March 17th

The trickee has become the trickster

Running around with crushed hearts in hand

You can’t break a heart that is broken 

Playing games 

Foolish games

Power grows like vines 

Slips from my mouth on the third-month fourteenth day

Wishing I used force a few months before

But weak me

Little me

Never knew anything

I laugh in pity 

If only you knew how childish you were being

‘Cause this is fun

Words are shaken

Thoughts mistaken 

Stories are always told differently 

And they will turn you into a memory 

Learn to laugh in the face of that monster under your bed 

Learn to love your bare face

The taste of mistake on the lips

Dripped in the taste of regret 

You will never fully get over it 

Learn to show it who’s, boss

Don’t let it ever smile

‘Cause that’s when you know you’ve fully lost

People will call you weak 

And you will stare them in the face,

You will think have they even brushed their teeth that day

Wonder if their hands are in fists

Turning white losing blood as you stare them in the eyes

You notice the scar above their eye

Realize they too have once lost a fight

More questions appear in your head

Why this?

Why now?

How is this supposed to end?

Remember we were all little kids once

Blowing Dandelions fluff off stems

But Danny went off and was a liar

Big lies escape from the smallest mouths

And the biggest lies sting your skin like lemon juice

And you finally realize you might never get over it 

But that doesn’t stop you from trying

And more lies slip from mouths

Whispers whirl around your head, the words repeat and repeat again and again

And you’re stuck sinking in your thoughts

Is this the end?

And if it is the end

Did I do enough?


when you think of monsters you think of long claws have three heads

hiding under your bed ready to attack

but some people’s monsters don’t have long claws hide in your closet or have big fangs some people’s monsters is fear of not passing the test

not achieving your goals upsetting people letting them down

thinking you have it but you don’t 

or feeling regret being alone seeing death

doing nothing when you think you could have done something  

feeling something is going to happen

being in the wrong place at the wrong time

being made fun of how you look 

getting your lunch money stolen and not saying nothing

wanting to do something but you can’t 

feeling left out feeling guilty

when people see your face and they sit somewhere else 

or feeling misjudged on the action you did 

not having someone to talk to being blamed for something you did not do 

being embarrassed or wanting something 

a pet flying or running away 

or the feeling that you forget something but you realize at the last moment

doing an action that you think is good but someone sees it differently or as a bad way

losing family or a friend

not being loved or doing something unintentionally

so the monster that has long claws or has three heads are actually your fear but just disguised as a scary or mysterious creature that pops out in your dream it is your fear


“frank? frank!

my entire life, summed up into two short words, written in sharpie against my white bedroom walls.

i think that’s what they hate the most. the shortness, the stillness of it. the ink that dried too quickly and the words that were missing too many letters. the blood that rushed to my head and the gravity that pulled the marker away from me, onto the ground.

i’m sorry.

they’re angry with me, even if they pretend that they aren’t. maybe they wish i had more to say, more of an apology than just the words:

i’m sorry.

when i think about it now, i have more to say. i could’ve written pages and pages about it, explaining why i did what i did. but sometimes things are better when they’re simpler. sometimes i don’t need the whole world to try and analyze my mind. 

the only reason why i make so many mistakes is so that the skeletons in my closet won’t be lonely. but i didn’t tell them this, won’t tell them this. instead, all i left behind was a measly i’m sorry. it’s better than nothing, i guess.

still, they hate me. i know that they do. but i can’t really blame them. i hate me, too.

i felt like a jellyfish that day, or a ghost. something that you can’t hold on to. i couldn’t even hold on to myself.


i spent two weeks in the hospital last month. four days were for me, in a stiff white bed with no company but the ceiling and the tubes and the nurse who poured me orange juice every morning. the remaining ten days were for my dad, sitting beside him in a plastic fold-up chair, listening to his even breathing as he climbed over the edge of life. he died surrounded by what he loved most, the woman he pretended that he could still call his wife and half-empty cans of beer.

he was a nice person, i think. he was just good at not being himself.

he’s in a better place now. and if you ever want to talk about it… if you ever need me, just know that i’m here. i’m here for you. we’re here for you. you’re not alone. 

it’s going to be okay.

it probably is going to be okay, but i wish it could be more than that. i wish that things would be how they used to be. i wish that things could be summed up more than just “okay” and “i’m sorry.”

the last night as a patient in the hospital was the worst. i shared a room with a six-year-old girl. she talked a lot, mostly to herself but also to me. she told me about the pet rats in her bedroom who chewed holes into the sunlit yellow paint that coated the walls and died. some nights, she’d crawl over to my side of the room and just cry, but i never said anything when she did. that was the worst part about being upset — people just wouldn’t leave you alone. i couldn’t tell what she was thinking. maybe it’s better off that way.  

monday, 1:37am. i wish that i had learned her name.

my dad died on a thursday at half past twelve with so much alcohol in his veins that they couldn’t tell how much of it was blood and how much of it was whiskey. i wasn’t there that night like i was all the other nights, like i was that monday thirty-seven minutes after one in the morning. i wasn’t there as he faded into nothing, silent as ever, no one noticing that he was truly gone until my mother turned over to give him a glass of water and didn’t even hear a whimper of protest in return.

he was half dead when they first found him on that day, face down in a puddle of unrecognizable fluids. they spent ten days trying to revive him, wasting their energy on a man who was too far gone to even care. 

i don’t miss him, and yet i wish that he was still here. ryan doesn’t believe me. she thinks that i do miss him, somewhere inside, and maybe she’s right. but maybe she’s wrong.

ryan visited me twice when i was there. she brought a plant with her the first time, a small cactus she named albert that had allegedly lived for fifteen years, but no one really believed her about that, especially because after a few days of living on my windowsill, albert was no longer looking very healthy.

it’s fine. everything’s fine.


there is no air here. i can’t tell if it’s actually as stuffy as i think it is — maybe it’s just all the flowers lined up against the wall, little goodbyes and sorry’s but mostly just dying flowers of what they think is sympathy.

goodbyes to a dead man. how ironic. shouldn’t he be the one saying goodbye?

people are staring, but no one says anything. maybe they feel as out of place as i do. maybe they’re pretending just for me.

my mom leans over towards me. she doesn’t reach for my hand, but i feel her breath, warm and sticky on my neck as she says, “are you okay?”

i nod. 

the breath moves away like it had never been there at all. i don’t look up. i don’t look anywhere. time keeps moving, moving on and moving away and i am still, not still enough to not be noticed, but still enough to fade into the background. 

there is no air here, and yet the atmosphere still smells of who he used to be and the dust that floats by me but not in the way i want it to. and everything is so quiet, their words tiptoeing around me, but it still feels too loud and i know this only because my head feels like it’s going to explode. 

it doesn’t.

my mom hovers over my shoulder again, pressing fingers into my palms and words into my ears but really all it is is noise.

“are you okay?” she asks again. this time i turn to face her. “frank?”

“yeah.” something crawls up into my throat and pulls down at my flesh, down my neck and my spine and my wrists. it’s racing up and down my chest and down into my stomach, and i feel like i might throw up. everything is glued to me. the hair on my forehead, the shirt on my back, and the rows and rows of eyes watching me, waiting to see what the dead man’s son has to say about his decaying body.

i cough into my sleeve, the cloth warm over my chin. another layer of fear.

“frank, are you sick? you’re not getting sick, are you?” she reaches up to my face and presses a palm to my forehead, pulling away after a few moments of prodding. “you feel sweaty,” she says. 

“it’s hot here,” i tell her. “it’s too hot here. and stuffy.”

“maybe you are getting sick,” my mother contemplates to herself, reaching up to my skin again. she looks worried. i didn’t mean to make her worried. “but you feel okay… ”

“because i am.”

her eyebrows curl up and form little creases on her face. “you’re pale,” she tells me anxiously. “maybe you should go lie down somewhere.” she digs into her pockets and pulls out a pack of napkins, our alternative to regular tissues when i was kid. i cough into halloween, into rainbow birthday cake, into christmas and pearly black new year’s balloons and sparkly fourth of july. i shove the crumpled up celebratory paper deep into the pocket of my jacket.

“is ryan here?” i ask, searching through the sea of people for a tiny head of green. “did you see her?”

“uh, no, i don’t think so.” she shoves the words out of her mouth quickly to reassure me, and then shoves me forward a bit along with them. i wobble towards the back of the room near the door and into a cheap plastic chair. “you should rest, until she gets here at least.”

“you’ll wake me up when — ”

“yes, yes, okay? i’ll wake you up when she’s here, now go.”

i go. what else can i do?

she wanders off to talk to who i assume are relatives. i recognize a few of them but most i don’t. even from here, i don’t need to hear what they are saying to know what they are telling her. one of them looks familiar, an old woman with bracelets that sing like cymbals as they tangle themselves around her wrists, and this one leans forward to enclose my mother in a hug.

she barely knows him. she barely knew him. why does she get to care? why can’t i?

they’re always asking, and i never tell.

how are you feeling, frank? after what happened… ”

nothing. i feel nothing.

“i’m doing okay.”

i feel less than this woman with a face that looks a bit like everyone else’s, a woman who had probably had only spoken to my father once in her life. and still she brought flowers. and still she feels bad.

she feels bad.

i feel nauseous.

suddenly i can’t sit still anymore, and it’s like the bats that have been breeding in my stomach have blossomed and burst out and i can hear nothing and everything all at once.

i shift out of my seat and slip out the door where no flowers wilt, no chairs are stacked, and most importantly, no people are huddled. the air feels cool on my skin for a moment until another wave of heat crashes against me, and i realize that i’m shaking. i move back to steady myself against the building. it helps just as much as i expect it to, which is not at all. my head is still spinning.

no one is here. no one is watching. usually that would make me feel better, but right now it isn’t.

breathe, i tell myself. an ant crawls up against the back of my arm. breathe.

i’m going to throw up. i know i am. i know i am, breathe, breathe — 

“frank?” a voice calls from behind me. i turn around for a moment to see a head of green and brown hair, scan all the way down to her feet with curly shoelaces, the ones that match mine.

and there it is. it all pours out of me, more bats and more stomach acid, and even though i knew it was coming, it still takes me by surprise.

“oh, frank.” she edges towards me slowly. no touching, no touching. she knows this already. of course ryan knows. “hey,” she says. “it’s alright.”

“not really.” i cough out more bats. then, i wipe my mouth with the napkins in my jacket pocket. the party poppers and confetti and balloons are ruined.

“can i… ?” ryan questions, and i nod, so she pulls my hand into hers and we tumble into the grass. there are ants crawling all over us, swarming us, or at least it feels like that. i ask her if she feels them, if she feels them all over us, suffocating us, and she shakes her head in return.

“nope,” ryan says. “no ants. just us. just you and me.”

“oh.” i take a deep breath, but it doesn’t seem to sink in. “good. that’s good. i like it better like that.”

“me too.”

i am floating on this twin sized mattress, on this bed of grass, and i am listening to the water. i am just an accessory. i am just a footnote to someone else’s happiness. maybe that’s all i’ve ever wanted. maybe that’s all i’ll ever get.

it is/was/will be. and that is enough.

“are you okay now?”

i think before i answer. “i, um, i guess so.” i’m breathing again. the bare minimum but it still counts. ryan tells me so. we listen to our breaths for a few more moments before she speaks again.

“do you want to go in?” she asks, pointing to the door behind us. 

no. i don’t want to see him.

no. “okay.”


the hospital again. it smells the same and looks the same, but this time it feels different. there is no commotion outside in the hall, where my dad is still half alive. there is no nurse with orange juice, no roommates. nothing. it is quiet and for the first time, i wish that it wasn’t.

i look up at ceiling where there is no fan spinning like the one in my bedroom. instead, there is a spider, and the way its legs move reminds me of a fan a bit, or maybe everything reminds me of everything. maybe i just want to go home.

i do.

i wonder if anyone will come visit me this time. i wonder if anyone will bother at all to go down to the pharmacy across the street where they sell those pink balloons with the bears on them, where they used to sell holiday napkins except now they don’t anymore. i wonder if my mom is at home and if she’s thinking about me at all. if ryan’s thinking about me at all. i wish for a moment that she didn’t know about what happened, about what i did.

the door squeaks open, and something jumps up in my chest as a woman in a white coat pushes her way in, and i know that my eyes are traveling down to her shoes, looking for laces that curl but they aren’t there. this isn’t who i want it to be.

