Cool and empty breaths

Leave and return

From my once vibrant colored body.

The warmth that once existed

In the transparent liquid that

Flowed through my veins 

Has now come to a halt.

It oozes and drips

From the rigid and deep wounds

That now decorate my lifeless body.

Though not inflicted these unrelenting lashes

Were obtained and accepted.

Inflicted by the creator of all,


Year after year

The sharper the simmering blade

She used Became.

It’s slick, but yet finely sharpened body

Was inserted deeper and deeper as 

Time moved forward.

Tearing deeper into my flesh.

The more the scars grew 

The more my wounds bled.

The more something within

Began to fade away.

The House At the Edge of the World


Of the many words she had learned over the years—and there had been manythis one was by far, her favorite. 


There were only three books in her home. She didn’t know where they had come from. Like everything in The Place, they had no origin story. They just were. She knew them by heart. 

One: a dictionary.

Two: a volume of poetry.

Three: a cookbook. 

Each word came with a memory. A splash of color, a peal of laughter. Voices. They filled her head. This one coated her tongue with buttery sweetness.  

She loved these words. They were her future and past. They were her life. But they were also her windows to another life. Another place.  

A place called Minnesota. 

She didn’t know where it was. She only knew the name—and that it had to be better than The Place. She had learned it from her books, as she learned everything. They had taught her the language she could never speak. 

Minnesota. She loved how it sounded in her head. She could imagine herself saying it to someone else. Not the rocks that lined the path that wrapped around her house, though she had come to appreciate their company. Another person.  

If she was even a person herself. 

Her house was surrounded by dry, empty land, stretching for miles and miles in every direction. The sky above was a pale, sickly yellow, empty of clouds and breezes, with no sounds anywhere but the sound of her own movements. Sometimes, on days when she could no longer simply sit and stare at the same place on the wall for hours, she would run, away from her house and her books and her rocks. She would run until her feet ached and her breathing came in short, ragged gasps, never slowing down. But always, at the very moment she could run no longer and was suddenly longing for her small, quiet home, it would appear, sitting on the horizon like a dog waiting loyally for his owner. When this happened, she would scream, no noise escaping her mouth, scream silently until she could scream no longer. There was never any response.   

Soon, she stopped running altogether. 

Then came the day when, much like before, she could not take the quiet any longer. She burst outside, landing hard on her hands and knees on the dusty earth. Ignoring the stinging pain, she glared at the dull landscape surrounding her. She wanted to leave—wanted it more than she ever had, her whole life. Her whole existence. 

Ocean. That was what she needed. An ocean. She would leave—sailing away, on a boat. But there was no ocean to be found—just an endless, empty plain staring back at her. Ocean. The word danced in front of her, glimmering in the light. Just out of reach. She stabbed her fingers into the earth, carving it again and again.  Her hands ached, her fingertips stung, but she would not stop. She couldn’t. She wished for it to appear, to seep into her shoes, and wash away the dusty landscape, deep and cold and…


Her fingertips were wet. 

Slowly she looked up, as a sudden salty breeze blew the hair away from her face. Seagulls cried as she stared at the wide ocean, waves lapping over her feet. They washed the words that she had written on the ground away. The ground under her feet had turned into a sandy beach. The water had appeared so suddenly, it had seemed to come out of the desert itself. 

A slow smile spread across her face.  

She left that same day.  

Had anyone visited her home later—had it been possible for anyone to—they would have found everything in the exact place it had always been. Nothing seemed to have changed.  

Except for one thing.  

This thing was a rock. The nineteenth rock from her house, to be precise. For when the ocean appeared, the memories had come back. Not all of them—but enough.  

The rock had been moved out of the perfect arrangement of the pathway, and underneath it, there was a small hole. It was empty, but it had not always been. There were three things underneath it when the girl first uncovered it: a compass, a map, and a plane ticket.  

To Minnesota.   

The slow lapping of the water was what entered her mind first. Then the feeling spread to her fingers and the rough wooden planks beneath her returned. Her eyes cracked open, filtering in the bright sunlight… Then she remembered where she was and sat straight up with a start.  

It was her third day at sea.  

The landscape remained empty.  

Nothing around but sky, sea and boat.  

She gazed around the small raft, as it drifting on the slow, lapping waves. She had found it on the beach the day she left—just lying there, as if it were waiting for her. She had felt excited then, but now… she just felt bored.  

What was the point of the ocean, then? What was the point of the compass, the map, the ticket, if she was just going to float around on the silent sea? Was it all just a cruel joke? Was she going to wake up one morning in her house, with the ocean having completely disappeared?  

But just as she pondered these awful thoughts, something did change. For a while, she had decided that the scene would stay forever the same—the sea had other ideas.  

She had just enough time to open her mouth in horror at the towering wave before it crashed over her head and pulled her under.   


That was all there was, everywhere.  


She tried to suck air into her lungs but couldn’t. She couldn’t move. She panicked as she began losing consciousness… Then daylight flared up everywhere and she found herself sitting on a metal chair in a completely alien world.  

Sliding to the ground on her knees, she took a long, shuddering breath. Had the wave brought her onto an island? She hadn’t seen any land anywhere, but that was the only possible explanation for what had just happened. Trying to take in her surroundings, she slowly got to her feet and then immediately fell back onto the chair as the words from her books returned, crashing into her harder than the wave. Then suddenly, her vision cleared and she could see where she was for the first time.  

The chair she was sitting on was positioned near a glass table on the sidewalk outside a small restaurant. Cars sped by on the street, and people rushed past, talking and laughing. She had never seen anything like it before, but she recalled the words she had collected and slowly relaxed. She had made it.  

Just then, a tap on her shoulder made her jump. She spun around to the young waiter standing behind her. He shrank back at her hostile expression, and remembering to be polite, she searched her brain for what to do next. Stop glaring! Smile! Judging from his wide-eyed expression, she had not been incredibly successful.  

“Can I help you, ma’am?” he said quietly, looking like he was seriously regretting his choice of profession. Had she really been scowling that hard? Talking to other people was going to be tough.  

“You have been sitting here for over an hour,” the man said slowly, as if she were a wild animal that could bite his head off at any moment. “You have not touched your food.”


“I—” she started, then immediately stopped. Her mouth dropped open, her face mirroring the waiter’s, who had taken a step back. But she could consider this turn of events later—she had no interest in explaining why she had never spoken a word before in her life. Act casual!  

