Feeling Colors

Dear Blue

Dear Blue,

I hope you’re doing well.

But recently I heard you are doing quite bad.

I hope to meet today, by the morning bell.

So you can explain to me why you are feeling so sad.

Was it Red? Did he tease you again?

Or was it Yellow? Did he boast his intellect?

Did someone visit you at your den?

Please tell me, I have a suspect.

I think it was me!

I told you who I wanted you to be. 

I want you to know: that wasn’t me.

Feel better soon,

Your friend, Maroon.

Dear Maroon

Dear Maroon,

Thanks for checking in.

I hope you don’t think I’m mad.

Or in the loony bin.

When I say I’m not feeling bad. 

The truth is, I ran away from you.

Your constant blabbering of speech.

You say so many things I know aren’t true. 

So please, the next time you screech.

Don’t say what you want to be.

Because I’m really tired of you pretending to be like me.

I want you to know: you aren’t me.

I’m through with you,

See ya, Blue.

Dear Brown

Dear Brown, 

I have no idea what to do. 

The Rainbow Dance is coming up.

And I don’t know if I should ask Pink or Blue?

If they want to take my offer up.

To dance… with me. 

Pink is really cute. 

But Blue is beautiful as far as the eye can see.

It’s like two sides of my brain are in dispute.

So please, help me out.

So I no longer have to strut about,

Worrying about who to ask out.

I’ll promise I’ll pay,

For the advice, Gray.

Dear Gray

Dear Gray,

The choice is obvious.

I don’t mean to be mean.

But I’m just saying, you’re kind of oblivious.

I know exactly why you’d be keen.

I know I would.

The color is just perfect for you.

I promise, I know you should.

So don’t ask either Pink or Blue.

I’d very much like it if you asked me.

No pressure, but I can see,

That you clearly want to be with me.

So stop acting so down,

I’ll see you at the dance, Brown.


The world had progressed to develop many great things in technology — the self-writing pen, light-weight bulletproof clothing now available in regular day fashion, food production from oxygen, and now this: your very own “fear in a box” — an internet sensation so big, its producer, Mike Hentalburg, had overcome even Jeffrey Bezos. It was advertised only by influencers with the biggest follower counts. I heard they didn’t even get paid — it was all for the chance with the box. 

The box, I guess, was a way to identify your biggest fear, so you could later face and eliminate it. Apparently you just entered this kind of… void where you see it? I don’t know, I wasn’t really interested in all this stuff. Not until one day, when one of them showed up at my door.

I guess I had somehow signed myself up for some sort of giveaway, at least that’s what all the people with the cameras said. I didn’t know what to do with it. Did I really want to use this? How could there be so much in a normal-looking box? The packaging was kind of rough too. 

The thing is, I lived alone — no close friends, just neighbors. No coworkers too. I worked for myself. An introverted little writer, with no friends or immediate family. Seems sad. Well, I liked it, but it didn’t solve the problem of what I should do with this box.

Hmm. Might as well then, right? Could be fun, who knows. I opened the box, and I looked up to see my biggest obstacle. 

It was… myself.

“What? You have got to be kidding me. This is so cliche,” I groaned. 

“Who, me? Oh, I’m not your biggest obstacle,” Myself said with certainty. “That is.” Myself pointed somewhere else. I turned to see what he was pointing at, and I saw… a speck of light in the distance.

“So my biggest obstacle is a little bit of light off to nowhere?” I asked mockingly. Was this a joke? I thought I was going to find out my biggest obstacle, for it only to be a far-off light.

“Oh, no. That’s not it. It’s just really far away,” stated Myself, suddenly intensely eating yogurt. “Mmm, cherry.” He then looked at me in a what-are-you-still-doing-here type of way.

Great, now I had to do cardio.

I started running, wanting to make this quick. I had to stop a few times (chronic back pain).

I finally made it to the light. Why was this so hard?

“I have no idea,” Myself said, calm as always, answering my inner question (I guess he was myself). I still jumped back what seemed forty feet. Great, more running. This time Myself came along with me. “I didn’t mean to scare you like that. To be fair, I also dropped my yogurt from your reaction…” I kept running, ignoring Myself. I needed to find out what this light was.

As I got within fifteen feet of it, I had to go closer because I didn’t bring my glasses. At two feet, I started to make out what it was. I slowed to a light jog. 

“A computer?” I whispered to myself. “What?” I looked back at Myself, and he was looking back at me with the same lightly confused expression, eating what seemed to be a banana yogurt. 

I went to open the laptop a little more. I then squinted as the light from the laptop tried to blind me. Forcing myself, I reached for the brightness button. Thankfully with just one click it adjusted perfectly. 

“It’s just… a Google Doc,” I mumbled to myself, and I guess also to Myself. I looked closer — it only had one word. “And it’s the only tab or anything,” I added. Huh.

“It’s only the word ‘to,’” Myself said to me over my shoulder, intrigued. I furrowed my brow. “‘To’ as in T-O.” I looked at the keyboard and found the pad. 

“How can the word ‘to’ be your—I mean, our greatest obstacle?” I slowly moved the cursor towards the “to.” “How — wait.” I clicked the end of the “to.” “Wait, wait!” And I went to press the space button. “WAIT, NO!” 


My world imploded.


Just Like Clockwork

Anita didn’t gain consciousness until the inventor’s Abilene was already gone; crippled with grief, the inventor took to improving his clocks. He worked day and night. Anita saw glimpses of the dusty old room, littered with scraps of metal where he worked. She heard stories about Abilene, the inventor’s late wife, and as time went on, Anita took on the personality of Abilene. The inventor made Anita on his honeymoon. On the inside of her lid was a piece of glass webbed with cracks. It showed an image of a young man and woman in a loving embrace in front of the Eiffel Tower. When Abilene died, the inventor, who once explored the seven seas and could never stay in one place, shut himself up in his house at the top of the hill, away from civilization, away from the past. He told himself every day that it was for the best, and eventually, he believed it. He forgot about the things he loved.

Anita set out to change him, make him happier, just like Abilene did. She started out by whispering to the inventor while he slept. He thought he had finally found a way to talk to Abilene, and he was ecstatic. She told the inventor stories about him and Abilene, stories that he once told her as she was being built. She had made a connection. Anita carried on and got the inventor to send a message down to the docks to buy tickets on the next ship. He was going back to Paris. Anita had seen the picture of the couple every day, and she knew that she had to see the Eiffel Tower, and so did he. So the next morning as they left the house, she felt relieved she had accomplished her first mission; she was going to see the places Abilene cared about, the places the inventor cared about.

When they got aboard the ship, it was a whole new world. One full of chaos, yelling, and many people. Anita wasn’t used to so many people — the only sound she had heard for the past eleven years was the ticking. The inventor made his way to a beautiful stateroom, and there was a large porthole that looked out on Nantucket. As the ship slowly pulled away from the coast, a feeling in the bottom of Anita’s gears started to grow. It was nervousness. She had never felt this before, but she liked it. It was new, refreshing compared to the boredom she had felt so far. The ship was far from the coast now, and Anita turned her attention to the inventor. He unpacked one of his bags, and to Anita’s dismay, it was full of metal scraps. Not a stitch of clothing. He had buried himself too deep in his work. Anita took this on as her next stage in the mission: the inventor needed compassion, other people, although this could wait until France.

The boat was lush with life. A whole new social scene that Anita had to become a part of. But while at the beginning it was magical and beautiful, the boat became a mess. After four days on the sea, it became wet and smelly. Children screamed with glee and ran about the deck as frantic parents ran after them and sailors skidded and jumped out of the children’s path. People were less enchanted by the sea as they were at the beginning of the journey. To make matters worse, the only view Anita got anymore from the porthole was people constantly leaning over the side of the boat, so green you could see it in their ears. Anita longed for the rose gardens back at home, the peacefulness of just her and the clocks. It was lonely, but it was controlled. But she made up her mind, there was no going back.

Meanwhile the inventor was still tinkering with scraps of metal. He didn’t know what to do with himself; he had Abilene talking to him back at home, but ever since he had gotten on the ship, he hadn’t heard a peep. What if he was going crazy?! He couldn’t go back to France, it would be too painful. As the boat finally moored on the docks of France, Anita and the inventor stepped off the ship with completely different feelings from each other. Anita was ecstatic but her nervousness was growing, while the inventor was plotting, plotting a way to go home. He had had enough of traveling and ghosts.

They were ushered off the boat and onto the mainland, where the inventor called for a carriage. The carriage was pulled by two beautiful black horses, and Anita was mesmerized. The horses’ coats were shiny and smooth. If Anita’s hands could come off her face, she would stroke them. But the inventor was unimpressed; he just climbed into the carriage and told them to go to the Hotel de Crillon. When Anita saw the horses, she was taken aback, so you can imagine how she was when she saw the Eiffel Tower. The glass on her face fogged up, and the cracks spread, almost impairing her vision. The inventor winced and looked down at his hand where a shred of glass had pricked him, and where Anita lay.

She tried to hold back her feelings, but she was too proud of herself. The tears in the inventor’s eyes told her enough, and as the carriage turned around the corner away from the Eiffel Tower, she sighed. But when Anita opened her eyes, she almost screamed. The inventor was looking at her, really looking at her. He had heard her. Anita went stiff and started to pray under her breath, and the inventor’s eyes widened. He knew it, he was going mad. Anita fumbled over her words, trying to explain herself, getting louder and louder. The chauffeur turned around and asked the inventor who he was talking to. The inventor’s ears went red and he quickly cast his head down.

“Pull over,” the inventor grumbled, “now.” Once the inventor was out and the carriage had left once more to take his luggage to the hotel, he turned back to her. “You can talk.”
For the first time in her life, the chatterbox clock was silent, but not for long. “You can hear me?” Anita’s breath got caught in her gears, making her voice sound deep and gruff.

“Yes, apparently everyone can. I’m guessing you’re the Abilene impersonator. That is why we are here in France. But I don’t understand why or how. Let’s go somewhere private.” They moved across the plaza and into the shade of a tree out of earshot and sight from people walking by.

“I am sorry for tricking you. Your life is just so sad, all your friends left you when you moved up the hill, and you just talk to your clocks, and they don’t talk back. Plus, you used to have an interesting life full of adventure. Yes, I know you are grieving, but you need to get back into the world… ” Anita stopped rambling on when she noticed the inventor’s face. He looked sad, embarrassed. She couldn’t have felt more terrible about herself.

“I have a life,” the inventor said quietly. “I talked to the milkman just last week. Plus, I didn’t know the clocks could hear me. There is nothing for me to do. My only plan of what to do when I got older was derailed when she died.” His words slowly died off, and he looked into the distance, blinking, trying to get rid of his tears. Neither of them expected the trip to go this way, and it was very unsettling. An awkward silence fell upon them, and they just walked. The inventor held Anita by her chain instead of her base like usual, and she tried to stay as still as possible. Finally, after a couple of minutes that felt like hours, they arrived at the hotel.

The Hotel de Crillon was rich with history, and the life around it was still lively and diverse. Even though it was everything Anita had ever dreamed of, she couldn’t help but feel detached from the whole experience. Like she was watching it from afar. The walk to the hotel confused Anita, made her question who she actually was and if this was what she wanted. She wasn’t Abilene, she couldn’t mend the inventor, make him happy, give him purpose. But without Abilene and her mission, who was she?