The Price of Freedom (Chapter One)


“Where did you say that they’ve spotted these things again?”

“The biggest places,” Elizabeth Brunswick began, rolling her eyes. She started to type on one of the bigger computers, so that images of cities showed on the large screen. She pushed her hair back from her face and began to name the cities. “New York City, Phoenix, Philadelphia… the list goes on and on… ”

A few of the people in the room who were sitting in the other computers turned to look. Viola and Elizabeth glanced at the people who were peeking; they turned back to their work at the computers. 

 Viola Lodge rubbed her forehead with her fingers. She wasn’t pretty, to get that straight. She wasn’t all that skinny, and she had a blemished complexion from having acne as a child and wrinkles were forming on her face. And, even though she was still young, she did nothing to stop them.

But, she wasn’t ugly either.

Viola Lodge was Viola Lodge. Distant, but down to earth. Delicate, but, yet, strong. Discrete, and up-front. No one could figure out what she was, or try to get her to change so that she could be easier to understand. No one wanted to anyway.

“And,” she began, sighing, “are all the 911 calls from different places?” Viola wished that the answer would be ‘no.’ But, her gut feeling — which was never wrong — told her that she wouldn’t not get the answer she wanted. 

Elizabeth Brunswick shook her head. “Sorry to say, Ms. Vice President,” she started in false respect, “But they’re all from different places, a different city.” That was all Viola wanted to hear, but Elizabeth kept talking, as she usually did. “And more are coming in by the minute, but we haven’t checked since the original calls.”

“And how many original calls were there exactly?” Viola rolled her eyes as she spoke. She hoped that she wasn’t sounding frightened. Not frightened in front of Elizabeth Brunswick, out of all people. To be honest with herself, she was scared out of her mind.

All the computer workers wrinkled their faces, some even closed their eyes, as they cringed. Maybe they thought that they could scrunch themselves up so much they would turn to nothing, and wouldn’t have to deal with the looming problem. 

 Elizabeth Brunswick bit her lip just before mustering out the words: “There were 20 original 911 calls.” She fumbled with her hands. “But there must be hundreds now… some might be from new places.” 

“Twenty!” Viola screeched, losing all her cool. 

“Make that 21.”

 The door swung open, and it smashed loudly against the wall. All the heads in the room turned to look as President Richard Werrington entered. Everyone but Viola rose and saluted him.

“Way to make an entrance… ” Elizabeth Brunswick muttered sarcastically. Soft enough that only Viola could hear. Viola shot her a death-glare to shut her up. Though, inside, Viola agreed with her. She just wasn’t willing to admit it.

 “What do you mean?” She asked hastily, waking up to him. She tried not to show it, but her eyes began to water and her heart beat rapidly. She had to crane her neck to look up to Richard, who stood at 6’3”. 

“I don’t recall you telling me that you’re blind, Ms. Vice President,” Richard Werrington started. He took off the white gloves that he was wearing and shoved them into his pocket. “Have you even bothered to look outside? One of those… things — ” he gestured at the screen — “is right outside.”

“Well, that’s news,” Elizabeth Brunswick said nervously.

Even though her voice shook, she held herself high and kept her chin up. Elizabeth Brunswick didn’t brand herself as a woman who got scared easily. She wouldn’t let it fear overcome her now. Even in a situation such as the one before them.

Richard pushed back his wavy, dark-blond hair. “You!” He said, turning and pointing to one of the workers. “Call Mr. Irving and arrange for an Air Force 1 jet to be ready for take-off. I’m getting out of here.”

“Yessir,” the employee said quickly. 

“Mr. President,” Viola scolded. “This is no time for your usual crap! We don’t even know what these things are!” She turned back to the screen that now displayed the different glowing lights. “I mean, they could be comets… rocket ships… even meteorites — ”

 “Bombs,” Richard said flatly. 

“I’m sorry, what?” Elizabeth Brunswick cut in. She scoffed slightly, but she didn’t seem to intend to make the sound she did. Some of the computer workers looked up anxiously. “Did you just say, bombs?” 

“Yes, bombs, Miss Secretary,” Richard stated. “And if you’ve got one ounce of sense in you, you would issue a national emergency and get out of here as fast as you can.” 

“How do we know that they’re bombs?” Viola asked. She scrolled on the computer, and it zoomed in on the light, having to adjust to the new zoom. “We can’t be sure, and who would possibly want to attack us.”

“North Korea… for one.” Richard began, counting on his fingers. “Then there’s China… Russia… ” He paused for a second and crossed his arms. “To be honest, we’ve pissed off so many countries it could be anyone.”

“Richard James Werrington!” Viola screeched. “If you really think that this is a national emergency — then you shouldn’t be fooling around like this! Every day it’s the same damn thing –”

 “Mr. President… ” Elizabeth Brunswick’s voice was oddly feeble. She was standing next to one of the workers at their computer. Her face was paler than it usually was, and her purple veins were visible in her highly exposed neck and arms. That was another thing Viola wasn’t fond off… 

 She gulped and turned to Viola and Richard. Her eyes were wide, but her back straight. “I… I… um… I think that you might just be right… ” she said so horsley, it was almost a whisper.

 Richard and Viola both heard her, even though her voice was soft. They still couldn’t comprehend what she had just said. Even Richard, who had suspected it, was praying on the fact that he might be wrong. Now that was thrown out the window.

“I’m sorry… what?!” Viola said. Her voice started off as low as Elizabeth’s, but it slowly rose higher. The “what” was so loud that it shook the entire room. Viola had that effect on people, but she also had that effect on rooms, apparently. 

“President Werrington is right,” Elizabeth spoke again. Her words were like thin ice, but much colder. “It’s a bomb, and I’m damn sure it is… From my days in the military… ” Her face suddenly went red, and her breathing quickened. She looked like she was about to pass out. 

“We have to get out of here… ” She managed to get out the words as she stumbled her way from the computer. She pushed to the two of them and ran to the trash can by the door. She proceeded to throw up; she was done being strong. 

 Richard and Viola advanced towards the computer. The nervous, fumbling, shaking employee was zooming in on the image of the light. The entire room was filled with nervous mumbling and the sound of Elizabeth vomiting. 

“Put that one the screen,”  Richard instructed carefully. The words came out slower than he thought they would. He punted to the screen, and everyone in the room seemed to lean towards it to see the image. 

 The image appeared on the screen, and the man behind the computer began to zoom in. As it came closer, the ball of light took on a definitive shape. 

 Richard adjusted his glasses, although he didn’t need to. He could see it quite clearly. Elizabeth, still shaking, walked up to between Richard and Viola. She lifted her head to look up, as much as she didn’t want to.

Elizabeth turned her head slightly and sighed. 

Richard turned to the rest of the group, and flopped his arms to his side. He sighed and let out an exasperated laugh. “Crap,” he said, still chuckling. “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap… ”

This didn’t exactly strike Viola as unusual — Richard was well-known to her as one to laugh when he was nervous. But, whether she was used to it and whether she was bothered by it were two extremely different things.

She had known Richard since they were children. They had lived in the same estate and been friends from elementary school all the way to law school. They flocked to each other because they had the same goal in life — they were the only two children in St. Peter’s Catholic Academy who had wanted to become the president.

But only one of them has achieved that goal.

Steaming with anger — she wasn’t usually wrong — Viola walked up to the front of the room, in front of the screen. “We’re going to issue a national emergency, people!” she yelled. She began to walk up the isles, observing the people. “A national emergency!”

 The lights dimmed and red lights in the ceiling and in the hallway began to flash. The room turned to absolute chaos, with people running and Viola shouting instructions. It suddenly felt strangely hot. 

“Get to the helicopters! Get to the base! You know where to go! Take your laptops! We’ll operate from there!” She commanded, picking up a grey briefcase. All the people began to run. “Get yourselves out of here!”

 Elizabeth Brunswick had gained back her usual air of mightiness and was new walking up to Viola. “I’m going to need Secretary Greene and Secretary Xin,” she said sternly. “I’m almost certain they’re with Ortega at a meeting — you might as well get him too.”

Viola crossed her arms and spat back, “I don’t take orders from the likes of you.” Viola wasn’t fond of Elizabeth. She didn’t like how she always showed up in designer dresses and heels. She believed that work wasn’t a place to dress up like a model to go to.

Elizabeth scowled. The feeling was mutual.

“Fine,” she spat. “I’ll go there myself.” She stalked off towards the door, her red heels clicking so loudly that it nearly drove Viola insane.  

“Richard!” She now turned to him, addressing him by his first name. Richard Werrington turned to her, looking lost in all the hustle and bustle. It was clear that he was a little claustrophobic. “You need to get Madeline and Anthony! Get to the jet. That employee already placed a call. It should be ready for you.”

  Richard paused and stopped to process what she had said. He suddenly gained the face of someone that had just been hit on the head with a frying pan. Richard began to run towards the doorway at full speed. His arms didn’t seem to know what they were doing.

Although he ran fast, Viola ran faster. She grabbed his sleeve before he was ever able to get to the doorway and held out the briefcase. She opened it with a click, to reveal a panel of buttons. 

“You know, Ms. Vice President,” Richard said frankly, catching his breath. He slammed his hand down upon one of the buttons with such force it nearly fell out of Viola’s hands. “Usually I like pressing red buttons.”

Before I Forget

I think of the rumors I hear about her. They get whispered around the school. I hear the mumbles of questions wondering what exactly happened to Liv. I’m beginning to wonder what exactly is true. How can the rumors I hear be about the same girl I used to know? 

Let me tell you what I remember. I first talked to Liv in the courtyard at school reading a book on some time period I can’t remember. I was drawn to go up to her. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was because she sat alone, with the remains of temporary tattoos up her left arm. 

“So you like history?” I said awkwardly. 

“A little.” Her eyes squinted, looking up at me and the sun.

“Here.” She moved her bag. “Come sit next to me.” 

That’s how it all began. We had gone to school together for years, but we were just classmates. She was the friendly girl I found intimidating.

I recall that day her nails being painted eggshell blue. Her third finger torn up with a ring that sat at its base. It was faux bronze, with flakes of paint chipped off of it.

Her stories always included farfetched realities, and she told them with exaggerated hand gestures, to help make her point. Each one left me wondering if what she told me was true. I learned about her and the secrets she held inside about the people who acted differently in a different light. 

“I trust you,” she told me.

If only I knew what that meant.

Liv was the type of girl every boy fell in love with. She was far from perfect, and not like other girls. I never tried to resent Liv for this. It wasn’t something she caused. However, the memories are replaying on why exactly boys were in love with Liv constantly. Liv had long blond hair, and her personality seemed unnerved by people’s comments, a polar opposite from mine. 

As I think back to the first day we met, the feeling of the black plastic table burning the bottom of my thighs is brought back, but it was easy to ignore the pain when talking to Liv. 

“Everyone wants to believe they’re a good person.” She played with the skin of her middle finger some more. “It’s too hard for them to hear there’s a chance they have hurt someone.” I continued to look at her as her hair hid part of her face.

For someone who I didn’t know for long, it became hard for me to think of days passing without her. We spent time together laughing with each other in the front seat of her car, ignoring all the pain that occurred in our lives. I enjoyed that our friendship wasn’t a typical one where we complained about who had it worst. Instead, we would joke around about our lives and laugh about how much we wanted to die, because it used to be true, but now it was just a silly remark we’d make. 

She told me about the boy she’d been seeing. Some days I lived through all the secrets and adventures she lived. 

Our phone calls would last for hours, but it usually ended with her telling me about how she planned to sneak out of her house to go somewhere. I would typically tell her I was getting tired and hang up the phone, but each morning there was a text telling me about the past night’s adventures.

I knew clearly that I didn’t know everything about her.

I would go to pick up her phone, but before I knew it she would snatch it away. She lived a life of secrets, thinking it would be more fun.

It was summer time when I went to my first party with Liv. We walked into a room of classmates and strangers. Dave was there. He was the boy Liv had been seeing, but she’d clearly stated it wasn’t love. 