“I just got here,” she told the man, forcing the unnatural words out of her mouth. “I came from the ocean.  Didn’t you see the—” The word wave died in her throat as she turned to gesture indignantly at the very solid, very dry, very decidedly-not-ocean landscape behind her. A choking gasp came out of her mouth, utterly terrifying the waiter, who gave an incredibly high-pitched squeaking noise and rushed back into the safety of the crowded cafe, nearly knocking over a pair of customers holding trays piled with food.  

The girl began to piece together the situation. She didn’t need to find an airport. She was already there. Minnesota. Sure enough, as she felt around inside the pocket of her coat—her completely dry coat, she was just now realizing. She could tell that her ticket was gone. As for the details—how no one had seen her appear out of nowhere at a random table in the cafe, why the waiter had been convinced that she had been sitting there for so long—she had no idea. But she didn’t really care. Not anymore.  

She sat down on the hard metal chair, running her fingers over the swirling design cut into the back. Staring cautiously at the contents of a plate that had apparently been sitting in front of her for at least an hour now, she attempted to mimic the careful way the surrounding customers held their utensils. When that didn’t work, she looked around twice and then tore off a piece of the waffle and stuffed it in her mouth. It was the first time she had ever eaten food, and although it was cold—and slightly dry—it still tasted better than it had in her books. In fact, everything here was better than it was in her books. Or at least, more. More bright, more loud—more alive.  

As she contemplated these things, in her chair as the entire world flew past as if late for an incredibly important meeting, she thought of the house that she had left. She had never—not for a moment—expected to miss it, and really, she still didn’t. But in some strange way, she felt a little prick of sadness at leaving it behind. She shouldn’t, she knew, and tried to remind herself, but some part of her knew that in leaving the house, she was leaving her peaceful, solitary life. There was, as unlikely as it seemed and as harshly as she would have denied it just a few days ago, a certain comfort in having only rocks for company. A comfort that, she now realized, she would never have again. Not in her whole life.  

Then again—this place had waffles. And what could compete with that?!

The sadness left. In its place, utter excitement set in. She wanted to do something now. Something like—going to every single place that sold waffles in the city!

She was going to have so much fun.  

“Where did you come from?”

She turned around, surprised by the voice. It was slightly high-pitched, like that of a young child. Sure enough, the owner of the voice was a small boy—he couldn’t have been more than eight years old—giving her a stern and slightly incredulous look from underneath a dirty baseball cap. He pulled the hat off, revealing a head of bright red hair and freckles that stood out against his pale face. He frowned at her silence. 

“Well? I know everyone who lives on this block –everyone-” He stretched his arms out for emphasis. “-but I don’t know you.”  

“I moved here.  From… “ She couldn’t think of an answer fast enough. He jumped on her pause. “See? You couldn’t even think of a good lie! You need to come up with one before anyone asks you! Whenever I want to break a rule—” he stopped, rethinking his sentence. “Never mind. That isn’t important. I just want to know where you came here from.”

The girl considered her next words. She could make up something fast, right now—but no, she couldn’t think of anything, and besides, the boy had already shown that he could see through any lie she would tell him. The only option would be to tell him the truth.  

Only… what was the truth? That she had lived in a house by herself for who knows how long before an ocean had appeared and she had sailed away and ended up here?

“I don’t know,” she said.  

The boy’s frown deepened.  “You don’t know?! What do you mean, you don’t know? Is that even possible?”

She struggled for words to explain it. “I’m sorry. It’s just… it’s been a weird day.”  What day in her life hadn’t been a bit out of the ordinary? Still, this one was by far the strangest.  

Surprisingly, the boy’s frown had turned into a slightly thoughtful look at these words. “I guess I understand that. Sometimes I have weird days too. One time, we were out of orange juice for breakfast. Breakfast just isn’t the same without orange juice.”  

“That’s… Okay. You know what? Sure. It was like that,” she replied. She didn’t want to have to explain that it was more like the orange juice had jumped out of the refrigerator, done a little dance, turned into a racoon in a cowboy hat, and disappeared.  Also, why was she thinking in orange juice metaphors all of a sudden?  “Those… orange-juice-less days, not much you can do about them.”

“Well, I don’t think that’s true,” said the boy. “You could buy orange juice.”

“But… Wait, what are we even talking about? Do you even care about the answer to your question, or not?”


“Never mind,” she said, sensing another long conversation about unrelated things approaching.  

“You don’t need to tell me,” the boy said anyway. Before she could ask why they were having this conversation in the first place, he went on. “Some days, there just aren’t a lot of things going your way.”

“Actually, I think the problem this time is that too many things are going my way.”

“You mean… you’re happy that you’re out of orange—it was a joke! Sorry!” 

She glared at him.

 “But… I don’t really understand. Why is that a problem?”

“I guess I just don’t really know what to do now.” After doing virtually nothing her entire life, that was probably going to be a challenge. “Or where to go.” Really, until now, she hadn’t even considered this small problem. Where was she going to live?  

“Oh,”  said the boy. “I assumed you were going to your house.”

“My… what? Sorry?”

“Your house. Seriously, you’ve lived here for at least a week. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten where your house is.” He made a grand gesture toward a small purple house with a red door, which looked like it had been shoved between the two much bigger buildings beside it. 

“Uh—right. My house.” From her position on the street, she could see the doorknob. It’s probably locked, she realized. Her heart sank. “Hey, actually, what’s your name?”

“Daniel.” He said it almost like a question.  

“Daniel, you don’t happen to know where the spare key for the door is, do you? I… forgot.”

“Under the plant on the left,” he said abruptly, then turned slightly pink. “I… I kind of… sorry,” he mumbled under his breath.  

“That’s okay,” she said. She would have to change the hiding spot pretty soon, she noted. “Thanks.”

“Yeah. And…about your problem. I think that, maybe… you just need to find something you love doing. Like a hobby, I guess. It might help.”

“You might actually be right about that,” she replied. “Well, goodbye. I—” She turned around to thank him again, but he was gone. Completely. Almost as if he had been a figment of her imagination.  

The house was dark and sparsely decorated when she pushed the door open. There was a bathroom, a kitchen, and a bedroom through doorways visible from the living room, which was at the end of the short hallway she had entered through. It was furnished with a few antique-looking dressers and cabinets, a shiny wooden table, and an old purple sofa. The walls were covered with peeling wallpaper, a thin carpet lay underneath her feet, and a loud dripping from the kitchen sink echoed through the air. But there was somehow, underneath the creaking wooden floor, a distinctly happy feel to the atmosphere.  