Meanwhile, the inventor was having his own midlife crisis. He couldn’t help but feel tricked, but he felt like he had been deceived. The whole charade made him feel like Abilene was there again, helping him, but he knew it was fake. The feelings that he buried alongside Abilene rose to the surface — grief, loss, love. He couldn’t give up the opportunity to get closure, to forgive, forget, and move on. As Anita lost her sense of self, the inventor found his, and as he strode out of the hotel room for the first time in eleven years, he didn’t feel lost.

Anita sat on the dresser, forgotten. The inventor had left her there. She tried to think on the bright side. She had made him happy, he had to forgive her sooner or later. Anita’s day was slow, agonizingly slow; the only interesting thing that had happened all day was the luggage being brought up. Anita tried not to worry about the inventor, but when he walked through the door, she felt more emotions than she ever had before. First she felt relief, but anger burst through her before she could even stop herself.

“Where were you?” she screamed. The inventor slowly turned around with a small bag in his hand.

“Buying some accessories, would you like to see?” He slowly pulled out a bracelet and turned it to face Anita. “It’s a wrist watch, they are new in fashion. I needed an upgrade, my old watch was… faulty.”
Anita was furious. She hadn’t changed, he just started to pay attention, and he was going to replace her. The inventor just chuckled to himself and slowly walked towards Anita. He slowly picked her up and dropped her in the hotel trash.

“I have a life, unlike you, and I intend on living it without you,” he said, stalking back to his bed and strapping the monstrosity he called a “watch” on his wrist. Anita tried to stay awake and watch the inventor to make sure he wouldn’t leave again, but once again a new feeling crept up on her: tiredness.

Anita missed the days where she was simply Anita, when she couldn’t feel, couldn’t get hurt. When Anita finally woke up, she was all alone, just as she had suspected and prophesized. Someone knocked on the door, and Anita’s gears skipped a notch.

“Room service!” A maid around the same age as the inventor walked into the room cautiously and looked around. When she was positive no one was home, she quickly made the bed and grabbed the trashcan where Anita lay. The maid looked into the basket and saw Anita and took her out carefully, holding Anita so she wouldn’t get cut by the cracked glass. Anita saw her chance and took it.

“Hello! I’m Anita, and I need your help. Who are you?” The maid screamed and flung Anita across the room. As Anita collided into the wall, she felt the remaining glass shatter and fall off in pieces. “Well, that was rude.”

“Oh my gosh! I am so sorry.” The maid ran over and knelt down to hold Anita. “What are you?” She slowly turned Anita over and opened the lid. Glass sand fell out onto her apron, but she was more taken by the image on Anita’s lid. “Frederic?”

“Who? Do you mean the inventor? Do you know him? Can you take me to him? He is probably at the Eiffel Tower, please… ” Anita was stumbling, words were pouring off her tongue faster than she could think of them. The maid didn’t respond; she just gathered her skirts and pocketed Anita and walked out the room, shutting the door behind her. Together, they practically ran to the Eiffel Tower. They crossed across the Seine, and eventually they arrived.

The inventor wasn’t that hard to spot. He sat on a bench staring at a sketchpad, a charcoal pencil held limply in his hand like an extension of his hand. He was so completely lost in his art that when the maid ran up to him, he didn’t notice. The maid tapped him on the shoulder and when he looked up, recognition flooded his eyes.

“Jeanne.” He quickly stood up, and his papers slowly fell to the ground. He was so caught up in the moment, a flash from the past. Anita, on the other hand, wasn’t as taken by the moment. While she was happy about the inventor, she was fixated by the sketches that lay on the dusty road. They pictured a beautiful statue with her arm raised above her head holding a torch. The inventor had sketched a name at the top of the paper: Lady Liberty. Anita longed for it. She always knew there was more meant for her, she was destined for something more, this was it.

Fredric and Jeanne sat on the bench, hands clasped together as they reminisced about when they were young. When they were in their teens, they fell in love, but it didn’t work out. The inventor fell right back in love. The hole that had eaten away at his heart was filled. He felt complete, truly happy.


After a couple years of traveling the world with Jeanne, the inventor proposed, and they moved back to Nantucket where they lived out the rest of their lives as key members of the community, happily in love. Anita got her wish and was built into the Statue of Liberty, where she welcomed people from all over the world into America, and even as hundreds of years passed, she remained a key symbol of freedom and opportunity. As for me, I remained where I had been since the beginning of the story, and where I would stay forever, part of something bigger, no longer the Abilene of this story. But I will always love him, which is why I have been watching my dear husband fall in love, and the impersonator who I can’t help but feel indebted to for making the love of my life happy once more.

Dear Little Ladybug

Editor’s Note: Content warning — Suicide


Dear little ladybug, 

By the time you read this, I will be gone. I didn’t mean to leave you. I love you, but I won’t be coming back.




Friend was always going to go this way. I mean, if she was going to go at all. At least she had left a note. She probably wasn’t going to leave one, but then maybe she thought of me, and maybe that tempted her to write one more thing.

But not suicide? When I found this note taped to my window as I woke up this morning, I thought the worst had happened. I mean, as soon as I had read it, I ran the ten blocks down to her house as fast as my legs would carry me. My short curls flew behind me, and I nearly fell on my face running up the four crooked steps to her door. I had run up those steps my whole life, and I’m sure I have tripped over those rotting boards countless times. But this time, it felt like it wasn’t me. Like I was out of my own body. Almost like I was watching a stranger run up the steps to her friend’s house, just to find that she had killed herself.

Robson came to the door, as usual. He appeared in his normal disheveled state. His hair was in its state of permanent messiness and his tank top was untucked from his dirty jeans. He probably had just woken up. I knew I hadn’t woken him up, because if I had by knocking on the door, he sure as hell wouldn’t have gotten out of bed for that. But he would have recognized by now how I knocked on the door, and he usually didn’t answer the door for anyone else other than me and Friend.

He took a drag on his cigarette and blew the smoke in my face. Ugh. I didn’t check the time before I ran out of the house, but I knew it was too early in the morning to be smoking that shit. 

“What are you wearing?” he asked, as he looked me up and down with an expression of amusement on his face. 

I must have been a sight. I wanted to get over to Friend’s house as soon as I could, so I didn’t even change. I was still wearing my feathery nightdress, and I had squashed my feet into my rain boots that were lying next to my bed on the floor. I was wearing an old jacket that had actually been Robson’s at one point, but eventually wound up with me when Friend didn’t want it anymore. 

“Is Tuesday awake?” I asked impatiently. 

“You know she wakes up at the crack of dawn. That little shit made such a racket going out the back I’m surprised it didn’t wake you up.” 

That’s when I realized how she had left. She didn’t want anyone to know, so she didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. It was probably just our secret. Friend and I had a lot of secrets that were just for us, and I knew when Friend wanted to have a secret kept. Didn’t mean I ever knew why, though. 

“Sorry, umm,” I fumbled, trying to come up with a lie. The thoughts and questions swirling around in my head weren’t letting any coherent sentences come out of my mouth. “I just wanted to give this back to her.” I took off my jacket and handed it to him. 

“I haven’t seen this thing in a while,” he said almost wistfully. “Why are you giving it back?” 

“I just thought she might want it.” My little lie was coming apart. 

“What’s actually happening, bug?” he tilted his head and looked at me. Not too many people called me “bug.” He was one of the few. As far as he was concerned, that was my actual name. I mean, he knew my given name. But he never used it. 

“Just take the jacket.”

He rolled his eyes, took a drag from his cigarette, and closed the door. I shakily sat down on the steps, even though they were still wet from last night’s rain. Where did she go? My mind continued spinning. She didn’t tell anyone, she just left. We had both gone through our fair share in life, but what in her finally snapped? What made her go? But I knew one thing. Tuesday Adelson didn’t kill herself. She couldn’t have.  


I walked back up the street to my house, slowly. Stepping in all the puddles I saw. It had started to rain lightly, wetting my face and hair. The early morning sunshine cast its light onto my bare, freckled arms. It was raining, but it wasn’t overcast. That was my favorite weather. Sun showers. No one was outside yet except for one or two cars driving down the street.

I tried to clear my mind, but how could I? How could I calm my thoughts when every spot on those streets had times spent with Friend? Times spent with Tuesday. Now that she was gone, all the memories of her were flooding my head all at once. I mean, it would have been one thing for me to have just found out that she had left. Robson probably would have come to tell me or asked me if I knew where she was. But it was just that she left a note. She confirmed it herself that she wouldn’t come back. And I was the only one who knew. It hurt a little more this way. A lot of things had hurt both of us, and it was all good and well for her to run away from it. But then she left me with it. Damn her.

I stopped walking and looked down at the small handprints on the sidewalk. This was where I first met Friend. I walked by these handprints every day, but I never stopped to think about the past. To go back in time. It was raining harder now, but I still sat down on the wet sidewalk in front of the hollow hand prints. My hands were so much bigger than those prints were. I couldn’t remember life before Tuesday, but I remembered the day I met her so vividly. 

I think I must have been four or five. It was raining just like it was now. The sun was out, but it was pouring. I remember running out the back door of my house. This part is a bit more hazy, almost like a dream. I mean, you would probably think you were dreaming if you found your older sister hanging in the basement. I didn’t know what was happening — I was only four, after all. I just remember being scared. And running out into the crying sun. I hid behind a big tree where I sat for hours in the rain. I didn’t cry. I just watched the little ladybugs march along in the wet grass. They didn’t care about the rain. They were just enjoying the golden glow before the sun was going to set. I was sitting there for so long. They must have thought I was a part of the grass and the trees and the flowers littered around my feet. If I had stayed there forever, flowers might start to grow and blossom up through my skin. And the grass would grow up, entangling with my arms and legs, rooting me to the ground. And I would have remained a little girl, frozen in time and in the earth. I may have stayed there forever.

If it weren’t for Tuesday. I remember hearing yelling coming from a block or two down. And then I saw her. She was spinning around in the middle of the road with flowers and grass tangled in her hair. But she kept looking back over her shoulder at where the yelling was coming from. Almost like she was trying to ignore it or hide from it somehow. She kept getting closer and closer to me, when all of a sudden, she tripped and fell on the grass. I watched as she slowly picked herself up and looked at her hands. I finally decided to pipe up. 

“Are you okay?” I asked in my timid voice. 

She jumped at the sound of my voice. I think I had startled her. But she took a moment to carefully look at me. 

“Why are you hiding?” 

I didn’t really fully realize I was hiding until she asked me that. I didn’t know how to answer that question, so I just shrugged my shoulders. She looked at me a little longer, so I looked at her. I remember first noticing her golden hair glowing in the light and her hazel green eyes that have not aged with time, even today. You can still see a child’s soul in those green eyes now. Then I remember she reached out her hand, the hand that was scraped and bloody from her fall. I took it, and she pulled me out of the shadow of the tree. I still had ladybugs crawling on my arms, and by now the rain had stopped, but I was still soaked to the skin. 