Liv drank enough for four people her size. She danced and giggled, wearing high heels I knew she’d complain about in the morning. I stood in the corner with water in my cup as I watched her enchant the whole room. She talked to boys, being flirty, but this was nothing new. But perhaps when I saw one of the boys hands got down to the hem of her skirt it caused me to step in.

“We should head home!” I screamed over the music.

“Come on, lad, few more minutes. Do you like that? Lad, I sound like an Irish man.” Her head tilted back, laughing. 

“I’m going home,” I said.

“What a buzzkill. Fine, let’s go then.” She aimed for the door. However, her direction changed when Dave stepped in, I knew I would be leaving without her. 

I don’t believe Dave caused the problems that occurred. It was an inevitable sequence of circumstances that prevailed. 

Liv had created a world in her head. She didn’t let me be a part of it, but she made me feel as if I could be. 

Six months later from that day we first me outside in the courtyard, it was Memorial Day weekend when I got the phone call. I had been away with my family. Liv whispered through the phone things had gotten out of hand and she wasn’t exactly getting better. This was her goodbye to me. 

 I sat on the floor confused, wondering what had changed. Liv was the most outgoing girl yet too shy to say what was wrong, the one who hid away, the one who broke her own heart. The girl I knew for six short months. 

Perhaps people can change quickly, in the blink of an eye, become someone new you can meet again. Maybe I’m wrong.

All I know now is that I want to remember her before I forget. Ingrain the memory of the late Saturdays and Sunday early afternoons we spent together.

I don’t want to forget that she taught me to live, but, in the end, I couldn’t help her. 

I want to remember the Liv I knew.

I want to reminisce about it before I forget.

Sky Demons

There’s an old legend that states that one night a burning star fell from the sky and slammed into a mountain range. It caused a catastrophic explosion, tossing huge hunks of rock and dirt and debris around the mountains for miles. The star disappeared, but it left a gaping hole in the mountains.

According to the legend, my people and our sheep were born from that star. In the morning, my ancestors emerged fully formed after its burning diminished. Together, they all blinked in the harsh light. They looked around at the scorched, rocky ground and the walls of stone on either side. One of their sheep bleated. Then, a cluster of massive shapes dove down towards them. They grasped both sheep and people in cold talons and swooped back up to the sky. They ate their prey. From that moment on, my people have called them sky demons. From that moment on, they have been our enemies.

That’s the legend of how we came to be. I always thought that it was ridiculous, because how could people and sheep come from a falling star? And how could a star not destroy the Earth? Papa thought it was nonsense, too. Mama and Sam didn’t though. They were the dreamers in the family. 

I once told Sam that the legend was utter nonsense. I was eight years old at the time. He was seven.

“No it’s not!” he replied. “The legend is true!” That was the end of our conversation. 

Sam also liked to look at the tufts of green grass that had sprouted up over the years.

“It’s like us, Sophie,” he said to me one day. “The grass is like us. It lives on rock. And,” he paused here, his light brown eyes wide with excitement, “no one would have ever thought that grass could live on rock. But it has. Just like us! No one would have ever thought that humans could live in a rock hole, but we have, too!”

I had laughed and ruffled his soft blond hair. I didn’t care about metaphors between us and grass. All I had ever wanted was to learn about the world. The real world outside of the ashen gray rock walls that surrounded us. Once I learned enough about the world, I reasoned, I would be able to escape the rock. I don’t know what I was thinking. Papa had always wanted to escape. And look where that got him.


Sometimes, on clear summer evenings, Papa and Mama and Sam and I would lie on the stone behind our hut. Together, we would watch the sun set. Once Papa tried to explain how it worked, how it wasn’t the sun that was moving, it was actually the Earth. Even I quieted him, though, because sunsets shouldn’t have a scientific explanation. 

We would watch as orange and pink spread their fingers across the sky, pushing away the soft blue-gray of daytime and welcoming the purple of night. We would watch as the purple oozed across the sky, erasing the orange and pink. Once it was completely dark, Papa and Mama would usher Sam and me inside. Sam would go right to sleep on his cot, but I wouldn’t. I would peek out from my window and watch the sky demons cut across the dark, hurrying towards their nests, their bodies like blades against the soft purple. I watched as the adults in our village would crowd in the square, holding spears of wood and stone. I watched as they hurled the spears at the sky demons. Sometimes, a spear would hit its mark, and a sky demon would fall from the sky, shrieking. The next day, we’d have meat at dinner. Sometimes, a sky demon would fly down towards the adults. Sometimes, it would grab one of them in its talons. Sometimes, it would rip the roof off of the sheep barn and steal away the sheep. 

Every morning, we would find blood dribbled on our roofs and splattered in dark stains on the stone. We always worked hard to scrub it away. 

Mama and Papa were the only adults who never took part in sky demon hunting. Papa because he was too busy studying a way to get us out of the hole in the mountains. Mama because she couldn’t bring herself to pick up a spear.

Sam and I used to watch the other children holding little bits of stone, throwing them towards the sky, trying to hit a sky demon. It never worked. The stone would always fall back down before it flew up far enough. It would usually hit one of the other children on the head. Sam and I never threw stones at the sky. 

I used to wonder why the sky demons only ever ate a few of us or our sheep. I used to wonder why they didn’t kill us all. They must have wanted to, I thought, them being such evil beings. I never figured out why they didn’t. I also used to wonder about why, in the legend, when a cluster of sky demons first swooped down, why they didn’t eat all of us. 

I asked Papa why. He told me not to bother with the legend because it was stupid. Then he took me and Sam by the hand and slung a rope over his shoulder. He called for Mama.

“I’m ready,” he told her.

Mama just nodded. I’ve always wondered why Mama didn’t argue, why she didn’t tell Papa not to go.

We walked to the rock face near our hut. Then Papa tried to climb it. He wanted to get to the top. He wanted to see what lay beyond us. He had a long rope and strong arms. He got very far. The whole town gathered to watch. He was almost out of our sight when the rope broke. He flailed for a grip on the stone, but to no avail. He fell, and his body broke on the ground.

We wanted to bury him, but it was impossible to bury anything because our ground was stone. It didn’t matter anyway, because a few hours after Papa fell, while Sam and Mama and I all held each other and sobbed and shook, a sky demon grabbed Papa’s body in its claws and ate it. Then he was gone.


One day, about a year after Papa died, a sky demon fell. I was on my knees, scrubbing sheep’s blood from the stone, when it crashed in front of me. I dropped the rag with a strangled yell and launched myself backward, my palms skinning on the wet ground. The sky demon was lying on its side. It didn’t move. 

I thought briefly that perhaps it was shot down by one of our archers, but it had no arrows or spears implanted in its body. 

Once I had caught my breath, I inched forward on my hands and knees. The sky demon showed no reaction as I approached it. I had always been a reckless child, and soon I was a mere foot from its prone body. I stared at it. My whole life, I had always been taught to hate and fear the sky monsters. My whole life, I had never seen one up close. The sky demon was barely larger than I was. It couldn’t have been more than a few months old. It had a gray, downy coat of fluff. Its feet were curled and a soft, wrinkled pink. The sky demon’s talons were pliant, and translucent pink, the color of Sam’s cheeks when he was born. The sky demon’s chest hammered up and down, its heart a pulsing orb pressed against its rib cage. Its wings were skeletal. One was twisted at an unnatural angle. The other one was barely twitching.

I was enthralled. This wasn’t the nightmare that we thought haunted our home. It wasn’t larger than our huts. It didn’t have a black coat of acute feathers pointed in the shape of knives. It didn’t have fine, metallic-like talons large enough to snatch our sheep. I didn’t see a monster; I only saw an infant. 

The sky demon’s eye fluttered open. The iris was a cloudy blue, the color of the dye we made from the berries that grew near our homes. The pupil swam around in the iris, constricting and expanding rapidly. The sky demon gazed at me. It let out a small moan. Then a squeak. Then it made a sound that I could have sworn was a plea. A cry for help.

I reached out a cautious hand, my fingertips brushing its feathery back.

“Sophie!” My name tore through my ears. I looked over my shoulder and saw my mother running toward me, her dress fluttering in the wind.

“Ma — ” I started to say, but before I could finish, she shoved me aside.

I watched my mother. My mother, who baked flat bread for anyone in our village who was hungry; my mother, who had never once thrown a spear at a sky demon; my mother, whose arms trembled so badly that she could no longer she braid her hair. I watched as my mother, with hands steady as stone, pushed her knitting needle into the sky demon’s chest.

What would always stay with me was the sound. The sky demon let out a shriek as the needle pierced its heart. The needle made a wet crack as it punctured the bone. It made a crisp tearing noise as it stabbed through the muscle. 

Blood gushed out of the demon, flowing onto the stone. It swirled around my feet, warm and wet. I stood, paralyzed. I stared at my mother and the dying creature at her feet. She met my gaze, and her eyes were hollow. Empty. 

“Get inside, Sophie,” she finally said. She ducked her hand down. “I’ll clean it up.”

Wordlessly, I ran into our hut, tracking blood on the stone.


The next night, my town gathered together in the central square. The sky demon had been defeathered earlier that day. A wooden beam was stabbed through its body, and it hung over a huge bonfire. Fat and grease dripped down and sizzled in the flames.

The adults sat at long, stone tables and laughed and drank jugs of mead. Mama sat with them, her hands folded tightly together. She didn’t drink. She was talking to some women, whom she was friendly with. Her friends were all smiling and talking loudly and cracking jokes as they bit into the flesh of the sky demon and the blood trickled down their chins. Mama had a very small portion of sky demon, which she nibbled on. She smiled and talked and laughed, too, but all her smiles were too wide, and her laughs were too loud, too late, too fake.

The children were happy, too. The smaller ones ran around chasing each other and hiding under tables. The older ones were cheerful. They gnawed on the sky demon’s bones and pushed each other around.

Sam and I sat together on the damp rock, on the edge of the square, in the shadows. I didn’t eat the sky demon, and so neither did Sam. 

“Do you ever wonder, Sophie,” he asked, “where the sky demons came from?”

“No, I don’t, Sam,” I replied, not looking at him, but looking at the darkness beyond the firelight.

“I do,” he said, quietly. “I wonder where they came from.” 

I didn’t answer.

“I think,” he continued, “they came from the star.” I looked at him, and his face was wide and earnest. 

“What did you say?” I asked, my voice quiet, serious. 

“I think they came from the star,” he repeated. “Just like us.”

I snorted and picked at crumbling pieces of rock. “That’s ridiculous, Sam,” I said, and my voice caught a little. 

“It’s not, Sophie!” Sam exclaimed. “If we and our sheep were born from the star, then it only makes sense for the sky demons to have been, too.”

“Why, Sam?” I was angry now, but I didn’t know why. “Why does ‘it make sense’ that the sky demons were born from the star? How does that make sense, Sam?” 

He shrank back. “I just think that we’re not that different,” he said and his voice was soft and quiet.

“Not that different?! They eat our sheep. They kill us!” I gulped down a sob. “And we kill them.”

“But it doesn’t have to be that way,” Sam retorted. “We don’t have to kill each other!”

He was wrong, and I told him so. “That’s not true. We do have to kill each other.”

He looked at me disbelievingly. “You can’t honestly believe that, Sophie. You didn’t use to.”

I bit my lip and said harshly, “Well, people change.” I turned away from him and faced the shadows.

It was several minutes before Sam replied.

“I know you didn’t want Mama to kill that demon yesterday,” he whispered. “You tried to stop her.”

I wiped away a tear. “It’s dead now, Sam. It doesn’t matter whether or not I wanted it to be.” I tried to swallow a sob, but it didn’t work. I started crying hysterically.

I could suddenly feel Sam’s small arms wrapping around my shoulders. “It’s okay, Sophie,” he whispered in my ear, his breath tickling my neck. “It wasn’t your fault.”

I cried into his shoulder. “It was my fault, Sam! I should have stopped Mama! I should have saved it!”

“She had pushed you away,” he replied. “There was nothing you could have done. Even if she didn’t kill it, someone else surely would have.”

“And that’s what I hate!” I yelled. A few small children turned to look at us, but no one else heard. I lowered my voice. “I hate how we always have to kill them! I hate how we have to live like this!”

