a sneer

“They took away our respect and fame

They are the ones to fear”


Most citizens believed the one

And started to despise

The ones chosen to hate upon

Fed with fear and lies


America was drawn to fight

By alliances and an attack

Finally, it was too clear war was in sight

Too late to turn back


“The Germans and Japanese are here”

Sounded whimpers and cries

“They come as spies,” they announced in fear

And were fed with their own lies


The war ended soon enough

Wrapped up with nuclear ties

Russia was hardened now and tough

Matched us, weapon-wise


“The Russians are our enemies!”

The public now exclaimed

“They will start more tragedy!

They will be to blame!”


The Cold War came to nothing

And besides lots of normal rage,

Everything seemed to be settling

Until that fateful day

Two planes hit the twins

The country was horrorstruck

As the buildings caved in

And fell to the ground in dust


George W. Bush invaded Iraq

In fear and rage and spite

A power vacuum sprung with a crack

And ISIS took the light


“Non-believers are to blame!”

The group called out in haste

“They attacked us out of spite and hate

They’ll grind us to paste!”


Now, all Muslims are blamed for them

While ISIS blames us all

Feeding the lies the others said

While supporting their own call


I grew up in this crazy world

Just one child amongst the rest

And you say how good it was before

We were all put to this test


Now, we are always being monitored

Everything is recorded, photographed

We are imprisoned by terror

As everyone submits to such futile tasks


Watch what you say in public

One wrong word could kill

A slip of the tongue could cause panic

Edit your words, if you will


My friends are ostracized

For the hijabs on their heads

My fellow siblings, children of God

By some are wanted dead

And adults are always warning me

“Don’t do this, or that.”

Beyond a point, I’m not free

Because safety is where it’s at


“You can’t talk to certain kids,”

“You can’t go to certain places,”

“If you do, you will be killed.”

That is thrown into our faces


Cameras watching everything

Threatening wherever I go

“You will be killed,” adults are always saying

This is what I’ve always known


Criminals, terrorists, different ones

These words I must fear and know

Everyone is scared of… everyone

They just fear the unknown


In a Generation of Fear, I’m cast

This is what I see

Not the first and not the last

But a worse one, seems to be


Call me naive, call me wrong

But I wonder why you’re all so scared

For I knew, all along

That danger is always there


The Last Time I Saw You


I remember the last time I saw your face

It was nighttime

The sun was falling over the horizon

You were angry at me but I didn’t know why

You wouldn’t tell me why

You looked at me, frustration exploding like fireworks all over your face

You couldn’t communicate your feelings to me

I didn’t know that

I know that now

But it’s too late now

What will I do without you

Without your pretty face

Without your certainty of my purpose

Without your constant and unwavering encouragement

To lift me up

And then

At the end of the day

When it disappears

And the real you surfaces

Only to show your real face

Your real side

And when I look at you then

I find that your heart is missing

You are unable to love me

I want to fix you

But I can’t fix you

Please let me fix you




You don’t see me

I am Invisible

You don’t know how I think


I want to be noticed

I’m right in front of you

I am a rare bird who’s there but not seen often

My gold feather with multiple colors of feathers

I can change but I would never attack

I am not like the plain birds

I don’t have just gray feathers

and my beak is orange and sometimes has little bits of colors

I notice you

You are part of the ones who are rare and unique

We rares are invisible in far away places

Miles and yards away from the commons

We are Invisible but special

Why not me

You see the ones who are not unique



I may not show my feeling

But I’m still here

Common ones go

But rare ones stay

I will stay

Rain or no rain

Thunder or no thunder

I will stay.

It’s not my fault that nobody notices me…

I am just special

And not just anybody can notice me but you can.



We are in small quantities of rares but that’s us


We soar above everyone who stops us.


The Journey

I sat there, my red Converses tapping the cement, while my two fingers twitched nervously. I waited under the large bus sign with my red hood draped over my head. It was the day I had been dreading since the beginning of August. I waited.

But, as the bus swooshed near the curb, splashing a puddle, the same uneasy feeling came again. I threw my tattered backpack over my shoulder and reluctantly stepped on the bus. The driver gave a quiet nod as I counted each silver coin, paying the fare of $1.50. I walked to the very back and slid into an empty seat. As the bus slowly drove away, I leaned back, resting my head near the frosty window. My eyes gazed, noticing a father and his daughter crossing the street. I watched as they giggled, their umbrellas dancing behind them. They slowly disappeared. I looked away, my hands fumbling as I cleared the lump in my throat.