“Little, little ladybugs,” Tuesday started singing lightly to herself. “Little lady…” 

She sort of trailed off there. She was in a daze. Being four, I didn’t really think there was anything unusual about her behavior. Kids were supposed to play and act like they’re in a dream. I couldn’t believe I even remembered this much about meeting Tuesday, but the whole memory still felt like a hazy dream anyway. We sat there for a little while in silence, just being in each other’s company. Watching her golden hair, watching the ladybugs on my hands, seeing the scrapes on hers, watching the sun sink further into the sky. The day my sister killed herself was beautiful. Maybe that’s why it felt like a dream. Eventually Tuesday broke the silence. 

“Come with me.” 

She stood up and walked over to the sidewalk and sat down on the edge of the grass. I stood up, feeling the ladybugs fly off me when I stood. I sat down next to her and looked at her, waiting for her to say something, which she eventually did. 

“If you put your hands on the sidewalk, they’ll stay there forever.” 

The sidewalk in front of us had just been filled in. The cement was still wet. I remember putting our small, little hands out on the sun-kissed sidewalk. The wet cement felt weird, but we just sat there together. Sitting in silence as we made our mark on our block. The blood on her little hands mixed with the wet cement. We would never stop to look at those handprints. But they were always there. I don’t remember much of anything else about that day or the days after. I don’t remember the funeral; I don’t remember my mom’s endless tears; I don’t remember meeting my dad at that funeral; I don’t remember when my grandmother sank into her own grief. I know it all happened. I just simply don’t remember. All I remember is walking back into the house, shaking from the cold of the rain. I remember my mom wrapping her arms around my little body and crying into me, as if she were a child. I just remember saying in my little baby voice, “I found a friend.” 

And now where is she? How will I find her again? 

The Senseless Request

“I find a pleasing humor in that fruit bowl. And the hanging lantern. And the — what is that vast… thing… over there?”

The juvenile servant rushed to the rich man’s side. “It is the ocean. Quite beautiful, if I may say?” 

The rich man squinted his eyes, then clenched his fists, resisting the impending irritation. “Well, it was not there yesterday.”

“It was, you just did not perceive its presence.” 

The rich man paced back and forth to the patio door, then to the fence overlooking the ravine. He raised a hand to the sky, feeling the breeze of the ocean against his hand. Bringing it down to his eyeline, he furrowed his eyebrows.

“How greedy of it to consume so much land! I do not like it. Have it removed by sun up tomorrow.” 

The servant sighed, then hesitantly nodded, brushing his fingers against the darkening sky. The rich man turned and left for the house without another word. The servant remained, his wide, nervous eyes motionless. He perched on the wooden rail of the fence and dangled his legs off into the ravine. The only thought in his mind was, How will I go about this? Will I be sent home if I do not follow through with his request?

The servant finally gathered the courage to reenter the home. These long hallways are beginning to nauseate me, he thought as he made his way to the dining room. 

The rich man finished his meal, enjoyed the comforting glow of his fireplace, then made his way to a door in the back of his home. As he slept in his palatial bedroom without a single fret, the young servant crept out of his corridor, pulled on a long jacket and fedora, made his way outside to embark on his journey, and alas, found the sun resting beneath the horizon. 

“Ma’am! Good morning. You seem to have overslept.” 

The sun flicked her eyes open. “I never oversleep! Read me the time, please!”

The servant peeked at his watch, and read a bold 11:00 PM. “It is 11:00 AM,” the servant lied.

“Well, thank you very much. I will begin getting ready so as to not set the entire world into a state of panic. Whatever can I do to repay you?” the sun asked, trembling her fingers as she carefully brushed her golden locks. 

“Well, there is one thing. Would it be too much trouble for you to evaporate the Pacific Ocean?” 

The sun tilted her head in confusion as she tugged a yellow sundress over her head and fixed a sunhat on her head.

“There is an odd request, if I’ve ever heard one! But of course, anything for you.”

The sun guided the servant to the horizon door as she busily attached her earrings and jewelry. Thanking him for coming, she rushed up into the sky as swiftly as possible. Better late than never! she blithely thought.

The servant returned to the rich man’s home and let his eyelids drop as he rested on his metal-wired bed. The sun ascended the sky and took her place next to the moon.

“Thank you for covering the sky for me. I seem to have overslept,” the sun said, graciously shaking the moon’s hand.

The moon had a suspicious look in her eyes. “Is it really 6:30 already?” the moon interrogated. 

“11:00! If you can believe that!” the sun blurted.

The very much confused (but naive) moon bowed her head and descended down the sky below the horizon. 

The rich man awoke at 7:14 AM and consumed his usual breakfast of grilled tomatoes and mushrooms. The young servant eagerly stood in the doorway, concealing the thrilled expression on his face. 

“What is it? Why are you staring?” the man demanded crossly. 

“Have you forgotten? Come take a look outside!”

The man pushed his stool back and followed his servant out to the patio.

“The ocean. Where has it gone? What have you done with it?” the man shrieked shrilly.

“You requested its removal. Remember? Do you?” A smile slowly faded away.

“Look at the land it has left! How barren! Where is the life? The joy? Bring it back now!”

“But I cannot… The sun has taken it. I am afraid it will not return.”

As the days flew by and the sun and moon rose at peculiar times, people in the world were split. A message from God? A punishment from Satan? The Earth falling off its axis? Nobody knew why but some chose to pay no attention. The rich man, for one, did not question the sun and the moon. 

The once beautiful, thriving ocean had gone away, and the rich man began to absorb his surroundings and enjoy every charming aspect of it. Although he consumed his nightly tea while the sun still beamed and enjoyed his usual breakfast as the moon patiently shimmered in the sky, the man could not complain. He made it his moral obligation to not question anything. Not to complain, not a single word. Everything is just heavenly. Oh, just heavenly!

“Look at the ivy growing from the trellis! And the flowers growing from the cracks in the dirt! Oh, how I love the way the aged wood of the railing feels against my fingers and how the clement air touches my face ever so gently! Don’t you just love it?” the rich man howled. “Well, now I will not act on my impulses. There is just too much beauty in everything to want to rid anything!”

The servant just nodded, a broken smile pasted across his face.

Mission Ten

In a world of 7.8 billion people, 5 nonillion germs exist. And many are yet to be discovered. And one was eradicated due to the brave actions of I. Cannabreeve and Jack Hesber. Or so they thought. A year ago they had died trying to subdue a disease; no one knew what, but half a year later they had revived, throwing a mysterious orb to one side. But now, they were all going to be destroyed. Destroyed!

“Doomsday in 10 days, 10 hours, and 10 minutes,” the loudspeaker in the town square announced, causing the 101st flurry of panic that day. 

“Nooooo! Doomsday is one minute closer now!” 

“God save us!” 

“Mummy, I’m scared!” 

Half of the population was at home. No one went to work now. People were buying as much food as they could so they could hunker down at home and eat and play as much as they could before they died, due to a recent collision of the Andromeda Galaxy with a new galaxy called Poseidon TTR-67. This had caused a massive speed-up in the speed of the Andromeda Galaxy, making it at least a billion times faster than before, causing it to arrive 3499999996.5 years ahead of scientists’ original predictions. What was worse was that, due to the massive speed-up, the humongous black hole at the centre had somehow been thrown to one side. It was a bit like a ball on a string that has been swung around a lot of times (centrifugal force). The only thing was that IT WAS THROWN TO THE SIDE THAT IS FACING EARTH. Scientists had predicted that the solar system, along with Earth, would enter its event horizon in ten days, and they had set up a loudspeaker in every city to let the world know. 

I. Cannabreeve, after his revival, trained to be a kung fu master and he had an awful lot of chi, an important life force, and determination in him, causing him to reach that position in 3 years. Meanwhile, Jack Hesber dreamt of E.A.R.T.H. (Earth Anonymous Risk Team Help force) again. “You and I. Cannabreeve have to go through the black hole and collect all ten of The Objects and use them to save the world. You will also need ten other people to help you. Their names are Planeton Block, IT specialist, Adventurista Hey, ex-pilot, Spacerista Hey (twins), writer, Andromedarren Collide, clothing manufacturer, Saverbo Earth, paper manufacturer, Blacn Hole, theoretical physicist, Vacuumeta Travel, astronomer, Hugo Weight, 3-time weight-lifting world champion, Timadeto Ishiguto, watch-maker and horologist, and Drawstuff Air, world-famous artist. You will need objects to collect objects. You may have the dust blower. I shall give you the ability to wish for anything and it will come true. But beware, you cannot use it more than three times, so use it wisely. Now go. You will find them in the town square. When the day comes, the twelve of you must jump into the black hole (called Quiescent) willingly with no doubts or you shall be spaghettified (meaning that when you jump into a black hole, you will be stretched out until you pop) and killed. This is Mission TEN. Now go.” 

Jack Hesber woke up to find that it was already morning. He rushed out of bed and hurriedly dashed to the town square. There, he found I. Cannabreeve standing next to a bunch of people, one that looked humongous and three that just looked plain weak. “Huh. Took you a long time. This E.A.T.E.R. thingummy just told us to go to the town square and whaddayaknow, boom! The huge dude just bumped into me, and after that we fell flat on the face and these bros just fell onto us! Is that crazy or what?” 

“It is E.A.R.T.H.!” one of the weak people corrected, looking exasperated. 

“Jumping into a black hole, eh? To not be spaghettified, and instead get teleported away, there is only one explanation. That black hole must be a wormhole, but that exit can only be accessed by tremendous energy! Which is magic! Yes! To have so many people dreaming of the same thing is already a miracle, and to open the wormhole in the black hole, it must be magic! After all, magic is just science we don’t understand yet! Maybe it is just another form of energy!” 

“Oh yes, I concur, but maybe they don’t need that much energy. If your hypothesis is correct, then magic is a form of energy. The E.A.R.T.H. council might just have to draw energy from the black hole! Quiescent has plenty to spare. It is 100 times bigger than the sun, far bigger than Sagittarius A*, and the amount of Hawking radiation and leaked energy must be amazing!” two of the weak people suggested, looking dead brainy. 

“We don’t even know each other’s names! Wait, we do, but we don’t know who is who. So, can we get that straightened out first?” Jack cut in, slightly annoyed that the only thing he understood from Blacn and Vaccumeta’s lecture was that this black hole was very big. 

One by one they introduced themselves. I. Cannabreeve’s self-introduction was the most exaggerated; he made sure the whole town square could hear him. “I am Inston Cannabreeve, kung fu master!” He paused for added effect, waiting for the applause that never came, so he continued, convinced that they were secretly impressed, “And we, the I. Cannabreeve team, shall jump into Quiescent 5 days from now!” 

He was met with people shouting, “No! You will be killed! Early! It is better to die later than to die early! What are you thinking?” 

“But we won’t get killed!” I. Cannabreeve argued, looking confused. I. Cannnabreeve might have become a kung fu master, but he definitely had not gained any common sense. Jack had enough sense to cover I. Cannabreeve’s mouth before he leaked out anything else, but it was still too late. 

There was one person in the crowd who had heard that they would not be killed, and he happened to be very power hungry, by the name of Hack Ohm, who was extremely good at electronics. He thought, I’ll jump in with them, and then infect them with the disease, and then go out again, and make the people think that only I can survive a black hole! And then they will all want to learn how to survive a black hole and I’ll tell them something made up and they will kill themselves. I am going to die in ten days anyway. At least I should live out my last five days as the king of the world. Oh, this is such a great plan. I’m surprised by my own genius!