“Me too,” Sam whimpered. “I do, too.” He paused. “I wish we could find another way.” He took a deep breath, then plunged on. “They only kill us when they have to. We kill them because we want to. Their species is obviously just as desperate as we are. I wish there was some way we could work together.”

“Now that’s ridiculous,” I told him, through my cloud of tears.

“I know,” he replied, sounding much more like the ten years he actually was than he’d been sounding like a moment ago. “I know it’s stupid. It just makes me happy to imagine it.”

Then we laughed, just a little.

Soon after that, Mama came over to us, her mouth set in a straight line. The other adults were sharpening spears. “Time to go,” she said.


Half a decade later, a sky demon landed in the garden in the back of the hut that my mother, Sam, and I shared. It squatted in the garden; its jagged tail swung, clobbering and toppling a young evergreen tree. It bent its feathered neck and nibbled on the purple thyme. My mother was sleeping on her cot, and Sam was crouched on a stone stool, weaving a scarf. I watched from the back doorway, silently. It didn’t see me.

A voice broke the quiet. “Go away!” our neighbor, Scott, shouted. The sky bird started, its wide, black eyes narrowing. “You hear me?” he yelled again, crossing over to the edge of our garden. He was holding a newly invented weapon in our village: a catar. It was dangerous, more dangerous than arrows or spears. It was made of stone and vine, and held razor-sharp rock knives. Inside of it, vines were woven together into a complicated catapult that could quickly hurl out the knives when the trigger was pulled.

Sam looked up. “Sophie?” he asked.

I glanced at him for a second, then turned around and edged out to the garden.

“Get away!” Scott yelled again, and the sky demon tensed, strands of shredded thyme hanging from its metallic beak. 

“Scott,” I said, quietly, “Stop. It’s not hurting anybody.”

Scott and the sky demon both turned to look at me, equally surprised. 

Scott let out a low sigh. “Look, Sophie,” he said in a much gentler voice than he had been using moments before, “it’s not often that we get one this close.” His hands clenched the catar, a finger nearing the trigger. The sky demon cocked its head and twitched its wings.

“Don’t shoot it.” I began to panic. He wouldn’t listen to me. He would kill it.

Sam stepped outside. At fifteen, he had finally gotten a growth spurt, and he was several inches taller than Scott, but too slim to be intimidating. “Scott,” Sam said. “Drop the catar.”

Scott grunted. 

I felt a pang in my chest. He wasn’t going to listen to Sam either. Sam and my mother and I were known for being different than everyone else in the village. If we had been more average, maybe he wouldn’t have shot. Maybe he would have listened. But we weren’t. We were the odd ones, and we would never be heard.

Scott’s finger locked itself around the trigger. The sky demon had returned to snuffling in the thyme. It didn’t see Scott holding the weapon. It didn’t know that in seconds its life would end. Without thinking, I jumped forward. Just as Scott pulled the trigger. 

As I was in midair, a knife buried itself in my shoulder, and right before I hit the ground, I could see the sky demon taking flight.


I woke up the next day in the town infirmary, lying on a cot with a bandaged left shoulder. Pale light streamed through the open window, highlighting Sam and my mother’s faces. They stopped whispering when they saw that I was awake. 

“Sophie,” my mother’s voice was gentle. “How are you feeling?”

It took me a moment to register her question, and another moment to remember what had happened. “The demon,” I gasped. “Is it okay?”

Sam and my mother exchanged a look.

“No,” Sam told me, eyes downcast. “Scott shot it.”

I sank back against the cot. I couldn’t explain why I felt that way, but, for some hopeless reason, I thought that if I could stop Scott from killing the sky demon, I would finally be able to forget about what my mother did.

“But your shoulder,” my mother pressed. “How does it feel?”

I squeezed my eyes shut. My shoulder hurt, but that was nothing compared to the fact that the sky demon was dead. It was dead. Just like the one that Mama killed. “It’s fine,” I told her. 

She frowned, worried.“Are you sure? The medic told us that you might be in pain for a while. You should at least stay here for the night.”

I pushed myself to my feet. It was painful, but I could do it. “I said I was fine! Please, just leave me alone.” I pushed past her and Sam and left the infirmary. I stormed to out hut and sat down in the garden, fuming. I stared at the broken thyme and the imprint of the sky demon’s body. The blood had been washed away. 

I don’t know how long I sat there, but I know that by the time my mother joined me, the sharp pain in my shoulder had receded into an ache. The sun had set, the stars twinkled merrily, and the bright, fat moon was hanging low in the sky. 

She sat down across from me on the dirt. I looked down, ashamed.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”

She took a long time to respond. When she did, her voice was quiet. “It’s okay, Sophie. I’m sorry.”

I shook my head. “What are you sorry for, Ma?”

She shrugged. “Nothing. Everything.” My mother took a deep breath. “I’m sorry that your father died. I’m sorry that you had to watch.” She paused. “And I’m sorry that I killed that sky demon that time, when you were scrubbing the stone. It was only a baby. And I shouldn’t have done it in front of you.” She tried to suck in a breath, but it caught in her throat. “I’m so sorry, Sophie,” she whispered.

I looked at my mother, really looked at her. For the first time, I saw how fragile she was. For the first time, I realized that she regretted killing the sky demon. For the first time, I realized that my mother made mistakes. “It’s okay,” I told her, and a tear dripped down my face.

We stayed together for the rest of the night — sitting on the stone and holding hands in the moonlight.


Anyway, I don’t want to be thinking about any of this now. 

My father died a decade ago. I forgave my mother four years ago. Three months ago, my mother was killed by a panicked sky demon. It had a spear stuck in its wing, and it careened down from the sky and landed on her, hitting her hard enough to snap her neck. 

Two weeks ago, Sam and I were sitting outside the hut that we share, and we watched a group of small children climbing the rock face. They were just doing it for fun, of course, but some of them got pretty high. Then one of them lost his grip. He tumbled down the stone, shrieking and kicking. A sky demon dove down, caught him, and brought him safely to the ground. No one knew quite what to make of it.

It sparked something in me, though. In Sam, too. I guess we thought, or I thought at least, if little kids are trying to climb the rock face, why can’t we? If the town is finally becoming curious enough to wonder what it beyond the rock, why don’t we climb it and see? 

Together, we gathered the unused rope that we wove with Papa when we were little. We added more to it and strengthened it. We practiced climbing parts of the rock face behind our hut. We packed knapsacks with food and water and wool sweaters and blankets. Now, we are ready.

Sam and I woke up early this morning and walked to the rock face. We started to climb. It was difficult at first, and I was so nervous that my muscles tensed, and I started shaking. It got easier, though. We took small breaks throughout the day, sipping cool water and eating sheep’s cheese. 

It is evening now, and we’re still climbing. A group of children have gathered beneath us, shouting words that don’t reach our ears. I think it’s encouragement, though. They jump up and down and run around in circles, heads tilted back, watching us in the fading light. We’re so high up now that the children are barely there. Just little dark shapes beneath us.

Sam and I settle in a small crevice in the rock for the night. We strap ourselves in and lean back, rubbing our exhausted hands. My shoulder healed years ago, but it has started to hurt again, a dull throb. 

“So, what do you think, Sam,” I say. “Do you still believe that the sky demons were born from the same star we were?”

He looks at me, startled. “Of course, Sophie. Of course I do.” He lets out a small laugh. “Do you agree with me yet?”

“Maybe,” I reply, because I still don’t know if I even believe in the legend.

I pull a blanket from my knapsack and wrap it around Sam and my shoulders. We squint our eyes to watch as the parents come to collect their children. It’s hard to see them, but I can just make them out. 

“Look,” Sam points, “a shooting star.”

I look up, not down, and I see it, too. 

Streaking across the black, leaving spurts of silver in its path. I look around at the children and their parents, and me and Sam, and the dark silhouettes of the sky demons circling in the clouds.

The shooting star brightens the sky, and I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but it looks like it’s coming straight towards us. 

And just for an instant, we are all encompassed in light.

The Silent House

Chapter One: The Questioning

There is a moment of silence, and, of course, there is a silent tension in the room. It seems to cling to the air, just like death would cling to a person. Slowly eating its way out, from the inside.

“Are you ready to start?” There is silence in response. Everyone seems to hold their breath as if something unexpected would happen. “Ahem, okay, first question… ” Michael glares at her from across the table, his handcuffs digging into his bare skin.

“What was your weapon of murder?” The reporter hurriedly grabs her pen and awaits a response.

“Excuse me?” Michael asks, with a clear hint of irritation in his voice. “What do you mean ‘weapon of murder?!’” The reporter nervously looks around, shifting uncomfortably in the dusty, gray prison chair.

“There was no weapon of murder. This is a waste of time. I’m telling you. I did not kill my girlfriend.” Michael looks at the reporter. Her beady eyes eat up all the information hungrily. She scribbles madly in her notepad, leaving Michael only to his thoughts.

The reporter stares at him intensely, as if there is something there that she is missing from him, as if she is trying to crack a code. She then licks her lips and says through a smile, “Yet, you mention the death of your girlfriend… I didn’t ask about that. I simply sai — ” 

Michael, all of a sudden furious all over again, stands up abruptly and swiftly. The anger in his eyes makes the reporter’s heart beat at an alarming rate. “Riddle me this! Why?! Why do you think I would kill my own gi — ” He couldn’t finish, feeling the tears swell up in his eyes. Remembering that night… that horrible dreadful night.

He takes a breath and starts again, “Why would I kill her… she was the love of my life… ”

The reporter smiles, her inside info, is no match for him, or so she thinks. “Well… Michael, isn’t it true that even before her death she accused you of cheating… ” Michael’s jaw drops as the color drains from his face, “… and even after her death, didn’t you have an affair with another woman?”

Michael’s heart stops. The only thing on his mind right now is Sadie. There’s no way she could have been involved. Not after what she’s gone through, and not after what they’ve gone through together. 

Michael looks over to the guard standing by the doorway and mouths him something. “I don’t have to be here doing this right now. In fact, I’m not doing this right now. Your stupid newspaper is the least of my concerns.” Michael gets up and walks over to the guard, who leads him out of the small room, leaving only the dumbfounded reporter and her little notepad to sit on the ugly, little, gray chair.

Chapter 2: March. 23. 2006

Michael’s feet pedal hard, and sweat is running down his forehead. He pedals like a madman, as if he is riding off anger. But the look on his face says otherwise, as he turns the corner to Julie’s house.

He chuckles to himself, ready to see the look on her face when she sees what he’s done for her.

The house Julie lives in is a small yellow one. Comparing it to a Florida home would be silly, but it’s not tiny. The smallness of the home is more cozy than uninviting. The familiar tiling of the roof is a burgundy colour, and the small rounded windows make the house look bigger than it is.

Michael dashes to the door, almost forgetting his purpose of coming. He sprints back to the little basket in his bike quickly, seizing the present he has, and runs up to the doorbell. But after hearing silence in response, he remembers that the Walsh’s doorbell is broken.

Remembering this, he starts knocking crazily, until he sees through the side glass that someone is coming. Julie’s mom appears at the door suddenly, wearing nothing but a tight satin dress. 

“Michael.” They look at each other like two snakes would.

“Mrs. Walsh.” 

“What a surprise to see you here… ”

Not knowing what to say, Michael responds with, “You too… ”

After realizing what he said, he’s saved by, “Claudia! Who’s at the door!?” He can hear Mr. Walsh now yelling from the living room.

“Nobody of importance, dear! No reason to come over he — ”

Too late. Mr. Walsh is already standing in front of Michael, smiling ear to ear as if they’re old buds at a reunion.

“Michael, son! How long has it been? C’mere!” He grabs Michael and puts him in a headlock and starts noogying him hard. Michael laughs along with him, trying to hide his real pain.

“Not long enough, sir! Just visiting because it is a special day for Julie after all.”

Mr. Walsh pats Michael on the head gently and says, “Boy, didn’t I tell you to call me Dave? It’s only appropriate… ” Michael looks up at Mrs. Walsh, “… Come on in. I won’t take no for an answer!”

Michael, now smirking, looks directly at her while saying, “Will do… Dave.”

“That’s the spirit, son!” He chuckles and leads him into the bright home.