She loved it immediately.  

It would take some time to get settled in, she knew. Many things needed to be bought or replaced. The light switch in the hallway would not turn on. The only thing on the kitchen counter was a wooden spoon. There was nothing, not even a bar of soap, in the bathroom. But she looked at the large wooden grandfather clock, and knew that it would all have to wait until morning. It was time to go to sleep.  

The sun, streaming through the gaps in the curtains, was what woke her. For a moment, she thought that she was back at sea, but it was blankets, not wooden boards, beneath her fingers. She lay there for a minute, and then got out of bed and turned on the lights. She had a lot to do.  

But first, she needed breakfast.  

The store on the corner of the street had nearly everything, so she took the money she found in the dresser and bought a wide variety of supplies. She dumped it on the kitchen table.  Potato chips, hot sauce, three bars of chocolate… orange juice. Okay, back to the store. This time, she got slightly more useful things. Pulling out a recipe book she had found, she gathered her ingredients. After fifteen minutes, she had made a stack of slightly burnt and lopsided pancakes.  

She tried them.  

They were…odd.  

“Oh well,” she told the kitchen sink. “Good first try, right?”

It dripped in what she thought seemed like an agreeable way.  

“I’ll try again tomorrow,” she informed it. Then she left to buy soap.  

Many years later, the city had changed. The cafe was gone, as were many other shops and houses. But some things were the same. The grocery store, the post office, and a little purple house.  

Inside the house lived an old woman. For a long time, she had worked at the most popular restaurant in town, so nearly everyone knew her, even now when she no longer went there every day. The smallest children called her Grandmother, the figure most of the town now saw her as, and in response she would laugh and tell them that she wasn’t that old. But she had never told anyone how old she actually was, or her real name. So whenever anyone saw her, in one of the shops or walking down the street, they settled for giving her a friendly wave.  

Every Saturday morning, she would get up and go to the place where she had worked for so long, and order the same thing—waffles and a cup of tea. She would watch the pigeons and the occasional dove roaming the sidewalk, pecking at the crumbs tossed to them by toddlers and their parents. She would watch people walking past on the sidewalk, lights coming on and doors opening and closing in the surrounding houses, clouds moving across the sky and the sun slowly rising. If you saw her, sitting at her table and watching, you would notice several things. One, that she had a kind smile and knew the names of most of the people that passed. Two, most of the people that passed knew her. You could also tell what her favorite color was—her coat, boots, and purse all matched her house.  

But the most obvious thing about her—the one that people usually noticed first—was that she seemed happy.   


As I woke up one Monday morning, I walked down stairs to smell the fresh bacon and pancakes stacked with butter and smothered with syrup on my plate. Mom was always excited to see my face as I noticed what new breakfast she made me that day, and I always smiled. That day I was especially excited because pancakes are my favorite food. 

“What do you think, Claire?” Mom asked as soon as I got down there. 

“Wow this looks amazing, I can’t wait to eat!” 

“Why are you not dressed yet?” Mom yelled.

“Because I wanted to take a peek at this morning’s breakfast,” I said.

“Well go get dressed now before you eat,” Mom scolded. 

So I went upstairs, got dressed, and packed my bag for school. As I was walking to my room, I could see the closed door of my mom’s bedroom and wondered where my dad had gone. Six years ago, he left us for God knows what reason. He could be dead for all I knew. I was only seven years old at the time and he just vanished out of nowhere. But I let it go and moved on with my day. I walked down stairs yet again and smelled the delicious food waiting for me. After I had eaten, I went to school with a very full and happy stomach.

Everyday last week mom had gotten a phone call from my teacher saying how missbehaved I was in class. Mom punished me very often so I’m used to it by now. I wanted to make today, and from now on a non-foolishness day so my mom doesn’t get upset with me, but of course that didn’t happen. I got yelled at for talking in class many times. When I got home, my mom was waiting for me at the kitchen table.

“Claire, you need to stop this, I can’t take it any longer,” Mom said.

“Can’t take what?” I asked.

“Your teacher called me today saying that you were talking a lot in class,” she said, disappointed.

“I’m sorry, I tried to stop interrupting but I kept talking to my friend, it won’t happen again,” I said.

“Go to your room,” my mom said quietly.

I lay in bed thinking about what life would be like if my dad were here. Would I still be having trouble in school?  Would Mom be happier? Back when my dad was still at home, I remembered him and mom making me breakfast every morning and waiting to see my face. He used to tell me stories before I went to bed. One of them I remembered was about a little girl who became a princess. Oh how much I missed my dad, I wish he would be there with me. Mom always cried about dad and how he left, she told me stories about him, but she never smiled when talking about him. I finally stopped dreaming and went to bed.

The next morning I woke up and looked forward to walking down stairs to smell the beautiful breakfast waiting for me. I hurried up and got dressed and ready for school. It was really quiet in the house but I didn’t pay it any attention. I was finally ready so I walked downstairs and didn’t see mom or any breakfast on the table.

I put my bag down and called, “Mom, Mom, Mooom.” 

No response. 

I checked every room on the bottom floor but mom wasn’t there. I went upstairs to her room and saw the closet door open. All of her clothes, gone. All of her shoes, gone. All of her bags and jackets, gone. I went in the bathroom and noticed the same thing. Her makeup bag with all of her makeup, gone. Her toothbrush and toothpaste, gone. Her hairbrush, gone. I was getting confused so I pulled the blanket off her bed and saw a note. As I opened the note I saw a $100 bill in it. The note read—

Dear Claire,

I’m sorry to do it this way, but I can’t take care of you anymore.

The stress of your bad grades, excessive calls from your 

teachers, and your dad gone is getting too much for me. I don’t know 

what to do or what you’re going to do, but I left $100 for food. Maybe 

you could ask one of your friends if you could stay with them for a while. I love you and I’m sorry.

From your mother, 


I cried and screamed as loud as I could. What am I going to do? $100 to live off of? Where did she go? I couldn’t believe it, I don’t know why she would leave or who to live with. I went to school that day without eating any breakfast. When I got to school, everyone asked me what was wrong but I couldn’t tell them. However there was one person who I could tell. Rose was my best friend, I was thinking about asking to stay with her in her huge house and small family. So when I saw her in school, I told her exactly what happened.

“Why would she just leave like that,” Rose asked.

“I have the same question, and more,” I said.

“So do you think I could stay with you for a little before things get worked out,” I ask.