However, Hack Ohm had a few associates, whom he could not help but boast to. “Yes, I am clever, aren’t I?” Hack Ohm finally concluded his long-winded explanation with what he thought was flair, but was actually the throw of a toothpick into a bin, missing, and then flying back at him. He assured them, “Don’t worry, I’ll give you a fair share of the loot once I am done with them. OW! That hurts!” he said as the toothpick struck home in his thin arm. And one of them thought that maybe, just maybe, he could finally overthrow Hack Ohm after working for him for 10 years. 

5 days later, Jack met up with the others in spacesuits that Vaccumeta had managed to “borrow” from his lab, and, ignoring the cries of the people, they braced themselves and jumped, only to disappointingly land on the ground again. “Wait, how are we going to get there?” 

“Let me try!” I. Cannabreeve shouted, rolling up his sleeves, not in the least undaunted. He grabbed a nearby stick and took a few steps backward and took a running leap, sticking the stick into the ground with the expertise of a pole vaulter, but chickening out just as he was about to fly, and ended up standing on one leg at the top of the pole, looking much more like a kung fu master now. Adventurista could not help but give the stick a little nudge, attempting to make I. Cannabreeve fall, but I. Cannabreeve’s training had not gone to waste, thank god, and he leapt onto the nearby roof 8 metres away. 

Timadeta suggested, “Maybe you are supposed to use one of the wishes now?” 

Jack thought, Ok, here goes. Please teleport us to the event horizon of the black hole with all our things, like the stick and the dust blower and the spacesuits

Sure enough, the next instant, they were floating in the vast world of endless space. But, in their excitement, they did not realise that they had two stowaways. At the last moment, Hack Ohm had put a finger on Jack’s spacesuit, and Plane Mitchell had put his thumb on Hack Ohm’s spacesuit, and they were all teleported to space along with the others. But since Plane Mitchell was attached to Hack Ohm instead of directly to Jack, the connection was weaker and the teleportation caused a huge strain on his body and caused a cell mutation that turned him into a flying expert and a very, very arrogant person. 

A minute later, Spacerista started to feel a bit stretched out, and he looked down and screamed. “AAAAAH! I’m spaghetti!”  However, the radio transmitter was affected too and all the others heard was “Ha! I spat greatly!” The others were starting to feel the strain too. Slowly, they started to get taller and taller. Drawstuff was now two metres tall… 2.5 metres… 3 metres… 5 metres… but just as they were about to go “pop!” there was a brilliant flash of light and then they shrunk back to their original size and the black hole, like the mouth of a monster, rushed up to swallow them. They rushed through the endless black tunnel and then suddenly a brilliant flash of colour struck each of them like lightning, and they felt squeezed, so tight they could not breathe… and they were out! 

They were wearing their normal clothes again and the stick was lying on the ground. Thump! Boom! They heard the rustle of a bush and a little elk made of licorice emerged, eating the gumball berries growing on a candy cane bush. Seizing this chance, Hack and Plane made a plan and split up. Hack had realized they had no way to go back so they had to develop a new plan. Which meant splitting up.

“Whoa!” Andromedarren exclaimed in surprise. Blacn and Vaccumeta had already got out their scientific equipment that they had snuck into a rucksack and were analyzing all the things they could. 

“This world’s atmosphere is similar to Earth. Oh, if we make it out alive, I am definitely going to bring a sample of the dirt back!” Vaccumeta exclaimed. 

Saverbo and Planeton rushed around exploring. “Look! Hamburger trees! Grass fries! Pizza flowers! Chip leaves! Baguette twigs! Sandwich bushes!” 

Jack joined them and gorged everything in sight. Every plant was different and every bite was delicious. When he was thirsty, he would go to a nearby stream and drink the soda water that ran through, hoping to catch some barbecued fish to go along with it. The lamb and beef were easier to catch. They were made of lamb chops and steak and barbeque, each one hot and flavorful. Chickens and turkeys were grilled to perfection. The others naturally could not resist that and they all stopped what they were doing and scoffed all they could.

They slowly lost all memory of why they were here and how they got here. Only when they were full did I. Cannabreeve say, “Eh? I wonder how we got here. Eh, who cares, I don’t want to le — AAAA! We are late! OH MY GOD WE FORGOT TO COLLECT THE OBJECTS!” 

This got them all to their feet. They immediately stepped on the gas and started packing. Before they left, everybody made sure to stuff their bags with every food they could. They walked forwards, hoping that it would take them somewhere. After a while, it started raining fried rice. 

They entered a thick forest, filled with vines of pasta and noodles and tree trunks made of the cleanest water you had seen. They stood up by themselves instead of sploshing around, and if you punched it, you would get quite a shock as you found that your hand hurt all over and that nothing had happened to the tree. However, if you put your lips to it and sucked, the water would just enter your mouth and the tree would gradually get smaller as you drank more water.

There was a light in front and they rushed to it, but stopped in their tracks when something black rushed around them, so fast it kicked up a huge wind and blew them to their feet. A grim reaper rose from the darkness. It had 2 arms, no head and no legs. It was wearing a cloak and the hood floated as if there was a head. Its arms were wrapped in a broken chain, and a lantern glowed ominously on the cloak. It removed the huge scythe from its back and floated closer to the gang. I. Cannabreeve was not scared and took a step forward, contrary to the rest of the team. 

“You wanna fight, huh?” I. Cannabreeve taunted. He did a right heel kick but the grim reaper opened a wormhole and teleported away. The grim reaper struck out with the scythe from behind, and I. Cannabreeve ducked just in time. He plucked out a surprisingly strong pasta vine, looped it around the scythe and pulled hard. The scythe flew out of the grim reaper’s hand and into I. Cannabreeve’s outstretched arms. However, the grim reaper raised 2 fingers and the scythe caught fire without burning down. It flew around, controlled by the reaper, trying to hit I. Cannabreeve. The reaper decided to take a smarter approach. The scythe flew to the group huddled into a corner, making them huddle even closer to one another. I. Cannabreeve gave a loud cry and half-commanded, half-begged, “Hey, don’t kill them! Kill me instead! You can take my soul! I don’t care as long as you don’t hurt them!“ 

But the reaper did not relent. The scythe went on a merciless journey to the necks of Jack and the rest. 

Saverbo took a deep breath and stepped forward. “If you are going to kill us, kill me first.” 

Suddenly, a hand reached out and grabbed Saverbo. The hulking figure of Hugo appeared from the back of the group. “Me! I am not good at studies, I can’t help with anything.” 

The rest of the group echoed a chorus of “me”s and suddenly the scythe stopped in midswing. 

“You have passed,” the reaper said. 

It stepped back to reveal a large pile of gleaming objects. When they got closer to it, the dust blower also started glowing. Suddenly, the objects stopped glowing. Two figures emerged from the trees, snatched up two objects and hightailed it out. 

“Hey!” I. Cannabreeve yelled, chasing them, jumping from branch to branch. He was gaining ground slowly, but suddenly the forest got denser and he lost sight of them. He returned to the others and forlornly told them that they had escaped. They grabbed all the objects so nobody could take them. 

“Well, at least we got most of it.” Andromedarren said, trying to brighten up the atmosphere. They thanked the reaper and continued on their way. An hour later, I. Cannabreeve, Hugo, Adventurista, and Jack were dragging Blacn, Andromedarren, Drawstuff, Timadeta, Vacuumeta, Planeton, Spacerista, and Saverbo out of the forest. Once they got out, those who were not on the ground already fell onto the ground with a dull thud. The leaves of the forest shook as the wind blew through them, as if mocking them for being so weak. After ten minutes, Timadeta got up. He stretched and announced that he was all refreshed. 

Adventurista snorted, “You should be! You were the first to faint! We had to drag you 34742 steps!” 

“You were counting?” Blacn said in surprise. 

“Welp! Let’s get on our way!” I. Cannabreeve said. He jumped up to his feet but his bag was loose and fell off his shoulders, spilling out the contents. 

“Hey, shouldn’t we see what they do first so we can use them later?” Saverbo suggested.

So they sat on the floor again and started poking around with the objects. 

“These are pretty normal things, ” Hugo observed. 

“Hey, this lamp operates without electricity!” Blacn said. Jack half-expected him to dig out a microscope and examine the lamp but he didn’t. “Eh, you get used to it,” Blacn added, as if reading his mind. Blacn pointed it at the ground and disappointedly said, “That’s all?” 

But a few seconds later, he was proved wrong. The ground suddenly shook, and the circle of light turned into a large hole with the forest and them in it. They all let out gasps and peered into the hole. As they did, the duplicates of themselves did the same. 

“Let’s go in!” I. Cannabreeve said adventurously. They packed up their things and looked at their duplicates pack up their things. Planeton put a stick in and watched it slowly drop. Suddenly, there was a whoosh and a tunnel of purple light that just slowly floated about. Then, they heard a stick drop behind them, and turned around to find that it was the exact stick that Planeton had used. There was the hole of purple light floating in the air. Blacn was so shocked that he accidentally turned off the lamp, and at the same time the hole disappeared with a pop. 

“A wormhole!” Vacuumeta exclaimed. 

Next they tried closing the wormhole while the stick was still inside. The hole disappeared and the stick was gone. They opened the wormhole again, and the stick was still inside. They found some words carved onto the lamp. 

“What does it say?” Jack curiously asked. 

“Dunno. It’s all Greek to me,” Andromedarren replied. 

“That’s because it is Greek!” exclaimed Spacerista as he finally recognised the strange text. 

“You know how to read it?” everyone asked in surprise. He explained that he had learnt it when he went to university as it was in Greece. 

“The long one is ‘i trýpa den tha katastrépsei poté ton idioktíti,’ the hole will never destroy the owner. The second one is ‘o chrónos eínai ousiastikós,’ time is of the essence. Hey!  I know what they mean! The hole will never kill the owner if the owner goes into it, so that means there must be a time limit, which is why there is the second one! But how long is the time limit?” To figure it out, they sent Jack in with the stick and also the lamp as an extra precaution. He jumped into the hole and closed it.

Jack looked around and saw the purple tunnel. The moment the wormhole was closed, he felt a tingling sensation, and a black hole appeared at the end. He felt himself being pulled to it against his will. The stick and lamp were floating around, slowly being attracted to the black hole. He snatched them up and told the lamp, “My friends and I are the owners. My friends and I are the owners and I’d like to keep my stuff, thank you very much.” 

The lamp glowed as it processed the new information. When it was done, it emitted a hum and the pull on Jack and the stick disappeared. Jack slowly counted the seconds, noticing that there was also a tuft of grass, presumably from the first wormhole in the ground. Jack asked the lamp, “Hey, how do you destroy stuff? Can the owners go into the black hole and go out?” 