The walls are decorated with all types of green decorations and a sign that reads, ‘Happy 17th Birthday Jules!’ Michael also spots a family portrait of the Walsh’s on the wall. And it’s the only picture they have with Julia in it.

She looks about 12 in it, her hair a brown-black with a tinge of orange that lays on her shoulders in neat sections. The unique thing is that it’s naturally straight. Her blue eyes complement her dark skin, and her full lips are apart, revealing a set of pearly teeth. Next to her is her little sister, who is a baby in this (one to two years old) who looks a lot like her, except her straight hair is gone, and replaced with gorgeous curls, which complement her round face. And instead of wearing regular clothes, she’s dressed up in a frilly baby dress, with a tutu, and fancy little socks that come out of her white shoes.

Michael smiles at the photo without realizing, studying every detail, as it dawns on him that Julia was just as pretty when she was a child. But he’s snapped back into reality, realizing that Dave’s been talking to him the whole time. “And then I said, well, buddy! Then you shouldn’t have eaten it if it made noises!” He bursts out laughing, so Michael laughs along, completely unaware of the joke’s purpose.

But their laughing stops as they both hear, “No! No! No! I’m telling Mom!! Mom! Mom, where are you!! I want a dress like Julia’s!

Michael looks over at Dave, startled by all the yelling, who takes a sip of his coffee and sighs. “Trouble in paradise… ” He takes another sip of the coffee and winces. “Strong stuff.. want some?”

Michael turns down the coffee politely, but doesn’t bother hiding the disgust in his voice. 

Thump, thump, thump…  They both turn to where the sound is coming from, and it’s all three of them.

Zelda is first with a salty expression on her face that tells Michael she never did get that dress she was so hopelessly yelling for. Next is Claudia, but Michael isn’t exactly looking at her. He is looking at the elegant swan that is coming down after her. Julia finally… He sits there for moments breathlessly, as she approaches him.

“So? Aren’t you going to say anything? Or at least hand me my gifts?” She bats her eyelashes at him. Zelda stares at the lovestruck two angrily.

“Mommy, first Julia gets to wear a pretty dress, and she gets a Prince Charming! That’s just not fair!” She pouts and looks up at Claudia, who lifts her into her arms and kisses her forehead. 

“Don’t be upset, Zelda,” she tells her, reassuringly. “You always have a chance to find your Prince Charming. You just haven’t found yours yet.” She sets her down, takes her hand, and they head for the living room.

Julia looks at the two men, mouths gaping. “Well if you don’t say anything, Michael, than I’m sure Daddy will.” She looks over at her father who takes another sip of his coffee.

Putting one hand over hers, he says, “The only thing that I have to say is, look at my little girl all grown up!” As he pulls her into a tight hug, he nuzzles his face in her hair. As he lets her go, he turns to Michael and says, “Stop drooling, Prince Charming, have her back by curfew, say… 10:30… 11, max. And no funny business.” He glares at Michael, only leaving him to do nothing but gulp. “Just kidding! Have fun, kids!”

Julia and Michael look at each other anxiously and force a chuckle.

“Let’s go, babe!” Julia starts pulling Michael off the little kitchen chair, but before she can, he brings her in and plants a big kiss on her. She grabs his face, and they make out. It feels as though both are flying, he pulls on her hair gently and groans. She pulls out.

“What? Too much?” Michael says, and the expression he wears is one of hurt.

Letting her hair finally go, he retreats in shame. She slides her hand into his and leans against his warm chest. Feeling his heartbeat is calming, and it makes her feel safe.

“It was perfect. There’s nothing in the world that could have ruined that… ” She looks up at him, smiling. Michael suddenly gets that flying feeling again, as he intensely stares into her deep blue eyes. He feels like they’re a pool he can jump right into, head on, and never get enough breath out of.

“Oh, Julie, by the way… Happy Birthday!”

He pulls out a little box wrapped in bright green wrapping paper, the little bow is scraggly, and wonky, the wrapping is horrible and there’s tape everywhere, but Julia beams as though she’s just won the lottery. 

She takes the little bow and undoes it. The bright green wrapping paper comes off next, and soon she’s left with a small, velvet-covered box. She stares at the box with such immense intensity, that Michael looks down at the box, and at her, worriedly. The truth is she already knows what’s in the box.

“Why don’t you just ope — ” He gets cut off to Julia jumping on him. She squeezes him tight enough for it to be a chokehold.

“You remembered… ” she whispers into his ear. “You remembered the beautiful butterfly brooch we saw at the store… the thrift store. It’s just so… ” She sighs deeply and turns to him. “Breathtaking… ”

Of course he remembered. He could never forget. Her reaction to the brooch is priceless, and although it seems like an old, rusty, little brooch, she saw something in it, and so did he. He saw her in it. The little butterfly moving in fast motions, graceful, and a deep blue, just like her eyes who at the moment were dancing with glee.

“C’mon let’s go! Quick!” Michael grabs her by the arm, and they fly out the door.

Julia laughs heartily, “Where are we headed to?”

He stops. He looks down at her and suddenly scoops her into his arms, into a warm embrace. He smiles and looks down at her. “It’s a surprise… This is your second present! And I’m sure you’ll like it, but I reckon we’re going to have to take a ride to my house, to get my dad’s car first.”

Julia runs a hand through her short hair as Michael looks up at her. And for the first time that day, he really looks at her.

Julia’s short hair stands up behind her, the slight orange tone in it intensifies as she steps into the light. Although her relatively wide eyes make her look awake, you can see the bags she tries covering, with poorly applied concealer. Her lips, round and plump, are in a straight line, not moving from their position. Her little green dress makes the blue color in her eyes sparkle, and her perfume stinks of death as she gets on the bike with Michael.

Chapter Three: Gun Powder and Dynamite

  As Michael and Julia pull up to his house on his bicycle, Julia gets a good look at his house. 

A small gray duplex, the lawn clearly hasn’t been mowed in a while. The trash is in a heap at the entrance. The overgrown vines do little to benefit the small space. As they pull up into the garage, Julia gets off first, making sure to steady the bike so it doesn’t topple over. Julia is fascinated by the odd smell and the uncleanliness. Although this isn’t the first time she’s seen his house, it is the worst state she’s seen it in.

As Julia eagerly approaches the doorbell, Michael stops her. “Wait! Stop! Hold up!”

Julia stops dead in her tracks, and turns around to see an out-of-breath Michael, running towards her at full speed.

“What?! What is it?! Michael, are you okay?!” She holds him by the shoulders, peering at him.

He sighs deeply and looks her in the eyes.

“He… my dad, he’s been… um… laid off…”

He looks behind Julia, away into the distance wearily. She looks up at him confused, and concerned.

“Well, I mean… so? Why do you care so much?”

Michael looks at her, not bothering to hide how disgusted he is at her. Julia stares at him slowly, still confused.

“He’s my father,” Michael, now furious, yells at Julia, oblivious to the fact that he’s standing right in front of the open window. “Of course I care! I don’t want him to turn into a good-for-nothing bum! And I want him to find a job… ” Voice now quivering, he continues, “He is an unemployed 53-year-old man… and when Mom died it was so hard on him. He turned to drinking as an escape, like most do. And he just completely fell apart… and I don’t want him to turn into that again.”

Looking now straight at Julia, he puts the back of his hand on her cheek. Softly rubbing up and down. 

Julia smiles into his hand, her mind racing, and heart pumping. She nods silently, and rings the doorbell. Michael looks at her and smiles, thinking to himself, How lucky I am to have someone like her… 

The door stands, not budging. The paint is chipping at the sides, and the bolts are ready to pop out any second. They stand there for what feels like ages, finally hearing a loud groan, followed by slow shuffling. Soon, a man stands at the doorway, beer in hand. His stomach slightly exposed, spilling out of his pajama pants. He looked disheveled, fresh stubble covering the lower part of his chin. Hair graying in patches, the other parts of his hair are a fawn-ish colour. His hair lay in messy curls all across his head. His eyes are a deep chocolate brown, and the bags under them not any lighter. He has small dark freckles splattered across his whole face. Julia takes a deep breath, stepping forward.

“Mr. Greene, Hello… it’s Julia.”

There is a pause as he studies her. After moments of examination, he smiles.

“Please, call me Robert. Michael hasn’t mentioned you before.”

Michael looks at Julia in shame. Turning back to his father, he says, “Actually I have, you just might be too drunk to remember.”

Michael marches past him, pushing him out of the way, leaving Julia to stand outside with Robert. He stands there smiling, his eyes hungry at the sight of her.

Beckoning her inside, he asks, “Would you like to see my gun collection?”

Eyes sparkling, he smiles at her, leading her into the room where the guns are kept.

“What about Michael? Won’t he be — ”

He cuts her off, waving his hand, “Nonsense. Don’t let some silly boy stop you.”

They walk through the minuscule hallway. Cracks in the bare walls make Julia shudder. She thinks of her small, nicely furnished home. This place is such a wreck compared to it. No wonder Michael is worried about his father. 

They stop in front of a small door… Well, Robert stops. Julia just follows him. 

Robert suddenly starts feeling around in his pants for something. Finally, his hand dives into one of the pockets, returning with a single key, which he uses to unlock the heavy-metal hard duty lock, that’s on the old door. He pushes the door open, sending a cloud of dust out. Julia scrambles back, waving off the dust as if there was a fly. Robert steps in first, leaving her to do nothing but follow. 

“One sec… just got to find the light switch.”

He coughs loudly from somewhere in the room; Julia hears little scrambling sounds shortly after. Stepping back, she feels a pinch on her right butt cheek. Startled by this, she cautiously starts backing away. Suddenly the light turns on. Robert smiles a toothy grin, still holding the light switch in the back of the room.

“Fou — ” he coughs… hard. It sounds as if though his lungs will give out any minute. His face red, he lifts his head back up and says, “Ahem, sorry about that. I meant to say found it.”

Julia shudders in relief, but in the back of her mind she can only think about what she felt in the dark. There’s a tension that follows.

Robert must feel it too because he says, “So… if you look right here you can see a 49.367 gun, a classic… ”

Julia quickly gets distracted by something in the corner of the crowded room. She walks over, and sees a little crate standing on the corner. On it is a pocket knife, and what seems to be a little figurine of a year ballerina. Part of it carved out and the other part of it is smooth. 

“That was supposed to be a present for Donna… ”

Julia turns around to see Robert looking at her. But he isn’t exactly looking at her. His eyes are there, but he actually seems very distant. Suddenly he turns back to the guns as if nothing happened. Julia walks up behind him, peering over his shoulder.

“Who-who’s Donna?” she asks, sounding genuinely curious.

Not turning back to even face her, Robert says, “She is — was… my wife. She was a ballerina, and so I assumed it was only appropriate… ” He chuckles. “She had, um… she was very fond of small things. So I decided to carve her a little ballerina… but she’s gone now, so I… I’m not going to bother finishing.”

Julia sympathizes with him, putting one hand on his shoulder.

Julia turns his face to hers; Robert looks at the ground. Julia notices the wetness under his eyes. She lifts his chin up. His eyes meet hers.

“Listen… death is a natural thing. The sooner you learn to get over it, the sooner it’s easier for you. And plus just because she’s gone… doesn’t mean that you should grieve. You should celebrate her moving onto the other life.” Julia’s surprised at her own response. Still looking her directly in the eyes, Robert moves back, forcing Julia onto the counter behind her. He leans against her so close, that she feels his breath on her chest. Afraid to make any sudden moves, Julia sits still, awaiting his next move. Robert’s hand goes up slowly, as he touches her cheek gently. He closes his eyes, leaning closer and closer to Julia until — 

Julia!” Michael comes into the room, completely unaware of what he was about to see.

Julia gets off the counter as quickly as she got on. Terror in her eyes. Michael stands at the doorway, confused and disgusted, more so than when he came home.

“Aherm… ” His father walks out the room, pushing Michael to the side.

Robert’s hand is up at his nose, making it look like he is thinking hard about something. Sprinting over to Julia, Michael wears a worried expression. 

“What the fuck was that? Why were you two literally inches from each other… ”

Michael looks like he’s about to blow a fuse, which is a realistic outcome considering his extremely short temper. Julie’s eyes widen, and her mind races, and she quickly tries to come up with an excuse, or at least manage words. Would the truth be better? Or a believable lie? Either way, she is in for it with Michael.