“I will tell my mom and ask her, I am sure we will have space for you,” she replied.

“Thank you so much Rose,” I said while giving her a hug.

It’s been two weeks now and I very much miss my mom. I want the amazing huge breakfasts and for some reason I missed the scoldings that she gave me after school. I feel a little bit better since I am with Rose and her family, but I dont know what’s going to happen. Rose’s mom has been trying to work things out. However, I wish my mom would come back. Nobody at school knows about my mom leaving except for some teachers, and they tried to comfort me but I don’t want it.

It’s Saturday morning and Rose and I are going to a waterpark. Since I had all of my clothes in a big pile on her floor, it was hard to find my bathing suit but I finally got it. It was kind of a long drive but I was relieved when I got there. I could smell the water and all I wanted to do was just run free on the rides. Rose and I were having so much fun and we even met this really cute five-year-old girl.

“Hi, what’s your name?” we asked her.

“Claire,” she said.

“What’s yours?” Claire asked us.

“I’m Claire and that’s Rose,” I said, surprised that we had the same name.

“Are you okay?” Claire asked thinking I’m sick because I’m weirded out.

“I will take you to my daddy and he will make you feel better,” she said. 

She takes my hand and walks me to a man sitting on one of the chairs. Claire tells her dad who we are meanwhile I’m wiping my eyes. When I look up, I look at the man and I am speechless.

“Claire, is that you?” he asked me.

I was in shock so I slowly say, “Dad?”

“Yeah I can’t believe it’s really you,” he said.

Since he left me and mom I am mad. “Where have you been?!!” I yelled.

“Is this your daughter? And why is her name Claire?!” I asked.

“I know you have a lot of questions and I will answer them, sit down,” he said.                                                                                  

Rose took Claire to go play in the water while I talked to my dad. He told me his story for about     20 minutes. So when I was six, my Dad met another woman named Charlotte while he and Mom were still married. He started to love my mom less and less everyday and wanted to marry Charlotte. By the time I was seven, he didn’t love my mom any more. The only reason he waited so long was because he still loved me very much. He didn’t know what to do so he ran away with Charlotte. He got married to her and they had a baby, he missed me so much that he named the baby Claire. He said him and Charlotte are divorced now and that he missed my mom. He wants to move back with me, Claire, my mom, and him. He said we could call Claire “Clara.” I tell him how my mom abandoned me and he tells me how we could reunite. Even though I am mad at him and still confused, I missed him so much that I agree to it. So I tell Rose and her mom what’s happening and thank them. We go home and when we get to our house, I call my mom but she doesn’t answer until the 5th try. I don’t even ask or say anything except, “You have to come home NOW!!” and hang up. We are hoping she comes so we can surprise her. About 2 hours later, we hear a knock on the door and my dad slowly opens it. As surprisingly as she left, she came back. She dropped all of her things and they hugged for like 10 minutes straight. She comes over to me and hugs me until I couldn’t breath. We explain to her what we want to do and she shockingly just agrees. Surprisingly I am not mad at them anymore because our family is united after all (in addition to little Clara).

The Cure


The year is 2055. However, the world is not exactly paradise. First things first, the world is infested with a plague. “The” plague. It started about 10 years ago in St. Louis, Missouri. Some scientists were experimenting with some nuclear material. Let’s just say it didn’t end well. The nuclear tank exploded and it spilled all over. It seeped into the ground, into the rivers, and spread radiation into the air. From there, things got a lot worse. Within a week, we learned that there were serious side effects. They included horrible coughs, weakness, joint failure, heart failure, mental effects including going crazy. For example, many have lost all ability to think for themselves, and the disease has taken over their thought process. Some of the infected decided that it’s easier to die than deal with these effects. Those were only some of the many different side effects terrorizing the world.

Chapter 1

My name is Logan Campbell. I am 16 years old. I live in St. Paul, Minnesota. I grew up worrying about the plague. I remember when I was 6 years old, hearing about it on the news. My younger sister, Olivia, was curled up next to me by the fireplace, crying. A lot of people cried that day.

The plague spread rapidly, infecting more people than any other disease ever had. Many people have died. We all wear masks at all times, unless in an uninfected area. After the plague, things changed. The rules became less and less important, and survival became the most important objective. To live another day. Though I am 16, I already have a job. I work for a steel factory, so I get free food and protection. It isn’t exactly fun, but it’s a good way to live.

I enter the factory, ready for another day of work, just like any normal day. I walk over to get my gear, and start the new day. I stop, and stand still for a moment. Something is wrong. There is no noise coming from the streets. I hear a click. I recognize that sound from tests that the factory sometimes runs. It’s a bomb. 

“Everybody get down!” I yell. 

The building erupts into a fiery explosion.

I hear faint noises. I lift my head. My vision is very fuzzy. “Are you okay, are you alright?” I hear. It is my mother. 

“W-what happened?” I ask. My head hurts a lot. I can’t remember much.

“The factory was bombed by some rebels that have gone crazy. The enforcement police took care of them,” my mom replies. “Are you sure that you’re okay?” 

“Yes,” I say. “How long have I been out?” I feel like it has been a week, but I know that is foolish.

“About a day and a half,” she says. “Do you need anything?” 

“No, I’d just like to rest for a bit.” 

I need to think.

Chapter 2

I sit up, and rub my eyes. What I see doesn’t make sense. I am in some kind of prison cell, all alone. It is entirely made of metal, with a small window that seems to be made of some kind of see-through material. I finally begin to panic. 

How did I get here? Have I done something wrong, I think to myself. 

Before I can come up with an explanation, the metal door slides open. A man in a black suit and tie walks in. He looks very official. 

“Who are you?” I demand. “Where am I?”

“All of these questions will be explained,” says the man. “Just follow me.”

“Why should I follow you, and why can’t you answer my questions right here?” I yell.

“Let me start by telling you my name. I am Aaron Gates. And don’t worry, we have already informed your families about why you are here. I run this organization, that most call ARROW.”

“This is ARROW?” I ask. I have heard of them from the factory. They supposedly are trying to find a place for all of the uninfected to live. Now that I actually know where I am, I think I can at least follow this man.

“Yes, this is ARROW,” Aaron says. “Now please follow me, and I will explain why you are here.”

Chapter 3

I enter a large, dark room. There are 5 chairs set up, and 4 of them are occupied. Aaron leads me to the fifth seat, and then walks to the front of the room. Next to me is a boy with dark brown hair, and glasses. There are 2 girls next to him, and another boy on the far chair. They all look around the same age as me. I look back at Aaron, and he starts talking. 