The lamp glowed, humming and aahing as if it were thinking very hard about it. Then, as if answering his question, Jack saw the tuft of grass get sucked into the black hole, and the lamp emitted a blast of light that formed a word. See? And then, Jack felt that he was being sucked into the black hole. Before he could react, he was inside it, and grass floated in the empty black space before him. For something called a black hole, the interior was relatively bright, since the black hole had absorbed so much light, and even looked comfy. He arranged the grass and found that they stuck together and actually joined up as if they were being magically welded together, which they were. He lay down on his new bed of grass and rested. He thought, Time to go out. Suddenly, a black door popped into existence, and upon opening it, he realized that it led to the tunnel. Another see? popped up from the lamp. He decided to tell the others and opened a wormhole to his friends. 

He climbed out and reported, “It’s super safe, as long as you are the owner. Anyway, you can keep stuff inside forever, as long as you tell the lamp that you want it. By the way, I have something to show you. Come on in!” They hesitantly packed their things and clambered into the hole. “These are my friends and they are owners too. And keep their stuff,” Jack told the lamp, and then addressed the rest of them. “Alright guys, swim to the black hole at the end. That’s how your stuff gets destroyed if you don’t claim it.” 

He led them to the black hole and they stopped, apprehension etched on their faces. Jack assured them that it was safe and led them in. They were very amazed, judging by the fact that their mouths hung down so big that someone could have stuffed a whole egg in with space to spare. I. Cannabreeve recovered the fastest. 

“All right gang! This is a world class boot hole, 5 star, 100 out of 100, the best of the best, the super, the ultimate, the great, the excellent, the superior, the numero uno, the superb, the rad, the tip-top, the up to snuff, the prime, the first-rate, the primo, the premium, the big shot, the big cheese, the platinum choice, the first-class, the sans pareil, the — ” I. Cannabreeve had to cut out his dictionary lecture as he had run out of breath, his face already purple from the effort, and they could have sworn that his head was one round bigger. 

They figured out the rest of the objects were relatively straightforward: the book let you jump into books. The shirt turned the wearer invisible. The unbreakable paper made the stuff you wrote on it appear next to you. The mini drawer and pouch let you put anything into it and it would never run out of space, and as long as you carried the pouch with you, anything you needed that was in the drawer would appear in the pouch. The clock let the person who owned it control time. The pen allowed the owner to draw in midair and the drawing would immediately turn solid. Slowly, under I. Cannabreeve’s fanatic command, 12 beds, 12 recliners, a huge sofa, a wireless WiFi producer and everything you would find in a house appeared in the special area of the black hole. In short, the black hole turned into their house. I. Cannabreeve had even gone to include an Olympic-size pool complete with a water park and wave pool and an ice skating rink. 

Slowly they exited the boot hole hotel and opened a wormhole to “wherever the people who took the objects are.” They emerged behind a bush, and cries of pain and gunshots rang out. They peeked out and saw one of the people who had taken the objects shoot the other with a PKM machine gun. Hack Ohm was killed, and the computer that he had was thrown to the side by an arrogant Plane. He threw the gun into the air and it suddenly turned into a full sized deadly looking spaceship with 20 nuclear thrusters, an on-board nuclear generator, a backup fan generator, and ten missile tubes, and it seemed to be the type of spaceship that had many weapons on board. Saverbo saw his nametag, and informed them that he was called Plane. After he boarded the spaceship, they opened a wormhole to the computer, but instead of hole in the air, it was a hole in the ground, and the computer fell into their waiting arms. The objects glowed again — could they sense that victory was near, could they sense that they only had one last sibling to reunite with? 

They formed a plan. Planeton would stay behind with the computer and hack the spaceship’s onboard computers, making the doors open. Then, the rest of them would rush in and defeat Plane and get the last object.  They jumped out of the wormhole, and the doors of the spaceship opened. Plane was sitting in the cockpit, desperately trying to close the doors, but he was locked out of the system. The others first used the clock and stopped time, and they used the paper and wrote “a really strong rope that nothing can untie or break.” Then, they tied up Plane, and I. Cannabreeve took advantage of the fact that Plane could not move and slapped him as many times as he could, saying, “That will teach you not to mess with us!” 

Then they shrunk down the plane to object size and claimed ownership of it. They started time again, and carried Plane around like a trophy. They grabbed the objects and brought them together. 

They emitted a brilliant flash of golden light and then disappeared. 

“So…that’s it? That’s it?! We did all this just for them to evaporate?” But no sooner had he finished his sentence than they were teleported back to Earth, everything was normal and the Andromeda Galaxy was far away, and no one else remembered what had happened.

The End.

Half Bloods and the Time Traveling Pen

“Catch him!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. My fellow ninjas and I jumped from house to house to catch a villain that is my best friend! His name is Tom, and he used to be in the V.S.C. We used to work together very well.

I think I will introduce myself first. My name is Jerry, and my animal is a wolf. Now, you might be wondering about a lot of things, like why I have an animal and what the V.S.C. is. Take it easy. I will be answering the questions. So, every member in the Villain Slayer Corps (aka. V.S.C.) is a ninja and has an animal and its power. Scientists inject the animal’s blood into our body first. After that, he will seal the blood inside our body, and we can even talk to the animal spirit inside. We can also use the power of the animal, and the spirit can go out of our body and fight along with us.

I also have to tell you about the Ten Sages, which are ten animals that are the strongest among all the animals. The owners of those animals can unleash the energy sage mode. Only when you are really angry will you be able to unleash the energy sage mode. Now, I will tell you my animal’s power. Wolf-White Flame Power, Mist Power, Ice Power, and Power Claws. My animal is in the Ten Sages. After saying so much, now I would like to take you back to catch the villain — my best friend, Tom.

It started to rain, which made it hard to see where Tom was going. Tom became a villain because his parents were accidentally killed by the V.S.C., so he hated the V.S.C., and then he quit. He was so angry with how life treated him, he started to do bad things with his powers. His power is Black Panther-Power Claws and Dark Fire Power. His animals are also in the Ten Sages.

After a long time of chasing and fighting on the roof of houses, Tom was nowhere to be seen. We went back to V.S.C. HQ and declared that we failed the mission. When I got back home, I took out a pen, but it was no ordinary pen. It could time travel! I thought I should go back in time to stop the V.S.C. from killing Tom’s parents. With any luck, history would be changed, and then he would not be a villain.

Just when I was about to enter the black hole produced by the pen to go back in time, my neck was strangled with one hand, and I fell on the floor half conscious, half unconscious. I saw Tom standing in my room. He was the one that had strangled me!

Tom picked up the pen and said joyfully, “Thanks for the pen, Jerry! The V.S.C. members can never catch me! Bye, Jerry!” I went into a coma and did not know what happened later.

When I woke up the next day, I was lying on the floor. I quickly got up and thought about what had happened the night before. Tom took the pen! I wanted to find Tom quickly, but I remembered that I was only able to go out at night, and I had to act like a normal person during the day.

After a long time of waiting, it was finally nighttime. I went to V.S.C. HQ and gathered all the Sage of Ten Path owners. Then, we set out to find Tom. Before finding him, I had to locate where he was, so I used one of my skills that I never introduced you guys to. Spatial Awareness! This helps me to find the person I want to find in an instant. “Jump!” All of us jumped. We saw a big claw-shaped mark on the pavement where we had been standing. “I am going to kill him!” He destroyed my favorite pavement, which is owned by the HQ!

I saw Tom using his power claws, but we were also not weak. Jimmy, who has the power of Gorilla-Power Fists and Rock Power, used his power fists and punched where Tom was at, but Tom moved too fast. We formed a circle to see 360 degrees to find Tom. Ben suddenly saw Tom, and Ben used his power. Ben has the power of Cheetah-Lightning Power, and Speed and Power Claws.

“LIGHTNING POWER! FIRST FORM, ELECTRIC ARROW!” As Ben pointed two fingers at Tom, Ben’s two fingers formed a ball of electricity, and an arrow-like electricity beam shot out and traveled at a blinding speed. When the arrow was about to hit Tom, “DARK FIREPOWER! FOURTH FORM, FIREWALL!” Ben shouted.

The lightning arrow was rebounded back to us! We quickly jumped up, but before we could react — “DARK FIREPOWER! THIRD FORM! FIREBALL” — balls of flames charged at a blinding speed towards us. 

Just when the ball of fire was about to hit us, Chris, who has the power of Polar Bear-Ice Release, Water Release, and Power Palms, said, “WATER POWER, FOURTH FORM, WATER JET!” A jet of water shot out of Chris’s hand and put out the fireballs. We continued to fight against Tom with all our might.

George, who has the power of Rhino-Shield Power and Horn Power, shot out horns which made Tom jump up into the air. Bob — who has the power of Crocodile-Teeth Power and Water Power — and John — who has the power of Shark-Teeth Power and Water Power — shot out sharp teeth at him.

Tom shouted out, “Do not underestimate me! Firewall!” He used the same move this time again, and the teeth rebounded at use, but what he did not know was that while he was using the firewall, Ben was using his speed skill. He sneaked up to Tom’s back and kicked him to the ground.

Jayden, who has the power of Eagle-Feather Power and Air Power, exclaimed, “AIR POWER, FIFTH FORM, CYCLONE!”

As Tom was pushed back to Ben, Ben said, “LIGHTNING POWER, FINAL FORM! DANCE OF THE THUNDERGOD!” Dragon heads started to appear on Ben’s hands, and lightning appeared on the dragon head.

BOOM! Tom was hit by the dragon heads with so much force that Tom made a hole on the ground when he crashed into it. Steven, who has the power of Snake-Venom Release, Poison Gas Release, and Teeth Release, released poison gas at Tom while he was flying onto the floor.

Just when we thought that Tom was dead, Tom jumped out and hit the ground with his dark flame ball. It felt like an earthquake, and the ground started to crack, with a black aura appearing out of the cracks on the ground. “This is a new move I made with Black Panther. Hope you enjoy it!” he said. The dark flame started to erupt from the cracks.

Chris and I put both of our hands on the ground, and we both shouted, “ICE POWER! SIXTH FORM! Freeze!” The ground turned into ice, flames erupted out of the cracks, and heavy smoke appeared. In the smoke, I saw Tom running away. I ran through the smoke, but it was too late. Tom had gotten away with the pen.

The End.


There was this cube. This specific cube that almost ended the universe. Well, if it could destroy the whole mighty universe, it was no ordinary cube. Believe me, not ordinary. You may ask, who was the owner? Here’s the thing, it didn’t have any. Maybe it did, but the owner did not know it. It was just an ordinary Rubix cube to normal people. See, I said normal people, so, there were, of course, not-normal humans. One really specific one was Johnny, Johnny the “King.” He was feared by not only humans but half the universe, the half that was still not conquered by him. He had learned dark magic. The ability to breathe a type of gas was one of the powers. Another was to hate. He hated all human beings, infecting all living things, even though he himself was a human. He was already the master of half the universe, but he wasn’t satisfied, not nearly satisfied. Not nearly. 