Final stop. I looked around as I gripped the silver pole beside me. The driver, looking through his stained mirror, gave me a silent smirk.

“Have a nice evening,” he said. I nodded, my lips pursed together as I grabbed my headphones out of my backpack.

Stepping onto the ground, my Converses hit the crusty pavement. I stopped. I reached for the folded piece of paper in my back pocket.

“44 Dayton Lane,” I muttered. Behind me stood the 8 Pin Motel, the sign blinking in bold, red letters. I pulled out the torn map of East Michigan from my backpack. To the left, a stop sign read, “Hollow Road.” I followed it.

As I walked, my thick, sandy hair turned damp, and the rain continued. It seemed to be a rather quiet town on this chilly Tuesday.

I wondered. Thoughts about the future circled my mind, but I instead pushed them away. I continued on, directing myself through the ramble of streets.

“Muten Road.” I was one final street away. There I stood, my feet unable to move. I wanted to turn back and run. But I couldn’t, I wouldn’t allow myself to. It was then that I realized my life would never be the same. What I once knew would be in the past, and that scared me.

But, while thinking this, I walked on, my Converses hitting the gravel. I was there. I took one deep breath, and I rang the doorbell. I heard footsteps coming from inside, and the door slowly opened. There was my father, the man I never met.


“Hi,” I managed to blurt.

“Hello, can I help you?”

He was a tall figure with thick, sandy hair and piercing, green eyes, much like my own. His house was small, yet comfortable, with a light blue painted coat. His voice was deep and stern, but with the slightest warmness that was indescribable.

I stood there, my hands fumbling in the pocket of my sweater.

“Ron?” I asked, quietly.

“Uh, yes. You?”

“Jane, your daughter.”

He stood there shocked, his eyes wide. He began to mutter nonsensical things, his mind unable to comprehend what I had said.

“So…” I watched, as he nervously debated what to do.

“Uhm, come in,” he muttered.  “I think that will be best.”

He opened the door a bit wider and allowed me in. I walked into the dark foyer, drying my shoes against the welcome mat. He led me into the kitchen, where he offered me a seat. I sat, drying the ends of my hair.

“You said your name was Jane, right?”

I nodded.

“And your mother’s Anna?”

“Yes, ” I said as he shook his head.

He began asking questions.  After every few minutes, he would nod his head in disbelief.

“How old are you again?”

“I’m turning eighteen this fall.”

He looked out the window, seeming confused.

“How’s Anna?”

“She’s dead.”

His face deepened, and his eyes grew big. I felt my stomach turn.

I stared silently out the window. I watched as the rain fell, tapping each window.

“Why did you leave?”

“To be honest, I don’t know,” he sighed.  “I was young.  I was seventeen.”

“I know,” I interrupted.

But why? I wondered. Why? That is  just an excuse. I’m seventeen, and I still face reality. That’s why I’m here.

Looking to my side, I saw a small picture frame. It was of a family, a happy family.

“Who are they?” I said, pointing to the silver frame.

“Oh this,” he said, as he reached for the picture. ”My wife, Christina, and our two daughters.”

I so badly wanted to leave, but I knew I shouldn’t.

“Tell me!” I demanded.

“Tell you what?”

“Tell me why you left?”

“Didn’t I tell you?”

“You told me an excuse. Tell me why!”

I sat there. He gave a sigh and stared down at the floor.

“Look, I’m sorry,” he muttered.

“But why? My whole life was this unknown mystery. And now, I’m so close but–”

“I know,” he interrupted. “I’m sorry.” His eyes widened and became slightly watery. “I regret it, that’s all I can say.”

“Fine,” I said.

“Tell me why you came.”

I paused. Why did I come? I thought for a while.

“I wanted you to know I exist,” I shrugged. “But that’s all.”

He looked down and muttered something. He was hurt, and I could tell.

“You came here to find your father, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Well, I am the closest thing to a father. I may not have been there for you, but I am now.”

“I know, but you were the one who left. You caused my mother nothing but trouble, and I will never forgive you for that,” I screeched.

“But I am still your father.”

“So?” I said.

He sighed and circled the kitchen. While he paced the floor, I noticed the silver detailing around each cabinet. I stared. We locked eyes, and I saw his pain. I shouldn’t have felt bad, but I did. I knew he regretted it, but I wouldn’t let go. He hurt me. And it was as simple as that.