“There is a reason that we brought the five of you here, and it is very important not just to us, but to the world. You 5 have a special immunity in your brains, that no other living organism has. This causes you to be immune to the Plague.” 

All of us just sit there, stunned. 

Aaron continues. “We have studied you ever since you got your first blood test at the age of 5. When we tested the blood with the Plague disease, only your blood did not react to it. That is why we brought you here. Now you may be wondering why all of you are around the same age. Well, that is because when the Plague broke out, the government put a chip in everyone’s brain, to track your health. The 5 of you got your chip on the same day, in the same place, and only 5 people got their chip there that day.” 

I don’t remember getting my chip. All of the memories before it got erased. Because of this, the government gives you the chip at the age of 4, one year before the blood test. We all still knew how to talk, and how things work, but we had no memories.

The boy next to me speaks. “Why does our chip make us immune to the Plague, then?”

“The chips that you got were broken, and we didn’t know it at the time. The broken chip caused something in your brain to malfunction, and immunity to the Plague was one of the side effects.” 

For the second time in a couple of minutes, we all look stunned.

“I understand all of this, but what exactly are we here for?” I ask.

Aaron smiles. “I was about to get to that part,” he says.

Chapter 4

“Your job is very simple, and it will not require a lot of hard work on your part. We will first take a sample of your blood to study, and hopefully we can find a way to make some kind of a cure. After that, your job here is over.”

“Wow,” I say. “That was a lot less complicated than I thought it would be.”

“Yes indeed. For you, it will not take much effort. Now I think we should get the blood samples sooner rather than later, shall we?” Aaron asks.

Aaron leads us through a long, stainless steel corridor. We eventually reach a small room made entirely out of glass. Aaron opens the door by entering a 4 digit code. He then opens the door and ushers the 5 of us in. He leads us to a bench, where we all take our seats. 

“Now not to worry, the blood samples will not hurt very much. Just stay calm, and it will be over very quickly,” Aaron says. 

He picks up a needle, with the ARROW logo imprinted on it. He then walks in my direction. “Hold out your arm please,” Aaron asks. 

I hold out my arm, and prepare for the needle. I watch it enter my arm, and take my blood along with it. It stings, but doesn’t hurt that badly. Aaron opens a drawer, and pulls out a bandage. He wraps it around my arm over the cut.

After Aaron finishes getting everyone’s blood samples, we are led to our quarters. “You will be given dinner shortly, and when you are done, you can just leave it outside of your rooms. We will come around and collect it. Please try and get some sleep after dinner, and if you need anything, there will be a speaker on your wall. Click on the gray button, and you will be able to directly speak to me,” Aaron says to us. “There will be restrooms in your quarters, and don’t hesitate to ask us for anything. Does anyone have any questions?” 

No one answers. It has been a long day, and I am very tired. I enter my quarters to try and get some sleep.

Chapter 5

I awake to the sound of birds chirping. It is very calm and peaceful here. Nothing seems to be exploding at the moment. I enter the restroom, and see that we have been provided with a toothbrush and toothpaste. I brush my teeth, and then lay back down on the bed. After a few minutes, the intercom makes an announcement. “Breakfast will be served in 10 minutes in the common room. There will be signs there to direct you to it. We have some important news.”  

I walk over to the door. It is a heavy, steel door, and it looks kind of like it belongs on a refrigerator. I swing it open and head to breakfast.

I reach the common room with some difficulty, because it turns out that there are 2 common rooms. Once I get to the correct room, I set down to find a plate of eggs and toast waiting for me. This would be the best breakfast that I have had in awhile. Once everyone gets to the common room, Aaron comes out of his office. 

“This is a very special day for ARROW,” he says, “thanks to the 5 of you, we have successfully developed a cure for the Plague.”

“Are you serious?” one of the girls asks. “That’s amazing!” I think of my family back at home. ARROW actually found a cure! My family, and everyone else, would be safe from all of this pain and suffering.

“It really—” Aaron gets cut off by a rumbling noise. All of the windows in the entire complex shatter. A bunch of people in black uniforms climb in the building. I run away from the wreckage and hide behind a wall. The intruders break into the ARROW laboratory. Half of the workers and immunes are lying on the ground, either dead or unconscious. The other half are hiding like me. I run farther away from the intruders and find a large TV screen. I run as fast as I can and slide behind it. I watch and see the intruders come out of the laboratory. They are holding a syringe with a purple-ish color. 

The cure! They are stealing the cure! I should probably do something to stop them, but there was nothing that I could do about it. The man holding the syringe grabbed onto a rope, and was pulled up and out of the building. The remaining intruders scrambled to all of the walls along the complex, and seemed to be placing something on them. Bombs, I realized. They were placing bombs! I had to leave now. 

I ran as fast as I could, faster than I ever had before, and looked for some place to leave the complex. I found a hole made by one of the bombs and ran at it as fast as I could. I raced along the broken floors, my only focus on making it outside. I raced past bullets and exploding walls and finally made it out of the building. I ran and ran until I couldn’t see the complex. I had to get out of there, or I would be killed. I raced along the forest and sprung out into the cold, winter wind.

32 Degrees


As the sun dipped lower and lower beneath the January horizon beyond the bay, the nightlife of the neighborhood only increased in energy. Bar signs buzzed to life, illuminating the dark colored coats of the pedestrians polluting the sidewalks. Hot dog carts continued to hand out hot pretzels in the cold air and cars sat still in traffic, horns honking and yells escaping from passenger windows. I watched this scene go on from the safety of my warm bedroom. I wasn’t planning on leaving my house anytime soon. At least, not while it was still cold out. I couldn’t even leave by choice, anyway. Although it was a new year, a fresh start, I couldn’t forget what happened in December. What confined me to my house until the end of Christmas break, what confined me to myself.


“Let’s go, Ellie! We don’t have all day!” my brother yelled from the hallway, impatient. 

“Cool it! I’m putting my hat on,” I yelled back. That was a lie. I didn’t even have my coat on, and I wasn’t making an effort to. I stared at it, hanging in my closet. There was no way I was going with Jack. I hated his friends, and I hated sledding. I loved the cold, don’t get me wrong. Snow, wind, all of it. It’s the sledding that bugs me. Too much chance between injury and safety. But Mom said I had to go with Jack, and there’s no arguing with her during her free time. My mind wandered to all the mistaken times I had argued with her during her breaks from the hospital – some funny, some not. 