Learning that the cube was the key to his success, the King charged into the owner’s house and snatched the cube. Holding up a cube for a moment, nothing happened. Nothing. Just as Johnny started to believe he had gone after the wrong cube, the cube shook. It shook. Believe me, it really shook. Now, if the “King” of the universe couldn’t hold it, nobody could. The cube rose rapidly towards the sun. Nearing the horizon, it glowed. Without warning, it opened up what looked like eyes and spit out a laser ray. With a horrible-looking hole in the middle of the Earth, Johnny laughed. He laughed like a savage man. He was laughing at his own home. Floating towards the cube, it landed comfortably in his strong hands. Johnny had dark power. Really, really dark power. After he ran away from Earth, he was the faithful student of a powerful wizard — an alien. When I say faithful, he was really faithful. He stayed until his Sensei’s death. Actually, he caused the death, however without an ounce of remorse in his heart. Just because of a trivial matter, he killed his teacher. This was Johnny, the King, and the mad, savage man. With a single tap on the cube, the Earth exploded, exploding into nothing. However, before he could react, a sudden streak of light blinded him. Floating in the middle of the debris of the destroyed planet was a man, a tall bulky man with milky white blazing eyes. Hands on fire, feet frozen, mouth spitting venom, eyes shooting lightning. This was the human brother of the cube. Although similar, the brother was weaker, much weaker than the cube. The only advantage he had now was that he had a heart, a real one. 

This man, the only survivor, wanted, yearned for revenge. He yearned for it. Johnny had destroyed all, all of his loved ones, his friends, even his children. His home, the home he loved the most, was also reduced to nothing but dust. He could not accept seeing Johnny taking another half of the universe. With the determination of love, he set off with a fatal mission of taking down Johnny the King, the King…

Standing, still staring right at Johnny, both men were still, but their hearts thumped furiously, however, for different reasons. If you thought they were going to fight right there and then, well, you are wrong. Now, the man who lived, named Cooper, was smart. Not like normal smart, but overpowering smart. The genius cells speeding around in his huge brain, he decided to hide first, then fight. Johnny was already starting towards him. One step at a time, the radiation of the cube became stronger and stronger. With a silent snap, Cooper disappeared into thin air, leaving Johnny looking wild, twitching his head, eyes swirling around, searching for the man who lived. Well, of course, it was to no avail. The cube had already fallen deadly silent, not moving, not making a noise. Neither did it glow nor send out heat waves. It was just like an ordinary cube, waiting for someone smart enough to turn it vigorously to its original 6 brilliant colours. 

Letting out a loud groan, Johnny flew away with a heavy heart. Without speaking to that mysterious man, he knew. He had a weird feeling that he was an enemy — not a normal enemy like the rest of the universe but an enemy that he needed to put up a fight to conquer. He sat on his jewel throne, face ashen, hand still gripping the Rubix cube like it was his life string. Well, as you can see, it was kind of like his life string. 

Meanwhile, at the very corner of the universe, Cooper landed soundlessly onto a planet, not a centimeter touched by Johnny. Don’t ask me how I know, ask Cooper. He had all the power you could want. He would know how I know that it wasn’t touched yet. Yet. Snapping his finger once more, Cooper was nothing. Nothing as in “invisible.” Not only invisible but also “untouchable.” He was just air, floating around the place. 

It was like a futuristic world with all the cool technology. It was a small world, very small indeed — it was the size of the moon. (Well, don’t ask me how I know how big Earth 01 was. I told you Cooper was the brother of the magic cube.) Walking around, minding their own business, were human-like beings, maybe real humans. Looking just like everyone else, nobody noticed him. Of course, nobody could — he was invisible and “untouchable.”

 Eyes zooming around the place, Cooper noticed something, something worth talking about. It was an alien world after all; everything was strange, even fascinating. The buildings were tiny but big. Let me explain. The building seemed only two times taller than Cooper himself. Once he stepped in, it turned out to be the biggest shopping mall he had ever seen. With each store as big as a land property’s total area, there were at least thousands of shops. Looking straight, Cooper could not see the end. Better still, that small world seemed to be money-free. The natives took things and left, without even going to the cashier. There wasn’t even a cashier. Basically, it was just like a buffet without the expensive prices. Well, maybe then there would be no thieves. Sure enough, there were plenty of buffets, and of course with no price. Piling in a long neat row were billions and billions of different foods, all looking better than the ones on Earth. Well, even a superhuman could not resist this. Mouth watering like a fountain, he teleported from place to place, snatching up things, gulping down delicious food, even sometimes stopping to visit the casino.

After all these surprises and shocks, the death of the world started to slip out of his mind. Bit by bit, piece by piece, they started to disappear, disappear into thin air. With another gulp of food, one bit was gone. With another new piece of clothing on, one piece was gone. Soon enough, only a tiny, mini section of the scene and memory was left. Fatigue started growing into his bones. Exhaustion loomed over him. Eyelids starting to droop, Cooper finally, finally decided to teleport out of the massive shopping mall. The moment his feet touched the cold damp ground, a weird, dreadful, painful feeling smashed into him, giving him a vigorous shiver. Eyes looking around blankly, the little segment of memory burned in his brain. 

“Cooper Grandsir! There you are enjoying yourself while the universe’s fate is at risk! It’s fate is in your hands! In your hands! You better start training, yes?! You need to kill Johnny. Kill him. Kill him! Kill him! Kill him! Your children died, you can still save them. Your friends died, you still can bring them back. Your wife died, do you not want to serve justice?!” A shrill voice screamed, really screamed the life out of Cooper. With that, he fell to the ground, of course soundless, falling into a deep coma.

Magical things happened. Still laying there, unconscious, the little piece of memory started to grow. It glowed golden light, filling up his whole head. It was a memory, right, so it should replay the past. Like a film, every moment Cooper spent with his three dearest sons was shown before his eyes. Before Cooper even knew he had the power, he was a free man. Playing with his sons every day, laughing and cackling. Next came his wife. Every night he spent his free time watching movies with her. Every morning, he woke up extra early to finish all the household chores before rushing to work just to save his beloved wife’s energy. 

Next came his two best friends, always driving to work together, always buying lunch for each other, always, always lending out a helping hand to each other in times of need. His life was packed full of love, fun, excitement, until — there was always this until, always — until he acknowledged his powers. His luck was not bad. He learned his powers at the exact moment the Earth exploded, just enough to get him out of the debris safe and sound. 

Now, you are probably shouting at this paper, screaming why I am still talking about Cooper. Where’s Johnny? Now, I am going to hop right into the opposite end of the universe now. Come on, stop grabbing your hand, fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. 

Ability to teleport is one thing; riding on a pegasus, flying seven times faster than light is another thing. Now, even if you couldn’t really see the horse in motion, let me tell you, it was extraordinarily beautiful, more beautiful than you can imagine. You can guess that ugly King was riding on that glorious pony, trying his best to look more handsome. It was quite a ride, quite a ride. Now, he didn’t have seat belts, not like you guys, so he was thrown off plenty of times. Screaming at the top of his lungs, arms flailing like jelly sticks, he was like a huge block of dirt striking across the cosmos; whenever you thought it was going to crash, boom, something would catch him, throw him straight back onto the whining pegasus’s back. Wait, how are you supposed to see all this? He was faster than light. No, no, no, you know what, you all just picture this scene in your mind. Now that was Johnny’s one little activity to spend his time. Fun? 

The rest of the day was filled with this kind of activity, this kind… Did he give food to his people? Nope. Did he follow the rules? No. Did he try to rule the planets that were his? No. Did he go around doing crazy stuff and try to get himself killed? Yes. Only on some days, some days as in once a month, he would do something useful — not useful to others, but really essential to him. Battle. 

No, he didn’t charge into battle like a mental person, no; he sat, eating McDonald’s on a chair, shouting at his army through a huge speaker. A huge one. Not only was it huge, but the voice that came out of it was even more gigantic. That itself would kill half the enemy. Now, you are going to ask, how did his army not die? Easy, they all were robots — no eyes, no brain, no heart. Only a pair of ears and the ability to fight was installed into the human-like robots. Now their ears wouldn’t break, at least not that easily. I must say, Johnny’s method was pretty impressive, able to conjure, destroy ten planets at the same moment.  

But there was something that always bothered Johnny. Every time before battle, a deep wild voice would warn him in his ears.

“Johnny, be careful, stop and think. Do you really think killing so many aliens is fun? Stop your war and return back to your Sensei. Come on, Johnny.” The voice sounded dangerously like the Sensei that Johnny had murdered. Most importantly, after asking all his generals, Johnny confirmed that only he could hear that annoying instructing voice. Even before he set his heart on the magic cube, the voice alerted him to think twice. But, of course, he didn’t listen to a thing the scary voice said. Shaking his head vigorously, Johnny screamed in his head to ask the voice to leave. Every time was similar. However, every time, it just got more serious and harder to get rid of. This was the sole thing that kept Johnny from perfectly killing all the aliens.

Now, where was the cube? Of course in his clumsy hands, glowing, showing off, duh. One special occasion, when he got a bit tired of spectating aliens’ heads, getting brutally chopped off, or getting run through by a shotgun, he just gave the glorious cube a little shake. As silent as nothing, another hundred planets were gone. Let me stop for a moment because you guys probably have questions again. Right? Why did Johnny destroy the planets? I thought he wanted to take over the world and be king? Is that your question? Now, I forgot to tell you that his cube, the cube again, already sucked all the jewels to his gloomy castle. So now that he was rich, why would he want the useless planets? He only left behind the beautiful ones. That’s it. That was Johnny. Basically a planet killer. 

Riding his winged horse, Johnny shuddered. At that precise moment, he became an absolute genius. The brain cells swam around the head faster than he was flying, having 0.00001-second meetings here and there, discussing an idea, an absolute genius idea: to take over the world in less than 1 hour. Good thinking, right? Good idea, right? It would totally work, right? To him, an absolute yes. To you, I hope it’s a yes. If now you are thinking no, and your name is Johnny, switch your brain right now, this very instance. Go! Now the rest of you, please, please keep your pure brain with you.  

After rewarding himself with another ten hours of speed flying, he was tired, alright. Throwing himself onto his sofa, he called for his generals. All of them came in unison, speaking in unison, taking action in unison. 

“Master, how can we help?” Imagine ten similar voices speaking in an enclosed toilet, that’s how Johnny liked it. Weird? Do I still need to answer that question?! 

“Destroy any planet at will. Destroy everything in one hour. Go. If you fail me, well, we have plenty of hungry Johnnys here, they will love to eat you.” With that, the echoes of steps rang in the room, but of course still at the same frequency, at the same time. None of the generals dare to defy the King, not even showing the slightest displeasure. 

Still in his room, Johnny switched on the television. Itching with eagerness, Johnny was twitching and spinning on the cushions, waiting to watch his favorite movie: chopping off aliens’ heads. Fist clenching and unclenching, he tried to suppress his thirst. Finally, with a deafening bang, the great battle began. Robots charged into the cities, catching the aliens by surprise. Chopping off every head that came into vision, even ten at a time, the army advanced. One by one, the planets fell. One by one, the planets disappeared. One by one, the universe was becoming Johnny’s. Laughing his stomach out was Johnny on his sofa, tearing up (of joy, not any other reason) at the scene of innocent aliens screaming halfway.

That was a huge break from Cooper. Let’s go back to Cooper, shall we?