“Listen, Michael… ” She slowly hops back onto the counter, and sits, just looking down at her fingers. “He… he just needed some closure… He just lost Don — his wife. And he just got fired! I was just trying to help… ” She looks up at Michael, hoping to see the tiniest bit of sympathy and understanding in his eyes. But the expected reaction came. 

“What were you thinking?! Why do you… ” He puts his head into his hands. Julia could hear him trying to calm himself, as he took a deep breath. Looking at Julia is unbearable for him, especially in the moment, but he loves her. Making one mistake doesn’t change who she is, and he won’t let a bump in the road mess up their relationship. While Julia is anticipating an answer, Michael finally looks up.

“Can we just… forget about this?” Julia vigorously nods, as Michael laughs a hearty laugh. “Okay. Okay. You know your mistake, and I want to just forget this… Let me just take you to your birthday place.” Smiling at her, Michael feels a warm glow inside of himself seeing her smile in response. 

As Julia gets off the counter top, Michael takes a long look around the room, before shutting the lights off. He shudders, thinking about how he can only be in the room with the thing he hates most for one person… Julia. Remembering the reason the room was on a lock, the only thing that scares him more than opening up is guns. Guns scare him. As he grabs the keys to his dad’s old pickup truck, he thinks about his dad… He would kill him.

Chapter Four: T.O.D

  The car ride is tense, but as soon as Michael turns on the radio, Julia’s just jamming out to Adele. Michael can’t sing for anything, but when he hears Julia sing, it’s like the gateway to heaven is opening up. He turns it up extra loud, looking over to the passenger’s seat, hoping to get a glimpse of his dearest singing her heart out.

Julia knows Michael is looking at her while she sings, but it’s nothing new. She knows she’s a great singer, and she knows Michael himself would agree. She smiles to herself knowingly, as Michael watches her sing “Rolling In the Deep.”

“I love Adele.”

Michael looks at her. “Huh?” 

“I said, I love Adele… ”

Michael turns down the volume a bit, just as it goes to an ad.

“She’s so powerful, you know? Like there isn’t a single thing that holds her back. If she started an alliance, or even a cult… I think I’d join… ”

Michael laughs at her little joke. Minding the road ahead of him, making sure to drive carefully.

By now it is late, and the moon is out. The rectangular window of the dashboard has fluorescent numbers that read, 9:25. They aren’t late… yet. Julia’s dad said to have her back by 11:00, max. They’d still have plenty of time, and Julia would be able to enjoy her surprise.

Michael starts driving faster, eventually arriving at the woods. Julia looks around, confused. She was waiting for a surprise for so long, and all she gets is to see some boring old woods?!

Baffled, Julia starts complaining to Michael. “Is this really my surprise. Don’t take it the wrong way. It’s very… beautiful? I was just hoping for something… more.”

Michael looks over at Julia. She has been complaining about it nonstop for 20 minutes, and kept asking him if they’re there yet. Of course they weren’t there yet, but Michael wasn’t about to ruin his surprise for her just yet. So he gets out of the car silently, leaving Julia to do nothing but follow… Again.

“C’mon, Michael, I don’t want to be walking around for half an hour!” She sighs and frustradely looks at Michael, who still isn’t talking.

Seeing as Michael hasn’t cracked yet, she sighs heavily and trails behind him. Finally she walks in front of him and faces him. She stops and scowls. How can he make her go through all this? It’s terrible, it’s evil, it’s — 

“Beautiful… ” Julia breathes out the words.

Michael spins her around to face the marvelous waterfall that’s hiding just between two tall trees. She steps out to look closer. He makes his way behind her, slowing with every step. They both stand there marvelling at the beauty, mostly Julia. Michael has been here many times before. It’s where he went when his mother was first diagnosed with tuberculosis. And the first place she went after they buried her body.

I Remember

I remember you, Bubbe Ester.

The smell of your house is what I remember clearly, 

The smell that comes with things that have been loved over time,

That carries so many memories with it.

I remember you

and the stories you told me and Sammy of Mommy,

Of how Mommy had curly hair, and liked gymnastics and shopping,

just like I do.

I remember when you rushed to the house,

when you heard the ambulance came

to rescue me after my hair got stuck in the electric mixer.

You tickled me, made me laugh, made me forget the pain that I felt.

I remember you.

I remember you playing string with Betty, our cat.

You always loved to have her on your lap and pet her so she would purr.

I remember when I was little, you would come to our house 

with lots and lots of clothes and jewelry for me, 

Even though Mommy said not to buy me so much.

But you gave me so much more than things — 

I remember when you lived with us, you sat in the big brown chair and we played school.

I, the teacher, always had fun while you did the math “homework” 

And you, the student, always tried to enjoy it, even though you didn’t really want to practice second grade math. 

I remember we watched TV and played outside, 

You always picked up sticks in the backyard, 

even though we both knew more sticks would come, 

and Mommy would say to let the gardener do it.

You were always trying to make things look nicer, 

and you always did. 

I remember how you loved to watch me dance and sing,

not just at home but on stage in many musical shows.

How you were with us on holidays — even if you didn’t know what holiday it was,

But every day with you felt like a holiday. 

I remember you Bubbe Ester,

I remember the Sundays we visited you.

I remember the walks we took and the afternoons spent sitting outside,

I remember that you loved the sun beaming down on you,

How being warmed up by the sun always put a smile on your face.

I remembered how we listened to the old-fashioned songs you loved,

How we sang along with Bing Crosby and Elvis impersonators with so much glee,

I remember how you genuinely enjoyed those songs, 

how you glowed with joy — perhaps being reminded of time long ago.

I will remember you, always — 

How you were always there for me and everyone you loved.

Even if you aren’t here with us today, 

you will always be in our hearts, forever.

The Diner

Shining Lights

The old diner’s lights flicker. The lopsided S has been broken for some time, so all that shines from the roof above is deedy’s Diner. Her hair is pulled back, the furious curls of red angrily shoved into a reluctant ponytail, because Frank is insistent after a customer demanded a refund after finding an angry curl in his soup. She quietly washes the table, too exhausted to try and make conversation with the drunk who ordered pie at midnight. 

“Honey, grab me another slice, would you,” he says, handing the empty plate to her.

She looks down at her nametag where it plainly says Amy, and even though there is no Honey currently working at the diner, she shoves another slice into his greedy, grubby hands. No ‘thank you’ comes out of his mouth. Only pie is crammed in, but she is used to it and continues to scrub at the stain that will never come out.

The door swings open. The cheerful ding makes her eyes droop even more, and her tired body almost collapses into itself at the thought of more customers. Laughter comes from a throng of black T-shirted theatre kids who plop down into two different booths. She makes her way over to the booths, her feet dragging behind her. 

“What can I get y’all,” she drawls. 

“We’ll have five orders of french fries, six milkshakes — two vanilla, three chocolate, one mix of both, three burgers, two veggie burgers, three hot dogs, and one tuna melt,” says the obvious alpha of the theatre kids. Not so alpha out of all of high school, but this kid certainly thinks he’s the shit. 

“Jeremy, I wanted a veggie burger too,” giggles a pretty girl with an irritating voice. 

Jeremy turns back to Amy, “And we’ll have one more veggie burger for Mary Anne,” he says, as if she was stupid and she had not literally just heard Mary Anne order for herself.

Mary Anne giggles again. 

“Gotcha, okay I’ll be back in a little.”

She slides the order over the counter into the kitchen to Danny, who is either asleep or playing video games on his phone, either or, those kids wouldn’t be getting their orders for a while. She looks back at the drunk and sees him mumbling to himself. God, maybe he’s high, not drunk.

A boy sitting next to Jeremy starts to talk about the stage lights. That they were so bright he was half blind, half distracted during his performance. She remembers the feeling of the shining, blinding, too bright lights. They sat, and they laughed. And talked. And laughed some more. And they shared their dreams, so drunk off their sugar high and the old scotch that Jeremy probably stole from his dad. She knew too well that hangover after having too much fun and eating too much, and that immortality that you think you have — a shield covering your whole body, and anything that tries to get through is immediately blocked by the thought that nothing could ever take away from that night. She knows that feeling the second the lights go off and you bow and everyone claps and you stand there hand and hand with your friends that you think are your soulmates, but they go off to college and you never see them again. She wants the feeling of the hot lights on her skin again, the feeling of sweat along with pride pouring out of every fiber in her body again. She still longs to see the flickering lights of the sign Broadway, and she knows that the B would never be broken. She longed when she was young as well, with those lights, and had those shimmering dreams she can see in the souls laughing in the booth across from her.

Her shift is over, so she grabs her bag and leaves without saying a word. Outside, she stands in front of Speedy’s Diner, but the lights don’t tingle her skin the way those stage lights used to. She got her dream in a weird way — she is standing in front of the shining lights like she always hoped she would some day.

A Little Haven

Twenty minutes down the highway, an exit at 32b, you pull a right and you find yourself in the most heavenly place in the world. A place filled with midnight magic and away from the stretching hand of reality. A place filled with solitude and cheap beer to pour down the drain into your already dying liver. 

The waitress tonight looks like Carol. Carol had beautiful hair, scarlet waves cascading down her back, almost touching her waist. The waitress also looks like shes in a bitchy mood, so maybe that’s what I find so familiar.

“Honey, grab me another slice, would you,” I say, pointing down at my empty plate.

A bitter grimace forms on her face. Yeah, reminds me of Carol, her sour complaints, whining about my laziness. 

No, I am not lazy, I work day and night writing beautiful words and sentences, while you know what you do? You go to work and shove a needle in someone’s arm and do it over again. That requires no creativity, no imagination. A boring, monotonous life filled with absolutely nothing!

Oh, and then she grinned. A crazy grin formed on her face, and her wild waves bounced up and down as she almost started jumping with the mad energy that sentence filled her with.

“You think you’re a genius, don’t you? The next up-and-coming William Shakespeare, ladies and gentlemen. God, I hit the jackpot with this guy. He’s such a genius. Yeah, this guy right here, when he gets drunk, writes a few nonsense poems, and calls it a day. Oh so lucky, I am the luckiest girl in this god forsaken world as he provides for me writing shit while I go work an eight hour shift, come home, make dinner, clean the house. You know, just simple tasks while he does the real man job. A genius needs his time to work alone. All the great ones did, so I think you should leave. It will let you have your space to ‘work.’ Hope you remember how to cook, ‘cause I am sure not going to do it anymore.”

A piece of pie plops down in front of me, and I start to shove it in. I can’t seem to remember the last time I ate. I should go home and get dinner. Carol is probably there, already starting to cook something like pot roast. Yeah, she would want me to be home right about now. She will tell me to set the table, and I will do it on the one condition that she wears the apron that makes her look so sexy. I can already smell the pot roast in the oven.

I slip a few bills on the counter and head out. The waitress that looks like Carol is outside staring at the sign, paying no attention to me. I head into my car and get back on the highway, making my way to the motel, my boxes rattling in the back of the car. Two measly boxes can fit a whole life.


The sky is an endless path for Apollo to trek

his glorious reign flushes my face

I promise myself I can do anything

as the strings binding me unwind

flying with blue kites

chasing down Apollo

New leaves grow on hedges

peeking into the world

when autumn returns

the gardener will drive back

and they will fall like snow

barely given a chance

But I promise myself the moon is touchable

as I watch it slip away

staying shielded by tickling grass

The dark lit up by a thousand little fires

I wait

for a reason to drop from Apollo’s chariot

into my open palms


and if not, then raindrops

to hide my tears

Autumn comes and touches my face

with burning leaves stumbling towards their demise

Smile, child, she whispers

I’ll prove you can do anything

and I’ll put on a porcelain smile

knowing Apollo is tired too

stepping forwards, waving goodbye

to an endless season

The Beginning of the End

Chapter One

In the beginning there was peace in the world, everyone was getting along, and there was no violence.

Yet one day, an outbreak broke out. A woman named Susan Walker thought that she found the cure for cancer.

For a few weeks it was working. Then the people started feeling the symptoms of the cure. People reported headaches and nausea.

Then people started feeling weakness and tiredness. When they slept, they woke up, but not as the same person.