Ellie! Move it, please!” Jack screeched again, breaking me out of my trance.  I really didn’t feel like having to deal with an angry Mom, so I tugged my coat on and sped out into the hallway, crashing into the wall thanks to my slippery socks. Jack glared at me. 

“Smooth move. Speed it along, Ell, c’mon!” he exclaimed, drumming his fingers on the counter top. As I tied the laces of my boots, I gave him a dirty look. He knew how much his one particular pal, Lionel, annoyed me. The kid doesn’t have an off button, neither for his rapidly moving mouth or rapidly moving body. It never ends with him. But I thought of the steamy hot chocolate that would be waiting for me when we’d return a couple hours later, so I pulled on my gloves and walked out onto the street, a gust of wind hitting my face immediately. 

This is the aspect of the city that I absolutely adore. The scent of honey roasted peanuts, the yelling of crossing guards. As I speed walked to keep up with my overly ecstatic brother, I took the time to look at the city I loved, something I don’t do enough. There’s nothing that would make me want to give it up, ever. Not even the delays of the R train. 


“Lionel, are you kidding me?” I shouted from the bottom of the icy hill. I watched him attempt to shoot snowballs into the trash can, but hitting innocent park-goers instead who whipped around in annoyance. He turned his head, widening his eyes in a Bambi-like way. I couldn’t take this anymore. As soon as we got back home, which didn’t look like it would be anytime soon, I was going to ask Mom to contact poor Lionel’s mother about his ridiculousness. Although, I should phrase it to be more formal if I want any change to happen. 

“Ellie, he’s not doing anything!” Jack shouted back, a grin across his face. 

“Don’t play with me! You can and will get in trouble for this!” I warned, losing my wit. 

Jack’s merry gang erupted into laughter. I rolled my eyes and sat down on a bench. Thankfully, Lionel ceased his firing of snowballs and plopped onto a sled, challenging Jack and the group to a race. I thought nothing of it and continued to look at the scene around me. I was again filled with glee and gratitude to experience this majestic city, this majestic neighborhood. The rose colored awning of my favorite cafe, the green street signs. I became entranced, like with the coat, but loads more happy. I glanced over at the aspiring group of Evel Knievels every so often, still seeing it as innocuous. All good. 


It wasn’t until I heard a voice screech for help, for 911, that I saw the steady stream of red stain the icy snow. I leapt up and sprinted over, concerned. When I really freaked out was when I saw the familiar neon green of Lionel’s hat also soaked crimson, and his body twisted in his sled. I almost fainted, but when I saw Jack’s innocent expression covered in tears, I knew I had to do something. I found the nearest adult and called 911, explaining all I knew. If only I looked closer at the injury would I have known the deep cut in his head, if I only I had been more worried about why Lionel’s hat was more bloody than anything, if only I noticed Jack holding his head up. If only.

The red of the ambulance sirens combined with the red of Lionel’s body, the red of Jack’s coat, the red of the snow. The red of the storefronts across the street only added to the overstimulation of color that made my eyes glaze, barely noticing the urgent calls of the EMTs as they loaded Lionel onto the gurney. They asked for my parent’s number, but I didn’t pay attention. Jack, my little brother, who was two years my junior, who was celebrating his eleventh birthday in a week, had to answer. Guilt washed over me, making everything worse. I sat numbly in the back seat of our car as Mom raced to the hospital, crammed with Jack and his three other friends. I sank into a chair in the waiting room as Lionel’s dad rushed through the door. Everything was red. 


Here I was again, sitting on my bed, staring into the abyss. The only difference was the week that had passed. Yesterday was Jack’s birthday, but it was nothing that he should have received. He unwrapped his presents slow as ever, and broke down crying when he reached for Lionel’s gift wrapped in comic book pages. I sat next to him and rubbed his back, yet no emotions reached me. I was numb. Still. Today was the funeral. I’m surprised I’m allowed to leave the house, especially for such a solemn event that I had assumed an unfortunate role in. I didn’t want raging Mom to reappear, so I swung my closet door open and unhooked the black dress. I slipped it on and walked out into the hallway, no motivation in my step. I couldn’t get the red out of my mind. Everything around me was painted a shade of red. I was intoxicated by guilt, by sadness, by anger. 

The car drive to the church hung with pain in the air. My dad’s knuckles turned a ghostly shade of white as he gripped the steering wheel. My mom had her foot tapping quietly on the carpeted floor of the car, staring out into the gray morning of this day. Jack clutched his stuffed bear from his babyhood. It emerged from the depths of his dresser on only the most difficult days. Once again, guilt drowned me. The amount of times I’ve been told it wasn’t my fault are uncountable, mostly because I don’t agree. Sure, I hadn’t caused him to veer into a pole, sure I hadn’t told them it was time to leave. But I wasn’t watching them. I was too occupied in my own thoughts, in a daze. Selfish. Lonely. Red. 

The funeral service was empty. The pews were filled with elderly relatives of Lionel’s, with adult friends sitting down somberly, quietly crying. The most painful image was the youthful faces, the small bodies in oversized black suits, the glossy cheeks, the downcast eyes. The absence of fidgeting and laughter. The capita was well over 250, but all 250 souls were empty. My family sat with the other families that were friends with Lionel’s near the front. I joined them, but as soon as his brother, a highschool junior, made his way up to the podium, I cleared my throat and excused myself to the bathroom.

I stared into the dusty mirror, my hands leaning on the sink. I was looking at my reflection, but really my mind was tethered to the possibility of the dangerous “what if.” I swore to myself that I wouldn’t let myself slip down that rabbit hole when we first returned home after the hosp- no. I knew deep inside even thinking about the events that really happened would pull me down a dangerous path, so I let my eyes drift to the wooden cross that hung between the pair of mirrors. I touched it softly and stared at it for some time. Even though I didn’t believe in a greater power, I angrily thought, why Lionel? I didn’t appreciate his presence, that’s for sure. But I knew that he was always polite to my parents, that he comforted my brother after the death of his hamster, Carl, and that he always said hi to me, even though I returned it only once in a blue moon. He was a sweet kid, one with a promising future. The universe really messed up on this one. I rapped my knuckles on the wall once, just to see if I still existed in this dimension and that I hadn’t been sucked into a vacuum of cognitive eternity. I splashed cold water on my face, a double check that I was still there, and slowly returned to my seat in the fourth pew. 