“Fine. I’m sorry.”

“I think I should go. It’s getting late,” I said, breaking the silence.

“Yeah, sure.”

I stood up from my chair and threw my backpack over my shoulder. He gestured, and I followed him down the hall.  When I first came, I believed my life would never be the same. But it still was.

He opened the door and stared down.  “Well I guess this is it,” he said.


Was I really going to leave? I suddenly remembered the day my mother passed. I recalled picking up the phone at around noon and hearing the sound of someone telling me that she had died. I thought it was all a dream, but it wasn’t. It was reality. She was gone. Gone. I hung up, and I ran to the phone book. It was then that my quest to find my dad began. I remember wondering, What would happen if I knew him? Would my mother still have died?

“I’m here if you need anything.”


“Bye, Jane.”

“Bye, Dad.”





The pale, waning moon is wearing a frightening mask.

We have the love of a thousand seas.

We are laughing at the Nazis.



My mother, the angel, the one that never cries.

She told me to bring harm.

She told me trust no one and hide.

My father, the devil, the one with the dark hair who usually lies.

Told me to never bring harm.

He told me to trust everybody I meet.

He told me people are good.

His towheaded hair kissed his face.

Fantasy living its domestic despairs.



My mother on the canopy bed, her French nails covered in blood.

My father wearing the Nazi symbol-covered.

The ground looked like it was bleached as the snow hit the ground.

Alone, the bomb and my mother’s pretty gowns.



My father, the great, big, hateful beast.

He cannot swallow his pride.

My mother says, “He’s a good man,” and she’s his bride.

He wears a red and black symbol on his arm.

He says it’s a “good luck charm.”



The bomb took my mother, she was sleeping on her golden bed.

Blood and darkness, the only thing I saw.

Her face was dark and traumatized.

Blue lilies near the table where she lies.

My father, the great, red and black alien, told me that she’s in a better place now.

Picking flowers from the pond.

The Nazis were the jokesters, the ones that made me laugh.

They were also savages with their barbarian cries.



I’m lying on the cold, wet canopy bed.

But the crows won’t sleep, silly birds.

My body is damp and shut in.

A tube around my nose, pills filling my mouth?

This must be hell or a white haven.

I haven’t been in my dress in weeks.

My house dress that I wear, my pretty gowns.

Oh god, I’m so pathetic.

I’m so weak.

I’m such a hysterical woman.

My lipstick is scarce and my neck is bruised.

I feel so used and unclean.

My French nails covered in blood.

Bleed… out…

This must be hell or a white haven.



The queen died last night. The colony is in a fervor. They look lost. Each wanders the tunnels they made, like aliens. The dirt and glass, that used to wrap them in warmth and keep them safe, now feel like a maze with no end or prize for solving. They don’t eat or sleep. Ants are strong creatures, but without direction, it doesn’t matter that they can carry twenty times their own weight. Once there’s no one left to protect, it doesn’t matter that they can fight to the death to protect their colony.

He could wait for the last eggs to hatch, but thinks he’d rather not trust his luck. He’ll have to find another queen outside later.

He sighs and sits back from the desk where his ant farm rests. Even from back here, he can see their movement, like rocks tumbling through kaleidoscopes, jumbled and directionless. He drops in some food, but knows it won’t make a difference.

The desk is empty of anything important besides his ants. He used to do homework here. Schoolwork stays on his bed now; clutter has seeped into the rest of his room like mold. The sparse sunlight, coming through his window, does little to drive it out.

After one last check on the ants, he grabs his backpack and heads out to walk the three blocks to school. It’s bright out, the kind of bright where you can’t see anything, but it doesn’t feel like seeing matters much when no one can. The dry, dusty air doesn’t help. He heads to his first class, biology, and sits in his usual seat in the back, two seats behind that girl: the mayor’s kid, who always writes down the answers, but doesn’t raise her hand and always seems to get her hair caught on the nails on the back of her chair.

He saw the mayor last fall, when she gave her annual speech at graduation. Though she probably doesn’t have much better to do, he muses, taking care of a town like this, with as many stop lights as they have water fountains. It’s three, not that he’s counting. Seems like she couldn’t take care of her family too well either, with all that he’s heard about her. He thinks the girl is lonely. At least, he hasn’t seen her talk to anyone, and she walks through the hallways as if, despite her years here, she’s never seen them before.