Yes, Susan Walker found a cure for cancer, but by doing so she caused half of the human population to turn into bloodsucking zombies.

This is where our character comes in. Her name was Rachel. Rachel’s mother had cancer. When she heard that there was a cure, she dashed over to the hospital and got the cure, but soon the same thing that was happening to everyone else happened to her. First headaches and nausea, then weakness and tiredness, then becoming a zombie. For Rachel this was the beginning of the end.

Chapter Two

Rachel was only 17 when it happened. When her mother turned into a zombie, her heart shattered into a million pieces.  

Rachel had suicidal thoughts because, without her mother, she had nothing to live for. 

She knew she was nothing without her mother. The government ordered a quarantine over the island, and they left the survivors.

She knew that if she was going to survive she needed to find other survivors like herself. She had a few friends, and they all had a walkie. That way they could communicate. There were three, including herself. Only one picked up the walkie. Her name was Hope. They had planned to meet up at their normal meetup spot. When she got there, she heard Hope shout. By the time she got there, it was too late. Hope was gone.

Chapter Three

Rachel felt empty inside. Everyone and everything she ever loved was gone. She felt like there was no reason in living anymore. She thought that if she died she would be reunited with the people she loved. That’s when she went outside to a crowd of zombies and was about to let them eat her alive. Slowly but surely they kept on getting closer and closer. Who knew dying would take this long. Eventually, she couldn’t take it anymore. She ran as fast as she could. As she ran, she thought, what was she thinking. When she finally got far enough away, she bent down and caught her breath. When she stopped, she knew that the people she loved wouldn’t want her to die. She knew that if she were to survive, she would need a base of operations and a good supply of food and water. And she also knew that it was impossible that she was the only survivor, but her main priority was to make a base of operations. 

She got started on the base. She thought that her base should be a tree house because zombies can’t climb, so she would be safe. She also had the food situation down. She could just make a farm. The only problem she had was the water supply, but she would come up with something. When she finally finished the base of operations, she started on the farm. But that was the dangerous part, because that was where the zombies were. Before she got to making the farm, she had some metal left over from the base, so she built a fence around the farm. When she finished the fence, she felt she had enough to start the farm, but to have a farm you would need to have water to water the plants. So she would need to find a good amount of water. She knew that there were gallons of water at the store, but the store would be crawling with zombies, so she needed weaponry, and her uncle owned a gun store. His name was Uncle Sam, so she could just go there and get some guns and maybe her uncle might be alive when she got there. She decided to take an automatic gun and some side arms, maybe a Mac-11 would do. She decided to take a FN SCAR-H and a Mac-11. Just when she was about to leave, she heard rustling.

She looked and said, “Uncle Sam?”

Something slowly started to come into vision. Then she saw a man’s outline. Rachel screamed with joy.

Uncle Sam!

But when she saw his face, she realized he was just like the rest. She knew what she had to do. She raised the gun and took three shots. The walk back to her base was quieter than usual.

Life and Why We Live It: An Essay On Reality

What is death? To some, it is an ultimate end. They believe there is nothing more. Others believe in some sort of afterlife. This afterlife is usually perceived as in the sky, or underground. Sometimes, it uses two locations. Some believe death is nothing but a new beginning. They believe they will be reborn as something else, depending on their life. But if some know that there is another life, or some sort of better afterlife, why do they want to live? What is the driving force that makes us want to continue? 

People love experiences. An unforgettable experience is not what helps, though. It is the pursuit of those experiences that is important. Which would help one continue more: going skydiving, or wanting to go skydiving? Once one has the experience, they will need something new to chase. One also can’t want something and then not take it when they have the chance. If they actually wanted to do it, it would make them feel scared. If they didn’t really want it, this would force them to think more about what keeps them going. When a goal is completed, the person will need a new goal that is going to keep them going. This goal can be anything, from making the perfect pastry to committing the perfect crime. However, these goals are temporary. After some time, the goal will be completed. Then, one will need a new driving force.

Another thing that can keep one alive is a hobby. Just doing something can help you love life. First, you have to love it. Then, one has to do it at least once a day, with a structure. If one can do it at any time of day, that person will inevitably not do it at least once. This is the road to collapse. One time leads to two times and before you know it you’re only doing your hobby once a week. One main thing this plan needs to succeed is the constant enactment of this force. Consistency is the key to success. Also, this has to be a good hobby. It can’t be something bad for you, because you will eventually realize this and stop to think about it. If you continue, then you will always second-guess the reason you’re living. If you decide to stop, you will need a new hobby. You must make sure your hobby is here to stay. If your hobby turns out to be a fad, you will be forced to like something that is uncool. Imagine making your hobby Pokémon Go when that was a thing. In three months, you would be an outcast for liking a bad game.

Another lifeline could be love. I would strongly advise against this, because love isn’t always forever. People break up, and then where will you be? Also, loving someone, and being consumed by that love, can make one seem clingy. This will lead to even less success. But say it works. You get married and live happily ever after… not. Half of all marriages end in divorce. Having loving someone be the only thing you do and then having that love crushed would be soul-crushing. Also, say in your pursuit of love you do something wrong. If your views of love are twisted enough, you can be committing sexual harassment. Even if everything works, eventually your spouse dies. Imagine having the person you care about most die and tell me you still think love is a good idea. Too many things can go wrong and are known to go wrong. Humans are just too unpredictable. Find a Plan B.

There is one more paradigm toward life: hatred. One can be sustained by the ultimate dislike of others. First, your hatred must be absolute and ultimate. Second, your hatred must have a target. I would suggest a small, focused target, like a person. However, a larger hatred for an ideal can also work. Some would prefer a larger target, because there are more things to hate. I prefer a specific thing, because acting on that hatred can be more satisfying. Either way, hatred is considered wrong. Your whole life plan may be put into question. You will also question it, which is never good. Hatred does provide a very strong motivation to continue, but that motivation may be found evil. While you may not think this, others will. This makes hatred not the best motivator. Goals and hobbies are much better, but you are better off hating than loving.

Each of the above plans to motivate life has its own merits, but they are best when combined. Having a good hobby that also offers goals can be truly rewarding. Hating someone can be a hobby if you do it every day. Your goal could even be to put down another because of your hatred. Love used in conjunction with other plans can provide results ranging from having a bad time to getting arrested, but one can still love. The love just has to be separate. Love can be extremely motivating if you also have a hobby to fall back on. Using multiple plans is important, so one has a backup plan. It can soften the blow of loss. Each plan has individual merit, but each one shines even brighter when combined with the rest. Making a motivation plan can be motivating in and of itself. This is the final step toward excellence. Wanting to want can be just as good as wanting. It is the ultimate goal, because it is constantly being achieved and reset. In conclusion, life will continued to be lived, but each person chooses why they live it.

Incoming Red Giant

What happens when you die?

Will we live forever?

Will we be immortal?

Why do we die?

Incoming, incoming… 

(This whole story is written from a narrator’s point of view on the city crisis when a red giant is coming.)

Beep Beep Beep. That is all that was heard around the one mile radius of NASA headquarters in Houston. This robot voice was saying, incoming. Incoming. Red giant incoming. This was in the middle of the night, so the sleepy janitors in NASA’s hallway suddenly woke up. The janitors here only knew rocket science, so they didn’t really know what a red giant was, so all they did was run. They ran as fast as they possibly could to go outside to see what was happening. Every man and woman was outside and looking at the sky, trying to find the red giant. Indeed, very high up, opposite of the sun, they saw a little red dot getting bigger by the minute. All of the NASA control center freaks who experienced Apollo 11 hurried back to their study and discussed how to stop this massive thing from hitting Earth. One said that they should send a rocket that would blast the thing to pieces. That idea was quickly turned down, for Neil Armstrong shouted, “that wouldn’t do a thing to the red giant.” 

After all, the one who suggested blasting it was a janitor that snuck into the room and skipped his rocket science class. Michael Collins scurried into the room and said, “we can send a rocket that will have a nuclear bomb and a bunch of explosives in it.”

So everyone agreed and got to work. The red giant was outside of Earth’s atmosphere, so if a nuclear bomb went off outside of the atmosphere, it wouldn’t affect Earth. The Buzz Aldrin was quickly at work, figuring out how much time there was left until the red giant hit Earth and how far away it was

30 hours, 48 minutes, 29 seconds, 120 miles away

The top engineers at NASA ran to take a shot of coffee and quickly went to work building a nuclear bomb/rocket and putting a ton of explosives in the rocket. The rocket wasn’t going to get to the red giant too quickly. It was going to be going the speed of an airplane because of how heavy the load would be and how little time they would have to build this. 

22 hours, 56 minutes, 38 seconds, 100 miles away

By the morning, the engineers were finished with the rocket and were starting to make another one because they thought one rocket wouldn’t be enough. The first one was being towed to the launch site. The launch would happen in half an hour

Blast off rocket number one

Once the rocket was ready to launch, a crowd had gathered around, and a 15 minute countdown had begun. When it was time for blast off, the engine stuttered for a moment, and the crowd oohed and ahhed. Once it was about ten feet in the air, the rocket dropped back down, but suddenly a really loud blast caused the rocket to start ascending toward its target. The rocket was ascending at the speed of an airplane, which caused the crowd to worry. In a few minutes, the rocket was the size of the red giant, a small dot.

20 hours, 13 minutes, 01 seconds, 90 miles away

Everyone who witnessed the take off of the rocket was now about to witness the rocket crash into the red giant. A few moments later, you could hear NASA’s loudspeaker telling the crowd that the red giant was unharmed. Half an hour after the news, you were able to see the next rocket being towed to the launch site. 

Blast off rocket number two

A larger crowd had gathered this time, because these people’s lives depended on NASA’s decision. But, right before the 15 minute countdown was about to start, every human being in the USA saw that far to the east there were a whole bunch of smaller rockets being set off into space, and, soon enough, the people at NASA were able to see this rocket trajectory, and it looked like it was heading for the red giant. In a matter of minutes, others at NASA were able to see the launch site of these rockets… It was the USS Armstrong. The USS Armstrong was known for its rockets that, in times of war, could launch little rockets that went so high enemy ships wouldn’t be able to see them in warfare. NASA was quickly trying to contact the USS Armstrong. Soon enough, they got in contact with the ship’s captain, and the captain explained to NASA that the USS Armstrong heard that NASA was sending rockets to the red giant, so they thought that they could too. Maybe more than one rocket at once would be enough to knock it back. So the countdown started, and before you knew it, the rockets were all about five minutes away from their targets. Once the rockets hit the red giant, there was more of an impact. Many tiny pieces were seen coming off of the rockets.

“This is progress, people, this is progress,” shouted a voice from the NASA loudspeaker.

By now, NASA was preparing a third rocket. The USS Armstrong was also planning to send more rockets, which were going to be in sync with NASA’s rocket. Soon enough, the third rocket was already at the launch site, and the countdown started. Sixty… fifty-nine… ten… night… eight… seven… six… five… four… three… two… one… blast off. The rocket made a roaring sound, and to the spectators it sounded like the loudest launch. Off to the west they also saw a bright red light that looked like another rocket. They realized that this was a nuclear rocket going off in Japan. Quickly enough, the Japanese airspace was contacting NASA, saying that they hacked into NASA’s countdown and launched their nuclear rocket at the same time. So now they had three different sources of rockets.

And on and on this went, both countries and warships sending up rockets until the red giant entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

10 hours, 21 minutes, 43 seconds, red giant entered Earth’s atmosphere

Now, all over the world, TV stations and radio stations were given instructions by NASA to teach their viewers and listeners how to build small rockets and launch them. So, all over the world, elders, newborns, people in wheelchairs, and people in the emergency room were all building rockets. This was life or death here. The surgeons who were doing life or death surgeries equipped the patients with the right supplies to build rockets. All of these rockets would be the size of those rockets that you would make for a science fair project. They made all of the rockets sync up to NASA’s control center, so they would all launch at the same time. Once all the rockets in the world were launched, the whole world looked up in astonishment. Half an hour later, they saw many millions of pieces coming from the red giant. But there was still one big rock, bigger than all the other ones.