As I mentioned earlier, I was sentenced to my room. At first by my parents, because although they don’t blame me for the accident, I was “irresponsible and should’ve had a closer eye watching,” which resulted in a short grounding. That punishment ended a few days ago. Now, my own subconscious kept me inside my four walls. 

Don’t lecture me about closure and moving on, yadayadayada. Yeah, yeah, I know. I still can’t escape the essence of guilt that’s decided to live in me. I want to gain closure, and my parents have told me that Lionel’s family is open to a discussion, but I can’t bring myself to leave my room. And I’ve tried, believe me, I’ve tried to convince myself that it’s ok. The voice in my head won’t retire its role. Escape is inevitable, but if I get to harbor in my room, the trade off isn’t horrible. 


Someone should tell me more often to not believe myself so strongly. Dad dragged me out of the house this morning to go grocery shopping. He called it father daughter bonding time. I smiled weakly at him, knowing he knows I called his bluff. I mean, I haven’t been attempting to hide my cave-like behaviors from my family. I get it that he knows what I’m doing. I get that he wants to help. 

We left our sweet, cozy home and walked into the gusty January street. Dad started talking about my uncle and how he just got engaged. I nodded along, but kept my eyes down to the sidewalk. I reaaaaally didn’t feel like being outside, especially with the park looming closely. We kept walking, and I noticed my dad stopped chattering. I looked at him, and he looked back and smiled a little smile. 

“Ell, you do know it’s not your fault,” he said, looking right into my eyes. 

I returned his gaze, and for the sake of my kind old dad, I responded.

“Thank you. I know.” Do I? 

He grinned, happy that he got words out of me. Dad then started humming our song. “Higher and Higher,” Eddie Money. It became our thing after he bought a record player and started bringing out his and Mom’s vinyls. He’d play Eddie Money every morning, and this song quickly became ours. I swear, my dad is an evil genius or something. How did he know that one tune would make me giggle?

“Alrighty, Ell. I see that you’re back to your old ways. Chop chop!” He laughed. 

“Spare me, Dad! It’s been a little bit since I’ve left the house,” I shot back jokingly.

We made our way to the co-op that my parents are members of, and the warm air blasted into my face. This was a place that I had ambivalent feelings about. Its location of an old horse stable attracted me, with its brick walls and large floor plan. However, every other family in the neighborhood is a member as well. The general population knows my dad somehow, and I was not in the mood for doing the whole “Wow, you’ve gotten so tall! How’s school? What sports are you playing?” Routine that greets me way too often. It was inevitable, though. Who was I kidding?

We wandered around the close-quartered aisles for a while in a pointless fashion. Another quirk about shopping with Dad: a reliable grocery list is far out of reality. At this point, we’d already encountered a couple of friends, and my cheeks still burned a fiery red. I really was not prepared to talk to people again. But of course I plastered an ingenuine smile and answered every question. It kind of irked me how happy these people were. I mean, of course everyone deserves a happy life, but they hadn’t experienced what I’ve had to. They carried on their days oblivious to the terrifying events I’ve been in. Frankly, it kind of sucks. I made it through, though, and somehow we made it to the checkout without any more interactions with grinning adults. To make up for being grumpy while we walked here, I asked my dad about his brother and his fiancée. He began talking about how he thought they rushed into it too fast, and really, I tried to pay attention. But the store was increasingly stuffy and I was paranoid of more intercepting conversation that became obstacles in my straightforward plan to get back home. So I ended up not listening. However, in my daze, a bright yellow flyer caught my eye, positioned on the community billboard above the cashier’s head. Words like “fairy lights” and “sponge cake” and “silver chairs” floated into my head, but I focused on the poster. It read “Death of a loved one? Hard time coping? Come to our weekly meetings at the 58th Street Public Library for a safe space to talk! Free to the public, all ages welcome!” I scoffed, and my dad turned to look at me as he pulled bills out of his wallet. 

“So you agree that the lace placemats are ludicrous?” he asked.

“What?” I exclaimed, suddenly jolted out of my trance.

“Lace placemats are unoriginal and tacky, don’t you think?” he repeated. 

“Oh! Oh, yes, yes, duh,” I said. 

Sometimes I don’t understand my dad. But that wasn’t on my mind as he handed me tote bags filled with groceries. The neon flyer was swirling around in my head. I find it hard to believe that anyone else in New York has witnessed a kid have blood pouring out of his head. Whatever. The sessions were probably filled with creeps. Not my scene whatsoever. 


Eventually, winter break ended. School was gearing up again. Jack and I went to a K-8 private school on 60th and Third Avenue, and in 6 hours I would be arriving at the front doors at 8:00 am. Guess who still didn’t feel like socializing? You’ve got it right, no doubt. I stared at my ceiling for hours, thinking of scenarios that could happen tomorrow in class. I could be pegged as the murder accomplice, or the pyschopath, or the- I don’t know. But I’m positive that I’ll be outcasted almost immediately. 

I spent the rest of my night thinking and tossing and turning. The terrible Ts. I spent most of my night on my bed, either lying down or sitting up. Whatever it was, I was quiet. 

I walked through the glass revolving doors of the Lincoln School at eight o’clock on the dot the next day. I felt a little better after I thought a ton last night. I didn’t make much progress, but something is better than nothing. I walked into my first period English class, head held up in the most everyday way. My gaze was met by the sympathetic eyes of my friends Georgia and Marley. I returned the gesture with a cocked head and I sat down next to Georgia. 

“Hi?” I said, unzipping my bag.

“Hey, Ellie,” they sung in a pitiful croon.

“How was your break, guys?” I asked neutrally, flipping open my book. Not only are they dramatic, but also tragically transparent. 

They stared at me through doe eyes. After some awkward silence, Marley nudged Georgia’s arm. 

“Stage one, I bet,” he whispered to her, maintaining sad and very weird eye contact with me. 

Georgia nodded, and pulled a pencil out and started drawing a tic-tac-toe grid in her notebook. That invited a wonderful quiet for a few minutes. 

“Wait, what?” Georgia said out of nowhere, dropping her pencil. 

“Oh my god, could you be any more obvious?!” Marley screeched, snapping his body to face her.

“I wouldn’t have to be if you weren’t so vague about stages or whatever!” she retorted, her pale cheeks flushing. 

I interjected before any fights could start. 

“Mar, chill. Georgia, he’s doing a terrible job of saying I’m in stage one of five of grief: denial,” I explained, rolling my eyes.

“Oh, ok. Well, he’s right then,” she responded, satisfied. 