He lets out a breath and takes out his books. Maybe he was too loud; she turns around. She’s never done that before.

“Will you quit staring at me?”

He stops for a second. “What?”

She’s already turned back, and maybe she heard, but she might not have; class is starting. It’s another lesson on macromolecules.

He taps his fingers one by one on the top of the desk, almost feeling the vibrations. He imagines all the bugs, the bacteria and parasites, and all the little creatures that live beneath his feet. He feels like he’s in a million pieces, a million tiny things swimming around in space that, when looked at from far away enough, happen to resemble one being. For some reason, the more he tries to understand, the worse it gets. So he looks at the grayed whiteboard, streaked with faint lines of different colors from where lines have been drawn and erased, drawn and erased. The ceiling is falling in, the drooping panels pretending that instead of metal bars, they’re hanging by a thread. The lab desks are painted black, but those are chipping too.

From back here, the kids are just hair, a motley of dull brown and black. Not a large enough group for a single redhead. He thought middle school would be bigger than this, with looming lecture halls steep enough to slide down, so they can fit all the kids. There are twenty-three kids here, and he knows each of their names and their parents. It’s easy to look down on them, knowing they’ll be stuck here forever, first at the college, then as workers in the electrical plant or the grocery store, and he will have escaped.

He blinks back to the lesson and tries to remember that even in a place like this, there’s something alive. It’s just too small to see.

When class is over, the girl walks out, not quite rushing, so he takes that as a good sign and jogs to catch up.

“Hey, wait.”

It almost looks like she’s walking faster, but it’s hard to tell. Someone bumps into him and while he’s distracted, she slips away.

He walks home on the same route he’s been walking most of his life. He thought he would be out of here, going to the elite boarding school two towns over. But when the money fell through, he found there weren’t too many scholarships available for ant enthusiasts. He supposes the town owes it to him, owes him good education, or at least a chance. The college is the only thing keeping this place on its feet, but it doesn’t seem that different from the rest of the town.

A car drives by, kicking up dust and dirt. He starts to cough. It’s the first car he’s seen today, but the dust doesn’t make his eyes water like it used to.

He stops by his house to grab some supplies and heads down to the only park in town, which is less of a park and more of a field. Grass and trees don’t live long in the desert. As the sand and dirt and dust came in, so did the ants. Now there’s hardly a place you can walk without stepping on one.

He crouches down by a tree near the entrance. Here, ants have nestled their homes, between the thick roots that bend through the dirt like tentacles. In order for the queen to be ready for a new colony, it must be hatched and mated, but not yet bonded with her colony. There are several colonies here, so at least one should have an extra queen. He keeps track of the ants here passively, just in case something should go wrong. He takes out his container. Lays down a trap.

The queen is coming for it. He just has to wait.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees something.

The girl is standing there. Looking down at him. And there he is, playing in the dirt.

“Boo.” She doesn’t sound like she’s trying too hard to scare him. “What are you doing?”

“Oh, uh, nothing.”  

“Just hanging out?” She sounds incredulous, but almost smiles, as if this is a perfectly plausible excuse.

He tries to swallow and sighs instead. “I need an ant queen. For my ant farm?”

“Oh, right, your ant farm. You know, I forgot about the ant thing, from the science fair in third grade? Nice to know some things never change.”

He shrugs, not able to do much else. “Why are you here, then?”

“I just had to get out for a bit.” He can’t tell if she means her house or all of this, but it makes sense.

Her hands jammed in her pockets, her eyes shift across the landscape. “See you later, ant guy. If I can’t avoid it.”

He turns back to find his ant prize all wrapped up for him, but he leaves confused.

Introducing a new ant queen to a colony takes meticulous time. A single worker must be removed, refrigerated to make it less aggressive, and then placed next to the queen. She has to prove her dominance on the worker, and the worker must get used to the queen’s scent. Then, another worker is refrigerated and added, then another, over the course of days or even weeks. The queen has to win them over one by one, though the first is always the hardest.  

People always used to tell him that when he got older and got a job, he would get caught in the grind of life, waking up early every morning and completing whatever slack-jawed job he was assigned until he went to bed. Maybe it will happen one day, but for now, his life isn’t like that. Not just because his schoolwork doesn’t occupy all his time, but because the time he wasn’t working, he spent on something he’s actually enjoying: his ant farm. People could talk, but it didn’t bother him when he knew he had at least made meaning in a life where everything seemed to be working against just that.