Gliding through the universe as a group of mist, he visited every planet that was still active, still alive, not destroyed by… him. You know who “him” is. Every planet was different, very different. Some were small, others were big. Some were inhabited by robots, others inhabited by aliens. Some were glorious, developed, others rundown, rural. So on and so forth. However, there was one similarity, just one single factor: all were quiet, all were dead-like. Anxiety hung in the air. Guns, lasers, bombs, rockets were lined up every few kilometers. All planets, no matter good or bad, small or big, poor or rich, were preparing for battle. 

After at least half an hour of gliding, inspecting all the depressing planets, Cooper reached his home. His long-lost home. His favourite home. His only home. Looking at the unknown debris, floating around pointlessly. Just as he wanted to reach out and feel the leftovers of his home, with a dangerous flash, a knife swung towards Cooper’s neck to cut cleanly through it. Head sliding off his shoulders, Cooper froze for a split second, then as quickly as the knife came, he dissipated into nothing. 

With a sharp, uncertain breath, Cooper lifted his head slowly, eyes still fixed on the orb. Letting out a second shaky breath, he was in deep thought, cells spinning faster than Johnny was flying.  

“It seems this will be a really tough century. This student is a bit of trouble.” Exclaiming to himself, Cooper paced around the room, eyes focused on the ceiling, hands behind his back. Even the greatest wizard was having trouble handling this boy called Johnny. 

Twelve years have passed. 

His shabby clothes flagging behind him, Cooper journeyed towards Johnny’s comfortable sofa. Entering “Mr. King’s” house rudely, he passed right through the still blaring television, always screaming painful dreadful shouts of terror. 

“Sensei? I thought you were dead. I killed you. You should be in hell!” With eyes three times larger than usual, Johnny exclaimed, still lying on his leather sofa. 

“Allow me to trespass upon your hospitality for a while more. I came here for just one thing. Please listen to me. It is crucial to you, and only you. Listen up Johnny.” Without stopping to wait for a response, Cooper continued rambling in his deep, dangerous tone. “Do you remember the curse you placed on everybody? Anyone who spills blood will die a pitiful death. I am sorry, and grateful at the same time, that you have accidentally placed it on yourself too. And I daresay you have not only spilt one person’s blood but millions. Now Johnny, I will give you one more chance to stop all you are doing and come back with me. You will be a great leader, respected by all, if you allow me to purify your heart. The curse still can be lifted. This is your final chance. Do you realise every time you wanted to start a war, a voice would ring in your head? The voice was mine. I was a teacher, and now a guide, in the future even a partner. I always wanted to guide you back to the right path. But it seems that I have failed to do so. Even I cannot do so. This is your terminal, ultimate chance to clean your heart. Please, Johnny. I promise you you would be more respected, more loved and more happy, more powerful than this present state. I will give you one ending minute.”  

Sneering at his long-ago teacher, Johnny kicked the stool nearby, shooting straight up, coming to the same height as his Sensei. 

“You really think I would listen to all your rubbish. I hate the human world. They never treated me well. So why should I be good to them? You are no longer my teacher, just like you said. I am the king of the universe. Nobody gives me advice. Vacancy is sweet, indeed. All my hate is helping me. I will conjure the world before you even leave here — that is, if you even ever set foot out in the open again.” These words trailed out from Johnny’s mouth like a snake, smooth but surely venomous. Drawing out a blazing silver sword, he got ready to strike. 

“Let me say one last word before you leave; the world you have been destroying was a fake one that I created just for you. I hoped and expected you to change, to return to the good side. You would be a great help to humankind, to all living things in the real universe. Now you have missed your last chance, you will disappear. I am sincerely sorry for not being able to help you more. Johnny, always remember this. Your hatred has overwhelmed you. Never let the hatred control, always control it. That was our very first lesson together. I hope you will remember…” Tears started pouring from his shriveled eyes as Johnny started to fade, so did the rest of the universe. With a bellow, Johnny disappeared, swallowed by his own curse, wasting his whole life, his powerful magic on destroying the fake universe, totally conjured by the hatred to mankind.

Jackson Opus

Jack sat hunched miserably against the morning wind, which threatened to blow his cap off. He pulled his cap lower, hiding his dark orange eyes. “Who can compete in a basketball competition at seven in the morning?” he grumbled unhappily.

I can, Jackson Dopus.” Benjamin Todds, from the opposing team — Black Panthers — stalked up to Jack and sneered. “Why can’t you? Oh, I just forgot! You guys are weaklings and absolute losers!” Smirking, Benjamin leaned his burly form closer and stared Jack in the eye, saying softly, “Want to know why? Because of you, Dopus.”

Jack glared at him with a molten gaze, feeling his ever-changing eyes turn from orange to deep angry violet, and seethed, “My name is Jackson Opus. And maybe this time around the Thunders will win. We train hard, at least, unlike the Black Panthers, who only rely on size for advantage. I would love to see your face when your team loses!”

Until then, Jack had not realised that Benjamin’s beady eyes had clouded over and a melancholy look had settled on his face. Jack, squirming uncomfortably, pulled his cap down again and growled, “Go away.” Surprisingly, Benjamin did just that. Jack mused over this strange exchange. Why didn’t he continue to taunt Jack as he had always done before every basketball competition? And why did people have that faraway look in their eyes whenever Jack had a conversation with them?

“Opus! Warm up!” His pondering was rudely interrupted by Coach Sean’s impatient bark. Everyone from the Thunders had arrived and Coach Sean, as usual, started bossing them around, yelling orders and regarding them with a disapproving gaze. Perhaps Coach wished he had a better, tougher team to handle, Jack thought. And who could blame him? The entire population of Greenhill Middle School (and probably other schools too) knew that the Thunders had not won a single competition in two years. Not since the Black Panthers came, anyway.

Jack jogged over to join his teammates. However, coach Sean, arms akimbo, stood blocking his way. “Hey kiddo, what do you think you’re doing with that damn cap on? Take. It. Off,” he said commandingly when Jack was about to put up a protest. Jack sighed and took his cap off, making sure to keep his eyes averted to the ground. It was embarrassing being so different. Why couldn’t his eyes keep the same colour like everyone else? Then he wouldn’t need to wear a cap all the time just so others wouldn’t see his eyes. He could try to reason with his teachers, but arguing with the ill-tempered basketball coach? No thank you. Not at all. 

After the warm-up, the two teams went up to the court. The spectators cheered a little. Jack looked over at the spectator stand and spotted his parents. Both of them had smiley-frowny hybrid smiles on their faces. Jack grimaced. The Thunders must have looked puny compared to the burly forms on the other team. It should be the Puny Prey against the Black Panthers. They could probably squash the Thunders with their little pinkie fingers.

In two shakes of a lamb’s tail, it was game on. As always, the Black Panthers managed to score first. The cheering in the stands got louder. The coaches got louder. The thumping of Jack’s heart got louder. His desperation grew too. The score was currently 6-0, in favour of the Black Panthers. Was there even a point in competing? 

The ball bounced from one of the opposing team’s hands and into Benjamin’s. Benjamin, usually the most aggressive player on the court, took the ball in his hands and turned slowly around to shoot it into the hoop. But his movements were almost toddler-like, as if this was the first time he was trying out basketball and was unsure if he would be able to score successfully. Confusion swept like a wave among the spectators, who had noticed him as well. The moment the ball left Benjamin’s hands, Jack knew it was never going to make it. The ball flew in a graceful arc then suddenly dropped onto the ground, missing the net by more than a foot. The Black Panthers’ coach started yelling colourful language at Benjamin, face turning red and purple from the effort. But the match must go on.

During the most intense part of the game, Jack noticed that Benjamin seemed to be avoiding the ball. He was certainly not like his normal self. And where was his aggressiveness? He was playing like a newborn kitten compared to the rest of his Black Panther’s teammates. Recalling the strange exchange before the match, Jack wondered queasily if it was anything to do with him. Or perhaps Benjamin was feeling nervous? Unlikely. The game continued and was nearly reaching the end. Only less than a minute left.

The score was 23-24, in favour of the Thunders.

A loud “ahh” was heard when the Thunders received two penalties. Two, Jack thought bitterly. We were almost winning. Almost! We really need a sharper referee. The opposing team would never miss a free throw. Unless by some chance, the thrower was…? In a twist of fate, the coach did choose Benjamin. Protests were made but the coach stood his ground, reasoning that “my big boy was a little nervous during this match, ain’t got no nothing to worry about.” Jack felt the corner of his lips turning upwards.

Benjamin lumbered onto the court and held the ball stiffly to his chest. He threw the ball, but it was almost as if the ball threw him. He landed on his face and the ball landed a few feet away from him. The crowd booed. The coach grew purple again. The Thunders all did a little victory dance. Benjamin did it in a similar fashion on the second throw. The Black Panthers spewed expletives at everyone and anyone. However, the numbers on the scoreboard didn’t change and would never lie.

26-23. The Thunders had triumphed.

When the spectators and players were filing out, Benjamin walked up to Jack and scowled fiercely, then said monotonously, “This is how my face would look like when my team loses.” He turned and walked away. Jack stared, utterly confused and perplexed, not to mention pretty freaked out as well.


At the feast Coach Sean had prepared, everyone was having a great time. Except for Jack. He sat in the corner of Coach Sean’s yard, munching on a slice of pizza that tasted like sand. This wasn’t a fair game. Something’s up with Benjamin, and I think I may be the cause. It was not an honourable victory. Something had been nudging at the back of his mind since the match. Jack couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but it was something important. Just out of reach yet very close. A memory? Then an avalanche of scenes bombarded his head. A split-second decision which he had made, running onto the road while a bus was driving towards him. The immense relief he had felt when the bus didn’t run over him. A tingling sensation when Jack made eye contact with the bus driver to tell him to drive faster in order for him and his best friend, Tommy, to reach school on time. And the mad charge-through-the-red-lights and don’t-stop-at-any-other-stop drive the driver had given that allowed him and Tommy to reach school on time. Was there something wrong with Jack? Why did things go haywire in his presence, yet allow him to achieve a miracle that was seemingly impossible?

Just at this moment, his shoulder was encased in an iron grip. A narrow man’s face loomed into view: a sharp, long nose, a tuft of jet-black hair, black suit, black shoes, a pale complexion, and finally, piercing frosty blue eyes that bored into his. Jack was so startled that he dropped his slice of pizza onto the grass. Who is he? Why is he here? What does he want with me? Why… Before he could think much further, he felt a familiar tingling sensation from the back of his eyes. The strange man’s eyes were focused on his own. Jack suddenly felt a surge of anger. What right did a stranger have to come in the middle of a celebration to mess with him? He glared right back at the man, feeling his eyes turn from calm green (his usual eye colour) to nervous dark orange, then to stormy grey, and finally, to angry deep violet. He was about to give this weirdo a piece of his mind when the man said in a calm and reassuring voice, “You are very calm and relaxed.” I am not calm or relaxed! How can I be… But the man’s voice was so convincing, so strong and powerful. Jack’s mind numbed. Of course, I’m calm and relaxed. Of course. Wait, why? I still don’t know who this stranger is…

“I am your friend, and you feel happy with me.”

Jack frowned. No! He is not my friend! A stranger only… Right?

“You are feeling very content.” 

Hmm, I am content. Why am I trying to fight with him? He is my friend, isn’t he? Or is he? 