6 hours, 43 minutes, 09 seconds, red giant 30 miles away

By now, the only person with an idea was the astronaut from NASA’s latest mission on Mars, Martian 22. His name was Sir Isaac Newton. He had come up with a miraculous idea, but it may have been the only chance the world had. NASA and all the world countries had sent out alerts to every electronic device telling people to turn on their blow dryers and fans which would hold up the rocks from the Red Giant. NASA would provide 3,000 mile extension cords to all cities, towns, and farms, so they could all keep the blow dryers going. And if the people didn’t do what they said, they hacked the blow dryer and fan companies. Once the rocks were hovering all about 10 feet in the air, a bunch of Robotic Concordes with huge trash cans would come around and collect all of the rocks. And NASA didn’t have to worry about the oceans, because all oceans were dead, for they all died out because of starvation. For this was happening in the 29th century.

30 minutes, 1 mile away

Now all of these things could be easily seen from the naked eye, and the Earth was now at about 200 degrees. This might be scary for you, but it was pretty normal for people living in the 29th century. All the world could do was wait and watch

Red giant 1,000 feet away

You’re probably thinking, why are countries that are opposite North America helping? Well, it was because the aftermath of all of this would wipe out the whole Earth, even though it was mostly going to hit North and South America.

Old man Steve Jobs walked out his front yard, and he saw a bunch of iPad sized rocks plunging toward Earth. He just woke up from a five-day coma, so he didn’t really know what was going on, and he just started yelling at his kids and all of their kids for not informing him about what had happened, so we just thought that all the iPads he ever made were now going to waste. The reason he stopped screaming is that (you will never believe this, but keep reading) all of the “iPads” hovered above Earth, and soon enough, they were collected and put into the dead ocean. But the sad thing was Steve quickly went into another five-day coma.

At the same time as Steve Jobs was experiencing those traumatic things, a little boy was thinking this:

Twelve-year-old Caleb Brokerstein was thinking about death in his room. He was thinking how he wouldn’t want to die along with all the other people in the world. All his childhood death had haunted Caleb. He had always wondered, what happens when he dies? Can we ever be immortal? Why do we die? And now all these thoughts were racing through his mind. Until the thought struck that he was going to die.

When that thought occurred to him, he ran out the house screaming, “I don’t want to die, ‘cause if I do I will never be reborn again!”

These were the precise thoughts that were running through his mind and coming out of his mouth. After a minute of all of this screaming, he looked up at the sky and saw that the particles were all hovering 10 feet above the ground.

When he realized this, Caleb retraced his steps and ran screaming, “We are alive!

The End


Heather sat in the corner of her room, hearing the fire crackle. Around her, near her, behind her, in front of her… 

Inside her.

The purple walls of her rooms seemed to envelop her, consume her, as her breathing hitched.

She hugged herself tighter. She couldn’t be, right? No, there was no way. No way. No way. She was a fire elemental, right? Of course right. Her dad is a fire elemental, her mom was (at least she assumes she was), her whole family was, for as long as she could trace.

So why hadn’t she developed some fire-related power yet? Why? All the other kids had. She had to as well.

She thought back to her mom. 

Something inside her heart stung like a fresh wound. Her mom had disappeared right after she was born, run off to somewhere. Her dad couldn’t join her yet, but he always promised Heather that it was soon. They’d be rejoined soon.

Heather had a question burning inside. Literally.

She pulled herself up, pulling open her window and sliding out and onto the ground outside. 

In the Fire Side, everything was red. Or brown. Fire crackled at her feet as she softly tread over burned ground. She had to get there.

Get to the middle.

She was silent when she finally got there, looking up at the almost-impenetrable glass that separated the designated areas for each element. She stared right at the water zone.

She wished she could step right through and escape.

A drop of water escaped her fingertips, sizzling and steaming on the burning ground. 

She was a public danger.

She was a water elemental. Everything in her life started to softly click together. 

She was a water elemental. She was a water elemental. She was a water elemental.

She was a child.

She was lost, confused, and a scared-for-her-own-safety child.

And most importantly, if she got caught as a water elemental, she could die.

Heather wasn’t really scared though.

She was excited.


I ran through the forest, feeling the tickly grass on my paws. I felt weightless, speeding toward a tiny, unknowing squirrel in the roots of a tree. I was moving quickly, but I made sure to tread lightly and quietly so as not to alert the squirrel. As I got closer, I slowed down and crouched. The squirrel was still nibbling at its nut, completely unaware of the danger it was in. And then I sprang. My claws sunk into the squirrel’s flesh, and I took the first delicious bite. I ate hungrily, happily tearing into the squirrel. I supposed it had felt pain when I killed it, but I didn’t care. It was just prey. 

One day something different happened. I was crawling slowly toward a mouse, careful not to make any noise, when I heard the sound of beating wings, and a loud screech. I looked up, and I saw a gigantic eagle, with a wingspan so big it made my blood freeze. I screamed so loud I thought I scared off every animal in the forest. I tried to run, but it was too late. The huge golden eagle picked me up effortlessly and carried me high into the sky, ignoring my terrified squeals. Agony filled my bones as the eagle’s claws tore into me, slowly killing me. I wailed in pain, but if anyone heard, they didn’t care enough to help.


I ate hungrily, happily tearing into the cat. I supposed it had felt pain when I killed it, but I didn’t care. It was just prey.


An angle of the sun’s embrace

Shining in the thunder’s wake

Golden curls rain down your face

Seafoam eyes bring hearts to race

Pale hands open aches

Leaving scratches, bruises, brakes

Even though the halo’s there

A shadow crosses your plastered stare 

Heaven knows you stand too tall

You too perfect for it all

No one knows your flesh and bone

Hidden by your lies in tow

Marching with the devils row by row

You fool the world

Show it through a great curved lens

Cause them all to lose all sense

A delicate flower with leaves so fine

Hiding those thorns just under the line

And if someone moves

Just makes a step

You shoot your gaze

Bringing on the lazy haze

Don’t let them spot

Don’t get too close

You have a halo so sharp it burns

And everything just turns and turns

Until all is left but not the same

The halo shares its wavy ways

Daze runs off its golden rays

Tricked and frazzled it had to stay

But free at last

It falls away

The halo’s gone

Nowhere to stay

And leaves the world too far away

Where halos float until their days

To take their place 

Opposing evil

Even though the halo’s there 

It lives around in everywhere

An open heart beckons its wake

Raining down in shiny swirls

The halo trusts the tiny pearl

Leaving cold ones out to die

Pay No Mind – VII



I stare at a mere reflection,

a girl whose eyes, drained, are watering still after hours nonstop

For she had cried all night, and there’s no stop in sight

She had screamed and hissed 

And the birds chirped a lovely, sad song

The wind whistled, but she paid no mind

As she lay on the bathroom floor

Fixated on the weeps of crows

And the wails of wilting roses

She the wilting rose, the weeping crow, cannot point where things went wrong

The birds and flowers fought relentlessly over sentences described in paragraphs


Yesterday, the tree whistled at the glowing moon

And glass smiles stood until we fell fast asleep, today

The trees melt away

As we say goodbye to dreams, today

They’ve said I’ve changed

But I feel the same, this world has done the changing for me, today

Today was as long as the last and my pains are tired of growing.

I must stop, but the ride’s not over yet, no not today

She puts in another quarter

But I can’t take another today

I miss you — 


I Am Still Alone:

She thinks she knows 

He thinks he understands 

Yet I am still alone 

“Everyone has experienced that”

“Trust me it is normal” 

They say and walk away 

They say they love 

It is said that they care 

I remain alone. 

In the dark corner of my mind I remain

They say 

“I’m always here”

But there is no one

I see no one 

I’m a supernova about to explode away from all celestial objects in the universe 

What they say is a lie

So I will be alone

I will be with the only person who understands

I will be with somebody true

It is good I am still alone


Almost reaching the top then the bar gets higher

It continues to grow in an uncontrollable rate

The fail to reach enough makes me start over

Vicious cycles attack me

So close but I never can accomplish

Then all the way back down again I fall

Fall back into the necessities of the world

I watch from down below seeing all the people reach the top

They eye me with pity

But no one can help assist me up

I drag myself lower and lower

I dream of an overflow, to be more than needed

Enough and more

Yet I stay behind what I continuously hope to surpass

Never full, never more

Nothing ever there to fill it up

They Don’t Know: 

Innocence but you take every burden

You love but keep the unconditional loneliness that you are brought up with

Giants step on the speck of dust that you made yourself to be

You know of your rightfulness, however power drowns inside you

You see through yourself in the midst of your reflection

You hate then love it

It has been beautiful, it has been astonishingly horrible

No one sees the beauty though

No one ever has

The ugliness underneath beams through even with your rightfulness

Limited time keeps them blinded

You aren’t worth the dread of patience

They don’t intend on discovering your beauty

Dirty Laundry

Dirty Laundry

The chore that everyone suffers.

From the first sweaty shirts,

To the old droopy socks,

Till the time when it’s full

the smell of Pandora’s box.

To the time 

When you take it out 

And put it in the sack

To the time 

You take it down the stairs

To try not to drop

To take it across the street 

And make sure you didn’t 

Leave the detergent 

Or you have to go back 

To put it in 

The machine 

When the Pandora smell 

Comes back 

To the time 

When you realize 

You lost your droopy sock 

When you first open 

The detergent 

The opposite smell 

of the Pandora’s box 

To when you close the lid 

And you turn the machine on 

To the time 

You need to wait 

And hope it comes out right 

To take it out of the machine 

To the time you need to organize 

The fresh socks 

And the shirt and the pants

To fold them all up

To take it back home

Then put it into your child’s cabinet

And let them use it

And make the suffering process

Start all over

Each week

Trees of Albuquerque

I had been watching birds since the age of nine. Owls, finches, herons, and song sparrows were my favorite. The variety in species and function in the finches were fascinating, but what really caught my eye, or in this case my ear, were the song sparrows, the way their notes flowed into each other in complete harmony, going from do to re to mi to fa in beautiful consistency. The song sparrows were my favorite birds to observe, as their action of singing sounded so simple as a word but so magical as a sound. But the song sparrows didn’t last. By the time I was 25, my days of listening to sweet harmony were over, as a new power plant opened up, and with its smoke and ash and cracks and pops, it drew all the birds away. I learned by that time I wasn’t a bird watcher. I just liked the sound of song sparrows. Yeah, there were other birds I looked at, but who doesn’t think some birds look nice? This migration plunged me into sadness. I would never hear that beautiful flow or that consistent harmony ever again. I tried everything to recreate that sweet sound, every stroke of the hand or a blow of the horn or on an instrument, every audio recording, but none could replicate it, not exactly.

At this treacherous time I had come across an old nest with a peculiar egg in it. I thought to myself I might as well try to hatch the little thing. Its shell was so thin that it could be crushed by a flea. I took it in praying it would be a song sparrow, praying that I would hear those sweet symphonies again. It had been two weeks in the incubator. Even with its warm light at a nice 72 degrees, there were no cracks. Four weeks in the incubator with its steamy air, no cracks. I had given up. I had decided that I would follow the song sparrows even though I had lived in my town all my life, but I couldn’t take being apart from the harmony. I decided to crack open the egg and make a good breakfast with it, if it wouldn’t give me a song sparrow. Right before it hit my bowl to crack, I heard a noise. It was a perfectly consistent flow from do to re with a harmony unreplaceable. It was the voice of a song sparrow with its tranquility. I canceled every flight, unpacked every bag, and put back every plate because I was staying. The egg then continued to crack over the next three days. I had a song sparrow. I wasn’t going to use this bird just for its beautiful voice but also to show the power plant what its emissions were doing to the area. It was my duty to these sweet birds that were forced to leave. I had readied my case towards the court of how the power plant was driving away wildlife. When presented towards the court, it looked like a one way street with me going the wrong direction. The defendants argued that shutting down the plant now wouldn’t save the birds and there was no point. But I still had to try. I then gave my most persuasive point. I let the court hear the sweet symphony and melodies of the song sparrow even though it wasn’t allowed. I let them hear the beautiful flow from note to note, hoping it would be enough. It wasn’t. The power plant company had a better argument and a better lawyer. It was sad. My song sparrow was sad. I had used it, and now it wanted to be free. So I let the bird go, and with it I let my fight go. There was nothing I could do to stop it except let it free to the trees of Albuquerque.