When he introduces the first worker, it keeps its distance. Maybe he didn’t wait long enough. It still seems stuck on its old queen. It’s aggressive towards the new one.

Ants fighting those from other colonies often battle to the death, and he doesn’t know how far this one will go. He leaves them alone and hopes for the best.

The problem with people is that they can’t be kept isolated or refrigerated to make them docile.

In his next biology class, she’s missing. Absent, unexcused. First time this year.

On his desk is a pencil-sketched picture of an ant.


A week later, more worker ants have been added to the mix. There’s fighting still, with the queen and each other. He should have waited longer, but now, he just follows the process, adding one ant a day.

She still hasn’t shown up to class. He thinks about looking for her and tries going to that spot in the park again, but finds nothing.  

He starts to worry about her. Something had to have happened. People don’t just disappear, especially in a town where it’s hard enough to leave by normal methods.

There’s a species of ants in the Amazon that build elaborate traps out of plant fiber. They fill it with holes, and each wait beneath one, and when an insect comes on top, every ant reaches through the hole and grabs the insect with their jaws. They’re predators, sometimes even to other ants.

The ground has been feeling pretty thin to him lately.


It takes a month for him to incorporate the rest of the worker ants with the queen. From their eyes, it must be a massive crowd. It would be hard to find a spot where your antennas weren’t bumping into anyone. Some of them climb over each other, and though there isn’t much fighting, there’s tension in the container. A queen is a queen, and while they know they need her, they don’t bow to her. He starts to incorporate them back into the ant farm, though this is a first for the new queen. It seems to reinvigorate her; in her own domain, with her special chambers, she begins to take control.

He starts to anticipate biology class; now there’s a black hole in the room bigger than the lab desk and two spots farther away. He feels like the jellyfish used for DNA splicing — some strange thought is now part of him, and there’s no way to get it out. He wonders if anyone else notices her absence. Are they looking for her? Are the police looking for her? What if she was murdered, or kidnapped?

When his curiosity gets the better of him, he asks the teacher, who shrugs, then the kids who sit next to her chair, who do the same. It’s not that no one noticed, but no one seems personally invested enough to try and do anything. He isn’t either, but the more he learns of others’ negligence, the more he wants himself to care.

So after another week, when his ants have settled and he has nothing he can distract himself with, he heads down to the mayor’s house.

It’s taller than the other houses on the block, but not imposing. It has a porch, tall windows, gray walls. The driveway holds a single car, pointing outwards.

He’s seen the mayor before, up on stage and in pictures in the town hall. He’d been in there a couple times, for his fifth grade piano recital before he quit, and then for graduation. He often wonders if she knows him, if she remembers the names of most of the citizens, or if she just directs from afar. Ant queens use chemical signals to direct different workers, and he wonders how much of her job is behind the scenes.

He looks at the doorbell, the creaky steps, and covered windows. The chipping, cesious paint on the doorframe reminds him of the biology desks. The door, however, looks freshly painted, so he can tell someone is trying to keep up appearances. The windows are dusty, so he imagines if they spend time looking out across the town, it would be on this porch, on the couch, and scattered chairs. There’s a deck of cards on the table in the middle, and he wonders if they spend a lot of time out here.

He decides to go in the back way instead.

There’s a shed with the door open, so filled as to make the place unusable, yet still somewhat organized. Bikes are in their slots on the back wall, posters for a Girl Scout cookie booth on the walls, tennis rackets in a pile next to the balls, and portable net. There’s a life here, a childhood. Nothing too recent, though.

He heads in the back door. He’s been here twice before, once for her birthday party, once for an invitation to “hang out.” He thought they had fun, but she didn’t really talk to him or invite him over after that.

He wonders if the mayor is home. He hasn’t seen her lately, but she must be around, attending to the town or something. He wonders if she’s been looking for her daughter, if she knows where she went.

It’s a little familiar, and he figures out where to turn to go up one flight of stairs, and then another. He glances into the rooms he passes: a bright kitchen, a formal living room, rows of bedrooms ready for use. There are lots of signs and crochet pillows with sayings like No Place Like Home and Love This Place.

When each of the rooms turn up empty, he heads up to the attic.