Suddenly, the strange man closed his eyes. Jack lurched out of his trance-like state, gasping and panting for air like a drowning man. The man opened one eye and introduced himself to a very disoriented Jack. “I’m Dr. Mako, founder of the Institute of Hypnotism. I have devoted my whole life to building the Institute. Today, I came here especially to tell you that these skills are those that you possess.” Dr. Mako smiled very slightly and pointed a sharp finger at Jack’s face. “Yes. You. In fact, you come from one of the greatest Bender bloodlines. The Opuses. There weren’t any Benders in this family line for a few centuries due to some unexplainable medical or otherwise natural complications. You are more powerful than you realise. It is a great honour for me to have a match with you just now. And, of course, you would be welcomed into the Institute. There, instructors — or me, to be exact — would hone your skills in hypnotism. Then, once you are powerful enough, we will put that skill to good use. How does that sound?” Totally bewildered by the information overload, Jack stared blankly at the psycho in front of him. Seriously? Hypnotism? What was this self-proclaimed “Doctor” talking about? Did he know that Hypnotism doesn’t exist? He probably just escaped from a mental hospital. Jack chuckled at his own joke. And this “Doctor” even went as far as saying that he, Jackson Opus, came from a great line of Benders (whatever that was)! Jack didn’t want to sound rude, of course, but he had to say something.

“Umm, Dr. Mako, I think you found the wrong person. That man over there,” Jack gestured in the direction of a random stranger walking his dog, “is probably the person you are looking for. I am certain…” Before he could finish, Jack already realised that he himself was indeed the very person “Dr. Mako” was looking for. Because, why else would “Dr. Mako” know his name? And surname. 

Dr. Mako, who seemed to have read his mind, said smoothly, “No worries, Jackson, I know this may sound wild and made-up to you, but it is true. My fellow employees and I myself have searched high and low for decades for a single Bender in the Opus family. You would receive the utmost respect from us, the Benders at the Institute, without a doubt. And I would personally make sure you do not undergo any stress during your training sessions.”

Jack bit his lip. Maybe Dr. Mako was really mentally ill. He might have just heard someone call him his full name just now. No way was there an “Institute of Hypnotism.” No way was there a search for an Opus. No way. Nuh-uh. Nada.

But, Dr. Mako, having seen Jack’s expression, heaved a sigh and said, almost exasperated, “Well, how do you explain what happened just now? When I tried Bending you, you almost gave in. In other words, you were almost hypnotised by me. I understand this must be very hard for you to accept, so what about going home and asking your father about your ancestry? Jackson, I am sure there are some hidden facts you do not know yet. I’ve kept an eye open and, just like you, witnessed the strange happenings. They were simply a result of Bending some people unintentionally. So, yes. When you have found out more about your family line, come to 5th Avenue 110th Street, and there, you will not miss my magnificent Institute. I would issue someone to see to that.” 

Dr. Mako, who had a habit of communicating in large chunks of authoritative speech, regarded Jack expectantly. Jack, once again flustered by information overload, said, “What?” 

Dr. Mako exhaled deeply and walked away, handing Jack a business card at the last minute, and said, “We also need to work on your hearing skills, I’m afraid.” 

Jack surveyed the business card. Fancy Chopin Script font was printed all over the small 3.5 inches by 2 inches piece of paper. Surprisingly, the name was simply Dr. Mako, without a first name nor a middle name. The description read “Dr. Mako has devoted his whole life to the making of the unparalleled Institute. This world-class academy has educated many generations of young people and taught them the moral ways to handle their special skills.” How old is he? Many generations of young people? That must have been decades. Does that mean that by the time the Institute was established, Dr. Mako was already after me? He said his employees and he himself searched for decades. Was the Institute founded for the sake of trying to find this very member of the Opus family? It was a creepy notion for sure, sending chills down Jack’s spine. This whole business sounded more like an unhealthy obsession. Jack didn’t want anything to do with hawk-like Dr. Mako. But he was intrigued by his ancestry. He could actually hypnotise people? This thought was so outlandish that it was impossible to believe, but what if it was true? That must be why Benjamin and that bus driver had acted so weirdly. There was only one way to find out. He walked purposefully toward home, in the meantime forgetting to inform the partying basketball team that he was leaving.


“Well, Son, I’m not sure why you ask, but,” Jack’s father cleared his throat and pursed his lips, “you see, my parents were, uh, very… persuasive people. Extremely eloquent and convincing. They could make you think white was black if they wanted to.” Jack narrowed his eyes. It did sound like his father knew something but wasn’t comfortable talking about it. And I wonder why. Jack took a deep breath and recounted what happened, from the strange incidents to the run-in with the mysterious Dr. Mako. Jack’s father listened, eyes growing wide, lips twitching intermittently. Jack handed him the business card as well.

After Jack had finished, his father said threadily, “I don’t have it, and I thought you would be spared the hokey-pokey too.” 

Just at this moment, Jack’s mother entered the living room and announced sternly, “Jack, it’s past your bedtime. Although your team won, it’s no excuse to break the household rules. To bed. Now.” Jack stood up slowly and made his way to his room, but not before narrowing his eyes at his father, a warning to not tell his mother.

The next morning, as Jack plodded down the stairs, overly-cheerful voices echoed down the hallway. Curious, he hid behind the wall that separated the dining room and hall and peered into the dining room from behind the wall. A horrifyingly ghastly sight met his sleep-blurred eyes. The black suit, the black hair, the black shoes, the sharp, long nose, the pale, vampire-like complexion, and finally, the very same piercing blue eyes that had once stared ominously into his.

Dr. Mako.

What is he doing here?! It is creepy how he knows so much about me. My name and surname. The strange happenings that he would never know of unless he was there himself. The place I would be after the basketball match. And now, intruding into my home? Jack looked on in dismay as his mother said, unusually friendly and with a magazine-cover smile, “It’s really nice to meet you Dr. Mako. I’m so glad you were able to make it today. Yesterday, Jack came home with your business card and told his father a little about you and your Institute. I think it’s a good idea if he can attend classes there since, you know, these special skills would really come in handy if he, uh, knows how to use them! We live close to 5th avenue, so I’m sure Jack can make it on time after school!” So, Jack’s father told his mother. And Dr. Mako was not intruding. 

“My parents actually invited him. Why? Why? Why? Mom and Dad, don’t you realise how much Dr. Mako is like a stalker? And I don’t want to have anything to do with hypnotism or his dreadful Institute on 5th street or whatnot,” Jack moaned miserably as he tiptoed back to his room, hands covering his ears. He hated it when his parents made decisions for him without notifying him first. But nothing, absolutely nothing, was stopping them when they had made up their minds. Well, since a stubborn streak did run in the Opus family, maybe Jack also had a trick or two up his sleeve.

Soon enough, Jack’s mother climbed up the stairs to Jack’s room, only to see him sleeping peacefully. Or so she thought. She “woke” him up and nagged at him to hurry up. Jack pretended to be groggy and washed and changed, then cautiously proceeded down to the dining room for breakfast. Was Dr. Mako still there? Fortunately, he had already left. While Jack was eating his breakfast, consisting of stale commercial orange juice and over-cooked bacon, his parents sat themselves down at the table. Jack noted with annoyance that they looked almost… relieved. Then, a fake smile that his mother always used when she wanted to tell him something that she believed was good news but knew he would not like was plastered onto her face. Jack called that particular smile “Falsehood in Childhood of poor Jack” (FCJ). That being said, his mother had many different smiles that she used on different occasions, some of them more deceiving than the others. However, this time around, Jack knew what was coming up. And he was not the most eager about it.

“Well, honey, we have a little surprise for you this morning! Guess what?” 

Jack looked at his mother vacantly while he counted to three silently in his head and continued stuffing dry bacon into his mouth, mumbling, “I don’t want to know.”

The FCJ smile on Jack’s mother’s face wavered a little. However, if she was feeling sorry for Jack, she did not show it. “So, last night, your dad told me about Dr. Mako and how you had hypnotism skills! It is really amazing! I’m sure you would find useful purposes for it! So that’s why we decided to sign you up for The Institute’s classes with Dr. Mako!” She then flashed a thumbs up and grinned, showcasing her two rows of perfect white teeth. Jack cringed inwardly at his mother’s forced cheeriness. She knew he hated it. Jack thought, Step one, Plan A. 

He took his time eating one of the two pieces of bacon left on his plate, put down his fork and knife, wiped his mouth on a napkin, and said pitifully, “Maybe you signed me up ’cause both of you think I’m just a burden in the house.” Jack’s mom’s smile disappeared and was replaced by an exasperated frown.

“Jack, you are old enough to know that that’s not the reason. I know you hate enrichment classes of any sort, but maybe it’s time for you to grow up and face the world. It’s good to acquire skills, and you cannot always shy away from what you do not like.” Jack’s mother glared at her husband, who sat leaning weakly against the table, not taking any sides in the argument.

“Or maybe it’s because you all think I’m too dumb and don’t have any skills.” Jack said mournfully, standing up and pushing the plate with a single piece of untouched bacon as far as he could toward the other end of the table. Jack’s father gulped and looked ready to run away. His mother, on the other hand, glared at Jack and bit her lip, as if trying to figure out another way to torture him as a punishment for disagreeing. She said firmly in a tone that did not allow for protests, “We invited Dr. Mako over this morning and have already arranged your lessons at the Institute for you. You should be grateful. Dr. Mako devoted his whole life to the making of the unparalleled Institute. This world-class Institute has educated many generations of young people and taught them the moral ways to handle their special skills. Be a little more appreciative, Jackson. We signed you up for your own good. Go to your room. You still have homework to do.” Jack pondered what his mother said. Did she just recite word for word what the business card read?

He pretended to walk towards the stairs, defeated and utterly flattened by his mother’s perfectly “logical” argument. When he was sure his mother was not looking at him but was still within earshot, he said, “Well, what does Mom know? I signed up for my school’s Photography Club to pick up some skills like she advised me to. But all I received was a tongue lashing and another program at the Institute. I suppose it is useless trying to please her, or Dad, for that matter. All I ever will be to them is a skill-less and useless son.” Jack was sure his mother heard him loud and clear. He really hoped Plan A worked, or he would have to turn to Plan B, which might not work and should only be tried as a last resort. Then, he purposely stormed up the stairs to his room and slammed the door shut. For even better effects, he switched on his computer and found a video on YouTube: a 15-minute long audio track of someone sobbing. Jack made sure that the audio on the computer was turned all the way up and clicked play. Jack’s mother would now know that Jack was very upset indeed! 

At the other end of the house, Jack’s father lay slumped on the couch, listening to Jack’s “cries.” His son really was upset. But it was for his own good! Couldn’t he see? Dr. Mako’s Institute of Hypnotism was definitely the most elite one in the whole country! And sending him there wasn’t even cheap. The Bentley dealership Jack’s father worked at was not faring very well recently, and that resulted in a pay cut. However, sending Jack there certainly was not a mistake. Dr. Mako must be a great instructor!

After the 15 minutes long audio track, Jack was surprised that neither of his parents came to comfort him or at least reason with him. His mother might be out of the question since she was always stubborn as a mule, but what about his father? He was always a bit softer than Mom! What’s wrong with him today? He would usually give in to whatever my choice is after seeing that I’m upset. He was about as soft as mom was strict.