“Thank you. And, Ell, you know that we’re, you know, here for you. That stuff,” Marley said in the most serious way I’ve ever heard. Georgia nodded.

“Thanks. I’m fine, though. Nothing along the lines of denial. Really,” I promised. Don’t get me wrong, I love these two to the ends of the world. But I don’t really think they’re going to be much help, and I don’t really want pity. I don’t really deserve it. 

They simultaneously scoffed. 

“I don’t believe that at all. For real, there’s nothing that you can talk to us about?” Marley pressed on, clasping his hands together. Luckily, Mr. Riley strutted in.

“Morning, class! Hope you’ve quickly transitioned back into the classroom, because we’re starting a new unit!” Mr. Riley announced as he picked up a piece of chalk and set down his messenger bag.

“For Pete’s sake,” Georgia grumbled. “Let us breathe!” 

It was reassuring to see her slide back into her cynical self. 

Mr. Riley ignored her remark. He scribbled the word “pajamas” on the black slate, and turned around to survey the class. “Well?” he prompted.

“TJ Maxx!” yelled out Charlie, a kid sitting in the back of the room. Mr. Riley clasped his hands. 

“Comedy gold there, Char. Any other contenders?” he asked with a grin.

I tentatively raised my hand. Mr Riley nodded, and Marley shook his head. “Denial!” he whisper screamed accusingly, leaning halfway onto my desk. 

“Comfort?” I suggested. Mr. Riley smiled.

“Good, good! Let’s get the ball rolling,” he exclaimed, writing the word “comfort” below “pajamas.” After a couple minutes, the board was filled with words like “childhood” and “warmth.”

“You guys are hitting the nail on the head! Good work. Now, I’ll tell you what I mean by pajamas,” he cheered.

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” was scrawled on the board, and Mr. Riley twirled around. 

Marley raised his hand confidently. “Isn’t this the book about a Nazi kid who becomes besties with a Jew in a concentration camp?”

Mr. Riley nodded. “Pretty much sums it up. With Marley’s summary, what initial thoughts do you have about the book? The central themes, characters?” 

I glanced around the room. I saw some palms go up, and I heard mentions of death. Snippets of pain, sentiment, innocence. I really wish I could get over myself, but – I felt tears pool in my eyes. I hung my head down, and I felt a kid named Matt who sits at the desk next to me poking my shoulder. “You good?” 

I turn to look at him. At that point, all I could think about was why do people ask that stupid question. My lip quivered and I snatched the hall pass. The distance between room 203 and the bathroom has never seemed longer. I shuddered as I slumped against a stall wall in the bathroom. I hugged my knees and sobbed. Minutes, or centuries, pass by as numb thoughts bounce around my brain. I finally heard a heavenly knock at the door. “Ellie?” Mr. Riley’s familiar voice echoed in the tiled room. 

“That’s me,” I respond. 

“Nice one. I know this is kind of a dumb question, but, uh, are you okay?” he asked softly.

I laughed as I stood up. “Sure.” I stared at the black and white speckled wall. 

“Hey, why don’t you come out of that stall?” he suggested. “I can’t really come in there, right?”

I walked out of the pale blue room and kept my head low as I greeted him quietly. 

“Why’d you run out? What happened?” He asked, looking down at me. 

“Can we sit?” I interjected. 

“Yeah, why not,” he agrees. We take a seat, side by side against the lockers. 

“Mr Riley, do-did you know Lionel, in fifth grade?” I start bluntly.

“Oh. Yeah. Is this what is, uh, affecting you?” He said back.

“To put it lightly, sure,” I sneer. “Sorry.”

“Nah, I get it. If you don’t mind my asking, how did you know about it? Or, rather, Lionel?”

“He was a friend of my little brother’s, and um, I was babysitting them, I guess? I mean, not technically, but. Yeah, I was,” I explained in one breath. I heaved a heavy sigh and turned to Mr Riley. He nodded, but didn’t open his mouth and didn’t turn to look at me.

“It was gruesome. Seriously. And I know I didn’t, well, kill him, but I feel like I played a bit too much of a role in his death. And it hurts. So damn bad. I wish I could go back in time,” I continue. Now, Mr Riley turned his head. 

“I don’t talk about this much,” he began, fiddling with the gold band on his ring finger. I instantly get the message. “But a couple years-3 years back,” he went on. “My beautifully perfect wife, Jessie, died in a car crash. She was heading home from her job at a newspaper outlet, doing her dream job. And uh, I was home, making dinner, and then the police showed up on my stoop. Worst day of my life by far.”

A tingling shoots up my spine. I meet his eye. 

“Whoa. That is awful, Mr Riley. I’m really sorry,” I say back, without realizing my hypocrisy in saying that apologetic phrase. In a filing cabinet in the corner of my mind, I have all the memories of people offering a plain “sorry.”

“I just want you to know that I understand how you feel. It’s hard. It is, but you’re not the only one out there who deals with it. I say that because I need you to know I’m here for you,” he concluded.

“Thank you. That means a lot. I’m not anywhere close to being ok about all of this, but I’d like to know how you dealt with…it,” I asked. 

“Loaded question, ha! It took a whole lot. Time, really. But I channeled my depressed energy into things I loved. My friends and family, books, teaching. Things that I had still, and things that made life worth it. It took a hell of a time, don’t be fooled,” Mr Riley replied. “Should we head back to class? I have a strong feeling this book could be a lot of help. Yeah?” He stood up, and reached out a hand. I took it. 


It’s May now. My class finished The Boy in the Striped Pajamas weeks and weeks ago, but I think this is my sixth cycle through it. I ended up using Mr Siney’s advice. To focus on the good in my life. That meant seeing an Eddie Money concert with my dad, and baking with my brother and my mom every Sunday afternoon. I created a PTSD/safe space club with Marley and Georgia, and Mr. Riley eagerly offered to be the club’s advisor. I started helping out at the garden at the park across the street and started walking my neighbor’s dog around the large perimeter of the park. 

And to explain my passion for my new favorite book: the book is about the innocence and boundless passion kids have, and who they are superficially doesn’t matter to their friends. I feel like Lionel seamlessly expressed that claim, that he loved my brother and loved life. The book has nestled into a meaningful place in my life, and time and again will I open its front cover, where I wrote a dedication to Lionel and my loved ones. The duration of this spring has educated me on the values of life, the values of love, and the values of strength. Oh, and I painted my bedroom door cherry red and planted Calypso tulips in my backyard.