It’s strange to think of the deadness he’s seen in this place for so long as contentment. Do people really choose to live here? The mayor must. But looking around, her attic is empty, except for dust bunnies and a few boxes on the sides and in the corner. There are ants living in almost any climate, even the tundra, but he doubts his ants would like it up here, in the dry heat and stale air. He supposes for once, he’s grateful he’s not an ant.

There’s a small, square window in the center. He pushes aside the curtain and stops to look out.

It’s getting late, and he can see the sun passing over the horizon. A first star looks down. When he thinks about solar systems, it’s easy to imagine ours as an atom, one cog in a massive machine beyond human comprehension. It’s nice, for once, to imagine himself as part of something greater.

From here, he can see everything: the paths of the school, the buildings and streets, the hospital he was born in, the ice cream place he used to walk to from his house. The lined passageways don’t make a matrix, they make sense: a thousand weaving roads each leading to another, all centered around this house. There are dozens of people out, some driving on the roads, others walking through the park or standing in their lawns. Only ants have to follow the passageways they build.

Looking out, he can’t think of where she would have gone. He used to think he was stuck here, but now it seems like the only thing keeping him here was himself.

Out of the corner of his eye, he thinks he sees her car, a black dot, speeding away like she’s being chased.


Why Do People Brag?

During the summer, I went to class in Colombia.

One time, I said, “I’m the best at soccer in this class.”

I was the only girl in my class who played soccer. That gave me an opportunity to show off in front of the other boys. I only said that so that I would have more confidence when I played, but it really didn’t help.

This gave them high expectations, so when I made a clumsy mistake, they really bothered me about it.

After that, I tried not to brag again, because I realized that you need to demonstrate that you are good at something and not just say it.

Sometimes, if you brag, people will be offended and try to prove you wrong.

According to writer Claudia Calv, I was bragging to prove that I was really good and to give me confidence to play better. Calv wrote, “They [people who brag] are seeking validation that they have done well or are doing well. They are seeking your opinion in order to judge themselves!”

I realized that I might’ve felt better if I hadn’t said, “I’m the best at soccer in this class.” Instead, I could have stated “I’ve been playing soccer for five years.” This would have shown my experience with soccer, which isn’t bragging because I would have been stating a fact, instead of just using an opinion that made me feel better about myself.

Some people say bragging is saying something good about yourself. However, I think complimenting yourself isn’t a problem. But when you start exaggerating and thinking really highly about yourself, that’s when it starts bothering people.

For example, Hillary Clinton needs to say she will be a good president and say all the good things she will do for the United States, but she doesn’t talk so much about herself, unlike Donald Trump. Trump thinks that he can do anything to a woman, just because he is rich and famous. Trump has said, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”This is considered bragging because Trump has said things that are false and offensive. He can not physically or emotionally abuse women or any other people just because he has power.   

In conclusion, bragging is something that happens in day to day life, but we have to limit it, so that it doesn’t get to the extent where it makes you look like you’re obsessed with yourself, or you are offending people. It is also important to remember that people only brag because they want to be able to judge themselves. If one of your friends brags, it is important to remember why they are doing it; you shouldn’t be mad at them or dislike them, because they are really just insecure. If this ever happens, you should just remind them that they are bragging, so that they can recognize it and stop.


I Remember


I remember the last time I saw you

The last night I saw you at that party

Your eyes looked pained

But every time I asked if you were okay, you said nothing

You were drinking champagne from a wine glass

The wine glass had a red lipstick stain on the side

I knew from the red ruby color you had given up

You had a far away look in your eyes

I could tell you wanted to go

I could tell you wanted to leave this life

You were done

You couldn’t handle everything happening around you

It was overwhelming you too much

You couldn’t take the violence anymore

I felt the same way

I think you knew that without me having to say it

I still loved you

I wanted to tell you that so badly but I knew you had moved on

I didn’t want to ruin you all over again

I didn’t want to knock down the wall that you had tried so hard to rebuild

I’m sorry I never tried again

I know you loved me

You know I loved you

We both wanted it to work

But it couldn’t

Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be

I miss you

I miss the sparkle in your eyes

I miss the way you used to say my name when you were angry

I miss the way you would run your fingers through my hair

I miss watching you put lipstick on in front of the mirror

I miss watching you dab at the corners of your mouth with a tissue to make it perfect

I miss when you wanted to look good for me

I wanted to look good for you

As time went on

As we beat at each others walls

As our walls slowly began to crumble before the other

As we began to see the other

As I began to see you for who you really were

It made me love you even more

I never told you that

I’m sorry